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Private delusion: Steven Pinker insists that scientific racism was, conveniently, mere “pseudoscience”

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From Richard Weikart, author of The Death of Humanity, on Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now: The Case for Science, Reason, Humanism, and Progress, at ENST:

In his zeal to defend science from the onslaught of those allegedly waging a “war on science” Steven Pinker (in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education taken from his recent book, Enlightenment Now) cries foul against anyone who dares suggest that science (including Darwinian science) has anything to do with racism. Racism, Pinker informs us — as if anyone needed to be informed — is much older than the dastardly scientific racism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Pinker admits that scientific racists deserve our opprobrium, but he rescues science from any taint by assuring us that scientific racism was not really scientific, but merely pseudoscientific. The problem with labelling views such as scientific racism as pseudoscience is that it is anachronistic. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries scientific racism was mainstream in biology and anthropology; it was taught at most major universities and was featured in most textbooks.

Indeed, in the 19th century many scientific racists used some of the exact same arguments as Pinker does to defend their turf: They asserted that their views were scientific and anyone who challenged racism was denying science (the Nobel Prize-winning biologist Konrad Lorenz advanced this argument, as did many others). Scientific racists painted their opponents as uneducated people blinkered by religion or some other form of ideology. Thankfully, Pinker rejects scientific racism, and he is using science to defend different ideals, but his approach is the same: We wear the lab coats, so you must believe us. More.

Yes. “Pseudoscience” just means that none of the perpetrators can be considered responsible for any of the damage done. Current authorities just alter the program and go on being authorities, with no reckoning.

And after all this time, what do we see? Science journal freakouts over US public schools while the actual assault on science today is the war on evidence from within the university. Evidence, after all, is oppressive. 

See also: Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now: But it’s too late for enlightenment now

Historic journal Nature is freaked out over American public school science classrooms – again


Biology is real, if not popular: Lone scientist squares off with social justice warriors. And where’s Big Science?

9 Replies to “Private delusion: Steven Pinker insists that scientific racism was, conveniently, mere “pseudoscience”

  1. 1
    tribune7 says:

    –In the late 19th and early 20th centuries scientific racism was mainstream in biology and anthropology; it was taught at most major universities and was featured in most textbooks.–

    BINGO! I think a whole lot of what is mainstream today — transgenderism, AGW — will be considered “pseudoscience” a century from now assuming that man is still alive and women can survive.

  2. 2

    tribune7 @ 1: Well done.


    In the year 2525
    If man is still alive
    If woman can survive
    They may find-

    In the year 3535
    Ain’t gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lies
    Everything you think, do, and say
    Is in the pill you took today

    In the year 4545
    Ain’t gonna need your teeth, won’t need your eyes
    You won’t find a thing to chew
    Nobody’s gonna look at you

    In the year 5555
    Your arms are hanging limp at your side
    Your legs got nothing to do
    Some machine’s doing that for you

    In the year 6565
    Ain’t gonna need no husband, won’t need no wife
    You’ll pick your sons, pick your daughters too
    From the bottom of a long glass tube

    In the year 7510
    If God’s a-coming, he ought to make it by then
    Maybe he’ll look around himself and say
    “Guess it’s time for the judgment day!”

    In the year 8510
    God is gonna shake his mighty head
    He’ll either say, “I’m pleased, where man has been”
    Or tear it down and start again

    In the year 9595
    I’m kinda wondering, if man is gonna be alive
    He’s taken everything this old Earth can give
    And he ain’t put back nothing

    Now it’s been ten thousand years
    Man has cried a billion tears
    For what he never knew
    Now man’s reign is through
    But through the eternal night
    The twinkling of starlight
    So very far away
    Maybe it’s only yesterday

    “In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans (1969).

  3. 3
    tribune7 says:

    TWSUF, I’m glad someone else still remembers the song 🙂

  4. 4
    Barry Arrington says:

    No True Scotsman would ever think that the views pushed by mainstream scientists at the time were in fact mainstream science.

  5. 5
    critical rationalist says:

    Some of biggest perils and advances in the far future will be those we haven’t even conceived of yet.

    Example? It’s not that people in the 1900s considered nuclear physics unlikely. They had yet to conceive of it at all.

  6. 6
    critical rationalist says:

    No philosopher of science would suggest mainstream scientists were in fact confused about how they reached they views they published.

  7. 7
    Jon Garvey says:

    Look, the issue is quite clear. Eugenics is, in retrospect pseudoscience. But although fools think it was the Holocaust and two world wars that killed the idea, we can know it was actually science advancing.

    So when the entirely rational, science-based élite takes over, we must expect there to be a few errors, but that’s OK because science is self-correcting.

    If an error as large as eugenics should creep in, and the world be destroyed because of it, we can take comfort in the fact that it will be recognised afterwards to have been caused by pseudoscience, not science. And, if there should be any survivors to continue the regime, so on in ever greater oscillations as science devises more powerful ways to bend nature to our will, and pseudoscience breaks nature.

  8. 8
    Jon Garvey says:

    An interesting overview here, in a Humanist magazine of all places.

    Compare the overlap of its list of supporters of Eugenics with this list of books and their authors issued by the Rationalist Press as “The Thinker’s Library” to “educate” the masses in reason and science – and eugenics, of course.

    It was No. 81 which rationalised away the remnants of my father’s faith when he was in the RAF. C S Lewis would have made him a more critical thinker.

  9. 9
    LocalMinimum says:

    What great scientific discovery did we make that identified “scientific” racists as pseudoscientists? Does Darwinism not allow for geographical isolation to produce brand new species out of a single original? Did humans not allegedly separate from chimpanzees in such a fashion? Is it reasonable to expect all human populations to evolve at a rate that kept them “equal”, when we have so many unequal ancestors behind us? How would Darwin know we’re not simply repeating the historical process against another such lesser strain?

    An interesting thing, in the argument of an unusually intelligent (if misguided) alt-right acquaintance: He makes a statement of the distribution of grey matter being more towards the muscles of Africans and more in the heads of Europeans, due to African’s being “plains runners” and Europeans being more “sit at home thinkers”, due to differences in population distribution, geography and climate.

    I could readily object on the basis of my Christian faith, which makes all of humanity of a single, created, parentage; but what could I do scientifically? The understanding and detail of genetic and biological knowledge necessary to defy his notion scientifically would be beyond the accounting of most Darwinian origin stories, if not all. He’s got 0.5% of a genome to work with, nearly half the difference between humans and chimps according to evolutionist supported pop-sci. In other words, it’s every bit as biologically valid as the greater portion of accepted Darwin biological adaptation tales.

    As it is, we’ve only recently put the brakes on making half-apes out of neanderthals, whom we now expect shared in human levels of intelligence and interbred with humans. Can we call that past position “pseudoscience” as well?

    We’re apparently finding that Africans have far more genetic diversity than the rest of humanity. How would evolutionism contradict an African racial superiority movement?

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