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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Is this the end of the gentlemen's agreement for Steven Pinker?

Pinker is often portrayed clutching
a skull, so I really enjoyed this 
new version, of Pinker clutching
what looks like a phrenology bust

So imagine how astounded I was to learn that  a just-published article in the Guardian mentioned one of Pinker's race pseudoscience connections in conversation with Pinker!

Many critics allege that Pinker’s recent remarks are part of a longer history of comments and behaviour that have come dangerously close to promoting pseudoscientific or abhorrent points of view. To take a single example: the journalist Malcolm Gladwell has called Pinker out for sourcing information from the blogger Steve Sailer, who, in Gladwell’s words, “is perhaps best known for his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to white people”. Angela Saini, a science journalist and author of Superior: The Return of Race Science, told me that “for many people, Pinker’s willingness to entertain the work of individuals who are on the far right and white supremacists has gone beyond the pale”. When I put these kinds of criticisms to Pinker, he called it the fallacy of “guilt by association” – just because Sailer and others have objectionable views, doesn’t mean their data is bad. Pinker has condemned racism – he told me it was “not just wrong but stupid” – but published Sailer’s work in an edited volume in 2004, and quotes Sailer’s positive review of Better Angels, among many others, on his website.

Steve Sailer himself attested directly to me on Twitter (before he blocked me) that his connection with Pinker is more than mere "association."

The Guardian article is mostly very friendly to Pinker, since it's basically an account of a fun vacation weekend the author, Alex Blasdel spent with Pinker, although at least it wasn't as worshipful as the 2018 Guardian piece by Andrew Anthony which included this passage:
Pinker’s trademark mop of silver curls, more like that of an ageing hard rock guitarist than an Ivy League academic, a pair of twinkling blue eyes and a ready expression of amusement beam out from my screen.
So maybe the Guardian is finally starting to get a grip on its Pinkermania.

Although true, the recent article does wallow in Pinker's fame and wealth, with details about Pinker's lifestyle and clothing and the vacation home and all the other People magazine profile trivia. 

I emailed Folger a few years ago and 
he denied any responsibility for 
publishing Sailer in this volume - it was 
all Pinker's bright idea.
And although it appears that Blasdel actually asked Pinker, directly, about his connection to Sailer he appears to have let it drop on pushback. But at least after he left Pinker, Blasdel managed to discover that Pinker didn't just "associate" with Sailer, Pinker promoted the career of Sailer, by publishing an incoherent semi-sociobiologic excretion from Sailer, in "The Best Science and Nature Writing" of 2004.

But, as has been noted on this blog, on many occasions - Steven Pinker is a weasel

It's funny though, I was just recently speculating that Pinker deliberately chose the San Bushmen as exemplars of rationality for his new book as a prophylactic "should any media gatekeepers finally ask him about his promotion of racemongers (like Razib Khan and Quillette) and racists like Steve Sailer."

But I did not think it would happen so soon. 
O my prophetic soul.

The article has many other interesting aspects which I will talk about soon.