Re: What Are the Race Deniers Denying?

Laura Finsten (
11 Oct 1996 00:13:38 GMT () wrote:


>I have a very strong suspicion that political passions are behind
>the denial of race in humans. I examined that $150 tome called
>_The History and Geography of Human Genes_, by Cavalli-Sforzi
>(something like that) which made a big splash when it came out. C-
>S denied the existence of races, but he never explained what he
>was denying. But I'll be glad to overlook the bias if I can just
>find out what is being denied. Then I'll repeat my question of
>where man falls in.

You are assuming, rather than demonstrating, the existence of bias.
Cavalli-Sforza et al. do in fact explain the problems with
"races" as analytical units for studying human variation. On p.19
of the book you mention above:

"Human races are still extremely unstable entities in the
hands of modern taxonomists, who define from 3 to 60 or more
races (Garn 1971). To some extent, this latitude depends on
the personal preference of taxonomists, who may choose to be
"lumpers" or "splitters". Although there is no doubt that
there is only one human species, there are clearly no
objective reasons for stopping at any particular level of
taxonomic splitting....

As one goes down the scale of taxonomic hierarchy toward the
lower and lower partitions, the boundaries between clusters
become even less clear. The evolutionary explanation is simple.
There is great genetic variation in all populations, even in
small ones. This individual variation has accumulated over
very long periods, because most polymorphisms observed in
humans antedate the separation into continents, and perhaps
even the origin of the species less than half a million years
ago. The same polymorphisms are found in most populations,
but at different frequencies in each, because the geographic
differentiation of humans is recent, having taken perhaps
one-third or less of the time the species has been in existence.
There has therefore been too little time for the accumulation
of substantial divergence....

From a scientific point of view, the concept of race has failed
to obtain any consensus; none is likely, given the gradual
variation in existence. It may be objected that the racial
stereotypes have a consistency that allows even the layman to
to classify individuals. However, the major stereotypes, all
based on skin color, hair color and form, and facial traits,
reflect superficial differences that are not confirmed by
deeper analysis with more reliable genetic traits.... By means
of painstaking multivariate analysis, we can identify "clusters"
of populations and order them in a hierarchy that we believe
represents the history of fissions in the expansion of the whole
world of anatomically modern humans. *At no level can clusters
be identified with races, since every level of clustering
would determine a different partition and there is no biological
reason to prefer a particular one.*" (my emphasis)

This strikes me as a pretty clear explanation.

>As for Steven Jay Gould, I'm surprised you'd bring him up, since
>his biases are so patent. He'll write a piece picking apart some
>nineteenth century study on the comparative brain sizes of whites
>and blacks. He'll argue that the study does not show that whites
>are superior to blacks, because:
>1. The data were cooked. (There is no scientist who does not cook
>his data, even if it is just tossing out "outliers."

You are whitewashing. Gould has demonstrating major doctoring of
data and results in 19th century racial science. Tossing out
outliers is required in some statistical analyses and is not
"cooking the data".

>2. Brain size has nothing whatever to do with IQ.

There is no evidence to the contrary.

>3. IQ does not measure intelligence.

And many scientists would agree with Gould on this point. What
IQ tests measure, and how useful they are cross-culturally, is
widely debated.

>4. Intelligence is a meaningless concept.
>5. Races do not exist.

He's not alone on this, either.

>6. Superiority has no meaning.

I think you have an agenda.

"If I can't dance..... I don't want to be part of your revolution."
Emma Goldman