Something is broken

Nicholas Nassim Taleb is underwhelmed with the state of the UK intellectual sphere after his encounter with “historian” Mary Beard:

The BBC did some kind of educational cartoon on Roman Britain and represented “diversity” in terms of someone looking African in the show as representative of “diversity” at the time. Any dissent from the statistical errors made by the politically correct police is treated as apostasy.

What was meant to be a “typical” of Roman Britain by the BBC: flowing quotas of political correctness backward in time.

  • Representativeness heuristic. The picture was portrayed as representative (playing on the representativeness/avalability heuristic in the minds of children). Some people backtracked later by saying it is was not common but not impossible, which is where I shout “BS!”
  • Anecdotal vs Statistical. The backup is mostly anecdotal from cherry picked stories. We find nothing beyond traces of sub-Saharan genes in areas where Roman legions were located (France, Gaul, and even Spain, where most of it came much later from the Arab trade). Show the picture to a French or Italian person and tell him “this is the typical…” and watch the insults.
  • Fuzzy classification. Even the researchers who deal with physical remains miss the point that people from North Africa looked no different from Spaniards, S. Italians, and Greeks. Punics/Phoenicians we now know looked Canaanite, just like a Southern European. Berbers looked like mountain berbers today. So representing “diversity” should focus on the difference between locals and Romans, not within Romans. It would be like mixing English and Spaniards/S. Italians, which makes sense.

The reclassification “when it fits” is nothing short of fabrication.

Mary Beard, of course, fled from the obvious consequences of her own arguments when I pointed out to her that her advocacy of ethnic diversity, combined with her observation that the Roman mass rape of the Sabine Women was “a way of creating a mixed society”, amounted to an implied endorsement of the mass rapes of Rotherham.

English academics are third-rate intellects, which, sadly enough, puts them a leg up on most of their American counterparts. That being said, I still have a lot of respect for Ms Beard, whose take on history is certainly original, if nothing else.

I know I’m definitely looking forward to her first book on Carthaginian history, which promises to be truly ground-breaking in light of her discovery of considerably more ethnic diversity there than had been hitherto suspected.