Thursday, January 31, 2019

The gob-smacking brazenness of Steven Pinker

Pinker's response to being caught
misrepresenting others' views
To witness the shamelessness and intellectual laziness of the Intellectual Dark Web/Quillette gang, you only need to review Jerry Coyne's publication of Steven Pinker's response to Phil Torres' Salon article.

IDW people are never the subject of critiques but rather, always, the poor beleaguered victims of "hit pieces" from those with illegitimate motivations.

Coyne writes:
Torres’s piece, I conclude, is not an act of judicious and scholarly criticism, but an anti-Pinker hit job motivated by things other than a concern for factual accuracy.
Both Coyne and Pinker demonstrate what I have begun to think of as the rhetorical trademark of the Intellectual Dark Web: when you are confronted with an argument you can't refute: ignore it or dismiss it.

They went with dismissal in this case.

First Coyne shows how it is done:
When I read Torres’s piece, I wasn’t impressed, as Pinker’s “errors and false assertions” seemed to consist mainly of quotations used in EN that, claimed Torres, don’t accurately represent the actual views of the quoters (Torres contacted some of them). 
Coyne prefaces an admission that Torres caught Pinker misrepresenting others' views ("Torres contacted some of them") by saying "I wasn't impressed."

And then Pinker:
The rest of Torres’s complaint consists of showing that some of the quotations I weave into the text come from people who don’t agree with me. OK, but so what? 
Even though I've recognized for many years that Steven Pinker is a weasel, I was astounded. "so what?" I was going to write my own response but found this piece by Olle Häggström via Phil Torres' Twitter feed. I admit I was relieved to find it. Pinker's dismissal of Torres' valid point was so shameless I wondered if I misunderstood somehow.

But no, Pinker really is that brazen.
...Pinker has now written a response to Phil's essay, and had it published on Jerry Coyne's blog Why Evolution is True. The response is feeble. Let me expand a little bit on that. 
After a highly undignified opening paragraph with an uncharitable and unfounded speculation about Phil's motives for writing the essay, 1 Pinker goes on throughout most of his response to explain, regarding all of the quotes that he exhibits in his book Enlightenment Now and that Phil points out are taken out of context and misrepresent the various authors' intentions, that... well, that it doesn't matter that they are misrepresentations, because what he (Pinker) needed was words to illustrate his ideas, and for that it doesn't matter what the original authors meant. He suggests that "Torres misunderstands the nature of quotation". So why, then, doesn't Pinker use his own words (he is, after all, one of the most eloquent science writers of our time)? Why does he take this cumbersome detour via other authors? If he doesn't actually care what these authors mean, then the only reason I can see for including all these quotes and citations is that Pinker wants to convey to his readers the misleading impression that he is familiar with the existential risk literature and that this literature gives support to his views.
It seems that although the IDW likes to promote the idea that its critics are all "postmodernists" Steven Pinker is the biggest postmodernist of all - words can mean whatever he says they mean.

IDW regular Michael Shermer celebrates Pinker squashing the cockroach Torres. Which of course didn't happen unless you live on Bizarro World with the rest of the IDW gang, where words mean whatever Steven Pinker says they mean and misrepresentation is quickly dismissed with a brazen "so what?"

Monday, January 28, 2019

Critique of "Enlightenment Now"

This article in Salon about Steven Pinker's most recent publication "Enlightenment Now" mentions so many things about Steven Pinker's work that I have noticed too - his shallowness and carelessness, embedded in excess text.

The article begins with a bang:
In a recent article for Quillette, the “Intellectual Dark Web’s” online safe space, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker offers some reflections on his most recent book, "Enlightenment Now," one year after it was published. Pinker notes that EN (as I will abbreviate it), a pollyannaish paean to Enlightenment "progressionism," has been the target of “irate attacks from critics on both the right and the left.”
The author, Phil Torres, used an approach to critiquing Enlightenment Now that I had to adopt for "Better Angels"
The problems were so pervasive that I ended up writing an extended critique of just a few pages of the chapter. (Examining the entire book would have been simply overwhelming.)
After detailing Pinker's carelessness and misrepresentation Torres writes:
...Pinker borrowed a quote from Bailey, who didn’t cite the original source and who lifted the quote from its original context to mean the opposite of what Zencey had intended. This led Zencey to confess to me, “how this guy [i.e., Pinker] managed to become a public intellectual in fields so far removed from his expertise is something to wonder at.”
The article concludes:
Let me end with a call for action: Don’t assume that Pinker’s scholarship is reliable. Comb through particular sentences and citations for other hidden — or perhaps intentionally concealed — errors in "Enlightenment Now." Doing so could be, well, enlightening.
Here is what I concluded about Pinker's work:
 Pinker fails to have any kind of intelligible organizing principle - he just bops around talking about whatever he feels like talking about, so if he finds vegetarianism in Great Britain more interesting than how the Spanish treated indigenous Americans, well that's what he's going to talk about, regardless of the relative significance of each phenomenon to the history of violence. 
The result is that for all his words, Pinker provides no useful explanation for anything.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The reliance of biosocial criminology race science on the Pioneer Fund

Just discovered that SAGE makes virtually an entire book of biosocial criminology race science available for free online: The Nurture Versus Biosocial Debate in Criminology: On the Origins of Criminal Behavior and Criminality from 2014.

As always, John Paul Wright is the most blatant about his belief that not only is race a biological and not just sociological phenomenon, but "black" people are the worst race. And anybody who doesn't agree with John Paul Wright is a filthy leftist. From his chapter co-written with Mark Alden Morgan entitled Human Biodiversity and the Egalitarian Fiction:
 Lynn (2002), in a comprehensive investigation of psychopathy, presents evidence that Native Americans, Blacks, and Hispanics score higher on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory's (MMPI) Psychopathic Deviate scale compared to Whites, while East Asians score lower. Furthermore, Lynn argues that this racial trend extends to a host of related social outcome measures including childhood conduct disorder, ADHD, recklessness, aggression, criminality, the ability to delay gratification, marriage rates, and even moral understanding. Across the multitude of studies analyzed, a clear pattern emerges where Blacks score the worst on these measures, Whites intermediate, and Asians the best even when controlling for the effects of age and IQ.
Lynn is Richard Lynn, the godfather of race science. According to his Southern Poverty Law Center profile:
Lynn is the current president of the notoriously racist Pioneer Fund. Prior to becoming president in 2012, he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in Pioneer Fund grants, both directly, and through the Ulster Institute for Social Research. Lynn is the founder and president of the Ulster Institute, “a think tank for the support of research on social issues and the publication of works by selected authors in this field.” According to its website, “The Ulster Institute for Social Research specialises in the application of psychology to the analysis of social problems,” which translates to promoting racist research by Lynn and several of his colleagues and collaborators.
Lynn isn't the only Pioneer Fund associate cited by Wright and Morgan - they also cite J.P. Rushton. From SPLC:
Since 2002, Rushton has been president of the Pioneer Fund (Rushton died in 2012), which has for decades funded dubious studies linking race to characteristics like criminality, sexuality and intelligence. Pioneer has long promoted eugenics, or the “science” of creating “better” humans through selective breeding. Set up in 1937 and headed by Nazi sympathizers, the group strove to “improve the character of the American people” through eugenics and procreation by people of white colonial stock. Pioneer has financed a number of leading race scientists, lavishing large sums each year on those who work to “prove” inherent racial differences that the vast majority of scientists regard as nonsense.
Linda Gottfredson is also cited. From SPLC:
Following a long tradition of scientific racism, Gottfredson argues that racial inequality, especially in employment, is the direct result of genetic racial differences in intelligence. Relying heavily on money obtained from the white nationalist Pioneer Fund, Gottfredson has worked tirelessly to oppose any and all efforts to reduce racial inequality in both in the workplace and in society as a whole.
And of course, inevitably, Charles Murray and "The Bell Curve":
Many criticisms of The Bell Curve, most notably Charles Lane’s thorough takedown in The New York Review of Books, have pointed out that Murray’s attempts to link social inequality to genes are based on the work of explicitly racist scientists. In an afterward to the book, Murray rejects criticisms that rest on the fact that “we cite thirteen scholars who have received funding from the Pioneer Fund, founded and run ([Lane] alleged) by men who were Nazi sympathizers, eugenicists, and advocates of white racial superiority.” Murray contends that the racist pseudo-scientists he cites “are some of the most respected psychologists of our time” and that “the relationship between the founder of the Pioneer Fund and today’s Pioneer Fund is roughly analogous to that between Henry Ford and today’s Ford Foundation.” 
In fact, the Pioneer Fund’s ties to eugenics and white supremacy are not nearly as historically remote as Murray would have his readers believe. The president of the Pioneer Fund at the time The Bell Curve was written was Harry Weyher, who was a personal friend of the Fund’s founder, Wickliffe Draper, and shared his supposedly archaic views on race; just two months after the initial publication of The Bell Curve, Weyher gave an interview in which he argued, among other things, that desegregation had “wreck[ed] the school system.” Another of the Pioneer Fund’s board members at the time Murray was writing, John Trevor Jr., was also an officer of Coalition of Patriotic Societies, which, during his membership, was indicted for sedition over “pro-Nazi activities” and called for the release of all Nazi war criminals. Despite Murray’s claims, the Pioneer Fund continues to support “research” into race differences conducted by outright white supremacists. 
In a similar vein, Murray whitewashes the individual people who provided the intellectual foundation for The Bell Curve. To take only one example, Murray and Herrnstein described Richard Lynn, whose work they relied on more than any other individual, as “a leading scholar of racial and ethnic differences.” In his many subsequent defenses of Lynn, Murray neglected to mention the many serious methodological criticisms of Lynn’s work, or his contributions to white supremacist publications including, American Renaissance and Mankind Quarterly, the last of which Lynn also serves on the editorial staff of.
John Paul Wright constantly whines about the Left, but where would biosocial criminology be without racists and Nazi sympathizers?

Monday, January 14, 2019

Steven Pinker goes full alt-right, publishes in Quillette

Quillette and Steven Pinker have long had a mutual admiration society, but this is the first time I am aware that Pinker has a byline in Quillette.

The text in the Pinker diagram will be updated to reflect his intensified connection to "race realism."

Infamous promoter of eugenics, Toby Young, celebrates Pinker going the full Quillette.