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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!

The Brian Ferguson Interview

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Steven Pinker having it both ways as usual

Reviewers of Steven Pinker's work notice his logical inconsistencies, which is especially amusing when Pinker's work is about logic.

Back in September when Pinker's book "Rationality..." was released, Ted McCormick, writing in Slate, noted the inevitable Pinker logic fail, which has been characterized by other reviewers as Pinker "having it both ways":

Rather than argue for his own liberal, technocratic goals, however, Pinker lets their presumed superiority color his use of “rational” and “irrational” throughout. This creates a recurring dissonance, since what is irrational (or “cockamamie,” or “stupid”) from his perspective often turns out to be eminently rational by his initial definition: That is, it serves the purposes of those who hold to it effectively. 

I give other examples of Pinker's critics noticing Pinker trying to have it both ways here.

The article also notes Pinker's (inevitable) hypocrisy, combined with his inevitable support for far-right, race pseudoscience-promoting organizations:

Blaming universities’ “suffocating leftwing monoculture” for popular mistrust of expertise, Pinker mentions two examples in the text: University of Southern California professor Greg Patton’s removal from a course after using the Chinese ne ga, which can sound like the N-word, and testimony from unnamed personal “correspondents.” (In a footnote, he invites readers to look to Heterodox Academy, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and Quillette—all of it—for further examples.) The very next paragraph warns of “illusions instilled by sensationalist anecdote chasing.” Doctor, heal thyself!

And although Pinker, along with right-wing media, trumpeted the Greg Patton controversy far and wide, in the end, the university found in Patton's favor:

After weeks of an internal investigation by USC’s Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity and Title IX (EEO-TIX), however, Patton was found to have acted appropriately, as Garrett announced to students and the rest of the Marshall School community in a September 25 email. The EEO-TIX found that “the concerns expressed by students were sincere,” the dean wrote, “but that Professor Patton’s actions did not violate the university’s policy. They have also communicated this to the professor and he allowed me to share their conclusion with you.

One or more hyper-sensitive students made an absurd charge against a professor, the university investigated the issue, and the professor was found to have acted appropriately. 

So is Steven Pinker's right-wing fear-mongering an example of rationality? I suppose if your goal is to curry favor with the deep pockets of the racist right, then yes, it is rational.

But going back to Pinker having it both ways. I mentioned recently that anthropologist R. Brian Ferguson introduced me to the work of another anthropologist, Douglas Fry, who sent me a link to his review of Pinker's 2012 book "Better Angels of Our Nature." 

I enjoyed Fry's review especially because he also noticed Pinker's trait of having it both ways:

Pinker’s evident fondness for state-based solutions also seems to make for greater analytical confusion as he tries to supply an anatomy of peaceable instincts that may inhere in human subjects apart from the imposition of state control. Pinker proposes that along with self-control, a moral sense, and the capacity to reason, a fourth “better angel” in our nature is empathy. But Pinker can’t seem to make up his mind about empathy. On the one hand, he quotes Charles Darwin in his final chapter’s epigraph, thereby appearing to give a last word to the great natural scientist’s hopeful formulation: 
As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races.
However, Pinker concludes earlier in the book, after much discussion, that it is actually rights, norms, and policies—not empathy—that are important for protecting people from violence. Pinker also concludes that “empathy can subvert human well-being when it runs afoul of a more fundamental principle, fairness.” If that’s the case, then why isn’t fairness promoted to angel status and empathy demoted? It’s hard to avoid the impression that Pinker is just jumping, halfheartedly, onto the empathy bandwagon in the wake of best-selling treatments of the subject such as Jeremy Rifkin’s The Empathic Civilization (2009) and Frans de Waal’s The Age of Empathy (2009)—both of which are far more thorough and lucid treatments of the subject than one finds in The Better Angels of Our Nature.
Whatever else you can say about Pinker, he's consistent.

Fry shared his review of Napoleon Chagnon's self-aggrandizing autobiography "NOBLE SAVAGES My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes — the Yanomamö and the Anthropologists." It was called "a lively and paranoid romp through the thick jungles of the Amazon and the thicker tangles of academic and religious intrigue" by the NYTimes.

The review can be accessed via JSTOR here. Fry critiqued Chagnon's claim that Yanomami men who killed more also fathered more children, explaining why Chagnon's calculation is incorrect, which concurs with Ferguson's paper Materialist, cultural and biological theories on why Yanomami make war

The critique was enough to get Fry on Chagnon's enemies list:

I had begun to think that somehow I had escaped being put on the "detractor list" for my mathematical recalculation of Chagnon's unokai data (Fry 2006; Miklikowska and Fry 2012), but then I discovered that he cites a book I co-edited (Kemp and Fry 2004) as a supposed example of an ad hominem attack related to his 1988 unokai article (Chagnon, 2013: 278). However, Chagnon got the basic facts wrong. The only mention of Chagnon in the edited book involves his use of the label "fierce," has nothing to do with his 1988 article, and says nothing that could be considered ad hominem (Kemp and Fry 200422: 5). 

Regular visitors to this Pinkerite site will not be surprised to learn that Steven Pinker (and other supporters of sociobiology) is a big fan of Chagnon.

Fry also shared a link to an interview with Phillip Dwyer, author of The Dark Angels of Our Nature, which raises many of the objections that Ferguson did in his Pinker's List and adds a few more. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Matthew Yglesias supports the career of anti-Black racist political operative Razib Khan

I've noted before the association between rightwing political operative anti-Black racist Razib Khan and mainstream "centrist" Matthew Yglesias before

Recently Khan circulated a letter condemning Scientific American because he didn't like a Black woman writing that E. O. Wilson was maybe a racist.

As it turned out, Wilson was even more racist than many of us realized.

Khan got a bunch of the usual clueless dopes in the science world to join in his campaign, and when some of them finally got clued into Khan's 20+ years as a promoter of the extremist racist "science" of Wilson's pal J. Phillippe Rushton, they thought better of their support for Razib Khan.

But Matthew Yglesias thought their dismay over Khan's anti-Black racism was doing harm to a "healthy intellectual climate" as he sarcastically tweeted.

But although Khan retweets Yglesias regularly, I never saw Yglesias retweeting Khan.

Until now.

He includes a link to Khan's Substack.

Murder rates broken out by gender can be found all over the Internet - if that's an issue Yglesias really wanted to talk about. He didn't need to rely on Razib Khan for the information. But yet, for some reason, Yglesias had to use his respectable mainstream platform to give one of the main followers of J. Phillippe Rushton greater credibility. 

Of course Steven Pinker has been promoting Khan for close to 20 years, and there are a bunch of other mainstream media people who promote Khan.

The next time a creep like Andrew Sullivan claims that systemic racism is a thing of the past, point out that many mainstream media people, including Matthew Yglesias, gladly support the career of extremist anti-Black racist Razib Khan.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The endless hypocrisy of Steven Pinker

The endless hypocrisy of Steven Pinker - to whine about science being politicized while being a long-time ally of the racist right, from Steve Sailer to - currently - the appalling Razib Khan - both of whom are financial beneficiaries of Holocaust denier and some time Republican politician Ron Unz.

Pinker often relies on his fanboys, like Michael Shermer and Jerry Coyne to present his views, which he did again recently, when he complained about Science magazine via Coyne.

In his letter, Pinker wrote:
Science magazine appears to have adopted wokeism as its official editorial policy and the only kind of opinion that may be expressed in the magazine. An example is the recent special section on the underrepresentation of African Americans among physics majors, graduate students, and faculty members. This situation is lamentable and worthy of understanding. But the six articles in the issue assume as dogma that the underrepresentation is caused by “white privilege”: that “the dominant culture has discouraged diversity,” and “white people use their membership in a dominant group to assert political, cultural, and economic power over those outside that group.” Though Science is ordinarily committed to open debate on scientific controversies, no disagreements with this conspiracy theory were expressed. And though the journal is supposedly committed to empirical tests, no data were presented that might speak to alternative explanations, such as that the cause of the under-representation lies in the pipeline of prepared and interested students. If we want to increase the number of African Americans in physics, it matters a great deal whether we should try to fix the nation’s high schools or accuse physics professors of white supremacy. Yet Science magazine has decided, without debate or data, to advocate the latter.
Most interesting to me was this part:
And though the journal is supposedly committed to empirical tests, no data were presented that might speak to alternative explanations, such as that the cause of the under-representation lies in the pipeline of prepared and interested students.
Pinker is very aware of alternative explanations for Black American under-representation in science, because he has been promoting the career of Razib Khan, for two decades, as recently as October 2021

The main focus of Razib Khan's career is to represent Black people, especially Black Americans as essentially separate from the rest of humanity. Much like his early influence, J. P. Rushton did.

Pinker avoids mentioning the race pseudoscience explanation directly, probably because that would link Pinker too obviously to what he has been indirectly - but indisputably - promoting for twenty years. 

Steve Sailer, a steadfast supporter of Pinker even ten years after Pinker stopped mentioning Sailer in public, has wondered at Pinker's ability to hold the same racist views as James Watson without suffering a career set-back:
How does Pinker avoid getting in trouble like DNA researcher James D. Watson or Pinker’s friend Larry Summers, former president of Harvard until he gave a Pinkerian talk on sex differences in IQ? I’m not sure, exactly. Perhaps it’s that the lithe, long-haired, soft-spoken Pinker seems like the archetype of the liberal college professor.
If anybody would know about Pinker's actual views on race, it would be Steve Sailer, who is very confident he has been a big influence on Pinker.

But for once I agree with Sailer - it is surprising that Pinker has gotten away with promoting race pseudoscience for so long with almost no impact on his career as celebrity intellectual. 

The likely answer - the media is too lazy and stupid and respectful of celebrity intellectuals.

The media's attitude towards Pinker's hiding-in-plain-sight pattern of promoting race pseudoscience is pretty well summarized by an email exchange I had with Gideon Lewis-Kraus who wrote:
If you have emails between Pinker and Sailer, I will gladly review them... 

With the implication that anything less than direct correspondence is not worth talking about.

That's why I was so amazed when, last autumn, the Guardian, once seen publishing dreamy love letters to Pinker's twinkling blue eyes and silver hair, published an interview in which Pinker was asked about his connection to Steve Sailer, for the first time, as far as I am able to discover, in twelve years:

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.
Pinker has expressed regret for his connection to Jeffrey Epstein. And this Guardian interview could have been his chance to express regret for promoting Sailer, but instead he denied promoting Sailer at all, preferring to mischaracterize his connection to Sailer as mere "guilt by association" as if Pinker simply bumped into Sailer at a student pageant at a school where they both had kids enrolled, and some dastardly woke person took their photo together and published it.

And of course Pinker would not express regret for his promotion of the career of Razib Khan, since he's continued to do it. Razib Khan's view is that Black Americans are innately morally and intellectually inferior, a position revealed most recently in his review of Charles Murray's latest book "Facing Reality." 

Khan presents the hereditarian view he shares with Murray as no big deal:
At a mere 168 pages, it is considerably shorter than the 500-plus pages of Murray’s previous book, Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class. That’s because there are only two big ideas being forwarded: that different races in America “have different violent crime rates and different means and distributions of cognitive ability.” That’s it. Though there is more reasoning and analysis between the covers, the whole work rests on these two pillars.
"That's it." Two pillars: 1. "races" in America have different violent crime rates and 2. "races" have different cognitive ability.

This appears early on in the review. Everything Khan writes after this is based on the assumption of a biological reality of "race" and how it creates differences in violent crime rates and cognitive ability - Khan especially focuses on the race differences of being a Black American:
But why read a book on this topic when you can discover these facts within a few minutes? 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.
The presumption of innate Black inferiority makes everything so simple. And Razib Khan likes simple, which is why he once suggested we "remove all the history we take for granted" in our understanding of race in America.
So I have to take issue when The New York Times posts articles with headlines such as White? Black? A Murky Distinction Grows Still Murkier. What genetics is showing is that in fact white Americans are shockingly European to an incredibly high degree for a population with roots on this continent for 400 years. If we removed all the history that we take for granted we’d be amazed that the indigenous peoples had so little demographic impact, and, that the larger numbers of people of partial African ancestry did not move into the general “white” population. 
The mystery of why "people of partial African ancestry did not move into the general white population" is solved by knowledge of the history of slavery and miscegenation laws. The only reason you would suggest removing all the history, the key to understanding the issue, is either because you're an idiot or you have a racist agenda.

To see how much Khan still denies Black history, check out this paragraph from the Quillette review:
For instance, to understand “white flight” in the 1960s and 1970s, all you need is to know that American culture and history has always been bathed in systematic racism and white supremacy. Never mind the massive crime wave of the late 1960s and 1970s that might have driven white residents out of dangerous neighborhoods in search of safety. 
Khan seeks to disconnect the "massive crime wave" from the historical record - the empirical facts - that demonstrate that yes indeed, "American culture and history has always been bathed in systemic racism and white supremacy." 

He's able to "connect the dots" that he thinks prove biology-based Black inferiority but not the dots from systemic racism to poverty to crime.

Steven Pinker did not address Khan's blatantly racist views when Khan interviewed him last October, a few months after Khan published his review in Quillette. 

Steven Pinker is a fan of Quillette, which is such a booster of race pseudoscience that its articles on race are reprinted by the white supremacist American Renaissance.

Khan's view of race is an extremist one, promoted by the (Koch-funded) American Renaissance and VDARE. How could Pinker possibly ignore something so extreme? 

What other reason can there be, except because Pinker agrees with Khan?

Pinker reveals his agreement with Khan in the interview:
Yeah, it's interesting that a number of the Catholic abuses of the scientific and public intellectual reasoning arena that I documented in "The Blank Slate" in '02 all of the elements of what we now call cancel culture, there were there were threads of it then going back even to the 70s in the reaction to E.O Wilson's, sociobiology...
The reaction to Wilson's sociobiology was because of its racist implications. Here Pinker seeks to equate that reaction with religion-based, anti-science irrationality.

We know now exactly how racist Wilson was, thanks to Wilson's exchange of letters with hardcore racist J. P. Rushton - and since it is correspondence, it is evidence that even Gideon Lewis-Kraus would find significant

But Steven Pinker tries to pass it off as no big deal, and then claims that using Wilson's correspondence - which Wilson chose to make available to researchers - is "slander."

The sociobiology/race pseudoscience view of Black Americans as a "race" more innately violent and having lesser cognitive ability than other races does not conflict with Pinker's suggested alternative to Science magazine's alleged wokeness:
"though the journal is supposedly committed to empirical tests, no data were presented that might speak to alternative explanations, such as that the cause of the under-representation lies in the pipeline of prepared and interested students..."
The "pipeline of prepared and interested students" could be explained by the sociobiology view, that Black American students are unprepared and uninterested in physics because they genetically lack the cognitive ability to become prepared enough, and are not interested in science due to their essential nature. 

When you already believe that racism and sexism are no big deal, all roads lead to sociobiology. Including for the pipeline problem.

Pinker mentions a possible source of the pipeline problem:

 ...it matters a great deal whether we should try to fix the nation’s high schools or accuse physics professors of white supremacy. Yet Science magazine has decided, without debate or data, to advocate the latter.

So what exactly is wrong with the nation's high schools? Well as the The Century Foundation study on the issue notes:
Inequality begins in childhood: The United States is underfunding our public schools by nearly $150 billion annually, robbing millions of children—predominantly minority and low-income children—of the opportunity to succeed.
So why is it that public schools for minority and low-income children - often in the same category - are underfunded? Could it have something to do with systemic racism?

Well not according to Steven Pinker, he's already ruled out systemic racism as "dogma" -
 But the six articles in the issue assume as dogma that the underrepresentation is caused by “white privilege”: that “the dominant culture has discouraged diversity,” and “white people use their membership in a dominant group to assert political, cultural, and economic power over those outside that group.” 
So if it isn't systemic racism what's left? If the legacy of slavery, followed by anti-Black terrorism (like Tulsa), and Jim Crow and the unequal distribution of government grants and funding for schools and redlining and the home appraisal gap, etc etc etc.  - "all the history that we take for granted" - are ruled out, what is left to explain Black failure to thrive?

Steven Pinker's long-time ally, Razib Khan, has the answer - genetic Black inferiority. They have failed to thrive because they are born that way. That's what Khan means by "connecting the dots."

Khan revealed his contempt, for those who think history holds the key to Black American failure to thrive, in his interview with yet one more IDW-related media outlet:

Ultimately like I know people in Academia who talk about like systemic racism and prejudice and all this stuff, I just say like it's really easy, all you need to do is minorities that you think should have these jobs, you guys just need to like draw straws and one out of five of you resign and free up the positions, hire somebody of color, and we're all good, right, it's a simple thing to do, but they never do it, do they? They don't make the hard decision, I told an acquaintance of mine who wanted to talk to me about racism and I just got sick of it, and I was just like, well what you need to do is give your son's inheritance to a Black family. If you're talking about wealth and equality right now, he needs to be poor, and make his own way, and they need to have money, so just do it. And the person flipped out at me. Cause they just wanted to talk. And I'm just not super interested in talking. I am a non-white person. I don't need to be talked to about racism all the time. It's not interesting to me.

"give your son's inheritance to a Black family"

Problem solved. No big deal. Now don't bother Razib Khan with talk about racism. It's not interesting to him.

The alternative to "wokeness" is a vicious, right-wing, biology-is-destiny point of view with serious political ramifications, or as Khan said in his Quillette review: 
(Murray's) thesis is that American society faces disaster if it is not prepared to confront certain politically uncomfortable facts about race.
And if people like Murray had their way (Murray is also funded by Koch via AEI), it would be perfectly legal to discriminate in employment, on the basis of race.

But sure, let's listen to Steven Pinker and his rightwing goons whine about how politicized Science magazine is.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Resources from anthropologist R. Brian Ferguson

Anthropologist R. Brian Ferguson
Although many come to this site to read about the latest IDW/race pseudo-science idiocies, quite a few have visited to check out my interview with anthropologist R. Brian Ferguson, Global Urban Studies/Urban Systems Ph.D., Division of Global Affairs, Sociology and Anthropology, International Institute for Peace at Rutgers University.

Check out Ferguson's site at https://www.rbrianferguson.com

The interview is available in audio and transcript formats. The post for the interview also includes links to many excellent resources.

I heard from Ferguson recently that he will be publishing a new book this year. In 2021 he published Masculinity and War - this excellent paper includes a refutation of the evolutionary psychology approach to the issue - such refutations are always welcome here at Pinkerite. 

(Check out biologist PZ Myer's efficient and effective refutation of the entire evolutionary psychology research strategy here.)

And Ferguson pointed me to an excellent YouTube video, by Lewis Waller, entitled Steven Pinker is WRONG about the decline of violence - all critiques of the claims of Steven Pinker are very much welcome here at Pinkerite.

Ferguson also introduced me to the work of Douglas Fry, Professor & Chair Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at the School of Health and Human Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Fry's website is here. Both he and Ferguson are mentioned in the Lewis Waller video.

Friday, April 29, 2022

O my prophetic soul

So a couple of weeks ago, when Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter was still only a strong possibility, I speculated that once Musk took over, people like professional transphobe, Quillette contributing editor Colin Wright would be free to say hateful things without occasionally being called out for it. 

So yesterday Elon Musk retweeted a graphic created by... Colin Wright. 

Clearly Musk is a friend of the right-wing IDW Quillette ideology.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Steven Pinker defends E. O. Wilson, claims calling Wilson a racist, in print, is "slander"

Michael Shermer wrote a post for his Substack to defend the indisputably racist E.O. Wilson, against the charge of racism, and Steven Pinker tweeted in support of Shermer - of course.

The evidence for Wilson's racism isn't about "spaces" or "thoughts" - it is based on Wilson's encouragement of racist J. P. Rushton.

As an author of the r/K model, one would have expected Wilson to have been outraged at Rushton’s proposal, which implied, as many nineteenth-century scientists did, that human “races” constituted different species—a view no reputable biologist, including Wilson, would have publicly defended. But Wilson immediately dashed off a letter to Rushton applauding his application of the r/K model as “one of the most original and interesting [ideas] I’ve ever encountered in psychology,” adding that the work was “courageous.” “In this country the whole issue would be clouded by personal charges of racism to the point that rational discussion would be almost impossible,” he wrote, urging Rushton to “press ahead!”


...one is bound to ask what, precisely, Wilson found so “important” or “brilliant” about an argument that, in essence, Black people have evolved to breed more and be less intelligent than white? Rushton, unabashed by public criticism, was unafraid to promote ideas that Wilson would not. But Wilson’s desire to see those ideas advanced is repeatedly made clear in his support for his colleague, to the extent that he even overlooked an obvious misapplication of his own theory.

It is clear that Wilson thought Rushton's conviction, that Black people are a separate species from other "races," was not a misuse of the Wilson's r/K concept, but rather a "breakthrough in psychology."

You have to wonder if Steven Pinker believes racism exists at all. He certainly never disavowed hardcore racist Steve Sailer, whose career Pinker promoted, in spite of an apparent public break with Sailer in 2011.

And Pinker continues to promote the career of Razib Khan, who is a long-time admirer of Rushton and who wrote in Quillette in the past year that Black Americans are an existential threat to the United States because of their peculiar racial difference from the rest of humanity.

In the Pinker tweet above, Pinker is promoting a claim by Michael Shermer that Wilson was not a racist.

  But Michael Shermer is a racist who does not believe that Ruston was a racist.

Some excellent responses by David Sepkokski on Twitter. Pinker's tweet doesn't show in my screen cap of Sepkoski's retweet because like so many other people, I am blocked by Pinker.

Sepkoski is co-author of one of two articles published fairly recently that highlight the fact that the papers that Wilson himself left for posterity demonstrate how racist E. O. Wilson was.

The evidence makes it clear Wilson took great delight in the racist speculations of J. P. Rushton, which used Wilson's own work as an inspiration. 

And the evidence also shows that Wilson understood just exactly how racist Rushton's work was. 

Only a promoter of race pseudoscience like Steve Pinker could be deliberately obtuse enough - or shameless enough - to claim this is no big deal. 


After I posted this on my blog, I saw that hardcore professional racist Steve Sailer jumped in to defend his buddy Steven Pinker, and his hero, E. O. Wilson. It's odd how much racists love Wilson and Pinker. 

I couldn't see the original tweets from Sailer of course, because, like Pinker, Sailer blocked me.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Twitter versus professional rightwing hate-monger Colin M. Wright

There's been a lot of talk about Twitter lately and creepo Elon Musk's desire to devour it whole

If right-wing plutocrat Musk takes over Twitter, we will remember fondly the days when Twitter occasionally dinged hate-mongers like Quillette contributing editor Colin M. Wright.

I don't remember which of Colin Wright's almost infinite number of transphobic tweets I reported. It has to be over a month ago since I did, I've hardly been doing any Pinkerite-related things in the past month.

Although Wright's focus is primarily demonizing a tiny minority of human beings he sometimes dabbles in the CRT grift invented by slimeball Chrisopher Rufo. That got Trump to retweet him.

As I said a few months ago, Colin M.Wright, like Razib Khan, is a sad case - a background in science, but he makes a living as right-wing political operative.

But I just found out that Colin M. Wright has four entries in the Retraction Watch Database.

So maybe that's why he chose to make a career out of being a Trumpist hate-monger - maybe he was just no damn good as a scientist.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Why Biology is not Destiny

Great review of Kathryn Paige Harden's book "The Genetic Lottery" in the New York Review of Books: Why Biology is not Destiny by M.W. Feldman and Jessica Riskin.

You can tell Harden is a complete hereditarian, in spite of her denial, by the way rightwing racist political operative Razib Khan likes to promote her work.

The entire piece is what good science writing should be, unlike the garbage written by Steve Sailer (and promoted by Steven Pinker) or the ineptitude of Khan. It holds together cohesively by playing off the "frog boiling" metaphor used by Harden herself. 

It begins:

You must know the parable about the frog that sits in a pot of water being gradually heated, allowing itself to be boiled alive: because the change happens gradually, it never realizes it should leap out. Reading Kathryn Paige Harden’s book The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality is a similar experience, as the author ingenuously points out. “Like a frog being slowly boiled alive,” she observes, readers follow her argument “from an uncontroversial premise to a highly controversial one.”


Harden is a dedicated frog boiler. She introduces many comfortably room-temperature premises: measurement is essential to science; people differ genetically; genes cause conditions such as deafness; a recipe for lemon chicken produces variable results but never leads to chocolate-chip cookies. Lulled to complacency by such anodyne and often homey observations, we soon find ourselves in a rolling boil of controversial claims: genes make you more or less intelligent, wealthier or poorer; every kind of inequality has a genetic basis.

And concludes:

Back finally to frog boiling: this practice, it turns out, is directly, not just metaphorically, related to arguments for a biological hierarchy of intelligence. The first experiments testing the reflexes of frogs in gradually heated water took place in the mid-nineteenth century, around the same time as the first theories of the biological basis of intelligence. Experimenters also lobotomized frogs, severed their spinal cords, heated and chilled their brains, and subjected them to strychnine poisoning, among other forms of torture, to see how these affected their reflex responses. Spencer cited these experiments in support of his theory that intelligence arose by infinitesimal degrees from the rudimentary reflexes of lower animals, through higher animals, “the inferior human races,” “the villager,” and “the man of ordinary education,” to “the advanced man of science”—i.e., Spencer himself.

Harden was right to compare her reasoning to the reasoning of the frog boilers. Both the logic and the experimental program of frog boiling exemplify the essentialist tradition in which she is a participant. But the theory doesn’t hold up in experiments: the frog, if intact and in a vessel it can escape, will actually jump out rather than be boiled alive. Our message to you, reader, is accordingly simple: jump out.

Beautiful literary styling combined with excellent logic and science points unencumbered by technical terms that only statisticians can understand:

Among other phenotypes associated with “educational attainment” for which Harden cites genome studies are “grit,” “growth mindset,” “intellectual curiosity,” “mastery orientation,” “self-concept,” “test motivation,” and especially “a trait called Openness to Experience, which captures being curious, eager to learn, and open to novel experiences.” Harden doesn’t reveal just who calls this important trait “Openness to Experience” or how they measure it. Surely, there must be disagreement among researchers about what constitutes this phenotype or others in the list, such as “grit.” More so, at any rate, than about what constitutes macular degeneration.

Explaining how social scientists make genome-wide association studies and polygenic scores, Harden writes:

Correlations between individual SNPs and a phenotype are estimated in a “Discovery GWAS” with a large sample size…. Then, a new person’s DNA is measured. The number of minor alleles (0, 1, or 2) in this individual’s genome is counted for each SNP, and this number is weighted by the GWAS estimate of the correlation between the SNP and the phenotype, yielding a polygenic index.

This alphabet soup in the passive voice implies that no one actively does all this estimating, measuring, counting, weighting, correlating—or that these are such technical processes that any human presence in them is irrelevant. But people are making interpretive decisions at every stage: how to define a phenotype and select people to represent it, how to count these people, which single-nucleotide polymorphisms to consider, how to weight and aggregate them. Interpretive decisions are of course essential to all science, but here there are a great many opinions dressed up in facts’ clothing. 

Including this fascinating bit, a possible explanation for why so many find "heritability" so hard to express in plain language and always resort to statistics-talk:

The confusion between correlation and causation in fact first arose in connection with arguments for the biological, hereditary basis of intelligence. The mathematical concept of correlation—a measure of the degree to which two variables are associated—came into existence as a linchpin of the conjoined sciences of statistics and eugenics in the 1880s. Galton developed fundamental concepts of statistics, including correlation, deviation, and regression, to provide the mathematical basis for a new “science of improving stock,” for which he coined the term “eugenics.” This mathematics of heredity, Galton believed, revealed evolutionary patterns in “human qualities and faculties”—for example that they naturally followed a “normal distribution,” or bell-shaped curve.

And most important to the mission of this blog, Harden's support for race pseudoscience, which makes her work the darling of racists, which is either sneaky or feckless, depending on how deliberate Harden's weasel words are:

Having distinguished genetic ancestry from race, however, Harden continually elides the two, as when she says that genomic research has so far been based almost entirely on “people whose recent genetic ancestry is exclusively European and who are overwhelmingly likely to identify as White.” Harden mentions this fact about genomic research in order to explain that her claims about the genetic basis of differences in intelligence apply only to differences among white-identifying people rather than to differences between whites as a group and people of other racial identities.

Here again Harden echoes her predecessors: Galton wrote in 1869, “The range of mental power between—I will not say the highest Caucasian and the lowest savage—but between the greatest and least of English intellects, is enormous.” Social class, as much as race, provided the focus of Galton’s eugenic writings; he too argued for an innate biological hierarchy of intelligence among white people. Harden’s assertion that “genetics can be causes of stratification in society” accords well with Galton’s view that social classes were based in biology.

Regarding race, Harden’s message is to relax: She has nothing to say about genetics and intelligence in nonwhite people, so how can her argument have racist implications? Moreover, she writes that the genome studies of white people will likely not be “portable” to other races, which will differ in frequencies and co-occurrences of genetic variants, precluding interracial comparisons based on such studies. What happened to the idea that races aren’t natural kinds? Once again Harden elides the crucial distinction between genetic populations and races when she writes that genome studies will probably not apply across “genetic ancestries or socially defined races.” Her use of italics seems to emphasize a distinction between ancestry and race, yet she continually treats them as equivalent, offering no explanation for why race would pose a significant barrier to applying genome study results across populations defined by genetic ancestry.

I had hoped that Adam Rutherford or Eric Turkheimer would have written this kind of response but wonder if their affection for Harden has prevented them from doing so. I understand they are both busy but the book was published last September.

When I saw this review I tried to share it with Harden on Twitter, only to discover she had blocked me, probably for disagreeing with her claim she's not an hereditarian. I have found that blocking is the standard way that hereditarians deal with critics.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Jon Stewart vs. Andrew Sullivan and Laura Ingraham

I expressed admiration last week for a recent Jon Stewart piece on racism. Then I found out a little later about his confrontation with Andrew "Bell Curve" Sullivan, possibly on the same episode:

This is a beautiful piece of work. My only quibble is that Stewart let Sullivan off without getting him to admit what he really believes. 

Stewart did push back on Sullivan's standard right-wing talking point, that the reason Black people are worse-off economically, as a group, is because of "black culture." 

Sullivan must have been as shocked as Steven Pinker was, when someone from the Guardian asked Pinker about his friendly relationship with racist extremist Steve Sailer. It would be great if Stewart could get Pinker on his show, but if Pinker saw the firm, if relatively gentle way Stewart handled Sullivan, Pinker might decide against it. Pinker is even more accustomed to deference from the media than Andrew Sullivan.

But since Sullivan is not normally confronted on his race beliefs, on video yet, he was extremely aggrieved by this conversation, and whined about it like a whiny biznatch.

According to The Wrap:

Jon Stewart is firing back at conservative political commentator Andrew Sullivan’s claims that he was “ambushed” by the comedian on Apple TV+’s “The Problem with Jon Stewart” last week.

In a lengthy Substack post on Friday, Sullivan accused Stewart and the other guests on the show of “unprofessionally” making him appear racist during their conversation, which he chalked up to them pushing “woke” narratives.

However, Stewart wasn’t having it. He swiftly issued a response on Twitter, writing: “Nonsense ⁦@sullydish⁩. Our booker handled this last minute ask impeccably. Mr Sullivan was told, texted and emailed a detailed account of who was on the program, the content and intent of the discussion.”

Bari Weiss, or to be more exact, her girlfriend Nellie Bowles, defended Sullivan.

Stewart had a few words for her too, which gave me a chance to provide a link to the video. At this rate even the usually clueless mainstream media will eventually become fully aware of Sullivan's support for race pseudoscience.

But will Sullivan's other pals, like members of the IDW or his fellow members of the board of advisors of FAIR (which includes former Fox News star Megyn Kelly) come to Sullivan's defense? 

Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Good work Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart, whom I once adored, had lately been getting one my nerves, ever since he pushed the Wuhan lab conspiracy. More recently, his defense of Rogan and big fossil.

But this is a good piece of work. Kudos.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Watch Amber Ruffin

I've had a hard time lately focusing on Steven Pinker, the Intellectual Dark Web and Race Science thanks to Vladimir Putin being an evil murderous dictator and imperialist.

But I wanted to mention how great Amber Ruffin is. I discovered Ruffin recently (what took me so long?) and I especially love her "How Did We Get Here?" series.

Subscribe to her channel here.

Monday, February 21, 2022

John Oliver vs. CRT Panic

Excellent episode of John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" in which he discusses the end-goal of the CRT panic, created out of thin air by Koch employee and Trump supporter Christopher Rufo.

Rufo is a former member of the Koch-connected and race pseudoscience-friendly FAIR board of advisors.

I have to do an update on FAIR soon because I think it's now even further right-wing than ever. They've added nuclear energy shill Michael Shellenberger and yet another Quillette author, Jacob Mchangama.

I think the presence of so many Quillette authors (and Quillette editor Jon Kay) and race pseudoscience promoters Andrew Sullivan, Steven Pinker and Michael Shermer is a signal that the purpose of FAIR and its CRT panic is not only the standard right-wing scheme to force the US government to fund religious schools via "school choice."

Race pseudoscience, which claims Black Americans are innately, genetically inferior - and therefore as stated in a Quillette review by Razib Khan - an existential threat to America - cannot survive if Black American history is well-known. The reason Black Americans have not thrived is due to the legacy of slavery itself, plus Jim Crow, plus redlining, plus terrorism like the Tulsa massacre, etc etc. The attempt to erase Black history is the attempt to declare that Black American failure to thrive is the result of bad genes.

And that's why FAIR is not only against CRT, it is against teaching Black history, period, especially the 1619 project.

Michael Shermer, an official member of the "Intellectual Dark Web" who has been a member of the FAIR board of advisors since the very beginning of the organization, is very much a supporter of race pseudoscience as I discussed in the post Michael Shermer and Equalitarianism and the White Citizens' Councils. He also likes to call critics of Steven Pinker "cockroaches." He's also an admirer of pedophila apologist Camille Paglia.

Mary Grabar, a fellow at the right-wing Alexander Hamilton Institute, has written an essay praising Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) for introducing the Saving American History Act of 2020, “a bill that would prohibit the use of federal funds to teach the 1619 Project by K-12 schools or school districts.” This is the right-wing version of “cancel culture,” except it adds government repression to the mix, making it far worse.

Grabar endorses censorship because she dismisses the idea that teachers are competent professionals who can be trusted to analyze complex concepts: “few teachers have the ability or the time to teach beyond the materials given to them.”

Grabar compares the 1619 Project to Howard Zinn, about whom she wrote a book called Debunking Howard Zinn because “Howard Zinn was bad–a communist, a corrupt teacher, a fraudulent historian, and an anti-American agitator.”

Like the 1619 Project, legislators have tried to ban Zinn from schools. Grabar complains that “When in 2017 Arkansas State representative Kim Hendren, introduced a bill to prohibit the use of Zinn’s book in state-funded classrooms,” the Zinn Education Project “framed the attempt as censorship.” Yes, how shocking, to describe legislation literally banning a book from public school as censorship.

Funny how often "free speech" advocates on the right end up supporting censorship.

Friday, February 11, 2022

I am Catwoman

Eartha Kitt as Catwoman

Someone gave me a heads-up recently that Emil O W "ow I am in contempt of court" Kirkegaard, also described by comedian Stewart Lee as "weird far-right paedophilia apologist called Emil" was attacking me again.

There were two good things about that. 

First, it increased the hits to this website, which uses Google ads to garner a small income. 

Google doesn't care whether those who come to this site are hate-reading it or not, it all counts towards hits, which counts towards payment. And thanks to Kirkegaard, my site metrics showed a 50% bump in site visits.

Second, and even better, was that Kirkegaard tweeted to both Claire Lehmann and Charles Murray, letting them know that I write about them on this blog. 

Which gave me a chance to discuss Kirkegaard's relationships with Lehmann and Murray. I've blogged about both of them being friendly with Kirkegaard. 

To be honest I thought for sure that Kirkegaard is closer to Charles Murray than to Claire Lehmann. But that's based on tweets, who knows what's going on at Quillette conferences or on Quillette Zoom calls. 

So I was surprised when Lehmann popped up, before Murray (who didn't show at all,) within the hour of Kirkegaard attacking me as "Catlady."

Unfortunately, although Kirkegaard called on his racist friends for backup, when I began to ask him specific questions about his relationship with Lehmann, he scampered away and then blocked my account.

Now when I started Pinkerite, I knew I was signing up for encounters with bad people. Racists are horrible. You can't put anything past racists. Racists have no problem killing children

And I am at war, even if only a war of words with racists. And war is hell.

So I'm surprised that the worst thing Kirkegaard calls me, at least in public, is "Catlady." It's a typically misogynist term, but there are way worse things to be called. And to be honest, although I love cats, I currently do not own any.

Besides, I'd rather be called Catwoman.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Razib Khan & Matt Yglesias, selling out and Substacking

After all this talk of one of Razib Khan's biggest "science" influences, the racist J. Phillippe Rushton, and in view of Khan's public agreement with racist Charles Murray that Black Americans are an existential threat, I had a cynical thought about Razib Khan.

I thought he might suddenly find a way to seem friendly to a Black American in an attempt to deflect from the notice recently given to his two-decade long career of smearing Black Americans as sub-human, based on the racist claims of Rushton and Murray.

Like clockwork, he's posted, an interview with a "black" American on his Substack.

I guess capitalizing the word Black would be a step too woke for whoever is funding Khan now.

Speaking of funding, Khan and his buddy, Matthew Yglesias were recently joking about "selling out."

According to Khan's Unz column in 2013, he's "interacted with Matt Yglesias as early as 2003."

Khan, of course, has already made it clear he has no ethics or integrity.

But since it's likely he and Yglesias are both on the plutocrat payroll, what does "selling out" mean in this context? Betraying the interests of the plutocrats?

I mean, what do Razib Khan and Matthew Yglesias do for a living, other than express their unoriginal, monotonous, conservative opinions all day long?

The fact that they both have Substacks is one reason why I suspect Substack is an astroturfing scam, similar to the money-laundering scheme that Saul Goodman created for Walter White in "Breaking Bad." 

If you saw "Breaking Bad" you know what I'm talking about: Walt's son created a crowdfunding web site savewalterwhite.com and a little later Goodman got a hacker to create thousands of fake accounts to make it look like regular people all over the world were sending money in. But it was coming from one very rich guy.

What would stop the people running Substack from doing the same thing? Does anybody audit Substack accounts to make sure they are attached to real human beings? 

We know that some Substack authors got paid money upfront by Substack itself, including Yglesia.

We know that the Right is fond of astroturfing and ratfucking

Why couldn't Substack be one more method to financially support those who spout right-wing talking points and race pseudoscience? 

Razib Khan claims to have thousands of Substack subscribers. I find that hard to believe. He's not well-known outside of those of us who are very online and he's a terrible writer.

On top of that, he doesn't hype race pseudoscience often, directly, on his Substack, so he doesn't really offer much for his most reliable audience, racists. He seems to reserve his most racist opinions for Quillette.

And some of his content is not at all scientific, but rather political, like interviewing Megan McArdle

If you want to know the opinions of "Koch-trained conservative activist", Ayn Rand fan, and Washington Post op-ed columnist Meghan McArdle, you don't have to pay a race pseudoscience-monger to hear them - McArdle's opinions are everywhere either for free, or with a subscription to something with actual worthwhile content like the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, for people who want actual science, rather than Khan's occasionally science-adjacent ramblings, there is biologist P. Z. Myers, who offers science content, the same offered in a university, for free.

To get some perspective on the cost of subscribing to Khan's Substack, consider that the Washington Post is offering a first-time subscription of $25 a year. After that it bumps up to $100 a year. Now $100 a year is more than $79 a year, but subscribing to Khan's Substack is like getting a tiny portion of the Washington Post, the equivalent of only Meghan McArdle's column plus some badly-written science pieces, all resting on a race pseudoscience belief-system that occasionally erupts, as when Khan defended racist E. O. Wilson

So who are these people willing to pay a minimum of $79 a year for content from Razib Khan when they could get much better content at a better rate or even for free, all over the Internet?

Yglesias' Substack, named with refreshing honesty, Slow Boring, is a minimum of $80 a year. In contrast to Khan's more generous way with free content, almost all of Slow Boring is behind a paywall. And half the content is posted by someone identified as "incumbent intern" and "incoming freshman at Yale," Milan Singh.

So for a mere 80% of the cost of a subscription to the Washington Post, you can get Matt Yglesias' center-right opinions (also available for free on Twitter or with a Post subscription) plus chatter from Yglesias' subscribers, posted by someone who just graduated from high school.

The best part of the possible Substack scheme would be that the favored Substackers wouldn't even have to know that most of their subscriber accounts are fake. Like Walter White, Jr. they might think their site (and their views) suddenly achieved grassroots popularity for no apparent reason.

The fact that Lulu Cheng Meservey, the vice president of communications for Substack is a member of Razib Khan's clubhouse as well as a member of the clubhouse of the anti-CRT grifting, IDW-riddled, far-right leaning FAIR, does not help dissuade me from the suspicion that Substack is simply a high-tech Donor's Trust.

Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie has a Thiel connection. Thiel was an investor in PandoDaily, which McKenzie worked for.

Another Substack co-founder, Chris Best, appeared on a podcast for the race pseudoscience promoting, Thiel-funded Quillette. According to a description of the interview on Padverb, "Tech entrepreneur Chris Best talks about Substack, his self-publishing platform that is attracting journalists like Andrew Sullivan, Jesse Singal and Jen Gerson.
The Substack gang apparently has no problem with promoters of race pseudoscience, at the very least.

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