Michael Andrew Turton (
7 Feb 1995 00:02:10 GMT

In article <>,
George Boggs <> wrote:
>In article <3gmh45$>, (Michael
>Andrew Turton) wrote:
>> But of course -- you have this weird idea in your head that I
>> am maintaining that differences between humans do not exist.[...] All I've
>> ever maintained is that concepts for sorting
>> people which North Americans define as "races" are so shifting, cultural
>> in origin and undefinable that they cannot be used for assertions
>> about inheritance.
>I don't believe that is all you have claimed (i.e., "maintained"). I doubt
>whether any reader of this thread would believe it, either. Some quotes
>from your previous posts...
>For example, "[...] Encapsulated here is one of the fundamental problems of
>racial thinking -- its circularity. [discussion of Zulus deleted] We
>sorted according to ideas we already had in our heads. Then we measured
>the people and -- presto!-- we discover our own assumptions and proclaim
>them 'science.'[...]"
>Now, this strikes me as a claim that investigations of anthropometric
>hypotheses is circular thinking. More.

>[from a discussion about hypothesis testing and observing that mythical
>Atlanteans were taller than mythical Erewhonians] "[...] But if one thinks
>that the factor you have projected onto Atlanteans (height) resides in
>their genes rather than in your mind, then you have a serious
>This appears to me you are claiming that (1) stature does not have a
>genetic component, and (2) to notice a difference in stature is a
>"projection" by the observer rather than a legitimate observation of
>Furthermore, you make the incredible claim that, rather than random
>sampling, anthropometricians merely select "tall" or "short" people and
>measure them to confirm the ideas they "already had in [their] head"; e.g.,
>" What you have not done is measured Atlanteans, but measured the mental
>'filter' you use to *sort* Atlanteans." [emphasis mine]
>No, Michael, contrary to your assertions, you have maintained far more than
>the notion that "[...] concepts for sorting people which North Americans
>define as "races" are so shifting, cultural in origin and undefinable that
>they cannot be used for assertions about inheritance."
>> [...] Why is it that psychometry
>> si still obsessed with "race"[...]
>Ya got me. I don't know, either. Is it "obsessed"? Are you inferring this
>"obsession" from TBC?
>> Getting back to Zulus and Japanese......if you put me in a room
>> with two people I'd probably be able to nail the Zulu and the Japanese
>> every time, simply because your concept of what passes for Zulu and
>> Japanese in the real world is so narrow that I could easily distinguish
>> it. But all I'd be seeing is the stereotypes which live in the mind of
>> the person who created the (useless) room experiment.
>Suppose I selected those two individuals randomly off a list of names
>provided to me by the Japanese government and Mr. Buthelezi, without ever
>having seen them? What would you say the odds of confusing them were?
>> But having actually been to Africa (and Japan, incidently)
>For the record, I have *actually* been to Africa and Japan (although not
>incidentally), as well many other destinations in Asia, Europe, and South
>America. So what??
>> dollars to donuts I could find you many japanese and zulus (actually a
>> group of peoples) whom you simply couldn't tell apart.
>Your comment is simply a qualitative description of statistical variation.
>It does nothing to support your contention that any physical differences
>you might detect are due to pre-existing mental stereotypes. Because Zulus
>may *exist* who possess identical skin pigmentation to the mean Japanese
>pigmentation says nothing about the frequency of such occurrences. Before
>we could determine whether you could find "many" or not, we would need to
>know the magnitude of the variation, the difference between the means, and
>exactly what you mean by "many", would we not?.
>> One of the teachers
>> at my school, a local, had MUCH lighter skin then I did. Not being stupid
>> like
>> we are, the locals never regarded him as anything other than one of their
>> own.
>One of the students in my high school was *much* taller than the rest of
>us. Not being stupid like some people are, we never regarded him as
>anything other than one of our own. So what??

Precisely my point. So what? So why is melanin important?
Why is one set of characteristics important while others are ignored?

>> The people we label "black" have an enormous range of color, origin,
>> language and genetic background.
>Yes. This is called "variation". Measures of variation, along with measures
>of central tendency, are the two main parameters used in anthropometrics.

>> The room analogy is simpleminded and has no application in
>> the real world. Not even the most raving lunatic racist regards the
>> the "zulus" as a race of their own -- though the same cannot be said about
>> the Japanese. Are they two different races, George?
>Depends on how you define "race", Michael. They are certainly two different
>and reliably distinguishable physical subpopulations within the species
>(although the distributions may overlap). So, if you define "race" as a
>statistically distinct subpopulation, then, yes, they are two different
>races. But this definition begs the question "statistically distinct from
>what?", so, by itself, is useless without the referent. If you define race
>as subpopulations that differ on some set of biological or intellectual
>dimensions, or as some sort of canonical categorization of the human
>population, I don't know - I doubt it.

I'm curious. What are these two different and reliably distinguish-
able physical subpopulations within the species?

>> How is "race" to
>> be defined so that inheritance can be discussed?
>I really haven't the faintest. I don't think the definition of race
>necessarily requires that inheritance be a factor. Moreover, I don't think
>there needs to be a single definition of race. I do, however, think it
>needs to be defined clearly in each case.
>> What races are present
>> in the world today?
>Again, the answer would depend on how one defines "race" (see above).
>> I'm delighted to see at last that you've come over to my way of
>> thinking, George.
>Well, don't break out the champagne yet. ;-)
>> Never have I maintained that anthropometric subpopulations
>> do not exist.
>Oh. To claim that any investigation of such subpopulation differences is
>merely a matter of projecting stereotypes and circular thinking is
>different from claiming that they do not exist. From this, am I to assume
>that you believe that differences exist but it is pseudoscience to measure
>> Why no, the value of classifying people for certain projects,
>> goals etc still remains. We have never disputed that during the entire
>> length of this thread, George.
>What I have disputed is your claim that the measurement of physical
>differences is circular thinking and pseudoscience.

But George, when "race" is under discussion
you are not measuring "physical differences" as though you stumbled
upon or arbitrarily created random populations -- you "find" the population
through some socio-cultural process (not science) then search through it
for differences which allow you to preserve some classification which
you have already consciously or unconsciously erected.

Measurement of physical differences *based on "race"* is psuedo-
science. But of course measurement of physical differences can be an
important and useful activity in ergonomics, or sports equipment design,
etc, etc. If you think I am disputing the process of measurement of
homo saps, then re-read the post below and look at how I only claim
"racial thinking" -- NOT ergonomics, etc, -- is circular.

>> [...] We are
>> disputing only certain classifications used to group people, not the
>> whole process of classification.
>Well, I can only speak for myself in this dispute, but what I am disputing
>is your statement:
>"[...] Encapsulated here is one of the fundamental problems of racial
>thinking -- its circularity. [discussion of Zulus deleted] We sorted
>according to ideas we already had in our heads. Then we measured the
>people and -- presto!-- we discover our own assumptions and proclaim them
>Michael, on the basis that we now dispute what we are disputing, I retire
>from this dispute. It is simply getting too disputatious.
>G. Boggs
> my opinions alone, thank you

How kind of you to let me have the last word!;)

Mike Turton