February 14, 2013

NYT: Race does not exist

A philosophy professor opinionates in the New York Times:
The Enlightenment’s ‘Race’ Problem, and Ours 
By JUSTIN E. H. SMITH 
... Many who are fully prepared to acknowledge that there are no significant natural differences between races nonetheless argue that there are certain respects in which it is worth retaining the concept of race: for instance in talking about issues like social inequality or access to health care. There is, they argue, a certain pragmatic utility in retaining it, even if they acknowledge that racial categories result from social and historical legacies, rather than being dictated by nature. In this respect "race" has turned out to be a very different sort of social construction than, say, "witch" or "lunatic." While generally there is a presumption that to catch out some entity or category as socially constructed is at the same time to condemn it, many thinkers are prepared to simultaneously acknowledge both the non-naturalness of race as well as a certain pragmatic utility in retaining it.

It's like if all the most advanced thinkers agreed that witches don't exist, but that the career of witch-hunting remained lucrative and admired.
Since the mid-20th century no mainstream scientist has considered race a biologically significant category; no scientist believes any longer that "negroid," "caucasoid" and so on represent real natural kinds or categories. For several decades it has been well established that there is as much genetic variation between two members of any supposed race, as between two members of supposedly distinct races. This is not to say that there are no real differences, some of which are externally observable, between different human populations. It is only to say, as Lawrence Hirschfeld wrote in his 1996 book, "Race in the Making: Cognition, Culture, and the Child's Construction of Human Kinds," that "races as socially defined do not (even loosely) capture interesting clusters of these differences."

It's fascinating how even the people who write and edit for the New York Times on human genetics-related subjects don't actually read the New York Times's excellent reporting on human genetics.

51 comments:

youngreact said...

Per the last segment of Steve's article - here's Nicholas Wade with a 2007 article entitled "Humans Have Spread Globally, and Evolved Locally", which should actually be titled "Biological Race Exists".

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/26/science/26human.html?pagewanted=all

Here's two excerpts:

Last year Benjamin Voight, Jonathan Pritchard and colleagues at the University of Chicago searched for genes under natural selection in Africans, Europeans and East Asians. In each race, some 200 genes showed signals of selection, but without much overlap, suggesting that the populations on each continent were adapting to local challenges.

and

A genomic survey of world populations by Dr. Feldman, Noah Rosenberg and colleagues in 2002 showed that people clustered genetically on the basis of small differences in DNA into five groups that correspond to the five continent-based populations: Africans, Australian aborigines, East Asians, American Indians and Caucasians, a group that includes Europeans, Middle Easterners and people of the Indian subcontinent. The clusterings reflect “serial founder effects,” Dr. Feldman said, meaning that as people migrated around the world, each new population carried away just part of the genetic variation in the one it was derived from.

Anonymous said...

Something exists but it better not be called 'race'.

Btw, even seemingly 'insignificant' differences can have significant outcomes.

All college football players are great athletes, but the extra great ones make the 10s of millions of dollars while the rest shovel shit in Lousiana.

When it comes to most stuff--making hamburgers, learning how to use the remote control, mastering videogames, etc--, Jews and Eskimos are the same intellectually.
When it comes to most everyday/mundane stuff, most people are about equal.

But when it comes to working on the atomic bomb, Jews can do what Eskimos can't. Jews and Eskimos may about the same intellectually when it comes to 999 tasks. But if the 1 special task involves nuclear science or writing advanced computer codes, the 'insignificant' difference has huge consequences. In a primitive warrior society, an Einstein is no more useful--indeed less so--than Dorner. Indeed, someone like Dorner might be prized more and deemed more normal for his constant warrior spirit of looking for a fight/hunt. But in modern society where higher IQ can be put to tremendous use, the difference in IQ--which might seemed insignificant and inconsequential in earlier times--becomes very significant.

Evolution is about seemingly insignificant differences having significant long-term consequences.
Suppose out of a 1000 rats, 990 can swim for 5 min before drowning while 10 can swim 5.5 min before drowning. Seemingly insignificant. But in a flood, suppose all 990 die while 5 of 10 survive just barely.
It will have made all the difference. In other words, there is no 'insignificant' in evolution.

Dahinda said...

The whole "Let's pretend that race does not exist" crowd is mostly white. Other races generally know that race exists and know exactly which race they belong to. When whites become a minority, the first casualty will be politcal correctness.

Rasputin said...

Shouldn't you have reversed the order of this and the following post?

AMac said...

The lying eyes of iSteve readers. Doubleplusungood.

> It's fascinating how the people who write and edit for the NYT on human genetics-related subjects go to ever-greater lengths to avoid reading the NYT's excellent reporting on human genetics.

Fixed.

Marlowe said...

A better analogy may be marriage: no physical difference can distinguish a married person from an unmarried one but perhaps society ought to continue to regard these categories as valid.

Chicago said...

It's best to just skip over anything written by a modern philosophy professor. It's usually excruciating to read and guaranteed to be irrelevant.

Veracitor said...

I always chuckle at irrefutable-logic stuff like this:

Since the mid-20th century no mainstream scientist has considered race a biologically significant category...

Right. Because if you recognize race you are ipso-facto not "mainstream," as defined by the NYT.

Steve Sailer said...

"as defined by the NYT."

Except in the Science Section of the NYT.

Anonymous said...

"It's best to just skip over anything written by a modern philosophy professor. It's usually excruciating to read and guaranteed to be irrelevant."

You really need to learn the distinction between analytics and continentals. Or whatever, I guess not everyone is going to find philosophy interesting anyway.

Truth said...

Hey, interesting, it seems the N.O.I "racist" Dorner was caught because he decided to let the three white people he happened upon, live, to call the police instead of putting bullets in their heads.

Anonymous said...

there is as much genetic variation between two members of any supposed race, as between two members of supposedly distinct races.

I've always been sort of puzzled by this argument. Am I missing something, or is this a so-what observation?

Lets suppose their are two normally distributed populations, A and B, variance = 15 in both cases. The mean of population A is 100, the mean of population B is 95.

The within-population variance is 15, the between-population difference in mean is 5. These measurements hold up in many experiments.

How is this evidence that the populations aren't really different? It looks to me like very strong evidence they're different.

Anonymous said...

New York Times: For several decades it has been well established that there is as much genetic variation between two members of any supposed race, as between two members of supposedly distinct races.

Reality: Thus the answer to the question ‘‘How often is a pair of individuals from one population genetically more dissimilar than two individuals chosen from two different populations?’’ depends on the number of polymorphisms used to define that dissimilarity and the populations being compared… [I]f genetic similarity is measured over many thousands of loci, the answer becomes ‘‘never’’ when individuals are sampled from geographically separated populations [such as Europeans and sub-Saharan Africans]. (Witherspoon et al., Genetics 176: 351–359 (May 2007))

Professor Smith even manages to misrepresent Lewontin's famous fallacy. Lewontin did not say that there were as much variation within and between races, only that most variation was within races -- but this of course ignores correlations between allele frequencies within races, hence the fallacy.

Silver said...

Since the mid-20th century no mainstream scientist has considered race a biologically significant category; no scientist believes any longer that "negroid," "caucasoid" and so on represent real natural kinds or categories.

If two negroids mating only ever produce negroid offspring and two caucasoids mating only ever produce caucasoid offspring how isn't this amply sufficient to earn them "real natural kind" status? Has anyone ever in the entire history of the world managed to confuse a "pure blooded" (95%+) negroid for a "pure blood" caucasoid? And if someone magically turns up an example of such confusing having occurred wouldn't it be the exception the proves the rule?


Silver said...

The whole "Let's pretend that race does not exist" crowd is mostly white. Other races generally know that race exists and know exactly which race they belong to.

Whites know who invent the PC nonsense know it's PC nonsense. The only people who possibly don't realize it's nonsense are the white joe sixpack target audience.

But non-whites, despite believing in the reality of race, are quite happy to play along with the PC nonsense when it benefits them. So PC may yet outlive the white majority.

Jasper said...

A question for Steve and/or commenter here... Ever since I was a teenager, I suspected there was something wrong with the PC dogmas about race (and other things). It just seemed so bizarre, so totally counter-intuitive. As an adult, having actually looked into it a bit, the PC dogmas seem obviously false. So my question is: What the hell is going on with people like this "philosopher"? Do such people _actually believe_ the preposterous BS they spray in places like the NYT? I just find it so incredibly hard to believe than an intelligent adult with a PhD could actually believe this stuff. There's nothing intelligent to be said for it, and all the evidence points the other way. But then what is the explanation? Do they all know it's bs, but quietly agree to pretend -- is it actually some kind of conspiracy? That also seems very hard to believe. I'm truly puzzled. Can't for the life of me imagine what goes on in their minds... Any ideas?

Silver said...

Can't for the life of me imagine what goes on in their minds...

Something like: anyone who would doubt that whites disregarding their racial interests is the most desirable political outcome of the last 10,000 years is obviously is some kind of neo-nazi lunatic who probably has rigged up a hobby gas chamber his cellar.

Jeff W. said...

One of America's most expensive ongoing projects is the project to attain racial equality. This project has so far cost hundreds of billions and every respectable American endorses it.

In order for this project to seem feasible, one must believe that no significant differences exist between races.

In order for the project to proceed, members of racial groups must be identified and their test scores, income data, etc., compared.

If people started believing that racial equality was impossible, the project would fall apart. It would also fall apart if America became so color blind that comparative performance data could not be gathered.

But the project just keeps on going. It fills up many of the boxcars of the government's gravy train, and it requires its supporters to say both "I see no significant differences" and "I can see the differences plainly for data gathering purposes."

Anonymous said...

It's good that a philosopher is writing this as the argument has gone beyond science and into metaphysics. Everyone agrees on the natural history of migrations, everyone agrees that morphological changes happened as humans moved into relatively isolated parts of the world, everyone agrees that the changes can be seen in the genome. So the argument is now, "but, like, what is reality anyway, man?"

Aaron Gross said...

The "race does not exist" position is false, but not obviously so. It does not contradict "your lying eyes." If you think it does, then your eyes are probably OK but your faculties of comprehension could use some improvement. "Race does not exist" doesn't deny biological differences between blacks, whites, and Asians, obviously. It also doesn't deny the obvious fact that you can guess someone's ancestry by looking at him.

Rhetorically, I think maybe race realists should just replace the word "race" by "(genetic) population." Nobody can deny that genetic populations exist. "Population" also lacks the connotations of 19th-century pseudo-science, which bother some people about the word "race." By using the word "population," you'd be forcing anti-racists - the more honest ones, anyway - to think about what you're saying in order to refute it, instead of just chanting slogans.

Also, to add my "Carthage must be destroyed" postscript: The existence of biological race is almost always irrelevant to discussions involving race and social issues of education, crime, intelligence, etc. The discussion almost always is, and should be, about differences between socially constructed races, including possibly biological differences between them.

realist said...

So my question is: What the hell is going on with people like this "philosopher"? Do such people _actually believe_ the preposterous BS they spray in places like the NYT? I just find it so incredibly hard to believe than an intelligent adult with a PhD could actually believe this stuff. There's nothing intelligent to be said for it, and all the evidence points the other way. But then what is the explanation? Do they all know it's bs, but quietly agree to pretend -- is it actually some kind of conspiracy? That also seems very hard to believe. I'm truly puzzled. Can't for the life of me imagine what goes on in their minds... Any ideas?

If you're very uncomfortable believing something, if everyone you respects claims not to believe it, if you're punished by society for believing it and rewarded for denying it, and if knowing the truth on the subject is a low priority, then I guess it's possible for a lot of really smart and educated people to fool themselves and others.

Aaron Gross said...

This fact should be blindingly obvious, but I'll say it anyway because Steve Sailer and his commenters seem unable or unwilling to understand it: The article by Nicholas Wade does not in any way contradict the op-ed by Justin Smith. The article by Nicholas Wade does not in any way contradict the statement that biological race does not exist.

Anyone who believes that there's a contradiction between the two articles does not understand the position that biological race does not exist. I don't think there's any excuse for such a misunderstanding by anyone who considers himself a race realist.

Anonymous said...

The author of the article, Nicholas Wade, doesn't regard race as a social construct.

"A related topic that you talk about is the idea of race and how it is often thought of as just a social construct. You argue against that. Why?

Well, I think the subject of race has been so difficult and so polluted by malign ideas that most people have just left it alone, including geneticists. Geneticists have gone along with the position of the social sciences that race is not a biological concept, which I must say I find very hard to understand.

Geneticists are now beginning to change their minds because there is a good reason to look at the genetics of race, and it comes from medicine. It seems that each race or ethnic group has its own slightly different genetic basis for disease, so you need to know about that to tailor specific drugs for each ethnic group. In the course of looking at such genes and in the course of doing population history, it just becomes very clear that there are genetic differences between races, and particularly in selected genes. Most genetic variation is neutral—it doesn't do anything for or against the phenotype, and evolution ignores it—so most previous attempts to look at race have concluded that there's little difference between races. I think this position is the one on which the social scientists are basing their position.

But those surveys have looked at common variation, which is almost by definition neutral variation. If you look at the genes that do make a difference, selected genes, which are a tiny handful of the whole, you do find a number of differences, not very many, but a number of interesting differences between races as to which genes have been selected. This, of course, makes a lot of sense, because once the human family dispersed from its homeland in Africa, people faced different environments on each continent, different climates, different evolutionary challenges, and each group adapted to its environment in its own way. So it's hardly surprising that some differences would have arisen, and of course we can see the result in the fact that each race looks slightly different from the others.

It seems that the problem might be, as you said, that there is so much historical baggage associated with the term race. Is there a way to get around that? Do we just need a different term than race to talk about these genetic differences?

I'm not sure how that will play out. The geneticists, if you read their papers, have long been using code words. They sort of dropped the term "race" about 1980 or earlier, and instead you see code words like "population" or "population structure." Now that they're able to define race in genetic terms they tend to use other words, like "continental groups" or "continent of origin," which does, indeed, correspond to the everyday conception of race. When I'm writing I prefer to use the word race because that's the word that everyone understands. It's a word with baggage, but it's not necessarily a malign word. It all depends on the context in which it's used, I guess."

Anonymous said...

"Since the mid-20th century no mainstream scientist has considered race a biologically significant category..."

Since as far as I can remember, no mainstream journalist or politician has stated that Jews control the media. Well, it must not be true then.

Btw, what would be the consequences to a mainstream scientist who did say that races did exist?

Anonymous said...

Maybe races should be called 'geobios'.

Anonymous said...

Breed vs creed debate.

Anonymous said...

geo-breeds

Steve Sailer said...

"Btw, what would be the consequences to a mainstream scientist who did say that races did exist?"

He'd get a well-written article in the Science section of the New York Times stating his case clearly.

And nobody would ever notice.

Anonymous said...

How about the guy's footnote to his article?

"[1] This is not to deny that there are limited contexts in which self-reporting of “racial” identity may be informative in a local or regional context. It is indeed helpful for a doctor to know, within the context of the American health-care system, the “race” of a patient. What it does mean to say that race is no longer a legitimate scientific category is that this limited, contextual helpfulness tells us nothing about a natural kind or real subdivision of the human species. The category of “race” can be useful in a local, medical context to the extent that it often correlates with other, useful information about tendencies within a given population. But this population need not be conceptualized in terms of race. Race is a dummy variable here, but not of interest as such."

Realizing that medical science discovers every day how physiologically different are populations of people (RACES!), he tries to cover his illogical tracks with this mess.

What are these people going to do when all the results from the Chinese genomic project come rolling in?


Anonymous said...

"Btw, what would be the consequences to a mainstream scientist who did say that races did exist?"

He'd get a well-written article in the Science section of the New York Times stating his case clearly.

And nobody would ever notice.
___________________________________

Would they notice if he were on PBS tv or NPR? Yep.

The spoken word is treated differently than the written word. Seeing and hearing is a much more powerful emotional experience for most people than reading.

You know that Youtube of you being interviewed about HBD, Steve?

You ought to do more of those. Invite some friends. Have a roundtable.

Anonymous said...

"For several decades it has been well established that there is as much genetic variation between two members of any supposed race, as between two members of supposedly distinct races."

I don't believe this. I think it depends on how one reads the data.
I mean one can read the data and conclude that 'white males' than Jews and gays run Hollywood.
One would get the impression that white conservatives run Hollywood.

But even if it were true on the genetic level, it doesn't matter because the results are so different on the physical level.
Randomly pick two Japanese guys and two Nigerian guys, and the difference will be more between the races than within the races.

We humans live on the physical level, not on the genetic level. Who care what the genes say when, by and large, blacks are able to attack and beat up non-black races?

It's like CO and CO2 may be very similar on the atomic level, but on the physical level, they have hugely differet consequences. I dare people to suck on CO because it's so much like harmless CO2 at the atomic level.

It's like coke and pepsi may be almost identical at the molecular level, but I hate pepsi and I can always tell the difference.

If genes are all that matters, then a 60 yr version of yourself should be able to evenly fight a 20 yr version of yourself. Same genes. But in fact, youth beats old age in a fight.

Using the gene argument, women should have no reason to fear men since both men and women have very similar genes.

Anonymous said...

"So my question is: What the hell is going on with people like this "philosopher"? Do such people _actually believe_ the preposterous BS they spray in places like the NYT? I just find it so incredibly hard to believe than an intelligent adult with a PhD could actually believe this stuff. There's nothing intelligent to be said for it, and all the evidence points the other way. But then what is the explanation? Do they all know it's bs, but quietly agree to pretend -- is it actually some kind of conspiracy? That also seems very hard to believe. I'm truly puzzled. Can't for the life of me imagine what goes on in their minds... Any ideas?"

I'll take a stab at it, since I'm semi in the philosophy field.

First, the work of most philosophers doesn't touch on biology, so they essentially have a layman's view of it. Since, for all they know, the evidence is in doubt, they go along with what seems to fit their political commitments. It also helps that this point of view won't offend a tenure committee.

Second, this guy...apparently, his very field of expertise is...philosophy of biology. So he's really got no excuse - he SHOULD be an expert on the subject matter about which he's philosophizing, or else he should stop philosophizing. Well, there's always that tenure thing...don't want any heretical views. But how to resolve this with the facts of science? Well, there are a couple ways. You can be "antirealist" about truth. If there is no metaphysical check on the claims of science, then there is no need to conform scientific claims to an antecedent reality that could refute those claims. Basically, if your views can be internally consistent, that's good enough for them (potentially) to be true. You can also be realist to some extent but believe that scientific knowledge is so abstract that its correspondence to reality is mediated by concepts like race...or, if it works out better for you, by concepts that exclude the concept of race. "Race" is a concept that purports to describe certain highly abstract features of reality. Since it's all so abstract, we can choose to 1. use a different word for the same thing (hey, can't be racist if you never say "race"!) or 2. interpret the reality by a different set of concepts.

Ultimately, of course, the game is not worth the candle. Concepts should correspond as tightly as possible to reality. Denying race fails to do this. Ockham would be pissed. But I think the desire not to be heterodox militates against this so much that it overcomes any inconvenience and artificiality, at least to a philosopher's mind. Philosophy has that problem.

Anonymous said...

So if there's no races, then there's no reason for affirmative action.

AMac said...

@ Aaron Gross --

Thanks for your erudite albeit patronizing remarks at 9:26pm and 10:55pm supra.

Excerpts, emphasis added, below:

9:26pm --

"The 'race does not exist' position is false, but not obviously so. It does not contradict 'your lying eyes.' If you think it does, then your eyes are probably OK but your faculties of comprehension could use some improvement. 'Race does not exist' doesn't deny biological differences between blacks, obviously. It also doesn't deny the obvious fact that you can guess someone's ancestry by looking at him.

Rhetorically, I think maybe race realists should just replace the word 'race' by '(genetic) population'...
"

10:55pm --

"The article by Nicholas Wade does not in any way contradict the statement that biological race does not exist."

.
Here's definition #1 of "race" from The Free Dictionary.

race: A local geographic or global human population distinguished as a more or less distinct group by genetically transmitted physical characteristics.

.
When I strip out the snark from your 9:35pm, what remains doesn't contribute much to a discussion based on facts and logic as informed by current biology. The definition above attests that substituting "population" for "race" is a matter of semantics and public relations, not substance.

Your 10:55pm makes an assertion about Nicholas Wade's position that Wade himself does not seem to share. See Anon's 11:09pm quote (original cite).

Maybe you can restate your dissents (i.e. your defenses of the mainstream stance) in a more accessible manner. Or perhaps not -- sometimes we have to grudgingly concede that we haven't mastered a topic as well as we'd originally thought.

Camlost said...

Hey, interesting, it seems the N.O.I "racist" Dorner was caught because he decided to let the three white people he happened upon, live, to call the police instead of putting bullets in their heads.

LOL, seriously? This is beyond even your accustomed folly. Yes, Dorner's a hero because he didn't shoot people.

You're reminding me of the Chris Rock skit about blacks claiming credit for stuff like "I ain't never been to jail" or "I take care of my kids".

Give Dorner a posthumous medal and cookie.

Jasper said...

Aaron Gross wrote:

"The race does not exist' position is false, but not obviously so. It does not contradict "your lying eyes." If you think it doesyour eyes are probably OK but your faculties of comprehension could use some improvement"

You need to actually _read_ stuff before criticizing it, Aaron. As it happens I'm a philosophy professor myself. My "faculties of comprehension" are just fine (or good enough compared to the other dolts in that line of work, like the author of this NYT thing).

Did I say the "race does not exist" theory is absurd because you can often tell people's ancestry by looking at them? Did I say that it's absurd because it implies that there are no biological differences between races? No, I didn't say either of those things.

The theory is absurd not for those reasons, but for all kinds of other reasons that are _obvious_ to smart people who give the matter a little bit of dispassionate thought. Since these other reasons are very familiar to Steve's readers, and some have already been alluded to in the thread, I won't rehearse them. Maybe the reasons aren't obvious to morons, or people whose brains are addled by PC.

Anonymous said...

How about the guy's footnote to his article?

I think the idea is that if he's unclear enough he can pretend race doesn't exist when he doesn't want it to.

Rohan Swee said...

NYT comments are always fascinating. (In that "Maoist struggle-session among people who have been educated beyond their intelligence" sort of way.) Among this batch, the nosuchthingasrace-ists seem to have become so confused that I can't make out if they

a) think that genes have nothing to do with heredity and kinship,

or

b) think that race-ists think that genes have nothing to do with heredity and kinship.

Don't know how else to interpret all the the burbling on about "well, those are just genetic markers" or genetic profiles, or genetic whatzits, that "have nothing to do with race". Or, "[t]he genome'map' is only a geographic reference as to where populations originated and has little to do with 'race'..."

Uh, okay. I thought the race-ists were the "genetic determinists". And believed in the non-existent "race". But distinguishing people by their genes has nothing to do with "race". So it's the racists who think that race is not genetic, but some extra-natural constructed entity? Let me examine the history of the debate for clues:

Old Days Race-ist: "Race is about real heritable differences among peoples."

Old Days Antirace-ist: "No, you ignorant reactionary. You don't understand evolution and selection and genetics! Enough time hasn't passed for any meaningful differences to have evolved among human groups! And [insert variant of Lewontin's Fallacy here], you dumbass."

Race-ist Nowadays: "Race is real and genetically identifiable".

Antirace-ist Nowadays: "Huh? What do measurable genetic differences have to do with race, you dumbass?!"

Man, I must have missed too many episodes. Somebody help me out here? tia.

Elli said...

A credentialed liberal thinker like JEH Smith, what does he say to Native Americans and African-Americans who object to Native-American and African-American children being fostered or adopted by European-Americans?

Anonymous said...

"that "races as socially defined do not (even loosely) capture interesting clusters of these differences."

Like vastly different outcomes from the same medical treatment and the vast potential benefits from tailored meds.

I think it's important to fully understand and internalize not just how wrong these people are but how evil they are.

Anonymous said...

"For several decades it has been well established that there is as much genetic variation between two members of any supposed race, as between two members of supposedly distinct races."

"I don't believe this."

That's because it's deliberately misleading nonsense intentionally designed to obscure the truth.

If you have a population whose height ranges from 4'6" to 5'6" and another whose height ranges from 5' to 6' then the range *within* each group is one foot in both cases.

That doesn't change the fact that the average height of the first group is 5' and the average height of the second is 5'6".

Anonymous said...

"What are these people going to do when all the results from the Chinese genomic project come rolling in?"

You hadn't noticed the sense of urgency vis a vis immigration, section 8 etc? They know it's unraveling.

Anonymous said...

Jasper
"So my question is: What the hell is going on with people like this "philosopher"?"

There's multiple aspects to this but one is there is a type of person who is non-religious but has a very high level of genetic predisposition to religiosity so they become *religious* about a political idealogy instead.

When you see them as religious fanatics of a secular religion it makes more sense.

You can spot this kind by how shiny-eyed they get when preaching the faith.

Just add a hallelujah to the end of their articles.

Anonymous said...

"Now that they're able to define race in genetic terms they tend to use other words, like "continental groups" or "continent of origin,"" - Nee!

Silver said...

The "race does not exist" position is false, but not obviously so. It does not contradict "your lying eyes." If you think it does, then your eyes are probably OK but your faculties of comprehension could use some improvement. "Race does not exist" doesn't deny biological differences between blacks, whites, and Asians, obviously. It also doesn't deny the obvious fact that you can guess someone's ancestry by looking at him.

So do tell, Aaron, just what does 'race doesn't exist' deny then? As far as I can tell the people most eager to advance the preposterous claim that 'race doesn't exist' are simply taking advantage of the all too human capability of simultaneously holding two completely contradictory positions in one's mind.

Aaron Gross said...

Jasper, what the hell are you talking about? I didn't address my comments to you personally. I don't know if I even read your comment before posting mine. Get it? I wasn't talking about your comment!

Aaron Gross said...

@AMac, Wade's views are irrelevant to my point, which is that, obviously, his article does not contradict Smith's article. That said, "social construct" is a culture-war word, so it's often misunderstood. "Race is a social construct" can mean either that it's only a social construct, without any biological existence (false), or that it's socially constructed on the basis of biological differences (skin color, etc.). I used it in the latter sense.

On "race" and "population," I never suggested that the use of "race" here was scientifically wrong. I only said that rhetorically it might be more effective to use the more neutral word "population."

AMac said...

@ Aaron Gross --

"'Race is a social construct' can mean either that it's only a social construct, without any biological existence (false), or that it's socially constructed on the basis of biological differences (skin color, etc.). I used it in the latter sense."

Your remarks get more cogent when you focus on what you're writing.

In contrast, here's what you wrote upthread --

"The 'race does not exist' position is false, but not obviously so. It does not contradict 'your lying eyes.' If you think it does, then your eyes are probably OK but your faculties of comprehension could use some improvement. 'Race does not exist' doesn't deny biological differences between blacks, obviously. It also doesn't deny the obvious fact that you can guess someone's ancestry by looking at him."

See how your 2/15/13 10:48pm comment is improved in content and tone, cf. your 2/14/13 9:26pm remarks?

Aaron Gross said...

@Silver, "race does not exist" denies that race exists as a meaningful, useful biological concept. The classic exposition was Jared Diamond's, two decades ago: You could define new "biological races" in terms of lactose intolerance and other arbitrary genetic traits. The (false) claim is that the categories of Negroid, Caucasoid, and Mongoloid are just as biologically arbitrary as those of lactose-tolerant and -intolerant.

That's the intelligent "race does not exist" position, which the op-ed author presumably subscribes to. Then there are also people who just chant it as a slogan, but the op-ed author isn't one of them.

@AMac, Thanks for your criticism, but I actually prefer my earlier, more arrogant comment. I've found that arrogance gets people's attention on the internet. This isn't a classroom, and it's not my job to explain what "socially constructed" means.

AMac said...

@ Aaron --

> I've found that arrogance gets people's attention on the internet.

In my case, the attention came from the suspicion that there was a cogent dissent, albeit one partly obscured by posturing.

Maybe there is.

Truth said...

"Yes, Dorner's a hero because he didn't shoot people."

I never said anything about him being a hero, I posted a widely accepted fact; that being that this "racist murderer" (words I've read here) was captured because his left his white hostages alive to call the police.