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

Friday, November 1, 2019

Steven Pinker praises fact-checking- and fails at fact-checking - in the same article

Oh the humanity
The sleazy Michael Shermer of course promotes the supremely annoying Steven Pinker by giving him yet another chance to whine about how people are mean to the promoters of race pseudo-science:
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s behavioral scientists like Arthur Jensen, Hans Eysenck, Richard Herrnstein, Thomas Bouchard, and Linda Gottfredson were disinvited, drowned out, and in some cases physically assaulted. On the right, for example, is a 1984 poster announcing a talk by the evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson, which improbably called him “The Prophet of Right Wing Patriarchy” and invited students to “bring noisemakers.” So when it comes to intolerant repression of non-leftist ideas, don’t blame the Millennials or the iGens. Contra Billy Joel, we Baby Boomers did start the fire—which is not to deny that it is now blazing out of control.
I think Billy Joel is Pinker's idea of the quintessential Baby Boomer era rock star - I've documented on my personal web site how much Pinker detests the Who, the Beatles and punk rock. In fact, I even guessed Pinker's interest in Billy Joel in February 2018 when I asked:
I don't know what Pinker was listening to post-1960s. Billy Joel maybe?
Now I don't know of anybody who condones physically assaulting even the most noxious proponent of race science, but I'm sure you can find some who do. Just as college students have been known to do stupid things and believe stupid things - but what the IDW does is try to portray college students and even anonymous randos, via its Free Speech Grifter project, as representatives of those who oppose the history-denying mess of race science,

Of the poor disinvited martyrs mentioned by Pinker in the passage above, Eyesenck, Jensen and Gottfredson are known to have received funding from the white supremacist Pioneer Fund:
In recent decades, the Pioneer Fund has funded most American and British race scientists, including a large number cited in The Bell Curve. According to Barry Mehler, the leading academic critic of the fund, these race scientists have included Hans Eysenck, Robert A. Gordon, Linda Gottfredson, Seymour Itzkoff, Arthur Jensen, Michael Levin, Richard Lynn, R. Travis Osborne, Roger Pearson, J. Philippe Rushton, William Shockley and Daniel R. Vining Jr.
And Herrnstein, as co-author with Charles Murray of The Bell Curve has used studies paid for by the Pioneer Fund.

These are the people who Pinker worries about. The blatant racists who hide behind a weak facade of "science."

This is what Linda Gottfredson is up to now - rating "races" by intelligence with white supremacist Stefan Molyneux.

And no literary output from the IDW is complete without a fact-check fail. Pinker asserts:
 ...many of them draw their power from another principle articulated by Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”
There is no evidence that Abraham Lincoln "articulated" this - notice Pinker uses quotations as if he got it directly from a speech or other legitimate source. And Pinker even mentions, favorably, fact-checking sources in this article!
Even everyday fact-checking has been has been revolutionized by the urban legend tracking site snopes.com and by Wikipedia, which is now 80 times the size of the Encyclopedia Britannica and pretty much as accurate.
According to Quote Investigator:
In 2003 and 2005 the history of the quotation was analyzed in articles printed in the Newsletter of the Abraham Lincoln Association of Springfield, Illinois. The 2003 article noted that by 1904 some individuals began to claim that Lincoln had used the expression in a speech in 1858. In 1905 two newspapers, “The Chicago Tribune” and “The Brooklyn Eagle” gathered and reviewed information, but the question remained unsettled. Over time other witnesses came forward; however, no contemporaneous written evidence from the 1850s has ever been discovered. Human memories of events that transpired forty years in the past are notably unreliable. 
 In conclusion, Jacques Abbadie should be credited with the interesting precursor statement in French. QI believes based on current evidence that Abraham Lincoln probably did not employ this well-known adage.

Perhaps Pinker has decided it doesn't matter whether he is justified in attributing those words to Lincoln - it's been established that Pinker feels that misrepresenting the words of others is a completely acceptable practice.

After the promotion of race science, I'd say hypocrisy and intellectual sloth are what unites the Intellectual Dark Web.