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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf erases Pinker's race science support - Steven Pinker approves this message part 1

Steven Pinker approves this message
I was just talking about Steve Sailer marveling over how Steven Pinker gets away with promoting race science without blowback, unlike Larry Summers or James Watson, and I suggested that Pinker's avoidance of blowback is due, in addition to Pinker's endless campaign of self-promotion and lack of intellectual integrity, to his many fan boys in established media.

So what do they (the authors of the linguist letter) have against Pinker? Four passages convey the argument. 
We set aside questions of Dr. Pinker’s tendency to move in the proximity of what The Guardian called a revival of “scientific racism”, his public support for David Brooks (who has been argued to be a proponent of “gender essentialism”), his expert testimonial in favor of Jeffrey Epstein (which Dr. Pinker now regrets), or his dubious past stances on rape and feminism. 
In the first clause of this indictment, the signatories do not accuse Pinker of “scientific racism” with the attendant obligation to substantiate the charge. They merely claim that Pinker tends to “move” in “the proximity” of what one newspaper “called” a revival of scientific racism. These are the same tenuous, abuse-prone, guilty-by-association tactics that the far right has used to tar academics by linking them to Communism or Islamism. 
The letter links to a Pinker Tweet that states, “The Bell Curve: I don't agree with it on race, but public discussion of the book has been ignorant and dishonest”––in other words, a Tweet that repudiates rather than validates the part of the book that critics attacked as racist––and to a 2006 article Pinker published in The New Republic reviewing the work of three researchers from the University of Utah who argued, per Pinker’s description of their Journal of Biosocial Science paper, “that Ashkenazi Jews have a genetic advantage in intelligence, and that the advantage arose from natural selection for success in middleman occupations (moneylending, selling, and estate management) during the first millennium of their existence in northern Europe, from about 800 C.E. to 1600 C.E.” Pinker reviewed evidence for and against their hypothesis at length, reached no solid conclusion of his own, highlighted the potential downsides of such research and the problems with banning it, and did all this in a context he understood as follows: 
The idea of innate Jewish intelligence is certainly an improvement over the infamous alternative generalization, a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. And attention to the talents needed in the middleman niche (whether they are biological or cultural) could benefit other middleman minorities, such as Armenians, Lebanese, Ibos, and overseas Chinese and Indians, who have also been targets of vicious persecution because of their economic success. And yet the dangers are real.
This seems rather far afield and easily distinguishable from favoring a revival of scientific racism.
Now I don't know if Friedersdorf grabbed this opportunity to erase Pinker's race science support through his love of Pinker or through sheer journalistic laziness or both. As a mediocre white man, it's possible Friedersdorf feels an obligation to defend and support that most successful, most mediocre of white men, Steven Pinker.

In any case, if Friedersdorf had put in the tiniest bit of effort, he would understand the significance of the links provided in the letter. Perhaps the linguists thought media people like him would make an effort, underestimating just how lazy or deliberately obtuse are the men with comfortable perches in established media.

So about the tweet...
The letter links to a Pinker Tweet that states, “The Bell Curve: I don't agree with it on race, but public discussion of the book has been ignorant and dishonest”––in other words, a Tweet that repudiates rather than validates the part of the book that critics attacked as racist–
I've already discussed Pinker's tweet, which is a perfect example of the "having it both ways" lack of intellectual integrity of Steven Pinker. Here it is again:

If Friedersdorf had made the tiniest effort to look and reflect, he would see that the article Pinker links to, "A Tale of Two Bell Curves" is in Quillette, a leading supporter of race science, written by Ben and Bo Winegard, both devoted to race science, sometimes known as "Human Biodiversity" (HBD).

And Friedersdorf might have perceived that the Winegard article does not demonstrate Pinker's claim that "public discussion of the book has been ignorant and dishonest."  Since at least Stephen Jay Gould's 1994 review of the book, the public discussion of The Bell Curve has centered around critics taking issue with the book's claim about black intelligence, to quote Gould:
Herrnstein and Murray's second claim, the lightning rod for most commentary extends the argument for innate cognitive stratification to a claim that racial differences in IQ are mostly determined by genetic causes—small difference for Asian superiority over Caucasian, but large for Caucasians over people of African descent.
There is no "Two Bell Curves" - there is one Bell Curve with defenders of race science refusing to seriously respond to critics of the race science promoted in The Bell Curve.

 And then there is the fact that the Quillette article itself is in one hundred percent agreement with The Bell Curve's claim about racial IQ differences and genetics. The Winegards explicitly rule out all environmental possibilities for lower IQ test scores for African Americans (my highlight):
Of course, there are other possible explanations of the Black-White gap, such as parenting styles, stereotype threat, and a legacy of slavery/discrimination among others. However, to date, none of these putative causal variables has been shown to have a significant effect on the IQ gap, and no researcher has yet made a compelling case that environmental variables can explain the gap. This is certainly not for lack of effort; for good reason, scholars are highly motivated to ascertain possible environmental causes of the gap and have tried for many years to do just that.
So apparently unless Pinker declares explicitly his devotion to race science, lazy pseudo-journalists and well-platformed media fan boys will continue to ignore his activities, which not only includes sending his followers to an article that supports the claims of the Bell Curve, but also all the other activities I've been documenting on this blog for the past two years.

And that includes Steven Pinker's promotion of the Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence hypothesis. I will look at that in part 2.