PZ Myers

by Kieran Healy on November 21, 2005

Over at Volokh, “Todd Zywicki says”:http://www.volokh.com/archives/archive_2005_11_20-2005_11_26.shtml#1132593329,

bq. Scott Adams now has a blog, known apprpriately enough as “Dilbert Blog”:http://www.volokh.com/posts/1132593329.shtml … I also see that Mr. Adams has also already had the misfortune to “cross paths”:http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2005/11/intelligent_des_1.html with the blogosphere’s most infamous Lysenkoist. Welcome to the blogosphere, Mr. Adams.

The link goes to Adams’ version of a spat he (Adams) has been having with “PZ Myers”:http://pharyngula.org/, of _Pharyngula_. Here is “Myers’ version”:http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/open_thread_adams_edition/. But what I really want to know is, under what description of reality does PZ Myers (a biology professor at the University of Minnesota at Morris, and tireless rebutter of creationist and Intelligent Design arguments) qualify as a “Lysenkoist”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism, let alone the “blogosphere’s most infamous Lysenkoist”? Does Todd have evidence that Myers fakes his scientific research? That he believes that species can be changed through hybridization and grafting? That he thinks genetics is a bourgeois pseudoscience? Or maybe Todd is suggesting that any scientist with left-leaning political views is, _ipso facto_ some kind of fraud, and Myers is our most prominent example? I honestly have no idea what Zywicki is trying to say here.

*Update*: Todd has suddenly and silently updated his post. It now reads, in part, “I also see that Mr. Adams has also already had the misfortune to cross paths with one unpleasant corner of the blogosphere.” In addition, he has silently deleted three or four comments (including one from me) that called him on the smear he was making. I guess anyone could mistakenly type “Lysenkoist” when they meant “unpleasant.” Your self-correcting blogosphere at work. At least he saw that the charge was indefensible, I suppose.

*Second Update*: Todd “explains his actions a bit further”:http://www.volokh.com/archives/archive_2005_11_20-2005_11_26.shtml#1132593329 in an update. From a post PZ Myers links to, it seems Zywicki’s animus toward Myers all goes back to an “earlier”:http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/the_conservative_counterattack_ho_hum/ “argument”:http://www.volokh.com/posts/1120775700.shtml they had about evolutionary psychology.

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11.21.05 at 1:32 pm



Aaron 11.21.05 at 12:50 pm


God save us from engineers….


P ONeill 11.21.05 at 1:01 pm

In fact it looks like he’s done another revision and even the “unpleasant” bit is now gone. Get that man a job with Pajamas Media!


PZ Myers 11.21.05 at 1:02 pm

Perhaps he was referring to the vast amounts of influence I have on the nation’s ruling regime?


Alfi G 11.21.05 at 1:08 pm

Charmingly, he reiterates the smear by alleging some sort-of extensive discussion of the issue [the now unspeakable Lysenkoism of Meyers] elsewhere. Elsewhere is never defined or, heaven forbid, linked.

Maybe there is such a discussion, maybe not. Maybe it is extensive, maybe it is not. I really can’t tell, as Zywicki ain’t talking.


The Navigator 11.21.05 at 1:16 pm

Todd Zywicki lobbied for the bankruptcy bill because, in his own words, he wanted to bring back the concept of “shame” in this country, for people with debts. Yes, Todd “Bring Back Shame” Zywicki.

And that was after wishing that the FTC would regulate health care, implying a preference that John Ashcroft would remain AG, and calling for more ‘economists’ in Congress like Dick Armey and Phil Gramm. He’s a piece of work.


Sean 11.21.05 at 1:17 pm

Yes, he’s changed it again — just doing us all a favor, to avoid “a can of worms.” Certainly not to avoid embarassing himself.

I presume the origin of his irritation was in this smackdown that PZ administered some time back.


wage slave 11.21.05 at 1:20 pm

“God save us from engineers….”
I think you have characterized the problem exactly. (N.B. I am an engineer by training, but acknowledge that engineers have certain unfortunate intellectual tendencies, many related to overestimating our own intelligence.)

I think Zywicki is referencing PZ’s lefty take on the Summers/Harvard/math class is so tough controversy. Todd (unlike PZ) is apparently a big fan of evolutionary psychology, about which I’m tempted to say some somewhat-but-not-really informed negative things.

(I can’t get the Zywicki article on SSRN to link, but for a good time google Zywicki evolutionary psychology).


dsquared 11.21.05 at 1:23 pm

Adams is not an engineer and never has been, btw; he has an MBA from Stanford and no engineering qualification. No, me neither.


Palo 11.21.05 at 1:23 pm

Todd Zywicki simply thought that ‘Lysenkoism’ was a soviet name for ‘Darwinism’. A simple mistake if you are an ideologue that doesn’t know squat of what you are talking about.


M. Gordon 11.21.05 at 1:37 pm

Adams’ post is a really bizarre jumble, I don’t really know what to make of it. The most charitable explanation is that he posted a bunch of horseshit as an attempt to provoke people into calling shenanigans, so he could make fun of them. A less charitable interpretation is that he posted a bunch of horseshit, and when people called shenanigans on him, he claimed that he was doing an “experiment,” and that this proves all his points. It’s hard to follow exactly what he’s arguing, he reads a lot like a usenet kook.


Aaron 11.21.05 at 1:38 pm

Hunh. I thought he was a software engineer.


yabonn 11.21.05 at 1:38 pm

Followed the link to S. Adams :

Let me say very clearly here that I’m not denying the EXISTENCE of slam-dunk credible evidence for evolution. What I’m denying is the existence of credible PEOPLE to inform me of this evidence.

Had to stop there, my hypocritometer stuck in the red.


JW 11.21.05 at 1:47 pm

If memory serves, Todd is probably still miffed that PZ took him to the woodshed over evolutionary psychology’s scientific lack of scientific standing.


JW 11.21.05 at 1:47 pm

Oops … “evolutionary psychology’s lack of scientific standing.”


PZ Myers 11.21.05 at 1:49 pm

And here I’d gone and just about completely forgotten Todd Zywicki.


Carlos 11.21.05 at 2:36 pm

PZ is often unpleasant, and in my opinion at least halfway Brain Eaten about this God thing, but on the reality of evolution, he has no betters on the Internet.

Lysenkoist? Bullshit. And the Volokh Conspiracy inches ever closer to the septic tank.


Peter 11.21.05 at 2:40 pm

The ID crowd appears to have attempted to latch onto Lysenkoism as an attack against natural selection/evilution[1]. They are attempting to pretend that Lysenkoism is “socialist science” and therefore anything put forward by “lefties” is likewise “socialist” and therefore Lysenkoism. When you point out to the IDers, that Lysenkoism was a “national science” like “aryan science” and it was ridiculed by everyone outside the nation it was conjured up in (like the ridicule that ID gets outside the US), they go ballistic. You’ll see some of the observer fallacy: they have limited experience with science, limited exposure to people outside their social class, therefore they think that because all the people around them “believe” in creationism, then everyone else believes in creationism. Bush’s bubble, on a local scale.

Intelligent Design, the new Lysenkoism, is used as a political litmus test; to separate the faithful from the infidels. Science requires the ability to observe things. Faith requires the ability to deliberately ignore reality. Lysenkoism, like ID, requires that you ignore reality in order to stay a member of the elect. ID, Lysenkoism, and Nazi Science were all acts of will, not science.

IDers will pretend that evilution is the state sponsored “religion” and that no dissent is allowed (because to them, everything is a religion, even not having one is a religion). They’ll catch selective amnesia when one points out that ID is a belief of a politically connected cult, and it isn’t a belief held by most Christians: only some American ones. Like Lysenkoism, ID wouldn’t get anywhere without the political patronage of bush.

[1] I’ll use their malapropism.


Urinated State of America 11.21.05 at 2:43 pm

“Adams is not an engineer and never has been, btw; he has an MBA from Stanford and no engineering qualification. No, me neither.”

Close. His MBA is from the Haas School at Berkeley (the Evening programme, same as mine) – just showing that Berkeley is on the cutting edge of modern management thinking. Next, we need to get Lucy Kellaway of the FT on the faculty.


Albert E. 11.21.05 at 2:48 pm

It appears that you haven’t followed this debate very closely. It is well-established that science on the left is riddled with Lysenkoism, as the lynching of Larry Summers made clear. It is odd that you even choose to contest it, given that the left has for some time embraced the idea that science is inherently subjective and charged with politics.

I’m sure that other leftists fall prey to Lysenkoism, but as for PZ Myers, the charge was established beyond question in the discussion that Sean cites.

The initial claim about the Lysenkoism of the left is made by a biology professor here:

Then, the applicability of the definition to this fellow Myers is described here:

Champions of Myers whined at the time that the term was “mean” and such, but they never were able to rebut the charge that the liberal attack on Larry Summers was Lysenkoist in nature–ideologically-driven science–as the remainder of the discussion there makes clear.

A good example of how ideology blinds one to good science is provided by one of the Commentators there(http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/longcomments/the_conservative_counterattack_ho_hum#c31369):
[Y]ou can’t have a “room full of counterexamples” as a response to a claim about a statistical distribution. Statisticians refer to “those in the room” as “observations” or “data points” in the distribution, not “counter-examples.” Michelle Wie is not a “counterexample” to the statistical observation that men, as a statistical generalization, can hit a golf ball further than women.

It may hurt the feelings of those on the left to know that they are Lysenkoists, but if the shoe fits….

If you disagree, perhaps you can explain why this sort of ideologically-motivated science on the left does not fit the definition of Lysenkoism. As one of the posters there noted, it is not clear which is worse, Intelligent Design theory on the right or modern-day Lysenkoism on the left. What is clear is that the shackles of political correctness has so undermined the credibility of scientists on the left that they are unable to sustain a persuasive case against ID. On this point Adams is unquestionably correct.

I’m guessing that Zywicki decided it was better to simply amend the post than to deal with the headaches of Myers’s brain-dead lynch mob again. This sort of intimidation and attacking heretics is, of course, also typical of Lysenkoists.


John Emerson 11.21.05 at 2:52 pm

Scott Adams has shown himself to be an idiot. PZ looked great. Adams, for me, exemplifies a particularly obnoxious kind of semi-hip anti-intellectualism. He seems to deal with intellectual issues as struggles between social types, and he doesn’t like PZ’s social type.

The intelligent, fairminded conservatives we hear about, for example at the Volokh report, are regarded as intelligent and fairminded because the benchmark of comparison for conservatives was set by Willis Carto.



mrjauk 11.21.05 at 3:15 pm

Mr. Z has updated his post:

I deleted the second paragraph of the original post in order to avoid spurring a debate that goes beyond what I was trying to raise here, and one that has been discussed extensively elsewhere. I really didn’t want to open that can of worms here at this time, and so have revised the post accordingly and disabled comments.

Mr Zywicki: Jean Schmidt was right about you–you are a coward.


Anderson 11.21.05 at 3:33 pm

Now if only Zywicki would do the same for his bankruptcy posts …


QrazyQat 11.21.05 at 4:12 pm

For the sake of anyone not already familiar with this, it’s common practice, a tactic, among creationists and IDers compare those who think teaching science facts is a good thing to Lysenko. The tactic is to equate an insistence on facts with a rigid system of censorship. The ridiculousness of this position is well described at this link by Wesley Elsberry and Mark Perahk (Perahk has firsthand experience with living under the Soviet regime).


Uncle Kvetch 11.21.05 at 4:37 pm

QrazyQat, that link didn’t work, but I think this one will:


And thanks for it. I was very curious about this whole “Lysenko” business. From the linked article, a quote from Jay Wesley Richards, the vice-president of the Discovery Institute:

Phil Johnson, Dembski and many other design theorists do see Darwinian evolutionary theory as a moribund 19th century intellectual enterprise. And, like the Soviet Union, we predict that it will go belly up in what after the fact will seem like a very short time. Dembski himself has said as much in public lectures. (I should add, of course, that the point of the analogy is not to call Darwinists ‘communists’ or some such thing. It is a sociological observation about a seemingly invincible intellectual hegemony which nevertheless collapsed quickly.)


eudoxis 11.21.05 at 5:17 pm

“Does Todd have evidence that Myers fakes his scientific research? That he believes that species can be changed through hybridization and grafting? …”

This is painfully literal. I don’t think anybody uses Lysenkoism in this way anymore. It’s widely and loosely used as a term to describe those who mix ideology with science.


Rich Puchalsky 11.21.05 at 5:25 pm

Why does anyone still bother to read Volokh?


Kieran Healy 11.21.05 at 5:59 pm

“Does Todd have evidence that Myers fakes his scientific research? That he believes that species can be changed through hybridization and grafting? …”

This is painfully literal. I don’t think anybody uses Lysenkoism in this way anymore. It’s widely and loosely used as a term to describe those who mix ideology with science.

eudoxis, this is why the very next sentence of my post read “Or maybe Todd is suggesting that any scientist with left-leaning political views is, ipso facto some kind of fraud, and Myers is our most prominent example?”


John Emerson 11.21.05 at 6:08 pm

“I don’t think anybody uses Lysenkoism in this way anymore. It’s widely and loosely used as a term to describe those who mix ideology with science.”

IE, it’s a meaningless smear intended to put any left-of-center scientist who speaks about politics in the worst possible light. People don’t use it against ID-ers, or global-warming skeptics, or tobacco industry cancer skeptics, or cornucopian free-lunch economists.

Summers is a bureaucrat / fundraiser who made an off-hand, politically insensitive comment on a scientific topic he didn’t know much about and was shsrply criticized for it. Not “lynched”. He still has his job, but the poor little baby was forced to apologize. Wingers are such whiners.

If Summers had gotten on the wrong side of the football coach, he’d probably have been forced to quit (if the coach was winning, anyway). Football is serious business.


Carlos 11.21.05 at 6:08 pm

Were slices of Larry Summers’ flesh distributed to the crowd after his hanging? Were his limbs and genitals amputated while he was still alive? Was he carefully doused with gasoline in such a way before he was set alight so that he would feel being burned to death instead of passing out from the smoke of his own charred flesh? [1]

No? Hm. Then I guess he wasn’t lynched. But what do you expect from someone who isn’t familiar with what the word “Lysenkoism” really means.

[1] Actual lynchers weren’t brain-dead at all. They put a lot of care and thought into their torture-murders.


Gary Farber 11.21.05 at 6:39 pm

I had some brief comments, and a compare and constrast, about Adams’ posts a week ago, here, incidentally.

I certainly think Professor Zywicki owes Professor P. Z. an apology for slurring him.

(I had an exchange with Professor Zywicki here, by the way, when he declared that he didn’t consider Cambridge, MA to be part of “real America,” and I called him on it, and we had a couple of rounds of reply.)


Eh Nonymous 11.21.05 at 7:10 pm

Good thing “albert e.” was around to set the record straight.

Yes, it’s liberals, and specifically pro-science anti-creationist skeptical thinkers who understand mathematics and logic who use ideology-driven nonsense to prop up bad science. Letting politics drive the direction of scientific conclusions.

Yep. That’s it.

Yep. Liberals. On the left. Not righties conservatives. Nope.

Not, say, on global warming. Or, um, on areas of medicine involving health and human sexuality.

Or, um, in areas involving teaching of good science to children.



QrazyQat 11.21.05 at 7:31 pm

Thanks for fixing the link, Uncle Kvetch. And eudoxis, in the conext of IDers and creationists the “Lysenko” smear has a particular meaning, far more than someone mixing ideology and science. (In fact, anyone who uses it as just meaning ideology mixed with science misses the point entirely as well.) What they mean is that people who don’t want creationism or ID taught in schools is imposing censorship on legitimate scientific ideas. The link I posted (which Uncle Kvetch fixed) describes why their resoning is 180 degrees out of synch.


Neil 11.21.05 at 8:03 pm

Suppose we agree to use Lysenkoism to refer to the unacceptable infection of science by politics. It’s still not acceptable to call PZ a Lysenkoist – not even if his views on evolvutionary psych. are influenced by his poliics. There is a genuine and ongoing scientific debate over the disputed claims of EP (there are some EP-type claims that are not reasonably disputed, but PZ doesn’t dispute them). There is some evidence on both sides. This is nothing like Lysenko’s own communist inspired Lamarckianism, which flew in the face of the evidence. Moreover, it’s clear that politics plays a role on both sides of the debate: it’s never far from the surface in Pinker, for instance, and it IS the surface in folk like Barash (or Rose & Rose). To call PZ a Lysenkoist is to distort the state of the argument, and attempt to avoid the debate.


Matt Weiner 11.21.05 at 8:27 pm

People don’t use [“lysenkoism”] against ID-ers, or global-warming skeptics, or tobacco industry cancer skeptics, or cornucopian free-lunch economists.

Not true. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that–it’s OK to use “Lysenkoism” on people who make up B.S. science because it suits their political beliefs. It’s just obvious that PZ hasn’t done that.


Randy Paul 11.21.05 at 8:39 pm

This is painfully literal. I don’t think anybody uses Lysenkoism in this way anymore. It’s widely and loosely used as a term to describe those who mix ideology with science.

Sez you. To me it has always meant someone who simply bends their findings to arrive at a preconceived idea that has precious little to do with science and then tries to impose that as valid science.


eudoxis 11.21.05 at 8:48 pm

“eudoxis, this is why the very next sentence of my post read…”

Well, so much for my pointedly ignoring that!

Accusations of Lysenkoism are not reserved for use against those of the left only. I am much more familiar with its use against IDists and global warming deniers or the Bush administration. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if PZ has used it himself.

If for any reason the PZ might be painted as a Lysenkoist, its for his essential denial of any genetic basis for human behavior in sociological contexts in favor of ideology (“give me any 1000 students…”).


Neil 11.21.05 at 9:13 pm

If I have an issue with PZ, it’s that he gives the claims of EP that are in dispute GREATER credence than it deserves:

Cardinal Ratzinger is an ape. He is driven by oh-so-typical ape motivations, the desire for dominance, the need to control the reproductive behavior of other members of his clan, the back-and-forth of social feedback

Eudoxis, you’re simply misrepresenting the state of the science (or ignorant of it) if you claim that PZ is flying in the face of the evidence here. There is a debate . And what is happening in the debate (oddly) is that both sides are getting more reasonable, and edging toward agreement on the view (a) our dispositions are certainly shaped by our evolutionary past and (b) that the dispositions that are our evolutionary legacy are also thoroughly shaped by individual development and local environment, such that (for the most part) the direct effects of evolution are subtle.


pedro 11.21.05 at 9:14 pm

Well, I don’t deny the plausibility of the hypothesis that population genetics has something to do with differences in human behavior. But I do deny that many of the facile conclusions about human difference that some evo-psych fans (especially Murray and Hernstein’s dittoheads) reach are worthy of being considered the product of scientific reasoning. It is particularly hard to control for social and cultural variables when testing the hypotheses that evolutionary psychology enthusiasts love, and it is extraordinarily well documented that such variables do indeed matter. eudoxis would have us believe that scientists who have this legitimate beef with the methodology and the conclusions of evolutionary psychology are simply acting like Lysenko, but, in general, that’s not the case. Were it the case that the methods and theories of evolutionary psychology were perfectly deserving of of the respect that Darwin’s theory of evolution commands, then it would indeed be an act of Lysenkoism to be a detractor of the field. But this is patently not the case, in spite of the ideological chagrin this causes to the right wing.


Scott Eric Kaufman 11.21.05 at 10:00 pm

Todd Zywicki’s smear of PZ Myers (via Crooked Timber) works according to a familiar logic:

1. Describe Darwinism
2. Efface the Historical Record
3. Show Countless Millions Starving
4. Or Possibly Oppressed
5. Or Certainly Dead
6. Blame Darwinism
7. Shoot Darwinists
8. Drink Punch
9. Eat Pie
10. Dance
11. Dance
12. Dance


Glenn Bridgman 11.21.05 at 11:28 pm

I currently attend Dartmouth, so having this schmuck as my trustee makes me doubly pissed off. Anyway, heres the email I sent to him:
“You owe P.Z. Meyers an apology, even if you did quickly delete the comment. Calling a scientist a Lysenkoist is a *serious* accusation, one that should not be made lightly. Considering you have no evidence for it, your comment was nothing but the worst kind of low and baseless smear. From a trustee of the College, that is shameful, and you should issue an apology.

By the way, just in case you think this is politically motivated, my politics are pretty far to the right of P.Z’s–he would probably deplore many of my political positions. That doesn’t mean I don’t accord him the respect of treating his reputation as a scientist the way it should be treated–a lesson you apparently still need to learn.”


Pinko Punko 11.21.05 at 11:48 pm

Mr Z. at Volokh acts like we have to rehash the Summers affair to even agree on the definition of Lysenkoism so that we may tar Myers with it. First, there is the attempt to claim an understanding of science and its history by using the term, which has a very specific meaning. Second, there is the reluctance to enter into the debate in the “it’s so tiresome, I can’t possibly do it” way, and “I don’t even want to have comments open.” Those two things are both disingenuous. If you mean a scientist who is an idealogue, just use that word, don’t conflate the very specific term Lysenkoism with what you mean, even though you secretly love the Stalinist/far Left implication. Second, what’s the possible damage of leaving comments open, people can chatter away, you can ignore it? I like the PZ method, just call the fools fools, don’t ask for apologies. We’re always demanding despicable people apologize for their unintelligent despicable behavior. Screw it. They can reap their foolish harvest.


bad Jim 11.22.05 at 3:26 am

Calling Myers a Lysenkoist because he doubts the most reactionary assertions of a controversial biological determinism is like calling an agnostic a fundamentalist fanatic. But then, some folks in the United States do seem to think that Christmas and Christianity are threatened by the tiny godless minority.

This sort of transparently ridiculous projection is becoming a commonplace of contemporary discourse.


PZ Myers 11.22.05 at 7:51 am

I had no idea I was so powerful. Zywicki’s new excuse:

For anyone who has doubts why I would have second thoughts about going down that particular path, I can simply point you to Scott Adams’s post to which I originally linked. On reflection, I quickly realized that I would sooner bang myself in the head with a ball peen hammer repeatedly than to go through a similarly exasperating experience again.

You know, I had exactly one post anywhere on my site that mentions Zywicki. It was harsh in tone, but it’s not as if I then dedicated my blog to pounding on poor Todd over and over, or deluged him with email, or stalked him at home, or shot his dog.

I guess I made a strong impression with that one comment, though. I’m torn; I made Todd sad, and may have caused him a few sleepless nights, and now give him ball peen hammer nightmares, and I don’t know whether to feel guilty are awfully damn smug.


des von bladet 11.22.05 at 8:53 am

Incidentally, Zywicki also managed not to link the Dilbert blog correctly, and the cuttenpaste here reflects that degree of eptness.


Nell 11.22.05 at 10:46 am

Peter: IDers will pretend that [evolution] is the state sponsored “religion” and that no dissent is allowed (because to them, everything is a religion, even not having one is a religion).

Bad Jim: But then, some folks in the United States do seem to think that Christmas and Christianity are threatened by the tiny godless minority. … This sort of transparently ridiculous projection is becoming a commonplace

Here’s a striking example, from Mother Jones’ December issue, whose theme is right-wing theocracy):

All governments are theocracies. We now live in a secular humanist theocracy. I want to change that to a government with God at its head.

That’s Gary DeMar, head of Reconstructionist publishing house American Vision. While I’m on the subject, those interested in keeping an eye on and resisting fundamentalist takeover might want to check in on Talk2Action, a new group blog that brings together a distinguished group of Dominionist-right watchers.


Ilkka Kokkarinen 11.22.05 at 11:13 am

Perhaps a scientist should be called a Lysenkoist only if he believes that nurture and (social) environment determine everything about the phenotype and abilities of the individual, and genes are ultimately meaningless.

Fortunately, pretty much no serious person believes such nonsense any more.


Barry 11.22.05 at 11:46 am

PZ, apparently your posts hit people like a hammer, causing excruciating headaches.

Forget spamming for money on the net; extort your way to billions!! “Dear Sir, if you think that that post hurt, just wait until I spend a whole night e-mailing you. It’ll be a horrible death; to avoid it, simply sent $100,000 to my Swiss bank account #XXXX…..”


pedro 11.22.05 at 11:53 am

Hey Glenn B.: haven’t your politics changed significantly in the past couple of years, though? Not to insinuate that you’re no longer to the far right of many of us in the CT community at all, but I, for one, believe I have witnessed some (rather pleasant) changes. Ah, college years… I envy you.


Glenn Bridgman 11.22.05 at 12:48 pm

Pedro, it’s more of an intellectual maturation than a actual shift in policy positions. People with libertarian instincts have a tendancy to be petulant, especially when young, and I have been trying to shed that cocksure aura of “Wow, I’m so right and you’re so wrong” that so many young intellectuals seem to possess.


Uncle Kvetch 11.22.05 at 1:06 pm

To follow up Bad Jim on the subject of the vicious persecution of religious believers in the US, Roy Edroso notes that Jonah Goldberg has referred to Penn Jillette’s essay on atheism on NPR the other day constituted “a form of bullying.”

The persecution complex of the contemporary American right (i.e., the folks who are running the country) shows no sign of abating.


albert e. 11.22.05 at 2:07 pm

Amazing—when challenged with evidence of Lysenkoism, the response is more Lysenkoism.

Here’s an excerpt from the definition of Lysenkoism linked in the original post:
“In a broader context, Lysenkoism is often invoked to imply the overt subversion of science by political forces…. Today, the term ‘Lysenkoism’ survives as a metaphor for other beliefs challenged by empirical evidence but preferred for ideological reasons. Carl Sagan compared American creationists to supporters of Lysenko.”

The question is not whether all of those on the left are Lysenkoists as Kiernan improperly frames the question, but whether there are those who reject out of hand hypotheses and conclusions that contradict their dogmatic politically-correct world view. On this point it is blatantly obvious that there are plenty of politically correct Lysenkoists in our midst.

Amazingly, not content with shutting down Summers, there are people here who want to actually EXPAND the list of questions that are to be taken on political faith rather than open to study and scientific evidence (now I see that several of you have added “global warming” and “The Bell Curve” to the list of verboten questions, for instance).

So, what do you say Myers? Ready to do some serious research on the “Summers hypothesis”? He provided references to support the plausibility of the hypothesis; you’ve supplied no evidence to rebut it. There has been no study that controls for innate intelligence differences; thus, it looks to me like you are taking your opposition to the hypothesis on faith, not empirical evidence.

How about the question of racial differences in IQ? The evidence on differences in g is compelling. Again, the weight of the evidence clearly rests on the side of natural differences. Ready to tackle this question?

And evem if the evidence demonstrated innate differences with respect to intelligence (as most neutral scholars acknowledge) would you be willing to admit it?

Are you even willing to study it? Consider the hypotheses?

What about the rest of you here? Up for it?

The answer to whether you will even examine these questions seems obvious doesn’t it?

And that’s why you are a Lysenkoist.

Or do you want to have an honest discussion about the weight of the evidence with respect to these scientific questions?

Are those questions considered closed–notwithstanding the empirical evidence because they are too politically incorrect? As a scientist, wouldn’t you want to know the answers to these questions before jumping to conclusions about race or sex discrimination? Universities all over America are practicing affirmative action on the premise that there is rampant discrimination–but the alternative hypothesis of innate differences has never been rejected.

Of course, Myers would have to learn statistics in order to examine these questions–none of this “counterexamples” to a “statistical distribution” nonsense. Pathetic straw-grasping. Or is it true ignorance?

So, the relevant question is not whether Myers is a Lysenkoist—that much is clear from his track record on any scientific issue questioning his politically correct dogma. The real question is whether he is the most notorious Lysenkoist in the blogosphere, or whether there are others on the left (including some here) that have earned that moniker instead.


Grand Moff Texan 11.22.05 at 2:09 pm

God save us from engineers….

Indeed. They have a tendency to assume because they know a lot of what other people figured out for them that they’re as clever as those who figured it out for themselves.

My mechanic did not invent the car.


Grand Moff Texan 11.22.05 at 2:15 pm

thus, it looks to me like you are taking your opposition to the hypothesis on faith, not empirical evidence.

That’s nice. Meanwhile, back in a very old controversy you may be too young to remember, the problem with the ‘Bell Curve’ hypothesis was that they refused to look at factors other than race.

This is why we’ve been having so much fun at Sullivan’s expense of late.

there are people here who want to actually EXPAND the list of questions that are to be taken on political faith

Really? Who? Where? Or is this what you need to invent (mind reading!) to leverage your sad conflation of PC with Lysenkoism?

Actually, I don’t care.


Ray 11.22.05 at 3:05 pm

Hey Albert, the distinguishing feature of Lysenkoists is that they (like ‘intelligent design’ advocates) ignored evidence that didn’t fit their theoory. So how about, instead of calling names, you produce some evidence?
Let’s start with an easy one. You say that left-wing ‘Lysenkoists’ are unwilling to accept a correlation between race and intelligence. So show us a well-conducted study that i)has a coherent, genetically-based definition of race, ii) has a coherent definition of intelligence, and iii) demonstrates a statistically significant correlation between intelligence and genetic race, that is independent of all cultural and environmental factors.
Shouldn’t take long, should it?


Barbar 11.22.05 at 3:16 pm

Scott Adams believes that if you write down your goals over and over, they will become true.

Yes, it’s quite unfortunate that he ran into the internet’s worst “Lysenkoist.” Boo hoo.


PZ Myers 11.22.05 at 4:12 pm

While Zywicki won’t stick his turtley neck out on the web, it seems he’s more than willing to smack himself repeatedly with that ball peen hammer in email.


albert e. 11.22.05 at 4:39 pm

This is not difficult, yet you refuse to answer the question.

There are exactly two possible answers to my question:

1. Yes, we should study whether innate differences in intelligence in women and blacks versus white males explains their different patterns of career success.

2. No, we should not study whether innate intelligence differences for women and blacks explains their different patterns of career success.

Why won’t anyone here answer the question?

Or is it because you have decided the question itself is out-of-bounds for political reasons?


Uncle Kvetch 11.22.05 at 4:44 pm

Albert E., I would respectfully suggest that more people might be willing to engage you if your initial post did not essentially say “I think you’re all a bunch of politically correct Lysenkoists–now prove me wrong.”

If I thought for one second you were interested in an honest and mutually respectful discussion of the topics in question, I’d respond. But I don’t, so I won’t.


gwangung 11.22.05 at 4:57 pm

“This is not difficult, yet you refuse to answer the question.”

Well, if it’s not difficult, answer the question yourself.

I think your response is just as telling…you’re getting answers…you just don’t like what you’re getting since they don’t fit the binary mode you seem to want.


brendan 11.22.05 at 5:01 pm

‘How about the question of racial differences in IQ? The evidence on differences in g is compelling. Again, the weight of the evidence clearly rests on the side of natural differences. Ready to tackle this question?

And evem if the evidence demonstrated innate differences with respect to intelligence (as most neutral scholars acknowledge) would you be willing to admit it?’ (emphasis added)

Wow! I’m with Ray! Let’s have the evidence. And who, precisely, are these ‘neutral scholars’? ((is the avoidance of the word ‘scientist’ here deliberate)?


pedro 11.22.05 at 5:17 pm

Albert E.: I think it is perfectly within the bounds of scientific inquiry to ask questions about distributional differences between biologically different groups of people. The problem is that the studies that attempt to shed any light on the subject are actually methodologically suspect, and very easy to criticize. For example, in studies from the psychometrics literature, it has been shown that if one controls for a number of sociological variables that are not considered in some of the race-IQ “studies”, the supposed differences in IQ between subjects of different races disappear. This, of course, does not suggest that there are no differences in IQ (which does not measure intelligence, mind you, but whatever) and race. It simply suggests that the studies that right wingers, so decidedly immune to Lysenkoism, exhalt with a reverence untainted by ideology.

I actually believe it is very likely that the hypothesis “population genetics has a nonzero effect in the distribution of talent X or Y among different groups of people–perhaps associated not by what we regard as race, perhaps indeed associated loosely by what we regard as race” is with all certainty true in a vast number of cases, though the extent of said effect could very well be negligible. But what the effect of population genetics is in specific task-performance (not talent, which is not easily observable) differences among groups of humans is a very hard empirical question to answer. The reason is that social variables do indeed matter, and this is well documented; and it is really hard to control for social variables.

If you ask me to condemn the suggestion that population genetics might have something to do with why group X outperforms group Y at some specific task, I will not do so. But if you suggest it is “evident” (as you do) that what underlies difference in performance is obviously race, then I say you are committing petitio principii, and that the evolutionary psychological arguments you indulge in to rationalize your racialist explanations are wildly speculative in nature and decidedly undeserving of the sort of reverence we scientists rightly hold for the theory of evolution


Ray 11.22.05 at 5:40 pm

albert, what are you claiming, that the evidence exists that will overthrow ‘left-wing lysenkoists’, or that it doesn’t exist yet, but that’s only because all scientists everywhere are lysenkoists who refuse to carry out the experiments? (but then what of the compelling evidence you mentioned earlier?)

I’ll make it easier for you again. Don’t point to an experiment that has been carried out. Just tell me
i) what your clear and unambiguous genetic markers for race are, so we can identify the different groups involved,
ii) what your uncontroversial and coherent definition of ‘intelligence’ is, so we know what it is we should be measuring, and
iii) tell me _how_ to conduct an experiment that measures this intelligence in a way that allows us to be sure that cultural and environmental effects aren’t swamping any genetic differences.

Surely that be a simple problem for someone with such a distinguished pseudonym.


Neil 11.22.05 at 5:40 pm

Albert E., there is a very large literature on the concept “innate”. Here are some names (look them up): Elliot Sober, Paul Griffiths, Fiona Cowie, Jerry Fodor, Bill Wimsatt. Not all of these people agree with the conclusion, but all accept that it is not crazy to think that there is “innate” is meaningless (Paul Griffiths is one who argues this explicitly). The others, who do think that “innate” is meaningful, would accept that it is meaningless in the context in which you use it. We can’t look for innate differences in IQ, b/c “innate”, in that sentence, is meaningless. As for the Bell Curve type claims, around which you assert a conspiracy of silence, there is a mountain of work. It shows, to the satisfaction of all except ideologically driven racist morons (alright, and one or two folk who are merely obtuse) that the work doesn’t bear up. It’s not Lysenkoism to insist on good science. It’s not Lysekkoism to refuse to look at the issue again every time some ideologically driven racist moron wants to raise it. We should look at it again when, and only when, someone comes up with some new evidence, and not nonsense from someone who doesn’t understand what norms of reaction plot.


John Emerson 11.22.05 at 6:52 pm

What scientific research was Summers doing, Albert? At what gulag did he lose his life after PZ Myers naked on him? And what well-established scientific principle was he rejecting without any evidence.

Lysenkoism is a pretty harsh smear word for someone who disagrees with President Summers, a non-biologist, about biology.

The burden of proof should be on the proponents of the new theory. Of course, if a conservative political claque has a new scientific theory they want to get accepted, then they can call their opponents Lysenkoistsas as part of their political attack.

Politics does enter into this question, but the least familiarity with the Summers question will show you that Summers’ defenders are heavily politicized too. (That’s an understatement, if anything). So perhaps the Lysenko smear should be retired.


theogon 11.22.05 at 7:41 pm

I, for one, am completely in favor of testing your hypotheses, Albert. And the only way to really control for differences in socialization is to create a society where they don’t exist. In the spirit of inquiry!

On the other subtopic, I’m of the opinion that we should all quit using specific ideologies or theories as metaphors when a perfectly good noun exists: saying “fascism” when you really mean “authoritarianism” or “Lyseknoism” when you really mean “politically motivated pseudoscience.” For the primary reason that it cripples people’s understandings of the former terms.


gwangung 11.22.05 at 11:30 pm

Anyway…isn’t this besides the point? That IN THIS INSTANCE, Zywicki’s claims of Lysenkoism are ill-informed as to both form and substance? There there is NO evidence pertaining to Lysenkoism in the case of either Prof. Myers or neo-Darwinian theory?


raj 11.23.05 at 6:59 am

Zywicki is embarrassing himself. It is unlikely that he knows anything about the subject. This is being discussed over at Ed Brayton’s blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars http://stcynic.com/blog/

Frankly, I have little use for blogs that don’t conventionally allow for comments. The Volokh blog is difficult enough to navigate, and it doesn’t normally allow for comments. As far as I can tell, it is nothing more than an advertisement for the bloggers’ outside practices.


albert e. 11.23.05 at 10:40 am

We do indeed appear have a very serious problem on our hands. Kiernan, apparently unaware of similar concerns expressed elsewhere, stuck his neck out to defend against a charge of “Lysenkoism”–defined as a willingness to subsume questions of science to the dictates of politically correct ideology.

I gave Myers a challenge to come here and unequivocally put to rest once and for all the questions by making a simple public declaration that demonstrates that he believes that political ideology should not limit the scope of scientific inquiry: “Yes, we should study whether innate differences in intelligence in women and blacks versus white males explains their different patterns of career success.”

He has refused to do so.

At this point, I’m afraid that the only reasonable inference to be drawn is that Myers agrees with the alternative statement, “No, we should not study whether innate intelligence differences for women and blacks explains their different patterns of career success.”

In this context, given the declined opportunity to unambiguously refute the implication, this plainly amounts to a confession of willingness to subsume scientific inquiry to the dictates of political ideology, otherwise known as “Lysenkoism.”

I give the man credit for trying to push back the ID’ers as politically-motivated science, but thats no excuse for engaging in ideologically-motivated leftist science. And note, this is simply a statement that the question should be studied, with no predisposed outcome.

Kiernan–You started this and you have an obligation to correct the record. The original post that you criticized was withdrawn and it was you who decided to blow this up. You state in your post, “Your self-correcting blogosphere at work.” Myers’ confession demonstrates the need for you to engage in self-correction of your own.

You have set the bar, now you have an obligation to live up to it.

Moreover, there are a number of others here who plainly also owe apologies of your own for your quick condemnations without knowing all of the facts–especially mrjauk and glenn bridgman but also Sean, palo, and carlos, among others.

Many of you were quick to demand apologies. Will any of you be willing to stand up and take responsibility for your unsupported charges? Or do you only righteously demand apologies from others, but refuse to give apologies when they are due?


albert e. 11.23.05 at 10:42 am

And leaving aside Myers specifically, I am pleased that many of you have been willing to endorse the “yes” statement that we should study racial differences in intelligence, while adding the caveat that you believe that race is impossible to categorize. So I see now where this leads us–those who believe that we can identify “race” for purposes of detecting discrimination and implementing affirmative action now claim that we cannot identify race for purposes testing innate intelligence. The statement amounts to, “We should study racial differences in intelligence, but only because we can’t define the concept of race.” Nice try–you can endorse the propriety of the research while retaining a built-in excuse for ignoring any results that you don’t find to your liking. How convenient. And how intellectually dishonest. We all know that there is a well-established literature on race and IQ, so let’s not try to play these silly games:

And I note that none of you appear to be willing to study sex differences in intelligence, such as mathematical ability. Is this because when it comes to sex you can’t hide behind your equivocations about how to classify the relevant subgroup, so as to dismiss any inconvenient findings?

Such champions of scientific freedom.

Kiernan–As this all makes clear it really is imperative for you to post an Update that corrects the record.


gwangung 11.23.05 at 11:10 am


I think what’s imperative in any scientific discussion is that you know what you’re talking about. And when you’re talking about “race”….I’m not entirely convinced that you do.

For example, what’s the underlying component when you talk about race? If it’s biological, what’s the physical construct and how do you define it? Again, evidence rules…and you must be able to point to a mechanism involved.


Walt Pohl 11.23.05 at 11:41 am

This thread is a thing of beauty. Apparently, if it wasn’t for Lysenkoists holding them back, conservatives would be hard at work proving what’s really important: that blacks are genetically inferior to whites.


Ray 11.23.05 at 11:42 am

I don’t think there’s any doubt that albert e has no real understanding of the issues here, but just likes the idea of attacking ‘politically-correct liberals’. (Of course, he could prove me wrong quite easily, by explaining his genetic markers for race, a definition of intelligence that isn’t entangled in culture, and a way of gathering significant amounts of data on intelligence that allows us to separate genetic from cultural and environmental factors.)


Mrs Tilton 11.23.05 at 11:59 am

Whilst one appreciates the patience of the many commenters who have tried to engage with ‘albert e.’, surely it should have been obvious after his first post or so that there is really no point talking with him. He, and people like him, are interesting only as specimens; and not terribly interesting even as that. DNFTT; left alone, he will soon enough fuck off back to GNXP or VDare or Stromfront or whatever rock he crawled out from under.

Still, he’s surely right about it being imperative for Kiernan to post an update, if only we knew who Kiernan is.


albert e. 11.23.05 at 12:44 pm

I’m stunned.

All these people, and not a one who will state that we should study whether “innate differences in intelligence in women versus men explains their different patterns of career success.”

Why won’t you talk about studying sex differences? Why do you continually take the discussion back to race? Is it because you haven’t thought up a clever equivocation on sex?

Meanwhile, in light of Myers’s admission, we wait for Kieran’s “self-correcting blogosphere” to correct itself…

and wait…

and wait…

From whom will we get a correction/apology first–Kieran or say, bridgman? Maybe mrjauk? Anybody want to run a pool?


Ray 11.23.05 at 2:02 pm

First of all, have you come up with a good definition of intelligence – one that is objectively measurable, not culturally-specific, and so on?
Second, have you explained how we are supposed to measure this innate difference, if one exists, and be sure that we are not simply measuring the effects of environmental or cultural factors?
Third, could you be any more obvious in your agenda here? Even if, through some amazing and unlikely method, we were able to isolate the genetic effects of intelligence, and were able to demonstrate that on average, women scored 2% lower on some agreed scale, what kind of an idiot would you have to be to believe that a difference that small is going to persist through environmental and social effects to translate into differential patterns of career success?
Answer: an idiot for whom politics is more important than science. You could almost call it Lysenkoism.


Kevin Donoghue 11.23.05 at 2:07 pm

…we wait for Kieran’s “self-correcting blogosphere” to correct itself….

Well done, you got the name right at long last. As to your choice of research topics, feel free to study anything you like.


Ginger Yellow 11.23.05 at 3:15 pm

“I give the man credit for trying to push back the ID’ers as politically-motivated science, but thats no excuse for engaging in ideologically-motivated leftist science”

PZ is an developmental biologist, you dolt. Name one bit of “leftist science” he has done. Even if he were in favour of suppressing gender and race based studies of intelligence, which he isn’t, he wouldn’t be engaging in ideologically motivated leftist science because he wouldn’t be engaging in the science. Nobody is stopping anybody from analysing intelligence according to race or gender. As you yourself admit, there’s a lot of literature on the subject. There are thousands upon thousands of psychologists doing research on the subject. The point people are making is that given how little we understand precisely how the loose concept of intelligence translates into either brain processes or genes, there’s isn’t a hope in hell we could control enough variables in a study on career progression to get any meaningful data. We wouldn’t even know what variables to control, for God’s sake.


pedro 11.23.05 at 4:56 pm

Albert E.: the controversy in the sciences is not over whether the topics you & many right wingers–in their (presumably not shared by you) enthusiasm for claims of biological superiority–consider interesting and exciting should be the subject of research or not. The controversy is just *how* such studies should be designed. You can cite studies that purport to provide an explanation for the disparity of success in mathematics by women and men, but the reality is that such studies fail to provide a convincing argument, i.e. they do not take into account a wide number of variables having to do with socialization and culture.

By way of illustration: men and women show similar distributions in spatial relation tests up to a certain age, and then men start performing better, on average. Why is this? Is it simply biology at work? Or is it possible that the distribution is tilted a little bit by–say–video games, which may have an effect in developing spatial relations skills? We just don’t know yet, and all the studies that purport to show unequivocally that women are worse than men at mathematics have similar problems; it is very hard to control for all cultural and social factors that may play a role in making up the distribution of the performance of a human group on a specific cognitive task, and then again, it is not at all clear that differences in performance in that specific task account for differences in performance in mathematical tasks in general, let alone that such a gap suggests a difference in overall mathematical intelligence.

On another note, the Murray-Herrnstein study about race and IQ is risibly bad, and the literature has shown it to be so. Murray and Herrnstein may be absolutely right in their suspicion that whites are smarter than people like me, but the arguments they use do not reveal much intelligence to this humble observer. I suggest to you, dear Albert E., that there is quite a bit of Lysenkoism in right-wing enthusiasm for ill-designed studies that purport to prove the ideological certitudes of the right wing. I suppose there are some leftists among us who oppose studies about race and intelligence (or about gender and intelligence) for fear of what the studies may reveal, but then there are many of us that simply–rest assured–observe that your sources are dim and unreliable, and that the studies you praise are of highly dubious value. That doesn’t make us Lysenkoists in the least bit. We simply don’t like Lysenkoist studies.


Walt Pohl 11.23.05 at 7:20 pm

I misspoke. Apparently what’s really important is proving that women are genetically inferior to men. Albert E knows that someone out there is inferior to him, and he’s going to use SCIENCE! to prove it.


rollo 11.24.05 at 4:29 pm

“… that blacks are genetically inferior to whites….”

How about genetically different?
Then the values hierarchy is what’s suspect.
Because that’s where the problem lies.
What you guys want is to keep the values hierarchy and throw out the evidence of difference.
So that dissing Bush as a chimp is okay because we all know that simians are inferior to humans.
Calling people “‘tards” is okay because we all know being retarded is being inferior to “normals”.
It’s not okay to talk about the NBA’s preponderance of genetically different individuals because that will lead to other, less embraceable observations.


Ray 11.24.05 at 6:17 pm

Genetically different how?
There is more genetic variation within ‘races’ than there is between ‘races’, and part of the reason albert e’s flailings have been so laughable is that both he and we know that there isn’t any real genetic marker that could be used to clearly distinguish between (for example) black, white, and Hispanic people.


Keith M Ellis 11.25.05 at 9:18 am

“Race” has no biological foundation.

Sex, however, is abundantly biological and so there is very good reason to suspect that innate differences are in play, and thus investigate this matter. It may prove very difficult. In contrast, there is no point in investigating racial differences because we’ve been unable to find a biologically meaningful definition of “race” that would make such an investigation possible. On the other hand, if you want to search for innate differences between two or more independent groups of biologically related people, be my guest.

ID is creationism with a lab coat thrown over it. As such, its status as orthodoxy precedes that of evolution. Therefore, on that basis alone, ID is the Lysenkoist orthodoxy resisting evolution. It’s just that evolution has won the war but there are still some stragglers fighting battles.

But there’s another way to neutrally measure Lysenkoism. Of the following two statements, which is more likely to be a product of an ideology?Human beings are mammals and are unexceptionally part of the natural universe.Human beings are unique and essentially independent from the natural universe.The second statement stinks of ideology.
There is a strong ideologically based opposition to evolutionary psychology, that’s true. But that opposition is tiny relative to the social and even scientific orthodoxy regarding sex and even race. The orthodoxy on these matters isn’t that nurture rules, it’s that nature rules. As is the case with ID and evolution, the notion that “nurture is all” (with regard to the most hotly contested matters of sex and race) is a modern notion and the unquestioned assumption of nature as primary preceded it. The orthodoxy is biological determinism. It is Lysenkoism, if one of these competing ideologies could be said to be such.

Religious conservatives see oppression everywhere they look because of confirmation bias. And in the case of Christians, also because martyrdom is essential to their worldview.


John Emerson 11.25.05 at 12:45 pm

Albert E. — nobody here is interested in debating you on terms of your choosing. Be stunned if you want to be.

Let’s get back the the “Lysenkoist” charge against Myers, which was the original topic of the thread. Let’s even allow for the sake of argument that “Lysenkoist” simply means “someone who allows politics to influence his scientific thinking” rather than the more exact “someone who wants to ignore established scientific findings and who uses the secret police to enforce his decision” (or more exactly still, “someone who supports Lamarckeanism, against all scientific evidence”.)

Adams, a non-biologist, was attacked by Myers, another non-scientist, because of number of know-nothing statements Adams made, one of which was a refusal to grant credibility to any professional biologist regarding evolution, since they all have a conflict of interest.

Zywicki, another non-biologist, commiserates with poor Adams, who had been attacked by an evil Lysenkoist.

But even if Myers were in fact a Lysenkoist, it would be irrelevant here, because Myers vs. Adams was a fight between a scientists supporting science and a non-nothing.

Furthermore, Zywicki is political and not scientific, as is out friend Albert E. here. Myers is both political and a scientist. It looks like the political non-scientists injecting politics into science are Albert and Zywicki.

The Summers issue is a political issue and Summers’ supporters, such as Albert here and Zywicki, are politicos. Summers is an administrator, not a scientist, who was speculating off the top of his head about using some untested science to develop new educational strategies and admissions policies. He got the normal opposition that administrators get when they propose new politicies. He kept his job and still is a powerful man. No lynch mob, no gulag.

It’s quite normal, and in fact necessary, for scientists to oppose new, unproven scientific theories. It’s quite a different thing than trying to ditch established scientific for no good reason, which is what Lysenko did.

And if politics entered into it, so what? Summers was in an educational-policy position, not a scientific-research position, and he was defended by a noisy claque of political operatives and ideologues, few of whom were working scientists.

I think that it’s time for Albert to declare victory, put his tail between his legs, and scurry home.


John Emerson 11.25.05 at 2:52 pm

“Adams, a non-scientist, was attacked by Myers, a biologist…..”


John Emerson 11.25.05 at 2:55 pm

“….because ‘Myers vs. Adams’ was a fight between a scientist, supporting science, and a know-nothing.”


rollo 11.25.05 at 4:16 pm

Okay Ray, it’s not genetic, and it’s not racial, but something’s different about all those huge guys in the NBA, aside from their hugeness I mean – what is it? Doesn’t it have to be gene-based?
Or is it still too early to talk about that, and we have to keep pretending it’s “cultural” or something?
My main point was it’s the assumptions of inferiority that’re doing the damage, just as in the far more deeply rooted prejudices against other primates and against the mentally retarded.
Those prejudices are so solidly ingrained they pass unnoticed, even by many liberals.


Ray 11.25.05 at 6:40 pm

You’re drunk, aren’t you?
What do you think is different about tall basketball players, apart from the fact that they’re very tall? Is this some US euphemism I’m not aware of? “Oh yes, the ladies love that guy, he’s very… tall” Or is it some new conspiracy theory – tall NBA players have been genetically engineered by the British royal family, as part of a secret plot to prevent the gold standard from being reintroduced! But I still don’t see where the apes fit in – are they double-agents or something?


rollo 11.26.05 at 9:18 am

No I am not.
Not drunk, no. Not even.
More clearly, here’s the question:
Blacks are disproportionately represented in the NBA, greatly so. Also in the NFL.
If it isn’t genetic what is it? You can’t possibly be suggesting it’s simply cultural, can you?
The point about the primates and the retarded is that people who think of themselves as appropriately tolerant and unprejudiced don’t have much problem derogating them.
That point being the values hierarchy thus revealed is no more enlightened than any knee-jerk racist’s.
“Us” v. “them”.
Everybody knows “them” are inferior. We just have differing boundaries of exclusion.


Kieran Healy 11.26.05 at 11:05 am

See whether your argument works when you substitute “basketball” with equestrian sports, swimming, golf or lacrosse rollo. I suppose the racial composition of those activities must be genetically based, too. “You can’t possibly be suggesting it’s simply cultural, can you?”


matttbastard 11.26.05 at 12:24 pm

See whether your argument works when you substitute “basketball” with equestrian sports, swimming, golf or lacrosse rollo. I suppose the racial composition of those activities must be genetically based, too.

See also hockey, snowboarding, downhill skiing, surfing, fencing, handball, polo, squash, etc etc.

Much as I’d love to embrace any assertions re: the genetic superiority of us ‘brothas’ (at least, when it comes to non-intellectual pursuits, of course), using organized sport as an irrefutable example of the innate phsyical superiority of negros is ridiculous and easily rebutted.

Speaking anecdotally, I suck at both hoops (am barely 5’10) and football (am luck if I tip the scales at 135lbs.)

We’ll leave the dimensions of my penis to the imagination…


Ray 11.26.05 at 1:30 pm

Is it any coincidence that the last ten World Disco Dancing Champions have been black? I’m sure we all know what’s going on there…

(Seriously, rollo, if you can’t even point to a genetic marker for being black, its a little difficult to argue that white people have genes that prevent them from jumping)


rollo 11.26.05 at 5:34 pm

“using organized sport as an irrefutable example of the innate physical superiority of negros”
Straw. Man. Meaning I never said that. Never even implied it. It was a genuine question, prompted by what seems to me to be common sense.
My real point is that the hierarchical ranking you guys are near violent in opposition to still functions here. It just isn’t racist – it’s other terms, other isms, for things I find as odious as you do racism.
Which I also find odious.
The smugly arrogant superiority of humans generally that allowed the abomination of primate “research” to contribute to the fund of scientific knowledge which now tells us there are no “races”.
The casual use of “‘tard” by people who would freeze in a social gathering where a racial epithet was spoken.
“See whether your argument works when…”
Exactly which argument is that? That the disproportionate representation of black athletes in sports requiring superior physicality can’t be due to cultural filters alone? And you refute that with polo and golf?
Thanks Kieran, I’ll go home now.
Oh, wait, I am at home.
The NFL isn’t fed by ghetto pick-up games, eh? And as soon as the doors of that venue opened wide enough look what happened. Disproportionate representation. I’m not saying it’s not cultural, I’m saying it can’t be all cultural, and you rebut that by saying it is.
And Ray. Ray. What’s wrong here? Really? Is it that there’s something underneath and behind the topic that’s too scary to even discuss?
I think so.
That you would automatically assume there’s a racist bent behind anyone who questions the absurdities of p.c. racial homogeneity says that’s probably what it is.
I erred using the layman’s “genetic” to describe something science hasn’t given us a snappy term for. I’m sure the DNA mix is muddled enough that “races” are a meaningless term for biologists. Kind of like the sub-molecular separation of matter. Everything’s hollow and full of holes. Lots of space in between the constituents. The smooth surface of a plate glass window’s a total illusion.


Keith M Ellis 11.26.05 at 7:06 pm

“I erred using the layman’s ‘genetic’ to describe something science hasn’t given us a snappy term for. I’m sure the DNA mix is muddled enough that “races” are a meaningless term for biologists. Kind of like the sub-molecular separation of matter. Everything’s hollow and full of holes. Lots of space in between the constituents. The smooth surface of a plate glass window’s a total illusion.”

Your biggest problem is that you’re ignorant. “The DNA mix is muddled”. That’s your theory as to why there’s no genetic basis for “race”? That’s just stupid.

The domination of the NBA by black athletes is entirely, 100%, completely, totally, with no exception, absolutely cultural.


rollo 11.26.05 at 8:01 pm

You’re supposed to say “because” after that, Keith. Otherwise it’s just an assertion with a little name-calling for emphasis.
Ray says “if you can’t even point to a genetic marker for being black”. As though that proves being black is just a cultural distinction. It’s either/or.
The racist culture that gave us the bizarre distinctions of quadroons and mulattos is well gone, and its remnants with it, but replacing one kind of overt bigotry with subtler but equally self-metrical prejudices isn’t progress.
I’m still under the impression that someone who disagrees with you being proved wrong doesn’t do anything to validate your own position.
“The DNA mix, lacks markers for, is muddled, genes, race” – I don’t care how it’s termed or phrased, the idea is that the attributes we were calling racial traits are far more superficial than was once believed. Good.
Jumping from that surprise to a complete negation of inherited differences that have something like racial lines of predictable descent seems odd and unsubstantiated, until it’s mapped onto a need for there to be no difference beyond the superficial. The nastiness that followed seems to bear that out.
I think part of the problem is that anything that might fuel racist bigotry has to be set on fire and run out of town, whether it’s true or not.
That’s kind of the definition of Lysenkoism, as I understand it.

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