Thursday, May 22, 2014

If scientists were to make the arbitrary decision that biological race is real, can you think of a positive outcome?

If you blog about anthropology or if you're tuned into the anthropology chatter on Twitter and other venues, you're probably somewhat familiar with the "HBD" crowd. I know of none in the crowd who goes by their real identity, although they laud many, like Henry Harpending and Gregory Cochran, who do.

They talk about how they're fighting against political correctness. They talk about how biological race is reality that needs to be exposed, and about how those who disagree are stupid, in denial, or are actively covering up the truth.

HBDers have made it uncomfortable or sometimes difficult for many of us to have open discussions about race and human biological diversity without retweeting us from the peanut gallery or butting-in to tell someone how silly or stupid or ignorant they are, or to say Hey you! Get enlightened, here, at my blog. I was treated warmly at first by some and that ended up feeling a bit creepy, as if kindness was a recruitment strategy.

I became better acquainted with some of this crowd when they started commenting on and tweeting about our blog, and especially when I wrote "The Mismeasure of Dog" about a recent research article that claimed to predict dog behavior from skull shape.  I got slammed for the title alone, coming across as a hated disciple of Gould, even though one vocal antagonist later admitted he hadn't even read my piece.

I certainly did write that piece because there are people who wonder whether human races are like dog breeds, and because I think it's a useful stepping off point for these discussions in anthropology given how familiar people are with dog variation and how useful dogs are for understanding evolution in general. But I was naive to the fact that there was a whole, active, highly-energized group on-line ("HBD") who will defend the race hard-line and the genes-to-behaviors assumptions that are fundamental to their consideration of human variation, and who are on the prowl to provoke writers who merely ask questions about these ideas, let alone writers who poke and prod further or see these issues as much more than biological ones.

Here's just one reaction to "The Mismeasure of Dog" from HBD land:
"Holly apparently can’t write as much as a paragraph without making clear that she is an utter fool. I’ll bet she inserts nonsense about how identical twins aren’t really all that similar and the mystical difficulty of measuring brain volume into her grocery list. As for Ken Weiss, I get the distinct impression that he’s never known anybody whose cousin owns a dog. Shit, I knew more about dog personality when I was 15, just by having a paper route and noticing which breeds bit me. In a just world, people like this would be universally mocked."
As one might expect from proponents of biological race and genetic determinism, I was assumed to possess the singular perspective (and perhaps genome) of whomever it is they are fighting against (i.e. academics, anthropologists, liberals, political correctors, ...). What a telling complaint about our unjust world, too.

That's problem number one with HBD: It's obviously first and foremost about tribalism and politics and pushing their beliefs, not about an honest scientific seeking of the truth.

And that's problem number two with HBD: It can't be about scientific truth as it claims to be because... There is no truth when it comes to whether biological race is real. It's real. It's not real. Choose one or both or neither. And your choice is going to depend on your own mind and as well as your social, historical, cultural, and societal context. And, that's the reality of race. 

So that's just one of the reasons why race is considered by many to be primarily a "social construct," rather than nature's biological construct.

Many of us are thinking about these issues all the time because we're anthropologists and human biologists and educators. But many of us are thinking about these issues even more intensely right now because of the slight disturbance in the Force brought on by Nicholas Wade's new book and the HBD fandom that has ensued.

I was shocked when I heard that Wade wrote an entire book about genetics, let alone about genetics in the context of such a complex and complicated topic as race. That's because I don't have the utmost respect for his command of genetics and evolution as displayed in the pages of The New York Times whenever he covers the science news.

Anyway, I missed the recent live-streaming debate between anthropologist Augustin Fuentes and Wade, but I tried to catch up by reading this and this and I also read some book reviews, both favorable and not.*

Some of the book reviews (like in the NYTimes) were spot on in describing how Wade's book will only support a particular reader's views on race and genetic determinism, whether the reader considers them to be real or not. But the Fuentes/ Wade dialogue struck me not only because of what it seemed to focus on - like accusing the other's perspective of not being "science" - but also because of what I'd wished it focused on - like explicit discussion about how the reality of biological race is an arbitrary call, and that perhaps what matters most are the consequences of this arbitrary decision.

As Fuentes explained, everyone who is up on these things agrees that humans vary in their biology (and more) and in patterned geographical ways to do with common ancestry of lineages in different parts of the world. We are all more like our families than we are like anyone else in the species, in terms of our genetics especially.

But many people disagree about where to chop up that spectrum of variation, that unbroken thread across space and time that links all humans, all apes, all monkeys, all primates, all mammals, all fishes, all animals, all life. (For more on this, scroll about a third of the way down here.)

Arguing about whether biological races are real is exactly like arguing whether Homo erectus should be split up into Homo erectus and Homo ergaster. These are arbitrary decisions made by lumpers and splitters (who are first and foremost humans and who are therefore not, nor required to be, consistent in their lumping and splitting ways). These kinds of debates will never be resolved as long as someone takes the opposing side. And these debates are, arguably, not scientific even though it is up to scientists to carve up spectral variation over time and space into neat little boxes so that we can communicate about and do science in an effective way. That's all this process is. Labeling, in and of itself, is not the truth about nature. It can be considered truth-as-we-know-it-now, but it can always be overturned by another human with a better label, backed by "better" evidence and, perhaps, some charismatic speaking and writing for an audience within a given cultural-historical context.

Sure, I tend to lump. And I was being overly lumpy when I wrote, above, that arguing over the reality of race is "exactly" like arguing over fossil hominin taxonomy. There's at least one major difference: Fossil hominins are long gone. Humans are not.

Labeling different living human groups as separate races, that is, sorting ourselves into boxes (which is so often, like with HBD folks, not just about SNPs or ancestral/phylogenetic variation but also about assumed heavily-genetically based behavioral variation), has consequences far beyond how silly a splitter would look if someone finds convincing new fossils indicating the reality of just one variable Homo erectus. Lumping and splitting living humans is a whole other league of debate and the consequences that arise from splitting humans into "real" biological races aren't good.

In fact, I can think of no positive outcome of deciding that biological race is real... except for the opportunity for folks who are seeking such an opportunity to talk openly about their personal biases and the differential value they place on one group of humans over another, or to perpetuate stereotypes, or to act on their racism without backlash.

Beyond the chance to have freedom of derogatory expression, can you think of an actual positive outcome if a consensus of scientists decided that biological races are real? 

I'm not talking about anyone making a decision about whether mutation, genetic drift, gene flow, reproductive isolation, natural selection, epigenetics, microbes, viruses, environmental influences,... have influenced human evolution and variation over time and space.** We already know that. Human biology (the way we look, the diseases we get and don't get, etc...) varies geographically and in some patterned ways, depending on the trait. That's fact.

I'm talking about deciding that biological race is real, in other words, that race is real beyond being "just" a human construct. Could anything beneficial come of such a declaration?


***

*Anthropological geneticist Jennifer Raff's review is all you really need: "Wade wants us to cut up human diversity into five races not because that’s what the statistical analyses show, but because thinking about it as a gradient is hard."

But also, for your lolz (because if you didn't laugh you'd cry), you must read this review by Dick Dorkins.

Update: "How A Troublesome Inheritance gets human genetics wrong" by Jeremy Yoder is a must-read.

**I need to point out how unfortunate and I think dangerous it is that there are so many people engaged in public discussions of these sensitive and important issues who have a limited view of evolution (including HBDers, professional anthropologists, professional biologists, professional science writers, book reviewers, etc...). Too many discussions about human biological variation include input from people (all the way from conscientious racists to Stephen Colbert types who "don't see" any phenotypic differences) who assume that natural selection is the only way that evolution and variation occur, and that every trait and therefore every difference is adaptive in its own right. The misunderstanding, and totally wack valuing, of natural selection in the context of "race" aren't just obstacles to moving forward on "race" but they're also major contributors to Evolution's P.R. problem.

50 comments:

Pseudoerasmus said...

I disagree with you about Wade and the fundamental HBD claims, but I do agree with you that so many HBD commenters are obnoxious and dogmatic, and I was also sorry that your post on "the mismeasure of dogs" did not inspire more debate.

Jennifer Raff said...

"Too many discussions about human biological variation include input from people...who assume that natural selection is the only way that evolution and variation occur, and that every trait and therefore every difference is adaptive in its own right." THIS. Thank you.

Ken Weiss said...

Even this has problems that never get serious discussion. If the asserted differences are really genetic and the product of important evolutionary adaptive selection, then why do they still vary so much today--not just between the purportedly categorical human groups, but within each group as well? Why hasn't selection pared down that variation? Basically, even the most gullible, tenable selective explanation would say that selection has been very weak, and hence, at any given moment, such as within today's societies, essentially unimportant. And similarly, since usually no single gene is identified (e.g., for criminality, mate choice, IQ, even skin color) with an individually major effect (except perhaps for very rare mutations with devastating effect that arise in every population), each individual gene makes very small, usually essentially trivial contributions.

Many if not most group differences (here, assuming the usual kinds of definition of 'group') may have arisen simply by chance (genetic drift), without any value-judgment justification. Or, viewed alternatively, any such value-judgments are cultural, not biological.

There are real scientific questions that might be addressed if people weren't so emotionally driven, and that is largely based on the awful things that have been done since Darwin's time, in the name of helping out our species, etc.

Pseudoerasmus said...

But if there are socially consequential genetic differences between groups, does it really matter if the cause is natural selection or genetic drift ? I mean, matter in the other than intellectual sense of wanting to know the causes.

Ken Weiss said...

If the idea is to do something about those differences (and one can agree on who is doing what to or for whom) then it might be of some use to know the cause, whether genetic and if so how or whether totally sociocultural. Whether selected or just drift is rather moot except if one wants an explanation. So, northern European adults can drink milk without problems while that causes some gut disturbances in other populations. There are 'treatments' like LactAid that are readily available for those problems. It is merely a matter of scientific understand that the evidence suggests that this may have been the result of post-neolithic selection (and then the how and why becomes interesting if not totally clear).

If a trait is multi-genic, it can be useful to understand how its complex underlying variation is patterned among individuals. Sometimes one would want to know how the contributing factors evolved. But then one risks some of the excess fervid assertions of 'Darwinian medicine' that use selection as a rationale for treatment (e.g., if fever or menstruation evolved for some adaptive reason, should we intervene or is that going against nature?, etc.)

To me the danger is simply that we cannot seem to stay within a measured scientific perimeter when it comes to humans, and when an ideology (an assumption, such as that of selective value) is imposed, history shows that it gets out of hand.

David Jenkins said...

As I noted at Jennifer's blog, it doesn’t matter how many races there are for race to be real. This Cultural Marxist obsession to “prove” that “race is a social construct” reminds of me Creationists using whatever tools they can find to prove evolution is false. They want to create a "social construct" completely contrary to reality.

And even if race is clinal, it doesn’t matter. Color is clinal and exists. Race deniers are the new Creationists.

As another commenter notes above, the funny thing is that we know evolution is recent, copious and regional, so we know we’re soon going to discover genetic cognitive and behavioral differences between groups whether we use ‘race’ or ‘regional clinal population groups’, etc.

The truth will eventually prevail and such a day will be a sad day for all the Creationists wanting to deny the biological reality of race.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Still waiting for a single positive outcome if scientists were to favor the completely arbitrary notion of human biological races.

Pseudoerasmus said...

For me whether it's clinal or discrete it really makes no difference and this whole business about population structure is at best a matter of interest for deep history. Nonetheless It would appear population clusters by socially meaningful categories (common ancestry, language and/or religion) have measurable differences whether genetically, externally/physically and behaviourally. I think the social manifestations do matter. Don't have to call it race.

Holly Dunsworth said...

If race is truth, or reality, in nature, then rhetoric has no place in the discussion. The evidence should speak for itself. There's so much we agree on about nature because the evidence speaks for itself. But that we don't agree on what biological race is or whether it's useful or not, for biology, is demonstration of the point I'm trying to make in my post. Since it's up for debate, then why don't we think about the debate itself? If we decide to see human variation as worthy of categorization into biological races, then what would be the consequences? And would any of those be good?

Ken Weiss said...

Unfortunately it makes a huge difference because the word has vague meanings. Many fervently feel a part of a 'race' and that is a reality (sociocultural, especially) that is hurtful to deny. But that is not the same as asserting a clinal kind of variation which we know is clearly real. The discreteness is a problem, contrary to what you say, if analysis is based on categories that are not real and generalizes, or if it makes the differences seem discrete when they are not.

Denial of differences may be as obtuse as Creationism if it goes beyond what we know to be true. But denial of categories isn't. The problem here is not whether it's convenient to use categories even if they're imperfect, it's how the concept is applied in society--by politicians, physicians, teachers, and so on.

Anonymous said...

There are two major distinct claims that scientific racists are making (there are others, but these are the big ones): 1) there are small number of identifiable races, 2) genes determine ethnic differences in intelligence, achievement, wealth, crime etc. both within and between nations.

They're both wrong. But disproving 1) does not take care of 2). In fact, the more sophisticated racists talk about populations, hundreds of them, instead of focusing on continental populations ('races'). Some of them make distinctions between Scandinavians and Sicilians, and even finer distinctions. Cutting-edge racists have no problem admitting clines, the fuzzy/arbitrary nature of continental races etc. But they will insist that groups differ in a way consistent with their genetic hereditarian worldview. Including classes and castes within these populations.

Wade is trying to graft the 'recent selection' signals from population genomics with the old fashioned view of race. (Some race concept advocates are not even ethnic behavioral hereditarians, complicating the issue.) To demolish both of Wade and HBD's major argument, behavioral/mental/cultural hereditarianism needs to be attacked head on (as Eric Michael Johnson has done). It won't fall as an ancillary benefit of killing the race concept.

Anonymous said...

If a single image can sum up how ridiculous the "race is a social construct" position is, this is it:

http://oi62.tinypic.com/21ovkpj.jpg

..

Ken Weiss said...

'Evolution', 'creationism', 'race' all are words and hence they are sociocultural. Each person will give a different definition (I've tried that in classes many times). In a socially sensitive area, we should be exploring how we can analyze issues that are worth analyzing. Often, as in any area of logical reasoning, we have to start with definitions.

Beyond definition, what is obvious to one person may not be obvious or even correct to another. Denial of reality is useful in some areas of human life, but not in science. But assertion that something is 'real' when the evidence is far from conclusive or the assertion itself far from clear is also a form of denial. So are selective use of facts, whatever side does it.

Hollis said...

unrelated to this post ... I found this intriguing title from MT (by Ken) on my reading list yesterday, but it's a dead link ... ?? Is it a post in progress?
Plant sociality and solidarity
http://ecodevoevo.blogspot.com/2014/05/plant-sociality-and-solidarity.html

Anne Buchanan said...

Yes, Hollis, post in progress. Sad story about unrecoverable disappearing drafts, angst, rewritten posts and so forth, but it should be up on Monday!

Hollis said...

ah yes, I understand! -- looking forward to it

Holly Dunsworth said...

I got my first positive outcome! And it's not a joke (I asked): "we can stop spending billions to close an uncloseable education gap."

Anne Buchanan said...

Well, that's what The Bell Curve proposed years ago. Shame, all the billions wasted since then trying to educate the uneducable. This whole "debate" does make one wonder about all the money being wasted on lousy science education.

Anonymous said...


Fwd:

Updated Image people are Tweeting:

It reads:


“The Cultural Marxist War against Darwinism

Creationists: evolution is a social construct, not biologically real.

Liberal Creationists: race is a social construct, not biologically real.

Charles Darwin: I’m not a creationist; I’ll use the word ‘race’ in title of my Origin of Species”


Image at: http://oi61.tinypic.com/9kyn2w.jpg


This pretty well sums up how silly the “social construct” position is - whether by religious creationists or liberal creationists.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Here's the second positive outcome I've received: "if science determined that bio race in humans is real, we'd know the truth. knowing the truth is always a positive outcome."

Holly Dunsworth said...

+ "...ditto for if it found it not to be the case, of course."

Anonymous said...

Your question doesn't seem to make any sense:

You admit that "human biology (the way we look, the diseases we get and don't get, etc...) varies geographically and in some patterned ways, depending on the trait. That's fact."

OK, that is basically conceding everything that anyone who believes in "race" would think of as scientific fact.

But then you ask: "I'm talking about deciding that biological race is real, in other words, that race is real beyond being "just" a human construct."

Race is more than a human construct for all the reasons that you already conceded in the previous sentence.

Anyway, these scientific facts are facts regardless of whether there is a "positive outcome" to them. (Perhaps you don't count "believing in scientific facts" as a positive outcome in and of itself?)

Ken Weiss said...

To the person making that statement:
Such a comment is almost absurd on its face. 'Race' is a word, and so is 'real'. So one would at least expect some more rigorous definition of what that statement is.

And as to the conclusion, Hitler was convinced by his scientists. If race is real, then he and his advisors were right. Was that a positive outcome?

Should a doctor or relative always tell their loved one if they, but not the loved one, know that they have only a week to live when the loved one is beaming with hope and speaking of a recovered future? At least that is a debatable point.

Whether the discovery of nuclear weapons was a positive outcome is also highly debatable, I would think. Hundreds of thousands of victims would likely disagree (they, being, Japanese may have deserved their flayed incineration from your point of view but probably not from theirs. These are but a few examples showing how subjective even your simple-sounding statement is.

Indeed, from the point of view of something like human happiness, many things may be true but not lead to positive outcome. The issue here is coming to agreement, or coming to terms with the component of inherent subjectivity of much of human affairs.

But before any of this were to be discussed, you'd have to be clear what you meant by race.

Anonymous said...

But this is a bigger deal than just the "education gap". If race is real - that is, if differences between populations aren't just a function of culture but have causes which are genetic and heritable - then we have a good scientific reason to reject "one size fits all" solutions to all kinds of social problems. We also might be able to come up with more realistic metrics for measuring positive outcomes.

Holly Dunsworth said...

From twitter: "positive outcome: death of civilization will be avoided b/c people will be discouraged from mating with low IQ Negro apes."

Holly Dunsworth said...

from Twitter: "positive outcome: deporting Negroes from White societies for which they're not genetically adapted."

Holly Dunsworth said...

Oh my god. Where to start with a reply to this?

Holly Dunsworth said...

Sure, I'm against "Darwinism": one mechanism for evolution does not deserve an -ism.

Holly Dunsworth said...

What I'm finding from today's absolute shitfest on Twitter is that if you take away nature as a justification for divvying up people into races, it doesn't seem like many race proponents are able to articulate why it is that they insist on races.

Anonymous said...

Holly,

I'm sorry that people are tweeting things like that. Such tweets, I think, aren't representative of the mainstream HBD people, like the twitter accounts of HBD Chick, HBD Bibliography or JayMan (who's black), who wouldn't tweet such things. If they did, I'd unfollow them. I do think, however, that these accounts are followed by unsavory people (who often know nothing about HBD) but only follow them because they tweet about race.

I just want to say that I am politically liberal, against racism, but also believe in HBD. Why? Because all the genetic evidence is leaning toward both the reality of race and behavioral differences between the races. I bet all this will be sorted out in next decade and I hope to be a part of it. (Just finished my undergrad in mathematics and am applying to grad programs in genetics.)

Anyway, to your question, what good can come out of it? Well, the truth, and that's important, at least in the tradition of Plato, Aristotle, etc. I include myself in this tradition.

Ken Weiss said...

This whole area is so flooded with emotion, including hate, and commitment to an ideology of evolutionary darwinism, that a measured discussion is often not possible.

That humans vary is undeniable. That variation occurs over space and across the genome is not deniable. That some of that variation affects any trait you want to name is not deniable. That some of the variation within any group, however defined, is harmful is not deniable.

But that discrete categories or group characteristics, especially involving socially sensitive topics like iQ, is a good way to look at things is very questionable. Lives are at stake, as we know from history that should make us VERY wary of assertions about such topics.

Even for emotionally neutral traits, like diabetes risk, genomic causation is very complex and prediction problematic. Social traits are, also undeniably, largely formed by culture, making assertions about genetic determination of their subtle variants, largely fantasy-land at this point.

Unfortunately, measured discussion seems impossible at this tribal-feuding state.

educationrealist said...

"Still waiting for a single positive outcome if scientists were to favor the completely arbitrary notion of human biological races. "

Well, you rejected the one demonstrable good I would have offered. We spend billions trying to equalize educational outcomes. If we accepted that cognitive ability determined academic outcomes, and that the achievement gap was really just an artifact of the fact that the groups we track have different average cognitive abilities, then we would approach education differently.

I'm pretty sure Charles Murray has never said that we shouldn't bother educating the uneducable. I certainly have not. We need to do more research on what learning outcomes are realistic with IQs of 70-90, 90-110, and so on. I think we can teach more than we are now, insisting that everyone can learn the same material.

http://educationrealist.wordpress.com/encylopedia-of-ed-part-i-things-voldemortean/

Anne Buchanan said...

"Because all the genetic evidence is leaning toward both the reality of race and behavioral differences between the races."

This just isn't true. As a just graduating math major, you don't know nearly enough about genetics or evolution to reach that conclusion in any knowledgeable way. See our post of May 19 for some discussion of the complexity of addressing the genetics of race, for example. Read the papers we link to. If you think about it at all, you'll see that it simply isn't true that the genetics is definitive.

Anonymous said...

When I first started following the HBD scene about a year ago, I was a little shocked that there are now hundreds of HBD blogs and hundreds of HBD tweeters, some of whom have thousands of followers.

But then you see the American Anthropology Association promulgating lies like “race is a social construct” and it’s little wonder.

If the AAA had any concern for the truth (which it doesn’t) it would put in bold font at the top of its letterhead: “Race is a biological reality but racism is morally wrong”. But this would be logical and true, so don’t expect so much from people completely indoctrinated by Cultural Marxism and at war with human nature.

And so, HBD will continue to grow in popularity and organizations like the AAA will continue to become a bigger joke…


Holly Dunsworth said...

I will continue to post all comments as I have already.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Human Variation is biological reality. Race is taxonomy which is a human construct, not something revealed in nature. And as I've come to understand today mainly from Twitter and the HBD crowd: Race is more than taxonomy. Race is a hypothesis (to be conservative) that group level behavioral differences (a) are measurable and exist and (b) are genetically based. That definition of "race" that I've come to learn is pretty prevalent (thanks to Twitter today and many comments here) is not a biological reality.

Ken Weiss said...

As I've said elsewhere here, race is a word and a word is clearly and essentially a social construct. If people with half or more European and the rest African ancestry and those with all African ancestry are all 'black' (or pick your favorite term) then this is manifestly a social construct based on various well-known social factors.

So you should stop make silly shallow statements, and ask what is it about the AAA's declaration that drives it? They are often openly anti-science. Their statements are statements of sociopolitical views. We can disagree with that from a scientific point of view--but we should try to understand what they are driving at, because it is largely social discrimination, which affects more of the world's peoples daily lives than arguments among scientists.

Many of us shun that organization for its shallowness. But that is not an excuse to go 180 degrees and be as off-base as they can be.

If a physicist couldn't state what counts as, say, a proton, it would be difficult to write equations about protons. The definition need not be perfect, but it needs some precision. Here, too, if there were a way to clarify what is legitimately of interest, a discussion could be held (but only by those in the tribes who weren't just skinheads venting hate).

Anonymous said...

The heart of the problem is hereditarianism (genetic determinism) to explain/justify inequalities related to gender, class, (social) race, ethnicity, nations.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Right. And WAY more people than I imagined would read my title about "race is real" to be much much more than taxonomy. Many many race proponents are beyond taxonomic thinking and are insisting that race is how to describe group-level behavior differences due to genes. This post is pretty confusing, I'd imagine, to them.

John said...

Excellent article. You're generous to let in the HBD trolls, who are likely the same few people (or just one). Skeptical Science deletes any climate trolls that are just sloganeering or slandering and I think that's the best way for a serious forum. If they have a legitimate point let them make it, though of course few will.

The HBD crowd is all about bigotry, even the genteel variety like that which Nicholas Wade has floated with this book. I saw his webinar "debate" with Augustin Fuentes and Wade came off as a bumbler. He definitely didn't seem to understand the data he was using for his arguments and when pressed to come up with a biological definition for race offered essentially nothing other than "but of course it's self-evident". From my perspective the Dick Dorkins parody was spot on. It will be interesting to see, however, if E.O.Wilson gets mixed up in this, having contributed a positive blurb for the cover.

John said...

This is drivel, and not worth a thoughtful response. I would think you cold have packed a bit more red herring, right wingnut name calling in too.... Do you even know what a gene is, or a cline, or an allele frequency?

Anonymous said...

An example: HBDer Gregory Cochran, coauthor of 10,000 Year Explosion, is an adjunct professor of anthropology at U of Utah (Note: I do not endorse him.)

http://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/unknown-phenotypes/

Josh Rosenthal said...

***can you think of an actual positive outcome if a consensus of scientists decided that biological races are real? ***

Since when is science determined by whether there are "positive outcomes" or not! The reality is that race/major population group, etc has implications in terms of medical research. It's also a nuisance for GWAS — you have to correct for population structure as a possible confound for the real effect you are looking for.

Anonymous said...

Well, you could start by admitting that you aren't really interested in a good faith discussion.

But while you're thinking about a reply, maybe you could answer a question for me:

Let's pretend we're back 12 years ago and we're asking similar kinds of questions inspired by Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate". What would be your answer to the question of whether anything "good" could come out of understanding that, say, behavioral/tempermental differences between men and women have a biological basis and aren't just a social construct? Do you think nothing good can come out of the kind of claims Dr. Pinker made in his book and the kind of research into human biodiversity that HE was writing about? If so, do you think we should suppress the kind of conclusions Dr. Pinker drew then and not bother doing research that might lead to similar kinds of conclusions? But, if not, what is it about the questions that Wade is asking that make it a bridge too far for you?

Holly Dunsworth said...

As with many others, the premise on which my question rests is not shared/understood by you.

Also, ancestry has implications for medical success. Not racial categories.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Thanks to the many commenters here and on Twitter who have clarified my post. I'm really sorry you're not able to see how you've helped. And to the race proponent who's going to graduate school for genetics: I hope you get into a terrific program so that you're able to someday see what we're talking about here.

Holly Dunsworth said...

As with many others, you do not share or understand the premise on which my question is based. You do not see how racial categories are arbitrary. I did not anticipate that "race" for so many involved in this discussion would be so much more than a category... that it would be an assumption that group level behavioral differences are genetically based. That was my fault.

Holly Dunsworth said...

What your comment tells me is that you've really never thought about the difference between diversity and race and that you've never really thought about the kinds of questions I asked in my post. I'll give you some more time. Thanks.

Holly Dunsworth said...

COMMENTS ARE CLOSED.

Holly Dunsworth said...

(except of course when it comes to how people, due to the racial category they've been assigned to, have faired healthwise because of it)