Featured Post

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

Friday, August 11, 2023

Steven Pinker & Steve Sailer & Human Biodiversity

Keira Havens has an excellent new post on her Medium site which discusses the alliance between Steven Pinker and Steve Sailer:

It has been fairly well reported that Pinker cites Steve Sailer, organizer of the Human Biodiversity (h-bd) group that connected Charles Murray, Henry Harpending, Rushton and others in the early ’00s. While most famously called out by Malcom Gladwell in 2009, Pinker published Sailer’s argument that Iraqis are too inbred to manage democracy in his 2004 anthology of best science writing, cited it again in a 2007 article for The New Republic, and cited a 2004 VDARE article of Sailer’s in Better Angels, one that highlighted the observations of fellow HBD member Frank Salter. In a 2009 comment, Sailer shares with confidence that, “Pinker, however, has long been moving away from 1992-style ‘era of evolutionary adaptation’ evolutionary psychology toward Gregory Cochran-style ‘continuing evolution.’” In 2016, a reader asks if Pinker reads Sailer’s blog, and Sailer uses those citations as proof that he does
The truth is, Sailer probably has a far simpler way of knowing that Pinker is reading his work. In early 1999, when Sailer’s resume was limited to Conservative movie reviewer and VDARE columnist, Steven Pinker, an endowed professor of Brain and Cognitive Scientists at MIT, was already in an email chain discussing the “special problem that Black people have with 3D-to-2D translation“ along with Geoffrey Miller, J Michael Bailey (of recent rapid onset gender dysphoria retraction fame), and J.P. Rushton of the explicitly eugenic Pioneer Fund. A few months later, many of these addressees would join the Human Biodiversity (h-bd) group, with Sailer proudly adding “the invitation-only Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals” to his resume. By the end of the next year, when the group was sending a few hundred messages per month, Sailer went on to share a private message that hadn’t made it into the group chat: a discussion of Al Gore’s lisp from “a best selling cognitive scientist / linguist / evolutionary psychologist.”

Steve Sailer testified directly to me, in 2019 that he's been an important influence on Pinker's views:

On the rare occasions (maybe only the one occasion?) when a journalist asks Pinker about his connection to Sailer, Pinker cries "guilt by association":

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 is listed as a member of Sailer's Roster of Human Biodiversity Discussion Group Members although I have always been hesitant to cite this as more evidence of his connection to Pinker. 

It appears to me that Sailer just added anybody he wanted to his discussion group. The fact that Paul Krugman is listed on this discussion group is a sign that being a member does not mean you volunteered to be a member. However, there is an interesting data field worth noting - by the way, I created a Google Sheets version of the Human Biodiversity Discussion Group Members for sorting capabilities here.

So the column that is furthest to the right is labeled "Public Contributor" and Krugman is marked as "Not yet." Another member of the group who is labeled Not yet is Jonathan Marks who I assume is the same guy who says he coined the term "human biodiversity" and it was stolen by racists

On the other hand, Steven Pinker is marked "Yes." Also marked "Yes" are Charles Murray, J. P. Rushton, Peter Brimelow, Rosalind Arden, Gregory Cochran, Daniel C. Dennett, John Derbyshire, Henry Harpending, Kevin MacDonald, Helmuth Nyborg and Arthur Hu. What a collection.

I would pay big bucks to get my hands on Steven Pinker's contributions to the Human Biodiversity Discussion Group.

In the meantime, I discovered that Sailer let the domain name humanbiodiversity.org lapse, so I bought it. It displays very different content now.

Blog Archive