Monday May 12, 2014
There are genetic variations between races, but they don’t matter. It is co-operation that brings progress to our species.
Is it necessary to believe that racial differences are small and skin-deep in order not to be a racist? For the first half of the last century, science generally exaggerated stereotypes of racial difference in behaviour and assumed that they were innate and immutable. For the second half, science generally asserted that there were no differences — save the obvious, visible ones — and used this argument to combat prejudice.
Yet that second premise is becoming increasingly untenable in the genomic era as more details emerge of human genetic diversity. We will have to justify equal treatment using something other than identity of nature. Fortunately, it’s easily done.
Human evolution did not cease thousands of years ago; it has been “recent, copious and regional”, in the words of Nicholas Wade, a veteran New York Times science writer and the author of A Troublesome Inheritance, an eloquent but disturbing book on genes, race and human history, which was published last week. ...
Perhaps people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have high average IQs because for centuries their ancestors worked almost exclusively in professions such as money-lending, where exceptional literacy and numeracy were rewarded with greater fecundity. Or perhaps Chinese people show greater conformity because for centuries those who could stomach Confucian rote-learning and obedience got to have more surviving children. These are no more far-fetched arguments than to suppose that ancestral Inuit with genetic adaptations for coping with the cold had more offspring.
Nor is it implausible that over millennia of settled, agricultural and urban living, with the execution or ostracism of “skull-cracker” misfits, selection took place for tameness in the natives of Europe or India compared with say, New Guinea or the Amazon. Thanks to “soft sweeps” — where multiple existing gene variants change in frequency — evolution can work a lot faster than we used to think. ...
So Wade is absolutely right that the old assumption that human behaviour did not evolve much after the divergence of human races at the end of the old Stone Age has to be wrong. The comforting message that biologists sent to social scientists in the 1960s — that they were sure there was no biological basis for race, which could instead be regarded as a social construct — is bunk.
True, the boundaries of races are blurred, and the differences between individuals dwarf those between average members of different races, but differences there are, and not just in skin pigment. The more we look, the more genetic variation we will find between races, as well as between individuals, so we had better get ready to deal with such discoveries, if only for medical reasons. Some diseases afflict certain races more; some drugs work differently in different races.
However, I part company with the next step in Wade’s argument. He tries to explain too much of human history by gene changes. The industrial revolution started in Europe and not China, he suggests, partly because Europe had been preconditioned by genetic evolution for the sort of economic openness that sparked accelerating innovation.
This is based on the work of the historian Gregory Clark (like Wade, an expatriate Briton in America who has written a fascinating new book about social mobility called The Son Also Rises). The evidence from the history of surnames, Clark says, “confirms a permanent selection in pre-industrial England for the genes of the economically successful, and against the genes of the poor and criminal”.
... But surely this was not anywhere near fast or large enough to spark the industrial revolution, let alone as important as factors such as the harnessing of fossil fuels or the invention of inclusive institutions and opening up to trade.
Clark's 2007 book was so important that I reviewed it across two articles in VDARE: first and second.
Just look at how quickly attitudes to homosexuality, say, have changed within a lifetime, with no time for gene changes.
WWG is rapidly assuming epochal importance in the Western mental landscape.
It may be harder to build and run a modern consumer society from scratch using only people whose ancestors were hunter-gathering for most of the past 30,000 years (native Australians, say) than by using only people whose ancestors experienced farming, cities, diseases, alcohol and literacy. But it would be far from impossible with the right institutions.
I think the Viscount went for a bridge too far there in choosing his example. He could have used, say, Maoris in his example. (Here's Clive James on an anthology of poetry supposedly by Aborigines, which he contrasts to a recent poem he really likes by a Maori.) The "right institutions" would have to include a near total ban on alcohol, which the Australian government has been trying in recent years, but I don't know with how much success.
There is a big reason that racial differences in mental capacity will not matter a jot, however many we find. Human achievement is not, despite what professors like to think, the work of brilliant individuals. It is a collective phenomenon.
Every technology, every idea, every institution is a combination of many people’s contributions. There is no single human being on the planet, as Leonard Read famously pointed out, who knows how to make a pencil, let alone the internet, the economy or the government.
The average IQ of a group, a team or a race matters little, if at all. What counts is how well they communicate, collaborate and exchange ideas. Give me a hundred thickos who talk to each other, rather than a hundred clever-clogs who don’t. This collaboration is surely the true secret of human achievement and the true reason that race does not count, not because we are all identical inside.
But can't clever-clogs talk to each other too?
That's a devastating comeback if the big problem is inequality among groups, which has been the conventional wisdom since the 1960s. If that's not really the big problem, then clever clogs and thickos talking to each other will lead to economic growth without necessarily radically changing the rank order of groups' economic potentials. And that's pretty much what we've seen.
As I tried to point out in my recent piece in Taki's, a lot of agitation is driven by juvenile jealousy over ethnic bragging rights. Biologist Stephen Jay Gould resented that the history of biology featured fewer great names from his group than the history of some other sciences, such as nuclear physics, so he concocted a giant, highly successful campaign to get people to believe that his largely WASP predecessors were evil pseudo-scientists.
The world we live in in 2014 is one that looks an awful lot like the one us bad guys describe ... and, guess what, it's not so bad.