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Sunday, 21 October 2007

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Coming up in In Part II:

A 50 word dissertation in whioh Mr Duff explains how the Arabs and the Jews can be reconciled....

Hi David. Two questions and a comment...possibly two.

1. I'm English and Jewish. What characteristics should be assigned to me?

2. Do you agree with Dr Watson (DNA helix guy) that black people are less intelligent than whites (not such a "discreet" group of people, rather, an entire race)?

3. What marketeers do is study behaviours and target their marketing based on those behaviours. Race and nationality are irrelevent, the behaviour is the issue. That's fine. they'd never, for example, blanket mail-drop the entire island of Ireland to market some new drink because IReland has a reputation for having fun down the pub - that would be ridiculous, right?

What you are suggesting is that we can look at entire countries or races of people and apply certain behaviours to everyone based on mere membership of those groups. It's impossible. Take me and my first question above. I am English - but am I the same as another English person, black, 63 years old and living in another part of the country? Or is it their blackness that sets them apart from me and my Jewishness that then takes precedence? What about two Irish people. Like my good friend X - born and raised in Ireland, living and working for the last 6 years in London, married and a human rights lawyer. Or my Irish friend Z, same age, friend of X, unmarried, living on someone's floor, suffering from mental health problems. One is white, one is black. Guess which.

I hope you see what I'm getting at. Can you assign certain characteristics to certain discreet groups? Yes, but those groups must be extremely discreet. People who shop in certain stores for example. A very small behavioural trait to share with others and one that has nothing whatsoever to do with nationality or race. Income, however, might be the kicker. Such behaviours transcend race and nationality - as do all, in fact. You attempt to equate shoppers with entire races. It's just impossible.

Once the argument of whether it is possible has been dealt with, the question of morality becomes a little clearer, because then your made up traits based on unfounded prejudices are are in place for some purpose and very very rarely is that purpose positive. It is almost invariably to put or keep certain groups down.

Now, again, would you agree that all black people are less intelligent than whites? Or is that as ridiculous and racist to you as it is to me? Having answred that, is it right to assign characteristics to entire rraces of people?

AH, BUT SIMON! WHAT ABOUT THE ATOMS?

Well, there David's cherry-picked the "average behaviour" argument from atomic physics and appears to be saying...actually, it's not worth repeating. It's only value is that it serves as an example of incredible intellectual dishonesty. I say dishonesty because I do not think David's stupid.

David knows full well that that argument is incapable of application to people. "What is important is not the precise trajectory of every gas particle but their average behaviour". If this were true in relation to people then collective punishment would be justifiable. Who cares that some are innocent? Lower grades among certain ethnic minorities versus white kids would be blamed on their race rather than their economic status, their different first language and the multitude of other factors bearign on certain kids. The examples are multitude - no point going into it though because I think David knows it already.

Yes, the atoms section is undoubtedly a strange interlude. David quotes an entire passage dealing with 19 century physics (with footnote!) only to banish it to complete irrelevance with his next line: "But do people behave like atoms? Obviously not."

Accordingly, it is difficult to see what this archaic scientific detour adds to David's argument, such as it is, aside from a fleeting and entirely superficial scholarly appearance. It is simply another way to use as many words as possible to say absolutely nothing.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please remember this is a conversation not an exercise in point scoring!

Simon, you have gone ahead of me in several of your points, so I will leave them for now and return to them later - feel free to remind me if I forget.

All I have tried to do in Part I is to establish that groups of people *do* have characteristics, that those characteristics can be defined with some accuracy if the correct mathematical tools are used, and that as individuals we naturally and constantly draw conclusions concerning groups, albeit, perhaps, with less accuracy than scientific observers might have. I have (for the time being) deliberately avoided mentioning the problem of individuals within a discreet group, so let us stick to what I have written so far. Nor, finally, have I specified the nature of those characteristics.

If anyone disagrees with those propositions let me know and we can deal with it here before I move on.

Simon seems to agree that groups can possess characteristics but only if the groups are small and of a specific type, such as *shoppers*. Well, I gave two examples, one of which was indeed small (shoppers) but the other, the military proclivities of the Prussian people over thousands of generations is enormous and would seem to disprove his point. However, let me stress again that I do not wish to be bogged down in this or that group *at this stage*.

Both Simon and Gary disparage my analogy of the behaviour of human groups with collections of atoms. They hoisted me in my own petard by quoting my remark that humans do not behave like atoms. That was careless and imprecise of me. What I meant by it was that atoms can behave in certain specific ways, where-as human beings have an altogether different range of possible behaviour possibilities. However, what I wanted to make clear was that *the same mathematical techniques" that can be used to measure the average of one, can be used to measure the average of the other.

One of the ways where this has been done is in the study of crowd movements:

"In 1971, L. F. Henderson of the University of Sydney saw that beyond this miasma of individuality [people in crowds], there might lie some quantifiable *statistical* characteristics of what humans do in moving groups. [...] There are some general rules, some constraints, some trends and averages."

"Henderson [...] wondered whether they might fit the Maxwell-Boltzmann kinetic theory of gases. That is to say that he suspected that the distribution of velocities of people walking along a pavement would trace out the bell-shaped curve used by Maxwell and verified by Boltzmann." (Ball, ibid)

They did with, not surprisingly, differences betwen men and women. So far, 'so bleedin' obvious' when you think about it. But later this work was extended and various thinkers on the subject came to the conclusion that mere velocity was not enough. They began to think in terms of what forces were at work on individuals as, for example, they walked own a busy corridor. They noticed, for example that two factors involved were the desire on the part of individuals not to collide and not to get so close as to compromise their's and other's personal spaces. This is analogous to the 'repulsion' factor seen in the behaviour of atoms. There were also forces of 'attraction', such as working groups moving from one location to another down the corridor and wishing to stick together. (They failed to mention the drop-dead gorgeous receptionist waiting for the lift!) They also studied the 'paths' worn into areas of grassland on university campuses by the movement of undergraduate feet over the years, these paths being a perfect demonstration of the way that apparently random decisions of thousands of individuals nevertheless results in order.

I mention all this only to demonstrate just *some* of the investigations into human behaviour that have been and still are being undertaken by some fairly heavyweight scientific minds - not that that makes them right as anyone with even the scantiest knowledge of climatology will tell you! All I am trying to establish *for now* is that attempting to characterise human groups is a respectable science. If you disagree with that let me know.

Duff’s dilemma is that he has hitched his wagon to this statement: "http://duffandnonsense.typepad.com/duff_nonsense/2005/11/hes_my_brother_.html#comment-11718130>I am a 'racist', so are you, so is everyone", the first clause of which is well supported, the second and third not so. His challenge is therefore to attempt to reverse engineer the "evidence" for this proposition of "universal racism". Hence all this nonsense about atoms and marketing.

He appears to also suggest that racism (or more specifically, "racial stereotyping") can be "useful" in the same way that advertising companies find utility in market research. Simon Metz has dealt sufficiently with this ludicrous notion: market researchers are concerned with patterns of consumer spending which change over time in response to a multitude of socio-economic factors, not hard and fast racial or ethnic divisions. There is also a good argument to be made that such research is far more hit and miss than those who charge for it would care to admit; this is an irrelevance, thankfully, so no such discussion need be had. In any case, I imagine that Duff would struggle to come up with cases where racial stereotyping provides a social utility worth preserving. (Furthermore, it should be noted that one is in a rum position altogether if one must resort to a comparison with marketers and advertisers to justify one’s behaviour.)

Even if Duff’s "universal racism" were to be established, the question remains whether such attitudes are excused by the "fact" that they are held by all of us. Would this justify the writer from the dominant tribe’s stubborn insistence on using racial epithets to describe historically oppressed minority groups? Would it justify a writer’s dismissal of an individual on the grounds of their "very dislikable characteristics" of "Oirishness" as much as on that individual’s own words? Or would it indicate a societal problem that it is our responsibility to address? It is a plain childhood truth that "just because everyone does it does not make it right". Surely, then, it is the responsibility of those who have acknowledged the phenomenon to take steps to rectify the scenario? I look forward to Duff’s ruminations on this topic in his next post.

An additional topic that Duff might want to devote some time to is the extent, or the effective degree, of a person’s racism. On one hand, there is the racist that would seek to exterminate members of an ethnic group in their millions, and further down the line we might (perhaps) place someone who seeks to string someone from a tree for the colour of their skin. These are obviously extreme manifestations of racism. Closer to the other end of the scale we might find people who support imperial aggression against "primitive peoples" (a phrase that is steeped in the notion of racial or cultural superiority). We might also find, somewhere on our scale of racist behaviour, people of the dominant group who, while not causing physical harm to minority groups, nonetheless insist on referring to them in terms that are indelibly linked to actual historical aggression – terms with a well-established propensity to offend – and who do so even when it is clear that the targets of these words object. And then, at the end of the scale of supposed "universal racists", we would presumably find those who display no outward evidence of such attitudes whatsoever and who would balk at using such terms, especially when it is made clear to them that they are offensive. So, if we are all racists(and this of course is far from established) then surely some of us are worse than others.

(A short note on Duff's latest comment, which materialised while I was writing this: Duff states that he seeks to "establish that groups of people *do* have characteristics" and that "that attempting to characterise human groups is a respectable science". He has quite simply done nothing of the sort. It might be useful if he identified some of these groups, hypothesised their shared characteristics, and then sought to demonstrate that these characteristics are correct. In terms of "respectable science" he has referred to two things: market research and the study of atoms. The first of these is of dubious worth, but both of them are completely and utterly irrelevant to the discussion at hand. If he seeks to establish his "respectable science" point, he would be advised to introduce examples of useful scientific research into the characteristics of racial and ethnic groups. Who is doing this research, what results has it returned, and in what way is it useful? The study of atoms and consumers will not supply the scientific veneer that he desires.)

Actually, to some extent, marketing people do stereotype the Irish, in point of fact - I once met a (black) architect who was designing part of the new Stansted terminal, and he told me that for the Continental flights they were looking to attract high-end retailers in the departure lounge, whereas near the Ryanair departures to Shannon, he was putting in a large number of lavatories and a bar. I am not making this up.

Hilary, I don't doubt your story, but this is due to Irish consumer habits and socio-economics rather than anything intrinsic in Irish DNA. Market research might show that Irish people may be more likely like to drink a beer while they wait for their plane, but it does not establish that this is true for all Irish people, and neither does it establish that this will always be the case. For example, "coffee culture" is gaining ground in Dublin, and an increasing number of my Irish friends now prefer a cappuccino to a Guinness. As a commenter above stated, consumer trends "change over time in response to a multitude of socio-economic factors", whereas ethnic or racial stereotypes tend to stay fixed.

Some Irish people I know don't even like potatoes.

I shall forgive the good 'Prof.' for getting ahead of my argument because he was unable to read my earlier comment this morning. However, when he had read it he wrote this, "It might be useful if he identified some of these groups, hypothesised their shared characteristics, and then sought to demonstrate that these characteristics are correct." I cannot be expected to go through every possible group but I did offer up shoppers and the Prussians. In the latter case I specified a characteristic and I appeal to the court of History to verify my proposition which, for what it's worth, is shared by many military historians.

I deliberately chose two very different groups as examples because the first, shoppers, are simply individuals who share an activity, whilst the other is a racial/national/cultural group.

So I say again, before I move any further, can we agree that groups can and do have characteristics? If you disagree, then please let me have your reasons.

David, I did not ask you to "go through every possible group", but just to identify "some" of these groups. I do not for second agree that "shoppers" is a relevant category. Aside from the fact that this discussion is about racism, not advertising, you are attempting to establish that certain groups display certain uniform behaviours, whereas the entire basis of market research is that "shoppers" cannot be treated as a homegenous group. You say that shoppers are "individuals who share an activity" as if this was meaningful, whereas the only activity they all share is that they shop. This is hardly worth saying.

Your Prussian example is a nonsense. Firstly you have not established that "Prussians" are more prone to "extreme aggression" than any other arbitrarily defined group, but again this is besides the point, because even if this were true you have not established that such behaviour has anything to do with the racial or ethnic make-up of the "Prussians". In actual fact, you have suggested the opposite: you have argued that your posited Prussian aggression is largely to do with historic, environmental and social matters. Therefore it would not be useful at all to talk about this behaviour in terms of race or ethnicity.

I have suggested that you find actual useful scientific research that argues for uniform characteristics among racial or ethnic lines. I have also suggested that you set out your stall a little by establishing what you mean by "groups"? I would expect you to outline a few "groups" that are relevant to the topic, as opposed to "shoppers". Let’s try "black" people. Or indeed, "white" people. Can you set out what uniform characteristics, other than skin colour, that you would expect to see in these cases? Can you establish that these are true? Can you establish that these are useful? Perhaps you can tie your points together by pointing to scientific research that shows that "black" and "white" are useful designators for judging behaviour?

You ask if we can "agree that groups can and do have characteristics". This is so vague as to be utterly meaningless, and there is also a "chicken and egg" element here (groups can have of course have characteristics if they are grouped on the basis of that shared characteristic). You would need to define what you mean here before anyone can agree, perhaps by using the method I have suggested above, i.e. what are these groups, and what characteristics can we expect? Are you saying that these characteristics are race or ethnicity based or are there other explanatory factors? You haven’t even come close to establishing your simple proposition, I’m afraid, largely because you haven’t even defined what you mean by it.

If you want a proposition I might be likely to agree with, then try this on for size: "A statistically significant proportion of certain narrowly defined groups may, in certain circumstances and as a result of various contemporaneous socio-economic factors (including but not limited to historical and cultural considerations), exhibit particular behaviours that can be regarded as 'uniform' for certain limited purposes; however, there is no evidence to suggest that such behaviours are either biologically determined or are shared by the group as a whole".

That’s a statement I can get behind.

I apologise for “getting ahead” of your argument, but this is only because I can see exactly where it is going. It is entirely juvenile, and this farce of establishing a "scientific" basis for your inevitable sophistry is tiresome to witness.

In response to Hilary's point, it must also be pointed out that Shannon airport serves the West of Ireland, a massive tourist draw. It is not just Irish people drinking but those going on holiday. The observation is drinking, not certain people drinking.

David I'll bite on the Prussian thing - are you suggesting that Germans, because of their location are aggressive? Or Germans worldiwde, who no longer live there, have been imbued with some predisposition to aggression due to past history? Really? All Germans? Or just enough of them to justify tarring all with this brush? Where is your evidence for this?

Instead of bizarre references to atomic research, how about a simple reference to occam's razor. So, as I noted above - which is the simpler proposition:

1. That children from ethnic minorities with English as a second language get worse grades because their particular race is intellectually inferior
2. Those children perform worse because they struggle with English

On that basis, the UK has the highest teen pregnancy and STI rates in Europe. Are English people just that horny? Or is our sex education a bit rubbish?

the point is not that observing behaviours or certain groups is wrong - it is that you make a massive and arbitrary leap by assigning causation to race or nationality.

This leap has intent behind it and as I said before the intention is never positive. the Belgians did this exact thing extremely effectively in Rwanda in order to subjugate the Hutus. I don't say this to be hyperbolic, this is, afterall, only a blog, but this is your stance taken to its extreme conclusion. The same justification for your pretty innocuous use of bigoted terms and the derogatory categorisation of entire races can be used for much worse.

I again raise the issue of intellectual dishonesty, because if you were honest you would admit that your prejudices colour your arguments and blind you to more obvious reasons for certain phenomena.

Lovehandle responded at the same time as me - I think you need to deal with his points if you want to continue down this road taking pages of debate to reach the point you are trying to make.

I think you should cut to the chase. Your view is that certainr aces are inferior. So, in fact, ignore my comment sentirely. Just answer this:

Which ones? Can we have a league table?

I'd also like to know what it is about Southern Irish people it is you don't like and how the border between north and south somehow serves as a barrier preventing these traits reaching people from the north.

Actually, ignore this too - as a jew I'm too busy making money and drinking catholic blood to have time to waste on this

Gentlemen, the only 'leaping' going on here is both of you leaping ahead of my argument! I say again, all that I am trying to do at this stage is establish the *fact* that groups of human beings display group behavioural characteristics. I offer the following two research papers, of which there are many more, which I haven't read but they are referenced in Ball's book and the titles give you the flavour:

D.Helbing (1994) "A mathematical model for teh behaviour of individuals in a social field": Journal of Mathematical Sociology 19.

L.F.Henderson (1971)"The statistics of crowd fluids": Nature 229.

Surely we can agree the *general* proposition that human groups have distinguishable, behavioural characteristics which does not commit anyone to any particular instance of it that I might bring up later. And only in the case of the Prussians have I adduced any causes to different types of behaviour because that is a theme I wish to explore later.

Come on, Gentlemen, let us agree on what we can agree on, I am not enticing you any further than what is trivially true.

Mr Duff, I have given my reasons for not agreeing with your hopelessly vague "fact" already. It is too sweeping, too general, too undefined, to be of any use whatsoever. I cannot agree to a proposition that has so many possible applications. For example are these "groups" biologically defined? If so, then no, I do not agree. You see, the problem?

My own proposition attempts to take care of these definitional shortcomings. Do you agree with it? Perhaps we can use it going forward; rather that than have you bully us into accepting your own grossly inadequate version as some sort of prerequisite to you finally addressing the myriad logical and evidential flaws in your argument to date.

Additionally, the abstracts of the two papers you refer to shine further light on your efforts to reduce this argument to primary school nonsense.

The first refers to a mathematical model for behavioural changes under the influence of a "social field", which includes factors such as public opinion, social norms and trends, the environment, and interactions of individuals, but which does not consider biological determinants.

The second is yet more entirely irrelevant stuff about fluids in the gaseous phase.

Neither of these papers come anywhere near to providing support for the argument that racial or ethnic groups share certain characteristics or behaviours (although they do support the proposition that you are desperately attempting to affix a superficial scientific facade to your racist arguments). Your proposition obviously needs to be clearer in order to reflect this or will certainly not find me agreeing with it.

Simon, you're beginning to disappoint me! I asked you to hang fire and wait for me to deploy my argument but, no, you rush in and tell me what my opinion is *before* I have even stated it, for example, "Your view is that certain races are inferior", an opinion which I have never expressed here or anywhere else. And frankly, if you are going to use language such as "as a Jew I'm too busy making money and drinking catholic blood to have time to waste on this", even if it is self-deprecating, then I feel our conversation is not going to progress.

As for you, 'professor', nowhere have I mentioned the word 'biology' or any of its derivatives. I say again, if you will confine yourself to debating what I *actually* write as opposed to what you think I am about to write, we can push the debate along.

You dismiss the two research papers I referenced as examples of the sort of scientific work being undertaken to work out characteristics of human groups. That is your privilege but it is not one that I would recommend for anyone trying hard to come to grips with a very difficutl area of human affairs.

I do not wish to 'put words in your keyboard' but if I am right in understanding that *you* believe that biology plays no part in the behavioural characteristics of groups, then I must ask you to explain why the behviour of men and women differ?

Also, am I right to infer that you dismiss evolutionary psychology out of hand?

Mr Duff, you have indicated right at the top of the page that this is a discussion about racism. I have taken that in good faith, hence my references to biology and my increasing lack of patience with your side-shows with regard to atomic physics and gaseous phases.

If this is not an argument about racism then I apologise and will bow out forthwith, but not without politely suggesting that you adopt a less confusing approach to titling your posts in future.

If, however, this is a discussion about racism then I do not see why my introducing biological concerns causes such a dilemma, nor do I see why I should have to put up with your continually referring to sources and subjects that have absolutely no relevance to the subject.

I am increasingly aware that you are attempting to corral the conversation down a very particular route, the first step of which would seem to consist of brow-beating your readers into accepting, perhaps out of sheer exasperation, a ludicrously vague premise, as opposed to actually debating the subject that is ostensibly at hand. You note that you have not mentioned the word “biology”, and indeed, this is a very strange omission for someone who wishes to discuss whether or not there is a rational basis for racially or ethnically determined studies of human behaviour. That is the subject I was under the impression you wished to discuss. That is the subject I am “trying hard to come to grips with”. It appears, curiously, to be a subject you are simultaneously very keen to avoid.

You have asked me whether or not I agree with your proposition. I have told you that I do not, and I have explained why. Furthermore, I have offered up an alternative proposition for your consideration, which you have promptly ignored, instead offering up irrelevant scientific reports which you have misdescribed as “work being undertaken to work out characteristics of human groups”, when in fact they are either about gases, not humans, or they are concerned with predicting behavioural changes in human populations due to external social factors (the only “group” referred to in this study is the “group” that happens to be exposed to the external influences). These studies are not even anything to do with your arguments even in their widest possible interpretation. This is the reward I get for playing by your rules.

Well, you have my response, offered in good faith. You may take the conversation up from there if you are so inclined, although it seems to me that it would be helpful at this point to take discussion back to first principles: are we discussing racism, or are we not?

You really must try and stay calm, 'Professor', and also show me the courtesy of allowing me to develop *my* argument in *my* way, not *yours*! I did make it absolutely clear from the beginning that this post would be written in parts. Nor am I "brow-beating" (fat chance with my readership!) anyone into anything, I am simply offering up propositions to which you can agree or disagree.

You disagree with mine, fair enough, and you added, inconsequentially because I had not raised the subject, your insistence that biology plays no part in human behaviour. Therefore I asked you to explain the differences in behaviour between men and women. If there are differences, as I believe there are, then your proposition fails - unless, of course, you can convince me with a good argument, that is, that the obvious differences arise from some other source than biology.


Yes, this post will, in my time not yours, deal with 'racism'.

Mr Duff, I tried to approach the argument in your way, by addressing your proposition, and it got me nowhere.

First of all, it is not "inconsequential" to address biological concerns in a post that I had been led to believe was about racism, and second of all, I have not said that biology plays no part in human behaviour. I have said that there is no evidence that the behaviours you raise as examples, in "shoppers" and "Prussians" respectively, are biologically determined. My proposition therefore does not fail, but in hindsight I think it should be modified to allow for this eventuality should you ever get around to introducing evidence for it (I had in mind your two examples when I wrote my statement). Perhaps, for the purposes of this discussion, we can agree on something more like the following:

A statistically significant proportion of certain narrowly defined groups may, in certain circumstances and as a result of various contemporaneous socio-economic factors (including but not limited to historical, cultural and, perhaps in some cases, biological considerations), exhibit particular behaviours that can be regarded as effectively 'uniform' for certain limited purposes (although it is unclear what those purposes may entail); however, there has as yet been no evidence introduced to suggest that such behaviours are either exclusively or predominantly biologically determined or are shared by the group as a whole.

Better? This covers shoppers, Prussians and men and women, at least as far as you have managed to establish (I’m assuming you are not about to assert without evidence that differences in behaviour between men and women are exclusively biological in origin). Biology may play a part in behaviour, along with any number of other factors, external and internal, but it certainly does not have anything to do with the behaviour of "shoppers", and there has been absolutely no evidence introduced by you to suggest that biology is what made the Prussians so aggressive (if indeed they are). Furthermore, you have not established that biology has anything to do with group behaviours; Simon Metz has discussed a couple of cases where biology might in fact be the least likely cause of behaviour observed in certain subsections of certain groups.

Do you see that I am assessing your argument in terms of the evidence you have so far presented? I hope so. Your ridiculously vague proposition must therefore, in the light of your complete failure to adduce evidence for it, be restricted and subjected to the kinds of qualifiers that I have introduced above. My proposition simply reflects the case that you have made so far, (and in fact, I think it is quite generous in that regard). I am not going to agree that something is a "fact" simply because you say so. You need to make your argument with evidence.

Now, in your own time...

'Professor', your proposition above only lacks a phrase beginning "If the Party to the First Party ..." Just teasing! The sun is almost over what passes for a yardarm round here, so I shall return anon.

However, before I take a break, we have at least reached and agreed "Biology *may* play a part in behaviour", so praise the Lord and pass the gin and tonic!

I think you mean 'discrete' rather than 'discreet' don't you?

Is it just me, or...?

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/33210

Tell me if I'm being unfair.

Richard, welcome to D&N and thank you for proving yet again that I am incapable of proof-checking myself. I now have visions of groups of people passing by quietly with their lips tightly closed and their hats firmly drawn forward over their brows; perhaps that is their group characteristic!

Well done, 'Ratty', that was an excellent link and, like all the very best humour, it contains more than a morsel of truth.

Alas, 'Prof', I cannot accept your lawyerly treatise above, it is so tightly drawn it's making my eyes water! Let us agree to differ. I will simply leave readers with the following summary of my views, so far expounded, before posting Part II of my opinions *in a seperate post*. I am starting another post because the thread on this will become over-long and, given my commenter's 'group behaviour', overly complex!

1. Human groups do display traits and characteristics which can be measured accurately by those qualified to do so.

2. These characteristics are displayed by their behaviour.

3. As non-scientific layman, our human nature drives us to make assessments of other people's group behaviour in deciding our own re-action to it.

Well, okay, Mr. Duff. I am a Marx Bros aficionado myself, so I appreciate the wisecrack, but I will state again that your own failure to provide evidence for your proposition was the reason for the addition of so many qualifiers. The resulting statement was indeed absurd, but this was intended to reflect, in its many restricting clauses, the ground that you failed to cover. I feel that your "Night at the Opera" moment is at least some sort of recognition of this.

Similarly, you have so far not provided any evidence for even one of your three new propositions (why couldn't you have been so pithy in your orginal post?), but I note with approval that you have downgraded them appropriately from "facts" to your "views", unsubstantiated as they are. This is fair enough, so long as you acknowledge that you have not presented anyone here any sound reason for agreeing with you.

So then, on with the show. Let's see what astounding rhetorical delights you have in store for us in part II.

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