Not as true as the stereotype would have it

It’s possible to ponder what the hard sciences have told us. Gravity’s pretty cool, the second law of thermodynamics explains much about the human condition and so on. The social sciences, well, it is possible that Whitey’s Waacist! in an important thing to note but perhaps of limited subsequent practical use. There is though that one great finding of said social sciences, which is that all stereotypes are at some level true.

This doesn’t mean that Jews are all top hatted and exploitative bankers but the varied bans upon landholding in feudal societies did indeed mean that they were more likely to be intermediaries rather than primary producers. No, women aren’t all Barbie finding that math is hard but that odd and weird mindset suitable for – perhaps interested in – the wilder shores of programming and pure mathematics is more common in men than women. Male and female reactions to children do tend to differ – on average again.

Stereotypes aren’t true at the granular level, or not necessarily so. But they are an observation of the way the world appears to be which is the very way that they arise. It’s tautological – why would anyone think that West Africans were fast sprinters if it weren’t observably true that near all of the fastest sprinters in the world were of West African descent?

Which brings us to the joyous appearance of this:

A Royal Navy sailor who was supposed to be guarding the Edinburgh Military Tattoo was too drunk to perform duties after overindulging at a free lunch, a court martial heard.

Petty Officer Christian Ramsay, 39, was due to act as a guard at the tattoo, carrying out important ceremonial duties at the renowned event in front of guests.

However, PO Ramsay instead spent the ceremony being looked after by a Royal Navy colleague after he got “seriously drunk” at a military lunch.

At the lunch, which included senior guests from armed forces around the world, he “over-consumed” the free alcohol and became so drunk he “lost all self-control” and “embarrassed himself and his colleagues”.

A court martial heard yesterday that the sailor was “completely out of his head” and “swanned around” the reception “offending people”. He made distasteful jokes about rape to a female colleague, offensive remarks to a senior Indian military representative about his heritage, and told an offensive joke to US military personnel about the “USA’s history”.

Well done there, upholding the glorious reputation of the Royal Navy.

That stereotype of sailors being more drunken than others isn’t quite true of course, even if it is observably so. We only get to see the sailors when they’re ashore. That is, we see them on their Friday night on the town and it’s not obvious that their rate, level or incidence of drunkenness is any greater than that of any other group of young men at such a time.

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28 COMMENTS

  1. “It’s tautological – why would anyone think that West Africans were fast sprinters if it weren’t observably true that near all of the fastest sprinters in the world were of West African descent?”

    Because they’re not? East African is what you mean. I suppose this supports the stereotype that the English think all foreigners are the same.

  2. Regarding the concept of “Social Science”… If one may be permitted to pinch from and paraphrase Prof. Brignell – Putting “social” in front of “scientist” is the equivalent of putting “witch” in front of “doctor”.

    • “Social” science is rather the same qualification as “social” work and “social” justice. It is less a meaningful word than a non-verbal cue to your listener that you don’t insist that words be meaningful.

      • Now I am sure there is a sub-set of Murphy’s rule that says few people have any experience of more than one Service so any correction is going to be wrong in some respect and upset some former serviceman, but ….

        Petty officers are usually found in the Navy. Corporals and Sergeants – and most especially RSMs – are found in the Army. The Regimental Sergeant is not a Petty Officer. Most Sergeants are Non-Commissioned Officers. Which are not the same thing. However some Sergeants are Warrant officers which is probably what people are thinking of. The highest you can go as a Sergeant and remain an NCO is Colour Sergeant. I think that above that you get re-classified as a Warrant Officer. So a RSM is not an NCO.

        In the Royal Navy the ranks would go, Able Seaman, Leading Rating, Petty Officer, Chief Petty officer and then some form of Warrant officer. So the Navy grunt starts out as a Lance Corporal and a Petty officer is about the same as a Sergeant.

    • A group of Indians just killed a guy fooling around that way with a hosepipe.

      So it is important to note that the hosepipe may be jolly japes in the best tradition of the Navy, but don’t turn the water on.

  3. Social science: hmm.

    I was once staying with a Prof of sociology and, as a scientist\engineer I asked sincerely what problems sociology has once-and-for-all solved. E.g. hard science has done gravity, disease, microchips, radio waves, etc. Even my ephemeral subject, Philosophy, has done some good stuff to stand the test of time (Ryle, Popper, Kuhn, Descartes).

    Answer: definitely, definitively, all social problems are caused by inequality.

    I probed for evidence but gave up rather quickly.

    • “what problems sociology has once-and-for-all solved. E.g. hard science has done gravity, disease, microchips, radio waves, etc.”

      Don’t think so. Gravity’s still hotly debated. Last time I looked, disease is still around. And they’re still working on chips and radio. Science is never settled.

      Whereas the pre-eminent social science is of course economics!