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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.