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Re^2: People who write perl, Perl and PERL

by BrowserUk (Pope)
on Nov 22, 2005 at 08:56 UTC ( #510676=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Re: People who write perl, Perl and PERL
in thread People who write perl, Perl and PERL

Let me say up front that I am not accusing you of anything, nor do I have any reasons to believe that you would subscribe to anything that follows in any way whatsoever.

Isn't it a slippery slope from what you are saying above to

  • Women make lousy programmers, and they will want to take leave to have kids anyway, so we can discard any applications from them. That'll cut the pile.


  • Overseas universities have much lower standards than domestic ones, so the degrees from there aren't worth the paper they are written. Discarding applicants with those will trim the pile.

    Or any number of other, many more obvious, pre-judgement criteria?

    All of which would be equally, ethically dubious. Some of which are, in most countries, outright illegal.

    Examine what is said, not who speaks -- Silence betokens consent -- Love the truth but pardon error.
    Lingua non convalesco, consenesco et abolesco. -- Rule 1 has a caveat! -- Who broke the cabal?
    "Science is about questioning the status quo. Questioning authority".
    In the absence of evidence, opinion is indistinguishable from prejudice.
    • Comment on Re^2: People who write perl, Perl and PERL
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    Re^3: People who write perl, Perl and PERL
    by tilly (Archbishop) on Nov 23, 2005 at 04:27 UTC
      Yes, there is a slippery slope. And it isn't a long one, either.

      An better example than the ones that you gave is the following, "Blacks are admitted and then get preferential treatment in universities thanks to affirmative action, so we should not consider their degrees to be as good."

      I consider this to be better because virtually any educated American whose eyes are open has seen this happen. Far from every black, not even a majority, but there are plenty of painfully bad examples walking around. By contrast I can't say that I've seen any evidence that the women who are interested in programming are significantly worse than the men who are interested in programming. And my personal experience with people who got degrees overseas has been very good.

      So I've admitted that this line of thought can lead to horrible conclusions. Obviously nobody reasonable would want to say them. (At least not in public.) But is it wrong?

      My answer is that, on a personal level, it is not wrong. Even the reverend Jesse Jackson has admitted that when he is walking down a dark street, he worries more if he is being followed by a black man than a white man. A glance at US crime statistics strongly suggests that this is a fairly reasonable concern. Trying to deny that this is factually the case may make us feel good, but it is intellectually dishonest.

      But on a societal level, it is very bad. It creates and perpetuates a permanent underclass. It leads to a nasty cycle where lack of opportunity creates conditions that reinforce the biases that cause the original lack of opportunity.

      A major job of government is to make people act in ways that benefit society as a whole when those people individually would not act that way. For instance I know that my personal financial contribution makes an imperceptable difference to how good the roads I commute on, while keeping my money makes a huge difference to my life. Therefore government makes me contribute, by charging me taxes and then spending it on roads. (For more on the intrinsic problems with supplying public goods I heartily recommend The Logic of Collective Action.)

      When you combine these facts it makes perfect sense for government to force people not act on certain prejudices that they may have. Which it does - as evidenced by the laws you mention. (The fact that we need such laws is evidence that the issues are not about to trivially resolve themselves.) And I personally support these laws because I think that they are a good thing.

      In short, there are reasonable prejudices that I don't want people acting on. But there are also reasonable prejudices that I don't mind people acting on. Where do I draw the line?

      I personally mostly draw the line based on how easy it is for someone you're prejudiced against to fix the issue. If you're black, you aren't changing that (OK, Michael Jackson did...) so I don't want people acting on that prejudice because it locks you into a ghetto. OTOH if you don't know how Perl is supposed to be capitalized, it is trivial for you to change that. Therefore I feel that my stigmatizing you for that fact is not a significant barrier to you.

      I say mostly because I also find it very reasonable to be prejudiced against people because of characteristics that directly affect performance. The canonical example is that you don't pick short people to be basketball players. Now perhaps the short person actually is better. But physical height is such a direct factor in your ability to play basketball that it is going to be very hard for you to overcome that handicap.

    Re^3: People who write perl, Perl and PERL
    by tirwhan (Abbot) on Nov 22, 2005 at 10:17 UTC

      A big difference between the Perl/PERL prejudice and the ones you've posted (aside from the fact that yours cannot rationally be defended as being accurate IMO) is that it concerns something someone does as opposed to something someone is. Using the wrong case when spelling perl is a mistake, same as a syntax error when programming. If I were employing programmers or looking at a prospective boss, I would prefer candidates who do not habitually make syntax errors, and that is a perfectly valid prejudice to have.

      Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it. -- Brian W. Kernighan

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