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The Brian Ferguson Interview

Thursday, March 25, 2021

FAIR and "Neo-racism'

NHAI co-author Gregory Cochran expressing
his contempt for anthropologist R. Brian Ferguson

for daring to notice that NHAI is a bunch of BS.

According to Eugene Volokh, a Koch employee, the goal of FAIR, which I wrote about recently, is litigation. 

Volokh quotes the FAIR site:

FAIR supports students, teachers, and employees who are being compelled to affirm principles with which they disagree, who are stopped from expressing their true views, and who are being punished and silenced if they do not comply. To that end, FAIR is building a nationwide network of independent attorneys who can offer advice and, if necessary, pursue litigation. If you are a lawyer with civil litigation experience and would like to join FAIR's legal network, please contact letitia@fairforall.org.

As always with this kind of thing, the issue is how far they are willing to stand by people and the principles with which those people disagree. I think we can rule out Nazis - I doubt FAIR will come to the legal aid of a Nazi who was fired for publishing a manifesto on the company web site in which they declare that Jews likely can't do work for the company as well as non-Jews, due to biologically-innate tendencies. 

Although I suspect the FAIR Advisors - a right-leaning group that includes Trump supporters, Koch employees and race science supporters - would gladly stand by someone making the same claim about women, in place of Jews, as several of them did in the case of the James Damore memo

But some of the Advisors believe that there are innate biological differences between Jews and everybody else - Andrew Sullivan is clearly still a believer in the Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence (NHAI) hypothesis, as can be seen in a relatively recent interview published by the New York Times:

But he also can’t quite stop himself, even as I sat there wishing he would. “Let’s say Jews. I mean, just look at the Nobel Prize. I’m just saying — there’s something there, I think. And I’m not sure what it is, but I’m just not prepared to accept the whole thing is over.” 

Steven Pinker also seems to be a fan, still, of NHAI as seen in his joining with other Koch-connected individuals to complain that Bret Stephens was criticized for citing NHAI as a reference in one of his NYTimes op-eds, and the citation was redacted.

Anthropologist R. Brian Ferguson debunked the NHAI paper, a fact that Pinker and other NHAI supporters resolutely ignore. Although it did lead to Cochran insulting Ferguson on a few occasions, without, of course, any attempt to address Ferguson's points.

Racists believed in Jewish intellectual superiority long before Harpending and Cochran came along. As segregationist Henry E Garrett wrote in the notoriously racist Mankind Quarterly in 1961:

...By almost any criterion, the Jews have produce a disproportionate number of intellectually gifted persons and this despite the handicaps under which they have often lived and worked. Did "culture" alone produce these outstanding men or was there better native endowment to begin with?
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 Mismeasure 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.

I thought of that while reading the FAIR web site's glossary of terms which includes this FAIR neologism:

neo-racism noun
neo-rac·ism | \ nē-ō-ˈrā-ˌsi-zəm 
1a. : a belief that race is a real and inescapable social construct that determines an individual’s identity, agency, beliefs, ability, or culture, such that members of different race groups can never understand each other due to intrinsic and insurmountable cultural differences.

1b. : prejudice, discrimination, stereotyping, or antagonism directed against a person or people based on this belief.

2 : discrimination, behavior or attitudes toward individuals or groups that reflect and foster the belief that members of some race groups are permanently subordinate to members of other race groups.

It's a curious insertion "a real and inescapable social construct." Why not write "...a belief that race determines an individual’s identity, agency..." What is the point of inserting a clause about social construct? Wouldn't the belief be racist without that inclusion?

Ah, but that's where the "neo" comes in. I think it's likely some number of FAIR advisors - foremost Andrew Sullivan and Steven Pinker - want to suggest that the belief in biological race has no negative implications - it's those who believe race is a social construct who are the real racists. 

If that is the case, it's truly sleazy, but sleaziness is the hallmark of race science, as discussed recently in the New Yorker:

In 2020, a paper appeared in the journal Psychological Science that examined how I.Q. was related to a range of socioeconomic measures for countries around the world. Unfortunately, the paper was based on a data set of national I.Q. estimates co-published by the English psychologist Richard Lynn, an outspoken white supremacist. Although we should be able to assess Lynn’s scientific contributions independently of his personal views, his data set of I.Q. estimates contains some suspiciously unrepresentative samples for non-European populations. For instance, the estimate for Somalia is based on one sample of child refugees stationed in a camp in Kenya. The estimate for Haiti is based on a sample of a hundred and thirty-three rural six-year-olds. And the estimate for Botswana is based on a sample of high-school students tested in South Africa in a language that was not their own. Indeed, the psychologist Jelte Wicherts demonstrated that the best predictor for whether an I.Q. sample for an African country would be included in Lynn’s data set was, in fact, whether that sample was below the global average. Psychological Science has since retracted the paper, but numerous other papers and books have used Lynn’s data set.

The last part is especially important - in spite of a retraction, in spite of the obvious problems with Lynn's data, his work is still being used. Just as NHAI is still being defended by Pinker and Sullivan.

And that's why race science is not actually science, but a blatant attempt to "biologize inequality" as anthropologist Marvin Harris said.