Substack cometh, and lo it is good. (Pricing)

Back when there was a hereditarian Left…

Over at my Substack I posted a much longer review of The Genetic Lottery (you can find my shorter review at UnHerd).

That prompted a reader to point me to a piece in The Nation, Sociobiology and You, dated to October 31st, 2002, and penned by Steve Berlin Johnson, reviewing The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. It begins:

If Steven Pinker’s latest 500-page treatise on the brain, The Blank Slate, serves any wider purpose in the popular discussion of science issues, it will, one hopes, be the final demolition of that battle-worn slur, “biological determinism,” still lugged out by the occasional critic when someone starts talking about genes, evolution and human behavior in the same paragraph. Ever since E.O. Wilson first published the 1975 book Sociobiology–which argued that human behavior, like that of all creatures on the planet, was partially shaped by natural selection–certain factions of the left, sometimes led by creditable scientists like Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould, have lashed out at any attempt to connect human emotions and aptitudes to Darwinian explanations.

He continues:

Of course, the one place in which the neo-Darwinians have in fact emphasized differences over commonalities is the fraught world of the sexes. Because so much of natural selection is predicated on reproductive success or failure, and because men and women have such differing biological stakes in the act of reproduction, it is inevitable that natural selection would craft slightly different toolboxes for each sex. This is no problem for the many schools of feminism that embrace the “different but equal” assessment of the sexes, but it is a major irritant for those on the left who imagine all gender differences to be the product of cultural biases. I suspect, though, that the sexual blank slate isn’t long for this world, for several reasons.

For one, the science is increasingly making its advocates into Flat Earthers…

It is not entirely surprising Johnson wrote something like this. He’s the kind of “counter-intuitive” and “heterodox” science writer who would praise The Blank Slate. But, it says something that The Nation commissioned and accepted this piece in the early 2000’s. I think if I wanted to be mischievous I could get this piece removed from the internet now with the ideological currents that are dominant in our society by creating an anonymous Twitter account. Perhaps I could even demand a public apology from the editor who accepted Johnson’s final draft and Johnson himself.

Johnson may have recanted his earlier views. I don’t know, and I don’t care. We know what the truth is, and we know that academics and journalists routinely lie to you about it. Sometimes, it doesn’t get better.

4 thoughts on “Back when there was a hereditarian Left…

  1. In biological world, animals behaviors and shapes are products of natural selection. Nature here should includes environment created by all species around including its own species. Specific environment created by its own species is called “culture”. This is particularly obvious in creatures living in “crowd”.

    The “culture” will select genetically individual behaviors and physical features which turn around to further shape the “culture”. The test of particular culture fitness is the survival of species. For example, verbal ability is critical for people living in high density; not so much for people living low density or even solitude family.

    At end, survival of the fitness is the rule for all genetic feature.

  2. “Verbal ability is critical for people living in high density; not so much for people living low density or even solitude family.”

    Agree. That is one of the reasons why Yamanya nomads’ language (sc. ‘Indo-European’) could not be enforced on the entire European and many Asian populations. Apart from their much lower numbers in comparison to Europeans (we are still waiting for jury to come back with their estimates) their economy was (according to DA) based on few domesticated animals and these isolated families simply followed their herds without much interactions with other families. How they could develop their language in such social organisation (not mentioning that its proto-phase is unknown)? It is preposterous to assume that billions now speak their language.

  3. And why Hungarians couldn’t possibly speak a Ugric language. And why Old English couldn’t possibly have come from Anglo-Saxons. And why adoption of Norman French words into English could not possibly have happened. And why the Normans who settled in England could not possibly have largely adopted the language of the people they conquered.

    Me, I leave the linguistics to linguists, who actually hopefully know what they are talking about.

  4. Mr. Khan,

    I see that you refer to both Charles Murray and Kathryn Paige Harden as friends of yours. How does this jive with the latter comparing the former to Satan (in the New Yorker interview, though she asked the interviewer not to print that)? She seems to engage in the precise behavior you describe (negatively, I assume) in the Quillete review of Murray’s latest book – “Murray’s book… was written by someone who transmits ritual pollution to all those who acknowledge him.”

    By the way, that review of yours made me quite depressed, especially this part:

    Murray proposes that Americans will be able to achieve a modus vivendi with racial inequality if they renew their faith in the American creed. This strikes me as quixotic. I remember that America fondly, but it was disappearing even as I grew from adolescent public-library goer into middle-aged parent. I share Murray’s yearning, but the world he wishes to resurrect is now a generation in the past. We have to face another truth: fewer and fewer Americans attend the church that adheres to the American creed nowadays. Facing Reality enjoins us to return to a faith that, alas, may already be irretrievable.

    I’ve been harboring a similar thought for some time now, but to read someone else articulate it so has been tremendously morose. I realize that so much of what I do now in life – e.g. homeschooling my children, with readers published in the 1950’s or even reciting the Pledge before starting each morning with them – is just a desperate attempt to keep alive some semblance of that disappearing America for my young ones.

    As much as I defiantly try and will continue to do so till my last breath, passages like yours make me feel that I am going down with the ship, and all my attempts may be akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    Do you have any hopeful thoughts?

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