Reflections on Sailer from a Philosopher Foe of Positivism

October 24, 2004

[VDARE.COM note: Steve Sailer is resting today after his heroic proof that President Bush probably has a higher IQ than John Kerry, one of our most popular articles ever. To stop him from asking for a raise (contribute here if you think he ought to get one), we post here a philosopher`s parsing of the Sailer style.]

As an ex-resident of Los Angeles and other Californian towns, I very much enjoy reading Steve Sailer`s discussions of the Golden State`s antics, and the very SoCal perspective he brings to them—and to most things.

Likewise, I have found it helpful that Sailer has focused on the oddities of the Bush administration`s immigration policies. Sailer makes clear that immigrants from Latin America, and their descendents, lean overwhelmingly toward the Democratic Party, thereby raising the question of the real intent of the open-borders policies offered by Bush and his neoconservative handlers.      

Nonetheless, I would like to offer some objections concerning Sailer`s methodology.

In a recent article, he claims:

“As you can tell just by noticing the greater average muscle definition of black athletes, there are genetic differences between the races….”

This sentence fragment seems to me almost a poster child for “how not to write about race on the Internet.”

We find that the `muscle definition` hyperlink leads to another Sailer piece, `Is Love Colorblind?` which concerns asymmetries in the make-up of interracial couples in the US (as defined by US census bureau data on race). [VDARE.com note:  The hyperlinks are not always the fault of the author. Frequently they`re added in the editorial process.] The central topic of this National Review article is the fact that among blacks, it is males who tend to marry outside of the race, while among Asians, it is females; and that, conversely, when marrying outside their race, white males tend to choose Asian mates, while white females tend to choose black mates.

Herein there is indeed a reference to muscularity. According to Sailer, what we need to learn about muscularity is that one can watch sports to see that racial differences in it “cannot be ignored;” and that alleged racial disparities in it should be considered as a prominent factor in explaining asymmetries in the make-up of interracial couples.

Incredibly, the central point of evidence that Sailer offers in discussing the `muscularity` that we allegedly should correlate with interracial attraction is the table of fitness recommendations that a `CBS fitness expert` offers to his clients. “Is muscularity quantifiable? CBS fitness expert Covert Bailey finds that he needs to recommend different goals—in terms of percentage of body fat—to his clients of different races,” [Sailer, `Is Love Colorblind?]. Sailer then correlates this data with a somewhat more credible set: Census bureau information on listed race in marriages.

Sailer concludes that because blacks have dominated many sports, and because Mr. Bailey sets the body fat goal of his white male clients 3% higher than that of his black male clients, and the Asian males 6% higher, racial difference in muscularity must be a notable cause of the fact that white women marry many more black men than they do Asian men.

But let us think of some of the other possible differences Sailer doesn`t mention. Perhaps most Asian males have little interest in marrying outside of their race, because Asian societies very strongly tie together patriarchal and cultural-traditionalist elements. Perhaps some white women feel guilt or compassion toward black men, given America`s history of slavery and anti-black violence, and so want to make black men happy and advance racial harmony in one of the most intimate ways possible. Perhaps many white women are turned off by patriarchal elements in Asian culture.

But, no, Sailer argues that what we really ought to focus on is something that we can measure: muscle. (He also has a discussion of measuring penis-size elsewhere, but I am hoping that it`s mostly humorous.)

Apparently, being relatively easily-measurable allows us to conclude that a factor plays an extensive causative role.

In other words, here we find positivism gone mad.

Please in keep in mind that I do not offer my own speculations on the incredibly complex subject of the dynamics of sexual attraction as particularly plausible. I offer them only as speculations that are more plausible than Sailer`s, and less racially-bloody-minded, if I may coin a phrase and toss a pun.

More importantly, I do not offer these speculations as being in anyway exhaustive in scope: after all, I have said nothing about the role of the media in influencing sexual behavior, which surely will not do at all.  

Interesting, Sailer looks to the media less as a source of influence, than as a mirror. (This is in keeping with his reductionist approach—so reminiscent of Marxist reduction to means of production, except here we have reduction to the means of DNA and its expression in easily quantifiable forms. However, Marxists are normally a bit more suspicious of ideology, even as they take this too far; and even as they are confused concerning ideology`s source.)

What does Sailer says about TV? In a VDARE.COM article, he notes that Hollywood and Latin American media repeatedly choose to offer us images where blonde women are paired with much darker men, but that there is not a similar offering of images of fair-haired men and darker-complexioned women.

What point does he use this data to support? [T]here`s little demand for blond men.” Ah ha! Of course—if women were interested in blond men, then that would be mirrored by the infallible process of our semi-free market, and be ON TV in some prominent fashion.

I have to marvel at Sailer`s devotion to positivism at the expense of more broadly informed human judgment.

Sailer boldly deals with material that the rest of us are too cowardly to touch. He normally shows immense devotion to empirical-scientific and statistical methods. However, such devotion can lead to the prejudice of being too eager to count “known knowns” over `known unknowns.`

Typically, of course, such prejudice leads one to the viewpoint that one wants to come to all along: such a phenomenon being one of the core joys of empirical research in the social sciences.

Dr. Verhaegh [email him] is a research fellow at the Mises Institute. His home page is marcusverhaegh.com