And the Steve Sailer award goes to…

Steve Sailer, of course.

While I’m out of town, my introductory biology students are getting a lecture on species concepts and systematics from one of my colleagues, and it fits in perfectly with that link, too. In my absence even, freshman college students are smarter and better informed than Sailer.


  1. says

    Whence this ridiculous idea that anything based in biology (and race is a mostly social construct anyway) is deterministic? Even if there was some gene for race or some other unambiguous biological justification for dividing the human race into different “races,” how is it that they are then presented as immutable, when species themselves are mutable? Ah, but first one must accept the latter.

    “Women do not go bald”? Must have been a long time at sea for you, Sailor. Women can lose their hair as they age, and some women do indeed go bald, whereas in many cultures a man with long hair is considered powerful and masculine. What, you never heard of Sampson?

  2. Diego says

    With a systematics background that feels all the more agrievous. I now have even greater sympathy for PZ when he has to deal with people with wonky ideas about developmental biology.

  3. Matt says

    Just noticed an incorrect statement in the comment on Sailer Dr. Myers linked to… (yes I’m picky)

    “There are two aspects of that filing system that a sophomore Bio major — or a Serbian fourth-grader — will know by heart.

    One is that each organism is referred to by a binomial consisting of genus and species, and that genus and species are lower levels in a hierarchy of taxa running up through Families and Phyla to Kingdoms and Domains. ”

    Binomial nomenclature does not consist of the “genus” and “species” names in the sense that the comment indicated.

    Here’s how it actually works:

    Genus (e.g. Homo) + trivial (e.g. sapiens) = species name (e.g. Homo sapiens)

    So, the “two names” (binomial) are not genus and species, but the two parts of the species name, one of which is the genus, the other being the trivial.

    Logically, according to the “colloquial” understanding of how those terms are used, if I were to ask any one of you, “what species are you?,” you would be obliged to respond, “sapiens.”

  4. says

    Well, I’m probably the only one who remembers this comment, much less gives a velociraptor’s ass what I think about dinosaur taxonomy, but I made a similar comment in a similar context here (the Pluto’s status thread). Given what a nasty piece of work Sailer’s attempt at genetically justifying racism is, though, I want to specifically clarify what I meant, so that there’s no confusion that I support what he argues. You can probably skip this metacomment, but I just want to state categorically that when I wrote what I did, I was not coming from his viewpoint at all.

    I tossed out a crack about how my heart wasn’t in the game anymore, after losing “brontosaurus”. What I meant by that was that as a child, I had a set of dinosaurs that I loved very much, accumulated from a gasoline company (Shell?) where I added to my collection each time one of my parents filled up the Studebaker (and now you see how old I am :).

    The one called “brontosaurus” was one of my favorites, and all the literature I learned about dinosaurs from referred to it as “brontosaurus”. Later, learning about the principle of priority and about the correct name meant saying goodbye to a treasured part of my childhood in favor of an ontological commitment to pursuing science, even if it didn’t match the way I would prefer the world to be. I don’t regret that commitment at all, and would never make the smarmy sniping references to it that Sailer does, but at the same time I feel a certain nostalgia for my childhood “truth” embodied in a little plastic dinosaur, even though it was later proven wrong. It was in that spirit that I tossed off that crack, even though the principle of priority is correct, and I would not change the commitment I made.

    Sailer’s piece is loathsome, and although my comment superficially resembled it, the difference in our philosophical starting points and committments is as great as night and day.

  5. ben says

    Is this the same Steve Sailer that keeps attacking Steve Levitt (Freakonomics) for his abortion theory of crime reduction?

    I had no idea Sailer was crazy. He actually attracted a considered response to his claims from Levitt. I doubt Levitt would have bothered if he had read these things.