On the biology of race

the-different-human-races-from-natural-history-of-the-animal-kingdom2by Massimo Pigliucci

The biology of human races is back in the news, big time. This is because of a new book by former New York Times journalist Nicholas Wade, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History [1].

The basic thesis of the book is that human races are real, and that their genetic differences — which according to Wade evolved rapidly after the invention of agriculture — account for much of the behavioral differences among human groups, as well as for the success of some and the failure of others.

Here is a sample of quotes from Wade himself, to give you an idea of what he is up to [2]:

[Trying to explain why Western societies have been capable of developing advanced democracies while others haven’t] “Conventionally, these social differences are attributed solely to culture. But if that’s so, why is it apparently so hard for tribal societies like Iraq or Afghanistan to change their culture and operate like modern states? The explanation could be that tribal behavior has a genetic basis.” (Indeed, but what explains the difference between the cultures of North and South Korea, which — as Allen Orr notes in his review of the book (see below) — are certainly genetically very close to each other?)

[Attempting to show that the Industrial Revolution was the result of a sort of trickle down genetics from the rich to the lower classes] “The essence of the Industrial Revolution was a quantum leap in society’s productivity. … Given the correctness of Darwin’s theory, there is no reason to doubt that natural selection was working on the very English population that provided the evidence for it. … The burden of proof is surely shifted to those who might wish to assert that the English population was miraculously exempt from the very forces of natural selection whose existence it had suggested to Darwin.” (Except that the very source that Wade cites in support of his hypothesis goes on to show that there was very little differential production between the higher and lower classes, if one expands the time frame from one generation to two or more.)

[Suggesting that Jews are genetically superior in terms of intelligence] “A second instance of very recent human evolution may well be in evidence in European Jews, particularly the Ashkenazim of northern and central Europe. In proportion to their population, Jews have made outsize contributions to Western civilization.” (Too bad that intelligence is both vaguely defined and known to result from complex gene-environment interactions, and that “Jews” is much more of a cultural than a genetic group anyway.)

[While trying to explain the West’s superiority to China and Islam] “One candidate is the rise of the West, which was prompted by a remarkable expansion of European societies, both in knowledge and geographical sway, while the two other major powers of the medieval world, China and the house of Islam, ascendant until around 1500 AD, were rapidly overtaken. … Do Chinese carry genes for conformism and authoritarian rule? May Europeans have alleles that favor open societies and the rule of law? Obviously this is unlikely to be the case. But there is almost certainly a genetic component to the propensity for following society’s rules and punishing those who violate them.” (This despite a glaring lack of actual data. Also, if Wade had written his book 500 years ago, he would have been forced to conclude that Westerners were the inferior race, which would have explained why they were at the mercy of the Ottoman Empire. Then again, had he written it 2000 years ago, he would have concluded that the Romans had the best genetic complement of them all. I quite like that one, myself.)

No need to go further, you get the gist. There are several excellent reviews of the book [3], and I will briefly quote from one of the best, by my colleague Allen Orr, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Rochester [4]. I’m afraid I really couldn’t do any better myself.

“Wade says that biologists realized only in the last few years that natural selection might change a trait by causing slight changes in the frequencies of variants at many genes instead of a large change in frequency at one gene. In fact, the former hypothesis is the traditional view of evolutionary change and is nearly a century old. It would be unfair to suggest that these sorts of mistakes undermine Wade’s main claims in the first part of A Troublesome Inheritance. But they do suggest that he is not the surest guide to a technical literature. … At one moment, he will concede that he writes in a “speculative arena” and, at the next, he will issue pseudofactual pronouncements (“social behavior, of Chinese and others, is genetically shaped”). This strategy lets Wade move in a kind of intellectual no-man’s-land where he gets to look like he’s doing science (so many facts about genomes!) while covering himself with caveats that, well, it’s all speculative. … it’s also true that some behaviors or institutions persist for purely cultural reasons. The English have used a currency called the “pound” since Anglo-Saxon times. And Western music has been built on a diatonic scale since the Renaissance and probably much earlier. So why doesn’t Wade conclude that differences in currency and musical scale reflect differences in genes? … there is a species of bravado here, as though demonstrating that he, unlike others, is tough-minded enough to face unpleasant facts. But surely there is a difference between facing facts that are unpleasant and spinning tales that are improbable.”

And so on. Check it out, it’s worth reading in full. But this essay isn’t about Wade’s book per se, it is about the broader concept of human races as biological (as opposed to cultural) entities. I feel somewhat qualified to write about it for two reasons: as a biologist, I worked on gene-environment interactions (albeit on plants!), i.e. precisely on the question of nature vs nurture [5]. As a philosopher, I have published three peer reviewed papers on human races [6], though my principal interest lies in the philosophy of science (and pseudoscience).

Before we proceed, let me state very clearly that Wade is absolutely right on one thing: the science of human races is entirely orthogonal to the ethics of the issue. Precisely because we cannot derive ought from is, it simply doesn’t matter — from a moral perspective — what science finds out about races, since nothing of moral import will ever follow from that. If you are not convinced, just ponder for a minute that we accord full person status to severely mentally deficient human beings, and that we are beginning to consider the idea of expanding that status to include at the least some other species of primates, which are most definitely and unequivocally biologically inferior to us in terms of intelligence.

The question, then, is what is the best interpretation of the available evidence concerning the existence and alleged biological foundations of human races. That genes are capable of influencing behavior, including in humans, is a fact. That relatively small genetic differences can cause detectable phenotypic differences (i.e., differences in appearance and/or behavior) is also a fact. And that geographically separated human populations differ (slightly) in their genetic makeup is a fact too. But there isn’t much else to go on as far as empirical evidence is concerned, unfortunately. Wade-style talk of genes “for” democratic tendencies, financial smarts or capitalist innovation is just that, talk [7]. Not only do we know of no such genes, but we also have excellent reasons to believe that if they exist their effects are small and completely intertwined with cultural (and other environmental) effects. To pretend otherwise is intellectual travesty or naiveté, not bravery in the face of political correctness.

The major reason for this rather unsatisfactory state of affairs is that it is inordinately difficult to study gene-environment interactions, especially in long-lived species like humans, quite outside of the obvious ethical problems raised by the necessity to carry out controlled genetic crosses between “races” and to raise the resulting offspring in controlled separate environments. It’s not that we don’t know how to do these things, indeed I carried out plenty of “GxE” (as they are called) experiments in my lab for several years, and so do plenty of other people. But it is next to impossible to do it with humans.

Here is how it ought to be done, however. There is a classic paper by R.M. Cooper and J.P. Zubek [8] where the authors were able to quickly (seven generations) select for “dull” and “smart” rats, with the speed of running a maze being used as a proxy for intelligence. So far, nothing extraordinary, as Cooper and Zubek simply demonstrated a genetic basis to intelligence, and therefore the predictable ability of the trait to respond to selection. Things became more interesting when they reconstructed parts of what is known as the “norm of reaction” for intelligence in their populations [9]. They exposed both dull and smart rats to either an enriched environment (full of visual and tactile stimuli) and a poor environment (deprived of stimuli), as opposed to the “standard” cage environment in which the selection process had been carried out. The results were as clear as stunning: the genetic difference between dull and smart rats was essentially erased in both the enriched and the dull environment, thereby showing a high degree of “phenotypic plasticity” for intelligence in the genetically selected lines of rats.

Since we can’t do Cooper-Zubek type experiments with humans, what we are left with is that we just don’t have any good scientific evidence that there are systematic differences in cognitive traits among human races that are genetically based, the result of natural selection, and that cannot be substantially overridden by changes in the cultural environment. That, however, doesn’t mean that there is no sensible way in which we can talk about human races. In fact, there is at the least one such way, I think, but let me first debunk one common type of biological race talk.

“Race” is a rather fuzzy concept in biology to begin with, even outside of the human case. More often than not, however, in biology a race is a subspecies, or incipient species, i.e. a geographically isolated population that is on its way — unless the process reverses itself because of new gene flow to/from nearby populations — to becoming a new species. Here is how the great evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr famously put it: “a subspecies is a geographic race that is sufficiently different taxonomically to be worthy of a separate name” [10]. In that sense, then, there most definitely are no human races, for the simple reason that there is no deep phylogenetic separation (no evolutionary branching) among human populations. This, in turn, is the result of the fact that modern humans evolved from a genetic bottleneck (i.e., are the descendants of a very small population) that occurred in Africa about 50,000 years ago.

If human races are not subspecies, is there any scientifically meaningful way to recover the concept of “race” as it applies to our species, and how does this square with the “folk” concept of species (i.e., with talk of “blacks, Caucasians, Asians,” and so forth)?

Jonathan Kaplan and I (first reference mentioned in [6]) think there is. We suggested that human races are really what biologists call “ecotypes” [11], geographically distinct populations that have evolved some special way of adapting to their local environment. Classical examples of ecotypes are Alpine plants, which differ genetically very little from their lowland conspecifics, but have developed a more compact appearance to better withstand the harsh conditions under which they live (e.g., by limiting exposure to damaging winds, as well as reducing water loss). The concept applies to animals as well: there are two ecotypes of Tundra reindeer, for example, a migrant and a sedentary one.

The idea, then, is that certain superficial physical characteristics in humans — chiefly, but not exclusively, skin and eye color — did evolve genetically, likely in response to natural selection for adaptation to certain types of environments, most obviously dark skin to protect people from high levels of UV radiation, and light skin to minimize inability to synthesize vitamin D in places where high incidence of sunlight is not the most pressing problem.

If Jonathan and I are correct (and we do have our critics in the professional philosophical literature), there are a few consequences of our suggestion that are worth considering. To begin with, there is no reason whatsoever to think that selection on, say, skin color, was accompanied by selection on any cognitive trait. It is possible, of course, but the burden of proof is on those making the claim. Second, “race,” then, would literally be skin deep: human races, as far as we can tell, are characterized only by rather straightforward differences in skin color, eye color and a few related traits. Lastly, and most importantly, thinking of human races as ecotypes means that the scientific image does not match with the folk image of race. For instance, light skin evolved following different genetic pathways in Western and Eastern Eurasian populations. Moreover, although South Asian populations retained the ancestral dark pigmentation, its genetic modulation appears to be very different from that of, say, West African populations [12]. The upshot is that when people think of “blacks” as a race, they are not actually picking a scientifically coherent unit, only one that is defined by a mishmash of small and superficial set of biological traits (skin color etc.) and a convoluted cultural history.

To be as clear and explicit as possible, then, here is the full last section of my paper with Jonathan, which summarizes our views and how they differ both from the “races are fundamental biological entities” and the “races are entirely a social construct” views so common in this debate:

“As we have seen, insofar as biologically meaningful races are conceptualized as populations more like ecotypes than like incipient species, many of the arguments purporting to show that there are no human races miss their mark. While in nonhuman biology the term ‘race’ has been and is being used in a variety of ways, the best way of making sense of systematic variation within the human species is likely to rely on the ecotypic conception of biological races. In this sense, there are likely human races (ecotypes) of biological interest. But again, biology provides no support for the very strong, essentialist-style conception of ‘race’ that has, both historically and at present, underwritten racism (of both the individual and institutional varieties), and indeed, biology reveals that the assumptions underlying such a conception of race are false.

This does not, of course, imply that our folk conception of race is not significant — while it does not pick out populations of biological interest, it does pick out populations of deep social and political interest. These populations do not, in fact, have many of the features they were historically supposed to have, but that does not prevent the application of the folk concept of race. Nor, we believe, should it. As long as the folk racial category to which one happens to belong is systematically related to other important aspects of one’s life, there is obviously still a need to pay attention to race in formulating, for example, social policy. And, it need hardly be said, it is. In the U.S., and in at the very least many other contemporary societies, one’s (folk) race is systematically related to one’s chances of acquiring most (if not all) important goods — everything from education to money to self-respect.

While it is valuable for biologists to note that the essentialist conception of human races has no support in biology whenever particular claims are made that seem predicated on such a conception (e.g., Herrnstein and Murray’s 1994 work on race and intelligence [13]), they should not fall into the trap of claiming that there is no systematic variation within human populations of interest to biology. Studying human ecotypes could yield insights into our recent evolution, and perhaps shed increased light onto the history of migrations and gene flow. To some extent, this is already happening (see Cavalli-Sforza et al. 1994, etc [14]). However, the ambiguity surrounding definitions of ‘‘race’’ and the politically charged atmosphere surrounding race in humans has hampered research into these areas, a situation from which neither biology nor social policy surely benefit.”

_____

Massimo Pigliucci is a biologist and philosopher at the City University of New York. His main interests are in the philosophy of science and pseudoscience. He is the editor-in-chief of Scientia Salon, and his latest book (co-edited with Maarten Boudry) is Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem (Chicago Press).

[1] A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, by N. Wade, Penguin Press.

[2] An excerpt of the book, if you don’t want to support the author by purchasing the whole thing, appeared in Time magazine.

[3] E.g., The Paradox of Racism, by A. Gelman, Slate; On the Origin of White Power, by E.M. Johnson, Scientific American blogs.

[4] Stretch Genes, by H.A. Orr, The New York Review of Books.

[5] See: Phenotypic Plasticity: Beyond Nature and Nurture, by M. Pigliucci, Johns Hopkins University Press.

[6] On the concept of biological race and its applicability to humans, by J. Kaplan and M. Pigliucci, Philosophy of Science; Human races, by G. Barbujani and M. Pigliucci, Current Biology; and What are we to make of the concept of race? Thoughts of a philosopher–scientist, by M. Pigliucci, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences.

[7] Jonathan Kaplan and I have also written about the very concept of “genes for”: Genes ‘for’ phenotypes: A modern history view, Biology and Philosophy.

[8] Effects of enriched and restricted early environments on the learning ability of bright and dull rats, by R.M. Cooper and J.P. Zubek, Canadian Journal of Psychology. Unfortunately, it is behind a paywall. If you email me I can lend you my pdf version.

[9] A norm of reaction, or reaction norm, is a graphic or mathematical function illustrating how a given genotype produces a range of phenotypes in response to a range of environmental conditions. If the norm of reaction is flat, i.e. parallel to the environmental axis, the genotype is said to be non-plastic; otherwise, it shows phenotypic plasticity. Here is a graphic representation of what norms of reaction look like.

[10] Populations, Species, and Evolution: An Abridgment of Animal Species and Evolution, by E. Mayr, Belknap Press.

[11] Here is the Wiki entry on ecotypes.

[12] Here is an in-depth Wiki article on human skin color variation, its genetics and its evolution.

[13] Herrnstein, Richard J., and Charles Murray (1994), The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class

Structure in American Life. New York: The Free Press.

[14] Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Luca, Paolo Menozzi, and Alberto Piazza (1994), The History and Geography of Human Genes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

101 thoughts on “On the biology of race

  1. Also:

    “Shinagawa pointed out another interesting phenomenon; later generation (second, third, fourth, etc.) Asian Americans on average have markedly lower education and income compared to immigrant Asians.

    In 2007, 33 percent of PhDs conferred in the U.S. were to Asians. However, of that 33 percent, only 2 percent were Asians Americans born or raised in the U.S.”

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  2. farqlue — Your point re: the need for extreme caution given today’s academic job market is well-taken. Sorry again about the above — I see that my words were not well-chosen, and came across as an attack on your position.

    I do think that the risks of defending “unpopular” positions are sometimes overstated, but given how risky the current job-market is, erring on the side of caution no doubt makes sense. Sorry if I seemed to imply otherwise.

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  3. Some things to note about the Cooper and Zubek study on rats:

    First, one must temper their generalization, since it is after all but a single study. Moreover, it is my understanding (via Robert Plomin) that experiments in the 1970s which involved thousands of mice did not yield much GxE statistical interaction. So, at minimum, there appears to be some inconsistencies on that front.

    Secondly, one should be cautious before extrapolating the results of Cooper and Zubek’s experiment to humans.

    Thirdly, the rats were drawn from inbred strains, whereas the typical case involves hybrids. Hence, it is unclear whether the same pattern would be found with hybrids.

    Fourthly, Cooper and Zubek also were cautious about what they thought could be inferred from their study. For instance, they suggested that the conditions which led to equal outcomes for both strains of rat could very well be an artifact of conditions in which the ‘test ceiling’ was too low, and thus not high enough to distinguish the differences between the strains. Such a scenario would be analogous to cases in which “adults of varying ability may achieve similar I.Q. scores although more difficult tests reveal clear differences between them” (Cooper & Zubek, 1958, p. 162).

    It’s quite easy to make the facile utterance ‘GxE interactions’ as a shield against hereditarian counterarguments. And with respect to IQ, I think that talk of GxE interactions is very often an obfuscatory move that does not grapple with the extant empirical details in behavior genetics. For instance, Robert Plomin reports that “nonadditive interactions rarely account for a significant portion of the variance” (1988, pp. 228-229).

    “Genetic and environmental influences of infant development coact in an additive manner” (Plomin, 1986, pp. 106-107).

    “There is no conspiracy against interaction: If an interactive model could be shown to fit the data better than the traditional model, researchers would be quick to use it” (Plomin, 1990, p. 114).

    “One aspect of genetic influence that environmental researchers seem to support is that of genotype–environment interaction. I agree that intuitively it seems as if these interactions must exist; however, genotype-environment interactions are non-existent in human literature” (Thompson, 1996, p. 181).

    “If variation in man has any similarity to variation in other organisms we would conclude that a trait was atypical if more than about 20 per cent of the measured variation could be attributed to G × E” (Eaves et al., 1977, p. 3).

    “There is little or no formal evidence that personality and intelligence are determined by genetic × environmental interactions” (Brody & Crowley, 1995, p. 66).

    “Attempts to identify G× E effects for personality … and general cognitive ability … did not yield significant findings” (McGue & Bouchard, 1998, p. 17).

    In addition, as Robert Plomin has noted in reference to a 1978 study on a number of Drosophila strains raised under twenty varying environmental contexts, the largest effect of GxE interaction only explained 2 percent of the entire variance.

    “… [if GxE] interactions do not account for a large portion of the total phenotypic variance. If [GxE] interactions accounted for larger portions of the variance then even statistical techniques with lower power would be able to detect them” (Detterman, 1990, p. 132).

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  4. In addition to JayMan’s comments, here are two very recent papers that support the hereditarian view regarding population differences in IQ:

    Factor Analysis of Population Allele Frequencies as a Simple, Novel Method of Detecting Signals of Recent Polygenic Selection: The Example of Educational Attainment and IQ.

    Weak widespread (polygenic) selection is a mechanism that acts on multiple SNPs simultaneously. The aim of this paper is to suggest a methodology to detect signals of polygenic selection using educational attainment as an example. Educational attainment is a polygenic phenotype, influenced by many genetic variants with small effects. Frequencies of 10 SNPs found to be associated with educational attainment in a recent genome-wide association study were obtained from HapMap, 1000 Genomes and ALFRED. Factor analysis showed that they are strongly statistically associated at the population level, and the resulting factor score was highly related to average population IQ (r=0.90). Moreover, allele frequencies were positively correlated with aggregate measures of educational attainment in the population, average IQ, and with two intelligence increasing alleles that had been identified in different studies. This paper provides a simple method for detecting signals of polygenic selection on genes with overlapping phenotypes but located on different chromosomes. The method is therefore different from traditional estimations of linkage disequilibrium. This method can also be used as a tool in gene discovery, potentially decreasing the number of SNPs that are included in a genome-wide association study, reducing the multiple-testing problem and required sample sizes and consequently, financial costs.

    Click to access factor-analysis-of-population-allele-frequencies-as-a-simple-novel-method-of-detecting-signals-of-recent-polygenic-selection-copy.pdf

    Simple Statistical Tools to Detect Signals of Recent Polygenic Selection.

    Synopsis

    A growing body of evidence shows that most psychological traits are polygenic, that is they involve the action of many genes with small effects. However, the study of selection has disproportionately been on one or a few genes and their associated sweep signals (rapid and large changes in frequency). If our goal is to study the evolution of psychological variables, such as intelligence, we need a model that explains the evolution of phenotypes governed by many common genetic variants. This study illustrates simple statistical tools to detect signals of recent polygenic selection: a) ANOVA can be used to reveal significant deviation from random distribution of allele frequencies across racial groups. b) Principal component analysis can be used as a tool for finding a factor that represents the strength of recent selection on a phenotype and the underlying genetic variation. c) Method of correlated vectors: the correlation between genetic frequencies and the average phenotypes of different populations is computed; then, the resulting correlation coefficients are correlated with the corresponding alleles’ genome-wide significance. This provides a measure of how selection acted on genes with higher signal to noise ratio. Another related test is that alleles with large frequency differences between populations should have a higher genome-wide significance value than alleles with small frequency differences. This paper fruitfully employs these tools and shows that common genetic variants exhibit subtle frequency shifts and that these shifts predict phenotypic differences across populations.

    http://www.ibc7.org/article/journal_v.php?sid=317

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  5. @Michael Danehy:

    See racial-income distribution of SAT scores (one example among many) from my FRB.

    See the global hierarchy in IQ scores and performance.

    See interior China.

    The issue of “convergence” with 3rd+ generation “Asians” was discussed here.

    As for Racial Reality’s post (who indeed has graciously provided evidence for the existence of race) see my response to him.

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  6. Most “non-selected” differences will be “superficial” in that they won’t have much adaptive significance, whatever they influence. And we’d need to do a lot more work to figure out what kinds of traits *could* be influenced by minor non-adaptive changes in the genome. In part this would involve tackling the at least in part “philosophical” problem of individuating traits!

    But your point re: masking variation is an interesting and important one. We know, for example, that a lot of genetic variation that could influence phenotype is “masked” during normal development, in many cases by the same systems that work to prevent environmental variation from disrupting development (I’m thinking here of the classic studies of e.g. the Hsp system in fruit-flies etc.). So is it possible that genetic variation that, under ordinary conditions, has no effect, could nevertheless be present, and potentially have effects under “non-ordinary” development? I can see no reason why it wouldn’t it! Again, any bit of genetic variation not under selection is unlikely be shared by all and only members of any of the so-called “major races” — they are just too internally heterogeneous for that to be likely! — but certainly, non-adaptive variation in genes related to all sorts of things, where the variation is normally masked by normal development, would be possible, and the frequencies would be expected to vary, if the effects of the variation are mostly fully masked.

    Of course, one would only be able to “see” the importance of this variation if one derailed the normal developmental processes that normally masked it! (This is how one reveals the hidden variation in model organisms like fruit flies, etc.) Do we have any good evidence for anything like this in humans? Not exactly, but one might suggest that e.g. research into some of the differences in how particular genetic variants are related to the development of cancer in different populations *might* be considered “suggestive” in this context. This is still *very* speculative! But it would hint at a way to reconcile two intuitions that I believe many medical epidemiologists interested in “race” and genetics share, namely 1) that under uniformly good social conditions, with no racism, etc the rates of morbidity and mortality in the different populations generally identified as ‘races’ in social discourse would be *much* more equal than it is today, and perhaps almost completely equal, and 2) that many sources of excess morbidity and mortality in particular populations identified as races will, in this environment, today, be associated with genetic differences, and the genes in question will likely vary between the populations in question. (For the record, I think the evidence for (2) is weaker than the pro-gene crowd makes it out be, but it is nevertheless worth thinking about how it is compatible with what is in essence an environmental explanation of the differences.)

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  7. Thank you, Jonathan. I appreciate your thoughts on this. I have my own story as does everyone else, and perhaps someday I’ll be in a position to safely tell it. (I know how that comes across, but so be it) And or the record, I’m a bona fide social constructionist, but only to a point.

    Cheers!

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  8. (1) Not so long ago, evolutionarily, ‘we’ lived in predatory packs which evolved into small hunter/gatherer/farmer tribal units who preserved and dominated their own group and territory. They were ‘enemies’ in competition against other adjacent groups around them: these were not racially different, very similar in natural appearance, intelligence and genetically. Now, many many millennia later, we live in ‘civilised’ units of vast dimensions yet biologically we have changed little.

    It is no coincidence that the word ‘race’ is also used to mean a contest to establish superiority! ‘Racism’ as a term used in litigation has definite genealogical implications: when used pejoratively by Joe Bloggs, the Media and Politicians is it not a misnomer for what is more accurately an inborn, genetically-based emotive tribal behaviour – “Tribalism”? This latter is a naturally evolved and usually inescapable reaction but is, nevertheless, often cause of dangerous dissension and material harm, – even large-scale long-term strife. Strangers may be quite friendly until finding out they support two different rival sports teams, two opposing religions, be pro- or anti-gun lobby, have different national boundaries or languages, even one deaf and the other hearing. None of these antipathies are ‘Racist’: they are differences of opinion, cultural mores or norms, (though there may also be coincident skin colour or other ‘obvious’ racial characteristic). Maybe presently this is an unfortunate ingrained instinct but it quite explains the common reluctance to mix freely and readily with ‘foreigners’. As ‘tribal’ descendants we all naturally prefer and are more comfortable with the company of similar people. Its as simple as that. We are still biologically-tribal but living in big societies with fluid populations, multi-national finance and trade. Civic cultural constraints such as acquired liberal /rational opinion, imposed ‘Equality’ and Human Rights etc. are ways we control/reduce both Racism and our ‘natural’ emotional reactions.

    Isn’t it irrational that while Racism is reviled its close relative Ethnicity is generally unreservedly admired and encouraged? Ethnicity does have the benefits of maintaining/increasing diversity and upholding valuable traditions, but any ethnic minority which cannot (or refuses) to integrate with its host majority has by definition attributes that distinguish it from that majority and any non-integration can be (and often is) a source of friction or worse.

    (2) To quote (slightly edited) from MP’s blog post :
    “..(whatever)..science finds out about races, since nothing of moral import will ever follow from that. ..ponder for a minute that we accord full person status to severely mentally deficient human beings, and that we are beginning to consider the idea of expanding that status to include at the least some other species of primates..biologically inferior to us in terms of intelligence.”
    Having pondered –
    Firstly: is FULL person status accorded to “severely mentally deficient human beings”? In Courts of Law, by the medical profession? What about their property rights – or are legal Powers of Attorney in my imagination?
    Secondly: I find it difficult to see how any “full person status” could be granted and be workable to even the most intelligent of any other animals without requiring some strict limitations and/or complicated legislation. How could their ‘responsibilities’ be ‘explained’ to them; how could they (say) give evidence in a Court of Law; would they have property rights, earn money, pay taxes, vote…? Might they be chased by opportunistic ‘No win-no fee’ lawyers…?

    Arthur Morris
    (Eastbourne, BN23 7PY, England)

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  9. farqlue — When you are in a position to safely tell your story, I’ll look forward to hearing it. I do know that academia can be cut-throat, and even people doing objectively great work are often in very precarious positions.

    BTW: I did a google search on your handle in order to try to apologize more personally for my tone. I couldn’t find your email, but I did find a few comments on woodworking sites re: plane tuneups and iron sharpening. If that’s you, woodworking & handtools are something else we share. 🙂

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  10. Jayman,

    “Kaplan’s point was that there were all these factors (poverty, epigenetics, and discrimination in this instance) that are purportedly “known” to effect IQ performance. All of these fail to explain what we see.”

    They do affect IQ performance, the research is kind of clear on this. Of course they don’t completely explain IQ performance, or are the sole explanation for IQ performance, but Kaplan did not say that, neither did he say that genetics are not part of the explanation, so I think he was basically right in what he said.

    “Lamarckian epigenetics is, truthfully, laughable (a simple illustration among many other discussions on the matter).”

    I don’t see any reason to assume Kaplan meant transgenerational epigenenetic inheritance when he used the word epigenetics.

    Do you agree?

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  11. Actually, Jonathan did mean transgenderational epigenetic inheritance, for which there is a great deal of evidence, even in humans. And it has nothing to do with Lamarck.

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  12. Michael Danehy, I’m not sure what the 3rd generation Asian-American regression to the American mean or the socioeconomic diversity of Chinese immigrants is meant to prove. Since, in the hereditarian view, the East Asian and the European mean IQs are close, they would not expect their social outcomes, on average, to be vastly different. What matters more is the Northeast Asian disparity with respect to other groups, both within countries and across countries. Can it be denied, where ever Chinese communities are found in Southeast Asia, they outperform the native inhabitants ? Normally this might be ascribed to self-selection, except that actual Chinese-majority countries outperform those same Southeast Asian countries across the board.

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  13. Massimo Pigliucci criticizes the position that ordinary human racial classifications (e.g., five continental races) map onto ordinary human biological races concepts. The critique is untenable. “Race” has often been understood to refer to sub-specific groups in which members are arranged by overall genetic similarity (i.e., natural populations). For example, Darwin, who naturally conceptualizing “genetic” genealogically, noted to Huxley:

    “Grant that all [phenotypic] structure of each race of man were perfectly known — grant that a perfect table of descent of each race was perfectly known. — grant all this, & then do you not think that most would prefer as the best classification, a genealogical one, even if it did occasionally put one race not quite so near to another, as it would have stood, if allocated by [phenotypic] structure alone. Generally, we may safely presume, that the [phenotypic] resemblance of races & their pedigrees would go together”

    This formulation is congruent with Darwin’s widely adopted natural classification system, one in which organisms are arranged by overall genetic relatedness. In the modern reformulation, genetic qua genotype is simply replaced with genetic qua genealogy. Thus, for example, in Mayr’s evolutionary taxonomy, organisms are grouped by genotypic similarity:

    “Once we accept the basic principle of biological classification, that organism are to be classified according to the information content of their genetic program, it is evident that [retrospective] monophyly must be required. Artificial taxa, containing descendants of different ancestors, would be unable to fill the demand one places on scientific theory, owing to the heterogeneity of the included genetic programs”

    Races from this perspective, that which gives us our familiar zoological subspecies, corresponds nicely with common population genetic conceptions. Discussing this, Hartl and Clark (1997) state:
    “In population genetics, a race is a group of organisms in a species that are genetically more similar to each other than they are to the members of other such groups. Populations that have undergone some degree of genetic differentiation as measured by, for example, Fst, therefore qualify as races. (Hartl and Clark. Principles of Population Genetics, Third Edition. 1997.)
    In all cases above, we are dealing with races as biological natural populations. These are of interest because, unlike as with artificial biological populations, where members are arranged in terms of relatedness in specific characters which say little about evolutionary relationship, natural groupings allow for a high degree of inductive inference, which is why biologists privilege them. Massimo doesn’t seem to care for such an understanding — given its inductive potency and generality, so he sets out to introduce an alternative conception. He tells us of his conception:

    “Pigliucci and Kaplan’s (2003) suggestion that [the biological interpretation of the concept of race] is not meaningless, but it does have a sufficiently different meaning from that of folk races to create serious problems for most of the published scientific and philosophical literature on biological differences among ‘‘races.’’

    How does he conclude that Darwin and Mayr -like “folk” classifications are unbiological? He and his collaborator first move to eliminate human races as understood non-ecologically. To do this, they ignore the population genetic and cladistic natural population conceptions and highlight the popular zoological one. They then move to eliminate human races given this conception by (a) equating zoological race with subspecies, (b) introducing idiosyncratic subspecies qualifying criteria, and (c) pointing out that no human populations meet such criteria. Above, Massimo tells us:

    “Here is how the great evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr famously put it: “a subspecies is a geographic race that is sufficiently different taxonomically to be worthy of a separate name” [10]. In that sense, then, there most definitely are no human races, for the simple reason that there is no deep phylogenetic separation (no evolutionary branching) among human populations.”
    It doesn’t take a close reading to see that the first part (a) of their first argument is untenable. In the very excerpt quoted, Ernst Mayr draws a distinction between subspecies and geographic races. The sentence could be rewritten: a geographic race THAT is NOT sufficiently differentiated to warrant a trionomen is NOT a subspecies. Given the distinction, showing that there are no human zoological subspecies does not show that there are no human races, zoologically understood. Part of the confusion arises because Mayr frequently used the term “geographic race” as a synonym for “subspecies” when describing the subspecies concept. However, Mayr nonetheless made the conceptual distinction between races and subspecies, the latter said to be formally recognized races. For example, Mayr noted: “[R]ace that is not formally designated as a subspecies is not recognized in the taxonomic hierarchy. However, the terms subspecies and geographic race are frequently used interchangeably by taxonomists working with mammals, birds, and insects. Other taxonomists apply the word race to local populations within subspecies.” Generally speaking, per Mayr’s conception, when formally recognized, races are called zoological subspecies or “geographic races” (Mayr and Ashlock, 1991). While only Mayr’s formally recognized races (zoological subspecies) are taxonomic units, his lesser races (e.g., microgeogaphical races) are nonetheless biological units — in the sense that “clines” or other taxonomically unrecognized biological constructs are — they are simply natural populations which have not differentiated enough to warrant on pragmatic groups being assigned a trinomen. It’s epistemically incoherent to grant the taxonomic validity of Mayr’s formally recognized races without also granting the biological validity of non-formally recognize ones — as if races that failed to meet the vague conventional subspecies qualifying criteria could not be thought of. This consideration brings to mind Kant’s reply, when his race concept was challenged on the grounds that it didn’t describe a formal taxonomic unit: “The fact that this word does not occur in the description of nature [i.e., in Taxonomy] (but instead of it that of variety), cannot prevent the observer of nature from finding it necessary with respect to natural history.”

    The second part (b) of their first argument is likewise flawed, though readers unfamiliar with the literature could not possibly see this. Dr. Pigliucci fails to inform the readers that his ground for disqualifying human races as zoological subspecies (e.g., “deep phylogenetic separation”) are his and his colleagues idiosyncratic invention; there is, in fact, no such general criteria. Pigliucci and Kaplan (2003) more or less acknowledge this but in subsequent discussions (e.g., here or in Pigliucci (2013), Dr. Pigliucci does not inform readers that the criteria (e.g., “serious barriers to gene flow”, “deep phylogenetic separation”) are not standard biological ones but are only applied, by him and some of his colleagues, in the case of humans out of sociopolitical concerns. Dr. Pigliucci also neglects to inform readers that Mayr himself determined that there were human geographic races (presumably in the sense of zoological subspecies) given common criteria. In, “The biology of race and the concept of equality”, this giant of evolutionary biology stated:

    “Let me begin with race. There is a widespread feeling that the word “race” indicates something undesirable and that it should be left out of all discussions. This leads to such statements as “there are no human races.” Those who subscribe to this opinion are obviously ignorant of modern biology…No matter what the cause of the racial difference might be, the fact that species of organisms may have geographic races has been demonstrated so frequently that it can no longer be denied. And the geographic races of the human races – established before the voyages of European discovery and subsequent rise of a global economy – agree in most characteristics with the geographic races of animals. Recognizing races is only recognizing a biological fact.”

    After seemingly eliminating the possibility of human zoological races, Massimo then introduces an ecotypic concept. Massimo quotes the following definition in his 2003 paper:
    “Race (within a species) genetically adapted to a certain environment. “A phenotypically and/or geographically distinctive subspecific group, composed of individuals inhabiting a defined geographical and/or ecological region, and possessing characteristic phenotypic and gene frequencies that distinguish it from other such groups.” (King and Stansfield, 1990)
    This is where the argument because murky. Darwin and Mayr-like folk human race classifications are natural ones. Ecotypic races/subspecies at very least can represent natural ones — and I would argue that they generally do. So Darwin and Mayr-like folk classifications are, in principle, compatible with the ecotype race concept. Indeed, Mayr himself pointed out that there was no conflict between zoological and ecotypic races:

    “The recent work on geographic variation has led to the reinterpretation of geographic race as a genetic-physiological response to a local environment. There is no antithesis between geographic race and ecological race (or ecotype) because not a single geographic race is know that is not also an ecological race; nor is there and ecological race that is not at the same time at least a microgeographical race.” (Populations, Species, and Evolution pg. 213).

    Thus, Darwin and Mayr-like folk race classifications could also — and do –map onto the ecological understanding, thus strengthening their status as biological races. Nonetheless, in his 2003 paper, Massimo manages to deduce: “[I]t seems clear that biologically meaningful races will not correspond particularly well to folk racial categories”.

    Presumably, the argument is that Darwin and Mayr-like folk classifications encompass too many ecotypic subgroups to constitute coherent ecotypic races. Yet, nowhere in typical ecotypic definitions does it specify that ecotypes can not represent aggregate local populations which taken as a whole differ — due to ecological adaptation — from other aggregate local populations taken as a whole. Surely, Mayr’s characterization of ecotype doesn’t lend itself to this conclusion, nor does that of prominent researchers such as Jerry Coyne.

    Massimo, of course, can read the definitions as he wishes and construct arguments based these local readings — but insofar as he wishes to contend that “folk” racial classifications don’t map onto ordinary sense biological racial concepts, he needs to start dealing with non-idiosyncratic readings and non- idiosyncratic criteria.

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  14. Massimo,

    First, great article.

    Second, I really messed that comment up, thanks for pointing it out. I was clear on non-heritable epigenetic changes in humans, but I was not so sure about my ability to find solid examples of heritable effects, and with Jayman’s comment style helping, I managed to assume, first, that Jonathan had used the word in the quote I was responding to, and second, that he had meant non-heritable change. Going back to what Jonathan actually wrote, it’s clear he meant heritable changes in humans.

    But I’m still not as clear as I would like to be on heritable (or transgenerational) epigenetic effects, do you think this “Mother’s diet affects the ‘silencing’ of her child’s genes” would be a good example?

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  15. I think it is worth stepping back from the arguments Massimo and I put forward back in ’03 against thinking of folk-racial categories as biologically real, at least in part because the main thrust of our paper was to defend the ecotypic concept, not to knock other concepts (though we did do some of that!). Templeton’s 2013 article, “Biological Races in Humans,” does a much better job of that. Here is a link to nonpaywalled pre-print version:

    Click to access biological-races-in-humans.pdf

    (It is worth noting that he criticizes our ecotype conception for having nothing to do with the way “races” in humans are traditionally thought of, and hence not being a defense of “race,” as it is usually understood, being a biological concept.)

    In brief, Templeton argues that the things identified as “races” in social discourse are not subspecies, do not form clades or otherwise tree-like structures, and are not ecotypes; in short, that there is nothing biologically special about the things that, in ordinary discourse, we identify as “races” in humans.

    Why does this matter? IF all one means by “race is biological” is that the populations picked out as different races in ordinary social discourse will for example differ in the frequencies of one or more alleles (Dobhansky’s old definition), then of course race is biological; Dobzhansky’s arguments, 50+ years old now! still hold. Indeed, if THIS is all one means by “race is biological,” Lewontin 1972, far from showing that race in humans wasn’t a good biological category, proved that it was! I take this to be good evidence that this is NOT what most people meant when they said that the things we call “races” in ordinary social discourse are not biologically real.

    My own view is that the claim that “the things picked out as ‘races’ in ordinary social discourse are biologically real entities” hovers or vacillates between at least two meanings. The first, weaker meaning, is that biological facts about the populations identified *explain,* at least in part, why we pick out those populations rather than others, as “races” in our ordinary discourse. Here, I think the fact that there are no biological facts that would, in the absence of the things we call “races,” force (or indeed, even strongly suggest) those divisions upon us, is telling (see my papers above w/ Rasmus Winther for our arguments here). The second, stronger meaning, is that biological facts about the population identified *explain* important features of those populations, such as their relative social success. (Obviously, if the second is true, the first is as well, but not necessarily the other way.) This is the claim that Wade puts forward as “speculative,” and that many people (myself included) regard as not merely going beyond available evidence, but doing so in a way that irresponsible to (ignores too much of) the evidence that *is* available, and is also “speculating” about views that, if accepted (especially without sufficient evidence) may result in real harms to peoples already socially and politically disadvantaged.

    If you are interested in a slightly less brief analysis of what we might mean by “race is biologically real,” I gave a talk recently where I tried to just go through some of the claims made, and what they might mean, and what might count as evidence for and against them. It was at a conference on “Genomics and Philosophy of Race,” and video of the talks is available:

    http://ihr.ucsc.edu/portfolio/genomics-and-philosophy/?id=15532

    I’m in the “Philosophy Panel” and my talk starts at around 27:30 or so. But leaving aside the self-promotion, the other talks are very good; Rosenberg (of Structure fame) was there and gave a talk, as do a few other population genetics types.

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  16. Before we proceed, let me state very clearly that Wade is absolutely right on one thing: the science of human races is entirely orthogonal to the ethics of the issue. Precisely because we cannot derive ought from is, it simply doesn’t matter — from a moral perspective — what science finds out about races, since nothing of moral import will ever follow from that. If you are not convinced, just ponder for a minute that we accord full person status to severely mentally deficient human beings, and that we are beginning to consider the idea of expanding that status to include at the least some other species of primates, which are most definitely and unequivocally biologically inferior to us in terms of intelligence.

    I have found this paragraph a little troubling but have hesitated in putting it into worlds lest I be interpreted of accusing Massimo of racism, which I am decidedly not.

    It is just that I don’t think the question of according the status of personhood to other primates (whether or not that makes sense) is relevant to the moral issues around racism.

    The moral problem of racism is making assumptions about someone’s character or intelligence based upon their surface features such as skin colour, eye shape etc, or to make assumptions about our own superiority on the same basis.

    This issue plays out on an individual level and also at the level of society in how government and the majority or the powerful groups treat other groups.

    This is wrong whether or not we grant the other group the status of ‘personhood’, whatever we might mean by the term.

    Yes, I am aware I am not telling anybody anything they did not already know – but I want to emphasise this to show that bringing in other species of primates muddies the water here because clearly we will never deal with another species in the way we will deal with each other.

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  17. Robin, even if we disagreed I’m not sure how that would make me a racist. But I think you are wrong in stating that the issue of racism is that people feel themselves superior on the basis of skin color and such. Rather, they use skin color as a proxy to infer (incorrectly) that people of different colors are cognitively inferior. I deny that on factual grounds, but my example of primates and personhood was meant to suggest that even if I were wrong on the facts that would still not justify a racist attitude.

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  18. I am not sure how what you said differed from what I said, just in different words.

    But I still don’t get your point about the primates and personhood. How is it relevant to racist attitudes?

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  19. Massimo,

    “Marc, yes, that sort of thing. A quick Google Scholar search will yield several more examples.”

    Thanks, after a few searches I’m clear epigenetic transgenerational effects are a common occurrence in humans.

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  20. Hi Jonathon,

    I’m not unaware of Templeton’s 2013 article — I’m the proprietor of the Lesacreduprintemps19 blog
    through which you linked to his paper! I briefly discussed Templeton’s argument against human zoological races in section V.B.1 here: :humanvarieties.org/2014/03/02/the-nature-of-race/. (Work in progress.) It suffers from the same flaws as does your own, except that Templeton’s zoological subspecies disqualifying criteria — a Fst value > 0.25 –wasn’t conjured up, it was based on misrepresentation!

    Again, I appreciate the logic of your and Templeton’s arguments. They’re just untenable . As noted in the previous comment, Biological races have frequently if not typically been understood to refer to intra specific natural populations, meaning populations where members are arranged according to pedigree or genotypic similarity. These types of populations are seen somewhat differently from the perspective of different biological research programs e.g., taxonomy, population genetics, zoology, ecology — this results in the major varieties of race concepts e.g., population genetic, zoological, ecological, phylogenic — and then scores of local definitions. The situation is not dissimilar to that with regards to species.

    The Blumenbach partition clearly cuts out human zoological, ecological, and population genetic
    biological races in some common biological senses. One might debate whether or not the groups deserve formal zoological recognition — but such a debate can go nowhere because the conventional standards for formally recognizing zoological races are all over the place.

    As for population genetic races, you criticized Dobzhansky’s “old definition”. (Do you have a specific reference?) In ‘The Race Concept in Biology’ (1941), we are told: “A geneticist can define races as populations that differ from each other in the frequencies of certain genes.” I agree that this definition is somewhat unclear; by it, races could represent either natural or artificial populations (in the ordinary biological sense). If Dobzhansky’s old definition allowed for the latter, I would agree with you — it cuts out some groups that generally would not be said to be races e.g., morphs and forms, blonds versus brunets. Ok, but I cited a clearer modern version: ” a group of organisms in a species that are genetically more similar to each other than they are to the members of other such groups” Here ” genetically more similar” means overall similar as opposed to similar in specific, local genetic characters. With this definition, we have a clear natural population one — and so it agrees with at least Dobzhansky’s later ones.

    Now, a natural population understanding does indeed cut out good races. And these are exactly the type of races that Lewontin’s discussion was taken to imply did not exists. Right? The gist of the clams was that since two individuals from the same “folk race” were not more overall genetically similar to each other relative to two individuals from different “folk races”, “folk races” did not correspond to biological ones — as classically understood. You wouldn’t deny that this was one of the arguments made, would you?

    Let me put it this way:

    (a) The biological natural population concept of race corresponds well with typical ordinary, modern biological, and early biological sense of biological race. Darwinian races, Mayrian races, at least later Dobzhanskyian races and many other formulations at least appear to be these.
    (b) Folk classifications cut out biological natural population races. (This, of course, is an empirical claim.)
    (c) Folk classifications need not cut these out — and it was often argued that they didn’t e.g., that folk race similarity was just skin, not whole genome, deep; thus (b) has substance.

    As for your arguments concerning the biological non-reality of race, I agree with Q. Spencer’s criticisms but I would go further. But this isn’t the place.

    Since there are so many conflicting views as to what it means to be “biologically real”, it might be helpful to make a list of possibilities and see where out positions fall. To start:

    1. Picks out a partition that could be picked out given some biological definition of race and biological data.
    2. 1+ the biological definition of race must corresponds well with ordinary, modern biological, and the early biological senses of biological race . (For example, Jarred Diamond’s lactose intolerance races — which are biologically arbitrary groupings — would not, nor would Dobzhansky’s old race concept if it allowed for these.)
    3. 2 + Whatever it is that you wish to add.

    My claim would be (2), which isn’t to say that this is all that I would claim.

    As for genetically conditioned sociologically important differences, it’s, in my opinion, absurd to set the existence of these as a prerequisite for the biological reality of racial classifications. For one, this makes no cross-species sense (and the race concept was always employed cross species). As a result, by ‘biologically real’ you end up meaning something quite different from ‘referencing biologists’ grouping’. You end up meaning “being sociologically important due to, in part, biology” — in that sense, then, social class can be said to be “biologically real”, at least in part. For another, people have always discussed human local biological races between which there were never said to be any really socially important differences. Also, the cause of the sociologically important differences that were said to be was always debated and disputed; you always had your genetic, epigenetic, and environmental theorists. In short, the idea of sociologically important differences was never incorporated into the concept of biological race (except, of course, by opponents thereof); thus the claim that a racial classification picks out biological races — is, itself, biologically real — is not burdened with the claim there are epi/genetically conditioned sociologically important differences between the groupings.

    As for Wade speculative claims, I’m not particularly interested in discussing them. In my view he soft peddled too much. But I imagine that my priors are different from yours.

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  21. To be clear, I am not accusing Alan of intentional misrepresentation. I am pointing out that his cited reference (Smith et al. 1997) does not say what he says it does (hence misrepresentation) and that his claim (in Templeton 1998; 2013) of a generally accepted Fst criteria is unsupportable. (I would go further and claim that the said criteria would make for a poor one for reasons noted by Lou Jost and others.) I note this because this supposed criteria is central to Alan’s argument, one which has been cited by others (e.g., Fuentes, 2014). One can, of course, still construct an argument against human zoological subspecies (without the said criteria) but doing so is rather more difficult. Alan Templeton is a very respectable natural scientist, so I am not interested in pestering him about trivialities. Philosophers of science are another matter; trivialities are their business.

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  22. “The second, stronger meaning, is that biological facts about the population identified *explain* important features of those populations”
    ……

    Also, your biological ontology is asymmetrical. If we have:
    Jonathon’s biological real type 1 (JBR1): biological facts about the populations explain why we pick out those populations
    Jonathon’s biological real type 2 (JBR2): (JBR1) + (biological factors condition sociologically important differences between these populations)

    We should also have:
    Jonathon’s biological real type 3 (JBR3): (JBR2) – (JBR1) = (biological factors condition sociologically important differences between these populations)

    No?
    Thus, social groupings between which I can demonstrate reliable practically significant behavioral genetic differences (JBR3) can be said to be “biologically real” in a weak sense. I can work with this.

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  23. “Then again, had he written it 2000 years ago, he would have concluded that the Romans had the best genetic complement of them all. I quite like that one, myself.”

    That’s something I can get behind too. (Although my family claims way more than the classic 7 generations of Roman birthright, it’s likely that my pedigree doesn’t quite go back the necessary 2000 years. But I’ll claim the privilege anyway)

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  24. But the problem with racism is, as you say, the inference of cognitive inferiority from outward appearance.. That inference damages minorities even when they have the same political rights. And yet it would be a perfectly valid inference about any other species, but never a valid inference for one human being to make about another.

    I think that it is misleading to draw conclusions about how we treat each other, members of the human race, from how we treat other animals.

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  25. “Interestingly, I don’t think “Lewontin’s Fallacy,” properly understood, is a fallacy at all. In this forthcoming paper, co-authored with my colleague Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther, we try to untangle what is going on in this ‘debate’:”

    When people talk about “Lewontin’s Fallacy”, they generally mean claims such as the following:

    “As noted by Lewontin (1972) and subsequent studies, the low degree of among-group genetic variation relative to total species variation argues strongly against traditional typological racial classifications. While among-group variation is statistically significant in all cases, the over- all degree of among-group variation is too low to produce any substantial accuracy in racial classifications” (Relethford, 1994.)

    This is indeed a fallacy as Mitton pointed out. Did Lewontin make it? He concluded: “Since such racial classification is now seen to be of virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance…”

    Whether he made it or not depends on what he meant by “no taxonomic significance”. If he meant no classificatory significance, then yes. If he only meant ” genetic significance” then no, he did not — his statement was then just misleading (fallacy of ambiguity). It was fallacious, though — when adopting typical metrics of practical significance — for other reasons. (Also, his equation of within population variability with inter-individual variability involved (another) fallacy — as within population variability is split within and between individuals.)

    Either way you cut it, Lewontin (1972) was riddled with fallacies. It’s surprising that people still make these arguments — then again, they also make much worse ones.

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  26. “Ecotypes are smaller, local, not generally genetically isolated, populations adapted to some local selective regime. ”

    Hi Jonathan,
    I inquire because I am working on a critique of your general meta-position.

    How do you square this claim — “ecotypes are smaller, local” etc. — with Mayr’s (cited below) that all zoological subspecies constitute ecotypes. Jerry Coyne has similarly noted that zoological subspecies overlap with ecological ones. Might you give some references in defense of your position?

    Generally, I think that you goofed on this one. It seems that the ecotypic concept opens the door for an unequivocal claim that “folk races” constitute biological subspecies of a sort, owing to the lack of a race/subspecies distinction in ecology. I could be wrong, though.

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  27. What does “too much baggage mean”? Every time I hear this, I think: (Fnord).
    Does the uneasiness only come about when you see “RACE” used in context to discussions of BIOLOGICAL differences between sociologically defined races and/or in context to discussions of BIOLOGICALLY defined groupings? Or do you also get it when you see the term used in context to sociological definitions and cultural hypotheses of differences between sociological races?
    Why?

    “I feel uneasy” doesn’t constitute a good argument against the use of the term in context. to biology. It just tells us which media you read.

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  28. Neither Jonathan Kaplan nor Massimo Pigliucci have disputed my critique of their position regarding the biological validity of common sense racial classifications such as the Blumenbach partition. As such, I will move on to another claim. Jonathon has claimed that biological facts about the populations cannot explain why we pick out common sense racial classifications. I will argue here that this is a strange claim give a common biological understanding of race. For this understanding, I point back to Darwin:

    “Grant that all [phenotypic] structure of each race of man were perfectly known — grant that a perfect table of descent of each race was perfectly known. — grant all this, & then do you not think that most would prefer as the best classification, a genealogical one”

    To Mayr’s principle of natural classification, under which formally recognized races represent a taxon:

    “Once we accept the basic principle of biological classification, that organism are to be classified according to the information content of their genetic program…

    To Boyd’s 1950 discussion:

    “Dobzhansky and Epling also point out that it would be equally fallacious to define race as a
    group of individuals having some single gene in common, or some chromosome structure in
    common…. In the ideal case, one would take account of all the variables genes and
    chromosome structures in order to describe a given race.”

    And to Hartl and Clark’s 1997 population genetic definition of race:

    “In population genetics, a race is a group of organisms in a species that are genetically more similar to each other than they are to the members of other such groups.”

    Since “information content of their genetic program” indexes pedigree, the latter three conceptions correspond nicely with the former. So the population genetic and evolutionary taxonomic understanding matches with the old time one based on genealogy, which goes back to Buffon — and so also the cladistic/phylogenic one. The ecotypic conception often merely describes a variant of this, as noted my Mayr. So we have a well grounded unified concept or race with definitional variations when it comes to specific research domain perspective. Compare the situation to that with species.

    Now, it seems that I just have to show that “folk” races pick out biological groupings were members are arranged according to pedigree or genotype. This was done by Rosenberg’s 2002/2005 — and the many replications thereof. The authors test this very position:
    “Most studies of human variation begin by sampling from predefined “populations.”
    These populations are usually defined on the basis of culture or geography and might not reflect underlying genetic relationships”

    It turns out that out that our “folk” races do in fact pick out biological races as often understood. I don’t think that this can be disputed.

    And I don’t imagine that Jonathan Kaplan would. Instead, he would probably distinguish between the following claims:

    (a) folk races pick out biological races as often understood.
    (b) biological data lets us pick out folk races
    (c) biological data necessitates our picking out folk races

    And then (1) argue against (c) and (2) argue that “biological real” in one of his senses — Jonathon’s biological real type 1 (JBR1) — means (c).

    I, of course, would not dispute (1) or (2). I would just note that Jonathon’s biological real in this sense (JBR1) doesn’t correspond to my or many people’s understanding. By JBR1 zoologically subspecies wouldn’t be biologically real (Wilson and Brown’s critique), nor would demes and many other biological things. Of course, Jonathon can idiosyncratically define biologically real — but he should, at least, be consistent and not, for example, cite, in discussion, Templeton’s paper as evidence against the biological reality (or at least validity) of races if he is going to understand “biologically real” in such a way that subspecies wouldn’t be this.

    Because he both cites Templeton’s paper and seemingly defines biological real in a way by which subspecies would not be this, I label his position “strange”. I do not yet claim that it is inconsistent because I have not studied his argument enough.

    I maintain that human folk races are biologically real in the common sense way in which the subspecies of the Plain Zebra can be said to be so. The folk classifications pick out classifications consistent with a common well grounded biological race understanding, that is, they pick out ordinary biological races (which isn’t to say zoological subspecies).

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  29. ***my own view, which Massimo and I defended in that early paper, is that if we are thinking of the things that called “races” in ordinary social discourse in say the U.S. today, the differences between the “races” are, and almost must be, trivial, because the “races” are simply too big & too internally heterogeneous to support population-wide differences***

    What differences are you referring to? In terms of morphological features the ancestry of individuals from the main continental groups can generally be identified can’t they? In terms of population structure, Risch et al also noted that the main differences arise along the lines of continental ancestry. Tian et al note:

    “Studies over the last 6 years have shown substantial differences in allele frequencies within different continental populations (31). There is controversy with regard to whether there are discrete divisions between the continents (32,33). However, in general the number of SNPs showing large allele frequency differences between major continental populations (the fraction of SNPs with Fst’s (34) >0.25 or allele frequency differences >40%) are an order of magnitude greater than that seen within continental populations. Therefore, in theory the largest source of type 1 errors will be caused by differences in the distribution of ancestry from major continental populations in case and control sets.”

    http://hmg.oxfordjournals.org/content/17/R2/R143.full

    That said they do go on to discuss how you can get significant within continent differences which may lead to confounds in terms of GWAS studies:

    “First, differences in population stratification in cases and controls are shown for a hypothetical SNP in which the allele frequency difference between northern and southern European populations is 10%. This magnitude of allele frequency difference is observed for hundreds of SNPs (∼3% of SNPs) when northern European and southern European subjects are genotyped with several hundred thousand SNPs. In this particular scenario, the failure to account for the differences in subject origin (north versus south) resulted in a highly significant false-positive test.”

    Indeed, there’s an interesting example of possible differences in selection for height between North & South Europeans.

    http://infoproc.blogspot.co.nz/2011/05/height-breeding-values-and-selection.html

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  30. Hi John,

    I think you’ve got my position more or less right, but what I think is missing is a sense of *history*.

    That is, I suspect, deliberate on your part; in the work that you link to, you seem to deny the importance of how the term “race,” as applied to humans, came to have the salience that it does, how the particular “races” that are generally recognized in social discourse today came to be considered “races,” and how, over time, the ascriptions of racial identify have been maintained (in some cases) and changed (in others). So you seem to want to claim that arguments about ‘biological racial realism’ in humans are just like arguments about the existence of population structures in drosophila, and that you can ignore or leave behind all the baggage that accompanies the use of ‘race’ in humans.

    I don’t think that is possible. If you want to leave that baggage behind, leave the word “race” behind with it. Nothing *should* depend on the word. But if you can’t make the arguments you want to stick, stick w/ reference to populations carefully identified on the basis of biological features rather than the word ‘race,’ that should seem like a problem. (NOTE: This contrasts sharply with arguments *from* social ascriptions of “race” *to* biological harms, via e.g. the health-impacts of racism, because this kind of work *obviously* requires attention to the social ascriptions of “race” in the societies in question. The baggage is the very *point* here. See ref to Gravlee below.) We give up words all the time, when their history and implications don’t do the work we want them to. If you aren’t willing to give up ‘race’ in this context, I would suggest that the only reasonable conclusion would be that you *want* that ugly history, and those misleading implications. But that doesn’t sound like the calm, careful, biologically informed position you wish to be associated with. So I ask — why not give up the word?

    Back to the main them at hand here, my colleague Rasmus Winther and I argued that the answer we give to whether there are biologically legitimate human subpopulations (and if so, what they are), depends critically on the what branch of biology we look to, and often the tastes (e.g. lumper v splitter) of the particular biologists in question. We call the position that there are biologically legitimate subpopulations “biogenomic population / cluster realism.” We note that the biological facts in the world *underdetermine* this kind of realism, because whether it is true or not depends on the biological question at hand, not just the facts. But for at least some questions, there surely are such subpopulations, and for many questions, properly specifying the question determines whether such subpopulations in fact exist. Now, in non-human animals, claiming that there are biologically legitimate subpopulations would be much the same as supporting a kind of biological racial realism for that population. But even here, note well that almost no one talks that way, in part because the term ‘race’ is considered weird and confused in many circles, even where only nonhuman animals are at issue. In plants, you would probably get a confused look and be asked if you meant a ‘landrace,’ which isn’t the same thing at all! In nonhuman animals, you would probably be redirected towards more neutral terms like “population.” But it is true that such a use of the term ‘race’ might just pass unnoticed in some circles of non-human animal study; the term hasn’t been banished from biology, and it does have these weak uses.

    But claims about “biological racial realism” *in humans* strike me as importantly different. Definitions in terms of populations and gene frequencies, etc., that when applied to nonhuman populations sometimes permit the use of the term “race,” don’t, it seems to me, to capture what was meant, historically and today, by the use of the term “race” in humans. Unlike the (occasional but non-trivial) use of the term “race” in non-human animals, the use of the term “race” in humans retained strong and important connection with past uses. It was never “cleansed” of those past uses in the way that talk of “races” of fruit flies was. That, it seems to me, matters. (Yes, I see from your work that you disagree, or at least think this isn’t important. But again: if the history of the term doesn’t matter, why keep using “race”? What hinges on it that “population” doesn’t capture?)

    So, here is a partial taxonomy of what one might claim biological racial realism means for humans (you can hear me speak more about this at the video linked above):
    1) Human races, as recognized in ordinary social discourse, are biologically real entities if the things picked out in social discourse as “races” can, on some measure that might be used by some biologist for some legitimate biological purpose, be picked out as biologically legitimate groups.
    2) Human races, as recognized in ordinary social discourse, are biologically real entities if the biological facts about the populations so-identified explain why *these* (and not other) populations are identified as races in our ordinary discourse.
    3) Human races, as recognized in ordinary social discourse, are biologically real entities if the biological facts about the populations so-identified explain *some of* the important *social facts* about those populations (relative success, social standing, etc.).

    I ignore here (at 3, especially) the complex but interesting and important issue of the ways in which categories recognized for social reasons might become biologically important through, for example, socially mediated (racist) harms. (Gravlee 2009, “How Race Becomes Biology: Embodiment of Social Inequality,” is quite good in this context.) Rather, I am suggesting for both 2 and 3 that the causal arrow must point from biological to the socially identified “races” in question.

    BTW: to answer your question above, I think in discussions of the actual positions that people have really defended, the truth of (3) implies the truth of (2), but that (2) does not imply (3); but if one wanted claim that it is conceptually *possible* for (3) to be true but (2) false, I’d agree that it was a conceptual possibility, but note that it seems an implausible position given the actual commitments of the people arguing for these positions.

    Now, I don’t think (1) captures what we mean by “race is biologically real” when that is claimed about human populations. It is *much* too weak. If *that* is all we mean by “human races are biologically real,” then the reality of human races has no implications for much of anything. Any division of the world into regions will result in populations that differ with respect to e.g. gene frequencies, even if we imposed those divisions completely ignoring natural and social barriers to gene exchange. So the mere fact that some division has *some* biological significance, in this very weak sense of “significance,” doesn’t, I think, cut it.

    After all, everyone (everyone remotely serious, in any event), I take it, agrees with the following claims:

    a) humans vary from each other (both genetically and phenotypically),
    b) the variation is structured,
    c) the variation is in part due to geography, and
    d) the variation is in part due to selection.
    None of that is in the slightest bit controversial among people who actually know the literature, nor has it been in the slightest bit controversial for at least many years. Any “cut” of the population along any geographic lines will reveal some structured variation, so unless our racial categories turned out to be completely orthogonal to geography (which, given the actual historical genesis of the racial categories usually identified we know not to be the case!), we’d find structured variation between them.

    What about (2)? Do biological facts about the populations we identify as “races” in ordinary social discourse explain why we identify *those* populations (and not others) as “races” in ordinary social discourse? Here, I see no evidence that would convince me that this is the case. Even here, however, there are both weaker and stronger versions! A strong version – e.g. looking at another, a non-human, species with the same population structure as humans, most biologists in most domains would, on the basis biological facts about the population structure, pick out the same subpopulations we now identify as “races” as the populations particularly worthy of our attention (and particularly worthy of being named) – seems to me to be obviously false. There is nothing about the divisions that we so identify as ‘race’ in our ordinary discourse that comes close to having that kind of biological significance. A weaker version — looking at another, a non-human, species with the same population structure as humans, some biologists in some domains would, on the basis biological facts about the population structure, pick out at least some of the same subpopulations that we now identify (roughly) as “races” in our discourse as *one* set of populations among *many* that are worthy of our attention – is somewhat more plausible. In the first, biology would, to a first approximation, *force* these divisions upon us, and that we in fact recognize these divisions could be legitimately “blamed” on biology. I think that’s quite obviously wrong. In the second, biology would not force these divisions upon us, but it might, under some conditions, *suggest* these divisions to us. Again, I think that is less obviously wrong than the stronger version, but I still see nothing in biology that would even strongly suggest such a position, at least with respect to the so-called “major” races that e.g. Wade identifies.

    The problem is that the populations of interest here are simply too varied, and that those of the most serious biological interest simply don’t align with the things we call ‘races’ in our ordinary discourse. I see no way around that conclusion. So there are populations that evolved to have lactaste persistence, and populations that didn’t. That’s interesting, but doesn’t align with race. There are populations that evolved to have partial malaria resistance, and those that didn’t. etc. Again, interesting, but not race. People whose ancestors came from France are more likely to share alleles that a person who came from France and a person who came from Germany. That’s less interesting, but it is population structure that combines geographic distance with a social barrier to gene exchange (a linguistic and national border), and so is at least sort of interesting, sure. And two people whose ancestors came from the same village in France are more likely to share an allele than they are with people whose ancestors were from other towns in France; this is really uninteresting to most people, since it is likely just geography. So is the town a real biological population? We can say it is, if we like. But it isn’t a population that anyone is terribly interested in… But, and here I think is the key, from the standpoint of population structure, it is just as ‘real’ as any other. Given how many populations are out there, the really big ones we call “races” just aren’t special enough to be worthy of biological attention in the absence of the already existing social ascriptions and histories surrounding them.

    So, I deny that biological racial realism is true of human “races” – but I acknowledge that the populations we identify as “races” in our social discourse do vary in e.g. relative gene frequencies, etc.

    A few final notes:
    As for Templeton and Fst values, the .25 value gets cited often in the literature (Wright gives a range of different, but qualitatively similar, values for significance in his initial development of the idea), but there are at least two problems with it. The first is that it is somewhat arbitrary, and the second is that Fst (and the related Shannon measure that Lewontin used in his 1972) is a crappy measure. Skimming the section of your work where you take on Templeton, I take it your objections follow mostly the first line – that the cutoff value is arbitrary, and in any event, not universally followed by biologists? If so, then I agree; again, if you read the work linked to above w/ my colleague Rasmus Winther, we reject the use of a firm cut off here because we find evidence that biologists do sometimes identify populations *as populations* with much lower Fst values when there are other reasons to do so. As far the latter problem, we also agree, but it turns out not to matter, because for systems with the levels of diversity of interest to us here, Fst results are not systematically misleading, and the application of “true” diversity measures (like Jost’s D) generate qualitatively similar results. But in any event, Templeton’s more general point that no remotely sane biologist would look at a non-human species with the population structure and structured variation of the human species and pick out, as subspecies, the things we call races, remains correct, and I think obviously correct. His use of one popularly cited value for Fst shouldn’t distract us from the more general point here, which is correct no matter what measure one chooses. I would go further, and claim that no reasonable biologist would pick out the things we call “races” in our ordinary social discourse as populations *particularly* worthy of attention or study, absent the social power surrounding them. Similarly, the things we call races – especially the 3 “major” races identified by Wade! – are simply not sufficiently clade-like for genealogy to get us biological significance. And they are too big and too diverse to be ecotypically interesting. So whatever quibbles one has about Templeton’s arguments, the basic line, I think, is a sound one.

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  31. Robin — Is part of the issue here the “in principle” possibility that the hereditarian position (say) is correct?

    That is, hereditarians claims that “races” of humans differ in average cognitive ability because of genetic differences between the populations that are directly relevant to the development of cognitive abilities under a wide-range of possible developmental environments (I will, from here on, just call this “differ in native intelligence” or something as a shorthand!). To be perfectly clear, I think that we have NO evidence in favor of this view (certainly no *good* evidence for it), and that we some reasonably strong evidence that this view is empirically misguided. Put more bluntly: I think this view is wrong, and I think the only way that one can, looking at the actual state of the world, come to believe that this view is plausible is if one looks at the world through a deeply warped racist lens. Obviously, hereditarians disagree.

    But, even if such a view is in fact false (and I think it is!), is it possible that such a state of world could have come to pass, that such a view could have been true? And if such a view was true, what (if anything) would its truth imply about social / political / ethical issues? So: I’m inclined to think that such a world *is* possible (but NOT actual), and that in such a world, there would be *some* social / political implications (which is why getting this wrong is problematic!).

    This is why the hereditarian claim that I think is false, and that is at the very least wildly unsupported by any reasonable quality evidence (pace HBDers and hereditarians like JayMan, whose view that there is good evidence is very clearly a minority opinion among those who study these things for a living), is so dangerous. Because it *would* I think have at least some real implications. One of these would be that statistically significant differences in outcomes pursuing certain life goals could no longer be taken as prima facie evidence for differences in socially important inputs; where these inputs are a matter of justice, being able to ignore them matters to the real harms people suffer. NOTE: one could claim that we could still address these differences, but the question is always “is this a difference that makes a difference?” If one believes that the observable differences in average outcomes can be explained by the differences in e.g. native intelligence, then one can claim that the identifiable differences in fact don’t make a difference. Even if this line proves untenable for technical reasons, it could still be deeply problematic empirically, as a matter of political reality in the real world.

    So I think, with you (below) I think that denying the legitimacy of the hereditarian position is both empirically justified, and morally required, at least in part because empirically justified. BUT, in a possible world where denying it proved to be empirically unjustified — where it was well-supported by available evidence — I think we would have to think hard about how the biologically relevant details impacted social / political justice issues. I may be differing from Massimo here..?

    Indeed, I don’t think the issues of rights are completely independent of the issue of e.g. cognitive capacity, nor could they be. So I strongly suspect that whatever basic rights we grant to non-human primates, the right to vote in general elections, for example, will not be among them, and for good reasons! Nor will we permit them to enter into complex contracts. If other homo lineages still existed, and differed dramatically from us in their cognitive capacities, we’d have to think long and hard about what rights were appropriately exercised by those hominids, and which weren’t.

    So I think the fact that we live in this world, where we lack evidence that extant human populations differ in their average native capacities for cognitive development (and have no good way of gaining evidence in favor of that hypothesis), is important to thinking about what will count as prima facie evidence of socially mediated harms, and what will count as a just outcome, and what rights we must strive to protect for everyone. (Again, I may be differing from Massimo here!)

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  32. Hi Jonathan,

    This could be a productive exchange for me and perhaps for you; like you, I conduct primary research on the nature of ethnic/racial group differences, particularly psychometric ones. I’m also interested in the more philosophical aspects of the issue. To increase the probability that this exchange will be fruitful, I will need to think through your responses; unfortunately, I presently have other obligations — relatives in town, etc. — so I lack the prerequisite time. As such my replies will be delayed, though nonetheless forthcoming.

    If you grow tired of the discussion and are no longer interested in continuing it, let me know — I will do likewise. I have a number of projects that are on hold because I have busied myself with discussion on the ontology of race. I do not want to waste time on points that will not be followed up.

    One thing, when I engage in discourse, I expect to resolve issues and come to agreements — not to engage in endless verbal jousting. I hope to come away with a better understanding of the situation. As such, I expect from myself and my interlocutor at least temporary concessions on points or reformulations of positions when flaws or errors are pointed out. This allows for conceptual progress. I also prefer to deal with one major topic at a time until either agreement or modus vivendi is reached.

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  33. Jonathan,

    Let’s deal with one issue at a time. Since I had previously discussed Templeton, we can start with that. You state:

    “But in any event, Templeton’s more general point that no remotely sane biologist would look at a non-human species with the population structure and structured variation of the human species and pick out, as subspecies, the things we call races, remains correct, and I think obviously correct. His use of one popularly cited value for Fst shouldn’t distract us from the more general point here”

    Firstly, Templeton’s “popularly cited” Fst criteria was made up by Templeton himself. There is no such “popularly cited” criteria — as best I can tell, this purported criteria rears its head in Templeton (1998). If you disagree, provide evidence to the contrary. As for Wright, in “Evolution and the Genetics of Populations”, he writes:

    “There is also no question, however, that populations that have long inhabited separated parts of the world should, in general, be considered to be of different subspecies by the usual criterion that most individuals of such populations can be allocated correctly by inspection….It is, however, customary to use the term race rather than subspecies for the major subdivisions of the human species as well as for minor ones. The occurrence of a few conspicuous differences, probably due to selection for adaptation to widely different environmental conditions, does not necessarily imply much difference in general. Nei and Roychoudhury (1974) have shown that the differences among negroids, caucasoids, and mongoloids in the protein and blood group loci are slight compared with those between individuals within any one of them…..Diversification is much greater on the average among than within the major races (F (DS) = 0.0715, F (ST) = 0.1248) but there is more uniformity within ).0.042 to 0.141) than among (0.026 to 0.402). (Wright, 1978. Evolution and the Genetics of Populations. Volume 4. p 439-440)”

    I have not been able to find any supposed Fst criteria (though I didn’t look hard). If he discussed one, please provide a reference. In this text, he like Smith et al. 1997 — who Templeton cites — refers to the 75% rule, by which, taken as the sole criteria, there would be human subspecies. This point is germane, because Templeton’s made up “popular” Fst value criteria is what allows him to disqualify human groups from formal racial recognition.

    On the topic of human subspecies, we concluded:
    “To help advance this debate, we might add another dimension to Groves and Grubb (2011)’s Bad and Ugly (i.e., acceptable) dichotomy, one that describes the classifier’s disposition: conservative and liberal. The present authors’ opinion is that the HHR qualify as acceptable human zoological subspecies when (taxonomically) liberal interpretations of the various criteria are applied. We judge this to be the case, because we were able to locate a number of recognized subspecies that less well met the various discussed criteria. We also feel that by a more (taxonomically) conservative reading of the criteria, the HHR would not.”

    I take it that you disagree. If so, why? You claim that “no remotely sane biologist” would pick out human subspecies. Yet, as I noted prior Ernst Mayr did. More recently Jerry Coyne did. Quote:

    “What are races? In my own field of evolutionary biology, races of animals (also called “subspecies” or “ecotypes”) are morphologically distinguishable populations that live in allopatry (i.e. are geographically separated). There is no firm criterion on how much morphological difference it takes to delimit a race. Races of mice, for example, are described solely on the basis of difference in coat color, which could involve only one or two genes.
    Under that criterion, are there human races? Yes. As we all know, there are morphologically different groups of people who live in different areas, though those differences are blurring due to recent innovations in transportation that have led to more admixture between human groups.” (Coyne, 2012. Are there human races?)

    It’s not clear, though, if Coyne was discussing “subspecies” in the formal sense. Whatever the case, your position is certainly in error. But perhaps we can rephrase it as: “Only a trivial number of biologists would…”.

    Since based on the loose criteria existent, one could easily make a sound case for recognizing human subspecies, I don’t see why this would be the case. Of course, this is an empirical matter. Unfortunately, the only surveys I could find that specifically asked about subspecies — as opposed to races in any sense — were based on physical+ anthropologists. In these surveys, a nontrivial number of physical+ anthropologists concurred that there were human subspecies. For example, Kaszycka et al. (2009) report that 31% of EAA respondents did — 50% agreed that there were human races in some sense; 62% of those agreed that there were subspecies.

    Running list of Jonathan’s claims in need of support:
    1. ” one popularly cited value for Fst” (John’s evaluation: indefensible)
    2. “no remotely sane biologist would pick out, as subspecies” (John’s evaluation: indefensible)
    3. ” Wright gives a range of different, but qualitatively similar, values for significance in his initial development of the idea” (John’s evaluation: unsupported, reference needed)

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  34. Jonathan,

    Your first major point had to do with semantics. It can be summarized as:

    ‘The word race has a lot of “baggage”. So why not give it up.’

    Honestly, I only have a vague idea of what you’re talking about. We did discuss some moral arguments in our section V-H. For example, we noted:

    “Secondly, if racial geneticists/hereditarians are substantially correct many historic
    narratives become deeply complicated, thus damaging those arguments which rest on
    historic grievances. Time constraints preclude us from elaborating on this latter point.
    Instead of attempting a condensed discussion of this complex matter, for some alternative
    perspectives that emerge from genetic realism about race differences, we refer readers to
    philosopher Gedaliah Braun’s delightful work, “Racism, Guilt, Self-Hatred, and Self-
    Deceit” — specifically, for example, the following sections: “The Pros and Cons of
    Apartheid”, “The incoherence of “Black Rule No Matter What”, “African States Not Fit
    to Govern Themselves”, “The Paradox of Integration”, “School Segregation in America”,
    “Did Apartheid cause Black behavior or did Black behavior cause Apartheid”, etc.”

    Again, I’m not sure that I understand your “baggage” argument. Does it only work against biological usages — or does it work against sociological ones, too? But let me answer your question.

    Firstly, I’m interested in making connections, which is to say, understanding. To this end, it helps to name concepts consistently. For example, I might start calling a “plant” a “zhildgh” but doing so would have the effect of impeding my understanding, as I access my plant schemata largely using words. In the same way, calling “race” “jejfjs” would impede my understanding. That is, when I call biological races “races”, I am able to better connect the modern concepts with past ones used in context to biology and anthropology. For example, I can better see the connection between Buffon’s and Darwin’s usage and Coon’s and Baker’s and Sesardic’s and Spencer’s. I can also better make sense of the various philosophical debates swirling around. Likewise, when I use the term in context to biological groupings, I can more readily connect the biological meaning with the sociological one. One might argue that the concept has evolved such that the use of the same term is misleading; I fail to see this. Unlike as with the atom concept, the race ones hasn’t largely changed; it has more or less consistently referred to subspecific groupings where members are somehow related by lineage or ancestry. .

    Secondly, there presently is no good substitute term in biology. We suggested “natural population” as a neutral term, but, in truth, this isn’t very popular. Some people argue that the concept of race is referenced well by the term “population”, and thus that the term “race” is superfluous. But, in fact, the biological concept of “population” is ambiguous, as it is often used to refer to breeding populations (populations defined in terms of the probability of sharing descendants). Moreover, the arduous job of retranslating most or all past usages of race (in context to biology or biological anthropology) to “population”, let alone of instructing of the public that “population” is the new ‘unloaded’ term for “biological race”, has yet to be done, so dropping the term now would only hamper understanding and discussion.

    Thirdly, many people argue against the coherence of race-like biological concepts and/or the existence of human biological races, understood so and so. I don’t see how I or anyone else can well address these arguments unless I myself use the term “race”.

    Apparently, you are trying to short circuit an associative network. This might be a conceptual one, an affective one, or both. Obviously, the conceptual loadedness of the term “race” is, for me, a feature, not a bug. As such, I am inclined to retain the term. If you can figure out a way to lobotomies the concept, by removing the term, in such a way to avoid impeding understanding, I would be willing to entertain the idea that the affective load is actually undesirable — given my moral frame, of course.

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  35. To be perfectly clear, I think that we have NO evidence in favor of this view (certainly no *good* evidence for it)

    This is flatly wrong. And correspondingly, I don’t even think most hereditarians would go so far as to take up the rather extreme position that there is ‘no’ (!) evidence at all that environmentalists could adduce in favor of their view (even if, of course, the hereditarians fundamentally disagree with the conclusions drawn by environmentalists). After all, many hereditarians accept that environmental influences might account for some of the variance in intelligence between groups, though not all of it. It is the environmentalists, rather, who hold an extreme view, namely that all of the observed difference in IQ among groups is environmental in origin.

    Contrary to your dismissive position, there are in point of fact multiple lines of converging evidence in support of the hereditarian position (and I should add that you seemingly did not address anything that JayMan directed your attention to). These evidentiary sources include the worldwide distribution in IQ scores; research on the psychometrics of the g-factor; behavior genetics research; brain-size differences among groups and the association between brain size and general intelligence; transracial adoption studies; racial admixture studies; regression to the mean effects; and recent molecular-genetic studies demonstrating the polygenic and highly heritable basis of intelligence. (There are also other lines of evidence beyond those just outlined.)

    In addition, and as I noted in another comment in this thread, the molecular-genetic data used in the recent studies demonstrating the polygenic and highly heritable basis of intelligence has also been analyzed very recently by Davide Piffer, and he has found evidence in favor of the hereditarian position on that front, too.

    Ergo, your assertion that the hereditarian position is “wildly unsupported by any reasonable quality evidence” is very much an overstatement.

    Beyond all of this, there is in addition evidence which directly undercuts the environmentalist position. For instance, there has been no meaningful long-term success in closing the racial IQ gap in the United States, despite intense and highly funded efforts to do so. Moreover, as I noted in an earlier comment, there is not even evidence within behavior genetics for any substantial GxE interactions for any trait, let alone intelligence. JayMan also rebutted various criticisms.

    Put more bluntly: I think this view is wrong, and I think the only way that one can, looking at the actual state of the world, come to believe that this view is plausible is if one looks at the world through a deeply warped racist lens.

    Stick to the substance of the issues, Jonathan. This is a very uncharitable and unethical accusation for you to make, and hereditarians could easily counter by asserting that the only way that you could come to believe that the hereditarian view is plausible is if you come to this debate with lots of unchecked political baggage that deeply distorts your objectivity (and we should bear in mind that the effects of such politically-motivated distortions on objectivity are well-documented in moral psychology).

    But, even if such a view is in fact false (and I think it is!), is it possible that such a state of world could have come to pass, that such a view could have been true? And if such a view was true, what (if anything) would its truth imply about social / political / ethical issues? So: I’m inclined to think that such a world *is* possible (but NOT actual), and that in such a world, there would be *some* social / political implications (which is why getting this wrong is problematic!).

    And if there are some social and or political implications stemming from the acceptance of the environmentalist position, what makes you think that wrongly concluding that that position is correct is any less problematic? Many of the leftist policies currently in effect are based on assumptions of the equipotentiality of all groups.

    For example, if the underrepresentation and overrepresentation of various groups in American colleges is due not to external factors like ‘discrimination’ and such, but rather to heritable group-differences in average IQ and other such traits, then college admissions policies like affirmative action and quotas could easily be seen as immorally discriminating against individuals from certain demographic groups (in this case, European-Americans and Asian-Americans).

    If taken to logical extremes, both affirmative action and quotas-based admission at American universities could see to it that the enrollment rates at such institutions precisely reflect the demographic makeup of the country. So, the policy would see to it that African-American and Hispanic enrollment at universities would reach at least 10 percent apiece (but more specifically, in accordance with whatever the exact census figures are), and, for instance, Jewish enrollment would necessarily be curtailed drastically, to 2.2 percent (and so their presence at Ivy League institutions, for example, would drop substantially).

    So, you are most definitely wrong to think that only the hereditarian position potentially entails social and political implications, and I’ve only outlined some of the potential implications of the environmentalist position, which actually are in force in the real world. Hell, what would stop Asian-Americans (to take just one random example of potentially many) from advocating in favor of proportional representation in the NBA? It’s a clear case of disparate impact, is it not? As such, some African-American players would lose spots on rosters simply because they were the wrong color. How would this not be immoral if there are genetic reasons for their overrepresentation in the NBA?

    So I think, with you (below) I think that denying the legitimacy of the hereditarian position is both empirically justified, and morally required, at least in part because empirically justified.

    Well, actually no, not so fast. You have not presented a positive case in favor of the environmentalist position, and furthermore you have caricatured the hereditarian position. And as I’ve already noted, the environmentalist position can easily be pressed in service of ends that immorally discriminate against individuals within certain demographic groups.

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  36. Jonathan,

    Sorry, I had to read over your paper. Your main point above was:
    “I deny that biological racial realism is true of human “races” – but I acknowledge that the populations we identify as “races” in our social discourse do vary in e.g. relative gene frequencies, etc.”
    To use your language, “real” is undetermined: there are many definitions of “biological real” floating about, we have no way of telling which one is the “real” one, so we can only speak of “real” in some sense. For example, we could talk about real in the sense of 18th century “species realists”, meaning something like “have a permanent existence in nature”. Thus, when we talk about “biologically real”, we must do so in certain senses. We can call yours “Jonathan’s biological realism”.

    My biological realism is quite simple. A grouping is said to be biologically real if it picks out a grouping in line with a valid biological concept, where a valid biological concept is one that is consistent with logic and is consistent with the state of knowledge in the research field. So, for example, humors (e.g., choleric) are not biologically real, but mophs (e.g., males) and predators are. The question of the reality of human races then boils down to a (1) semiotic and an (2) empirical one. By the first: What biological concept does “race” reasonably reference? By the second: Do said human races pick out groupings consistent with this concept? I then defend the positions that “race” typically references infraspecific “natural populations”, meaning something like ‘populations where individuals are grouped according to genetic propinquity’ — maybe that’s not the best term since it’s often used to mean “wild populations”. Whatever the case, I show that the Blumenbach partition picks out races qua “natural populations” as opposed to e.g., mophs. I think that this is pretty sensible and it’s not tautological at all. In fact, both point have been disputed. For example, some have argued that races were historically conceptualized as unchangeable, permanent groups; and that races are “unreal” because there are no such human ones. Others have argued that e.g., the Blumenbach partition doesn’t — or didn’t once — pick out natural populations. Were either of these true, classic races would be unreal. Of course, by this conception it’s almost silly to ask: “Are human natural populations real?” After all, we know that humans are biological organisms (as opposed to, say, replicants) and that, not being borg clones, they also differ in terms of relatedness. So, unless the natural population ~ race equation was disputed, it would have to be granted that there are human races, just like it has to be granted that there are human morphs.

    Now what is “Jonathan’s biological realism”?

    In your paper, you say:

    “If there were an orderly, agreed upon system for recognising populations in biology below the species level, that system could simply be deployed in the case of the biogenomic race to yield an answer. That answer would be limited in that it would tell us only that biologists would or would not recognise a particular human population as a ‘real’ population worthy of attention.”

    This conceptualization of “teal” seemingly agrees with my own. Accordingly, races could be (taxonomically) real if they picked out group in line with a valid biological (taxonomic) concept which can reasonably be called “race”. Our ontologies seem to closely agree.

    To note, I think it’s odd to say that non formally recognizes races — the subspecies-like entities that don’t make the hazy taxonomic convention cutoff — are taxonomically not real. I would distinguish between concepts and categories and argue that lesser races and demes and such are taxonomic concepts despite not being taxonomic ategories. But I recognize that this fine distinction often isn’t made. Mayr, for example, once wrote:
    “Subspecies and clines are concepts belonging to different fields. A population can belong to only one subspecies but it can belong to several different clines. In other words, the subspecies is a taxonomic concept while the cline is an evolutionary one. Nothing is gained by naming clines.”
    If e.g., a cline isn’t a taxonomic concept, how can taxonomist think about it and define their categories in relation to it — do they have to put their evolutionist hats on? That’s just silly. This way of thinking allows for all sorts of godel-esque reductio ad absurdums. For example, “taxonomic category” isn’t a “taxonomic category (e.g., species, classes, orders)”, thus it isn’t a taxonomic concept!

    Whatever the case, the important point is that we agree on a referential ontology — which is why I don’t see the reason for disagreement. Your “biogenomic races” seem to be by “natural populations”. (We seem to be lacking a good term, thus the usefulness of “race”!) This is clearly a biological conception. Thus, we have our biological races concept and it’s clear that there are human biological races by this. These races might not be subspecies (taxonomic categories) or ESU (conservation categories) but they are something. If they are not evolutionary categories, they are at least valid biological groupings of some type.

    Regarding the existence of some human races, I think you can only make semantic arguments: Why should we call “biogenomic races” or “natural populations” races? But the question answers itself. The first term involves “race” and the second is confusing as it could mean “wild populations”. What’s the proposed alternative? In your comment you use “human subpopulations”. Wells and Richmond (1995) reviewed a plethora of “population” definitions; these typically ran e.g., “all the member of a species that occupy a particular area at the same time.” This is rather general. From what I can tell, the situation hasn’t improved much. See, for example, here: highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0035456775/student_view0/chapter16/post-test.html I imagine that the situation is no different when it comes to “subpopulation”. So neither population nor subpopulation get at what we are talking about. We could say: “subspecific biogenomic populations”. If population geneticists said this when they meant “race” instead of “breeding population” or “deme”, their discussions would be much clearer. But “subspecific biogenomic populations” is quite a mouthful, no? Other terms don’t work well either. Some use “biogeographic group” but this confuses race with ” subspecific biogenomic-geographic populations”. Many have pointed out that, in principle, races don’t need to be geographically delimited — hence, the concept of “‘geographic’ race”. Others have used the term “cluster” — but to many people this implies genetic discontinuities (hence “cluster” is juxtaposed with “cline”); yet “subspecific biogenomic populations” located on a continuum have long been recognized. We could go on and on — my point is that until we can figure out a better term, we are stuck with “race”. This — originally meaning “breed”,”noble lineage”,”ancestry”– is a useful term because it has always implied genealogical/genetic differences and because, in context to biology, it has always been used to describe sub/infra specific populations. But let’s take a look at what you say in you comment:
    Jonathan: “Now, in non-human animals, claiming that there are biologically legitimate subpopulations would be much the same as supporting a kind of biological racial realism for that population. But even here, note well that almost no one talks that way, in part because the term ‘race’ is considered weird and confused …In nonhuman animals, you would probably be redirected towards more neutral terms like “population.”… What hinges on it that “population” doesn’t capture?”
    As I noted, the term “population” is itself ambiguous. I just tried another search and I got: “groups of individuals belonging to the same species that live in a shared region at the same time.” This is incongruent with the historic concept which was developed in part to explain why relocated populations kept some of their region of origin traits — i.e.. the problem of “constant varieties”. But to answer your question specifically: propinquity of descent.
    Jonathan: “Definitions in terms of populations and gene frequencies, etc., that when applied to nonhuman populations sometimes permit the use of the term “race,” don’t, it seems to me, to capture what was meant, historically and today, by the use of the term “race” in humans.”
    Maybe you could provide some specific examples. I fail to see much difference between my race concept and e.g., Darwin’s — or for that matter Buffon’s. Or anyone else who used the term to describe sub/infra specific populations where members are grouped along genealogical/genotypic lines.
    Jonathan: “here is a partial taxonomy of what one might claim biological racial realism means for humans:
    1) Human races…
    2) Human races…
    BTW… if one wanted claim that it is conceptually *possible* for (3) to be true but (2) false, I’d agree that it was a conceptual possibility, but note that it seems an implausible position given the actual commitments of the people arguing for these positions. ”
    Your last claim strikes me as bizarre as claims about genetic group differences are logically independent from ones about the reality of race in senses (1) and (2). They’re not only logically independent, but they’re rhetorically so at least from the pro genetic end. I’m not aware of any modern proponent of genetic differences who confuses the two issues. To take an example, Lynn and Vanhannen attribute national differences in measured cognitive ability in part to average genetic ones; but their nations — while differing genetically on average — are not treated as races but rather as political units, some more racially homogenous than others. Maybe you could give some examples.
    But as for you taxonomy, you’re missing an important category, one between your 1 and 2. This throw into sharp relief by your claim:
    Jonathan: “Any division of the world into regions will result in populations that differ with respect to e.g. gene frequencies, even if we imposed those divisions completely ignoring natural and social barriers to gene exchange. ”
    You ignore the fact that not every division is a biologically natural one. For example, I could group people by their height. My populations, call them Talls and Smalls, would differ in e.g. gene frequencies but they would not constitute races as typically understood. This is, for example, why Dobzhansky (1970) tells us that races aren’t polymorphisms (as are blue and brown eyed individuals) and why he agrees with Boyd that classifications should be based on all variable genes. So while any division of the world into genetically differing “populations” (here meant in the statistical sense) would result in genetically differing “populations”, it would not result in races — or, at least, Buffonian or Kantian or Darwinian or Hootonian or later Dobzhanskyian or Mayrian ones. Right? Your equivocation, on which your argument rests, is revealed when you say:
    Jonathan: “After all, everyone (everyone remotely serious, in any event), I take it, agrees…
    a) humans vary from each other (both genetically and phenotypically),
    b) the variation is structured,
    c) the variation is in part due to geography, and
    d) the variation is in part due to selection.”
    Not all ” division[s] of the world into regions” will result in structured variation, as typically understood in genetics i.e., “population structure” — for example, North versus South. So, populations that “differ with respect to e.g. gene frequencies” are not the same as “population structure” populations, ones which refer to biologically natural divisions.
    You continue: “What about (2)? Do biological facts about the populations we identify as “races” in ordinary social discourse explain why we identify *those* populations (and not others) as “races” in ordinary social discourse?”
    So, for example, U.S. “Asians” (South plus East) versus Mongoloids.
    You continue: “A strong version – There is nothing about the divisions that we so identify as ‘race’ in our ordinary discourse that comes close to having that kind of biological significance. ”
    Except, of course, sufficient morphological differentiation given the “popularly cited” multivariate version of the 75% rule mentioned in Smith et al (1997) cited by you by way of Templeton (1999). Ouch!
    You continue: “So there are populations that evolved to have lactaste persistence, and populations that didn’t. That’s interesting, but doesn’t align with race. ”
    So you agree with the rest of us that that artificial biological divisions don’t represent races. Moreover, you call these groups “populations”. Since we agree on this, races as nature divisions/populations — i.e., ones defined by overall genetic similarity — have content. Thus races must be more than Jonathan 1). And, in line with Jonathan 2), “biological facts …explain” why we identify some “populations” as races and not others (e.g., lactaste persistence ones).
    You continue: ” And two people whose ancestors came from the same village in France are more likely to share an allele than they are with people whose ancestors were from other towns in France; this is really uninteresting to most people, since it is likely just geography….But, and here I think is the key, from the standpoint of population structure, it is just as ‘real’ as any other. Given how many populations are out there, the really big ones we call “races” just aren’t special enough to be worthy of biological attention in the absence of the already existing social ascriptions and histories surrounding them.”
    Maybe you could try writing out the argument in logical form. Let me take a stab:

    Premise 1: No one cares about local races (they’re too undifferentiated)
    Premise 2: Both local and continental races are equally races.
    Conclusion: Therefore, no one should care about those very differentiated continental ones!

    Hochmann (2013) seemed to make an argument such as this — but his wording was such (i.e., too clever) that it was difficult to pin it on him. It’s the most ridiculous argument that I ever heard.

    But to be clear: If we have only 2 towns and if members of French town 1 are more genetically similar to other members of the same town than to members of French town 2, then I am liable to identify both towns as races. I agree that these local/micro races are just as race-like as the continental/major ones. That’s why I would call both the local and continental races “races”.

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  37. Hi John,

    Yes, this might well be a fruitful conversation. Like you, I’m currently entertaining relatives from out of town, and then I’ll be in finals week and grading. BUT — I will come back to this, and am very willing to keep an open mind re the possibility that e.g. the Fst number cited by Templeton might prove to be indefensible, etc.

    More later, but for now, may I ask what you mean by recommending Braun’s book? I am very disturbed by any book that the author himself is willing to describe as arguing that “The essence of liberalism is self-hatred – always taking the side of your adversaries. This has led to feminism, racial preferences, the homosexual agenda, and being ‘nice’ to our deadliest enemies. Feminism is closely allied with the promotion of homosexuality, abortion and hostility towards marriage and child-rearing. All of these have one thing in common: they are anti-life and tend towards death. And what could be sicker than promoting behaviour that will destroy your own society? Truly, a sickness-unto-death.”

    To say that I find this attitude disgusting — “the homosexual agenda” really? “feminism” is “anti-life”?! — is an understatement, and it certainly doesn’t inspire me to read the work, or take his views at all seriously, or even have any confidence in his most basic assertions about the state of world!

    To be clear: while I am willing to consider seriously the possibility that human populations on the different continents might be different enough from each other in ways special enough that an objective observer would pick them out as sub-populations uniquely warranting naming as taxonomic units, I do not view e.g. arguments about the legitimacy of LGBT rights as still appropriate in the context of modern liberal democracies. Anyone who suggests that there is a “homosexuality agenda” that could “destroy your own society” has, in my view, lost the right to be taken even remotely seriously!

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  38. I stand by my claims, which I’ve defended extensively in peer-reviewed publications (to which I was willing to attach my own name). This includes the claim that most “serious” defenses of the so-called hereditarian position are wildly dismissive of the evidence of serious and ongoing racism, and the importance of the history of racism, in ways that, I argued, suggest either a racist agenda or culpable ignorance about the state of the world that rises to being racist. Though, to be fair, that particular argument re: racism and the epistemology of ignorance was most clearly made in an article that is still in press; should be out in early Fall 2014, though. If you are interested, I can link to a pre-print version.

    Given that anyone willing to look honestly at the state of the U.S today would see racism that has important implications for the ability of e.g. Black Americans to succeed, I don’t need, for my politics, to be entirely positive that there are NO differences in “native abilities” (whatever that means) between the populations so-identified. There are verifiable harms that need to be addressed. Until those harms are addressed, there is no way to gather reliable evidence that could point towards differences in native abilities across a range of developmental environments. Again, in no other domain biology would the evidence cited by hereditarians be considered reasonable, given the lack of environmental control over the relevant developmental environments.

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  39. “More later, but for now, may I ask what you mean by recommending Braun’s book?”

    Hi Jonathan Kaplan,
    In the comment above, I quoted from our nature of race paper. In that paper, we discussed moral arguments against the recognition of biological race. We argued that many of these were, in a sense, “undetermined”, by the environmental-genetic uncertainty surrounding the cause of groups differences. For example, some argue that biological race should be unrecognized on the grounds that it perpetuate racism; as evidence of racism, they point to outcome disparities. Our point was that, since the cause of the group differences is still undetermined, so are such arguments. We noted that a full discussion of the matter was outside of the scope of the paper, so we referred readers to specific chapters of Braun’s “delightful” (meant facetiously) work for an alternative perspective. I imagine that many of the perspectives presented there in fall outside the current horizon of moral discourse. To me, this often speaks of the narrowness of that discourse.

    As for his comments on “the homosexual agenda”, I don’t think that those were in the chapters which we referred readers to. I could check, though. As for your other comments, I don’t know how to reply. I have little trouble understanding alternative worldviews and I’m not particularity prone to feeling disgust or outrage at these, I can, thus, comprehend without pathos your feeling of disgust at Braun’s (1993) hostility directed towards feminism, homosexuality, abortion, etc. I can also make sense of that hostility given the Gemeinschaft orientation he seemed to have developed. I don’t see his pathos as any less arational that yours. And I imagine that your rational is no more logical than his — just a change of what is valued.

    Incidentally, we argued that racism in the sense of racial favortism was as justified as other preferences. While, I didn’t say it, I had in mind LGBT. I said something like: .”While, for some, such preferences are natural, in the sense of being partially genetically conditioned (Lewis and Bates, 2010; Weber et al., 2011; Orey and Park, 2012), the moral acceptability of such preferencing is not contingent on this naturalness. It is on the very basic principles of (vulgar) philosophical liberalism. The corollary: it’s as reasonable for societies, as collectives, to discourage, by whatever means, individual biological racial identities as it is to discourage any other.” So, to give you a positional statement: I consider anti-LGBT to be no more justified, in principle, than anti-race favoritism.

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  40. Hi Jonathan,

    I saw your exchange above with John Fuerst (who also uses the aliases “Chuck” and “Occidentalist”) and, as someone who has debated him on his own blog in the past, I wanted to alert you to his dishonesty. Not only did he resort to deleting/editing my comments on his blog to make his arguments look superior, but he is disingenuous in his presentation of the data in favor of his position. If you choose to engage him nonetheless, I urge you to take all of his claims with a grain of salt, to *always* check the data and the sources he cites, etc.

    One example of his mendacity is from his “The Nature of Race” essay: humanvarieties.org/2014/03/02/the-nature-of-race

    He cites Joerg Baten’s research on age-heaping, particularly the paper “On the human capital of Inca Indios before and after the Spanish conquest: Was there a “pre-colonial legacy?” with Dacil Juif (http://econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/55271/1/685296539.pdf), to argue that cognitive gaps between groups have existed for centuries.

    But the Baten paper in question contains these passages, which explicitly contradict Fuerst’s argument:

    ———-
    “The Inca culture had a comparatively advanced social system for the 16th century. The Inca Indios were great architects and developed an admirable sophistication in advanced agriculture (Klein, 2011). But while some advanced cultures in the world were characterized by a relatively broad participation of middle and sometimes even lower classes, other advanced cultures were mainly based on a thin upper class and a large quantity of uneducated people. We will argue in the following that the Inca culture was more of the latter type, with an extremely high educational inequality.

    The majority of the population received a very modest education under the Inca Empire, while the small ruling Inca caste and those who dominated the military and the religious sectors would receive training by the amautas (wise people) in order to be prepared for their future positions in the administration of the government or as priests. They were trained in different disciplines according to their future profession, which was most often hereditary, like military competence, religious rites or basic mathematics (Julien, 1998). Though it was the common people who were in charge of moving earth and stones in order to build the irrigation systems, the massive stone buildings, fortress temples and the rest of the impressive architectural and engineering marvels for which the Inca Empire is known, the state would not provide education to them.

    Nevertheless, it is interesting that the Ecuador Indio values were the highest, because the Indio collaboration with the Spanish conquerors was concentrated in the region that later became Ecuador.34 This was the area of the Cañari Indios, some of the most decided collaborators of the Spanish. The high levels of numeracy of the Cañari could have been a positive consequence for them of the Spanish rule, which might have implications for the colonial legacy.

    In the Lima census of 1613, those were explicitly identified as Cañaris, because belonging to this tribe was associated with a privileged position. In fact, it seems that this group of Indios was exempt from tribute and the mita as a reward for their help during the Indio’s siege of Cuzco in 1536 (Cook, 1981, p. 83; Livi Bacci, 2008, p. 162). It is not astonishing that they could provide somewhat better education to their children than the Peruvian Indios, or the Southern Indios, which we indicated with the label “Chile/Bolivia/Argentina” (most of them were born in what is today Chile). 35

    The numeracy of white Peruvian household heads that we obtained from the 1700 census of Lima was situated in the middle between Peruvian Indios and Iberians in the 17th century. In contrast, the relatively few mulattos and blacks in Lima during this period reported only rounded ages. As a caveat, we should note that it might have been possible that census enumerators did not even bother asking them, as they did not expect a true age statement. ***The temporary increase of Indio numeracy during the late 16th century, even if it might have been partly caused by selectivity that we could not capture in our adjustment regressions above, also proves that Indios were not generally unable to reach numeracy levels which were comparable to Spanish or Portuguese levels during the 16th century. There was no cultural or perhaps even genetic hurdle which would have kept them from developing substantial age numeracy, if the educational level and other context parameters would have been sufficient.***

    For the late 17th century, we have the first evidence for China, which had a very high numeracy. During the early 19th century crisis of China, its numeracy fell back below the European Northwest (see also Gupta and Ma, 2010; pp. 274-275).3″

    ———–

    Even more troubling for hereditarians like John Fuerst who wants to use age heaping as an “intelligence” proxy is that, according to Baten’s data, a major European country like Russia barely scores better than Mexico, or much better than Peru for that matter. They note that Mexico had higher numeracy than Peru, in contradistinction to Fuerst’s rigid categories. Furthermore, countries like Serbia, Armenia, and Turkey have abysmal “numeracy” levels, with the latter two falling well below the Latin American countries. China also falls below NW European levels of numeracy in the nineteenth century, suggesting that these “cognitive gaps” are awfully fluid and change with time.

    Fuerst never mentions any of these facts, and when I pointed them out on his blog, he deleted my comment. Instead he tries to imply that China has always had higher numeracy than Europe which has always had higher numeracy than Latin America etc., to support his hereditarian views. Even though the paper and the data he cites gives evidence against that.

    By the way, Fuerst’s co-author for “The Nature of Race” article is Karl Boetel, who also maintains the blog “RadishMag” where he writes pieces like these:

    http://radishmag.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/slavery-reconsidered/

    http://radishmag.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/the-truth-about-lynching/

    http://radishmag.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/pump-and-dump/

    Just in case you want to know what kind of company John Fuerst keeps and where this is headed.

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  41. Let me clear a few things up.

    I did unapproved a number of “Michael Danehy” or “Curzio” comments and I did this because they contained vulgar, crude, or unhinged comments. I saved them for my records; I will provide more information on request. To note, two of my comments were unapproved here for much less abusive language; I was told to rewrite them.

    “Michael Danehy” seemed to have been angered by a comment of his not being posted; however, as I informed him, I was not well monitoring the blog in question. I am not sure what the problem was, but after I became aware of it, I approved his and other unapproved comments. I also invited him to help conduct an exploratory meta-analysis on measured aptitude differences by sociologically defined races by generation. He never contacted me on the matter. I since conducted that analysis — though I have not written it up — and the results contradict his claims. They also are inconsistent with the predictions of a global hereditarian hypothesis as typically formulated, one which predicts substantially lower, owing to the said National IQs of the sending nations, U.S. Asian aptitude. As I am not one to hold a grudge, I continue to extend my offer to Michael Danehy. If he is willing to write up the results — I have a very rough draft finished — I will co-publish them with him either over at OpenPsychology or at Human Varieties.

    As for the age heaping results discussing in the Nature of Race paper, I have been in personal contact with Joerg Baten. Months ago, he kindly sent me a copy of his then forthcoming paper, ” A story of large landowners and math skills: Inequality and human capital formation in long-run development, 1820–2000″, from which I extracted the data for my age-heaping — National IQ analysis. In that paper. Baten and Juif (2014) conducted a similar analysis. The authors characterized their age-heaping measure as one of “numerical skills” , “proxy of human capital”, “proxy of basic numeric”, and so on.

    Michael Danehy claims that my “argument” was somehow contradicted. Yet in this paper, I correctly note: “Baten and Sohn (2013) found that Korea, China and Japan had high numeracy levels in the 1600s; Juif and Baten (2013) found that Spanish and Portuguese had higher numeracy levels than Amerindian Incans in the 1500s. Juif and Baten (2013) also found that 1820 cohort levels of ethnic/national cognitive ability predicted 21st national levels.” Was my interpretation of the data correct? I noted: “This all said, are there reasons to be skeptical about the existence of a genetic basis for such differences? Firstly, the psychometric nature of the differences is not well investigated…Secondly, the migrant and international differences, while generally consistent with a non-trivial hereditarian hypothesis, are not (literally) compelling. In short, the true model is more complicated …” I was hardly bullish with my interpretation.
    Michael Danehy seems to think that it is important that my interpretations of data were at times different from those of the authors in which the data was originally presented. This is silly, though. I had originally included a paragraph preempting such critiques, but I deleted it as it seemed unnecessary:

    I-M. A Note on Citations

    It shouldn’t need to be said, but it must since some have childishly made issue of this point. When we cite articles, we do not imply that the cited authors agree with our broad interpretations. We do imply that their data supports whatever statement it is being cited in support of. For example, we cite Reltheford (2009) in section IV-C in regards to the ability to correctly classify individuals into geographic populations based on heritable phenetic character. This finding is cited in context to discussion of human races qua zoological subspecies, given a particular conception and interpretation of zoological subspecies delineation rules. It is implied that Relethford (2009)’s findings support the claim that individuals can be with an accuracy of the degree discussed grouped into the said populations. And it is implied that Relethford (2009) would agree with us that this is the case. It is not implied that he would agree with our broader position.

    For example, Relethford (2009)’s results are noted to show that some human populations meet one qualification for subspecies status given a discussed interpretation of a rule commonly employed. But it is not implied that Reltheford (2009) believes that any human population qualify as zoological subspecies. He might not because he might interpret the rule cited differently, or he might work under a different conception of subspecies, or he might take into account other considerations, and so on. Whether he does or not is irrelevant, since he is not being cited for his gestalt impression but for his relevant results, results which are being viewed in context to a specific concept with specific criteria.

    Now, this should be a non-point, since there is an obvious distinction between results and interpretations. And since it is obvious that the same results can validly be cited in support of multiple conflicting conclusions. But we are forced to clarify the situation since some, oddly, feel that it is improper to cite, or cite without further discussion, results in defense of a conclusion in instances when the author(s) disagree or don’t clearly agree with the broad conclusion being drawn. Readers are referred, for example, to Hochmann (2013)’s critique of Sesardic (2010). And they are generally encouraged to peruse the results presented in articles which we reference.

    I find it surprising that anyone would make such an argument.
    Michael Danehy goes onto argue that imperfect cross temporal consistency between measured aptitude scores is somehow problematic for a hereditarian position. This is a statistically naive perspective since even if a genetic determinist hypothesis was being presented, one would still have to take into account the unreliability of measures, which introduces error into a relation. Of course, as made clear, such a hypothesis was not being presented. Again, I specifically stated: “migrant and international differences, while generally consistent with a non-trivial hereditarian hypothesis, are not (literally) compelling. In short, the true model is more complicated…”

    Finally, Michael points out that my co-author, whose graduate field was neither in psychology nor biology, has written a number of questionable essays. This can not be denied. But it’s irrelevant, for two reasons: (1) he contributed nothing to the content; rather, he (imperfectly) edited and rewrote passages; (2) his social positions are irrelevant to the soundness of the case being made. I even obliquely touched on this matter:

    “In the present authors’ opinion, such extrascientific intents are not, with regards to evaluating positions, problematic per se; such motives are only problematic insofar as they lead one to accept unsound arguments or they dispose one towards intellectual dishonesty. As such, the present authors are uninterested in “exposing” moralism on the part of such authors. Our focus is exclusively on the merits of the arguments; we do not pretend to be purely passive vehicles of science ourselves.”

    While I appreciated that ad hominems are especially popular in context to these debates, they constitute a fallacy and so are philosophically unrespectable. If I wanted to play this game, I could simply have dismissed every other opponent of biological race as a marxist, socialist, or the like. Generally, either a position is logically sound or it is not; if not, one needs to explain why; it doesn’t matter if the Devil himself is making the argument.

    I agree though that it was a mistake to add him as a co-author. I had gambled that doing so would have enticed him to materially contribute; it did not. Now, as for my positions, I make then abundantly clear. Ask and I tell. I even tell when not asked!

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  42. Jonathan,

    This includes the claim that most “serious” defenses of the so-called hereditarian position are wildly dismissive of the evidence of serious and ongoing racism, and the importance of the history of racism, in ways that, I argued, suggest either a racist agenda or culpable ignorance about the state of the world that rises to being racist.

    A hereditarian could easily turn the tables by arguing that environmentalists are wildly dismissive of the evidence of serious and ongoing institutional racism at US colleges, where individuals of certain demographic groups are turned down in favor less qualified applicants from other demographic groups. As such, they could argue that the dismissiveness of such evidence on the part of environmentalists of serious and ongoing institutional racism suggests a racist agenda or culpable ignorance about the state of the world that rises to being racist. (There are other examples, but that one suffices to make the point.) So, that kind of response runs both ways, and at any rate, is both beside the issue and uncharitable.

    There are verifiable harms that need to be addressed. Until those harms are addressed, there is no way to gather reliable evidence that could point towards differences in native abilities across a range of developmental environments.

    Whether or not there are verifiable harms that need to be addressed (an empirical question), it may not necessarily be relevant to the issue at hand, which pertains to the hereditarian/environmentalist debate about the origins of intelligence differences between groups. Theoretically, it may be that the harms you allude to, if they exist, affect the intellectual development of individuals and hence the aggregate scores of various groups. But one must provide some scientific evidence that this is the case, rather than merely cite it as a possibility.

    The moral issue is separable from the scientific one. Even if there were the kinds of harms you allude to against, say, African-Americans, and even if we concluded that we ought morally to rectify those harms, it is an entirely different question – the question at hand – as to whether those harms affect intellectual development. You haven’t provided any evidence that they do, just speculation. That’s not science.

    Again, in no other domain biology would the evidence cited by hereditarians be considered reasonable, given the lack of environmental control over the relevant developmental environments.

    With due respect, I find it ironic that you would say this, because you offer nothing by way of positive evidence for your own view. And as many have noted, there are different standards of evidence that are used among those who want to avoid certain conclusions, and I think you’re guilty of this double-standard. If we look at all the evidence that can be marshaled by either environmentalists and hereditarians, I think that anyone that has a reasonable grasp of the bigger picture would infer that the best explanation currently on offer for the differences in intellectual ability amongst various groups is indeed the hereditarian one.

    And, although this entirely irrelevant to the epistemic merits of either side of this debate, I will say that I wish it weren’t so that groups differed genetically with respect to intellectual capacity (or, frankly, any socially valuable trait, etc.). But, of course, what you or I or anyone wishes to be the case on this issue is immaterial to the way things actually are. And there was a time not long ago when I found any insinuation of innate differences in intelligence to be revolting. But that was before I looked at all the evidence, and before I was willing to look at it in a detached way.

    Though, to be fair, that particular argument re: racism and the epistemology of ignorance was most clearly made in an article that is still in press; should be out in early Fall 2014, though. If you are interested, I can link to a pre-print version.

    Sure, where might I find the pre-pint version? By the way, out of sheer coincidence I read your new Biology and Philosophy paper days before Massimo posted here. But I think you are grasping at nothing with the so-called ‘X-factor’ hypothesis. Again, with due respect, I think this kind of move in the environmentalist/hereditarian debate is akin to somersault-like rationalizations made to avoid an unwanted conclusion – the hereditarian one – for which there is growing evidence. And to be honest, it reminds me a lot of what the intelligent design proponents attempt to do (while simultaneously ignoring the many sources of evidence that count against them, of course). I’d lean to the environmentalist position if there was evidence for it (relative to the hereditarian position) but I just don’t see it.

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  43. Michael,

    What does it matter who he might associate with? Are you being serious? It’s completely irrelevant to the merits of his arguments.

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  44. “A hereditarian could easily turn the tables by arguing that environmentalists are wildly dismissive of the evidence of serious and ongoing institutional racism at US colleges, where individuals of certain demographic groups are turned down in favor less qualified applicants from other demographic groups.”

    One could say that, but it wouldn’t be a terribly accurate thing to say. Indeed, to equate with racism the (partial, generally inadequate) attempts by some colleges and universities in some countries with a history of state-sanctioned racism to recruit a more racially diverse student body and to grapple (however inadequately) with the effects of racism, is, to put it very mildly, very deeply problematic. I’ll just note that the idea that some demographic groups get an unfair advantage in college admissions in a way that actually disadvantages other groups is, frankly, a very silly claim, unless one counts in the advantaged groups, predominantly, those who can pay full price, and those whose parents are likely to donate. But I can see no point in arguing with someone who pretends that “reverse-racism” is even a thing, and won’t.

    In any event, as it is clear that the hereditarians on this thread are following the standard hereditarian playbook, I am going to cease responding to hereditarian arguments. The arguments about evidence, including the intentionally vicious denials of the existence and known effects of real racism in the U.S. and world-wide, is tiresome, roughly as tiresome as arguing with climate change deniers or the anti-vax crowd. There is a reason the hereditarian view is held by only a tiny minority of serious researchers who study these issues, and it isn’t “political correctness.” (Yes, there will no doubt be an impassioned reply denying all this, but that is rather par for the course, too, isn’t it?)

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