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

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Steven Pinker defends pseudoscience: what have we learned?

Another testimony about Pinker from
his (former?) buddy Steve Sailer

John Tooby died recently. Tooby was one half of the evo-psycho wonder twins, along with Leda Cosmides. And the occasion of his death gave charlatan Steven Pinker the opportunity to defend the pseudoscience of evolutionary psychology in Nautilus:

Belying the canard that evolutionary psychology is a bunch of post hoc just-so stories, John, together with Leda and their students, published many experimental findings that confirmed nonobvious predictions about a wide range of psychological phenomena. These included statistical thinking, the perception of race, the development of sibling feelings, and the emotion of anger.

It should be noted that none of their findings have proven that the specific phenomena they report on is evolved, other than the usual anodyne observation that humans are the result of evolution.

Tooby, Cosmides and Pinker were/are all psychologists, so of course they want to proclaim the Triumph of Psychology:
But John’s greatest accomplishment was bringing to fruition Darwin’s prediction that “psychology will be placed on a new foundation.” That foundation is natural selection, since it alone can carve nooks of beneficial organization out of a universe that relentlessly slides into disorder. As he and Leda put it in a paper title, “The Second Law of Thermodynamics Is the First Law of Psychology.” 
Such self-importance for so little actual science! But Steven Pinker is nothing if not self-important. He's trained his stooges, like Jerry Coyne, to repeat that anybody who disagrees with Pinker is jealous of his fame

But this gives me a chance to promote the work of a biologist - not a psychologist - who has something to say about evolutionary psychology - PZ Myer's immortal YouTube video "The Problems with Evolutionary Psychology."

In other Pinker news, Pinker has a Substack, and considering the kind of people who created and are promoted by Substack (like Pinker's pal, the racist extremist Richard Hanania) I am absolutely not surprised. He's apparently had it since 2021, but I only became aware of it today because he promoted it on his Twitter/X.

And when I saw the post he was promoting, I had a hearty laugh: Linger over good writing.

Lest you are tempted to believe that famous (ooh they're so jealous!) celebrity intellectual Steven Pinker knows from good writing, be aware that Pinker, when he was tasked with editing "The Best American Science and Nature Writing" chose to include an absolute piece of garbage by infamous racist Steve Sailer called "The Cousin Marriage Conundrum." 

Now I'm not saying it's garbage just because it was written by an infamous racist - although the fact that he is a long-time infamous racist didn't bother Pinker at the time. 

No, it is a rank piece of garbage for many reasons as I explain in detail in my five-part series Steven Pinker, Steve Sailer and the Cousin Marriage Conundrum

In a speech that Pinker gave at an ISIR conference, he seemed to think that the reason the hereditarian racialism of the ISIR gang wasn't as popular as he wished was because it didn't have writers as good as Stephen Jay Gould and Malcolm Gladewell, opponents of hereditarianism.

Also both Gould and Gladwell had embarrassed Pinker - Gould in the letters section of the New York Review of Books and Gladwell by being the only person with a prominent media platform to point out that Pinker promoted the career of Steve Sailer.

But even garbage-people like Steve Sailer can have their uses (besides provide dreck for the undiscerning like Pinker) and Sailer is important for his testimony that belies Pinker's claim about Tooby. In the Nautilus article I linked to at the top of this post, Pinker claims:
(Tooby's) influence on me is retroviral, chimeric: so thoroughly embedded in my brain that I can barely distinguish his ways of thinking from my own. 
But as Sailer wrote 21 years ago in racist VDARE - so two years before Pinker included his dreck in "The Best American Science and Nature Writing":
...it's important to realize how far Pinker has come over the years. He started out completely under the spell of Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, the founders of evolutionary psychology, which has succeeded on politically-correct campuses by stripping from Edward O. Wilson's discipline of sociobiology its emphasis on explaining human differences.
....two friends of mine, Henry Harpending of the U. of Utah, who is a rare combination of mathematical geneticist and field anthropologist (inventor of the important Dad vs. Cad distinction), and by Greg Cochran, the brilliant rocket scientist turned evolutionary theorist. The title is a pointed rejoinder to Not in our Genes, the famous anti-sociobiological tract by the neo-Lysenkoist scientists Richard Lewontin, Steve Rose, and Leon Kamin, although it’s also an attack on the evolutionary psychology party line handed down by John Tooby and Leda Cosmides, which Steve Pinker enthusiastically summed up as "differences between individuals are so boring!" (I’ve since managed to persuade Steve that differences between individuals are a tiny bit interesting.)
"Individual differences" is a standard hereditarian euphemism that always boils down to an intelligence hierarchy by race.  For more about Harpending and Cochran's big, yet still untested hypothesis, check out my article in Rational Wiki for Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence.

In spite of the source of these claims about Pinker, I think they are credible - I think Pinker did reject the "there is no such thing as race" belief of early evolutionary psychology for the E. O. Wilson and Harpending/Cochran school of hereditarian racism.

Considering how many hereditarians and just plain-old racists Steven Pinker has defended, praised and promoted for over twenty years now, it's hard to reach any other conclusion. 

And it isn't just infamous racist Steve Sailer who noted Pinker's changing views. David Lubinski, less infamous but, I suspect, just as racist as Steve Sailer given his long-time association with the International Society of Intelligence Research, interviewed Pinker at one of the ISIR conferences and said (my highlight):
...How did someone with your background, someone who at one point in his career and I'm not putting him on the spot because Steven said this publicly, said early on, he found individual differences "uninteresting" how did someone at that stage of development become so interested in human psychological diversity that you developed expertise in individual differences and wrote a book like "Blank Slate"
And then there is Pinker's own direct refutation of evolutionary psychology's "there is no such thing as race" in 2013: "Every geneticist knows that the "Race doesn't exist" dogma is a convenient PC 1/4-truth."

This is standard Pinker bullshit - geneticist Adam Rutherford directly contradicts Pinker. Not that Pinker will ever acknowledge that. And he doesn't need to. He's cozy in his right-wing bubble and has no reason to ever leave it.

Blog Archive