A Pagan Intuition

Those wacky creationists are at it again:

To Terry Erikheimer, the research itself is morally weighted. Given the complex nature of the fossil record, , Mr. Turkheimer said, “the question is fundamentally impossible to settle scientifically because we can never see people evolve from dinosaurs.”

That doesn’t mean research into archeology should be banned, he said, but it should be judged. “What troubled me about posts at Cato” — an exchange Mr. Turkheimer participated in — “and the tone of Saletan’s blog is the assumption that because these papers are labeled as science, they are value-neutral and they’re as deserving of respect as any other scientific hypothesis,” he said of evolutionary theories.

“But you can’t get away from what these people are trying to prove, which is exactly the basis of the atheistic beliefs that informed segregation here for 200 years.”

Of course, the above section is a modified from the original New York Times article (hat-tip to Half Sigma). The research that is wrong, because of its implications, is on genetic differences between ancestral populations.

There are two large anti-science populations in the United States: Creationists and race-deniers. Creationists are far more numerous, but tend to be uneducated and without the power to do much. Occasionally some rally the support to force a school district to include a sticker in a bio book that evolution is only a theory — which, of course, is true. (Gravity is another famous theory.)

Race-deniers are less numerous but far more powerful. Coming to power in academia with the rest of the Marxists in the 1960s and 1970s, race-deniers share the Creationists’ fundamental fear of human biology. Further, they share with the creationists an essentially pagan intuition that if some people are found to be weaker than others, then they are less deserving of human rights. Creationists see evolutionists as social darwinists, eager to prove that the physically weak should starve. Race-deniers see evolutionists as segregationists, eager to prove that the genetically weak should drink at separate water fountains.

Instead of criticizing this paganism, the Creationists and race-deniers quietly accept it as a fact, and seek to modify facts so that they can keep their Christianist outcomes while holding on to pagan hearts.

9 thoughts on “A Pagan Intuition”

  1. According to Barbar Miller of George Washington University, “racial classifications are cultural contructions.” One of the fathers of this field Franz Boas asserted that biological features do not explain or account for a eprson's behavior or lifestyle.

    Essentially, leading anthropologists and geneticists believe that DNA evidence clearly demonstrates that races lare scientifically valid categories.

    However, there is some merit in the fact that different races are more prone to certain diseases. And of course there are many, many individual variations amongst people that are genetically “weaker”.

    But, at least we both don't like the idea of separate water fountains! And of course creationisists are wack.

  2. J,

    Finally, I've met someone just as skeptical of formal spelling as I am! 🙂

    Races are scientifically valid categories.

    Self-reported “race” accurately captures one's own ancestry. This is truly even in heavily racially mixed countries like Brazil. [1] The idea that the amount of in-group variability means that race is not a meaningful concept is often known as “Lewontin's fallacy” [2] because Richard Lewtonin popularized the concept by misunderstanding the statistics involved

    The idea that race is meaningful is critical. If race really does not exist — if there are not continent-scale populations that function as very large extended families that engage in inbreeding — then the possibility that there could be genetically-driven racial differences in general intelligence becomes problematic [3]. If, however, such ancestral breeding populations do exist, then such theories are a priori more reasonable.

    [1] http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/298/5602/2381
    [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewontin's_Fallacy
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/11/27/general-intelligence-working-memory-and-how-american-public.html

  3. Franz Boas, who created the basis for all accepted anthropological genetic studies, asserted that traits do not vary by race and that there are more genetic differences within a “race” than between different “races”. This is accepted by the scientific community as well as the world community as a whole.

    Biological variation does exist, it is a valid topic, much of it is geographically localized, variation is continuous, varioation is discordant, and most important there is no evidence that races aren't different based off of genetics.

    I understand that genetics clearly show ancestory but the point is that race is not a real category. There is no biological evidence that clearly defines a race.

    possibility that there could be genetically-driven racial differences in general intelligence becomes problematic
    I, as well as most scientists, disregard the notion that there are genetically-driven racial differences in general intelligence. So of course that idea is problematic. Scientists and anthropologists don't support that idea.

  4. J,

    “Franz Boas, who created the basis for all accepted anthropological genetic studies, asserted that traits do not vary by race and that there are more genetic differences within a “race” than between different “races”. This is accepted by the scientific community as well as the world community as a whole.”

    I won't comment on Franz Boas' personal beliefs. Logically, of course, an argument to authority is a logical fallacy. perhaps more practically, Franz Boas lived died half a century before the genetic link to skin color (the most obvious, perhaps, of all racial differences) was discovered.

    That said, I'm not sure how valid such a criticism is in the first place. Please read the link on Lewontin's fallacy. [1]

    Secondly, traits frequencies, like allele frequencies, obviously vary by race. Lactose tolerance, for instance, is widespread among Europeans but very rare among East Asians [2]. Dopamine Receptor D4 7-repeat, associated with novelty seeking and ADHD, is likewise rare in East Asia but common among natives of the cone of South America [3].

    “Biological variation does exist, it is a valid topic, much of it is geographically localized, variation is continuous, varioation is discordant, and most important there is no evidence that races [are]different based off of genetics.”

    Yes, there are. For instance, consider that different races are /presently/ experiencing different selective pressures with regards to genome. [4]

    “I understand that genetics clearly show ancestry but the point is that race is not a real category. There is no biological evidence that clearly defines a race.”

    Again, yes, there is. This has even been used to fight crime. [5]

    Different races have different allele frequencies. They have different phenotype frequencies. They are underoing different selective pressures. An individual's racial composition can be estimated by both genetic decomposition and self-report. How is race not “real”?

    “I, as well as most scientists, disregard the notion that there are genetically-driven racial differences in general intelligence.”

    Why?

    Since originally raising this topic on my blog, I've gone from being more skeptical to more open to the notion. Certainly I won't disregard the idea that there are or are not such differences.

    Perhaps it would be useful in this conversation if you indicate what believe that researchers who study race mean when they speak about it. I've run across people, for instance, who honestly believed that those who talk about “race” were insisting there were sub-species in the human population, etc.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewontin's_Fallacy
    [2] http://www.gnxp.com/MT2/archives/001681.html
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/08/20/are-americans-hyperactive-neanderthals.html
    [4] http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2007/01/race-current-consensus.php
    [5] http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2007/10/dnaprint

  5. “A race has to be a sharply defined, geographically circumscribed population that represents an isolated or nearly isolated lineage within the species. There's nothing at all like that in humanity.”
    http://news-info.wustl.edu/tips/page/normal/184.html

    Race is, at this point, a dubious biological designation” (p. 13). Tatum (1997), in supporting this last point, notes that “race is a social construction. Despite myths to the contrary, biologists tell us that the only meaningful racial categorization is that of human” (p. 16).
    http://www.ncddr.org/products/researchexchange/v04n01/concepts.html

  6. Jay,

    Thank you for the link. I will comment on the first article first, and then the second.

    Scientific progress and opinions are best reported through peer-review articles, not press releases. That said, the Fitzpatrick piece on a PBS special alternates between making points that are not contested and making points that are highly dubious.

    Going through the article…

    “There are not enough genetic differences between groups of people to say that there are sub-lineages (races) of humans, said Alan R. Templeton, Ph.D., professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. On the other hand, there are different races in many other species, including chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary relatives.”

    I'm not sure what is meant by sub-lineage, here. I haven't encountered the word before. If he means haplogroup he is factually wrong [1], but if he means something like a perfectly isolated breeding population, then he is trivially right.

    If he means there is least genetic difference between human populations than between chimpanzee populations, he is correct. Ancestrally, it's possible to see humanity as just one sub-population of chimpanzee. Additionally, humans appear to be far more competent at killing off near-peer comeptitors than chimpanzees do (we eradicated the hobbits, the peking men, and the neanderthals, while the chimps couldn't even do in the bonobos!).

    “”I'm not saying there aren't genetic differences among human populations,” he cautioned. “There are differences, but they don't define historical lineages that have persisted for a long time, which is one criterion for race in a scientific sense.””

    So is it argued that this data [2 – “Part III”] is false, or does not matter for some reason, or…. ?

    “Last spring in an article published in Nature magazine, Templeton analyzed many different gene trees based on human DNA sequence data and showed that humans long had genetic interconnections all over the globe. He showed that there were at least two major waves of human migration out of Africa. DNA evidence suggests also that these wanderers bred with the people they encountered, rather than replaced them, in a “make-love-not-war” scenario.”

    The last sentence is a non-sequitor. Data from extant hunter-gatherer populations, as well as muc historical evidence (the Old Testament, the Koran, etc) show that societies expand or decline through mass-killing of males and rape/rape-aductions of females. I guess it's politically correct to call this “make loe not ware,” but it also makes a mockery of love.

    Regardless, populations cluster genetically [3], so that there were waves does not matter.

    “”There is more and more hard genetic evidence that all of humanity has evolved as a single unit, with regional variations, but that's all they are, slight variations,” said Templeton. “A race has to be a sharply defined, geographically circumscribed population that represents an isolated or nearly isolated lineage within the species. There's nothing at all like that in humanity. “

    This might be an important paragraph.

    I've noticed in the race debate, one side uses 19th century definitions, and the other uses 21st century definitions.

    In real social sciene, a factor makes a good independent variable if it explains variation… if it loads onto other factors you are studying. Race is an example of this, by determining someone's ancestral populations, you have a pretty good guess of their skin color, lactose tolerance, bone structure, propensity toward diseases, and even IQ range. Now, this doesn't mean that race necessarily determines all of these — but it means that, at our present level of knowledge, it's useful for explaining variaiton.

    Templteton seems to be using some platonic view of race, that relies on a lack of any sort of ingression whatsoever.

    Now, that said, certainly the evidence implies that cross-breeding is relatively rare. Consider lactose tolerance: it appears to have given its early possessers something like a 100x increase in evolutionary fitness. Yet lactose tolerance is extremely rare in East Asia, and /evolved seperately/ in Africa.

    I don't know if Templteton would acknowledge that seperate evolutionary histories is evidence of a single unit with geogrpahic variations or seperate units. I know that it makes race a biologically useful concept.

    Last, wrt Templteton, I don't know if this is his mistake or the piece's authors, but it's pretty good:

    “Templeton said that the genetic variation between different geographical populations in humans — what some might incorrectly consider to be “race” — does make a difference when it comes to transplanting organs because organs have to be genetically compatible. The best predictor of overall genetic differences is how far apart geographically the ancestral populations are.

    “We need to look at these indicators of genetic differentiation directly and not just tied into skin color or race because that's not actually the most reliable indicator of the differences,” said Templeton. “For instance, let's say you have a person from Micronesia who needs a transplant. These are people who have dark skin and resemble western Africans. Yet genetically the Micronesian is closer to a European than he is to an African. So, the skin color here is not a reliable indicator. It's actually more important to find out a geographical ancestry than a donor's skin color. For instance, Tiger Woods is mostly Asian in his ancestry. If he should need a transplant some day, he will be more likely to match an Asian donor.

    “It's geography and not culture or skin color that matters in this instance.””

    Micronesia, of course, is nearer to south-west Africa than to Europe. Of course, as both Micronesians and Europeans descsended from the same 150 Africans who left that continent, it's ancestry, not geography that matters in this case.

    “”There is more and more hard genetic evidence that all of humanity has evolved as a single unit, with regional variations, but that's all they are, slight variations,” said Templeton. “A race has to be a sharply defined, geographically circumscribed population that represents an isolated or nearly isolated lineage within the species. There's nothing at all like that in humanity. In terms of the living world, it's really hard to find a species so genetically homogeneous across its populations as humans.””

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Y-chromosome_DNA_haplogroup
    [2] http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2007/01/race-current-consensus.php
    [3] http://genetics.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen.0010070&ct=1#journal-pgen-0010070-b001

  7. Jay,

    The National Center for the Dissiemenation of Disability Research piece you link to is substantively correct in its main claim. Essentially, the NCDDR criticizes the “one drop rule” (hypodescent [1]) used by the census. Obviously, they are right.

    That doesn't make self-reported race useless for determining an individual's racial composition. However, it points that that when people speak of “African-Americans,” they are really referring to a hyrbid largely Afro-European population, and not merely a sample of African people living in the United States. (President Jefferson's six children with Sally Hemming were all 3/4 white and 1/4 black, but were classified as black because of the rule of hypodescent, for example.)

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypodescent

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