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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Steve Sailer in "The Best American Science and Nature Writing" 2004

NOTE this was originally published on my personal blog in February 2018. I am reposting it here because I will be discussing it soon in a new post.

Ugh, I'm probably the only human being to read "The Cousin Marriage Conundrum" since 2005.

Steven Pinker and Steve Sailer go back to at least 2002 when Sailer interviewed Pinker about The Blank Slate. although he mentioned Pinker even earlier on his iSteve blog and used the term "human biodiversity" too. I haven't found Pinker mentioning Sailer publicly after 2011 when he used Sailer for a positive blurb for "Better Angels."

Sailer still talks about Pinker though, posting Pinker's PC video in a recent Unz column.

Pinker must have been aware of Sailer's attitudes about race by 2004. Sailer was already saying this kind of stuff in 1997:
On average, black men tend to appear slightly more and Asian men slightly less masculine than white men, while Asian women are typically seen as slightly more and black women as slightly less feminine than white women.
Obviously, these are gross generalizations about the races. Nobody believes Michael Jackson could beat up kung-fu star Jackie Chan or that comedienne Margaret Cho is lovelier than Sports Illustratedswimsuit covergirl Tyra Banks. But life is a game of probabilities, not of abstract Platonic essences. 
This is notable not only for what he says about race (and his identifying three races, black, white and Asian) but especially his use of "Platonic essences." I think the evo-psycho bros got the term "Platonic" in reference to race from Steve Sailer.

Turns out Sailer uses the term a lot, including the definition most people are familiar with, "non-sexual." But he uses other meanings more often. In addition to Platonic essences Sailer mentions Platonic archetype, idealism, idea, ideals, essentialism, universal, Temptation and form.

Sailer had also had a column at VDARE since 2000 and had published The Left Side of the Bell Curve in 2000 which says things like:
Thus, in the 1960s when American intellectuals imported Swedish sexual morals, along with Swedish-style welfare for unmarried mothers, it had few ill effects in Minnesota (traditionally the highest IQ state). But it proved an instant disaster for African-Americans.
I have yet to find Steven Pinker disavowing anything Sailer has ever said.

I can't guess what made Pinker think it was a good idea to include a known racist in a collection of science writing. Especially since "The Cousin Marriage Conundrum" isn't really about science, unless you mean political science since Sailer doesn't get into the genetics of inbreeding except in passing.

The final paragraph:
In summary, although neoconservatives constantly point to America's success at reforming German and Japan after World War II as evidence that it would be easy to do the same in the Middle East, the deep social structure of Iraq is the complete opposite of those two true nation-states, with their highly patriotic, cooperative, and (not surprisingly) outbred peoples. The Iraqis, in contrast, more closely resemble the Hatfields and the McCoys.
It's interesting he didn't mention the third member of the Axis, Italy. We'll come back to that.

He is claiming that the history of feuds between the Hatfields and McCoys had something to do with inbreeding. Apparently since the families lived in West Virginia and West Virginia has a reputation for inbreeding hillbillies which is bogus Sailer decided to go ahead and conflate inbreeding with the feud. That's the level of scholarship we're talking about here.

By "reforming" Iraq what Sailer means is "rebuild Iraqi society in order to jumpstart the democratization of the middle east."

A quick glance at a Five-Thirty-Eight data form on global consanguinity by country indicates that Iraq is not the most consanguineous country in the world. It's number 16. Meanwhile Kyrgyzstan is number 7 and has a Presidential Republican form of government, like Bangladesh, which is only number 33 on the list. Croatia, which has the same form of government has a cousin marriage rate of 0.1% - less than the US with 0.2%.

So there doesn't seem to be any connection between a country's percentage of cousin marriages and form of government. But you couldn't expect Steve Sailer to do any research, he has his nice simple theory about cousin marriages and democratic reform and it's so much easier than doing any work.

And why should he work, when Steven Pinker will apparently include any old crap in "the best" American science and nature writing.

There's really no structured argument in this article, Sailer is all over the place. He uses the Bible as an example of "Middle Eastern norms" writing:
Jacob's dozen sons were the famous progenitors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Due to inbreeding, Jacob's eight legitimate sons had only six unique great-great grandparents instead of the usual eight. That's because the inbred are related to their relatives through multiple paths.
And don't even get Sailer started on the incest problems with Adam and Eve's children! Sailer doesn't mention Adam and Eve but why not? They're in the Book of Genesis too.

Sailer cites Jacob's family as actual historical people. I can't wait until Sailer explains the genetics of how Jacob lived to be 147.

The only time Sailer talks about the genetics of cousin marriage is this:
Of course there are also other disadvantages to inbreeding. The best known is medical. Being inbred increases the chances of inheriting genetic syndromes caused by malign recessive genes.
He then gets into kin selection and declares that "nepotism is biologically inspired "- which is the standard evo-psycho literary atrocity since by definition nepotism is "inspired" by one's family connections. "Nepotism is biologically inspired" is a tautology.

And while Sailer admits that inbreeding is a medical risk, he should probably say that he believes it's also an indicator of high genetic intelligence. The evo-psychos as a group seem to be convinced that Azkenazi Jews are genetically the smartest "race" and yet Israel is number 29 on the cousin-marriage list and also the Ashkenazi Jews in particular are massively inbred. The Jewish magazine Forward reports:
A model based on the genetic sequencing of 128 Ashkenazi Jews concludes that today’s Ashkenazim descend from the fusion of European and Middle-Eastern Jews during the medieval era, between 600 to 800 years ago.
The math also indicates that today’s sprawling community of Ashkenazi Jews — there are more than 10 million around the world — derived from just 350 people or so. That previously postulated population bottleneck — a drastic reduction in population size — occurred between 25 to 32 generations ago, the scientists say.
The study was published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications by a team headed by Columbia University’s Shai Carmon.
So apparently inbreeding makes Jews smarter but only makes Arabs incapable of democratic forms of government.

OK so now we get to the Italian issue. Sailer writes:
Are Muslims, especially Arabs, so much more loyal to their families than to their nations because, due to countless generations of cousin marriages, they are so much more genealogically related to their families than Westerners are related to theirs? Frank Salter, a political scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany whose new book Risky Translations: Trust, Kinship and Ethnicity takes a sociobiological look at the reason why Mafia families are indeed families, told me: "That's my hunch. At least it's bound to be a factor."
This is such a perfect evo-psycho paragraph. It sounds learned - hey, Max Planck Institute! - but when you actually try to figure out what he's getting at, it falls apart.

The actual description of the Salter book on Amazon is:
Trust is a central feature of relationships within the Mafia, oppressed minorities, kin groups everywhere, among dissidents, nationalist freedom fighters, ethnic tourists, ethnic middlemen, exchange networks of Kalahari Bushmen, and families subjected to Stalinist social control. Each of these types of trust is examined by a leading scholar and compared with the expectations of neo-Darwinian theory, in particular the theories of kin selection and ethnic nepotism.
A search of the book on "consanguinity" shows that the Mafia use three other relationship types besides consanguinity. In contrast to the reason Arab families "are indeed families" which Sailer claims is because they are related by blood. So where is the connection? Just because Salter takes a "sociobiological look"? And the best Salter can do is "that's my hunch." Wow, so scientific.

And by the way, Italy is rated as 0.6% on the cousin-marriage data sheet, lower than France, Sweden or Canada.

There's a fascinating article in the New Yorker from the last month called The Woman Who Took On the Mafia by Alex Perry. And the sexual politics among these mafia families, people evo-psycho bros would characterize as "white" (or European or possibly Mediterranean  depending on their mood) are every bit as regressive as the most traditional patriarchal tribe in the Middle East. Which should tell you that it's not about race or religion - both things that evo-psycho bros have used to explain when some groups of people in the Middle East are violent.

But they can never admit that it's socio-environmental and economic conditions that drive the behaviors and not genes or sacred texts. Because they have this whole simple paradigm set up, and in order to make it work, you have to deny environmental factors.

Evo-psycho bros sometimes admit environment is important but they have no actual theories on how environment impacts human behavior so they almost completely ignore it. That was the problem at the root of Pinker's "Better Angels" which the New Yorker trashed. If your primary way to explain human behavior is evolution, which is of course the point of evolutionary psychology, well you aren't going to be much good at explaining any changes in human behavior that happen in less than hundreds of thousands of years.

So why did Pinker include a poorly-reasoned, non-scientific explanation for Iraqi non-democratic tendencies in this collection? Well apart from blackmail I think it's most likely because Pinker didn't realize how bad it was himself, because Pinker is not a very good writer and not a clear thinker.

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