Scientific data on human genetic diversity

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I haven't seen this [Update: the original article has been removed, but here is the content of that article] described so nicely before. It's been common knowledge among most philosophers of race that our American concept of race has no scientific basis. That doesn't mean there's no reality to race, but it's a social phenomenon, not a scientifically discoverable division within the species. The work on the human genome project has not only confirmed this but given hard numbers to back it up.

Two little bits as a sample:

"Gray wolves split into subspecies, scoring 0.7 on Wright's scale. Even Ozark mountain lizards living on ridges less than a mile apart differ from each other by an Fst score of 0.4. But human groups score only about 0.15 on the statistical scale. That's a worldwide total measuring all human variation. When scientists try to measure differences between only two groups of people, they usually find a lower score, on average about 0.08 -- only 8 percent of the genes examined have more than one allele. The most disparate human groups barely make the 0.25 mark, far below the diversity seen in lizards."

"For instance, the Pygmy people living in Zaire and the Central African Republic, and people from Melanesia, such as people from the island of Fiji, are among the darkest-skinned populations in the world. A racial classification based on skin color would likely group them as members of the same race quite distinct from fair-skinned Europeans. But genetic analysis reveals that both African Pygmies and people from Fiji are more closely related to Europeans than to each other."

Update: I should explain what's going on with the comments on this one. I was involved with a discussion on Kwanzaa at World Magazine's blog. Someone there co-opted the discussion toward some pet issues, basically arguing for a thesis something along the lines of what The Bell Curve is usually used to demonstrate -- that standardized test differences between racial groups are explainable only through genetic predispositions for certain levels of intelligence. (See the Thomas Sowell discussion I linked in the comments for a more balanced view of that book.)

Independently of that discussion, I found this article and thought it relevant to some of my own thoughts on race that I've been posting here, so I posted it on my blog. Then I decided that it would also be relevant to that discussion and posted it there. Instead of continuing the conversation there, the person who had been trolling there rudely decided to continue the discussion here, thus giving readers of my blog absolutely no sense of where this is coming from unless they'd already been following that discussion.

My policy on trolling is that I will address any real arguments that I think are worth discussing, even if the general tone of the message is trolling, as long as I haven't already addressed them. Any posts that are pure trolling will be deleted.

16 Comments

That's all well and good, but the hard fact remains-Pygmies have put no more members of their group on the moon than have gray wolves. Nor have any other Africans. And there's no reason to believe they ever will.

1-9-04 6:55 pm

Due to the Haloscan 1000-character limit for comments, this response will span more than one comment set.

1. We measure racial groups by characteristics that this study shows don't define genuine genetic groups. Therefore, nothing you say demonstrates anything about genetic reasons for intelligence test differences.

2. Since you're fond of Thomas Sowell as the rare exception, have you read his rebuttal of the conclusions of The Bell Curve? He says the response that the tests are biased based on income is bogus, and I agree. He says they do a good job showing that tests aren't just culturally biased, because the biggest differences between blacks and whites are on questions that don't involve middle-class vocabulary or experiences but on more abstract questions. They take this to be explainable only by genetics, but that doesn't follow, and there's evidence for a better explanation....

1-9-04 11:26 pm

Sowell: "When European immigrant groups in the United States scored below the national average ..., they scored lowest on the abstract part.... So did white mountaineer children in the United States ... in the early 1930s.... canal boat children in Britain, ... rural British children compared to their urban counterparts, at a time before Britain had any significant non-white population.... Gaelic-speaking children as compared to English-speaking children in the Hebrides Islands. This is neither a racial nor an ethnic peculiarity. It is ... found among low-scoring groups of European as well as African ancestry. In short, groups outside the cultural mainstream of contemporary Western society tend to do their worst on abstract questions, whatever their race..."

1-9-04 11:41 pm

Good post, Jeremy, and it does support my position. and I believe that it also supports how the Bible treats the subject.

I've perused your site, and I'd like to link you on my blogroll, if you don't mind. I think you have some good things to say.

Theognome

1-10-04 12:03 am

Now we have two options. If it's genetic, a small sample of those fluent in Western culture have the right genes, and it correlates exactly with those who are more educated, have good health care, and who speak the local language natively. That seems unlikely. I'd be more inclined to see it as connected somehow with whatever factors Western civilization brings in to help people develop the part of their brain, the mental skills, whatever it might be.

For some good work on why this might be, see Rodney Stark's How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery. He associates the features you attribute to race to something they match better -- the influence of Christianity.

1-10-04 12:05 am

That's all real nice. But we're putting men on the moon, and Africans are consulting witch doctors.

1-10-04 1:38 am

Francis Schaffer also agrees that it is Christianity that makes the difference. Check out his 'How Should We Then Live'. Prior to the Christian influence, White men were erecting big rocks on the ground and calling them gods. Christianity unlocked science for the whole world, for with a Chrsitian base, we could seek to understand His creation rather than start from a flawed base and thus fail. Also check out the writings of Francis Bacon on the subject.

Theognome

1-10-04 3:12 am

I explained why we're putting men on the moon. As before, you ignored my argument and repeated what you had claimed. My argument had been a direct response to that very claim, so repeating it does no good. I see no point in continuing a discussion with someone who doesn't bother to follow the line of thought in a discussion. If you're unable or unwilling to think in a straight line, it's not worth your time to challenge people who do think linearly.

1-10-04 8:51 am

Theognome,

I have no problem with being blogrolled. Thanks.

I haven't decided yet to do any comprehensive blogroll at this point, so I'm not sure I can promise to return the favor. I have a much wider intended audience and want to stick to the few blogs that I want to recommend to anyone in that wider audience. So far all of the blogs I've listed are run by people in academia. Since yours is more of an in-house discussion within a certain sector of Christianity, it doesn't quite fit my list, but if I do end up doing a larger list at some point yours will likely be in it.

1-10-04 10:07 am

"I explained why we're putting men on the moon."

No you didn't. You might think you did, but just saying it's culture not genetics is a platitude, not an explanation. Africa had Christianity long before Europe did, and yet they languish in ignorance and squalor. Japan has never been remotely Christian; most are atheist Buddhists. So why aren't living like Africans, if it's culture not genetics?

1-10-04 2:35 pm

The explanation had nothing to do with "it's culture, not genetics". That was my conclusion of a different argument. The explanation was Christianity, and I gave you a link to a recent book that argues exactly this that's getting great reviews by people of all sorts. If you want to dismiss this explanation, I want to see you refute the arguments in that book. From what I looked it, it seems to be good historical research.

Africa had Christianity for a very short time before they got conquered by Islam. Europe didn't exactly stand up well to Islamic militance. Mostly the more remote parts of it or the more heavily protected parts turned out to resist. Otherwise they may have succumbed also. Japan has a Constitution modeled on the American Constitution.

The Christian values that led to the prosperity of the West have still not influenced the basic mindset of Africa except some of the more prosperous parts.

1-10-04 3:17 pm

So it's Christianity, not genetics. I guess Christianity and culture aren't related, huh? Japan is in no sense even close to being a Christian country, and yet they're very advanced. Don't know much about their constitution, but if the fact that they're so advanced is because they modeled it after our some 50 years ago; that causes a huge problem for you. Because if Japan can go from savagery to where they are now in only 50 years, then why are we not buying Toyotas and Nissans and Lexuses from Liberia? Their constitution is almost an exact copy of ours, and it was adopted back in the 1800's.

Nice try, though.

1-10-04 3:35 pm

And you seem to saying that God doesn't love Africans like he does "Westerners":


"The Christian values that led to the prosperity of the West have still not influenced the basic mindset of Africa except some of the more prosperous parts."


Faith is a gift from God. Christian civilization, culture, freedom, prosperity-these are all gifts from God. And yet he hasn't given them to Africans like he has to Westerners.

Why hasn't God caused the Christian values that create prosperity to influence the basic mindset of Africans?

1-10-04 3:39 pm

We also funneled money into Japan. Japan also has the added benefit of a cultural distinctive -- having a ridiculously high work ethic. Liberians, on the other hand, moved to Liberia to avoid contact with the United States, with no effort whatsoever to take advantage of U.S. funding. It was also founded much earlier than Japan, and it didn't have any nation-building motivation from the U.S. (it was more of a "leave them alone" attitude), which Japan did in the wake of the war.

1-10-04 3:43 pm

When did I say that God gives exactly those things simply out of loving some people more than others? Your assumption sounds very similar to atheists who try to argue against God via the problem of evil.

The values of Christianity have influenced Western culture over a period of 2000 years! Why think 50 years would be enough to do anything? There have certainly been many, many Christians from all over the world at different times. Western society has largely been the beneficiary of a longer run of those with influence who are more influenced by elements of Christianity. Given the harsh words throughout scripture against those who abuse what God gives them, I expect Western culture to face a huge fall soon unless there's a major wave of repentance. Europe has already mostly abandoned God, and the U.S. isn't far behind, given the fact that 80% claim to be Christian but only 17% read their Bibles regularly.

1-10-04 3:48 pm

Not only American racism but the whol concept of racism has absolutely no basis. be it scientific or ethical.

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