Where the wild clines aren't

By Razib Khan | March 7, 2012 7:38 pm

In the recent ‘do human races’ exist controversy Nick Matzke’s post Continuous geographic structure is real, “discrete races” aren’t has become something of a touchstone (perhaps a post like Cosma Shalizi’s on I.Q. and heritability).* In the post Matzke emphasized the idea of clines, roughly a continuous gradient of genetic change over space. Fair enough. But in the map above I traced two linear transects. I would suggest that anyone who has a general understanding of the demographics of South-Central Eurasia would immediately anticipate that these transects would reveal a relatively sharp break in allele frequencies. True, there are intermediate populations between the two end points, in Nepal, and on the fringes of India’s northeastern states. But clearly about halfway through the southwest-northeast transect you’ll see a rapid shift in allele frequencies. The blue transect is different, insofar as the change occurs very near its eastern pole. In Bengal, 85% of the length of the transect from its western terminus, the populations will still be far closer genetically to those on the western pole than those just to the east!

 

I thought of this when I saw that Zack had posted a Tibetan data set from Qinghai. As the crow flies Qinghai is closer to the plains of North India than peninsular South India, but Zack found Tibetans from this region to be only ~1 percent South Asian. That’s likely to be close to noise. I assume this does not surprise anyone. Despite the fact that North India is very populous in relation to Tibet, it turns out that geographical barriers are very strong in discouraging gene flow (note that Tibet and North India are actually culturally related; Tibetan Buddhism has its origins in the Tantric Buddhism of Bengal). This is one of my major “beefs” with the idea that “race does not exist” because of clines. I think this is a robust point when it comes to there being no Middle Eastern race vs. Scandinavian race. The clines are real and gradual between these two population sets. But I do think there has been strong differentiation between populations from the antipodes of Eurasia. I suspect that the emergence of more flexible lifestyles (e.g., oasis agriculture, horse nomadism) has in fact resulted in far greater connections between the isolated zones of Western and Eastern Eurasia over the past 10,000 years than before. In fact, one can conceptualize it as a two fold process. On the one hand you had very powerful expansions from small initial founder groups across macro-regions such as Western Eurasia and the Far East. This resulted in a decrease of genetic difference within these zones through the power of homogenization, though increased Fst in the few zones of direct contact across the zones. But, the “empty zones” of Central Eurasia may also have filled up with”proto-“Silk Road” centers over the past ~10,000 years, resulting in more frequent long term connections between the macro-regions than had heretofore been possible.

* I guess I should divulge that I have socialized with Nick Matzke an that we share common friends.

MORE ABOUT: Race
  • Kiwiguy

    “Clines or Clusters?

    Serre and Pääbo [10] argue that human genetic diversity consists of clines of variation in allele frequencies. We agree and had commented on this issue in our original paper ([3], p. 2382): “In several populations, individuals had partial membership in multiple clusters, with similar membership coefficients for most individuals. These populations might reflect continuous gradations across regions or admixture of neighboring groups.” At the same time, we find that human genetic diversity consists not only of clines, but also of clusters, which STRUCTURE observes to be repeatable and robust.

    How can these seemingly discordant perspectives on human genetic diversity be reconciled? Figure 6 shows a plot of genetic distance and geographic distance for pairs of populations. To illustrate the effects of moving continuously across geographical space, only pairs from within clusters or from geographically adjacent clusters are shown. That is, for the five clusters with K = 5 in Figure 2 of the present study and in Figure 1 of [3]—corresponding to Africa, Eurasia (Europe, Middle East, and Central/South Asia), East Asia, Oceania, and the Americas—an intercluster population pair is plotted only if it includes one population from Africa and one from Eurasia, one from Eurasia and one from East Asia, or one from East Asia and one from Oceania or the Americas.

    For population pairs from the same cluster, as geographic distance increases, genetic distance increases in a linear manner, consistent with a clinal population structure. However, for pairs from different clusters, genetic distance is generally larger than that between intracluster pairs that have the same geographic distance. For example, genetic distances for population pairs with one population in Eurasia and the other in East Asia are greater than those for pairs at equivalent geographic distance within Eurasia or within East Asia. Loosely speaking, it is these small discontinuous jumps in genetic distance—across oceans, the Himalayas, and the Sahara—that provide the basis for the ability of STRUCTURE to identify clusters that correspond to geographic regions.”

    Rosenberg NA, Mahajan S, Ramachandran S, Zhao C, Pritchard JK, et al. 2005 Clines, Clusters, and the Effect of Study Design on the Inference of Human Population Structure. PLoS Genet 1(6):
    http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pgen.0010070

  • prasad

    Following this discussion on ‘racial’ and ‘clinal’ variation, I am mostly befuddled as to why *this* distinction of all matters, especially politically. On either account there is correlation between genetic structure and geography, so between people from different places you find statistical differences both in genes, and in things like personality, culture, physical and mental attributes, and so on. The important question, whether in a scientific or in a political sense, is whether these genetic differences have any explanatory power in understanding the differences between groups. Any useful science, and any explosive/icky politics seems to come out right there. Also, whether you have races or you have clines, Indians differ from Belgians genetically, and you can start to investigate whether and which genetic differences matter, and how much.

    Your two lines seem to illustrate the issue – of course height variation is always continuous on *some* scale, and of course in some cases topographical variation is going to be smoother than in others, but it seems equally invalid (and in this case silly) to go on to statements like ‘all places have the same altitude’ whether you’re looking at the red or at the blue line.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #1, please be parsimonious in quoting lots of paper text in the comments. a link and a sentence or two is sufficient if you aren’t going to had your own gloss.

  • prasad

    Also, have people tried using different types of generalized distance metrics for these purposes, eg increasing the distance between two places when they’re separated by desert/mountain, or in altitude, or reducing it when they’re connected by a navigable river, etc? I couldn’t find anything on google, either because I have the wrong terms, or because it’s uninteresting..don’t know which.

  • Anthony

    Prasad – the simple answer is that in the U.S., observable race (melanin content and a few other features) matter, a lot, due to history. There does seem to be significant differences in IQ, and possibly in statistical behavior patterns (criminality, but future-time-orientation more generally), between “racial” groups, which has all sorts of implications for public policy.

    If you can argue that “race” doesn’t exist as a biological category, then certain observed differences between racial groups in the U.S. must be the result of hostile action (“racism”, “discrimination”, etc.), and public policy should emphasize suppressing or redressing those hostile actions.

    If “races” are real, even if fuzzy, and the variations in IQ and behaviors are intrinsic to those groups, then the appropriate public policy response to those observed differences is very different. And not fully settled – Steve Sailer has proposed some ideas, after a long discussion of how we got here. But those aren’t the only ideas out there which accept those differences.

  • prasad

    I’m not seeing it..my question is purely conceptual. It seems like this race vs cline question is basically inert in policy terms. I guess at short geographic distance it matters whether you think the differences vary smoothly or not, but in either case (racial vs clinal), at moderate distances groups of people have genetic differences. You can always ask how much genetic variation there is between the average Spaniard and Swede, or between the average Belgian and Indian. You can then ask whether the variation is neutral or has consequences, and I daresay Mr Sailer would give very different answers from most of the academy. But the methods of analysis, and the types of disagreement, are going to be the same whether the world comes with clines or with races. Or imagine Earth-II where every human being between Punjab and Bengal acquires rabies and dies, so you have “races” instead of “clines.” Surely the differences between Punjabis and Bengalis are the same here as on Earth-II. In fact, screw distance, either groups with political and cultural salience differ genetically or they don’t. Does the genetic difference between lesbian and straight Peruvians lead to any interesting differences besides the obvious, etc. So what does this entire discussion between Coyne and Matzke matter?

  • NickMatzke

    4. prasad Says:
    March 8th, 2012 at 12:57 am

    Also, have people tried using different types of generalized distance metrics for these purposes, eg increasing the distance between two places when they’re separated by desert/mountain, or in altitude, or reducing it when they’re connected by a navigable river, etc? I couldn’t find anything on google, either because I have the wrong terms, or because it’s uninteresting..don’t know which.

    Yes, people have done this, “friction” surfaces and “path distance” are some of the terms. In these methods, the geographic distance is not the as-the-crow-flies distance, it is the as-the-human-would-likely-walk distance, or the frequency-of-successful-crossing distance, etc. Presumably these sorts of distances might retrieve a clinal pattern for genetic distance even in the case Razib cites.

    I am not sure if anyone has done a comparison with formal statistical model testing, to see if a friction-based distance outperforms plain old great circle distance, or if great circle explains 75% of the variation and a friction-based distance another 5%, or what. It would be an interesting study with suitably spaced-out gridded samples.

    What I would like to see is a gridded map of rate-of-genetic-change in each grid cell, that would tell us some interesting things. If anyone knows of an appropriate dataset, lemme know.

  • NickMatzke

    6. prasad Says:
    March 9th, 2012 at 3:04 am

    I’m not seeing it..my question is purely conceptual. It seems like this race vs cline question is basically inert in policy terms. I guess at short geographic distance it matters whether you think the differences vary smoothly or not, but in either case (racial vs clinal), at moderate distances groups of people have genetic differences. You can always ask how much genetic variation there is between the average Spaniard and Swede, or between the average Belgian and Indian. You can then ask whether the variation is neutral or has consequences, and I daresay Mr Sailer would give very different answers from most of the academy. But the methods of analysis, and the types of disagreement, are going to be the same whether the world comes with clines or with races. Or imagine Earth-II where every human being between Punjab and Bengal acquires rabies and dies, so you have “races” instead of “clines.” Surely the differences between Punjabis and Bengalis are the same here as on Earth-II. In fact, screw distance, either groups with political and cultural salience differ genetically or they don’t.

    The point of raising clines, among other reasons, is to raise the issue of whether or not such “groups” are even objectively recognizable or definable or real at all in the first place. The reality of the “groups” is usually just brazenly assumed either though cultural inertia or through some misbegotten attempt to maintain some privilege for one’s group. The problem should have been obvious just based on the wildly different racial classifications in different countries, I think, but for some reason it sometimes isn’t.

    As for policy implications, it is easy (historically) for governments or cultures to set up a few big categories of people and then discriminate/privilege some and not others. Everyone can remember a simple system like that. It’s rather harder to imagine a system working where everyone is placed somewhere in a 100-dimensional continuous space.

    Somebody raised IQ. I would pay money to see somebody who is a proponent of genetic race-based IQ differences be forced to interpret all studies and data in a geographically and genetically continuous framework.

    Does the genetic difference between lesbian and straight Peruvians lead to any interesting differences besides the obvious, etc. So what does this entire discussion between Coyne and Matzke matter?

    Lesbian & straight Peruvians? What?

  • Kiwiguy

    ***So what does this entire discussion between Coyne and Matzke matter?***

    Is it largely a marketing issue of how to package variation for public consumption? I guess those who focus on clines think they will avoid triggering in-group/out-group biases.

  • gcochran

    ” It seems like this race vs cline question is basically inert in policy terms. ”

    It never made any sense. It’s bullshit, designed to confuse the hoi polloi. Works, too.

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    Dear NickMatzke:

    Here’s a simple way for you to say it: Human variation is clinal along paths where it is clinal. However, there are lots of other potential paths.

    For example, in 1491, Senegal was closer to Brazil than to many places within subSaharan Africa. Yet, the people in Senegal and the people in Brazil were at opposite ends of the world in terms of genetics. Or, as Razib points out, there is a sharp division between Indian and Tibet, typically at about a mile high altitude due to malaria.

  • NickMatzke

    Or, as Razib points out, there is a sharp division between Indian and Tibet, typically at about a mile high altitude due to malaria.

    I can believe that superhigh mountains generically block gene flow because they are hard to cross. But mere malaria presence/absence would not be expected to block gene flow generically, only the few genes under different selective regimes.

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    Or, Nick, you could argue that the clinal model works across the Sahara because there is a black-Caucasian gradient across oases from south to north. But the cluster model would strike most people as being more useful for that case.

    But, there are plenty of other places where a clinal approach makes perfect sense.

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    Nick, please keep in mind, that there are a number of people who have thought about these topics longer and harder than you have, and are familiar with all the arguments, which you aren’t yet.

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    “But mere malaria presence/absence would not be expected to block gene flow generically, only the few genes under different selective regimes.”

    Except that in places like Nepal, it does.

    Nick, you should read up on the subject of human biodiversity. It’s quite fascinating and you’d learn a lot.

  • NickMatzke

    Oh and wrt this:

    For example, in 1491, Senegal was closer to Brazil than to many places within subSaharan Africa. Yet, the people in Senegal and the people in Brazil were at opposite ends of the world in terms of genetics

    I’ve been talking about geographic distances, this was always distance-across-land, or minimal overwater jumps, obviously.

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    Nick,

    Here’s something I wrote in 1998:

    Geographic proximity matters. This truth has lead to the most rational assault on the concept of race, Ashley Montagu’s “clinal variation” idea: the concept of race isn’t useful because traits tend to vary incrementally across distances. There is some truth to this. The question is how much. Clinal variation would be a very useful model if the surface of the Earth resembled the Yucatan peninsula: dead flat, lacking in any kind of surface water, all limestone, and just generally featureless. In reality, Earth is covered with oceans, deserts, mountains, rivers, glaciers, and other natural boundaries. It would also improve the validity of the clinal model if human history — conquests, migrations, enslavements, genocides, etc. — had never happened. In general, reality tends to be lumpy. Thus, many areas where this clinal variation ought to exist (the Sahara, Central Asia, the Himalayas, the Atlantic Ocean, etc.) tend to be mostly unpopulated. In contrast, the places with the great big clumps of population (China, Europe, etc.) tend to be monoracial. [India is arguably an exception, but even that’s quite complicated.]

    Consider clinal variation between black Africans and Southeast Asians. There’d be a lot of it except that the Indian Ocean gets in the way. In fact, there is one place where there is clinal variation between black Africans and Southeast Asians: Madagascar. But, this is an exception that proves the rule. Jared Diamond calls the ancient Malgasy settlement of Madagascar the most surprising fact in the history of geography.

    http://www.isteve.com/makingsense.htm

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    “I’ve been talking about geographic distances, this was always distance-across-land, or minimal overwater jumps, obviously.”

    Well, that the earth is 69% water-covered is a bit of a problem for the clinal model, isn’t it?

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    The clinal model works perfectly, except where it doesn’t due to inconvenient realities like oceans, deserts, mountains, different cultures, different technologies, different economies, different languages, different religions and other cultural barriers to intermarriage, ethnic cleansings, massacres, diseases, and so forth.

  • candid_observer

    “As for policy implications, it is easy (historically) for governments or cultures to set up a few big categories of people and then discriminate/privilege some and not others. Everyone can remember a simple system like that. It’s rather harder to imagine a system working where everyone is placed somewhere in a 100-dimensional continuous space.

    Somebody raised IQ. I would pay money to see somebody who is a proponent of genetic race-based IQ differences be forced to interpret all studies and data in a geographically and genetically continuous framework.”

    This is breathtakingly ignorant. Even if we grant that there are some continuous gradations across certain boundaries with respect to genes related to IQ, how does this require us to pretend that, say, the differences between, say, typical populations in subSaharan Africa and typical populations in Europe, can’t really be understood except in some “100-dimensional continuous space”? Who, as a scientist, ever makes such a demand, before understanding can proceed? I should think it obvious that what scientists generally try to come by are simplifying assumptions that still provide useful insight into the matters at hand. If you insist that a 100-dimensional continuous space must first be introduced, then, let’s be honest: your real concern isn’t the illumination of underlying truths, but rather the obfuscation of such truths.

  • NickMatzke

    Steve Sailer Says:
    March 9th, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    The clinal model works perfectly, except where it doesn’t due to inconvenient realities like oceans, deserts, mountains, different cultures, different technologies, different economies, different languages, different religions and other cultural barriers to intermarriage, ethnic cleansings, massacres, diseases, and so forth.

    If you want to impress me, show me the proportion of variance in human genetics explained by (a) clines and (b) clusters, and show that clusters are the dominant explanation. Be sure to account for the clustered sampling problem when you do this. Anything else is irrelevant and subjective.

    To wit:

    In contrast, the places with the great big clumps of population (China, Europe, etc.) tend to be monoracial.

    What does this even mean? I’ve read a couple of dozen genetics papers on this in the last few weeks, I don’t recall any of them pulling out “Indian” or “Chinese” as races. You get different answers depending on how many clusters you assume the start, and depending on what your spatial sampling is like.

  • NickMatzke

    Well, that the earth is 69% water-covered is a bit of a problem for the clinal model, isn’t it?

    Um, no. Since the 1960s, geneticists have taken allele frequency data from populations on different continents, and built NJ trees or other hierarchical clustering algorithms. The result is an unrooted tree roughly representing average genetic distance. And you get Africans at one end and Southeast asia-Oceania and the Americas as the two branches at the other end, with Europeans and Asians in the middle. It’s the same pattern as the geography of the continents, connected by their shortest overwater connections. Which is what I was talking about, and what all the isolation-by-distance clinal models are talking about.

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    “It’s the same pattern as the geography of the continents, connected by their shortest overwater connections.”

    Oh, so that’s why Icelanders and Greenland Eskimos are so similar!

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    Anyway, Nick, I think you’d find it helpful conceptually to step back and consider a more modern, more sophisticated approach to defining racial groups than the old-fashioned subspecies notion. A more useful method is to think of racial groups as partly inbred extended families. We all know what extended families are. Racial groups are simply extended families that have more coherence and endurance in time than run of the mill extended families because of some degree endogamy. You can read about this approach here:

    http://www.vdare.com/articles/its-all-relative-putting-race-in-its-proper-perspective

  • NickMatzke

    This is breathtakingly ignorant. Even if we grant that there are some continuous gradations across certain boundaries with respect to genes related to IQ, how does this require us to pretend that, say, the differences between, say, typical populations in subSaharan Africa and typical populations in Europe, can’t really be understood except in some “100-dimensional continuous space”? Who, as a scientist, ever makes such a demand, before understanding can proceed? I should think it obvious that what scientists generally try to come by are simplifying assumptions that still provide useful insight into the matters at hand. If you insist that a 100-dimensional continuous space must first be introduced, then, let’s be honest: your real concern isn’t the illumination of underlying truths, but rather the obfuscation of such truths.

    Ignorant, eh? You didn’t even bother to state what I was ignorant about. Although I am ignorant about the genes and alleles controlling between-population variation in IQ. Perhaps you could tell me what they are, since you are so confident they exist and are a major determinant of IQ differences between the “races”? (Also, please tell me what the races are. I’m ignorant about that as well, I guess. This is a bare minimum requirement if you are going to assert that there are races.)

    The 100-dimensional (or whatever dimensional, it depends on how many loci/physical traits you are measuring) space is about genetics in general. It’s just reality — well, actually, reality would be if you had whole genomes, perhaps there are several hundred thousand loci of interest once you count all exons separately as well as regulatory regions etc. Even if simplifications were justifiable in the past because our data sucked, it’s the 21st-century. Ditch the old simplifications and embrace the complexity of the real world.

    As for IQ — I would just like to see the IQ-obsessed folks even try to do an analysis while acknowledging the complexity and clinal nature of human genetic structure. This point wasn’t meant to be closely connected to the continuous-in-100-dimensions point.

    But since they’ve been connected, IQ is (at best) one-dimensional, even assuming it is real and not some biased test for literacy, education, or whatever, and assuming it is heritable in terms of actual genetics and not just common environment + (genotype-environment interaction) causing apparent heritability, and assuming whatever heritability exists at the parent-offspring level actually means that population-level differences are due to genetics. None of these are established, but even if they were, there are lots of different kinds of “intelligence”, and there is no guarantee that IQ is the correct one for understanding any other variable of interest, e.g. who succeeds at X, Y or Z.

  • NickMatzke

    “Oh, so that’s why Icelanders and Greenland Eskimos are so similar!”

    Iceland was colonized when, 800 AD or something? You might as well point to the English settlers of New England in the 1600s as violations of the clinal model. Gimme a break, what I *just said* pointed out that the Atlantic Ocean was a real barrier, whereas the Pacific wasn’t, because of Beringia. The Greenlanders are a portion of the Americas group. As is totally obvious to anyone not irrationally threatened by clinal models.

  • NickMatzke

    I think my reply to candid_observer is perhaps in moderation for length. Or it got lost. I’ll check in later to see…

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    Isolation by distance is one of those ideas that’s obviously kind of true, but there are so many exceptions to the rule.

    For example, consider the vast distances of Polynesia, with Polynesians as far apart as New Zealand, Easter Island and Hawaii. There’s quite a bit of variation, but not really all that much for such a vast expanse of the Earth’s surface.

    In contrast, compare Indonesia to New Guinea to Australia to Tasmania. The oceanic gaps to be traversed appear small and yet …

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    Nick educates us:

    “The Greenlanders are a portion of the Americas group. As is totally obvious to anyone not irrationally threatened by clinal models.”

    Really? Wow, I never knew that!

    Seriously, Nick, nobody is “irrationally threatened by clinal models.” When they are not inadequate, they’re trivially obvious. You’re coming into this discussion many years late, and you’re naively mistaking wisecracks about the problems of of clinal models for ignorance.

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    Nick writes:

    “I would pay money to see somebody who is a proponent of genetic race-based IQ differences be forced to interpret all studies and data in a geographically and genetically continuous framework.”

    Rather than IQ, let’s look at something simple: men’s running. You can read up on a racial analysis of the remarkable patterns seen in men’s running, from 100m to the marathon, which explicitly uses both cluster and clinal perspectives for explaining how men of subSaharan descent dominate men’s running, but at different distances, with West Africans dominating at 100m, and East Africans at distance running.

    There are even differences readily visible between Kenyans and Ethiopians at which distances they are best at. Moreover, world-class performance among Kenyans are not uniform by tribe, but are highest in higher-altitude tribes, especially the Kalenjin, and, indeed, peak within certain Kalenjin extended families.

    http://www.vdare.com/articles/olympics-2008-biological-questions-and-answers

  • gcochran

    ” there are lots of different kinds of “intelligence” ”

    Nobody with a sub-100 score on the one-dimensional IQ score is very good at mechanical engineering, or electrical engineering, or chemistry, or mathematics, or physics. If we had to rely on those ‘other’ kinds of intelligence, the kind you find in people with low IQ scores, we’d have to do without electricity, and railroads, and airplanes, and penicillin. And TV. Those technological doodads are important: they give you power, and health, and ease.

    The kind of intelligence that lets you do algebra – which is measured fairly well by IQ tests – is more valuable today than the kind that makes you a good tracker in a featureless landscape. Australian Aborigines are much worse at algebra than Europeans and much better at tracking, but there’s just not much of a market for that kind of tracking anymore.

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    Nick,

    Sorry about using you as a punching bag, but we’re oldtimers at this, and it’s naturally fun to school a cocky newcomer who isn’t aware of the vast amounts he doesn’t know. If you are interested in getting up to speed on race and IQ, you can read my Frequently Asked Questions lists from 2007:

    http://www.vdare.com/articles/the-race-faq

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer
  • NickMatzke

    The kind of intelligence that lets you do algebra – which is measured fairly well by IQ tests – is more valuable today than the kind that makes you a good tracker in a featureless landscape. Australian Aborigines are much worse at algebra than Europeans and much better at tracking, but there’s just not much of a market for that kind of tracking anymore.

    Really? Someone has rigorously measured the sorts of intelligence needed for tracking, and determined that there’s a genetic basis for whatever advantage the Aborigines allegedly have? And someone has tested the IQ of Aborigines, taking into account and removing all of the various nongenetic biases that might come from, say, the rather dramatically different histories of Englishmen and Aborigines over the last 400 years?

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    Nick,

    You really do have a lot to learn, don’t you?

  • NickMatzke

    Steve writes,

    Sorry about using you as a punching bag, but we’re oldtimers at this, and it’s naturally fun to school a cocky newcomer who isn’t aware of the vast amounts he doesn’t know.

    Sorry about calling you an anti-immigration fanatic who is attempting to coopt science for a racist political agenda, but that’s what you appear to be. Like at the end of your FAQ on your anti-immigration website:

    Q. What’s the initial thing we should do?

    A. When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging. By letting in so many unskilled (i.e., largely low IQ) immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, we’re digging a deeper hole for ourselves.

    So let’s stop. Now

    A FAQ on race that barely mentions the very long list of terrible things that have resulted from race-based discrimination, and the very common mistakes which have been made again and again and again in history and which have led to so much oppression and suffering and horror, and which appears to be advocating for race-based discrimination in immigration issues at the very least, is not exactly impressive. Anyone who was serious about making race a scientifically respectable topic again would forthrightly acknowledge these huge historical problems early and often, and would be extra-especially careful to avoid committing them again, for example by lazily and sloppily jumping from races-exist to races-have-different-IQs to unskilled-people-are-that-way-genetically to lets-keep-them-out-of-the-country.

    It’s also not impressive to talk about clines and say they’re both obviously right, and wrong, at the same time, and to pretend you were joking when you raised various silly objections based on cross-Atlantic comparisons:

    When they are not inadequate, they’re trivially obvious. You’re coming into this discussion many years late, and you’re naively mistaking wisecracks about the problems of of clinal models for ignorance.

    Or, if you were joking, they were incredibly unimpressive jokes.

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    Dear Nick:

    Thanks for that impassioned regurgitation of the conventional wisdom at its most conventional.

    Now, can you recall learning anything that might be relevant to improving your insight into what racial groups are, or were you suffering too much from a case of the vapors for any actual learning to occur?

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    As for clinal models, I’m sorry that you are upset that we aren’t as overwhelmed by the awful majesty and infallibility of them as you are. But, have you grasped yet that we’ve been kicking them around for years? Isolation-by-increasing-distance works superbly, except when it doesn’t.

    Here’s your assignment: should you choose to accept it, spend 5 minutes staring at a globe or a world map, and then report back to us four specific problems with clinal models. Then you’ll be a little more up to speed.

  • Kiwiguy

    ***Someone has rigorously measured the sorts of intelligence needed for tracking, and determined that there’s a genetic basis for whatever advantage the Aborigines allegedly have?***

    @ Nick Matzke,

    Australian Aborigines have an extraordinary aptitude for desert/barren landscape navigation, and this also translates into scores on visual memory tests that are higher than Caucasians’(Smithsonian Human).

    A possible explanation for the aboriginal advantage in spatial memory is provided by (Klekamp et al.,1994) who report that Australian aboriginals have a larger visual cortex than Caucasians. Particuarly, Sydney neuropathology professor Clive Harper noted that the Aboriginal visual cortex is also, on average, about 25% larger and contains more nerve cells.

    Harper, C. G. and L. A. Mina (1981). A comparison of Australian caucasian and aboriginal brain weights. Annual Meeting of Australian Association of Neurologists, Adelaide, Clinical and Experimental Neurology.

    Klekamp, J., A. Riedel, et al. (1987). “A quantitative study of Australian Aboriginal and Caucasian brains.” Journal of Anatomy 150: 191-210.

    Klekamp, J., Riedel, A., Harper, C., Kretschmann, H. J. (1994). Morphometric study of the postnatal growth of the visual cortex of Australian aborigines and Caucasians. Journal of Brain Research, 35, 541-548.

  • Justin Giancola

    Ummm, Aust. Aboriginals also have a language that makes them refer to things spatially via cardinal directions and not by ‘left, right, over there, etc.’ and they’ve shown through this reinforcement that by their teens they can even know directions they are facing with their eyes closed. But this will not develop properly without the total language immersion. That’s worth mentioning I think.

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    Blah blah blah. I have a simple test for anyone who wants to argue that “race” is a scientific concept rather than a social construct: define it. Simply define it. If you can. And then we’ll talk.

  • Kiwiguy

    @ Victor,

    Coyne defined it in his post as follows:

    “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.”

    Mayr & O’Brien set out this approach:

    In an attempt to provide formal criteria for subspecies classifications we offer the following guidelines: Members of a subspecies share a unique geographical range or habitat, a group of phylogenetically concordant phenotypic characters, and a unique natural history relative to other subdivisions of the species. (O’Brien and Mayr, 1991. Bureaucratic Mischief: Recognizing Endangered Species and Subspecies.)”

  • Onur

    Steve,

    I think it would be most prudent to draw a line between populations that are parts of the same cline and those that are parts of different clines and only conceive of the latter as belonging to different races. So Norwegians and Armenians indeed belong to the same race, and so do also Protestants and Catholics of Northern Ireland. The difference is that the former are racially more divergent and the latter are racialy more similar. So race has both a qualitative and a quantitative aspect. Race is a cline that is largely inbred over such a long term to develop unique phenotypes that easily distinguish it from other clines. Usually there are hybrid (=having large amounts of ancestry from different races) groups on the boundary between neighboring races, but they are mostly marginal populations (South Asians, with their high number, are a big exception, though as one of their constituting races no longer exists in pure or close to pure form, they are not on an interracial boundary but on an edge).

    BTW, here I am writing based on the pre-1492 world.

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    “define it. Simply define it. If you can. And then we’ll talk.”

    A racial group is a partly inbred extended family.

  • RafeK

    Victor that is an incredible weak argument.

    Should we cease discussion of taxonomy and philogeny till we have clear agreed upon definition of species?

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    “. . . morphologically distinguishable populations that live in allopatry (i.e. are geographically separated).” OK, good, that looks like a coherent definition. But it omits any reference to genetically determined lineage, which is of course an indispensable aspect of race as currently understood with respect to humans. It would be a great definition if what we were talking about was morphology, which imo is a perfectly respectable field of scientific research. I see no problem in the attempt to classify humans on that basis (though all such attempts have turned out to be far more complex than initially assumed, and have so far led nowhere) — but morphology per se is NOT the same as race.

    Race, as almost universally understood, implies that morphological resemblance is correlated to genetic inheritance (“phylogenetically concordant phenotypic characters”), a notion that seemed reasonable until population geneticists started doing carefully controlled phylogenetic studies. What they learned was that haplogroups and populations are two very different things. As a result their findings are based on statistics rather than the classification of individuals into distinct morpho-genetic taxa, a necessary condition for any coherent science of “race.”

    Which should have been obvious from the start. The Ainu are morphologically “caucasoid,” but not genetically close to Europeans. Many New Guinea natives have a distinctly “semitic” look, but are not genetically related to any “Semitic” peoples. Many East Indians have “caucasoid” features, even those from the non-Indoeuropean South. A great many “African-Americans” have a largely European ancestry, but are understood “racially” to be of African descent, simply because of the way they look. When Humphry Bogart emerges from the barbershop, in The Treasure of Sierra Madre, he suddenly “looks” Mexican. Anthony Quinn, who WAS Mexican, played Zorba the Greek and also an Arab chieftan, in Lawrenece of Arabia. King Feisal was convincingly played by Alec Guinness. A little makeup and hair styling is apparently all it takes to transform one “race” into another.

    Glib references to “politcal correctness” are shallow and beside the point. The real question is: why is it so important to certain people that the notion of “race” be kept alive, despite all its obvious shortcomings and dangers?

  • DavidB

    If by definition a race is a partly inbred extended family, then by definition a partly inbred extended family is a race. That makes an awful lot of races. For example, the inhabitants of any long established village will be a race. So will social classes. It’s a possible definition of ‘race’, but it doesn’t coincide, even approximately, with our usual understanding of the word.

  • candid_observer

    Been out of the loop for a bit, but let me respond to NickMatzke.

    To begin with, what are you ignorant about, in my view?

    How scientists think about questions such as those posed in biology in general and population genetics in particular. Clearly, phenomena in biology do NOT generally present clear boundaries and categories. Being a good scientist when presented with such fuzziness requires inherently the introduction of simplifying assumptions that allow reasonable inferences to be made, instead of simply falling back on the overall messiness of it all with little or no attempt to generalize and abstract from the underlying phenomena.

    This is particularly true for population genetics. I strongly suggest that you pick up a copy of Falconer’s Population Genetics, and see how, in virtually every context, the thing that allows real knowledge to be developed is precisely the decision to introduce simplifying assumptions, and then to elaborate on those assumptions to achieve more precise inferences for a particular circumstance. If, instead, the approach were to focus exclusively on all the complexity, and refuse to capture broader truths because they didn’t reflect every last detail of the members of the populations and subpopulations, then no progress would ever be made.

    And that is indeed why the concept of race itself can prove to be quite useful: it allows the human species to be divided at the highest level in terms of populations, and genetic and evolutionary separations. Yes, there exists some level of genetic interaction even between these populations. But the fact remains that some real amount of effective genetic separation remains, and the real question remains as to what sorts of traits might have evolved separately for these population groups. NO AMOUNT OF DISCUSSION OF CLADES IS GOING TO MAKE THAT PARTICULAR QUESTION OF DISTINCT EVOLUTIONARY OUTCOMES ON VARIOUS TRAITS FOR THESE POPULATION GROUPS GO AWAY, AND IT’S USELESS FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN IDEOLOGICAL POLEMICS TO PRETEND THAT IT MIGHT.

    I capitalize the previous sentence to emphasize what a scientist, looking at this issue, would certainly conclude.

    What you need to ask yourself is whether you want to be regarded as a committed and intellectually honest scientist.

    As I said, virtually everything you have had to say about this issue really involves obfuscation, not clarification. And it’s obvious why: you don’t want to come to terms with the content of the sentence I have capitalized — nor do you want anybody else to do so.

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    candid_observer: You are correct in stating that certain issues associated with the notion of “race” are scientifically relevant and deserve to be studied. One of the interesting paradoxes of current population genetics is the fact that the word “race” or “racial” is hardly ever, if ever at all, used in any of this literature (at least without being enclosed in quotes), but terms associated with race, such as “caucasoid,” “mongoloid,” “negroid” are not infrequent.

    This tells us that we cannot completely ignore the fact that, as you say, many people from different regions of the world do tend to both look alike and share a (roughly) similar genetic history. And it is certainly convenient at certain times to use the word “race,” in an informal sense, when one wants to call attention to such distinctions without going into a lot of detail regarding precisely what one means.

    So I would never argue that what we now refer to (however loosely) as “race” is irrelevant or that, under certain circumstances, informal references to “racial” categories can’t be useful and even meaningful. However, in view of all the scientific advances made in recent years with respect to human genetics, it seems clear that “race” is far too crude a notion to be any longer taken seriously as a science in its own right, and is in fact a hopelessly outdated idea. (Aside from very clearly being, thanks to its history, which cannot be ignored, a dangerous one.) To insist that race is a scientifically established means of categorizing humans is simply incorrect. No such science exists and I have never seen, outside of clearly racist attempts, such as those of the Nazis, any attempt to seriously establish such a science. And if you want to use the term in a looser sense, fine. But science is not loose, it’s precise, and demands precisely formulated hypotheses, sorry.

    The science that has superseded so-called “racial science” is called “population genetics.” Everything of importance thought to have been covered by “racial science” is included in population genetics, including due attention paid to phenotypes as well as genotypes. So what, I ask, is the importance of insisting on the revival of “racial science” when we now have something far better, far more useful, far more meaningful and far far more: scientific.

  • Kiwiguy

    ***The science that has superseded so-called “racial science” is called “population genetics.” ***

    It’s interesting you say that because if you look at those pointing out that there are races in the species homo sapiens, just as there are in other species, it tends to be population geneticists. From an NY Times article on race and medicine:

    “Dr. Stephen O’Brien, a geneticist at the National Cancer Institute, said that the conclusion that race was not a valid concept ”comes from honest and brilliant people who are not population geneticists.”

    ”That doesn’t mean they are insincere,” Dr. O’Brien said. ”It’s just that they haven’t really looked at it. What is happening here is that Neil and his colleagues have decided the pendulum of political correctness has taken the field in a direction that will hurt epidemiological assessment of disease in the very minorities the defenders of political correctness wish to protect.”

    (Race Is Seen as Real Guide To Track Roots of Disease 30 June 2002, NY Times)
    Also see Risch et al Categorization of humans in biomedical research: genes, race and disease
    Genome Biology 2002)

    Another example is provided in Sesardic’s 2010 paper on “Race: a social destruction of a biological concept”. Sesardic mentions AWF Edwards and Cavalli Sforza changing “the present races of man” to “populations of man” for contemporary sensibilities, only for the Italian publisher to use the original wording “le razze umane moderne’.

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    Once again, Kiwiguy, I would need to know how Dr. O’Brien or anyone else making such a claim defines the term “race.” As I indicated in my previous comment, it CAN be a useful term under certain circumstances. What I suspect is going on is that certain medical people feel the need to categorize their patients “racially” because, as is well known, certain diseases are associated with certain population groups and the “race” of such groups is a convenient way of identifying them.

    Thus it makes sense to screen “African Americans” for sickle cell anemia, for example, since this disease is far more prevalent among people of African ancestry. If, however, one restricts oneself exclusively to “race” in this respect, or more accurately racial stereotypes, then one is going to miss many individuals of African ancestry whose physiognomy, and thus “race,” are “Caucasoid.”

    As far as Dr. O’Brien is concerned, the fact that he considers race a “valid concept” is neither here nor there. Under certain circumstances, as with sickle cell anemia, it is certainly a useful concept and shouldn’t be forbidden in the interests of politically correctness, that would certainly be a mistake. However, if the good Dr. wants to claim that someone’s “race” can be determined scientifically, then I’m sorry, but he is definitely wrong. And I feel sure the great majority of population geneticists would agree. As I said previously, the term “race” hardly ever, if ever, appears in the pop. gen. literature, at least not in that sense. In the context of pop. gen. research it would be superfluous in any case.

  • Kiwiguy

    ***However, if the good Dr. wants to claim that someone’s “race” can be determined scientifically, then I’m sorry, but he is definitely wrong. And I feel sure the great majority of population geneticists would agree. ***

    Neil Risch is a population geneticist who won the 2004 Curt Stern award for outstanding achievements in genetics over the past 10 years. He seem to think that someones race can be determined scientifically (see the paper I cited above).

    In terms of the term race being used in the pop.gen literature again I’d recommend you read the example Sesardic mentions of Edwards & Cavalli-Sforza. They substitute the word population for race or racial group as a euphemism to avoid controversy.

    Also, look at the HapMap project. It basically uses racial categories to delineate the human population groups. White = CEU + TSI, black = ASW + LWK + MKK + YRI, Hispanic = MEX, East Asian = CHB + CHD + JPT, and South Asian (Indian) = GIH.

  • Justin Giancola

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_(biology)

    That wasn’t too hard. Seems pretty reasonable to me.

  • gcochran

    Just to be fair, I should point out that Neil Risch is in some ways quite wrong, even though he’s right about this. He disbelieves in every example of recent natural selection acting in humans save one (sickle-cell as a defense against malaria) and he has his doubts about that. So he can’t see why lactose tolerance would be useful. Really.

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    I took a look at Risch’s paper and must say I’m impressed. It seems to be very thorough and certainly deserving of careful study. He states at the outset “Nonetheless, we demonstrate here that from both an objective and scientific (genetic and epidemiologic) perspective there is great validity in racial/ethnic self-categorizations, both from the research and public policy points of view.” On this point, I completely agree, which should be clear from my earlier comments. “Racial” self-identification is certainly a useful means of roughly categorizing people into groups for purposes of medical screening. It’s also useful in relation to programs such as Affirmative Action, which I completely support.

    I also agree that it is possible, at least in principle, to categorize populations genetically, which is one of the important things population geneticists are striving to do. As far as individuals are concerned, however, categorization becomes far more difficult. Risch doesn’t appear to notice the difference.

    As far as “race” per se is concerned, it appears as though Risch makes the fundamental mistake that so many others make when discussing this very confusing term: he fails to define it. Actually he does define it, but hardly in a scientific manner: “we define racial groups on the basis of the primary continent of origin.” This is a very revealing statement, since it takes “race” as a given from the start. This is an extremely common error people make when arguing over race or attempting to treat it scientifically. Instead of arguing for the existence of “racial” categories on the basis of a clear definition, they take such categories for granted from the start and argue for why they should be taken seriously. But what it is that should be taken seriously is never made clear.

    Is race equivalent to “genetic subgrouping,” as Risch seems to imply? That would certainly be a way of defining it, but it’s hardly what most people have in mind when they talk about race. The term has a long history that began well before we knew anything much about genetic subgrouping. In the minds of most it is a way of categorizing people based simply on the way they look (and also very often the way they speak), i.e., stereotyping. You can call a genetically defined subgroup a “race” if you really want to, but that’s not really what the term means to the great majority who use it. So what’s the point. Risch’s article is certainly meaningful, but it would be just as meaningful if the term “race” had been omitted.

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    Risch’s paper seems to be very thorough and certainly deserving of careful study. He states at the outset “Nonetheless, we demonstrate here that from both an objective and scientific (genetic and epidemiologic) perspective there is great validity in racial/ethnic self-categorizations, both from the research and public policy points of view.” On this point, I completely agree, which should be clear from my earlier comments. “Racial” self-identification is certainly a useful means of roughly categorizing people into groups for purposes of medical screening. It’s also useful in relation to programs such as Affirmative Action, which I completely support.

    I also agree that it is possible, at least in principle, to categorize populations genetically, which is one of the important things population geneticists are striving to do. As far as individuals are concerned, however, categorization becomes far more difficult. Risch doesn’t appear to notice the difference.

    As far as “race” per se is concerned, it appears as though Risch makes the fundamental mistake that so many others make when discussing this very confusing term: he fails to define it. Actually he does define it, but hardly in a scientific manner: “we define racial groups on the basis of the primary continent of origin.” This is a very revealing statement, since it takes “race” as a given from the start. This is an extremely common error people make when arguing over race or attempting to treat it scientifically. Instead of arguing for the existence of “racial” categories on the basis of a clear definition, they take such categories for granted from the start and argue for why they should be taken seriously. But what it is that should be taken seriously is never made clear.

    Is race equivalent to “genetic subgrouping,” as Risch seems to imply? That would certainly be a way of defining it, but it’s hardly what most people have in mind when they talk about race. The term has a long history that began well before we knew anything much about genetic subgrouping. In the minds of most it is a way of categorizing people based simply on the way they look (and also very often the way they speak), i.e., stereotyping. You can call a genetically defined subgroup a “race” if you really want to, but that’s not really what the term means to the great majority who use it. So what’s the point. Risch’s article is certainly meaningful, but it would be just as meaningful if the term “race” had been omitted.

    As for the HapMap, sure, as I stated above, pop. geneticists often use “racial” terminology as a matter of convenience and I see nothing wrong with that. But clearly population genetics is NOT racial science, and this has nothing to do with political correctness. If you read what Cavalli-Sforza actually has to say on this topic, you’ll see why.

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    Are these comments getting through? My last one seems to have been lost. Maybe it was too long?

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    Part 1: Risch’s paper seems to be very thorough and certainly deserving of careful study. He states at the outset “Nonetheless, we demonstrate here that from both an objective and scientific (genetic and epidemiologic) perspective there is great validity in racial/ethnic self-categorizations, both from the research and public policy points of view.” On this point, I completely agree, which should be clear from my earlier comments. “Racial” self-identification is certainly a useful means of roughly categorizing people into groups for purposes of medical screening. It’s also useful in relation to programs such as Affirmative Action, which I completely support.

    I also agree that it is possible, at least in principle, to categorize populations genetically, which is one of the important things population geneticists are striving to do. As far as individuals are concerned, however, categorization becomes far more difficult. Risch doesn’t appear to notice the difference.

    As far as “race” per se is concerned, it appears as though Risch makes the fundamental mistake that so many others make when discussing this very confusing term: he fails to define it. Actually he does define it, but hardly in a scientific manner: “we define racial groups on the basis of the primary continent of origin.” This is a very revealing statement, since it takes “race” as a given from the start. This is an extremely common error people make when arguing over race or attempting to treat it scientifically. Instead of arguing for the existence of “racial” categories on the basis of a clear definition, they take such categories for granted from the start and argue for why they should be taken seriously. But what it is that should be taken seriously is never made clear.

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    I took a look at Risch’s paper and find much to agree with: “Nonetheless, we demonstrate here that from both an objective and scientific (genetic and epidemiologic) perspective there is great validity in racial/ethnic self-categorizations, both from the research and public policy points of view.” I have no problem with that at all. The fact that race is a social construct does NOT diminish its importance or usefulness. As such. As science, no.

    Is race equivalent to “genetic subgrouping,” as Risch seems to imply? That would certainly be a way of defining it, but it’s hardly what most people have in mind when they talk about race. The term has a long history that began well before we knew anything much about genetic subgrouping. In the minds of most it is a way of categorizing people based simply on the way they look (and also very often the way they speak), i.e., stereotyping. You can call a genetically defined subgroup a “race” if you really want to, but that’s not really what the term means to the great majority who use it. So what’s the point? Risch’s article is certainly meaningful, but it would be just as meaningful if, aside from references to its usefulness in epidemiology, the term “race” had been omitted.

    As for the HapMap, sure, as I stated above, pop. geneticists often use “racial” terminology as a matter of convenience and I see nothing wrong with that. But clearly population genetics is NOT racial science, and this has nothing to do with political correctness. If you read what Cavalli-Sforza actually has to say on this topic, you’ll see why.

  • Onur

    Victor, how people look is strongly correlated with genetics and also groupings based on looks are strongly correlated with groupings based on genetics (e.g., look at the works of physical anthropologists from the pre-genetics era like Carleton Coon).

  • candid_observer

    Victor,

    Look, your concern about the exact definition of “race” rather misses the key point in these discussions.

    Can we be honest about what the real issue/agenda here might be, please?

    It is this, which I will call The Fundamental Question: do (or might) different population groups/ races / ethnicities / clades / clines exhibit importantly different distributions of socially important traits, based on genetic differences?

    You have written a bazillion words here without addressing The Fundamental Question; indeed, one might say, those bazillion words are meant to divert from addressing that very issue (as is true of the large mass of verbiage cranked out by Nick Matzke).

    Frankly, if the answer to The Fundamental Question is “yes”, then the exact definition of race, if any, is mostly irrelevant, because it is not the word or definition that matters: it is the thing captured by The Fundamental Question.

    What you and Matzke seem to engaged in isn’t either science or any form of rational inquiry; it is some form of interpretative dance around the issue.

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    I want to apologize for the above repetitive and redundant posts. My initial posts weren’t getting through at first so I assumed they’d been lost and kept trying.

    Onur: “how people look is strongly correlated with genetics and also groupings based on looks are strongly correlated with groupings based on genetics.” This may be your impression. And it may have been Coon’s impression. But to my knowledge this correlation has never been scientifically even tested, no less established. But maybe I’m wrong. If you know of any such study, please supply the reference, it would certainly be of interest. Of course, the Nazis made such studies, but I’d hardly call their research scientific — would you? Making a truly scientific comprehensive comparative study of human morphology worldwide would be a daunting task. I doubt it’s been attempted, but if it has I’d love to learn more about it.

    Candid-observer: You write as follows: “It is this, which I will call The Fundamental Question: do (or might) different population groups/ races / ethnicities / clades / clines exhibit importantly different distributions of socially important traits, based on genetic differences?”

    Population groups, races, ethnicities, clades and clines are all very different. So what am I to make of your “Fundamental Question”? And what sort of traits do you consider “socially important”? Also, there are all sorts of genetic differences. Your thinking on this issue seems muddled, sorry.

  • pconroy

    @Victor,
    All proponents of Affirmative Action are Racists – whether they realize it or not – ergo you are a racist.
    Since you are a racist, who argues against the concept of race, you are a … (fill in the blanks) ;)

  • candid_observer

    Victor,

    Please have a moment of honesty here, instead of engaging in still further obfuscation.

    Look, the point of The Fundamental Question is that whether one chooses to talk about different population groups/ races / ethnicities / clades / or (segments of) clines as the preferred way of referring to undeniable differences in ancestral background in groups of people is NOT what is key. What is key is whether, on their distributions of socially important traits, based on genetics, those groups — however defined — might be importantly different. Please don’t pretend this is a “muddled” question — an inability to understand the point is, instead, the clear evidence of muddle.

    As for socially important traits, how hard is that to understand? How about cognitive abilities captured by IQ, just as one obvious example? Can you seriously pretend that you have no awareness of that issue, and so don’t know what such a trait might be?

    Again, please try to muster up a moment of honesty for this issue, if you can.

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    candid, it seems as though you are trying to create some sort of mechanism through which humans can be subdivided into rigidly circumscribed groups, which can then be tested, I suppose, for things like IQ, propensity toward violence, criminality, fecundity, etc. Since I have no sympathy for that sort of strategy, it’s difficult for me to respond. It reminds me too much of Nazi racist thinking for me to be very sympathetic with such a way of dealing with social issues.

    Also it does seem as though your thinking is muddled, because first you present ethnicity as one of your options, but then insist on the differences being “based on genetics.” But “ethnicity” (also a problematic term) is generally understood as based on language and culture, not genetics. Which is one of the reasons “race” is so unreliable, since in most people’s minds it winds up being some sort of vaguely defined mix of ethnicity and biology.

    As far as IQ is concerned, I find such comparisons meaningless. An IQ test devised by members of some African tribe is going to be very different from one devised by Western academics. And I can guarantee that most “Caucasians” would not do very well on such a test.

  • Justin Giancola

    I find the recurrent use of the “C word” in this thread to be disgraceful.

  • Chuck

    I don’t know. Nick are you being serious here, or just playing games?

    “Also, please tell me what the races are. I’m ignorant about that as well, I guess. This is a bare minimum requirement if you are going to assert that there are races. … As for IQ — I would just like to see the IQ-obsessed folks even try to do an analysis while acknowledging the complexity and clinal nature of human genetic structure.”

    “The point of raising clines, among other reasons, is to raise the issue of whether or not such “groups” are even objectively recognizable or definable or real at all in the first place. The reality of the “groups” is usually just brazenly assumed either though cultural inertia or through some misbegotten attempt to maintain some privilege for one’s group. ….Somebody raised IQ. I would pay money to see somebody who is a proponent of genetic race-based IQ differences be forced to interpret all studies and data in a geographically and genetically continuous framework.”

    As Prasad has noted, the cline/cluster debate — let alone the race as taxonomic unit debate — is irrelevant to that concerning average genetic differences. Replace IQ with skin color to see this. As it so happens, like skin color, global variation in IQ is clinal (and the two correlate at .8 or so). So “proponent[s] of genetic race-based IQ differences” do interpret studies and data accordingly. As for paying money, Sailer has a link on his site.

    When it comes to “races,” as I noted in the comment section of your post, the major geographic groups commonly described as such are East Eurasians, West Eurasians. Oceanians, Black Africans, and Americans, sometimes still known as Mongoloids, Caucasoids, Australoids, Negroids, and Amerindoids — at least in the far East: http://www.museum.kyushu-u.ac.jp/WAJIN/113.html
    By some interpretations of the geographic subspecies concept, these populations clearly qualify as “real.” Though “reality” is a funny thing. What would it mean to say that these groups are not “real”? Even if global genetic variation was clinal and these populations couldn’t be genetically delineated, they could still be geographically or in terms of natural history. Would you argue that geographically defined groups (Below the Sahara, in the Americas, etc) are not “objectively recognizable” and “definable” enough? I guess the retort would be that such a definition is “socially constructed” from a biological point of view and therefore as biologically meaningless as “North Hemispherians” and “South Hemispherians” — and, yet, there are noticeable mean differences between these latter two populations. Whether or not genetic differences cluster, they exist. Since they exist, it’s useful to know about them. Investigating them requires one to define populations. Since genetic differences, whether clinal or not, correlate with geographic distances, the obvious choice in defining populations would be to define them geographically, following migration routes, which brings us back to geographic races and the utility of that delineation.

  • candid_observer

    Victor,

    Do you ever, ever stop evading the question?

    Look, if you don’t like the alternative “ethnicity” as a correct description for groups that display some significant ancestral overlap, then choose any of the other terms I offered up as possibilities.

    And I suppose I should thank you for your assertion that you simply refuse to answer The Fundamental Question regarding potential group differences on ideological grounds (OMG, it’s so much like the Nazis!!! — quoth Godwin).

    But if you don’t have the courage to answer a question which is clearly a scientific and factual question in the very domain you are going on and on about, why don’t you spend your time elsewhere, where uncomfortable questions like this won’t leave you speechless? Why do you bother us and others with your pusillaminity? You’ve made it clear you can’t stand the heat — so why are you in the kitchen?

  • Kiwiguy

    ***As far as IQ is concerned, I find such comparisons meaningless. An IQ test devised by members of some African tribe is going to be very different from one devised by Western academics ***

    @ Victor,

    That may be true, but it does have implications for group outcomes within western countries and economic development for countries (see various papers by Heiner Rindermann, Garrett Jones & W. Joel Schneider).

    Regarding Cavalli-Sforza, I understand he’s pointed to the fact that you could have from 3 to 60 or more races. So there’s a degree of arbitrariness. But that is something that Jerry Coyne mentions in his post too, explaing that there _are_ human races. You could use the arbitrariness objection to undermine races or sub species in various other species too. Also, Cavalli-Sforza does nonetheless identify the major groups in his book “The History and Geography of Human Genes”:

    The [genetic] color map of the world [see below] shows very distinctly the differences that we know exist among the continents: Africans (yellow), Caucasoids (green), Mongoloids… (purple), and Australian Aborigines (red). The map does not show well the strong Caucasoid component in northern Africa, but it does show the unity of the other Caucasoids from Europe, and in West, South, and much of Central Asia” (p. 136).

    (also, I’d recommmend Peter Frost’s posts on “the evolution of Cavalli-Sforza”).

  • Chuck

    @65. Victor

    (1) The problem is that humans tend to get subdivided anyways. And then people get interested in differences in “IQ, propensity toward violence, criminality, fecundity, etc. ” And in absence of other explanations, subpopulation differences tend to get blamed on some group’s maleficence. For example, in Germany, one issue of concern is the so-called “Turkish”-“indigenous” gap. Now that it’s recognized, a cause needs to be found. One obvious — though unacceptable to some — possibility is genes. Even if there were no global population differences, as Turkish Gastarbeiter often hailed from lower classes, and as IQ and other personality traits are highly narrowly heritable, and as these traits are related to class, this would still be a plausible hypothesis. Now such a hypothesis shouldn’t be considered too outrageous. After all, sociologists make similar cases, minus the genetic part. For example, commenting on the poor performance of second generation Blacks and Hispanics, Palacios et al., (2008), tells us: “The negative selection hypothesis may help explain why specific race/ethnic groups, especially subgroups of Black and Latino children, on average, perform below White and Asian children on measurements of cognitive achievement.” (Early Reading Achievement of Children in Immigrant Families- Is There an Immigrant Paradox). Look, we happen to live in a world in which groups are subdivided, in which differences are recognized, and in which causes are sought. Given that, arguing that we shouldn’t investigate a certain type of cause for subgroup differences, on the grounds that doing so artificially creates these subgroups, makes no sense.

    (2) Your point about ethnic groups doesn’t make sense. You obviously don’t need genetically defined groups to have genetic differences. There can be genetic differences between all sorts of groups defined all sorts of ways: classes, religions, geographically defined groups, castes, cultures, political groups, races, genders, statistically defined groups (e.g., the 5th versus 95th percentile.)

    (3) As for your last point, this has already been tested. Look up: “Rugby versus Soccer in South Africa: Content familiarity contributes to cross-cultural differences in cognitive test scores.” On tests highly biased for Black Africans, SES controlled South African Whites perform no worse than Blacks. Without controlling for SES, Whites outperform Blacks by about .6 SD on these tests. On tests highly biased for Whites, Blacks under perform Whites by about 2 standard deviations. Without controlling for SES, Blacks under perform by about 2.6 SD. A reasonable inference from this is that on unbiased tests, Black Africans would perform 1.6 SD below Whites, or 1 SD below SES controlled Whites.

  • Onur

    Onur: “how people look is strongly correlated with genetics and also groupings based on looks are strongly correlated with groupings based on genetics.” This may be your impression. And it may have been Coon’s impression. But to my knowledge this correlation has never been scientifically even tested, no less established. But maybe I’m wrong. If you know of any such study, please supply the reference, it would certainly be of interest. Of course, the Nazis made such studies, but I’d hardly call their research scientific — would you? Making a truly scientific comprehensive comparative study of human morphology worldwide would be a daunting task. I doubt it’s been attempted, but if it has I’d love to learn more about it.

    Victor, it can’t be Coon’s impression for anachronistic reasons, as he is from the pre-genetics era. I gave Coon’s works as an example to how the physical anthropological studies of the pre-genetics era could arrive at results in human groupings very similar to those of the genetic studies of the last few decades. Their strong correlation is already apparent from the extant works, so I see no reason to further test their correlation.

    BTW, why you constantly mention Nazis shows your motives.

  • Onur

    Regarding Cavalli-Sforza, I understand he’s pointed to the fact that you could have from 3 to 60 or more races. So there’s a degree of arbitrariness.

    That arbitrariness diminishes when you realize that those human racial groupings don’t have equal scientific value. There is certainly a lower and an upper limit to the number of extant human races. Certainly there are more than 3 and much less than 60 extant human races (excluding racial hybrids). With the increase in the number and detail of genetic and physical anthropological studies, racial delineations and demarcations are getting more and more clear and realistic.

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    Chuck: “Look, we happen to live in a world in which groups are subdivided, in which differences are recognized, and in which causes are sought. Given that, arguing that we shouldn’t investigate a certain type of cause for subgroup differences, on the grounds that doing so artificially creates these subgroups, makes no sense.”

    That is NOT my argument. I have no problem with investigations of that sort, why should I? My argument is with the assumption that such groupings are “racial” and that it’s possible to determine someone’s “race” scientifically. This term is problematic for several reasons: 1. because of its unfortunate history, which cannot be discounted; 2. because, unlike population genetics, it has no truly scientific basis; 3. because it is understood in so many different ways by different people for different reasons; 4. because it represents an outmoded and discredited approach to the investigation of the groupings you mention, an approach that was never really scientific, and has now been supplanted by population genetics; 5. because it perpetuates stereotypes; 6. because it has been used and continues to be used to denigrate and control certain groups; 7. because it is a source of endless confusion and unnecessary, pointless and time consuming debates, such as this one.

    Even if you were right and “race” could be defended on some sort of scientific basis, why is it so important to cling to this highly confusing, controversial and divisive term? As part of some sort of crusade against “political correctness”? I’m no fan of p.c. either, but I would think there are more effective ways of doing that. Even if the term could be justified (it can’t), you can’t deny that for the great majority it will continue to be based on stereotypes, not real science and continue to function as a social construct. So who needs it?

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    More from Chuck: “You obviously don’t need genetically defined groups to have genetic differences. There can be genetic differences between all sorts of groups defined all sorts of ways: classes, religions, geographically defined groups, castes, cultures, political groups, races, genders, statistically defined groups (e.g., the 5th versus 95th percentile.)”

    I agree with all the above, except for your use of the word “races.” All the other terms can be clearly and unproblematically defined. “Race” cannot. To quote Sesame Street: “one of these words is not like the others.”

    More Chuck: “A reasonable inference from this is that on unbiased tests, Black Africans would perform 1.6 SD below Whites, or 1 SD below SES controlled Whites.”

    Interesting. Did they also control for social class, economic status, the disheartening effects of years of apartheid, etc., etc.? Did they control for motivation, interest in taking the test to begin with, willingness to play along with the “white man’s” game, etc. etc.? Here we see a perfect example of what is wrong with racial thinking. Many factors are involved in how well someone will do on such tests, but because racial thinking has become so ingrained in our awareness, the difference between black and white is all most people care about.

  • pconroy

    @Victor,

    I see you didn’t pass my simple IQ test in #63

  • Insightful

    Both ‘pconroy’ & ‘onur’ are ignoramuses

  • pconroy

    @ Insightful,
    How insightful of you ;)

    @ Victor,
    You’ve argued yourself into an illogical hole – stop digging

  • Kiwiguy

    ***My argument is with the assumption that such groupings are “racial” ***

    Well, if you go back to the definitions above they do appear to be racial (for a practical example look up “Bone Marrow Transplants: When Race Is an Issue” Time Magazine 3 June 2010).

    Your objection appears to be more semantic, with the word itself, rather than the concept (as applied to other species). Here’s an example in relation to sea lions. The populations that are races/subspecies are the major identifiable ones. Populations are identified on the basis of concordance as determined objectively by using cluster analysis (eg. the populations Risch et al discussed above?).

    Subspecies are the least inclusive category recognized with formal taxonomic rank and consist of geographically defined populations within a species that differ taxonomically from other populations within the same species (O’Brien and Mayr 1991). Avise and Ball (1990) suggested subspecies be recognized using multiple, independent, genetically based traits. We follow the Turtle Taxonomy Working Group (2007) who propose that “subspecies classification, if used, should describe the major patterns of variation found within a species.” O’Brien and Mayr (1991) also provide some guidance when diagnosing subspecies…. (Phillips (2009). Systematics of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus): subspecies recognition based on concordance of genetics and morphometrics.)”

  • Onur

    @Insightful,

    I don’t care about your opinions. Come to me with facts.

    @Victor,

    I don’t care about the layman’s definitions and categorizations of race but care about the scientific ones.

  • Chuck

    @ Victor, 73

    (1) “Even if you were right and “race” could be defended on some sort of scientific basis, why is it so important to cling to this highly confusing, controversial and divisive term?”

    Because this “highly confusing, controversial and divisive term” is still clung to. People still talk about races. And talk about race differences. People who argue against ‘race,’ don’t argue against ‘race,’ but against genetic differences as a cause for social outcome differences. They tend to have no problem with the confusion inherent in the term when it comes to their models. Their — and perhaps your — goal in arguing against ‘biological race’ is to undermine genetic arguments for group differences — “Look, “races” aren’t “biologically real”! Therefore all differences are due to …” This is obvious. This, all, reminds me of a passage from Levin (2003):

    ““Race” is easily operationalized. As used in everyday life and evolutionary biology, a “Negroid” is someone whose ancestors were born in sub-Saharan Africa, and mutatis mutandis for “Caucasoid” and “Mongoloid.” This definition requires temporal bounds, to be set by the best theory of human dispersal. Thus, if as monogenists think, homo sapiens first appeared in Africa, branched off into Europe approximately 110,000 years ago, and into Asia 70,000 years after that, a Negroid is someone whose ancestors between 4,000 and (to accommodate recent migrations) 20 generations ago were born in sub-Saharan Africa—mutatis mutandis, again, for Caucasoid and Mongoloid.

    In these terms, generalizations about race have clear meanings: To say the races differ genetically, for instance, is to say that humans whose ancestors were born in different parts of the world tend to have different genotypes. This hypothesis may be true or false and of course must be tested empirically, but it is perfectly well formed. Practical imperatives about race are similarly well formed: When advocates of affirmative action demand set-asides and numerical goals for Blacks, they have in mind individuals whose ancestors were brought to the United States from Africa. It would have been interesting to have seen Yee et al. (1993) criticize affirmative action on the grounds that “racial minority” is ill defined, and that, for the same reason, laws banning racial discrimination are unconstitutionally vague. (The Race Concept: A Defense.)

    (2) ” Did they also control for social class…”

    How is this relevant? Are you familiar with the IQ debate? If the question is: “Are the differences due to psychometric bias? The answer is: “No.” If the question is: “Are differences due to environmental factors?” The answer is: “We don’t know.” For a 12 year SA study of cognitive differences in employment selection, refer here:
    http://lesacreduprintemps19.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/adverse-impact-validity-evidence-in-south-africa-12-years-of-data-trends.pdf

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    “That arbitrariness diminishes when you realize that those human racial groupings don’t have equal scientific value. There is certainly a lower and an upper limit to the number of extant human races.”

    Why?

    The Race Does Not Exist crowd certainly overplays their hand, but they have had a lot of not unearned fun over the years with people who think there is some relatively fixed number of races in objective fact. The reality is that there are a lot of racial groups — extended families with some degree of inbreeding — and whether we want to treat any one of them as racial group for whatever analysis we are doing is our own decision. For example, there are about 600 Samaritans in the world, living into two villages, almost never marrying non-Samaritans. Can they be described as a racial group? Sure, if that serves some analytical purpose. Do we always have to break out Samaritans as a separate racial group in _all_ analyses. Of course not.

    The U.S. Census breaks out “Guamanian or Chamarro” as a separate race.

    http://www.census.gov/schools/pdf/2010form_info.pdf

    This may seem a little silly, but it doesn’t violate my definition of race, whereas it violates most other definitions. I’m just trying to keep up with the government.

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    OK, first of all, as far as terminology is concerned, and as far as humans are concerned, “subspecies” is preferable to “race,” I’ll grant you that. But scientifically, I see no evidence for human subspecies either. Comparison with animals like seals is beside the point, because their history is very different from that of homo sapiens. Back in the day when most anthropologists accepted the multiregional model, it was assumed that “mongoloids,” “caucasoids” and “negroids” originated in three different regions and then “converged” to make a single species. If that were true (and some still cling to this idea) then the notion of human subspecies might make some sense. But multiregionalism is completely inconsistent with the findings of population genetics, which tells a very different story.

    What we call “mongoloids,” “caucasoids” and “negroids” are categories based strictly on morphology, not genetics — modern genetics came into the picture long after such notions were formulated. To claim that these are true subspecies, or races, if you prefer, there would have to be a clear worldwide correlation between these morphological differences and the biological differences now being discovered by geneticists. And that is not the case.

    Sure, it’s not that difficult to spot someone who looks obviously “Asiatic,” and if you tested his DNA it might very likely turn out to group with other Asiatics, and if you asked him he might inform you that, yes, he comes from China or Japan or Korea. But someone else who looks equally “Asiatic” might have a much more complex history, with DNA that relates more closely to Melanesia or Polynesia. And what about someone from Central Asia, where would you place him? If he has “slanty eyes” then I suppose he’d be “Asiatic,” i.e. “mongoloid.” But if not, then would that make him “European,” i.e., “caucasoid”?

    And what about East Indians? Is a “typical” Indian “Asiatic”? Certainly not “mongoloid.” “Caucasian”? Many Indians do have features usually associated with Europe — only their skin color is darker than that of most Europeans. Is it darker than that of Sicilians? I guess it depends on the individual doesn’t it. So what, really are the criteria? Aside from certain obvious cases, which is what most people have in mind when they think about race (i.e. stereotypes) it isn’t always that easy to tell who belongs to where. And in the case that’s on everyone’s mind these days, at least in the USA, i.e., “black” people, aka “African Americans,” most people think they can tell who comes from where — but in a great many cases they can’t. Many “blacks” actually can pass for “white” and many that look “black” are in fact mostly from European stock, with only a few or even just one “black” ancestor. So what “subspecies” do any of these folks belong to?

    Modern pop. genetics is based on very different categories, i.e., haplotypes and haplogroups, clades, clines, etc. Sure in some cases certain haplogroups coincide, roughly, with certain clearly defined geographic regions, but in other cases they don’t. Most populations contain a mix, reflecting the genetically mixed nature of most populations. In order for true subspecies to exist, there must be isolation, NOT mixing. That doesn’t seem to have been the case for the great majority of humans. Aside from certain groups of African Pygmies, Bushmen, Australian aborigines, etc. And none of these groups are “pure” genetically, despite their relative isolation. As far as native Australians are concerned, geneticists have found very different histories when comparing the female (mtDNA) and male (Y) lines. Where did these very different females and males come from? I have some theories, but no one really knows. Just as no one really knows why so many other human groups show signs of “racial” mixing of various kinds going back many thousands of years.

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    ““Race” is easily operationalized. As used in everyday life and evolutionary biology, a “Negroid” is someone whose ancestors were born in sub-Saharan Africa, and mutatis mutandis for “Caucasoid” and “Mongoloid.””

    Unfortunately, things are a lot more complicated than that. For one thing, we have two parents not one. Secondly, there are many different human types in sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, Asia, etc. In Africa we have everything ranging from Pygmies to 7 foot tall Watusi. What happens when one of these really tall types gets the hots for a Pygmy lady? Gee, I wonder. Well maybe that hardly ever happened. Over 40,000 years? Gosh, what do you think? Maybe they had birth control back then? Naahhh. But hey, they’d all be “Negroes” right? Because skin color counts but height doesn’t. Which reminds me to ask any of the “race” advocates here: why do some traits count and others don’t? Color is “genetic” but height isn’t?

    As far as the perennial debate over IQ is concerned, as I see it there is only one way to tell whether IQ is biologically rather than culturally determined. Since a simple “black” against “white” test is meaningless due to the fact that so many “black people” are so culturally and economically different from so many “white people,” I propose the following. Survey a group of “blacks,” both African and African American, and group them according to which ones have the most and least African ancestry. This could be done via interviews, by the way, in which they are questioned regarding the origins of their parents, grandparents and, as far as they can tell, great-grandparents. (Imo genetic testing would be much less reliable, for technical reasons we need not get into here — but if you prefer you could run such tests in your version of this thought experiment.)

    If IQ is biologically determined, and European ancestry predicts a higher score than African ancestry, then those with more European ancestors should do better than those with less. I’m wondering whether such a test has ever actually been done. Anyone know?

  • Onur

    @Steve,

    I am using the scientific definition of race (the one used in biology). Samaritans are not genetically and morphologically distinct enough to constitute a separate race; they are more or less a well integrated part of the Caucasoid racial cline.

    @Victor,

    The existence of racial hybrids in no way contradicts the existence of races. Racial hybrids are found in nearly all species that have races.

    Morphological differences are strongly correlated with genetics, and so are also the scientifically defined races.

    African Americans outperform pure Sub-Saharan Africans in IQ tests. As you know, many African Americans have non-trivial amounts of European ancestry.

  • Kiwiguy

    ***If IQ is biologically determined, and European ancestry predicts a higher score than African ancestry, then those with more European ancestors should do better than those with less. I’m wondering whether such a test has ever actually been done. Anyone know?***

    @ Victor,

    Email Richard Nisbett. James Lee pointed this out in a review of Nisbett’s book a few years ago. Lee suggested if Nisbett was sure there were no differences based on ancestry he should press for such tests to dispel the doubt around the subject.

    ***Most populations contain a mix, reflecting the genetically mixed nature of most populations. In order for true subspecies to exist, there must be isolation, NOT mixing.***

    You obviously haven’t read much literature about sub-species. Zones of intergradation/mixing are quite common. In fact they are evidence you’re dealing with races/subspecies rather than different species.

  • Onur

    Zones of intergradation/mixing are quite common. In fact they are evidence you’re dealing with races/subspecies rather than different species.

    So true.

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    “The existence of racial hybrids in no way contradicts the existence of races.”

    How could “the existence of racial hybrids” contradict the existence of “races” since the phrase already assumes the existence of races to begin with? This sort of very basic logical error (presuming the prior existence of something whose existence is under dispute) is extremely common among proponents of “racial science.” I never mentioned “racial hybrids” or hybrids of any kind. I was referring to haplotypes and haplogroups, and the fact that in the great majority of populations we find a mix of different ones. Population geneticists do not study “races,” they study clearly defined biological entities and categories.

    “Morphological differences are strongly correlated with genetics, and so are also the scientifically defined races.”

    And this assertion is based on exactly what research and by whom? Published where? Reviewed where?

    “African Americans outperform pure Sub-Saharan Africans in IQ tests. As you know, many African Americans have non-trivial amounts of European ancestry.”

    Yes, but they also have a very different culture from that of Africans. Actually what would work best would be a study strictly limited to a particular socio/economic group, say “African Americans” from a particular neighborhood, whose families have roughly similar incomes.

  • Onur

    And this assertion is based on exactly what research and by whom? Published where? Reviewed where?

    It is clear from the results of all the extant population genetics analyses. It doesn’t matter whether they use race terminology or not.

    Yes, but they also have a very different culture from that of Africans. Actually what would work best would be a study strictly limited to a particular socio/economic group, say “African Americans” from a particular neighborhood, whose families have roughly similar incomes.

    Most of the IQ tests I know control for the socio-economic status and education level.

  • Onur

    How could “the existence of racial hybrids” contradict the existence of “races” since the phrase already assumes the existence of races to begin with? This sort of very basic logical error (presuming the prior existence of something whose existence is under dispute) is extremely common among proponents of “racial science.” I never mentioned “racial hybrids” or hybrids of any kind. I was referring to haplotypes and haplogroups, and the fact that in the great majority of populations we find a mix of different ones. Population geneticists do not study “races,” they study clearly defined biological entities and categories.

    There is no logical error, so stop lying or fooling yourself. As for the hybrid issue, my reply was to your following statements:

    “And what about someone from Central Asia, where would you place him? If he has “slanty eyes” then I suppose he’d be “Asiatic,” i.e. “mongoloid.” But if not, then would that make him “European,” i.e., “caucasoid”?”

    “Aside from certain obvious cases, which is what most people have in mind when they think about race (i.e. stereotypes) it isn’t always that easy to tell who belongs to where. And in the case that’s on everyone’s mind these days, at least in the USA, i.e., “black” people, aka “African Americans,” most people think they can tell who comes from where — but in a great many cases they can’t. Many “blacks” actually can pass for “white” and many that look “black” are in fact mostly from European stock, with only a few or even just one “black” ancestor. So what “subspecies” do any of these folks belong to?”

    “Modern pop. genetics is based on very different categories, i.e., haplotypes and haplogroups, clades, clines, etc. Sure in some cases certain haplogroups coincide, roughly, with certain clearly defined geographic regions, but in other cases they don’t. Most populations contain a mix, reflecting the genetically mixed nature of most populations. In order for true subspecies to exist, there must be isolation, NOT mixing.”

  • Karl Zimmerman

    Victor –

    Arguments can be made against racial differences in intelligence, but you’re making rather poor ones. AFAIK, there has been no study proving racial equality, and many studies suggesting (although not yet conclusively) racial inequality. As a product of modern western culture, I want there to be not only equality of rights, but equality of abilities, between all peoples. But I recognize that’s due to my own cultural biases, and in the absence of conclusive data, the null hypothesis shouldn’t be absolute equality.

    My own concerns, such as they are, with the hypothesis, have to do with a good rationale for continent-wide selection of intelligence not having been discovered. The three most commonly cited options are.

    Seasonal climates selected for higher intelligence. I think this is an issue for two reasons. One, although tropical, much of Africa has a dry season, which can be as difficult to live through as winter. Secondly, groups in tropical climates elsewhere show higher IQs than sub-Saharan Africans. Even Papuans, who presumably are direct descendents of the coastal migration and never left the tropics, show elevated IQs compared to Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Civilization selects for higher intelligence. My main methodological issue here is portions of Africa (Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia) have been agricultural and civilized for longer than Europe. Yet the IQ in these states is essentially identical to other Sub-Saharan African counties. You need to argue some sort of special pleading here to exclude these cases from the hypothesized upward trends in intelligence elsewhere.

    Higher intelligence was caused by a unique set of mutations after humans left Africa. In my mind, this falls apart for the same reasons the second example does. East Africa had a large amount of pre-Islamic Arabian admixture. If there was actually some form of selective advantage for intelligence, one would expect that even if West Eurasian ancestry wasn’t selected for overall, the genes controlling for it would be heavily selected, and Ethiopia, for example, would have a higher IQ than most of the rest of Africa. However, the actual IQ is on the low end of the average.

    Perhaps the reason no one answer seems to make sense is because all of them played minor roles. Undoubtedly the reason these hypotheses seem so weak in my own mind is because, like Victor, I am a product of liberal egalitarian culture. Still, I would not be surprised if some fraction of the black-white difference in the U.S. is hereditary. I strongly disagree that IQ studies of Africa itself show anything yet, however, due to the Flynn Effect and the massively different development levels there.

  • pconroy

    @Victor said:
    I propose the following. Survey a group of “blacks,” both African and African American, and group them according to which ones have the most and least African ancestry. This could be done via interviews, by the way, in which they are questioned regarding the origins of their parents, grandparents and, as far as they can tell, great-grandparents. (Imo genetic testing would be much less reliable, for technical reasons we need not get into here — but if you prefer you could run such tests in your version of this thought experiment.)

    Onur said:
    “African Americans outperform pure Sub-Saharan Africans in IQ tests. As you know, many African Americans have non-trivial amounts of European ancestry.”

    Victor said:
    Yes, but they also have a very different culture from that of Africans.

    There you go again?! You propose a test of your argument, then when you realize that your argument fails, you obfuscate again – shame on you.

    BTW, answers I would have accepted for #63 above are:
    1. Incongruent (aka a liar)
    2. Inconsistent (aka a liar)
    3. Idiot
    4. any combination of 1, 2 and 3

  • pconroy

    @Karl,

    You raise some good points, but please check out the following paper:

    “Northern Humans Had Bigger Brains, to Cope With the Low Light Levels”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110804214410.htm

    It’s a very good argument for the evolution of large brains, and strong visuo-spatial reasoning – basically you need to do more intensive computations to make more sense out of the reduced data set you have as an input. So without good night vision, Northern peoples brains developed bigger visuo-spatial processing areas of the brain.

    Of course today not too many Northern people need to hunt in low-light conditions, and this huge visuo-spatial cortex comes in mighty handy to do MATH and ABSTRACT REASONING intensive tasks.

    Think of it this way, Ray Charles’s blindness caused him to have his visual cortex unused, but his brain re-organized to use this spare visual cortex to enhance his musical ability and to a lesser extent, his sense of touch.

    There’s the explanation many were seeking right there.

  • http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.com/ Victor

    “And this assertion is based on exactly what research and by whom? Published where? Reviewed where?”

    “It is clear from the results of all the extant population genetics analyses. It doesn’t matter whether they use race terminology or not.”

    I’m afraid it does. If they were doing research on “race” they’d have said so. To my knowledge no serious scientist is bothering to do such research, because it’s generally recognized that population genetics has superseded so-called “racial science.” But maybe there is some sort of conspiracy among biologists, controlled no doubt by a political-correctness cult. Maybe congress should investigate.

    Karl: “Race” means different things to different people. So does “equality.” Are you referring to athletic ability? Running speed? Adaptability? Sense of humor? Lack of self-importance? Rhythm? Ability to sing in tune? Ability to sing in harmony? Ability to dance well? Self assurance? Social skills? Verbal skills? Success with the ladies? Penis size? Or maybe you mean, as I presume: ability to do well on IQ tests, created and administered by “white” academics.

    pconroy: the largest recorded brain sizes for humans were found among Neanderthals. Sorry to disappoint you.

    I see many arguments bordering on out and out racism being expressed here, plus lots of denial. It seems that those most passionate on this topic are those for whom it means the most. And at some point one must ask oneself: why? Why is it so important to so many posting here that 1. “racial” differences are borne out by scientific research (despite the fact that no one has been able to cite one single scientific study in support of this idea); 2. Africans are less intelligent than everyone else (despite the many problems associated with all such tests); 3. people of African descent are “inferior” to people of European descent (see above).

    Even if all the above were true, why does it matter so much to you, why are you so eager to defend such ideas? As yourself this question and then review in your own mind whether your attitude just might reflect an element of racism in your view of the world. What I’m not seeing here is rational debate, with reference to specific scientific studies. What I’m seeing looks very much to me like white anger and resentment (why did that n…… get that job instead of me?), expressed largely in rhetorical rather than logical terms. And, when all else fails, the usual ad hominem attacks.

    Get a life, guys! I’m outa here.

  • pconroy

    @ Victor said:

    pconroy: the largest recorded brain sizes for humans were found among Neanderthals. Sorry to disappoint you.

    LOL – dude you must be new here?!

    Neanderthals having some of the largest brains is well known to all commentators on this blog. Of course Neanderthals are a sub-species of Homo-Sapiens, and when people here say “Human” they usually refer to AMH’s (Anatomically Modern Humans), which doesn’t include Neanderthals. The largest supposedly AMH skull, and therefore brain, is actually the Boskop skull. So you’re incorrect 2 for 2.

    I postulated about 5 years ago, on this blog, that Neanderthal introgression into AMH’s may be responsible for increased Math/Visuo-Spatial ability, and guessed that such introgression would be highest among Northeast Asians. Now we know that all Eurasians have 1-4% Neanderthal introgression, but additionally East Asians (not to mention Papuans) have additional introgression from another Northern hominin, Denisovans. So I feel vindicated by this.

    I do of course expect that many more archaic introgressions will be uncovered in the coming years, that will partly explain how AMH’s have become so diverse, and exhibit such a range of abilities across races. Two such possible introgressions are:

    1. Iwo Eleru cave people – West Central Africa (announced Sept 2011):
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14947363

    2. Red Deer Cave people – South China (announced today):
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/mar/14/red-deer-cave-people-species-human

  • Onur

    Victor,

    You have a very distorted view of population genetics. You have yet to demonstrate that population genetics refutes human races. Human population geneticists of the last few decades usually refrain from using the words “race” and “racial” when presenting their analyses, and this is all due to the pressure from the political correctness lobby, which is strong enough to affect their academic career, not due to any science. So we are left with the results of their analyses to judge whether human races exist or not, and they clearly show that human races exist. BTW, as I stated above, I am always using the scientific definition of race.

  • Kiwiguy

    ***recognized that population genetics has superseded so-called “racial science***

    @ Victor,

    As I said above, I think your objection is mainly to do with the word race, rather than the concept of race or subspecies applying to homo sapiens.

    Also, you’ve accused people here of avoiding rational debate. I pointed out that you seem to have a basic misunderstanding about how the sub species concept is applied generally (see comment #85). You never acknowledged this. Also, your claim that people aren’t providing you with specific references is incorrect. Numerous references have been provided above.

  • Chuck

    @ Steve Sailer + Victor

    “The Race Does Not Exist crowd certainly overplays their hand, but they have had a lot of not unearned fun over the years with people who think there is some relatively fixed number of races in objective fact.”

    Not sure what “objective fact” means. “Races” (qua subspecies) are classifications or taxonomic groupings. They’re things of the world like “continents,” the reality of which involves both physical being and subjective delineation. These classifications are not objective ‘things,’ they’re classifications — which isn’t to say that human races aren’t “objective facts” in the epistemic sense of being objectively delineated or delineated consistent with some external classificatory scheme, such as the one used for non-humans.

    I already mentioned the 5 classical races: Mongoloids, Caucasoids, Australoids, Negroids, and Amerindoids. Could someone explain to me why these groups couldn’t — or couldn’t recently — qualify as subspecies, given how many non-human populations are classified? The geographic race criteria is: (a) share a unique geographical range or habitat, (b) share a group of phylogenetically concordant phenotypic characters, (c) share a unique natural history relative to other subdivisions of the species, and (d) differ taxonomically from other subdivisions of the species (O’Brien and Mayr (1991). Bureaucratic Mischief: Recognizing Endangered Species and Subspecies). There is no consensus on what (d) means. But one measure is the 75% rule. Which has been interpreted a number of ways. And one interpretation is simply that members of a population can be assigned correctly to their population with greater than 75% accuracy (Bodmer and Cavalli-sforza, 1976; Wright, 1984; Remsen, 2010). So, for example, Sewall Wright noted in his magnum opus: “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.” Mayr (2002) noted: “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. (“The biology of race and the concept of equality.”) Humans can obviously be accurately classified into the above mentioned groups, for example, by craniometric and dentition (e.g, Relethford, 2009). And the human populations mentioned obviously meet the other criteria. Hence these 5 races can, consistent with the criteria, rules, and standards applied to many non-human populations, be objectively called races qua subspecies. Not too difficult.

    Some rejoinders:

    Steve: “they have had a lot of not unearned fun over the years.”
    Ingenious arguments, indeed. For an example in which your concept is discussed:
    http://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/why-both-sides-are-wrong-in-the-race-debate/#comment-1966
    Victor: “But multiregionalism is completely inconsistent with the findings of population genetics, which tells a very different story.”
    How does an out of Africa theory alter things? Does it alter things for Leopards? They expanded much more recently out of Africa (see: Phylogeographic Subspecies Recognition in Leopards. {Pantherapardus): Molecular Genetic Variation). You obviously don’t understand the geographic race concept.
    Victor: “What we call “mongoloids,” “caucasoids” and “negroids” are categories based strictly on morphology, not genetics”
    These grouping are based on the concordance of genes, geography, and phenotypes. As for genetic, see figure 1 of “Categorization of humans in biomedical research: genes, race and disease.” Read the associated text: “Effectively, these population genetic studies have recapitulated the classical definition of race based on continental ancestry – namely….[the classical five races].”
    Victor: “But someone else who looks equally “Asiatic” might have a much more complex history, with DNA that relates more closely to Melanesia or Polynesia…”
    75% rule. Then look up Relethford (2009) and the section on craniometrics and classificatory accuracy. Here is a link to E.O Wilson’s discussion of subspecies and ambiguity: http://www.goodrumj.com/Wilson.html South Asians cluster with other Caucasians (e.g., in dental patterns and even in skin color alleles, such as F374.)
    Victor: “In order for true subspecies to exist, there must be isolation, NOT mixing”
    If there was no isolation, the FST between populations would be zero.

    (Speaking of which — Razib, Lou Josh, commenting on the migration/divergence issue, which you posted about earlier, noted: “In the comments under Jerry’s blog, John Harshmann raised a related issue. He claimed that since one migrant per generation was enough to prevent divergence of populations due to drift, human races should not show much divergence (since migration between most groups surely exceeds one individual per generation). This argument is part of the same population genetics lore as the statements about variation. It is based on the misinterpretation of Gst or Fst as actual measures of genetic divergence between groups…”)
    Victor: “If IQ is biologically determined, and European ancestry predicts a higher score than African ancestry”
    Tests have been done in the past but they have produced inconclusive results. There currently is an embargo on admixture studies involving IQ.

    I don’t know. I could keep going on…

  • Chuck

    @Karl Zimmerman

    “My own concerns, such as they are, with the hypothesis, have to do with a good rationale for continent-wide selection of intelligence not having been discovered. The three most commonly cited options are.”

    I made a list a while ago. I know you don’t like this hypothesis, but there are some rather savvy paleoclimatic selection models, for example..

    Personally, I’m a fan of the disease burden hypothesis. Eppig et al. (2010) imply that parasite burden would unlikely result in genetic differences:

    “We also propose a complementary hypothesis that may explain some of the effects of infectious disease on intelligence. As we mentioned, it is possible that a conditional developmental pathway exists that invests more energy into the immune system at the expense of brain development. In an environment where there has consistently been a high metabolic cost associated with parasitic infection, selection would not favour the maintenance of a phenotypically plastic trait. That is, the conditional strategy of allocating more energy into brain development during periods of health would be lost, evolutionarily, if periods of health were rare. Peoples living in areas of consistently high prevalence of infectious disease over evolutionary time thus may possess adaptations that favour high obligatory investment in immune function at the expense of other metabolically expensive traits such as intelligence. Data do not currently exist on temporal variation of the severity of infectious disease across the world over human history. For genetically distinct adaptations in intelligence to exist based on this principle, parasite levels must be quite consistent over evolutionary time.”

    But I don’t think that they are looking at it right. Imagine if two population were undergoing identical rates of selection for intelligence. So, for example, in both populations IQ had a heritability of .5 and IQ correlated with SES at .5 and SES correlated with offspring survival at .1. Each generation the genetic IQ of both populations would rise .05 SD (plus .5 x .5 x .1 for the upper 1/3 (i.e., +1 SD) of the IQ distribution and minus .5 x .5 x .1 for the lower 1/3 (i.e., -1 S) of the distribution.) Now enter in disease burden. Imagine that one population was hit by it more than the other. By Eppig et al. (2010)’s “environmental” model (refer to the paper), the IQ selection in the afflicted population would be weakened. (Either because the heritability of IQ would be depressed or because the correlation between IQ and offspring survival would be moderated.) This could result in a significant divergence in a short time frame (i.e., several hundred years.) Population A could be selected at the rate of .05 SD per generation and population B could be selected at the rate of .02 SD/generation. 17 generations latter or only ~350 years, you would have a 0.5 SD difference.

  • Justin Giancola

    For all the people reiterating that race and subspecies are one in the same , if you read the wiki posted numerous times now, this is not so.

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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