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Mrs. Stephen Jay Gould Sponsors Lawsuit Against Jared Diamond
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Last year, Jared Diamond published a long account in The New Yorker of stories his driver in New Guinea had told him about a bloody feud he’d led in the New Guinea highlands. (I commented on it here.) Now, the driver and another man are suing Diamond for $10 million, saying the story isn’t true.

From Chronicles of Higher Education:

“While acting on vengeful feelings clearly needs to be discouraged, acknowledging them should be not merely permitted but encouraged,” wrote Jared M. Diamond in an essay in The New Yorker last April.

Now two of the subjects of that essay are acknowledging their own vengeful feelings. This week a lawyer filed a $10-million defamation claim in a New York court on behalf of two Papua New Guinea men whom Mr. Diamond described as active participants in clan warfare during the 1990s.

Mr. Diamond, a professor of geography at the University of California at Los Angeles and the author of the best-selling Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (W.W. Norton, 1997), and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Viking, 2004), based the essay almost entirely on accounts given to him by Hup Daniel Wemp, an oil-field technician who served as Mr. Diamond’s driver during a 2001-2 visit to New Guinea. (The full text of the essay is open only to New Yorker subscribers, but a long summary is available here.

Mr. Wemp is now one of the lawsuit’s two plaintiffs; the other is Henep Isum Mandingo, a man who, according to Mr. Diamond’s article, was attacked and paralyzed on orders from Mr. Wemp.

For nearly a year, Mr. Diamond’s article has been scrutinized by Rhonda Roland Shearer, director of the Art Science Research Laboratory, a multifaceted New York organization with a sideline in media criticism. Ms. Shearer, a sculptor and writer, is the widow of Stephen Jay Gould, who preceded Mr. Diamond as a widely esteemed public interpreter of science.

Gould’s widow sure likes lawsuits. A few years ago she filed suit for malpractice against the doctor who had saved Gould’s life from cancer in 1982.

The Stinky Journalism website run by her Art Science Research Laboratory says:

Art Science Research Laboratory (ASRL) is a not-for-profit, 501(3)c, founded by Stephen Jay Gould, and Rhonda Roland Shearer in 1996.

The notion of Stephen Jay Gould founding a website to combat “stinky journalism” is hilarious. This is a writer whose biggest bestseller, The Mismeasure of Man, remains the epitome of stinky journalism. High class stinky journalism is what made Mr. and Mrs. Gould rich. As the AP reported on Mrs. Gould’s lawsuit against her late husband’s doctor:

“The lawsuit does not specify the damages being sought, but says that Dr. Gould earned $300,000 a year from speaking engagements alone, that “a seven-figure income was his norm” and that when he died he was about to enter into a book contract for more than $2 million.”

Here’s Stinky Journalism’s endless, poorly organized, poorly edited, and minor error-filled diatribe against Diamond.

This lawsuit against Diamond is also part of the cultural anthropology profession’s war against Diamond (which I discussed in 2007), who has become a best-selling author by mixing the human sciences with Darwinism (while clinging hard enough to political correctness to stay in the money). Although Diamond has made a fortune by coming up with politically correct rationalizations for the obvious huge gaps in achievement among the races, to cultural anthropologists, he’s not politically correct enough.

Forbes reports:

Complicating Wemp’s case, perhaps, is an interview he gave to Shearer’s researchers, in which he stated that the stories he told Diamond were in fact true.

But a Wemp friend and legal adviser, Mako John Kuwimb, explains: “When foreigners come to our culture, we tell stories as entertainment. Daniel’s stories were not serious narrative, and Daniel had no idea he was being interviewed for publication.”

Pacific Islanders are notorious for yanking the chains of visiting Western academics — just look at how Samoan girls snookered Margaret Mead in the 1920s. Moreover, guys like to tell stories about how tough they are, so when your driver tells you about how many men he’s killed protecting his family’s honor, you shouldn’t necessarily take him all that seriously.

So, I have no idea if this story is true or not. Diamond’s article was, literally, a story about a bunch of savages slaughtering each other in the jungle. That’s the kind of thing that doesn’t leave much of a paper trail.

I imagine Wemp would be happy to settle out of court for $100,000 or whatever, which is serious cash in PNG. Wemp’s lawsuit is ridiculous because obviously Diamond didn’t just make up the story. He heard it from Wemp, the plaintiff. The story Wemp told may or may not be true. If it’s not, the other parties named in it may have some kind of case against Diamond for negligence in credulously believing a blowhard’s tall tales. But Wemp doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

But all this raises once again the question that comes up practically every time The New Yorker prints a Malcolm Gladwell article, such as the one libeling Charles Murray that led to a shaming retraction from Gladwell’s editor David Remnick: Whatever happened to The New Yorker’s famous Bright Lights, Big City-style factcheckers? Or have I answered my own question?



(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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  1. Don’t be silly. NOBODY employs fact-checkers any more. Don’t you know that there’s no such thing as “truth” and that all “facts” are just cultural constructs? Some egghead in France proved it.

  2. What other fact issues did Gladwell’s New Yorker articles have, Steve?

  3. These cases are always enjoyable, sadly only one of them can lose.

  4. I suppose there might still be some checking of copy at THE NEW YORKER in the sense of making sure that the spelling of proper nouns is correct. One doesn’t see actual misprints of names (or outright bad grammar) in that magazine, nor does one see Benedict XVI referred to as Benedict XIV etc. But other than these (not wholly trivial) merits, I do not imagine that THE NEW YORKER’s editorial staffers care very much these days about getting things right. Who even notices errors any more, apart from copy editors themselves? Is not the whole idea of assessing prose’s accuracy level a deep affront to authors’ “creativity” and “self-esteem”?

  5. She seems to suffer from spouse of famous dead guy syndrome. How many non-working “journalists” are there in NYC? By the way, she’s way too attractive for SJG . . . Maybe she sued the life-saving doctor because she wanted SJG dead . . .

  6. It’s true the New Yorker’s standard have taken an atrocious turn but that doesn’t mean THIS story isn’t true. Diamond probably knows PNG well enough to not get fooled, and the story actually sounded pretty plausible so I’m not sure why you’ve chosen this occasion to attack the New Yorker.

    My question is how exactly were the plaintiffs damaged by a story in a middle-brow foreign magazine that almost no one in PNG reads? If Beijing’s premier literary magazine were to slander Steve Sailer would Steve care? The lawsuit is PC nonsense at its worst.

  7. Ha, ha!

    If the Gould Family didn’t exist, I think that Kevin McDonald guy would have needed to invent them…

  8. “based the essay almost entirely on accounts given to him by Hup Daniel Wemp, an oil-field technician who served as Mr. Diamond’s driver during a 2001-2 visit to New Guinea.” I know that journalists like to base a story on what the cab driver says on the trip from the airport, but to find a purported scholar doing something similar is priceless.

  9. Seven figures, huh? Political correctness really is a racket.

  10. The cultural anthro-apologists have to oppose Diamonds. It’s only a small step from plant genes affecting culture to human genes doing it too.

  11. Shouldn’t this lawsuit have been filed in Indonesia? I don’t see how Wemp has standing in an American court to file.

  12. But if Wemp doesn’t have standing and the other guy is just supposed to have been a victim of Wemp, what the hell is he being defamed by? People incorrectly thinking he’s paralyzed?

  13. Hmm, I wonder if this puts my own book of popular science, based on the sociological insights I gleaned from the stories I heard from this Texan dude, Bobby Howard, in any kind of jeopardy.

  14. Steve
    we are still waiting for a proper comment on nisbett’s book
    “intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Coun”

  15. “Shouldn’t this lawsuit have been filed in Indonesia?”Why in Indonesia? Are you under the impression that Papau New Guinea is part of Indonesia?

  16. Shouldn’t this lawsuit have been filed in Indonesia? I don’t see how Wemp has standing in an American court to file.
    If he is from Irian Jaya, perhaps so. If he is from Papua New Gineau, then no!

  17. Whiskey [AKA "Testing99"] says:

    Somewhat OT, but with Arlen Spector changing parties, Amnesty is a done deal now. Obama’s gonna just roll over everyone, to get it and Carbon Cap and Trade and National Health Care done.

    Meanwhile, nothing lawsuits over two SWPL myth caterers proceed onwards.

    The Lawsuit will go nowhere. Diamond has deeper pockets and is more SWPL popular.

  18. Sailer is rooting for Gould!

  19. Testing99, Arlen Specter’s party switch doesn’t change anything because he was already pro-amnesty.

    I started writing a post a while back about how there definitely are not enough votes to stop amnesty by counting the votes in the Senate, but I found that it wasn’t so clear, at least not without looking very closely at 20 or so Senators, which I didn’t have time to do. Now I’m not sure whether there’s a chance to stop amnesty. You’d really have to count votes to say for sure.

  20. testing 99 gets it in again! A SWPL reference!

    gould vs. diamond is fantastic. would that frays like this spread around the world.

  21. Diamond’s Collapse book got Greenland wrong, just as it was wrong on Easter Island. I recommend reading his books nevertheless. He probably just needs smart and strong-willed editors/fact-checkers to tell him when he’s going too far out on a limb.

  22. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    "nisbett's book

    "intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Coun"

    Here is a comment regarding Nisbett's NY Times article:

    All Brains Are the Same Color
    >
    > By RICHARD E. NISBETT

    I would like to offer some comments to Nisbett's Op-Ed piece.

    > The first notable public airing of the scientific question came in a 1969 article in The Harvard Educational Review by Arthur Jensen, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Jensen maintained that a 15-point difference in I.Q. between blacks and whites was mostly due to a genetic difference between the races that could never be erased. But his argument gave a misleading account of the evidence.

    This is not true. There was nothing misleading, nor incorrect. After 37 years, Jensen's observations have been clearly established as correct.

    > In fact, the evidence heavily favors the view that race differences in I.Q. are environmental in origin, not genetic.

    False. Anyone who does not understand this may wish to read this:

    Rushton, J.P. and Jensen, A.R. (2005). Thirty Years of Research on Race Differences in Cognitive Ability. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 11, No. 2, 235-294. [easily located on the web]

    > The hereditarians begin with the assertion that 60 percent to 80 percent of variation in I.Q. is genetically determined. However, most estimates of heritability have been based almost exclusively on studies of middle-class groups.

    The B-W IQ gap is larger at the highest level of SES than at the lowest. The above comment is inane. There have been literally hundreds of IQ studies of various racial groups from many different countries and they show the same outcome:

    > For the poor, a group that includes a substantial proportion of minorities, heritability of I.Q. is very low, in the range of 10 percent to 20 percent, according to recent research by Eric Turkheimer at the University of Virginia.

    Turkheimer reached this conclusion by studying children who were age 7 and less. This is long before the shared environmental component vanishes.

    > This means that for the poor, improvements in environment have great potential to bring about increases in I.Q.

    For children only. The shared environmental component equals ZERO for adults.

    > Nearly all the evidence suggesting a genetic basis for the I.Q. differential is indirect.

    Not true. You have to wonder why this person makes such obviously false assertions. Perhaps he thinks his readers are not familiar with the research. A good bit of the evidence is so specific that it cannot be associated with environmental causes by any means.

    > There is, for example, the evidence that brain size is correlated with intelligence, and that blacks have smaller brains than whites. But the brain size difference between men and women is substantially greater than that between blacks and whites, yet men and women score the same, on average, on I.Q. tests.

    The brain size difference between the sexes is a virtually perfect predictor of the IQ difference between the sexes. The claim that the sexes have identical IQs is at odds with numerous independent findings, although the subject is still being debated.

    > Likewise, a group of people in a community in Ecuador have a genetic anomaly that produces extremely small head sizes ­ and hence brain sizes. Yet their intelligence is as high as that of their unaffected relatives .

    This person does not understand correlations. Even large numbers of exceptions do not invalidate correlations. One or two points will have little significance, other than to move the correlation coefficient by a tiny amount.

    > About 25 percent of the genes in the American black population are European, meaning that the genes of any individual can range from 100 percent African to mostly European. If European intelligence genes are superior, then blacks who have relatively more European genes ought to have higher I.Q's than those who have more African genes. But it turns out that skin color and "negroidness" of features ­ both measures of the degree of a black person's European ancestry ­ are only weakly associated with I.Q. (even though we might well expect a moderately high association due to the social advantages of such features).

    The Black admixture formula (from Lynn) is
    IQ = 80 + (admixture % x 0.2)
    [see Lynn, Richard (2006). Race Differences in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis, Washington Summit Publishers, Georgia.]
    This formula predicts the regional and mean IQs of Blacks in the US and Europe.

    > During World War II, both black and white American soldiers fathered children with German women. Thus some of these children had 100 percent European heritage and some had substantial African heritage. Tested in later childhood, the German children of the white fathers were found to have an average I.Q. of 97, and those of the black fathers had an average of 96.5, a trivial difference.

    This citation is known as the Eyferth study. Environmental proponents always cite it because they have not found any other evidence to cite. But their claim is incredibly lame:

    * The "study" consisted of a very small N. Some citations claim 98 and some 69.

    * Although the children's IQ was measured, the parents' IQ was not measured (neither was the rank of the US military father measured). So it is not known whether the children inherited the parental IQ.

    * About 30 percent of US blacks failed pre-induction mental tests for the military, compared with 3 percent of white. So US black soldiers were a more IQ-selected and less-representative sample of their population than were white soldiers.

    * Children were tested prior to the age at which the genotypic aspect of intelligence has become fully manifested.

    * 20% to 25% of the Black fathers were not African Americans but French North Africans (i.e., largely Caucasian or Whites as we have defined the terms here).

    > But it turns out that skin color and negroidness_ of features ­ both measures of the degree of a black person's European ancestry ­ are only weakly associated with I.Q. (even though we might well expect a moderately high association due to the social advantages of such features).

    There is no presently available study (to the best of my knowledge) of within group IQ variation as a function of skin color. But there is a between group study, as cited in my previously referenced article:

    Templer and Arikawa (2006):

    skin color to winter high temperature r = .85 (p < 0.001)

    IQ to skin color r = – .92 (p < 0.001)

    The correlation shown above is not even close to "weakly associated." It is very strong. Nisbett did not offer any numbers or references to support his assertion.

    > The closest thing to direct evidence that the hereditarians have is a study from the 1970s showing that black children who had been adopted by white parents had lower I.Q.'s than those of mixed-race children adopted by white parents. But, as the researchers acknowledged, the study had many flaws; for instance, the black children had been adopted at a substantially later age than the mixed-race children, and later age at adoption is associated with lower I.Q.

    All adopted children reached adult IQs that were equal to their biological peers and which had no correlation with their adoptive families. Transracial studies were not limited to Bl
    acks adopted by Whites but included Asians adopted by Whites. The Blacks ended up with lower IQs than their adoptive families and the Asians ended up with IQs higher than their adoptive families.

    > That environment can markedly influence I.Q. is demonstrated by the so-called Flynn Effect.

    No, it is not.

    > James Flynn, a philosopher and I.Q. researcher in New Zealand, has established that in the Western world as a whole, I.Q. increased markedly from 1947 to 2002.

    Not true. What he found was an increase in raw scores. At the same time scholastic-component raw scores (within the same tests) declined.

    > In the United States alone, it went up by 18 points. Our genes could not have changed enough over such a brief period to account for the shift;

    He got one right.

    > it must have been the result of powerful social factors.

    No. There is absolutely no evidence that any social factors were at work. It appears that most or all of the gains were specific and not g loaded and are apparently due to multiple factors such as nutrition, family size, and environmental conditions that exist in very early life, since the secular rise is observable in toddlers.

    > Most important, we know that interventions at every age from infancy to college can reduce racial gaps in both I.Q. and academic achievement, sometimes by substantial amounts in surprisingly little time.

    The IQ boosts that have been reported were temporary (very short lived) and were believed to be largely the result of teaching to the test. That means that the gains were in s loading and not in g loading. No g loading gains have been demonstrated.

    > This mutability is further evidence that the I.Q. difference has environmental, not genetic, causes.

    No, it is not. Nisbett needs to read (or read again) Rushton, J.P. and Jensen, A.R. (2005). Thirty Years of Research on Race Differences in Cognitive Ability. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 11, No. 2, 235-294.

  23. All that glitters is not Gould. Better a Diamond in the rough…

  24. “What other fact issues did Gladwell’s New Yorker articles have, Steve?”

    Search isteve.blogspot.com’s archives for a discussions of Gladwell.

  25. rob said

    “It’s only a small step from plant genes affecting culture to human genes doing it too.”

    Zing!

  26. If had known it would be like this, I would have picked my own damn cotton.

  27. testing 99 gets it in again! A SWPL reference!

    gould vs. diamond is fantastic.The comment you refer to is a brilliant bit of composition, as one cannot determine to what “SWPL” actually applies. (A worthy question since Evil Neocon recently referred to Norman Mailer and Susan Sontag as “SWPLs” in that Roissy thread)

  28. Are you under the impression that Papau New Guinea is part of Indonesia?

    I posted that without checking whether PNG is a part of Indonesia, sorry. Who do you think I am Stanley Ann Dunham?

  29. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    During World War II, both black and white American soldiers fathered children with German women.Wonder how many germans born in 1946 had a Red Army or Western Ami Daddy?

    20% to 25% of the Black fathers were not African Americans but French North Africans (i.e., largely Caucasian or Whites as we have defined the terms here). According to some accounts, the majority of Free French WWII enlisted men were French North Africans.

  30. “But the brain size difference between men and women is substantially greater than that between blacks and whites, yet men and women score the same, on average, on I.Q. tests.”

    It is not just the size of the brain. The significant point is the size of the brain relative to the body. A small person with a big head is likely (not always) to have greater brain power than the same size head on a much bigger person.
    Women’s heads are about the same as men’s relative to size. The gender difference in iq is insignificant except at the farther reaches, both left and right, of the bell curve.

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