Sunday, May 13, 2018

Why BeeDeeist Racetardism Maintains Its Hold On AltRightwing Imagination


Guardian  |  The recent revival of ideas about race and IQ began with a seemingly benign scientific observation. In 2005, Steven Pinker, one of the world’s most prominent evolutionary psychologists, began promoting the view that Ashkenazi Jews are innately particularly intelligent – first in a lecture to a Jewish studies institute, then in a lengthy article in the liberal American magazine The New Republic the following year. This claim has long been the smiling face of race science; if it is true that Jews are naturally more intelligent, then it’s only logical to say that others are naturally less so.

The background to Pinker’s essay was a 2005 paper entitled “Natural history of Ashkenazi intelligence”, written by a trio of anthropologists at the University of Utah. In their 2005 paper, the anthropologists argued that high IQ scores among Ashkenazi Jews indicated that they evolved to be smarter than anyone else (including other groups of Jews).

This evolutionary development supposedly took root between 800 and 1650 AD, when Ashkenazis, who primarily lived in Europe, were pushed by antisemitism into money-lending, which was stigmatised among Christians. This rapid evolution was possible, the paper argued, in part because the practice of not marrying outside the Jewish community meant a “very low inward gene flow”. This was also a factor behind the disproportionate prevalence in Ashkenazi Jews of genetic diseases such as Tay-Sachs and Gaucher’s, which the researchers claimed were a byproduct of natural selection for higher intelligence; those carrying the gene variants, or alleles, for these diseases were said to be smarter than the rest.

Pinker followed this logic in his New Republic article, and elsewhere described the Ashkenazi paper as “thorough and well-argued”. He went on to castigate those who doubted the scientific value of talking about genetic differences between races, and claimed that “personality traits are measurable, heritable within a group and slightly different, on average, between groups”.

In subsequent years, Nicholas Wade, Charles Murray, Richard Lynn, the increasingly popular Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson and others have all piled in on the Jewish intelligence thesis, using it as ballast for their views that different population groups inherit different mental capacities. Another member of this chorus is the journalist Andrew Sullivan, who was one of the loudest cheerleaders for The Bell Curve in 1994, featuring it prominently in The New Republic, which he edited at the time. He returned to the fray in 2011, using his popular blog, The Dish, to promote the view that population groups had different innate potentials when it came to intelligence.

Sullivan noted that the differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews were “striking in the data”. It was a prime example of the rhetoric of race science, whose proponents love to claim that they are honouring the data, not political commitments. The far right has even rebranded race science with an alternative name that sounds like it was taken straight from the pages of a university course catalogue: “human biodiversity”.

A common theme in the rhetoric of race science is that its opponents are guilty of wishful thinking about the nature of human equality. “The IQ literature reveals that which no one would want to be the case,” Peterson told Molyneux on his YouTube show recently. Even the prominent social scientist Jonathan Haidt has criticised liberals as “IQ deniers”, who reject the truth of inherited IQ difference between groups because of a misguided commitment to the idea that social outcomes depend entirely on nurture, and are therefore mutable.

Defenders of race science claim they are simply describing the facts as they are – and the truth isn’t always comfortable. “We remain the same species, just as a poodle and a beagle are of the same species,” Sullivan wrote in 2013. “But poodles, in general, are smarter than beagles, and beagles have a much better sense of smell.”

The race “science” that has re-emerged into public discourse today – whether in the form of outright racism against black people, or supposedly friendlier claims of Ashkenazis’ superior intelligence – usually involves at least one of three claims, each of which has no grounding in scientific fact.