From The Guardian:
How the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker became one of the world’s most contentious thinkers
by Alex Blasdel
Tue 28 Sep 2021
… Many critics allege that Pinker’s recent remarks are part of a longer history of comments and behaviour that have come dangerously close to promoting pseudoscientific or abhorrent points of view. To take a single example: the journalist Malcolm Gladwell has called Pinker out for sourcing information from the blogger Steve Sailer, who, in Gladwell’s words, “is perhaps best known for his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to white people”.
Here’s the abhorrent and pseudoscientific information Pinker sourced from my blog
Pinker used my analysis of two decades of NFL draft picks for his 2009 NYT review of a Gladwell book in which the then-superstar New Yorker writer had claimed:
The problem with picking quarterbacks is that [U. of Missouri quarterback] Chase Daniel’s performance can’t be predicted. The job he’s being groomed for is so particular and specialized that there is no way to know who will succeed at it and who won’t. In fact, Berri and Simmons found no connection between where a quarterback was taken in the draft—that is, how highly he was rated on the basis of his college performance—and how well he played in the pros.
Unsurprisingly, I found that while drafting quarterbacks is hard, NFL teams do much better than random.
Pinker’s review did permanent damage to Gladwell’s then-inflated reputation, so Gladwell lashed back in a letter to the Times arguing that I had cooties.
Paradoxically, my 10,000 hours critiquing Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of practice theory both destroyed his reputation and vindicated his theory.
Back to the Guardian today:
Angela Saini, a science journalist and author of Superior: The Return of Race Science, told me that “for many people, Pinker’s willingness to entertain the work of individuals who are on the far right and white supremacists has gone beyond the pale”. When I put these kinds of criticisms to Pinker, he called it the fallacy of “guilt by association” – just because Sailer and others have objectionable views, doesn’t mean their data is bad. Pinker has condemned racism – he told me it was “not just wrong but stupid” – but published Sailer’s work in an edited volume in 2004,
That was my January 2003 article “Cousin Marriage Conundrum” that predicted the failure of Bush’s nation-building war in Iraq due to Iraq’s little known high rates of cousin marriage exacerbating its clannishness. Pinker has good taste as an editor.
and quotes Sailer’s positive review of Better Angels, among many others, on his website.
… “Depending on how much of a sense of humour you and your editor have, here’s an answer to the question, ‘Are there downsides to being famous?’” Pinker emailed me after I asked him about Epstein, Sailer, McGinn and others. “Yes. Journalists ask you to explain why you’ve been ‘associated with’ various people, out of the thousands you’ve interacted with over the decades, who’ve done something wrong.”
Jeffrey Epstein and me are up there together as wrongdoers …
(Colin McGinn was a mild-mannered philosophy professor who got proto-MeTooed in 2013 by a young lady’s boyfriend who felt her professor was becoming overly familiar in their banter.)
After all, Epstein prostituted hundreds of under-age jailbait girl, while I crunched FBI murder statistics in sophisticated spreadsheets.