Friday, February 23, 2018

The Better Angels and the three research strategies

Thanks for adding to my argument about your
connections to the alt-right Steven Pinker.
I spoke too soon when I mentioned Steven Pinker hasn't tweeted a recommendation for anything in Quillette since January 31 - he just recommended the article I discussed in my previous Pinker post.

You can't tell Pinker and his fanboys that evolutionary psychology is not the same as evidence because they are True Believers and it bothers them not at all that their theories based on strict adaptationist speculations are untestable. They just explain their theories about lady brains, declare victory and then try to make social policy based on this assumed victory.

Speaking of which back to "Better Angels."

I have limited myself to just a few sections of Better Angels, starting with the preface in which Pinker explains the evolutionary psychology connection to his book:
...I first learned of the decline of violence from Martin Daly and Margo Wilson’s classic book in evolutionary psychology, Homicide , in which they examined the high rates of violent death in nonstate societies and the decline in homicide from the Middle Ages to the present.
In his superb paper, Materialist, cultural and biological theories for why the Yanomami make war by R. Brian Ferguson, which is like a Rosetta Stone of three "research strategies" Ferguson critiques the work of Daly and Wilson:
Besides Chagnon’s own theory, many other evolutionary biology explanations of war are falsified by Yanomami material. Consider first the pre-eminent evolutionary psychology theorists on homicide, Margo Wilson and Martin Daly, who refer to Chagnon’s work frequently. They argue (Wilson and Daly, 1985; Daly and Wilson, 1988: 168–71) that competition for reproductive success is greatest among young males, and that this has led to an evolved predisposition to use violence. Their primary data set is homicide rates in Detroit and Canada, where the peak of homicide offenders is between the ages of 20 and 29. Of course, they do not claim that homicide confers reproductive success
today, but rather that this is an expression of a ‘young male syndrome’ that exists because that was the case in the evolutionary history of human violence, a point echoed by Wright (1994: 262). Maschner and Maschner (1998: 22–3) follow Daly and Wilson, and repeatedly cite Chagnon (1988), to claim that all war is driven by reproductively-oriented status striving by ‘males between the ages of approximately 15 and 25–30’. 
 
Chagnon’s statistics contradict this idea. A maximum of 6 per cent, and as noted earlier possibly none, of the men in his sample of between 20 and 24 years old had participated in a homicide, and only 12 per cent of the combined categories for 20–30 years old had done so, whereas 62 per cent of the men over 40 were unokai. Chagnon also tells us (1968a: 115, 129–30) that young men are likely to avoid physical confrontations, desert raiding parties, and be reluctant to attack at the last minute. On a raid, young men are kept from the most danger by older men, and are allowed to retreat first. Among the Yanomami, the chosen exemplar of our evolutionary past, killers are (by local standards) middle-aged married men.
You can read the whole thing for yourself here. It's 17 pages and well worth it.

I have discovered since my last post that Pinker doesn't only use "idealist" (called "cultural" in the Ferguson paper) and sociobiological ("biological" per Ferguson) research strategies but he also uses cultural materialist ones.

Pinker adopts "infrastructural determinism" straight out of cultural materialism in order to explain something he calls "the Civilizing Process" except he uses the term "exogenous triggers."

In the case of lessening European violence he identifies the triggers as "Leviathan" and commerce.
The Leviathan , a state and judiciary with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, can defuse the temptation of exploitative attack, inhibit the impulse for revenge, and circumvent the self-serving biases that make all parties believe they are on the side of the angels. 
Commerce is a positive-sum game in which everybody can win; as technological progress allows the exchange of goods and ideas over longer distances and among larger groups of trading partners, other people become more valuable alive than dead, and they are less likely to become targets of demonization and dehumanization.
Or as Marvin Harris said in Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture:
In Europe, the caste system was swamped by the development of entrepreneurial contracts, the bourgeoisie's challenge to hereditary privileges, and the breakthrough to capitalism.
Harris then goes on to contrast European feudalism with Indian socioeconomics, which increases the clarity of Harris's explanations of infrastructural determinism.

But then Harris is a serious scholar.

The New Yorker review noted Pinker's limitation:
The scope of Pinker’s attentions is almost entirely confined to Western Europe. There is little discussion in “The Better Angels of Our Nature” about trends in violence in Asia or Africa or South America. Indeed, even the United States poses difficulties for him. 
Before I get into Pinker's difficulties with the United States I want to share Marvin Harris's thoughts on research strategies.

First he defines the term:
By a scientific research strategy I mean an explicit set of guidelines pertaining to the epistemological status of the variables to be studied, the kinds of lawful relationships or principles that such variables probably exhibit, and the growing corpus of interrelated theories to which the strategy has thus far given rise. The aim of scientific research strategies in general is to account for observable entities and events and their relationships by means of powerful, interrelated parsimonious theories subject to correction and improvement through empirical testing…
The he explains what is wrong with eclecticism:
Science does not set out from a concern with what sometimes happens; science sets out from a concern with what generally happens. Cultural materialism asserts that infrastructure generally determines structure and superstructure. Eclecticism consists of the refusal to state what generally determines what. Therefore it cannot organize the collection of data around the task of testing what can generally be expected to account for sociocultural difference and similarities…. 
Then, as if he had Pinker in mind, Harris gives an example of someone who starts out with infrastructural determinism and then switches out.
From the cultural materialist viewpoint, the chief vice of eclecticism is that it discourages researchers who encounter the least bit of difficulty from persisting in the attempt to identify plausible infrastructural determinants. The most irritating examples of eclectic retreats from materialism are those which follow hard on the heels of partial success with an infrastructural theory. “Yes, this devilish infrastructural theory is a success,” the researcher says. “But fear not, I am no devil worshiper. The fact that an infrastructural component was dominant here, does not mean that infrastructure is dominant everywhere.”
Which is what Pinker does and we will look at that next.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

I made a podcast

I discuss increasing Canada-America friendships in this podcast.
Not talking about evo-psychos though, talking about playwriting & other theater topics including my forbidden love for Justin Trudeau.

It's part of Ken Wolf's Playwriting Podcast series.

Why Claire Lehmann is a ninny in one paragraph

When Claire Lehmann isn't writing and editing for her own alt-right-disguised-as-centrist Quillette, she publishes in right-wing media, in this case Commentary.

And in the evo-psycho tradition, Lehmann throws out all socio-economic and historical realities when approaching any human behavior phenomena.
The discovery of sex differences in the human brain and nervous system should not be seen as a blow to gender equality. Men are not the “gold standard” version of the human species, and women should not be viewed as a deviation from the norm. In stoking fears about difference, these political activists dressed in scholars’ clothing unwittingly imply that female-typical traits are something to be ashamed of and are by default inferior. Why would the discovery of differences be so ominous if one didn’t secretly harbor the view that female-typical traits were unsatisfactory? Whether such attitudes will ultimately be remembered as sexist or feminist is something only history can decide.
How can you begin to address such obvious obtuseness?

When it comes to STEM - or virtually any human endeavor men are the "gold standard" because until very recently not only was male hegemony total, it was virtually unquestioned.

I recall the controversy over Larry Summers' NBER speech when it was happening - there were debates going on in online discussion boards. One of Summers' defenders pointed to the strong reaction of one of the attendees Nancy Hopkins and suggested that her being "hysterical" only proved that Larry Summers was right about women.*

But Larry Summers didn't say the reason women didn't have as successful STEM careers as men was because they inclined to over-reaction. He said that the reason was evolved mental (in)aptitude for STEM. But as far as sexists and other defenders of the status quo are concerned women are more emotional than men, and any difference between men and women justifies the status quo.

In an interview with NPR Katherine Switzer the first woman who (illegally) ran the Boston Marathon  in 1967 talked about the reasons given for why women were forbidden to run:
SWITZER: In 1967, when I pinned on that bib number, I really wasn't trying to prove anything because a woman had actually run the Boston Marathon the year before by just jumping out of the bushes and running. There was nothing about gender in the rulebook in those days because everybody assumed a woman really couldn't run and didn't want to run, and why even bother with it in the rulebook or on the entry form? 
And in sports, the longest distance in the Olympic Games, in fact, was just 800 meters. It was feared that anything longer was going to injure women, that they wouldn't be able to have children or they somehow turned into men. That was what was the theory. 
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Really, that they were going to turn into men or that their uterus would be damaged? 
SWITZER: Absolutely. You know, it was amazing. You'll never be - ever have children, they said. You're going to get big legs. You're going to grow hair on your chest. It was hilarious, the myths. And, of course, when people hear myths, they believe them because to try otherwise might mean damaging yourself. So people were afraid and they just went about their lives that way and restricted themselves.
Look at the reasons: "have children" "grown hair on your chest" - the physical differences between men and women - men don't carry children, men have hair on their chest - were used to keep women from running marathons.

The reasoning is obvious:  
  • Men run the marathon. 
  • There are observable differences between men and women. 
  • Therefore women cannot run the marathon.
We know these claims weren't based on empiricism since women have been running the Boston Marathon for almost fifty years now without hurting their uteri.

But I shouldn't have to lay this all out. This should be obvious to any adult, especially one who likes to think of herself as a public intellectual. 

In fact, it's so bizarre that Lehmann doesn't appear to be aware of any of this that I find it hard to avoid concluding she is being deliberately obtuse in order to further the alt-right/evo-psycho/conservative project of maintaining the traditional status-quo.

But I always say that when there is a choice between deliberate malice and stupidity, nine times out of ten it's stupidity.

And so I must conclude: Claire Lehmann is just. that. stupid.


* and Hopkins was not over-reacting - Summers remarks were a slap in the face to the women attending that conference on STEM careers, as well as the fact that Summers position as president of Harvard meant he had influence over hiring decisions, which was an obvious career concern for women working at Harvard. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The New Yorker and The Better Angels

Although Steve Pinker hasn't retweeted anything from Quillette for 21 days now, I assume it's a  coincidence and not because he knows I'm pointing to his citing Quillette as another example of his alt-right connections.


But the gang at Quillette sure like to talk about him.  

As far as the Quillette gang is concerned, evolutionary psychology - which they often conflate with evolutionary biology in order to paint skeptics as anti-science - contains The Absolute Truth about women and about non-whites. And anybody who doesn't go along 100% with the claims of people like Steven Pinker is in denial of human nature and - per Pinker - reality itself.





Here we see another low-nutritional-value piece of work in Hackette: It’s Time for Evidence-Based Gender Policy written by Teresa Gimenez Barbat.

She references Pinker indirectly:
We still don’t have a way to liberate political decision-making from ideologies, interests and emotions. I have been a member of the EU Parliament since November 2015, when I joined a liberal political group with a particular ideological orientation – ALDE – but for now there is no such thing as an autonomous intelligent robot doing the hard job for us. We have a bounded rationality and a political nature. This implies that political reasoning obviously does not operate from a “blank slate”, but in the context of the existing social institutions, constrained by a set of evolved adaptations, biases and inherited orientations that vary individually.
And she references Pinker directly:
I am persuaded that the Rights Revolution of the past few decades, including the fight for cultural delegitimization and legal prosecution of violence against women, carried out by the feminist movement, represents a clear example of moral progress. At the same time, I think a new “twist of the screw” is needed to include all the real victims – women, men, and children of both sexes – as Steven Pinker suggests in a chapter of his book The Better Angels of Our Nature


Kolbert writes:
Pinker names thinking itself as the ultimate pacifier. “One would expect that as collective rationality is honed over the ages, it will progressively whittle away at the shortsighted and hot-blooded impulses toward violence, and force us to treat a greater number of rational agents as we would have them treat us,” he writes.
Both evolutionary psychology (aka sociobiology) and the belief that ideas drive behavior - "idealism" are what Marvin Harris called "research strategies" which he contrasted with his own approach to understanding human culture, "cultural materialism."

Harris criticizes idealism - sometimes called "structuralism" here:
The intuition that thought determines behavior arises from the limited temporal and cultural perspective of ordinary experience. Conscious thoughts in the form of plans and itineraries certainly help individuals and groups to find a path through the daily complexities of social life. But these plans and itineraries merely chart the selection of preexisting behavioral "mazeways." Even in the most permissive societies and the richest in alternative roles, the planned actions - lunch, a lovers' tryst, an evening at the theater - are never conjured up out of thin air but are drawn from the inventory of recurrent scenes characteristic of that particular culture. 
The issue of behavioral versus mental determinism is not a matter of whether the mind guides action, but whether the mind determines the selection of the inventory of culturally actionable thoughts. As Schopenhauer said, "We want what we will, but we don't will what we want." Thus the human intuition concerning the priority of thought over behavior is worth just about as much as our human intuition that the earth is flat. 
To insist on the priority of mind in culture is to align one's understanding of socio-cultural phenomena with the anthropological equivalent of pre-Darwinian biology or pre-Newtonian physics. It is to believe in what Freud called "the omnipotence of thought." Such a belief is a form of intellectual infantilism that dishonors our species-given powers of thought. (Cultural Materialism, pp. 59 - 60)
Harris criticizes sociobiology (evolutionary psychology's identical twin) here:
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 specialities 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 genetic component. (Cultural Materialism, pp. 125)
As I demonstrated yesterday, Steven Pinker has no qualms in The Blank Slate about claiming any cultural phenomenon, even artistic fashions can be explained through evolutionary psychology. 

But he seems to have given up using that as the only explanation in Better Angels. But Pinker is still a sociobiologist at heart. So he uses both sociobiology and idealism and switches up whenever he wants.

Using more than one research strategy is what Marvin Harris calls "eclecticism":



I generally like the work of Marvin Harris because he advances clear and testable explanations, and I cite him favorably in several places in How the Mind Works. But his view of human nature is too narrow — everything boils down to calories. People have to eat, but they have to do other things as well, such as winning sexual and parenting partners, and that doesn’t fit into his one-dimensional, quasi-Marxist-materialist view of human nature. If he acknowledged that man does not live by bread alone, he would have contributed even more to anthropology.
Which reveals that Pinker understands fuck-all about cultural materialism. Which does not surprise me. Although at least he acknowledges Harris's clear and testable explanations, something you sure can't say about Better Angels. Kolbert writes:
Those developments which might seem to fit into his schema—a steady rise in the percentage of Britons who identify themselves as vegetarians, for instance—are treated in detail. Yet other episodes that one would think are more relevant to a history of violence are simply glossed over. Pinker is virtually silent about Europe’s bloody colonial adventures. (There’s not even an entry for “colonialism” in the book’s enormous index.) 
This is a pretty serious omission, both because of the scale of the slaughter and because of the way it troubles the distinction between savage and civilized. What does it reveal about the impulse control of the Spanish that, even as they were learning how to dispose of their body fluids more discreetly, they were systematically butchering the natives on two continents? Or about the humanitarianism of the British that, as they were turning away from such practices as drawing and quartering, they were shipping slaves across the Atlantic? And what does it say about the French that they liked to refer to their colonial project as la mission civilisatrice?
This demonstrates how Pinker fails to have any kind of intelligible organizing principle - he just bops around talking about whatever he feels like talking about, so if he finds vegetarianism in Great Britain more interesting than how the Spanish treated indigenous Americans, well that's what he's going to talk about, regardless of the relative significance of each phenomenon to the history of violence.

The result is that for all his words, Pinker provides no useful explanation for anything. We'll look at that in greater detail next.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Steven Pinker, art critic

"The Gates" - Christo and Jeanne-Claude 2005
No fun in Pinkerland
As New Yorker reviewer Louis Menand notes, in Steven Pinker's chapter (yes a whole chapter) on the Arts in "The Blank Slate" he misunderstands something Virginia Woolf said:
"The giveaway may be found," Pinker advises, "in a famous statement from Virginia Woolf: 'In or about December 1910, human nature changed.' " She was referring, he says, to "the new philosophy of modernism that would dominate the elite arts and criticism for much of the twentieth century, and whose denial of human nature was carried over with a vengeance to postmodernism," which is "more Marxist and far more paranoid," and which gave us "Andres Serrano's Piss Christ (a crucifix in a jar of the artist's urine), Chris Ofili's painting of the Virgin Mary smeared in elephant dung," and similar outré fare. But "Woolf was wrong," he tells us. "Human nature did not change in 1910, or in any year thereafter."...

...Jesus wept. To begin with, Virginia Woolf did not write, "In or about December 1910, human nature changed." What she wrote was "On or about December 1910 human character changed." The sentence appears in an essay called "Character in Fiction," which attacks the realist novelists of the time for treating character as entirely a product of outer circumstance—of environment and social class. These novelists look at people's clothes, their jobs, their houses, Woolf says, "but never . . . at life, never at human nature." Modernist fiction, on the other hand, because it presents character from the inside, shows how persistent personality is, and how impervious to circumstance. Woolf, in short, was a Pinkerite.
It seems that Steven Pinker really doesn't like modern and postmodern art:
Once we recognize what modernism and postmodernism have done to the elite arts and humanities, the reason for their decline and fall become all too obvious. The movements are based on a false theory of human psychology, The Blank Slate. They fail to apply their most vaunted ability - stripping away pretense - to themselves. And they take all the fun out of art!
Pinker reminds me of Ayn Rand who hated all forms of modern and postmodern art except modern architecture. She wrote:
the non-objective artists have not achieved a free, joyous, triumphant sense of life, but a sense of doom… read the stories of O. Henry or listen to the music of Viennese operates and remember that these were the products of the spirit of the “cold, dissecting” hand of reason. And then ask yourself which psycho-epistomology is appropriate to man, which is consonant with the facts of reality and with man’s nature? 
… Modern art is the most eloquent demonstration of the cultural bankruptcy of our age.
For Pinker it's The Blank Slate vs human nature for Rand it's irrationality vs man's nature.

We've seen how essentially authoritarian Steven Pinker is - if you don't agree with him that race is  more than a social construction you are denying reality itself. And now we see him declaring that modern/postmodern art has taken all the fun out of art.

I don't know how Pinker defines "fun" but although my preference tends towards pre-20th century art, there's lots of modern and postmodern art that I think is lots of fun.

Granted "The Gates" were not installed in Central Park until 2005 a few years after The Blank Slate was published, but I know people loved it - and not just arty people. And Spiral Jetty has been around since 1970. I think that's plenty fun.


Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson


Pinker seems to especially hate Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ" which pissed off the Catholic Church, which I thought was a ton of fun.

Does Pinker know any artists? I went to art school and I can promise him that nobody was looking to deny "human nature" - they don't think like that. But Pinker has decided that evolutionary psychology - the antidote to The Blank Slate  - is the answer to everything and so it can even explain why he doesn't like modern/postmodern art. He says:
The dominant theories of elite art and criticism in the twentieth century grew out of a militant denial of human nature. One legacy is ugly, baffling and insulting art. The other is pretentious and unintelligible scholarship. And they're surprised that people are staying away in droves.
Pinker's prescription to fixing the world of art is like that of any reactionary's - go back to the good old days.

But the art world seems to be doing just fine by ignoring Pinker's advice since 2002. The work of Cindy Sherman, she of the "photographs of grotesquely assembled bi-gendered mannequins" mentioned on page 411 sells for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per photographic print according to the Christie's catalogue. Who does Pinker think is bidding on all these high-priced objets d'art? A bunch of human nature-denying feminists, Marxists and left-leaning academics?

But far from denying human nature, consciously or unconsciously, the world of art, including modern and postmodern, actually embodies something that Pinker himself discussed in the same chapter. He writes: art - especially elite art - is a textbook example of conspicuous consumption. 

What could signal "I am rich" more effectively than buying a $100K print by Cindy Sherman?

As to why modern and postmodern art took a turn away from the figurative, that's pretty damn easy to understand - by the early 1900s photography was everywhere and the movie industry was getting started. A big part of the reason why figurative art was all the rage pre-20th century was because there were no alternatives to having an image of something you loved to look at whether it was your mistress or the English countryside. And once the hoi-polloi could afford photographs and movies, the ability to own something that really looked like something lost its cachet . And then there was the influence of technology and science on the status-signaling of art itself. I wrote up a whole theory about that four years ago.

But since Pinker thinks that everything is an evolved trait, of course he's going claim that some styles of art - those he likes - present an embrace of human natures and those he doesn't like, a denial of human nature. Menand drolly notes:
Many impulses are channelled or suppressed, and many talents and feelings are acquired, and have no specific genetic basis or evolutionary logic at all. Music appreciation, for instance, seems to be wired in at about the level of "Hot Cross Buns." But people learn to enjoy Wagner. They even learn to sing Wagner. One suspects that enjoying Wagner, singing Wagner, anything to do with Wagner, is in gross excess of the requirements of natural selection. To say that music is the product of a gene for "art-making," naturally selected to impress potential mates—which is one of the things Pinker believes—is to say absolutely nothing about what makes any particular piece of music significant to human beings. No doubt Wagner wished to impress potential mates; who does not? It is a long way from there to "Parsifal."
I've already shared that passage in this evo-psycho bro series but that crack about Parsifal is so good I had to share again.

But even more important is the part about "no evolutionary logic." Pinker's rigid belief in the all-consuming explanatory power of evo-psycho leads him down ridiculous paths. Just like his fanboys who, instead of focusing on the conspicuous consumption aspect of the arts and humanities since the ancient Greeks, are so mesmerized by "evolutionary logic" it doesn't occur to them that it's silly to use childless Immanuel Kant to illustrate strict adaptationism.

The last book published by anthropologist Marvin Harris was Theories of Culture in Postmodern Times. Harris was very much opposed to postmodernism as an approach to scientific study. But he also had problems with rigid sociobiology explanations for human culture. He wrote:
The overwhelming majority of cultural innovations, however, do not get selected for or against as a result of their contribution to the reproductive success of the individuals who adopt the innovation. Edison's electric light bulbs did not spread around the world in twenty years because Edison or his relatives were reproductively more successful than people who used gaslight or kerosene lanterns. Indeed, electric lights spread laterally within a single generation among childless couples as rapidly as among couples who had children by the dozen. 
This capacity for the lateral transmission of socially learned behaviors and thoughts is a distinctive attribute of cultural phenomena not found among nonhuman species, except in the most rudimentary form. True, sexually reproducing organisms exchange genes, but not genes for thoughts and behaviors acquired socially during an individual's lifetime. Many generations are required for genetically controlled innovative behaviors and thoughts to spread throughout a population and become part of the genome. New species (even under punctuated equilibrium scenarios) take on the order of hundreds of thousands or more years to evolve, whereas new societies and cultures appear and disappear on the order of, at most, a few thousand years.
It turns out that Steven Pinker has something to say about Marvin Harris in his book "The Better Angels of Our Nature." I'll talk about that next.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Another Canadian Kerfuffle

I follow Gerald Butts on Twitter but I guess I was too absorbed in fighting with Quillette to notice the controversy with Quillette's spiritual father alt-right Ezra Levant.



This must have made Ezra Levant's day since being noticed by Justin Trudeau is, I am convinced, what he lives for. He tweeted back:



First if you read the tweet you can see Butts' says "alt-right nazi friends of the Rebel" and doesn't call Levant a Nazi.

Secondly it's absolutely true that Levant has alt-right nazi friends. I guess Levant is counting on nobody remembering Gavin McInnes' infamous rant while he was working for Rebel Media. As CanadaLand helpfully offered: We Watched Gavin McInnes’s Full Anti-Semitic Rant So You Don’t Have To.

But oh dear god Levant must have felt so conflicted by what happened next. Of course the Conservative Party in Canada supported alt-right Rebel Media by mentioning the exchange. In the video below (I could only find a copy of the video by Trudeau-haters, don't click through)...

...first we see the Canadian minister whom Trudeau once yelled at "Oh you piece of shit!" much to Levant's poorly disguised semi-orgasmic delight - then at the end some Conservative woman mentions the Nazi quote and Trudeau's response is:
 "...when it comes to civil discourse, when it comes to the back and forth that happens in this house, it's a real shame to see the conservatives using lines straight out of Rebel magazine, and Rebel web cast. The Rebel should not be writing commentary and questions for the members opposite. They should know to disassociate themselves from that kind of politics and those kind of personal attacks."
Ouch! That's gotta hurt "Rebel magazine, Rebel web cast" he doesn't even call it by its actual name.

Sorry Ezra Levant, he's just not that into you.

Although all of Canada must be aware at this point of the cavalcade of racists and nazis and alt-right feminist-haters like Claire Lehmann who like to hang out at Rebel Media.


The New Yorker and The Blank Slate

In Louis Menand's 2002 New Yorker review of The Blank Slate he demonstrates how little Steven Pinker's rhetoric has changed in almost two decades:
The "intellectuals" in Pinker's book are social scientists, progressive educators, radical feminists, academic Marxists, liberal columnists, avant-garde arts types, government planners, and postmodernist relativists. 
As with the Guardian and American Renaissance reviewers, Menand also notices Pinker's double-talk: to both believe every single thing that the hereditarians claim about human nature but at the same time to disagree with their claims about blacks. 

Menand writes:
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.
Interesting that what jumps out at Menand is what Pinker says about African American teenagers. 

What jumps out at me in light of Pinker's support for the Criminal Justice evo-psycho bros who show up in Quillette, American Renaissance and Stefan Molyneux's Youtube channel, is that it isn't intelligence but the violence of African Americans about which Pinker is double-speaking.

Mendand then notes what I've been talking about - the tendency of evo-psychos to refuse to let the historical record inform their understanding of human behavior:
He argues, for example, that democracy, the rule of law, and women's reproductive freedom are all products of evolution. The Founding Fathers understood that the ideas of power sharing and individual rights are grounded in human nature. And he quotes, with approval, the claim of two evolutionary psychologists that the "evolutionary calculus" explains why women evolved "to exert control over their own sexuality, over the terms of their relationships, and over the choice of which men are to be the fathers of their children." Now, democracy, individual rights, and women's sexual autonomy are concepts almost nowhere to be found, even in the West, before the eighteenth century. Either human beings spent ten thousand years denying their own nature by slavishly obeying the whims of the rich and powerful, cheerfully burning heretics at the stake, and arranging their daughters' marriages (which would imply a pretty effective system of socialization), or modern liberal society is largely a social construction. Which hypothesis seems more plausible?
Which demonstrates that evo-psycho bros believe that every aspect of this present moment in time is the result of evolution. So if women are not as active in STEM careers as men right now, in 2018, it's because this particular ratio of men to women in STEM is exactly as evolution meant it to be. 

I suspect that the evo-psycho bros would have said the proportion of women in STEM in 1950 was also exactly as evolution meant it to be, if Steven Pinker had been around then. 

Because the entire point of evolutionary psychology, sociobiology, human biodiversity and all other hereditarian claims is to justify the status quo. "Biologizing equality" anthropologist Marvin Harris said.

It's a reflection of the ass-backwardness of the minds of the evo-psycho gang that they will claim the very people who defend the status quo like James Damore are the same as scientists fighting against "ancient religion" as alt-right Quillette's Jonathan Kay recently tweeted.

The evo-psychos and their alt-right allies are such drama queens. 

And then in the Menand review we meet Judith Rich Harris. One of the most influential of the evo-psycho bros of this series, Kevin M. Beaver is the Judith Rich Harris Professor of Criminology at Florida State University.

Menand writes:
...Harris claimed that "shared family environments"—that is, parents—have little or no effect on a child's personality. (Strictly speaking, she claimed that parenting does not account for the variation in differences in personality, which is what genetic science measures.)... 
...The new sciences of human nature have discovered that personality has exactly five dimensions: people are, in varying degrees, either open to experience or incurious, conscientious or undirected, extroverted or introverted, agreeable or antagonistic, and neurotic or stable. (This is known in the literature as the Five-Factor Model, or FFM. The five dimensions are referred to by the acronym ocean.) All five attributes are partly heritable, and they are what behavioral geneticists look to for a definition of personality. It seems that there is no need for finer tuning, because ocean accounts for everything. 
We see Beaver promoting the Five Factor Model in Bridging Personality and Neurobiology in the Study of Psychopathology: Interfacing the Five Factor Model of Personality with the Triarchic Neurobehavioral Trait Framework.

But Menand points out:
Science can measure anxiety. This is not just because people will report themselves, in surveys, to be more or less anxious; it is also because a genetic basis for anxiety has been identified. People with a shorter version of a stretch of the DNA that inhibits the serotonin-transporter gene on chromosome 17 are more likely to be anxious. That chronic anxiety is biological—that it is not caused solely by circumstance—is shown by the fact that medication containing a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (that is, an anti-depressant) can relieve it. (Would medication count as nurture or as nature?) 
But that's just the biology. The psychology is everything that the organism does to cope with its biology. Innately anxious people develop all kinds of strategies for overcoming, disguising, avoiding, repressing, and, sometimes, exploiting their tendency to nervousness. These strategies are acquired—people aren't born with them—and they are constructed from elements that the environment provides. The mind can work only with what it knows, and one of the things it knows is parents, who often become major players in the psychic drama of anxiety maintenance. The mere fact of having "the gene for anxiety" determines nothing, which is why some anxious people become opera buffs, some become water-skiers, and some just sit and stare out the window, brooding on the fact that their parents did not read them enough bedtime stories. These people are unlikely to be relieved by learning that cognitive science has determined that bedtime stories are overrated.
The inability of Pinker and his followers to engage with such psychological complexities as coping strategies is probably the reason why Pinker is such a gigantic Philistine, as Menand reveals.

The fact that Pinker decided to criticize postmodern art in a book about "human nature" reveals as much as anything the uselessness of evolutionary psychology. I'll get to that next.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

I discover more about Canada: meet Tabatha Southey & Jonathan Kay's mom


I didn't even know who Justin Trudeau was until he came to the United States in early 2016 and such a big deal was made about his bromance with Obama. But even that barely registered. It was sort of like, oh, I guess they have a new Prime Minister in Canada now and he's young and handsome and gets along well with the President.

It took the election of Donald Trump to really make me appreciate Canada and Justin Trudeau.

There were so many things I didn't know about Canada until the past year. For instance, the capital is Ottawa, not Toronto. Did you know that? If you're like most Americans, you didn't. Here are Americans being asked who Justin Trudeau is right after he was elected.

So of course I had no idea who Tabatha Southey was.

While researching Steve Pinker's connections to the alt-right I came to realize that Quillette, which he frequently linked to from Twitter (although at this point not since January 31), was not only frequently running pro-evolutionary psychology articles but was running evo-psycho articles by people who not only believe in the innate intellectual inferiority of blacks, but in some cases believe that black people are also more innately criminal than other "races." Those people happen to be American college professors specializing in Criminal Justice. Some of them had also appeared on alt-right Stefan Molyneux's Youtube channel. A couple of their articles for Quillette have been reposted at white supremacist American Renaissance.

So my antennae have been out for Quillette content on Twitter, and when I came across Tabatha Southey's comment,  festooned with a Great Auk, I naturally Liked and Retweeted it. And naturally got into arguments with people who attacked her on the thread. But for all I knew she was just some random person with good taste.


And even when Jonathan Kay (who I knew of only because he ghost-wrote Justin Trudeau's "Common Ground") and his fellow Quillette author Debrah Soh, (whom I had also never heard of prior to this string of events) were freaking out about Southey's remark about Quillette, days later, I still wasn't clued in.

Then I Googled her. Turns out she's a big fucking deal in the Canadian literary scene. And has been for at least over a decade. So big that according to Kay, Ezra Levant even attacked her on Sun News (the video is unfortunately no longer available.) And she in turn has written about Levant. I'm surprised I didn't read that piece, because I was Googling for stories about Levant at that time in connection with the awful events of Charlottesville.

And now I realize I have already linked to an article by Southey on this blog on January 28, a piece in Maclean's which asks the immortal question: Is Jordan Peterson the stupid man's smart person?




Jonathan Kay sniffed that the Effin Birds project isn't funny but actually it is. I don't think Kay has much of a sense of humor though. Southey made good use of his Tweet.

In turns out that Kay is pretty vicious: he told people to block me on Twitter saying I was "Not right above the shoulders" in response to my pointing out that Quillette provides wingnut welfare to hacks. Although since he is a three-time (so far) author at Quillette, I don't suppose his response was exactly a calm and disinterested assessment of my rightness above the shoulders.

I posted that on my Twitter and asked if he's always been that vicious. I was told he was like his mother, a Canadian right-winger, except she is "even worse." 

This is Kay's mother. No surprise she's a fan of Christina "Koch hack" Sommers and Jordan "lobster man" Peterson.




I sure have learned a lot about Canadians in the past year.

Anyway, back to Southey - in spite of Kay's comment she is still quite funny. The funniest I've found so far is from a couple of years ago. I LOL'd.
For a while when I was a little girl, my older brother and I made a lot of underwear jokes. We were like the George Burns and Gracie Allen of undergarments, only loud, and our routines were mostly just one of us saying the word "underwear," and the other one laughing; anyone else saying the word "underwear" could easily set us off as well.
Getting us dressed in the morning took forever. Trips to the laundromat were so gleeful, it was like the dryers emitted laughing gas. Finally, my poor mother reached the end of her knicker-quip tether, and this is what she did: One Saturday morning she took all the underwear in the house: mine, my brother's, hers and my dad's Y-fronts – a cotton comedy cornerstone right there – and she put them all on my parents' bed and basically said, "You have until sundown, go nuts." And that's what we did, and then, almost miraculously, we were done with underwear.
 
And so I'm going to offer the world a chance to do much the same now. World, you have one week to make Hot Justin Trudeau jokes, and enjoy sexy-world-leader innuendo with impunity. Please make the most of this week and then, come Nov. 1, let's be done with this. 
You want to say, "Whoa, I'd respect his arctic sovereignty," this is your moment.
Dying to shout, "Man, I'd enter that into my Hansard," when images of Justin Trudeau come on the TV screen at your local bar, you go right ahead.
 
Any journalists thinking of asking, "Hey, soon-to-be-prime mister, did it hurt when you fell from heaven, and do you feel that the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere affected your rate of descent?" at Mr. Trudeau's next press conference, this is your time. 
Want to comment, "I know he's prime minister but he's welcome to be chief of my staff" on the next news article you see speculating about the Trudeau cabinet picks, by all means, do so now. 
Ditto "I'd like to be first past his post," and "I'll bet that's a right honourable member."

Although perhaps my laugh was partly out of guilt since I have been known to say that Justin Trudeau can eat my poutine any time.

While he’s hardly alone, Damore’s laborious effort provides indisputable evidence of the attitudes that many women in STEM face. When a woman submits her resume, she knows it may be read by a Damore. When she negotiates a raise—an arena in which she’s damned if she does and, as the Google memo explains, too innately high in “agreeableness” if she doesn’t—she weighs the possibility that she’s negotiating with a Damore. When a woman takes maternity leave, she wonders how many of her colleagues are Damores, dismissing her as someone innately lacking the “drive for status.” 
Damores are everywhere. Great flocks of Damores perch in their offices—or worse, on the corner of your desk when you’re up to your neck in stack traces—depositing their opinions on IQ differences on passersby and filling the air with their cry of “Women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas.”

Steven Pinker & hereditarianism: the disconnect

Steven Pinker, who has no problem claiming "respectable media" is guilty of radicalizing the alt-right by suppressing "the truth" is in return adored by respectable media.

I've already discussed Jesse Singal in the New York Times white-washing Pinker's remarks. Remarks that were video-taped and so anybody who bothers to look could see that Singal misrepresented what Pinker had said. But luckily for Singal and Pinker few people bother to check, so certain they are of Pinker's innate goodness.

Pinker is currently promoting his latest book, Enlightenment Now and this is fairly typical of the press's approach to Steven Pinker - this is Andrew Anthony in the British left-wing newspaper The Guardian:
Pinker’s trademark mop of silver curls, more like that of an ageing hard rock guitarist than an Ivy League academic, a pair of twinkling blue eyes and a ready expression of amusement beam out from my screen.
I was hoping the New Yorker would have reviewed Enlightenment Now by this point, so I could get a less worshipful perspective on Pinker from the press, but so far they haven't published anything. 

The liberal press loves Pinker and of course the racist right loves Pinker - although unlike Pinker, at least American Renaissance acknowledges the existence of The Pioneer Fund. I have yet to find any evidence that Pinker has ever acknowledged the connection between the Pioneer Fund and the Bell Curve.

Considering how often Pinker accuses critics of hereditarianism of being influenced by liberal politics, it is absolutely remarkable that Pinker wouldn't at least mention the Pioneer Fund if only to explain why it doesn't matter that some claims made in the Bell Curve are based on work funded by actual white supremacists.

So why doesn't Pinker mention the Pioneer Fund? Well for one thing the fawning press doesn't trouble him by asking such unpleasant questions, too entranced by Pinker's twinkling blue eyes to even think straight, much less do the hard work of digging into Pinker's background.

As I mentioned in this series, journalists have been failing us for a long time concerning evolutionary psychology.

While the press has been doing its best to avoid noticing how squirelly Pinker is about hereditarianism occasionally reviewers can't help but notice it.

And so, having claimed there is genetic evidence that intelligence is a heritable condition, and having asserted that races are little more than large, inbred families, Pinker himself ducks the issue that generates most anger. In parentheses on page 144, he states: "My own view, incidentally, is that in the case of the most discussed racial difference – the black-white IQ gap in the US – the current evidence does not call for a genetic explanation." 
Good. I believe he is right. But why does he go on to say that Steven Rose is wrong to believe that IQ tests tell you nothing useful, or that race is a doubtful biological category? And why, after arguing the science of this question for many decades, do we all still "believe" rather than "know" one way or the other?
His admirers on the racist right have also noticed a disconnect. In the American Renaissance review of Blank Slate, available via the Wayback Machine, Samuel Francis writing in 2003 ponders:
Prof. Pinker is firm and clear about the “inherent” or “innate” characteristics and behavior of human beings—human nature — that exist before anyone has a chance to scribble on the blank slate. Not only aggression and sexual differences but also intelligence he acknowledges to be in large part genetically grounded, but on the Big Taboo—race—he is vague and even contradictory.
He endorses the environmentalist theories of the origins of civilization of Jared Diamond and Thomas Sowell as opposed to racial ones, and tells us that “My own view … is that in the case of the most discussed racial difference—the black-white IQ gap in the United States—the current evidence does not call for a genetic explanation.” Yet, six pages later, he tells us that “… there is now ample evidence that intelligence is a stable property of an individual, that it can be linked to features of the brain (including overall size, amount of gray matter in the frontal lobes, speed of neural conduction, and metabolism of cerebral glucose), that it is partly heritable among individuals, and that it predicts some of the variations in life outcomes such as income and social status.” Combined with the different scores of blacks and whites on IQ tests, of course, this implies that the “most discussed racial difference” has a significantly genetic and not an environmentalist explanation...
Pinker's admirers on both the left and the racist right sense that something is not quite right here. This is echoed by reviews in The New Yorker, the only media outlet not completely baffled by Pinker's bullshit. I'll talk about that next.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Northern Superiority Hypothesis: meet Richard Lynn

We met Richard Lynn early on in this evo-psycho bros series when I mocked his claims about the difference in Irish and British intelligence when genetically the Irish and British are the same "race".

Richard Lynn (born 20 February 1930)[1] is an English psychologist, white-nationalist, and author. He is professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Ulster[2][3] and assistant editor of the journal Mankind Quarterly, which has been described as a "white supremacist journal"...
And...
Lynn currently serves on the board of directors of the Pioneer Fund, and is also on the editorial board of the Pioneer-supported journal Mankind Quarterly, both of which have been the subject of controversy for their dealing with race and intelligence and eugenics, and have been accused of racism, e.g., by Avner Falk and William Tucker.[15][85][86] Lynn's Ulster Institute for Social Research received $609,000 in grants from the Pioneer Fund between 1971 and 1996.[87] 
So it appears that during the time he was developing the Northern Superiority Hypothesis he was receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Pioneer Fund.

A review of The Bell Curve in Scientific American (archived by the Wayback Machine here) by Leon J. Kamin reveals how much of that book depends on work by Richard Lynn:
The remaining studies cited by Lynn, and accepted as valid by Herrnstein and Murray, tell us little about African intelligence but do tell us something about Lynn's scholarship. 
One of the 11 entries in Lynn's table of the intelligence of "pure Negroids" indicates that 1,011 Zambians who were given the Progressive Matrices had a lamentably low average IQ of 75. The source for this quantitative claim is given as "Pons 1974; Crawford-Nutt 1976." 
A. L. Pons did test 1,011 Zambian copper miners, whose average number of correct responses was 34. Pons reported on this work orally; his data were summarized in tabular form in a paper by D. H. Crawford-Nutt. 
Lynn took the Pons data from Crawford-Nutt's paper and converted the number of correct responses into a bogus average "IQ" of 75. 
Lynn chose to ignore the substance of Crawford-Nutt's paper, which reported that 228 black high school students in Soweto scored an average of 45 correct responses on the Matrices--HIGHER than the mean of 44 achieved by the same-age white sample on whom the test's norms had been established and well above the mean of Owen's coloured pupils. 
Seven of the 11 studies selected by Lynn for inclusion in his "Negroid" table reported only average Matrices scores, not IQs; the other studies used tests clearly dependent on cultural content. 
Lynn had earlier, in a 1978 paper, summarized six studies of African pupils, most using the Matrices. The arbitrary IQs concocted by Lynn for those studies ranged between 75 and 88, with a median of 84. 
Five of those six studies were omitted from Lynn's 1991 summary, by which time African IQ had, in his judgment, plummeted to 69. 
Lynn's distortions and misrepresentations of the data constitute a truly venomous racism, combined with scandalous disregard for scientific objectivity. 
Lynn is widely known among academics to be an associate editor of the racist journal "Mankind Quarterly" and a major recipient of financial support from the nativist, eugenically oriented Pioneer Fund. It is a matter of shame and disgrace that two eminent social scientists, fully aware of the sensitivity of the issues they address, take Lynn as their scientific tutor and uncritically accept his surveys of research.
Speaking of Mankind Quarterly I found what I think is the first full explanation of the Northern Superiority Hypothesis, in an article by Lynn in the Fall/Winter 1991 issue called The Evolution of Racial Differences in Intelligence.

Although after reading it, it is perhaps not so much a Northern Superiority Hypothesis as a Hunting Superiority Hypothesis:
The problems of survival in the northern latitudes of Eurasia would have resided in the cold winters and consisted principally of obtaining food and keeping warm. Unlike the tropics and subtropics, plant foods were seasonal and not available for many months during the winter and spring. People therefore became wholly reliant on hunting large herbivores such as mammoth, horse and reindeer to secure their food supply. 
It was shown by Lee (1968) that among contemporary hunter gatherers the proportions of foods obtained by hunting and by gathering varies according to latitude. Peoples in tropical and sub tropical latitudes are largely gatherers, while peoples in temperate environments rely more on hunting. Peoples in arctic and subarctic environments rely almost exclusively on hunting, together with fishing, and do so of necessity because plant foods are unavailable except for berries in the summer and autumn.
Lynn figures the process can also happen in reverse:
Thus in the new environment of the Americas survival would have been much easier. The Amerindians would have retained their elevated level of general intelligence, as compared with the Negroids, which their ancestors would have gained in north east Asia during the early Wiirm glaciations. They would also have retained their well developed visuospatial abilities. These enabled them to continue as effective hunters and there would have been no selection pressure to evolve any different pattern of abilities. 
However, the selection pressure for any further increase in these and other cognitive abilities would have been considerably relaxed. The cognitive abilities of the Amerindians have probably increased since they reached the Americas because intelligence has been a fitness characteristic for all human populations. But the rate of increase will have been relatively slow because of the relaxation of the selection pressures for enhanced intelligence acting on them. The history and the intelligence of the Amerindians suggests that the main Wiirm glaciation must have been the principal factor which raised the intelligence of the Caucasoid and Mongoloid peoples to its present level.
Of course there are many many problems with Lynn's presumptions, including the idea that sub-Saharan Africa was a garden of Eden wherein almost no effort had to be made in order to live:
 The life style of present day !Kung bushmen in the Kalahari desert provides a useful insight into the relative ease of securing food supplies for hunter gatherer peoples in tropical latitudes. As described by Lee (1968), women go gathering plant foods about one day in three, and men go on hunting expeditions for about one week in three. This is sufficient  to provide food for the whole group, including infants, children and the old. The rest of the time can be spent relaxing about the camp. For these peoples the problems of obtaining food supplies are neither time consuming nor cognitively demanding.
This raises the question of course - if the living was so easy, why did some humans leave and go into the land of cold winters and scarce food in the first place?.

Lynn does not address the question at all.

The answer: carrying capacity and war. Anthropologist Marvin Harris in his Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture wrote:
...pre-state populations stop growing when they reach as little as one-third of the maximum carrying capacity of their techno-environmental situation... the evidence indicated that slow rates of population growth were achieved only at great psycho-biological costs through infanticide, abuse, and neglect... The payment of Malthusian costs may account for many specific features of pre-state societies. The most important of these is warfare.
So the most likely reason some groups left for the inhospitable north was because they had nowhere else to go. The winners of conflicts would get to stay. So actually it was the better-organized and stronger groups who stayed in sub-Saharan Africa. Which would indicate a higher fitness level. The losers got out of Africa.

Lynn's belief that only hunting in cold weather was enough of an intellectual challenge to select for intelligence is bizarre. And not only for the human conflict issue but also, has he seen Africa? Never mind hunting for dinner, the existence of large carnivores in Africa meant you had to be smart enough to avoid being dinner yourself.

Lynn also seems to believe that Neanderthals were more intelligent than the human groups who remained in sub-Saharan Africa:
The only hominid species to overcome the problems of survival in the cold temperate climates of Eurasia were Homo erectus and Homo sapiens.
The problems of overwintering would have been considerable even during warm periods such as the present, but during the periodic glaciations these problems would have been much more formidable. Most of the last 80,000 years has been colder than today. During the main Wiirm glaciation of approximately 24-10,000 years ago winter temperatures in Europe and north east Asia fell by 5-15°C. The terrain became cold grasslands and tundra with only a few trees in sheltered river valleys and the environment was broadly similar to that of present day Alaska (Nilsson, 1983). Survival in these conditions would have called for greater intelligence than was required in the tropical and sub-tropical climates of sub-Saharan Africa.
So apparently Homo erectus solved the problems of overwintering and therefore were just as intelligent as those humans who moved into the cold north, and more intelligent than the humans who weren't challenged by the cold.

So if they were so smart, why are they extinct?

I assume in 1991 Lynn wasn't aware of the Neanderthal ancestry mixed in with virtually all human ethnicities except those of sub-Saharan Africa. Which raises a question I think he would probably rather avoid - I asked the question several years ago: Are Black people more human than everybody else?

Another unanswered question - if the living was so easy in sub-Saharan Africa, why are sub-Saharan Africans so good at running quickly and long distances? As an article in The Atlantic points out:
Another argument notes that many of Kenya's best runners come from the sunny highlands in the Great Rift Valley, which also happens to be the birthplace of homo sapiens. 
And...
The studies found significant differences in body mass index and bone structure between the Western pros and the Kenyan amateurs who had bested them. The studied Kenyans had less mass for their height, longer legs, shorter torsos, and more slender limbs. One of the researchers described the Kenyan physical differences as "bird-like," noting that these traits would make them more efficient runners, especially over long distances.
Those don't sound like traits that would have evolved from a lifestyle of people who mainly just relaxed around the camp. Especially because, while the !Kung may only hunt one week in three their traditional method is the extremely challenging persistence hunting.

Scott McGreal in Psychology Today raises additional issues.

And the other issue from less than a year ago - the oldest known human remains are not from East Africa but from north-west Africa near Morocco.

Steven Pinker had an interesting exchange with Ron Unz about the theories or Richard Lynn, printed in American Renaissance.

The letter is so Pinker. First there's an attachment in which Pinker disavows that "cross-national differences in IQ have a genetic cause."

Then there is the Gould-bashing. Then he goes right to the edge of saying that IQ differences are genetic before pulling back again.
In the case of racial differences within the United States, Jensen and Rushton do have additional data, such as that when socioeconomic status, income, education, and the like are all thrown into a regression, the black-white gap doesn’t go away; the fact that the children of black and white couples matched in IQ regress to different means; and others. This is not to endorse their arguments...
And then the usual bashing the establishment.
Outside the circle of a handful of bloggers and behavioral geneticists (Lynn) is somewhere between obscure and radioactive... This is not to say that such a reputation is deserved or not, but it would be a mistake to imply that you’re arguing against a widely accepted hypothesis — Lynn’s hypothesis is anathema to 99.99% of psychologists and, for that matter, academics.
Pinker's slipperiness about going full hereditarian has been noted by people on both the left and the right, which I will talk about next.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Quillette supporting a hack as always


Those who don't understand what a vehicle for the alt-right Quillette is need only look at its latest top story - a defense of Jordan B. Peterson

Apparently he was interviewed by someone who didn't do her homework. 

And so Quillette and the other alt-right media outlets have been harping on this for weeks. Apparently the interviewer is a representative of all that's wrong in the world's response to Jordan B. Peterson:
It was while I was watching Channel 4 news presenter Cathy Newman’s spectacularly disastrous interview with University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson that what was wrong with much of journalism today crystallized in my brain. 
I’d been oscillating between anger and frustration watching Canadian media fail again and again – and often in jaw-dropping fashion – in reporting on Peterson and I couldn’t quite establish what was going wrong.
We know that alt-right Claire Lehmann who runs Quillette is in thick with Canadian alt-right Rebel Media, created by alt-right wingnut Trudeau-obsessive Ezra Levant (read about his unhinged attack on the Trudeau family here) who also has employed at one time or another Milo Yiannapoulos, Gavin McInnes (Yiannapoulos & McInnes share a kiss on Rebel Media's channel here) Mike Cernovich and a whole bunch of other alt-right creeps.


Peterson is a ridiculous hack whose claims about lobsters and humans were taken apart by biologist P. Z. Myers here and here and Peterson's bad faith arguments are taken apart by Peter Coffin.

But obviously if you are going to be impressed by Quillette you aren't going to have the critical thinking skills to understand what Myers and Coffin are talking about. You're just going to assume that any critics of Peterson are part of the nefarious anti-science, anti-truth cabal that Steven Pinker likes to allude to.

Northern Superiority Hypothesis & INTERPOL

The evo-psycho bros dismiss slavery and its after-effects in their certainty that the only possible explanation for continued black poverty, lower test scores etc, is genetics, as Bo and Ben Winegard state in their article for Quillette entitled A Tale of Two Bell Curves.
Of course, there are other possible explanations of the Black-White gap, such as parenting styles, stereotype threat, and a legacy of slavery/discrimination among others. However, to date, none of these putative causal variables has been shown to have a significant effect on the IQ gap, and no researcher has yet made a compelling case that environmental variables can explain the gap. 
On Twitter Steven Pinker provided a link to the article but made sure to say he didn't agree with the Bell Curve on race, something he also says in his own Blank Slate. Curiously I have yet to find Pinker explaining why, although he appears to agree with every other claim in The Bell Curve, he does not agree with that particular one. Mostly he just whines about how the Bell Curve was misrepresented by the usual suspects.

I'll get back to that later.

But the mention of slavery/discrimination indicates that when evo-psychos talk about black/white differences they are talking about North America since the beginning of the slave trade.


What I discovered recently from Pew Research is that not only are people bad at guessing their own genetic ancestry, many people change which "race" they self-identify as on the US census:
The researchers, who included university and government population scientists, analyzed census forms for 168 million Americans, and found that more than 10 million of them checked different race or Hispanic-origin boxes in the 2010 census than they had in the 2000 count. Smaller-scale studies have shown that people sometimes change the way they describe their race or Hispanic identity, but the new research is the first to use data from the census of all Americans to look at how these selections may vary on a wide scale.
However some of the evo-psycho bros are certain that the problem isn't African Americans it's Africans. John Paul Wright in his chapter Inconvenient Truths: Science Race and Crime in the book Biosocial Criminology: New Directions in Theory and Research (Criminology and Justice Studies) 
by Anthony Walsh (Editor),‎ Kevin M. Beaver (Editor) states that INTERPOL has data showing blacks are the most criminal:



Notice the reference to J. Phillipe Rushton, president for ten years of the white supremacist Pioneer Fund.

There doesn't seem to be any other references to this INTERPOL data, and the INTERPOL web site says:
INTERPOL's International Crime Statistics are no longer being collected from member countries and previous statistics are no longer published.
The decision to remove the statistics was taken as some users and some members of the media were making comparisons between countries based on these statistics, when different collection methods make such comparisons problematic.
They don't say when they stopped publishing crime statistics. The Biosocial Criminology first edition was published in 2009.

I was able to look up the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODOC) and their table displays only two African nations in the top  20 murder rate countries.



We don't know exactly where Wright got his INTERPOL data but we do know where he got his theory about Africans. His theory is what I like to call the "Northern Superiority Hypothesis" - looks like I have to be the one to name it because even though this seems to be the basis of all evo-psycho bro thought on the inferiority of black people they haven't yet named it.

Wright explains the Northern Superiority hypothesis in the same Inconvenient Truths chapter:


As far as I have been able to tell, the Northern Superiority Hypothesis was invented by Richard Lynn. We'll talk about him next.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Am I a centrist?

At a movie theater on the UWS
of Manhattan to see "The Post"
which I guess makes me a liberal.
In the US.
I always thought of myself as a left-liberal, but now that I'm paying more attention to international politics by way of my admiration for Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron, I wonder.

Canadian writer Jonathan Kay found it highly offensive that I pointed out that Quillette - for whom he has written three articles, two in 2018 - is not actually centrist but rather alt-right and that it publishes the work of many people - people I like to call evo-psycho bros who believe that black people are innately less intelligent and even, more criminal, than other "races" justified by their transparently bad science.

At least two Quillette articles have been reprinted on the white supremacist web site American Renaissance:
On the Reality of Race and the Abhorrence of Racism by Bo Winegard, Ben Winegard and Brian Boutwell; and
How Criminologists Who Study Biology Are Shunned by Their Field by Brian Boutwell.


Anyway, because of my unpleasant interactions with Lehmann and Jonathan Kay and other Quillette supporters I find I am accused of being on the far Left. 

They don't care, I suppose, that I've also criticized people they consider "Social Justice Warriors" also known (by me at least) as  "identitarians." I even did a series on Social Justice Warriors vs. New Atheists, on this blog. I also dislike the "Dirtbag Left" or sometimes the "Radical Chic." I argued with Rebecca Traister about Al Franken and #MeToo. I have criticized Robin "white fragility" DiAngelo and Razib "too racist for the NYTimes" Khan equally for their racial essentialism

In fact, there seems to be no large group of people with an online presence I can be part of because I invariably will disagree with them about one thing or another and that will end in being blocked or banned or insulted.

As far as being Far Left, I voted for Hillary Clinton which makes me left-liberal in the US. 

In Canada I would be Liberal since I would have voted for Justin Trudeau. As I mentioned the other day, in Canada they have two major parties vying for who is the most firmly pro-choice. And even the Conservative party in Canada is firmly pro-socialized medicine. So actually I might be centrist in Canada.

In France I would be a complete Centrist because I would have voted for Macron. In France they have viable Socialist and Communist parties. And while I certainly agree with many aspects of socialism, I don't think it's the complete answer.

Not helping to clarify the issue are people like Steven Pinker, who claim to be liberal, but who constantly bashes the Left.  Pinker even suggests there is an effort on the part of the media and academia to withhold "the truth" - a position in complete accordance with the alt-right.

I think this is all part of the reason why Emmanuel Macron felt he had to create a new political party, En Marche, to reflect the problem of people like me - agreeing with some aspects of several parties, and not finding a place for ourselves with our refusal to accept everything from any one group of people.