Featured Post

The Brian Ferguson Interview

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

Monday, August 26, 2019

The IDW and 1619

The IDW has been surprisingly quiet about the 1619 project - surprising  because one of the most important issues that brings together the somewhat diverse members of the Intellectual Dark Web is a belief in the accuracy of race science and its claim that "black" people are genetically less intelligent than other "races."

In order to support this belief, it is essential for members of the IDW and friends to deny the importance of the history of African Americans, and the 1619 project is all about the history of African Americans, focusing most importantly on issues that have been under-discussed such as the looting of African American wealth through terrorism and fraud and semi-legal means.

Writing in Quillette, in an article that Steven Pinker recommended to his Twitter followers, Bo and Ben Winegard argued that the history of African Americans does not explain African American failure to thrive:
Of course, there are other possible explanations of the Black-White gap, such as parenting styles, stereotype threat, and a legacy of slavery/discrimination among others. However, to date, none of these putative causal variables has been shown to have a significant effect on the IQ gap, and no researcher has yet made a compelling case that environmental variables can explain the gap. This is certainly not for lack of effort; for good reason, scholars are highly motivated to ascertain possible environmental causes of the gap and have tried for many years to do just that.
They toss off "a legacy of slavery/discrimination among others" and then dismiss it.

We see Sam Harris also seeking to deny African American history:
...you are unwilling to differentiate scientific fact and scientific data and reasonable extrapolations based on data, from past injustices in American history, these are totally separate things —
Razib Khan, whose career has been supported by Steven Pinker, was displeased by an article in the NYTimes by Carl Zimmer called Black? White? A Murky Distinction Grows Still Murkier and Khan's response included this odd paragraph:
So I have to take issue when The New York Times posts articles with headlines such as White? Black? A Murky Distinction Grows Still Murkier. What genetics is showing is that in fact white Americans are shockingly European to an incredibly high degree for a population with roots on this continent for 400 years. If we removed all the history that we take for granted we’d be amazed that the indigenous peoples had so little demographic impact, and, that the larger numbers of people of partial African ancestry did not move into the general “white” population. 
He actually uses the phrase "If we removed all the history" and suggests without a knowledge of history we would get at the truth of race in America.

You don't have to be an historian (I am not) to be completely dumbfounded by the suggestion that it would be useful to ignore the actual reasons why '"larger numbers of people of partial African ancestry did not move into the general "white" population."'

And professional racist Steve Sailer, whose career has also been supported by Pinker had the same take on the Zimmer article:
Actually, as the genome data has gotten more precise in the 21st Century, the big surprise has been how white are American whites. 
Slavery. Anti-misegenation laws. The one-drop rule. It's so obvious these are the reasons that the "white" population is so white. And Sailer and Khan are perfectly aware of those things.

But Khan and Sailer's responses show how incredibly blinded is the race science project to reality, so certain they are that DNA testing is the real story of "race."

So I knew eventually I would find a member of the IDW criticizing the 1619 project and turns out it's Charles Murray shown in the tweet at the top of this post. Charles Murray, who wrote The Bell Curve, the book most beloved by race science promoters, which claims that black people have failed to thrive in part due to genetic inferiority, and which was written using research paid for by the white supremacist Pioneer Fund, scoffs at the idea racism has been a defining issue since the founding of the USA.

Murray's career is dependent on the claim of black genetic inferiority ~ and the related libertarian-friendly claim that therefore we shouldn't have a social safety net because the poor are just too stupid to help. So the 1619 project is highly offensive to him and right-wing racists, since it is full of evidence of systemic racism from before the founding of the United States.

But it's OK if Murray and his race science friends suffer from obtuseness, deliberate or otherwise. Rigor is not expected of right-wing intellectuals. Murray's career has been supported by the American Enterprise Institute which has long had Koch support. A phenomenon known as wingnut welfare.

The American Enterprise Institute loves The Bell Curve so much that in 2014 they celebrated the 20th anniversary of its publication by interviewing Charles Murray. In the interview Murray reveals that not only does he believe that some of the reason for black underachievement is genetic, he believes that science will prove him right very soon:
On this score, the roof is about to crash in on those who insist on a purely environmental explanation of all sorts of ethnic differences, not just intelligence. Since the decoding of the genome, it has been securely established that race is not a social construct, evolution continued long after humans left Africa along different paths in different parts of the world, and recent evolution involves cognitive as well as physiological functioning.
The best summary of the evidence is found in the early chapters of Nicholas Wade’s recent book, “A Troublesome Inheritance.” We’re not talking about another 20 years before the purely environmental position is discredited, but probably less than a decade. What happens when a linchpin of political correctness becomes scientifically untenable? It should be interesting to watch. I confess to a problem with schadenfreude.
But the Zimmer article, which so annoyed Khan and Sailer, was published two months after Murray made that statement, and demonstrated that genetic testing has made it clearer than ever that race is a social construct. Confirmed by the fact that race science proponents in Quillette can't or won't define which races exist, biologically.

And I think that birth order studies demonstrate that the environmental position is absolutely confirmed - but proponents of race science live inside a right-wing funded bubble and don't have to address evidence that is contrary to what they believe.

You can thank the largess of the Kochs and other plutocrats for that.

And of course many members of the IDW have benefitted from plutocrat support and will no doubt continue to do so.