Ron Unz is one of the rare specimens of smart empiricists. As I argue, empiricism and materialism are ‘easier’ than rationalism and idealism, because the former can merely defer to manifest reality whereas the latter has to create reality in his or her own mind while also explaining-away contravening empirical evidence. There empiricist can just defer to the evidence and predict based on regressions and extrapolations of pre-existing trends. This also makes empiricism at times seem intellectually lazy, because it’s taking the ‘easy’ way out by just deferring to evidence. This is what Steven Pinker does in his books when he argues that the word is more peaceful than ever. The idealist however is still not convinced and finds objections, or the empirical evidence can be explained-away by the ‘grand narrative’ created in the mind of idealist. But this should not be confused with the idealist not understanding the empiricist’s argument (similar to have proponents of evolution assuming that creationists and religious people are ignorant of their arguments or are not smart enough to understand them) ; they understand but are incredulous.
From my own experience, idealists and rationalists, despite a handful of exceptions such as Unz and Pinker, are typically ‘smarter’ than empiricists and materialists despite the latter’s attempt to wrap themselves in ‘science and reason’. Again, the idealist must perform rhetorical and mental gymnastic to not only create their own reality but explain-away opposing empirical evidence. Because Unz’s argument is an empirical one–such as the observed absence of Hispanic crime in Palo Alto or while living in New York, as well as his 2010 article The Myth of Hispanic Crime which is heavily based on data–not surprisingly, it does not sit well with his readership of mostly idealists.
But that’s not to say empiricists don’t also employ gymnastics. Consider the aforementioned Unz article about Hispanic crime. The data shows, even when controlling for age, that Hispanics commit more crimes than Whites; less than Blacks, yes, but still higher than for Whites. So it’s wrong to say it’s a myth when the data clearly shows the crime rate is higher in comparison to the control population (Whites), so rather than Hispanic crime being myth, perhaps it’s more of an overestimation or over-exaggeration. For example, among juveniles, Hispanics are incarcerated at twice the rate of Whites:
To reconcile this, the empiricist, rather than rejecting his hypothesis, may summon additional data that confirms his hypothesis or manipulate existing data. For example, Unz breaks down crime by region. So even if Hispanics commit crime at a higher rate than Whites, by making the data as granular as possible and also possibly excluding certain regions, it’s possible to convey the opposite conclusion. So let’s say you break the crime data into 50 cities or regions, you can then show that there are, say, 27 cities where Whites commit more crime and 23 where Hispanics commit more or equal amount of crime, therefore making it seem like Whites have a greater propensity for criminality. This neglects to account for population size, and it’s possible that some cites and regions are omitted from the analysis.
This also explains why some debates, especially in the social sciences such as the relationship between minimum wage laws and unemployment, are so intractable. When one side seems to be losing, they can just summon more data. And then the other side can respond in kind. It just never ends.