February 1, 2012

If race doesn't exist ...

I'm often told that race doesn't exist because, uh, what about Tiger Woods? What about American Indians and Chinese? Are they one race or two? What about Sioux v. Cherokee? Separate races or not? Huh? Huh? 

If there isn't a race for everyone and everyone in his one race, then race can't exist.

Okay, this kind of legalistic thinking, with no gray areas, is appealing to human minds, but that's not generally how nature works. Carving nature at its joints is generally fairly difficult in most fields of science. One obvious example is psychiatry, which is notoriously a mess. The release of a new edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders has generated these headlines in just the New York Times alone over the last few weeks:
Asperger’s History of Over-Diagnosis 
I Had Asperger Syndrome. Briefly. 
New Definition of Autism Will Exclude Many, Study Suggests 
Depression's Criteria May Change to Include Grieving 
Not Diseases but Categories of Suffering 
But as all those Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals have stated clearly in their introductions, while the book seems to name the mental illnesses found in nature, it actually makes “no assumption that each category of mental disorder is a completely discrete entity with absolute boundaries dividing it from other mental disorders or no mental disorder.” And as any psychiatrist involved in the making of the D.S.M. will freely tell you, the disorders listed in the book are not “real diseases,” at least not like measles or hepatitis. Instead, they are useful constructs that capture the ways that people commonly suffer. The manual, they go on, was primarily written to give physicians, schooled in the language of disease, a way to recognize similarities and differences among their patients and to talk to one another about them. And it has been fairly successful at that. 
Still, “people take it literally,” one psychiatrist who worked on the manual told me. “That is its strength in a political sense.” And even if the A.P.A. benefits mightily from that misperception, the troubles on the front page are not the organization’s fault. They are what happens when we expect the D.S.M. to be what it is not. “The D.S.M. has been taken too seriously,” another expert told me. “It’s the victim of its success.” 
Psychiatrists would like the book to deserve a more serious take, and thus to be less subject to these embarrassing diagnostic squabbles. But this is going to require them to have what the rest of medicine already possesses: the biochemical markers that allow doctors to sort the staph from the strep, the malignant from the benign. And they don’t have these yet. They aren’t even close. The human brain, after all, may be the most complex object in the universe. And the few markers, the genes and the neural networks, that have been implicated in mental disorders do not map well onto the D.S.M.’s categories.

By the standards of psychiatry in 2012, the study of human races by, say, the mid 1960s (i.e., toward the end of the pre-genetic era) was pretty accurate. It's hard to imagine that the 2012 D.S.M. will seem as accurate in 2059 as physical anthropologist Carleton Coon's 1965 book Living Races of Man seems in 2012 to somebody familiar with the 21st Century outpouring of genetic data. Indeed, psychiatry in 1965 was vastly more of a "pseudo-science" than the study of race in 1965.


Anonymous said...

Races, like species, are what philosopher Ruth Millikan calls "historical kinds." They are characterized not by having a universal essence (like water=H20), but by historical relations between the members. Biological species are another example, but so are manufactured items like the 1969 Plymouth Valiant.

Anonymous said...

I hope they get it right soon, so they can tell me what's wrong with me and fix me. I can't wait forever.

Anonymous said...

The tyranny of the discontinuous mind by Richard Dawkins.


Anonymous said...

$$$$ always helps when it comes to obfuscating things scientific, moral and philosophical. There is $ involved in legally defining disorders and who is in and who is out.

With autism alone you have a range of governmental services that can given or taken away based on how it will be defined, these include permanent disability and special needs education.

Opiniated said...

Psychology and Psycho-Analysis is Scotch-Irish nonsense from the Shtel.

Read "Ordeal of Civility".

Tom Regan said...

There is no such thing as race.
The same way there's no such thing as tall or short, because there's lots of people in between.
Night and day, light and dark, the same. Pure fictions.
And the existence of the labradoodle shows there's no such thing as labradors, or poodles.
Anyone who thinks differently is irredeemably evil.

Anonymous said...

There is a seemingly endless market for psychobabble. Race as a "purely social construct" is just one example of many.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, continuum concepts are so much better for autism and 'spergers, where they generally aren't useful for race, so much (even in Brazil there is clustering and lumpiness).

Not to mention that even then autism is much more of a wastebin taxon than any racial groups ever were.

Yet we continue to get identity politics for autism and a decrying of the idea of any kind of non-clinal structure in racial matters. (Not that a non-clinal structure even matters if we restrict ourselves to the general immigration case in the West, with many long separated groups from distal parts brought together - http://westhunt.wordpress.com/2011/12/19/clines-and-races/)

Anonymous said...

I believe as late as 1974, homosexuality was included in the standard psychriatric manual of disorders.

Anonymous said...

historical kinds ... are characterized not by having a universal essence (like water=H20)

If one's going to be really pedantic about it, it is high school chemistry knowledge that pure water under normal pressure and temperature conditions is a dynamic equilibrium of H2O molecules and H+ and OH- ions.

OneSTDV said...

By the standards of psychiatry in 2012, the study of human races by, say, the mid 1960s (i.e., toward the end of the pre-genetic era) was pretty accurate.

Ehh...I'd say the West had race well understood back in the 1600's after they first encountered other races. Understanding the importance of race takes basically just two eyes and a little bit of direct experience; fancy science helps, but it's not really necessary.

Chiral Architect said...

Races are like languages. They're fuzzy. But that doesn't mean French is the same as Navajo.

Iberian said...

I born in northern Angola, in a region with 200 Brancos, 30 Mulatos, and 3000 Negros (Bakongos). At four years age, I met Padre Raffaeli. Then, I discovered that not all Brancos are Portuguese...At six, I met an American family(missionnaires);they speak a very strange language and are blond with light eyes, like my mother, brother and grandfather.Really strange...At seven, I met some refugees from Congo (Zaire), Belgians and Lebanese (that my father called Mouros). They to, are different tribes of Brancos. At eight, I met the Boers and the Chinese. Then, me and my Negro friends have a problem; what are the Chinese? -After great discussion, we assume that they are Brancos, with some kind of disease... So tell me, if Race is not also cultural, can you translate Branco by White and Negro by Black?

Anonymous said...

If race doesn't exist...

Steve - did you ever cover the story from last summer about how Tutankhamun's DNA turned out to be WHITE?!?

R1b1a2, to be precise: "The frequency is about 70% in Spain and 60% in France.[26] In south-eastern England the frequency of this clade is about 70%;[26] in parts of the rest of north and western England, Spain, Portugal, Wales and Ireland, it is as high as 90%; and in parts of north-western Ireland it reaches 98%. It is also found in North Africa, where its frequency surpasses 10% in some parts of Algeria.[27] It has been reported in newspapers that King Tut is a member of the haplogroup R1b1a2, but it is found in less than 1 % of men in most parts of Egypt today.[26]"

In fact, it's difficult to read the Wikipedia article and not conclude that Tutankhamun's people came from Dal Riata.

Which, in turn, brings to mind one of my favorite DNA stories of all time: Orkney Islanders have Siberian relatives.

You almost get the feeling that there was some sort of a pre-historical ocean-going tribe of Scotsmen who spread their seed all over [what would become] the civilized world.

Anonymous said...

Carleton Coon

Nowadays, the author's name alone would be considered raciss'.

dcite said...

:Races, like species, are what philosopher Ruth Millikan calls "historical kinds." They are characterized not by having a universal essence (like water=H20), but by historical relations between the members."

All but the looniest liberals do realize that. I think.
Where HBD deniers differ from HBD agree-ers, is that they think we are reformable. That with enough pressure we can merge and forget about historical, phenotypical, sociological, biological, and political, differences that have attended "racial" identity. They are sanguine that there is little to no difference between black sub-Saharans and Anglo-Saxons from East Sussex. They just know it--except that blacks, of course, are somehow more saluatory for society (in what ways I have yet to figure out, except maybe for some kinds of music and sports I can't stand) and we must have ever more of them around us. There are lots of great black people and people of all other races, and everyone should, in highest moral principal, be judged on merit. But so far, it hasn't worked. It's a matter of percentages ultimately. Despite the fact that non-blacks are responsible for almost everything people actually want around them, the recent zeitgeist says blacks must rule. The irrational enthusiasm for black "leaders" of white societies is nothing short of insane. Even one of my liberal friends admitted that black government officials are even more corrupt than whites in government and bring no genius for unity or organization, but they do bring profitable and undying resentments, not to mention biased interests. All pols bring the last, but at least they try to conceal them, hypocracy being the price vice pays to virtue. Black pols display less of that, I must say.
Remember, the 20th century was the century of "how to win friends and influence people." Thinking positive makes it so. Etc., etc.
People--at least those who considered themselves advanced--did not just deny race. They denied all kinds of inherent "defects." They believed that if they just behaved and thought in a certain way, they would become that way. It actually does work up to a point for many; but only up to a point. It left a lot of disappointed people feeling like failures. People who in an earlier, more honest age, would have accepted their unique characteristics and worked on them as a moral responsibility rather than a way to make friends and influence people.

Dahinda said...

Pretending that race does not exist is generally a white feel good thing that is done from a position of an elitist who is patronizing. People who belong to other races know exactly what race they belong to and know very well that race exists!

Anonymous said...

"Harvard Targeted in Asian Discrimination Probe"


Harvard apparently thinks race exists. Sometimes. Well, only when it hurts Whites and Asians. (And by Whites, I mean Europeans who are neither Hispanic nor Jewish.)


gumbless said...

One could as easily argue that Tiger Woods is proof that race exists because someone like him could only have been created by mixing different races. You can't get Woods just by mixing black with black, Asian with Asian, or white with white. For there to be mixed-race people, there has to different races. It's like a cocktail is mixed drink, but that doesn't mean liquor and juices don't exist(because they can be mixed). It means a cocktail can exist only because there are DIFFERENT drinks in the first place to mix.
Also, if we use the Tiger Woods argument, polar bears and brown bears don't exist as separate races of bears since they've been known to mate and produce fertile offsprings. And same can be said of wolves, dogs, and coyotes. And of cro-magnon man and neanderthals. Since cromags and neans mixed, it must mean there was NO racial differences between the two groups(following the logic of 'anti-racists'), which is ridiculous. Neans and cromags were significantly different racially.

To be sure, the science of race isn't exact. But then, the science of species isn't exact either. Some scientists still insist cromags and neans were different species even though they could mate and produce fertile offpsring. And many scientists still categorize wolves and dogs as different species though they too can mate and produce fertile offspring. To this extent, even species is a social construct. If we can say cromags and neans were different species even if they could produce fertile offpsring(and same for wolves and dogs), why can't someone say nordics and African pygmies are different species since they are physically, emotionally, and intellectually very different(even if they can mate and produce fertile offspring)?

There is a 'social construct' aspect to race since the dividing line between some races aren't exact. Same goes for dogs. While a bloodhound and chihuahua are clearly different breeds, there are different breeds of hounds that are similar--and might even be said to belong to the same breed.
Same goes with race. Some races are closer to one another, almost to the point where they could be said to constitute one race. Asians and American-Indians could just as easily be of one race as different races. Same could be said for various groups in Africa. Bantu and Bushmen should be seen as different races. And Somalians and Nigerians are very different too. But then, there is a clear difference between Amazonian Indians and Nigerians.

Also, because the meaning of race has often been determined by cultural and political forces, it hasn't always been scientific. How US and Brazil categorize race has a lot to do with social bias and cultural outlooks.
But same can be said of the gender/sex debate. Different cultures define gender(cultural manifestation of sex)differently. In the West, women drive cars and are still considered womanly. In Saudi Arabia, women do not drive cars; that's a MAN'S thing. But who would say there's no real sexual difference between male and female? Can men have babies?

Also, there are people with mixed sexuality--thanks to screwy hormones--called transsexuals and hermaphrodites. Do mixed-sexuals prove there is no race--like Woods supposedly proves there is no race?
No, the fact that someone can be both male and female is proof that there is 'maleness' and there is 'femaleness'. For there to be mixture of both, each has to exist on its own in the first place.

But if race and sex are sometimes murky in definition, so is age. What is a child, what is an adult? Is a 15 yr old still a youth or an adult? Just because he or she happens to be a bit of both doesn't mean there is no youth and no adulthood.

Georgia Resident said...

"Psychology and Psycho-Analysis is Scotch-Irish nonsense from the Shtel."
This comment makes no sense whatsoever.

Old Rebel said...

Is Sedna a planet? Is Pluto?

Well, it depends on your definition of "planet."

Therefore, Earth, Mercury, Mars, etc. do not exist.

gum said...

OT. I tried watching ATLAS SHRUGGED. I lasted 15 minutes, just barely. It is the most pitiful pile of shit I ever done seed.

Dr. Maxwell's Silver Hammer said...

I can guess one entry in the 2059 DSM:

Sailoritis: A destabilizing anti-social condition marked by an individual's abnormal tendency to believe what they see or reason rather than what they are taught and exposed to by media and authorities.

Black Death said...

The non-existence of race is big news and has been conclusively proved - just ask any liberal. And if it's true for humans, it must be true for other species as well, I mean, aren't we all baaed on DNA? This will be very important for many folks, say cattle ranchers, who didn't realize that all their cows were just Bos taurus. And what about dogs - aren't they all Canis familiaris (or, probably more properly, Canis lupus familiaris)? So they're all just the same - no breeds, no variation. I can't wait to see a team of miniature poodles win the Iditarod!

beowulf said...

Coon believed Northern Europeans were part Neanderthal. no? That theory was ahead of its time.

psychiatry in 1965 was vastly more of a "pseudo-science" than the study of race in 1965.

Edward Shorter persuasively asserts in his excellent book "Before Prozac" that psychiatry is more of a pseuudo-science today than it was 50 years ago.

Psychiatry today is a barren tundra... where drugs that don't work are used to treat diseases that don't exist...
Shorter also castigates academia, showing how two forms of depression, melancholia and nonmelancholia--"as different from each other as chalk and cheese"--became squeezed into one dubious classification, major depression, which was essentially a political artifact born of academic infighting.


rob said...

Them: Racist!
Me: Do races even exist?
Them: 'Course, not!
Me: [smug] Guess I'm not a racist, then [/smug]

As for mental illnesses, in the US there's a personality disorder named schizotypal personality disorder. In the EU there's mental disorder called schizotypal disorder. So some people can acquire a personality disorder by relocating!

On personality tests (maybe OCEAN, maybe specific for PDs, people with personality disorders, except maybe antisocial PD, cluster together pretty far from normal. "Personality disorder" might be a more accurate diagnostic category than any particular one. I'd imagine that other mental illnesses have significant overlap as well.

tommy said...

From a previous MPC post:

"[A]ll humans, including scientists, routinely make distinctions which are somewhat arbitrary but entirely practical. For example, you cannot define the exact boundary between a gently rolling plain and a hill, nor the exact boundary between a hill and a mountain. Nevertheless, it's critical to your survival that you understand that ascending K-2 in the Himalayas is not going to be the same as traversing a cornfield in Iowa. There may be no fine boundary between plains, hills, and mountains, but to pretend there is no difference obscures reality."

Anonymous said...

"race -- it's as scientific as the DSM!" is not a compelling defense.

Just Like Guilt Doesn't Matter said...

The assertion that race doesn't matter implicitly reflects one of two opposing mindsets about race.

Naivete: Gee, I really hope race doesn't exist because I've heard it causes nothing but trouble!

Malevolence: Your race doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

Haiti ruled by people who look like Holder, Obama, and Gladwell.

josh said...

I just saw an article about the German guy who did the DNA that showed that non-African people all seem to have Neandertal genes.(Did you know he is bisexual? He was the illegitimate and "secret" son of a married Nobel Prize winning guy who banged a female scientist.Alpha?)He wondered if further exploration of this issue would turn up other sub-species of humans that we had interbred with. (I say interbred,as opposed to intermarried, because I dont know if they had marriage,as such,in those day.Nor gay marriage either,I'd wager.) Well I can think of one possible sub-species and that would be(Truth,I hope you're sitting down) blacks. I am not trying to be funny or "rayciss",I am serious. Isnt it likely that blacks are not just a different race but are in fact a different "man"?And we have sure as hell interbred with them,with plenty more to come. Blacks--and liberals and uhm,Swedes,always align the world as whites (bad) against everyone else,(good). But it seeems atruer alignment of humanity would have Non-Blacks in one category and Blacks in the other. Blacks are the outliers,and the differences so vast and so profound and so immutable that maybe we should consider the possibility that they represent a whole different kettle of fish.

dravidian collapse said...

Preaching to the choir, my boy. Preaching to the choir.

cruft said...

There is the common misconception that the brain and the mind are the same thing. They are not; the brain being organic and the mind is not material. Herein lies the the problem.

Anonymous said...

Psychology and Psycho-Analysis is Armenian nonsense from the Stan.

Baloo said...

There has to be some Medieval Latin term for the fallacy that if there are fuzzy boundaries, the classification is invalid. Anybody know it? Wm F. Buckley knew it, I bet.

Truth said...

"Well I can think of one possible sub-species and that would be(Truth,I hope you're sitting down) blacks."

Well now, Josh, you have the STEM background from what I assume, so I'll defer to you here, but I didn't think it was possible for the species originator to be a "subspecies."

Is "wolf" subspecies of "dog"?

Truth said...

"There has to be some Medieval Latin term for the fallacy that if there are fuzzy boundaries, the classification is invalid. Anybody know it?"

Yeah; "War."

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Schizophrenia is a real disease, like hepatitis.

Generally, you are correct about the DSM and diagnosis. But don't take it too far.

As to race, you can identify which of the continents one's ancestors came from by their junk DNA, with no reference to skin color. Hard to see what one would call that, except, uh, "race."

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Josh, the amount of genetic difference between homo sapiens and Neanderthals is vastly greater than the difference between Africans and non-Africans.

Though this should show exactly how varied humans can be before they separate into two separate species who can no longer reproduce together. What would the liberals have said 50,000 years ago? We can reproduce with the Neanderthals, so maybe there are no differences between us that aren't just skin deep!

Anonymous said...

"There is the common misconception that the brain and the mind are the same thing. They are not; the brain being organic and the mind is not material. Herein lies the the problem."

Mind is brain turned on, just like light is lightbulb switched on.

Dutch Boy said...

Blogger Baloo said...

There has to be some Medieval Latin term for the fallacy that if there are fuzzy boundaries, the classification is invalid. Anybody know it? Wm F. Buckley knew it, I bet.

perhaps the fallacy of composition?:
fallacy of composition, which arises when one fallaciously attributes a property of some part of a thing to the thing as a whole