Readers’ wildlife photos

March 25, 2023 • 8:15 am

Reader Mike Canzoneri sent some photos of squirrel monkeys, which you can enlarge by clicking on them. He also sent a brief bio:

I was born and raised in the city of Chicago and have been a backyard zoologist since I was a little kid. I moved to Miami, FL in 1990 to be close to Everglades National Park (where I was a volunteer), then to Austin, TX in 1994 (for a better job) and finally to Costa Rica in 2005, where I spent my meager nest egg on three separate rain forest properties. I built a house on my southern Pacific coast rain forest property (about 100 acres) and live there most of the time.

Mike’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

This is my first submission to Why Evolution is True Readers’ Wildlife Photos: endangered black-crowned Central American squirrel monkeys (Saimiri oerstedii oerstedii).

In January and February, the females give birth and the babies stay on their mothers’ backs until well into summer. Once the babies are close to the size of their mothers, the mothers try to shake them off but the babies resist for as long as they can.

All shots taken with my Nikon D850 and either the Nikkor 300mm f/4 or 500mm f/5.6 PF prime lens, except this first one taken with my Nikon D750 and Nikkor 500mm f/5.6 PF.

The mothers wear the babies like backpacks as they run up and down the trees and jump from one tree to the next, and they get tired and need to rest from time to time. I caught this mother doing a face plant into the bamboo to take a 30 second power nap.

I notice that the mothers try to help each other and stick together. I was lucky enough to be ready with my camera when this scene played out in front of me, where two mothers, each with a baby, all engaged in a group hug.

I’m not sure what had this baby’s attention but I liked the way the photo came out.

This baby was pushed off by its mother so she could take a break. She didn’t go too far and the baby clung to the branch, frozen in fear, until the mother came back a few minutes later.

Here is a shot of a mother nursing her baby.

Taken about two minutes after the shot right above, here is the baby holding on tightly to the mother.

Here’s a juvenile squirrel monkey just hanging out in a small tree.

To end the set I chose this photo of a juvenile gazing pensively up at the canopy.


Glenn Loury and Sylvester Gates: Does diversity itself promote scientific advance?

March 18, 2023 • 12:30 pm

There are two main reasons why people want to promote diversity (both racial and sexual) in academia, and both were raised in the 1978 Bakke decision that allowed the use of racial preferences in university admissions so long as they didn’t involved fixed quotas. The first is diversity as a form of reparations: to allow minorities who had been deprived of equal opportunities because of historical bigotry to gain entry into areas formerly out of bounds, even if those reparations deprive some people of entry who have better on-paper qualifications. In other words, affirmative action.

The other is the view—and the one that proved dispositive in Bakke—was that diversity was an innate good: schools would be better places to learn if the students had a diversity of interests, backgrounds, politics, and so on. I can’t speak about formal demonstrations of that view, but it seems reasonable. Colleges would be boring places indeed if their student bodies were homogenous in background, ethnicity, politics, and geographical origin. There would be no late-night bull sessions or discussions that provided an opportunity to examine one’s own views, and to learn.

This latter view has now seeped into science, and has become the view that diversity in STEMM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) is not only good for preventing a stultifying homogeneity, but is good for science itself. That is, the more diverse the community of scientists (and here they usually mean racially diverse), the more chance we will get those great scientific ideas that can come only from people of diverse backgrounds.

The problem with this view is that although you can make a theoretical argument for it, as Sylvester Gates does in this printed (and also YouTube) conversation with Glenn Loury, there is no real demonstration that racial diversity promotes scientific progress. Of course you can point to advances made by people of all backgrounds in nearly every field of science, but who is to say that ethnically diverse backgrounds and genes themselves promoted this progress? Where are the data? Do different cultures really approach modern science in different ways?

One person who thinks this this is Sylvester Gates, a well-known black physicist famous for his work on supersymmetry. (He was also President of the American Physical Society, recipient of the National Medal of Science, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.)  Gates’s main idea, with which Loury for some reason seems to agree, is expressed in Loury’s intro below:

In the following excerpt from our recent conversation, physicist Sylvester “Jim” Gates makes the case for diversity’s role in spurring scientific innovation. Imagination, he argues, plays a key role in scientific progress. When the imaginative capacities of one culture come into contact with another, it can lead to advances that would otherwise be unthinkable. I find Jim’s case compelling, and yet I do not think that headcount DEI practices are the best way, or even a good way, to seize on the potential of human diversity. For that, we’ll need to do the hard work of searching out talent and to refuse the easy and inadequate path offered by DEI.

Click to read the piece on Loury’s Substack site:

But if you read the précis of the discussion, taken from from the hourlong YouTube conversation embedded below, you find that Gates has no good argument for ethnic diversity being a good way to advance science/ He relies solely on a weak and unconvincing analogy of physics to music.

That’s why I’m surprised that Loury says, in the printed summary, that he “finds Jim’s case compelling”, though he notes that DEI practices involving “headcounts” are not the way to do it. The weird thing is that DEI inititatives are precisely what Gates seems to be suggesting: the more racial (and cultural) diversity we have, the faster STEMM fields will advance. In the end, all I can conclude is that Loury pretends to agree with Gates but really is searching for a way to identify future scientists who will make breakthroughs, and to identify them without using race. But we already are trying to do that! We just don’t know how.

Gates’s argument is based on these theses:

1.) Imagination is what drives science. That is largely true.

2.) Different cultures (and he really means races, African-Americans in particular) have different kinds of imaginations than most scientists who are white (and male).  This may be true, though I have no idea if it is. It is true, though, that different cultures have, on average, different ways of looking at the world.

3.) Because imagination drives science, different imaginations associated with different groups will speed up scientific progress by opening up different ways of looking at the world and raising different questions.

The concatenation of 2+ 3 is the crux of Gates’s argument, and while it could be true, it’s not something that we routinely (or ever!) experience in science. Scientists of all stripes, genders, backgrounds, and ideologies all work the same way, and there’s no particular group that stands out for having “a different way of thinking” (there are individuals, of course, who seem to have qualitatively “different ways of thinking”, people like Feynman and Crick, and they’re usually white men—but that’s just because until fairly recently science was dominated by white men.  One can also think of women who had imaginative breakthroughs, like Nettie Stevens (who discovered sex chromosomes) and Marie Curie, or “people of color” like Ramanujan who seemed to have imaginations well beyond the norm. But who is to say that Ramanujan’s genius came from his background in India as opposed to a felicitous combination of genes that could occur in any group?

The final part of Gates’s argument is this:

4.) Science is like music, with musical scores comparable to the equations of science. And just like different cultures have different types of music derived from different imagination—or is it only different traditions that arose in geographical isolation?—so different cultures could have different ways of approaching science. Gates uses jazz as an analogy:

Let me get back to this point you made, because where these two seers coincide with each other is exactly in the innovation. You have to bring knowledge to innovation, because you have to build on a foundation, just as Isaac Newton talked about standing on the shoulders of giants. You’ve got to build on the foundation, but you’ve got to do things beyond the accomplishment of those who laid the foundation. And the only tool we have for that in science is our imagination. That’s what Einstein’s identifying.So now where does demography come into this? This is something that I also thought about for decades before I had an answer. And the way that I got this answer, I’m going to hopefully bring you along in the argument, and you can tell me I’m crazy. But let’s look at something else. We’re gonna focus on physics, because physics comes at two different levels of knowing. There’s physics that I can write in terms of F=MA, a piece of mathematics. There’s physics that I observe in the world and an experiment. Both of these things are physics, and one is actually intimately tied to the other. There’s a symbolic way of knowing physics and there’s an experiential way to to know physics.

So let’s ask, is there another activity that humans engage in that has this dualism about it? The answer is music, because music has scores, and that’s, roughly speaking, equivalent to what physicists do with equations. And music also is the experience of listening to it and emotionally reacting. So let’s look at music as a model, not just for physics, but for all sorts of mathematically based innovation. That’s the first thing I posit to people, and let’s just consider these two things side by side. If you do that, then something very interesting becomes more clear when you look at music.

I don’t know about you, Glenn, but I have a suspicion that, like me, you like a lot of classical. I like a lot of music, but classical music is among my loves. When I listen to classical music, you can immediately tell the difference between a Grieg and a Satie, and Debussy is like Satie but not so much like Grieg. Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, the great Russian composers. Of course there’s the Europeans—Mozart and what have you. But all of these great forms of classical music are actually subtly different. Chopin is another one, right? So how are they different? Well, they get to be different typically, because composers, in bringing the imagination part to the story, they bring their culture to the story. And in fact, a lot of classical music is actually derived from folk music that the composers must have heard as they were growing up.

Dvořák, for example. It’s interesting you should bring Dvořák to the table, because I’m not sure how many of your listeners are deeply into music, but Dvořák, as you know, made a visit to the United States and was influenced by the music of African Americans.

So the point I’m trying to make here is, the bringing of imagination to the growth of music, and especially classical music, because it’s easiest to see it here, involves the culture and the demography of the people who are engaging in the activity. And what that means is that you get great music, but you get great music that is a blossoming effect. It goes in all sorts of directions, because culture is not a unitary, solitary thing. Different cultures bring different things to the table of the creation of music.

But music is not science, for music is an art unconnected with empirical reality. It’s value is emotional, not its correspondence to reality. But somehow Gates sees science the same way:

One of my early mentors was a Nobel laureate by the name of Abdus Salam. . . the next thing he said to me, I was thunderstruck and totally incapable of understanding. He said—and again, this is not an exact quote, this is an expression of a sentiment—that when a sufficient number of people of the African diaspora enter the field of physics, he was convinced that something like jazz would appear

That was Gates’s epiphany. But I can’t see it. Jazz did develop from cultural differences: it sprang from black American roots nurtured in Africa, and was indeed a fantastic genre of music, adaptable, changeable, and able to cross-fertilize other types of music. Its connection to black culture was palpable and close, and it was pretty much sui generis, nurtured by musical geniuses like Louie Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Coleman Hawkins.

But music is not equations, and you can’t do physics by imagination alone: you have to use the scientific toolkit evolved by trial and error to find empirical truths, and then your findings cross-checked by others. In the end, the value of your work is in how much it advances our knowledge of the universe.  That is very different from the purely emotional value of music, and requires far more than imagination. It requires an imagination that can be leveraged by science’s tookit to find those truths about nature.

Now if we had evidence that different cultures possessed different ways of thinking about science, that would support Gates’s view about diversity and STEMM. But we don’t have that evidence. All we have is a weak analogy between jazz and physics, and that’s all it is: an analogy, and not a strong one.

Everybody in the world now seems to do physics in the same way, although in trying to solve the hard problems, like whether string theory is true, people come at them from all different angles.  Yet nobody has made any advances in string theory, regardless of their sex or ethnicity. Is string theory awaiting its Duke Ellington? I don’t think so. Although I’m not a physicist, it seems to be one of those theories that’s empirically untestable.

In the video below, which is very similar to the printed conversation above, Gates first describes his scientific work and then moves on to the jazz analogy. To his credit, although he says that racism is still around in physics, Gates says that physics is not structurally racist, which it isn’t. But then he moves on to the jazz analogy, saying the same thing as above, and adding this (I may have gotten a few words wrong):

“If diverse cultures engage in a strenuous discipline, what they bring to the table are the subconscious things that sit in your imaginations and then are harnessed to the foundation of the disciplines that you’re trying to grow. And that’s why diversity is of such importance in STEM-based fields.”

But Loury, who says he largely agrees with Gates, asks an important question: how can cultural background make a unique contribution to physics when he, Loury, doesn’t see culture as having had such a big influence in STEMM. Loury brings up three examples of physicists who have made the kind of quantum imaginative leaps that Gates thinks are responsible for scientific progress. (Gates has been weaned on Kuhn and thus thinks that science progresses by revolutionary steps that involve “quantum leaps” of the imagination.) Loury’s examples are Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, and Albert Einstein. How did culture play a role in their genius?

Here Gates is forced into post facto rationalization. Einstein, he said, was a loner and a Jew: an “outsider.” Perhaps the culture of being an outsider (and a Jewish one) led to his scientific genius. What about Newton? Here Gates strains even more at gnats, saying that perhaps Newton’s genius sprung from his being a religious outsider: he was a Trinitarian. Well, that’s a stretch, and is being a “Trinitarian” a cultural difference that can affect one’s SCIENTIFIC imagination?

As for Maxwell, Gates doesn’t even try, for Maxwell was a garden-variety with no clear “outsider-ness”. But the fact is that almost any scientist can be seen to be an outsider in some way, so Gates seems to be advancing an airtight case that can’t be refuted.  But race and “outsiderness” are not identical, and many advances have been made by people who were not cultural outsiders. Lots of scientists were loners, which may be correlated with some degree of autism that leads to progress, or gives them the opportunity to think, but that’s neither culture nor race.

In the end, Loury and Gates agree that scientific advances come from a combination of imagination and serendipity (and of course smarts, or “merit”), but neither advances a way that we can select for those traits. All we can do is judge someone’s ability to produce breakthroughs by their past behavior. And up to now, that seems to have little to do with ethnicity or culture. What is seems to involve is the much-maligned concept of “merit.”

Listen below if you wish. In the end, I find Gates’s argument for the scientific value of ethnic diversity deeply unconvincing, and am surprised that Loury finds his case “compelling.” Compelling how?

Thursday: Hili dialogue

March 16, 2023 • 5:09 am
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is watching things:
Jerry: What do you see there?
Hili: Flying delicacies.
(Photo: JAC)
Jerry: Co tam widzisz?
Hili: Fruwające delikatesy.
(Zdjęcie J.A.C.)
Two of Matthew’s cats, Pepper and Harry, have been similarly excited, but this time by watching cat TV:

More flying, this time on Mars. There is sound, too, although this was added from an earlier helicopter flight. Thomas recommends listening on headphones, as the sound of helicopter in the Martian atmosphere sounds very low:

From Beth: a Scott Hilburn cartoon:

From America’s Cultural Decline into Idiocy:

Two foodstuffs from the site above:


Stanford Law School tries to succor Federalist Society by sending its members into the jaws of lions

March 13, 2023 • 12:00 pm

Get a load of this. Although Stanford University Law School is trying to make amends for the shameful display put on by its students last week, they continue to stick their feet deeper into the mud.

Yesterday I reported on the execrable deplatforming of Fifth Circuit federal appellate Judge Kyle Duncan during his scheduled talk at Stanford Law School (SLS). Students, outraged that a conservative judge should be given any platform, interrupted the Judge so persistently and loudly that he was forced to stop his speech. (His topic was the relationship between his court and the Supreme Court.)

The students had been egged on by Tirien Steinbach, the Law School’s Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Before Judge Duncan’s talk, she sent an email to the students explaining why Duncan was an oppressor And then when Duncan asked for faculty help in quelling the in-class demonstration, Steinbach stood up and read nine minutes of prepared remarks to Duncan explaining how awful and hurtful he was and how,  perhaps, Stanford’s policy of free speech wasn’t so great after all because it caused “harm”. As she suggested, perhaps the “juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.” Steinbach’s method of promoting harmony apparently involves setting groups against each other.

In a “mistakes-were-made” brand of email to the Stanford community, SLS Dean Jenny Martinez apologized for the incident without placing blame on anyone. But the next day, Martinez and Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne sent a joint apology to Judge Duncan promising that an incident like this would never happen again. Here’s that email:

Dear Judge Duncan,

We write to apologize for the disruption of your recent speech at Stanford Law School. As has already been communicated to our community, what happened was inconsistent with our policies on free speech, and we are very sorry about the experience you had while visiting our campus.

We are very clear with our students that, given our commitment to free expression, if there are speakers they disagree with, they are welcome to exercise their right to protest but not to disrupt the proceedings. Our disruption policy states that students are not allowed to “prevent the effective carrying out” of a “public event” whether by heckling or other forms of interruption.

In addition, staff members who should have enforced university policies failed to do so, and instead intervened in inappropriate ways that are not aligned with the university’s commitment to free speech.

We are taking steps to ensure that something like this does not happen again. Freedom of speech is a bedrock principle for the law school, the university, and a democratic society, and we can and must do better to ensure that it continues even in polarized times.

With our sincerest apologies again,
Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D.[,] President and Bing Presidential Professor
Jenny Martinez[,] Richard E. Lang Professor of Law & Dean of Stanford Law School

In the penultimate paragraph, they clearly place some of the blame on diversity dean Steinbach for inciting the disruption.  Will they discipline her, or at least tell her to lay off the incitement; and will Stanford discipline any of the disruptive students?  I’d bet money they won’t. And, of course, a policy that isn’t enforced is not a policy at all.

If Stanford were real mensches, they would invite Duncan back to deliver the talk he prepared, and ensure that the event would be peaceful. That won’t happen, either.

But in a really hamhanded gesture, Jeanne Merino, the SLS Associate Acting Dean of Students, “reached out” to the Federalist Society, which had invited Duncan, and offered them University sources of succor. What’s unbelievable is that one of the sources suggested was Steinbach, the diversity dean who escalated the whole affair.  They also offered help from the other two deans (and Merino herself), all of whom had been in the classroom and did nothing to stop the demonstration. You can read Merino’s email here. 

Here’s part of it (second bolding is mine)

2. Connection with OSA, DEI, Levin Center: Please reach out to any of us here at SLS if you would like support or would like to process last week’s events: a. OSA (Jeanne Merino,, Holly Parrish,, John Dalton, and Megan Brown,, b. DEI (Tirien Steinbach, c. Levin Center (Diane Chin,; Anna Wang,

Apparently, besides Conflagator Steinbach herself, Merino, as well as Associate Director of Student Affairs Holly Parrish and Student Affairs Program Coordinator Megan Brown, were all in the room—and did nothing— as the demonstration unfolded.  But to suggest that the Federalist Society should reach out to Dean Steinbach for comfort (not to mention to the other three as well) is like suggesting that the Roadrunner reach out for help to Wile E. Coyote.

Stanford has affirmed in writing that the juice (a climate conducive to learning) is indeed worth the squeeze (the school’s free-speech policy).  The real question is whether the juice is worth the squeeze of having a diversity dean who’s out of control.

These days, Stanford Law School (and its East Coast counterpart Yale Law School) are like a pair of cross-country soap operas. But it’s important to see that this kind of thing is inevitable so long as you claim that DEI programs are in complete harmony with free speech policies. As Steely Dan sang, “Only a fool would say that.”

Equality vs. equity

March 13, 2023 • 9:45 am

Does anybody know the difference between “equality” and “equity” any more? Until recently, the difference, as used in politics and sociology, was clear: “equality” meant “equal treatment of everyone regardless of what group they belong to”, while “equity” meant “representation of groups in government, business, academia, and other organizations in proportion to their existence in the general population.”

These are not the same thing, of course. People can be treated equally now but there can still be inequities for a variety of reasons: the residuum of historical discrimination, difference in preferences due to culture, socialization, or different propensities due to biological differences. The conflation of the two terms has led to a lot of mischief and confusion, the most prominent being that the observation of inequities means the current existence of unequal treatment (“structural racism or sexism”).

The confusion was compounded in President Biden’s February “Executive Order on Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” a far-reaching plan to ensure “equity” in the federal government.

That document uses the word “equity” 63 times and “equality” only four. One would think, then, that the plan is designed to ensure proportional representation of groups in the federal government.

But if you look in section 10, you find “equity” defined this way:

  Sec. 10.  Definitions.  For purposes of this order:

(a)  The term “equity” means the consistent and systematic treatment of all individuals in a fair, just, and impartial manner, including individuals who belong to communities that often have been denied such treatment, such as Black, Latino, Indigenous and Native American, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander persons and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; women and girls; LGBTQI+ persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; persons who live in United States Territories; persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality; and individuals who belong to multiple such communities.

If you used this as a goal in your DEI statement, you’d never get a job!

In other words, Biden’s plan defines “equity” as “equal treatment before the law”. That isn’t equity but “equality,” and one wonders not only whether Biden apprehends the difference, and, crucially, which one he’s affirming as the goal of his administration’s policy. In such cases, the definition of the term is crucial in how the government will act.

This difference is the subject of Peter Boghassian’s Substack column this week. The “gaslighting” to which Peter refers is seemingly an attempt to make us forget that “equality” means “equal treatment”, or to sow confusion in minds about whether there’s any difference between “equity” and “equality.”

Click on screenshot to read the article; it’s very short.

Peter reproduces a tweet from Cenk Uygur (whatever happened to him?) that’s badly misleading:

No, Cenk is dead wrong here: progressives want equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity, and they’re always pointing to the former, not the latter, as evidence for bigotry. The same day I found a similar tweet by Cenk:

No, it’s Cenk, the big blustering self-assured newsman, who is wrong, at least in how “equity” is currently used. It’s true that if you look at the Oxford English Dictionary, you’ll find that “equity” means this:

 1. The quality of being equal or fair; fairness, impartiality; even-handed dealing.

but also this:

2. What is fair and right; something that is fair and right.

If you parse that with a “progressive” frame of mind, you can (barely) construe that proportional representation is indeed the result of fairness and equality of treatment. But it need not be: not if groups have different preferences or cultural backgrounds.

And it’s also not necessarily true that “equal opportunity” means “equal opportunity at the present time.” If you’re born poor in an environment that doesn’t provide equal opportunity, then you’ll get inequities as a result.  But I can tell you one thing: when Ibram Kendi says “equity”, he doesn’t mean “equality of treatment”.

Bernie Sanders, when pressed by Bill Maher, does seem to appreciate the difference, and he comes down on the classical definition of equality as “equality of opportunity”.

But I think it’s clear that the extreme Left, which I and others call “progressives” (though they’re actually illiberal), clearly construe equity as meaning equality of outcome. Here’s the reason I think why.

There are ways of measuring equity, of course: determining whether there’s proportionality in outcomes: women, for example should be half of all CEOs (they’re not). But it’s easy to measure.

Equality of opportunity is harder to measure, but for some things it can be guaranteed. The most obvious case is determining who belongs in an orchestra: simply audition prospective players behind a screen so that the only thing that can be judged is their playing. Their sex, race, or ethnicity cannot be discerned.  And to me that seems eminently fair.

It’s a procedure employed by many symphony orchestras. But it didn’t produce the diversity of sex and race that people envisioned when they put this procedure in place! There was equality but no equity.

Ergo, the New York Times‘s classical music critic switched gears and wrote a piece called, “To make orchestras diverse, end blind auditions” (subtitle: “If ensembles are to reflect the community they serve, the audition process should take into account race, gender, and other factors”).

Here the critic, Anthony Tommasini, clearly knew the difference between equity and equality of opportunity, and favored ditching the latter to get more of the former.  (Another way he could achieve more equity in orchestras, if he thinks that disproportional representation reflects historically unequal opportunities—an orchestra “pipeline”—is to provide equal opportunities for people of all groups to both hear music and have a chance to play an instrument.)

I’m not going to judge whether orchestras should reflect merit or demographics; my point is that your goal will determine the methods you use to achieve it.  And that is why it’s critical that people understand the difference between “equity” and “equality.”

Here’s how Peter ends his post:

Almost overnight, equity has become the North Star of public and private intuitions. One would think that someone of Sander’s stature and experience would know the difference, and if Sanders has to think about it, imagine the average American trying to make sense of these terms. I have long asserted that confusion over the meanings of words is one of the primary ways people have been hoodwinked by Social Justice ideology—they do not understand the policies they are institutionalizing.

If you want a 60-second explanation of equity, go here. If you want a 60-second explanation of other words in the woke lexicon, go here.

h/t: Steve

Entitled Stanford Law students, egged on by DEI dean, demolish the free speech of a visiting judge

March 12, 2023 • 9:45 am

A bunch of students at Stanford Law school, egged on by a DEI dean, managed to shut down a talk by Judge Kyle Duncan, who’s on the Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit. That’s one of the 13 appellate courts of last resort before the final one: the U.S. Supreme Court. The Fifth, headquartered in the southern United States, is known for the conservative tenor of its decisions, and nearly all its judges were appointed by Republicans.

Stanford Law School, on the other hand, is known as Left-wing, indeed, in many ways it’s woke. Ergo there was bound to be trouble when the student branch of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization, invited Kyle Duncan to speak on a topic one would think would interest SLS students: “The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, guns, and Twitter.” It’s not often law students get to hear an appellate court judge discuss interactions with the Supreme Court (justices tend to keep their views private), so this would be something I’d want to hear, too.

The SLS student didn’t. They are incurious about views contrary to their own, and showed it.

First, a poster appeared, produced by SLS students, showing all the officers of the school’s Federalist Society. It’s a way of doxing them, but it’s legal. Still, it was meant to intimidate them by urging other students to demonize them.

Below is another one indicting Judge Duncan (not all the accusations are accurate, and of course “fought” really means “ruled on the issue”). It is true, however, that he’s a conservative justice, and was appointed by Trump. That alone makes him anathema to most SLS students.

Finally, the talk was further attacked in advance in an email sent to the students by Tirien Steinbach, the Law School’s Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. You can see that email, and a pretty balanced summary of all the issues and events around Duncan’s visit, in the Substack article below by David Lat, a legal journalist who also leans to the right. (He does, however, call out Judge Duncan for his own juvenile behavior during the Q&A session.)

Click to read:

Lat reproduces Steinbach’s email, which is too long to repeat here. It does, however, throw gasoline on the fire. At the same time she assures students that Stanford favors free speech, she also reminds them how odious Judge Duncan is:

While Judge Duncan is not expected to present on his views, advocacy or judicial decisions related directly to LGBTQ+ civil rights, this is an area of law for which he is well known. Numerous senatorsadvocacy groups, think tanks, and judicial accountability groups opposed Kyle Duncan’s nomination to the bench because of his legal advocacy (and public statements) regarding marriage equality, and transgender, voting, reproductive, and immigrants’ rights. However, he was confirmed in 2018. He has been invited to speak at SLS by the student chapter of the Federalist Society.

A coalition of SLS students have expressed their upset and outrage over Judge Duncan’s invitation to speak at SLS.  For some members of our community, Judge Duncan, during his time as an attorney and judge, has “repeatedly and proudly threatened healthcare and basic rights for marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ people, Native Americans, immigrants, prisoners, Black voters, and women,” and his presence on campus represents a significant hit to their sense of belonging.

And while she reminds students that SLS will not censor Judge Duncan, that’s exactly what happened. Far more students showed up to protest Duncan’s appearance than to listen to him. They held up signs and, as Duncan began to speak, repeatedly interrupted him and shouted him down.

Below: one tweet from Aaron Sibarium’s twitter thread, showing a protest sign (“Duncan can’t find the clit”, presumably referring to his stand on abortion) and some of the student reaction.

Unfortunately, when Duncan asked the SLS administrators to restore order (three were in attendance), the one who stepped in was DEI dean Steinbach, who proceeded not to restore order, but to lecture Duncan for nine minutes about how he was causing “harm” to the students. She also questioned whether Stanford’s free-speech policy wasn’t itself harmful—whether “the juice was worth the squeeze”. Apparently Steinbach had prepared written remarks for such an occasion, anticipating that she’d get to chew out the Judge.

Steinbach’s patronizing lecture to Duncan can be seen below in the Twitter thread by legal writer Ed Whelan that begins here. See below, or you can watch Steinbach’s remarks on Vimeo.

As Lat recounts, Duncan’s talk ended without students being able to listen:

As you can see from the video, about half of the protestors eventually left at the direction of a student protest leader, with one of them charmingly calling the judge “scum” as she walked out. Yet the heckling continued, and still the administrators did nothing to intervene. Eventually, the student-relations representative tried to intervene once it had become clear that the event was out of control—but Judge Duncan then criticized him, telling him that he should have acted sooner.

Not getting traction trying to give a speech, Judge Duncan moved on to the question-and-answer session, and the protestors quieted down enough to ask a few questions. The questions—and answers—were generally contemptuous. As the judge put it to me, while he’s usually happy to answer questions when he speaks at law schools, the questions he received at Stanford were not asked in good faith; in his words, they were of the “how many people have you killed” or “how many times did you beat your wife last week” variety.

According to Lat, Duncan himself lost his cool and responded angrily to the students:

After around ten minutes of trying to give his remarks, Judge Duncan became angry, departed from his prepared remarks, and laced into the hecklers. He called the students “juvenile idiots” and said he couldn’t believe the “blatant disrespect” he was being shown after being invited to speak. He said that the “prisoners were now running the asylum,” which led to a loud round of boos. His pushback riled up the protesters even more.

I can understand Duncan’s anger, but a federal judge should be able to restrain his temper under fire.

Duncan has remained angry in later interviews, “saying that the protesters behaved like ‘dogs**t’ and that Dean Steinbach should be fired.” At the very least, I think Steinbach’s behavior was execrable—far, worse than the Judge’s, and she should be disciplined if not fired. She knew full well what her actions would cause, for she’d prepared remarks for that very occurrence.

The next day, Jenny Martinez, Dean of the SLS, wrote an email to the community saying, in effect, that “mistakes were made”, and that Judge Duncan should have been allowed to speak. But she made no mention of DEI Dean Steinbach’s role in the whole thing.  Lat reproduces Martinez’s email in his Substack post,

I found Martinez’s “apology” okay but insufficient, and I emailed her directly (copying it to Stanford’s President), saying that at the very least Steinbach deserved a reprimand. It is not the purpose of a DEI dean to create even more division and disunity, and Steinbach, who should have behaved more professionally, acted like a frothing ideologue. “Harm” indeed!  Can we replace this “harm” word for what it really means in these situations: “offense”?

FIRE also wrote a letter to Stanford’s President about the treatment of Duncan; here’s a bit:

In the video, Dean Steinbach—who ostensibly was brought into the event to restore calm, and arguably did so—repeatedly praised the hecklers and accused the speaker of “harm.” She also muses about whether, in regard to Stanford’s permissive free expression policies, the “juice is worth the squeeze.” She suggests the university “might need to reconsider these policies” to prevent speakers like Duncan from sharing their views on campus in the future because they may upset some students.

. . . When the university allows speakers like Judge Duncan to be silenced, it sends the message to all in the Stanford community that those who engage in unlawful, disruptive conduct have the power to dictate which voices and views may be heard on campus. If reports about last night’s disruption are accurate, Stanford must take immediate steps to reaffirm its commitment to expressive rights for all. Failure to do so quickly and clearly will be to Stanford’s lasting shame.

Yesterday, both Stanford’s President, Marc Tessier-Lavigne and SLS Dean Martinez personally apologized in a joint letter to Judge Duncan. Eugene Volokh posts those apologies here. It’s a good letter, and does refer indirectly to DEI Dean Steinbach. They also promise to do better. I’ll believe it when I see it. From the letter:

We are very clear with our students that, given our commitment to free expression, if there are speakers they disagree with, they are welcome to exercise their right to protest but not to disrupt the proceedings. Our disruption policy states that students are not allowed to “prevent the effective carrying out” of a “public event” whether by heckling or other forms of interruption.

In addition, staff members who should have enforced university policies failed to do so, and instead intervened in inappropriate ways that are not aligned with the university’s commitment to free speech.

The only person that last paragraph could refer to is Dean Steinbach.

So that’s the story, and it’s been all over the media—the Right-wing media, mostly, for it’s not in the Left-wing media’s interest to show bad behavior of those on its end of the ideological spectrum.

The Big Lesson: As Christopher Hitchens observed in his marvelous talk in Toronto on free speech, if people have an opinion that is grossly different from the “prevailing wisdom,” that makes it even more urgent to not only allow those persons to speak, but to listen to them. Judge Duncan should have been listened to quietly (I also don’t think signs should be allowed in the lecture room, as they are designed to discombobulate the speaker), and the post talk questions, if confrontational, should at least have been polite.

But it’s not just the fault of the Stanford Law students, for their school apparently failed to instill in them the meaning of the First Amendment and how it should be respected on a campus. I’d suggest to Dean Martinez that a first-year’s orientation at SLS should include a unit on freedom of speech.


UPDATE: A new article in The Stanford Review, the university’s conservative newspaper. Click to read:

An excerpt:

Stanford’s apology to Duncan stated the obvious: this shouldn’t have happened. Judge Duncan graciously accepted the apology. In doing so, he reiterated that he never should have been shouted down in the first place and that staff members who should have enforced university policies failed to do so. He reiterated how poor the behavior of Steinbach was, stating that “the administrators’ behavior was completely at odds with the law school’s mission of training future members of the bench and bar.” The apology also said that Stanford would take steps to ensure this does not happen again. However, it is unclear what Stanford plans to do to prevent such disruption in the future. Firing Dean Steinbach is a good start.

The university’s apology will be completely meaningless unless concrete actions are taken to rid the administration of anti-speech zealots

They’re right: unless there is action, all we have is meaningless words. I am not a “cancel culture” advocate who normally calls for somebody who makes a misstep to be fired. But what Dean Steinbach did wasn’t a misstep: it was a deliberately planned and timed provocation to push back on Stanford’s free speech policy and prevent the students from hearing “offensive” speech like that proferred by Judge Duncan. This was not a misstep but sabotage of Stanford’s policies, and, upon reflection, I think they should give Dean Steinbach her walking papers.

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

March 7, 2023 • 9:25 am

by Matthew Cobb

PCC (E) is travelling to Poland, so I am posting Hili today. However, I am travelling too, so this is even briefer than it should be.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is stunned, Kulka is relaxed.

Hili: All this is beyond feline belief.
Kulka: We are living in times of universal oversensitivity.
Hili: To wszystko przerasta kocie wyobrażenie.
Kulka: Żyjemy w czasach powszechnej nadwrażliwości.
I arrived in London at Euston Station, where all is perpetual chaos as building work on the controversial HS2 line and terminal continues. The one unchanging thing (for the last few years anyway, is this statue of Captain Matthew Flinders, and his cat, Trim.

Feel free to chip in on whatever topic you want below, though as usual, remember to follow PCC(E)’s rules (see on the left). This is his place, after all…

DEI statement trumps research: ad for a biology job at at the Unviersity of California at Santa Cruz

March 6, 2023 • 9:15 am

To show how far the DEI trope has insinuated itself into the academic job market—at least for biology—have a look at the job ad below. It’s for a beginning professor job in animal behavior, and is thoroughly imbued with “diversity” requirements. In fact, it mentions “diversity” nine times but “research” only seven. Further, in the materials you must submit with your application, the required DEI statement precedes the statement about your research.  This gives you an idea of today’s hiring priority.

And remember, this is a science job at a state university—an arm of the government. As I’ve said before, the use of DEI statements may well be illegal, as they are forms of compelled speech. This situation is ripe for a court case, but the trouble is finding someone who has standing to sue. That must be someone not only injured by required DEI statements, but is willing to ruin their academic court by publicly challenging those requirements.

A statement about ideology—and believe me, your DEI statement better hew sufficiently to the au courant views of DEI to even be considered—should be no part of an application to become a scientist. Such statements are in fact barred by the University of Chicago as the administration feels that required DEI statements violate the Shils report.

Click screenshot to read the whole ad; I’ve put a couple of excerpts below, but there’s more at the link:

From the “position description”. I’ve never seen such blatant language in a job ad. And I can imagine it would be even worse in the humanities and worst of all in “studies” jobs. Note that if you don’t practice DEI “service” after you’re hired, you have no chance of being promoted or getting tenure.

Our EEB Department is collegial, congenial, creative, and family friendly, and it strives to increase diversity at all career stages while centering teaching and research practices around inquiry-based problem-solving. Together, our faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and staff form a vibrant campus community that is reflected in our student success.

. . . . UC Santa Cruz is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI) with a relatively high proportion of first-generation college students and a strong record of facilitating student social mobility. UC Santa Cruz and the EEB Department value diversity, equity, and inclusion and are committed to hiring faculty who will work to support these values. We welcome candidates who understand the barriers facing women and historically excluded groups who are underrepresented in the classroom and in higher education careers (as evidenced by life experiences and educational background), and who have experience in equity and diversity with respect to teaching, mentoring, research, life experiences, or service towards building an equitable and diverse scholarly environment. Activities promoting equity and inclusion at UC Santa Cruz will be recognized as important university service during the faculty promotion process. More information can be found:

Here’s a screenshot of the stuff prospective animal behaviorists must submit when they apply for the job. Notice that the DEI statement precedes the research statement:

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 5, 2023 • 8:15 am

John Avise is back today with his weekly batch of themed bird photos. His notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Lonely  and Sad Birds?

As judged solely by their official common names, each of the following birds must be rather lonely and perhaps sad.  So that’s the theme of this week’s post.  The state where each photo was taken is indicated in parentheses.

Solitary Sandpiper, Tringa solitaria (Michigan):

Another Solitary Sandpiper (Louisiana):

Solitary Vireo, Vireo solitarius (this species was recently split up by taxonomists and its new name is the Blue-headed Vireo) (Florida):

Townsend’s Solitaire, Myadestes townsendi (California):

Hermit Warbler, Setophaga occidentalis (California):

Another Hermit Warbler (California):

Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus (California):

Another Hermit Thrush (California):

Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura (California):

Another Mourning Dove (California):

Proposed New Zealand school curriculum and some strong pushback from four academics

February 14, 2023 • 9:15 am

New Zealand is, as I’ve mentioned before, engaged in reforming its curriculum for secondary schools. Right now the government’s Ministry of Education has begun rolling out “proposals,” documents that outline the curriculum area by area.  The Ministry is soliciting comments from the public on these areas, with the intention of implementing a final curriculum by 2026. The first document, 61 pages long, deals solely with mathematics (including statistics) and English, and has apparently already been subject to comments. It’s below; click on it if you want to read it. Be aware that it’s heavily larded with untranslated Māori words and phrases, but the only ones you need to know now are these:

ākonga: those who learn; students

whakapapa: Māori genealogy, but construed widely (read the link)

Te Tiriti: The treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 by British colonists and some (but not all) of the groups of Māori. Its legal status is contested, but it’s been broadly interpreted as meaning that Māori will retain the same rights as the British colonists (called “The Crown”). It is this interpretation that has driven much of the curriculum reform, in which Māori “ways of knowing” (see below) are to be given coequal educational status as other “ways of knowing”.  The latter includes science, which I’ve written about quite a bit here.

Mātauranga Māori: The traditional body of knowledge, or “way of knowing”, of the Māori people as handed down among generations.  This includes practical knowledge acquired through trial and error, myths, legends, morality, and religion.

The objections to this document, and to the one below it, are detailed in a letter from four New Zealand academics to the Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who replaced Jacinda Ardern as PM this month.

The objections include the heavy infusion of the curriculum by Mātauranga Māori, the divisiveness of the curriculum—effectively dividing students into Māori and non-Māori and creating a “racialized curriculum” (this was not the case in the previous curriculum,—the reliance on Te Tiriti as a rationale for this division, and, most distressing to me, the total equating of indigenous knowledge with “modern” knowledge, including science and math. One sees more emphasis in this document on identity than on what students are to learn, as well as a call for broadening the definition of “success”—clearly to ensure that there is no ranking of achievement.  It is putting into practice what many authoritarian and identitarian Leftists want to see in the U.S. It is as much an ideological document as an educational one. And it’s full of buzzwords and messages of hope, but fairly short on substance. It will be a disaster for New Zealand education, New Zealand students, and New Zealand itself, sworn to propagandize the next generation with identitarianism and dilute rationality with superstition.

Below are a few of the statements found on pages 1, 4, 5-7, 9-19, 24-25, and 60-61.  There is plenty about identity compared to what is expected that students will know (granted, they do outline some of the latter, but almost entirely for math rather than English).   Remember, this is a curriculum!  It’s unclear how the identitarianism will be implemented in the classroom.

Te Mātaiaho is designed to give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and to be inclusive of all ākonga. The curriculum is framed within a whakapapa that connects all its components. This whakapapa and its karakia were gifted by Dr Wayne Ngata with the support of eminent experts in mātauranga Māori. The whakapapa flows from Mātairangi (‘To focus on looking beyond the horizon’) to Mātainuku (‘To focus on creating a foundation’) and on to the other curriculum components. Whakataukī bring to life and strengthen each component – from overarching statements through to each learning area and the big ideas within them.

Each learning area draws on the components of the whakapapa and uses the same structure, so that the curriculum is coherent as a whole and easy for teachers to use. Learning that cannot be left to chance is described in five phases. The elements of Understand, Know, and Do for each learning area clearly lay out the big ideas, contexts, and practices for the area and enable increasingly rigorous and complex learning. (p. 4)

. . . . Te Tiriti o Waitangi the Treaty of Waitangi1 is a central pillar of Te Mātaiaho, the refreshed New Zealand Curriculum. Te Tiriti is recognised as a founding document of government in New Zealand and a fundamental component of our constitution. Important principles for realising the vision and aspirations of Te Mātaiaho derive from the preambles and texts of Te Tiriti. Te Tiriti sets out mutual obligations for the Crown and Māori that guide how tangata Tiriti and tangata whenua can live together with mutual respect. It provides for the active protection of taonga, including te reo Māori, tikanga Māori, and mātauranga Māori, and enables fair and equitable educational processes and outcomes for Māori and for all ākonga. (p. 5)

. . . (all bolding is mine) Values are deeply held beliefs about what is important or desirable. They are expressed through the ways in which people think and act. Every decision relating to curriculum and every interaction that takes place in a school reflects the values of the individuals involved and the collective values of the institution.

The content of the New Zealand Curriculum learning areas is value-rich and demonstrates what the values look like in each discipline. The incorporation of mātauranga Māori in all learning areas supports the development of values that are Te Tiriti-honouring and inclusive. (p. 20).

From the math/statistics bit on p. 23-25:

. . . . Being numerate in Aotearoa New Zealand today relies upon understanding diverse cultural perspectives and privileging te ao Māori and Pacific world-views. Like mathematics and statistics, mātauranga Māori is a body of knowledge with a history and a future. When we afford mana ōrite to mātauranga mathematics and statistics and mātauranga Māori while retaining their distinctiveness, ākonga can draw from both in ways that are beneficial to both spheres of knowledge. For example, they will understand how ethical questions posed by measurement, quantification, and stories told about data take unique forms in Aotearoa New Zealand.

. . .Mātauranga Māori and mathematics and statistics help make sense of the world.

. . . Mātauranga Māori and mātauranga mathematics and statistics consist of different systems for viewing, understanding, and organising the world and how we operate in it. The interfaces between them offer opportunities for meaningful inquiry and for mathematical and statistical insights that uphold the integrity of each.

p. 60 (summary). The educationspeak is heavy here:

. . . Mātaioho brings the national curriculum to life and supports every akonga to flourish and grow. It guides each school to design and implement a unique curriculum that reflects their vision for the ākonga for whom they are responsible.

This curriculum draws from:

  • Mātaiahikā: mana whenua guardianship of learning, wellbeing, and success, and knowledge of ākonga, whānau, place, and community
  • Mātaiaho: learning, wellbeing, and success expectations expressed in the learning areas of the national curriculum.

A pretty useless diagram of the plan, but typical of these documents:

If you want a much shorter summary of the overall plan (8 pp. total), click on the screenshot below:

Just two excerpts. First, from p. 3: the identitarian “our shared Kaupapa” page (“kaupapa” means “plan” or “proposal”):

We are refreshing The New Zealand Curriculum to better reflect the aspirations and expectations of all New Zealanders. The refresh will adorn our ākonga with a korowai tied with a 3-strand whenu (cord). This korowai will be layered with huruhuru (feathers) representing who they are, who they can be, their whakapapa, and their connection to our whenua (lands). The whenu tying it together is made up of whānau (family), ākonga, and kaiako (teachers) working as partners to use and localise the NZC.

The refresh will ensure that the NZC reflects diverse ways of being, understanding, knowing, and doing. It helps us inclusively respond to the needs of individual ākonga, who are at the centre of all we do.

Ākonga will be able to see their languages, cultures, identities, and strengths in what they learn at school. This will empower ākonga to go boldly into an everchanging future and contribute to local, national, and global communities.

This vision will primarily be realised by kaiako and school leaders, in partnership with iwi and their school communities. However, it will be important for all New Zealanders to be part of this journey and help create multiple pathways towards equity and success for all ākonga.

From p. 4: “A snapshot of what’s changing” (I’ve inserted the red rectangle):

This is the ultimate takeover of power by the Authoritarian Left, for when you control what is taught, you control what people think as well as the future of the country. I feel sorry for New Zealand and its citizens, for imagine what will befall their children in school. Indoctrinated in identitarian politics and convinced that indigenous knowledge is just as good as modern science, they will be in no position to navigate the modern world outside their own country.

Finally, here’s a letter from four New Zealand academics from three different universities has fallen into my hands, and I have permission of all four signers to publish it. They wrote on February 8 to Chris Hipkins, the New Zealand Prime Minister (copied to the Minister of Education), objecting to the education plan.  I have attached the whole letter so everyone can see it, but have put the bulk of the letter below the fold so as not to make this post too long. The corresponding signatory is Professor Elizabeth Rata, who also signed the “Listener Letter” that caused so much kerfuffle in New Zealand by contesting the view that Mātauranga Māori should be taught as coequal to modern science in secondary schools and universities. I have omitted email addresses. You will find the names of the signers below the fold:

Corresponding Signatory
Professor Elizabeth Rata

[To:]The Rt Hon Chris Hipkins
Parliament Office
Freepost 18 888
Parliament Buildings
Wellington 6160

cc: Hon Jan Tinetti [NZ Minister of Education]

8 February 2023

Dear Prime Minister Hipkins,

We, the undersigned, draw your attention to two major problems in the Ministry of Education’s Curriculum Refresh policy and in the associated NCEA qualification reforms. These problems were created during your tenure as Minister of Education and can only be solved by calling an immediate halt to the radical initiatives causing the problems. Because the matter is of such urgency, this letter is an open one and will be made public.

The first problem is the fundamental change to the purpose of New Zealand education contained in the Curriculum Refresh document, Te Mātaiaho: The Refreshed New Zealand Curriculum: Draft for Testing, September 2022.

The second problem is an effect of the first.  It is the insertion into the curriculum of traditional knowledge, or mātauranga Māori, as equivalent to science.

Click “continue reading” below to see the rest of the letter, including the signers:

Continue reading “Proposed New Zealand school curriculum and some strong pushback from four academics”