Creative Destruction

June 20, 2006

My Blacklog

Filed under: Blog Status,Content-lite,Link Farms — Daran @ 3:31 am

As I recently hinted, I’ve been doing a lot more thinking than writing these past few days, so I thought I should try and organise my thoughts so as not to forget anything. This then is a list-cum-linkfarm of various things I intend (maybe) to blog about (or perhaps just comment), or for which I’ve previously indicated I such an intention.

Off-site posts to which I want to respond.:

  • My surreply to Cathy Young is nearly complete.
  • Hybrid Garbage HT. This is the hybrid-vigour theory applied to humans. Problem is, to the best of my knowledge of the relevent science, ‘race’ in humans, unlike breeds of animals, is a social construct rather than a biological reality. Biologically, there is only one human race.
  • Update: Brandon Berg has disputed the above characterisation of the state of scientific knowledge, and, having done a little research it now appears to me that there is no scientific consensuson this issue. I think it useful to distinguish between social race – which is a social construct – and anthropological race, which appears to be a valid, albeit disputed, scientific theory.
  • You might be a white supremacist if. There’s a very interesting discussion in the comments.
  • New: In this post on Alas, Barry gives two subtly different definitions of the term “rape culture”. The first is defensible, the second less so. Unfortunately it is his second definition which in practice is how feminists use the term. He compares the concept with a “culture of violence”, but that phrase’s typical usage is again different.
  • New: In a thread on Alas, starting with this comment, there has been some discussion over the legitimacy of certain (re)definitions. Update (4 July): One side-effect of this redefinition, unintended and no doubt unwelcome to its advocates, is that Zahid Mubarak’s murderer, Robert Stewart cannot be considered to be a racist under that definition. While there are many adjectives that can be used to describe him, “privileged” is not one of them.

Recent posts and comments here on CD:

Older Threads, here and on Alas, I want to revisit:

  • This comment by Barry “require[d] a longer response than I [could] give [then].“. I don’t appear to have ever made that response. I also seem to recall him criticising me specifically in that thread for ignoring the needs of children. I can’t find the specific criticism, so perhaps I’ve misremembered, but I’d like to respond to it anyway at some point.
  • I took Barry’s novel tool for analysing the stated vs. implied goals of the anti-choice lobby and applied it to the anti-C4M position. My analysis could be improved – I choose, for rhetorical effect to stay too close to Barry’s version of the implied goal, and I ignored what the third state goals of the anti-C4M lobby: protecting women’s health.
  • Imagine that future technology made it possible to safely remove a foetus from a pregnant woman, and incubate it in an artifial womb. Women would then be able to walk away from a living foetus like men can now. Would they then be willing to give up abortion? Not without rights equivalent to C4M!.

Other things I want to blog about:

  • Developing the idea I first articulated in this comment that legitimate safety advice and victim-blaming are often confused, I’d like to suggest some criteria to distinguish them.
  • Are you a “partisan hack” if you don’t condemn objectionable behaviour, ideas, etc., among those you identify with? Barry seems to think so. Mythago apparently does not.
  • In the penultimate substantive paragraph of my reply to Mythago, I suggested a criterion by which a person citing a member of a particular group as advocating a particular position could be regarded as cherry-picking. I’d like to develop this idea.
  • Privilege denial and Privilege Reversal – Two more sexist framing devices feminists use to minimise and avoid addressing the issue of female privilege.
  • I also want to make a general critique of the concept of privilege, independent of the specific framing devices used by feminists. Update: See this post.
  • New: I’d also like to critique the concept of ‘rape culture’
  • Here‘s one of my earliest comments on Alas. I wasn’t proud of it then and I’m not now. But what, apart from the factual error, was “so wrong in so many ways” about that specific remark?
  • New (4 July): “If [FOO] affected men instead of women, something would be done about it” is a common feminist maxim. How true is it?

Feel free to use the comments to discuss any of the matters here, or to suggest other issues you’d like me to address.

40 Comments »

  1. Nice to have a list. :-)

    I also seem to recall him criticising me specifically in that thread for ignoring the needs of children. I can’t find the specific criticism, so perhaps I’ve misremembered, but I’d like to respond to it anyway at some point.

    I don’t believe I ever criticized you specifically on that score. However, I did criticize the C4M position in general on that score, in comment #32.

    Comment by Ampersand — June 20, 2006 @ 6:37 am | Reply

  2. problem is, to the best of my knowledge of the relevant science, ‘race’ in humans, unlike breeds of animals, is a social construct rather than a biological reality. Biologically, there is only one human race.

    True, we are more like other races, from the standpoint of DNA, than we are our own race, making us all one big human race. Maybe some research, and then a book about creating superior beings my forming a superior culture, one without constraints based on race socioeconomics, sexual preference or gender, ( and one where we have to walk instead of ride), would be a more truth based book.

    Comment by cooper — June 20, 2006 @ 8:41 pm | Reply

  3. True, we are more like other races, from the standpoint of DNA, than we are our own race

    A more accurate statement of the finding is that there is substantially more genetic diversity between individuals within the same clade than there is between the clades themselves. Another finding is that the clades do not correspond to the socially constructed races based mostly on skin-colour.

    However, we should be wary of drawing political conclusions from science. Scientific knowledge is in its nature provisional. New data may overturn old scientific theories. If our political theories are to remain intact, they need to be based upon other considerations.

    Comment by Daran — June 20, 2006 @ 10:07 pm | Reply

  4. Another finding is that the clades do not correspond to the socially constructed races based mostly on skin-colour.

    I thought I had read (on Gene Expressions, most likely) that self-reported race maps extraordinarily well to sets of genetic markers relating to ancestral geographic origin.

    If our political theories are to remain intact, they need to be based upon other considerations.

    Yes, you wouldn’t want to have a political view that was subject to change if you learned something new.

    That would be crazy.

    Comment by Robert — June 20, 2006 @ 10:11 pm | Reply

  5. I thought I had read (on Gene Expressions, most likely) that self-reported race maps extraordinarily well to sets of genetic markers relating to ancestral geographic origin.

    You might be right, but that doesn’t contradict what I said. The obvious explanation for that observation is that self-reported race is based upon visible genetically-based physical characteristics, both of the individual concerned and their family, which are characteristic of ancestral geographic origin.

    However it is a fallacy to assume that such genetic markers, visible or otherwise, have great cladistic significance. That they have ancestral geographic significance is a selection effect: they were chosen because they have ancestral geographic significance.

    Yes, you wouldn’t want to have a political view that was subject to change if you learned something new.

    That would be crazy.

    That’s not what I meant. Let’s try again.

    On the subject of race, my political view would not change if I learned that social race was biologically based. I would still not regard blacks, etc., as morally or socially inferior. Therefore I can not use science to justify this particular political stance.

    Is that better?

    In fact, I have shown my willingness to change my political views based on new science. Can you cite yourself doing the same?

    You might also do better to express your concerns to President Bush, you know, the guy you voted for twice. Tell him that there is a consensus among scientists internationally that global warming is real and that it is being caused by man. Tell him that evolution is a scientific theory, and that ‘intelligent design’ isn’t. He may not find these facts politically convenient, but stacking his advisory bodies with ‘yes men’ (Via) won’t change those facts.

    Comment by Daran — June 20, 2006 @ 11:46 pm | Reply

  6. You might be right about the race thing; I’m no expert. I used to adhere to the “race has no meaning” line, but I keep getting told by the scientific type people that I was mistaken. So I just don’t know.

    Thanks for the clarification about your politics and science. I didn’t *think* you were quite that dogmatic; glad to see you’re not. And yes, I change my political views based on science whenever the scientific change appears sufficient to justify it.

    There’s no consensus among international scientists that anthropogenic global warming exists.

    Comment by Robert — June 21, 2006 @ 12:34 am | Reply

  7. Daran:

    [T]here is substantially more genetic diversity between individuals within the same clade than there is between the clades themselves.

    I have to admit that I don’t know what that means, nor how one might quantify genetic diversity. In fact, I’d be very surprised if more than 10% of the people I’ve heard it from really understand it, either. Do you?

    Without really knowing what it means, it’s hard to say what, if any, bearing it has on the truth of the claim that race is purely a social construct.

    What I do know is that there are obvious physical differences between the races, and also certain diseases which are much more prevalent among some races than others. Ditto blood types, bone density, IQ, and a host of other characteristics.

    Granted, these differences only show up in the aggregate–you can’t tell how smart someone is or how dense his bones are just by looking at his face–but that doesn’t mean that race is a “social construct.”

    Also, is opposition to circumcision a political view?

    Comment by Brandon Berg — June 21, 2006 @ 2:37 am | Reply

  8. Note also that the sentence I quoted above is not universally accepted, and that it’s sometimes referred to as Lewontin’s Fallacy.

    Comment by Brandon Berg — June 21, 2006 @ 2:39 am | Reply

  9. I keep getting told by the scientific type people that I was mistaken. So I just don’t know.

    I was summing up from memory what I have read in Scientific American (which I often take) and New Scientist (which I take most weeks).

    There’s no consensus among international scientists that anthropogenic global warming exists.

    I keep getting told by the scientific types that there is. It’s Republicans who tell me that there isn’t.

    In almost every edition of both these periodicals there are articles or editorials about some aspect of man-made climate change. There are also frequent complaints about the politicising of Science by the Bush regime. Take the current editions for example. In Scientific American, Michael Shermer, Executive Director of the Skeptics Society, describes in his regular column ‘How the evidence for anthropogenic global warming has converged to cause this environmental skeptic to make a cognitive flip’.

    New Scientist reports that Capitol Hill is considering legislation, sponsored by Congressman Brad Miller (Dem) to ‘to make it illegal [for the administration] to deliberately tamper with government science findings… [and] ensure scientists on federal advisory panels are chosen for their scientific credentials, not their political beliefs… The ligislation would cover only the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which earlier this year was accused of restrictting how some of its climate and fisheries scientists communicate their findings. If the amendment is passed, it “would be the most significant step forward for scientific integrity to date” asys Lexi Shultz of pressure group the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington DC’.

    Later in the same edition, there’s a short article about the contribution of aircraft con-trails to Global Warming. And another on ‘How pollution is turning China dry’.

    There are no editorials or lead articles on the subject in either of these editions, but they do frequently contain them. Week-in, Week-out these two magaziness put out a single consistent message: Global Warming is Real.

    Is it possible that I am deceived? That these magazines are, in fact, peddling pseudo-science? It’s possible, I suppose. Anything’s possible. But I’ve never seen them criticised for promoting pseudoscience. What they say on other topics seems to mesh seemlessly with every other reputable source of scientific information I come across. It’s only on topics that conflict with Fundamentalist Christian beliefs and Corporate America’s interests that the consensus they represent is questioned, and only Republicans who are doing the questioning.

    Comment by Daran — June 21, 2006 @ 3:06 am | Reply

  10. Yes, you’ve established that all the mouthpieces of “Big Science” are pushing a particular set of lines. (And sincerely, I am sure.)

    That’s not the same thing as a scientific consensus.

    Comment by Robert — June 21, 2006 @ 3:10 am | Reply

  11. Me:

    [T]here is substantially more genetic diversity between individuals within the same clade than there is between the clades themselves.

    Brandon Berg:

    I have to admit that I don’t know what that means, nor how one might quantify genetic diversity. In fact, I’d be very surprised if more than 10% of the people I’ve heard it from really understand it, either. Do you?

    I thought I did. Having done a little research, I now realise I didn’t. I have a better understanding now.

    Without really knowing what it means, it’s hard to say what, if any, bearing it has on the truth of the claim that race is purely a social construct.

    I don’t think it does.

    Note also that the sentence I quoted above is not universally accepted, and that it’s sometimes referred to as Lewontin’s Fallacy.

    As a factual statement, it does appear to be accepted and reproducable.

    Edwards showed that it’s a fallacy to conclude therefore that races don’t exist, but he commits an analogous one himself in that he neither stipulates that the loci must be choose randomly nor considers that any apparent clustering could be an artifact of that non-random choice. Nor does he produce any empirical data to support his conclusion.

    What I do know is that there are obvious physical differences between the races, and also certain diseases which are much more prevalent among some races than others. Ditto blood types, bone density, IQ, and a host of other characteristics.

    There are obvious physical differences within the races. The Hotentots are physically very different from the Pigmies. If you take the average height of blacks (after adjusting for nutrition) and find that it’s greater than whites, does that mean that blacks are taller than whites? Or does it mean that Hottentots are more numerous than pigmies? If Zulus are on average about the same height as whites, does that mean that they’re more closely related to whites than to pigmies?

    It depends upon which physical characteristics you regard as important. And that’s a social decision.

    I find cladistics to be more compelling. here’s a chart which at first blush looks like it confirms the social idea of race. You have an African line (A), a Caucasian line (B), an Asian line (C), an Amerindian line (D) and and Austraboriginal line (E). I’m not sure why the Austraboriginals get their own clade; it looks to me as though they’re part of the Asians, but that’s a minor point.

    But look at the Northern Indians. They’re Caucasian, not ‘Asian’. What about the rest of India. The chart doesn’t show them. If they’re the same as in the North, then you’ve got upwards of a billion people socially misclassifed as ‘Asian’. That’s a fifth of the world’s population. If the Southern Indians are in a different major clade from the north, then the regional ‘Indian’ race is blown apart, and you still have several hundred million people in the north misclassified as Asian.

    And there are other oddities. Who would have thought that the Tibetans are genetically closer to the Japanese than the Chinese? And while no thinking person would expect an Aboriginal Australian to be the same genetic race as an African, you can bet your bottom dollar that if he walked into a redneck bar in Alabama, he’s going to get treated socially just like any other nigger.

    Cluster Analysis also turns up oddities. Iranians are almost identical to the Danish. Russians (who I always thought were white) are near identical to the Amerindians. On the major axis, whites and blacks are nearly indistinguishable. They only differ on the minor axis. The reverse is true for whites and Asians.

    The problem with charts like this is that they are derived from a very small number of loci, and those loci were selected precisely because they broke along racial lines. In other words, the charts are rigged. In fact, the clustering chart looks exactly as you’d predict if one set of loci were chosen to differentiate between blacks and whites, and another set was chosen to differentiate between whites and Asians.

    The analysis needs to be repeated using a sufficient number of loci randomly chosen from the polymorphic part of the genome to be representative of it in it’s entirety. I don’t know whether this has been done.

    Also, is opposition to circumcision a political view?

    How could it not be?

    Comment by Daran — June 21, 2006 @ 10:05 am | Reply

  12. Yes, you’ve established that all the mouthpieces of “Big Science” are pushing a particular set of lines. (And sincerely, I am sure.)

    That’s not the same thing as a scientific consensus.

    It depends on if you’re using a hard definition of “consensus” – which would be something like “every single person who has some claim to being a scientist agrees” – or a softer definition – “nearly every scientist in the field who is published in relevant, legitimate peer-reviewed scientific journals agrees.”

    By the former definition, there is no consensus about global warming – nor about evolution, for that matter. Nor about if AIDS is caused by a virus. Since there are countless people in the world with some sort of science PhD., it’s rare that 100% of them agree on anything.

    By the latter definition, there is a clear consensus that anthropogenic global warming exists.

    Out of curiosity, do you think the criticism of the Bush administration’s approach to science expressed by Daran is fair?

    Comment by Ampersand — June 21, 2006 @ 11:23 am | Reply

  13. By the latter definition, there is a clear consensus that anthropogenic global warming exists.

    I don’t think so. There are a lot of climate scientists who disagree; there are a lot of scientists who think things are much more complicated than the picture being presented as “consensus”.

    There are also some scientists who do assert the consensus view who have also been caught on attribution as saying that it’s OK that they’re LYING about the data. That’s a hell of a blow to the credibility of the advocates.

    Out of curiosity, do you think the criticism of the Bush administration’s approach to science expressed by Daran is fair?

    Sure, it’s fair. It’s also misguided; the government’s actions are political actions. Trying to require a political body to behave non-politically is futile. If you want something to be handled in a non-political fashion, it must be administered by a non-political body.

    Comment by Robert — June 21, 2006 @ 12:46 pm | Reply

  14. There are a lot of climate scientists who disagree; there are a lot of scientists who think things are much more complicated than the picture being presented as “consensus.”

    Citations, please?

    Comment by Ampersand — June 21, 2006 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

  15. This guy‘s a climate scientist at MIT; he basically says “hooey”.

    Then there’s the work of William Gray, a hurricane specialist at Colorado State University. (He’s in the “it’s more complicated than that” camp.)

    And here’s an article claiming, plausibly if not demonstrably, that the “consensus” is basically the result of global warming scientific activists ignoring all the research that propose alternative causal mechanisms. (For example, the fact that solar output and global temperature are tightly correlated – and solar output has been up precisely as the warming has occurred.)

    You may decide that these skeptics aren’t signficant enough to break consensus, or that they’re bought and paid for by Exxon, or whatever. The burden of strong claims fall on those making them, though, and the bad actors who thickly populate the global warming movement have fatally compromised the movement’s prima facie credibility, at least for this observer.

    Comment by Robert — June 21, 2006 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

  16. Here’s what I mean by scientific consensus, by the way. It means that nobody who should be taken seriously doubts the consensus theory.

    There’s a scientific consensus about the existence of gravity (though not about how it works). There are scientists who will argue that there’s some other phenomenon at play; they are lunatics who work at Franklin County Community College as lab supervisors.

    There’s a scientific consensus about evolution (though again, not about some of the details). There are no scientists of note who don’t think evolution works.

    But when it comes to AGW, there are scientists who are very serious thinkers indeed saying “nah”. It doesn’t matter that the editorial board of Science disagrees, and won’t run anything contrary to it, and in fact engage in apparently biased survey research to try and pretend the other viewpoints don’t exist. Lindzer is a top man, and he says “no”.

    That’s enough to blow up consensus right there.

    Comment by Robert — June 21, 2006 @ 3:10 pm | Reply

  17. Robert:

    There are a lot of climate scientists who disagree; there are a lot of scientists who think things are much more complicated than the picture being presented as “consensus.”

    Ampersand:

    Citations, please?

    The first sentence needs citations. The second is so uncontroversial that I wonder why Robert bothers to say it. Of course it’s more complicated than the picture being presented. Things usually are in the sciences, especially so when the system being studied is as complex as the global climate. That doesn’t mean a deception is being perpetrated, any more than the simplified science (or any other subject) taught to primary school children is a deception.

    And yes there are disagreements about the details. And yes there are pieces missing from the jigsaw. That too is normal for science. It’s only those with agendas who seek to use these facts to discredit particular theories they don’t like.

    Robert:

    There are also some scientists who do assert the consensus view who have also been caught on attribution as saying that it’s OK that they’re LYING about the data. That’s a hell of a blow to the credibility of the advocates.

    That also needs a citation, but if so, then it’s a hell of a blow to those particular scientists. There’s no Mister Climate Change upon whose credibility the whole edifice depends. There is a Mr. President upon whose credibility the credibility of the entire government depends.

    So far, all we’ve seen from Robert is vague suggestions of some vast Big Science Conspiracy (BSC), against which dissident scientists struggle in vain. If that’s the case, then I suggest the conspiracy is more likely to be in cahoots with Big Government and Big Industry than in opposition to them.

    Ampersand:

    Out of curiosity, do you think the criticism of the Bush administration’s approach to science expressed by Daran is fair?

    Robert:

    Sure, it’s fair. It’s also misguided; the government’s actions are political actions. Trying to require a political body to behave non-politically is futile. If you want something to be handled in a non-political fashion, it must be administered by a non-political body.

    So I guess any criticism of politicised science is misguided. Whether it was under the previous Democrat and Republican Governments, under Bush, under Lysenko, or under the Islamic Mullahs, it’s all pretty much the same.

    Comment by Daran — June 21, 2006 @ 3:26 pm | Reply

  18. So I guess any criticism of politicised science is misguided.

    Not at all. Criticise away.

    But complaints against politicised science on the grounds that it’s politicized (equal time for both sides of the pond, there) is akin to complaining about basketball players because they’re too tall. That’s a feature, not a bug; government science is intrinsically political. The only valid complaint against such politicization I can think of would be a libertarian critique that science ought not to be political and therefore the government ought to get out of the science business.

    Comment by Robert — June 21, 2006 @ 5:13 pm | Reply

  19. But Daran didn’t criticize Bush for “politicizing” science. He criticized him for stacking committees with yes men who ignore facts.

    Comment by Ampersand — June 21, 2006 @ 6:52 pm | Reply

  20. “Yes men who ignore facts” is a political judgment as it is being expressed here. “Yes men” = people who have the President’s political worldview and who don’t actively challenge it. “Who ignore facts” = who assign weights to the importance of variables at levels that I disagree with, for political reasons.

    Comment by Robert — June 21, 2006 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

  21. I think the problem here, Robert is that you and I are using the word ‘consensus’ in a rather different way.

    Within climatology there is, as you observe a range of respectable opinion, with many strong proponents of the theory, and some people dissenting from that view. By ‘respectable opinion’ I mean the opinions of climatologists and specialists in closely related fields, such as metrology. I don’t mean botanists or economists or particle physists.

    Within that range of opinion, there will be a centre of mass. By ‘concensus’ I mean a clustering of opinion around that centre of mass. I do not mean unanimity.

    From the Lindzen essay you cited:

    Why, one might wonder, is there such insistence on scientific unanimity on the warming issue? After all, unanimity in science is virtually nonexistent on far less complex matters. Unanimity on an issue as uncertain as “global warming” would be surprising and suspicious.

    Lindzer is indeed a top man, but it’s you, Robert, who is “insisting on unanimity” here, by arguing that “he says “no”. And that’s enough to blow away the consensus”.

    In the same paragraph Linzen goes on to make another worthwhile point.

    Moreover, why are the opinions of scientists sought regardless of their field of expertise? Biologists and physicians are rarely asked to endorse some theory in high energy physics. Apparently, when one comes to “global warming,” any scientist’s agreement will do.

    That cuts both ways, of course. Who the hell is David Bellamy that his opinions on the matter ever carried any weight? (In a remarkable coincidence, “Global Warming” is today’s featured article on Wikipedia. Of course I wouldn’t cite WP for anything of substance. It’ll do to show who Bellamy is.)

    Lindzen’s remarks are ironic though, in that he himself appears to give more weight to the “National Research Council['s] panel [which] had no members of the academy expert in climate. Indeed, it had only one scientist directly involved in climate”, than he gives to the ” Working Group I report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” with its “Approximately 150 scientists” contributing.

    With respect to your other cite, I’m not sure what your point is.

    Premiss: A Social Scientist claimd in an essay that there is a unanimity of opinion in the field.
    Premiss: A Scientific magazine published the essay.
    Premiss: The claim is bunk.

    What conclusion am I supposed to draw? That the Social Scientist is discredited? That the magazine is discredited? That Scientific Magazines in general are discredited? That Global Warming is Bunk? What?

    Edited for link borking.

    Comment by Daran — June 21, 2006 @ 9:38 pm | Reply

  22. What conclusion am I supposed to draw?

    That the source of the “consensus” claim has an agenda.

    Look, I don’t doubt that there is a pretty large human footprint on the environment, and on our climate, too. What I doubt is that some C-student failed politician is the Messiah, come to save us all from the evils of tailpipe smoke. I don’t doubt that there is good scientific research indicating the direction our technologies ought to move to mitigate that impact. What I doubt is that the same regulatory regime that has been touted as the cure for global cooling, the population explosion, and now global warming, is the answer to any question other than “how can a bunch of retreaded socialists finally see their dreams of state economic control come to pass”.

    The difficulty with the strong AGW scenario posited by those who seek political gain on the issue (which, in fairness, is not an exact match with the group that does research on climate) is that to buy the hysteria, you have to discount too much other data. Solar activity, past glacial activity, historical ice sheet levels, and so on – the more you learn about this stuff, the more dishonest and shrill the anthropogenic advocacy crowd sounds.

    That skepticism probably leads me too far in the opposite direction sometimes. But at the end of the day, a century from now, our climate is going to look broadly like it looks right now. Our crops are going to grow broadly the way they grow now. The seacoast is going to look broadly the way it looks now. Nobody has presented any evidence with a fraction of the credibility I would need to see before I would take any action to shrink economies and limit the ability of people to improve their lives here and now.

    Comment by Robert — June 22, 2006 @ 12:16 am | Reply

  23. Daran said, “The problem with charts like this is that they are derived from a very small number of loci, and those loci were selected precisely because they broke along racial lines. In other words, the charts are rigged. In fact, the clustering chart looks exactly as you’d predict if one set of loci were chosen to differentiate between blacks and whites, and another set was chosen to differentiate between whites and Asians.

    The analysis needs to be repeated using a sufficient number of loci randomly chosen from the polymorphic part of the genome to be representative of it in it’s entirety. I don’t know whether this has been done.”

    Herein lies much of the problem with these “race scientists.” What they do is start from the social constructs we already have rather than being the objective scientists that they claim to be. There is no doubt in my mind that certain genes are more common in certain places. Thousands of years of evolution will affect survivable traits, but that doesn’t not coincide with racial categories.

    Then they use things like IQ and argue heritability of intelligence based on IQ scores, which are not genes, which is another one of my beefs. Moreover, their findings usually tend to coincide with social stereotypes.

    Comment by Rachel S — June 22, 2006 @ 11:10 am | Reply

  24. Me:

    The analysis needs to be repeated using a sufficient number of loci randomly chosen from the polymorphic part of the genome to be representative of it in it’s entirety.

    That remark makes me look even more ignorant than I am. The genome, of course is the aggregate of all the genetic information within the cell, mostly the Chromosomes but also sundries such as mitochondrial DNA, satelite DNA, and goodness knows what else. Polymorphic loci are distributed thoughout these sites. I did not intend to imply that one could identify a ‘part’ of the genome where loci are polymorphic, and another ‘part’ where they are not. I meant that the loci should be chosen randomly from the subset of all loci known to be polymorphic.

    “Polymorphism” is not also not a simple binary concept. Theoretically, a locus is polymorphic if there is more than one (known) allele found in at least one individual. In practice, it is not considered polymorphic if one allele accounts for more than a certain percentage of the population, perhaps 99%.

    However, an locus in which the most common allele appears in, say, 98% of the human population is not going to be very discriminatory, even if it is regarded as ‘polymorphic’. A locus which splits, say 60/39/1% between three alleles will be less discriminatory than one which splits 60/30/10%, etc. Clearly we need a measure of how discriminating a locus could be, and choose from only those loci above a certain threshold.

    I don’t know whether this has been done.

    Since I wrote the above, I have found this study, which addresses most of my conserns. Although I would still like to know more about how the loci were chosen, (and, for that matter, how the test subjects were chosen), all in all, I find this to be a very impressive paper.

    Comment by Daran — June 23, 2006 @ 11:22 pm | Reply

  25. What conclusion am I supposed to draw?

    That the source of the “consensus” claim has an agenda.

    Reading this exchange caused me to go back and follow the original link you provided.

    And here’s an article claiming, plausibly if not demonstrably, that the “consensus” is basically the result of global warming scientific activists ignoring all the research that propose alternative causal mechanisms.

    Actually, the skeptics quoted in the article you link to demonstrably lie about the Science magazine article they’re criticizing. From the article you cite:

    “So how did the results published in Science achieve a 100 percent level of conformity? Regrettably, the article does not include any reference to the [unpublished?] study itself, let alone the methodology on which the research was based. This makes it difficult to check how Oreskes arrived at the truly miraculous results,” he added.

    That’s a total lie. The Science article in question explained the methodology very clearly:

    That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords “climate change.”

    The method used by Science is easily reproducible – virtually anyone with access to a research campus library can do a search of the ISI database (it changed its name sometime recently, but it’s still available). If the Science author lied (or was mistaken) about her results, that would have been extremely easy for skeptics to prove. All it would take is a single citation – but no such citation is present in your link.

    That your link blatantly lies about the Science article while accusing the article’s author of Stalinism, should give you pause about the seriousness and credibility of your sources.

    (For example, the fact that solar output and global temperature are tightly correlated – and solar output has been up precisely as the warming has occurred.)

    As far as I can tell, this is simply not true if by “the warming” you’re referring to recent decades, Robert. (See this paper (pdf link) for further discussion). Can you provide a link to a serious source backing up your claim (“serious” defined as including citations to legitimate peer-reviewed scientific publications, combined with a lack of accusations that opponents are engaging in Stalinism)?

    According to this post at Real Climate, Knud Lasson, the scientist who first suggested that global warming was a result of solar trends, has more recently argued that solar trends cannot explain recent global warming (P. Thejll and K. Lassen, 2000: Solar forcing of the Northern hemisphere land airtemperature: New data. Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-terrestrial Physics, Vol. 62 (13),1207-1213).

    Comment by Ampersand — June 24, 2006 @ 7:56 am | Reply

  26. Overall, Robert, it’s clear to me that you’re conflating two related but different things: unanimous agreement and scientific consensus. There is no unanimous agreement, but there is a scientific consensus.

    Look, I don’t doubt that there is a pretty large human footprint on the environment, and on our climate, too.

    And yet you go on to say….

    But at the end of the day, a century from now, our climate is going to look broadly like it looks right now. Our crops are going to grow broadly the way they grow now. The seacoast is going to look broadly the way it looks now.

    So there’s a pretty large human footprint, but you confidently predict that the footprint could never become large enough to actually make any difference. That makes no sense.

    Our climate is already visibly different right now than it was when our parents were born (a point you seem to concede with the “large footprint” admission), but you think that it’s going to stop changing between now and a century from now. Your position is incoherent.

    What I doubt is that some C-student failed politician is the Messiah, come to save us all from the evils of tailpipe smoke.

    Has anyone on this thread before you even mentioned Gore, let alone call him the Messiah?

    The difficulty with the strong AGW scenario posited by those who seek political gain on the issue (which, in fairness, is not an exact match with the group that does research on climate) is that to buy the hysteria, you have to discount too much other data. Solar activity, past glacial activity, historical ice sheet levels, and so on – the more you learn about this stuff, the more dishonest and shrill the anthropogenic advocacy crowd sounds.

    “Shrillness” is a term that right-wingers use to dismiss arguments they are unable to address with logic or evidence. It’s an ad hom, nothing more.

    “Hysteria” is begging the question. It’s only “hysteria” if concerns about future large-scale damage caused by climate-change are scientifically implausible. I don’t think such claims are implausible, however.

    It doesn’t take much time to see that the scientific literature – and also many of the respondents to “global warming skeptics,” – do indeed discuss and account for “solar activity, past glacial activity, historical ice sheet levels” and so on; your claim that they ignore these factors is either ignorant or dishonest.

    Nobody has presented any evidence with a fraction of the credibility I would need to see before I would take any action to shrink economies and limit the ability of people to improve their lives here and now.

    The evidence for global warming is extremely convincing to the vast majority of qualified climate scientists. There is no way to absolutely prove any future event other than waiting for it to become a past event; however, the fact that the future cannot be proved with total certainty shouldn’t prevent us from making sacrifices to avoid a catastrophe that, while not utterly certain, is scientifically plausible.

    It is entirely plausible that doing nothing to significantly mitigate human-caused climate change will in fact cause much more damage to economies and lives than taking strong steps to reduce global warming will.

    Comment by Ampersand — June 24, 2006 @ 8:24 am | Reply

  27. By the way, how do you reconcile the belief that “there is a pretty large human footprint on the environment, and on our climate” with the belief that “solar output and global temperature are tightly correlated – and solar output has been up precisely as the warming has occurred”?

    If solar output and global temperatures are tightly correlated, and humans have left a large footprint on global climate, then either 1) the tight correlation between solar output and global temperature is a coincidence, or 2) humans simultaneously have a big footprint on climate and little or no effect on global temperature, or 3) humanity is the common cause accounting for the increase in both solar output and climate.

    None of these three options are plausible. Again, your views are incoherent.

    Comment by Ampersand — June 24, 2006 @ 8:53 am | Reply

  28. My statement about solar output was too strong. There’s a broad correlation, not an absolute one, and you’re right that the solar output doesn’t account for the variation in the very recent past. My bad.

    For the rest, I’m just going to link to this handy Wikipedia article that I wish I had originally linked to.

    Comment by Robert — June 24, 2006 @ 1:07 pm | Reply

  29. …you’re right that the solar output doesn’t account for the variation in the very recent past.

    Thank you for conceding that.

    For the rest, I’m just going to link to this handy Wikipedia article that I wish I had originally linked to.

    So a grand total of 13 scientists – not all of whom are in a relevant field, not all of whom actually disagree with the current scientific consensus, and two of whom are with an anti-global-warming think tank that until recently was arguing that warming is a myth. And that’s all they could find.

    I stand by my previous statement about the difference between unanimous opinion and scientific consensus.

    Comment by Ampersand — June 24, 2006 @ 2:30 pm | Reply

  30. For the rest, I’m just going to link to this handy Wikipedia article that I wish I had originally linked to.

    Which itself links to This Wikipedia article. (I wouldn’t have chosen Wikipedia as a source myself, but you opened this particular can of worms, so you can have no complaint if I feed them to you.)

    These two articles between them confirm exactly what Barry and I have been saying. There is a consensus that global warming is occurring due to man’s activity. And there is some dissent from that view. I note that the first part of the proposition does indeed appear to enjoy a unanimity.

    Not all of the dissenting scientists listed can be considered respectable opinion. Frederick Seitz for example, was considered “not sufficiently rational to offer advice” even to the tobacco industry. Seitz and S. Fred Singer are President and Chair respectively of the Science and Environmental Policy Project whose views on the subject have been comprehensively rebutted. Singer has also been been employed as Scientific reviewer by the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution – a well-known and discreditted rent-an-opinion propaganda outfit.

    I’m not saying everyone on the list can be dismissed. Nothing I’ve seen suggests that Lindzen, for example is anything other than respectable. However it ought to be clear that there are obvious agendas at work on both sides.

    But neither Barry nor I have referenced agenda’d politicians or environmental groups in support of our positions. I base mine upon what I read in science magazines. You’ve insinuated these to be agenda driven but you’ve offered not a shred of evidence that the picture of scientific consensus painted by them is inaccurate or incomplete. Instead you’ve adopted a strawman ‘unanimity’ standard of ‘consensus’ that not even Newton’s laws of motion have been able to meet.

    Maybe the consensus is wrong. Maybe the dissenting voices are correct. The problem for me is that I can’t adjudicate the competing claims. I have neither the time to investigate nor the ability to evaluate them. If I did, I’d be a climate expert myself. Neither do you. Neither does Barry. And neither does George Bush. Given our respective lacks of expertise, the rational approach is to accept the consensus view – the centre of mass about which respectable opinion is clustered, while recognising that there are a small number of respectable dissenting voices. That is what Barry and I are doing.

    What you and George Bush are doing, is giving inordinate weight to the dissenting voices for no other reason than that it suits your political agendas to do so. That is not rational.

    Edit: spelling, minor wording, and link borking.

    Comment by Daran — June 24, 2006 @ 3:40 pm | Reply

  31. So a grand total of 13 scientists

    Here’s a longer list of dissenters.

    Singing: “I’m a better climate-change sceptic than Robert…”

    Comment by Daran — June 24, 2006 @ 4:29 pm | Reply

  32. What you and George Bush are doing, is giving inordinate weight to the dissenting voices for no other reason than that it suits your political agendas to do so.

    That’s not true!

    It also gives me pleasure to argue with liberals.

    Comment by Robert — June 24, 2006 @ 8:24 pm | Reply

  33. It also gives me pleasure to argue with liberals.

    That’s your political agenda.

    Comment by Daran — June 24, 2006 @ 9:13 pm | Reply

  34. That’s your political agenda.

    Naw, it’s just for fun.

    Comment by Robert — June 24, 2006 @ 9:28 pm | Reply

  35. There are obvious physical differences within the races. The Hotentots are physically very different from the Pigmies. If you take the average height of blacks (after adjusting for nutrition) and find that it’s greater than whites, does that mean that blacks are taller than whites? Or does it mean that Hottentots are more numerous than pigmies? If Zulus are on average about the same height as whites, does that mean that they’re more closely related to whites than to pigmies?

    It depends upon which physical characteristis you regard as important. And that’s a social decision.

    You seem to be sounding the independence-of-trait objection to biological group classification. John Maynard Smith seemed to address the same problem when discussing which traits determine cladistic, genera or species lines:

    There is a sense in which the grouping together of different species into genera, families and so on is an artificial procedure. It is of practical importance that every animal and plant should have a scientific name, and this requires that each should be placed in a genus; it will sometimes be a matter of opinion which genus should be chosen. For example, should the cheetah be placed in a genus of its own, Acinonyx, because its claws are non-retractile, or included in the genus Felis because in other respects it closely resembles the other cats? However, even though the decision on such questions may be determined by convenience or individual taste, the classification of animals into higher categories is not therefore wholly an arbitrary procedure. For example, it is generally agreed that the lion should be classified in the same genus as the tiger, leopard, and wild cat, and not in the same genus as the camel, although the latter classification could be supported on the grounds that the two animals are the same colour. Why should we base our classification on the common possession of retractile claws, and not on fawn coloration? The reason is not, as is sometimes thought, that resemblances of colour are in themselves trivial, and resemblances of structure fundamental. It is rather that a lion and camel have little in common except for their colour, and for the characters associated with their both being mammals, whereas the various kinds of cats resemble one another closely in the details of their limbs, backbones, skulls, teeth, viscera, and so on, differing only in coloration, size, and minor changes in proportions. Thus retractile claws are a better guide to classification than colour, because they are associated with a whole number of other characters, whereas animals which are the same colour may have little else in common. The recognition in particular cases of characters which are the valuable guide to classification depends on a study of the group in question.

    -The Theory of Evolution, p. 39-40

    Humans are not different genera or species, but the problem of selecting which aggregate differences would constitute classification seems to apply to inter-species and intra-species groups. Maynard Smith’s defense of trait selection seems to resemble some sort of correlation argument, like Edwards does.

    The analysis needs to be repeated using a sufficient number of loci randomly chosen from the polymorphic part of the genome to be representative of it in it’s entirety. I don’t know whether this has been done.

    What exactly do you mean by “in its entirety”?

    Comment by Megalodon — October 31, 2006 @ 7:44 pm | Reply

  36. What exactly do you mean by “in its entirety”?

    The analysis needs to be repeated using a sufficient number of loci randomly chosen from the polymorphic part of the genome to be representative of the entire genome.

    The key point is that the sample must be of sufficent size, and chosen randomly in order to be representative. This is true of sampling generally, not just this particular application.

    Comment by Daran — October 31, 2006 @ 10:48 pm | Reply

  37. Are you saying that they knew in advance what loci would cluster along their predetermined racial groups and so chose them to confirm their initial assumption?

    It’s probably the case the the majority of the polymorphisms will not turn out substantial clusters because the majority of human variation is individual, as we know. Are you saying that the clustering loci must reach a certain quantity in order for the grouping to be valid? Or you are saying that there is a comparable amount of clustering loci along groupings totally discordant with traditional racial ones, and this therefore invalidates the conclusion?

    Comment by Megalodon — October 31, 2006 @ 11:17 pm | Reply

  38. Are you saying that they knew in advance what loci would cluster along their predetermined racial groups and so chose them to confirm their initial assumption?

    As far as I can see, this is what they did. They choose loci whose alleles differed in frequency between the predetermined racial groups, then combined them in order to recover those predetermined racial groups.

    I’m not suggesting that there was ill intent on the part of the researchers.

    Are you saying that the clustering loci must reach a certain quantity in order for the grouping to be valid? Or you are saying that there is a comparable amount of clustering loci along groupings totally discordant with traditional racial ones, and this therefore invalidates the conclusion?

    I’m saying that the quantity of loci must be such that are statistically representative of the entire genome. As to how many clustering loci are rquired for the grouping to be valid, I don’t know.

    I’m not saying that there is a comparable amount of discordantly-clustering loci, but if there were, then this would challenge the traditional racial breakdown.

    Did you look at my other cite? As I said, it addresses most of my conserns, though I’d still like to know how the base set loci were choosen, and how the individual subjects were chosen.

    Comment by Daran — November 1, 2006 @ 3:07 am | Reply

  39. I’m saying that the quantity of loci must be such that are statistically representative of the entire genome.

    Perhaps this is just my limitation, but what percentage of sampled loci must correspond before the genetic clustering is considered valid? Even though only a miniscule quantity of loci end up breaking down along a aggregate level (while most vary on a individual), this would not seem to debunk the group breakdown. Most of the race-valid scientists do not deny that this grouping accounts for an unbelievably small quantity of the polymorphisms, but if the clustering keeps repeating for subjects being sampled, it would be biologically significant.

    I’m curious, how many polymorphisms are accounted for by familial groupings compared to polymorphisms caused by random individual variation?

    Comment by Megalodon — November 1, 2006 @ 10:00 am | Reply

  40. I’m sorry, I don’t have the expertise to answer your questions.

    Comment by Daran — November 1, 2006 @ 6:30 pm | Reply


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