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Sunday, August 29, 2021

Anna Krylov and the Peril of Bullshit part 3

PART 1 ~ PART 2 ~ PART 3 ~ PART 4

Now, as I was saying, when someone promotes an opinion within the realm of science that Anna Krylov disagrees with, they are "politicizing science." 

When Anna Krylov agrees with an opinion in the realm of science, it is The Truth.

In Philip Ball's response to  Krylov's essay The Peril of Politicizing Science, Ball wrote:
Krylov cites Robert Merton’s “clear separation between science and morality”. But Merton’s notion of a “pure science”, while it might have suited Heisenberg well, “sits in tension with the historical reality that scientists have always had patrons with motivations of their own, and which only rarely involved the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake”, according to Oreskes.(32)

“Seen this way,” Oreskes says, “the idea of science as a value-neutral activity is a myth.”(33) Not only is it patently untrue (as history shows again and again), but it is also a poor strategy for winning public trust. Why would you believe and trust someone who professes to bring no values to their work, to do it free from all ideologies, biases, and social preconceptions? And why would you want to? It is far preferable to lay our values on the table where they can be discussed and challenged than to pretend or insist that the scientific community is engaged in some rarefied pursuit free from all social, political, and ideological influence.
Scientific American published an article prior to Krylov's, in October 2020, entitled Yes, Science is Political which says:
Science, however, has always been political; the events of 2020 have only made the relationship between science and society more explicit. We are in the midst of a pandemic and a climate crisis, both solvable by centering scientific expertise. When our government ignores scientists, the consequences can be fatal, disproportionately so for Black, brown and Indigenous communities. Americans are suffering from wildfire-induced poor air quality. More than 200,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. Yet, as our nation grapples with the pandemic, our current (Trump) administration believes that “science shouldn’t stand in the way” of business as usual.
Krylov believes that an article praising Trump administration education schemes is "insightful" and evidence that Quillette is not a rightwing publication.

We've already seen that Krylov redefines the word "politicizing" to suit her own agenda. But it's even worse in her essay.

Krylov provides 14 examples of "cancellation":
  1. Soviets changed the name of a city
  2. Images of Trotsky and Kamenev erased from Soviet photographs
  3. Soviets reconsider their former admiration of Stalin
  4. The phenomenon where some people's reputations rising in relation to those whose reputations' have fallen
  5. An article proposes avoiding the use of names in science terms
  6. The renaming of a science prize
  7. Renaming a science term
  8. Renaming a science term
  9. Renaming of a science term
  10. Renaming of a science term
  11. Burned at the stake
  12. Asked not to show up at an awards ceremony
  13. Chemical castration
  14. A soap company reconsiders a word
So "cancellation" in Krylov's lexicon can mean anything from renaming a science term to murder.  She wrote:
The issue of science moralization and censorship is older than 20th century totalitarian regimes. For example, Giordano Bruno was canceled (burned at the stake in 1600) 
It appears to me she might be deliberately equating those who wish to rename science terms with murderers. 

Although perhaps it wasn't intentional - perhaps she was so inflamed by her own righteous indignation against "cancel culture" she couldn't be bothered to soberly assess her use of the term "cancel" in this essay.

But then Krylov asks rhetorically:
Do words have life and power of their own? Can they really cause injury? Do they carry hidden messages? The ideology claims so and encourages us all to be on the constant lookout...
Do words carry hidden messages? You tell me, Krylov - what does it mean to use the same word for renaming a science term as you use to describe murder? 

And if words don't cause injury, why is Krylov making such a big issue out of renaming science terms? 
Today’s censorship does not stop at purging the scientific vocabulary of the names of scientists who “crossed the line” or fail the ideological litmus tests of the Elect.11 In some schools,33,34 physics classes no longer teach “Newton’s Laws”, but “the three fundamental laws of physics”. Why was Newton canceled? Because he was white, and the new ideology10,12,15 calls for “decentering whiteness” and “decolonizing” the curriculum...
Who does it harm if Newton's Laws are called "the three fundamental laws of physics"? Certainly not Newton, who died almost 300 years ago. But a few paragraphs later, Krylov leaves no doubt that she believes that changing a term is a cataclysmic event:
The answer is simple: our future is at stake. As a community, we face an important choice. We can succumb to extreme left ideology and spend the rest of our lives ghost-chasing and witch-hunting, rewriting history, politicizing science, redefining elements of language, and turning STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education into a farce. Or we can uphold a key principle of democratic society - the free and uncensored exchange of ideas and continue our core mission, the pursuit of truth, focusing attention on solving real, important problems of humankind.
Do words have life and power of their own? Which is it Krylov, are words lifeless and powerless, or does using different words to indicate Newton's Laws mean OUR FUTURE IS AT STAKE?

It's clear what Krylov means by "the free and uncensored exchange of ideas" - she means only ideas she agrees with. When others merely proposed a new approach to science terminology, she called that an example of "cancel culture."

Krylov appears to be having it both ways, in the Steven Pinker tradition and Pinker echos her in the tweet I shared in Part 1: "...she exposes the primitive word magic of language-cancellers: that words have dreadful powers, independent of usage, convention & context."

Krylov and Pinker scoff at the dreadful power of words, yet agree that swapping out words is an existential threat.

Now as it happens, I don't think it's necessary to change "Newton's Laws" to "the three fundamental laws of physics." I don't think retaining the original term "centers whiteness." As with many anti-racist proposals, this is ultimately useless and beside the point. The reason that whiteness is "centered" has nothing to do with the fact that Isaac Newton discovered laws of physics. The extreme racism that has prevented Black Americans from thriving in the United States is the result of complex socio-economic forces that will not be improved by changing science terms. 

The reason that there are so many of these kinds of band-aid proposals to fix racism is because affecting real fundamental change via socio-economic opportunity is so much harder to do, and it takes so much longer to accomplish.

But even band-aids make some people feel better, and they don't hurt me nor - contrary to Krylov's Pinkerite hysteria - anybody else. So why not go along with the change instead of promoting panic? 

After all they are "three fundamental laws of physics" so why is it so terrible to call them that? It seems to be an accepted practice to use the term Theory of Relativity. Does Krylov also throw a tantrum whenever Einstein's name is left out? 

And is "cancellation" always bad? Using Krylov's lexicon,  I will argue in part 4 that cancellation can be a good thing, even from Krylov's own point of view.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Congratulations Dr. Adam Rutherford!

Doing this Pinkerite blog can be depressing sometimes, necessitating as it does that I wallow in the mud with Koch flunkies and race-mongers.

So it's nice to get to applaud one of the good guys for a change.

I've been a fan of Adam Rutherford for awhile, and in particular for his habit of speaking out against race pseudo-science.

As I said last April:

...I am very glad Rutherford is explicitly critical of race science, he is performing a very important service to humanity.

The best part of Rutherford getting the Royal Society David Attenborough Award and Lecture is that both on the web site and in this tweet the Royal Society says he is getting the award "in particular for challenging racist pseudoscience."

More scientists should get this award, like PZ Myers, Maxine Margolis, R. Brian Ferguson and others who fight the good fight.

But uh oh, remember what happened when Rutherford was given the Voltaire Award and Lecture by Humanists UK? He called Voltaire a "hideous racist."

Will Rutherford call David Attenborough a racist? If he does, I'm sure it will be because Attenborough deserved it.

UPDATE: when I wrote this post, I assumed Attenborough had never been accused of racism. Turns out I was wrong.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Anna Krylov and the Peril of Bullshit part 2

PART 1 ~ PART 2 ~ PART 3 ~ PART 4

I was so appalled by Anna Krylov's bullshit essay The Peril of Politicizing Science I decided to email Krylov, although not really expecting a response, since it's pretty obvious I was calling her a hypocrite. 

I wrote:

I find it curious you oppose politicizing science, when your Wikipedia page indicates you “are active in the promotion of gender equality in STEM fields, especially in theoretical chemistry."


While I think the promotion of gender equality in STEM is a worthy goal, it is definitely a political one.

How are your political efforts in science different, or less perilous, than some of the examples you cite in your article, like changing the term “Newton’s Laws”, to “the three fundamental laws of physics”? 

Her response: 

I do not consider activities that ensure fairness and merit-based approach in science to be political. Fairness and merit-based evaluation is one of the core principles of the scientific enterprise, an essential part of the Mertonian norms (CUDOS). There is nothing political in requiring equal opportunity and equal recognition of people regardless of their gender or race!

I was astounded she would seriously claim "there is nothing political in requiring equal opportunity" - has Krylov never heard of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Since when has demanding equal opportunity in society ever been anything but a political struggle? It doesn't matter whether you agree that promoting women in STEM is a good idea (which I do), you can't just redefine a political struggle as non-political because you agree with the goal!

And of course I presented evidence in part 1 that the role of women in STEM is a controversial and politicized issue. I presented similar evidence to her in my later response.

But she wasn't done astounding me yet in this email which ends:
What my article speaks about is the intrusion of political ideology into science and education, which is already making a lot of damage-- see for example, this very recent article:
Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. She actually cites the right-wing race pseudo-science promoting rag Quillette to support her position. In my response I said:

Do you not know anything about Quillette’s politics, or are you in agreement with them? Why on earth would you use Quillette to make a point?

Her response was to give me a condescending little lecture about science and truth and then she made unsupported claims about Quillette:

In science, we look at the essence of findings and not who said it or where it is published. This is also part of Mertonian norms. Truth is truth, irrespective of clothes. 

Are you really willing to dismiss an insightful article simply because it is published not in your favorite outlet? You should read the content and then decide for yourself whether these labels are justified. This particular paper is well supported by the data. Quileute is non-partisan and does not have a political agenda. Most of the authors are of liberal political orientation. 

Anybody who has read this Pinkerite blog knows what utter bullshit her claims are about Quillette. 

However, I was prompted by her response to read the article she shared, more carefully and I was not disappointed. The article, like just about everything else published in Quillette was dedicated to promoting right-wing positions. I wrote back, and couldn't resist getting a little snarky in response to her condescension:

Quillette is a right-wing publication and has been known as such since soon after its inception.




Right up to the present.


"In this age of dull-witted Fox News propaganda, Q-adjacent conspiracy nonsense, and sophomorically glib Quillette contrarianism, it’s not easy to find truly thoughtful conservative writing on American politics."


It’s also a fact that one of Quillette’s known funders is right-wing Mark Carnegie.


...You claim “most of the authors (of Quillette) are of liberal political orientation.”

Let’s have the data supporting that claim, like we do in, you know, science.

Finally, the article you shared is not “insightful” it’s the usual right-wing drivel, which is why the link it provides for “promising models” for schools is to an article by Rick Hess, director of Education Policy studies of the right-wing Koch-funded American Enterprise Institute, and that article praises charter schools including the controversial “Success Academy” and the Trump administration’s Betsy DeVos.


An article in Quillette that links to a Koch operative - but I imagine Krylov would claim that's not political either.

But I couldn't find out because she didn't respond to me after that. The entire exchange is available here.

 I'd like to believe she gave up because she could see I had the much stronger position since I actually bothered to provide evidence, like we do in science, but who knows. She clearly has no qualms about re-defining words to suit her needs.

We saw Steven Pinker do something similar a couple of years ago, when he decided it would be perfectly fine to quote people in such a way that it made it look as though they agreed with him, when they did not. Phil Torres justifiably criticized him for this, and Pinker's response was "so what"? and then Michael Shermer called Torres a "cockroach" on Pinker's behalf. 

More about Krylov's curious relationship with words in part 3.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Anna Krylov and the Peril of Bullshit, part 1

Recently I came across Razib Khan retweeting Steven Pinker, promoting an essay, The Peril of Politicizing Science by Anna Krylov, and so I immediately suspected that Krylov's essay would be bad.

I was not wrong.

Krylov is a chemist, who, according to her Wikipedia page:

...is active in the promotion of gender equality in STEM fields, especially in theoretical chemistry.[25] She created and maintains the web directory Women in Theoretical and Computational Chemistry, Material Science, and Biochemistry,[26] which currently lists more than 400 scientists holding tenure and tenure track academic positions, or equivalent positions in industry, national laboratories, and other leading research establishments. She has delivered several talks on gender equality in STEM including a lecture at the international symposium in Uppsala, Sweden.[27]

Now I happen to believe gender equality in STEM is a worthwhile goal but even I wouldn't argue it's not a political issue. 

Certainly it is a political issue for the Quillette/IDW industrial complex, of which Steven Pinker is a member in good standing. 

In 2017 James Damore was fired by Google for publishing a memo on a company discussion board, in which he argued that women were, as a group, not as good at STEM as men, using the standard evolutionary psychology reasoning that Pinker and most or all members of the IDW favor. 

And of course Steven Pinker was a vocal defender of Damore, tying the controversy directly to electoral politics:

Steven Pinker, a Harvard University cognitive scientist, said on Twitter that Google’s actions could increase support for Mr. Trump in the tech industry.

Steven Pinker agrees with Damore about women in STEM, and according to this Guardian article, Damore got his ideas directly from Pinker.

Damore, stupidly, sued Google for firing him. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2020

Pinker's book "The Blank Slate" discusses his evolutionary psychology views at length. The book also has heaping helpings of Pinker's own political views including his division of feminism into two camps, the "gender feminists" (the bad kind) and the "equity feminists" (the good kind.) He includes Camille Paglia, the pedophilia supporter, in the good feminist camp.

Although Krylov is on the opposite side of the women in STEM issue from Pinker, she is firmly on Pinker's side in her Peril article. But in all cases, Anna Krylov herself is just as guilty of politicizing science as those she criticizes. Hypocrisy seems to be an absolute requirement to be part of the Quillette/IDW industrial complex.

Anna Krylov cites Bari Weiss, a political operative, on the issue of changing terminology.

Bari Weiss tweeted a link to her own article "The Miseducation of America's Elites" with a pull quote about the renaming of "Newton's laws" to "three fundamental laws of physics." The article is on Weiss's substack account but it was originally in - and I assume written for and paid for by - the City Journal, a publication of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, funded by Charles Koch, among others.

Charles Koch is not interested in pure science. Charles Koch is interested in politics.

In her article, which was published a month after Weiss's article, Krylov cites Weiss:
Today’s censorship does not stop at purging the scientiļ¬c vocabulary of the names of scientists who “crossed the line” or fail the ideological litmus tests of the Elect.11 In some schools,33,34 physics classes no longer teach “Newton’s Laws”, but “the three fundamental laws of physics”. Why was Newton canceled? Because he was white, and the new ideology10,12,15 calls for “decentering whiteness” and “decolonizing” the curriculum. 
Now I didn't expect Krylov would be in so deep with the Quillette/IDW industrial complex before I began reading her Peril article. I know, I know, even after doing this Pinkerite blog for almost three years I'm still stunningly naive sometimes.

In addition to Weiss, Krylov cites McWhorter (Quillette author, Koch employee), the blog of Jerry Coyne (race pseudo-science, reactionary and Pinker's #1 fanboy) and grifters Helen Pluckrose and James "your mom" Lindsay, employee of Christian identity extremist Michael O'Fallon.

But then I had an email exchange with Krylov and it gets even worse. More about that in part 2.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Razib Khan and the curious Insitome Institute part 3: blocked by Spencer Wells

Part 1 & Part 2

I hadn't planned to write a third part to my series on Razib Khan and the Insitome Institute, but then I discovered that the founder of the Insitome Institute, Spencer Wells, Ph.D., blocked me on Twitter.

Since he could have ignored me or muted my Pinkerite1 account, instead of blocking me, I get the impression the block is his way of punishing me for daring to ask him what he thought of Razib Khan's positive review of Charles Murray's latest book, specifically when Khan suggested we should "connect the dots" about Black Americans.

I can't say I'm surprised by Wells' response, the other member of the Insitome Institute's board of directors, Carlos D. Bustamente, did the same thing when he was asked about Khan, although he did unblock later. But erasing criticisms - or even questions - about race-mongers seems to be the knee-jerk response.

Wells has known about Khan's checkered past for a long time. I just found an interview with Wells in the Austin Monthly from July 2018 in which he defends Khan:

*Editor’s Note: In 2015, Razib Khan, Insitome’s director of scientific content, was hired and then fired by the New York Times after reports surfaced that he had in the past written articles for publications deemed racist. We asked Wells for a comment on the controversy. Here is his response:

“Razib Khan is certainly not a racist, though he has in the past written for publications that later became associated with the far right. I would characterize him more as a libertarian than anything else—he believes in free and uncensored rational inquiry, and in the current divisive political era that can sometimes get you in trouble. He's an extremely well-read scholar with an encyclopedic knowledge of human population genetics and a talent for communicating it—that's why he's our director of scientific content.”

Khan hasn't merely written for far-right publications - he's been on the payroll of at least one far-right publisher, Ron Unz, as discussed in part 2

It's an interesting question, whether Khan is a racist. But whether he is or not, he is most certainly a race-monger: he's written about race for many right-wing racists, whether it's to promote the oft-debunked Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence hypothesis for racist Taki Theodoracopolus; or to suggest we "remove all the history we take for granted" to understand the positions of Black and indigenous Americans while platformed by racist Ron Unz; to expounding on his racialist theories in agreement with Steve Sailer, in VDARE, founded by racist Peter Brimelow; to supporting racist Charles Murray, whom Khan declares is his friend.

And it's not like Khan's support for Charles Murray is ancient history. His positive review of "Facing Reality" was published just a couple of weeks ago in the race-mongering Quillette.

Race-mongering has gained Khan both money and notoriety. 

But it's possible he's not a racist, he could be just a feckless opportunist.

Khan isn't only a race-monger, he's been so involved in right-wing politics that he was profiled as a conservative operative - in the NYTimes several years before they "cancelled" him due to his race-mongering.

Which is why it's funny to see Khan, in a blog post from 2003, which has aged like supermarket sushi, attacking Richard Lewontin for having leftist leanings while doing science. 

See this article by Steve Sailer taking on Lewontin's assertion. Additionally Wells does not even hint at the fact that Lewontin is a politicized Marxist who played a critical role in personally attacking E. O. Wilson during the sociobiology controversies of the 1970s. In fact, though S. J. Gould continued the good fight on behalf of the "anti-hereditarian" Left until his death, Lewontin faded away from public view, but books like Defenders of the Truth: The Sociobiology Debate, pin-point him as the real svengali behind the scientists who made the scientific controversy into a circus.

Lewontin "faded" so much that on his recent death at age 92, he received lengthy obituaries in the most prominent mainstream and scientific media

In addition to Steve Sailer, look who else Khan mentions in the passage quoted above: Wells. Yes, that is Spencer Wells. Lewontin was his advisor. 

So Wells and Khan go way back and Khan appears to be a big fan. He mentions Wells several times on his Unz blog. In 2004 he discusses Wells and Wells book, recently published at that time, Journey of Man, and apparently Khan thinks Wells is very handsome, even Robert Redford-esque. But then, one of Khan's race obsessions is blondeness.

I speculated that one of Razib Khan's right-wing racist patrons offered money to the Insitome Institute to take Razib Khan on, but this latest info makes me wonder if there's another possible explanation for why Wells engaged Khan in spite of Khan's race-mongering career: flattery.

Since being blocked by Wells, I've taken a good look at the Insitome web site and I wonder what is going on there. It looks as though everything stopped about a year ago: the blog posts, the podcasts, its Facebook page even the Insitome Institute Twitter account.

But even when they were active, it's not impressive. Khan was apparently in charge of the blog and the blog posts range from nothing more than summaries of podcast episodes; to very short and badly-written ramblings about vaguely genetics-adjacent topics; to non-existent. Here's one of the older posts I found.

That is all the content...

Several of the other listed posts are also empty. And the ones that are not empty don't seem to have much to do with the stated purposes of the Insitome Institute:

Understanding the Story of You

We provide key insights about your DNA to gain a richer understanding of your origins and to help you better navigate the path forward. We explore ancestry and personal genetic traits, such as metabolism: how well you personally tolerate sensitive food substances such as glucose and lactose; how well you absorb vitamin D and calcium; how quickly you metabolize caffeine; how well you tolerate alcohol and how quickly your system is able to flush it...

Building Trust & Safeguarding your Data

DNA sequencing technology is the most rapidly growing technology of our time and it is still early days. It is widely anticipated that 30 million people will have been sequenced by the end of 2020 and, by the middle of this century, it’s likely that all humans will be sequenced at (or before) birth...

Using Science for Good

We believe that understanding how similar we all are from a genetic perspective has the power to influence hearts and minds, helping to reduce racial biases and the tendency to stereotype, and to move us past outdated notions of race.

It's very odd that the Insitome Institute has Razib Khan on staff, while they claim they want to move past "outdated notions of race." I guess that's why Spencer Wells blocked me for asking about Khan's statement that we need to "connect the dots" about Black Americans. 

Another interesting item: although Gareth Highnam is listed as if he is currently associated with Insitome, on their Team page, his Linkedin page indicates his association with the Institute ended in January 2020.

So what happened to the Insitome Institute? Why did everything suddenly stop, without explanation a year ago? Why haven't they updated the team page? The web site's primary purpose now seems to be to link three anti-race science Ph.Ds to an infamous race-monger.

Razib Khan also blocked me on Twitter, of course, but there are ways to get around that. So while having a peek at his Twitter feed I was amazed to see he and Lindsay Beyerstein are pretty friendly. I knew of Beyerstein through Amanda Marcotte's old web site Pandagon. Beyerstein & Marcotte were pals (I didn't realize Ezra Klein was also involved in Pandagon), and I came to know about Khan because commenters on Pandagon were strongly critical of the hereditarian views at Khan's blog Gene Expression. And Khan was critical in turn of Marcotte and Pandagon.

Beyerstein is still critical of racism. Does it not bother her at all that Khan is a firm supporter of Charles Murray and his hereditarian claims about Black Americans?

Beyerstein also blocked Pinkerite1 on Twitter, but I'm not sure why now. I assume because I disagreed with her about something.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Hereditarian Prophesies of Charles Murray

This excellent Twitterer provided a collection of Charles Murray's prophesies in which Murray foretells that in only a few more years or so, his belief in the genetically endowed inferiority of Black people will be proven by Science.

I provided the full images of the screen caps attached to the original tweet, below.






The racist Bo Winegard, perhaps hoping to get Charles Murray's perch as leading race-monger of the American Enterprise Institute, once the 78-year-old Murray kicks the bucket, gives us his own prophesy. Winegard bumps Murray's ETA of hereditarian victory from a few years to thirty or so.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Razib Khan and the curious Insitome Institute part 2

Razib Khan & Spencer Wells.
Observe Wells ignoring Khan's well-known, decades-long
career as a promoter of race pseudo-science.

So Razib Khan, in spite of his long-term involvement in race pseudo-science, has found support for his career from the Insitome Institute

Khan is their "Director of Scientific Content."

Reminds me of the days when "celebrity intellectual" Steven Pinker supported the career of Razib Khan, going so far as to use Khan to respond to a negative review of The Better Angels of Our Nature in the New Yorker. Which was a seriously unequal match in terms of literary ability alone - Razib Khan vs the New Yorker. 

Pinker also promoted the career of the blatantly racist Steve Sailer, before dropping him, at least in public.

Khan and Sailer are buddies. Here we see Sailer, in the infamously racist VDARE, promoting Khan's review of "Facing Reality".

In 2019, Donor's Trust, a funding vehicle for right-wing plutocrats like Koch and the Mercers, gave over $1.5 million to the VDARE Foundation in 2019, according to tax records obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). Razib Khan has been associated with VDARE for at least twenty years, and he is mentioned there often by Steve Sailer and especially too-racist-for National Review John Derbyshire. Derbyshire described Khan as "my old friend" in December 2019 and gives some insight into the Khan-Sailer relationship:

Blog post of the week comes from my old friend Razib Khan at the Gene Expression website. Razib is a close competitor with Steve Sailer for the title Smartest Gink I Know. Indeed, it was at Steve's original HBD listserv twenty years ago that I first got acquainted with Razib.

"HBD" stands for "Human Bio-Diversity" and is a code word for anti-Black racism.

So who are Razib Khan's new friends at the Insitome Institute think tank?

The Team consists of Spencer Wells, Ph.D; Gareth Highnam, Ph.D; and Khan. 

Wells has worked for National Geographic and is on the record saying things like:

WHEN ASKED about the question of race, Wells’s answer was unequivocal. “Racism is not only socially divisive, but also scientifically incorrect. We are all descendants of people who lived in Africa recently,” he says. “We are all Africans under the skin.” The kinds of differences that people notice, such as skin pigmentation, limb length, or other adaptations are “basically surface features that have been selected for in the environment. When you peer beneath the surface at the underlying level of genetic variation, we are all much more similar than we appear to be. There are no clear, sharp delineations.

So Wells believes the exact opposite of what Razib Khan believes.

Meanwhile Gareth Highnam doesn't have much to say about race in the media, although I did notice him liking a tweet by Amy Harmon, that was critical of hereditarian Nicholas Wade back in 2014. 

Needless to say, Khan is a fan of Wade because of his hereditarian beliefs.

Also, Highnam does give a shit about the World Health Organization, at least in 2018.

So that's the Team. There is also a Board of Directors which consists of Spencer Wells and Carlos D. Bustamante, Ph.D

Everybody has a Ph.D except Khan, who has two Bachelors of Science degrees, in Biochemistry and Biology, according to his Wikipedia page, as well as some graduate work. Although Khan is described as a "geneticist" on the Insitome site and many other places, his Wiki page describes him, more accurately as a "writer in population genetics and consumer genomics."

Bustamante is interviewed in Technology Review (my highlight):

Many genetic researchers have long argued that race has no basis in science. But the debate doesn’t seem to go away. 
In a global context there is no model of three, or five, or even 10 human races. There is a broad continuum of genetic variation that is structured, and there are pockets of isolated populations. Three, five, or 10 human races is just not an accurate model; it is far more of a continuum model.

Humans are a beautifully diverse species both phenotypically and genetically. This is very classic population genetics. If I walk from Cape Horn all the way to the top of Finland, every village looks like the village next to it, but at the extremes people are different.

But as a population geneticist?

I don’t find race a meaningful way to characterize people.

In 2017 Razib Khan published an article in Skeptic, founded by hereditarian (and creep) Michael Shermer. It's co-written with "biosocial criminologist" and frequent Quillette contributor Brian Boutwell and titled "Is race a useful concept."  It ends this way (my highlight):

Here is perhaps the most important point and one on which we will end. Injecting bluster, rhetoric, and anger around this topic is an entirely pointless exercise. We have the tools necessary to answer this question: Are racial classifications meaningful? The answer is "yes."

So Bustamante believes the exact opposite of what Khan believes. 

And Bustamante knows exactly who Khan is because in February of this year he blocked someone on Twitter for daring to ask about Razib Khan's connections to Ron Unz and Richard Spencer.

Khan, for his part, is happy to use Bustamante's much more impressive attainments to legitimize his work.

So what is going on here? Khan is the only non-Ph.D at the Insitome Institute and his beliefs are the opposite of the others associated with the Institute. He's not really a geneticist, he's a writer, and he's not even a good writer. 

In June of this year Khan made a big discovery, which he announced in the science magazine Nautilus: The Human Family Tree, It Turns Out, Is Complicated.

Adam Rutherford has been talking about this topic for years. And Rutherford is a much better writer than Khan.

Let's start with the last sentence of the Nautilus piece: 

The first 20 years of this century have been the most exciting decades of paleoanthropology since the emergence of the field, in large part due to the rise of paleogenetics. I see no reason to assume that wave has crested. I for one, can’t wait to continue constantly updating my priors on humankind as the 2020’s unfold.

The last sentence is awkward: I for one, can't wait to continue constantly updating my priors on humankind as the 2020s unfold. But even more awkward is that his priors are not mentioned anywhere else in the article - Khan never tells us what his prior beliefs are. I guess we are supposed to assume they aligned with the orthodoxy of all science guys in the year 2000, since for most of the article he uses the first person plural:

Finally, we need to acknowledge that our long-standing and intimate interest in Neanderthals may have misled us when it came to Denisovans. Neanderthals were discovered in Europe, the continent with the longest and most well-funded tradition in archaeology. But it turns out they may not be typical “archaic” humans. The best genetic work indicates that Denisovans were not one homogeneous lineage, as seems to have been the case with Neanderthals, but a diverse group that were strikingly differentiated.17 The Denisovan ancestry in modern populations varies considerably in relatedness to the genome sequences from Denisova Cave. It is clear that the Denisovan ancestry in Papuans is very different from the Siberian Denisovan sequences. The most geographically distant Denisovan groups, those in Siberia and those from on the far edge of Southeast Asia into Wallacea, were likely far more genetically different from each other than Khoisan are from the rest of humanity. Depending on the assumptions you set your “molecular clock” with, the most distant Denisovan lineages probably separated into distinct populations from each other 200,000 to 400,000 years before their extinction.

He seems to be implying that "we" have somehow refused to acknowledge that our "long-standing" interest in Neanderthals has misled us about Denisovans. Denisovans were discovered in 2010 and Neanderthals were identified as such in the mid-1800s. So I don't see how anybody was "misled" - we've just known about Neanderthals a century and a half longer than Denisovans. 

Is there some contingent of scientists who are refusing to acknowledge the significance of Denisovans compared to Neanderthals? (Maybe some dastardly "woke" scientists?)

If there are, Khan doesn't say who they are. And I absolutely cannot figure out what he thinks is the significance of "Neanderthals were discovered in Europe, the continent with the longest and most well-funded tradition in archeology." Nothing in the rest of the paragraph explains why it matters where Neanderthals were discovered.  

The point he appears to be making with the paragraph is that Denisovans had a wider range than Neanderthals, but it's confusing since the fact that Neanderthals were discovered in Europe, and that Europe is the continent with the "most well-funded tradition in archeology" do not contribute to the issue of difference in ranges. 

This article was originally posted on Khan's "Unsupervised Learning" blog. But Khan has a Wikipedia page that describes him as a writer. He presumably gets paid to write. And parts of Unsupervised Learning are behind a paywall. Did Nautilus have any editors look at this when they decided to reprint it? Or did they just figure, well, Khan uses big science-y words and footnotes so that's good enough? I hope they didn't pay him for this rambling mess.

In Khan's review of "Facing Reality", discussed in Part 1, he accuses the "regnant culture" of refusing to "connect the dots" about Black people. But he never says explicitly what it would mean to connect the dots. It's hard to tell if this vagueness is intentional or not. It probably is, but on the other hand, he really is a terrible writer.

So he's not a geneticist; not a Ph.D; he believes the exact opposite of what the other people at the Insitome Institute believe about race; and he's not even a good writer. 

And on top of that he has a career checkered with connections to horrible racists and has an obnoxious right-wing personality on social media and can't even restrain himself from publicly disparaging one of the Institute's partners.

Why would the Insitome Institute want him?

Adam Rutherford, who is only two years older than Khan, is more their kind of guy: an actual geneticist - with a Ph.D in genetics - an opponent of race pseudo-science and a great writer as well as a charismatic and funny presenter. I realize the Insitome Institute probably couldn't afford Adam Rutherford and anyway he's busy with his own projects, but there is surely a range of science writers between Razib Khan and Adam Rutherford, so that the Insitome Institute could have found someone better qualified and less likely to embarrass them.

So why have Khan? I have some theories. Razib Khan must want a career as a legitimate science explainer, not as a sleazy race pseudo-science promoter, aiding and abetting disgusting racists like Steve Sailer and John Derbyshire and Charles Murray. I could be wrong of course. It's possible Khan is such a devoted racist he can't image ever forsaking his career of race-mongering. But I think it's about the money.

I think it's likely that he's been getting paid through the wingnut welfare system for years, like so many people associated with the IDW and Quillette. We know Ron Unz gave Khan a total of $31,000 as a "research fellow." And we've seen how Koch and other right-wing plutocrats will throw big money even at a blatantly racist organization like VDARE - 1.5 million dollars in one year. Who knows how much they might give to Quillette or other right-wing race-mongers who maintain even a thin veneer of respectability? 

Khan has been associated with VDARE, Unz and Taki's magazine - all founded by wealthy racist kooks - for years. It's hard to establish a career as a science writer. It's a competitive field and neither Khan's educational background nor his literary abilities are impressive. Getting a boost from wingnut welfare is likely his only option to have a career as a writer. 

So maybe one of Khan's sugar daddies offered the Insitome Institute money to take him on, to help white-wash Khan's career, in expectation Khan will continue to further the Koch/Mercer/VDARE cause of making "scientific" racism acceptable.

This is purely speculation of course, but it seems far more plausible to me than a scenario in which an organization of Ph.Ds, opposed to race pseudo-science, would freely choose Razib Khan of all people to be their Director of Scientific Content.

Part 3: blocked by Spencer Wells

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Razib Khan and the curious Insitome Institute part 1

Khan trashes the World Health Organization. 
It's interesting in view of his patron,
the Insitome Institute. More on this below.

I hate to have to think about Razib Khan and his race-obsessed career, which I have had the displeasure of following for at least fifteen years now.

But then he went and wrote a review of Charles Murray's latest race-baiting travesty, "Facing Reality" for Quillette, the leading source of race pseudo-science this side of American Renaissance.

Fun fact: American Renaissance has reprinted lengthy excerpts from many of Quillette's race-related articles. Last I checked they'd reprinted twenty-five articles.

As I have mentioned on several occasions, Khan is a bad writer, on top of his idiotic race-obsessed beliefs. His poor style is compounded by his dishonesty, as when he writes:

...I had the pleasure and honor of becoming (Charles Murray's) friend. And rather like Murray, I am now the sort of public figure that certain types of people feel they have to publicly denounce in order to establish their own group bona fides.

Given this personal history, you might reasonably ask why I agreed to write about Murray’s latest book, Facing Reality: Two Truths about Race in America. The answer is simply that I am one of the few people willing to write about it. The book’s thesis is that American society faces disaster if it is not prepared to confront certain politically uncomfortable facts about race—Murray has described it as a cri de coeur. But the difficulty of finding someone willing to admit to even reading one of Murray’s books, let alone someone willing to review it, may doom the project before anyone turns the first page. After all, most of those willing to listen to Murray are already familiar with the data he presents here, and those who are unaware of the uncomfortable facts he wants us to confront would never admit to touching one of his books for fear of peer condemnation. 

Such a drama queen:

"the difficulty of finding someone willing to admit to even reading one of Murray’s books, let alone someone willing to review it, may doom the project before anyone turns the first page"

This is easily demonstrated to be pure bullshit. I did a series looking at The Bell Curve on this blog. I haven't finished the series, unfortunately, but the fact remains I reviewed - in depth - some of the book and nobody had a word of complaint about it.

And of course it takes two seconds to Google and find reviews of "Facing Reality." But the mental midgets who read Quillette are not likely to check up on Khan. 

Speaking of mental midgets, Claire Lehmann, founder of Quillette, is ultimately responsible for book review assignments, so of course race pseudo-science promoter Razib Khan was assigned to review a book written by his friend Charles Murray, another race pseudo-science promoter. Which is no surprise, Quillette assigned blatant racist Bo Winegard and race-monger Noah Carl to review "Superior" by Angela Saini exactly because "Superior" criticizes race science.

Lehmann joined the comments section of Khan's review.

Note to Lehmann: nobody thinks you have, at best, "moderate abilities" due to inability to remember your password. It's for things like this:

But back to the lies of Razib Khan. 

Contrary to Khan's claim that nobody would review Murray's book, it was reviewed in The Washington Post, The Times of London Literary Supplement, and National Review, to name the first big media platforms I found by Googling. And of course it was promoted by the usual race swillers from Unz to American Renaissance.

Although I am surprised the non-racist media outlets reviewed the book - not because reviewing it is a scandalous transgression - but because there's nothing new in it. It's the same old race pseudo-science that Murray has been yammering on about since "The Bell Curve," which was published in 1994. The "science" hasn't changed since 1994, since it was never actual science. Charles Murray, political scientist, has always been and remains a right-wing operative whose entire career has been funded by right-wing racist plutocrats, from William Hammett to Charles Koch.

Khan came to the United States from Bangladesh when he was five. He claims he experienced racism.

I'm sure Khan believes that racism against him was unjustified, but racism against Black people is justified, because it isn't really racism it's "facing reality."

My theory is that, like so many European immigrants over the past two centuries, Khan decided the quickest way to climb the social ladder and stake a claim as a true American was to express contempt  for Black people. The US immigrant tradition: no matter how new you are to the US, you can always tell yourself you are superior to Black Americans.

The only difference is that Khan, like Murray and all other promoters of race pseudo-science, attempts to justify his contempt for Black people, as a group, by claiming Black people are inadequate human beings because they have bad genes.

Fun fact: as a teenager Charles Murray burned a cross. Then claimed he and his friends had no idea what it meant. Which means Murray was either an idiot when he was a teenager, or he is a shameless liar.

So what is the "reality" Khan and Murray claim Americans are not facing?

His review is painfully long and rambling as he dances around his hereditarian beliefs and focuses on the usual grievances of the Quillette/IDW industrial complex. 

Khan comes closest to admitting his hereditarian views in this section:

Tables on SAT scores by race are available in the Journal of Blacks In Higher Education, which pointed out in 2005 that “whites were more than seven times as likely as blacks to score 700 or above on the verbal SAT.” Wikipedia, meanwhile, has an entry entitled “Race and Crime in the United States,” which plainly states that a bit over 50 percent of victims and offenders in homicides are African American. The same website tells us that African Americans are about 13 percent of America’s population. Would you also be surprised to face the reality that the perpetrators of homicides are overwhelmingly young and male as well? These dots are there for anyone to connect if they like.  
And yet very few choose to do so. Indeed, the failure—refusal, even—to connect the dots has become a vaunted feature, not a bug, of 2021’s regnant culture. 

He never explains what exactly would be the result of "connecting the dots" but he hints at his views by claiming racism and white supremacy are insufficient to explain Black failure to thrive. And if you are a Quillette reader, you don't need the dots connected for you, you know what Razib Khan believes is the real reason for Black failure to thrive.

I've mentioned before the plainly-stated desire of Khan and other race pseudo-science promoters to erase Black history. Because if you erase 400 years of slavery, oppression, bigotry, looting, redlining, etc. etc. you can then claim the only reason for Black failure to thrive is genetics. Khan's fellow race pseudo-science mongers, the Winegard brothers, did exactly the same thing in their Quillette article defending The Bell Curve. Except they used the word "hereditarian" to describe their belief. Khan is not nearly so honest.

The desire to erase Black history is why Khan & friends hate the 1619 Project so much.

But six years ago, Gawker noted that Khan was careful not to blatantly state his beliefs:

He merely treats what white racists taken for granted—that non-whites, and especially blacks, are intellectually inferior—as an open question worth exploring in the name of scientific inquiry. Still, Khan is careful with his actual words; he never says black people are less intelligent. 

But his willingness to treat black intelligence as a matter of debate has not hampered his career in the slightest. He’s written for Slate, The Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian. Indeed, he’s already placed two op-eds, about the evolution of cats and abortion politics, in The New York Times.

And even getting "cancelled" from the NYTimes was no big deal, according to Khan himself.

But then being a bigot hasn't hurt the career of Khan's buddy Richard Hanania either.  Richard Hanania is a Research Fellow at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University

And now we see Khan has another patron to enable his career. A 501(c)3 non-profit think tank called Insitome Institute, where Khan has found a place as their Director of Scientific Content.

The Founder and Executive Director of Insitome is Spencer Wells, PhD., "geneticist, anthropologist, author and entrepreneur. For over a decade he was an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society and Director of the Genographic Project."

I found something interesting on the Institute's Partnerships page:

We recently partnered with Unilever and the newly formed Unstereotype Alliance - a global alliance convened by UN Women (the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women) and including Facebook, Google, Mattel, Microsoft, J&J, AT&T, and others - to banish stereotypical portrayals of gender in advertising and other promotional content.

Putting aside Khan's reputation as an anti-feminist (which he admits here), it's very odd that Khan has no qualms about publicly disparaging another project of the United Nations, the World Health Organization, as he can be seen doing at the top of this page.

Is Razib Khan that stupid, or doesn't it matter to the Insitome Institute that he publicly disparages one of their partners?

I certainly won't rule out that Khan is a dumbass, but there are other curious disconnects between Khan and the Insitome Institute which I will discuss in part 2.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Michael Shermer, sleazy lying grifter

Michael Shermer reminds us today how well-aligned he and many other members of the "Intellectual Dark Web" are with the Republican Party. It was already plain enough with Shermer's place on the board of advisors of far right-leaning FAIR.

But he decided to underline the fact by promoting a sleazy lie about the 1619 project. The lie was caught by Nikole Hannah-Jones herself. Note Hannah-Jones' use of the word "grifting" which is the perfect description for Michael Shermer. Well, that and "sleazebag."

Although Shermer has a lower profile than some members of the IDW, he may well be the sleaziest member of the IDW, as I observed over two years ago.

Shermer is willing to viciously attack others on behalf of Steven Pinker, thus allowing Pinker to maintain his facade of being a mild-mannered reasonable liberal good guy. Like the time Shermer called a critic of Pinker, who had a very valid beef with Pinker, a "cockroach."

As if this sleaziness is not enough, Shermer is also a big fan of pedophilia-apologist Camille Paglia.

This gives you some idea of Shermer's values - he and Paglia are seen here promoting right-wing hysteria about Foucault because of "post-structuralism" while ignoring Foucault's defense of pedophilia,  which, as has recently been noted, was not merely academic

Shermer is apparently not a big fan of consent himself, according to Buzzfeed. As the late James Randi said, in the same BuzzFeed article:
“Shermer has been a bad boy on occasion — I do know that,” Randi told me. “I have told him that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference.
Speaking of reactionary old white men, I had to laugh at Quillette showing its true colors for potential advertisers which I came across recently:
Quillette Podcast compliments the online magazine with audio interviews and discussions conducted by its staff editors Toby Young (UK) and Jonathan Kay (North America).

Guests have included:
- Sir Roger Scruton
- Tyler Cowen
- Michael Shermer
- Steven Pinker
- Jordan Peterson
Every single person mentioned in this promotional copy including staff editors Young and Kay is a creepy old reactionary white man. That's Quillette for you in a nutshell.

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