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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The "cockroach" strikes back at the shamelessness of Steven Pinker, Michael Shermer and friends

When members of the IDW aren't patting themselves
on the back for their civility, they are insulting people.

Phil Torres made some very well-justified criticisms of the work of Steven Pinker, noting Pinker misrepresented the work of others, and as a result, Pinker and his buddies Jerry Coyne and Michael Shermer insulted him for it and then claimed misrepresentation was no big deal.

This all went down back in January. I wrote at the time:
Even though I've recognized for many years that Steven Pinker is a weasel, I was astounded. "so what?" I was going to write my own response but found this piece by Olle Häggström via Phil Torres' Twitter feed. I admit I was relieved to find it. Pinker's dismissal of Torres' valid point was so shameless I wondered if I misunderstood somehow.
But no, Pinker really is that brazen.

And now Torres has a piece in Salon telling the story himself: Steven Pinker, Sam Harris and the epidemic of annoying white male intellectuals

Torres writes:
Shermer’s (cockroach) tweet is notable for a couple of reasons. First, not only does it contain a personal attack, but the personal attack is overtly uncivil. That’s a bit humorous given that Shermer, as well as Pinker, are famous for accusing progressives, especially those who care about women and people of color, of “incivility.” For example, in May of this year, Pinker tweeted:
Are you concerned about the growing illiberalism, incivility, intellectual conformity, and repression of debate in today's universities? Join us at the meeting of the society set up to encourage viewpoint diversity and constructive debate on campuses. I’ll be giving the keynote.
But Pinker did nothing to call out Shermer for his patently crude, puerile behavior, which has also included calling people he disagrees with (seriously) “namby-pamby bedwetters” and (seriously) “losers.”
But of course Steven Pinker is a hypocrite, supporting the careers of actual right-wing operatives (and race science promoters) Steve Sailer and Razib Khan while claiming that Stephen Jay Gould's scientific opinions about sociobiology and evolutionary psychology should be discounted because Gould held left-wing opinions.

Meanwhile Shermer published an article recently in his Skeptic magazine Shedding Light on the Intellectual Dark Web which of course Steven Pinker promoted in a tweet.

It should be no surprise to anybody who has tracked the carelessness of the IDW, Shermer gets things wrong. He states:
The Guardian sardonically pronounced (in its headline) the IDW to be the “supposed thinking wing of the alt-right,” featuring a photograph of Alex Jones, mentioned by absolutely no one as being part of the IDW.4
Yet Shermer makes clear in the same article, before this passage that he is aware of the importance of Bari Weiss's naming of IDW individuals in her article:
In the May 8, 2018 issue of The New York Times the editor and writer Bari Weiss introduced the world to the “Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web,” which she described as “an alliance of heretics” who are “making an end run around the mainstream conversation.”1 These heretics, she noted, are “iconoclastic thinkers, academic renegades and media personalities” who were “purged from institutions that have become increasingly hostile to unorthodox thought.” In response, their sweep around what Weiss described as “legacy media” included podcasting, blogs, social media, YouTube channels, and public speaking. 
Included in this initial cohort were the mathematician Eric Weinstein (who coined the IDW label), the podcaster Joe Rogan, the neuroscientist Sam Harris, the talk show host Dave Rubin, the evolutionary biologists Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying, the psychologist Jordan Peterson, the conservative commentators and authors Ben Shapiro and Douglas Murray, the anti-extremist activist Maajid Nawaz, the feminist activists and authors Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Christina Hoff Sommers, the magazine publisher Claire Lehmann, the neuroscientist and sex researcher Debra Soh, and I (Michael Shermer). As the conversation continued past Weiss’ New York Times feature, other intellectuals were added to the assemblage, including Steven Pinker...
The Weiss article does mention all those names that Shermer does, and which I bolded. But the article also explicitly mentions Pinker, in spite of Shermer's incorrect claim that Pinker was added to the IDW after the Weiss article. Weiss also mentions Charlie Kirk, Abby Martin, Candace Owens, Charles Murray and Kanye West.

Now is Shermer just careless or did he deliberately leave Pinker out because Pinker is counted as IDW in the exact same passage as Alex Jones? (My bold emphases):
“There are a few people in this network who have gone without saying anything critical about Trump, a person who has assaulted truth more than anyone in human history,” Mr. (Sam) Harris said. “If you care about the truth, that is quite strange.” 
Emphasis is one problem. Associating with genuinely bad people is another.
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).
It is crystal clear that Weiss is including Molyneux, Yiannopoulos, Cernovich, Jones and Steven Pinker under the umbrella of "Intellectual Dark Web." She may be using Pinker as the respectable exemplar in contrast to the motley crew - but she is indisputably including all of them as members of the IDW.

Shermer co-authored the piece with Anondah Saide and Kevin McCaffree. Maybe each thought one of the other two was going to handle the fact checking.

As if that isn't bad enough, the Shermer article counts vicious, toxic, professional misogynist Christina Hoff Sommers as a "feminist activist."

Christina Hoff Sommers, a member of those champions of civility the IDW,
and a "feminist activist" per Shermer, joins with professional misogynist
and NAMBLA fan Camille Paglia to insult and dehumanize Lena Dunham

Even worse the article fails to mention that what ties this allegedly "diverse" group together is their agreement with hereditarianism, specifically evolutionary psychology and race science.

It's just like Phil "the cockroach" Torres writes in his latest Salon piece:
...the entire IDW movement is annoying. It’s really, really annoying — its champions misrepresent positions without their (mostly white male) audience knowing, and then proceed to “embarrass” the opposition. They embrace unsupported claims when it suits their narrative. They facilely dismiss good critiques as “hit jobs” and level ad hominem attacks to undercut criticism. And they refuse — they will always refuse, it’s what overconfident white men do — to admit making mistakes when they’re obviously wrong. I am annoyed, like Robinson, mostly because I expected so much better from the most popular “intellectuals” of our time.