Brad DeLong selectively deletes critical comments?

Y'know, I hate to quote Steve Sailer, but the behavior of DeLong's described here is pure intellectual pusillanimity:

I mentioned below that Berkeley economist Brad DeLong had issued of his "reality-based" blog a self-satisfied mathematical proof that the distribution of genes around the world must be homogenous, even thought as you know and I know, but Brad doesn't know, they aren't. A lively argument then broke out in his Comments section.

What's interesting is that the eminent professor has now gone through his Comments section and deleted many posts that undermine his worldview. Where does he find the time? Unfortunately, he forgets to delete the responses by his supporters attempting to answer the now-deleted heresies, making the experience rather like looking at those pictures from the Bolshevik Revolution pictures where Stalin had Trotsky airbrushed out from Lenin's side.

As Mahalonobis says, it's not like the deleted comments were emotional or uninformative, they were relevant technical points:

The comments were not ad hominem or inflamatory, but fact-filled and constructive. They were contrary to DeLong's argument, however, so he hoped they would go down the memory hole.

The idea had to do with the recent piece by Bruce T. Lahn of the University of Chicago, who found a gene associated with brain size was found with very different frequencies in different populations, suggesting it was selected for, and thus evidence of some sort of evolutionary selection. As a modern American liberal, DeLong pooh-poohed this observation, noting that under certain situations selection for dominant genes would not matter very long. In the debate that followed, certain researchers made the point that although most genetic variation is within-race, that does not mean races are "not real". This is because even though there is large within-race variation (85%), the correlation of genes within a race are sufficiently different that a geneticist would have no problem differentiating a Swede from a Hutu, just as no regular person would have difficulty differentiating a Swede from a Hutu. The deleted comments were technical extensions of this argument. DeLong obviously considered this blasphemous, or at least inconvenient.

You can read the deleted comments in Sailer's post, and here is the original entry (with many comments). I haven't verified this, but Sailer claims that responses to the deleted posts were left, which would provide some circumstantial evidence for his claim.

The issue of blog censorship is an interesting one. Clearly Brad owns his blog, and he has the right to selectively delete whatever comments he wants. I won't argue with that. But it remains true that such behavior (if he engaged in it) is inimical to productive discussion and reflects poorly on the posted argument.

Actively distorting the set of facts that your readers see in order to make your argument stronger strikes me as intellectually dishonest, in a Mary Rosh sort of way. Especially in a blog whose title is "Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: Fair, Balanced, and Reality-Based". I often do badly at admitting or retracting my erroneous arguments - dammit, it's hard to admit being wrong. But at least I leave the comments that convinced me up of my error up there for all to see, and reach their own conclusions.

On the other hand, looking at the comments remaining, there is still plenty of dissent - which makes it all the more puzzling that DeLong would choose to censor some of it. Perhaps he will deign to explain? Until then, I will mark him down as an unreliable source of information.

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DeLong's confidence in his

DeLong's confidence in his his non-factual assumption about genetics reminds me of the classic joke:

A physicist, a chemist, and an economist are shipwrecked on a desert island. Starving, they find a case of canned pork and beans on the beach, but they have no can opener. So, they hold a symposium on how to open the cans. The physicist goes first:

"I've devised a physical solution. We find a pointed rock and propel it at the lid of the can at, say, 25 meters per second --"

The chemist breaks in:

"No, I have a chemical solution: we heat the molecules of the contents to over 100 degrees Centigrade until the pressure builds to --"

The economist, condescension dripping from his voice, interrupts:

"Gentlemen, gentlemen, I have a much more elegant solution. Assume we have a can opener..."

DeLong eventually closed

DeLong eventually closed comments claiming it was a food fight. In reality, he had simply humiliated himself by denouncing a post of Andrew Sullivan's about Bruce T. Lahn's discovery of two brain development genes and claiming to prove mathematically that all useful genes had to be homogenously distributed around the world. Of course, if DeLong had bothered to read the NY Times article about Lahn's discovery, he would have seen that these useful genes are _not_ homogenously distributed. When the evolutionary heavyweight Gregory Cochran, and others, showed up in his comments section to show how wrong he was, DeLong first started censoring comments that made him look bad, then closed his Comments secion

For details of what was wrong with DeLong's original post:

Physicist Steve Hsu's account of the selective deletions can be found here:

DeLong also deleted a number of my comments providing data on track & field performance by race. You can still see responses to my missing comments.

"That surely sounds

"That surely sounds reasonable, but if we are to believe Mahalonobis, it wasn’t that the conversation was getting sidetracked, it’s just that the on-topic remarks were from the opposing viewpoint."

Perhaps. I didn't follow it closely, because I go to Pharyngula for that sort of thing, not DeLong. But part of my point is that on publicly available discussion boards, there's sometimes a good reason to delete "on-topic remarks from the opposing viewpoint." It probably doesn't apply to DeLong since he considers himself a "moderate" or a "centrist".

That surely sounds

That surely sounds reasonable, but if we are to believe Mahalonobis, it wasn't that the conversation was getting sidetracked, it's just that the on-topic remarks were from the opposing viewpoint.

I dunno about the deletion

I dunno about the deletion (btw, I think that if a blog/website is specifically intended to promote a particular kind of discussion, then it's sometimes worth deleting other perspectives that sidetrack a particular discussion---they can respond on their own blogs), but I've always taken DeLong with a grain of salt. For opposite reasons from you guys: he's too much of a "card-carrying neoliberal." I greatly prefer MaxSpeak or General Glut. However, DeLong is a very good place for links to other discussions.

Anyway, I myself wouldn't do it, but I can understand someone who does. It's just so easy to set up your own blog---and just so easy to sidetrack a discussion with other stuff. I participate in various pinko commie sites and sometimes a high-level "theoretical" discussion gets sidetracked by trolly libertarians demanding we revalidate foundational ideas.

Of course, I sometimes do that here :)

Delong does this all the

Delong does this all the time on his carefully constructed echo-chamber/blog comments.

[i]If comments contain valid arguments, are backed by some amount of facts, and are germain to the topic, then deleting them is intellectually dishonest.[/i]

Delong is intellectually dishonest as a general rule.


I've noticed this, too, when

I've noticed this, too, when I've commented on DeLong's blog.

If comments contain valid

If comments contain valid arguments, are backed by some amount of facts, and are germain to the topic, then deleting them is intellectually dishonest. So one is tempted to write this particular blog off.

I used to have a troll that would come through and make arguments that were complete nonsense and often quite beside the point.

Eventually I realized that at times the comments from that individual well exceeded my original posts and I was, in effect, hosting his wacky worldview. One day I went through and deleted every single comment from the fellow and put up a post explaining why. He came back once or twice but eventually lost interest. Now I wish I had kept his originals in a separate file: I think a book could have been coaxed out of them.

What's interesting in all

What's interesting in all this is that part of Brad's mathematical argument holds water, and there's an easy way to square it with the observations. Up until a few thousand to a few hundred years ago, the racial groupings that can be identified genetically were separated much more radically than Brad's (1 in 1000 intermarriages) assumption. So we could clearly be sitting at a point in the graph where there is a measurable difference between the populations.

What the mathematical argument seems to show is that with even small amonts of racial mixing, genetic differences between races will *eventually become* indistinguishable from individual variation. What he's missing is that you don't need an absolute separation in any individual gene to see a genetic racial divide, so the possibility of defining races geneticallly would exist within the window (contrary to his statements). I think you can extend Brad's analysis to genetic markers with neutral selection pressure. It would take far longer for two populations to equalize if they start with a huge separation, but it would happen eventually.

Anyway, I agree with the thrust of your blogging critique. Deleting heresies from the record is incredibly insidious. I simply can't trust the blog of anyone who does that. IMO, It's pefectly fair to close comments after a certain point, to limit the ability of people to fill up your blog with a flood of arguments you simply don't have time to answer. But deleting what's already there and has received a fair response is intellectually dishonest in the extreme.

I made a few comments in the

I made a few comments in the thread toward the end, and watched comments get deleted around me, as well as the spectacle of him inserting bracketed answers to questions I was asking someone else after he closed off the possibility of reply (see the very last post in the thread). Ridiculous behavior.

After looking over his site,

After looking over his site, I see why you hate to quote Sailer.

*[raises hand]* I was

*[raises hand]* I was watching it too (but not commenting). It's true, Cochran and Hsu both had comments deleted. This is by no means the first time DeLong has done this kind of thing.

Fantastic, can we take him

Fantastic, can we take him off our Favorites list now?

The distribution of genes in

The distribution of genes in both the parents and offsprings, follows the normal distribution. It is statiscally proved.:neutral: