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

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Pinker promotes race pseudoscience via Youtube podcast - uses the term "heritable" incorrectly

While I was focused on Bari Weiss for the past couple of months, Steven Pinker was busy launching his own YouTube podcast.

I discovered this when I was monitoring the Twitter/X feed of professional racist Steve Sailer and Sailer reposted a link to Pinker's YouTube channel.

Although Pinker refuses to acknowledge the existence of Sailer, even when asked about him directly by the media (an extremely rare occurrence but it did happen three years ago) Sailer has long maintained he is an important source of Pinker's sociobiology beliefs.

Unlike Pinker's Twitter/X account, which prevents most people from commenting, Pinker's YouTube channel does, so far, allow comments. And so I took the opportunity, at least until I'm censored, to point out that Pinker uses the term "heritability" incorrectly in his emission entitled Nature vs. Nature: What's More Impactful. Pinker says, flat-out:
The first law is that all behavioral traits are partly heritable. What does that mean? It means that some of the variation within a culture between one person and another what makes Jason different from Sam what makes Emily different from Jessica comes from differences in their genes.

Per the indispensable paper "The heritability fallacy" by David S. Moore and David Shenk, published in 2016: 

The term ‘heritability,’ as it is used today in human behavioral genetics, is one of the most misleading in the history of science. Contrary to popular belief, the measurable heritability of a trait does not tell us how ‘genetically inheritable’ that trait is. Further, it does not inform us about what causes a trait, the relative influence of genes in the development of a trait, or the relative influence of the environment in the development of a trait. Because we already know that genetic factors have significant influence on the development of all human traits, measures of heritability are of little value, except in very rare cases. We, therefore, suggest that continued use of the term does enormous damage to the public understanding of how human beings develop their individual traits and identities.

Pinker should know better than to use the term heritability that way, but I think he doesn't care, because, I am convinced, Pinker lacks all sense of shame. One of the reasons why Steven Pinker is the world's most annoying man.

In addition to misusing the term "heritability," notice how Pinker slips in "within a culture" right before "one person and another." I don't think this is a slip of the tongue. I think Pinker uses it deliberately here, because Pinker is a weasel.

That word "culture" is very important because of the claim - first widely disseminated by Patrick Moynihan, promoted by Pinker in his book "Better Angels..." and more recently promoted by Andrew Sullivan in conversation with Jon Stewart - that Black people in the United States have not thrived since the days of slavery due to their own faulty "culture."

And here Pinker explicitly connects "culture" to genetics. 

Pinker is primarily a libertarian political operative, most recently aligning with the far right to attack Harvard. And his "scientific" claims are in service to his politics. Pinker has long pushed the idea, albeit subtly, that the only explanation for Black American failure to thrive is genetics

Because, like Steve Sailer, Pinker believes in race pseudoscience.

Blog Archive