Dig into the racist circle jerk

Take a browse through Nancy McClernan’s blog, especially for the past few weeks. She’s tying all the threads together: evolutionary psychology, human biodiversity, Steve Sailer, Steven Pinker, Jerry Coyne, Phillipe Rushton, the Pioneer Fund, Arthur Jensen, The Bell Curve, all the usual suspects. It’s the ugliest bit of knitting I’ve ever seen.

One of the many interesting examples is this story about how racists tried to use sports statistics to prove the inferiority of black people — they just can’t handle the intellectual demands of playing quarterback, goes the claim. Who is the source for the statistics behind this argument? Steve Sailer.

In one of my essays, I wrote that the position a quarterback is taken in the college draft is not a reliable indicator of his performance as a professional. That was based on the work of the academic economists David Berri and Rob Simmons, who, in a paper published in The Journal of Productivity Analysis, analyze 40 years of National Football League data. Their conclusion was that the relation between aggregate quarterback performance and draft position was weak. Further, when they looked at per-play performance — in other words, when they adjusted for the fact that highly drafted quarterbacks are more likely to play more downs — they found that quarterbacks taken in positions 11 through 90 in the draft actually slightly outplay those more highly paid and lauded players taken in the draft’s top 10 positions. I found this analysis fascinating. Pinker did not. This quarterback argument, he wrote, “is simply not true.”

I wondered about the basis of Pinker’s conclusion, so I e-mailed him, asking if he could tell me where to find the scientific data that would set me straight. He very graciously wrote me back. He had three sources, he said. The first was Steve Sailer. Sailer, for the uninitiated, is a California blogger with a market research background who is perhaps best known for his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to white people. Sailer’s “proof” of the connection between draft position and performance is, I’m sure Pinker would agree, crude: his key variable is how many times a player has been named to the Pro Bowl.

If you’re citing Steve Sailer, you’re really dredging the cesspool. Do go read the rest — scroll down to the bottom of the page, there’s a list of links to this month’s posts, and they’re all good.


  1. hemidactylus says

    Black QBs are far more common now, but when I was a kid I was fortunate enough for my dad to take me to quite a few Tampa Bay Bucs games which happened to feature someone named Doug Williams. He was quite talented, strong arm, ability to run. He was a little rough around the edges at times, but on the merits of a great running back and tough as nails defense TB fell one game short of playing against the Steelers in the Super Bowl, which they could have won given the chance. Williams went on to win a Super Bowl with the (cringe) “Redskins” (sorry).

    Another QB who was very talented and had made a name for himself in Canada was Warren Moon. I loved the run and shoot offense of the Houston Oilers. They got burned in a comeback loss by the Buffalo Bills one year and that could have been their Super Bowl year. According to Wikipedia, Moon made Pro Bowl 9 times. Not shabby. He won 5 Grey Cups, whatever that arcane reference means 🤔 Must be a Canadian thing.


  2. eamick says

    @1: The Grey Cup is the championship trophy of the Canadian Football League. It’s been around for more than 100 years.

  3. says

    I met Warren Moon a few times — his girlfriend, Bunny, lived in the same dorm complex as my girlfriend (now wife) at the University of Washington when he played there. He made a name for himself at the UW, too!

  4. Ed Seedhouse says

    Moon was a legend in Canadian football, where actually a majority of the players are from that weird country to the south and many quarterbacks have dark skin. But the managers seem to be all pale faced men. Odd that…

    Anyway, keep sending all your good dark quarterbacks (and others) up here – we need them to make our game possible since we don’t have enough Canadian players to stock all the teams (most of our white boys play hockey). And they do raise the standards of play.

  5. says

    The reason Moon started his career in the CFL is because he was black, obviously. Black quarterbacks basically were not allowed in the NFL at that time.

    As for draft order, Tom Brady, who was taken in the sixth round, is an obvious outlier. I wonder how taking him out would affect the relationship? I can think of a lot of early pick busts, but a lot of them lived up to their hype as well. Basically playing QB in college doesn’t translate directly to the NFL, and it’s an art for the scouts to pick them correctly. Actually the scouts didn’t think Tim Tebow could play in the NFL, and they were right, but the Broncos took him because they thought he’d sell tickets to religious fanatics. Didn’t work out.

  6. brett says

    I clicked through on her writings on Razib Khan, and wasn’t too impressed. A lot of guilt-by-association and unsupported assertions on his supposed personal beliefs about race and science (reminds me of that Undark piece on him).

  7. houtens says

    lol, the sidebar rant about how she can’t possibly be a racist because she stood up to a coworker one time is p great. lot of complaining about sjw’s in there. this is an interesting piece, but nancy doesn’t seem like someone i’d want to rush to hold up as an anti-racist activist.

  8. lotharloo says

    I looked at her blog and it is damnening! This is going to take a while but it is definitely interesting to read them all.

  9. numerobis says

    I keep seeing this hero-demolishing.

    Makes me wonder what dark secrets PZ hides. Perhaps he has a weakness for fried calamari?

  10. jrkrideau says

    @2 eamick
    Those of us who are/were “real” rugby players still feel the Cup was stolen from us and that Canadian Football and its weird US derivative are strange mutations to a noble game.

  11. says

    The relationship between evo psych and ‘scientific’ racism is pretty sad; I guess it’s inevitable because they’re both post-hoc reasoning.

    Reading the eugenics texts, like Popenoe, and Grant, it’s a brain-wracking load of presupposition: the assumption is that cause and effect work out the way the author wants them to, thereby justifying their conclusions: black people are less intelligent because of something about them and has nothing at all to do with segregated schools where the white kids have “special achiever” programs and the black kids have out of date textbooks and generally poor facilities. The eugenicists like Popenoe make the same mistake: the poor people of Pittsburgh breed thoughtlessly because there’s something wrong with them, and they live in nasty, squalid conditions – unlike the factory managers who live in big houses in quiet neighborhoods, and have better medical care. The arguments, basically, haven’t changed at all.

    I read Pinker’s The Blank Slate around when it came out, and mostly what sticks in my mind was that he spent some effort creating a strawman argument that there are people (feminists, apparently, among them) that believe that humans are basically a blank slate and there is no intrinsic nature to a person. On the other side are the rationalists who accept the obvious truth that some people are taller, or can run faster, or whatever – oh, and, gender! Never mind that there really doesn’t appear to be anyone who is actually saying that we are all innately equal, Pinker does a good job of slamming that strawman around at some length. I don’t remember much else, really – that bit was what mostly stuck out at me. Maybe I should review it.

  12. hemidactylus says

    Another important position where there has been achievement but relative lack of representation by blacks in the NFL is head coach. Going back to my Tampa Bay Bucs, Tony Dungy built the team Jon Gruden took to the Super Bowl, Dungy coached the Colts to a Super Bowl win. Mike Tomlin coached the Steelers to a Super Bowl win. Dennis Green and Art Shell were pretty good. Lovie Smith took his Bears to a Super Bowl against the Dungy coached Colts. That didn’t work out so well for him.


    “In addition, the Bears’ Lovie Smith and the Colts’ Tony Dungy both became the first African-American head coaches to coach in the Super Bowl, with Dungy the first to win.”


  13. emergence says

    What makes me roll my eyes at a lot of racist claims is that they massively overreach what’s believable when they talk about the supposed intellectual inferiority of black people. Apparently black people aren’t smart enough to be quarterbacks, even though black people have become successful doctors, lawyers, politicians, and scientists. If black people were as stupid as racists claim they are, black people wouldn’t be able to accomplish what they demonstrably have.

  14. bryanfeir says

    With regards to NFL vs. CFL and minority head coaches, there’s always Pinball Clemons, who became the first black head coach to win the Grey Cup in 2004, and the second black head coach to win any North American pro football championship (the first being Darren Arbet in the AFL in 2002).

    Clemons is a pretty well-known and liked personality up here, and not just for the football. (Though, admittedly, if not for the football he probably wouldn’t have got as much of a platform for the other things.)