Friday, January 02, 2015

Razib Khan, America's favorite race-obsessed science writer

I had been ignoring Razib Khan recently, but I've been getting hits on this web site lately from the discussion board associated with 3Quarks - specifically a piece posted there that demonstrates Khan's usual obsession with "race."

Coincidentally, I was just recently wondering what the racialists thought of the recent NYTimes maps displaying ethnic/genetic breakdowns of Americans. My mistake was going to the blatantly racist American Renaissance web site, when I should have just gone directly to their hero Khan.

You get a sense of Khan's anxiety over the possibility of "race mixing" in the title of his Unz editorial American Racial Boundaries Are Quite Distinct (For Now).

This editorial is valuable in its crystal clear demonstration of Khan's extremist, unscientific approach to ethnicity - his use of the word "hybrid" -
I have known very few non-European hybrids with Chinese – one of my daughter’s friends had a Persian grandmother. She is considered an attractive girl because erm she’s attractive.
The scientific definition of hybrid is:

Hybrid

Definition
noun, plural form: hybrids
(general) Any of mixed origin or composition, or the combination of two or more different things.
(biology) An offspring resulting from the cross between parents of different species or sub-species.
(molecular biology) A complex formed by joining two complementary strands of nucleic acids.
adjective
Of or pertaining to the offspring produced from crossbreeding.

Humans are not separate sub-species. A proper use of the term "hybrid" would be human-Neandertal. Khan uses a colloquial definition of "hybrid" when he claims to be talking about science. That's how Khan does it - he plays fast and loose with science-based terminologies and there are enough people baffled by his bullshit that he gets away with it.
In fact, Khan is such a bad writer I can hardly believe he is paid any attention to outside the right-wing bubble - and of course the article reposted at 3Quarks comes from a media outlet of the right-wing Unz Review, which also publishes the thoughts of John Derbyshire on race. Derbyshire was fired from the National Review for being too racist.
Here is how bad Khan is - he wrote an article entitled Why race as a biological construct matters but in fact does not even address race as a "biological construct" in any scientific sense, and in fact what he really means is race as a sociological construct. But you could argue I suppose that since "race" is used to refer to humans and we are biological entities it's not a technical falsehood. But that's how Razib Khan writes - slippery and full of shit.

He says:
So there you have it. An underlying biological reality which is a reflection of deep history. It may not be real or factual, but it is consistent and coherent.
and later:
There is no Platonic sense where there are perfect categories with ideal uses. Rather, we muddle on, making usage of heuristics and frameworks which are serviceable for the moment. We lose our way when we ignore the multi-textured nature of the issues.

Laughably, this writer for a science magazine Discover feels that consistency and coherence is more important than reality or fact when it comes to what he chooses to call "an underlying biological reality."

And he's fine with heuristics and frameworks which are "serviceable for the moment."

How convenient for someone who wants to argue that "race" is a valid scientific category and who is too lazy to use the term "hybrid" in a non-colloquial sense.

We should not be too surprised that Khan is given this kind of leeway - many science writers rely on reader (and apparently editor) ignorance and their own bullshit artistry. Steven Pinker, a mainstream public intellectual is habitually sloppy, and likes to have things both ways, and just about the only publication that consistently calls him on it is The New Yorker. And when the New Yorker criticizes Pinker, he turns to Razib Khan to back him up.

And I thought the world of theater was full of assholes.

13 comments:

  1. The darker skinned woman is the self-hating, weave wearing trope? The biracial, lighter skinned woman is the conscious more complex character? Yes, a black man made this movie. No surprise.

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  2. I'm not sure which movie you are referring to. This comment doesn't seem to be related to the blog post.

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  3. Anonymous8:46 AM

    I think your witchhunt of a known scientist should stop. Khan is merely publishing scientific results in the field of human population genomics, today a quite large field of research. He is always referring to scientific articles, mostly published in high impact journals. In this case he refers to an article by the prominent Reich lab that did in fact find that American racial boundaries are very distinct, in the sense that white Americans have very little African or Native American ancestry (this is not a new finding either). The (not yet) statement has nothing to do with any anxiety over race-mixing (if I remember correctly Khan is himself in an interracial marriage), that is completly made up by you. It is merely an observation of how things are, because today interracial marriages are, of course, very common. Your imagination is just playing a prank on you and I dont think it is very polite to call someone a racist without merit.

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  4. Again, you don't seem to know what the word "witchhunt' means, anonymous coward.

    And since when is it forbidden to criticize a "known scientist" based on his own writings? And "a known scientist" doesn't mean a good scientist, and it certainly doesn't mean a good science writer, which is more to the point of my criticisms of Razib Khan.

    And my impression of Khan's feelings about race are as much from his old writings on his Gene Expression board, where it was obvious to me that he was very concerned about making sure that everybody was aware that although people from the India sub-continent may have dark skin, they should be classified as white.

    And your insulting and condescending characterizations of my criticisms - for instance as "imagination" is pretty funny considering that you clearly do take what I write seriously if you feel you have to spend so much time responding to my criticisms of Razib Khan.

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  5. Anonymous9:19 AM

    Well, to claim that someone who is in a mixed-race marriage would oppose race mixing requires a very vivid imagination. Not to mention that he never actually claims anything like that - he is just commenting on scientific finds and demographic trends. You are just making a personal attack based on your feelings without any kind of substance behind your claims.

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  6. Khan doesn't have a problem with all "races" - just with those most recently out of Africa, whom he believes are intellectually inferior. That's what the term "racial realist" means and why he adores The Bell Curve, the bible of socio-biology racists. And in the US, that's what the term "race mixing" most often means.

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  7. Anonymous9:35 AM

    "But that's how Razib Khan writes - slippery and full of shit."

    Nancy, you really don't need to be criticizing anyone else's writing.

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  8. I wrote that as a comment as a member of the general public - not as the paid "science" columnist of a media outlet.

    Are you able to understand the difference?

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  9. Oh anonymous coward.

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  10. Anonymous4:24 AM

    If you want the example of good right-wing writers, I recommend the works of Mencius Moldbug. You can take the look at http://moldbuggery.blogspot.pl/. You will surely become impress.

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  11. Do you mean "good" as in stylistically? Because I'm unlikely to be impressed by someone who considers himself an economic "Austrian" and refers to Paul Krugman as an idiot.

    http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/search?q=krugman

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  12. Anonymous2:26 PM

    In the style as well as in the ideas. He is the formost thinker of the neoreactionary movement,

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  13. Well that's a very sad reflection on the "neoreactionary" movement.

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