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Sunday, November 7, 2021

Steven Pinker, Steve Sailer and the Cousin Marriage Conundrum part 4

<-- Continued from Part 3

So the articles that Steven Pinker chose to include in "The Best Science and Nature Writing" of 2004 are a mixed bunch. Several seem to have barely anything to do with science or nature, several are long-winded. But several were quite good, or at least clear and coherent and did not use the Bible as a source.

You cannot say the same about Steve Sailer's "The Cousin Marriage Conundrum," originally written for the American Conservative, which was founded by three likely anti-Semites and racists, Pat Buchanan, Scott McConnell and Taki Theodoracopulos

"The Cousin Marriage Conundrum" is Sailer's first of 54 bylines, the last of which was published in 2013. He's also been the subject of more recent articles in American Conservative, as when Noah Millman celebrated Sailer's "moment" in May 2017 - his moment was said to have arrived thanks to a New York Magazine profile of Sailer.

Sailer's byline for "The Cousin Marriage Conundrum" says he's a columnist for VDARE. Which is a white nationalist extremist rag.

In the first paragraph of the piece, Sailer states the issue to be addressed: neocons want to "nation build" Iraq but that will be impossible because Iraqis are inbred. 

...Americans know so little about the Middle East that few of us are even aware of one of the building blocks of Arab Muslim cultures: cousin marriage. Not surprisingly, we are almost utterly innocent of how much the high degree of inbreeding in Iraq could interfere with our nation-building ambitions.

In the second paragraph he says they are really very inbred indeed and introduces the term "consanguinity" which is a synonym for cousin marriage.

In the third paragraph he says there are factions and sub-factions in Iraqi society and the "engine" of those social divisions is cousin marriages. He reiterates this unsupported claim in the next paragraph:

"The clannishness, corruption, and coups frequently observed in countries such as Iraq appear to be in tied to the high rates of inbreeding."

He makes another unsupported assertion in the next paragraph: 

" But, in Islamic countries, family loyalty is often at war with national loyalty. Civic virtues, military effectiveness, and economic performance all suffer."

Then in the next paragraph he gives us what I expected would be expert testimony on the problem of Iraqi inbreeding:

Commentator Randall Parker wrote, “Consanguinity [cousin marriage] is the biggest underappreciated factor in Western analyses of Middle Eastern politics...

Commentator Randall Parker owns several blogs active since around the turn of the century. Some are defunct, and the two that survive are ParaPundit and FuturePundit but they don't appear to have been updated since 2017. Parker now has an up-to-date Twitter account, @futurepundit.

Contrary to what I expected, Randall Parker has no expertise on the subject of consanguinity and politics. I know because I asked him via Twitter direct message and received this response:

Then Sailer conflates cousin-marriage with any close-knit and/or extended family:

Similarly, as Francis Fukuyama described in his 1995 book, Trust: The Social Virtues & the Creation of Prosperity, countries such as Italy with highly loyal extended families can generate dynamic family firms. Yet, their larger corporations tend to be rife with goldbricking, corruption, and nepotism, all because their employees do not trust each other to show their highest loyalty to the firm rather than their own extended families. Arab cultures are more family-focused even than Sicily, and therefore their larger economic enterprises suffer even more.

Italy has nothing to do with the point of Sailer's piece: cousin marriage. The "family-based" society of Italy has one of the lowest consanguinity rates, below Canada, France, Sweden and Ireland. 

There goes the clarity that Steven Pinker said is so important for good science writing.

It's not surprising that the American Conservative has no editorial standards, but it appears that neither does Steven Pinker.

When I reviewed this article for the first time, a few years ago, I assumed Steve Sailer had not had access to international consanguinity data. But thanks to Randall Parker's blog, I discovered that he did have access, by 2002

Knowing that Steve Sailer loves to think about the intersections between biology and society I sent him a link to Kurtz's writings. Steve immediately wanted to find more social science data about rates of consanguinity throughout the world. I went Google searching without any luck. Now several months later Steve just found a site with worldwide measurements of the incidence of consanguinity.

The site, consang.net, is in transition but it has archives available via the Wayback Machine. The data Sailer used is more difficult to use than the more current Five-Thirty-Seven data available on Github because larger countries are broken up into many sub-sections. But if you make an effort and average the rates out, some non-democracies have considerably lower rates of consanguinity than democracies. For example, according to Sailer's data source, China, with an authoritarian Communist government since 1949, has an average consanguinity rate of 9.4, while India, a democracy since 1947, has an average consanguinity rate of 24.2.

It's a mystery if Sailer looked at his own data when making his assertions about cousin marriage and democracy, and it doesn't seem to matter. He must have known without checking the data that India, at the time he wrote "The Cousin Marriage Conundrum" was a decades-long democracy. Yet he lumps India in with other inbred countries, which are presumably incapable of achieving democracy, like Iraq.

American society is so biased against inbreeding that many Americans have a hard time even conceiving of marrying a cousin. Yet, arranged matches between first cousins (especially between the children of brothers) are considered the ideal throughout much of a broad expanse from North Africa through West Asia and into Pakistan and India.

The case of India, alone, should have given Sailer pause about his premise that consanguinity and democracy are incompatible, but he completely ignores it, not willing to let facts interfere with his beautiful theory. 

Sailer's data failure is especially interesting because a few years later, Steven Pinker, in a quarrel with Malcolm Gladwell, would defend his use of Sailer's work on the grounds that it doesn't matter that Steve Sailer is a racist, because he's so good with data.

Just this past month, in his review of Pinker's latest book "Rationality, " in Taki's Magazine, Sailer discusses the incident, and uses the opportunity to double-down on being a racist:

Therefore, it was ironic but hardly surprising that The Guardian last week attempted to cancel Pinker by repeating Malcolm Gladwell’s complaint that Pinker had humiliated him in a 2009 book review in The New York Times by citing data I’d compiled debunking Gladwell’s knuckleheaded assertion that the NFL performance of college quarterback prospects “can’t be predicted.” The Guardian whoops:

…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.”

Other beliefs of mine include that Reno is west of Los Angeles, the Holocaust happened, and the sun comes up in the east. The Guardian goes on to explain that because I am a bad person, according to the impartial geniuses Malcolm Gladwell and Angela Saini, logically, Pinker must be one too:

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.

The article of mine that Pinker reprinted in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004 is my January 2003 effort “Cousin Marriage Conundrum” predicting that the Bush administration’s planned invasion of Iraq would fail at nation-building because the extraordinarily high rate of inbreeding in Iraq makes the population clannish—perhaps my most insightful essay ever.

Pinker is a really good editor.

But Steve Sailer, is, as usual, wrong. His article is not insightful - and Pinker is a bad editor by selecting "The Cousin Marriage Conundrum" to include in "The Best Science and Nature Writing."

Unless Pinker had motives besides quality. 

But let's get to the part where Sailer uses the Bible as evidence. In Part 5 -->

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