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The Brian Ferguson Interview

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

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 Coyne 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.




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