"Social Science" and Racism

A test with the imprimatur of the University of Maryland and UC Santa Barbara, which purports to help you reveal your racism to yourself, is a better example of why these 'social science' field are frauds.

Let us count the ways.

1) Scientific tests should seek to eliminate all but one variable; you control the rest so you can be clear on what has changed. This test, instead, varies its language in ways that muddy what it is measuring, e.g., asking about 'it is offensive' only some of the time, and 'it is okay to...' on other occasions.

2) That ambiguity is made much worse by the fact that 'okay' is an almost endlessly ambiguous word. It can mean anything from "yes" to "I understand" to "enough already!" to "I will do that," and many other things besides. So when you ask people to what degree they agree that 'it is okay to... X' you need to spell out what kind of 'okay' you mean.

For example, is it okay to insult a President? Well, it's legal, unless you are a serving military member; it may be morally permissible even where it isn't legal, in cases where the President may really deserve the words; it may be virtuous even where it isn't legal. Or do you mean that it's 'okay' in the sense of being socially acceptable? It is highly acceptable to insult the current president in some crowds, but completely unacceptable to insult the previous one in similar terms.

3) When they ask about what is offensive, there is no objective fact of the matter about that. People get offended, and people are different. Is the question whether I think a thing is or ought to be offensive, or whether I think that there are people somewhere in my society who would be offended (or that they ought to be, or ought not to be)? If the test cannot avoid these ambiguities, how could it pretend to be offering an apples-to-apples comparison across the responses of different readers? The readers may well have thought they were answering meaningfully different questions.

4) We begin to unravel the real purpose of the exam when we realize that answering "no opinion" counts against you every time. Having no opinion is always treated as evidence of racism. The only answers that won't count against you are the extreme ones -- double thumbs up or double thumbs down -- provided you select the correct one of those options.

5) This is not a test of racism, in other words, but a test of your knowledge of the content of an ideology. You might have no opinion about a question because you haven't thought about it before; that wouldn't be evidence one way or the other about your internal racism. What you are being tested on is having developed the right opinions, and knowing to express them as strongly as possible when asked for them.

6) In that sense the test involves the sort of demand for successful mind-reading one sometimes encounters in bad emotional relationships: if you didn't know this was a problem, that is a proof that you're wrong because you should have picked up on it. If you didn't know what I meant when I said something ambiguous, that is proof that you aren't thinking about this the right way. You should have known what I meant.

7) Finally, a lot of the questions are about fictional cases, where presumably the moral stakes are a lot lower. These cases are run into the same index as cases that affect actual human beings, as if there were an equivalence between real and pretend cases.

Yet in spite of all of this, the test is very proud of itself and its team.
Why Use This Test?
1. Free....

2. Validity and reliability. Empirical testing and factor analysis has shown the validity of the Racism Test. The evidence has been published in scientific journals and has good scientific validity.

3. Based on peer-reviewed research. The present test is based on peer-reviewed research, as published in notable scientific journals and conducted by professional researchers at the University of Maryland and University of California Santa Barbara.

4. Statistical controls. Test scores are logged into an anonymized database. Statistical analysis of the test is conducted to ensure maximum accuracy and validity of the test scores.

5. Made by professionals. The authors of this free online test are certified in the use of numerous psychological tests and have worked professionally with personality and psychological testing.
The fraud is bigger than the test; the real fraud is that these people have been taught to think of what they are doing here as valid, reliable, professional work. They're the real victims; probably they each paid tens of thousands of dollars into this fraudulent scheme. They'll be paying off that debt for decades, and look where it got them.


Christopher B said...

They are doing exactly what they've been taught. There is no objective truth that can be discovered about a reality that exists outside our minds, just consensus about what shadows are appearing on the cave wall and how to react to them.

ymarsakar said...

Counter: Ok,Boomer.

Y: Ok, human.