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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...

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Get off Jerry Coyne's lawn, whippersnappers

Jerry Coyne, Steven Pinker's fanboy recently seen defending the IDW project to negate history, wants you to know he'll have none of this slang nonsense:

1.) “tea” as in “gossip” or “dirt”. “Spill the tea” is now the equivalent of “tell all” or “spill it”. The Urban Dictionary gives an example:
“Girl, did you know Renee is having ANOTHER baby? And the babby daddy is the same guy who she found out has been cheating on her!”
“OMG, spill the tea on that drama!!!!”
An example from this article in HuffPo:
to wit:Demi Moore’s new memoir is giving you all the tea you could possibly want about her life and then some.
 
This is odious. Why can’t they just say “juicy details” or “gossip”. The word “tea” here is the verbal equivalent to virtue flaunting—it’s “I’m with-it” flaunting. I have no use for such people.

---------------------------

"spill the tea" derives, like much of American slang, from African American vernacular

How dare they invent a term of which a race science-promoting old white man does not approve!

Just wait until he hears about that "jazz"!
A strange word has gained wide-spread use in the ranks of our producers of popular music. It is "jazz," used mainly as an adjective descriptive of a band. The group that play for dancing,  when colored, seem infected with the virus that they try to instil as a stimulus in others. They shake and jump and writhe in ways to suggest a return of the medieval jumping mania. The word, according to Walter Kinglsey, famous in the ranks of vaudeville, is variously spelled jas, jass, jasz, and jasez; and is African in origin....
Later on the article references the poem "Congo" which can be heard, read by author Vachel Lindsay here.

Click here to enlarge and read the article "The Appeal of the Primitive Jazz" from The Literary Digest, 1917. I found it online here.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Outline article on modern phrenology

How might phrenology - original or modern -
explain the biologically-endowed
predilections of the sumptuary scofflaw?
I already liked the article in The Outline entitled People keep trying to bring back phrenology, especially this sentence:
Lately, the term “phrenology” most readily invokes the so-called “Intellectual Dark Web” — that loose network of hack popular scientists and race realists who consider themselves, bizarrely, to be in the business of “questioning orthodoxies” with the reactionary propaganda they promote to a blinkered audience of acolytes for profit.
before I realized they'd linked to Pinkerite in this one:
In part, this is because Quillette, the online magazine prominently associated with the intellectual dark web, has literally defended phrenology
I'd never heard of The Outline before. According to its about page:
The Outline is a new kind of publication founded by journalists and storytellers. We want to help you understand the world better, feed your curiosity, challenge your assumptions, and show you something new.
We’re dedicated to telling the right stories for right now, and our coverage is focused on the increasingly complex confluence of culture, power, and technology.
The problem with phrenology and its descendant "biosocial criminology" should be obvious after a brief moment of reflection: to understand criminals you have to understand what is classified as crime. Even hereditarians must admit that the concept of "crime" and systems of punishment do not exist in nature.

Things that have been criminal in the past include the theater, dancing and wearing clothing that was too fancy. And today, in some places, homosexuality and women traveling without official male permission are crimes.

And then there are studies like this one:
We found that, compared to their share in the population, blacks are almost twice as likely to be pulled over as whites — even though whites drive more on average, by the way. We also discovered that blacks are more likely to be searched following a stop. Just by getting in a car, a black driver has about twice the odds of being pulled over, and about four times the odds of being searched. Hispanic drivers, overall, are no more likely than whites to be pulled over, but much more likely to be searched... African Americans are much more likely to be searched after a stop than white drivers, but less likely to be found with drugs, guns, alcohol or other forms of contraband after discretionary searches.
But like all hereditarians, biosocial criminologists seek to eliminate all forms of knowledge, especially the historical record, to prioritize knowledge based on genetics and "evolution."

Or rather, their form of evolution which is to say one in which only natural selection - "adaptation" - counts as PZ Myers explains in this important and useful video.

And recently the queen of hereditarianism, Claire Lehmann was seen on Twitter demonstrating the IDW desire to eliminate history.




This discussion happened close to or on Columbus Day (it's an effort to track Lehmann's tweets because she's blocked Pinkerite.) It makes me wonder if that set Lehmann off because in the good old days the "empirical enterprise" of history ignored or downplayed the atrocities committed by European explorers like Columbus, but more recently, thanks in large part, I believe, to the work of Howard Zinn, the atrocities are less likely to be ignored.

Clearly Zinn's work still bothers the far-right, the people who believe in the supreme glory of European culture, as shown in this recent piece on the Federalist, a publication by Ben Domenech (fired three days after being hired, for plagiarism, from the Washington Post), and which is funded by... nobody knows.

John Jackson in his Fardels Bear blog, notes the same hostility to history from another member of the IDW as well as his fanboy Jerry Coyne:
Coyne, Pinker, and the like object, not to postmodernism but to history. Thomas Kuhn wrote of scientists’ “textbook histories” of science; those little potted histories you might find at the beginning of an undergraduate science textbook that recount the great achievements of the field. These achievements, Kuhn wrote were “seldom in their original form,” which means that those histories were designed to trumpet scientific success without being bothered with what really happened in science’s past. This is the kind of history preferred by Coyne who actually recommends Pinker’s account of the Enlightenment which real historians of the Enlightenment find completely unsupportable (also here or here). Or see my treatment of his caricature of the history of science he presented in the Blank Slate. 
But to truly understand the wrong-headed anti-history project of the IDW we need to read Razib Khan, who has been encouraged by Pinker:
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. 
"If we removed all the history" - that's what the IDW is aiming for.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Quillette on a downhill slide

Quillette, the modern phrenology publication, has always been crap. This was predictable since it was founded by one of Ezra Levant's alt-right content creators, misogynist race science proponent Claire Lehmann.

For a brief while there, things were looking good for Quillette. But all during 2019 things have been going downhill.

It should be noted that Quillette's Patreon account does not display its numbers so Graphtreon, whose dashboard for Quillette can be seen below, uses an estimate.




It's interesting to note that Quillette's patron numbers are on a sharper decline trajectory than its donations. Which means a more concentrated funding base for Quillette, and probably a higher percentage of plutocrat funding. We know that Quillette does get funding directly from a right-wing Australian plutocrat, Mark Carnegie, and from others (my guess is Koch) whom Claire Lehmann has declined to name.

Even if Quillette received no funding via Patreon, it's likely it would continue to be supported thanks to wingnut welfare. But it is still encouraging to see that more people are catching on to how very little use Quillette is for anything other than disseminating right-wing opinions and support for race science. And we mostly have Nassim Nicholas Taleb to thank for raising awareness about Quillette.

Another fun fact - when you type "Quillette" into Google, this is what you get. I think the growing group of Quillette opponents on Twitter, in addition to Taleb, deserve credit for "quillette phrenology."


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Another race massacre & the ongoing IDW project to erase African American history

Pinkerite has written about grifter James Lindsay, author at Quillette in the past, focusing on his refusal to admit who paid him to run the "grievance hoax" and his bizarre conspiracy theory that women's studies are sleeper cells created to "rot society from within."

This tweet demonstrates his commitment to one of the primary tactics of the IDW:  deny the history of African Americans, a history inextricable from racism.

Erasing African American history is necessary to maintain the IDW position that failure to thrive by black people in the United States is not due to legal and extra-legal injustice over four centuries, but rather African Americans' own innate lesser intelligence and criminal tendencies, a belief promoted by a network of individuals in criminology departments in colleges across the United States.

Note that in this tweet Lindsay doesn't express criticisms of the author or the content of the book - he objects to children being told about racism, period.

And this is perfect timing for Lindsay since the New York Times just ran, the day before, a story about yet another massacre of black people by the white majority, an atrocity I'd never heard of. From the story:
One hundred years ago this week, one of the worst episodes of racial violence in American history unfolded in Elaine, Ark., a small town on the Mississippi. Details remain difficult to verify. The perpetrators suppressed coverage of the events, and the victims, terrified black families, had no one to turn for help. In fact, local police were complicit in the killing of untold numbers of African-Americans.
Pinkerite has noted the fact that there are far more of these race massacre incidents throughout American history than is generally recognized. And considering how under-reported even horrifically violent incidents are, it seems reasonable to assume there are many others that have not been recorded at all, because they merely resulted in looting of African American wealth and prospects for creating wealth. The excellent 1619 project details the systemic fraud used to rob African Americans.

The NYTimes article about the Elaine massacre includes this:
Families of union members found no welcome when they returned to their homes. The wife of Frank Moore had hidden for four weeks. When she came back to her neighborhood, a plantation manager, Billy Archdale, told her “if she did not leave, he would kill her, burn her up, and no one would know where she was.” Most of those who survived found their homes emptied of possessions that appeared in white peoples’ homes.
Another tactic used by the IDW is to suggest that exactly because African American history is full of so much injustice, those who discuss injustice are blind to what's really important - genetics - as Sam Harris said to Ezra Klein:
 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 —
Harris, one of the more respectable members of the IDW (in contrast to people such as Stefan Molyneux and Mike Cernovich) is pushing the idea that American history should be "differentiated" from scientific fact, data and "reasonable extrapolations."

John Paul Wright, criminology professor at the University of Cincinnati, explained the thought processes behind the IDW's hereditarianism like this:
...evolutionary theory helps explain why race-based patterns of behavior are universal, such as black over-involvement in crime. No other paradigm organizes these patterns better. No other paradigm explains these inconvenient truths.
The only way the hereditarian explanation can win is to erase the most important alternative explanation for "black over-involvement in crime."

The NYTimes article about the Elaine massacre includes this passage (my highlight):
On Oct. 7, Colonel Jencks declared the insurrection over and withdrew his troops. He brought the men and women deemed insurrectionists to the Phillips County jail in Helena. On Oct. 31, a grand jury indicted 122 black men and women for offenses ranging from murder to night riding. A jury convicted 12 black men in the murders of three white men, even though two of the deaths had occurred from white people accidentally shooting each other in a frenzy. The “confessions” of the black men had been secured through torture. Black people were thus blamed, sentenced and jailed for their own massacre.
That is the goal of the Intellectual Dark Web: to blame black people themselves, via the wrong-headed, adaptation-essentialist hereditarian version of "evolutionary theory" for the results of centuries of oppression.