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PZ Myers dissects evolutionary psychology: brief, sharp and fabulous

I admit I LOL'd at the part about lighting up "like a Christmas tree." WATCH AND LEARN all IDWs!

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Sunday, August 30, 2020

More evidence of Trump's Reichstag Fire strategy

Trump's Reichstag Fire strategy in the works since last summer.


It's obvious that Trump was counting on demonstrations - when they died down, he sent his goons to inflame them:
"While protests in Portland have persisted, their numbers have changed over time. The nightly events began with mass demonstrations after Mr. Floyd’s death, then shrank to smaller numbers of people who repeatedly clashed with the police. In July, when the federal government sent camouflaged agents into the city, the protest numbers grew dramatically once again."

When the numbers died down again recently, suddenly there was an armed MAGA caravan through the center of Portland.

It helps that groups like Antifa are anonymous and refuse to pledge non-violence. It's a simple matter for rightwing goons to join in the protests dressed as Antifa with face covered, and commit mayhem which is blamed on Antifa.

People have a right to demonstrate, but if you are going to be anonymous and fail to establish strict non-violence protocol you will be used by a vicious monster like Trump. 

That's why MLK succeeded against anti-Civil Rights smear jobs. Pledging non-violence.

And that's where we are. The President of the United States using Hitler's playbook.

I think it's likely that the reason Trump refused to have national guidelines for social distancing and curfews and other methods of controlling the coronavirus is because it got in the way of his plan to use demonstrations for his campaign strategy.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Quillette, Andy Ngo and the Trump campaign

Starting last summer, Pinkerite reported on the connection between Andy Ngo and the Trump campaign via Ngo's lawyer Harmeet K. Dhillon:

The last link goes to a post that includes a passage from a Slate article about Ngo's career:
Andy Ngo, the right-wing journalist and provocateur who was embraced by mainstream Republicans and covered favorably in mainstream media after he was attacked by antifa activists during a street fight in Portland, Oregon, may suddenly be persona non grata among conservatives. Nearly all mentions of Ngo were scrubbed from the upscale right-wing publication Quillette after a newly-released video showed him acting friendly with members of Patriot Prayer, a far-right hate group that has repeatedly sought out fights with leftists. 
Ngo, who has used selectively edited videos to paint antifa as a violent, criminal group was hit with punches and milkshakes during a clash between antifa activists and members of the Proud Boys, an organization labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Many on the right rallied around Ngo after that altercation, and spread false rumors that the milkshakes thrown at him and others had contained quick-dry cement. 
Ngo used his newfound fame to boost his profile, appearing on Fox News and other cable news outlets and embracing his victimhood.
Just weeks later, however, a video surfaced on Twitter showing Ngo pal around with the Proud Boys-adjacent group Patriot Prayer.
The video shows Ngo laughing as the group plans a violent attack on antifa members at a Portland bar in May. The video surfaced as part of a lawsuit brought by the bar, accusing Patriot Prayer members of causing a riot.
Please note that there has never been any evidence presented as to the identity of those who attacked Ngo and it's possible - and I think extremely plausible - that those anonymous people were right-wingers staging the attack in coordination with Ngo.

Ngo's strategy is obviously a template for Trump's campaign: coordinate with far-right groups and the right-wing media machine to bait and even frame leftist groups in order to claim leftists are out of control and a danger to the country.

Now Ngo is aiding the Trump campaign as reported last month in the Washington Post article Conservative media helps Trump perform ‘law and order’ in Portland, with risks for November.
The Trump administration has escalated tensions, local officials argue, by sending camouflaged officers to confront activists, most of whom have practiced nonviolence. The president, while devolving control of the coronavirus response to state and local authorities, has vowed to replicate the federal crackdown in Chicago, New York and other Democratic-controlled cities seeing sustained protests after the police killing of George Floyd. And he is being cheered on by provocateurs online and in the media pointing to the backlash against federal mobilization as a sign that a still more severe response is needed.

Video posted by conservative activist Andy Ngo, showing a scuffle with armed agents in military fatigues, became fodder for Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire website to label protesters “rioters.” Sean Hannity, the Fox News host, thundered: “The president’s right. This is a war zone.”
It helps that actual members of Antifa won't reveal their identities nor pledge non-violence, making them the perfect boogeymen for the Trump campaign. This reveals the genius of Martin Luther King, Jr.:  his emphasis on nonviolence and non-anonymity prevented the FBI from successfully portraying the Civil Rights movement as scary violent thugs out to destroy America.

It's also important to note that the far left, including Antifa, generally hates the Democratic Party. But Trump and Andy Ngo did their best to try to connect them:

And in spite of Andy Ngo's being caught coordinating with Patriot Prayer it's clear that Slate was wrong when it said:
Andy Ngo... may suddenly be persona non grata among conservatives. Nearly all mentions of Ngo were scrubbed from the upscale right-wing publication Quillette after a newly-released video showed him acting friendly with members of Patriot Prayer, a far-right hate group that has repeatedly sought out fights with leftists. 
Ngo is not only aiding the Trump campaign with his sleazy tactics he is also, in spite of being scrubbed from Quillette last August, back in the Quillette fold. He is listed as a member of Quillette's team as Sub-editor, Contributing Writer.

And in spite of the brief break between Quillette and Ngo, Quillette's founder Claire Lehmann has supported and enabled Ngo throughout his sleazy grifting career, including promoting the completely unfounded claim that Ngo was the victim of "a chemical attack."

Lehmann it seems is not at all disturbed by Ngo's aiding the Trump campaign with his Reichstag Fire tactics.

Neither is Steven Pinker since he hasn't said a single word against Andy Ngo and his sleaze, nor Quillette's continuing support for Ngo.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Pinker's block list makes Vice and the Daily Dot

The Daily Dot has picked up on the Pinker blockhammer festivities:

Harvard’s Steven Pinker is apparently blocking people who mention his connection to Epstein

The article mentions Pinker's legal aid to Epstein:
“Though I did this as a favor to a friend and colleague, and not as either a paid expert witness or as a part of a defense team, knowing what I know now I do regret writing the letter,” Pinker said in an email to BuzzFeed News at the time.
The friend Pinker is referring to is Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor who was part of Epstein’s defense team in 2006 and has since been accused of pedophilia himself.

At the time, Dershowitz asked Pinker for his expert opinion on the wording of a federal law that states: “Whoever, using the mail or any facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce … knowingly persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any individual who has not attained the age of 18 years, to engage in prostitution or any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not less than 10 years or for life.”

And Vice has published an article:

Free Speech Crusader Steven Pinker Blocking Anyone Mentioning His Epstein Ties

The Harvard professor and author had a colleague manually block anyone tweeting the words "Pinker" and "Epstein" using his Twitter account, he told Motherboard... 
...Twitter users this week noticed that anyone who mentions the words “Pinker” and “Epstein,” in any context and combination in any tweet, was quickly blocked by Pinker on the social network. Motherboard tested it out on Thursday, and was blocked. When reached for comment, Pinker confirmed that his account is blocking anyone who mentions these keywords together...
... "I’ve been told that people are now bitching and moaning about this, but no one has a First Amendment right to post something on Steven Pinker’s Twitter feed,” Pinker wrote to Motherboard. “If someone wants to smear me personally, they have plenty of channels; to whine that I’m not offering them my platform has to be a new definition of “chutzpah,” after the man who killed his parents and threw himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan."
However, as Pinkerite has demonstrated, several people who were blocked claimed to have never said anything about Epstein prior to being blocked.

The Vice article ends with this interesting item:
If Pinker is trying to quash public associations between him and Epstein, he hasn’t done a very good job of it. In 2015, seemingly without prompting, Pinker tweeted out an affidavit from Dershowitz which dismissed accusations made by (Epstein accuser Virginia) Giuffre in a lawsuit against Epstein and his long-time friend British Prince Andrew—another prominent figure who appears in the flight logs and is accused of sexually assaulting children. 

In the Daily Dot Pinker says he regrets his participation in the Epstein legal defense.

When will Steven Pinker say he regrets boosting the career of professional racist Steve Sailer? Including his selecting Sailer's value-free non-nature, non-science article The Cousin Marriage Conundrum to include in "The Best American Science and Nature Writing" of 2004.

Well luckily for Pinker, thanks to the apparent gentlemen's agreement in the media he will never have to talk about his connection to Sailer because the media will never ask him about it.

The closest establishment media has ever gotten to acknowledging the Pinker-Sailer connection, as far as I have been able to discover is when Business Insider published an article Gladwell: Steven Pinker Got His Data From A Racist in 2009. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Steve Pinker's Blocker-mania

Out of his love of free speech and open discourse, Steven Pinker appears to be blocking anybody on Twitter who has ever criticized him - or even might be the kind of person who would criticize him.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Pinker Blockapalooza continues

Pinker probably understands that the only way to maintain his "celebrity intellectual" status is to avoid critics and stick to only speaking to his media fanboys who have fully signed onto the gentlemen's agreement not to ask Pinker about his long-time support for race science.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Steven Pinker lies about the Larry Summers controversy, and tells us how to live a really good life, like him

The contemptible Steven D. Levitt interviewed the even more contemptible Steven Pinker recently.

No doubt part of Pinker's current "I Am A Free Speech Martyr" world tour.

The interview was the usual ass-kissing that Pinker has come to expect from his media fanboys.

And no I am not exaggerating. At the end of the interview (40:28) Levitt says:
It seems to me that you have lived a really good life. Do you have advice on living a good life?
Pinker doesn't contradict Levitt's hero worship - he thinks as highly of himself as his fanboys do. So he responds by sharing his deep thoughts.

As per usual, Levitt doesn't ask Pinker about his previous support for professional racist Steve Sailer. As I've observed, it is clear that the media - mostly still controlled by the Pinker fanboy demographic, white men over 50 - has a gentlemen's agreement to never embarrass Pinker by asking him about his connection to Sailer.

Here's what Pinker said about the Summers controversy, beginning in the recording at minute 24:21:

...(Summers) based some of his arguments on a chapter in one of my books, called "Gender", in The Blank Slate, Modern Denial of Human Nature, so I already had a dog in that fight. Also it offended me the way in which Summers was distorted by highly intelligent people. He made a statistical argument that the variance among male abilities was greater than the variance among female abilities in spatial cognition, so he had a higher percentage of men at the high end and at the low end, even if the means were the same and even if there were at any given level of ability you obviously have both men and women, and that was turned into "women can't do math" by some professors of science who clearly had no particular interest in accurate citation but wanted to get people riled up. It does not mean that every man is better at spatial ability than every woman there are lots and lots of women who are better than the average man, and conversely women are on average better at verbal fluency and arithmetic calculation than men. Still that doesn't mean that every woman is better than every man, there are many men who are better than the average women. It's symmetrical. It did offend me that that basic way of just thinking about exceptions versus general tendencies was expunged from this debate in the service in the moral outrage.
Levitt then assures Pinker that the alleged "moral outrage" was a good thing because he's getting attention. Pinker laughs and says that's what his literary agent tells him.

First notice Steven Pinker's tendency to accuse his opponents of having no valid intellectual reason to say what they say but rather to suggest they only want to "get people riled up" for the sake of "moral outrage."

If anybody misrepresents what Larry Summers said, it's Steven Pinker. What Summers clearly said was that men where INNATELY better at STEM than women. I've had to make this argument so many times because Summers apologists reflexively lie about it. 

This is what Summers said exactly (my highlight):
So my best guess, to provoke you, of what's behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon, by far, is the general clash between people's legitimate family desires and employers' current desire for high power and high intensity, that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination. 
So Summers mentions "variability of aptitude" as part of women's alleged lesser "intrinsic aptitude."

And please note: he said it as part of a Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce.

Larry Summers was suggesting to attendees of a conference on "diversifying the science and engineering workforce" that the greater factor (as opposed to the lesser factors of "socialization and continue discrimination") in the lack of diversity is that women have lesser ability at STEM. 

The obvious inference is that the reason for lack of diversity in STEM is due to women's innate lack of intrinsic aptitude. So a slap in the face to the people who organized the conference, who most assuredly did not believe that the reason for the lack of STEM diversity was due to the evolved intrinsic lesser aptitude of women.

And Summers' attitude was especially threatening to the career of any woman in STEM working at Harvard since at that time Summers was President at Harvard and had already been accused of discriminatory hiring practices

Summers' claim about women and STEM is based on Steven Pinker's garbage "The Blank Slate" which itself is based on the laughably crippled pseudoscience of evolutionary psychology.

Summers apologists like to portray him as another martyr of free speech but as the American Prospect notes in Falling Upward: The Surprising Survival of Larry Summers:
Though much has been written about Summers, it’s worth reviewing the dynamics of his influence, serial repositioning, and uncanny survival. The more mistakes Summers makes, the more he is treated as a seer.
Levitt is contemptible because he suffers from the same syndrome as Steven Pinker, as Krugman noted about Levitt:
Noah Smith isn’t very happy with Steve Levitt, who thinks he was being smart by telling David Cameron that he should scrap the NHS and let the magic of the marketplace deal with health care. Strangely, Cameron wasn’t impressed.
I think there are actually several things going on here. One is a Levitt-specific, or maybe Freakonomics-specific, effect: the belief that a smart guy can waltz into any subject and that his shoot-from-the-hip assertions are as good as the experts’. Remember, Levitt did this on climate in his last book, delivering such brilliant judgements as the assertion that because solar panels are black (which they actually aren’t), they’ll absorb heat and make global warming worse.
You can see why Levitt would think Pinker is such a swell, good life-living guy - they are very similar.

And then there is Levitt's grotesque attitude towards women and sex as noted by Amanda Hess and Sady Doyle in their immortal discourse: Why Doesn't Steven Levitt Suck Dick for a Living? 

The only way Steven Pinker's "good life" of lying and supporting pseudoscience is going to be addressed in full by the mainstream media will mostly likely be when all his fanboy cohort retires or dies out.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Steve Pinker's Blockapalooza

Apparently Steven Pinker decided it would not be enough to merely prevent his critics from commenting on his tweets, he went with the nuclear option: BLOCK ALL CRITICS.

Because Steven Pinker is the champion of free and open discourse and exchanging ideas.

Monday, August 17, 2020

James Lindsay and his allies - more shameless IDW hypocrisy

Pinkerite noted the connection between James Lindsay, Peter Boghossian and right-wing Christian fanatic and Soros conspiracy-monger Michael O'Fallon back in March, and lately the issue has erupted on Twitter.

The connection between Lindsay and O'Fallon is in the public record as discussed in an article The unholy alliance between atheists and evangelicals:

...The conference, organized by Sovereign Nations and titled ‘Speaking Truth to Social Justice,’ featured the masterminds behind the so-called ‘Sokal Squared’ scandal: Helen Pluckrose, Peter Boghossian, and James A. Lindsay. Its name is a nod to an earlier hoax, which parodied the extreme postmodernist criticism of science, perpetuated by physicist Alan Sokal, who graced the occasion with his presence. Last year, the three current and former academics, who are prominent speakers in atheist and humanist circles...
They found in Michael O’Fallon, the evangelical Christian founder and editor-in-chief of Sovereign Nations, an ally who is likewise deeply concerned about our postmodern era in which ‘grand narratives that have guided our discourse are collapsing.’ What he fears is the encroachment of the secular theoretical perspectives that undergird social justice upon the gospel and the church, weaponizing identity to upend the Christian interpretation of doctrine. 
And so an unholy alliance between a bunch of atheists and evangelical Christians was born...
O'Fallon is obsessed with Soros conspiracy theories, but it should be noted that Lindsay has his own bizarre conspiracy theories.

On his twitter profile, Lindsay claims to be "Founder of New Discourses" (as well as "apolitical.")

But it's a fact that New Discourses is registered as an LLC in Florida to Directors/Officers Lindsay, Peter Boghossian and Michael O'Fallon, with O'Fallon acting as "agent."

According to the web site LLC University:
A Registered Agent in Florida is a person or company who agrees to accept legal mail on behalf of your LLC in case your business gets sued. 
In Florida, your Registered Agent can also serve as a general point of contact for receiving business and tax notices, payment reminders, and other documents.
Now Lindsay is claiming O'Fallon works for him.

We know that James Lindsay received funding for the 'Sokal Squared' grift because he admitted it on Twitter, but refused to say who was paying.

So clearly Lindsay is open to work-for-hire.

Meanwhile, Michael O'Fallon is "CEO of Sovereign Nations and owner of Sovereign Cruises and Events LLC, which runs vacation excursions for religious and political groups, alike."

It seems unlikely O'Fallon would work for Lindsay rather than vice-versa.

Here we see the Sovereign Nations Twitter account approving the alliance between Christopher F. Rufo and James Lindsay.

Rufo is a contributing editor at the Koch-funded City Journal, as well as a research fellow at Discovery Institute's Center for on Wealth, Poverty & Morality, which promotes "intelligent design."

Another ally of James Lindsay is Bari Weiss.

In this tweet Weiss also mentions chateau bouncer Thomas Chatterton Williams and Eric Weinstein, founder of the Intellectual Dark Web and employee of Trump supporter Peter Thiel.

So although Lindsay was not mentioned in Weiss's 2018 article it would appear that Lindsay is in deep with the IDW.

I've noted often the utter hypocrisy of the IDW, and hypocrisy is a notable trait of Steven Pinker, but it doesn't hurt to mention the pure shamelessness again.

 In her 2018 article Weiss wrote:
The core members (of the IDW) have little in common politically. Bret and Eric Weinstein and Ms. Heying were Bernie Sanders supporters. Mr. Harris was an outspoken Hillary voter. Ben Shapiro is an anti-Trump conservative.
But they all share three distinct qualities. First, they are willing to disagree ferociously, but talk civilly, about nearly every meaningful subject: religion, abortion, immigration, the nature of consciousness. 
There are many examples of IDWs being extremely uncivil, but James Lindsay's incivility is especially shameless in light of his book "How to Have Impossible Conversations." Hilariously, according to its publisher Hachette:
Boghossian and Lindsay teach the subtle art of instilling doubts and opening minds. They cover everything from learning the fundamentals for good conversations to achieving expert-level techniques to deal with hardliners and extremists. This book is the manual everyone needs to foster a climate of civility, connection, and empathy.
When presented with undeniable evidence of his connection to a right-wing Christian extremist conspiracy-monger, here are some of James Lindsay's responses:

It appears that "How to Have Impossible Conversations" is yet another grift by James Lindsay and anybody who bought the book should ask for their money back.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Blocked by Steven Pinker

Out of his love for free and open and honest discourse, Steven Pinker has blocked Pinkerite on Twitter

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Tobias Wolff on race

When I'm not doing Pinkerite or doing technical writing for a living, I do creative writing - plays and essays. I recently discovered author Tobias Wolff by way of David Sedaris.

Wolff is known primarily for his fiction work but he published a good piece in the New Yorker on race in 2014. The piece ends:
When my daughter was in kindergarten, she often spoke of her favorite classmate, a girl named Alice. Alice was really nice. Alice liked to sing. Alice helped her clean up after a messy art project. Alice was funny. We finally got to meet Alice and her mother at a school parents’ night. She was black. Our daughter had never mentioned that; of all the many things she’d told us about Alice, this detail had seemed too trivial to mention, if she’d noticed it at all. In my daughter’s regard of Alice, of the qualities that made Alice Alice, the color of her skin had counted for nothing. I cannot say how strongly this affected me. These little girls, unconscious of each other in this one way, revived the vision of a possibility that I hadn’t been aware I’d stopped believing in—a land not of races but of brothers and sisters. That was Martin Luther King’s dream, and it is still a dream. It will never be anything more than a dream until we stop pretending that we have already attained it.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Andrew Sullivan and Race Science

One of the reasons this blog is called Pinkerite is because Bari Weiss portrayed Steven Pinker as the most respectable of those associated with the Intellectual Dark Web. But now I'm wondering if that honor might have to go to Andrew Sullivan. Will I have to change this blog's name to Sullivanite?

I had no idea how enthusiastic Sullivan is about race science until this year, as indicated in this blog post. 

Although I was aware of Sullivan's love of evolutionary psychology via a tweet by Slate author Tom Scocca.

But Sullivan has been promoting race science for a long time and might be even more responsible for mainstreaming it than Steven Pinker.

Back in 2011 in a Gawker article A Reader's Guide to Andrew Sullivan's Defense of Race Science:
A million years ago, when the internet was just a gleam in Tina Brown's eye, Andrew Sullivan edited The New Republic, which was a Serious Magazine that had no time for your Liberal P.C. Dogma, such as "Race Is an Arbitrary and Unscientific Concept" or "Intelligence Is a Difficult Thing to Define, Let Alone Measure." As such, Sullivan gave a cover story to The Bell Curve, a horrendous piece of shoddy sociology about how blacks are not as smart as whites, and neither are as smart as The Chinaman; besides the general philosophical problems with writing a book-length study of the intersection between two variable, difficult-to-define, and scientifically problematic concepts, it was methodologically unsound and its data cherry-picked from a variety of unsavory sources.
This 2011 article is referring to a 1994 article in the New Republic which even predates Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate and his promotion of the career of racist Steve Sailer in 2004.

Steve Sailer expressed his admiration for Andrew Sullivan in 2011.

The New Republic expressed its regrets about Sullivan and The Bell Curve in 2015 in an article called The New Republic's Legacy on Race
The magazine’s myopia on racial issues was never more apparent than in Peretz’s and editor Andrew Sullivan’s decision in 1994 to excerpt The Bell Curve, a foray into scientific racism in which the authors, Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, asserted that differences in IQ among blacks and whites were largely genetic and almost impossible to significantly change. The book had not been peer-reviewed, nor were galleys sent to the relevant scientific journals. As The Wall Street Journal reported, The Bell Curve was “swept forward by a strategy that provided book galleys to likely supporters while withholding them from likely critics.”
Predictably Sullivan has a problem with the 1619 project, since race science promoters hate anything to do with honest history of African Americans.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Steven Pinker cited by a United Nations report - and not in a good way

I despise the publication Jacobin, friendly with and in some cases publisher of people associated with the misogynist "Dirtbag Left." Jacobin published an article not long ago suggesting that feminism should not be about women.

Jacobin has nothing nice to say about feminism except of course "socialist feminism" which is, as Jacobin author and contemptible human being Doug Henwood explained:
“...about moving towards that ideal [of a more peaceful, more egalitarian society], and not merely placing women into high places while leaving the overall hierarchy of power largely unchanged. 
In other words, until women have demonstrated sufficiently that they have done enough for everybody else they should stop demanding a share of the power. Under socialist feminism women will learn to STFU and wait their turn. Perhaps that's why Henwood hates Hillary Clinton far more than he hates Donald Trump.

 Jacobin also hates Paul Krugman who has done far more to persuade people of the benefits of socialized medicine than all Jacobin authors combined.

And as Bari Weiss demonstrated, right-wingers find much to love about the Dirtbag Left, especially the misogyny.

I think there are definitely benefits to socializing many things. But I don't agree that all human problems will be solved by the Great Socialist Revolution.

But all that being said, what's not to like about the title of a recent Jacobin piece: It's Official - Steven Pinker is full of shit ?

The article itself contains the message of virtually every other article in Jacobin: "socialism is the answer" so besides the title, the real value of the piece is the link to a page which links to the United Nations Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

The Report cites Pinker:
Huge progress has been made in improving the quality of life for billions of people over the past two centuries, but it does not follow that “extreme poverty is being eradicated.”4 Many world leaders, economists, and pundits have enthusiastically promoted a self-congratulatory message, proclaiming progress against poverty to be “one of the greatest human achievements of our time,”5 and characterizing “the decline [in poverty]... to less than 10 per cent, [as] a huge achievement.”6 Others have paid tribute to the role of economic growth and capitalism in lifting a billion people “out of dire poverty into something approaching a decent standard of living.”7
Footnote 4 is: Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now (2018), p. 116.

Just last year Pinker was promoting Enlightenment Now and all his other socio-political views, in his role as celebrity intellectual, at the United Nations.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Who is Gregory Cochran?

As discussed previously on Pinkerite, one of the authors of the untested hypothesis, promoted by Steven Pinker, "Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence"(NHAI) is the late Henry Harpending who has his very own profile as a "white nationalist" in the Southern Poverty Law Center web site.

Anthropologist R. Brian Ferguson seems to be one of the few academics who did a thorough critique of the NHAI, producing a paper How Jews Became Smart: Anti-"Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence."

I have never found any scholarly response to Ferguson's paper, including from any of the authors of the NHAI paper.

I did find one of the co-authors, Gregory Cochran, insulting Ferguson multiple times.

On Cochran's blog, originally co-authored with Harpending called West Hunter Cochran mentions Ferguson three times. In 2014 he made a reference to Ferguson, who was quoted by the NYTimes arguing against the theory that chimpanzees are inclined to violence. Cochran snipes:
But none of these things can really be true – because although they by no means prove that war is biologically innate among humans, this kind of evidence does suggest that it might be – and that is obviously impossible, by the most powerful of all epistemological principles. It would hurt Brian Ferguson’s feelings.
Nothing Ferguson says in the article Cochran links to has anything to do with Ferguson's feelings.

And then there is Cochran's admiration for Robert E. Howard the fiction author famous for Conan the Barbarian. Cochran mentions him at least eight times on the blog and thinks his "priors" were more accurate than a bunch of scientists:
But Howard’s priors were more accurate than those of the pots-not-people archeologists: more accurate than people like Excoffier and  Currat, who assume that there hasn’t been any population replacement in Europe since moderns displaced Neanderthals. More accurate than Chris Stringer,  more accurate than Brian Ferguson.
Cochran compares Howard to Ferguson in another blog post about theories on Polynesians in 2016:
If you want to approach this kind of problem with reasonable priors, read Robert E Howard, not Brian Ferguson.
Cochran also insulted Ferguson on Twitter.

Cochran has published in the usual right-wing race science-swilling media, like the racist Taki's Magazine which also publishes Steve Sailer.

As you might expect, Sailer is a big fan of Cochran's work. You can see him in this tweet exchange saying the only reason the claims in the NHAI paper have never been supported in the fourteen years after it was published, is because of a conspiracy to squelch it because it might be true.

And of course Cochran is a contributor at race science central, Quillette.

On his own blog, Cochran reveals he is a fan of HBD Chick and The Bell Curve.
Like many of us who are fascinated with human diversity, she has little or no interest in what are called race differences. The original impetus for “HBD blogging” seems to have been the reaction of thoughtful knowledgeable people to the self-righteous squealing and outright lying that followed The Bell Curve and before that Jensen’s 1969 monograph. No one it seems cares much about that any longer.
It's amusing that Cochran claims that HBD has nothing to do with "race differences" - the term HBD was coined by Steve Sailer, professional racist, and it is always used to indicate a belief in the intellectual inferiority of Black people - and the "squealing" about The Bell Curve is because of its claims of race and intelligence.

We know something about Cochran and Harpending, but what about Jason Hardy, the third co-author of NHAI? It seems that Hardy was a student of Cochran and/or Harpending at the University of Utah, but there's no evidence he's had anything to do with race science since the NHAI paper.

Here's the weird thing about Cochran and the University of Utah - according to his LinkedIn profile Cochran was adjunct professor of anthropology there from 2004 - 2015. But the Education section of his LinkedIn profile shows he has no credentials in anthropology. He has degrees in mathematics and physics.

Nevertheless Cochran has made a much bigger impact as an anthropologist than as a mathematician or physicist. In 2009 the LA Times ran a profile on Cochran. It's since been removed from the newspaper's web site but is still available via the Wayback Machine.

They even have a photo of Cochran with a caption:
Gregory Cochran in his home office in Albuquerque, N.M. Cochran, a physicist and genetics buff, and geneticist Henry Harpending have developed a controversial theory that the presence of many lethal genetic diseases affecting the brain among Ashkenazi Jews may also be responsible for increased intelligence in the population.
According to the article...
...They wrote up their theory and sent it off to a journal. It was rejected. 
Harpending said he gave it to an anthropologist friend, editor of another journal, who asked to publish it there. That plan was called off. The friend, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the topic, said the paper was clearly controversial and its extraordinary claims required extraordinary evidence -- which was lacking. 
The paper found a home in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Biosocial Science, published by Cambridge University, after its release online in 2005.
The theory quickly spread among anthropologists and geneticists.
Within a few months, "every academic I came in contact with knew about this," said R. Brian Ferguson, an anthropologist at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J. Many found it irresistible. A young colleague told Ferguson that the paper convinced him of the power of using genetics to study behavioral differences among people.

To Ferguson, that was a dangerous idea. There may indeed be versions of genes that are unique to Ashkenazi Jews, but it would be impossible, he said, to prove that those genes are responsible for higher IQs.
"This is not a legitimate area of research," he said. 
Others are more receptive to the theory, despite its thorny implications.

Dr. Melvin Konner, a biological anthropologist at Emory University in Atlanta, said he's impressed by the theory's ability to explain why all the Ashkenazi diseases are clustered "on about five pages of a biochemistry textbook." But, he added, Cochran and Harpending still have to show that the genes play a direct role in brain development.
"There's evidence that some of them do," he said. "It's not a crazy idea. It's just not nearly a proven idea."
It would be easy to test the theory, said Steven Pinker, a Harvard cognition researcher: "See if carriers of the Ashkenazi-typical genetic mutations score higher on IQ tests than their noncarrier siblings." 
Cochran and Harpending readily acknowledge the need for such experiments. But they have no plans to do them. They say their role as theorists is to generate hypotheses that others can test. 
"One criticism about our paper is 'It can't mean anything because they didn't do any new experiments,' " Cochran said. "OK, then I guess Einstein's papers didn't mean anything either."

I always find it annoying when anybody refers to race science as "dangerous" because the real problem is that race science is a collection of untested just-so stories, as the saga of the NHAI demonstrates.

And I think all these men love to be considered dangerous for promoting race science. Probably makes them feel strong and powerful like Conan the Barbarian.

I interviewed Ferguson about NHAI and he never said anything about the theory being "dangerous" - he said it was very bad scholarship and untested.

Steven Pinker believes NHAI would be easy to test. And yet where are the tests? Why aren't Pinker and Cochran pushing for, or even funding those tests? I'm sure Pinker could talk one of his plutocrat contacts - like his friend Bill Gates - into funding such tests. And Pinker is undoubtedly wealthy enough himself to afford to fund tests, if he really cared about the NHAI hypothesis. And why wouldn't he? It is a big part of his beliefs from his tweeting links to race science articles in Quillette, to defending Linda Gottfredson and Noah Carl to his promotion and defense of the NHAI hypothesis.

If he is so certain that ethnicity and intelligence are interrelated, and the NHAI is a testable hypothesis to demonstrate that, you would think he would do everything in his power to get the NHAI tested and proven.

For his part Cochran isn't interested in doing experiments, but he nevertheless thinks the NHAI hypothesis is so impressive he compares it to Einstein's theories.

So who is Gregory Cochran? Based on what I have found, he is a self-important former adjunct professor of anthropology with no academic credentials in anthropology, a "genetics buff" who writes for race science-promoting and even racist media, and responds to serious critiques of his untested hypothesis not with scholarly arguments but with insults. 

As a scientist, I'd say Cochran is closer to Robert E. Howard than he is to Albert Einstein.

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