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I talked with Rutgers University professor of anthropology R. Brian Ferguson about Steven Pinker, Napoleon Chagnon, Marvin Harris, anthropo...

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Barack Obama: race denier & Bell Curve critic


Before I get back to reviewing the incredibly bad scholarship of the Winegard bros on The Bell Curve, I want to take a side trip to discuss the political angle.

The defenders of Steven Pinker keep proclaiming that he can't possibly have any views in common with the alt-right because he's such a big liberal, as evo-psycho bro Jesse Singal said in his white-washing op-ed for the NYTimes:


The idea that Mr. Pinker, a liberal, Jewish psychology professor, is a fan of a racist, anti-Semitic online movement is absurd on its face, so it might be tempting to roll your eyes and dismiss this blowup as just another instance of social media doing what it does best: generating outrage.
Just a short note re yesterday’s post about accusations that Steve Pinker is a member of the alt-right simply because he called some alt-righters literate and intelligent in a discussion of how to keep people from becoming right-wing. I found on the Internet a list and discussion about Harvard donors to the Democratic Party, which apparently comes from “public filings” accessed by the Harvard Crimson. Among members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Pinker was the third largest donor to the Democratic Party...
But clearly Democrats don't all agree about race being something besides a social construct as Barack Obama makes crystal clear in his recent interview with David Letterman.
OBAMA 
"The long view on human history... uh... it turns out that we come up with all kinds of reasons to try to put ourselves over other people. Racism is a profound example of that but obviously, biologically there's no actual reality to it other than we made this thing up. We made it up, over time what happens is, because it manifests itself in very concrete ways: slavery, Jim Crow, subjugation, it becomes a social reality and it ends up having very real impacts. It is true that African Americans on average are poorer than other Americans. Well it's not because of their race it's because of the social constructs over the course of three, four hundred years that made them poor."
Now it's still unclear if Steven Pinker agrees with the premise in the Bell Curve that African Americans are genetically intellectually inferior to everybody else, but he has no qualms about promoting the work and/or careers of those who do, including J. Phillippe Rushton, Arthur Jensen, Steve Sailer,  Razib Khan, Ben Winegard and Bo Winegard as I have demonstrated in this evo-psycho bros series.

And we certainly do know that Pinker thinks that anybody who refutes the notion that all humanity is divisible into discrete biological races denies reality as he clearly states in this video.
I've written a book on the concept, The Blank Slate the Modern Denial of Human Nature, about the idea that any aspect of human talent or temperament has any biological basis has often been seen as political and morally and emotionally incendiary in most of the 20th century. And in the book I try to analyze how one can sensitively deal with discoveries of a biological basis of human personality and intelligence including possible discoveries about genetics of group differences. I think it's safe to say that the current approach, or at least in recent decades was to deny the existence of intelligence, I mentioned "The Mismeasure of Man" as the foremost example, to deny the existence of genetically distinct human groups - there is a widespread myth that there is no such thing as race whatsoever, that it is purely a social construction and to call the people who don't do  this Nazis. But on the other hand there is a quotation, I don't know who's responsible for it: "reality is what refuses to go away when I stop believing in it." In a way it does matter what our emotional reaction is to various findings, they are what they are..."
So Steven Pinker believes so strongly in the concept of biological race that he thinks anybody who disagrees with him denies reality itself.

So Steven Pinker thinks that Barack Obama is a a reality-denier

In spite of Pinker being a Democrat.

Ironically I came to find Obama's criticism of The Bell Curve via Razib Khan's old web site. He reposted it at Unz here. He got it from the NPR web site. This is 1994, when Obama was a civil rights lawyer and writer living in Chicago. I assume this is a transcript from an actual audio recording. How I would love to have access to the audio of Obama saying these words.

NPR
October 28, 1994
SHOW: All Things Considered (NPR 4:30 pm ET)
 
Charles Murray’s Political Expediency Denounced
BYLINE: BARACK OBAMA
SECTION: News; Domestic
LENGTH: 635 words
 
HIGHLIGHT: Commentator Barack Obama finds that Charles Murray, author of the controversial “The Bell Curve,” demonstrates not scientific expertise but spurious political motivation in his conclusions about race and IQ. 
BARACK OBAMA, Commentator: Charles Murray is inviting American down a dangerous path. 
NOAH ADAMS, Host: Civil rights lawyer, Barack Obama. 
Mr. OBAMA: The idea that inferior genes account for the problems of the poor in general, and blacks in particular, isn’t new, of course. Racial supremacists have been using IQ tests to support their theories since the turn of the century. The arguments against such dubious science aren’t new either. Scientists have repeatedly told us that genes don’t vary much from one race to another, and psychologists have pointed out the role that language and other cultural barriers can play in depressing minority test scores, and no one disputes that children whose mothers smoke crack when they’re pregnant are going to have developmental problems. 
Now, it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that with early intervention such problems can be prevented. But Mr. Murray isn’t interested in prevention. He’s interested in pushing a very particular policy agenda, specifically, the elimination of affirmative action and welfare programs aimed at the poor. With one finger out to the political wind, Mr. Murray has apparently decided that white America is ready for a return to good old-fashioned racism so long as it’s artfully packaged and can admit for exceptions like Colin Powell. It’s easy to see the basis for Mr. Murray’s calculations. After watching their income stagnate or decline over the past decade, the majority of Americans are in an ugly mood and deeply resent any advantages, realor perceived, that minorities may enjoy. 
I happen to think Mr. Murray’s wrong, not just in his estimation of black people, but in his estimation of the broader American public. But I do think Mr. Murray’s right about the growing distance between the races. The violence and despair of the inner city are real. So’s the problem of street crime. The longer we allow these problems to fester, the easier it becomes for white America to see all blacks as menacing and for black America to see all whites as racist. To close that gap, we’re going to have to do more than denounce Mr. Murray’s book. We’re going to have to take concrete and deliberate action. For blacks, that means taking greater responsibility for the state of our own communities. Too many of us use white racism as an excuse for self-defeating behavior. Too many of our young people think education is a white thing and that the values of hard work and discipline andself-respect are somehow outdated. 
That being said, it’s time for all of us, and now I’m talking about the larger American community, to acknowledge that we’ve never even come close to providing equal opportunity to the majority of black children. Real opportunity would mean quality prenatal care for all women and well-funded and innovative public schools for all children. Real opportunity would mean a job at a living wage for everyone who was willing to work, jobs that can return some structure and dignity to people’s lives and give inner-city children something more than a basketball rim to shoot for. In the short run, such ladders of opportunity are going to cost more, not less, than either welfare or affirmative action. But, in the long run, our investment should payoff handsomely. That we fail to make this investment is just plain stupid. It’s not the result of an intellectual deficit. It’s theresult of a moral deficit. 
ADAMS: Barack Obama is a civil rights lawyer and writer. He lives in Chicago.
You have to wonder if Pinker thinks that Obama is one of those contributing to making the public discussion about The Bell Curve "ignorant and dishonest."

Obama says: "...it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that with early intervention such problems can be prevented..."

 In administering I.Q. tests to diverse groups of students, Professor Jensen found Level I ability to be fairly consistent across races. When he examined Level II ability, by contrast, he found it more prevalent among whites than blacks, and still more prevalent among Asians than whites. 
Drawing on these findings, Professor Jensen argued that general intelligence is largely genetically determined, with cultural forces shaping it only to a small extent. For this reason, he wrote in 1969, compensatory education programs like Head Start are doomed to fail.
Again, as I have demonstrated, Steven Pinker supports the work of Arthur Jensen, both directly as we see in this Boing Boing interview, and indirectly when he recommends the work of the Winegard bros, who constantly refer to Jensen in their work.

Pinker likes to pretend there are no political repercussions for racist swill disguised as science like The Bell Curve. But not for lack of "racial realists" trying as when Jensen proclaims Head Start was doomed to fail. The data show that Head Start did not fail.
Research has demonstrated strong long-term impacts of random assignment to high-quality preschool programs from the 1960s and 1970s, including Perry Preschool and the Abecedarian program. Head Start, the large-scale federal preschool program, has also been shown to improve post-preschool outcomes, including high school completion and health outcomes.
But if Jensen had his way, all those kids who did benefit from Head Start would not have, due to the assumption of their innate, racial, intellectual inferiority.

That is why people who really understand what Steven Pinker is all about, as PZ Myers does, express such disgust with Pinker and call him a lying right-wing shitweasel.





I want to add my support especially to the weasel epithet. I picked up on that aspect of Pinker long ago and said this in 2011:
Pinker is constantly inventing straw-man liberals and academics he can accuse of all kinds of awfulness, so it's always satisfying when the actual liberals at The New Yorker get a hold of his books and tell you how poorly-reasoned and all-around weaselly they are.
I really recommend the Letterman interview with Obama. Not only for Obama, who is wonderful of course, but because Letterman expresses regret that he wasn't more involved in the Civil Rights movement in his youth. Letterman in my experience has always been kind of a glib wise-ass, but he's incredibly sincere in this interview and tells Obama he's the only president he's ever really respected on a personal level. I was really surprised and impressed by Letterman.

And it's likely that David Letterman does NOT think that Barack Obama is a reality denier, unlike Steven Pinker.