James Damore: Before reading

BEFORE READING ACTIVITY

James Damore, a former senior engineer for Google, seemed to have done himself in through a self-inflicted wound. Sports  analogy. He did an own-goal.

Before reading his paper, I want to reflect on my secondhand encounters with his memo. In fact I am going to pursue an important reading strategy that involves before, during, and after reading questions to construct meaning.

 

MY BIAS

I must say that I am prone to being biased or skeptical when it comes to using biology and the study of human behavior to explain social issues or patterns. I’d much prefer if we all just blamed the media.

Although, my background is in social sciences, I still think that social science is pseudoscience. Why? I’ll be generous. Humans are at best 2 parts rational to 1 part irrational, while biology deals only with rational things.

What has stuck with me through my years was the candid confession of a professor. He said, “If you get a model that explains 30% of variation, you’ve hit the jackpot.”

My intent is not to be dirty or a mean-man. I’m guessing that that most of the research James draws on is pseudoscience.

Initially, I only heard aural accounts of his shenanigans. In the early days of the story, James was portrayed as an idiot at best and an angry bigot. He seemed to be someone selling old theories and beliefs about immutable genetic traits leading to substantial differences and personalities between the sexes. Immutable genetics drive-by.

I WONDER?

I wondered if his motive was at its core about anger issues. Anger with having to listen to “propaganda”. Anger with his chances of being CEO leveling to 50/50.

I encountered him visually and aurally predominantly on conservative social media. I always listen to conservative social media voices when I want or feel the need to be distracted by shiny objects.

I have to confess that I really enjoyed listening to James stumble through his practiced apologia: I just wanted to suggest ways to create a culture that attracts women into tech.

Very noble. However, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating.

I’m wondering if James is just an armchair expert? Some experts seem to defend him as someone who has read lots of studies. Some even go so far as to suggest that his scientific background is a solid enough foundation to accept his voice.

My testosterone-self thinks he should have stuck to coding. He looks like a brilliant coder.

LISTEN TO RENE PLEASE

I found this quote in my first year Calculus textbook:

What passes for “knowledge” in our time is an uncritical mishmash of sense and nonsense, fact and guesswork, gossip and hearsay and clumsy propaganda – mostly acquired from wishful thinking, lazy reasoning, inadequate senses, credulous parents, overworked teachers, and self-serving institutions.

The above is apparently the opinion of Rene Descartes at the age of 23 years old.

DURING READING QUESTIONS

Here are my during reading questions:

  1. Is he a moron or a misunderstood hero?
  2. Has he explored counter-arguments to what may strictly be a reliance on nature arguments?
  3. Is his memo weighted towards solutions? What are they?
  4. Is the science credible and relevant to his apologia?
  5. Should he have left this issue to the experts? Is he an expert?
  6. Is is memo just pyrite (fool’s gold)?
  7. Is he looking to use science to support a gender caste system?

“If we will only abstain from assuming something to be true which is not, and always follow the necessary order in deducing one thing from another, there is nothing so remote that we cannot reach it, nor so hidden that we cannot discover it” (a quotation from Part 2 of Descartes’ Discourse on Method)