July 23, 2010

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on "Race"

I'm sometimes told that nobody believes anymore that "Race doesn't exist," that that's so 1990s. Yet, here's the opening of a 10,700-word 2008 article on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on "Race."

Race

First published Wed May 28, 2008
The concept of race[1] signifies the grouping of individual humans by some set of perceived physical characteristics, often called “phenotypes,” which are thought to be inherited through some blood-borne factor. Which specific set of perceived, shared physical characteristics constitute a race varies historically, geographically, socially, and politically. Indeed, there is no biological or genetic foundation for the grouping of individual humans into a racial group. Instead, humans themselves choose (consciously or unconsciously) which physical characteristics constitute a racial group. Consequently, racial groups are presently thought to be social constructions, or a category created not by biological nature but by human invention. However, from its origins in the early modern era until the twentieth century, race was not considered a social construction but a real, biological distinction transmitted from one generation to the next. Thus, racial identity was thought to be something fixed and imposed genetically.

As a result of this biological conception, racial groupings are typically thought of as discrete, meaning that the boundaries between them are determinate. Where one racial group ends, a distinct other racial group begins. If human phenotypes are simply considered to be gradual variations in things like skin color, hair texture, or bone structure, then one cannot really speak of distinct human races. Rather, such differences would simply reflect variations in physical traits, such as the variation between very straight versus very curly hair. To speak of race, then, requires classifying humans into discrete groupings based upon a set of putatively inherited physical characteristics. Note that the discrete character of racial groups holds even when we speak of “mixed race” people, since this term implies that a “mixed” individual has ancestry from two or more discrete racial groups.

Determining the boundaries of discrete races has proven to be the most vexing problems for those thinkers who sought to classify humans according to race, and led to great variations in the number of human races believed to be in existence. Thus, some thinkers categorized humans into only four distinct races (typically white or Caucasian, black or African, yellow or Asian, and red or Native American), and downplayed any phenotypical distinctions within racial groups (such as those between Scandavians and Spaniards within the white or Caucasian race). Other thinkers, drawing boundaries around different physical traits, classified humans into many more racial categories, for instance arguing that those humans “indigenous” to Europe could be distinguished into discrete Nordic, Alpine, and Mediterranean races.

The ambiguities and confusion associated with determining the boundaries of discrete racial categories has over time provoked a widespread scholarly consensus that that race is socially constructed, while advances in the understanding of human genetics has undermined scholarly belief in the biological foundations of discrete races.

In contrast, I say that if "partly inbred extended families" aren't "racial groups," then we need to invent a term for them (PIEFs?) because they sure are important in this world.

Now, philosophers are generally pretty smart -- students intending to go to grad school in philosophy average higher on the GRE than everybody except physicists. When I wrote an essay poking fun at philosophers in 1999, I received a number of long, extremely well-argued emails pointing out my gross errors in reasoning. Initially, I responded combatively, but after awhile, I noticed that I was losing badly in these arguments, even with myself as scorekeeper.

On the other hand, this article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is intellectually weak. It's a straw man argument of the most obvious kind. The point of being a philosopher is that it's fun to use your brain well. Yet, surely, it's not fun to think as poorly as this?

Granted, philosophers aren't required to keep up with Nicholas Wade's articles in the Science section of the NYT, so the huge factual error in the last sentence is forgivable. Still, the overall level of reasoning is poor.

And race is not a topic wholly outside the central stream of the philosophical discourse -- as this encyclopedia article makes clear by devoting almost 600 words to the writings on race of Hume and Kant, who are likely the two biggest names in post-Greek philosophy.

From a conceptual point of view, if you can figure out race, that's a pretty big accomplishment. If you can figure out the riddle of race, that might give clues for figuring out a lot of things. So, why, as this long article unintentionally makes clear, is there so little good work being done on this hugely important topic?

Besides the usual political-correctness-makes-you-stupid plauge, a couple of things seem to be a problem here:

- Philosophers, like an awful lot of people, love thinking in terms of Platonic essences. It makes reasoning so clear cut.  Then it's fun to yank the rug out and point out that Platonic essences aren't real. Let's put it in a syllogism:

If races are Platonic essences;
And if Platonic essences don't exist;
Then, races don't exist!

But we already knew Platonic essences aren't real, so we're not really getting anywhere by beating up this straw man, are we?

- The second problem is more subtle. I've noticed that my brain doesn't work like powerful abstract thinkers' brains tend to work. They like to say things like, "If X, assuming Y, then Z." But I always get confused halfway through because I have no short term memory anymore after years of taking Lipitor (not that I had much before). I'm always interrupting to ask things like, "Which one is X again?" Then they'll start over again using toy examples with words like "widget" in them to make it easy for me, but I can't get terribly interested in widgets. They think best when least distracted by factual information and when dealing with the least interesting examples.

In contrast, I can't think well like that. Instead, I do my best abstract thinking when I'm thinking about the most important and/or flagrantly interesting examples, such as blacks vs. whites vs. Asians. Or gays vs. lesbians. Or male vs. female. Or Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. (This Manning-Brady one lays out my Theory of Everything.)

In contrast, a lot of people who are better than me at reasoning in the abstract seem to suffer vapor lock when asked to reason about something obviously important. Their passions overwhelm their reason. I'm a rather dispassionate, amenable, reasonable kind of guy, so it's striking how many people consumed by anger project their rage onto me. Thus, we frequently witness people furiously accusing me of being full of hate. It's really rather amusing.

98 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well I suppose if you're a Platonic realist with respect to the problem of universals, then you do accept Platonic essences. On the other hand, if you're a nominalist with respect to the problem of universals, then you deny Platonic essences. What's interesting is that if you're a nominalist, you basically reject all abstract entities, even fairly uncontroversial abstractions like the color green or the notion of a horse. So a nominalist might argue that there are no categories of any kind. There is no such thing as a horse or horse-ness, only a collection of various entities we choose to label by the word horse. You could even argue that there is no such thing as gender, only various entities we choose to label into various genders. I've always been a nominalist in the purely philosophical sense, but I still accept categories as being meaningful and useful for everyday communication. So in this sense, I accept race as a reality in the same way that I accept gender or the color green as a reality; not in the strictly Platonic sense, but as a meaningful human abstraction.

Anonymous said...

If we restrict ourselves to analytic philosophers (the ones who like logic, clarity, analysis) as opposed to continental philosophers (demonstrations of verbal skill combined with obscurantism), they mostly say technically true things. The problem is that those who present true arguments that can be interpreted by powerful enemies as favoring racism get punished, so almost no one does it.

Consider this article by Ned Block:
http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/faculty/block/papers/Heritability.html

It makes the quite correct point that we should admit the possibility that groups with lower actual IQ averages may have higher genetic potential than high-scoring groups, masked by big environmental effects. Now, if Block was honestly trying to shed light on the matter he would reconstruct the argument he is straw-manning by noting that such large (and elusive to social scientists) environmental effects are less plausible than smaller environmental effects, so that the observed actual differences should lead us to update in favor of believing that genetic effects in the direction of the observed differences exist. But since he is just making a rhetorical point and doesn't feel constrained by ordinary canons of debate, he doesn't.

Neven Sesardic has a great article in the journal Philosophy of Science chronicling the abuses and willful neglect of ordinary philosophical standards in the context of race.

http://www.ln.edu.hk/philoso/staff/sesardic/getfile.php?file=POS-2000.pdf

Anonymous said...

The problem really isn't philosophical or even one of semantics. The human mind constantly abstracts out commonalities between various concrete entities and invents an abstract term to label them under. The crux of the issue then is whether or not we can adequately abstract out commonalities between different races or use some criteria for demarcating racial boundaries. I believe that biology provides us with an adequate enough tool for doing so. While racial categories clearly aren't as clean cut as say categorizing things into gender or species, we have enough at our disposal to be able to use the word race meaningfully. And for the philosophically inclined, as the later Wittgenstein stated in his Philosophical Investigations, the meaning of a word is its use.

bjdouble said...

Interesting passage in interview with philosopher HG Gadamer, p. 120:

Gadamer: Excuse me, but races have existed since the creation of the world.



http://books.google.com/books?id=d-oAOwSZmxAC&printsec=frontcover&dq=westernhagen+gadamer&source=bl&ots=cj9CQcB0ME&sig=EamxoYI8z5uWHkW7jIqUcT4zO7Q&hl=en&ei=yltJTIiXCYK78gaT0KXhDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBcQ6AEwAQ#v=snippet&q=race&f=false

Anonymous said...

Steve I think you're being disingenuous because you must realise that actual PIEFs are not the same thing as "race" in political discourse. Up til about the 18thC race was used to mean PIEF, and a man might speak of his race meaning his actual ancestors and descendents. This is qite different from the concept of "the White race" which assumes that people have something important in common, and some mutual interest, simply because they have the same colour skin. This was taken to its absurd, but logical, conclusion in apartheid South Africa, where members of the same actual family could be classified as belonging to different races.
I think you missed the point of Noel Ignatieff's "How the Irish Became White", which argued that the concept of "the White Race" was invented in 19thC America to include the masses of immigrants who were not members of the original PIEF (British, or if you prefer separate English and Lowland Scottish and Highland Scottish PIEFs) of white-skinned Americans.
A clear example of how political race differs from PIEF is the hostile attitude of many White Southerners to Black people that they knew very well were quite closely related to them thru a common White male ancestor.

Conatus said...

When it comes to thinking I feel Schopenhauer had the keenest insights. The rational mind is, for Schopenhauer, a leaf borne along in a stream of pre-reflective and largely unconscious emotion. We make choices and then find reasons for the choices. We rationalize our choices after the fact, not in the little numerical, which is cheaper sense? but in the bigger macro sense.

Howard Hughes said...

Seriously, one of the funniest thing about this blog is just reading the small bits about how you think, or the random little conclusions you put in here and there. Great stuff.

Anonymous said...

Neven Sesardic has a new paper in the high-end journal Biology and Philosophy dissecting the failure of race eliminativists to address non-essentialist similarity/relatedness definitions of race. Basically, all the objections only apply to the straw-men, not the ones used by biologists studying race, even back in the 18th century.


http://web.duke.edu/philosophy/bio/Papers/Sesardic%20-%20Race%20-%20a%20social%20destruction%20of%20a%20biological%20concept.pdf

Garland said...

"From a conceptual point of view, if you can figure out race, that's a pretty big accomplishment"

If you do say so yourself!

XXXXXX said...

You miss the point when you talk about "partly inbred extended families" or otherwise try to define race.

Complex physical concepts like race can't be captured by full and precise definitions. Every normal person, even children, knows that white, black, asian, etc are useful and meaningful concepts in describing both individuals and groups.

Likewise, trying to write off race as a "social construct" is just playing with words that have little connection with meaningful and concrete concepts. All words for real concepts are social constructs: arbitrary symbols we use to communicate with other human beings.

Engaging in such wordplay is a losing proposition for you because by doing so you concede that you can arrive at meaningful conclusions and increased understanding of the world by doing so. You can't.

Hume, by the way, had a name for people who engage in meaningless quibbling about abstract words: metaphysicians.

XXXXX said...

The basic Stephen Jay Gould-style tactic is to try to obstruct meaningful discourse about race, (e.g. "why do whites have higher IQs than blacks?") by saying these questions can't be answered because these concepts don't have precise definitions.

But we all know what each word in that sentence means. We don't need definitions for any of these words.

They do this, of course, because they feel obstructing discourse on race is for the best. For all I know, they might be right.

Rather than responding to their bad-faith explicit argument, try instead to take on their actual but implicit argument: we should avoid talking about race, especially white people.

Is white people talking frankly about race a good thing? Always, sometimes, or never? If sometimes, when?

The argument for not talking about race has some merit to it. The best argument is of course it led to WWII and the death of about 100 million people.

Anonymous said...

So, they tell race does not exist, but they feel free to accuse anyone of racism.

Vernunft said...

Here's a little philosophy inside baseball that explains it.

There are basically two types of philosopher these days - Continental and analytic. These are very broad terms, and not always consistently applied, but they'll do for this discussion. The Continentals, broadly speaking, are the type of people who go out of their way to claim race is a social construct. They're the people constantly on the look-out for a new group of people to champion against their white, capitalist oppressors. Being daft about race is just one instance of the general daftness of this group of philosophers - it's all "social construction" this and "heteronormativity" that and "schizophrenic capitalism" the other. These people make a living writing incoherent stuff, often in French, that flatters the sensibilities of hesperophobes.

The analytics are the smarter, more mathematically-minded guys. They're busy constructing new logics, new semantics for those logics, new epistemologies to explain how the logics relate to the semantics, and so on. It's very high-level, abstract stuff, and it takes a lot of intellectual effort to do it. This leaves very little time for thinking about relatively mundane matters like race and politics. For two reasons, these philosophers will adopt leftie views of matters like race. First, all the smart people they hang out with in the humanities believe race is a social construct; so, given that these philosophers don't have the time to spend coming up with their own ideas, they figure their buddies are probably right. The analytics gratefully stop thinking about race, adopting the generally-accepted view of it, and go on with their abstract work. Second, it doesn't pay to Watson yourself, so even if these philosophers have heterodox views on race, it's career suicide to speak out. And why bother? When your work is miles away from the biology and politics of race, why on earth devote your time to thinking about something that will just get you in trouble? So, either because you don't want to cause trouble, or because you're so careful about your career that you start to convince even yourself that the PC views about race are correct, you profess the belief that will cause the least trouble.

It takes a rare combination for a philosopher to take the correct view about race. He has to actually be in the field, so that race comes within his purview - say, philosophy of biology. He also has to have the right attitude, so as not to be overwhelmed by pressure among his peers. Philosophy of biology is sort of an emerging field now, and I'm not sure how well it's going to develop when it runs right into this anti-scientific racial orthodoxy.

R J Stove said...

Orwell, of course, told a friend of his (only half in jest), after wrestling with some Bertrand Russell, that "philosophy should be forbidden by law."

stephen said...

The argument seems to be that because it is hard to come up with an accurate model of "something" in the real world, and people disagree on which model to use, that "something" doesn't exist. Not only is this a bad argument, but it could be applied to almost anything. No one ever uses this argument when discussing different species, or styles of governments, or political ideologies, or genres of music, or architecture, or whatever. In reality most categories are nearly continuously distributed but our brains can't handle that much complexity so we come up with simple discreet models in order to make use of our observations.

I am sympathetic to the argument that race is hard to model accurately, and perhaps we need a better way to think of human variance, but to take that to mean that human differences don't exist, or are so random as to be completely unpredictable seems wrong.

stephen said...

I should also say, this is essentially a sorites paradox. When does "something" become "something else". Well, we don't really know. Perhaps because there is too much "noise" (variance in people's beliefs?), but we know that there is a "something" and a "something else". You would expect philosophers to be a little bit more aware of this.

Joseph said...

It is certainly the case that leftist taboos make intelligent people who adhere to them sound stupid.

Moreover, I think that our society's egalitarian paradigm blinds its clever folks to facts that do not correspond well to their framework. People cling stubbornly to their way of seeing the world until their model becomes unworkable.

And, by the way, not everyone accepts that the Platonic eidoi are not real. Just because something has been out of fashion for seven centuries does not mean that it's false. Indeed, most of the arguments against realism are strawman arguments, too. I've yet to hear a defense of nominalism that accounts for our understanding of the world. People just take it as a given that nominalism is true -- it's a convenient convention, ultimately irreconcilable with our experience of reason and of the world, that agrees with our age's tastes and concerns. Who cares about ultimate metaphysical and epistemic consistency when we can make such great predictions and cool stuff? Theory is so passé; we moderns want power.

691 said...

Good call on a Saints-Colts Super Bowl. You're not so bad after all.

WLindsayWheeler said...

"Philosophy" is a Greek word originating in the influence of the Doric Greeks of Crete and Laconia, i.e. the Spartans. Socrates says so himself! Philosophy means "Love of Wisdom" where these Dorians found "Wisdom", i.e. the Logos, in Nature. Philosophy is about loving the wisdom found in Nature and that means the ability to "Read Nature".

What you deal with Steve, are sophists or ideologues but not philosophers. In this Gnostic Nihilist world, there are very very few true philosophers, lovers of wisdom.

Race is part of the Natural Order. Aristotle and Plato and the Bible speak to such things. Race is real. For somebody to call themselves a "philosopher" and then to say that "race does not exist" shows themselves to be nihilists or misologos or misocosmi but not philosophers. Karl Marx is labelled by many as a "philosopher" (q.v. Wikipedia) but as the man wanted to deconstruct the Old Order and the family, he is a nihilist masquerading as a "philosopher". Marx is a hater of reality not a lover of reality.

For the real definition of race see my entry at Wikinfo: The Classical definition of race

Anonymous said...

So, you should really be able to flex your mental muscle in contemplating whether or not Donovan McNabb is gay.

Someguy

Paul Mendez said...

Once, I would get into debates with the "Race Doesn't Exist" libertarians on Free Republic (before I was banned). I soon stopped, because it became obvious these people really don't believe that race doesn't exist. They just liked coming up with clever arguments.

Kinda like high school debate club.

nick said...

Is deme the word you're looking for?

"In biology, a deme is a term for a local population of organisms of one species that actively interbreed with one another and share a distinct gene pool." wikipedia

polistra said...

Nice bit of analysis.

Must admit I got caught on the word "blood-borne" near the start of the definition and couldn't really process the rest. Do they really think race is carried by the plasmodium parasite? Or are they pulling the usual leftist trick of describing their opponents as Neanderthals who think race is in the blood? Or are they just so totally abstract that they don't know the difference between blood and genes?

Anonymous said...

Academics have an easy gig where they get paid quite handsomely to do what they like most of the time. They are fearful of losing that gig if they blurt out non-PC truths. Which is why they need to standardize their lies in books like the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. It's a way to fool the world into believing that the discussion is over, great minds have reached a consensus, and so for God sake please don't ask them any more probing questions about the origins of race and gender differences, because after all, it's settled "science."

Then philosophers, rather than having to argue about the deeper meaning of unequal human outcomes, can go back to arguing about Platonic essences, which makes all the pleasure centers of their brains light up like a pinball machine.

By the way, I feel oppressed that my orgasm lasts only 3 - 10 sec. I'm hiring a lawyer. The NIH needs to spend more research money on lengthening the feeble male orgasm. And since they haven't been able to find a universal cure for cancer, they need to find a way to make us all share the burdens of cancer more equally. Perhaps tumor implantation at age 40 should become mandatory along with proof of health insurance.

David said...

I need concrete examples, too.

Steve, you tend to think inductively. That ain't Lipitor, that's a solid "reality-based" brain.

Castles-in-the-air types tend to set up abstractions and then cynically say it's all bullshit - which is the po-mo syndrome. But is this expression of autistic despair and frustration on their part malicious, or just a result of their aging synapses' loosening?

Or to put it another way, if b is a and a is p, then s is not p when b is not a, unless s is some b and a/p is...arrg!

Anonymous said...

As you pointed out earlier Steve, the taxonomists (who form the backbone - no pun intended) of biologists invariably classify birds, mammals, reptiles, nsects, plants etc into different 'races' on the basis of what the lay person might think of as utterly trivial distinctions, such as the coloring of a patch feathers, the curve of a beak or profile of leaf etc.
The distinctions of the phenotypes of mankind between 'geographical groups' are enormous compared to the hair-spltting differences taxonomists love to make.

keypusher said...

OT, but this is pretty major.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703724104575379630952309408.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop&mg=com-wsj

Saint Louis said...

"The ambiguities and confusion associated with determining the boundaries of discrete racial categories has over time provoked a widespread scholarly consensus that that race is socially constructed..."

At dusk yesterday, I got confused determining which of the discrete categories - day or night - it was at that moment. It must mean day and night are socially constructed concepts.

Kylie said...

Steve Sailer said..."I'm a rather dispassionate, amenable, reasonable kind of guy, so it's striking how many people consumed by anger project their rage onto me. Thus, we frequently witness people furiously accusing me of being full of hate. It's really rather amusing."

Striking but not surprising. I can just imagine your gratification at knowing your low-key style only increases the rage of your accusers. It's kind of a "two-fer", isn't it? You get to say what you think and really tee off some book-smart ideologues in the process.

I've seen a decrease in civility and an uptick in unwarranted criticism here which, along with some stylistic differences, suggest some newcomers or lurkers are reading here.

Someone really ought to tell them that anonymously posting "race-baiter" on a blog is not a cogent argument nor even a coherent one. But it won't be me. I'm having too much fun.

Harry Baldwin said...

Steve, over a number of years of reading your blog, I have never detected what I would call even "righteous indignation," much less you being "full of hate." When I'm in the mood for a good tirade I have to go to other blogs.

"Amused dispassion animated by honest curiosity" would be the tone I associate with your posts.

portland_allan said...

Heavens Steve, you're on Lipitor? Please tell me you've read up on statins. I hope you're supplementing with CoQ10 (it's automatic in Canada, but Merck has a US patent on combining them in a single pill). You also need to check out the Paleo diet scene.

A few highlights of current thinking: 1) gluten in wheat and industrially produced seed oils are primary cause of chronic disease in most people 2) dietary fat and cholesterol have no negative effect on cardiovascular health 3) LDL particle size is the important measure, not the overall level or HLD/LDL ratio.

Some links to get you started:
http://www.spacedoc.net/
http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/
http://www.paleonu.com/
http://freetheanimal.com/
http://paleohacks.com

If you Netflix, check out the movie "Fat Head." I wish you well.

Anonymous said...

PhD candidate in philosophy here.

I think your diagnosis is pretty much right. Philosophers are indeed generally very bright, and many of us (not myself) are extraordinarily well-informed to boot. But, like most people, we're often weak on matters falling outside our own domain of expertise. And, as Socrates pointed out long ago, people puff up the importance of their own knowledge and denigrate that of others, and unfortunately in our case, the stuff that falls outside of our own domain is pretty much all actual facts. Plus given the kind of people we are, we tend not to be alert to things other people notice anyway. I myself now find the whole topic of race and society fascinating, but only because I happened to see some statistics and started digging in a bit more.

None of that is meant to be insulting; these are just facts about our (also my) strengths and weaknesses.

Regarding this article (though I haven't read it and probably won't), it may be worth observing that race is well outside the philosopher's ordinary purview. It's too practical. By both training and temperament, it's not what we do. The better work, and the better thinkers, tend to be found in the most abstract areas: logic, epistemology, language, more theoretical aspects of ethics, etc. Even practical ethics, for example, tends to be looked down on a bit and is, indeed often rather shoddy. My point being that an article on race is not going to show philosophy at its finest. Most of us, at least at the best schools, don't take classes on it, we don't read about, we don't write about it. It's a very marginal topic. I'm sure similar things happen in all disciplines.

As more of an aside, a lot of the truly great philosophers are an exception to this. They know a variety of languages, they know literature and history, and they're keen observers of the human condition.

liberal biorealist said...

Looking rather briefly at the entry from the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, it's hard to describe its content as anything other than incompetent.

This author (who, I assume, is some guy Michael James from Bucknell -- but, apparently, in the Political Science Department) talks as though the problem is that there's no entirely discrete distinction to be made between the races (such a surprise, given the possibility of interbreeding).

Yet philosophers have known about, and have grappled with, concepts that have boundary issues way back to the ancients. It was known sometimes as the Sorites Paradox, or the Bald Man Parodox.

Here's how it arises in the use of the concept "bald". If one removes one hair at a time from a man's head, one does not seem to encounter a point at which one says, "Oh, now the man is bald; he wasn't before this hair was removed." Yet if that's so, how does one ever correctly apply the predicate "bald"?

Now there are any number of ways of answering that problem, which there's no point in getting into here. What's important is that such answers exist, and any trained philosopher will know of their existence.

There has indeed been in fairly recent years among philosophers a major resurgence of interest in the "vagueness" issue in the application of concepts. I doubt that anyone outside of skeptics of one description or another wishes to claim that vague concepts are simply meaningless: the program mainly seems to be to try to uncover how vagueness is understood and used so as to allow meaning in concepts that require it.

So for someone in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy to pretend that the boundary issues of the concept race represents an insuperable problem to its use is, I repeat, nothing but incompetent.

And it is a disgrace that the profession of philosophy would allow such utter junk to stand unaltered and uncriticized in a major, widely read, and extensively cooperative summary of the discipline of philosophy.

John Seiler said...

St. Thomas Aquinas' take was that the difference among people brought out in men the virtues of tolerance and cooperation. Presumably this would include racial differences. It's the reason everyone wasn't created exactly the same. And it means avoiding the equivalent vices.

David said...

>the Paleo diet scene<

Avoid. The brain needs plenty of fat, not only to grow correctly but also to function correctly. Eat potatoes and well-marbled steaks (for example). Minimize refined sugar intake. And have an occasional drink for your heart's sake.

>concepts that have boundary issues<

Yes. Would a competent philosopher make the following argument? "Color means red, white, blue, green, yellow, and so forth. But what to do with 'pink'? Pink is neither red nor white. Therefore, colors are social conventions, invented out of the whole cloth and masking subjective commitments (such as nonverbalized aggressions, etc.). There is no such thing as red or white, and to speak of them is to participate in oppression."

That's the face of philosophy, and it has been so for many years.

Deckin said...

Vernunft got it right and, from my perspective inside baseball, must also be inside baseball (as seem a few of the other commenters, not counting Stove who's got the guts to self identify and a legend as a father)--nice to know we're represented here.

One thing that should also be mentioned, besides the fact that those with the analytical/mathematical chops almost never deal with race is that those who do, besides having little in the way of logical/analytical training, have zero training in Statistics. Essentialism comes naturally to them because they've never taken any serious (mathematically based) science classes. The continental types avoid math with the elan of a Comp Lit major, but then help themselves to their mangled understanding of logic when it suits their purposes. Naomi Zack (try to read her book Philosophy of Science and Race for a test of how many bad arguments you can swallow without vomiting) is one of the worst practitioners of this.

Anonymous said...

Let me take these points one by one. First philosophy.

I was a philosophy undergraduate. I have actually read Being and Nothingness by Sartre. This is, next to Remembrance of Things Past by Proust the most widely quoted but unread book. Sartre is plenty obscure but clarity incarnate compared to Heidigger and Hussserl. More recently incomprehensibility has reached previously undreamt of heights in semiotics, Derrida, and deconstructionism.

But as a resident of Oakland California let me invoke the Oakland refutation (the greatest philosophical aphorism since Occam's Razor) - there's no there there.

Philosophy like Social Work is a residuum discipline. Philosophy isn't just just irrelevant by circumstance, philosophy must be irrelevant.

Social workers originally were middle or upper class women who went to live among the poor to give them services. In the nineteenth century these women provided the poor with services such as cooking, midwifery, and legal advice. But gradually these functions were taken over by relevant professions like doctors and lawyers. Social work the profession became hollowed out. If a service could be defined it was split off and provided by a specialist. The Social Worker became a residual person with nothing to give but their attitude. If a social worker came upon some new service, like for example psychoanalysis, it would soon be taken over by credentialed specialists, leaving the professional social worker again with only residual skills to offer.

Similarly the classical philosophers originaslly concerned themselves with all subject matter. Then those who cared for physical matters were called "Natural Philosophers". Soon they became naturalists and yet later chemists, biologists and physicists. Much the same process worked on more abstract areas of philosophy. Soon mathematics became the province of mathematicians, and symbolic logic grew out of philosophical musings about logic. Gradually any person who actually was knowledgeable and current in what had formerly been an area of philosophy, was now considered to be some kind of scientist not a philosopher.

Academic philosophers became residuals like social workers. If there was any real core of knowledge uncovered in a new area, that area would be removed from philosophy. After a couple millennia of this, philosophy became hollow and the public became suspicious of those who indulged in more and more study about less and less.

No sensible person worries about what self proclaimed philosophers think because if they knew anything about anything they wouldn't be philosophers.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

Next let me clear up this question of race.

Race itself isn't of much interest to very many people. What people, especially Americans, are obsessed with is not race but racism. Almost no one would ever write about race if it weren't for racism.

It wasn't always thus, the central plot point in Show Boat concerns the race of Julie. But today the fan magazines do not concern themselves with the question of Halle Berry's "real" race. She is not referred to as a mulatto nor is Barack Obama. They are just termed black. Blackness for political purposes is indeed a social construct.

Race isn't discussed much on any of our twenty four seven news services. Rachel Maddow never cites Cavalli-Sforza. That's why it's pretty pointless to argue about concepts like your "extended family with some inbreeding' definition of race. Few care.

What people care about and what fills the airwaves is racism, and racism isn't a scientific subject. It is a a quasi-religious matter concerned with ritual cleanliness.

Racism or rather the charge of racism confers power to black people in much the way that the charge and concept of marime confers power on gypsy women. In gypsy culture women can stop men in their tracks by touching them with their skirt or raising their skirt. Only women can do this and the man on the receiving end must then ritually cleanse himself.

Marime is thus a model for the charge of racism. Only blacks can invoke this curse and after it has been laid the recipient must cleanse himself, typically by appealing to Jesse Jackson for ritual absolution.

All white politicians live in fear of being charged with racism. This is religious dread rather like a voodoo curse. They know that rational arguments are to no avail.

We know now that in the seventeenth century millions were slaughtered over the question of transubstantiation. From our great distance in time this can seem incredible. Certainly there is no no empirical test as to whether that wafer actually becomes flesh. No one today would propose such a test because it is recognized as a religious matter not a scientific matter. We are too close to race and racism to recognize that this too is not a matter for scientific discourse.

The racism topic that so consumes our every waking moment is not in any way a matter for rational debate. We didn't stop believing in Zeus because of sound arguments or empirical observations. The racism charge is very useful politically and financially to a lot of people but its power is all just in our minds. People who don't believe in voodoo don't need to fear a voodoo curse. Racism should be ignored and/or ridiculed. Engaging in debate about racism is folly.

Albertosaurus

Dutch Boy said...

If you must stay on Lipitor make sure you are taking Coenzyme Q-10 (the statin drugs deplete it). CQ-10 is critical for cell function, including neurons!

liberal biorealist said...

"One thing that should also be mentioned, besides the fact that those with the analytical/mathematical chops almost never deal with race is that those who do, besides having little in the way of logical/analytical training, have zero training in Statistics."

Well, that's not entirely true, though most philosophers who nowadays choose to write on race seem to be utterly innocent of disciplines like statistics that might actually inform their argument.

Clark Glymour is one who weighed in the issue in a paper back, I think, toward the end of the nineties. He has, I gather, published a fair amount about the philosophy probability and statistics, and is generally reckoned as a quite smart guy.

But the paper itself, while reflecting a real acquaintance with certain approaches to statistical inference, reads far more like the product of a shyster lawyer than that of a philosopher for whom Truth operates as a kind guiding star.

In general, he performed the usual loud noises and bright lights of distraction (basically the same as with Ned Block). He simply came to the conclusion that we shouldn't attribute any important genetic basis to the IQ gap between the races because it's conceivable that there might be environmental explanations not yet fully examined or understood.

Yes, of course it's conceivable. And there's nothing philosophers are better at than conceiving examples which will never occur in real life.

But it never seems to occur to him that the real question is, and always has been, What is the most plausible and/or likely explanation for what we are seeing in the IQ gap? Thinking about the issue dispassionately as scientists would and should, what seems the best account of what we are seeing? Where does the evidence, on balance, seem to point to?

Now one might think that Glymour -- smart fellow that he is -- simply would not fall into such a blunder (it's hard not to think of it as anything else).

But that simply underestimates the power of the corrupting influence of ideology.

Richard Lewontin is, by any reckoning, a very smart man himself. Yet look what ideology did to him. It inclined him to commit a notorious fallacy which now bears his name; on almost any neutral subject in the same domain, he might well have been the one first to catch such a fallacy.

asdfasdfadsf said...

If 'genocide' means wiping out a people based on their biological attributes, then the key word is 'geno'.

So, race should be called geno-something-or-the-other.
How about geno-kin or simply genokin?

Anonymous said...

Changing the subject - Steve's never done a post on Disneyland. I'd like to know why grown adult couples go there unaccompanied (by kids) & I'd like to know what their politics are (I suspect slightly more conservative). I have an inkling the decision to go to Disneyland is taken by the woman and the man goes along because he has to, but I don't know why the middle class couples who I've known to go there are conservative.

John Carr said...

Can someone come up with a good acronym foe RACE or RAEC or RASE etc? "Regional Ancestry" is my suggestion for the first half but I can't finish it. If we can then we can say "we're not talking abour 'race' we're talking abour RACE".

Antioco Dascalon said...

As a professional philosopher, let me begin by saying that I normally admire the SEP. In fact, it is one of the few internet sources I allow for citation in my students' papers.
The list of flaws in this article are enormous and it is embarrassing for philosophy. The first assumption is that humans have created these racial groups by choosing to distinguish totally arbitrary inheritable characteristics. Skin color is no better than, say, relative length of big toe and second toe. A second problem, as pointed out by a few previous commentators is the author seems to believe that if one cannot distinguish clearly the boundary between two groups, neither group actually exists. This becomes a parody of philosophers as sophists:
"There is no such thing as butter nor milk, since one cannot tell when milk is churned, exactly when it becomes butter!" Obviously, humans living in the real world have no problem distinguishing between milk and butter and have had little difficulty in distinguishing races.
But it is actually far worse than that. If it were actually the case that shades of skin color were evenly distributed along the tonal continuum, then there would at least be some argument. But if one were to plot out the human population along a tonal line, there would be distinct groupings, with peaks at certain spots and troughs at others. This is because of geographic isolation, mating preference, etc. Thus we are not arbitrarily dividing where no distinction exists, but trying to describe an objective reality.
The strength of philosophy is its weakness: the power to generate definitions and principles with little empirical data. Race is not a bad area for philosophy to enter, as it is a fundamental definition, prior to other fields of study.
My question to the author would be "Would similar reasoning prove that species also do not exist? Aren't there intermediate species (at least theoretically) and wouldn't this show that the concept of species lacks discreteness? But isn't this concept central to modern biology?

Anonymous said...

portland_allen, here' a cure for that woo problem of yours.

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/

There's a blog for everything now, you know.

Lover of Wisdom said...

Michael James, the writer of that article, isn't a philosopher. It is a shame that SEP accepted it because it is a highly reputable philosophy encyclopedia and that article wouldn't normally pass a peer-reviewed philosophy journal.

Albertosaurous: It sounds like you studied continental philosophy. Analytic philosophy is very relevant.

Anonymous said...

">the Paleo diet scene<

Avoid. The brain needs plenty of fat, not only to grow correctly but also to function correctly. Eat potatoes and well-marbled steaks (for example). Minimize refined sugar intake. And have an occasional drink for your heart's sake."

It sounds like you haven't the first clue what the paleo diet is. It certainly doesn't revolve around fat avoidance -- meat and eggs are all fine, although high-GI starches like potatoes are not. I have no idea why you would suggest that anybody eat those.

In: meat, eggs, nuts, fruits, vegetables

Out: grains, legumes, sugar, dairy, processed foods.

After I had been on the paleo diet for a month, I attempted to do as many pushups as I possibly could without stopping, and I did more than I ever did before in my life, even though I hadn't been as diligent with the calisthenics as I had a few years earlier. I've done it on multiple occasions, so I know it's not a fluke.

All digestive weirdness has stopped -- no more bloating, no more farting.

At any rate, I've seen the results, and I noticeably feel physically worse whenever I cheat an eat a non-paleo food. I end up having digestive problems, and I become comparatively sluggish.

I do drink socially, but vodka tonics. I avoid beer.

Anonymous said...

"...The brain needs plenty of fat, not only to grow correctly but also to function correctly. Eat potatoes and well-marbled steaks (for example). Minimize refined sugar intake. And have an occasional drink for your heart's sake."

Hmm. I'm not sure I would jump to take this advice. I'm guessing the brain works optimally over a fairly broad range of daily fat and cholesterol intake. Indeed, some folks with great memories naturally have low serum cholesterol (110 - 130 mg/dL). But if you feel you need more cholesterol, you can get it with fewer calories by eating hard boiled eggs and dried squid.

People who suffer cognitive or memory problems while taking statins probably have other vascular degenerative issues.

portland_allan said...

> >the Paleo diet scene<
>
> Avoid. The brain needs plenty of fat, not only to
> grow correctly but also to function correctly. Eat
> potatoes and well-marbled steaks (for example).

Avoid? Do you know what you're talking about? Paleo diet is specifically concerned with eating fat from well-marbled steaks, among other sources.

As for potatoes, there's a bit of debate over them, but one thing not in debate is that they have zero fat.

Anonymous said...

" And why bother? When your work is miles away from the biology and politics of race, why on earth devote your time to thinking about something that will just get you in trouble? "


Because it is one of the central problems of our time, and philosophy should be relevant.

Dennis Mangan said...

Don't take statins if you need a functioning brain!

Anonymous said...

"We know now that in the seventeenth century millions were slaughtered over the question of transubstantiation."


A.saurus, "millions" is a gross exaggeration. However, great job on the analysis of racism and philosophy.

Socrates said...

If you're going to introduce Greek terms into English, learn how to form the plural correctly. Eidos is a neuter noun of the third declension, so its plural is eide, not eidoi. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

I think the author of the original article was mostly right. Race *is* a social construct. Where does one put the line to assign, say the people who live in Sicily, who obviously have a heavy does of African genes into the "white" category, and the people who live only a few leagues away into the "black" category? They are both probably related to each other, so Sailer's definition of PIEF doesn't really help. Do the Sicilians have more genes in common with the people nearby, even if they have been assiggned to a different race, or a random Norwegian?

Everyone obviously agrees that some populations have different characteristics than other populations, which is obvious to the naked eye. But race, in the four traditional categories best known, is so broad as to be pretty useless. One can refine down quite considerably using modern techniques, but then it becomes so specific, it won't have the instant predictive power that some people on this board obviosly want (ie, blacks are better sprinters than whites v. some people with genes from certain tribes in Nigeria are faster than people from elsewhere. However, if your genes are from some tribe in Kenya, you will be quite useless at sprinting).

Anonymous said...

"We know now that in the seventeenth century millions were slaughtered over the question of transubstantiation."

Not really.

Anonymous said...

For most people race only matters in two situations:
(1) Where there's competition in your microsocial environment and teams or observer-judges are influenced by race. So, for example, Race mattered a lot for the 2008 Democrat Presidential primaries, and relatively little for the 2008 Republican Presidential primaries.
(2) When everyone's the same race, but intragroup status is being determined by an intelligence/coordination screen, that happens to be race. For example, almost all of us in the USA are smart enough to know we're safer making fun of Australian Aborigines than Native Americans when talking to strangers, even though we're unlikely to run into Native Americans, because the taboo on trashing Native Americans is part of the informal American coordination.

But if you think you're wasting time thinking about race, you're probably right. I'ts macro phenomenon, like geography or the weather. The feeling that you have much control over norms or trends is a psychological illusion on par with thinking you can control the weather or move mountains with your mind.

Hopefully Anonymous

http://www.hopeanon.typepa.d.com

Anonymous said...

Sometimes all a guy can do is to throw is (inconsiderable) weight behind the truth, and say, "Hear! Hear!"

The "challenge" to the concept of race posed by the article Steve linked to is simply idiotic, and the list of widely accepted categorizations that would have to be suddenly abandoned if we were to accept this "logic" is almost infinite.

Every category - E-V-E-R-Y S-I-N-G-L-E one (except, maybe primary numbers...) has fuzzy boundaries.

If the inability to draw razor-sharp boundaries renders a particular categorization meaningless, then it would be pointless to talk about night and day, colors, genders, cultures, oceans, seas, languages, climate zones, personalities, ...pretty much everything.

If there is a REAL problem with the concept of race, those who believe so had better start making the case better than, "We can't be absolutely certain about just exactly how they are defined, so we will pretend they don't exist and hope nobody notices the idiocy of this argument."

By the way, if race IS so darn meaningless, how come Fire Departments are having such a tough time promoting the most qualified guy (sorry!!! person!) to lie..lieu...leeuu... captain.

Should be pretty straightforward - promote the most qualified candidate. Shouldn't it?? Of course it should.

Hesper said...

The person who published, anonymously, the comment affirming race indeed to be a "social construct", is wilfully dishonest or wholly self-deceived in his argument.

Sicilians obviously possess African admixture he asserts. This is not obvious, as Sicilians are white and tests have shown their genes to contain 0.0% 'African' genes. By 'African' he must mean Negro, not the non-European but still white indigenous Caucasian peoples of North Africa.

Even these peoples (Algerians, Tunisians, Egyptians, etc) who are not separated from the Negroes of sub-Saharan Africa by a small ocean as the Sicilians are, have been found generally to possess less than 1% Negro admixture. This itself has been nugatory in altering their complexion (which is mostly due to climate and consequent diet) not Negro wanderers or eunuch chamberlains intermarrying. The aboriginal North Africans, the Berbers, have the highest rate of blondeness outside of European peoples and Lebanese Christians.

Only Sardinians have been detected to have Negro admixture in their genes of all European peoples, and the rate is 0.012%. Similarly the rate of Caucasian North African admixture amongst southern Europeans, from Spain to Greece, is very low, no higher than 2-3% and then only in Spain.

Chuckiscool said...

"Steve I think you're being disingenuous because you must realise that actual PIEFs are not the same thing as "race" in political discourse. Up til about the 18thC race was used to mean PIEF, and a man might speak of his race meaning his actual ancestors and descendents..."

The "White race" was comprised of Europeans, who are relatively genetically homogeneous with an average groups FST (distance) of .009, compared to that between Europeans and East Asians of .110. And comparable, in order, to that between the various groups of Han Chinese groups, average FST .002. Moreover Europeans (mostly) belonged to the same metaethos, that is, the West or Western Civilization.

"I think you missed the point of Noel Ignatieff's "How the Irish Became White", which argued that the concept of "the White Race" was invented in 19thC America to include the masses of immigrants who were not members of the original PIEF (British, or if you prefer separate English and Lowland Scottish and Highland Scottish PIEFs) of white-skinned Americans."

Irish were, or course, always considered white. As for our friend Noel, consider Jefferson on this matter: "Why not retain and incorporate the blacks into the state, and thus save the expence of supplying, by importation of white settlers, the vacancies they will leave?..." Now why would Jefferson have some notion of White, back in the 1700's if White was invented later on.

Refer here:
http://www.albany.edu/jmmh/vol4/passing/historiography.html

Chuckiscool said...

"Everyone obviously agrees that some populations have different characteristics than other populations, which is obvious to the naked eye."

No, not everyone does agree on this -- as you know.

Chuckiscool said...

Mike is being intellectually dishonest in his article on race.

“The concept of race[1] signifies the grouping of individual humans by some set of perceived physical characteristics, often called “phenotypes,” which are thought to be inherited through some blood-borne factor. Which specific set of perceived, shared physical characteristics constitute a race varies historically, geographically, socially, and politically. Indeed, there is no biological or genetic foundation for the grouping of individual humans into a racial group. Instead, humans themselves choose (consciously or unconsciously) which physical characteristics constitute a racial group. Consequently, racial groups are presently thought to be social constructions, or a category created not by biological nature but by human invention.
As a result of this biological conception, racial groupings are typically thought of as discrete, meaning that the boundaries between them are determinate. Where one racial group ends, a distinct other racial group begins."


He argues that biological ‘race’ (2) necessarily means ‘discrete’ groupings and that populations don’t represent meaningful empirical sets, on the basis that major descendant populations are not really empirically different (2a) enough. But this is really not what he argues, because to argue this, from the basis of descendancy (2a), he would have to define what counts as ‘distinct enough’ or “distinguishable enough.” The question is — Are different descendancies empirically different (distinct or distinguishable) enough to make talking (or thinking) about different (distinct or distinguishable) descendancies meaningful? Where, ‘different’ and ‘meaningful’ will vary by context. Again, the question is not: are the descendancies wholly other, discrete, ect. And the question does not stipulate that different means having a specific set of perceived factors. Obviously if there were no average or probably observable differences, it probably would be difficult to argue that there were empirically meaningful differences — but this is not the point. (continued)

Chuckiscool said...

(Continued)
The point of arguing from phenotype, is so one can show that there are no specific set of difference in phenotype, possessed by all; that way, one does not have to start with objective reality (ie biohistory) and argue that there are no population differences significant enough to be worthy of consideration. La-di-da.
So we are left with: are different descendancies empirically different (distinct or distinguishable) enough? Philosophically speaking, that same ‘distinct enough’ argument, of course, applies to species, subspecies, continents, measurements, and a whole host of conceptions and categories we use. So we don’t mean philosophically speaking, let alone political-Philosophically speaking –after all now that Europe is becoming the EuroMed, maybe the politically expedient consensus should be that continents don’t exist? Do they? What we mean is, relative to other commonly accepted, though by no means official, biological classifications are there enough differences to warrant consideration? While it may come in reaction to them, this is not a debate on the nature of the Western conception of ontological categories and discrete groupings; this is a practical question about thinking about differences.
Which brings us back to Thin racialism. Thin racialism, as defined, is just saying that (my definition) “there are different descendancies which are empirically different (distinct or distinguishable) enough to make talking (or thinking) about different (distinct or distinguishable) descendancies meaningful” as limited to the fields of “epidemiology, medicine, and forensic science.”

What then is Thick Racialism? The authors argue that ‘thick race’ necessarily means ‘natural’ groups don’t exist, and therefore ‘thick racialism’ is incorrect. But this is really not what they argue, because to argue this, from the basis of Nature, they would have to define what counts as Natural. The question is –” Are there different races (whether 1-3) which are different (distinct or distinguishable) enough to make talking (or thinking) about different races (whether 1-3) meaningful, where, ‘different’ and ‘meaningful’ will vary by context.” Again, the question is not: are the different races, as so conceived, wholly other, discrete, or so on. And the question does not stipulate that different means whatever is thought to have been shown to not be different on the basis of “research in biology, anthropology,social theory, as well as cognitive, social, and evolutionary psychology.” Obviously if there were no average or probably observable difference, people probably wouldn’t make the distinction — (assuming, of course, a non-Marxian universe.)

Chuckiscool said...

Steve,

I went though this here:
http://occidentalascent.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/the-consensus-against-racialism-practical-sense-or-social-narrative/

Anonymous said...

The fact that, at different stages of history, people can be perceived and grouped differently does not mean that different reproductively isolated human populations do not have identifiably different genetic trends and frequencies.

Rex Little said...

some thinkers categorized humans into only four distinct races (typically white or Caucasian, black or African, yellow or Asian, and red or Native American)

Some, even fewer. I remember reading forty or fifty years ago that there were only three races: black, white and Asian. Native Americans were said to be part of the Asian race.

N Ackerman said...

Ernst Mayr's excellent essay on race is required reading.

http://www.gnxp.com/MT2/archives/001951.html

Ackerman said...

This commentator, Godless Materialist, makes some good observations here:

Is "culture" a scientific concept? Where does one “culture” become another? Isn’t the diversity of views within a “culture” greater than the average distance between cultures? What is the precise definition of “African-American culture”?

What interests me though is why "culture" is not held to the same standard as "race." "Cultures" cannot be precisely defined either. There is no exact point where one "culture" becomes another. The diversity of views within a "culture" is often greater than the average distance between "cultures." The boundries between "cultures" are abitrarily set.

"Culture" is vaguer and harder to define than "race." It is harder still to measure. Why aren't the same objections leveled against "cultural anthropology" that are made against racial classifications?

Let's continue further down this road: obviously we have to dispense with "yellow" and "green," along with all the other colors, beyond that, I can see "young" and "old," "child," "teenager," and "senior citizen" being problematic, and then "hot" and "cold, the "Atlantic," "Pacific," "Indian" and "Artic" Oceans seem too mysterious to comprehend, all the states of the union (Mississippi doesn't exist), "ice," "water" and "gas," the continents ...hmm, isn't all life whatsoever just a cline?

Where is the exact point where the Gulf of Mexico becomes the Caribbean Sea? Where is the exact point where the Caribbean Sea becomes the Atlantic Ocean?

BTW, the point of this little exercise has been to illustrate that the same infantile objections which are made against the race concept could be made against any number of other categories that 1.) exist along a continuum and 2.) the borders of which are socially defined. Yet they are never made; all of these other categories, in particular "culture," are accepted without controversy.

Now, why is that? The answer is quite obvious: the concept of race is offensive to the liberal/humanist political and moral beliefs of people who believe dispensing with the concept is some kind of social service."

Neil Templeton said...

Steve, members of races mate outside of their races according to their whims and their interests, and God plays no favorites.

asdfasdfasdf said...

Race, schmace, or schrace, it is a fact. New studies show offsprings of brown and polar bears are fertile, which means brown bears and polar bears are different races than species of bears. But their differences are significant. A brown bear could not survive in the arctic. And a polar bear would be lost in the temperate zone.

Studies also show dogs, wolves, and coyotes to be different races or breeds than different species. Sure, they can all interbreed and create fertile offsprings, but try raising a wolf as a pet.

Human races exist too. Call it whatever. But just as different physical traits, temperaments, talents, and intelligences exist among different breeds/races of bears or dogs/wolves/coyotes, same goes for human races.

The fact is the modern world and high civilization were created in the West by the white race. And I would argue it had something to do with white IQ, temperament, and physical characteristics. Appearances do shape the character of a society or civilization.
Suppose there are two groups of 1000 people where everyone looks alike. Suppose we divide them into two groups. One group is given new faces that look like Sean Connery and another group is given faces that look like Mike Tyson. In terms of self-image, art, culture, and creativity, and personality formation, these differences will matter. Other than high IQ and wily personality, Jews act Jewish partly because they look Jewish. If Woody Allen or Harpo Marx looked like Daniel Craig or Sean Connery, I guarantee they wouldn't act so Jewishy.

Anyway, the fact is we value the West and its achievements. And we value the uniqueness of Western and white beauty--though we recognize and appreciate other forms of beauty too. In the West at least, it should be a priority to preserve and guard the highest qualities in terms of beauty, achievement, and etc.
If preserving a painting or sculpture of a beautiful white woman in a museum is so important, isn't it more important to preserve the DNA that created that beauty? Indeed, what is more important? A painting of a beautiful flower or the seeds of that beautiful flower? Even if the painting is gone, the seeds can create new flowers which can inspire more paintings. But if the seeds are gone, there is only the painting as dead memory. Does the white race want to become a museum race, like dinosaur bones at the Smithsonian?

Western uniqueness, greatness, and beauty will be lost if race mixing happens on a large scale. And if too much black blood enters the Western bloodstream, the wilder, less intelligent, and funkier black characterisitics will lead to social instability and ruin, like in so many parts of mulatto Brazil.

Ray Sawhill said...

Smart and funny posting.

As for statins ... I second portland_allan. There's a good chance you don't need to take them. In "Good Calories, Bad Calories" (great effin book, by the way) Gary Taubes goes thru all the studies and concludes that the only people who benefit from taking statins are men younger than 55 who already have pre-existing heart problems.

If you genuinely do need to take statins, be sure to supplement with CoQ10.

Silver said...

Re race, philosophy and reality. When I was around ten or so, I was for a while obsessed by what it meant for two objects to be in contact with each other. I remember thinking that for an object to 'touch' another it first must pass the smallest possible distance between two objects. But what is that distance? Whatever it is, one can always halve it; and then halve that and keep on halving for ever. Based on this line of reasoning, no two objects ever actually touch. That's what I would have had to conclude if I restricted myself to my abstractions. Of course, in the real world, objects touched all the damn time, so I didn't put much stock in my speculations. If only our intellectual elites would likewise pay a bit more attention to what goes on in the real world.

When I wrote an essay poking fun at philosophers in 1999, I received a number of long, extremely well-argued emails pointing out my gross errors in reasoning.

Post 'em!

Silver said...

Other than high IQ and wily personality, Jews act Jewish partly because they look Jewish.If Woody Allen or Harpo Marx looked like Daniel Craig or Sean Connery, I guarantee they wouldn't act so Jewishy.

What does acting "Jewy" mean? Being funny, canny, socially sensitive? What exactly?

I know it's very easy (and fun) to let conjecture run wild with this stuff, but come on.

Le Mur said...

That Stanford article would be funny if the bizarre ideas weren't taken so seriously by a lot of people.

Here's a perfectly workable definition of "race," namely "subspecies," which is the term for "race" in non-human animals:

++
Medical Dictionary

subspecies definition
: a subdivision of a species: as
a : a category in biological classification that ranks immediately below a species and designates a population of a particular geographical region genetically distinguishable from other such populations of the same species and capable of interbreeding successfully with them where its range overlaps theirs
++

sr said...

Clark Glymour and I don't like each other.

no easy way out said...

Heh, Steve, your idea is catching on. Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, explains race as family, here (in a Washington Examiner piece, no less!):

> One's race is one's extended family. Putting the interests of family before the interests of strangers is not hostility to strangers. One can become good friends with strangers but family comes first.

http://www.examiner.com/x-43084-DC-Civil-Rights-Examiner~y2010m7d20-Interview-Race-realist-Jared-Taylor-declares-the-civil-rights-struggle-was-won-long-ago

I think it's a great 'meme'; instantly understandable, matches reality well, acceptable, and you can work with it.

no easy way out said...

o'er, it's /not/ the Washington Examiner, see comments in here:

http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/017000.html

My bad, & too bad.

Baloo said...

I was taught that there are five races: Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Congoid, Capoid, and Australoid. I haven't seen any good arguments against those categories.

asdfasdfsf said...

Races get confused because of different types within every race.
For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito look very different. In body type, Arnold has more in common with Lee Haney and Devito has more in common with Gary Coleman.

And one could say Bill Walton looked more like Kareem Abdul Jabbar--at least physically--than like Dom Delouise.

Of course, some races tend to have more of certain body types than other races.
So, I think the faces of races matter quite a lot.

adsfasdfasdf said...

Why is it people tend to identify more with race than body type and other traits? Why don't tall whites and blacks primarily consider themselves as 'the tall race'? Or why don't good looking people identify themselves as 'good looking race'? Why don't smart people consider themselves as 'smart race'?

Maybe there is something about facial racial characteristics which determine how we identify and relate to other people. So, a tall person of short parents identify more with the face of his race than with body types shared amongst different races. He may play ball with other tall people of different races but he may feel most comfortable with people with similar faces, voices, and moods.

Chuck said...

"Why is it people tend to identify more with race than body type and other traits? Why don't tall whites and blacks primarily consider themselves as 'the tall race'? Or why don't good looking people identify themselves as 'good looking race'? Why don't smart people consider themselves as 'smart race'?"

Race means common ancestry -- even if that's a UR-myth. So smart people wouldn't consider themselves a smart race, but a smart group, or a group based on something other than common ancestry. And the smart group often does do this -- as the case with many sneering-at-the-red-neck liberals.

So the question is: why do people care about ancestry?

If we go back to the race as family equation: why do people tend to identify with their blood relatives. Why do so many adopted
kids go on a quest for their biological parents?

That's a good question and worth consideration. Talking about a tall race just confuses the issue. But I guess that's the point.

B Lode said...

John Carr, I'll give it a shot.

RACE -

Region, Ancestry, Culturally-influenced Evolution

Regional Ancestry as Commonly [some word for "perceived" or "recognized" that starts with an E]

Reification of Ancestry, Culture, and [some word for "biology" that starts with an E]

So, yeah, I guess I am as lost as you are. Maybe that will get someone's creative juices flowing.

ben tillman said...

Races get confused because of different types within every race.
For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito look very different. In body type, Arnold has more in common with Lee Haney and Devito has more in common with Gary Coleman.


Don't overlook the fact that Arnold appears to have significant Neanderthal ancestry.

ben tillman said...

When everyone's the same race, but intragroup status is being determined by an intelligence / coordination screen, that happens to be race. For example, almost all of us in the USA are smart enough to know we're safer making fun of Australian Aborigines than Native Americans when talking to strangers, even though we're unlikely to run into Native Americans, because the taboo on trashing Native Americans is part of the informal American coordination.

There is no such taboo. we can identify full-bloods by sight, but those with concealed Indian ancestry are routinely subjected to joking from their friends. And neither they nor bystanders ever act as if a taboo (or even a milder social norm) is being violated.

The fact that there is no taboo can be demonstrated simply by pointing to the Seinfeld episode in which an Indian is portrayed as an unrepentant Indian-giver.

The reason for the lack of PC protection for Indians, moreover, is no mystery. Either White Americans gained good title to North America, or title is held by the Indians. Clearly, Jews -- who are largely responsible for the construction of our culture and are entirely responsible for the construction of Seinfeld -- do not fall into either category and cannot recognize the claims of Whites or Indians to the land that American Jews now inhabit and seek to rule. Consequently, both claims must be rejected, and it is open season on both groups of claimants.

Indians are just above Whites on the totem pole of victimhood.

The Indian narrative can be used as a cudgel against Whites, but ultimately the interests of Indians cannot be granted legitimacy, and they are not.

Isabel said...

"I am sympathetic to the argument that race is hard to model accurately, and perhaps we need a better way to think of human variance, but to take that to mean that human differences don't exist,"

The article did not claim that differences do not exist.

Also, a big problem with calling 'white' or 'asian' and 'black' roughly equivalent races is that two of those groups are much, much less genetically variable than the other. A biologist working on another species wouldn't do this. They would probably study the 'blacks' more closely than we study them in humans, and divide them into many more groups in order to compare them with asians or whites.

Also color and leaf shape do not figure into definitions of species, let alone subspecies and races, nearly as much as people seem to think. There are often different 'color morphs' even in local populations of plants and animals, and leaf shape is extremely plastic and is rarely used taxonomically. Most of those 'insignificant differences' that taxonomists supposedly see are pretty big if you are actually studying the group.

Also, the obsession with race and IQ is pretty creepy and it always will be. Why aren't you discussing other human qualities nearly as much? And the IQ tests were not designed to be compared across the populations that take them (or across time) anyway so it's invalid - it's an obsession with 'intelligence' as a proxy for 'superiority' as far as I can see.

B Lode said...

Also, the obsession with race and IQ is pretty creepy and it always will be.

"Creepy" is the most modern put-downs I've ever heard. Surely you can't mean that students of race and psychometrics remind you of Vincent Price characters...?

Why aren't you discussing other human qualities nearly as much?

You mean, why aren't iSteve fans into sports enough to talk about differences in athletic ability? Or why aren't paleoconservatives into culture enough to talk about differences in mate selection, the arts, ways ethnic groups view themselves, etc.? Or do you mean something else?

And the IQ tests were not designed to be compared across the populations that take them (or across time) anyway so it's invalid - it's an obsession with 'intelligence' as a proxy for 'superiority' as far as I can see.

Again the implication that Steve Sailer fans aren't concerned enough with athletics. (You've got the wrong blog. It's Dennis Mangan fans who eschew sports.)

IQ tests weren't designed with cross-cultural comparisons in mind, but they began to be tested for reliability doing that as early as 1917 (in the infamous Goddard study that Gould loved to misrepresent). They're not too bad. Likewise Flynn began studying the effects of time many decades ago.

What demonstrates the validity of IQ tests is their correlation with real-world outcomes - dropout rates, violence, on-the-job accidents, drug addiction, teen-preg. Comparing across cultures is more difficult, because of the dramatically different conditions. Smart fraction theory is still pretty interesting.

Matt said...

Also, a big problem with calling 'white' or 'asian' and 'black' roughly equivalent races is that two of those groups are much, much less genetically variable than the other. A biologist working on another species wouldn't do this. They would probably study the 'blacks' more closely than we study them in humans, and divide them into many more groups in order to compare them with asians or whites.

There may well be more population substructure in Africa than there is in Eurasia, for sure, and probably of larger magnitude. But unless we're actually talking about Khoe-San and Pygmies and some other different African groups (particularly the Central-North Eastern ones), for the purposes of discussion there probably isn't any particuarly significant population substructure in the groups people are talking about as "black" that prevents direct comparison with the 'white' and 'yellow' groups. Check out Tishkoff's studies if you're interested. As to population internal diversity, it's not certain that African populations are more internally diverse on things that aren't selectively neutral, certainly they aren't as diverse as their neutral genes would suggest.

Also, the obsession with race and IQ is pretty creepy and it always will be. Why aren't you discussing other human qualities nearly as much?

There's much discussion of such things, but it often tends to be quite speculative, as there isn't actually that much data and we don't have things like the transracial adoption studies to cite. IQ is also a very well established psychometric, while other psychometrics are a bit more shady. There's still tons of discussion about it even here though.

Matt said...

And the IQ tests were not designed to be compared across the populations that take them (or across time)

Yet I'm kind of doubting that you would make the same argument say high East Asian SAT scores are invalid here though, even though the reasoning would be identical. You'd probably say that at the least it would be more parsimonious to view them as identical without a particularly pressing argument otherwise. You'd also probably say that the fact that they were reasonably equally predictive across groups counts for something.

...

Frankly, with all this, the population structure and the structure of means of traits that correlates with this population structure is what it is and whatever you want to call it won't change any of this. The grounds for calling it race and saying that "race is real!" are that the observed structure of the level maps pretty well onto the old race models. There isn't really any other reason for it and not really anything that can be cross applied systematically across biology. There also isn't any reason why this level of structure is "special" or deserves a particular name, but it does explain a larger degree of between group difference than any other level of population structure.

Isabel said...

"Or do you mean something else?"

I didn't say anything about athletics - I said I don't hear about that 'as much' (and I've been reading this blog ad other EP crap for years so I don't need any links, thanks anyway) which is what I said. And yeah, I'm sticking with 'obsession' and 'creepy proxy for superiority' and 'invalid comparisons'. The supposed reasons for doing this are pretty pointless as well.

What about my first two (i.e. my main) points?

1. blacks are way more variable than whites or asians - it is not illuminating to compare them to much less variable groups.

2. Totally different color morphs (not the same as 'markings') and variable shapes are very common in many other organisms even within populations and are rarely valid criteria for separating them into 'races' or 'subspecies'. Humans as a group have relatively little variation. You are making a big deal about nothing. Again, what is your point? It's pretty silly, really.

Anonymous said...

Also, the obsession with race and IQ is pretty creepy and it always will be.

Weak, pathetically weak.

Why aren't you discussing other human qualities nearly as much?

What? Have you seen this site before today?

And the IQ tests were not designed to be compared across the populations that take them (or across time) anyway so it's invalid

And you do comedy as well!

'intelligence' as a proxy for 'superiority' as far as I can see.

Yes, as far as you can see. I think the modern world has gone far too far down the road of lauding the somewhat intangible benefits and deferring to (or pretending to) the supposed worldy wisdom of those not blessed with what might be termed 'intelligence'.

Anonymous said...

IQ tests were not designed to be compared across the populations that take them

An admission that groups vary so much that a simple test can't accomodate those differences.

Anonymous said...

Humans as a group have relatively little variation. You are making a big deal about nothing. Again, what is your point? It's pretty silly, really.

What?!

Basically you trying the old "nothing to see here, move on" gambit.

If there is little variation in humans, but groups exhibit differences enough for them to be characteristic of those very groups. Then those variations, however small, must be worth looking at.

Isabel said...

"IQ tests were not designed to be compared across the populations that take them

An admission that groups vary so much that a simple test can't accomodate those differences."

Right. The test cannot possibly accommodate the vast cultural and environmental differences. It is only valid for comparing individuals in a specific time and place. This makes sense; you want to keep as much as possible the same so only the individuals themselves vary.

You know, I've been called a racist too, for pointing out that if blacks want to catch up, their kids better do their homework. I'm not blaming anyone. But I've worked in 'at risk' communities a lot bringing science education to kids in the early grades and it is incredibly frustrating to watch super-smart black kids fall behind because they are not coming to school rested and prepared. The asian kids nearly always do, and they pull ahead early on.

But I've worked with the kids, and I don't think the asian kids are brighter. Not at all.

So even in the same school, tests aren't comparable. Otherwise you might as well say rich kids are smarter (and I suspect you do).

You are wasting your time. Especially because the groups are simply not genetically comparable. That is, unless you want to compare whites and asians to the specific population of blacks they are most closely related to, then you might find out some things that are interesting. But intelligence? No.

And yeah I've read the site, but not in a while. And most of the background reading. I think most of this EP bullshit is silly. Why do you all care so much? (And btw what kind of pervert goes around measuring penises?) It really isn't about differences, it always seems to be about putting the 'races' in some kind of hierarchical order.

Roger Chaillet said...

Race is but a social construct?

That's a riot.

I can't wait to read the transcripts of the trial involving the professor in Alabama who gunned down her colleagues. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-6209793-504083.html

She's a goddamn geneticist, yet a leftist, too. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_University_of_Alabama_in_Huntsville_shooting

In genetics you must necessarily deal with race.

Otherwise how do you classify things?

Was she embittered because she was passed over for tenure thanks to the ethnocentrism of colleagues?

Or was she a nut case from the beginning?

In which case the stress of being denied tenure triggered her attack? Didn't legitimize it, just lead to it happening.

B Lode said...

I didn't say anything about athletics - Isabel

I wasn't accusing you of having mentioned athletics. I was pointing out that you didn't mention athletics. The huge variations in a given athletic ability between ethnoracial groups are a big topic of conversation around here. iSteve readers are into sports and you seemed to omit that.

I said I don't hear about that 'as much'

"Why aren't you discussing other human qualities nearly as much?"

All the Tiger Woods, Olympic medals, American football posts constitute "not nearly as much"?

And yeah, I'm sticking with 'obsession'

An interest in psychometrics, exceeding yours, is mental ilness?

and 'creepy proxy for superiority'

A belief in the importance of cognitive ability reminds you of a Bela Lugosi character?

What about my first two (i.e. my main) points?

1. blacks are way more variable than whites or asians - it is not illuminating to compare them to much less variable groups.


You really weren't clear about that point the first time. I had assumed you meant Asians were the most genetically variable, i.e. that there is more genetic variation between Israelis, Malays, and Mongols than there is between Berbers, Bantus, and Bushmen.

I wouldn't know myself, but now that you have asserted that blacks are way more variable than Asians, can you back that up? By more variable, I assume you're talking about greater variations in DNA, but you haven't said if you're including junk DNA or not. I assume that you are. Why?

2. Totally different color morphs (not the same as 'markings') and variable shapes are very common in many other organisms even within populations and are rarely valid criteria for separating them into 'races' or 'subspecies'.

Okay, so don't separate taxons by color. Sciurus vulgaris is still a different animal than Sciurus carolinensis.

Humans as a group have relatively little variation.

Do you believe there is more variation between races of humans than there is between red wolves and coyotes?

Truth said...

"Was she embittered because she was passed over for tenure thanks to the ethnocentrism of colleagues?

Or was she a nut case from the beginning?"

Why would these to statements possibly be mutually exclusive?

Yes she was possibly unhappy about her situation at work, so are many people, but sane ones do not gun down their co-workers.

Call me crazy, but I'd be willing to hazard a guess, ex post facto, that she was a poor candidate for promotion. People who murder their siblings usually are.

Truth said...

Believe it or not, your "opinion" is not unusual on the internet. I surfed a bit for a few days after that happened, and I would estimate that I read no less than 10-15 posts willing to normalize this woman's murder of innocent people because "duh man be holdin' her down."

B Lode said...

IQ tests were not designed to be compared across the populations that take them

An admission that groups vary so much that a simple test can't accomodate those differences."


It doesn't really matter what they were designed for. What matters is their predictive value. They slightly underpredict black dropout rates in the US, for example, indicating that they are slightly biased in favor of blacks (mainly by including a few culture-loaded questions).

Right. The test cannot possibly accommodate the vast cultural and environmental differences. It is only valid for comparing individuals in a specific time and place. This makes sense; you want to keep as much as possible the same so only the individuals themselves vary. - Isabel

How can you be sure that the vast cultural and environmental differences don't have an underlying genetic basis? Are you sure that humanity's great genetic diversity (greater than buffalo, bonobos, leopards, etc.) has no impact on culture or, say, nutrition?

Wouldn't it be best to find a nice test, completely lacking in words, with great predictive value over future success in staying out of crime and drugs, keeping a job, finishing school ... and looking at those results? If the results of said wordless test varying from group to group, are you sure culture is the cause?

And what if it is? What if black culture causes blacks to perform lower on tests and in jobs? Should they still be hired in equal numbers?

B Lode said...

Well, it looks like Isabel has gone back to wherever leftists go when they find unapologetic rightists. If anyone is still curious, here is the article showing (Table 1) that humans are more genetically diverse (heterozygous) than coyotes, dogs, wolverines, and several types of bear.

Also, there are larger genetic differences between a West African, a Northwest European, and an Northeast Asian, then there is between two separate species, a wolf and a coyote, or between a Shih Tzu and a German Shepherd.

I urge nonleftists to bookmark these links.