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Monday, May 18, 2020

Four Koch toadies defend race science

Steven Pinker has been quiet lately about race science, but never fear, he still firmly supports it.

Politico recently published an article The New York Times Surrendered to an Outrage Mob. Journalism Will Suffer For It  by Pinker, Jonathan Haidt, Pamela Paresky and Nadine Strossen defending Bret Stephens' citation of a wildly speculative paper, Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence (NHAI), in an op-ed in the NYTimes.

Jerry Coyne, Pinker's ever-loyal toady, promoted the Politico article on his blog, in a post entitled Four heavy hitters criticize the New York Times for “Orwellian” retroactive censorship

Pinkerite discussed the article in question by Stephens, The Secrets of Jewish Genius, at the time it was published. I quoted Stephens from the article: 
The common answer is that Jews are, or tend to be, smart. When it comes to Ashkenazi Jews, it’s true. “Ashkenazi Jews have the highest average I.Q. of any ethnic group for which there are reliable data,” noted one 2005 paper.
The 2005 paper quoted by Stephens is Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence, which Stephens linked to in his op-ed.

Now if it's "common" to believe that Jews tend to be smart, couldn't Stephens have found another source to back up his claim? And in fact, Stephens supporters, while trying to defend Stephens, were able to do just that (my highlights.)
Stephens took up the question of why Ashkenazi Jews are statistically overrepresented in intellectual and creative fields. This disparity has been documented for many years, such as in the 1995 book Jews and the New American Scene by the eminent sociologists Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab. In his Times column, Stephens cited statistics from a more recent peer-reviewed academic paper, coauthored by an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences. Though the authors of that paper advanced a genetic hypothesis for the overrepresentation, arguing that Ashkenazi Jews have the highest average IQ of any ethnic group because of inherited traits, Stephens did not take up that argument. In fact, his essay quickly set it aside and argued that the real roots of Jewish achievement are culturally and historically engendered habits of mind.
So if the four defenders of Stephens could find a source of statistics other than NHAI, why couldn't Stephens? I think it's likely because Stephens agrees with NHAI and wants to promote it but also wanted to maintain plausible deniability. For in spite of the claim by his four defenders that Stephen's essay "argued that the real roots of Jewish achievement are culturally and historically engendered habits of mind" what Stephens actually does is throw out a bunch of possible explanations without committing to any one of them. Then Stephens leaves it as an open question:
These explanations for Jewish brilliance aren’t necessarily definitive. 
Stephens is practiced at this method, as in his piece on climate change, in which he says:
None of this is to deny climate change or the possible severity of its consequences. But ordinary citizens also have a right to be skeptical of an overweening scientism. They know — as all environmentalists should — that history is littered with the human wreckage of scientific errors married to political power.
He's not saying severe anthropogenic climate change is impossible, he's just implying ordinary citizens should be skeptical of environmentalists.

I imagine this trick, of casting doubt on settled science while maintaining a pose of neutrality, or contrariwise promoting an unfounded speculation while maintaining a pose of neutrality makes him a desirable ally of the Kochtopus.

And of course faux neutrality is a favorite tactic of the IDW - associates of Quillette have long tried to claim the rag is centrist while it has relentlessly promoted right-wing views and its founder  Claire Lehmann hobnobs with conservatives and takes their money.

Steven Pinker is a practiced hand at plausible deniability.

The Stephens defenders attempt to downplay the connection between Henry Harpending's racism and his co-authoring a paper that supports race science:
Second, the Times redacted a published essay based on concerns about retroactive moral pollution, not about accuracy. While it is true that an author of the paper Stephens mentioned, the late anthropologist Henry Harpending, made some deplorable racist remarks, that does not mean that every point in every paper he ever coauthored must be deemed radioactive. Facts and arguments must be evaluated on their content. Will the Times and other newspapers now monitor the speech of scientists and scholars and censor articles that cite any of them who, years later, say something offensive? Will it crowdsource that job to Twitter and then redact its online editions whenever anyone quoted in the Times is later “canceled”?
The four Stephens defenders imply that the problem critics have with citing NHAI is not because of its lack of "accuracy" (the real issue is NHAI is unsupported speculation) but because it's "immoral" which is always race science promoters response to criticism of their poorly-supported, speculative claims about race.

Steven Pinker, as the Politico article fails to mention, is in the public record as a supporter of the NHAI paper. Some years ago he gave a speech, still available on Youtube, called "Jews, Genes and Intelligence." Although he never bluntly states that the NHAI hypothesis is correct, he begins the lecture by strongly defending a pillar of race science belief - that "race" is biological:
I think it's safe to say that the current approach at least the approach for in recent decades was to deny the existence of intelligence I. mentioned the miss measure of man as the foremost example to deny the existence of genetically distinct human groups. there is a widespread myth that there is no such thing as race whatsoever that there are that it's purely a social construction and to call the people who don't do this Nazis but on the other hand there is a quotation I don't know who's responsible for it reality is what refuses to go away when I stop believing in it.
Pinker then spends the rest of the lecture coming up with support for the NHAI hypothesis.

So contrary to his misleading self-presentation in the Politico piece, Pinker is not a neutral observer of a controversy about NYTimes "censorship" or simply a believer in free speech - he is a devoted partisan of the cause of race science. As is another co-author of the piece, Jonathan Haidt.

You can see Haidt here speculating, much as Charles Murray has done, that any day now we will have evidence for innate ethnic inferiority:
The protective "wall" is about to come crashing down, and all sorts of uncomfortable claims are going to pour in. Skin color has no moral significance, but traits that led to Darwinian success in one of the many new niches and occupations of Holocene life — traits such as collectivism, clannishness, aggressiveness, docility, or the ability to delay gratification — are often seen as virtues or vices. Virtues are acquired slowly, by practice within a cultural context, but the discovery that there might be ethnically-linked genetic variations in the ease with which people can acquire specific virtues is — and this is my prediction — going to be a "game changing" scientific event. (By "ethnic" I mean any group of people who believe they share common descent, actually do share common descent, and that descent involved at least 500 years of a sustained selection pressure, such as sheep herding, rice farming, exposure to malaria, or a caste-based social order, which favored some heritable behavioral predispositions and not others.) 
I believe that the "Bell Curve" wars of the 1990s, over race differences in intelligence, will seem genteel and short-lived compared to the coming arguments over ethnic differences in moralized traits. I predict that this "war" will break out between 2012 and 2017.
What I find most interesting in this passage is Haidt's emphasis on "ethnic differences in moralized traits" which is a favorite topic of biosocial criminologists

 The Politico article provides bios of all four authors, but none of them mentions the authors' connections to Koch.

I have mentioned frequently on this blog Pinker's connection to Koch.

I have also mentioned the fact that Pamela Paresky works for FIRE, which is funded by Koch.

Haidt co-wrote "The Coddling of the American Mind" with Greg Lukianoff, who is president of FIRE. And I suspect if I dig I could find other connections between Koch-funded organizations and Haidt. Once I get around to that I will report what I find.

Nadine Strossen, former president of the ACLU is now tight with the Koch network through her connections to the Cato Institute, founded by Charles Koch:
Cato has also worked on occasion with the American Civil Liberties Union. For example, Nadine Strossen, the president of its board, contributed a chapter to a 2000 book on President Clinton's civil liberties record, and she delivered the B. Kenneth Simon Lecture at Cato's 2005 Constitution Day event, a speech that was subsequently published in Cato's Supreme Court Review.
...the Federalist Society, a lavishly funded conservative legal group that currently serves as a pipeline to the Trump administration. (Many of Trump’s judicial nominees are members of the Federalist Society, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, whom Leo reportedly selected for the seat himself.) Leo is friends with David and Charles Koch, who have both donated generously to his organization.
So I think it's fair to say all four of the co-authors defending Bret Stephens are Koch toadies.

And in typical right-wing hypocrisy, it seems to bother the four toadies not at all that Bret Stephens himself is no friend of free speech. He infamously tried to get professor David Karpf fired because Karpf made a joking reference to Bret Stephens and bedbugs in a tweet.

Race science promoters and Koch toadies are nothing if not massive, shameless hypocrites.