Sunday, November 25, 2018

Steven Pinker & Steve Sailer

Steven Pinker included Steve Sailer's piece on why Iraqis are too in-bred to have a democracy, in "The Best American Science and Nature Writing" in 2004 because of course he agreed with it. 

Contrary to Pinker's reputation as a serious intellectual, what I have found time and again on reading his work is that it is often based on unsupported and untestable assumptions, and a complete disinterest in data.

The latter is demonstrated by Pinker's claim - in the right-wing tradition - that marriage prevents violence in men, a claim completely contradicted by data, as I discuss here.

Here we see Pinker discussing in 2007 in an article in the New Republic, Sailer's piece "The Cousin Marriage Conundrum" and of course he does not mention Sailer's inclination to white supremacy.
In January 2003, during the buildup to the war in Iraq, the journalist and blogger Steven Sailer published an article in The American Conservative in which he warned readers about a feature of that country that had been ignored in the ongoing debate. As in many traditional Middle Eastern societies, Iraqis tend to marry their cousins. About half of all marriages are consanguineous (including that of Saddam Hussein, who filled many government positions with his relatives from Tikrit). The connection between Iraqis' strong family ties and their tribalism, corruption, and lack of commitment to an overarching nation had long been noted by those familiar with the country. In 1931, King Faisal described his subjects as "devoid of any patriotic idea … connected by no common tie, giving ear to evil; prone to anarchy, and perpetually ready to rise against any government whatsoever." Sailer presciently suggested that Iraqi family structure and its mismatch with the sensibilities of civil society would frustrate any attempt at democratic nation-building.
The idea that there is a reverse correlation between cousin marriage and democracy is easy enough to debunk, as I did when writing about "The Cousin Marriage Conundrum" - by looking at the existing data on cousin marriage.

But as we have seen in the case of the magic of marriage, Pinker isn't interested in data if it's going to contradict his favorite sociobiological theories. 

It's true that it's easier to get data now on such things as consanguinity by country than it was in 2003 when Sailer published the piece, but that shouldn't matter - if Sailer and Pinker expect to be taken seriously on their claims about important issues, they should be expected to put a little work into backing their claims. 

And Sailer's "prescience" doesn't explain why, although Nigeria has a cousin-marriage rate of 51.2 - the highest in the world except for Kuwait and Burkina Faso, compared to Iraq's rate of 34.3, Nigeria is a democracy.

Pinker doesn't come up with arguments for why data doesn't tell the true story and thus why he and his friend Steve Sailer are correct in spite of data. Rather he completely ignores the existence of data.  It seems as though it has never even occurred to him that there might be data out there. His lack of intellectual curiosity is astounding.

And Pinker is the shining exemplar of scholarly respectability in the "Intellectual Dark Web" per Bari Weiss. This gives you some sense of what a joke the "Intellectual Dark Web" is.

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