November 02, 2007

Averages

The Political Umpire wonderfully fisks Melanie Phillips's bigotry at his blog. He also points out I think something that Melanie and indeed many seem not to grasp- the distinction between an average and a definition. If for instance it were true that on average people with blonde hair are cleverer than those with brown hair, it wouldn't mean anything in terms of whether a particular blonde person was cleverer or less clever than the average brunette. If however it is part of the definition of say a dolphin to be less articulate than a monkey, then it is indeed justifiable to treat them differently. That Phillips doesn't understand that distinction is worrying. That the Political Umpire does is reassuring.

9 comments:

Count James d'Estaing said...

Still, she supports Israel and that must be good, no?

Matthew Sinclair said...

Averages, tendencies can be very important when you need to prioritise. The classic case is racial profiling for intelligence work. While the vast majority in all racial groups won't be terrorists if you have scarce monitoring resources and need to choose who to focus on not profiling is to make policing less efficient.

I'm not commenting on the particular case Political Umpire is responding to. Its just that in a world of limited information and, often, heavy costs to gathering additional information averages and probabilities are something we often have to work with. Intellectually judging them unsufficient seems rather unrealistic.

edmund said...

i cna't believe a blog as good as this linked to such a feeble post. it's good in one sense it suggests the arguments for such measures are so weak (as mr sinclair has very politely pointed out)

I hope Gracchi does have to interview pople for a job's "oh well we'll ignore educaonal qualificaions because some people wihtout them are better than some with them".

here's some of the stuff i posted on this

buta) this is about stopping the "professionasl" of adoption agnecies uing thier own criteria and forcing them to ignore their own criteria!

b) Things don't have to be absolute, to take an extrem example , i'm sure they are parents who have serious criimina records who are better parents than t hose who do not. I doubt there is a single criteria that can be used which everyone who dint meet the criteria would be better suited to parenthood than everyone who did! it's an absurd standard to use when consdering whether adoption agencies can use it as a criteria.

c) indeed o ther criteira like age are much more umjust that this- because being in a homosexual relationsjhip is a matter of choice (unless it's rape of course) while

so I) this is about not letting the professionals do what they want II)Under the same absurd critiera that everyone who fails to meet a category has to be superior choice you couldn ot use just about any category whether education , age ect for anything III) This is about peopole's freely chosen relationshops so is not equivant even to grounds on age (which i think is still allowed for adoption

Political Umpire said...

Count James - it would have been interesting to hear Mel's views had an Arab adoption worker announced his religion precluded him from allowing any children to be adopted by parents of Israeli origin ...

Matthew - true, but that is precisely the opposite of what you do in adoption cases. There you have to start with a blank sheet of paper in terms of things such as race, religion etc. You have to focus on whether the particular prospective parents who have come forward are suitable in the particular case. Some categories can be excluded ab initio, such as those with criminal convictions for child molestation (there being a chance such people could reform, but it really wouldn't be worth the risk ...). But others cannot, including the sexual orientation of the parents. That is precisely what this individual purported to do - import his religious beliefs in to his decision making process in order to exclude ab initio anyone of a particular sexual orientation.

It is possible to argue that the risks inherent in gay parenting (whatever they might be) are such as to require such a step, but that's what parliament considered and rejected. It decided that gay parenting cannot be banned per se. That is the law within which particular case workers have to operate. They can't opt out of it any more than the medical student could opt out of certain courses (learning about stds say, which the religious student thinks immoral). One is entitled to hold such beliefs, but then one can't take an official job which conflicts with them.

Edmund my post might be as feeble as your spell checking, but I hope I've answered your point too.

edmund said...

My apologies for my spelling political umpire (have a disability) will work on reposting the original post.

I find it very difficult to think you bel9ive

Are you serious arguing that what is not banned must be compulsory? i.e.

Note you talk about "nothing can be ruled out" -so are you saying it'd be ok for individual adoption workers within the agency to discriminate in favour of say married relationships over homosexual ones (this is now illegal).

If not are you suggesting that anything that’s legal in an adopted parent can not be held against them. So what happens then if you have 100 qualified parents applying for adoption and only 20 kids (a very common occurrence)? Well it's not illegal to be old- so that can't be held against them , it's not illegal to have had a criminal record and adopt, it's not illegal to have lost custody of your own children and adopt act are you saying then that none of these criteria can be used?

And ditto for a job application it's not illegal to be a chief executive without a degree and so forth?

If so how will you make a choice for anything? Random lot?

If not then your argument falls.

edmund said...

i can’t believe a blog as good as this linked to such a feeble post. it's good in one sense it suggests the arguments for such measures are so weak (as Mr Sinclair has very politely pointed out)

I hope Gracchi doesn't have to interview people for a job's "oh well we'll ignore educational qualifications because some people without them are better than some with them".

here's some of the stuff i posted on this

but
a) this is about stopping the "professionals" of adoption agencies using their own criteria and forcing them to ignore their own criteria!

b) Things don't have to be absolute, to take an extreme example , i'm sure they are parents who have serious criminal records who are better parents than t hose who do not. I doubt there is a single criteria that can be used which everyone who dint meet the criteria would be better suited to parenthood than everyone who did! it's an absurd standard to use when considering whether adoption agencies can use it as a criteria.

c) indeed other criteria like age are much more unjust that this- because being in a homosexual relationship is a matter of choice (unless it's rape of course) while

so I) this is about not letting the professionals do what they want II)Under the same absurd criteria that everyone who fails to meet a category has to be superior choice you could not use just about any category whether education , age ect for anything III) This is about people’s freely chosen relationships so is not equivalent even to grounds on age (which i think is still allowed for adoption

edmund said...

And the isreali pint would work if she'd been defending racial discrimination in adoption (the frequent pracitce of which i actually think i vageuly recall her attacing once). i suspect she'd say it'd be ok for an adoption agency only to offer adoption to muslims which would perhpas be a better comparision.

And don't forget about a tenth of isrealis are Arabs.

Political Umpire said...

Edmund I've posted a response to you on my original post, hope you take the time to respond. The point is that I am NOT saying that one _has_ to hire someone on the ground of their sexual orientation, just that they can't be _excluded_ on that basis, which is a very different thing. It is no different to me saying I won't discriminate in my choice of employee on their skin colour - that doesn't mean I won't discriminate on other grounds and certainly doesn't mean that I won't be trying to hire the whole world.

Political Umpire said...

Sorry meant to say it doesn't mean I _will_ be trying to hire the whole world.