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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!

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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.

UPDATE: My suspicions about the right-leaning racism-friendly orientation of the Substack founders and funders received a boost from Jonathan M. Katz.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Jerry Coyne learns who J. Phillippe Rushton was, Kathryn Paige Harden denies being an hereditarian, E. O. Wilson was a racist

Jerry Coyne, Steve Pinker's #1 fanboy and a firm supporter of racist Razib Khan should have some idea of the history of race pseudoscience. I recently demonstrated how much Khan's views on race - which continue to this day -  are influenced by J. Phillippe Rushton

Coyne got around to responding to the Farina/Gibbons article on Wilson's support for the career of Rushton, which I mentioned recently. In his blog post Coyne reveals the astounding depths of his ignorance.


But this new article... has substantial documentation, based largely on Wilson’s association with and promotion of the work of J. Phillippe Rushton, a Canadian psychologist and author who apparently spent much of his life trying to show that there were racial hierarchies based on IQ, with, of course, black people below white. It would not be too strong to call the man an obsessive racist. I had never heard of the guy before the two authors found evidence of Wilson’s association with Rushton, but since then I’ve read more about it and also heard from two people who knew Rushton.

Imagine aligning with Razib Khan and yet somehow remaining so ignorant of his history.

But there will always be people like Greg Mayer, whose addendum Coyne includes in his post. Mayer attempts to minimize Wilson's racism by portraying him as just a poor martyr, the way race pseudoscience proponents like to portray themselves:
But the key context for Wilson’s support of Rushton is Wilson’s own experience with attempts to silence him and brand him a racist dating back to the publication of Sociobiology in 1975. Science for the People– the publisher of F&G’s piece– was a prominent antagonist of Wilson at that time and, evidently, to this very day. Wilson, as quoted by F&G, saw this as a matter of academic freedom. 
It's clear that the reason Wilson was such a supporter of Rushton was because he agreed with him. 

And it should be no surprise. Sociobiology is the attempt to justify current human hierarchies as the result of nature. So there is no non-racist sociobiology.

The New York Review of Books just published another article on Wilson's connection to Rushton, Ideology as Biology by Mark Borrello and David Sepkoski. And it makes clear that racism is absolutely baked into sociobiology. My highlight.
In 1975, Wilson published a lengthy treatise on the evolution of social behavior in animals titled Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. While Wilson’s primary focus in the book was on nonhuman animals, in its final chapter he extended sociobiological analysis to humans. Here he suggested, among other things, an evolutionary and genetic basis for “the behavioral qualities that underlie the variations between cultures,” as well as for “marked racial differences in locomotion, posture, muscular tone, and emotional response that cannot be reasonably explained as the result of training or even conditioning within the womb.”
Of course I loved this section of the article. My highlight:
While authors like Herrnstein and Murray have been shunned for the fairly openly racist social policies they promoted, Wilson has remained a safe authority for such contemporary hereditarian participants in this debate as Steven Pinker, Robert Plomin, and Kathryn Paige Harden. Rather than taking Wilson’s death as an opportunity to interrogate that authority, many of his fellow scientists have chosen a kind of sainthood for him instead of a frank examination.
Harden had some problems with that passage.

I don't know about her citing Wilson, but it's pretty clear that Kathryn Paige Harden is an hereditarian

Her area of study, "behavioral genetics," is standard sociobiology, and Harden believes in hereditarianism so fervently that in her recent book she compared skeptics of her scheme to apply "genetic differences" to social policy with bank robbers:
The tacit collusion in some areas of the social sciences to ignore genetic differences…is wrong. It is wrong in the way that robbing banks is wrong. It is stealing. It’s stealing people’s time when researchers work to churn out critically flawed scientific papers, and other researchers chase false leads that go no where. It’s stealing people’s money when taxpayers and private foundations support policies premised on the shakiest of causal foundations. Failing to take genetics seriously is a scientific practice that pervasively undermines our stated goal of understanding society so that we can improve it. (p. 186)
I don't think it's an accident she is grouped with uber-evolutionary psychology promoter David Buss on their university web site.

And who would promote the career of Rushton-influenced race pseudoscience promoter Razib Khan (who recently called Harden his friend) but another hereditarian?

I find it hard to believe that when Harden posted this tweet she was ignorant of Khan's reputation as a race pseudoscience-monger, since she tweeted her support for him not long after the controversy over Khan's being rejected by the NYTimes due to his racist history.

Speaking of Razib Khan, he will probably be happy he was name-checked in the piece.

In their hurry to defend Wilson, the signatories of the letter may not have realized the past involvement of its author, science blogger Razib Khan, with alt-right and white nationalist publications like The Unz Review and the Internet forum VDARE. When some learned of Khan’s background and withdrew their names, it brought a fresh round of outrage on social media and in popular science blogs.

The article highlights exactly why E. O. Wilson can be called, without reservation, a racist:
Rushton was arguing that “r/K selection theory” applies to different human races. This model was developed in the 1960s by Wilson and the population biologist Robert MacArthur to characterize distinct evolutionary reproductive strategies among different species of animals. It distinguishes species that produce large numbers of offspring (or those that are “r-selected”) with little subsequent parental investment (for example, many insects) from those that produce few offspring (or are “K-selected”) with greater parental investment (elephants, humans). Rushton’s intent was rather to demonstrate that “behavioral genetics seems to suggest that r/K relationships are heritable” among humans, and that, furthermore, different human “races” have different strategies: specifically, that Black people are r-selected, while whites are K-selected. Moreover, he carefully explained to Wilson that this model accounted for racial disparities in IQ, postulating that Black people are not selected for high intelligence because their selection strategy favors, essentially, quantity over quality.

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!”
As the article notes:
...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.

E. O. Wilson was a racist.

Case closed. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

New Evidence of E. O. Wilson’s Intimacy with Scientific Racism

I knew that if someone did a little digging they would find plenty of evidence of E. O. Wilson's support for race pseudoscience and racist Jean-Phillipe Rushton. And fortunately someone did some digging.

In the just-published article New Evidence of E. O. Wilson's Intimacy with Scientific Racism, authors Stacy Farina and Matthew Gibbons write:

At the request of the Library of Congress, Wilson donated much of the contents of his office—letters, reprints, conference proceedings, etc.—to the national archive. The Wilson Papers comprises hundreds of boxes of documents and numerous digital recordings. We started exploring these holdings in September 2021, out of our broad interest in the Sociobiology debate. We did not intend to investigate scientific racism. However, the four folders labeled “Rushton, John Philippe” caught our attention. And in light of the controversy initiated by the Scientific American op-ed, we hope to share them and provide additional context for understanding Wilson’s legacy and the broader legacy of scientific racism.

The Farina/Gibbons article is full of new information based directly on Wilson's own correspondence:
Wilson’s aforementioned July 1990 letter to Professor Vanderwolf, while ultimately inconsequential, calls attention to a message of support for Rushton from the National Association of Scholars through their publication Academic Questions. What Wilson does not mention is that Wilson himself solicited support for Rushton from the National Association of Scholars in a letter to its founder Stephen Balch on November 6, 1989 (box 143 folder 10). On December 5, 1989, Wilson writes to Rushton, copying Balch, with the following message: “I am very heartened by the response of the National Association of Scholars (Academic Questions) to your case… Much as they like, your [Rushton’s] critics simply will not be able to convict you of racism, and there will come a day when the more honest among them will rue the day they joined this leftward revival of McCarthyism.”
Demonstrating that those who promote sociobiology and all other forms of biological reductionism: race pseudoscience, evolutionary psychology, behavioral genetics, biosocial criminology, etc have always responded to criticism of their race speculations with phrases like "leftward revival of McCarthyism."

While reading the article, I was often reminded of the relationship between Steven Pinker and Razib Khan:
Despite Wilson’s self-perceived vulnerability, he stuck his neck out for Rushton on many occasions. He behaved in many ways like a mentor. The relationship between the two men is almost heartwarming, until you start reading Rushton’s overtly racist work.
And they even mentioned Steven Pinker's favorite defense against his long-time support of race pseudoscience promoters, "guilt by association:"

Wilson and Rushton’s relationship is not a story of “guilt by association” or of honest mistakes and unfortunate missteps. It is a story about how racist ideas are woven into the scientific record with the support of powerful allies who operate in secret. While this story is extraordinary, it is not unusual.

I wrote a multi-part series criticizing Steven Pinker's inclusion of a very bad piece of work written by Steve Sailer, into the "Best of Science and Nature Writing" of 2004. Clear evidence that Pinker isn't simply associated with Steve Sailer, he promoted his career, much like E. O. Wilson promoted the career of J. P. Rushton.

Before the Farina/Gibbons article was published, I had searched for a connection between Wilson and race pseudoscience. I found an archived copy of a book published in 1991, A mirror to nature, reflections of science, scientists and society by Peter Knudtsen that contained this passage:

It would also be naive to ignore the fact that there exists a measure of scientific sympathy — for the most part publicly silent — for Rushton’s evolutionary thinking on race. Charles Lumsden sweepingly referred to this group as an “invisible collection of Rushton’s reluctant supporters.” Although it may come as a painful surprise to some in the scientific community, one of them happens to be none other than E. O. Wilson (although, to my knowledge, this significant fact has, at this writing, yet to be reported in the Canadian media). “I think Phil is an honest and capable researcher,” Wilson told me in a cautiously worded statement. “The basic reasoning by Rushton is solid evolutionary reasoning; that is, it is logically sound. If he had seen some apparent geographic variation for a non-human species — a species of sparrow or sparrow hawk, for example — no one would have batted an eye.”

This made it pretty clear that Wilson fully supported Rushton's race science and on top of that, the Canadian media decided to ignore Wilson's complicity. Much like the media today, with rare exceptions, ignores "celebrity intellectual" Steven Pinker's ongoing support of Razib Khan, and his former support of Steve Sailer. 

That's why I started this blog. Because we can't count on the lazy, feckless media to do follow-through on race pseudoscience and its supporters.

Wilson's support for Rushton also underlines the fact that there is no such thing as good sociobiology. Rushton, and Wilson on the sly, simply followed the leading premise of sociobiology to its logical conclusion. The leading premise being: the current human social hierarchy is not the result of a series of historical events and economic conditions, but rather the direct expression of evolution, written in our genes.

Wilson was responsible for the revival of sociobiology. His support for Rushton tells you all you need to know about sociobiology and other forms of biological reductionism.

As Marvin Harris observed about sociobiology in his superb Cultural Materialism, the Struggle for a Science of Culture (available here), in the chapter "Sociobiology and Biological Reductionism":

Each instance of a genuine cultural performance by a macaque or a chimpanzee is worth a journal article. But all the journals in all the libraries of the world would not suffice to render a running account of human cultural activities. 

Cultural evolution is thus responsible for creating an amount of intra-specific behavioral variation in the human species that does not exist in any other species. Moreover, this immense quantity of variation involves functional specialties whose analogues are associated with great phylogenetic distances in the evolu­tion of other bio-forms. The contrast between a paleo-technic foraging band and an industrial superpower is surely not inferior to the contrast between whole phyla - if not kingdoms - in the Linnaean taxonomy. 

It took billions of years for natural selection to create specialized adap­tations for fishing, hunting, agriculture; for aquatic, terrestrial, and aerial locomotion; and for predatory and defensive weaponry, such as teeth, claws, and armor. Equivalent specialties were developed by cul­tural evolution in less than ten thousand years. 

The main focus of human sociobiology ought therefore to be the explanation of why other species have such minuscule and insignificant cultural repertories and why humans alone have such gigantic and important ones. But sociobi­ologists conceive their task to be something else - namely, the identifi­cation of the genetic components in human cultural traits. This repre­sents a fundamental misdirection for human social science and a diversion of resources from the more urgent task of explaining the vast majority of cultural traits that do not have a definite genetic compo­nent.

I'm not holding my breath waiting for Jerry Coyne or Nicholas Christakis to admit they were wrong to defend Wilson against charges of racism.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

PZ Myers' free college course

Biologist and college professor P. Z. Myers has been posting videos from his college course, Biology 4312 online. 

This is a very great thing.

In addition to being a stalwart defender of liberal causes and a harsh critic of race pseudoscience, Myers is a talented science communicator. I consider his video on evolutionary psychology to be an absolute masterpiece: it is a mini-course in evolutionary theory plus what is wrong with evolutionary psychology and all in under thirty minutes. This is the Internet at its best.

So check out his YouTube channel. And his long-running blog, Pharyngula.

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