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PZ Myers dissects evolutionary psychology: brief, sharp and fabulous

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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Happy Indictment!

 It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Peter Thiel and his network of "liberal" goons

Back in February 2022 I floated my suspicion that many IDW-friendly new media people were being financially supported by Peter Thiel.

I asked him about the term Thielbucks, and how true it was that the Thiel Foundation was funding a network of New Right podcasters and cool-kid cultural figures as a sort of cultural vanguard.

“It depends if it’s just dissident-right think-tank stuff,” he told me, “or if anyone actually does anything.”

“I don’t know how that became a meme,” he said about Thielbucks. “I think I would know if those kids were getting money.”

“We fund some stuff,” he told me. “But we’re not funding an army of meme posters.” He told me that he and Thiel had met with Khachiyan, one of the cohosts of Red Scare. “Which was cool,” he said. “Their podcast is interesting.”

I asked if there was a world in which they might get funding from Thiel. “Maybe, yeah,” he said. “We fund some weird stuff with the Thiel Foundation.”

Of course not everything that scary Bible-quoting Peter Thiel funds, like racist anti-trans Quillette, is a secret. 

I finally realized this because I saw recently that Big Think was promoting Steven Pinker, and decided to look at who is behind Big Think. Not only Peter Thiel, but Larry Summers, mentioned on this blog in the past year for his support of Quillette neo-Nazi editor Bo Winegard.

Both Pinker and Summers are considered by some to be liberals, since Pinker was a vocal Obama supporter and Summers worked for the Obama administration.

I already knew there was a Pinker-Thiel connection since Pinker has published in Quillette, but I've often wondered if there were other Thiel vehicles paying Pinker directly, in the way that Pinker also takes money from various Koch vehicles, as in the infamous Unsafe Space tour.

And speaking of the Unsafe Space tour, Pinker's remarks there were defended by disgraced journalist Jesse Singal.

Pinker and Quillette have been promoting Singal's career for years. 

I don't doubt that Singal takes money from Thiel. 

In an article from 2018 in Jezebel:
Private messages posted on a closed discussion forum and provided to Jezebel demonstrate that Singal is, in fact, aware of the criticism he has received for his Atlantic cover story and his coverage of trans issues more broadly. He’s just uninterested in hearing it, dismissing the bulk of it as an example of trans community “groupthink” and uninterrogated in-group bias, which prevents us from reporting on something like adolescent transition as fairly and accurately as he can. (Jezebel has repeatedly reached out to Singal for comment; he had not provided one as of our publication time, but we will update if he does.)

From one such exchange:
There should, of course, be more trans writers and artists. But…trans people, like members of any other group, have their own prevalent forms of groupthink. Time and time again my reporting and research has conflicted with what [the biggest-name trans activists have] told me[.] On other issues, of course, I would trust trans people more than anyone else—who better to talk about the humiliation of living in a state with a ‘bathroom’ bill, or the difficulty of getting hormones, or other stuff that only trans people have to deal with? But overall, no, I don’t think trans people are more qualified to write about the tricky science stuff going on here than I am. I’d just be lying if I said otherwise.
Singal posted these messages in the discussion forum of a closed listserv he belongs to, hosted on Google Groups. The listserv, per its “About” page, aims to provide an “off-the-record discussion forum for left-of-center journalists, authors, academics and wonks.” It has been around for at least eight years (I found discussion posts dating back as far as 2010), and has just over 400 members (403 at the time of this writing). These members include New York Times best-selling authors, Ivy League academics, magazine editors, and other public intellectuals—in short, a lot of important people who influence public discourse through their written work. They use the listserv’s forum to discuss current events, news from their respective fields, articles they’ve read, articles they’ve written, and other topics of public importance. There are a number of threads about trans stuff, and they read like a greatest hits of the past decade of trans-related cultural anxieties: whether Chelsea Manning would pose a threat in a women’s prison; Janet Mock’s contentious 2014 interview with Piers Morgan and the “Twitter mob” she inspired; Elinor Burkett’s New York Times piece about Caitlyn Jenner and womanhood; comparisons between Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal; erasure of the word “vagina”; saying “pregnant people” vs. “pregnant women”; and a number of Jesse Singal’s articles over the past few years.

It seems pretty clear that Singal has been posing as a "liberal" journalist for years in order to promote an anti-trans agenda, which has existed at the Thiel-funded Quillette since at least 2018.

And much testimony indicates Singal has been wildly successful. I wrote about his "pioneering" work recently, as noted by Tom Scocca.

Threatened, Abbott and Paxton felt around for a weapon—and a wedge issue was close at hand. The initial groundwork of this maneuver was laid by fringe narratives from “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” (TERFs) and the far right. But in their campaign to mainstream the ideology that backs trans hatred, those bigots have not been entirely alone. They have been able to count on the help, conscious or not, of popular, liberal-minded writers—among them a cisgender, self-appointed expert on all things trans: Jesse Singal. Behind a veneer of empathy and concern, Singal has supplied anti-trans narratives that the right has found appealing. Singal would insist that he is not personally transphobic. Nevertheless, his writing on the subject has contributed to the wave of transphobia that is already beginning to have concrete ramifications for policy, endangering the well-being and the lives of trans people.
Singal recently deleted his Twitter account. Some have suggested it was from embarrassment when it was revealed that Singal may have violated journalistic ethics.

I think Jesse Singal has no personal experience with a sense of shame.

I think rather he's being rewarded by the Thiel organization for a job well done and is moving to a higher, even-better remunerated stage in his career, much like Thomas Chatterton Williams was given a wingnut welfare gig shortly after the Harpers Letter. 

(And of course Singal has already taken money from Koch. One of his gigs was defending the Harpers Letter.)

As Blake Master said, when asked who Thiel was funding:
“It depends if it’s just dissident-right think-tank stuff,” he told me, “or if anyone actually does anything.”
Another "liberal" media person I think is on the Thiel payroll is anti-abortion "leftist" Elizabeth Bruenig. Peter Thiel backs anti-abortion candidates like Masters and Vance.

The clearest parallel is to the anti-trans pundit Jesse Singal (with whom Bruenig maintains an unsurprising friendship). The vast majority of trans people can read a Singal piece and see an argument for rolling back trans rights, but his rhetoric is carefully hedged so that some well-meaning Boomer parent can believe he’s “just asking questions.” Reproductive rights advocates can read an Elizabeth Bruenig piece and see that she’s against them. People on the sidelines often have no idea why those advocates are upset. 
Bruenig’s slipperiness allows her (like Singal) to make an argument significantly to the right of the one she claims to be making. Still, the argument is clear. Consider a sentence from that 2014 piece on “pro-life liberalism:” “Since we care enough about the outcome of pregnancy to insist against abortion, then we must continue to care about the outcome when abortion is no longer a legal option.”
I think Jesse Singal likely inherited his ethics from his father.

Is it fair of me to mention that Singal's big-shot lawyer father was picked up for soliciting a prostitute? Well, is it fair of Jesse Singal to stick his nose into transpeople's business, thus aiding and abetting - either fecklessly or for pay - the far-Right in its search for a vote-getting scapegoat? 

And speaking of sleazy little fascists who want to stick their noses into people's business, Peter Thiel wants to track your menstrual cycle.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023


Best-Selling Author & Harvard Professor Steven Pinker Will Transform His Ideas into NFTs

These collectibles will guarantee recurrent access to intimate group video calls with Pinker to discuss this topic for the next several years. 

Two tiers will be available: the gold collectible, which is unique and grants the buyer the right to co-host the calls with Pinker, will be priced at $50,000; the standard collectibles, which are limited to 30 items and grant the buyers the right to access those video calls and ask questions to Pinker at the end, will be priced at 0.2 Ethereum (~$300). 

The NFTs will be available for purchase on the Polemix NFT platform. Holders of the NFTs can expect to book their first call with Pinker as soon as two weeks following their purchase; thus receiving utility for the NFTs shortly after.

It's likely Pinker is already a millionaire. I guess too much is not enough for some. Imagine spending $50K to have access to Steven Pinker's Deep Thoughts like:

"The left was uh completely out to lunch when it came to... the um causes of crime, badly badly wrong when it uh - it still does... when it attributes crime to um poverty and racism... "

" Here's another candidate for a mythology zone: the sacred creeds of academic and intellectual elites. These include the belief that we are born blank slates, that sex is a social construction, that every difference in the social statistics of ethnic groups is caused by racism... "

"I mentioned "The Mismeasure of Man" as the foremost example, to deny the existence of genetically distinct human groups - there is a widespread myth that there is no such thing as race whatsoever, that it is purely a social construction and to call the people who don't do  this Nazis. But on the other hand there is a quotation, I don't know who's responsible for it: "reality is what refuses to go away when I stop believing in it." 

"What Malcolm Gladwell calls a “lonely ice floe” is what psychologists call “the mainstream.” In a 1997 editorial in the journal Intelligence, 52 signatories wrote, “I.Q. is strongly related, probably more so than any other single measurable human trait, to many important educational, occupational, economic and social outcomes.” Similar conclusions were affirmed in a unanimous blue-ribbon report by the American Psychological Association, and in recent studies (some focusing on outliers) by Dean Simonton, David Lubinski and others."

(FUN FACT: The journal Intelligence is a meeting place for racists and the editorial was written by notorious racist Linda Gottfredson - but Pinker is a big supporter.)

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s behavioral scientists like Arthur Jensen, Hans Eysenck, Richard Herrnstein, Thomas Bouchard, and Linda Gottfredson were disinvited, drowned out, and in some cases physically assaulted. On the right, for example, is a 1984 poster announcing a talk by the evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson, which improbably called him “The Prophet of Right Wing Patriarchy” and invited students to “bring noisemakers.” So when it comes to intolerant repression of non-leftist ideas, don’t blame the Millennials or the iGens. Contra Billy Joel, we Baby Boomers did start the fire—which is not to deny that it is now blazing out of control. "

If you've read any of this blog, you've probably already guessed that those being defended by and described by Pinker as "behavioral scientists" are supporters of race pseudoscience:

  • Jensen promoted eugenics as the only practical solution to the problems facing the black community, arguing that they lacked the intelligence necessary for compensatory education programs to be successful. 

  • The US psychologist Arthur Jensen (1969) had recently published an article partly on the subject, propounding a hereditarian interpretation. It had stirred up a hornet's nest of controversy, and I was in the process of writing a critical response to it. What I did not know was that Eysenck was simultaneously writing a book, Race, Intelligence and Education (Eysenck, 1971), defending Jensen's position." 

  • Herrnstein and Murray suggested in one chapter that the black-white IQ gap would be difficult to eliminate, in part because its causes were both genetic and environmental. 

  • With its legacy of Dr. Josef Mengele’s twin experiments at Auschwitz and Dr. Burt’s bogus science, twin studies fell into disfavor. In 1979, however, Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr., a psychologist at the University of Minnesota, rehabilitated this line of research...  Bouchard obtained emergency funds from the university and arranged for the pair to be flown to him for study. To support his theory that similarities such as these were genetic in origin, he assembled a team and applied for a grant to the Pioneer Fund in 1981, stating, Our findings continue to suggest a very strong genetic influence on almost all medical and psychological traits. To date, the Pioneer Fund has contributed more than $1.2 million to Bouchard’s Minnesota Center for Twin and Adoption Research. 

And of course Linda Gottfredson.

Following a long tradition of scientific racism, Gottfredson argues that racial inequality, especially in employment, is the direct result of genetic racial differences in intelligence. Relying heavily on money obtained from the white nationalist Pioneer Fund, Gottfredson has worked tirelessly to oppose any and all efforts to reduce racial inequality in both in the workplace and in society as a whole.

And Wilson the godfather of modern sociobiology, was revealed to be a big booster of the ideas of notorious racist Jean-Phillipe Rushton.

There's nobody so confident of their worth as a mediocre white man.

Sunday, March 12, 2023


I've mentioned "Some More News" recently, but I want to praise this almost-perfect video from them, explaining the Intellectual Dark Web's attempts to deny the importance of history and the existence of systemic racism. 

Like Steven Pinker, who as I pointed out the other day, does not believe that poverty or racism has any influence on crime - or the Black crime rates that Pinker said, back in 2018, were being hidden by the media.

Unfortunately the video doesn't mention Pinker - it would be full-on perfect if it did - which is a reason why Pinker is so much more insidious than the rest. 

Nobody else associated with the Intellectual Dark Web, as far as I am aware, was invited to the United Nations to express opinions. Steven Pinker was

And yet he holds the same beliefs as Sam Harris and others associated with the IDW and race pseudoscience. He's careful not to directly state those beliefs, especially since the brouhaha in 2018, but it's easy enough to infer his beliefs by who he supports and his statement that:
The left was uh completely out to lunch when it came to... the um causes of crime, badly badly wrong when it uh - it still does... when it attributes crime to um poverty and racism... 
I really wish I had been aware of Some More News long ago, I would have loved to post this video when it was first released two years ago. When the argument against the race beliefs of the IDW is stated so clearly you really have to wonder - is the IDW simply evil - or are they basically too stupid to grasp the complexity of socio-cultural-historical interactions, but have been socially promoted waaaay above their intellectual abilities.

We know how they have been promoted - racist plutocrats like Charles Koch and Peter Thiel have been funding them. Pinker was funded by Koch in 2018 when he made those controversial statements.

The best part of this video might be the analogy at minute 56:25, showing a Mario Cart race with Mario representing white people and Luigi representing Black people. It's so good but basic, even a sociobiologist might be able to understand it.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Steven Pinker and the race pseudoscience network

Carole Hooven was seen last August on Pinkerite, along with Larry Summers, when each was promoting Quillette's racist/neo-Nazi editor Bo Winegard last year.

It seems that Hooven's career is now supported by Steven Pinker. I'm not surprised.

Pinker is a long-time supporter and some-time contributor of racist rag Quillette, and an admirer of Bo Winegard.

Pinker is no doubt a supporter of Hooven because she's another believer in the sociobiology/evolutionary psychology school of gender and race essentialism, the "scientific" justification for right-wing bigotry.

In this article in the September 2022 edition of the Archives of Sexual Behavior,  Hooven defends Larry Summers' belief in the inferiority of lady brains in STEM.

In spite of Summers' claim, women's participation in STEM is steadily rising

We know that's not due to women's genetics or brain structure changing in such a short period of time. 

Maybe it's due to pushback against the essentialist beliefs that sociobiologists like Summers, Pinker, Winegard and Hooven cling to for dear life.

In the article, Hooven proposes the crackpot social affinity theory that is the absolute favorite sociobiologist explanation for why people are hostile to their pseudoscience-based claims. Bo Winegard is a big fan.

Why do people direct such outrage at scholars who are trying to do their jobs, discovering and communicating how the world works? In the aftermath of the Summers imbroglio, Steven Pinker, the well-known professor of psychology at Harvard, argued that Summers had been met with such vitriol because he had violated a cultural taboo. (Pinker 2005)  People who belong or want to belong to a social group, whether centered around political views, or a country or school, ethnic or gender identity, can signal their loyalty to the group and its values by demonstrating their "moral purity." (Paresky, 2022)

This fanciful explanation demonstrates how detached sociobiologists are from basic human social reality - maybe that's why they believe so reflexively that virtually all contemporary human behavior is the result of evolved biological essences.

The far more likely explanation for the Summers controversy is because at the time Summers made the statement he was the president of Harvard, speaking at a conference on why women were underrepresented in STEM, and Summers suggested the problem was women themselves.

To spell it out in a way that even a sociobiologist might grasp, Summers represented a clear institutional threat to women who were interested in STEM careers. How idiotic do you have to be to seriously believe the controversy was due to "moral purity"?

I would say that Hooven, Pinker, Paresky and Winegard are being deliberately obtuse, but I'm afraid it might not be deliberate. 

In this recent video, at minute 1:10 Hooven says:
...(Pinker's) also interested in, obviously, at lot of the kinds of issues that I'm interested in, The Blank Slate, is, you know, his early book, had a big impact on me and my thinking - how I thought about sex differences...

...more than anyone else at Harvard... he gave me a new office, he took me into his department, he stood up for me, he counseled me, it's been a really difficult time and he, if it weren't for him I really would not be at Harvard any more and I am because of him.... 

But Pinker has long been a champion of those who support sociobiology, as his ongoing support for hardcore race pseudoscience extremist Linda Gottfredson demonstrates.

"The Blank Slate" was Pinker's evolutionary psychology manifesto, so perfectly reviewed by Louis Menand in the New Yorker when it was released in 2002:
Having it both ways is an irritating feature of "The Blank Slate." Pinker can write, in refutation of the scarecrow theory of violent behavior, "The sad fact is that despite the repeated assurances that 'we know the conditions that breed violence,' we barely have a clue," and then, a few pages later, "It is not surprising, then, that when African American teenagers are taken out of underclass neighborhoods they are no more violent or delinquent than white teenagers." Well, that should give us one clue. He sums the matter up: "With violence, as with so many other concerns, human nature is the problem, but human nature is also the solution." This is just another way of saying that it is in human nature to socialize and to be socialized, which is, pragmatically, exactly the view of the "intellectuals." 
My theory for why Pinker tries to "have it both ways" is because he wants plausible deniability for his actual beliefs about Black people.

The New Yorker review mentions Judith Rich Harris, but the review does not mention how instrumental Pinker was in promoting the career of Harris
Moreover, when her great encourager Steven Pinker and I each nominated her paper for the annual award for “outstanding paper on general psychology,” the judges selected her as co-recipient of the—I am not making this up—George A. Miller Award. (To his credit, Miller later termed the irony “delicious.”)
Harris is so popular among believers in sociobiology that a leading promoter of "biosocial criminology," Kevin Beaver, is the Judith Rich Harris Professor of Criminology at Florida State University.

Biosocial Criminology holds that Black people are innately less intelligent, and more criminally-inclined than members of other "races." We know this because there is a book edited by Kevin Beaver, Biosocial Criminology: New Directions in Theory and Research in which his fellow biosocial criminologist John Paul Wright is given a chapter to argue that belief:

Page 149:
...Areas afflicted by crime and other social pathologies are more frequently black than white, and even less frequently Oriental. Part of the reason for these visible and dramatic differences may have to do with the differential abilities of races to organize socially. 
Page 150:
From the available data it would seem ludicrous to argue that "race" is a construct devoid of a biological or evolutionary backdrop. That evolutionary forces have produced biological variance across races is now scientifically undeniable. That many of the characteristics that define races appear to be universal and time stable is also undeniable. Evolution can produce many forms of adaptations, but it cannot produce equality. 
The connection between race and criminal behavior is clearly complex and involves a range of historical, social, psychological and individual variables. Evolution however, provides a powerful mechanism to understand the development of human races and the distribution of traits and behaviors within and across races. It helps explain why races would appear and under what conditions races would appear. It helps to explain why certain traits would be beneficial and why these traits such as higher IQ, would be unequally distributed across races. Moreover evolutionary theory helps explain why race-based patterns of behavior are universal, such as black over-involvement in crime. No other paradigm organizes these patterns better. No other paradigm explains these inconvenient truths.
I have no doubt Pinker holds similar beliefs. He has consistently promoted and supported those who hold these beliefs (Razib Khan, Bo Winegard, Linda Gottfredson, Steve Sailer) and his beliefs echo those of racist Amy Wax.

Unfortunately any time Pinker is interviewed, the interviewer treats him with kid gloves, due to the rarely broken gentlemen's agreement and refuses to make Pinker express exactly what he believes, as in this interview:
The left was uh completely out to lunch when it came to... the um causes of crime, badly badly wrong when it uh - it still does... when it attributes crime to um poverty and racism...
So if the problem isn't poverty and racism... what exactly is the problem? Pinker is too much the weasel to come right out and say it.

Pinker's influence extends to the promotion and support of the much debunked claims of the hypothesis called "Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence" created by two racists, who were brought together by racist Steve Sailer.

The publisher of the Hooven video, Freedom Pact likes to platform members and friends of the IDW including Bret Weinstein, Heather Heying, Niall Ferguson, Chloe Valdary, Dave Rubin, Douglas Murray and David Buss. 

The Freedom Pact website reveals nothing about who is funding them, but given how IDW-leaning its guests have become since 2018, including two interviews with Ivermectin-promoting Bret Weinstein, the brother of Peter Thiel's employee and apparent crackpot, Eric Weinstein, and given Thiel's reported financial support for race pseudoscience-promoting and IDW-connected Quillette, I have my suspicions.

And I predict that one day Carole Kennedy Hooven will have her own Quillette byline, where she can share her grievances with Quillette's far-right, racist and mostly male readership.

If Quillette will support Amy Wax's right to be a public racist troll while working for an educational institution, they'll certainly support Hooven. 

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Scocca vs. Singal

I don't know why anybody would hire Jesse Singal as a journalist. His whole thing is to make the story about himself.

He's already taking money from Koch and whoever is funding his Substack and other social media, he should just become a full-time right-wing media personality and stop with the pretense to journalism.

A reminder that Jesse Singal has been cooperating with the far right - including the anti-trans and racist Quillette - long before the Republican Party decided to make anti-trans its primary platform.

Singal and Scocca have a long-standing animosity.

Some very interesting information about Jesse Singal at Jesse Singal biography: timeline to transphobia

Including the info that Singal's father was arrested for soliciting a prostitute April 27, 2022.

Signal, however, is not just your average ‘John’. He is in fact a very well known lawyer in the New England Area, who previously held the position of Assistant United States Attorney and Assistant Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts before beginning his private practice career, according to his biography page on the site of the law firm Hinckley Allen.

In the police report obtained by Live Boston, investigators document the moment they approached Singal and the unnamed woman in extreme detail, “As Detective Williams approached the vehicle he could clearly observe through the unobstructed vehicle windows the female in the front seat who was leaning over to the drivers lap area with her head moving in a upward and downward motion.” 

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Rebecca Watson vs. the former skeptics of the IDW

Rebecca Watson, who has had more unpleasant personal experiences with the misogynist/racist-right members of the new atheist movement of the 2000s than anybody else, made a great video about these members of the Intellectual Dark Web and their slide into non-skepticism. 

The transcript is available at Skepchick.

I hope Slater is a guest speaker at the next Quillette conference.

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