Friday, January 26, 2018

On the evo-psycho bros & the social construction of race

Winegard, Winegard and Boutwell argue, 
unintentionally, that "race" is a social construct: 
"There aren’t a fixed number of racial categories, 
and the number researchers use is
partially a matter of convenience. "

Continuing from the last post to review the article in Quillette by the Winegard Bros and Brian Boutwell On the Reality of Race and the Abhorrence of Racism.

What have we learned so far?
  • The problem with race according to the "social constructionists" (we are told) isn't the lack of definition of race, it's ranking races
  • Although race is real, and the average person believes in "Asian" "Caucasian" and "African American" races, no actual race can be identified because there are no "platonic" distinctions 
  • The word "race" is interchangeable with ethnicity and ancestry at random
I should note that Razib Khan did a truly impressive bit of shitweaseling over the term "platonic" as I wrote about in 2015.

Both Steven Pinker and Jerry Coyne approve of this article - Pinker linked to it from his Twitter account and Coyne linked to it from his blog, saying:
I’ve explained my take on “race” many times before, and you can search for it on this site. (If you want just one article, go here, which summarizes and glosses a like-minded piece from Quillette by Bo Winegard, Ben Winegard, and Brian Boutwell).
Boutwell and the Bros compare races to film categories, concluding: 
 ...genre-based satire like Scream, for example, does not snugly fit into any of the traditional film categories. It might be horror; it might be comedy; it might be some previously unknown combination of the two. Furthermore, there aren’t a fixed number of film categories. The amount and the granularity of film categories depend upon the interests of the people using them. Your friend might use four (horror, comedy, drama, and science fiction), whereas Netflix might use an apparently limitless and startlingly specific supply. 
The same principles apply to racial categories...
The Winegards and Boutwell apparently don't know, or don't care that nobody claims that film genre categorization is scientific. This is the worst possible analogy they could come up with.

Or maybe it's the best. This demonstration of evo-psycho bro thought processes gives you an insight into what evolutionary psychology really is - not a rigorous scientific discipline but rather very much like a bunch of bros idly chatting about whether "Scream" is comedy or horror, and deciding they can agree to disagree and each have their own proprietary system at home.

You can't get a better example of why evolutionary psychology, especially in relation to "race" is absolute bullshit.

They admit racial categories are not real - "in some metaphysical sense" - and are "partially a matter of convenience."
 There aren’t a fixed number of racial categories, and the number researchers use is partially a matter of convenience. One might start with five continentally based categories (i.e., Caucasians, East Asians, Africans, Native Americans, and Australian Aborigines) and then add more categories as one’s analysis becomes more granular (e.g. Ashkenazi Jewish, Mizrahi Jewish, and so on). These categories aren’t real in some metaphysical sense, but they are useful, and they do have predictive value. 
They then go on to scold progressives - because that is always what evo-psycho bros do.
Although the argument that racial categories are fictitious and useless is ostensibly a scientific one, it has been promulgated by progressives to combat racial bigotry. After all, if race is an illusion, then racism is as unreasonable as the fear of ghosts. This would allow researchers and intellectuals not only to denounce racism, but also to mock racists for their basic misunderstanding of biology. But what if meaningful race differences do exist? Should intellectuals continue to promote a false narrative because it serves laudable social ends? This dilemma can be avoided entirely if intellectuals promote a narrative of tolerance that is not attached to an empirical claim. 
As I have demonstrated, they show that the evo-psycho concept of "race" is a random, unstable, ad-hoc, subjective categorization "of convenience", similar to film genre categorization - and on reflection, I find their concept of race is even less stable, less organized and more variable than film genre categorization.

In other words, they scold progressives for denying a biological reality that they have utterly failed to demonstrate exists.

This is why the evo-psycho bros are so irritating: their smug certainty that they are the champions of objective truth combined with poorly reasoned, poorly argued, poorly written, vague, unsupported claims. This is why evo-psycho bros cause scientists like PZ Myers to cry out in exasperation: "shitweasel!"

The Winegard bros and Boutwell then use the same argument Pinker used in his PC video:
Denying the reality of race leaves a vacuum for extremists to exploit. If moderates and progressives refuse to discuss human racial variation, then only the most extreme and often deplorable people will.  We can assure you that if we don’t talk about it as research scientists, it will not prevent racial demagogues from using it to support ugly and intolerant social policies. And it will also cede the scientific high ground to those demagogues, compelling moderates and progressives to resort to semantic games or purposeful obfuscation and straw man arguments.
The incredible hypocrisy of this statement is demonstrated by the fact that Brian Boutwell gave an interview to alt-right extremist Stefan Molyneux.

Apparently questioning the assumptions and claims of the HBD crowd is ceding the moral high ground to demagogues, but it's perfectly OK to aid and abet an alt-right extremist.

And thus we see the accuracy of PZ Myers's words: "racist circle jerk" - there is a through-line from the racism of the mid- 20th century to the alt-right extremists now.
  1. The explicitly racist Pioneer Fund pays for research to demonstrate the natural inferiority of blacks.
  2. Charles Murray used their research to argue for the natural intellectual inferiority of blacks in The Bell Curve - and not coincidentally to argue against funding programs that help the poor
  3. Steven Pinker defends The Bell Curve and although he denies he agrees with The Bell Curve's view of blacks, often cites, supports and promotes the work of "hereditarians" who do: J. Phillipe Rushton, Arthur Jensen, Richard LynnRazib KhanSteve SailerBo WinegardBen Winegard and Brian Boutwell.
  4. Those hereditarians promoted by Pinker then help to give a "scientific" veneer to alt-right extremists such as Stefan Molyneux. Or are an alt-right extremist like Steve Sailer.


In this video we see Stefan Molyneux ranking "races" by intelligence. The races he identifies (most intelligent at the top)
  1. Ashkenazi Jews
  2. East Asian (it's unclear if he's including South Asian in with this or not)
  3. Caucasian
  4. Mestizo/Hispanic
  5. African Americans
  6. Sub-Saharan Blacks
  7. Pygmies
  8. Indigenous Australians
Now the thing is, according to the Winegards and Boutwell (supported by Pinker, Coyne and Khan), you have no basis to critique or question Stefan Molyneux's race classifications because there are no fixed number of racial classifications and anybody can hand-craft their own artisanal system.

So if you thought most Jews were Caucasian or you're wondering how the Inuit or the Maori or the Yanomami fit in here, well don't worry - you can invent your own race classifications system and decide for yourself. That's the way it's done in the world of evolutionary psychology/human biodiversity. Do whatever feels good man.

Here is anthropologist R. Brian Ferguson's critique of the claims about Ashkenazi Jews.

FUN FACT: while my ethnicity falls 99.9% within what the evo-psycho bros and the average person would classify as "Caucasian"  I once upon a time benefitted from both the food stamps program and "welfare." Thanks to my ex-husband's failure to pay child support for years (he's an Ashkenazi Jew for those of you "racial realists" following this series) I was a struggling single mother, the kind of person Stefan Molyneux believes nobody should get involved with.