Career Advice for Kanazawa from Cosma Shalizi

Speaking of Cosma, he goes to town on Satoshi Kanazawa:

…Some of those people, owing to those tastes, pursue careers in academic research; the problem for them is that they are not actually very good at what they are supposed to do, which is come up with novel, insightful, important, precise, and accurate findings.  Suppose that you are such a person, and that you do not want to switch to some other line of work to which you might be better suited.  What to do?

Perhaps the best thing which could happen to you would be to run across a new and controversial theory which speaks to you at a deep level, both intellectually and temperamentally.  If you are what William James called “tender-minded”, like Teilhard de Chardin, then Medawar has already mapped out your trajectory, though nowadays the Templeton Foundation would likely be involved.  If instead you are what James called “tough-minded” — “materialistic, pessimistic, irreligious, fatalistic, sceptical” — then edification-through-obfuscation is not an option, but it wouldn’t even occur to you.  Instead, you take your theory and you write papers about it, where you make claims about lots of hot-button topics, especially sex and current political controversies.  The papers seem to carry the signs of rigor, but are actually deeply fallacious — maybe you see this, but are so convinced the conclusions are right you don’t care, or maybe you’re so convinced of the conclusions you can’t see the errors.  (There is some peer-reviewed venue where you can publish almost arbitrarily sloppy papers, so getting into print won’t be a problem.)  Then — and this is the key — you start promoting your papers, and find that more salacious and provocative your spin on them, the bigger the response…

Ladies, gentlemen, and distinguished others, I give you Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics, the Fenimore Cooper of sociobiology, a man who has leveraged an inability to do data analysis or understand psychometrics into an official blog at Psychology Today, where he gets to advocate genocidal nuclear war as revenge for 9/11.  He seems to mean it, rather than be fukayaming.

His argument — to the extent that it is an argument and not just a wish-fulfillment fantasy — has to do with his earlier attempt to explain “why most suicide bombers are Muslims”.  Leave to one side whether his attempted explanation is coherent, two things strike one on reading that.