In the film, the Curious Case of Benjamin Button there is a wonderfully choreographed scene wherein a young Parisian woman’s forgetfulness regarding her keys, a taxi driver’s laxity about his duties and a man crossing the street at the wrong time all culminate in a car crashing into a talented young dancer whose leg is crushed and career, forever ruined. If only one of these eventualities had transpired differently – if only the woman had remembered her keys, if only the taxi driver had not stopped for a cup of coffee – then the young ballet dancer would have escaped the whole mind-boggling confluence of events unscathed.
In the television series, Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia, the character Charlie discovers a disturbing conspiracy at his office revolving around a mysterious man named Pepe Silvia, the only problem is that there is no Pepe Silvia; the secondary problem is that there actually is a Pepe Silvia and Charlie had simply lost his mind.
Roll the two aforementioned fictional scenarios together and you’d end up with something akin to the absurd and paranoia-riddled article by the self-avowed “anti-racist” blog, Heavens to Mergatroyd (henceforth HTM) entitled, Steven Pinker’s rightwing, alt-right and hereditarian connections.
In one of the latest posts from HTM the author alleges that there is a wicked alliance between what she terms “hereditarians” and the dreaded “alt-right.” Most terrifyingly, the author tells us, one of the foremost hereditarians is Charles Murray who has spoken to the neuroscientist and social commentator, Sam Harris who in turn has spoken to Steven Pinker. Gasp! You know what that means right? No, neither do I, but HTM would have us believe that something sinister is afoot. The basic premise is that Charles Murray is a bad person and that he has essentially transmitted his badness to Pinker via Sam Harris and somehow this leads people to… David Duke, or something. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense so let us read from the text.
What are hereditarians?Although right-wing and alt-right are fairly well-known terms, “hereditarian” is not and requires an explanation.“Hereditarian” – an advocate of the theory that individual differences in human beings can be accounted for primarily on the basis of genetics.Although in practice the term most often refers to racial differences, as discussed by Linda Gottfredson:Rushton and Jensen’s (2005) hereditarian hypothesis is that Black–White differences in general intelligence (IQ, or the general mental ability factor, g) are “substantially” genetic in origin…https://www1.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/reprints/2005hereditarian-hypothesis.pdfOther terms which are similar are “evolutionary psychology,” “human biodiversity” and “racial realism.” Related to these terms is “biosocial criminology.”
The Blank SlateWritten by Pinker, published in 2002, this is the New Testament to The Bell Curve’s Old Testament for hereditarians.
Although Steven Pinker claims in The Blank Slate that he doesn’t agree with the conclusions about black intelligence made in The Bell Curve, he has never to my knowledge explained why, although he agrees with almost every other hereditarian claim, the Bell Curve is wrong about that.…Intellectuals deny biology, according to Pinker, because it interferes with their pet theories of mind and behavior. These are the Blank Slate (the belief that the mind is wholly shaped by the environment), the Noble Savage (the notion that people are born good but are corrupted by society), and the Ghost in the Machine (the idea that there is a nonbiological agent in our heads with the power to change our nature at will). 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. The good guys are the cognitive scientists and ordinary folks, whose common sense, except when it has been damaged by listening to intellectuals, generally correlates with what cognitive science has discovered. I wish I could say that Pinker’s view of the world of ideas is more nuanced than this…
I would posit that the reason Steven Pinker has not explained why he disagrees with claims made concerning black intelligence being hereditary is that it is politically and socially disadvantageous to do so; he is both intelligent enough and well-read on the literature enough, to know that the claims made are not fanciful and are well backed by evidence. Note also the dismissive snark inherent in the line “I wish I could say that Pinker’s view of the world of ideas is more nuanced than this…,” Pinker is bending over backwards to placate just this kind of person and what does he get in return? Vitriol. Nothing written demonstrates why this view is “unnuanced,” furthermore, it is entirely possible for a theory to lack considerable nuance and still be true (in its general conceptual structure); in fact this is typically how ALL theories are formed, that is to say, by broad and unnuanced conjecture, then nuanced conjecture then rigorous testing. The article then goes on to list and smear a whole number of disparate people including political comedian Gavin McInnes (best known for his stint on The Rebel), science writer Claire Lehmann (best known for Quillette), evolutionary biologist and writer, Richard Dawkins (who has praised Quillette), IQ researcher Richard Lynn (best known for his seminal work, IQ and the Wealth of Nations, written with Tatu Vanhannen), white-activist Richard Spencer (best known for coining the term alt-right), American Renaissance founder, statistician, writer and activist for ethnic determination, Jared Taylor, as well as that ever-present boogeyman of the Democratic party, Dr. David Duke.
The basic thesis of the piece is that because some of these people have interacted with each other and most of them are, or have been, interested in, or affiliated with someone who was interested, in hereditarianism they are all complicit in a sort of racial supremacist scheme. This kind of absurdist guilt-by-association engineering is increasingly frequent among “anti-racist” activist (who are, to put it quite bluntly, generally just anti-white ideologues) but this behavior is also increasingly frequent among what has come to be known as the “intellectual darkweb” a milieu of semi-mainstream to out-right mainstream political and scientific figures who run the gamit from Pinker, Murray and Harris, to Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, and Brett and Eric Weinstein (no relation to the Hollywood producer). There term has become so popular that an eponymous website materialized. In short it is a collection of centrists (or those who are desperately trying to be centrists, such as Pinker) who operate beyond the mainstream media of their respective countries. Due to the sheer size and diversity of the “darkweb” some of their adherents have had occasion to, whether by accident or design, speak with members of the alt-right or outer right more broadly.
Here the idea of a “marketplace of ideas” suggests itself; the notion that the “invisible hand” of the “market” should select the best ideas and that “bad” ideas (in the context of the anti-hereditarians and broader “darkweb” this means “that which is not inline with neoliberal or neo-enlightenment egalitarian doctrine) would simply be weeded out by sanguine argumentation. But few enough take this precept very serious (thus undermining its efficacy), for if they did, Sam Harris would have spoken to someone like Jared Taylor long ago, with little to no hullabaloo; however, Harris seems to look upon Taylor as dourly as does HTM, perhaps, even more so. In point of fact, Mr. Harris made such a show of denouncing “the racist” Taylor that the latter felt compelled to respond during a livestream interview, saying, “Sam Harris must know nothing about me other than what the Southern Poverty Law Center says about me, and, Sam Harris is a very smart guy, he can use the internet as well as anyone. I don’t understand why he doesn’t make some small attempt to discover what it is I really think. And if he were to discover what I really think, if he thinks that I’m wrong, presumably he could refute me. But to somehow think that anyone who has spoken to someone who has actually interviewed me is a dangerous and radioactive personality… that just goes to show you the extent to which people are just hypnotized and blinded by this extraordinary tyranny of political correctness that we live under.”
This is really the crux of the whole issue and can be encapsulated via example. Consider the late and popular journalist and social critic, Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens was a friend and colleague of Sam Harris. Hitchens strongly supported the war in Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam, Harris did not (though many, including the independent journalist, Glenn Greenwald, have falsely asserted the contrary). So we have Taylor, a mild-manner statistician and dedicated proponent of freedom of association and Hitchens, a belligerent warmonger who asserted that the Iraqi War would be looked back upon as one of the United State’s greatest achievements; who is really more radical and dangerous? Apparently both Harris and HTM agree upon the point that it is Jared Taylor, despite the fact that he was strenuously opposed to the war in Iraq to such a degree that he wrote many papers on the topic such as The Double Talk of War in which he excoriates Bush for his reckless and hawkish policies, writing, “For the President, “diplomacy works,” not when it prevents war, but when it promotes war,” and later, “It is breathtaking arrogance to defy the UN, reject its counsels, go to war, and then complain that the UN has somehow undermined its own credibility. If any other nation behaved like that, the United States would declare it a rogue state and sponsor Security Council action against it. And how are we proposing that the UN win back its self-respect? By abjectly rubber-stamping a war it plainly opposes.” Whether or not you agree with such views it is hard to see how they are at all unreasonable. Harris, in his attempt to “play down the middle” and satisfy all parties is doing nothing but fostering the very social norms which he constantly rails against, chiefly, draconian political correctness, feckless defamation and academic dogmatism.
You can follow him online here.
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