Creative Destruction

November 23, 2006

The Word “Race” Is Bad

Filed under: Race and Racism,Science — Tuomas @ 11:36 pm

I’m puzzled by the insistance of “race doesn’t exist except as a social construct” coming from folks on the left (/generalization) who then right after acknowledge that there are differences between “population groups” on “hereditary basis”.

Ahem.

Dictionary definition of race:

1. A local geographic or global human population distinguished as a more or less distinct group by genetically transmitted physical characteristics.

2. A group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality, or geographic distribution: the German race.

3. A genealogical line; a lineage.

4. Humans considered as a group.

5. Biology. 1. An interbreeding, usually geographically isolated population of organisms differing from other populations of the same species in the frequency of hereditary traits. A race that has been given formal taxonomic recognition is known as a subspecies. 2. A breed or strain, as of domestic animals.

6. A distinguishing or characteristic quality, such as the flavor of a wine.

Yes, race is also a social construct, quite clearly even — especially in places with differential laws for different races, and rigid definitions on who is what race out of a limited number of choices. But — and this is important — The scientific “fact” that liberals tout: that science has discovered (finally and without doubt) that there is no such thing as race biologically — is actually not so simple.

I also quite like the ‘historical’ arguments such as this (comment #25):

I said it is real, and it is a social construct. What do we have to gain by clinging to an outdated view of human biology? People once claimed the earth is flat, and we found that is not true. Now that we can test genes we know that there is very little difference between humans, and those difference do not necessarily correlate with race.

A better analogy would be that when science discovered that world was round — thus invalidating the outdated concept of flat earth — whole departments of “Geography studies” or “Close-To-Border-Of-Earth Studies” would spring up and start lamenting of the historical evil of flat earth herecy and it’s “privileging” of certain areas of Earth, and concluding that Earth is just a social construct.

And when someone points out that the newest evidence seems to indicate that the shape of Earth is slightly oblate, denounce them as “Geographicists” and “Flat Earth Supremacists”.

Ps. I’d think that opposing racism should be about opposing inequal treatment of anyone on basis of race, not an ideological crusade against science. People, just because we are (possibly) slightly different on basis of race doesn’t make some races superior in any objective moral and meaningful sense.

[Ps 2. For some readers: I no longer comment on Alas because Ampersand asked me not to, but I’m far from going “Sixteen Volts”]

[edited to to fix an italicization]

75 Comments »

  1. I disagree. Some racial groups are manifestly superior to other racial groups, at certain tasks under certain conditions.

    The question is, superior at WHAT, and under what conditions.

    It is true that all people are morally and spiritually equal and should be treated, in terms of equity and in terms of valuing one another’s humanity, in the same way. But that doesn’t mean that median ethnic Swedes do as well digging ditches on the equator as median ethnic Nigerians.

    Comment by Robert — November 23, 2006 @ 11:46 pm | Reply

  2. Ah, perhaps instead of “objective” I should have written “moral and meaningful”.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 23, 2006 @ 11:48 pm | Reply

  3. The scientific “fact” that liberals tout: that science has discovered (finally and without doubt) that there is no such thing as race biologically – is actually not so simple.

    That’s rather charitable. I’d just call it “wrong.”

    Comment by Brandon Berg — November 24, 2006 @ 12:11 am | Reply

  4. Pretty meaningful if you’re digging a ditch on the equator, or studying the history of our species. We undervalue climatological adaptation because technology makes biological adaptations less immediately valuable or problematic, but they’ve had huge impacts on the migrations of peoples. Why did the Huns go east, instead of south or north? And climatological adaptation is just the most obvious and superficial trait.

    I prefer the Jeffersonian formulation for rights. In a letter to Henri Gregoire, who asked about the natural rights of black people, Jefferson said that he hoped his personal experiences of black inferiority were wrong and a contingent result of mistreatment and oppression, “but whatever be their degree of talent it is no measure of their rights”. The moral status of people is independent of their group or individual characteristics; a “race” of lazy people or stupid people or fill-in-the-negative-adjective people are equally human to every other group, in the same way that a lazy person is still a person. I don’t get to think that I’m a better person than some of my lazy contractors just because I work hard and they don’t. (And they don’t get to feel superior to me because of the things that they turn in a better performance on.)

    There is peril in predicating civil rights on genuine physical, mental, or other forms of empirical equality. It forces believers in civil rights – which is all decent people, pretty much – to either engage in enormous mental gymnastics to deny racial differentiation when it becomes evident, or (much more commonly) to hate anything that will make such differentiation become evident.

    Better, it seems to me, to assert as a starting point that all people are to be treated in a morally equal fashion, and let the chips fall where they may.

    Comment by Robert — November 24, 2006 @ 12:13 am | Reply

  5. Meaningful in how we should treat the invidual, so in a sense I do agree with the “let the chips fall where they may” and pretty much the rest.

    I should, however, point out that East-West (or vice versa)migration is significantly easier than North-South (or vice versa) mainly because of the challenges of adapting the agriculture.

    Or if there happens to be an ocean or tundra in some direction.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 24, 2006 @ 12:22 am | Reply

  6. Brandon:

    The first draft of this post was rather less charitable.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 24, 2006 @ 12:24 am | Reply

  7. Here’s something I said earlier.

    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.

    Later I posted to clarify and expand that last paragraph:

    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 — November 24, 2006 @ 11:47 am | Reply

  8. Having looked at the other articles in World Science I have to say it appear to be the scientific equivalent of the Drudge report.

    Comment by Daran — November 24, 2006 @ 12:22 pm | Reply

  9. *sigh*
    How many times it has to be said:

    Biologically:
    Race =/= White/Black

    Nor is the definition Caucasian/Mongoloid/Negroid valid, and hasn’t been for a long time.
    I don’t defend them.

    In fact, most rigid, arbitrary definitions fail under close scrutiny.

    Race:

    An interbreeding, usually geographically isolated population of organisms differing from other populations of the same species in the frequency of hereditary traits.

    All I’m saying is that just because some arbitrary way of defining race of the past isn’t good, doesn’t mean that we have to pretend that there is no such thing as race.

    Having looked at the other articles in World Science I have to say it appear to be the scientific equivalent of the Drudge report.

    Well, you can dig up the original Stanford study.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 24, 2006 @ 5:11 pm | Reply

  10. Nor is the definition Caucasian/Mongoloid/Negroid valid, and hasn’t been for a long time.

    Actually it more or less is. Look at that last cite I gave. The major breaks are Eurasian, Eastasian and African. The key thing to understand is that the Europeans, Semites, Slavs, and Indians are one race which doesn’t break even if you go to seven clusters.

    Comment by Daran — November 24, 2006 @ 6:55 pm | Reply

  11. How about the Iranians? I would think from ethnography (I know nothing of the biology) that they’d be in that group.

    Comment by Robert — November 24, 2006 @ 7:43 pm | Reply

  12. An interbreeding, usually geographically isolated population of organisms differing from other populations of the same species in the frequency of hereditary traits.

    It’s long been a belief of mine that there is only one race: the human species. And the above blockquote has long been my proof for it.

    Of course, we don’t have all that many examples in the genus Homo to compare ourselves with, do we?

    Comment by Off Colfax — November 24, 2006 @ 7:56 pm | Reply

  13. The major breaks are Eurasian, Eastasian and African.

    Thanks. I stand corrected. (I hadn’t looked at the research in detail by the time I wrote #9 [shame shame], if I had, my answer would probably have been different).

    It appears to be part of the Human Genetic Diversity Project, a rather controversial project that is specifically contested over ideological grounds.

    Its heir Genographic Project is going on and is similarly contested on ideological grounds.

    Most of these complaints, btw, don’t impress me. Has the endless chanting of “race doesn’t exist” really made it so or ended racism?

    Or have people just learned a peculiar doublethink on those issues?

    Actually it more or less is.

    More or less, of course, as it’s always going to be fluid. Deciding where to draw the rigid line is always hard that is where the social construction often comes into play.

    It’s long been a belief of mine that there is only one race: the human species. And the above blockquote has long been my proof for it.
    Of course, we don’t have all that many examples in the genus Homo to compare ourselves with, do we?

    Uh, that’s your proof? Do you deny the difference in frequency of hereditary traits between groups?

    Or are you confusing race and species?

    ***
    My main intentions in this article (besides mocking leftists) is that
    a) The semantics game is useless, “it’s not race it’s a distinct population group”, as that is basically what race is about
    b) It is hypocritical and dishonest for the ones who often are themselves responsible of stopping biological research on diversity to claim that biology has concluded that there are no races when there is no such consensus.
    c) Discussion on social construction of race (whiteness, non-whiteness etc.) and moral issues concerning race and racism should be IMHO relegated to their own respective spheres, science is suppressed when strong ideologies or religion start exerting pressure toward i (edited to add: I think the social aspect is fairly important and interesting, but the science researching this is very much ideology-driven.YMMV)
    ***

    I suspect it has very much to do with history of racism (duh) that things are in this sorry state and the dialogue is stunted [edited: in general.] .

    Comment by Tuomas — November 24, 2006 @ 9:07 pm | Reply

  14. Robert,

    On Iranians, even if you go by genetic markers that are selected because they are known to vary between the nominal races, Iranians are indistinguishable from Danes and Italians (see the cluster analysis Daran linked to).

    On climate adaptation, I think you are very wrong to say “And climatological adaptation is just the most obvious and superficial trait.”

    I think that the only other trait that works like climate adaption (that has been subject to highly disparate selection pressures) in human beings is disease resistance adaption (which evolves even faster). Dark skin consistently evolves when humans live in the tropics for many (hundreds to thousands) of generations. Closely related human groups can have substantially different skin colors (for instance, Northern and Southern Indians). What other human traits behave in this manner? Merely because skin color is obvious does not mean that its evolution is similar to some other (unspecified) non-obvious traits.

    Comment by Charles S — November 24, 2006 @ 9:18 pm | Reply

  15. On Iranians, even if you go by genetic markers that are selected because they are known to vary between the nominal races, Iranians are indistinguishable from Danes and Italians (see the cluster analysis Daran linked to).

    Actually, if you go with a representation that has dots you’ll see that there is a difference, altough a very minor one.

    [edited to add: It is unclear to me whether Cavalli-Sforza used the added nominal group “Extra-European Caucasian” for Iranians in this chart or simply “Caucasian”. If latter, the small difference is hardly a surprise, it is completely expected as both Danes and Iranians are a priori nominally defined as Caucasian and Cavalli-Sforza used genetic markers that are known to vary, which, btw, distorts the result of the chart]

    Comment by Tuomas — November 24, 2006 @ 9:31 pm | Reply

  16. What other human traits behave in this manner? Merely because skin color is obvious does not mean that its evolution is similar to some other (unspecified) non-obvious traits.

    Any trait that is subject to selection pressures.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 24, 2006 @ 9:36 pm | Reply

  17. Tuomas,

    Responding both to your OP, and also to your summary of your three main points, and ignoring your desire to mock leftists:

    So human races meet some of the definitions of the word race, and fail to meet others. Specifically, human races do not meet the biological definition of race (where race is essentially synonymous with subspecies). Two populations of a non-human species that differed to the same degree that the Irish and the Australian Aborigines do would not be considered to be separate biological subspecies/races.

    To give the first example I could find in the literature (Barrowclough et al, Molecular Ecology (2005)
    14, 1109–1120), in the two subspecies of Spotted Owl, the Northern and Californian, 71% of the genetic variation seen in spotted owls occurs between the two subspecies. In Northern spotted owls, 14% of spotted owl genetic diversity occurs between populations. The 71% fraction of the variation is used to argue that the Northern and Californian populations are subspecies, but no claim is made that the different populations of Northern spotted owls are different races or subspecies, but the inter-population fraction of the genetic diversity of spotted owls is roughly the same as the intercontinental fraction of the genetic diversity in human beings.

    This is why it makes sense to say that “there are differences between ‘population groups’ on a ‘hereditary basis,'” while simultaneously denying that these differences mean that there are biological races.

    On your third point:

    Discussion on social construction of race (whiteness, non-whiteness etc.) and moral issues concerning race and racism should be IMHO relegated to their own respective spheres, science is suppressed when strong ideologies or religion start exerting pressure toward i (edited to add: I think the social aspect is fairly important and interesting, but also very much ideology-driven.YMMV)

    I think it is better to put this in the opposite direction:

    Scientific exploration of human genetic diversity needs to be relegated to a separate sphere from discussions of race. Human genetic diversity is an interesting subject worth studying, both at a medical level and at a human origins level, but the science of race has a long and shameful history that it is not trivial for scientific exploration of human genetic diversity to escape from. While you may see attempts to argue that race needs to be seen primarily as a social construction as impinging upon the effective practice of science, it is likewise (and historically moreso) true that the belief in a biological basis for the categories of race has impinged hugely upon the science of human diversity for a very long time, and continues to do so. While it is certainly possible that social constructionist positions will impair the production of decent scientific research, it is also certainly possible for biological race positions to impair the production of decent scientific research.

    Comment by Charles S — November 24, 2006 @ 10:17 pm | Reply

  18. Specifically, human races do not meet the biological definition of race (where race is essentially synonymous with subspecies). Two populations of a non-human species that differed to the same degree that the Irish and the Australian Aborigines do would not be considered to be separate biological subspecies/races.

    You left out the part: “A race that has been given formal taxonomic recognition is known as a subspecies.”

    It would be highly problematic to give human ‘races’ classification as subspecies, due to remarkable similarity between human ‘races’ to make such hard line-drawing difficult to agree upon.

    And not a political winner, obviously, but science being the main thing here.

    Scientific exploration of human genetic diversity needs to be relegated to a separate sphere from discussions of race.

    Discussion of social aspects of race, perhaps. But then, I don’t see many geneticists barging in to various minority studies or whiteness studies departments telling them to repent.

    While you may see attempts to argue that race needs to be seen primarily as a social construction as impinging upon the effective practice of science,

    I have never said that or implied that. Only when they make false claims on biology or attempt to suppress other legitimate fields of study do I object.

    It is true that the belief in a biological basis for the categories of race has impinged hugely upon the science of human diversity for a very long time,

    I prefer to call the obstacle mainly “lack of knowledge in genetics”.😛

    I think you’re too hung-up on the “categories of race”, which I assume you define from very American-legal-definition way. These categories I admit are highly problematic and built upon false assumptions on human biology.

    it is also certainly possible for biological race positions to impair the production of decent scientific research.

    Possibly. For example, Cavalli-Sforzas chart is problematic as it uses these preset notions.

    This is, however, a false dichotomy, as social science positions use rigid (and often outdated i.e. “whiteness”) biological race positions as their targets to be deconstructed.

    [edited for clarity]

    Comment by Tuomas — November 24, 2006 @ 10:49 pm | Reply

  19. Me:

    What other human traits behave in this manner? Merely because skin color is obvious does not mean that its evolution is similar to some other (unspecified) non-obvious traits.

    Tuomas:

    Any trait that is subject to selection pressures.

    Well, any trait that is subject to differential selection pressures large enough to produce meaningful variation relative to the rate at which human populations have spread across the planet. Of course, we can also get genetic diversity between large populations due to founder effects, but these are less likely to be meaningful at the largest level of human populations, and are unlikely to affect any of the traits that we are studiously not arguing about here.

    Actually, for the selection driven diversity to match up with the main modern Western social categories of race (as skin color does not) the differential selection pressure needs to be just the right scale to match up with the spread of humanity. Differential selection pressures that operate much faster than the spread of humanity will have produced similar results in disparate populations.

    Comment by Charles S — November 24, 2006 @ 11:02 pm | Reply

  20. Me:

    The major breaks are Eurasian, Eastasian and African.

    In fact that should be Afroeurasian, Eastasian, and Subsaharafrican. The Arabs and the Berbers of Mediterranean North Africa are the same race as Europeans.

    Robert

    How about the Iranians? I would think from ethnography (I know nothing of the biology) that they’d be in that group.

    Yes, and the ***istanis, and everyone around that area. All Afroeurasian. What holds a race together is admixture. The major land barriers that prevented admixture between the races are the Sahara Desert and the Himalayas. Not completely, of course.

    Comment by Daran — November 24, 2006 @ 11:12 pm | Reply

  21. I said:

    Discussion on social construction of race (whiteness, non-whiteness etc.) and moral issues concerning race and racism should be IMHO relegated to their own respective spheres,

    Charles went to opposite direction:

    Scientific exploration of human genetic diversity needs to be relegated to a separate sphere from discussions of race.

    You see, you’re going FAR further than I am (as social construction of race and racism are important issues affecting pretty much everyone). I do not propose that lefty/social science/(social) race studies discussions should be limited only behind closed rooms of those studies.

    You, on the other hand are effectively restricting all possible biological insights on race behind closed doors, and want to label those doors ‘human genetic diversity’ so neither politicians nor the general public may accidentally attempt to conduct policy on balanced understanding of what the two fields provide them with.

    Since both may help build a better society for all citizens (and also worse) biasing one in favor of another due to ideological reasons (including bad history) is repressing knowledge.
    This will obviously result in biased, and even worse, ineffective, policies (assuming the goal is a better society for all, not just “go our side”).

    Actually, for the selection driven diversity to match up with the main modern Western social categories of race (as skin color does not) the differential selection pressure needs to be just the right scale to match up with the spread of humanity.

    I’m not proposing it needs to match up. I don’t care whether it does or not.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 24, 2006 @ 11:24 pm | Reply

  22. The major land barriers that prevented admixture between the races are the Sahara Desert and the Himalayas. Not completely, of course.

    Neither did mixture happen completely within these groups.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 24, 2006 @ 11:32 pm | Reply

  23. It would be highly problematic to give human ‘races’ classification as subspecies, due to remarkable similarity between human ‘races’ to make such hard line-drawing highly problematic.

    To say that a race can not be given taxonomic recognition because it is not sufficiently distinct is to say that it is not a biologically recognizable race. Subspecies is not a taxonomic level above race, it is the taxonomic level of race.

    Only when they make false claims on biology or attempt to suppress other legitimate fields of study do I object.

    That is what I meant by “as impinging upon the effective practice of science”. Not that just talking about the social construction of race would harm science, but that such talk could lead people to attempt to suppress or defund research that seemed to much like research trying to demonstrate a biological basis for race. As I said, I don’t disagree that such a thing is possible, although I don’t see much sign that the study of human genetic diversity has been meaningfully suppressed.

    Discussion of social aspects of race, perhaps. But then, I don’t see many geneticists barging in to various minority studies or whiteness studies departments telling them to repent.

    No, IMHO discussions of race. We have already agreed that there do not exist taxonomically distinguishable subspecies of humans (as has the scientific community), so the term race does not have an appropriate place in biological discussions of human genetic diversity. Nor is the use of the heavily historically freighted term ‘race’ necessary for the performance or description of biological research on human genetic diversity. There does not need to be a science of race. Race IMHO as a term is best reserved to discussion of the social “categories of race,” and how these categories have been used.

    I think you’re too hung-up on the “categories of race”, which I assume you define from very American-legal-definition way. These I admit these definitions are highly problematic and built upon false assumptions on human biology.

    I tend to define my categories of race in a similar manner to the American societal definition, yes, just as you are indubitably more comfortable (and uncomfortable) with the Finnish categories of race than I am, but I am aware that American categories of race are just a particular set of categories (this is, indeed, one of the arguments in favor of the idea of the social construction of race). But I am not sure what you mean by being too concerned with the “categories of race.” What does it mean to talk about race without talking about it in terms of categories? I think I have made it clear, as have plenty of other lefties, that I do not have a fundamental problem with talking about genetic diversity between genealogical lineages, only with the ways in which such discussion are used to fuel the idea that the “categories of race” are biological.

    Comment by Charles S — November 24, 2006 @ 11:37 pm | Reply

  24. This will obviously result in biased, and even worse, ineffective, policies (assuming the goal is a better society for all, not just “go our side”).

    Only to the extent that human genetic diversity is shown to have a meaningful effect on human performance, something for which the evidence is thin to non-existent. The biological study of human genetic diversity is not at a point where it can usefully participate directly in policy decisions, and it should be allowed to develop on its own path, not driven by how it can participate in (or be used in) the societal discussion of race and racism. If the study of human genetic diversity ever produces results so clear and powerful in their importance for discussions of race and racism and social policy, those results will filter back into the societal discussion. The current state of things is far from that, where the existence of clades is used by many people to argue that differential results on IQ tests must be based in the genetic differences that define the clades, and that to doubt that the differential IQ test results are proof of the genetic inferiority of black people is to reject the science of human genetic diversity. The developing science of human genetic diversity gets misused by those who want to argue that whatever is associated with their categories of race must be genetically based. Treating research into human genetic diversity as research into race is a simplification that makes this sort of misuse easier.

    I’m not proposing it needs to match up. I don’t care whether it does or not.

    Then you aren’t interested in the relationship between biology and categories of race, only in human diversity. If that is the case, then I’m not sure what we disagree on, other than that you would possibly like to use the word “race” for whatever clades the science of human genetic diversity produces. I think that using race in that manner is a mistake. Race is far to freighted and complex a word to not carry too much of its history into a discussion of human cladistics.

    Comment by Charles S — November 24, 2006 @ 11:52 pm | Reply

  25. Subspecies is not a taxonomic level above race, it is the taxonomic level of race.

    You completely glossed over my previous point: Given formal recognition.

    We have already agreed that there do not exist taxonomically distinguishable subspecies of humans (as has the scientific community),

    Tautological. Subspecies is predicated on formal recognition, so OF COURSE scientific community that is divided on the issue and thus incapable of providing FORMAL answer, agrees there are no subspecies.

    On the said division:
    Wiki:

    The most recent survey, taken in 1985 (Lieberman et al. 1992), asked 1,200 scientists how many disagree with the following proposition: “There are biological races in the species Homo sapiens.” The responses were:
    * biologists 16%
    * developmental psychologists 36%
    * physical anthropologists 41%
    * cultural anthropologists 53%[23]
    The figure for physical anthropologists at PhD granting departments was slightly higher, rising from 41% to 42%, with 50% agreeing. This survey, however, did not specify any particular definition of race; it is impossible to say whether those who supported the statement thought of race in taxonomic or population terms.

    I tend to define my categories of race in a similar manner to the American societal definition, yes, just as you are indubitably more comfortable (and uncomfortable) with the Finnish categories of race than I am, but I am aware that American categories of race are just a particular set of categories

    I am not in favor of some version of “Finnish truth on race”. I favor the biological definition.

    (this is, indeed, one of the arguments in favor of the idea of the social construction of race)

    Can’t see where anyone has contested that. It bears zero relevance on biology, though.

    And for the umpteenth and second time, I do not protect the rigid taxonomist view on race.

    Btw, on this subject, you do have a habit of glossing over facts that you don’t like and pretending to not to understand things even when they are repeatedly explained to you and constructing strawman positions.

    What does it mean to talk about race without talking about it in terms of categories? I think I have made it clear, as have plenty of other lefties, that I do not have a fundamental problem with talking about genetic diversity between genealogical lineages, only with the ways in which such discussion are used to fuel the idea that the “categories of race” are biological.

    I did not say without categories, but instead acknowledging that the categories are complex, fluid, and ultimately hard to define.
    And yes, they are biological. The current ones just are pretty bad (or should I say, somewhat inaccurate).

    Comment by Tuomas — November 24, 2006 @ 11:57 pm | Reply

  26. then I’m not sure what we disagree on, other than that you would possibly like to use the word “race” for whatever clades the science of human genetic diversity produces.

    Essentially, yes.

    I think that using race in that manner is a mistake. Race is far to freighted and complex a word to not carry too much of its history into a discussion of human cladistics.

    It is freighted and complex, but it’s going to carry it’s freight and complexity regardless of who is allowed to use it and to what purposes.

    Essentially, no.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 25, 2006 @ 12:04 am | Reply

  27. Only to the extent that human genetic diversity is shown to have a meaningful effect on human performance, something for which the evidence is thin to non-existent.

    Don’t be silly. I watch sports (including track & field) and understand that some things just aren’t statistically plausible without innate differences.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 25, 2006 @ 12:27 am | Reply

  28. Well, I think we can only agree to disagree over the utility and desirability of using the term race in a biological context. I will leave you with the last paragraph from the Rosenberg et al paper that Daran linked to.

    Our evidence for clustering should not be taken as evidence of our support of any particular concept of “biological race.” In general, representations of human genetic diversity are evaluated based on their ability to facilitate further research into such topics as human evolutionary history and the identification of medically important genotypes that vary in frequency across populations. Both clines and clusters are among the constructs that meet this standard of usefulness: for example, clines of allele frequency variation have proven important for inference about the genetic history of Europe [15], and clusters have been shown to be valuable for avoidance of the false positive associations that result from population structure in genetic association studies [16]. The arguments about the existence or nonexistence of “biological races” in the absence of a specific context are largely orthogonal to the question of scientific utility, and they should not obscure the fact that, ultimately, the primary goals for studies of genetic variation in humans are to make inferences about human evolutionary history, human biology, and the genetic causes of disease.

    I agree with them.

    Comment by Charles S — November 25, 2006 @ 4:38 am | Reply

  29. Don’t be silly. I watch sports (including track & field) and understand that some things just aren’t statistically plausible without innate differences.

    Yes, like the over performance of Jews at Baseball in the first half of the twentieth century.

    You honestly think that innate differences between biological races drive sports performance. And you feel that watching sports makes you capable of determining the statistical probability of these innate differences. No need for actual research, just watch the telly and you’ll see. Wow.

    Okay, now I’m really done discussing this with you.

    Comment by Charles S — November 25, 2006 @ 4:43 am | Reply

  30. You honestly think that innate differences between biological races drive sports performance.

    Well, Ernst Mayr fell for that one too.

    Comment by Megalodon — November 25, 2006 @ 5:21 am | Reply

  31. “We have already agreed that there do not exist taxonomically distinguishable subspecies of humans (as has the scientific community)”

    Sorry, Charlie.

    “Genetic breakthrough that reveals the differences between humans”

    “The scientists looked at people from three broad racial groups – African, Asian and European. Although there was an underlying similarity in terms of how common it was for genes to be copied, there were enough racial differences to assign every person bar one to their correct ethnic origin.

    http://news.independent.co.uk/world/science_technology/article2007490.ece

    Comment by Hap Mapwell — November 25, 2006 @ 8:28 pm | Reply

  32. Charles:

    Your absurd claim:

    human genetic diversity is shown to have a meaningful effect on human performance, something for which the evidence is thin to non-existent.

    I bring up sports, and Charles:

    You honestly think that innate differences between biological races drive sports performance. And you feel that watching sports makes you capable of determining the statistical probability of these innate differences. No need for actual research, just watch the telly and you’ll see. Wow.

    That’s nothing but a ridiculous straw man (watch the telly…). You put yourself in the corner with an absurd claim (the first blockquote) and instead of admitting that the comment was not true, you attack in an obnoxious manner.

    Let’s talk about sport:
    Research 1:

    Aerobic exercise capacity at sea level and at altitude in Kenyan boys, junior and senior runners compared with Scandinavian runners.
    August Krogh Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.


    Research 2

    Larsen, H.B. Kenyan dominance in distance running. Comparitive Biochemistry and Physiology: Part A, Molecular and Integrative Physiology 136(1):161-70, September 2003.

    You’re free to disprove them.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 25, 2006 @ 9:02 pm | Reply

  33. Charles at 28:

    Actually, you don’t appear to agree with them. Your position seems to not be

    The arguments about the existence or nonexistence of “biological races” in the absence of a specific context are largely orthogonal to the question of scientific utility,

    The geneticists seem not to be interested in what to call the category-formerly-known-as-race. You seem to be interested in insisting that the word race be used only in social context.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 25, 2006 @ 9:14 pm | Reply

  34. If we refuse to use the term “race” when talking about human genetic diversity, we should also eliminate it from social discussions. The major social racial divisions have a pretty large biological basis, so what you would be doing if you used one term for social policy and another for scientific is attempting to decouple social policy from scientific reserach – or, put another way, attempting to make certain that social policy was based on the ignorance of scientific findings.

    Comment by Glaivester — November 26, 2006 @ 7:56 pm | Reply

  35. I said I was done, but I lied. I feel I have to quote your references at you, as I don’t think they support the position that your referencing them implies they support. But after this, I promise I’m done.

    You understand that the Kalenjin people live at 2 miles altitude, and that growing up at such an altitude has profound physiological effects, right? Effects that are not genetic.

    Anyway, on to your citations

    Research 1:

    The best Scandinavian runners were not significantly different from the Kenyan runners in VO2max both at altitude and at sea level, but none of the Scandinavians reached as high individual values as observed for some Kenyan runners.

    ….

    It is concluded that it is the physical activity during childhood, combined with intense training as teenagers that brings about the high VO2max observed in some Kenyan runners.

    Research 2:

    The good running economy cannot be explained by differences in muscle fibre type as they are the same in Kenyan and Caucasian runners. The same is true when comparing untrained adolescent Kenyan boys with their Caucasian counterparts. A difference exists in BMI and body shape, and the Kenyans long, slender legs could be advantageous when running as the energy cost when running is a function of leg mass. Studies comparing the response to training of Kenyans and Caucasians have shown similar trainability with respect to VO(2max), running economy and oxidative enzymes. Taken all these data together it appears that running at a high fractional VO(2max) and having a good running economy may be the primary factors favouring the good performance of endurance athletes rather than them having a higher VO(2max) than other elite runners. In addition to having the proper genes to shape their bodies and thereby contributing to a good running economy, the Kenyan elite runners have trained effectively and used their potential to be in the upper range both in regard to VO(2max) and to a high utilization of this capacity during endurance running.

    Although the paper argues that the Kalenjin have good genes for slender, long legs, it must be noted that the genes for long slender legs are not even remotely unique to the Kalenjin, and that the Kalenjin do not represent a clade. It is also noted by the paper that a tiny minority of Kenyan runners have become fantastically good because there has been a substantial effort to produce excellent runners in that area of Kenya.

    I also think that the choice to compare Kenyans to Caucasians is misleading, as it is not necessary to cross major cladal boundaries to find populations that do not produce the best runners in the world, nor to find populations that have a much lower frequencies of long slender legs. The decision to cross cladal boundaries makes it appear that the differences are between blacks and whites, when there is obviously no basis for such an inplication.

    So no, I don’t think I need to refute these papers, as I don’t think they say what you think they say.

    Also, please understand that I mean that human genetic diversity at the level of the top 3-7 human clades (which roughly align with what are generally viewed as the biological races, and which seem to be the only level at which humans significantly divide out into clear clades, rather than existing within a genetic continuum) has not been shown to have a meaningful effect on human performance. I accept the possibility that some populations may have a marginally higher frequency of genes that provide a moderate selective advantage relative to the environmental conditions in which their ancestors have lived for a long time.

    Maybe you would like to apply the term race to that difference, but I think that to do so is confusing, misleading, and not scientifically valid. It is certainly not what Brandon Berg or HapMapwell want race to mean, nor is it where they believe inherent genetic racial differences fall.

    Anyway, I don’t think that either of us is showing any sign of being convinced by the other, so I think there isn’t anywhere useful for this discussion to continue to. So I’m done.

    Comment by Charles S — November 26, 2006 @ 8:58 pm | Reply

  36. What do I want race to mean?

    Comment by Brandon Berg — November 26, 2006 @ 9:38 pm | Reply

  37. The major social racial divisions have a pretty large biological basis

    The most important social racial division, that between “white” and “non-white” does not have a significant biological basis.

    …the top 3-7 human clades (which roughly align with what are generally viewed as the biological races, and which seem to be the only level at which humans significantly divide out into clear clades, rather than existing within a genetic continuum…

    Even seven clades is insufficient to distinguish between Europeans, Asian Indians, and some Africans.

    Comment by Daran — November 26, 2006 @ 10:57 pm | Reply

  38. You folks would be able to discuss this issue a lot more clearly if you belonged to the Italo-Scottish race, the One Master Race ordained by God to rule the Earth.

    Puny-brained wogs.

    Comment by Robert — November 27, 2006 @ 1:11 am | Reply

  39. “The most important social racial division, that between “white” and “non-white” does not have a significant biological basis”

    Wrong. Wrong and clueless. It’s game over, man. What Charlie and his ilk haven’t figured it out yet is the science just crushed all their racial delusions, and they can now be categorized with the IDers and the Creationists.

    “Nevertheless, the pattern of CNV that each of us inherits subtly reflects our ancestry and can be used to infer in which of the three continental populations our recent ancestry lies.

    Striking differences in regions of our genome between different continental populations will define variants that have allowed different populations to adapt to their different environments. One example is the strikingly increased copy number of the HIV-related CCL3L1 gene in African populations. An understanding of how genetic variation is distributed among populations not only tells us about human prehistory but also improves our ability to find disease genes.”

    http://www.sanger.ac.uk/Info/Press/2006/061122.shtml

    Comment by Hap Mapwell — November 27, 2006 @ 1:14 am | Reply

  40. Charles:

    Quite skillful misunderstanding of the studies, I must say. Easier to misunderstand them than to try to understand the fact that your claim:

    Only to the extent that human genetic diversity is shown to have a meaningful effect on human performance, something for which the evidence is thin to non-existent.

    Was rubbish.

    Do you want to admit that?

    Your trying to pretend that I showed those studies to prove that “race exists” (in an easily definable manner), nope, I presented them to refute your ignorant claim (see the blockquote above).

    Anyway, I don’t think that either of us is showing any sign of being convinced by the other, so I think there isn’t anywhere useful for this discussion to continue to. So I’m done.

    That was obvious from the beginning.

    However, your presence here has proven my point: Which was not about existence or nonexistence of race, but about the fact that the word race is bad when not used by social scientists.

    The reason for this appears to be a delightful piece of circular logic: Those who use the word race in biological context are racists, and they are racists because they use word race in biological context. (see for example the sly comment towards Brandon Berg).

    Why do we have to pretend that one can only oppose racism if one does not believe in biological basis of race?

    [edited the last sentence]

    Comment by Tuomas — November 27, 2006 @ 2:40 am | Reply

  41. Tuomas:
    Could you send me an e-mail (brandon.berg at gmail)?

    Comment by Brandon Berg — November 27, 2006 @ 3:22 am | Reply

  42. Why do we have to pretend that one can only oppose racism if one does not believe in biological basis of race?

    Tuomas –

    You should probably understand something about Americans and race.

    A lot of Americans (both liberals and conservatives) secretly believe that there is such a thing as race. They secretly believe that blacks are, in fact, slightly “behind” whites on things like intelligence, and that without racial preferences or some other social support structure, that blacks are doomed to be forever underperforming vis a vis whites in the areas of economic productivity and educational attainment. Many liberals also believe that racism exists and is a contributor to any measured difference in performance, while many conservatives believe that racism exists but is a relatively minor force, and persistent performance disparities are the result of the underlying biology.

    Most all of this is complete crap, but people still believe it.

    However, this set of “facts” must never be acknowledged or recognized. For the liberals, this is because it would reveal that they don’t actually believe there is de facto equality; for the conservatives, this is because it would reveal that they believe blacks to be “lesser”. This is why if some third party can prove a differentiation between racial groups that can be explained by prejudice or oppression, that’s fine by liberals. But if something is discovered or demonstrated that cannot be explained away entirely by outside forces, it is anathema and automatically evil racism. Whereas, if some third party shows a differentiation between racial groups which is clearly the result of prejudice or ill treatment, conservatives will move mountains to prove that there’s something about blacks (but not genetics!) that accounts for it. (Culture is a big favorite, and is often used because it has the sterling advantage of often being true.)

    Note: I have no idea whether Americans posting here like Amp and Charles fall into the categories described above; I doubt it very much.

    Troublesome foreigner wogs like yourself MAKE TROUBLE in these discussions. You’re perfectly willing to inquire whether there is anything to race, and what racial differences might mean, and to look at evidence of anything, whether it proves that all races are the same or that the Lithuanians are the secret Ubermenschen of the world. You’re kicking over the rocks that well-meaning Americans are hiding their prejudices behind. Even people like Amp and Charles and me who don’t (I hope) hold those particular secret prejudices hate to see the rocks kicked over.

    That’s why you have to pretend not to believe in the biological basis of race to be a “real” racism-opposer. Opposition to racism is largely predicated on these well-intentioned collective decisions to pretend that certain facts on the ground (in this case, the secret beliefs of many people) aren’t actually the facts on the ground.

    Or, to paraphrase a line from P.J. O’Rourke when asked by a Russian national whether white Americans were racist, “Not even a little bit! And less so every day.”

    Comment by Robert — November 27, 2006 @ 3:43 am | Reply

  43. Even seven clades is insufficient to distinguish between Europeans, Asian Indians, and some Africans.

    Yup.

    Comment by Charles S — November 27, 2006 @ 3:54 am | Reply

  44. Brandon: that e-mail didn’t work for me, I’ll send to the one I can see via site admin later.

    Robert: Yep, I’ve suspected that. I’ve been thinking on writing about that, but I don’t quite know where to start.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 27, 2006 @ 6:25 am | Reply

  45. Tuomas wrote:

    Quite skillful misunderstanding of the studies, I must say.

    In what way did Charles misunderstand the studies?

    I’ve only read the abstracts, but Charles’ comments seem totally in line with the abstracts. If there’s something in the full articles that contradicts what Charles says, then you should explain it; but since only the abstracts were available at the links you provided, I don’t think Charles can fairly be blamed for basing his opinions on what the abstracts say.

    As for “quite skillful,” that odd phrasing implies that Charles was deliberately lying. Is that what you’re implying, or am I misreading you?

    Charles wrote:

    Only to the extent that human genetic diversity is shown to have a meaningful effect on human performance, something for which the evidence is thin to non-existent.

    He later clarified:

    …Please understand that I mean that human genetic diversity at the level of the top 3-7 human clades (which roughly align with what are generally viewed as the biological races, and which seem to be the only level at which humans significantly divide out into clear clades, rather than existing within a genetic continuum) has not been shown to have a meaningful effect on human performance. I accept the possibility that some populations may have a marginally higher frequency of genes that provide a moderate selective advantage relative to the environmental conditions in which their ancestors have lived for a long time.

    (Note that the second quote is perfectly consistent with Charles’ positions throughout this discussion.)

    Charles is right – neither of the citations you provide contradict his views, as described above. Citation one provides no support whatsoever for the proposition that genetic diversity at any level has a meaningful effect on human performance (neither “physical activity during childhood” or “intense training as teenagers” are genetic traits). Citation two provides no support at all for the proposition that genetic diversity at the level of the top 3-7 human clades has a meaningful effect on human performance.

    Citation two does provide some support – although not ironclad proof – for the claim that some populations may have a marginally higher frequency of genes that provide a moderate selective advantage, but Charles doesn’t disagree with that claim.

    Comment by Ampersand — November 27, 2006 @ 6:33 am | Reply

  46. Both studies found out that Kenyans have better running economy, altough Charles left it out from the first one.
    These studies specifically concluded that training and childhood do not alone explain Kenyan dominance.
    Charles doesn’t even cite the end conclusions: He just quotes something from the middle to supposedly prove that these studies have concluded that “it’s about training and altitude”.

    He’s not lying directly. He’s too smart for that as are you.

    The conclusion:
    Study 1:

    It is concluded that it is the physical activity during childhood, combined with intense training as teenagers that brings about the high VO2max observed in some Kenyan runners. Their high aerobic capacity, as well as their good running economy, makes them such superior runners. In addition, their low blood lactate and ammonia accumulation in blood when running may also be contributing factors.

    Innate abilities there…

    Study 2:

    In addition to having the proper genes to shape their bodies and thereby contributing to a good running economy, the Kenyan elite runners have trained effectively and used their potential to be in the upper range both in regard to VO(2max) and to a high utilization of this capacity during endurance running.

    Yes, he weaseled out with “thin” and his clarification. He seemed to be under the impression that it is ridiculous to claim that sports has proven anything about genetic diversity and it’s effects.

    Now you have shown up, and you too are determined to pretend that I am somehow trying to prove that

    Citation two provides no support at all for the proposition that genetic diversity at the level of the top 3-7 human clades has a meaningful effect on human performance.

    That I have somewhere claimed this. Can you show me where, exactly?

    Comment by Tuomas — November 27, 2006 @ 6:46 am | Reply

  47. It appears that the original claim is constantly morphing under the treatise of Amp/Charles axis.
    Here you have added at the level of the top 3-7 human clades from nowhere.

    It is STILL an outrageous claim to say:

    Only to the extent that human genetic diversity is shown to have a meaningful effect on human performance, something for which the evidence is thin to non-existent.

    Rather than defend that proposition, you are trying to hammer MY position into “defender of large differences among top 3-7 human clades”.

    [edited to remove an ad hominem]

    Comment by Tuomas — November 27, 2006 @ 6:56 am | Reply

  48. Robert and Tuomas, I’ve developed a bad reaction to fundamentalist Christians and also to Orthodox Jews. It’s not that I don’t like them – I often do, in the sense of finding them nice, friendly, intelligent, caring people.

    It’s that the back of my mind is always aware that this person I’m talking to is almost certainly an anti-queer bigot. And I find that repulsive.

    Is that fair? Almost certainly not, because it’s not true that all Orthodox and all fundamentalists are anti-queer bigots. Only the overwhelming majority of them are. The association is real, but it’s not 100%.

    (By the way, the same dataset that found that religious people give more to charity also found that the religious are more intolerant and less likely to have gay friends. Funny how that aspect of the data wasn’t reported much in the right blogosphere.)

    My instinctive response to people who passionately defend the biological basis of race is similar. Logically, there’s no reason one has to disagree with the notion of a biological basis for race in order to be anti-racist.

    But in my experience, the overwhelming majority of people who passionately defend the notion of a biological basis for race, are themselves racists. It’s hard for me to pretend that the correlation doesn’t exist. Yet that seems to be exactly what Tuomas is asking me to pretend.

    Comment by Ampersand — November 27, 2006 @ 6:57 am | Reply

  49. But in my experience, the overwhelming majority of people who passionately defend the notion of a biological basis for race, are themselves racists. It’s hard for me to pretend that the correlation doesn’t exist. Yet that seems to be exactly what Tuomas is asking me to pretend.

    Well, you could try to check your prejudices. I suspect you’ll end up seeing racism more easily on those who defend the biological notion of it.

    But of course, this is tangential. This isn’t about whether someone is racist or not, and you are perfectly free to hold such opinion.

    The main point is that neither proposition: “Race does not exist” OR
    “Race exists” have some absolute backing of science behind them. Therefore both opinions are perfectly valid, and those who believe the former don’t really have any ground on accusing someone who believes the latter of “ignorance of scientific facts (and lot worse things too)”.

    Do you concede that point?

    Comment by Tuomas — November 27, 2006 @ 7:11 am | Reply

  50. [Due to an editing error – I cut and pasted where I should have simply cut – I made the exact same point twice. I’ve edited this comment to remove the first of those instances. –Amp]

    Tuomas wrote:

    Now you have shown up, and you too are determined to pretend that I am somehow trying to prove that

    Citation two provides no support at all for the proposition that genetic diversity at the level of the top 3-7 human clades has a meaningful effect on human performance.

    That I have somewhere claimed this. Can you show me where, exactly?

    I haven’t seen you claim that, nor have I said you’ve claimed it.

    Let me clarify what I’m saying:

    1) You’ve claimed that Charles’ argument is disproven by your two citations.

    2) In response, Charles clarified that he’s arguing that the evidence for the claim that human genetic diversity at the level of the top 3-7 human clades is thin to nonexistent. Therefore, your two citations do not disprove Charles’ argument.

    3) Now you say I’ve claimed you’re trying to prove that “genetic diversity at the level of the top 3-7 human clades has a meaningful effect on human performance.” But I never said or implied any such thing.

    * * *

    You’re consistently using needlessly insulting language in your comments (e.g., “peddle your propaganda”). This doesn’t create a conversational environment I’m eager to participate in. For that reason, I might choose not to respond to any future posts of yours on this thread.

    Comment by Ampersand — November 27, 2006 @ 7:16 am | Reply

  51. Do you concede that point?

    I don’t know what you mean by “race” in that sentence, so I can’t know if I agree or disagree with your point.

    I do agree that there are some definitions of the word “race” (and the word “real”) for which I’d agree that both “race is real” and “race is not real” are legitimate claims.

    (Edited to add the phrase “and the word ‘real'”).

    Comment by Ampersand — November 27, 2006 @ 7:22 am | Reply

  52. 1) You’ve claimed that Charles’ argument is disproven by your two citations.
    2) In response, Charles clarified that he’s arguing that the evidence for the claim that human genetic diversity at the level of the top 3-7 human clades is thin to nonexistent. Therefore, your two citations do not disprove Charles’ argument.
    3) Now you say I’ve claimed you’re trying to prove that “genetic diversity at the level of the top 3-7 human clades has a meaningful effect on human performance.” But I never said or implied any such thing.

    The point about 1 and 2 is that Charles feels perfectly fine in making claims that are ignorant, and modifies his arguments later when proven wrong.

    Phase1: Existence of differences thin or nonexistent in performance

    Phase2: Um, no, check these out

    Phase3: Lying about studies, and creating a backdoor with “a clarification” (I didn’t say what I said in phase1)
    .
    These studies were not an answer to what Charles claimed later, or about anything discussed before performance. They were specifically related to sport physiology.

    An answer to (/broken record) this:

    Only to the extent that human genetic diversity is shown to have a meaningful effect on human performance, something for which the evidence is thin to non-existent.

    And the following sport discussion.

    Can you not understand why that was dishonest debating?

    You’re consistently using needlessly insulting language in your comments (e.g., “peddle your propaganda”). This doesn’t create a conversational environment I’m eager to participate in. For that reason, I might choose not to respond to any future posts of yours on this thread.

    I edited some of that out before this post.

    Unwillingness to admit mistakes tends to foster a bad debating atmosphere.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 27, 2006 @ 7:25 am | Reply

  53. Also, let’s remember this:

    You honestly think that innate differences between biological races drive sports performance. And you feel that watching sports makes you capable of determining the statistical probability of these innate differences. No need for actual research, just watch the telly and you’ll see. Wow.

    This needlessly insulting statement led to a discussion about sports physiology. Where Charles was wrong.

    And couldn’t admit that.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 27, 2006 @ 7:32 am | Reply

  54. So far, our differences in race seem to be mainly this:

    Charles:

    I’m not sure what we disagree on, other than that you would possibly like to use the word “race” for whatever clades the science of human genetic diversity produces.

    Me:

    Essentially, yes.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 27, 2006 @ 7:35 am | Reply

  55. Eh. Some clarifications are modifications of previous arguments; other clarifications are, in fact, clarifying a misunderstood argument. In this case, I think Charles did the latter.

    The argument you apparently think Charles intended – that variations in human genes never, ever can be connected to differences in abilities – is one that it’s extremely unlikely that Charles, or any intelligent human being, could hold. And the clarification he offered is consistent with my longtime impression of his views, from how I’ve heard him discuss these issues over the years.

    Unwillingness to admit mistakes tends to foster a bad debating atmosphere.

    Unwillingness to give opponents the benefit of the doubt also fosters a bad debating atmosphere.

    Comment by Ampersand — November 27, 2006 @ 7:36 am | Reply

  56. The argument you apparently think Charles intended – that variations in human genes never, ever can be connected to differences in abilities – is one that it’s extremely unlikely that Charles, or any intelligent human being, could hold. And the clarification he offered is consistent with my longtime impression of his views, from how I’ve heard him discuss these issues over the years.

    “Variations in human genes” (leaving out genetic diversity between populations). The argument changed again… Spin spin.🙂

    Then why does he have to make absurd claims and defend them with insults (telly comment, which implies that I have claimed to know better than science by watching tv?), and selectively quoting from the studies, and only after that whole process amend his position with “a clarification”?

    Unwillingness to give opponents the benefit of the doubt also fosters a bad debating atmosphere.

    Do tell.

    My instinctive response to people who passionately defend the biological basis of race is similar. Logically, there’s no reason one has to disagree with the notion of a biological basis for race in order to be anti-racist.

    IME quite most anti-racists feel that they have a right — nay, a duty — to claim or imply that anyone who believes in biological race is an ignorant racist.

    Maybe not you nor Charles, but I don’t see you ever questioning anyone who claims (falsely) that “scientist agree that biological race does not exist”.

    [edited]

    Comment by Tuomas — November 27, 2006 @ 7:51 am | Reply

  57. But in my experience, the overwhelming majority of people who passionately defend the notion of a biological basis for race, are themselves racists. It’s hard for me to pretend that the correlation doesn’t exist.

    I agree, but at the same time it does appear that at the level of 3 major clades (Charles says 3-7, but I think clades 4-7 are minor) there is a biological basis for race.

    So how should we react when truth appears to be on the side of the racists. Deny the truth?

    Comment by Daran — November 27, 2006 @ 8:19 am | Reply

  58. But in my experience, the overwhelming majority of people who passionately defend the notion of a biological basis for race, are themselves racists.

    This is true. I think this is simply due to the way how the debate is constructed around race: It doesn’t exist (biologically) is the “good” position, and very few people want to expose themselves to counterarguments like “why is it so important to you that race is biological? Do you believe blacks are inferior?!” and simply avoid taking position.

    The ones who passionately argue for biological race then simply must be either:

    1) Those armed with tons of facts to support this assertion and/or willingness to put one “in line” against the inevitable accusations (these people are probably rather rare)
    or

    2) Those who are racists

    [edited to add: 3) Or non-Americans who live in rather monocultural societies]

    Most people probably simply don’t know all that well, and at least publicly pretend to believe in the good and nice position (it’s lot easier). They may still hold all sorts of private beliefs on race, though.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 27, 2006 @ 9:01 am | Reply

  59. But in my experience, the overwhelming majority of people who passionately defend the notion of a biological basis for race, are themselves racists. It’s hard for me to pretend that the correlation doesn’t exist.

    I agree, but at the same time it does appear that at the level of 3 major clades (Charles says 3-7, but I think clades 4-7 are minor) there is a biological basis for race.

    So how should we react when truth appears to be on the side of the racists. Deny the truth?

    Of course not. But I don’t think the truth — which is, from what you’re saying, that there is a biological basis for three clades – and what many racists say and imply are the same thing.

    Comment by Ampersand — November 27, 2006 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

  60. Maybe not you nor Charles, but I don’t see you ever questioning anyone who claims (falsely) that “scientist agree that biological race does not exist”.

    Actually, although this discussion is an exception, you’ll virtually never see me participate in these “does biological race exist” discussions at all, on any side. It’s not one of my topics.

    Comment by Ampersand — November 27, 2006 @ 3:16 pm | Reply

  61. Amp:

    1) How do you define racist?

    2) Why should we care what they say and imply?

    Comment by Tuomas — November 27, 2006 @ 3:17 pm | Reply

  62. I’ve been lurking through this debate. Y’all keep using the word “clade.” Can somebody tell me the origin of this term?

    Also just a general side note as Charles has left the discussion and is no longer here to defend the social constructionist perspective. I think what most of the so called defenders of “science and biology” are forgetting is how the scientific method works.

    1) Hypotheses do not just appear out of nowhere, and they are, like it or not, influenced by the socio-political climate that they emerge in. While scientists may claim objectivity in many cases they are not objective, as history has shown us.

    2) While science purports to be objective that fact emerges that scientific knowledge is constantly being shaped and reshaped based on the questions we ask and the “discoveries that we make. Take Tuomas’s citation of the wikipedia article from 1985. I’m not sure about the credibility or methodology of the citation, but I do think it is fairly obvious that our knowledge of genetics and our ability to measure genes has changed since 1985, which makes those results outdated.

    3) Many race is biological proponents refuse to acknowledge a null hypothesis, when it comes to racial differences. They start with the assumption that people are different and then set out to prove it. That violates one of the fundamental tenants of the scientific method.

    4) Random samples–I read several of the abstracts you linked to, and I have yet to find a random sample of the worlds population. In order to really try to prove that their are genetic subpopulations that coincide with “race” you would need a random sample of the entire world’s population and I would recommend a either a complete genetic profile for that random sample (or a random sample of genetic markers). I think one study had a random sample of markers, but not people.

    Another, very significant problem that this also poses is the fact that human are and have always been very mobile, to the extent that there could be regional variations in genetics. Mobility makes it increasingly impossible to assign people to regional categories.

    Early race scientists proposed races as kinds of essentialist boxes that people fit into, and the genetic research to date really challenges this notion. As time goes by and travel advances shape mobility, the idea of rigid or essentialist notions of race become even more meaningless that they already were.

    Sometimes I wish I didn’t have a job so I could debate you all more…..

    Comment by Rachel — November 28, 2006 @ 4:39 pm | Reply

  63. 3) Many race is biological proponents refuse to acknowledge a null hypothesis, when it comes to racial differences. They start with the assumption that people are different and then set out to prove it. That violates one of the fundamental tenants of the scientific method.

    I hope those tenants are up to date on their rent. The scientific method needs the money.

    The scientific method doesn’t start from a position of pretending to have no knowledge. People ARE different – this is visually evident. Skin colors vary. Size distributions vary. Some peoples have epicanthic folds and others don’t. And so on. Scientists aren’t starting from an “assumption” of difference, they’re starting with an observation of difference – and any theory needs to account for those differences.

    Comment by Robert — November 28, 2006 @ 5:01 pm | Reply

  64. Rachel:

    Clade.

    In cladistics, a clade is a group of organisms consisting of a single common ancestor and all the descendants of that ancestor. Any such group is also considered a monophyletic group of organisms, and can be modelled by a cladogram, a diagram of the organisms in the form of a tree.

    Interesting points. Quit your job so you can debate more😉.

    1) This is a guilt by association. Some scientists on race (historically) claimed objectivity and were not, therefore scientists on race aren’t objective. That’s how it reads.

    2) More “science is not objective”! Interesting. That was actually meant just to disprove Charles’ point that scientists agee with him — I’m unaware of newer studies. Of course, science is not about voting on concepts, it was just an aside. I do not know what the results would be today.

    3) Hmm. This is more of an accusation than a fact.

    4) I don’t agree. It is nonsensical to demand that they be random on macro level (entire world population). If you want to study differences between population groups, it is necessary only to be random in micro level. “Random Dane” vs. “Random Kenyan”.

    Another, very significant problem that this also poses is the fact that human are and have always been very mobile, to the extent that there could be regional variations in genetics. Mobility makes it increasingly impossible to assign people to regional categories.

    No, they haven’t always been. There have been significant geographical barriers to migration that have resulted in differentation based on natural barriers.

    Increasingly difficult, “increasingly impossible” is a nonsensical term. Impossible or possible.

    Early race scientists proposed races as kinds of essentialist boxes that people fit into, and the genetic research to date really challenges this notion. As time goes by and travel advances shape mobility, the idea of rigid or essentialist notions of race become even more meaningless that they already were.

    If you go back in time about practically any science, you’ll find stuff that have no relevance whatsoever.
    At one time, “hysteria” was treated with electric shocks . Is medicine silly science, then?

    I want to know what you mean by travel advances shape mobility? Second language problem for me perhaps.

    I should say, once more here, that I do agree with Charles and you that rigid definitions are problematic, and that race is largely socially constructed.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 28, 2006 @ 5:02 pm | Reply

  65. Btw.
    Here is one study , for example, that somewhat contradicts Rosenberg et al. study.

    Our results show that when individuals are sampled homogeneously from around the globe, the pattern seen is one of gradients of allele frequencies that extend over the entire world, rather than discrete clusters. Therefore, there is no reason to assume that major genetic discontinuities exist between different continents or “races.”

    The debate in this case on biology seems to be about the rigidity of differences between populations.

    Genetical distance accordin to this study seems to correspond with geographical distance.

    [fixed the link]

    Comment by Tuomas — November 28, 2006 @ 5:14 pm | Reply

  66. Yeah I did mean increasingly difficult–the point I was making is that with modern technology, especially boats and planes, limitations on geographic mobility are less important than ever.

    So on the point about clades, you guys are saying that we all have 3-7 ancestors??

    Comment by Rachel — November 28, 2006 @ 9:42 pm | Reply

  67. Yeah I did mean increasingly difficult

    Thx. It still doesn’t prove that biological race does not exist — it just means it is harder to define and even more fluid than it already is. That I presume bothers some and pleases others, I don’t really care either way.

    So on the point about clades, you guys are saying that we all have 3-7 ancestors??

    Argh. No. It means that somewhere down the phylogenetic tree, there is a common ancestor for each of the groups.
    The term “clade” has been butchered in this discussion, as some people have been using it when they should have been using, well, race.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 28, 2006 @ 10:00 pm | Reply

  68. “I’m not sure about the credibility or methodology of the citation, but I do think it is fairly obvious that our knowledge of genetics and our ability to measure genes has changed since 1985, which makes those results outdated.”

    Since 1985 the direction of the science has been all one way.

    “Sometimes I wish I didn’t have a job so I could debate you all more”

    This isn’t a debate. One side has facts, the other is clinging to outdated notions that are unsupported by any science.

    Comment by Hap Mapwell — November 29, 2006 @ 12:36 am | Reply

  69. The Serre-Paabo paper was released in 2004. Would the latest Rosenberg, et al. paper (Fall 2005) have responded to its accusations? The abstract of the last Rosenberg paper seemed to indicate a response to accusations of unrandom sampling and “uneven sampling along genetic clines.”

    Comment by Megalodon — November 29, 2006 @ 6:51 pm | Reply

  70. Hypotheses do not just appear out of nowhere, and they are, like it or not, influenced by the socio-political climate that they emerge in. While scientists may claim objectivity in many cases they are not objective, as history has shown us.

    Indeed. By that same token, do you think Gould’s politics corrupted the objectivity of Mismeasure of Man?

    Comment by Megalodon — November 29, 2006 @ 6:59 pm | Reply

  71. Megalodon:

    The Serre-Paabo paper was released in 2004. Would the latest Rosenberg, et al. paper (Fall 2005) have responded to its accusations? The abstract of the last Rosenberg paper seemed to indicate a response to accusations of unrandom sampling and “uneven sampling along genetic clines.”

    It might. I haven’t read all the research on the subject.

    I wanted to point out that the major discontinuity within geneticists seems to be on how sharp the genetical lines are between population groups.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 30, 2006 @ 1:18 am | Reply

  72. So on the point about clades, you guys are saying that we all have 3-7 ancestors??

    I think the suggestion is that the world’s population can be divided more or less into 3-7 groups, such that individuals within a group have a common ancestry.

    Comment by Daran — November 30, 2006 @ 4:01 pm | Reply

  73. You guys need to look at this map–http://www.understandingrace.org/humvar/race_humvar.html

    (Edited to make link clicky. — Daran)

    Comment by Rachel S. — January 11, 2007 @ 9:52 pm | Reply

  74. Professor Sullivan,

    The quiz on the site says that a person’s race cannot be determined by looking at his or her DNA.
    http://www.understandingrace.org/humvar/quiz.html

    Troy Duster doesn’t seem to agree with that.
    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?SID=mail&articleID=0002A353-C027-1E1C-8B3B809EC588EEDF

    Of course, Duster denies the biological validity of race, but still admits that DNA tests can accurately predict the “social” designation of that person.

    The quiz goes on to answer, “There is no gene for “race.” There are no qualitative genetic differences between perceived races. However, it is possible to trace geographic ancestry using DNA.”

    Well, once we trace these geographic ancestries and find persons who have them in common, do they advise on what name to give groups of persons with shared geographic ancestries? And what exactly is a “qualitative genetic difference”?

    Comment by Megalodon — January 13, 2007 @ 12:13 am | Reply

  75. I am Indian descent and I hate all the euphenisms for race. So Idisagree with you.
    Because people try to use other words when what they are referring to is race, they then make themselves and others mis-perceive people and the world even more.
    They start confusing the way a person looks for
    -the way they act – culture
    -their line of work
    -their intelligence
    -their religion
    -their place of birth and upbringing – nationality

    and go on to make some people foreigners in the land they have always lived in whilst others welcome when they have only just arrived!

    The fact is the statistical distribution of certain physical characteristics and measuements is not simply a bell-shape, especially in Australia or US or other such countires where the natives have been extinguished.

    Comment by Ahmed — July 20, 2007 @ 5:34 pm | Reply


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