I hear your forthcoming book is pro-race science. True?
No. It is explicitly, unambiguously, and directly not. In fact key to my elevator pitch was that the book discusses genetics and intelligence while rejecting arguments about inherent racial differences in intelligence. Here’s a passage from the manuscript, incidentally written before Twitter got mad about this:
“I will risk appearing self-defensive by saying upfront: this book is not an argument for the “race realist” position that some races are inherently more intelligent than others. Nor do I traffic in sexist ideas about innate gender differences in intelligence. I do not believe that white people are smarter than black, that Asian people have a genetic facility for math, or that women are not as gifted as men in science. Lest there be any confusion, I unequivocally and explicitly reject those beliefs, and this book will not advance any such claims about group differences in intelligence. I will instead argue that the science of individual differences in potential has profound consequences for our education system and our society.”
Pretty unambiguous, right?
So why do so many people think otherwise?
Because an anonymous Twitter account said so. Seriously, that’s it, that’s the sole reason anyone ever got this impression in the first place. Some dude with a joke Twitter name and a rose emoji deliberately spread misinformation about my book, knowing it to be untrue, and everybody believed him, without any corroborating evidence whatsoever. People like the crew at Balloon Juice ran with it without bothering to ask whether it was responsible to draw broad conclusions about an unfinished book from the say-so of an anonymous source.
That’s pretty shitty.
Twitter is a shitty place. Twitter makes reasonable people do and say shitty things.
Didn’t many journalists and other members of the media like “Atrios”/Duncan Black run with this too? Isn’t the basic job of journalists to pursue facts and provide attribution for claims?
Why yes! Yes it is! That is exactly their job. And they didn’t do it. Major, national journalists retweeted and repeated the claim that my book argues what it expressly does not argue based on literally nothing else than the say-so of an anonymous Twitter account. Because the basic rule with media and journalism is that there are no rules, only tribes, and I’ve never been part of that tribe and so they felt no responsibility to tell the truth. In real life, media-people behavior is mostly motivated by a desire to appear cool with other media people. And I’ve always been a soft target, a convenient person to go after when looking to up your cred. If I was cool with the right people I could publish Mein Kampf for Kids and they’d be like “gotta hear both sides of the story.” That’s just how that culture functions.
Do you think the people who eagerly spread that incendiary claim about you, particularly the journalists and media types, will retract those claims?
OK but you are writing about genetics and intelligence, though, right? So don’t racist claims follow naturally from that?
Genetics is in fact just one part of this book, maybe not even the most important part. But, regardless – no, racist claims do not follow.
Think about it this way. Supposed you and I went to a basketball game where Lebron James’s son played. If I said to you “he gets some of his athleticism from his father,” that would, I hope, be an uncontroversial statement. I suppose you might disagree, though it seems pretty indisputable to me. But either way you wouldn’t find that claim offensive, and you certainly wouldn’t find it racist. On the other hand, if I said “he gets his athleticism from his race,” then you may very well find that claim offensive and racist. Those are two fundamentally different kinds of claims – one a claim about individual genetic variation, and one a claim about group genetic variation. They are not the same. They are different scientifically, analytically, politically, and morally. And anyone who can’t wrap their head around the distinction sufficiently should simply not engage about these topics at all.
If you’d like an example of a working behavioral geneticists who believes that intelligence is partially heritable and yet still rejects racist claims about IQ, you might check out Paige Harden. There are many others.
But aren’t you unqualified to write about all this science stuff?
That would be a fair criticism if I were writing about the science of individual genetic differences. But I’m writing about the educational and political consequences of the science of individual genetic differences, and I’m perfectly qualified to write about each, the former because my academic training and professional occupation are in educational testing and the latter because I have written several million words on politics over the past decade. This misunderstanding, again, is the kind of risk you run when you go after books before you’ve read them, or indeed, before they’ve been fully written.
I heard some people went after your job over this.
So I’ve been told, but I haven’t had any trouble at work. People going after my jobs over my political writing, I’m sorry to say, has been a thing for awhile. I am a unionized public sector employee with sterling performance reviews and a long-term contract. So… good luck.
I heard your publishing company was Bad.
The imprint I’m writing for has published and will publish books by prominent progressive voices, such as Zephyr Teachout. But more to the point: is this a standard that gets applied to anyone else? Are you really going to tell me that people scour the back catalog of every publisher to find objectionable titles in order to go after authors? I assure you: no publisher of national scale has a record free of work you find offensive. Not one. The idea that working under a given publisher should necessarily mean that your work should be judged based on its association with other books from that publisher is bizarre and totally unworkable at scale, guilt-by-association of the weirdest variety. It’s a perfect example of an argument of convenience, one adopted simply because it was an easy way to go after me. It’s a bullshit, made-up standard and so I’m not going to worry about it.
When is the book coming out?
I don’t know.