Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Spelke in the New Yorker

There's a great article about Elizabeth Spelke and her work ("The Baby Lab") in this week's New Yorker. Unfortunately it isn't available at the online New Yorker site, so go buy a copy of the September 4 2006 Education Issue.

I first heard of Spelke through her debate with Steven Pinker. I had no idea she was such a big deal in the world of psychology and even Pinker knows it - at least he did five years ago:
Spelke's ideas have been enormously influential among academics. "Nowadays every psychology student is taught that James and Piaget were wrong, "the cognitive scientist and evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker wrote in Time five years ago. "From their earliest months, in fact, children interpret the world as a real and predictable place... This new understanding is largely the legacy of Harvard psychologist Elixabeth Spelk." Karen Wynn, an infant-cognition researcher at Yale, told me, "Spelke has done more to shape our understanding of how the human mind initially grasps the world than anyone else." In 2000, when the Association for Psychological Science gave her its William James Fellow Award, the citation noted that Spelke had "developed techniques of studying infants' beliefs that are far more probative than might have been imagined only a short time ago," and that her work had begun "to answer the perennial philosophical questions about the origins of human knowledge about space, objects, motion, unity, persistence, identity, and number."
Although I knew about Spelke-Pinker debate I didn't know this:
Spelke had been one of Summers's fiercest critics, calling his remarks "wrong, point for point." And she lambasted him for ignoring a more obvious explanation for the disparity of achievement: "the impediments to women's progress posed by long-standing patters of prejudice, unwelcoming environments, and unequal resources."

This observation, by the article's author Margaret Talbot, is certainly accurate, but I'd say an understatement:
The field of evolutionary psychology is prone to a cheerful - sometimes gleeful - fatalism about sex differences. (Older men ditching their aging wives for nubile misstresses? Men are genetically programmed to spread their DNA! Women more inclined toward gardening than particle physics? Blame it on our hunter-gatherer ancestors!)

Later in the article, the author gets in this excellent gibe at Pinker:
Men across cultures (Pinker) noted, constituted the more risk-taking and competitive sex - though why risk-taking and competitiveness were more adaptive attributes for, say, aspiring mathemeticians than for aspiring sociologists wasn't exactly clear.

Then Talbot gives this amusing description of the Spelke-Pinker debate:
After Pinker and Spelke had given their talks, they sat at a table onstage, and listened to each other with interrupting. But when Pinker spoke, Spelke wore one of those smiles which suggest a certain effort - and when she spoke she used her large hands to make sweeping gestures, as if she were dismissing one silly notion after another. When Pinker started talking about how "the most subjective fields in academia - the social sciences, the humanities, the helping professions" had the greatest representation of women because the jibed with "what gave women satisfaction in life," Spelke looked as though she'd had enough. "I think it's a really interesting possibility that the forces that were active in our evolutionary past have led men and women to evolved somewhate differing concerns," she began. "But to jump from that possibility to the present, and draw conclusions about what people's motives will be for pursuing one or another career is way too big a stretch." The career choices people pursue now, she concluded acidly, were "radically different from anything that anybody faced back in the Pleistocene."

Pinker was suggesting that, because of both sexual selection and parental-investment issues, women are selected to be more nurturing and men more competitive. Suppose that this were true, Spelke said, in the final words of the debate. What sort of motivation made a better scientist? Was it "competitive motives like those J. D. Watson described in 'The Double Helix' to get the structure of DNA before Lunus Pauling did?* Or nurturant motives of the kind that Doug Melton" - the Harvard developmental biologist = "described recently to explain why he's going into stem-cell research: to find a cure for juvenile diabetes, which his children suffer from? I think it's anything but clear how motives from our past translate into modern contexts. We would need to do the experiment, getting rid of discrimination and social pressures, in order to find out."

But while Spelke's reputation will hopefully be enhanced by this article, it also gives Steven Pinker a way to dismiss Spelke. For although Pinker will give respectful interviews to the racists and hard-core right-wingers at Gene Expression (NOTE - the link now redirects to Khan's Discover Magazine blog, but I found the Pinker interview via the Wayback Machine. Enjoy - also if Khan has that removed, I downloaded a copy - just ask me for it) he dismissed evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould's critiques this way: "The criticisms of Stephen Jay Gould have been extensively addressed in my writings and others, and I believe they stem more from his political ideology than from the empirical literature."

You see, Gould was a leftist. Only right-wingers can hold opinions that don't pollute their empirical arguments, apparently according to Steven Pinker.

And Spelke is also left of the gang at Gene Expression. Spelke is
A committed liberal who talks indignantly about race and gender discrimination

Maybe the best part of the article though is this:
It was a civil occasion, certainly, but (the Spelke-Pinker debate) was lively enough that the Harvard Crimson couldn't quite resist calling the exchange a "showdown of the sexes."

I think Steven Pinker does deserve the fate of going down in history as a scientific Bobby Riggs.

* And of course Watson was helped immensely by the work of British researcher Rosalind Franklin who died of cancer at 37 before she could receive a Nobel Prize for her work.)

Monday, August 28, 2006

More blogging frivolity

You can watch excerpts of Eddie Izzard performances here.

I passed Eddie Izzard on the street before I knew who he was. I was headed for my Wednesday NYCPlaywrights meeting, which used to be on Christopher Street. So I'm walking through Greenwich Village, and coming towards me was what I took to be a striking, but very butch looking female real estate agent. I guess real estate agent because "she" was quite made-up but sharp looking, even "executive" and self-possessed. Only as we passed by did I suddenly think - "oh, it's a guy." Of course this was Greenwich Village, so don't ask me why it took another whole block to think "oh wait - it's probably a professional transvestite."

It was Eddie Izzard, executive transvestite. I later learned that during that time he was performing in A DAY IN THE DEATH OF JOE EGG on Broadway and living in Greenwich Village.

A month or so later I caught Izzard's Dressed to Kill on HBO and I said HEY! I've seen that guy!

Izzard's been around for ages, so I don't know how it took me so long to catch on to him, but I'm glad I finally did. He's incredibly hip - he doesn't just like to dress as a woman, he wants to be a woman, but he's straight, and doesn't want to get a sex change. Plus he's cute and funny as hell and into things like the European Union and the environment, and he's just coolness personified. More guys should be like Eddie Izzard.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

my newest iPod playlist

Trip down memory lane...

Discovering Japan by Graham Parker - amaaazing guitar, clever lyrics and kickass climax.

Genius of Love by Tom Tom Club. The Club was a brief spin-off of Talking Heads, fronted by drummer Chris Frantz and bassist Tina Weymouth. So catchy and funky. "That's one time I'm glad I'm not a man." Watch the video here.

Losing My Religion by R.E.M. - smokey middle period R.E.M. with strings, nice clap-laden finish.

Hitsville U.K. by the Clash - infectious late-period Clash, rare female backing vocals. Righteous glockenspiel. Even more radio-friendly than Rock the Casbah.

We're the Replacements by They Might Be Giants. Better than anything by the actual band The Replacements in my considered opinion (IMCO) - nice complement to TMBG's "Famous Polka"

Lust for Life by Iggy Pop - still kicking ass in spite of being pimped out recently to a travel commercial. For some reason Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines never played the line "Well I am just a modern guy - of course I've had it in the ear before."

Can't Do a Thing to Stop Me by Chris Isaak, from his surf-bum Romeo phase. Big haunting sound - Chris is very emotional. And damn was he fine.

Call of the Wighat by The Cramps - obscure greatness from the semi-obscure The Cramps. "I can still hear momma calling, 'Junior get home - what's got into you? What's that on your dome?'"hear brief excerpt

I Don't Like Mondays by Boomtown Rats - one of the best songs ever in the "immortalizing the psychotic words of a teenage girl with mass-murdering impulses" category. Great piano.

What's the Frequency Kenneth? by R.E.M. - one of the best songs ever in the "immortalizing the enigmatic words of a middle-aged crazy man" category. Believed by some to be the soundtrack of the mystical Great Irony Divide.

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? by Culture Club - I've had the Violent Femmes version for years, and figured it was time to hear the original, from back before Boy George was a theatre guy with wax on his head. Really cute chime accents.

Punkrock Girl by The Dead Milkmen. Favorite 80s-90s Philly band. Fun bad guitar solo, fun lyrics like "we got into a car away we started rolling I said how much you pay for this she said 'nothing man, it's stolen'"

I Touch Myself by the Divinyls - early 90s celebration of sisters doin it for themselves - sing-along refrain - every body now! "I don't want anybody else, when I think about you I touch myself!"

Pretty in Pink by the Psychedelic Furs - a punk's punk band in spite of the connection with the Molly Ringwald movie. Cool synthesizery drone tone floating under the hook.

The Blue Dress by Depeche Mode - the original electronic torch song. Not usually my cup of tea, but I heard this on college radio back in the 90s and it stuck in my brain. Plus, it's just fun to say "depeche mode." Scary Blue Meanie sounds at the end. hear excerpt

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Strange Case of Edward Einhorn

Read all about Edward Einhorn here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Coming soon...

Edward Einhorn registered an unauthorized derivative copyright on my play TAM LIN, claiming that directors have a right to create copyrights based on their directing an author's work. And on the basis of that copyright registration, he sued me, claiming I violated his copyright when I produced my own play in 2005 - even though I directed that production myself, with a new set and revised script. The upshot of the strange case of Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions was that the Court compelled Einhorn to cancel this registration.

Thanks to the lawsuit, Mergatroyd Productions can't afford to put TAM LIN on this year, except as a reading.

Mergatroyd Productions paid each actor in the 2005 production a thousand dollars, which, although not quite Actors Equity rates, is fairly high for an off-off Broadway non-Equity show. Thanks to Edward Einhorn, actors who would have had paying work with TAM LIN in 2006 will not have it. Not that Edward Einhorn is concerned about paying actors. In an email to me, which Einhorn himself offered as one of his lawsuit exhibits, he explained his philosophy about paying theater tech people and designers and especially directors, more than actors: "actors get the glory of having being on stage, which is why they are usually happy to work for free."

When we were negotiating with Einhorn over his fee for directing TAM LIN in 2004, he asked for more money than we initially offered for a director. When we said we couldn't afford to increase the budget for the director, he suggested that we pay all the actors less than we originally planned, and pass the savings onto himself.

Not a single actor to whom I've mentioned these things has failed to express disgust with Edward Einhorn.

Friday, August 18, 2006

I'm it!

aeonsomnia of Evil Li-brul Overlord >:D has tagged me in the book meme. Here goes:

1. One book that changed your life?

Black Like Me - the first work of non-fiction written for adults that I ever read, it convinced me that sexual intercourse wasn't just a tall tale invented by Catholic school boys trying to be really gross.

2. One book you have read more than once?

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - most recently as I was creating an audio book from it.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

SAS Survival Guide: How to Survive Anywhere, on Land or at Sea

4. One book that made you laugh?

Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and other observations the index alone made me laugh.

5. One book that made you cry?

The Return of the King I thought Shelob really got Frodo that time. I felt terrible for Sam.

6. One book you wish had been written?

"How to Escape from a Desert Island Containing Only One Book"

7. One book you wish had never had been written?

"Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" - oh wait, turns out it was a hoax.

8. One book you are currently reading?

Tom Sawyer, Detective just to complete Twain's Tom/Huck stories. But lordy, there is a reason why you never hear much about that one or Tom Sawyer Abroad.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?

Everything by Niles Eldredge - I'm hoping to interview him sometime in the next few months and I want to be prepared.

OKAY, now I tag my best blog friend Ann Bartow of Sivacracy and Feminist Law Professors and Katha Pollitt (even though she doesn't blog too often.)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

All about Revolver

The greatest album cover ever.

There's a very cool thing online now, Abracadabra! vol 1, A free e-book telling the story of the Beatles 1966 album Revolver.

You have to love George Harrison. Even though he was indisputably not as talented as Lennon and McCartney (the same can be said of the vast majority of humanity) he had a way of demystifying the Beatles, and bringing things down to earth. I should collect all my favorite droll Harrison observations, and include this new one from the Revolver book:
Lennon was cut off not only from his social life, but also from the studio which was the band's collective home, and the one place where he could really express his frustration. It actually took Lennon a full hour to drive from Abbey Road Studios to Weybridge, whereas McCartney could walk to the studio in his slippers. Lennon began to feel insecure. At the same time, and almost without trying, McCartney was usurping Lennon's dominant position in the group, and his place in the public imagination as "the clever Beatle" - "he and Paul got into a bit of one-upmanship over who knew the most about everything" at this time, recalls Harrison.

I learned about this book in a recent issue of Rolling Stone. The issue also has a piece about Kurt Vonnegut, who said one of the best things ever about the Beatles: "I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, 'The Beatles did.'"

It's a miracle

This guy has shown that even The Lockhorns can be made hysterically funny with a wry meta-comics commentary.

Via Wolcott

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Louis Menand on The Blank Slate

Since I'm on a Wacky Evolutionary Psychology tear, it occurs to me that I should post a link to Louis Menand's sublime evisceration of The Blank Slate published in the New Yorker a few years ago.
Pinker doesn't care much for art, though. When he does care for something—cognitive science, for example—he is all in favor of training people to do it, even though, as he admits, many of the methods and assumptions of modern science are counter-intuitive. The fact that innate mathematical ability is still in the Stone Age distresses him; he has fewer problems with Stone Age sex drives. He objects to using education "to instill desirable attitudes toward the environment, gender, sexuality, and ethnic diversity"; but he insists that "the obvious cure for the tragic shortcomings of human intuition in a high-tech world is education." He thinks that we should be teaching economics, evolutionary biology, and probability and statistics, even if we have to stop teaching literature and the classics. It's O.K. to rewire people's "natural" sense of a just price or the movement of a subatomic particle, in other words, but it's a waste of time to tinker with their untutored notions of gender difference.

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."

The insistence on deprecating the efficacy of socialization leads Pinker into absurdities that he handles with a blitheness that would be charming if his self-assurance were not so overdeveloped. 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?

Amazing changing comments at Gene Expression

Gene Expression is a full-blown racist site - and Steven Pinker gladly lends his name to it. Based on a few hours of studying the contents, the most seriously misogynistic of the regular contributors is a critter named TangoMan, and the most hardcore racist is called razib.

Of course neither of them will admit to being misognyist and racist. In their minds, they are intrepid scientists, searching for data to prove their hypothesis that women and non-whites (especially blacks) are inferior in a world full of politically correct nazis out to thwart the TRUTH. As razib explains it:
I believe different groups probably have different aptitudes (not moral inferiority or superiority)-and the axiom of equality-that all groups have the exact same tendencies as our common evolutionary heritage, could cause serious problems when applied to public policy"

As for TangoMan, he likes to let his racist and sexist freak flag fly over at Pandagon until I chase him back to the GNXP asylum. I couldn't believe he actually linked to the post himself from gnxp.com. You know you're in for a stimulating intellectual exercise when the author's opening shot is to make a deal out of a typo.

But since they are so typically craven about admitting their true, right-wing beliefs, I wasn't at all surprised with what occured tonight.

I saw this post on the home page of Gene Expression:

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hot, smart brown girls

Sometimes you notice patterns that don't fully crystallize consciously until some precipitating event really "wakes you up" to the reality. I was riding the metro home tonight and across from me was a girl who was engrossed in Kafka on the Shore -- apparently a high-brow fiction book, not like The Da Vinci Code or something (I don't keep up to date on fiction) -- and who got off at the extremely affluent Friendship Heights neighborhood. So you get the rough idea of her IQ. Unusually for someone that smart & well-to-do, at least in my experience, she was smoking hot. She looked South Asian, maybe Persian. Then it clicked on a conscious level: for those of you who are say, aged 18-40 -- have you ever noticed how many hot, smart brown girls there are in your age group?

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Read full post....
posted by agnostic | 8:00 PM | Comments (1) |

I didn't read the full post, but went directly to the comments. There I found a most amazingly racist comment from razib. So I responded - I found it hard to believe he was serious, and didn't want to assume he was. What happened next convinced me that he was. Now I've seen what pussilanimous little cowards these racists were in action on their own site and on Pandagon so I expected them to screw with my comment, or delete it completely. So I copied the comment thread after I left my comment. See it here.

A couple of hours later, this is what it looked like.

The original post now included this transparent excuse: [Originally posted by agnostic, reposted by Razib since blogger mystifies his assoliphic self]

I love the fact that Steven Pinker hobnobs with these creeps.

UPDATE: this web site has some interesting info on razib

so does this one

And in case there is any doubt exactly what Razib means about social policy and certain groups, here is what he wrote in another blogger's comments:
right now, we assume that ALL GROUPS HAVE EQUAL APTITUDES. the result is that liberals devise new social programs to “uplift” groups to express their potentional. conservatives excoriate underclass social structures and cultures and encourage their own rival social engineering programs (vouchers, enterprise zones, privating public housing). if some aptitudes were genetic on average between groups, then we have an even harder task: identify the points in the genome that effect “g”-general intelligence, and figure out ways to manipulate these segments of the genome (gene therapy).

You see, razib does want to help "groups" with their "aptitude" problem. He doesn't want to help them with social programs, because the problem isn't discrimination or lack of opportunity for the "group" - they are suffering from bad genetics and need gene therapy.

I can't believe some newspaper or magazine hasn't focused on Steven Pinker's support for such raging racists.

In addition to Steven Pinker, Razib Khan pals around with David Horowitz, John Derbyshire giving him Randy Thornhill-type advice on rape, and his pal Steve Sailer is a regular contributor to Gene Expression, as in this comment thread in which they all desperately try to find a comfortable explanation for why it appears that black and white intelligences as measured by IQ tests are converging. He writes for American Conservative Magazine. Razib also does book reviews for Science & Spirit. Here he argues American liberalism is about fleeing reason. Truly amazing - the person who argues that a certain "group" needs gene therapy to increase its intelligence level says this:
over the past few years I have had the recurrent experience of being first thought of as a member of an ethno-national group (after physical inspection of my appearance) and so resulting in a barrage of questions about South Indian Hindu temples, vegetarianism and the like, and when I respond that this is inappropriate, most people have the decency to be embarrassed, but several have simply stated to me plainly that I should know what my true culture is. The implication is that my true culture is encoded in my DNA, in my blood, in my ancestry. There is where the flight from reason will always lead.

Talk about a complete lack of self-awareness.

Steven Pinker at Gene Expression

Normally I think of Evolutionary Psychology as having two main strains. The "liberal" strain that sees only female academic/social underachievement as due primarly to genetic causes, and the "conservative" strain that sees both female AND non-white academic/social underachievement as primarily due to genetics.

I had assumed that Steven Pinker was in the liberal camp, since, as the blatantly racist American Renaissance web site notes in its mostly positive review of Pinker's Blank Slate:
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.

Prof. Pinker also tries to evade the implications of racial differences by emphasizing the universal meaning of human nature.

“Discarding the Blank Slate has thrown far more light on the psychological unity of humankind than on any differences,” and, further:

“People are qualitatively the same but may differ quantitatively. The quantitative differences are small in biological terms, and they are found to a far greater extent among the individual members of an ethnic group or race than between ethnic groups or races. These are reassuring findings. Any racist ideology that holds that the members of an ethnic group are all alike, or that one ethnic group differs fundamentally from another, is based on false assumptions about our biology.”

So imagine my surprise when Pinker turns up in the less blatant but nevertheless thoroughly racist Gene Expression

UPDATE - that link redirects to Khan's current science blog via Discover Magazine now. But I found it again at the Wayback Machine. Enjoy.

If Khan has it removed from the Wayback Machine, I have a downloaded copy - just ask for it.

The beginning of the interview dwelt on the things that Pinker has in common with the Gene Expression crowd - with Pinker characterizing his political opponents in the standard Evolutionary Psychology way:
"Thanks to tenure, the people who can't tolerate biological insight into human affairs are still around in the universities."

I started to wonder when/how they would bring up the race issue. I had the answer when I got to question 8:

(8) I want to go back to "empirical hypotheses ... too dangerous to study." This was the topic of the Edge Annual Question. Your own offering was the possibility that the kind of research that we have just discussed may uncover a genetic and evolutionary basis for population differences in mental abilities, personality, and other psychological traits. What are your projections for the trajectory of this idea? Will it be put to the decisive test sooner rather than later? If the hereditarian view is vindicated to any extent, what disruptions and realignments of the intellectual and political landscape do you foresee?

"population differences" is the term of choice at Gene Expression for "the intellectual superiority of whites" and Pinker got that. He answers carefully, while including the obligatory "politically correct" slur:
I suspect that we'll see more studies of this kind, unless they are beaten back by politically correct opposition (as seems to be happening to Bruce Lahn's work on possible recent selection on genes governing brain size). Whether group differences will be found is an empirical question that will differ according to the trait and group comparison. If innate differences are found and acknowledged (two big if's), the effects would include questioning the assumption that all groupwide social differences (e.g., in crime, poverty, and health) are caused by discrimination or a rigged economic system. It would be an enormous challenge to the unspoken consensus of mainstream left-of-center politics during the past fifty years--though also an enormous danger to societal fairness if the claimed difference turns out to be a false alarm. And true or false, a claim of racial differences would also embolden racist kooks and unsavory political movements. (Of course, if the research decisively shows no group differences, that would take the wind out of their sails, a positive development.) Either way, it's dangerous territory, and the moral issues in exploring it are complex.

It's striking how full of conservative jargon and liberal bashing Pinker's comments often are, yet he claimed in an email to me that Stephen Jay Gould's ideas about evolutionary psychology are dismissable due to Gould's politics:
The criticisms of Stephen Jay Gould have been extensively addressed in my writings and others, and I believe they stem more from his political ideology than from the empirical literature.

The implication is that Pinker is above politics and all about pure science. Of course the motley crew at Gene Expression makes the same claim, although "feminist" is a dirty word throughout the site, and they never miss a chance to tout studies that they believe prove that non-whites are genetically less intelligent or more violent than whites.

I think the connection between the far right and the Evolutionary Psychologists needs to be monitored carefully. They have too much to offer each other - "scientific" respectablity for the right and lots of funding for the EvPsych project of, as Marvin Harris called it "biologizing inequality."

UPDATE: It seems that Pinker and blatant racist Steve Sailer are good pals, and even back in 2002 Sailer is pleased that Pinker is making progress on the racism front:
Reading The Blank Slate is particularly enjoyable to me because Pinker and I are so much on the same wavelength. We even have similar expansive concepts of evidence, relying not just on refereed journals but also on Tom Wolfe, Dave Barry, and the great Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.

Further, Pinker is an enthusiastic subscriber to my iSteve mailing list. And arguments that I've made over the years pop up throughout The Blank Slate.

For example, according to Pinker, his section on IQ on pp. 149-150 embellishes upon various of my articles. My VDARE series on how to help the left half of the bell curve was apparently a particularly fruitful source. Here's an excerpt from The Blank Slate with links to my supporting articles:

“I find it truly surreal to read academics denying the existence of intelligence. Academics are obsessed with intelligence. They discuss it endlessly in considering student admissions, in hiring faculty and staff, and especially in their gossip about one another. Nor can citizens or policymakers ignore the concept, regardless of their politics. People who say that IQ is meaningless will quickly invoke it when the discussion turns to executing a murderer with an IQ of 64, removing lead paint that lowers a child's IQ by five points, or the Presidential qualifications of George W. Bush.”

Several readers have complained that while The Blank Slate is excellent on sex and individual differences, it wimps out on racial differences. My response: "Thank God." Pinker is not only a major scientist, while I'm merely a journalist, but he's also much more articulate. If he had written a book about race, there would be nothing for me to say.

Further, 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.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Adapting Minds preview

You can get a good preview of Adapting Minds here.

Adapting Minds hits a nerve

A few months ago I blogged about Adapting Minds by David Buller. I see that the book has hit a nerve with the Evolutionary Psychologists.
Cultivating a persona of fairness and impartiality, David Buller has written a critique of theory and results from evolutionary psychology. To those unfamiliar with the primary literature, some of his claims may seem plausible. That has not, however, been the reaction of those who know this literature intimately.

Over the next few months, we will be developing on this website a collective response to Buller. It will be collective because we think each scientist should respond to the research that he or she knows best. We will try to provide links to primary sources, so that interested readers can see for themselves what the literature says.

I will be tracking the EvPsych response to Buller's book, which is one of the most damaging to the Evolutionary Psychology cause that I have yet seen. I will also try to find a response from Buller - or contact him myself and ask him about his reaction.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Number 3!

An Inconvenient Truth is now the third highest-grossing documentary of all time, having just passed Bowling for Columbine.

Fun with John and Clarence

I'm reading Strange Justice - the Selling of Clarence Thomas by Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson. I'm doing research for a possible play about the period based on this book, David Brock's Blinded by the Right and a few others.

There are some fascinating bits in the book, like this one:
Thomas liked to taunt another member of the office, who was prim and painfully shy, by making outrageous, gross, and at times off-color remarks. "Clarence was loud and boisterous, kind of the office clown. He couldn't help himself but to needle the guy - he just liked to get under his skin," Rothschild recalled in an interview.

The target of Thomas's taunting was John C. Ashcroft.

Terrel H. Bell, who was secretary of education at the time, recalled in his memoirs being "shocked at the sick humor and racist cliches" voiced by some Reagan appointees, who, for instance, referred to Martin Luther King Jr. as "Martin Lucifer Coon," called Arabs "sand niggers," and described Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination, as "the lesbians' bill of rights."

Friday, August 11, 2006

Giving the doctor a head start

Watch the clip in Quicktime .mov format

At the time this was taped, a doctor at an abortion clinic had recently been murdered. This anti-abortion protestor liked to joke about giving doctors a head start before shooting them.

Unfortunately I blabbed too much in this clip, but you can see her laughing about her joke when I sarcastically said that I loved it.

How to be a Hooters "Girl"

Female employees are required to sign a statement that they "acknowledge and affirm" the following:

  1. my job duties require I wear the designated Hooters Girl uniform.
  2. my job duties require that I interact with and entertain the customers.
  3. the Hooters concept is based on female sex appeal and the work environment is one in which joking and sexual innuendo based on female sex appeal is commonplace.
  4. I do not find my job duties, uniform requirements, or work environment to be offensive, intimidating, hostile, or unwelcome.

No need to worry about sexual harrassment when you work for Hooters - you've signed a statement saying you don't mind it.

More at Smoking Gun

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Catholic Church sued over another pedophile

This time a murderous pedophile.

Remember, all female Catholics out there - this is how the Catholic Church deals with the priest shortage - because it feels that no woman, no matter how holy she is, is as worthy of the priesthood as the lowest pedophile gun nut murdering fanatic.

And BTW - their ideal woman is someone who can get pregnant without having sex.

via Pharyngula

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Now I know that the Democrats in Connecticut did the right thing

If I didn't think so before, I would now, thanks to Dick Cheney:
...Vice President Dick Cheney, who went so far as to suggest that the ouster of Mr. Lieberman might embolden Al Qaeda terrorists.

“It’s an unfortunate development, I think, from the standpoint of the Democratic Party, to see a man like Lieberman pushed aside because of his willingness to support an aggressive posture in terms of our national security strategy,’’ Mr. Cheney said in a telephone interview with news agency reporters.

Any friend of Cheney's is not a friend of Dems and must be thrown out on his ass.

I'll miss Jon Stewart's Droopy Dog impressions of Lieberman though...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Saturday, August 05, 2006

anti-Gore astroturf

Brought to you by Exxon Mobile.
In an email exchange with The Wall Street Journal, Toutsmith didn’t answer when asked who he was or why he made the video, which has just over 59,000 views on YouTube. However, computer routing information contained in an email sent from Toutsmith’s Yahoo account indicate it didn’t come from an amateur working out of his basement.

Instead, the email originated from a computer registered to DCI Group, a Washington, D.C., public relations and lobbying firm whose clients include oil company Exxon Mobil Corp.

A DCI Group spokesman declines to say whether or not DCI made the anti-Gore penguin video, or to explain why Toutsmith appeared to be sending email from DCI’s computers.

Because for big corporations, making billions of dollars is not enough. They must squeeze every last cent out of the world before sending it straight to hell.

Do human beings run Exxon Mobile? Do they have children? Grandchildren? Do they give a damn if their future will be screwed thanks to Exxon Mobile?

Pandagon -> Crooks and Liars

Friday, August 04, 2006

Borat strikes again

Borat in the Heartland - what a great combination!
No one knows for sure who he was, that Middle Eastern man in an American flag shirt and a cowboy hat who was supposed to sing the national anthem at a rodeo Friday night in the Salem Civic Center.

But he sure shook up this town before leaving in a hurry.

Introduced as Boraq Sagdiyev from Kazakhstan, he was said to be an immigrant touring America. A film crew was with him, doing some sort of documentary. And he wanted to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" to show his appreciation, the announcer told the crowd.

Speaking in broken English, the mysterious man first told the decidedly pro-American crowd - it was a rodeo, of all things, in Salem, of all places - that he supported the war on terrorism.

"I hope you kill every man, woman and child in Iraq, down to the lizards," he said, according to Brett Sharp of Star Country WSLC, who was also on stage that night as a media sponsor of the rodeo.

An uneasy murmur ran through the crowd.

I actually prefer Bruno though, like the time he went to "the gayest part of America - Alabama!"

watch Sacha Baron Cohen as Bruno

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Trapeze school

I watched my daughter take lessons on the flying trapeze at the Trapeze School on the West Side Highway in Manhattan yesterday.
Watch a video of one of her lessons here.