Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What do the evo-psycho bros think "race" is?

UPDATE: thanks for the shout-out PZ Myers.  For the folks he sent my way, for your reading convenience you can get all the posts in this series on the connections between the alt-right and promoters of evolutionary psychology under this tag: "evo-psycho bros."

The evo-psycho bros (evolutionary psychology proponents) I have in mind are Steven Pinker, Jerry Coyne and Razib Khan, because of their mutual aid society. Pinker was accused of echoing alt-right talking points, Razib Khan expresses his admiration for Pinker as one of his favorite public intellectuals, then links to Jerry Coyne defending Pinker.

Steven Pinker was justifiably accused because he said this:
...I wouldn’t want to say persuadable but certainly um, whose affiliation might be up for grabs, comes from the often highly-literate, highly-intelligent people who gravitate to the alt-right, Internet-savvy, media-savvy, who um often are uh radicalized in that way, who swallow the red pill as the saying goes, the allusion from the Matrix, when they are exposed for the first time to true statements that have never been voiced in college campuses or the New York Times, in respectable media, ah that are almost like a bacillus to which they have no immunity and they are immediately infected with both the feeling of outrage that these truths are unsayable uh and no defense against taking them to what we might consider rather repellent conclusions...
The issues Pinker claims are being suppressed by "college campuses or the New York Times, in respectable media" are, as described by PZ Myers:
  • Capitalist societies are better than communist ones. How odd. I don’t see anyone insisting on that: instead, I see a lot of academics who point out the flaws in capitalism, which, apparently, are lies and don’t exist. Then he makes it worse by using as more specific examples the difference between North and South Korea (I’ve never met anyone who thinks North Korea is a better place to live than South Korea.) or between East and West Germany before the fall of the Berlin wall. You will rarely encounter a more pure and absolutely dishonest straw man. How about if the comparison is between, say, a ragingly capitalist country like the USA, and a socialist democracy like Sweden? It gets a bit less obvious.
  • Men & women are not identical in their life priorities or sexuality. Again, who is arguing that men and women are identical? He says there is someone on the Harvard campus who argues this, but doesn’t bother to name names. Generally what I’ve seen on the left is approval and encouragement of differences — that men and women are different, but that the bigger differences are between individuals, and that those differences should be respected. We do object to being compelled to fit into the straitjacket of just two stereotypical gender roles. We also don’t think you can go from a karyotype to a flawless description of life priorities or sexuality.
  • Different ethnic groups commit violent crimes at different rates. Oh, yeah, he went there. Look at crime statistics and all those violent black criminals! We’re done, that’s all the analysis you need to do (and, by the way, those leftist college professors do not deny the statistics at all). But why do black communities have higher crime rates? It wouldn’t have anything to do with poverty, or discriminatory policing, or the existence of laws that basically criminalize being poor, would it? And of course he brings up that always-useful distinction, that Islamic people are more likely to be suicide bombers, as if that were the sole kind of violence that one ethnic group can perpetrate on another. How many Muslims have been killed by Christians? This is not to excuse either kind of violence, but to point out that playing selective games with the statistics to ignore institutionalized violence is profoundly dishonest.
I want to focus on the race issue because the capitalism argument is just bizarre, and the evo-psychos make no secret that they think women have too much estrogen to care about critical thinking (per Sam Harris) and have evolved to have lesser aptitude for STEM careers than men (per Larry Summers although in the video Pinker misrepresented and downplayed what Summers actually said) and Coyne at least makes no secret of what he really thinks about Islam.

But when it come to race the evo-psychos are not at all clear what they mean, and I've been looking for quite a while.

Well, Razib Khan has been pretty clear about race and that's why he lost an opportunity for a steady gig at the NYTimes, something I played a part in. You can read all my posts about Khan - I've been tracking his racialist career on this blog for 12 years. It's Khan's fate that may give us some indication on why Pinker and Coyne are so unclear about race. Khan is kind of bitter about how he was targeted when, as he said in last year's Undark article:
Still, Khan insisted that his writing about the biology of race was sound. “It’s not socially acceptable to say that there might be group differences in an endophenotype — in their behavior, intelligence, anything that might have any genetic component,” Khan said. “You cannot say that, okay? If someone’s going to ask me, I’m going say, ‘It could be true.’” 
Other scientists, he insisted, believe the same things. They just won’t admit it. “I’m sick of being the only fucking person that says anything,” said Khan. “I know I make people uncomfortable, but a lot of times I say what they’re thinking.”
Pinker is more than just Khan's favorite public intellectual, they have a mutual admiration society as I discuss here

But even more blatantly racist has been Pinker's connection to Steve Sailer. 

I recently discovered an exchange in the New York Times between Malcolm Gladwell and Pinker, although it's about something I have blogged about before.

(excerpt from Gladwell)
In one of my essays, I wrote that the position a quarterback is taken in the college draft is not a reliable indicator of his performance as a professional. That was based on the work of the academic economists David Berri and Rob Simmons, who, in a paper published in The Journal of Productivity Analysis, analyze 40 years of National Football League data. Their conclusion was that the relation between aggregate quarterback performance and draft position was weak. Further, when they looked at per-play performance — in other words, when they adjusted for the fact that highly drafted quarterbacks are more likely to play more downs — they found that quarterbacks taken in positions 11 through 90 in the draft actually slightly outplay those more highly paid and lauded players taken in the draft’s top 10 positions. I found this analysis fascinating. Pinker did not. This quarterback argument, he wrote, “is simply not true.” 
I wondered about the basis of Pinker’s conclusion, so I e-mailed him, asking if he could tell me where to find the scientific data that would set me straight. He very graciously wrote me back. He had three sources, he said. The first was Steve Sailer. Sailer, for the uninitiated, is a California blogger with a market research background who is perhaps best known for his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to white people. Sailer’s “proof” of the connection between draft position and performance is, I’m sure Pinker would agree, crude: his key variable is how many times a player has been named to the Pro Bowl. 
In his response, Pinker does not deny Gladwell's claim that Sailer is "best known for his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to white people." Instead he justifies using Steve Sailer as a reference like this:
Gladwell is right, of course, to privilege peer-reviewed articles over blogs. But sports is a topic in which any academic must answer to an army of statistics-savvy amateurs, and in this instance, I judged, the bloggers were correct. 
It strikes me as odd that of all the sports blogger statisticians he could pick, he uses someone best known for saying blacks are intellectually inferior.

But it's what Pinker says about IQ that's most interesting. Before Gladwell points to Sailer he says:
(Pinker) is unhappy... with the fact that I have not joined him on the lonely ice floe of I.Q. fundamentalism.
And Pinker replies:
What Malcolm Gladwell calls a “lonely ice floe” is what psychologists call “the mainstream.” In a 1997 editorial in the journal Intelligence, 52 signatories wrote, “I.Q. is strongly related, probably more so than any other single measurable human trait, to many important educational, occupational, economic and social outcomes.” Similar conclusions were affirmed in a unanimous blue-ribbon report by the American Psychological Association, and in recent studies (some focusing on outliers) by Dean Simonton, David Lubinski and others.
What Pinker is saying about IQ is that it is a driver of social outcomes, the implication is that IQ is not nurture but nature.

So who are Dean Simonton and David Lubinski? Simonton's biggest accomplishment seems to be ranking all US presidents by intelligence from Washington to G. W. Bush in what appears to me a pointless exercise one step up from astrology.

My own books are not about IQ or IQ testing, so I don't go over the history myself. The Bell Curve, though treated as toxic by many intellectuals, has some clear historical discussion, and the journalist Daniel Seligman (who died a couple of weeks ago) wrote a history of intelligence testing a while back. An interesting article on the original embrace of intelligence testing by progressives was written by Adrian Wooldridge: "Bell Curve liberals," New Republic, February 27, 1995. Linda Gottfredsen has documented the predictive power of IQ tests in her work, and Camilla Benbow and David Lubinski have many papers on the predictive power of high SAT scores in their sample of people who were given the test in early adolescence. J. B. Carroll has written a number of books and edited handbooks on intelligence, and I suspect that one or more contain histories of the field. Ian Deary is probably the most active researcher today on neural correlates of intelligence as measured by IQ tests, and Robert Plomin the most active researcher on its heritability. I also have citations to a number of reviews of Gould's book that challenge his prosecutorial history of testing:
  • Blinkhorn, S. 1982. Review of S. J. Gould's "The mismeasure of man." Nature, 296, 506.
  • Jensen, A. R. 1982. The debunking of scientific fossils and straw persons: Review of The Mismeasure of Man. Contemporary Education Review, 1, 121-135.
  • Rushton, J. P. 1996. Race, intelligence, and the brain: The errors and omissions of the "revised" edition of S. J. Gould's The mismeasure of man. Personality and Individual Differences, 23, 169-180.
  • Samelson, F. 1982. Intelligence and some of its testers (Review of S. J. Gould's "The Mismeasure of Man"). Science, 215, 656-657.
Pinker doesn't appear to have any criticisms of The Bell Curve, and his main focus is on liberals and political correctness - clearly a long-standing theme with Pinker. He also uses the topic as a chance to bash Gould. There's nothing the evo-pscho bros hate so much as Stephen Jay Gould. Probably because he used to slice them to ribbons. Please note that the critics Pinker cites include notorious racists Arthur Jensen and J. Philippe Ruston.

So back to Steve Sailer, Pinker's go-to guy for sports statistics.

Wikipedia says this about Sailer:
Sailer cites studies that say, on average, blacks and Mexicans in America have lower IQs than whites,[31][32] and that Ashkenazi Jews and Northeast Asians have higher IQs than non-Jewish whites.[33][34] He says that prosperity helped blacks close the IQ gap.[citation needed] He suggests that a problem with mass immigration of non-white Mestizo Mexicans into America is that native-born whites in the US will become a master caste to a non-white servant caste.[35] He also considers that "for at least some purposes—race actually is a highly useful and reasonable classification",[36] such as providing a very rough rule-of-thumb for the fact that various population groups may inherit differences in body chemistry that affect how the body uses certain pharmaceutical products,[37] for "finessing" Affirmative Action when that's economically convenient,[38] and for political gerrymandering. Sailer has also argued that Hispanic immigration is "recreating the racial hierarchy of Mexico" in California:[39]
Steve Sailer (born 1958) is a racist, misogynist, white supremacist, anti-Semite, Islamophobe, homophobe, classist, ableist, transphobe, transmisogynist, xenophobe, pseudo-scientist and all-round champion dickhead who can arguably be credited—if such a resumé can be to someone's credit—as the godfather of pseudo-scientific online hate. If it's foul, fetid and attempts to give itself a biological and/or intellectual veneer, then Sailer will have had a hand in it somewhere, trust us. Another way of putting this is that Sailer was alt-right before it was "cool". 
For example, Sailer crafted, christened and cruise-controlled the "Human Bio-Diversity"/HBD meme in an attempt to leverage the inadequacies and insecurities of white nerds for the white supremacist cause. His online acolytes include the likes of "geek-girl" Hbdchick and dweeb-duo Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending at West Hunter,[2] all three of whom parlay their ignorance, stupidity and non-existent grasp of elementary logic to promote a hi-hate, lo-intellect pseudo-scientific agenda of which even creationists would be ashamed to admit ownership.
(End RationalWiki quote)
  • In 2004 Pinker apparently co-edited a collection of work called The Best American Science and Nature Writing and included Steve Sailer in it. What are Sailer's qualifications to write about science? Funny you should ask. He apparently has "earned an MBA from UCLA in 1982 with two concentrations: finance and marketing." 
Interesting. With all the science writers out there who are actual scientists, whatever could it be about Sailer's writing that would make Pinker want to include him in such a collection?
“Pinker’s range is extraordinary….The Better Angels of Our Nature is a major accomplishment.”
   —Steve Sailer, The American Conservative, Nov. 11, 2011.
Now how alt-right is Steve Sailer? 
So when the evo-psycho bros deny that Steven Pinker has sympathies with the alt-right, you have evidence, right here, that they are one-hundred percent full of shit. If Steven Pinker has ever repudiated anything that Steven Sailer has ever said, I have yet to find evidence. He rather prefers to hire him and use him for blurbs.

We see that Pinker shamelessly aligns himself with alt-right racists, but what does Pinker himself say about race? And what about Coyne? I'll get to that next.