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PZ Myers dissects evolutionary psychology: brief, sharp and fabulous

I admit I LOL'd at the part about lighting up "like a Christmas tree." WATCH AND LEARN all IDWs!

The Brian Ferguson Interview

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Steven Pinker: The World's Most Annoying Man

I generally like the work of Nathan J. Robinson, the author of the article in Current Affairs, The World's Most Annoying Man, although I was disappointed I didn't learn anything new about Pinker. I already knew he is full of himself, is fairly empathy-deficient, is a phony liberal and yes, supremely annoying.

The fact that I have devoted a blog to critiquing Pinker, albeit focusing on his support for race science, might account for my already knowing much of what Robinson reports.

However, Robinson does get credit for making me laugh out loud at the end of this passage:
Now, for me, it is trivializing, even downright insouciant, to talk about the depth of anguish and despair that millions of people endure daily in this country as a “modicum of anxiety.” And it is dismissing the urgency of the problem to say it might just be a price we have to pay. 40,000 people, measured in the official American mass death unit, is over 13 annual 9/11s. It does not matter if this was worse long ago. It doesn’t follow that it’s not a “crisis,” merely that the crisis is a recurring one and we have never done what we ought to do in order to try to fix it. It is trivially true that “not every problem” is a “crisis.” But surely, if you do not see 40,000 people taking their lives each year as urgent, you are the most insouciant of insouciant assholes.
Robinson wrote pieces about Sam Harris and Ben Shapiro too. I'd love it if Robinson wrote a piece about each member of the IDW.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Heather Heying: "we’re now getting the chance to do something on a much larger scale than we could ever do in the classroom"

Michael Shermer demonstrating
IDW "civility" by calling a critic
of Steven Pinker a cockroach while
suggesting the critic's motive was

nothing but being desperate for attention

I recently discussed the mystery of why Bari Weiss decided for herself to group people like Stefan Molyneux in with Steven Pinker and other presumably more respectable individuals in her article Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web.

I did not solve the mystery.

But while reading the article more thoroughly than I ever have before, several things jumped out at me.

One is a Big Lie of the IDW, which Weiss promotes in her piece:
...they all share three distinct qualities. First, they are willing to disagree ferociously, but talk civilly, about nearly every meaningful subject: religion, abortion, immigration, the nature of consciousness...
If Pinkerite has demonstrated anything, it's that nobody in the IDW is especially civil. And in fact Weiss demonstrated it herself when she wrote:
“I’ve figured out how to monetize social justice warriors,” Mr. Peterson said in January on Joe Rogan’s podcast. On his Twitter feed, he called the writer Pankaj Mishra, who’d written an essay in The New York Review of Books attacking him, a “sanctimonious prick” and said he’d happily slap him.
So why does Weiss repeat the IDWs self-congratulatory marketing copy?

And who exactly is writing the copy?

My bet is on Eric Weinstein. He's often mentioned as merely the coiner of the term "Intellectual Dark Web" but Weiss's article makes it clear that it's about more than just the nomenclature:
...when Ms. Owens and Charlie Kirk, the executive director of Turning Point USA, met last week with Mr. West at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, just outside of the frame — in fact, avoiding the photographers — was Mr. Weinstein. He attended both that meeting and a one-on-one the next day for several hours at the mogul’s request. Mr. Weinstein, who can’t name two of Mr. West’s songs, said he found the Kardashian spouse “kind and surprisingly humble despite his unpredictable public provocations.” He has also tweeted that he’s interested to see what Ms. Owens says next.
And then there is this quote from Weinstein:
“I’m really only interested in building this intellectual movement,” Eric Weinstein said. “The I.D.W. has bigger goals than anyone’s buzz or celebrity.”
Weinstein has goals for the IDW.

And then there is Heather Heying, Eric's sister-in-law. I've argued several times with fans of the IDW on Twitter, pointing out that there is another side to the Evergreen story than the one promoted by the IDW and Fox News narrative. As Bari Weiss puts it:
A year ago, Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying were respected tenured professors at Evergreen State College, where their Occupy Wall Street-sympathetic politics were well in tune with the school’s progressive ethos. Today they have left their jobs, lost many of their friends and endangered their reputations.
But then Weiss includes Weinstein and Heying in her discussion of IDW profitability:
That hunger has translated into a booming and, in many cases, profitable market. Episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” which have featured many members of the I.D.W., can draw nearly as big an audience as Rachel Maddow. A recent episode featuring Bret Weinstein and Ms. Heying talking about gender, hotness, beauty and #MeToo was viewed on YouTube over a million times, even though the conversation lasted for nearly three hours.

As Weiss writes:
The exile of Bret Weinstein and Ms. Heying from Evergreen State brought them to the attention of a national audience that might have come for the controversy but has stayed for their fascinating insights about subjects including evolution and gender.
Spoiler alert: their "fascinating insights" on gender are garden-variety evolutionary psychology and in Heying's case scolding young women to wear more clothes lest they be guilty of "toxic femininity."

All in all, it sounds like they've used the Evergreen controversy to level up. And Heying seems to agree. Weiss quotes her:
“Our friends still at Evergreen tell us that the protesters think they destroyed us,” Ms. Heying said. “But the truth is we’re now getting the chance to do something on a much larger scale than we could ever do in the classroom.”

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The IDW rightwing plutocrat support report - UPDATE

UPDATE - adding Candace Owens - so that is now five IDWs getting direct Koch funding.

Charlie Kirk, is the founder of Turning Point USA.
TPUSA’s upcoming Student Action Summit in December has additional sponsors including the Reason Foundation, the Koch-connected Generation Opportunity Institute and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. (International Business Times)
Candace Owens
Communications director for Turning Point USA (Source: Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web)

Charles Murray - AEI scholar.
David H. Koch is on the American Enterprise Institute's National Council, whose members "serve as ambassadors for AEI, providing AEI with advice, insight, and guidance as [it] looks to reach out to new friends across the country."
Between 2002 and 2013, the American Enterprise Institute received a total of $867,289 in funding from the Charles G. Koch Foundation. 

David Rubin - political commentator whose work is supported by Learn Liberty
Learn Liberty is a project of the Institute for Human Studies. Members of the IHS Board of Directors includes Charles Koch and Koch-related organization employees

More IDW-rightwing plutocrat connections as they are discovered...

Steven & Bari & Stefan & Eric

A little over a year ago Bari Weiss published "Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web" subtitled "An alliance of heretics is making an end run around the mainstream conversation. Should we be listening?"

Weiss wrote:
Go a click in one direction and the group is enhanced by intellectuals with tony affiliations like Steven Pinker at Harvard. But go a click in another and you’ll find alt-right figures like Stefan Molyneux and Milo Yiannopoulos and conspiracy theorists like Mike Cernovich (the #PizzaGate huckster) and Alex Jones (the Sandy Hook shooting denier).
Eric Weinstein, his brother Bret and his sister-in-law Heather Heying all appeared in the silly photoshoot for the article, and were interviewed by Weiss, so there was certainly a high level of cooperation on the article from them. But Eric, who has been given credit for the name "intellectual dark web" does not consider Molyneux to be a member of the gang, in spite of Weiss's including him in "the group". As we can see in this tweet exchange from September 2018.

Later the same day Weinstein claimed he never met Molyneux and that he barely knew his ideas.

In January of this year, Weinstein still says he does not know Molyneux.

It seems that Bari Weiss did not speak to Molyneux for the article. 

As we can see by his reaction.

Weiss has never been on Molyneux's show, although several other people she included in the IDW have, including Michael Shermer, Charles Murray, Jordan Peterson and Candace Owens. Meanwhile Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan both had Molyneux on their shows. Weiss appeared on Rogan's show.

Weiss opened her Intellectual Dark Web article like this:
Here are some things that you will hear when you sit down to dinner with the vanguard of the Intellectual Dark Web: There are fundamental biological differences between men and women. Free speech is under siege. Identity politics is a toxic ideology that is tearing American society apart. And we’re in a dangerous place if these ideas are considered “dark.” 
I was meeting with Sam Harris, a neuroscientist; Eric Weinstein, a mathematician and managing director of Thiel Capital; the commentator and comedian Dave Rubin; and their spouses in a Los Angeles restaurant to talk about how they were turned into heretics. A decade ago, they argued, when Donald Trump was still hosting “The Apprentice,” none of these observations would have been considered taboo.
Before I continue, there are skeptics who doubt Sam Harris is an actual neuroscientist and that Dave Rubin has ever been a comedian.

Also "fundamental biological differences between men and women" is not nearly the extent of what they believe, and the description doesn't mention race, which is at least as important to IDWers as gender.

This is Weiss's group definition in the article:
Most simply, it is a collection of iconoclastic thinkers, academic renegades and media personalities who are having a rolling conversation — on podcasts, YouTube and Twitter, and in sold-out auditoriums — that sound unlike anything else happening, at least publicly, in the culture right now. Feeling largely locked out of legacy outlets, they are rapidly building their own mass media channels.
Then Weiss links to this web site as the "closest thing to a phone book for the I. D. W." which includes many people not mentioned explicitly by Weiss, including Carl Benjamin, AKA Sargon of Akaad, described in his Wiki:
British political commentator, politician, anti-feminist, polemicist and YouTuber with the online pseudonym Sargon of Akkad. He was a UK Independence Party (UKIP) candidate for the European Parliament's South West England constituency in the 2019 election, although he failed to win his election. Benjamin grew to prominence through the Gamergate controversy. Since Gamergate, he has covered topics such as identity politics, the alt-right, Brexit and political correctness.
However, the site does not include Milo Yiannopoulos, Mike Cernovich, Alex Jones nor Stefan Molyneux. Weiss writes:
But in typical dark web fashion, no one knows who put the website up.
By the end of the article, there is still no explanation for why Bari Weiss grouped Molyneux in with the IDW. She writes:
I get the appeal of the I.D.W. I share the belief that our institutional gatekeepers need to crack the gates open much more. I don’t, however, want to live in a culture where there are no gatekeepers at all. Given how influential this group is becoming, I can’t be alone in hoping the I.D.W. finds a way to eschew the cranks, grifters and bigots and sticks to the truth-seeking.

But I think that what Pinkerite has been demonstrating, blog post by blog post, is that in fact there really are few differences in point of view, especially about race and gender, between those Weiss considers respectable, like Steven Pinker, and "the cranks, grifters and bigots."

Monday, May 27, 2019

More obscure race riots: Tulsa

While researching the Bell Curve I coincidentally came upon a little-known example of a white majority attacking blacks, driving them out of the county, in this case Forsyth County Georgia.

Notably, as vicious as the attack was, it was apparently virtually unknown until a former county resident wrote a book about it.

I wondered about the possibility that there were many more of these kinds of attacks, where resentful whites decided to destroy the wealth, in addition to some of the lives of prosperous blacks, but had been ignored by the history books.

And sure enough... I had actually heard of the Tulsa riots enough to mention them on my personal blog. But what I didn't realize was how little-known they had been, for a long time.

According to the Wiki:
Many survivors left Tulsa. Black and white residents who stayed in the city were silent for decades about the terror, violence, and losses of this event. The riot was largely omitted from local, state, as well as national, histories: "The Tulsa race riot of 1921 was rarely mentioned in history books, classrooms or even in private. Blacks and whites alike grew into middle age unaware of what had taken place."[15]
I've mentioned before that one of the tactics of race science proponents, from Sam Harris to Razib Khan is to erase the history of African Americans since slavery. They've had plenty of help from white historians.

It appears to me that the race science proponents insist on remaining willfully ignorant of the systematic theft of black wealth by the white majority.

Ignoring this system is why a "biosocial criminologist" like John Paul Wright (Quillette author and Stefan Molyneux guest) can claim that "the differential abilities of races to organize socially" is the reason for African American failure to thrive in the 154 years since the first Juneteenth of 1865.


Willfully ignorant - or just plain old racist.

The Tulsa massacre happened in 1921. The fact that the immediate ancestors of emancipated people, emancipated but left with absolutely no property or money, were able to become prosperous in fifty years is miraculous. And the white mob destroyed it:
In 1921 Oklahoma had a racially, socially and politically tense atmosphere. The War had ended in 1918 with the return of many ex-servicemen. The Civil War was still in living memory, even though it had ended in 1865. Prohibition had come into force the previous year, 1920, ushering in a new era of lawlessness. Civil rights for disenfranchised peoples were poor and the Ku Klux Klan had seen a recent resurgence. Tulsa, as a booming oil city, supported a large number of affluent, educated and professional African Americans. This combination of factors each played a part in the rising tensions which was to culminate in the coming events.
In the interview of Wright by Molyneux, we hear Molyneux disparage "economic determinism." That's yet another attempt to erase, by the Intellectual Dark Web, the consequences of the very real system of economic injustice against African Americans.

One thing that has always struck me as odd. Why, exactly did Bari Weiss choose to group someone like Stefan Molyneux in with Steven Pinker in her Intellectual Dark Web article? I will be looking at that in the next post.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Follow the money: Charles Murray and the Manhattan Institute

Here is Charles Murray tweeting a response to an article about race science. He apparently has plans to
promote the same in his new book.

Wait - new book? But isn't Murray supposed to be retired? Does retirement mean anything when you're a plutocrat-funded public intellectual?

The answer is, apparently, not really. According to the January 2018 NPR piece by Michel Martin:
Mr. Murray recently announced that he'll be retiring as the W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, moving into an emeritus role. He's giving a major address tomorrow to mark this transition, so we thought we'd take this moment to talk about his career. And I started by asking him about "The Bell Curve."
Is there any substantial difference in activities between being a W. H. Brady Scholar and an American Enterprise Institute emeritus? Considering Murray is still writing books, I don't see any difference. 

Murray has a career as a public intellectual thanks to the Manhattan Institute funding his book. According to the February 1994 article (so before The Bell Curve which was published in September 1994) in the New Yorker entitled Intellectual Stock Picking:

...(William H.) Hammett's special gift was his nose for the Zeitgeist. The institute's current chairman, Richard Gilder (no relation of George's), refers to Hammett as "the greatest intellectual stock picker of our time." And his first act of selection was his decision to fund the research of Charles Murray, a formerly liberal social scientist who had recently written a short study for the Heritage Foundation which attacked the welfare system. Murray argued that the principal cause of the preexistence of the black underclass was not racism or Republican policy or structural changes in the economy but welfare itself. Welfare was more appealing than work; and recipients, once on it, became dependent. At the time Hammett met Murray, in 1982, he was unemployed and virtually unknown. Hammett was so taken with Murray's frontal attack on sacred liberal principles that he immediately signed him up to write a book on the subject. The usual rightwing foundations declined to subsidize Murray's work, so Hammett agreed to victual the scholar for a year or so, even though the institute's treasury was almost empty.
When Murray's book on welfare, "Losing Ground," appeared, in 1984, Hammett secured a grant from the Liberty Fund to hold a two-day conference in New York on "the Murray thesis," and he invited not only fellow-travelers and academics but also liberal journalists and card-carrying members of the intelligentsia. He mailed out a thousand copies of the book, and sent early favorable reviews to other potential reviewers, counting on the herd instinct. And he spent every available penny in the institute's budget to send Murray barnstorming around the country...  
"...Losing Ground," which has sold an amazing eighty thousand copies so far, put both Charles Murray and the Manhattan Institute on the map. "Wealth and Poverty" had given conservatives a rallying cry: Murray's book was a conversion document, and it arrived, as Hammett intuitively understood, at a propitious moment. Many nonconservative were already becoming more sympathetic toward Daniel Patrick Moynihan's theory that family breakdown was largely responsible for the problems of the black underclass. But while Moynihan had stated that welfare contributed to these problems and that it needed to be reformed, Murray insisted that the War on Poverty was their chief cause and that welfare needed to be abolished altogether. His single-mindedness lost him any libera readers, and critics charged that the book contained significant fatal errors, but there's no question that "Losing Ground" achieved the Hayekian goal of shifting the debate from liberal to conservative terrain. Experiments in "workfare" and President Clinton's call for a "two years and out" welfare system at least indirectly reflect Murray's influence.
Steven Pinker promoted the Moynihan claim that the real problem with black families wasn't lack of money, it was "family breakdown." As if the first isn't causally related to the second. In case anybody still wants to argue that Steven Pinker is a liberal.

And Charles Murray has been the recipient of wingnut welfare ever since the Manhattan Institute staked him in 1984. As Krugman pointed out, wingnut welfare is an important disincentive to doing rigorous work - no matter whether it's good, bad or indifferent, as long as you say what the plutocrats want you to say, they'll keep cutting those checks.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Wingnut Welfare and the Intellectual Dark Web

One of the most important aspects of the Intellectual Dark Web is its reliance on wingnut welfare.

Paul Krugman wrote about "Wingnut Welfare and Work Incentives " on his NYTimes blog in 2015 and it's absolutely essential reading to understand the success of the careers of rightwing public intellectuals from Charles Murray to Quillette.

Krugman wrote:
Wingnut welfare is an important, underrated feature of the modern U.S. political scene. I don’t know who came up with the term, but anyone who follows right-wing careers knows whereof I speak: the lavishly-funded ecosystem of billionaire-financed think tanks, media outlets, and so on provides a comfortable cushion for politicians and pundits who tell such people what they want to hear. Lose an election, make economic forecasts that turn out laughably wrong, whatever — no matter, there’s always a fallback job available.
Several people associated with the Intellectual Dark Web have connections to rightwing plutocrats, but there are other funders that they refuse to name. James Lindsay, Major Grifter explains why in this tweet.

Of course it matters if you are being supported by the Koch foundation, and there is no "magic of moral pollution" - rather it's basic quotidian logic. It makes me wonder if James Lindsay has ever held a real job.

If you are being funded by the Koch Foundation you are not likely to criticize Koch. You are likely to publish what you think will increase the chances of future Koch funding.

But it seems like gas-lighting is how the IDW & friends decided to address the credibility-reducing fact of being on wingnut welfare, as we saw with Andrew Doyle of the Koch-funded Spiked Magazine. Spiked ran a piece claiming that George Monibot's piece about Spike's funding was "McCarthyism."

"Follow the money" as Mark Felt told Bob Woodward in "All the President's Men." It was a good policy then and it's a good policy now.

In the next post I will discuss how Charles Murray first got into wingnut welfare. Funnily enough, it was when he was funded to write a book about the work disincentives of welfare.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Barack Obama v Race Science

When Barak Obama was a civil rights lawyer and writer living in Chicago he did a piece on "All Things Considered" arguing against the biology of race and The Bell Curve.

I would love to have access to the audio of Obama saying these words. 

UPDATE: NPR now has all its Obama content online here. Includes the piece for which I have posted the transcript below.

I originally found the transcript on, of all places, Razib Khan's Gene Expression web site.

October 28, 1994
SHOW: All Things Considered (NPR 4:30 pm ET)
Charles Murray’s Political Expediency Denounced
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 Steven Pinker thinks that Obama is one of those contributing to making the public discussion about The Bell Curve "ignorant and dishonest."

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Non-Platonic family trees

Recently I discussed Steve Sailer (formerly promoted by Steven Pinker) and his odd use of the term "Platonic" and specifically his application of the term to human descent. I wondered what the point was in applying the concept to the biological reality.

Thanks to 23 and Me, which added a new feature since I last checked, it's clear that the human family tree is even more tangled than I realized.

The new feature "DNA Relatives" displays everybody in the 23 & Me database with DNA in common. I have a total of 1151 DNA relatives.

The closest relatives are two first cousins, one "MR" on my father's side and Sean on my mother's side.

I share 12.4% DNA with Sean and 6.36% DNA with MR. Curiously, I share more DNA with one of Sean's daughters, 8.66% than I do with my own paternal first cousin.

But what's even odder is that my maternal and paternal cousins are related to each other. In the table below there is my paternal cousin's name, MR (name redacted) in the first column, then my connection and percentage shared DNA in the second column, then Sean's connection to MR, which, true, is only "Distant Cousin" at 0.07% but still that is weird.

And they aren't the only ones, although they are the closest of my relatives on 23 and Me.

Thanks to 23 and Me it is even clearer than before that there is no good reason to talk of Platonic family trees. It's not the nature of family trees to be "Platonic" in any usable sense of the term.

Speaking of 23 and Me, while arguing with Bret Weinstein on Twitter - indirectly, he won't talk to me - I saw a tweet apparently in agreement with Weinstein from 23 and Me founder Linda Avey. I asked her if she was a proponent of race science but she didn't answer.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Bret Weinstein: intellectual sloth or gigantic shitweasel?

I've mentioned in the past that race science proponents are extremely careless when they talk about race, often conflating ethnicity and "race" whenever they wish, and then claiming that their critics are anti-science for denying the existence of "race" when in fact their critics believe that ethnicity is real, but that "race" is something else.

In this case the author of the NYTimes article on "The Intersection of Race and Blood," Rose George, does all the work of being sloppy about terminology, and Bret Weinstein picks it up and runs with it.

The imprecision about race jumps right out of the gate in the first lines:
“We need black blood.” 
I didn’t know what to say to this, not least because it had been said by the head of donor services at England’s National Health Service Blood and Transplant. The interview was for a book I was writing on blood, a topic I knew a little about by then, but the baldness of his statement still shocked me. Surely we’re all the same under the skin?

Rose George is British. If you are an American and you think you know what a Brit means when they call someone black, you are probably wrong. In Britain "black" is much more expansive than in the US:
Historically, the term has most commonly been used to refer to Black people of New Commonwealth origin, of both West African and South Asian descent. For example, Southall Black Sisters was established in 1979 "to meet the needs of black (Asian and Afro-Caribbean) women".[7] Note that "Asian" in the British context usually refers to people of South Asian ancestry.[8][9] "Black" was used in this inclusive political sense to mean "non-white British".[10]
And it appears that in fact George really is talking about a "black" girl of Indian ethnicity:
Much of (blood) variance “has been driven by evolutionary selection by bacteria, malaria and parasites,” says Connie Westhoff, executive scientific director at the National Center for Blood Group Genomics at the New York Blood Center. If malaria finds its way into the bloodstream via a particular antigen, that antigen may change to defend itself, leading to different blood types. Cholera thrives better on intestinal cells derived from O-type stem cells, but O is also more protective against malaria. For many complicated reasons, only 27 percent of Asians have type A, but 40 percent of Caucasians do. Type B is found more commonly in Asia than Europe. 
This works not just with blood types. Sickle cell trait is now known to protect against malaria, which is why sickle cell, a painful and debilitating disease caused by malformed blood cells, is found frequently — but not only — in people with African heritage, because malaria thrives in Africa. 
This past winter, the case of a little girl named Zainab Mughal in South Florida illustrated all this complexity perfectly. Zainab, who is now 3, has neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer, and her treatment — chemotherapy and stem cell transplants — means she will need blood.
Weinstein delivers a lecture on science |to the anti-race science heathen  
But she also has rare blood. She belongs to the fewer than 1 percent of the population missing an antigen that the other 99 percent have, making her blood some of the rarest in the world. In her case, she lacks both the antigens Indian B and Big E. Via appeals to the American Rare Donor Program, and then the International Rare Donor Panel in England, Zainab’s local blood banker, One Blood, found five donors with the same extremely rare type.
Ironically, in some historical classifications of "race," people from India were considered "Caucasians."
The term Caucasian originally referred in a narrow sense to the native inhabitants of the Caucasus region.[14] In his The Outline of History of Mankind (1785), the German philosopher Christoph Meiners first used the concept of a "Caucasian" (Kaukasischen) race in its wider racial sense.[4][15][16]

Meiners acknowledged two races: the Caucasian or beautiful, and the Mongolian or ugly. His Caucasian race encompassed all of the ancient and most of the modern native populations of Europe, the aboriginal inhabitants of West Asia (including the Phoenicians, Hebrews and Arabs), the autochthones of Northern Africa (Berbers, Egyptians, Abyssinians and neighboring groups), the Indians, and the ancient Guanches.[17]
Which gives you a good idea of how random race classifications are. And George demonstrates the standard race/ethnicity conflation so common in the media:
...While no one is suggesting forced segregation of blood bags, it’s now scientifically established that blood can be racially or ethnically specific...
What does "racially or ethnically specific" mean in this context? George is not a very clear writer - in spite of the fact that she apparently makes a living as a freelance writer -  but I think what she's doing here is presenting race and ethnicity as literally interchangeable terms.

To immediately understand why they are not, note that "Italian" and "Irish" are ethnicities but Italians and Irish are considered the same race - white. At least they are both considered white now.

Bret Weinstein is a biologist and evolutionary theorist and there's no reason why he would have to just accept an article written by a freelance writer with no apparent science background at face value.

Weinstein attempting to justify himself
In this tweet he attempts to justify his failure to talk clearly about "biological terms of art." This is bullshit. All he has to do is point out that "ethnicity" and "race" and "population" etc. are not the same. He's a scientist, he was a teacher, if he can't offer insight into the issue, who can?

Instead what he did was weaponize an imprecisely written article against critics of race science, starting with condescendingly describing his opponents as a circle holding "fashionable" opinions as if it's just so much cocktail party chatter.

Now why did Bret Weinstein do this?

Is it because he's just so intellectually slothful that he can't be bothered to provide useful insight on a topic for which he was trained?

Or is Bret Weinstein a gigantic shitweasel (like Steven Pinker) whose real career is to play a scientist in order to best further the political agenda of the Intellectual Dark Web, which is significantly funded by right-wing plutocrats?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Pinker at the UN & forbidden questions about funding

Steven Pinker delivered a speech at the UN as part of its ECOSOC Inaugural Presidential Lecture Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress in Creating the Future We Want.

Thanks to my current technical writer job, I have access to the video of the lecture and the follow-up interview and questions.

It was not especially interesting. During the interview he used the line he likes to use to defend the biological reality of race (highlighted):
 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."
When asked about economic inequality he admitted that it has increased but we should not be concerned about the gap between the rich and the poor as long as the poor are becoming less poor.

Although he did allow that plutocracy was "a real problem" which is curious considering how much the Intellectual Dark Web, of which Pinker is considered the exemplar, is supported by plutocrats.

Pinker promoted nuclear energy - but he had to be prompted into it by the interviewer. It was my impression he tried to avoid mentioning it until pressed.

He mentioned the Flynn effect as a counter to "stupidification" which the interviewer said was a word Pinker used in his book "Enlightenment Now."

It was clear that the questioners weren't all that familiar with Pinker outside of the preceding half-hour lecture which focused on the discussions in "Enlightenment Now." One questioner, who wasn't introduced by name, started out with an interesting issue, saying "people do not earn as much as money, Money earns more than people do" which is of course an essential component in the continuing vast increase in economic inequality.  But the discussion didn't go anywhere interesting.

Pinker did mention "Call out culture" and "politically correct norms" of millenials, which he said were abetted by boomers.

The final question quoted David Brooks. Ugh. It's always baffled me that David Brooks has been able to make a living as a public intellectual. I think it's a legacy of the advantages that mediocre white males had in the twentieth-century. Until recently the NYTimes op-ed columnists were overwhelmingly older white men, including Brooks who has been there for decades.

Speaking of the affirmative action system for mediocre white males of the boomer generation, Steven Pinker and his IDW buddy Michael Shermer don't like the idea of distinguishing between "punching up" and "punching down" and appear to think that the reason that old white men such as themselves are "up" is due to meritocracy rather than affirmative action for people of a specific gender and ethnicity and class.

Meanwhile, Pinker's buddy Andrew Doyle who works for the Koch-supported Spiked magazine thinks it's some kind of bizarre left-wing insanity to ask where they get their funding. As we have seen, Claire Lehmann doesn't like to reveal all her funding sources for Quillette, just like James Lindsay, Major Grifter doesn't like to admit who funded his grift.

Just look at all those "Likes" for his tweet. 24K - all those fans of the IDW who prefer ignorance to Enlightenment.

Charles Murray denies the influence of Richard Lynn and J. P. Rushton on The Bell Curve

Pinkerite's ongoing series on The Bell Curve will be looking at the connections between TBC and Richard Lynn and J. P. Rushton - or rather will be looking even more since the number of times Rushton is cited in TBC has already been discussed.

As mentioned earlier in this Bell Curve series, Richard Lynn (along with Arthur Jensen) was thanked in the acknowledgement section of the book. J. P. Rushton is cited eleven times, also mentioned in this series. But also, in chapter 13, it's clear that Herrnstein & Murray consider Rushton a serious researcher, not a crank. In the Appendix 5 "Supplemental Materials for Chapter 13" is a section on page 642 RUSHTON ON RACE DIFFERENCES AND REPRODUCTIVE STRATEGIES reprinted in full here:
Controversy unprecedented even for the contentious subject of racial differences has erupted around the work of J. Philippe Rushton, a developmental psychologist at the University of Western Ontario. Rushton argues that the differences in the average intelligence test scores among East Asians, blacks, and whites are not only primarily genetic but part of a complex of racial differences that includes such variables as brain size," genital size, rate of sexual maturation, length of the menstrual cycle, frequency of sexual intercourse, gamete production, sexual hormone levels, the tendency to produce dizygotic twins, marital stability, infant mortality, altruism, law abidingness, and mental health. For each variable, Rushton has concluded, the three races-Mongoloids, Caucasoids, and Negroids-fall in a certain order, with the average Caucasoid in the middle and the other two races on one side or the other. The ordering of the races, he further argues, has an evolutionary basis; hence these ordered racial differences must involve genes.
To reach his conclusion, Rushton starts with the well-established observation in biology that species vary in their reproductive strategies. Some species produce many offspring (per parent) of which only a small fraction survive; others produce small numbers of offspring with relatively high survival rates. The involvement of parents in their offsprings' health and development (which biologists call "parental investment") tends to be high for species having few offspring and high survival rates and low for those employing the other strategy (many offspring and low survival rates). Many other species differences are concomitant with this fundamental one, according to standard biological doctrine.
Rushton's thesis is that this standard biological principle may be applied within our own species. Rushton acknowledges that human beings are as a species far out along the continuum of low reproduction, high offspring survival, and high parental investment, but he argues that the ordering of the races on the many variables he has identified can be explained as the result of evolutionary differences in how far out the races are. According to Rushton, the average Mongoloid is toward one d of the continuum of reproductive strategies-the survival, and high parental investment end-the shifted toward the other end, and the average Caucasoid is in the middle.
Rushton paints with a broad brush, focusing on the major racial categories rather than the dozens of more finely drawn reproductively isolated human populations that might test his theory more conclusively. But beyond that, his thesis raises numerous questions-moral, pragmatic, and scientific. Many critics attack the theory on scientific, not just moral, grounds. They question whether Rushton has really shown that the races are consistently ordered in the way he says they are, or whether a biological theory that was meant to explain species differences can be properly applied to groups within a single species, or whether the evidence for genetic influences on his variables stands up. Rushton has responded to his critics with increasingly detailed and convincing empirical reports of the race differences in some of the traits on his list, and he cites preeminent biological authority for his use of the concept of reproductive strategies. He has strengthened the case for consistently ordered race differences, at least for some of the variables he discusses, since his first formulation of the theory in 1985. Nevertheless, the theory remains a long way from confirmation.
We cannot at present say who is more nearly right as a matter of science, Rushton or his critics." However, Rushton's work is not that of a crackpot or a bigot, as many of his critics are given to charging. Nor are we sympathetic with Rushton's academic colleagues or the politicians in Ontario who have called for his peremptory dismissalfrom a tenured professorship. Setting aside whether his work is timely or worthwhile- a judgment we are loath to make under any circumstances-it is plainly science. He is not alone in seeking an evolutionary explanation of the observed differencesamong the races.'33' As science, there is nothing wrong with Rushton's work in principle; we expect that time will tell whether it is right or wrong in fact.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Bell Curve, chapter 1: the peculiar plunge of 1975

The first chapter of The Bell Curve is entitled "Cognitive Class and Education, 1900-1990" and its main gist is that during that time the percentage of American students who went to college climbed, and college enrollment favored the most intelligent students and therefore the general non-college educated American population became on average less intelligent than the college-educated.

But there is one passage that absolutely astounded me in this chapter (my highlight).
After 1974 came a peculiar plunge in college degrees that lasted until 1981-peculiar because it occurred when the generosity of scholarships and loans, from colleges, foundations, and government alike, was at its peak. 
How is it possible that a post-1974 plunge in college degrees would be considered "peculiar" and left without even an attempt at explanation? It was immediately obvious to me what the possible explanation for the "peculiar plunge" might be and I was not eligible for the draft during the Vietnam War. But Charles Murray was.

According to the NYTimes article from October 1994 Daring Research or 'Social Science Pornography'?: Charles Murray there is this description of Murray's Vietnam War years:
While there is much to admire about the industry and inquisitiveness of Murray's teen-age years, there is at least one adventure that he understandably deletes from the story -- the night he helped his friends burn a cross. They had formed a kind of good guys' gang, "the Mallows," whose very name, from marshmallows, was a play on their own softness. In the fall of 1960, during their senior year, they nailed some scrap wood into a cross, adorned it with fireworks and set it ablaze on a hill beside the police station, with marshmallows scattered as a calling card. 
Rutledge recalls his astonishment the next day when the talk turned to racial persecution in a town with two black families. "There wouldn't have been a racist thought in our simple-minded minds," he says. "That's how unaware we were." 
A long pause follows when Murray is reminded of the event. "Incredibly, incredibly dumb," he says. "But it never crossed our minds that this had any larger significance. And I look back on that and say, 'How on earth could we be so oblivious?' I guess it says something about that day and age that it didn't cross our minds." 
MURRAY LANDED AT HARVARD IN THE fall of 1961, where by his own account he spent four mostly uneventful years, studying Russian history and working at a classical music station. Taking a "pride in perversity," he went out of his way to advertise his oddness, wearing his ties, for instance, with the fat end short. "I really had very few close friends," he says. Graduating in 1965, Murray left for the Peace Corps and stayed abroad for six years. "Thailand was the transforming experience in my life," he says. "Thailand is where I grew up."
Charles Murray was born in 1943. He went to Harvard in 1961 when he was eighteen, which provided a draft deferment. He graduated in 1965 when he was twenty-two and joined the Peace Corps, which provided a draft deferment (as this article in the 1966 Harvard Crimson notes) although you would still be eligible for the draft once you came out of the Peace Corps. But Charles Murray stayed in the Peace Corps until he was 25 and "during the remainder of his time in Thailand he worked on an American Institutes for Research (AIR) covert counter-insurgency program for the US military in cooperation with the CIA."

The Vietnam War officially ended in April 1975.

Charles Murray was "oblivious" when he and his friends decided to burn a cross. Is it also obliviousness that Charles Murray, draft avoider, Harvard graduate and political scientist, ignored Vietnam as a reason for the sudden drop in college attendance after 1974?

Strangely, Steven Pinker also doesn't seem to understand the importance of Vietnam on the behavior of young people in the 1960s as I noted when reviewing a chapter in "Better Angels" last year. Pinker is Canadian, which still does not excuse a public intellectual attempting to explain attitudes in the 1960s, but at least his obliviousness could be attributed to the fact that he was never in danger of being drafted.

The Vietnam War and the draft were significant social forces as discussed in many books written on the subject including Rough Draft: Cold War Military Manpower Policy and the Origins of Vietnam-Era Draft Resistance and Random Destiny: How the Vietnam War Draft Lottery Shaped a Generation.

And there was another social impact of the Vietnam War as discussed in the 2008 paper by Ilyana Maria Kuziemko Dodging Up ” to College or “ Dodging Down ” to Jail: Behavioral Responses to the Vietnam Draft by Race and Class:
The Vietnam draft generally excluded the tails of the socio-economic status distribution through the use of qualifying criteria (e.g., a minimal IQ score, a relatively clean criminal record) and college deferments. I present a simple model in which highSES men “dodge up” (gain a deferment by investing in human capital) and low-SES men “dodge down” (appear unfit for service by disinvesting). Drawing on a little-used dataset of draft-aged men from the Vietnam period, I find that six months after receiving a “bad” 1969 lottery number, blacks and low-SES men report higher rates of delinquent behavior than do their counter-parts with “good” numbers, whereas whites and higher-SES enroll in college at higher rates than do their counter-parts with “good” numbers. Moreover, in administrative data from Georgia, men with bad numbers are overrepresented in prison admissions in the twelve months following the 1972 lottery.
It's a very strange thing, this unexplained "peculiar plunge." My guess is that because it demonstrates how easily social circumstance - as opposed to test scores - can influence college enrollment, it was ignored as an inconvenient nuance on the topic. Or maybe, because Charles Murray avoided the war with little fuss, he didn't consider it worth mentioning.

An exchange between two individuals supported by
Koch money: Charles Murray and Pamela Paresky

Or it could be that "obliviousness" is a common trait of IDW intellectuals, along with a belief in race science and a notable indifference to the influence of rightwing plutocrats like Charles Koch on academia coupled with hysteria over student demonstrations.

When students misbehaved when Murray was given a platform by Middlebury College they were disciplined - although in a recent tweet Murray indicates he feels it wasn't enough, but didn't respond when I asked him what an appropriate punishment would be.

The Middlebury police department offered an explanation:
In a separate news release Tuesday, the Middlebury Police Department said it would not bring charges in connection with the protest. 
The department’s chief, Thomas Hanley, said in an interview that it was impossible to identify the protesters who hurt Ms. Stanger or damaged the car. 
“This was a number of individuals in the dark, wearing masks and black clothing, along with a bunch of college students,” he said. “It was more of a scrum. There wasn’t any assault per se.”
So there was no assault per the police but rather, it appears, accidental injury of a faculty member during the "scrum."

You have to wonder what kind of punishment Murray would want for college students taking over colleges to protest the Vietnam War.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Bell Curve Part One: there goes the ball game

The Bell Curve's chapters are grouped into four parts, the first of which is entitled "The Emergence of a Cognitive Elite" and its three introductory pages before the first chapter do not bode well for the rest of the book.

The Bell Curve is now twenty-five years old and even in just the past quarter century the book's claim about a correlation between intelligence and wealth is weakened by evidence of the increasing rise in the number of people who are wealthy thanks to inheritance.

But where the book really falters is in its argument about "primogeniture" which is the term used for the custom of the first born (almost always first born son) inheriting most of the family wealth (my highlight):
This differentiation by cognitive ability did not coalesce into cognitive classes in premodern societies for various reasons. Clerical celibacy was one. Another was that the people who rose to the top on their brains were co-opted by aristocratic systems that depleted their descendants' talent, mainly through the mechanism known as primogeniture. Because parents could not pick the brightest of their progeny to inherit the title and land, aristocracies fell victim to regression to the mean: children of parents with above-average IQs tend to have lower IQs than their parents, and their children's IQs are lower still. Over the course of a few generations, the average intelligence in an aristocratic family fell toward the population average, hastened by marriages that matched bride and groom by lineage, not ability.
In 2016 The Journal of Human Resources published a study "The Early Origins of Birth Order Differences in Children’s Outcomes and Parental Behavior" demonstrating that in fact first-born children score higher on intelligence tests. And it was not the first study to make that claim.

How is that for an ironic twist on The Bell Curve's primogeniture claim? As this University of Edinburgh summary of the 2016 study states:
First borns score higher than their siblings in IQ tests as early as age one, the study has found...

...Economists at the University of Edinburgh, Analysis Group and the University of Sydney examined data from the U.S. Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a dataset collected by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nearly 5,000 children were observed from pre-birth to age 14. Every child was assessed every two years. The tests included reading recognition, such as matching letters, naming names and reading single words aloud and picture vocabulary assessments. Information was also collected on environmental factors such as family background and economic conditions.
It is extremely improbable that the first long-term surviving offspring of two people would be smartest across a population due to genetic variation. Not even hereditarians argue for that.

In other words, genetic causality is completely ruled out as a factor in the results of intelligence tests vs birth order. Which leaves only one causative factor: nurture.

As the study states (typos in the original were left in):
Researchers found that parents changed their behaviour as subsequent children were born. They offered less mental stimulation to younger siblings also took part in fewer activities such as such as reading with the child, crafts and playing musical instruments.
Mothers also took higher risks during the pregnancy of latter-born children, such as increased smoking.
And there goes the ball game for hereditarianism. It's clear that environment alone is responsible for significant differences in intelligence - at least as measured by intelligence tests.

But I will continue to cover The Bell Curve, chapter by chapter.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The IDW rightwing plutocrat support report

So let us review how many members of the "Intellectual Dark Web" are receiving funding from the Kochs. So far the definites are:

Charlie Kirk, is the founder of Turning Point USA.
TPUSA’s upcoming Student Action Summit in December has additional sponsors including the Reason Foundation, the Koch-connected Generation Opportunity Institute and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. (International Business Times)
Charles Murray - AEI scholar.
David H. Koch is on the American Enterprise Institute's National Council, whose members "serve as ambassadors for AEI, providing AEI with advice, insight, and guidance as [it] looks to reach out to new friends across the country."
Between 2002 and 2013, the American Enterprise Institute received a total of $867,289 in funding from the Charles G. Koch Foundation.

David Rubin - political commentator whose work is supported by Learn Liberty
Learn Liberty is a project of the Institute for Human Studies. Members of the IHS Board of Directors includes Charles Koch and Koch-related organization employees

I strongly suspect that Claire Lehmann/Quillette also receive funding from the Kochs but so far don't have anything definite. We do know that Quillette is supported by rightwing Australian plutocrat Mark Carnegie and others whom Lehmann won't name. Several Quillette authors, although not named as members of the IDW in the Bari Weiss article,  are funded by the Kochs including Cathy Young and Pamela Paresky.

More IDW-rightwing plutocrat connections as they are discovered...

Friday, May 17, 2019

Stephen Jay Gould v The Bell Curve

The IDW really does not like Stephen Jay Gould. This was first brought to my attention (before the term IDW was in use) when I contacted Steven Pinker during the Larry Summers controversy to ask if he had influenced Summers. Pinker owned that he had and at some point in our email exchange he admitted to an admiration for Marvin Harris and a negative attitude towards Stephen Jay Gould, based on Pinker's claim that Gould's opinion on evolutionary psychology wasn't valid because Gould held leftwing political beliefs.

The hypocrisy of this position is clear when you consider that Pinker has supported the race science careers of Steve Sailer and Razib Khan for over a decade, including the periods when Khan was a right-wing political operative. And Sailer's entire career has been in the service of far-right racist publications.

In the image on the right, an Eric Weinstein tweet about Gould, we see Weinstein also suggesting Gould's science was motivated by politics.

Quillette of course published an article saying the same thing, by Russell T. Warne, a fan of The Bell Curve.

Bret Weinstein doesn't like Gould's theory on spandrels either but doesn't claim it has to do with politics (at least in this tweet.)

According to the Wiki on Gould's spandrels paper:
Steven Pinker criticized Gould and Lewontin for reusing an argument by George C. Williams in favor of the importance of nonadaptive features without attributing it to him. Gould responded that Pinker's accusation was "serious, and false", writing, "I love Williams’s book and cite it frequently—but not in our spandrels paper because neither he, nor I, nor anyone else in our century invented the idea. The concept has always been part of evolutionary theory."
Gould and Pinker publicly clashed in 1997 when Gould wrote a review of a book by evolutionary psychology proponent Helena Cronin (who published a policy paper with Oliver Curry in 2000, advocating the UK adopt a gender-based employment scheme) "The Ant and the Peacock." Gould's review was called "Confusion over Evolution." Gould wrote:
But the ultimate failure of Cronin's adaptationism, as a general evolutionary model, appears most clearly when we consider the paleontological record. Darwin's vision may prevail in the here and now of immediate adaptive struggles. But if we cannot extend the small changes thereby produced into the grandeur of geological time to yield the full tree of life, then Darwin's domain is a limited corner of evolutionary explanation. New documentation on the rapidity and intensity of mass extinction (including the event that wiped out dinosaurs) has provided the strongest argument for rejecting Darwinian extrapolation. Darwin clearly understood the threat, and he struggled against the implications of mass extinction in the Origin of Species by trying to deny both their extent and rapidity. He endeavored to spread them out in time and diminish their effects. He attempted to render them as an intensification of ordinary competition (inspired, perhaps, by an increase in rates of change for conventional processes like mountain-building and change in sea level). But if mass extinctions are true breaks in continuity, if the slow building of adaptation in normal times does not extend into predicted success across mass extinction boundaries, then extrapolationism fails and adaptationism succumbs.
In irate letter to the New York Review of Books Pinker responded:
 Gould claims his targets invoke selection to explain everything. They don’t. Everyone agrees that aspects of the living world without adaptive complexity—numbers of species, nonfunctional features, trends in the fossil record—often need different kinds of explanations, from genetic drift to wayward asteroids. So yes, we all should be, and are, pluralists.
To which Gould responded:
Pinker then follows his false opening charge with a three-part argument overturned by its own illogic and verbal inconsistency. The first third denies that evolutionary psychologists rely exclusively on adaptation. The second third (as I shall document below) shows how Pinker’s restrictive focus upon adaptationist thinking leads him to misunderstand the concept of spandrels. The closing third then extols the power and range of adaptationist explanation, but gives the game away by equating this limited mode with “evolutionary reasoning” in general. 
But the first and third parts contradict each other. Which claim does Pinker want to make: that pluralism reigns in evolutionary psychology (and I characterized the field unfairly), or that adaptationism reigns as a synonym for “evolutionary reasoning” (and my warnings are sterile)? He can’t have them both. (My true position, of course, holds that adaptationism rules wrongly and too restrictively.)
Pinker writing two parts of an argument that contradict each other is standard Pinker, as he likes to have things both ways.

I suspect Pinker was not a fan of Gould even before this clash. Gould wrote a review of The Bell Curve in 1994, "Curveball" and made serious charges against the book, including:
Like so many conservative ideologues who rail against the largely bogus ogre of suffocating political correctness, Herrnstein and Murray claim that they only want a hearing for unpopular views so that truth will out. And here, for once, I agree entirely. As a card–carrying First Amendment (near) absolutist, I applaud the publication of unpopular views that some people consider dangerous. I am delighted that The Bell Curve was written–so that its errors could be exposed, for Herrnstein and Murray are right to point out the difference between public and private agendas on race, and we must struggle to make an impact on the private agendas as well. But The Bell Curve is scarcely an academic treatise in social theory and population genetics. It is a manifesto of conservative ideology; the book's inadequate and biased treatment of data display its primary purpose—advocacy. The text evokes the dreary and scary drumbeat of claims associated with conservative think tanks: reduction or elimination of welfare, ending or sharply curtailing affirmative action in schools and workplaces, cutting back Head Start and other forms of preschool education, trimming programs for the slowest learners and applying those funds to the gifted. (I would love to see more attention paid to talented students, but not at this cruel price.)
Plus ├ža change... - has there ever been a time in human memory when rightwingers weren't complaining about "political correctness?"

We will come back to other sections of Gould's review later on in this ongoing series on The Bell Curve.

Until then, let us ask: if Stephen Jay Gould was still alive, would he be a shoe model?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Bell Curve: preface, acknowledgements & introduction

Before getting into The Bell Curve proper, I have some notes on the sections that come before:


The preface contrasts the wealthy overclass against the poor underclass and states that the true cause of social inequality is intelligence.
What good can come of understanding the relationship of intelligence to social structure and public policy? Little good can come without it. 
In a 2014 New Yorker article Piketty’s Inequality Story in Six Charts the first chart demonstrates the change in the top 10% of income over one hundred years.

Did the intelligence of those in the top ten percent suddenly drop in 1940? Did they start to suddenly rapidly gain intelligence between 1980 and 2000, which is to say in the span of a single generation?

And what made the top ten percent relatively stupid between 1940 and 1980?

Maybe the book will provide genetics-based answers to these questions.


Richard Lynn and Arthur Jensen are thanked for their advice. Also thanked for advice were others I was unfamiliar with:  Robert Forsyth, Len Ramist, Malcolm Ree, and Frank Schmidt

I was unable to find via Google any references to the Robert Forsyth mentioned in The Bell Curve, but while looking for that I found something of interest, because by coincidence Forsyth is also the name of a town where another violent attack by a white majority against prosperous blacks occurred. I had been aware of the Memphis riots of 1866 but the Forsyth story had apparently been little known outside the area until Patrick Phillips wrote a book.
In 1912, white mobs set fire to black churches and black-owned businesses. Eventually the entire black population of Forsyth County was driven out, says Blood at the Root author Patrick Phillips.
It makes you wonder what other stories are out there, known only to locals, of white mob attacks on black businesses, and, as the interview makes clear, black property owners.

Len Ramist is best known for a paper co-written with Rich Morgan and published in 1998 entitled "Advanced Placement Students in College: An Investigation of Course Grades at 21 Colleges."

As to Frank Schmidt and Malcolm Ree, according to the Slate article from 1997 The Bell Curve Flattened:
...the psychometricians who dominate the footnotes of The Bell Curve are John Hunter, Arthur Jensen, Malcolm Ree, and Frank Schmidt. These men are well known within the field as representing its right wing, not a mainstream consensus.
No acknowledgement of Rushton or The Pioneer Fund.


The Introduction begins by stating:
...for the last thirty years, the concept of intelligence has been a pariah in the world of ideas. The attempt to measure it with tests has been variously dismissed as an artifact of racism, political reaction, statistical bungling, and scholarly fraud.
This is followed with the history of intelligence conceptualizing and testing from Darwin to Galton to Charles Spearman and the development of the concept of general intelligence. They seem to consider Arthur Jensen something of a hero, first writing:
In 1969, Arthur Jensen, an educational psychologist and expert on testing from the University of California at Berkeley, put a match to this volatile mix of science and ideology with an article in the Harvard Educational Review. Asked by the Review's editors to consider why compensatory and remedial education programs begun with such high hopes during the War on Poverty had yielded such disappointing results, Jensen concluded that the programs were bound to have little success because they were aimed at populations of youngsters with relatively low IQs, and success in school depended to a considerable degree on IQ. IQ had a large heritable component, Jensen also noted. The article further disclosed that the youngsters in the targeted populations were disproportionately black and that historically blacks as a population had exhibited average IQs substantially below those of whites.
Then later:
As far as public discussion is concerned, this collection of beliefs, with some variations, remains the state of wisdom about cognitive abilities and IQ tests. It bears almost no relation to the current state of knowledge among scholars in the field, however, and therein lies a tale. The dialogue about testing has been conducted at two levels during the last two decades - the visible one played out in the press and the subterranean one played out in the technical journals and books. 
The case of Arthur Jensen is illustrative. To the public, he surfaced briefly, published an article that was discredited, and fell back into obscurity. Within the world of psychometrics, however, he continued to be one of the profession's most prolific scholars, respected for his meticulous research by colleagues of every theoretical stripe. Jensen had not recanted. He continued to build on the same empirical findings that had gotten him into such trouble in the 1960s, but primarily in technical publications, where no one outside the profession had to notice. The same thing was happening throughout psychometrics. In the 1970s, scholars observed that colleagues who tried to say publicly that IQ tests had merit, or that intelligence was substantially inherited, or even that intelligence existed as a definable and measurable human quality, paid too high a price. Their careers, family lives, relationships with colleagues, and even physical safety could be jeopardized by speaking out. Why speak out when there was no compelling reason to do so? Research on cognitive abilities continued to flourish, hut only in the sanctuary of the ivory tower.
Three approaches to intelligence assessment are described:
  • The Classicists: Intelligence as a Structure
  • The Revisionists: Intelligence as Information Processing
  • The Radicals: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

And they identify Jensen and then later, themselves as proponents of the first:
We will be drawing most heavily from the classical tradition. That body of scholarship represents an immense and rigorously analyzed body of knowledge. By accepted standards of what constitutes scientific evidence and scientific proof, the classical tradition has in our view given the world a treasure of information that has been largely ignored in trying to understand contemporary policy issues. 

Idiot Savants

They discard the usefulness of "idiot savants" in telling us anything about human intelligence in the box on page 22:
To add one final complication, it is also known that some people with low measured IQ occasionally engage in highly developed, complex cognitive tasks. So-called idiot savants can (for example) tell you on what day Easter occurred in any of the past or future two thousand years [45] There are also many less exotic examples. For example, a study of successful track bettors revealed that some of them who used extremely complicated betting systems had below-average IQs and that IQ was not correlated with success.[46] The trick in interpreting such results is to keep separate two questions: (1) If one selects people who have already demonstrated an obsession and success with racetrack betting systems, will one find a relationship with IQ (the topic of the study in question)?versus (2) if one selects a thousand people at random and asks them to develop racetrack betting systems, will there be a relationship with IQ (in broad terms, the topic of this book)?
Nowhere in the book do they mention autism, a condition that is sometimes associated with an ability to perform complicated calculations as well as "an obsession" with various subjects. Those with autism appear to vary in levels of competence, but are united generally by an inability to "read" other people and a seeming lack of interest in the emotional states of other individuals. They lack what might be called "emotional intelligence" which Herrnstein and Murray have previously dismissed in the section on "The Radicals: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences" saying (my highlight):
...we confess to reservations about using the word intelligence to describe such factors as musical abilities, kinesthetic abilities, or personal skills. It is easy to understand how intelligence (ordinarily understood) is part of some aspects of each of those human qualities-obviously. Bach was engaging in intelligent activity, and so was Ted Williams, and so is a good used- car salesman - but the part intelligence plays in these activities is captured fairly well by intelligence as the classicists and revisionists conceive of it... In the case of intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, conventional intelligence may play some role, and, to the extent that other human qualities matter, words like sensitivity, charm, persuasiveness, insight-the list could go on and on-have accumulated over the centuries to describe them. We lose precision by using the word intelligence to cover them all. Similarly, the effect that an artist or an athlete or a salesman creates is complex, with some aspects that may be dominated by specific endowments or capacities, others that may be the product of learned technique, others that may be linked to desires and drives, and still others that are characteristic of the kind of cognitive ability denoted by intelligence. Why try to make intelligence do triple or quadruple duty?
But since they believe in the essential role that intelligence plays in economic success, why would they dismiss the skills of a good used-car salesman? Given the importance of sales in any capitalist society, surely the interpersonal skills involved - skills not possessed by the most accomplished autistic computer programmer - should count as "intelligence." After all, where would Apple be if the company had been founded only by programmer Steve Wozniak without the charisma and salesmanship of Steve Jobs?

And what about the earnings potential for successful track bettors. Are only some kinds of economic success evidence of "intelligence" as defined by The Bell Curve?

Six conclusions

Towards the end of the introduction they discuss "six conclusions."
To draw the strands of our perspective together and to set the stage for the rest of the book, let us set them down explicitly. Here are six conclusions regarding tests of cognitive ability, drawn from the classical tradition, that are by now beyond significant technical dispute:
  1. There is such a thing as a general factor of cognitive ability on which human beings differ. 
  2. All standardized tests of academic aptitude or achievement measure this general factor to some degree, but IQ tests expressly designed for that purpose measure it most accurately. 
  3. IQ scores match, to a first degree, whatever it is that people mean when they use the word intelligent or smart in ordinary language. 
  4. IQ scores are stable, although not perfectly so, over much of a person's life. 
  5. Properly administered IQ tests are not demonstrably biased against social, economic, ethnic, or racial groups. 
  6. Cognitive ability is substantially heritable, apparently no less than 40 percent and no more than 80 percent. 
I am especially curious to learn what evidence they have that supports conclusion 3. I've never heard of a methodology that tests colloquial designations of "smart" per individual against the same individual's test scores, but perhaps The Bell Curve will have some support for this. We shall see. 

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