Cosma Shalizi takes down William Saletan and Slate

First, the Saletan piece from Slate:

Ad15Last month, James Watson, the legendary biologist, was condemned and forced into retirement after claiming that African intelligence wasn’t “the same as ours.” “Racist, vicious and unsupported by science,” said the Federation of American Scientists. “Utterly unsupported by scientific evidence,” declared the U.S. government’s supervisor of genetic research. The New York Times told readers that when Watson implied “that black Africans are less intelligent than whites, he hadn’t a scientific leg to stand on.”

I wish these assurances were true. They aren’t. Tests do show an IQ deficit, not just for Africans relative to Europeans, but for Europeans relative to Asians. Economic and cultural theories have failed to explain most of the pattern, and there’s strong preliminary evidence that part of it is genetic. It’s time to prepare for the possibility that equality of intelligence, in the sense of racial averages on tests, will turn out not to be true.

More here.  And here’s Cosma:

CrsWilliam Saletan’s recent venture into demanding that we squarely face the harsh light of his pseudo-scientific prejudices is, in itself, intensely boring — we’ve played this scene over and over again — but becomes more interesting when we try to trace it back to causes, and then forward again to effects.

His writing the story may be explained in one of two ways.

  1. He may be ignorant and stupid enough to be gulled by charltans like Rushton or Richard Lynn;
  2. More charitably, he may not believe the bullshit himself, but may repeat it to his readers because he hopes that doing so advances some agenda of his own.

Now, William Saletan is a journalist. He is paid to write stories, in the belief that they will attract readers, who can then be advertised at. But his job, the reason why this would not be a purely exploitative manipulation of those readers, is that his stories ought to tell his readers things which will make them better informed about the world, better able to make their way through it. He has just demonstrated that he is either unable or unwilling to do his job. His readers might attempt to extract information from his words by undoing the distortions imposed by his folly and manipulations, but life is too short. His words are worth attending to only as specimens, rather than communications.

William Saletan is the national correspondent of Slate, and published this multi-part heap of rubbish there.

Update: See next post before complaining.

More here.  [Thanks to Ian McMeans.]