Michael Brendan Dougherty identifies James Damore’s Google memo as a sort of 95 Theses and, tacitly, Google’s response as a sort of counter-Reformation:
One could describe the tone of this memo as “cooperative.” The author doesn’t make any claims that he is victimized. He doesn’t accuse anyone in particular of being unqualified. But the response it received wasn’t argument, it was anathematization.
Danielle Brown, Google’s new “Vice President of Diversity, Integrity, and Governance,” stepped on (sic) and issued her own response to the debate. Her company-wide e-mail, reproduced in the media, was the first time that most Google engineers had even heard of this supposedly viral memo, which first appeared on an internal listserv for atheists. After some throat-clearing, Brown said:
Many of you have read an internal document shared by someone in our engineering organization, expressing views on the natural abilities and characteristics of different genders, as well as whether one can speak freely of these things at Google. And like many of you, I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender. I’m not going to link to it here as it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes, or encourages.
Brown describes the document as offering views on gender, and an accusation on a stifling climate of opinion in Google. She says that it is wrong on gender, and then she conspicuously confirms the engineer’s latter charge, by leaving it unrebutted while deeming it unrepeatable. The engineer was so wrong, in fact, that Google decided late Monday to fire him.
The truth is that the mainstream media outlets may be right that it is an “anti-diversity screed,” in the sense that it offers arguments and evidence where none are typically permitted. In this telling, diversity is more of a faith commitment. Brown continued her statement:
Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul. As Ari Balogh said in his internal G+ post, “Building an open, inclusive environment is core to who we are, and the right thing to do. ’Nuff said.”
The striking thing about this is that it is not even an argument. It is at best a reassurance. The statements in it are all creedal. The same belief is expressed, in barely varying language, in three successive sentences. It is less a paragraph containing thought than a kind of mantra or spell.
The reaction on the outside of Google — even from those who support the memo as if it were Luther’s 95 theses — confirms that religious values are at play. I do not think that Nassim Taleb, the statistician and author, would object to being called an iconoclast. Taleb gave a vandal’s exultation to the publication of the engineer’s memo. The false gods are being torn down from the high places, and lighting does not strike us dead!
I would take Dougherty’s inspiration and suggest that Damore’s “arguments and evidence where none are typically permitted” was analogous to Pussy Riot’s sacrilege at Christ the Savior Cathedral, which makes Google typologically Putin.
Wait! That can’t be right! Can it?
Rod Dreher has a perceptive reader who analyzed the logic of those who demanded, and got, the head of James Damore on a silver platter. I owe the reader a debt of gratitude of sparing me even more obsessing over this iconic episode:
1. The conservative claim in question is bad, and therefore wrong, because it will enable Trump and the alt-right …
2. State factual claims made by the conservative with simple incredulity. Don’t refute them, just state them as if they were self-evidently bad, and therefore wrong …
3. Allege that the entire swath of claims made are pseudoscience and obviously false by picking one part of a complex and lengthy argument, attacking that single part, and proclaiming victory over the whole thing …
4. When all else fails, state the allegations from conservatives that actions like Damore’s firing represent suppression of free speech, and respond by arguing that the historically oppressive power dynamic against minorities means that suppression of conservative male speech is justifiable …
The reaction to Damore’s firing is about as clear an illustration to me as you could ask for that the Left, just like the alt-right, regards truth in a Nietzschean fashion: truth is simply a social construct designed to serve the ends of power. What Alasdair MacIntyre said in After Virtue of ethical claims ultimately has come to be true of factual claims in general. They are uttered as if they corresponded to an objective, mind-independent reality, but in fact their meaning is something entirely different — the expression of a will to power by this or that extremist group.
Each of the numbered syntheses is supported by examples from a Guardian article.
Dreher wraps up pithily: “Dissenters will be sent to the Goolag.”
I just want to take a step back from the memo controversy, to highlight a paradox at the heart of the ‘equality and diversity’ dogma that dominates American corporate life. The memo didn’t address this paradox directly, but I think it’s implicit in the author’s critique of Google’s diversity programs. This dogma relies on two core assumptions:
- The human sexes and races have exactly the same minds, with precisely identical distributions of traits, aptitudes, interests, and motivations; therefore, any inequalities of outcome in hiring and promotion must be due to systemic sexism and racism;
- The human sexes and races have such radically different minds, backgrounds, perspectives, and insights, that companies must increase their demographic diversity in order to be competitive; any lack of demographic diversity must be due to short-sighted management that favors groupthink.
The obvious problem is that these two core assumptions are diametrically opposed.
Let me explain …
(Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychology professor at University of New Mexico, one of four scientists opining here.)
No! I won’t let you explain! You’re a hateful hater full of hateful hate!
Seriously, the diametric opposition is pretty obvious, but if you’re a little slow, or a social justice warrior flirting with becoming un-woke, or just curious, he does explain — just not here.
Three of the four scientists take James Damore’s side on the science; the second gingerly avoids saying that the science is wrong, but he’s also not sure how relevant it is to Google’s diversity initiatives.
A Google employee recently shared a memo that referenced some of my scholarly research on psychological sex differences (e.g., personality traits, mate preferences, status-seeking). Alongside other evidence, the employee argued, in part, that this research indicates affirmative action policies based on biological sex are misguided. Maybe, maybe not. Let me explain.
I think it’s really important to discuss this topic scientifically, keeping an open mind and using informed skepticism when evaluating claims about evidence. In the case of personality traits, evidence that men and women may have different average levels of certain traits is rather strong. For instance, sex differences in negative emotionality are universal across cultures; developmentally emerge across all cultures at exactly the same time; are linked to diagnosed (not just self-reported) mental health issues; appear rooted in sex differences in neurology, gene activation, and hormones; are larger in more gender egalitarian nations; and so forth (for a short review of this evidence, see here.)
But it is not clear to me how such sex differences are relevant to the Google workplace ….
Fair enough. One might even say “agnostic” in the religious battle.
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There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)