New Gig for Bigot Pseudoscientist Satoshi Kanazawa

Did you hear? Racist, misogynist pseudoscientist Satoshi Kanazawa has been given a new home at Big Think, where he can spew more racist, misogynist bullshit. PZ links to some of his greatest hits, like his “scientific” proof that black women are ugly and Africans are stupid and other brilliant theories based on evolutionary psychology, Science’s embarrassing cousin who cooks meth in his grandmother’s basement. Just watch Kanazawa put these things in his own words as he sweats and stammers through his introductory video on Big Think.

Note that he explains who is more intelligent than whom based on what’s “natural,” describing that those who pursue the “unnatural” are more intelligent. So, he says that liberals, atheists, homosexuals, and monogamists are all “unnatural” and therefore more intelligent. Other groups that are “unnatural” and therefore more likely more intelligent? I don’t know, I guess pedophiles, people who fly in airplanes, and furries? Looking forward to seeing those papers, Satoshi. Oh, but note how many times he says he has no data or evidence to back up his claims? So I guess peer-reviewed papers won’t be necessary.

After actual scientists and skeptics raised their concerns about Satoshi, Big Think responded with this baffling, content-free statement:

Having tracked his thinking for years, including having him appear for an interview on Big Think, we cannot help but admire Satoshi’s convictions to freedom of thought, even if sometimes we too have cringed at his missteps . At its best, it yields wondrous new perspectives on confounding aspects of modern life, such as the challenge of dating in big cities. At its worst, it yields the intellectual equivalent of shock-jock antics which serve as a call-to-arms for the legions of self-righteous self-promoters eager to decontextualize and oversimplify matters into stark injustices they condemn into oblivion across the cable news airwaves.

Our support for his approach to thinking, and intellectual purview, should not be confused with an endorsement of his conclusions and prescriptions, to the extent that he actually argues on behalf of any specific outcome or conclusion in any given instance. The best and fairest criticisms of his work are truly academic in nature and involve just how far his cross-cutting postulates (one might call them intellectual mash-ups) can extend on the backs of the (current) consensus theories that underpin them and the empirical data he marshals alongside them (often circumstantially).

So Big Think supports his “approach to thinking,” which you’ll note doesn’t actually include thinking. Just the way he approaches thinking. Tentatively. Coyly. Only getting just so close before tittering and running away. Again, this is a person who believes that the human brain stopped changing in the Pleistocene Epoch, and who believes that we don’t need scientific evidence to know what our Pleistocene ancestors got up to during that time period, and who believes that pretty much all our present day behavior can be explained by these just-so stories. Stories like these:

That’s not a typo, by the way: the article really does include Satoshi’s reasoning for why men sexually harass women because they’re some kind of egalitarians.

Dr Kanazawa says men have always subjected one another to abusive and degrading treatment in work, in the battle to get ahead.
It is part of their reaction to competitive situations. Men are not treating women differently if they harass them, in fact they are not discriminating.

Makes sense! You know how men are always getting their asses grabbed at work? How men are subjected to humiliating comments from their co-workers concerning how well they give blowjobs? How men are expected to dress sexily every day? It’s true because I read it in a Michael Crichton novel.

I particularly like this part at the end of Big Think’s defense of Satoshi:

Toward this end, we plan to maintain an open dialogue with our collaborators and community members to create a space that celebrates Satoshi’s best qualities as a bold thinker without sheltering him from rightful criticism.

I like it because comments are currently turned off on Satoshi’s blog. I guess what they meant by “without sheltering him from rightful criticism” was that they’d happily allow blogs like this to criticize him and link back and increase their revenue. Boy, they are smart over there!

Happily, there are comments allowed on the blog of Adam Lee, another Big Think contributor who is disgusted to be sharing a platform with Satoshi. It’s fun to see him kicked around a bit, but still depressing that yet another large network has given a bigot a large audience after already seeing what he did at Psychology Today.

On a side note, Pharyngula commenter Ms. Daisy Cutter points out that one of Satoshi’s defenders (on Adam Lee’s post) is also posting over on Dispatches explaining why his adopted 11-year old mentally challenged sister was responsible for her own rape. Trigger warning, obviously. I was horrified and so I felt it only right that you all be horrified, too.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Rebecca Watson,

    “Big Think” ought to be ashamed of themselves. They didn’t do a good job of thinking when it came to featuring Satoshi Kanazawa.

  2. Wait. He’s saying being unnatural is an indication of intelligence? But harassment is an evolved behavior and therefore natural and therefore unintelligent? And intelligence is an evolved trait too, so it’s natural, which means it’s unintelligent. I’m lost. Is organic produce natural or intelligent?

    1. Since pretty much everything we eat, organic or not, is the product of non-natural selection, I reckon it must therefore be intelligent.

      We, however, are the products of natural selection and therefore not intelligent.

      So we shouldn’t eat cabbages and livestock because they’re more intelligent than us and thus our betters.

      Or something.

      Anyway, I’ve got some meat and veg in my fridge that I’ll go and apologize to now.

  3. To quote Dean Yeager: You are a poor scientist, Dr. Kanazawa.

    Does Big Think hiring any Holocaust deniers or “cdesign proponentsists” for their “unique” approaches to, um, thinking I guess?

    1. Scribe999,

      That’s a good question. I subscribed to their channel on Youtube. I stopped subscribing after I read this. At this point who knows what other peddlers of pseudoscience they will feature.

  4. But wait, with globalisation and the internet the dating pool is much larger so we now have to date 37.5% of that pool – say 1 billion potential partners and reject all of them regardless. Then carry on with the next 2 billion and pick the next one better than the preceding lot.

    Better stop blogging and start right now folks! Hm, somebody needs to write a script to automate this online dating bit.

    Better make it a violent and aggressive one too! That works!

    1. “MY script is bigger than your script”

      People with very small scripts tend to be violent and aggressive by nature. And sweat a lot.

  5. Let’s see how far we can take this…

    Human curiosity is natural. Therefore curiosity is “unintelligent”. Curiosity leads to knowledge, which leads to intelligence.

    By extension, not being curious is unnatural, therefore intelligent.
    Lack of curiosity leads to ignorance, ignorance leads to stupidity.

    Following Satoshi’s logic, we can see that stupidity is clearly more intelligent than intelligence.


  6. I do not know about Satoshi’s status in respect to some of the claims I have seen about him, but I wonder if people here have not turned his hypothesized connection between intelligence and “natural” backwards. He may not be saying that anyone who departs from typical behavioural solutions or strategies is really smart. Perhaps he is suggesting that higher intelligence is, on average, likely to generate more novel behaviour.

    1. The point is simply to make fun of his faulty reasoning. :) The just-so stories from evo psych usually do such things.

  7. How the heck did he learn about the sultan’s dowry problem? Why on earth would he think that the answer to a logic puzzle would have any bearing on how people act in real life? That’s like saying people have evolved to prefer transparent doors because while most doors always tell the truth, some of them always lie and we have a primal fear of being tricked into going through the door that leads to certain death.

    1. For anybody that may not be familiar with the Sultan’s Dowry problem, it goes like this. There’s a sultan that has 100 daughters. Each one has an easily quantifiable value as a person. According to the Internet, that value is her dowry, which makes a lot more sense and is a lot less offensive than the version I heard. The commoner has to choose the daughter with the highest dowry, however, he will see each daughter in turn and must decide on the spot if he will choose her.

      Here’s what’s so dumb about this. Let’s just ignore all of the problems and imagine the algorithm actually works in real life. It maximizes your chances of ending up with the best possible partner. There is a whopping 37% chance you will actually end up with that partner.

      There is, however, a 26% chance you will end up with a sub-optimal partner and a 37% chance you will live your entire life alone without ever having more than a first date. Those are not good odds.

      Now, if you’re lucky, you are already paired up with someone you are pretty sure is the best possible match for you. But can you ever really be sure that there isn’t someone out there that could love you that is slightly more attractive and maybe doesn’t leave their socks on the floor? No, but take heart, neither can the 37% that actually ended up with the best possible partners. You’re in basically the same boat that they are, except you probably didn’t have to spend every Valentine’s Day alone prior to meeting your partner and you didn’t have to risk spending your entire life alone.

      I don’t think this guy actually holds these beliefs, I think he just makes this crap up because he knows most people won’t bother to find out where he’s getting his numbers from.

  8. Here’s how evo-psych seems to work.

    1 Grab some random theory – something that is controversial and impossible to prove one way or another.

    2 Create some vaguely related data – does not have to be well controlled – best of all, use someone else’s unrelated study.

    3. If the results do not prove what you want, postulate a feed back loop. Speculate freely and make shit up. Ensure conclusions are offensive for maximum publicity.

    4. Publish in non peer reviewed journal.

    Rinse and repeat.

    With a bit of luck, your conclusions will be taught in management courses.

    Then all your critics, those useless scientists and engineers, can be fired and replaced with accountants and middle managers.

  9. Thanks for the shout-out, Rebecca. I wish it were under better circumstances than this.

    Big Think clearly has TED-like aspirations, and until this whole Kanazawa business, I would have said they were well on track. Up until now, they’ve done a pretty good job of choosing interesting, influential people to interview and to blog for them (he says modestly). Their hiring of Kanazawa, whom they basically concede was fired from Psychology Today for his blatant racism, is all the more frustrating and baffling because it’s such a departure from this.

    I think it’s a classic example of failing upwards. Hey, the guy’s controversial, he’ll get us some traffic, let’s bring him on board! I’m afraid that some of the higher-ups at Big Think aren’t grasping the fact that not all controversies are created equal.

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