Biology and Culture

Many commentators, slaves to political correctness and ignorant of science, believe that civic biology is stuck in 1925. When faced with an uncomfortable topic that touches on civics and biology (the fact that blacks make up a disproportionate share of murder victims, or the corollary that blacks make up a disproportionate share of murderers), these commentators immediately assume there are only two sorts of valid explanations

  • Disproportionate violence among blacks may be the result of culture
  • .

  • Disproportionate violence among blacks may be the result of race.

they immediately leap to culture-only explanations. Thus, from the Washington Post:

“Blacks in America are facing a unique gun culture,” Sugarmann said. “Blacks are disproportionately likely to be confronted with guns, and that leads to the results that we’re seeing.”

with of course no mention of race. However, there are other explanations. Biology can act a lot like culture, for instance…

Disproportionate violence among blacks may be the result of a stressful environment, including poor nutriotion and greater likelihood of witnesses violence as a child, which leads to biological changes that induce one to violence.

to the almost racial…

Disproportionate violence among blacks may be the result of the unique selection pressures extant throughout the American South until 1865, which explains why ‘African-American’ blacks, but not Afro-Carribean or African blacks in America.

To epigentic explanations, which are biologically heritable but not genetic…

Disproportionate violence among blacks may be the result of an ancestrally stressful environment that existed at least until the mid-twentieth century, and as such (maternal) cytoplasm regulates embriotic environment such violence becomes disproportionate among blacks.

There are many other explanations as well, including the viral, that may be true. My point is not to favor one explanation or the other. Rather, my point is to point out the politically correct scientific ignorance of the mainstream media sabotages any search for answers. To give just one possibility: if the Jim Crow laws still epigenetically harm African-Americans, an extremely good argument can be made for reparations.

But of course, the politically correct, scientifically ignorant, mainstream media does not bother.

After all, the victims (both in the narrow and extended sense) are only black.

(My thanks to Rob Patterson, a fellow blogger, for provoking this post.)

2 thoughts on “Biology and Culture”

  1. I always find it hard to believe that many politically-correct thinkers can jump to cultural explanations and historical social conditions while entirely ignoring the role of biology. Are humans pure energy, mere ghosts upon the planet, and no longer material beings?

    I also find it odd (and maybe I am finding things that don't exist) that someone might on the one hand look for biological explanations for elevated violence within a subgroup but entirely or nearly entirely dismiss homosexuality as a purely mental or cultural emergent phenomenon.

  2. (sorry for the triple posts! I kept getting sent back to the post page without seeing the comment actually posted, until I refreshed my browser and found the comment had posted three times!)

  3. Not so odd: attempts to abuse biological explanations in the past left people suspicious of such explanations categorically. For my part, I know I don't have the biological education to judge such arguments in-depth, so I neither dismiss nor accept them out-of-hand.

    The epigenetic angle is interesting, though. If it could be seen in blacks, could it also be found in other chronically poor populations (appalaccian whites, american indians, some hispanics)? How long does such an effect last after the inductive conditions are removed?

  4. Curtis,

    I agree absolutely with the criticism of the “ghost in the machine” mindset so many run into.

    Homosexuality appears to be the product of an interaction between birth-order, environment, and genetics. Varying any of these factors effects the probable outcome.


    Because of the great records available, the Dutch Hunger Winter [1,2] is the most studied example. It finds that being born during the '44-'45 winter results in below-weight grandchildren, even after correcting for other factors.

    Looking to the future, the Kim dynasty is presenting the world with experiment-like conditions, where the most racially homoegenous country in the world is split into two different dietary regimes for generations…


    Your preference for cyptic comments leads to confusion. Could you rephrase?


  5. He was asking how long it would last once the cause was eliminated. My question was how long would it take to create once the cause was present: 20 years, 50 years, etc.

    My hunch is the time span is too short to create much of a change.

  6. sonofsamphm1c,


    The Dutch Winter studies show that a few months can have effects generations later, though I'm unaware of studies of population-wide epigenetic effects.

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