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Thread: Race - where both Left and Right go wrong

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    Race - where both Left and Right go wrong

    What Both the Left and Right Get Wrong About Race – Nautilus – Medium
    Setting the scientific record straight on race, IQ, and succes
    Race does not stand up scientifically, period. To begin with, if race categories were meant primarily to capture differences in genetics, they are doing an abysmal job. The genetic distance between some groups within Africa is as great as the genetic distance between many “racially divergent” groups in the rest of the world. The genetic distance between East Asians and Europeans is shorter than the divergence between Hazda in north-central Tanzania to the Fulani shepherds of West Africa (who live in present-day Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Guinea). So much for Black, White, Asian, and Other.

    Armed with this knowledge, many investigators in the biological sciences have replaced the term “race” with the term “continental ancestry.”
    This is often more fine-grained than traditional classifications of race, because the more common such classifications are very broad. Anthropologists have had different opinions on how many races of humanity there are, though part of it is lumpers vs. splitters (a few large groups vs. many small groups: Lumpers and splitters). Continental ancestry avoids this issue altogether.

    Authors Dalton Conley & Jason Fletcher then criticize arguments on both the Left and the Right.

    On the Left, many people point out our great genetic similarity and how some 85% of genetic variation is in-population variation. However, many genes are known that make a big difference in various phenotypic features, and some such genes vary between populations. Genes involved in skin color, for instance. Furthermore, evolution can happen fast when it involves selection among already-existing alleles or gene variants in populations, though it may take some time to restore the original amount of variation.

    Even so, some traits have evolved rather fast, like lactose tolerance. It evolved in human populations with a long tradition of herding conveniently milkable animals like cattle and horses, and that only happened well into the Holocene.

    On the Right, there are cases of seeming evidence of genetic differences in behavior that turned out to be false alarms. Like the monoamine-oxidase "warrior gene".
    The mistake that many genetic determinists make is assuming that because we can observe this clear relationship between environment and genetics in some physical characteristics, we can unproblematically expand it to highly complex human behaviors and mental characteristics. That we can see selective pressures at work in generating phenotypic differences in traits that rely on a small number of genes — such as skin tone, eye color, or lactose tolerance — does not easily translate to a clear relationship between a highly polygenic trait such as cognitive ability and the social or physical landscape.

    ...
    In addition to the complex and polygenetic structure of many behaviors at one point in time, rapid changes in economic fortunes during the last 50 years make simple genetic explanations of relative success by ethnic groups in the modern world all the more dubious.
    Then the contentious issue of possible genetic differences in cognitive ability between various self-identified races in the United States.

    For instance, in 1994, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray wrote a book, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, where they claimed that such differences exist, that "white" people are genetically predisposed to be smarter than "black" people. However, that book contained no molecular genetic data.

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    With molecular genetic data, how might one proceed? In two possible ways, with polygenic scores and with principal components.

    First, polygenic scores, adding up the effects from individual genes that contribute to some trait. Though height is about 80% inherited, it is heavily polygenic, with there being no recognizable "height gene". Likewise, cognitive performance 25%, though heavily polygenic. There is no recognizable "IQ gene".
    As it turns out, however, these scores when developed for one population — say, those of European descent — fail to predict for other populations. Take the height example. The best height score, which has been “trained” on whites, when applied to blacks, predicts that Africans or African Americans are six inches shorter than they are.
    So polygenic scores do not work well between populations.

    Turning to principal component analysis, one fits data points to a multidimensional ellipsoid and then finds the axis lengths and directions of that ellipsoid. Though what DC&JF describe is more like linear regression, fitting to a straight line or its multidimensional equivalents -- trying to find IQ as a function of continental ancestry.

    But there are further confounding factors, like stereotypes influencing how people are treated, like darker-skinned ones getting presumed to be less intelligent or more dangerous than lighter-skinned ones. The resulting behavior patterns often make such assessments into self-fulfilling prophecies.
    There has long been evidence — dating back to the days of W.E.B. Du Bois — that there is a pigmentocracy within U.S. black (and white and Latino) communities. More recent work has shown that this is not a uniquely American phenomenon but extends to Brazil, South Africa, and other nations with a creole, mixed population.
    That's "colorism" -- Discrimination based on skin color -- "Recent research in the U.S. shows that socioeconomic and health inequality among African Americans along the color continuum is often similar or even larger in magnitude than what exists between whites and African Americans as a whole."
    The near impossibility of a definitive, scientific approach to interrogating genes, race, and IQ stands in contrast to the loose claims of pundits or scholars who assert that there is a genetic explanation for the black-white test score gap. That said, the consideration of genetics in racial analysis is not always pernicious. The ability to control for genotype actually places the effects of social processes, like discrimination, in starker relief. Once you eliminate the claim that there are biological or genetic differences between populations by controlling them away, we can show more clearly the importance of environmental (non-genetic) processes such as structural racism.

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    As to why colorism has been so common, I like the hypothesis in David Landes's book The Wealth and Poverty of Nations that it is a result of climate. Temperate-climate areas like Europe and China got ahead of the rest of the world because in the absence of air conditioners, it is easier to do heavy work in such climates. That is because doing such work generates a lot of waste heat, and that heat must be eliminated. It is easier to do so in a cool climate than in a warm climate, meaning that one can work more in a cool climate than in a warm climate.

    So temperate-climate people could more easily do lots of work than tropical climate people, and that is why they ended up dominating the world. Where they live has lower temperature because of receiving less sunlight, and that lower sunlight induced the adaptation of having lighter skin color, to make vitamin D. But as temperate-climate people came to rule the world, this resulted in the presumption that lighter-skinned people are naturally more capable of high civilization than darker-skinned ones.

    There's also Jared Diamond's theory of easier interchange of domestic plants and animals over Eurasia. That could explain why Eurasians ended up conquering North America, despite that continent also having a temperate climate in much of it.

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    I remember reading Stephen Jay Gould's book "The Mismeasure of Man".

    The first part of it is a good history of how nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century biologists and psychologists seemingly found evidence of genetic differences in the races in cognitive performance. SJG proposed that some of the measurement techniques back then were not as good as one might want them to be, and that one could end up getting the results that one expects to get. Like using poppy seeds to measure skull volumes. Their measurer could let them be loose for a black person's skull that seemed excessively voluminous, and he could push in the seeds for a white person's skull that seemed excessively cramped.

    I also like when the US Army administered IQ tests in World War I. Black people came out behind white people everywhere in the US, but northern-US whites sometimes came out ahead of southern-US whites. Something that caused some consternation among some southern-state politicians.

    The second part I found *very* weak. He attempted to discredit principal components analysis and similar statistical techniques, and I think that he failed *very* badly there.

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    What about how the pressures to have to plan longer term and control impulses may have selected for those genes?

    It is not just about raw processing power, but controlling impulses. If you don't need to plan and save resources for the long time of harsh winter, having that temperament is a waste and could even be counterproductive if it slows you down.

    For the record I am white and I think that my impulse control and ability to delay gratification is not so good.

    Now it could be that none of this is determined by genes in large measure, I don't know myself.


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    Quote Originally Posted by repoman View Post
    What about how the pressures to have to plan longer term and control impulses may have selected for those genes?
    My OP's link does mention that hypothesis. In fact, it was what anthropologists Gregory Cochran and the late Henry Harpending had proposed it in their book The 10,000-Year Explosion. But they did not present any direct evidence for their hypothesis, only speculation that it was plausible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
    As to why colorism has been so common, I like the hypothesis in David Landes's book The Wealth and Poverty of Nations that it is a result of climate. Temperate-climate areas like Europe and China got ahead of the rest of the world because in the absence of air conditioners, it is easier to do heavy work in such climates. That is because doing such work generates a lot of waste heat, and that heat must be eliminated. It is easier to do so in a cool climate than in a warm climate, meaning that one can work more in a cool climate than in a warm climate.

    So temperate-climate people could more easily do lots of work than tropical climate people, and that is why they ended up dominating the world. Where they live has lower temperature because of receiving less sunlight, and that lower sunlight induced the adaptation of having lighter skin color, to make vitamin D. But as temperate-climate people came to rule the world, this resulted in the presumption that lighter-skinned people are naturally more capable of high civilization than darker-skinned ones.

    There's also Jared Diamond's theory of easier interchange of domestic plants and animals over Eurasia. That could explain why Eurasians ended up conquering North America, despite that continent also having a temperate climate in much of it.
    Two more things from Jared Diamond:

    1) Disease. The tropics are a hotbed of disease. In the past the average African really was less intelligent because of malaria.

    2) The tropics have an incredible variety of plant life--on the surface this would seem like a good thing but it means any given plant will not be all that common. Fine if you are a generalist but it discourages focusing on something--farming.

    And note that it's not just the interchange of plants and animals, but the knowledge to grow them. Take a farmer and move him east or west and he's probably not going to be as hampered as if you move him the same distance north or south. The southern hemisphere's land is oriented vertically.

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    I think, from the perspective of what you are calling the left (I guess, I would call it common sense) is that it's not denying that there may be slight evolutionary differences in variations on the theme, but that it is of no use to classify people based on any of these theories as to a groups worth within society. In fact, the potential to do much. much more harm than any good (if possible at all) is off the charts.

    As we witness time and time again, without exception.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnG View Post
    I think, from the perspective of what you are calling the left (I guess, I would call it common sense) is that it's not denying that there may be slight evolutionary differences in variations on the theme, but that it is of no use to classify people based on any of these theories as to a groups worth within society. In fact, the potential to do much. much more harm than any good (if possible at all) is off the charts.

    As we witness time and time again, without exception.
    If the genes for raw intelligence (processing power) and more importantly ability to deal with mental stress, delay gratification and plan long term were very well established and the contribution to a person's success or struggle was known, would that be a good thing?

    You hear about the MAO allele studies before?

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2650118/

    Monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA) has earned the nickname “warrior gene” because it has been linked to aggression in observational and survey-based studies. However, no controlled experimental studies have tested whether the warrior gene actually drives behavioral manifestations of these tendencies. We report an experiment, synthesizing work in psychology and behavioral economics, which demonstrates that aggression occurs with greater intensity and frequency as provocation is experimentally manipulated upwards, especially among low activity MAOA (MAOA-L) subjects. In this study, subjects paid to punish those they believed had taken money from them by administering varying amounts of unpleasantly hot (spicy) sauce to their opponent. There is some evidence of a main effect for genotype and some evidence for a gene by environment interaction, such that MAOA is less associated with the occurrence of aggression in a low provocation condition, but significantly predicts such behavior in a high provocation situation. This new evidence for genetic influences on aggression and punishment behavior complicates characterizations of humans as “altruistic” punishers and supports theories of cooperation that propose mixed strategies in the population. It also suggests important implications for the role of individual variance in genetic factors contributing to everyday behaviors and decisions.
    Could this allele have been strongly selected for or against in the course of time and built each distinct civilization? Some fostered it while others decreased it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnG View Post
    I think, from the perspective of what you are calling the left (I guess, I would call it common sense) is that it's not denying that there may be slight evolutionary differences in variations on the theme, but that it is of no use to classify people based on any of these theories as to a groups worth within society. In fact, the potential to do much. much more harm than any good (if possible at all) is off the charts.
    That's a reasonable position. DC&JF was arguing that an "IQ gene" that noticeably varies between groups is not an absolute impossibility, and that it is not ruled out by 85% of human genetic variability being in-group. Furthermore, there are several genes known to be in that 15%, like genes for skin color and various facial features.

    Having settled that one cannot rule out an "IQ gene" from such general evidence, one can still address the question of whether such a gene exists. There is no evidence for such a gene, and heritability of performance in IQ tests is (1) heavily polygenic and (2) with variability mostly in-group variability.

    As to repoman's hypothesis, that is pure supposition -- and supposition without good support.

    I close with this: Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
    In a heated debate in parliament, O'Connell referred to Disraeli's Jewish ancestry in disparaging terms to which Disraeli responded:

    Yes, I am a Jew and when the ancestors of the right honourable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.
    Referring to a certain Daniel O'Connell's Irish ancestry.

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