April 6, 2013

Darwin: Are the races of man separate species or merely separate subspecies?

Charles Darwin's promotion to secular sainthood over the last generation (combined with his cousin Francis Galton's demonization) adds interest and irony to reading Darwin. For example, below is an extract from his 1871 bestseller The Descent of Man on whether human races should be considered separate species or merely separate subspecies.

An unanticipated consequence of the 1973 Endangered Species Act is that the epistemological obscurity and metaphysical fuzziness at the heart of the concept of the word "species" turns out to have billion dollar consequences. Vast legal-scientific-development battles are fought over whether the California gnatcatcher and the Baja gnatcatcher are separate species or merely subspecies. Is the San Fernando Valley spineflower a different species or not from the San Bernardino spineflower?

These convoluted inquiries were anticipated in The Descent of Man. Darwin himself ultimately viewed human races as separate subspecies, but it took him a lot of arguing with himself to get there:
We will first consider the arguments which may be advanced in favour of classing the races of man as distinct species, and then the arguments on the other side. If a naturalist, who had never before seen a Negro, Hottentot, Australian, or Mongolian, were to compare them, he would at once perceive that they differed in a multitude of characters, some of slight and some of considerable importance. On enquiry he would find that they were adapted to live under widely different climates, and that they differed somewhat in bodily constitution and mental disposition. If he were then told that hundreds of similar specimens could be brought from the same countries, he would assuredly declare that they were as good species as many to which he had been in the habit of affixing specific names. This conclusion would be greatly strengthened as soon as he had ascertained that these forms had all retained the same character for many centuries; and that negroes, apparently identical with existing negroes, had lived at least 4000 years ago.* He would also hear, on the authority of an excellent observer, Dr. Lund,*(2) that the human skulls found in the caves of Brazil entombed with many extinct mammals, belonged to the same type as that now prevailing throughout the American continent. 
  Our naturalist would then perhaps turn to geographical distribution, and he would probably declare that those forms must be distinct species, which differ not only in appearance, but are fitted for hot, as well as damp or dry countries, and for the arctic regions. He might appeal to the fact that no species in the group next to man- namely, the Quadrumana, can resist a low temperature, or any considerable change of climate; and that the species which come nearest to man have never been reared to maturity, even under the temperate climate of Europe. He would be deeply impressed with the fact, first noticed by Agassiz,* that the different races of man are distributed over the world in the same zoological provinces, as those inhabited by undoubtedly distinct species and genera of mammals. This is manifestly the case with the Australian, Mongolian, and Negro races of man; in a less well-marked manner with the Hottentots; but plainly with the Papuans and Malays, who are separated, as Mr. Wallace has shewn, by nearly the same line which divides the great Malayan and Australian zoological provinces. The aborigines of America range throughout the continent; and this at first appears opposed to the above rule, for most of the productions of the Southern and Northern halves differ widely: yet some few living forms, as the opossum, range from the one into the other, as did formerly some of the gigantic Edentata. The Esquimaux, like other arctic animals, extend round the whole polar regions. It should be observed that the amount of difference between the mammals of the several zoological provinces does not correspond with the degree of separation between the latter; so that it can hardly be considered as an anomaly that the Negro differs more, and the American much less from the other races of man, than do the mammals of the African and American continents from the mammals of the other provinces. Man, it may be added, does not appear to have aboriginally inhabited any oceanic island; and in this respect, he resembles the other members of his class. ... 
  Our supposed naturalist having proceeded thus far in his investigation, would next enquire whether the races of men, when crossed, were in any degree sterile. He might consult the work* of Professor Broca, a cautious and philosophical observer, and in this he would find good evidence that some races were quite fertile together, but evidence of an opposite nature in regard to other races. Thus it has been asserted that the native women of Australia and Tasmania rarely produce children to European men; the evidence, however, on this head has now been shewn to be almost valueless. The half-castes are killed by the pure blacks: and an account has lately been published of eleven half-caste youths murdered and burnt at the same time, whose remains were found by the police.*(2) Again, it has often been said that when mulattoes intermarry, they produce few children; on the other hand, Dr. Bachman, of Charleston,*(3) positively asserts that he has known mulatto families which have intermarried for several generations, and have continued on an average as fertile as either pure whites or pure blacks. Enquiries formerly made by Sir C. Lyell on this subject led him, as he informs me, to the same conclusion.*(4) In the United States the census for the year 1854 included, according to Dr. Bachman, 405,751 mulattoes; and this number, considering all the circumstances of the case, seems small; but it may partly be accounted for by the degraded and anomalous position of the class, and by the profligacy of the women. A certain amount of absorption of mulattoes into negroes must always be in progress; and this would lead to an apparent diminution of the former. The inferior vitality of mulattoes is spoken of in a trustworthy work*(5) as a well-known phenomenon; and this, although a different consideration from their lessened fertility, may perhaps be advanced as a proof of the specific distinctness of the parent races. No doubt both animal and vegetable hybrids, when produced from extremely distinct species, are liable to premature death; but the parents of mulattoes cannot be put under the category of extremely distinct species. The common mule, so notorious for long life and vigour, and yet so sterile, shews how little necessary connection there is in hybrids between lessened fertility and vitality; other analogous cases could be cited. 
  *(4) Dr. Rohlfs writes to me that he found the mixed races in the Great Sahara, derived from Arabs, Berbers, and Negroes of three tribes, extraordinarily fertile. On the other hand, Mr. Winwood Reade informs me that the Negroes on the Gold Coast, though admiring white men and mulattoes, have a maxim that mulattoes should not intermarry, as the children are few and sickly. This belief, as Mr. Reade remarks, deserves attention, as white men have visited and resided on the Gold Coast for four hundred years, so that the natives have had ample time to gain knowledge through experience.

This observation by West Africans may have had something to do with malaria defenses. British military personnel assigned to West Africa in the early 19th Century died like flies from disease. Their life expectancy was something like two years. In contrast, their life expectancy in New Zealand was longer than back home.
  Even if it should hereafter be proved that all the races of men were perfectly fertile together, he who was inclined from other reasons to rank them as distinct species, might with justice argue that fertility and sterility are not safe criterions of specific distinctness. We know that these qualities are easily affected by changed conditions of life, or by close interbreeding, and that they are governed by highly complex laws, for instance, that of the unequal fertility of converse crosses between the same two species. With forms which must be ranked as undoubted species, a perfect series exists from those which are absolutely sterile when crossed, to those which are almost or completely fertile. The degrees of sterility do not coincide strictly with the degrees of difference between the parents in external structures or habits of life. Man in many respects may be compared with those animals which have long been domesticated, and a large body of evidence can be advanced in favour of the Pallasian doctrine,* that domestication tends to eliminate the sterility which is so general a result of the crossing of species in a state of nature. From these several considerations, it may be justly urged that the perfect fertility of the intercrossed races of man, if established, would not absolutely preclude us from ranking them as distinct species.

  Independently of fertility, the characters presented by the offspring from a cross have been thought to indicate whether or not the parent-forms ought to be ranked as species or varieties; but after carefully studying the evidence, I have come to the conclusion that no general rules of this kind can be trusted. The ordinary result of a cross is the production of a blended or intermediate form; but in certain cases some of the offspring take closely after one parent-form, and some after the other. 

Darwin wasn't aware of the quantum aspect of Mendelian genetics (Mendel's work wasn't rediscovered until 1900, a couple of decades after Darwin's death.) Darwin knew that there was a problem with the genetic models he had in mind, but he didn't know the solution.
...  We have now seen that a naturalist might feel himself fully justified in ranking the races of man as distinct species; for he has found that they are distinguished by many differences in structure and constitution, some being of importance. These differences have, also, remained nearly constant for very long periods of time. Our naturalist will have been in some degree influenced by the enormous range of man, which is a great anomaly in the class of mammals, if mankind be viewed as a single species. He will have been struck with the distribution of the several so-called races, which accords with that of other undoubtedly distinct species of mammals. Finally, he might urge that the mutual fertility of all the races has not as yet been fully proved, and even if proved would not be an absolute proof of their specific identity. 
  On the other side of the question, if our supposed naturalist were to enquire whether the forms of man keep distinct like ordinary species, when mingled together in large numbers in the same country, he would immediately discover that this was by no means the case. In Brazil he would behold an immense mongrel population of Negroes and Portuguese; in Chiloe, and other parts of South America, he would behold the whole population consisting of Indians and Spaniards blended in various degrees.* In many parts of the same continent he would meet with the most complex crosses between Negroes, Indians, and
Europeans; and judging from the vegetable kingdom, such triple crosses afford the severest test of the mutual fertility of the parent forms. In one island of the Pacific he would find a small population of mingled Polynesian and English blood; and in the Fiji Archipelago a population of Polynesians and Negritos crossed in all degrees. Many analogous cases could be added; for instance, in Africa. Hence the races of man are not sufficiently distinct to inhabit the same country without fusion; and the absence of fusion affords the usual and best test of specific distinctness. 
  Our naturalist would likewise be much disturbed as soon as he perceived that the distinctive characters of all the races were highly variable. This fact strikes every one on first beholding the negro slaves in Brazil, who have been imported from all parts of Africa. The same remark holds good with the Polynesians, and with many other races. It may be doubted whether any character can be named which is distinctive of a race and is constant. Savages, even within the limits of the same tribe, are not nearly so uniform in character, as has been often asserted. Hottentot women offer certain peculiarities, more strongly marked than those occurring in any other race, but these are known not to be of constant occurrence. In the several American tribes, colour and hairiness differ considerably; as does colour to a certain degree, and the shape of the features greatly, in the negroes of Africa. The shape of the skull varies much in some races;* and so it is with every other character. Now all naturalists have learnt by dearly bought experience, how rash it is to attempt to define species by the aid of inconstant characters. 
  But the most weighty of all the arguments against treating the races of man as distinct species, is that they graduate into each other, independently in many cases, as far as we can judge, of their having intercrossed. Man has been studied more carefully than any other animal, and yet there is the greatest possible diversity amongst capable judges whether he should be classed as a single species or race, or as two (Virey), as three (Jacquinot), as four (Kant), five (Blumenbach), six (Buffon), seven (Hunter), eight (Agassiz), eleven (Pickering), fifteen (Bory de St-Vincent), sixteen (Desmoulins), twenty-two (Morton), sixty (Crawfurd), or as sixty-three, according to Burke.* This diversity of judgment does not prove that the races ought not to be ranked as species, but it shews that they graduate into each other, and that it is hardly possible to discover clear distinctive characters between them. 
  Every naturalist who has had the misfortune to undertake the description of a group of highly varying organisms, has encountered cases (I speak after experience) precisely like that of man; and if of a cautious disposition, he will end by uniting all the forms which graduate into each other, under a single species; for he will say to himself that he has no right to give names to objects which he cannot define. Cases of this kind occur in the Order which include man, namely in certain genera of monkeys; whilst in other genera, as in Cercopithecus, most of the species can be determined with certainty. In the American genus Cebus, the various forms are ranked by some naturalists as species, by others as mere geographical races. Now if numerous specimens of Cebus were collected from all parts of South America, and those forms which at present appear to be specifically distinct, were found to graduate into each other by close steps, they would usually be ranked as mere varieties or races; and this course has been followed by most naturalists with respect to the races of man. Nevertheless, it must be confessed that there are forms, at least in the vegetable kingdom,* which we cannot avoid naming as species, but which are connected together by numberless gradations, independently of intercrossing.
  Some naturalists have lately employed the term "sub-species" to designate forms which possess many of the characteristics of true species, but which hardly deserve so high a rank. Now if we reflect on the weighty arguments above given, for raising the races of man to the dignity of species, and the insuperable difficulties on the other side in defining them, it seems that the term "sub-species" might here be used with propriety. But from long habit the term "race" will perhaps always be employed. The choice of terms is only so far important in that it is desirable to use, as far as possible, the same terms for the same degrees of difference. Unfortunately this can rarely be done: for the larger genera generally include closely-allied forms, which can be distinguished only with much difficulty, whilst the smaller genera within the same family include forms that are perfectly distinct; yet all must be ranked equally as species. So again, species within the same large genus by no means resemble each other to the same degree: on the contrary, some of them can generally be arranged in little groups round other species, like satellites round planets.*

Darwin then takes up the question of whether humanity arose from a single or multiple sources:
  The question whether mankind consists of one or several species has of late years been much discussed by anthropologists, who are divided into the two schools of monogenists and polygenists. Those who do not admit the principle of evolution, must look at species as separate creations, or in some manner as distinct entities; and they must decide what forms of man they will consider as species by the analogy of the method commonly pursued in ranking other organic beings as species. But it is a hopeless endeavour to decide this point, until some definition of the term "species" is generally accepted; and the definition must not include an indeterminate element such as an act of creation. We might as well attempt without any definition to decide whether a certain number of houses should be called a village, town, or city. We have a practical illustration of the difficulty in the never-ending doubts whether many closely-allied mammals, birds, insects, and plants, which represent each other respectively in North America and Europe, should be ranked as species or geographical races; and the like holds true of the productions of many islands situated at some little distance from the nearest continent. 
Those naturalists, on the other hand, who admit the principle of evolution, and this is now admitted by the majority of rising men, will feel no doubt that all the races of man are descended from a single primitive stock; whether or not they may think fit to designate the races as distinct species, for the sake of expressing their amount of difference. ... 
Nevertheless, so arbitrary is the term of species ... 
  Although the existing races of man differ in many respects, as in colour, hair, shape of skull, proportions of the body, &c., yet if their whole structure be taken into consideration they are found to resemble each other closely in a multitude of points. Many of these are of so unimportant or of so singular a nature, that it is extremely improbable that they should have been independently acquired by aboriginally distinct species or races. The same remark holds good with equal or greater force with respect to the numerous points of mental similarity between the most distinct races of man. The American aborigines, Negroes and Europeans are as different from each other in mind as any three races that can be named; yet I was incessantly struck, whilst living with the Feugians on board the Beagle, with the many little traits of character, shewing how similar their minds were to ours; and so it was with a full-blooded negro with whom I happened once to be intimate.

He who will read Mr. Tylor's and Sir J. Lubbock's interesting works* can hardly fail to be deeply impressed with the close similarity between the men of all races in tastes, dispositions and habits. This is shown by the pleasure which they all take in dancing, rude music, acting, painting, tattooing, and otherwise decorating themselves; in their mutual comprehension of gesture-language, by the same expression in their features, and by the same inarticulate cries, when excited by the same emotions. This similarity, or rather identity, is striking, when contrasted with the different expressions and cries made by distinct species of monkeys. There is good evidence that the art of shooting with bows and arrows has not been handed down from any common progenitor of mankind, yet as Westropp and Nilsson have remarked,*(2) the stone arrow-heads, brought from the most distant parts of the world, and manufactured at the most remote periods, are almost identical; and this fact can only be accounted for by the various races having similar inventive or mental powers. The same observation has been made by archaeologists*(3) with respect to certain widely-prevalent ornaments, such as zig-zags, &c.; and with respect to various simple beliefs and customs, such as the burying of the dead under megalithic structures. I remember observing in South America,*(4) that there, as in so many other parts of the world, men have generally chosen the summits of lofty hills, to throw up piles of stones, either as a record of some remarkable event, or for burying their dead. 
  Now when naturalists observe a close agreement in numerous small details of habits, tastes, and dispositions between two or more domestic races, or between nearly-allied natural forms, they use this fact as an argument that they are descended from a common progenitor who was thus endowed; and consequently that all should be classed under the same species. The same argument may be applied with much force to the races of man. 
  As it is improbable that the numerous and unimportant points of resemblance between the several races of man in bodily structure andmental faculties (I do not here refer to similar customs) should all have been independently acquired, they must have been inherited from progenitors who had these same characters. We thus gain some insight into the early state of man, before he had spread step by step over the face of the earth. The spreading of man to regions widely separated by the sea, no doubt, preceded any great amount of divergence of character in the several races; for otherwise we should sometimes meet with the same race in distinct continents; and this is never the case. Sir J. Lubbock, after comparing the arts now practised by savages in all parts of the world, specifies those which man could not have known, when he first wandered from his original birthplace; for if once learnt they would never have been forgotten.* He thus shews that "the spear, which is but a development of the knife-point, and the club, which is but a long hammer, are the only things left." He admits, however, that the art of making fire probably had been already discovered, for it is common to all the races now existing, and was known to the ancient cave-inhabitants of Europe. Perhaps the art of making rude canoes or rafts was likewise known; but as man existed at a remote epoch, when the land in many places stood at a very different level to what it does now, he would have been able, without the aid of canoes, to have spread widely. Sir J. Lubbock further remarks how improbable it is that our earliest ancestors could have "counted as high as ten, considering that so many races now in existence cannot get beyond four." Nevertheless, at this early period, the intellectual and social faculties of man could hardly have been inferior in any extreme degree to those possessed at present by the lowest savages; otherwise primeval man could not have been so eminently successful in the struggle for life, as proved by his early and wide diffusion. 
  From the fundamental differences between certain languages, some philologists have inferred that when man first became widely diffused, he was not a speaking animal; but it may be suspected that languages, far less perfect than any now spoken, aided by gestures, might have been used, and yet have left no traces on subsequent and more highly-developed tongues. Without the use of some language, however imperfect, it appears doubtful whether man's intellect could have risen to the standard implied by his dominant position at an early period. 
  Whether primeval man, when he possessed but few arts, and those of the rudest kind, and when his power of language was extremely imperfect, would have deserved to be called man, must depend on the definition which we employ. In a series of forms graduating insensibly from some ape-like creature to man as he now exists, it would be impossible to fix on any definite point where the term "man" ought to be used. But this is a matter of very little importance. So again, it is almost a matter of indifference whether the so-called races of man are thus designated, or are ranked as species or sub-species; but the latter term appears the more appropriate.

Since the 1990s, I've been arguing that the naturalists' approach to classifying humans into races / subspecies based on visible characteristics, which Darwin found so conundrum-generating, is more of a proxy for what we really want to know: who is related to whom? And how?

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

Obviously Steve, you are correct. Every animal is related to every other animal, it is just a matter of going far back enough in the family tree. Along the way, there are mutations including differing numbers of chromosomes etc. that serve to make it impossible to interbreed or interbreed and produce fertile offspring. However, even two animals of a different species, genus, family, order, class, phylum or kingdom are related.

If the family trees of organisms had been recorded going back millions of years ago, there would be a link somewhere in there. That is the fundamental, mathematical truth - this iterative mixing of DNA with a few random errors over time - is how life has evolved, the phenotype changing all the while. Viewed at in this light, the human-developed categories of kingdom, phylum, etc. are at best approximations of clusters of organisms on this immense family tree.

That's not to say that this taxonomy is useless, just that one should recognise its inherent limitations.

Anonymous said...

Modern genetics - combined with the mass processing power of modern computers, chromatography etc have given us the answer, if you can to look and do a little ferreting about.

Basically 'IBD' or Identity by Descent' sections on chromosomes tell us 'who is realted to who'. Also haplotype groups both on the X and Y chromosome which have been laboriously studied and cartegorized through a lot of light on ancient patterns of migration and ethnic dominance.

Londoner said...

OT (slightly) - you appear to have a fan in Cape Town Steve. The title of his report seems mighty familiar at least.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/world news/africaandindianocean/southafrica/9974686/Cape-Town-student-newspaper-conducts-poll-asking-what-is-most-attractive-race.html


Much butthurt has ensued.

Anonymous said...

I've thought about this in the past and decided that the ease of inter-breeding and the racial continuum that exists with races blending into one another lead me to believe that humans are one species.

Anonymous said...

Semantic differences are a favorite liberal tactic to stall any kind of serious discussion on "race."

The actual differences between peoples is something more like a spectrum, related but different, and not clear-cut enough to be summarily defined by terminology. The only measure is human perception itself.

Pink Arrow Gal said...

you tell me, man:

http://canovanograms.tripod.com/anthropologyandaustraliasuniquesurvivors/id2.html

The core definition of subspecies is that they do not naturally interbreed with each other. Africans and australians did not naturally interbreed with whites until whites explored those continents.

I have seen a references to australian aborigines as 'homo sapiens resens.' Take a look at those photos and tell me they are not a subspecies.

Anonymous said...

There are many animal groups that are counted as distinct species despite being basically identical physiologically and differing only in geographic distribution and slight "cultural" ways, such as different songs or calls.

Glasgow said...

Since all White people have some Neanderthal DNA, and black people do not, that makes us a mixed species minority being attacked by blacks in what are clearly hate crimes.

Hunsdon said...

I think that Darwin,like JFK, is idolized by the American left more for his symbolic value than for any actual beliefs he held. Darwin fills the "pushing back the ignorance of Christianity through the power of science" role, and JFK stands in for the "beautiful young hero cut down in his prime by the forces of reaction" role.

Any discussion of JFK's enthusiasm for Special Forces, the missile gap, appropriate tax rates, or Ngo Diem Dinh would reveal that JFK would have no place in today's Democratic Party, and would be shunned as a reactionary Neanderthal.

In fairness, other groups and parties can suffer from this delusion as well. (Cough, Reagan.)

Anonymous said...

http://www.charlierose.com/guest/view/6825

The Tina Fey of film criticism. Can't stand her.

Anonymous said...

Linguistics has similar issues. It has proven impossible to work out a consistent, non-arbitrary definition of the terms language and dialect. The mutual intelligibility test is flawed. There are many dialect continua (or language continua :) where the speakers of A can't understand speakers of C well at all, but speakers of B, which is geographically intermediate between A and C, can understand both A and C relatively easily. So from the perspective of B, speech varieties A, B and C are all dialects of the same language. But from the perspective of, say, A, speech varieties A and B are dialects of each other, but C is a separate language.

Also, a person's degree of intelligibility of related speech varieties may depend on his social class, IQ, the nature of his life experiences, etc.

What linguistics lacks is a vocal faction claiming that, since "language" and "dialect" cannot be cleanly defined, there is no such thing as language. No one's saying that the differences between languages (or dialects) shouldn't be studied.

ben tillman said...

It's sad to think that 140 years ago anthropology was more advanced than it is now.

When you read Darwin, you experience a great mind thinking clearly and weighing evidence objectively. It's real science, as good as it gets.

Anonymous said...

[T]he epistemological fuzziness at the heart of the concept of the word "species" turns out to have billion dollar consequences.

As treated in the Darwin passages you excerpt here and in your article on the golf course, this appears to be as much a metaphysical issue as an epistemological one. I think questions of classification and relevant attributes are generally seen as issues of metaphysics. Difficulty in determining what exists (for example, whether or not there is mutual fertility among human) tend to be epistemological problems. Metaphysical fuzziness and epistemological difficulty seem to be apter phrasing.

Please correct me if you are seeing this in a different way.

Anonymous said...

Thus it has been asserted that the native women of Australia and Tasmania rarely produce children to European men; the evidence, however, on this head has now been shewn to be almost valueless. The half-castes are killed by the pure blacks: and an account has lately been published of eleven half-caste youths murdered and burnt at the same time, whose remains were found by the police.*

Wow. This is what some wild animals do to offspring of other males. Lions, for example, are said to kill the offspring of their females that were sired by foreign lions.

Anonymous said...

By 1990, however, California had grown tremendously wealthy and ocean view lots were worth a fortune. (From Steve's gnatcatcher article.)

Had California grown tremendously wealthy or just tremendously crowded? Population density tends to drive up the price of land.

Sam Hardwick said...

I made a brief survey of the status of anthropology a while ago, finding that Wikipedia is completely ignorant of any characteristics of ethnic groups but that artists still have a very good idea.

Typo, last paragraph said...

In last paragraph, you wrote generation instead do generating. Maybe the phrase should be hyphenated too. You can delete this comment.

Jim Bowery said...

Getting back to the 1973 act -- an act that was clearly intended to preserve "diversity" in its true sense, rather than in its mendacious political sense now foisted upon humanity -- the important phenomenon is the adaptive phenotypic correlation structure at the population level. If an action endangers that adaptive structure, then the 1973 act applies.

What people don't seem to want to come to grips with is that some phenotypic correlation structures are not only determined largely by corresponding genetic correlation structures, but that the correlated genes may be present not only on separate chromosomes -- hence largely unlinked during meiosis -- but in different demeic subpopulations.

I don't think any studies have been carried out quantifying these structures as a part of the billions of dollars at stake in the enforcement of the 1973 act.

Why?

Why is it so hard for people to understand these distinctions in the fragility/vulnerability of some adaptive phenotypic correlation structures vs the robustness/invulnerability of others?

a very knowing American said...

Something that's unusual about human beings (and domesticated animals whose reproduction is managed by human beings), is what could be called "cultural speciation": groups are artificially kept from interbreeding even when there are no natural barriers to mixture. As far as we know, there's absolutely no biological problem with Jews and gentiles having kids, but gene flow into Jewish populations has nonetheless been quite low on a per-generation basis, low enough that Jewish/gentile divergence due to differing selection pressures is a possibility. And the same is true of a lot of artificial breeds among dogs and other animals. There's a lot of theoretical/conceptual work that needs to be done on the implications of cultural versus natural speciation, but it's a touchy subject, with lots of potential for generating bad feelings, so people shy away from it.

Eric Rasmusen said...

I was struck by something in the quotes--- it seems Darwin did not know of the idea of hybrid vigor. When was that discovered? I would have thought the ancients would have discovered it, but I guess not.

Whitehall said...

I had a colleague who was very athletic and very intelligent.

His father was an American black and his mother was Japanese.

His problem was that he was continually breaking bones. His muscles were too strong for his skeleton.

There is power in hybridization but there are risks too.

a very knowing American said...

One more reflection on "cultural speciation":

I get the impression that the Middle East and India really go in for cultural speciation -- groups kept reproductively isolated by cultural, not biological, barriers -- more than most other places. Probably related, they also seem very big on food taboos, compared to, say, Europeans or Chinese.

Steve Sailer said...

Here's a Wikipedia article on hybrid vigor:

"Corn heterosis was famously demonstrated in the early 20th century by George H. Shull and Edward M. East after hybrid corn was invented by Dr. William James Beal of Michigan State University based on work begun in 1879 at the urging of Charles Darwin. Dr. Beal's work led to the first published account of a field experiment demonstrating hybrid vigor in corn, by Eugene Davenport and Perry Holden, 1881."

Darwin married his first cousin, a Wedgwood. He had worries that his children's health problems were due to inbreeding so he had one of his son's investigate the issue. The son reported that he couldn't find evidence against cousin marriage. But, American eugenicists turned sharply against it.

Keep in mind that Darwin's descendants had both lots of health problems and lots of accomplishments.

pat said...

Gee Steve, when I encouraged you to write another book I didn't mean for you to do so as a blog entry.

Albertosaurus

Noah C. said...

"Here's a Wikipedia article on hybrid vigor:"

Hybrid vigor does have its merits, but there are also potential drawbacks, such as the fact that many genes evolve to act in conjunction with one another. A better known example (at least among HBD circles, I've never heard it in science classes since such discussions are verboten), is one of African American heart disease. There is a certain heart condition which African Americans suffer from at 3-5x as much as Europeans or Africans. It seems that there are a set of several genes, which if you have the variants in the European set, you are fine, or if you have the variants of the African set, you are fine, but certain combinations of the two lead to a much higher rate of the heart disease. Certainly this opens the door to other combinations likely being out there which spell disaster for hybrids, but its doubtful that many liberal researchers would look for them, or that the research would get funding to specifically look for them.

In addition to that there are psychological problems which seem to plague hybrids- many feel out of place in either culture, and rates of suicide, drug use, etc can be higher.

And this is to say nothing of the impact of interracial marriage, etc on the parents, who may feel out of place in foreign cultures.

So the drive for everyone to "get down with the swirl" that the left is pushing on the US may not all its cracked up to be. Of course if you overpromote the positive and hide the negative, then a different picture is in everyone's mind.

Anonymous said...

Had California grown tremendously wealthy or just tremendously crowded? Population density tends to drive up the price of land.

How is the price of land in Bangladesh?

pat said...

The State Park that abuts my property is posted with signs warning people to beware of cougars. So I was discussing big cats with my neighbor the other day. I volunteered that the biggest cat was the Liger.

Is the Liger a species? Or a sub species? Jack Horner is trying to create a velociraptor out of an emu. What will it be?

The Linnaean binomial classification system only works well in carefully selected areas. It doesn't make much sense for domesticated animals much less artificial animals.

It was originally based on overt physical features. Later it was amended to group animals together based on lineage because of convergent evolution resulting in 'look alikes' from different lines.

For example, in earlier days the great apes were the chimp, gorilla and orangutan. Nowadays we have added the bonobo but split off orangutans. We are closer to chimps than any of us are to orangutans.

Domesticated animals don't fit well either. Two species of arctic terns look identical to us and behave in exactly the same way and come from the same ancestors. But they don't interbreed because of a tiny red mark near their beaks that one has and the other 'species' doesn't. They can interbreed but they don't in the wild. This contrasts with domesticated dogs. A Siberian Mastiff looks nothing like a Chihuahua but they are said to be in the same species because they can interbreed.

Quite soon companies will be creating their own species. Or will they be sub species? These animal lines will be patented. Lawyers will argue and grow rich on these kind of questions.

I think there is a better model or classification system yet to be discovered but it may be too complex for the layman or even the field biologist.

For example there is a good system to classify colors visible to humans. It is digital and assigns 8 bit numbers for red, green and blue. So some color like 'Sienna' might be 136,045,023. Painters and tourists will never call it by its numbers but digital illustrators will.

There is probably a similar digital classification system for animal and plant life. Now we just need some genius to create it.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

"I have seen a references to australian aborigines as 'homo sapiens resens.' Take a look at those photos and tell me they are not a subspecies."

The different races of man are clearly at least subspecies, the question is whether they are different species (ie not all homo sapiens). Given the ease with which we can mix, I'd say subspecies.

FirkinRidiculous said...

Steve, have you read Professor John Baker's 1974 book Race? Long out of print (Baker died in 1984), a new edition has now been made available by Ostara Publishing. He covers much of the same ground as you do but with a deeper grounding in zoology.

Anonymous said...

Had California grown tremendously wealthy or just tremendously crowded? Population density tends to drive up the price of land.

How is the price of land in Bangladesh?


The price of land in Bangladesh is more expensive than it would be if its population were half the size.

A mere 50 years ago, the U.S. population was half the size it is now.

Anonymous said...

The son reported that he couldn't find evidence against cousin marriage. But, American eugenicists turned sharply against it.

Circa when?

Anonymous said...

I've thought about this in the past and decided that the ease of inter-breeding and the racial continuum that exists with races blending into one another lead me to believe that humans are one species.

So you define a species as a set of organisms that has "ease of inter-breeding"? Is that actual ease or potential ease? And if a set of organisms lacks ease of inter-breeding, are they not then of the same species?

Anonymous said...

The core definition of subspecies is that they do not naturally interbreed with each other. Africans and australians did not naturally interbreed with whites until whites explored those continents.

What does it mean to "naturally interbreed"?

Anonymous said...

Any discussion of JFK's enthusiasm for Special Forces, the missile gap, appropriate tax rates, or Ngo Diem Dinh would reveal that JFK would have no place in today's Democratic Party, and would be shunned as a reactionary Neanderthal.

His resistance to giving our military secrets to the Zionist entity would also make him persona non grata in today's Democratic Party.

Anonymous said...

When you read Darwin, you experience a great mind thinking clearly and weighing evidence objectively. It's real science, as good as it gets.

So the definition of "real science" is clear thought and weighing of evidence "objectively." Care to be a little more specific?

Anonymous said...

The revelation that some humans have Neanderthal and/or Denisovan ancestry, while other humans do not have such ancestry tends to convince me that we should probably re-classify humanity as several sub species.

Alternatively we could say that everybody except Africans is partially non-human.

Anonymous said...

I was struck by something in the quotes--- it seems Darwin did not know of the idea of hybrid vigor. When was that discovered? I would have thought the ancients would have discovered it, but I guess not.

Or maybe hybrid vigor is not all it is cracked up to be. Or we have a distorted perception of it because its costs and downsides are not discussed or appreciated.

Anonymous said...

His problem was that he was continually breaking bones. His muscles were too strong for his skeleton.

His muscles broke his bones?

Anonymous said...

Probably related, they also seem very big on food taboos, compared to, say, Europeans or Chinese.

The point of food taboos is to keep groups reproductively isolated. Mealtimes are a very important activity of human socializing.

Anonymous said...

Those of officially embrace the Descent of Man will not allow the dissent of man.

Corn said...

"Quite soon companies will be creating their own species."

Well Albertosaurus just wait til the biotech companies start creating centaurs and elfin creatures like the Draka did in conquered North America.

Anonymous said...

"Route 128 outside of Boston."

Actually, route 128 sort of encircles boston and a few suburbs. You should think of it as a misshapen and unbuckled beltway around Boston, not a location outside of Boston.

JSM said...

"Alternatively we could say that everybody except Africans is partially non-human"


If we did that, soon enough "human" would become a pejorative, just like Negro.

Silver said...

is more of a proxy for what we really want to know: who is related to whom? And how?

Most people are aware that, on some level, we're 'all related.' So what people really want to know is how closely we're related to others and what our relationship to those others should be/how we should relate to them. I think the interest is greatest in pondering what to make of one's 'racial next of kin':the racial group/type which most closely resembling one's own, which outsiders are apt to classify as 'the same thing,' but which remains too different for an insider to do the same.

You can test this idea by asking yourself on which occasions, out of all the times you've asked what background someone is, were you most interested in hearing the answer? I would bet that the times you were most interested were when the other person seemed racially related to you and you wanted more information so that you would know what to make of him or her: 'one of us' or 'next-of-kin'? Other times, when it's obvious the other person is racially very unlike, the question has more of a 'conversation filler' quality to it. For example, if you're German and you ask someone who looks SE Asian, you don't really care what his answer is going to be; Cambodian or Vietnamese, say, there's no reason to get more excited over one of those than the other.

Frank Wong said...

"That is the fundamental, mathematical truth - this iterative mixing of DNA with a few random errors over time - is how life has evolved, the phenotype changing all the while. "

Iterative is the wrong term to use here - that would imply teleology.

R said...

I've been arguing that the naturalists' approach to classifying humans into races / subspecies based on visible characteristics, which Darwin found so conundrum-generating, is more of a proxy for what we really want to know: who is related to whom?

When imposing discrete categories on continouous data the question is more "how useful is this category" than "how true is this category". Both the morphological (and part cultural) concept of race and the ancestral concept of race are useful in different contexts, and as they are only imperfect proxys for each other, I'd argue that they should be considered seperately.

Because of the the nature of human interaction and psychology, I think the morphological conception of race (squared off by culture)is inherently easier to discreetize, and more relevant in a social context. When some one wonders about their social identity, or someone else on the street, or when the media reports the race of somebody, they generally aren't checking a few thousand SNPs to see where that person fits on a PC plot with other hapMap populations. Epistemologically, race in these social contexts is morphological-cultural, not ancestral, whatever your opinion on evolutionary differences in psychology.

On the other hand, in a GWAS study the ancestral conception of race (I'd argue for a different term here, to escape from the colloqiual and historical connations of the word) is far more relevant.

Implying that the ancestral definition is the "truer" and more revealing definition of race runs counter to the way people live with race in the world today. Maybe this will change in the biomedical world of tomorrow, but it is morphology (and culture) primarily that matter in the social world of today.

The core definition of subspecies is that they do not naturally interbreed with each other. Africans and australians did not naturally interbreed with whites until whites explored those continents

Right, so soon after these groups were in contact, they interbred. Sounds like "natural" interbreeding by just about any definition of the word.

Truth said...

Garbage; I'm not aware of any recent study that suggests a significant fluxuation in rate of procreation between the races.

"Africans and australians did not naturally interbreed with whites until whites explored those continents."

Correct; horny and aroused white MALES.

Svigor said...

Correct; horny and aroused white MALES.

They were also randy, engorged, lascivious, ruttish, bawdy, carnal, salacious, concupiscent, erotomaniacal, tumescent, ithyphallic, and, of course, priapic.

Svigor said...

If we did that, soon enough "human" would become a pejorative, just like Negro.

Reminds me of the inverse. Just caught a bit of Rush talking about Thatcher, and how her moniker "Iron Lady" originated with TASS, from whom the western press borrowed it with gusto.

He said they didn't mean it as a compliment, but it soon became one.

Svigor said...

Since my previous comment seems to have been eaten, I'll recapitulate:

If aliens from another galaxy had this conversation, one of them would surely point out that one sort of creature builds skyscrapers, and the other does not, lending credence to the idea of separate species of Earthling.

Another would point out that smaller differences become more salient in sentients.

Anonymous said...

When imposing discrete categories on continouous data.

Is there any real life data that is NOT continuous?

Anonymous said...

Ms. Rosenberg doesn't bother to investigate what, exactly, is missing in the daily living conditions of these babies that they are called "poor."

There was a time when we knew what "poor" meant in practical, realistic terms. Now, I wonder if the circumstances regarding shelter, clothing, and especially food is really so different between the "poor" and the average kid from a working class or middle class family.