Why Race Science will Never Die

It is an interesting discussion, and we may be able to continue for a bit longer, but I fear we beginning to run in circles. You perceive me as not getting your point, while I have the exact same feeling about your argument. To me it looks like you have some enormous blinders preventing your from seeing the rather obvious about race and racism.

You speak as if this is an entirely neutral topic. As if we can perform the science with complete blank slates and no prejudices. “What are you so afraid of?” you ask, “It is just pure objective science, by objective men with the best intentions in mind.”

I am sorry, but I don’t share you naivety about science. I am a big fan of science, but I know very well that any science dealing humans is susceptible to a large number of mistakes, error of judgement, biases and misinterpretations. We see this in medical science, psychology, economics and many fields involving humans.

And I got history on my side. We have a long and ugly race science history, which you seem utterly in denial about. That history isn’t over. We still uncover flawed and racially biased research all the time. The pure objectivity you fancy exists isn’t quite there. Or rather you seem to accept that it is not all objective. But in your mind the problem is squarely a liberal one.

You spend a lot of ink complaining about liberals views and thought police, but seem blind to the existence of racist scientists. I am well aware of somewhat hysterical SJWs and people who completely rejecting even the possibility of group differences. But I am not one of them. Yet you keep setting up this straw-man argument that I almost reject the possibility of group differences as some sort of religious creed.

At this point I believe I have had to point out in every single article we have exchanged, that I am in fact open to the possibility of group differences. My statement has simply been that I deem it unlikely.

Height and IQ Differences

Yes, you keep bringing up height differences. But as I repeated, I don’t know how big that height difference even is. To truly test that you would have to let a number of asian children e.g. grow in the the uterus of white women and then be raised on a “white” diet. Yes I suspect there is a group difference, but we have seen an enormous change in the relative height difference as countries of short people have developed. Exactly as we have seen IQ increases in countries that have developed.

Here is an article about height changes over time. From it we can see mean changes in height of different countries below. Notice e.g. my part of the world Scandinavia, which have traditionally been thought of as “naturally” or genetically tall. Our height has not changed at all very much, because we where already close to our genetic potential.

Notice in contrast the Asian countries which have experienced the most noticeable gain in prosperity, the ones who have gotten closest to western prosperity: Japan and South Korea. Both display among the largest gains in height in the world.

China also has noticeable gains but it is still a relatively poor country on average. There is a lot of untapped potential. We see the same with IQ.

Asia is the region we have seen the biggest economic gains, and they also have clearly the sharpest rise in IQ. Meanwhile we can see European IQ levels have not increased quite as much. Natural, since Europe was already quite developed. In fact in Scandinavia IQ score is stagnant even regressing.

So to repeat myself yet again. I don’t think group differences at a biological level is impossible. But the world is still going through major changes in cultural, economic and technological development. It seems to me quite premature to draw conclusions about these differences at this point.

The Effects of Evolution on Human Differences

In perhaps 50,000 years, evolution produced human variations from Africans to Australian aborigines to Polynesians to Native Americans to Norwegians.

I think this betrays a rather flawed view of how you humans have evolved. It is not so much about what you say as about what you leave out. This narrative gives the standard evolutionary text book drawing of a large tree branching out into all sorts of finely tuned subgroups, all perfected to live in their habitat.

What you conveniently leave out is that humans have all through this period mixed and remixed. There are no pure populations. You cannot pick any one group on this planet and find a shared common ancestor separating this group from all other groups. Almost everyone has shared ancestors.

Norwegians are not an offshoot of people who have dwelled for thousands of years in Norway perfecting ourselves to match fjords and snow. No quite the contrary Norwegians are the product of countless migrations of people from many different places over a long time span.

It is like this everywhere. The people who built Stonehenge in Britain, aren’t the ancestors of todays Britains. Today’s Britains are largely descendants of later migrations who largely displaced the original British population. But of course they also mixed with locals.

Body and the Brain

And you’re certain that evolution could not have produced a 1 standard deviation difference in IQ. That evolution only works on the body and it obviously couldn’t have affected the brain.

No, but here your assumption is that the difference in body between people is that significant. One of the topics Angela Saini covers in her book “Superior” is in fact the flawed assumptions about differences between bodies of different races.

There is a long history of looking at various bad health outcomes of minorities and immediately jumping to the conclusion that this is for racial reasons. E.g. in earlier times it was assumed that Schizophrenia was an inherently Jewish disease. In almost every case, one has uncovered upon closer examination that there are no real racial differences other than difference in discrimination and lifestyle.

And this is of course politically motivated. During slavery the dominant “scientific” view was that blacks where much stronger and tougher physically than whites. That they could sustain more beating and abuse. That was to excuse and rationalize the institution of slavery.

Fast forward to present times, and the political needs have changed. Science have changed again to serve the political agenda. African-Americans are significantly worse of on almost any possible health metric you can dig up.

That is of course embarrassing. It exposes all too clearly the inequality and difference in treatment between races in America. But this is an unacceptable conclusion for capitalist ideologues and conservatives. Their whole world view is built on the foundation that America is a meritocracy. Where everybody has equal opportunity and society plays zero or rather a minuscule role in how your outcomes are. The ideological belief is that you are a captain of your own destiny. That you make your own luck. That it is all up to the individual.

Such a dogma requires in fact demands that African-Americans must be an inferior race. How else can the square pegs fit in the round holes? If America is an equal opportunity society where only your own effort decides outcomes, then if one group does significantly worse in every area:

  • Health outcomes.
  • Poverty
  • Intelligence tests
  • Violence
  • Crime

Then to the ideological capitalist there can be only one answer: they are genetically inferior people. It is thus politically expedient that science is brought in service of supporting this conclusion. Scientists are showered with funds to prove black racial inferiority.

And that is not a conspiracy theory. Just lookup the history of race science all the way up to our time. It is still ongoing. Read Angela Saini’s book. So no, I don’t buy you pretend innocence about the objectivity of science in this area.

Ironically what has developed the strongest evidence is the fact that humans are not very different at all. Science has disproven the notion of race. Yet race scientists like to stir in the unknown for a desperate last chance at proving what they desire above all else: black racial inferiority.

That sounds very much like a religious belief, to me. A belief grounded not in evidence, but in faith in some kind of cosmic justice, some deep belief that the world must be fair and “designed equally”.

Quite the contrary. I believed in racial difference quite strongly until it became clear that science did not support this notion very well.

Instead as I have outlined. It seem more like an ideological dogma that differences between groups must be caused by genetics otherwise capitalist ideologues must acknowledge society does not offer equal opportunity, and isn’t very fair.

This by the way isn’t anything new. It was the same with rabid capitalist ideologues in the 1800s Britain. They refused to acknowledge the deep inequality in Britain was cause by society being unfair. In the times of Oliver Twist the poor working class was basically seen as a different race. They where deemed lesser people at a genetic level. Eugenicists actively promoted that rich people should get more children and the poor fewer because it was deemed that poor people where genetically inferior.

It is the same in India. The deeply unfair practices of the cast system is excused by the idea that casts represent different races. They are believed to be genetically different and that the outcomes of different casts is simply natural. It is all biology. Especially those of the high casts refuse to accept that prejudice of society plays any role.

Yet thorough scientific studies of the casts have not been able to show any genetic advantage among the higher casts. In fact India has affirmative action programs. Low cast members who are accepted into high positions despite scoring lower than high casts, later demonstrate exactly the same skill and ability.

In fact the low cast members who score equal later, demonstrate superior skills to the high cast members they got the same score as. Clearly there are strong biases built into the system. Yet people apparently scream and complain as much about affirmative action in India as in the US.

I think the problem is that you only see how others are colored by their ideology, but you don’t see how you yourself is colored by ideology.

I know I am subject to that myself, but at least I have been willing to change my views quite dramatically over time as I have become better educated on different topics. At least I feel I can see most topics from both sides, because I have held both positions and different junctions in time.

“White Privilege” is “Original Sin”.

There is no point in preaching this to me. I have railed against this term myself on many occasions. Here is an article from some time back where I criticize the term.

Your tactic here is to pick the most unreasonable leftists and use them to argue that nothing on the left has any validity. I hope I am proof that you can be a leftist without being a woke SJW. It is possible to be a leftists and take genetics and biology serious.

I would claim I am far more aware of the dangers of leftist ideology than you are because I have grown up in a society heavily influenced by socialism. To the point where I rejected it all. I hated everything the left stood for. I hated feminsits. I hated anti-racists. I had to live in America to get a new sense of balance and get back to reality and see my own society over again.

For instance when grew up it was very strongly pushed in Scandinavia that men and women are no different. That only society makes us different. Socialize a girl the same way as a boy and she would become a boy.

We made a horrible mistake by randomly assigning gender to children born with both sex organs back in the 70s I believe. Kids would grow up treated as say a girl, but not understanding why they felt like a boy. We denied biology. Even today Norway is a bit behind on helping people who want to do gender change.

Ironically this is for pretty much the opposite reason of why transsexuals have a hard time in the US. In the US it is due to conservative ideology. The idea that you are whatever you biologically look like. In Norway it is for socialist leftist ideological reasons. The belief that biology doesn’t matter and hence gender is just a socializing issue. There should in this mindset be no need to change biological gender.

I am in the middle. I see who we are as a complex interaction between our genes and our environment.

I’ve heard this statement often. It seems core to your argument. I think your statement is either misleading or false. Could you quantify what you think it means?

Judging by your own answer further down you basically answer this question yourself. I don’t see a reason to get into any further detail.

I don’t think it says anything about the average value of that trait. The averages might differ substantially, because of founder effects or selection pressures on the two groups.

I don’t see the relevance. My point is that for a large continent with Africa with such genetic difference it makes little meaning to put them all in the same bucket when making group comparisons. You just say “oh they should all be in the same group because they all have black skin.”

I don’t know. Why not throw in Aboriginals and Tamils as well? They also have black skin. It is an arbitrary selection process. You pick a population group based entirely on a superficial exterior appearance rather than actual genetic differences. A large part of our genetic makeup isn’t visible on the outside.

It seems like anyone should intuitively know that the statement you made is false — if you go to Africa, you don’t find Han Chinese and Inuits and Polynesians all living in various corner of the continent.

No, but I never suggested that either. Then you have misunderstood the argument I was making.

It’s not like all the peoples of the world are subsets of Africans that just happened to move out of Africa.

No, I have never claimed that. I said African genetic variation is larger. I did not say these other groups are subsets of Africans.

My point is that Africans can be subdivided into multiple groups. The variations between non-Africans is so small that if you where really going to make racial comparisons based on actual biological differences then it would make more sense to put all people outside of Africa into one and the same bucket. And subdivide Africa into multiple buckets which we can compare to this bucket.

In this regard, Asians, Indians and Whites would all be one race. While Africans would be subdivided into multiple races. Yet today we are doing the opposite. We are treating Africans as if they are all the same, while we make a big difference about the difference between whites, asians, arabs or whatever else group you want to subdivide by. Basically our racial categories are not based on biological differences at all.

They are almost exclusively focused on the minor variations in genetics that cause visible differences in skin color. That is not very scientific.

The genetic “distance” between two individuals within a cluster is typically much less than the distance between clusters. (that is, the opposite of your claim)

I don’t know what you deem a cluster here. The point is that individual difference between individuals is larger than difference between groups we think of as races.

There is often a continuum between races, but each is defined by genetic clusters. That’s why 23AndMe can tell you your ancestry, based on your genes.

This science is particularly tricky specifically because we are not all that different. They have to specifically locate the few genes that tend to only occur in specific regions.

The races concept is entirely arbitrary as we simply sample populations rather arbitrary and then compare you against the average of this sample. You could make anybody a sample group. You could make Californians and New Yorkers a “race,” sample them and compare how high percent Californian and New Yorker each person is.

You will object that, you cannot do that because Calefornians and New Yorkers are mix of people. Yet we do the same with nationalities. We say you are X percent British. Yet British people are a mix of Anglos, Saxons, Celts, Vikings and many other groups. Nobody is testing how much Saxon, Celt or Vandal they are any more. The groups are ever shifting according to cultural norms.

The experiments would be straightforward. The best one would be expensive, it would involve collecting about a million genomes + associated IQ scores.

No it would not, as it would not be able to take into account that certain genes correlate with people being more heavily discriminated against. Which would also lower their outcomes.

You’d run the data through the same algorithms that were used in 2017 to derive a polygenic score for height, and presumably you would uncover a polygenic score for IQ. The score could end up with a predictive value as high as the heritability of IQ (0.5 to 0.85, depending on who you ask, what age you look at, etc).

I have repeatedly pointed out why I think heritability is a bullshit concept of limited value. That a trait varies with genes in a uniform environment tells you nothing of value. That is almost always what these heritability studies test and find.

You cannot use a heritability study to determine how many IQ points e.g. a population can be raised by improving environment. Say a heritability study shows 80% of IQ score is caused by genetic variation in a population in within the tested environment. Okay, try from that to determine how many IQ points the population can be raised or how close you can get the IQ score to each other. You can’t.

To assess the racial differences, I suppose you would calculate the score using only the genomes from a single race, then you could try applying the score to other populations and see if it’s equally predictive.

We have seen this kind of stuff done in medicine. And what you end up with is that all you are really doing is measuring the level of discrimination that exists. This is not as easy as you pretend it to be. Or rather as easy as you want it to be.

If you’re so certain there are no genetic differences between groups, you shouldn’t be afraid of that experiment. You’d be happy to run it and have it finally prove that you’re right.

I already covered this in the intro, so I will not get much more deeply into it here. But the reason is that we have an abundance of historical proof of how this science has been abused again and again. If this is news to you, again I highly recommend reading Superior.

I personally would like more research to be done to laid this issue to rest. But I am very understanding towards people who are negative to this. You however seem rather oblivious to why. Or rather you seem convinced it is only due to some dogmatic leftist belief that everybody must be the same. You don’t even consider the ugly history of race science as a factor. The most obvious explanation. There is a tendency to sugar coat race science and play the victim card in this debate.

Or maybe they would just come up with some contrived notion that the racism is proportional to the tone of skin color. So mixed race kids get scores halfway in between black and white kids because there’s half as much racism.

Racism isn’t as scientific as that as much as I am sure you would have liked it to be. Racism differs in a variety of ways across different societies.

How do you explain racism towards European Jews? You cannot see a skin color difference. Why did the Nazis hate Slavs? No skin color differene.

Hell I can pick my own part of the world. Racism against Sami people is still very much a things. Yet if you visited Norway I am pretty sure you could not tell a Sami on the street. They would look like any other Norwegian to you.

And Indian kids in America get higher test scores than black or hispanic or even white kids, even though they have a similar skin tone to other mixed race kids. Because… racism doesn’t affect Indian kids, it only affects brown kids that are Black or Hispanic. Obviously!

Face palm. As I said, we could go in circles on this. I like the discussion although I feel a deep frustration and times of what I perceive as extreme stubborness on your part. Yes, I am aware that you see me the same way. But okay, let me chill down, relax and try to answer this one.

As articulated in the paragraph above, racism is more complex than skin color, although yes darker skin color is a generally worse. But you have to throw history, culture and a multitude of other things into the mix.

African-Americans are the descendant from slaves. A people where white-Europeans had a very strong vested interest in proving racially inferior. Among all people on this planet, they where the ones treated worst, and thus the pressure on science was the strongest for to prove their inferiority more so than the inferiority of anybody else. Because if Africans where deemed too similar to whites, we would no longer have a moral imperative to abuse and enslave them.

If you read the history of racism in America, racism as existed against all people. But nobody has been the obsession of racist as black people. The South of the United states have scarcely cared about any other political issue besides finding ways of blocking progress for black people. Yet you feign surprise that they should be worse off than random other people.

I am also yet again surprised that you bring this point up, as I have been pretty clear on my belief in the power of culture. A minority group can be successful by having a very strong culture. Culture isn’t genetics. You also see African coming to the US doing much better than African-Americans. A superior culture. Why is it superior? Because it is not a culture developed from slavery. A culture that has taught you that you are inferior and that you deserve your abuse and enslavement. That you are no good. That you can never be as good as the rest of us. That doing intellectual work, isn’t work black people. It is for whites. This has been heavily internalized. Indians don’t come with this toxic baggage even if they also has baggage of a different kind.

Are Pakistani people significantly different from Indians genetically? In Norway people of Pakistani descent do much worse in school, except girls. Girls do better than boys. Is there some strange genetic difference between the genders in Pakistan that does not exist in Norway? Of course not. You would almost be led to believe culture plays a role? Maybe the strong difference treatment in muslim cultures play a role?

But why look for cultural explanations when it is more fun to look for genetic and race based explanations?

When whites look at the performance of Indians and East Asians in school, the race realists of course automatically seek genetic answers. Strangely they don’t find much difference in IQ. Asians are preforming far above what their IQ score suggests.

Again culture has a profound effect. All these families put immense pressure on their children to succeed. They have to work twice has hard to achieve the same as the white majority. Yet the pathetic thing apologists for racism will use their success as is to argue racism does not exist.

How Asians are Used to Promote Racism

They say “Look at how well the Asians do! Racism does not exist!” Completely ignoring that asians had to work twice as hard to achieve the same. Asians are used as pawns by white supremacists. They can be conveniently used to disparage less successful groups of minorities. Groups can be played out against each other. You cannot win this game. If you work extra hard to prove yourself to the white majority society, your success will simply be used against you as proof that discrimination isn’t happening. And they will use you as a tool to discriminate against others.

I am married into an Asian-American family. I know they have been successful. But I also know all the various stories of discrimination. But I also know racism isn’t the same. My half-Asian looking Norwegian kids are not subject to the same remarks as the half-black looking Norwegian kids. While many experience discrimination it is not in equal measure.

Science to Follow

You keep citing Turkheimer. Turkheimer just got on Twitter calling for anyone who advances hereditarian theories of intelligence to get cancelled or fired.

Not entirely sure I agree, but I also think you are taking him somewhat out of context.

The economist Milton Friedman had some horrible opinions. But that does not mean the did not deserve the noble prize for his work on economics. That you disagree with somebody’s political opinions does not mean they science is invalid.

Strangely you seem to be fine with advancing the science of various people with rather racist opinions. Why do you not judge these people in the same manner? Perhaps because you have ideological blinders on?

If he’s so certain that your views are scientifically valid, why would he try to cancel any competing science?

As this whole response has been about. The race scientists simply don’t have a very honorable history. This cannot be ignored when judging the work they do. The science may be carried out in a correct manner, but if the science is consistently seeking to prove racial differences in any way possible, how honest science is it really? Science should start with a very open mind, and the data should push you in one direction or the other. But their starting point isn’t really the data. Their starting point is a strong belief that race is a meaningful concept and must be proven.

If it’s easy to argue and win based on the data, can’t they just stick to the facts and win, instead of silencing other researchers? Instead of forming some quasi-religious narrative around the issue?

Well, they keep winning, but race scientists will simply never accept defeat. If you keep loosing the scientific argument but persist with your ideological crusade, is it not valid to question your motives and the validity of your science?

It is my prediction that this issue will in fact never be settled for the simple reason race science is most likely bonkers but race scientists will never accept that, because they have an ideological requirement to keep trying to square the round pegs. Accepting that society must do more for disadvantaged groups is simply not an acceptable answer. They will never accept this answer.

Written by

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

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