Nicholas Wade and race: building a scientific façade

“…for he has no right to give names to objects which he cannot define.” –Charles Darwin

Do “races” exist as meaningful biological categories? Physical anthropologists and human biologists have been studying race (i.e., blacks vs. whites, or Europeans vs. Asians) for centuries. For most of that time, they subscribed to the perspective that race was a taxonomic category, and they sought to identify the biological characteristics (such as cranial shape or skin color) that characterized and defined these different groups. This perspective assumed that each individual was a member of a single racial category, that the differences between racial categories were biological, and that these categories were predictive of other traits (such as ancestry, temperament, intelligence, or health).

But it gradually became clear that this understanding was not scientifically sound. Groupings of people by skin color did not produce the same result as groupings of people by skull shape, nor of blood type. Furthermore, as scientists began to study human variation with the tools of genetics (in the process creating my fields, anthropological genetics and human population genetics), it became apparent that human genetic variation does not divide humans into a few discrete groups. There are virtually no sharp boundaries, either with physical features or with patterns of genetic diversity, that show where one population “ends” and the next “begins”.

These observations have led the majority of physical anthropologists, human biologists, and human geneticists in recent decades to conclude that the racial groups we recognize are social categories constructed in a specific cultural and historical setting, even if we consider physical features when categorizing people. These social categories can have biological consequences (for example, someone who experiences the stress of racism may be more likely to develop high blood pressure and hypertension than someone who does not).

Racial groupings differ from culture to culture. For example, although in the United States Chinese and Japanese peoples are usually viewed as one “race” (Asian), they are seen as members of different racial groups in South Africa. Racial groupings also vary over time within a single culture, as can be seen below in the United States census classifications of race over several decades.

The United States census classifications of race or color, 1890-1990. Table 1 from Lee, S. (1993) “Racial classifications in the US census 1890-1990.” Ethnic and Racial Studies Volume 16 (1).
The United States census classifications of race or color, 1890-1990. Table 1 from Lee, S. (1993) “Racial classifications in the US census 1890-1990.” Ethnic and Racial Studies Volume 16 (1).

 

However, according to former New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade, we should never have stopped thinking of race as a biological taxonomic category. In his new book, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History”, Wade takes it upon himself to educate scientists about the errors of our interpretations of human genetic diversity.

Wade claims that the latest genomic findings actually support dividing humans into discrete races, and that the genetic makeup of different races contributes to behavioral and economic disparities.   In a spectacular failure of logic, he asserts that those who disagree that races are meaningful biological categories in humans must ALSO think that human populations do not differ genetically, or have not been affected by evolution.

 

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

 

There is a lot to criticize in this book, particularly Wade’s imaginative storytelling in chapters 6-10 (“a much more speculative arena,” as he puts it). He explains that English populations have a “willingness to save and delay gratification”, which “seems considerably weaker in tribal societies” (pp. 184-185), and these differences must be genetically based, despite his admission that “the genetic underpinnings of human social behavior are for the most part still unknown” (p. 15), and numerous critiques of this hypothesis. In chapter 8, he asserts that Jews are adapted for capitalism in a manner analogous to the Eskimo’s adaptation to survival in an Arctic environment (p. 214) — an assertion unsupported by scientific evidence, to put it mildly. (Wade seems to be unaware of the consequences of laws prohibiting Jews from owning land and farming over much of Europe for centuries – and instead speculates that “their genes were adapted for success in capitalism”).

But others have already critiqued these aspects of his book. I’m far more interested in the central premise of Wade’s argument, which is passing unchallenged by all but a few reviews: “At least at the level of continental populations, races can be distinguished genetically, and this is sufficient to establish that they exist” (p. 122). If Wade is right and races are distinct biological categories, then we would reasonably expect that they would be unambiguously different from each other genetically and physically (as well as behaviorally, according to Wade). One should be able to define each race with a set of objective criteria, which could be used by any person to independently reach the same classifications (and number of classifications) as Wade. Furthermore, these categories should have predictive power; that is, features that define race should be in concordance with new discoveries of genetic diversity.

What is race?
To begin with, Wade can’t provide a clear definition of “race.” He tries to rely instead on loose associations rather than definitive characteristics, which forces him to conclude both that physical traits define race but that the traits can vary from person to person: “races are identified by clusters of traits, and to belong to a certain race, it’s not necessary to possess all of the identifying traits” (p. 121).

With such a shifty, casual footing, it’s no surprise that Wade’s conclusions are unsound. He can’t keep the number of races straight:

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 8.21.17 PM

Wade can’t settle on a definite number of races because he can’t come up with a consistent, rigorous definition of what “race” means. He uses terms like “major race”, “race”, “subrace”, “group”, or “population,” but doesn’t provide any serious, objective ways to distinguish between these terms for arbitrary groupings of people arbitrary groups.

Rather than just announcing his subjective opinions about race, Wade wants to ground them in science. He tries to use genetics: “Such an arrangement, of portioning human variation into five continental races, is to some extent arbitrary. But it makes practical sense. The three major races are easy to recognize. The five-way division matches the known events of human population history. And, most significant of all, the division by continent is supported by genetics.” (p. 94)

To support his claim, Wade relies heavily on a 2002 paper (by Rosenberg et al.) that used a program called structure to group people based on similarities in markers distributed across the genome. He notes that the program identified five major clusters in this 2002 study, which corresponded to the major geographic regions (Africa, Eurasia, East Asia, Oceania, and America) of the world. Therefore, Wade argues, these results clearly show that humans are divided up into racial categories that match continents.

Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, who recently reviewed Wade’s book in the Wall Street Journal, agrees:

A computer given a random sampling of bits of DNA that are known to vary among humans—from among the millions of them—will cluster them into groups that correspond to the self-identified race or ethnicity of the subjects. This is not because the software assigns the computer that objective but because those are the clusters that provide the best statistical fit.

But Wade and Murray are both wrong. Structure didn’t simply identify five clusters. It also identified two, three, four, six, and seven clusters. (Rosenberg et al. 2002 actually identified up to 20 divisions, but 1-7 are the primary ones they discussed. They also divided their worldwide sample up into regions, and then ran structure within those regions, to look at more fine-scale population structure.)

 

Figure 1 from Rosenberg et al. 2003 showing Structure runs at 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 populations. Each population is separated by a black line. Each thin vertical line represents one person. Ancestry groupings inferred from the program on the basis of genetic similarity are represented by different colors, so that a thin vertical line that is ~60% purple and 40% orange indicates a person who was inferred to have 60% ancestry from the “purple” genetic cluster and 40% ancestry from the “orange” genetic cluster.
Figure 1 from Rosenberg et al. 2002 showing structure runs at 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 populations. Each population is separated by a black line. Each thin vertical line represents one person. Ancestry groupings inferred from the program on the basis of genetic similarity are represented by different colors, so that a thin vertical line that is ~60% purple and ~40% orange indicates a person who was inferred to have 60% ancestry from the “purple” genetic cluster and 40% ancestry from the “orange” genetic cluster.

 

Why? Researchers using structure have to define the number (K) of clusters in advance, because that’s what the program requires. The program was designed to partition individuals into whatever pre-specified number of clusters the researcher requests, regardless of whether that number of divisions really exists in nature. In other words, if the researcher tells structure to divide the sampled individuals into 4 clusters, structure will identify 4 groups no matter what–even if there is really only 1 group, or even if there are really 14 groups.

So, when Rosenberg et al. (2002) told structure to use K=6? They got six clusters, with the sixth corresponding to a northwestern Pakistani group, the Kalash. Does this make the Kalash a separate race? Wade doesn’t think so. When they told structure to use K=3? They got three clusters back, corresponding to Africa, Europe/Middle East/South Asia, and East Asia/Oceania/Americas. So are Native Americans and Australians not separate races? Rosenberg et al. never published any statistical evidence that justifies picking 5 races instead of 7, or 4, or 2 (although such methods do exist–see Bolnick et al. 2008). Wade seems to like K=5 simply because it matches his pre-conceived notions of what race should be:

“It might be reasonable to elevate the Indian and Middle Eastern groups to the level of major races, making seven in all. But then many more subpopulations could be declared races, so to keep things simple, the five-race, continent-based scheme seems the most practical for most purposes.” (p. 100)

Practical. Simple. Wade wants us to cut up human diversity into five races not because that’s what the statistical analyses show, but because thinking about it as a gradient is hard.
Wade isn’t even using the tools of genetics competently. The authors of the paper he relied on, as well as subsequent studies, showed that different runs of the program with the same data can even produce different results (Bolnick, 2008). Structure’s results are extremely sensitive to many different factors, including models, the type and number of genetic variants studied, and the number of populations included in the analysis (Rosenberg et al. 2005). When Rosenberg et al. (2005) expanded the 2002 dataset to include more genetic markers for the same population samples, they identified a somewhat different set of genetic clusters when K=6 (Native Americans were divided into two clusters and the Kalash of Central/South Asia did not form a separate cluster). In fact, Rosenberg et al. (2005) explicitly said:

“Our evidence for clustering should not be taken as evidence of our support of any particular concept of ‘biological race.’”

Finally, the creators of structure themselves caution that it will produce rather arbitrary clusters when sampled populations have been influenced by gene flow that is restricted by geographic distance (i.e. where more mating occurs between members of nearby populations than between populations that are located farther apart, a pattern we geneticists refer to as isolation by distance). As this pattern applies to the majority of human populations, it makes the results of structure problematic and difficult to interpret in many cases. These limitations are acknowledged by anthropological geneticists and population biologists, who interpret the results of structure cautiously. It’s very telling that Wade, a science reporter, chose to ignore the interpretations of the experts in favor of his own.

Human biological variation is real and important. I’ve studied it my entire professional career. We can see this variation most easily in physical traits and allele frequency differences between populations at extreme ends of a geographic continuum. Nobody is denying that. Let me repeat this: no one is denying that humans vary physically and genetically. All anthropologists and geneticists recognize that human differences exist. But Wade, and others who agree with him, have decided that certain patterns of variation—those which happen to support their predefined notions of what “races” must be—are more important than others.

Wade’s perspective fits with a larger pattern seen throughout history and around the world. Folk notions of what constitutes a race and how many races exist are extremely variable and culturally specific. For example, the Bible claims that all peoples of the world are descended from Noah’s three sons, mirroring the popular concept of three racial divisions (Caucasians, Africans, and Asians). On the other hand, the five-part division of races seems most “logical” to Wade. Anticipating confusion on this point he claims: “Those who assert that human races don’t exist like to point to the many, mutually inconsistent classification schemes that have recognized anywhere from 3 to 60 races. But the lack of agreement doesn’t mean that races don’t exist, only that it is a matter of judgment as to how to define them” (p. 92).

A matter of judgment. So, rather than being defined by empirical criteria, as Wade had asserted so confidently earlier in the book, it really is just a subjective judgment call. The differences between groups are so subtle and gradual that no objective lines can be drawn, so Wade draws his own on the basis of his own preconceptions.

How subtle is the gradient that Wade is chopping up? Humans are incredibly similar genetically. We only differ by about 0.1% of our genome. Compare that to chimpanzees, our closest relative. Individual chimps from the same population show more genetic differences than humans from different continents.

The genetic differences that exist in human populations are important, because they help us understand our evolutionary history. The most genetic diversity is found in populations in Africa, where our species originated. Subsequent migrations across the continents resulted in sampling a subset of the genetic diversity present in the ancestral populations; thousands of years of localized evolution and cultural practices have produced region-specific adaptations, such as the ability to thrive at high altitudes. These adaptations have influenced particular genes and traits, but the overall pattern of genetic variation is clinal, meaning that for the most part it varies gradually with geographic distance.  Groups that live close together are more closely related to each other (and more genetically similar) than they are to groups farther away. (People marry and have children more frequently with people who live close to them than they do with people who live farther away). Other evolutionary forces (founder effects, selection, drift, and migration) have all contributed to patterns of genetic diversity that we see in populations today.

But these patterns of human diversity don’t give us a scientifically viable definition of race as a taxonomic unit. As Agustin Fuentes puts it, with emphasis added:

“when you compare people from Nigeria, Western Europe and Beijing you do get some patterned differences…but these specific groups do not reflect the entire continental areas of Africa, Europe, and Asia (the proposed “continental races” of African, Caucasian and Asian). There are no genetic patterns that link all populations in just Africa, just Asia or just Europe to one another to the exclusion of other populations in other places. If you compare geographically separated populations within the “continental” areas you get the same kind of variation as you would between them. Comparing Nigerians to Western Europeans to people from Beijing gives us the same kind of differences in variation patterns as does comparing people from Siberia, Tibet and Java, or from Finland, Wales and Yemen, or even Somalia, Liberia and South Africa— and none of these comparisons demonstrates “races.”
In fact if you use the common level of genetic differentiation between populations used by zoologists to classify biological races (which they called subspecies) in other mammals, all humans consistently show up as just one biological race.”

(Also see Templeton AR, 2013. Biological races in humans. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.04.010)

Wade even seems to agree with population geneticists that there aren’t any races, just clinal distributions of genetic diversity: “Because there is no clear dividing line, there are no distinct races—that is the nature of variation within a species.” (p 92).

In other words, he can’t define distinct races. He just knows them when he sees them

I’ve focused a lot of this review on numerous technical details because I think that it’s very important that non-geneticists understand the degree to which Wade is distorting the results of recent research on genome-wide human variation. I won’t speculate whether this distortion is deliberate or a result of simple ignorance about genetics, but it is serious. There is a great deal more in this book that also needs to be critiqued, such as Wade’s assertion that the genetic differences between human groups determine behavioral differences, resurrecting the specter of “national character” and “racial temperaments”. But as I’ve shown here, Wade’s book is all pseudoscientific rubbish because he can’t justify his first and primary point: his claim that the human racial groups we recognize today culturally are scientifically meaningful, discrete biological divisions of humans. This claim provides a direct basis for the whole second half of the book where he makes those “speculative” arguments about national character.  In other words, the entire book is a house of cards.

It’s also worth noting the extent to which Wade’s argument here is a variation on the Galileo fallacy: the fact that one bravely holds a minority view in science is considered to be sufficient evidence of the worth of one’s position. I’ve seen it used over and over again in responses to my criticisms of pseudoscience, and it’s no more persuasive for Wade than it is for creationists or homeopaths.


Further reading:

“If scientists were to make the arbitrary decision that biological race is real, can you think of a positive outcome?” –a nice piece by Holly Dunsworth: http://ecodevoevo.blogspot.com/2014/05/if-scientists-were-to-make-arbitrary.html

Agustin Fuentes’ online debate with Wade: (https://aaanetevents.webex.com/ec0606l/eventcenter/recording/recordAction.do?theAction=poprecord&AT=pb&internalRecordTicket=00000001fcaac3649dadd2c6e78a2511ed436c75acea0fcceaf7ff0731dc4216dec6996b&isurlact=true&renewticket=0&recordID=8614987&apiname=lsr.php&needFilter=false&format=short&&SP=EC&rID=8614987&RCID=e801bfd96855006077205e3d2e023699&siteurl=aaanetevents&actappname=ec0606l&actname=%2Feventcenter%2Fframe%2Fg.do&rnd=4944230866&entactname=%2FnbrRecordingURL.do&entappname=url0108l)

“The troublesome ignorance of Nicholas Wade”, also by Agustin Fuentes:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/agustin-fuentes/the-troublesome-ignorance-of-nicholas-wade_b_5344248.html?utm_hp_ref=tw&utm_content=bufferfad4c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

“On the origin of white power” by Eric Michael Johnson:

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/primate-diaries/2014/05/21/on-the-origin-of-white-power/

A critique of Structure:
Bolnick DA. Individual ancestry inference and the reification of race as a biological phenomenon. In: Koenig BA, Lee SS-J, Richardson SS, editors. Revisiting Race in a Genomic Age. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press; 2008. pp. 77–85.

Jon Marks: “The genes made us do it: The new pseudoscience of race.”
http://inthesetimes.com/article/16674/the_genes_made_us_do_it

Barbujani and Colonna, 2010. Human genome diversity: frequently asked questions.
http://www2.webmatic.it/workO/s/113/pr-1400-file_it-Barbujani-Colonna.pdf

******************************************

Many thanks to Deborah Bolnick, Colin McRoberts, Jay Kaufman, Jonathan Kahn, Troy Duster, and Rick Smith.

 

Please review my Site Policies before commenting. Disagreement with me is fine; bigotry is not.

Advertisements

584 thoughts on “Nicholas Wade and race: building a scientific façade

  1. Adam J Calhoun (neuroecology) May 23, 2014 / 1:25 pm

    I don’t do population genomics nor do I work with humans but I do a lot of clustering/data analysis/etc. I’m curious if you could answer a few things which were not clear:

    (1) OK, he picked K=5 because why not. Given that there are multiple ways to check goodness of fit, what values of K fit the best? And how well do they fit (ie what’s the error rate)?
    (2) Again, I don’t know the literature. What % of the genome tends to be sequenced? How does clustering change with respect to % sequenced? You give the Rosenberg example which mostly seems to indicate that either the number of subjects or the number of snps are too low for reliable clustering
    (3) Given that there were barriers to population diffusion, eg the British Isles, the Himalayas, etc, how well do these things show up in the clustering? Is there similar evidence for political/cultural effects, such as the germanic/latin language divide?
    (4) Let’s say you could take a bunch of individuals and throw some clustering at their sequences. What error rate is generally accepted as indicating a ‘real’ cluster in your field?

    I’m not here to argue about race etc, I’m just curious about the clustering… lots of technical questions but I think these things are from the explanation in your post.

    Here’s the ‘dangerous’ question, I guess: how reliably does clustering separate ethnicity? Would this indicate that ethnicity is or is not a real thing?

    • Steve Sailer May 23, 2014 / 2:45 pm

      “(3) Given that there were barriers to population diffusion, eg the British Isles, the Himalayas, etc, how well do these things show up in the clustering? Is there similar evidence for political/cultural effects, such as the germanic/latin language divide?”

      Yes. For example, there is a surprisingly sharp racial divide in the foothills of the Himalayas. The Sherpas and other local Mongoloid peoples don’t like to live below about a mile high in altitude because of their susceptibility to tropical diseases such as malaria. The Caucasoid peoples don’t like to live at high altitude because they lack the adaptations for thin air that the Sherpas have evolved.

      And then there are huge barriers to diffusion such as oceans.

      • Colin May 23, 2014 / 3:07 pm

        What is it that makes the “Mongoloid” people racially different from the “Caucasian” people in racial terms? Genetics, culture, language, or geography, or all of the above? If it’s genetic, can you please cite a source showing the difference?

      • Jennifer Raff May 26, 2014 / 12:18 pm

        Hi Steve, it’s taken me a little while to get to all of your comments, so for convenience’s sake, I’m going to aggregate your points here.

        You and I seem to actually agree on a number of points : that genetic variation is clinally distributed, that different cultures have developed different (and often contradictory) definition of races, that there’s no single objectively biologically-based way to partition people into mutually exclusive categories. Fair?

        I’m interested in your definition of races as “partially inbred extended families”. Could you elaborate on that, please? In particular, can you define it in terms of R (the coefficient of relationship)? Or as Colin and several other people have put it “how far back do you trace your family groups” in order to meet your definition of race?

        And how does your definition of race differ from the definition of ‘populations’ that we geneticists use? Or do you really believe that this is simply a semantic argument?

        • Pithlord May 26, 2014 / 4:22 pm

          I hope Sailer responds to you. From what I have read of his, I think he would agree that genetic variation is clinally distributed, with significant pre-Colombian barriers to gene flow at the major oceans, the Himilayas and the Sahara desert, making the continuities relatively discontinuous at those spots. He would agree that different societies split things differently (his favourite example is Rihanna). He would certainly agree that there is no single way to partition people into races, and anyway races aren’t mutually exclusive.

          The implication is that folk concepts of race aren’t just illusions. They aren’t totally discrete categories, but it is questionable that anyone, even Archie Bunker, really believed that they were.

          Having read your previous post about your academic work, you obviously believe that pre-Colombian Amerindians were basically completely reproductively isolated from other human populations, and that they underwent evolution (probably selection-based). No one doubts that they didn’t have genetic defences to diseases that were endemic in Europe. Any GP dealing with a racially-diverse patient population needs to understand these kinds of differences.

          Where Sailer goes way beyond the existing evidence is about claims that there is a racial difference in “g” (the alleged genetic substrate of IQ), and that this is important to policy and political debates. Flynn showed that raw IQ scores go up by about a standard deviation a generation, and there is every reason to think that groups with historic socio-economic disadvantage would be further behind in this development. The average African American today would blow the average white recruit in World War I out of the water on any IQ test. I don’t think Sailer will deny this problem with his views, but he will assert them very confidently for political purposes.

          • Jennifer Raff May 27, 2014 / 11:08 am

            “Having read your previous post about your academic work, you obviously believe that pre-Colombian Amerindians were basically completely reproductively isolated from other human populations, and that they underwent evolution (probably selection-based).”

            Not just selection! Drift, founder effects, and migration are also incredibly important evolutionary forces, and they definitely impacted the genetic structure of American populations.

            • Pithlord May 27, 2014 / 6:35 pm

              Sorry.You didn’t seem to rule out selection, although you don’t like Chatters’ theory (reasons to follow).

    • Jennifer Raff May 23, 2014 / 3:42 pm

      “OK, he picked K=5 because why not. Given that there are multiple ways to check goodness of fit, what values of K fit the best? And how well do they fit (ie what’s the error rate)?”

      There are statistical tests for measuring which values of K best fit the data. Rosenberg et al. (2003, and again in 2005, I believe) did not report those values. (this is not a knock against Rosenberg’s lab, btw, I think they do very good work). The point is, Wade selected K=5 because the results were convenient and matched his worldview, not because there was any particular statistical justification for K=5 vs. K=7 (or any other value of K).

      • Josh Rosenthal May 23, 2014 / 11:40 pm

        @ Dr Raff,

        You realise that these issues arise with identifying races and sub-species generally right? Some “biological concepts” of race are: “geographic subspecies” (Mayr), populations with hereditary differences (Brues), “local breeding populations” ( Dobzhansky), and “ecotypes” (Coyne). There obviously are races by the hereditarian difference, breeding population, and ecotype concept.

        Ernst Mayr’s definition of a “geographic race” or “a geographically defined aggregate of local populations which differ taxonomically from other subdivisions of the species” is commonly accepted. There is no set criteria for “differ taxonomically.” Typically the 75% rule (of thumb) is used, which is sometimes taken to means that 75% of one population can be distinguished from other populations.

        To clarify this last point, trait differences are correlated. Looking at multiple traits allows one to accurately classify members into populations. Relethford (2009) tells us, for example,: “Using Howells’s six geographic regions and all 57 measurements, the overall rate of correct classification is 97% for male crania and 96% for female crania.

        Ron Unz recently provided a useful discussion of the concept:

        “mantra that “Race Does Not Exist” which from a scientific perspective is roughly similar to claiming that “Teeth Do Not Exist” or perhaps “Hills Do Not Exist,” with the latter being an especially good parallel. It is perfectly correct that the notion of “hill” is ill-defined and vague—what precise height distinguishes a pile of dirt from a hill and a hill from a mountain?—but nevertheless denying the reality or usefulness of such a concept would be an absurdity. Similarly, the notion of distinct human races—genetic clusters across a wide variety of scales and degrees of fuzziness—is an obviously useful and correct organizing principle, and one which was probably accepted without question by everyone in the history of the world except for deluded Americans of the last fifty years.

        Anyway, let us suppose that the Gouldians rising up to denounce the heretic, such as anthropologist Agustin Fuentes, are given their way and the common term “race” is purged from our scientific vocabulary as being meaningless. Well, large-scale genetic population clusters obviously continue to exist in the real world and are an important element in ongoing research, both medical and evolutionary. So it would make sense to conveniently replace an overly cumbersome multisyllabic phrase with a short single-syllabic word now suddenly gone unused, namely “race.”

        Indeed, I would suggest that one of the sources of present-day confusion is that the very term “race” has undergone an unfortunate metamorphosis over the course of the 20th century. Today, when people speak of “races” they are almost invariably referring to the continental-scale mega-races such as Asians, Africans, and Europeans. These “races” certainly exist and are highly meaningful and distinct in genetic terms,”

        • Mythos May 24, 2014 / 3:14 am

          If we arguing for convenience, then race fails as a valid concept.

          Relethford who you quoted demonstrates this, but “race realists” like creationists only quote-mine…

          What Relethford established is that inter-populational variation in craniometry is as low as 11% between major geographical regions. That means 89% of craniometric variation is found within populations, not between them. “Race” is completely useless.

          Relethford, J.H. (1994). Craniometric variation among modern human populations. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 95, 53-62

          “These results show that genetic and craniometric data are in agreement, qualitatively and quantitatively, and that there is limited variation in modern humans among major geographic regions.”

          • layman May 24, 2014 / 10:36 am

            Never mind skulls. Members of cluster A have more similarity than a random member of A has with a random member of cluster B.

          • Josh Rosenthal May 25, 2014 / 4:19 am

            @ Mythos,

            I take it you are against the concept in general as opposed to simply being applied in humans?

            In terms of the utility of it, take medical research for starters. It is a nuisance for GWAS — you have to correct for population structure as a possible confound for the real effect you are looking for.

            “Population stratification—allele frequency differences between cases and controls due to systematic ancestry differences—can cause spurious associations in disease studies.”

            http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v38/n8/abs/ng1847.html

            • Jennifer Raff May 25, 2014 / 7:09 am

              Yes, substructure due to ancestry is an incredibly important confounding factor in GWAS. So what? You still seem to be under the impression that I (and other human population geneticists) don’t believe that human populations vary genetically. They absolutely do, and that is, in fact, exactly what we study!

              But you’re extrapolating the race concept from population allele frequency differences (unless I’m misinterpreting you). Why don’t we back up a bit and define our terms for clarity? If we agree (and I hope we do) that the common definition of population is “a geographical cluster of people who mate more within the cluster than outside of it” (Fuentes), then how do you define race?

              • Pithlord May 25, 2014 / 9:38 am

                Isn’t population, as you define it, what scientists meant by “race” half a century ago?

                One distinction that occurs to me is that if you are in the midst of an admixture event, race is defined by the past populations as opposed to the present population.

                There may be scientific reasons to change fro using the word “race” and there may be political ones. But the change in nomenclature can’t justify telling people that their folk concepts have no relationship to biological reality. That may nit be what you are saying, but that is something a lot of educated people think science says.

                • sideways May 25, 2014 / 9:26 pm

                  Yes, she seems to have forgotten that by her own words in the OP, she can’t do what she just said she does.

                  She’s not very good at arguing this. Of course, it’s hard to argue for obvious nonsense.

              • Josh Rosenthal May 25, 2014 / 8:25 pm

                Well if you use the Risch approach it’s linked back to continental, major geographic, ancestry. That seems to correspond with the main clusters and how people use the concept of race in general linking back to main geographic ancestry eg Asian, African, European, Polynesian etc?

                They’re broad categories that people can define further obviously. There seems to be a bit of a strawman that they are set in stone (I’d recommend Nevan Sesardic’s essay from 2010).

                I think Ron Unz makes a good point in that respect:

                “It is perfectly correct that the notion of “hill” is ill-defined and vague—what precise height distinguishes a pile of dirt from a hill and a hill from a mountain?—but nevertheless denying the reality or usefulness of such a concept would be an absurdity. Similarly, the notion of distinct human races—genetic clusters across a wide variety of scales and degrees of fuzziness—is an obviously useful and correct organizing principle..

                “Indeed, I would suggest that one of the sources of present-day confusion is that the very term “race” has undergone an unfortunate metamorphosis over the course of the 20th century. Today, when people speak of “races” they are almost invariably referring to the continental-scale mega-races such as Asians, Africans, and Europeans.”

                Some definitions – Coyne (who think there are human races, but doesn’t suggest a fixed number)

                “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.

                Also, this one from the American Heritage Dictionary that is referred to in this review of Grave’s book:

                “Graves’ push for abandoning the racial concept partly depends on his using a definition of racial group that is extremely restrictive, requiring that races have ‘…hereditary features shared by a group of people and not present in other groups’ (p. 5). However, the definition from the American Heritage Dictionary, which he offers on the following page, emphasizes race as a genealogical line, a lineage, and offers that races differ ‘…in the frequency of hereditary traits’ (p. 6). Racial groups are like a large extended family; people in them share a common ancestry, are somewhat inbred, and share some physical resemblance because of their common genes. Natural selection has produced marked phenotypic differences between racial groups; but large numbers of neutral genetic markers can be used to identify lines of ancestry.”

                http://www.nature.com/hdy/journal/v87/n2/full/6889531a.html

              • MW May 26, 2014 / 10:01 am

                That definition is extremely loose. If I had 100 sets of individuals, I could split them into two “populations” of 99 sets and 1 set even if most people in the set of 99 don’t actually breed with each other all that often.

              • Colin May 26, 2014 / 1:12 pm

                Is that what scientists meant by “race” half a century ago? I’d be surprised–I would have expected they’d be going off of physical characteristics.

                How would past populations determine race in an admixture event? Doesn’t it require a particularly robust definition of “race” to sort out particularly in that event? Such a robust definition is exactly what I haven’t seen offered.

                • Pithlord May 26, 2014 / 1:44 pm

                  An admixture event is when two previously reproductively-isolated populations start to interbreed. We have had one in the Americas since 1492. Because of homogamy, the different racial groups in the Americas are still (to some extent) populations in the sense Raff defined. But I think you could easily define the racial origin of Barack Obama’s parents, even though they were (by definition) part of the same population. His mother’s ancestry derived largely or entirely from the pre-Colombian Northern European/British Isles population, while his father’s ancestry derived largely or entirely from the pre-colonial East African population (or Subsharan African population, with possible Arab introgression, or the Luo population — you have the problem of scale.)

                  You can’t expect categories to be more “robust” (discrete) than the reality they are describing. In fact, trying to make them that robust is the problem.

                  I supsect that abandoning the term “race” for “population” was driven largely by political and cultural factors outside of science. Not that there is anything wrong with that! But you can’t use what is essentially a terminological change as a club to tell everyone that their common sense categories are wrong. They aren’t wrong. They might be oversimplified from a scientific perspective, but so are all the common sense concepts we use to get through the day. Scientific eliminationists tried to get rid of “chairs” (just atoms), “up” (not consistent with Galilean relativity), etc. We get this with neurons and free will nowadays. The better way of looking at it is that the scientific image does not compete with the manifest image (borrowing from Sellars).

                  There seems to be a desire to eliminate the concept of race as a requirement for racial equality. Few people think we need to do the same for gender or disability or religion or other bases of discrimination. One problem is that doctors need to know that some diagnostic tests should be applied for black Americans, but not for Chinese Americans (and vice versa). Minority racial groups rarely want to say their racial identity is just a fiction. You can’t understand the history of this continent without understanding how endemic diseases become epidemics if a genetically-naive group is exposed to them.

      • Adam J Calhoun (neuroecology) May 24, 2014 / 2:29 am

        Sure sure I get your point and it’s a good one. I was hoping that you, as someone who is knowledgable in the field, knew what K values have been shown to give good clustering (or whether the data was too noisy/undersampled for that?). Surely someone has provided statistical justification somewhere? I am just curious to understand what is actually known, as someone too lazy to dig through the literature myself (and as someone who is currently in a country with very, very slow internet.)

      • layman May 24, 2014 / 10:25 am

        K is arbitrary but all values of K are correct.

        Here is why:

        Everybody inside of cluster A has more similarity than a random member of A has with a random member of cluster B.

        BUT– and please grasp this — it’s possible for members inside of cluster A , call these individuals A.1, to have more similarity than a random member of A.1 has with a random member of A*(A* is A – A.1).

        If one wanted A.1 to form its own cluster, then one would simply increase K.

        Let me give you an example:

        1. Two random Amerindians have more similarity than a random Amerindian has with a random Mongolian.
        2. A random Amerindian and a random Mongolian have more similarity than a random Amerindian has with a a random African.

        Both statements are correct, but they arise under different values of K.

  2. lrk May 23, 2014 / 3:47 pm

    “For me, it defies reason that human populations which developed separately over the course of 10,000 to 50,000 years… subjected to different selective pressures (climate, pathogens, etc.)… would be genetically identical.

    It also defies reason to argue with certainty that genetics plays no role in variations in human intelligence.”

    The late, great Undercover Black Man, five years ago in a spicy debate (NSFW!!!)
    http://denmarkvesey.net/listen-to-me-this-is-the-blackest-woman-on-the-planet-stop-what-you-are-doing-and-peep/#comment-17145 (NSFW)

    And here he fleshes out Steve Sailer’s race-as-an-extended-family metaphor.. also five years ago.

    (NSFW!!!) http://denmarkvesey.net/listen-to-me-this-is-the-blackest-woman-on-the-planet-stop-what-you-are-doing-and-peep/#comment-17310 (NSFW)

    • Colin May 23, 2014 / 3:55 pm

      “For me, it defies reason” sounds a lot like, “I have no evidence to support this, but I believe it nevertheless.”

      • Josh Rosenthal May 23, 2014 / 11:47 pm

        Colin,

        Behavioural traits are heritable. Different environments and cultures may favor different traits to some extent. There are phenotypic differences that show up across countries. To the extent of 2 standard deviations. Are differences to some extent due to genetic variation? Davide Piffer’s research provides some preliminary support for that although you really need to identify a number of alleles to have high confidence either way.

        • Colin May 24, 2014 / 12:56 am

          Behavioral traits are heritable, or some behavioral traits are heritable? The HBD movement doesn’t seem to distinguish between those two statements. They are quite different.

          As for the “phenotypic differences that show up across countries,” is that how we’re determining race? Do they correspond to behavioral traits and races such that you can map them consistently?

          • Leigh Williams May 24, 2014 / 1:37 am

            Why, of course they do. Everyone knows that black people are athletic and white people make good robber barons and Ashkenazi Jews make good lawyers and Asians are good at math and Greeks are tricksy.

            Just ask any scientific racist on this thread. They’ll squirt an ink cloud of multisyllabic science words all over you to defend the idea that race is real, real goddammit!

            Of course, they won’t be able to tell you how to define or measure it, or how to demonstrate that their just-so stories tie to any observable genetic facts.

            They’re heavily committed to the idea that they deserve the undeniable advantages that accrue to their light skin because everyone knows that colored people are just natcherly shirtless and stupid and lazy.

            There’s no way to reason a man out of his bigotry. The best we can do is point and snicker, name and shame.

            • papayasf May 24, 2014 / 1:44 am

              It’s a funny kind of racism that says, in effect, “These other races have, on average, higher IQs than the race to which I belong.”

              • Pithlord May 24, 2014 / 11:07 am

                You step easily into obvious reductio ad absurdum. Think Nazis and Jews or Kaiser Wilhelm and the Yellow Peril. Or Idi Amin and East Indians.

            • Josh Rosenthal May 25, 2014 / 4:59 am

              @ Leigh Williams,

              If it’s not real, then it wouldn’t be a problem for GWAS type studies. Whether you call it race, or population, or major ancestral group, it’s still there right?

              “Population stratification—allele frequency differences between cases and controls due to systematic ancestry differences—can cause spurious associations in disease studies.”

              http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v38/n8/abs/ng1847.html

          • Josh Rosenthal May 25, 2014 / 4:47 am

            @ Colin,

            1. I’m quoting Eric Turkheimer “All human behavioral traits are heritable.”

            http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/magazine/11Genome-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

            ***As for the “phenotypic differences that show up across countries,” is that how we’re determining race? Do they correspond to behavioral traits and races such that you can map them consistently?***

            2. I’ve never seen a definition of race that is based on behaviour- have you? For instance, Jerry Coyne noted:

            “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.

            Under that criterion, are there human races?

            Yes. As we all know, there are morphologically different groups of people who live in different areas, though those differences are blurring due to recent innovations in transportation that have led to more admixture between human groups.”

            3. In terms of consistent behavioural differences, what you may see are average population differences. For example, Steve Hsu gives the example of height:

            “On the other hand, for most phenotypes (examples: height or IQ, which are both fairly heritable, except in cases of extreme environmental deprivation), there is significant overlap between different population distributions. That is, Swedes might be taller than Vietnamese on average, but the range of heights within each group is larger than the difference in the averages. Nevertheless, at the tails of the distribution one would find very large discrepancies: for example the percentage of the Swedish population that is over 2 meters tall (6″7) might be 5 or 10 times as large as the percentage of the Vietnamese population.”

            http://infoproc.blogspot.co.nz/2008/01/no-scientific-basis-for-race.html

            • Colin May 26, 2014 / 12:09 pm

              The Turkheimer quote you link to is a single, out-of-context and second-hand sentence. Moreover, the article immediately follows it with the observation that even Turkheimer apparently feels that only a “substantial fraction” of variation is genetic. The tension between those two statements makes me think that there’s more to Turkheimer’s position than you seem to believe.

              On your second point, you seem to agree that races are an “I know it when I see it” phenomenon. I don’t think we disagree about that; it’s a culturally-determined grouping based on how we see people.

              On your third point, do you see why that statistical grouping would make it impossible to assign people to the “Swede” race or “Vietnamese” race based on their height?

              • Pithlord May 26, 2014 / 12:44 pm

                Colin, I think you are getting hung up on a semantic issue. “Heribable” means that some part of the variation in a phenotypic trait is due to genetic difference. So saying a trait is heritable only implies there is a correlation, not that the relationship is 1:1, and the relationship between a complex trait and genes will almost always be noisy.

                So there is no contradiction between saying height is heritable (without qualification) and that only some of the variation in height is genetic. It is beyond reasonable dispute that much of the variation in height is due to nutrition and other environmental factors.

                • Colin May 26, 2014 / 1:23 pm

                  Thanks, I appreciate the clarification.

              • Pithlord May 26, 2014 / 12:57 pm

                “heritable” means that some part of the variation in a phenotype is correlated to genetic variation. I actually don’t know what “heribable” means.

  3. Mythos May 24, 2014 / 11:44 am

    For race to be a “useful tool”, you would need to find more inter-populational variation than intra-populational. However: “Previous analysis of craniometric variation (Relethford [1994] Am J Phys Anthropol 95:53-62) found that between 11-14% of global diversity exists among geographic regions, with the remaining diversity existing within regions and: “DNA polymorphisms have shown that the majority of human genetic diversity exists within local populations (approximately 85%), with much less among local populations (approximately 5%) or between major geographic regions or “races” (approximately 10%).” (Relethford, 2002).

    How is is “race” useful if roughly 90% of tested DNA polymorphisms or craniometric dimensions are within populations, not between them?

    Race isn’t a useful tool, and the only people cling onto it is because of politics. The apolitical scientific alternative to study biological variation was proposed by C. Loring Brace in the 1960’s. I’m not sure why so many people resist it. He merely proposed to study biological traits individually as virtually all traits are not concordant (i.e. they map differently such as skin colour tending to lighten as one travels north of the equator).

    “The emphasis on individuals and variation
    is meant to help circumvent the limitations
    of analyses whose starting point is
    predefined groups, and to explore beyond
    group thinking in order to get a different
    view of variation.” (Brace, 1964)

    Brace, C. Loring, 1964. “A Non-Racial Approach Towards the Understanding of Human Diversity”. In Ashley Montagu (ed.), The Concept of Race. The Free Press of Glencoe, New York. pp. 103-152.

    • Mythos May 24, 2014 / 11:56 am

      Above was a bad example, I meant to add nasal width with skin hue, however you can read about discordant (2+) traits here:

      http://www.aaanet.org/cmtes/commissions/aec/upload/Races_or_Clines.pdf

      “An alternative method of preparing transparencies is to use distributional maps of four traditional racial traits (skin color, tooth size, nasal width, hair form) found in Brace (1964, 1996).They can be made into overlapping transparencies to show lack of covariance.”

      “When real biological traits are depicted on distribution maps, in general, they do not covary and do not pop out as distinctive biological groups (races). Instead, each biological trait shows an independent variation”

    • Josh Rosenthal May 25, 2014 / 4:10 am

      *** “DNA polymorphisms have shown that the majority of human genetic diversity exists within local populations (approximately 85%), with much less among local populations (approximately 5%) or between major geographic regions or “races” (approximately 10%).” (Relethford, 2002).***

      Also, known as Lewontin’s Fallacy. As Steve Hsu, who is involved with the BGI Cognitive Genomics Project writes:

      “Further technical comment: you may have read the misleading statistic, spread by the intellectually dishonest Lewontin, that 85% percent of all human genetic variation occurs within groups and only 15% between groups. The statistic is true, but what is often falsely claimed is that this breakup of variances (larger within group than between group) prevents any meaningful genetic classification of populations. This false conclusion neglects the correlations in the genetic data that are revealed in a cluster analysis. See here for a simple example which shows that there can be dramatic group differences in phenotypes even if every version of every gene is found in two groups — as long as the frequency or probability distributions are distinct. Sadly, understanding this point requires just enough mathematical ability that it has eluded all but a small number of experts.) …

      There is no strong evidence for specific gene variants (alleles) that lead to group differences (differences between clusters) in behavior or intelligence, but progress on the genomic side of this question will be rapid in coming years, as the price to sequence a genome is dropping at an exponential rate.

      What seems to be true (from preliminary studies) is that the gene variants that were under strong selection (reached fixation) over the last 10k years are different in different clusters. That is, the way that modern people in each cluster differ, due to natural selection, from their own ancestors 10k years ago is not the same in each cluster — we have been, at least at the genetic level, experiencing divergent evolution. In fact, recent research suggests that 7% or more of all our genes are mutant versions that replaced earlier variants through natural selection over the last tens of thousands of years.”

      http://infoproc.blogspot.co.nz/2008/01/no-scientific-basis-for-race.html

    • sideways May 25, 2014 / 9:35 pm

      So by your standard, we can talk about two races total: prokaryote and eukaryote.

      No, I do not think that’s a sensible requirement to have.

  4. RR May 24, 2014 / 12:30 pm

    In 2005, the DOJ conducted a major study on crime in the USA. The study found that from 1976 – 2005 blacks constituted 13% of the US population but committed 59% of felony homicides.

    Another DOJ study the following year found that (from a summary):

    “In the United States in 2005, 37,460 white females were sexually assaulted or raped by a black man, while between zero and ten black females were sexually assaulted or raped by a white man. What this means is that every day in the United States, over one hundred white women are raped or sexually assaulted by a black man.”

    I think that something more than “culture” is going on here and I’m sure we’ll find out soon.

    (Yes, African Americans are an admixture among different races but the average admixture is 80% African, 20% Europeans, wheres as 23&me found that 95%+ of white Americans have no African genes. Average admixture of lower-class Mexican mestizos seems to be: 59% Amerindian, 34% European, and 6% black. Admixture doesn’t disprove existence of race — it actually proves the existence of race. People aren’t “admixed” out of nothing.)

    Nonetheless, I just brought up black crime to illustrate a point. I’m not racist and I actually am very fond of black people. I think we should do whatever we can to help them.

    Unfortunately for black people, most testing of pharmaceuticals has been on white people and the effectiveness and dosage often varies between blacks and whites (as well as NE Asians, Amerindians, etc.). Race-based dosages are quite effective for many drugs. So, the irony of Raff’s ridiculous “race is a social construct” propaganda is that such propaganda is actually killing black people. The “race is a social construct” people are actually committing soft genocide in the name of Marxism.

    • layman May 24, 2014 / 12:37 pm

      RR, the frequency of the violence inducing variant of MAO-A, it’s called 2R, is higher in blacks than whites in the US. 5% vs. 0.1%.

      So as far as the “find the genes” argument is concerned, there’s your damn genes.

      Of course, and as Wade cautiously notes, this does not prove anything. Whites could very well have a violence inducing allele at a higher rate on some other gene. Who knows! But what is does show is that racial differences in behavior are very possible…

      • Jennifer Raff May 24, 2014 / 3:08 pm

        It’s not as simple as you think. MAO-A’s effects (as well as those of any other candidate gene known at this point) appear to be very, very minor (if they even exist at all): http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/v19/n4/full/mp201331a.html

        “To our knowledge, this is the first systematic review of all the published genetic association studies of aggression and violence. Our study provides evidence that the candidate gene approach has not succeeded in identifying genes associated with these outcomes. This is consistent with recent observations in the field that candidate gene studies of human characteristics and complex diseases at large have failed to produce consistent and clinically useful findings”

        • layman May 24, 2014 / 11:46 pm

          Alright. I just paraphrased Wade from his book. He didn’t mention that study.

          • Jennifer Raff May 25, 2014 / 6:46 am

            Yes. You may wish to think about that fact. If Wade didn’t mention this (rather large, rather important) study that happened to show results that disagreed with his conclusions, what else did he omit or distort?

            And if these, our “best” candidate genes for certain types of behavior (aggression), seem to show very little effect when rigorously scrutinized, what does that say about the strength of the position that “races” differ in innate behavioral qualities?

            • Josh Rosenthal May 25, 2014 / 7:20 pm

              @ Dr Raff,

              Given the date of that review it’s quite plausible that it came out after Wade finalised the manuscript. Similarly, Wade hasn’t included the recent papers of Davide Piffer (2013 & 2014) which indicate alleles linked to cognitive ability vary in frequency across ethnic groups. That actually provides direct support for Wade’s argument.

              Why hasn’t Wade included that? Again, it’s likely the research came out after the book was finalsed.

              Also, if you are going to criticise Wade for distorting information – could you to explain what the level of genetic differentiation is that zoologists use to classify sub-species? That claim – as I’ve set out above, seems highly dubious given sub-species are identified in species with lower levels of genetic variation that humans?

            • Josh Rosenthal May 25, 2014 / 7:28 pm

              @ Dr Raff,

              Just further to my earlier comment – what I am specifically commenting on was addressed by Chuck above. Are you going to call out Alan Templeton on this misrepresentation?

              “I commented on Templeton before. His argument is: (a) “biological race” should refer to zoological subspecies, (b) the criteria for being a zoological subspecies is having a Fst value greater that 0.25; (c) the Fst value between human populations is typically lower that 0.25. Of course, his Fst criteria, which makes little sense, was contrived – the paper he cites for this rule doesn’t discuss it — but rather discusses a multivariate version of the old 75% rule by which there would be human zoological subspecies. But Templeton keeps repeating it, so some people take it seriously More significantly, his argument rests on a word game. Races, we are told, are really “geographic races” — a term which Mayr used synonymously with zoological subspecies (i.e. formally recognized zoological races) and the subspecific natural populations that don’t make the conventional formal recognition cutoff are something else. Stop think. Of course, not accounted for are the evolutionary taxonomist’s microgeographic races and, more generally, non-formally recognized races i.e., the things that zoological subspecies are aside from being formally recognized. The whole argument is really silly — but at least — and this is the point — Templeton recognized the biological validity of at least one biological race concept. When one does, barring extreme disingenuity, one is forced to recognize that race is a fact of evolution; when you don’t you are left with conceptual schizophrenia e.g., ‘race isn’t a valid concept, therefore there are no human races like those of the Plain Zebra.’ “

            • Mike May 25, 2014 / 8:08 pm

              My understanding is that Wade’s book focuses on MAO-2R? The study above did not examine MAOA-2R, and no meta-analysis is currently possible for MAOA-2R because MAOA-2R has only been studied as a distinct allele in one sample, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

              Explantion from Unsilenced Science blogger who focusses on MAO-A.

              “30 base pairs is the length of a single “repeat” within the most studied promoter of MAOA. This study appears to have followed the convention of drawing a distinction between “high activity” and “low activity” MAOA alleles, or “MAOA-H” and “MAOA-L,” but not consistently. MAOA-L usually means the combination of MAOA-2R and MAOA-3R, but MAOA-3R is so much more common in whites than MAOA-2R that MAOA-2R is too dilute in any samples to draw any conclusions about it. Guo et al studied MAOA-2R compared to all the other alleles of this promoter and found that it had a “main effect,” meaning that it did not need an interaction variable like child abuse to influence antisocial behavior or violence. Vassos et al did not list Guo et al in the references but did place it in C2 of Figure 2, which means that they erroneously considered MAOA-3R to be MAOA-H in that one study. I agree that most research on MAOA-3R shows that it does not have a main effect. The interaction between MAOA-3R and suffering child abuse has an established link to antisocial behavior verified by two meta-analyses. Any studies that failed to show this link usually have an identifiable peculiarity that offers an explanation for the outlier status. The fact that child abuse has been greatly studied as an MAOA-3R interaction variable and IQ and testosterone as interaction variables have only one study for each probably has more to do with political correctness than science.

              MAOA-2R is overwhelmingly a gene possessed by people of African descent. 10 of the 11 men with MAOA-2R in Guo et al were African American. An appropriate study of MAOA-2R that prevents confounding by population substructure (in racially mixed African Americans) and that achieves a respectable sample of cases should take place in Africa or look at African immigrants. One study looked at MAOA SNPs in African Pygmies, but, otherwise, no research has taken place in Africa. So far, in vitro and small-sample studies suggest that MAOA-2R has a strong effect on violence, almost akin to Brunner syndrome or MAOA knockout mice.”

              • Jennifer Raff May 26, 2014 / 12:36 pm

                I can’t find out much about this doctor who specializes in MAOA based on his blog (which I’ll read and respond to when I have time). You’re obviously more familiar with his work than I am. Could you tell me what research he’s published on MAOA, so I could read more about it? Or is he a physician who specializes in treating people with MAOA-related aggression? What is his background?

                • nooffensebut May 26, 2014 / 10:53 pm

                  Why don’t I just send you my CV? I’ll prepare it for you right now. Hey, while I’m doing that, do you think that you could—I mean, if you have time—end all racial McCarthyism in America? I mean, you would be doing me, like, a real solid. Thanks.

                  • Jennifer Raff May 27, 2014 / 11:16 am

                    No need, unless you really want to. When I teach people how to read and understand the scientific literature (https://violentmetaphors.com/2013/08/25/how-to-read-and-understand-a-scientific-paper-2/) I recommend as an early step checking the credentials and affiliations of the authors. For example, we’ve had a lot of people on the vaccines threads elsewhere on this site claim to be medical experts, and then turn out to have correspondence degrees in homeopathy.

                    Your blog is certainly interesting, and I’ll definitely read it thoroughly when I have time. In the meantime can you answer the question about your background? Is your degree an MD, or a PhD? If it’s a doctorate, what’s it in? Have you published any papers outside of your blog that I should read in order to better understand your position?

                  • nooffensebut May 27, 2014 / 12:45 pm

                    I have a BS in engineering and an MD (from a school in ‘Merica), but it doesn’t matter who I am. I could be Vanilla Ice, Jay-Michael Vincent, or the woman who told PZ Myers that Michael Shermer raped me. It really doesn’t matter because I almost always cite my sources, so nobody has to trust me. I could recommend some great papers, starting with Byrd and Manuck. Sjöberg et al and Fergusson et al are good. Kevin Beaver always has something interesting to say.

                • layman May 26, 2014 / 10:56 pm

                  All that matters is what the study ACTUALLY says.

                  Nooffensebut:
                  “That’s absurd. The study did not examine MAOA-2R, and no meta-analysis is currently possible for MAOA-2R because MAOA-2R has only been studied as a distinct allele in one sample, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

                  So your study does not address (and could not address) the 2r version. I suspected that the study you cited did not support your conclusion, but i waned to be sure, so I asked a Dr whom i know of, not know personally.

        • Moishe Schwartzstein June 1, 2014 / 8:45 pm

          You have tried to downplay every instance of a gene with an effect, be it behavioral like in the case of the 2r MAO-A allele, or physical, such as any of the many that involve stature. This is really no defense for your position. Even if the effect of 2R is small, if other factors are equal, it creates a statistically verifiable difference in behavior that is socially significant. Furthermore, this gene has an effect that was either selected for or against depending on the population group studied, so there are potentially many other genes that have similar additive effects on the behavior in question (in this case aggression).

          The fact that different environments would bring different selective pressures to bear on largely separated breeding populations (races) is uncontroversial, especially when we are speaking of superficial group differences. That the separated populations would respond to their environments in various behavioral ways is also self-evident. Human behavior may be mediated by culture, but it is driven by our physical adaptations, i.e. the human brain. That the brain is also an organ subject to selective pressure and subsequent adaptation is also an obvious fact. The brain and other structures (adrenal system, etc.) that effect behavior can’t evolve in exactly the same way in two separated populations for reasons that are obvious once there are disparate selective pressures.

          At some point, scientists such as yourself will have to reconcile with the fact that the genetic differences between groups are socially significant. It is merely a matter of time before science shows in what ways and by what specific mechanisms these differences manifest. Then you will have a choice. Maintain scientific integrity, or maintain your political correctness, at least until the political winds change. I suspect that the big discoveries of this sort will be made outside of the West because of the choice scientists are confronting now.

  5. rijkswaanvijand May 24, 2014 / 1:59 pm

    Is this guy a botanist puritan or something?
    How can there be a thing as race, when even species boudaries are often not even clear cut. Does this guy actually get payed for such crap?

    • Josh Rosenthal May 25, 2014 / 4:27 am

      @ rijkswaanvijand,

      I take it you’re not familiar with anthropology or the use of race/sub-species in general? If you use the concept of race as its used elsewhere, then obviously there are human races.

      As Professor Jerry Coyne notes:

      “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.

      Under that criterion, are there human races?

      Yes. As we all know, there are morphologically different groups of people who live in different areas, though those differences are blurring due to recent innovations in transportation that have led to more admixture between human groups.”

      http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/are-there-human-races/

    • Pithlord May 25, 2014 / 10:01 am

      I notice that after 300 comments or so, no one has shown (or even tried to show) that Raff was wrong in her claim that Wade misstated the Rosenberg paper. Whether he did or not may not settle all the issues about the usefulness of race as a scientific concept or what it might mean, but it does undermine trust in him as a science journalist. So did he claim Rosenberg supports K=5? Was he wrong?

      • Josh Rosenthal May 25, 2014 / 7:56 pm

        @ Pithlord,

        No he’s not wrong. You can read the paper yourself. The 5 major clusters that robustly emerge arise because there of “small discontinuous jumps in genetic distance—across oceans, the Himalayas, and the Sahara…”

        http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen.0010070

        As Jennifer notes, Rosenberg & co add a note at the end of the paper that this isn’t necessarily support for “biological race”.

        “Both clines and clusters are among the constructs that meet this standard of usefulness: for example, clines of allele frequency variation have proven important for inference about the genetic history of Europe [15], and clusters have been shown to be valuable for avoidance of the false positive associations that result from population structure in genetic association studies [16]. The arguments about the existence or nonexistence of “biological races” in the absence of a specific context are largely orthogonal to the question of scientific utility, and they should not obscure the fact that, ultimately, the primary goals for studies of genetic variation in humans are to make inferences about human evolutionary history, human biology, and the genetic causes of disease.”

        Rosenberg & co don’t include a definition of what is meant by “biological race”. I take there comments as an effort to avoid the kind of debate seen here and because the word has so much baggage. As Unz notes though, it’s a bit like saying there are no hills or mountains. The topography still exists. Rosenberg & co also note that the clusters are still there and it’s important to recognise them for GWAS studies.

        Steve Hsu, involved with the BGI Cognitive Genomics Project, for example notes that these clusters basically correspond to traditional notions of race.

        Neil Risch, 2004 Curt Stern Award winner, for example comments:

        With this as background, it is not surprising that numerous human population genetic studies have come to the identical conclusion – that genetic differentiation is greatest when defined on a continental basis. The results are the same irrespective of the type of genetic markers employed, be they classical systems [5], restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs) [6], microsatellites [7,8,9,10,11], or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) [12]. …

        “Effectively, these population genetic studies have recapitulated the classical definition of races based on continental ancestry – namely African, Caucasian (Europe and Middle East), Asian, Pacific Islander (for example, Australian, New Guinean and Melanesian), and Native American.”

        Categorization of humans in biomedical research: genes, race and disease, Genome Biology 2002,

        • Pithlord May 25, 2014 / 10:32 pm

          I read the 2005 paper. It is clear that K is pre-specified, and clusteredness isn’t very different for K=3 or 4 or 5.

          What is less clear to me is whether Wade misstated this. I haven’t read the book. None of Raff’s quotes in the main post shows he claimed that 5 continental clusters emerge out of the data, as opposed to 3 or 4 or 6.

          • Jennifer Raff May 26, 2014 / 12:46 pm

            “The Rosenberg-Feldman study showed, as expected, that the 1,000 individuals in their study clustered naturally into five groups corresponding to the five continental races. It also brought out the fact that several Central Asian ethnicities, such as Pathans, Hazara, and Uigurs, are of Mixed European and East Asian Ancestry. This is not a surprise, given the frequent movement of peoples to and fro across Central Asia.” (pp 97-98)

            Later,

            “The Rosenberg-Feldman team then reanalyzed their data and gave their survey finer resolution by looking at 993 sites, not just 377, on each of the genomes in their study. They found that the clusters are real. Although there are gradients of genetic diversity, there is also a clustering into the continental groups described in their first article.” (p99)

            • Pithlord May 26, 2014 / 1:15 pm

              OK. The first sentence in your first quote is clearly a misstatement of the Rosenberg et al. paper. I suppose a highly charitable reading would be “If you decide on five clusters (which is an arbitrary but reasonable number), the clusters look naturally like the five continental races.” But it is sloppy at minimum, and might be taken to mean Rosenberg et al. found that five is the number the data tells you to go with. Which they didn’t.

              • Colin May 26, 2014 / 1:26 pm

                Or charibable.

        • Pithlord May 26, 2014 / 5:26 pm

          I read Wade’s 4 page discussion of Rosenberg et al. in the bookstore, and I think Dr. Raff has him dead to rights. In context, he is clearly claiming that the number 5 comes out of the data, and Rosenberg doesn’t say that at all.

          Revise your Bayesian priors about his credibility downwards.

  6. jfmason May 26, 2014 / 10:21 am

    Reblogged this on Jessica Mason and commented:
    There have already been many critiques and biting reviews of Nicholas Wade’s new book, Troublesome Inheritance, which claims to show that most cultural, political, and economic differences in societies around the world is actually the result of racial difference. This response very usefully explains how his most basic premise–that the concept of ‘race’ accurately and usefully describes human biological variation–is untrue.

  7. Scott Nelson May 27, 2014 / 8:47 pm

    I am curious as to what genetic regions (loci) are used for all these studies, and the impact of the regions chosen on the results. As I understand, the region should not be under strong selection, so as to let the “genetic clock” run as freely as possible, yet anchored by reasonably stable regions for technical reasons, while not being incredibly polymorphic (like MHC genes), because of the vast number of samples that are needed to adequately sample the population. I’m just a gene jockey, but it doesn’t seem like that many regions of the genome fulfill the needs of the population geneticist/anthropologist

    With whole genome sequencing getting cheaper and cheaper (something I thought I would never say 20 years ago!) this may be a moot question in a few years, although trying to analyze trillions of base pairs sounds nightmarish to me.

    Doesn’t a lot of what you see depend on where you look?

  8. Anonymous May 30, 2014 / 12:01 am

    This question will likely make me unpopular with white supremacists and other assorted bigots around the world, but I was raised in a community with multiple European and African nationalities. I’d appreciate any non-technical scientific input you can provide, but in half a century as a writer and professional journalist, it has always seemed to me that, should a team of skilled forensic scientists be presented with a corpse lacking any skin to distinguish race or ethinicity, and lacking DNA testing, it would be virtually impossible to determine what the racial or national heritage of the corpse was. Is this just wishful thinking on my part or is there a basis in fact. Frankly, while I strongly believe in the Solutrean Hypothesis based on my own research, I want to vomit every time a see white supremacists on the internet embracing the Stanford/Bradley position solely because it would mean the Americas were first inhabited by whites. Don’t they realize all mankind came out of Africa?
    What’s your take?

    • Anonymous May 30, 2014 / 12:04 am

      I shouldn’t write this late at night. My apologies to all for the incredible run-on sentence above. I know better. Just tired. 🙂

    • Sideways May 30, 2014 / 4:34 pm

      It’s wishful thinking. Although I don’t know why you’d be so bothered to learn that there are distinctive morphologies across the globe.

    • Mike June 1, 2014 / 5:21 am

      *** corpse lacking any skin to distinguish race or ethinicity, and lacking DNA testing, it would be virtually impossible to determine what the racial or national heritage of the corpse was. Is this just wishful thinking on my part or is there a basis in fact***

      In fact forensic anthropologists can often identify the race of a person from their skeletal features.

      ***Don’t they realize all mankind came out of Africa?***

      Yes, the discussion is about human races, not whether there are separate _species_.

    • El Patron June 1, 2014 / 2:18 pm

      Wade covers your hypothetical in the book. By skull features dominant race of the corpse can be determined accurately 80 percent of the time. I believe this is in the US, where races are often mixed (I don’t have the text; I listened to the book). If it the cases were of pure African, Asian, or white European corpses, the success rate would probably be higher.

      Skull features are also one of the most telling and hot-button issues as far as differences in the races, because they indicate, at least roughly, brain construction/mass, and possibly degree of departure from prehumans by characteristics such as prognathism.

    • Wilders June 3, 2014 / 11:17 am

      Have you ever thought about why you see bigots and supremacists everywhere around you? Have you heard about Freudian self-projection? I won’t coment on your knowledge of forensic anthropology, because it is absolutely ridiculous.

  9. Anonymous May 30, 2014 / 1:56 am

    You know the golden rule, don’t you boy? Those who have the gold make the rules.

  10. Ryan May 30, 2014 / 3:11 pm

    “But Wade, and others who agree with him, have decided that certain patterns of variation—those which happen to support their predefined notions of what “races” must be—are more important than others.”

    You are grossly misattributing cause and affect here. American society is insanely, massively, supercalifragilisticexpialidociously, OBSESSED with those predefined notions of “races.”

    Racial inequality, racial gaps in income, education, housing, employment, affirmative action, racial patterns in voting, incarceration, etc. etc.

    American society is to “race” as people who like TV are to Breaking Bad.

    Wade’s point, which should be really, really hard to miss, is to say to all the obsessed sociologists “hey guys, the ‘races’ your talking about are people with isolated geographic ancestries. Their recent evolutionary diversions have left them with clusters of differing allele frequencies that lead to disparate physical and behavioral traits. You might see fit to try to take the differences into account in your analyses, you know, instead of pretending they don’t exist or outright denying that they exist because of some weird ideology.”

    • tomh May 30, 2014 / 4:43 pm

      Except that Wade has no evidence that these behavioral traits, that he attributes to genetic differences, actually exist. He speculates that they exist, he assumes they exist, but there is no evidence for it. These behavioral traits, based on genetic differences, that you think should be taken into account, are simply made up out of whole cloth to fit pre-existing biases.

      • Gugu May 31, 2014 / 7:28 am

        “These behavioral traits, based on genetic differences, that you think should be taken into account, are simply made up out of whole cloth to fit pre-existing biases.”

        Or completely over exaggerated.

      • ben June 1, 2014 / 2:04 pm

        LOL – behavioral traits are made up? That’s crazy!

        • tomh June 1, 2014 / 2:38 pm

          Behavioral traits that can be ascribed to genetic causes are what is made up. Wade has long been a proponent of “there is a gene for X,” for example, a speech gene, a God gene, and so on, and wrote many misguided columns about it.. He wrote a whole book about a God gene, the hypothetical and non-existent faith instinct. Now he has done the same thing for behavioral traits, i.e., there is a gene for X.

          • dsgntd_plyr June 5, 2014 / 5:38 pm

            “Behavioral traits that can be ascribed to genetic causes are what is made up.”

            Lol. So gays aren’t born that way? So conversion therapies are cool? I’ll page Rick Santorum

      • Ryan June 5, 2014 / 4:14 pm

        Physical and cognitive differences exist. Stands to reason behavior differences exist as well. But regardless, the lack of strong evidence to the third does not justify ignoring the first two.

        So, for example, the “racial gap” in education is well explained in part by the corresponding IQ gap between the same groups. Instead of analyzing academic achievement through a racial lens at all, Sociologists could accept that if the kids at school A have an average IQ of 90 and the kids at school B have an average IQ of 110 then the kids at A won’t score nearly as well on the ACT as the kids at school B. This seems a sound alternative to declaring school A a “failing” school and threatening to fire teachers for being lazy or incompetent, as evidenced by their students sub-par ACT scores.

        It doesn’t even matter really if one wants to ignore the mountain of evidence that general intelligence is real and highly inherited. Even the most solipsistic rationals about how racism or cultural bias in testing has managed to cause an entire standard deviation in average IQ between European and African descended Americans, or the belief that general intelligence is a myth and correspondence between IQ and academic achievement is the result of evil witchcraft, would not require the cruelty of firing teachers for not performing the impossible, would not require sending black students to universities they can’t compete in and seeing them drop out or flunk out in large numbers, etc.

        • David Colquhoun June 5, 2014 / 4:27 pm

          Anyone who thinks that the huge variety of human talents can be summed up in a single number can’t be, ahem, very intelligent. I suspect that you don’t understand the mathematics of IQ sufficiently well to see its flaws.

          It’s scarcely an exaggeration to say that IQ measures your similarity to the psychologists who set the tests. On that basis I’d be rather worried if I scored highly.

  11. Mike May 31, 2014 / 3:27 am

    ***We only differ by about 0.1% of our genome. ***

    As BGI Cognitive Genomics Project member Steve Hsu notes:

    “A common argument is that 99.9 percent genetic similarity cannot leave room for “consequential” differences. But modern humans and Neanderthals are almost as similar (~ 99.8 percent; we have high accuracy sequences now for Neanderthals), and there are significant differences between us and them: both physical and cognitive. However, because humans and Neanderthals are known to have interbred, we are still part of the same species. (Would it be fair to refer to them as a separate “race”? Is the modern-Neanderthal difference merely a social construct?) Furthermore, this 0.1 percent genetic variation accounts for human diversity encompassing Confucious, Einstein, Shaq and Shakespeare.”

    http://infoproc.blogspot.co.nz/2014/05/whats-new-since-montagu.html

    • Gugu May 31, 2014 / 7:06 am

      What is that 0.1% difference in though? Whats the 0.2% difference between Neanderthals and us in? Difference in actual genes vs alleles makes big difference to what you are measuring.

      Also the debate as to weather Neanderthals were cognitively that different to us is still far from resolved. Have you even tried to look at the other side? Just go to google and check.

      On top of that even the old ideas of different hominid species are under threat. Go check the “Georgia skull” on google.

      “Confucious, Einstein, Shaq and Shakespeare” What would their difference be if they had the same environment? From inside moms tummy to the identity placed on them by the world.

      These people are on the extremes too. Even then how different are they in personality? Why don’t you try measure the similarities first.

      • Sideways May 31, 2014 / 6:20 pm

        If you’re going to have to keep enlarging “the single and only race of humanity” to include groups alive a million years ago, this is going to get even sillier.

        • Gugu June 1, 2014 / 6:45 am

          Oh too large for you then? So sorry man.

      • Mike June 1, 2014 / 5:28 am

        ***Also the debate as to weather Neanderthals were cognitively that different to us is still far from resolved. ***

        @ Gugu,

        I know. My point and the point Hsu is making, is that the .1% different claim is fairly meaningless. You can get significant variation.

        ***“Confucious, Einstein, Shaq and Shakespeare” What would their difference be if they had the same environment? From inside moms tummy to the identity placed on them by the world.***

        Probably pretty significant. Somehow I doubt that Einstein would be able to play basketball like Shaq! Also, behavioural traits are heritable (a significant portion of the variation between individuals is due to variation in their genes).

        • Gugu June 1, 2014 / 6:38 am

          “I know. My point and the point Hsu is making, is that the .1% different claim is fairly meaningless.”

          No its not because the fact that the 0.1% is in the same kind of thing makes a difference to the statement. Its in allele variations of the same genes. Its not the same thing as the difference between monkeys and humans, or even female and male.

          “Somehow I doubt that Einstein would be able to play basketball like Shaq!” Einstein would be able to play basketball though. He might even be pretty good who knows, maybe not pro but good. You don’t need to dunk to be good at basketball. See thats the thing, the difference you are measuring is very small, even when comparing extremes.

          Behavioral traits are heritable but they are less heritable than things like height(shaq). On top of that height has been changing on average per population by margins as big as the differences between groups now. Its a few centimeters by generation, way faster than selection can have an effect. Same goes for things like IQ. Also heritable does not mean its caused by genes, it just means something was passed down. It could be epigenetics or prenatal, things your grandmother ate can effect you.

          What if people simply don’t want research done on them or for them to be grouped based on genes? Then what? They have no rights simply because “SCIENCE!”?

          • Galtonian June 1, 2014 / 7:59 am

            “Behavioral traits are heritable but they are less heritable than things like height”–NOT TRUE!!

            Actually some behavioral traits (such as intelligence as measured by IQ) are heritable to the approximately the same degree as height (about 60 to 80% of variation due to genetics).

            The problem is that you Environmentalists (Politically Correct but Scientifically Incorrect) want to shut down the views of us Hereditarians (Politcally Incorrect but Scientifically Correct) by ruling us out of order just because our viewpoint is inherently “RACIST”.

            But unfortunately to a large degree the scientific TRUTH is indeed RACIST.

            Eventually the truth will win out, modern science is sort of like the supreme court. During the next ten years our Hereditarian theory of ethnoracial group differences will win the day in the court of science. Sorry about that.

          • anonymousskimmer June 1, 2014 / 11:01 am

            @Galtonian:

            IQ is not a behavioral trait, any more than height is a behavioral trait. Both IQ and height will have effects on behavior, such as ducking under doors, but these are side effects, not direct effects.

  12. Gugu May 31, 2014 / 7:33 am

    The knee jerk reaction people have to this whole thing is more than justified.

    • Gugu June 1, 2014 / 11:28 am

      @ Galtonian

      Behavioral traits are less heritable.

  13. Wilders June 3, 2014 / 10:37 am

    “In fact if you use the common level of genetic differentiation between populations used by zoologists to classify biological races (which they called subspecies) in other mammals, all humans consistently show up as just one biological race.”

    Except that charlatan Templeton mixes up apples with oranges in order to achieve the desired result.

  14. Wilders June 3, 2014 / 10:39 am

    “So, when Rosenberg et al. (2002) told structure to use K=6? They got six clusters, with the sixth corresponding to a northwestern Pakistani group, the Kalash. Does this make the Kalash a separate race? Wade doesn’t think so.”

    What if we sampled more populations between southern Russia and Afghanistan?

  15. Wilders June 3, 2014 / 10:41 am

    “But Wade and Murray are both wrong. Structure didn’t simply identify five clusters. It also identified two, three, four, six, and seven clusters.”

    Yes. Depending on the growing degree of genetic diversification. What’s wrong with that?

  16. Wilders June 3, 2014 / 10:47 am

    “A matter of judgment. So, rather than being defined by empirical criteria, as Wade had asserted so confidently earlier in the book, it really is just a subjective judgment call. The differences between groups are so subtle and gradual that no objective lines can be drawn, so Wade draws his own on the basis of his own preconceptions.”

    Let’s abolish the whole Linneaus taxonomy. It’s subjective, after all. Where to draw a line between an order, family or class?

  17. Wilders June 3, 2014 / 11:02 am

    “How subtle is the gradient that Wade is chopping up? Humans are incredibly similar genetically. We only differ by about 0.1% of our genome. Compare that to chimpanzees, our closest relative. Individual chimps from the same population show more genetic differences than humans from different continents.”

    Except that genetic differences between subspecies of big apes approach the level of speciation, right?

    Compare genetic differences among human races with genetic differences documented in subspecies of other mammalian species….
    https://lesacreduprintemps19.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/woodley-2009-is-homo-sapiens-polytypic-human-taxonomic-diversity-and-its-implications.pdf

  18. Wilders June 3, 2014 / 11:06 am

    “Also see Templeton AR, 2013. Biological races in humans. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.04.010

    Would professor Templeton finally give us a favor and retire? Or will he continue in his self-destructive, masochistic blamage?

  19. pkayden June 4, 2014 / 3:50 pm

    Thank you Jennifer for this well written rebuttal to Wade’s race nonsense. I’m curious as to what racists want to do with all of their “race is scientific” theories. Enslave the lesser races? Exterminate the lesser races? What exactly is the value of determining that mankind is separated into several distinct races? Or the value of decrying the fact that race is a social construct which has been used by White supremacists to justify their racist actions against Blacks, Native Americans, Indigenous Australians, etc.?

    That’s what I’d really like to know. Wade and ilk should just cut to the chase and be forthcoming about their desires. Unfortunately for them, racism isn’t quite as acceptable as it used to be. Hence their desperation to cloak it in scientific language.

    • Wilders June 4, 2014 / 6:19 pm

      Thank you, Grand Inquisitor, for your valuable scientific contribution.

  20. eurogenes June 5, 2014 / 1:56 am

    This here quote is outdated:

    “There are no genetic patterns that link all populations in just Africa, just Asia or just Europe to one another to the exclusion of other populations in other places.”

    Actually, there is a genetic “pattern” that links the vast majority of populations in Europe, and right now it’s probably best known as Western European Hunter-Gatherer ancestry. See here:

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1312.6639v2

    The only Europeans that lack this ancestry are groups like Ashkenazi Jews and probably Roma, both of which aren’t usually considered to be native to Europe, and also a few populations from the edge of continental Europe, like eastern Sicilians.

    • Gugu June 5, 2014 / 6:43 am

      Bahahahahaha.

    • Larry Moniz, Multiple Award-winning author and Investigative Reporter. June 13, 2014 / 7:18 am

      Half a century ago I waded through a book called “Mein Kampf” in an effort to understand the maniacal mind of a certain “Fuhrer” of the German people. Whille on the surface some of his rationalizations seemed mildly plausible, I found the totally to be one of the scariest things ever written, Edgar Allen Poe notwithstanding. I found some of the labels and rationalizations being tossed about here virtually just as offensive: “Wade claims that the latest genomic findings actually support dividing humans into discrete races, and that the genetic makeup of different races contributes to behavioral and economic disparities. In a spectacular failure of logic, he asserts that those who disagree that races are meaningful biological categories in humans must ALSO think that human populations do not differ genetically, or have not been affected by evolution.”

      Then there’s the 2012 story about American Indian genetics carried in the Boston Globe: As I noted in my recent paper “Chasing the Beringia Land Bridge Myth” (Amazon Kindle, 2014: “Perhaps the most interesting portion of the story was a few sentences further down, in which the Boston Globe quoted one scientist as saying: “Geneticists, we’re sort of amateurs — we’re not steeped in the deep understanding of history the linguists and archeologists have, but we do have access to information they don’t,” according to David Reich, a genetics professor at Harvard Medical School who led the study, along with a scientist at the University College, London.” Perhaps, but most scientsts work with an escape clause carefully inserted into their research findings. Words and phrases such as: “perhaps, maybe, conclude, lead us to believe, indicate and even maybe.” It’s rather like weather forecasting in he first half of the 20th Century. In their rush to build reputations for themselves, some scientists simply make educated guesses that are passed off as the latest knowledge in a field. The sad part is that even when those findings are later refuted by others, the orginial scientists who reached such conclusions then stick by them and prefer to look like the proverbial court jester, or fool, rather than accept the current reality.

      • Larry Moniz, Multiple Award-winning author and Investigative Reporter. June 13, 2014 / 7:21 am

        Nt apologies for the typo, the end of the third line should read: “I found the totality to be one…”

  21. The Anti-Gnostic June 5, 2014 / 4:42 pm

    Do dog breeds exist, or are they a social construct? We can breed wolves with dogs, does that mean the wolf/dog distinction is useless and irrelevant?

    If we can breed canis lupus familiaris for behavioral traits, why not homo sapiens?

    If intelligence aids survival and reproductive fitness, wouldn’t it have a genetic component, just like strength, agility, lactose tolerance, etc.? (Humans consistently mate within about a half-SD on the IQ curve, by the way.)

    I can look at a picture of Jennifer Raff and a picture of Rachel Jeantel and tell you what genetic testing would confirm: Jennifer has fewer ancestors in common with Rachel than she does with other Anglo-Europeans. It’s not just a social construct.

    • WJ June 6, 2014 / 12:23 am

      For that matter, if intelligence is not genetic then how can you explain the differences in intelligence between, say, humans and chimpanzees…or caterpillars?

      Clearly behavior has genetic origins – we see it in the innate behaviors of innumerable species, including humans. They appear in us from infancy – mouthing, grasping, the Moro reflex, etc. – and there are even observed racial differences in behavior in infants. Clearly, if nature can hardwire a critical behavior into our DNA it will do so, because that is generally far more efficient and a far greater guarantor of survival than having to learn such behaviors anew with each generation.

      But while Dr. Raff openly acknowledges that physical traits have genetic origins, she adamantly refuses to acknowledge genetic origins of many behavioral traits. How much evidence does she need?

      Don’t get me wrong – I get what Dr. Raff is saying. She may be right, in one sense, that you cannot provide strict (or at least easy and obvious) criteria which define what constitutes a “race.” Race is defined by genetic variation, and there are simply too many genes in the human genome to draw clear boundaries. We can’t even say how many races there are. But that is no different than asking me how many relatives I have. What counts as a relative? Parents, siblings, first cousins, third cousins once removed? Given how blurred the notion of “family member” becomes at the edges, should we now and forever ban use of the concept of “family”?

      Dr. Raff is an anthropological geneticist, and when she looks at the human genome, she sees complexity. That’s exactly what we should expect of her. But while the rest of the world may appreciate complexity, we also want clarity. The failure to clearly and easily define race does not mean that they therefore do not exist, or that they don’t serve ofttimes as a useful classification for laymen or even, occasionally, for scientists.

      But since there is no such thing as race, I sincerely hope we can get Dr. Raff to lend her voice to the movement opposing affirmative action, quotas, and set-asides – or perhaps even oppose laws banning “racial” discrimination – since, of course, you cannot have such policies if there is no such thing as “race.”

  22. HA June 6, 2014 / 3:16 pm

    Colin said: i>The Atlantic Ocean separates my family from our ancestors in Ireland and/or Scotland. Are we different races?

    A show of hands: how many people did not at this point realize (assuming they had not already) that Colin is either

    a) pathologically dense, or

    b) arguing in bad faith and sophistry in order to hide the fact that he’s losing out to Chuck et al.?

    Anyone?

    BTW, for those more familiar with Colin’s posting, how often does he remind the reader that he is a lawyer, and does this get less or more annoying with each repetition? Given Colin’s interest in having Steve Sailer answer the questions put to him, perhaps he might chime in on any of the above.

    • Colin June 6, 2014 / 4:33 pm

      HA, one of those things we learn in law school (I’m a lawyer, BTW) is to test assertions. Sailer asserted that the Atlantic Ocean is “a highly objective line between races.” We can test that assertion by asking whether it’s possible to identify populations separated by the Atlantic Ocean that aren’t in fact separate races by anyone’s reckoning. It’s a little tricky because it’s hard to tell how different racialists define “race.” Sailer seems to do it by a visual estimation, based on his assessment of Fuentes, or else by an arbitrary assessment of whether their families are inbreeding closely enough in time.

      I think either measure is just a proxy for Sailer’s gut instinct. And I suspect that he would decide that I and my British ancestors are all part of the same race, despite the “highly objective line between races” that lies between us, and has for at least a century.

      How far would I have to be from those ancestors before Sailer would assign us to different races? I can’t say–only he can, because his assessment is purely subjective. The presence of the Atlantic Ocean doesn’t make it objective, nor does the passage of some arbitrary amount of time.

      In other words, Sailer’s casual definition of a “highly objective line between races” is neither objective nor a line between races.

      Why do you get angry about people who are skeptical about racialist theories? I don’t tend to see that in people who are engaged in a serious analysis of the facts.

      • Steve June 7, 2014 / 1:31 pm

        Hi Colin. Read my comment below. It was stimulated by your discussion with Chuck. i think it might address some of your criticisms and I’d like feedback if I’m missing something or getting it wrong.

        • Colin June 9, 2014 / 12:07 pm

          Sure. It’s quite long so I probably won’t get to it for a few days–I leave on a business trip in a few hours and won’t be able to check in much until later in the week. Sorry to so poorly reward the effort you went to.

      • Steve June 7, 2014 / 3:18 pm

        “one of those things we learn in law school (I’m a lawyer, BTW) is to test assertions. Sailer asserted that the Atlantic Ocean is “a highly objective line between races.” We can test that assertion by asking whether it’s possible to identify populations separated by the Atlantic Ocean that aren’t in fact separate races by anyone’s reckoning”

        Surely his point is that when we talk about races, we are talking about populations that underwent some divergent evolution in their ancestral lands. The Atlantic Ocean did prevent cross fertilization of the African and South American populations. They picked up more and more different mutations as the generations went on and thus their evolution started to diverge and a genetic distance was established between them. Now those of African descent that live in Brazil have genomes more like Africans in Africa than like native south Americans (carrying the marks of their ancestors Africa based evolution) . That’s why they look like Africans and have hair like Africans, because they are genetically Africans. That is their ancestral land, home to their recent ancestors.

        • Colin June 9, 2014 / 12:06 pm

          That may have been his ultimate point, but it doesn’t make the Atlantic Ocean an objective line between races; the extent of the genetic separation necessary to divide one race from another is still utterly subjective, not objective.

      • Steve June 7, 2014 / 3:41 pm

        Okay, so make whatever criticisms you want, if you want. I will read them but I can’t spend too much more time on this so I wont reply as I don’t want to get into a debate. Like I said in the main post, I don’t think it really matters all that much whether we use the word race, as long as we recognise genetic variation in its particular complexity and its particular character, including the continental clusters and whatever else. Naturally, we will also realise that for any given allelle or set of allelles, some populations and population clusters will have them in greater or lesser frequency. Thus its entirely theoretically possible to for SS African populations to be better dancers for genetic reasons (assuming the brain and nervous has something to do with dancing and genetics have something to do with the brain and nervous system) or whatever other behavioural and cognitive differences we observe. Its all theoretically possible- the divergent evolution need not be skin deep. Humans could vary just as much cognitively as they do in appearance, and in patterns that correlate with the appearance variations as they are markers of divergent evolution.

        Anyway, all that seems to me to be possible and whether we use the term race is largely academic, is it not? But don’t get me wrong- I do not hope that those different group averages exist, especially in intelligence. Just as the debate over the concept of race is mainly of academic relevance, the issue of race and IQ will either be resolved by genetic studies or probably not at all. The studies that will lead to that and even potentially to neo-eugenics are preceding as we speak. So I may as well stop talking about it and just wait for information to come out over the next few decades. I hope if there does turn out to be racial IQ differences that humanity can handle it maturely and without resorting to unwise or harmful courses of action (I’m not terribly optimistic about this). I am curious though.

        • Steve June 7, 2014 / 3:51 pm

          Lastly, for full disclosure, in case its not blatantly obvious already, I’m not speaking as any kind of qualified expert. Just an interested layman like yourself.

  23. Steve June 7, 2014 / 10:47 am

    One of the main criticisms of the idea of race seems to be that although human populations do cluster into groups with various genetic distances between them, the number of clusters you chose to value is arbitrary; the computer can divide all of the genomes into however many clusters are pre specified and which number of clusters you give importance to depends on social preconceptions of what race means.

    The problem is sometimes described as one of resolution and granularity. This is how I conceptualise it: presuming that you have a diagram of population clusters on a computer screen (with proportional genetic distances shown), and you have information for 1 to 100 clusters, you could ‘zoom in’ to look at each of the 100 degrees of resolution and see a different number of races (although presumably zooming in still maintains the presence of the larger clusters but just gives more minute detail). In my diagram, the dot or blob representing a population could be sized according to population size to show significant outliers like South Asians…and as you zoom in the blobs differentiate into smaller ones. Any preference for a particular number is said to be unjustified and chosen to support socially popular preconceptions. Am I getting this right?

    Lets say you look at the highest resolution image you can practically fit on a computer screen and still show genetic distance accurately; would it not be visible to the eye that there are a certain number of major clusters in the data? A cluster *obviously* being a group of populations in which the two most distant from one another are significantly closer than either are to the nearest population from another major cluster. Would that not then give you something that can be reasonably described or meaningfully described as major races? You could then have as many typologies of minor races as you wished.

    Note that demanding less clusters than the true amount would give a misleading picture but you could not demand more major clusters than there are…after a certain point, you would see all the major clusters and further zooming would only lead to more detail in each cluster.

    Or is it messier than I am making out? Aren’t such clusters obviously apparent in the data itself? Would this still hold (that most populations are part of a major cluster, of which there are x amount) if you literally had data for every human genome…or are the clusters appearing more separate due to selective choosing of populations, leaving out intermediary populations?

    Would the clusters not correspond to major geographic areas like continents and also patterns of migration out of Africa such that you could add lines connecting the dots to shows lineage and splits between clusters and populations over time? You could presumably also map the cluster diagram onto a map of the world- showing all the correct distances between all the populations on the same diagram would presumably produce a diagram in which the clusters would take the same relative positions as the continents, though not necessarily in proportion to the geographic distances. In this case the different approaches to race (genetic populations, lineages, geographically isolated populations) are seen as simply different parts of the same picture, not mutually exclusive arbitrary conceptions. They ARE genetic population clusters and at the same time they ARE lineages that migrated, moved to relatively isolated locations, formed breeding populations (populations in which the members breed with each other at a significantly higher frequency than with outsiders), and diverged genetically (which is why there are the clusters). Other (pre-scientific?) conceptions based on looks are crude and antiquated…they could tell something was going on but we can now understand what.

    The striking thing is that before genetic analysis, we could so accurately identify major genetic clusters by looking, though this wasn’t infallible and could lead to mistakes- there are south east Asians that look very very like Africans despite large genetic distance because they have the same equatorial adaptations to climate. I could even tell the difference between some of the minor clusters. For example, I’m confident I could tell the difference between a group of Irish men and Dutch men by looking at them- that’s how visible even a relatively small amount of divergence can be. We could tell a lot by looking, even if we could also make mistakes that way. The traditional classifications were not completely arbitrary- they did correspond to genetic groups.

    Social classifications are not ‘completely arbitrary’. You couldn’t just make up one and say it is equally valid as the traditional classifications. For example: ‘there are five races: those from the west side of continents, east, north, south, and central.’ Or a completely arbitrary ‘race 1: South Asians and Australian aborigines; race 2: Native south Americans and Europeans’ etc. None of these definitions could find any genetic support whatsoever, whereas the traditional classifications can.

    One could say that there is no single valid conception of race because there are so many possible racial typologies, from ones that identify 5 races to ones that identify 100 or 1000. But even from that point of view, it is not strictly accurate to say that ‘race’ however defined has no biological validity. All the typologies have biological validity. And if it can be operationalsied in a simple, clear way (like Chuck’s genetic similarity principle) then it is meaningful and potentially useful. Its simply up to us whether we chose to use it. Plus as I have argued, there conceptually could a definite number of obvious major clusters, meaningfully described as races. Or perhaps not, depending on whether you chose to use that word.

    In any case, even if you think that genetic variation is too messy to fit traditional conceptions of race, or there is no definitive typology emerging from the data itself, or you just choose not to use the term race because you think it could be in some way harmful, and so you don’t call the clusters races and you abandon the language of race and just talk about populations and clusters, this doesn’t in any way undermine the arguments about population average IQ differences being genetic. So you can talk about this in either racial or non-racial terms, as follows: Option 1) The European race has a higher IQ than the African race. Option 2) European populations have higher average IQs than Sub Saharan African populations (due to differing frequencies of IQ boosting alleles in those populations.) Or if you want to be more specific, for example, 3) the national average IQ of Nigeria is significantly lower than the national average IQ of Britain due to variation in the frequency of IQ boosting mutations. Same could be true for any number of other traits.

    So, the issue of whether or not races exist is academic. To say that they don’t doesn’t really make all that much difference to anybody and doesn’t circumvent the problem of group IQ differences and whether they are genetic. Or any number of other contentions.

    Given that that is so, the hbd movement, however nice or nasty, positive or negative, could survive the deconstruction or abolition of race as a concept, and could even potentially accept it and continue to talk about human biological diversity, which exists, even as acknowledged by those who argue against ‘race’ as a concept. That is not to mention that part of their purview is biological gender differences.

    • Steven June 7, 2014 / 10:59 am

      The above comment is not Steve Sailor. You can probably tell pretty easily by reading it but I thought I’d make it absolutely clear. I’m a Steve that comments occasionally on HBD blogs.

    • Anonymous June 7, 2014 / 1:28 pm

      I withdraw this statement: “You could presumably also map the cluster diagram onto a map of the world- showing all the correct distances between all the populations on the same diagram would presumably produce a diagram in which the clusters would take the same relative positions as the continents, though not necessarily in proportion to the geographic distances.” I don’t think that’s exactly true but it doesn’t make any difference to the rest of the paragraph. The lineage lines would still correspond to migration patterns and the clusters to relative geographic isolation. So population genetic clusters, and the migration, separate lineages and geographic isolation (usually due to natural barriers) would still all line up and provide complimentary parts of a full picture.

  24. Steve June 7, 2014 / 2:11 pm

    Note: even if there has been cross fertilization through history, there has been enough relative isolation for the human population to differentiate into clusters and not enough cross fertilization to counteract that. So what difference does the degree of cross fertilization make? There has obviously not been enough to stop the development of ‘races’ or clusters… and in fact in some cases there might have been very little for long periods of time anyway.

  25. Truthseeker June 17, 2014 / 10:44 am

    I read A Troublesome Inheritance and found it interesting but incomplete. I learn more from Understanding Creation and Evolution: A Biblical and Scientific Comparative Study by Howard Ray White, which I found on Amazon. Truthseeker

  26. Preguntas para Ask June 23, 2014 / 12:29 pm

    Que bonito blog, hace unos dias encontre esto en la red, y pues la verdad soy seguidor de este blog ahora, Yo tambien tengo un Blog de Preguntas para Ask Visitenlo es una gran red Social

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s