Friday, January 12, 2018

Jesse Singal, Pinkerite, defends Pinker in the NYTimes

UPDATE: it turns out that Jesse Singal is a member of the evo-psycho club

The irony is that many of the people who admire Pinker consider themselves New Atheists and skeptics, yet it doesn't seem to bother them at all that not only does Pinker make extremist claims sans evidence, but also proclaims his opinions to be "the truth."

And if you point out that Pinker has a long history of making common cause with the right, and then the alt-right, they will push back on his behalf immediately. Yesterday's NYTimes published an op-ed by Jesse Singal, Social Media Is Making Us Dumber. Here’s Exhibit A.

I wrote an op-ed response and sent it into the NYTimes but I don't know if they will publish it or not. 

PZ Myers was mentioned by name in Singal's piece:
Steven Pinker has long been a darling of the white supremacist ‘alt-right,’” noted the lefty journalist Ben Norton. “And he returns the favor.” Others reacted to the rumor with simple exasperation: “Christ on a crutch,” said the liberal commentator and biologist PZ Myers, who also wrote a blog post denouncing Mr. Pinker for this supposed alliance.
Myers responded on his blog, Steven Pinker and the New York Times are making us dumber and makes one of the same points I did in my as-yet unpublished op-ed:
Even when they vaguely puzzle out this point, Pinker supporters don’t understand it. What does Jesse Singal say in the New York Times?
The clip was deeply misleading. If you watch the whole eight-minute video from which it was culled, it’s clear that Mr. Pinker’s entire point is that the alt-right’s beliefs are false and illogical — but that the left needs to do a better job fighting against them.
No. He clearly says that the alt-right’s beliefs are the fault of the “PC” Left, which says nothing about making better arguments to oppose them, and is a falsehood. His talk was about doling out the blame to the Left, not about fighting the alt-right. If you listen to the whole 8-minute video, what you hear is Pinker first saying that you can’t voice certain facts on campus, then stating those facts (self-refutation, anyone?), then explaining that his facts are more complex than he let on, which is what the college professors he’s blaming already do. But then this kind of disingenuous denial of reality, of focusing superficially on he said/she said note-taking, is exactly what the New York Times specializes in.
Jesse Singal is a lazy sloppy journalist and that trait is just as apparent in his tweets. Here he is uncritically repeating Pinker's claim that all he is saying is "the biological contribution to gender differences is greater than zero" along with the claim that there are "people" who react to that as if it was alt-right.

Naturally neither Singal nor Pinker provide any evidence there are people doing that. But even more importantly, "greater than zero" is hardly the extent of what Pinker believes. He believes that biological differences are the cause of a variety of social phenomenon. Which is why he defended Larry Summers.

Pinker lies on the anti-PC video about the source of the Larry Summers controversy, in the same way.

He portrays the Larry Summers controversy as though Summers was punished by simply stating that men and women are different. The actual controversy was that Summers, while the president of Harvard and thus having some power over hiring decisions, suggested at a conference on diversity in STEM that the foremost reason women had less successful careers in STEM than men was because their brains were by nature less capable of STEM subjects than the brains of men.

So my best guess, to provoke you, of what's behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon, by far, is the general clash between people's legitimate family desires and employers' current desire for high power and high intensity, that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination.

So what exactly were the dire repercussions of Larry Summers proclaiming "the truth"? A few years later Summers went to work for the Obama administration. Apparently the university/media cabal dedicated to withholding the truth is not nearly as powerful as Steven Pinker would have you believe.

It's because of lazy, careless journalists like Singal that Pinker has been getting away with making common cause with professional rightwing racists all these years.