"It seems that you are censoring comments on both of your posts on race, and so I thought I would send you this email with my thoughts on the discussion. It seems to me that you are playing a semantics game over racial classification. I could talk about gene clusters and morphological characteristics that easily correlate with our traditional idea of race, but to sum it up, I sympathize with this commenter:
'In other words, they evolved differently, but we shouldn't be calling them different races anyway because liberals get butthurt... Great argument against race, no doubt. You can call them populations, I'll call them race - same thing.'
Ignoring the political rhetoric, this commenter has the right idea. By the very nature of what a category is, if we can find that there are several characteristics which correlate with our traditional understanding of race (i.e. Europeans are much more likely to have light skin, light hair, light eyes, certain tooth shape, skull shape, etc.) then even if there are occasional overlaps, those categories are useful and cannot be ignored. This is why it seems, to me, that there is not much scientific reason to deny race. You fully acknowledge that certain people evolved in certain ways to adapt to their environments, such that Europeans became different from East Asians, but you somehow say that these groups cannot be called races? That convinces me you are not scientifically motivated.
Furthermore, in one of your comments on YouTube, you stated that in order to be classified into subspecies, an animal must have an FST of 0.25 - 0.3. This is a common mistake cited by race deniers. There is no set requirement for FST to be classified into subspecies because of the errors in estimating FST, and because it is arbitrary to set any certain requirement. There are plenty of subspecies which have been identified which have an FST of lower than 0.25. There is no set rule, so despite humans having an FST of around 0.15, classifying them into subspecies is just fine.
I hope you will give me an honest response.
Should I give up, or should I try explaining again? (I'm kidding of course -- I only act this way because I think I know who sent the email, and that's what makes it funny).
First of all, the biggest warning sign that I can be given in these discussions is, right off the bat, being accused of censorship. The accusation isn't entirely untrue, but it isn't perfectly descriptive either. I control the comments that come into my blog because I write on controversial topics from time to time, and thus am inevitably going to receive comments that are NSFW. I don't want that, although I don't go ape over people swearing on my blog either -- I'm rather liberal when it comes to those sorts of things. I do like to keep the discussions in check, though. Anyone who freely comments on my blog can attest to this: if you have something worth saying, you can take the time to type it somewhat cordially so that I can permit it; otherwise, it's not getting published.
Aside from that, however, when a comment doesn't introduce any new arguments (and by this, I mean the answers to their arguments are given in the post or in other comment responses), then it's not worth my readers' time to publish that comment. This is just to avoid repetition.
However, in some cases, something can be repeated so many times in so many different ways. This leads me to believe that the question is in need of an extensive reply, such as the one I am about to provide. So, without further ado, let's get to the substance of S.T.'s email. S.T. states that he sympathizes with this comment from my post on Lewontin's Fallacy and Race:
"In other words, they evolved differently, but we shouldn't be calling them different races anyway because liberals get butthurt... Great argument against race, no doubt. You can call them populations, I'll call them race - same thing."
Had S.T. continued to read on, he would have seen my reply to this commenter:
"Yes, some people 'evolved' differently from others. I say this because humans are still evolving, and it seems we will be for some time to come. Again, this doesn't warrant biological classification beyond the point of subspecies. "Race" and "geographic population" are not the same thing. The significance of studying geographic populations is in observing the population's interaction with its environment."
This is a little vague due to the fact that I had to condense it to have a more comment-appropriate length. It also doesn't directly respond to the argument that if multiple characteristics or genes correlate with an identifiable group, then that group is meaningful in nature, and in this case, these groups can be classified as races; more so, my reply argues against the conflation of population with race. The former, more or less, is what S.T. and the commenter he quoted were arguing. In any case, I probably would've ignored this email had I not received several of the same nature:
If you scientifically believe races do not exist in the human species, please explain how we can look at gene clusters which express for morphological differences or otherwise in populations and accurately classify them into groups?"
"I think it's dishonest to say that typically, a subspecies classification requires a 0.25-0.30 FST, or that this applies to race. Plenty of subspecies have been identified which do not have such a high FST, and in fact have a substantially lower FST than humans. I'd suggest you look at this chart:
To clarify, I don't believe you're dishonest, just that you're misled, by the way. You seem very intelligent."
Thus, I have decided that it is worth responding to in whole. This will be a two-part response: (1) don't gene clusters imply that we can classify race; and (2) since other subspecies have been classified with a lower FST than 0.25, doesn't that mean it works just fine with humans?
The first part is a little ignorant. If I were to compare the elk population in Alberta to the elk population in Ontario and conducted an Analysis of Molecular Variance (AMOVA) and found their FST to be 0.01, that means that only 1% of the variation which exists can be explained by between-population differences. Now, within this 1%, there may be a cluster of a few genes which almost always correlate to the elk population we took our sample from. Let's say it's a set of 25 genes. Around 95% of the time, allele A of these genes is exclusive to the Albertan Elk, and allele B is exclusive to the Ontarian Elk. The logic of what is being suggested is that because this difference exists, even though there is only a 1% difference between these two populations, we can classify them into subspecies, or race, or deme, or whatever classification below the level of species you prefer.
|Since elk in Washington tend to be fatter, they're obviously a new subspecies.|
The second part is a bit trickier. There are probably subspecies that have been identified which have an FST of lower than 0.25. The general rule, as I've been taught, is that 25% between-population differentiation warrants separate classification. There are always going to be exceptions to these rules, because science itself needs to be somewhat flexible in order to account for things we don't fully understand. In these cases, we would look at the Albertan Elk and Ontarian Elk and see if there are other differences. Are they geographically separated, or do they regularly move between the borders of Alberta and Ontario? Do they have distinct ecology -- does one only eat a certain type of plant, or display a different social structure?
The different "races" of humans are not so distinct. We can all adapt to living in a different society than where we grew up in without too much difficulty. We are all capable of eating the same foods, for the most part (I'm aware that, for example, lactose intolerance occurs at higher rates in some populations). We show little genetic distinction from one another (more recent estimates suggest that our differences are in the range of 3% to 7% as opposed to the 15% I usually cite). Based on our current understanding of human variation, race is not the best classification we can use.
More over, the chart that was cited in the third email I received was an interesting one. It has been cited before on my blog -- specifically, it was cited by the person that the first emailer referred to. I know which website it came from, but specifically I don't know who created it. I guess it's safe to assume that the author of that website probably made it, but I wonder if it came from a journal article instead. Either way, there are many things that I find funny/interesting about the chart, and I think I'll be discussing those things in a separate post in the near future. For now, my general explanations are what I have to offer.
What other emails have I received regarding the debate over race?
In your review of Stephen Jay Gould's 'The Book of Life,' you suggested that he was some kind of phenomenal scientist that was revolutionary to his field. This is where you're wrong, and I'm guessing this is where you received much of your education on human racial differences. Libertarian Realist did a good video on this in response to c0nc0rdance, who I see you're subscribed to on Youtube. Funny, huh?
Stephen Jay Gould was charged with intellectual dishonesty for his book 'The Mismeasure of Man' due to his anti-racism, much like you. He accused Samuel Morton of intellectual dishonesty and bias in his calculation of cranial capacities; however, when Lewis et al. remeasured the sample from the original study, they found that Morton was completely accurate, and if anyone was biased, it was Gould.
You can find Janet Monge's interview on the matter here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oE_mVLH8fU"
Recently, HannibaltheVictor13 on YouTube made a video response to this, and if you don't like how I say things, maybe you'll like him. You can find his video here.
Otherwise, I'll continue to respond.
Stephen Jay Gould's original thought of Morton was, yes, that Morton was a racist and that he may have shown his bias in his calculations. The direct criticism, however, was that Morton had not controlled for sex or stature of the skeletons that he observed, and that he omitted certain skulls to fit his preconceptions of racial categories, and all of this skewed the results. In their study, Lewis et al. made the same mistake Morton did and failed to control for sex or for stature. In fact, Lewis et al. failed to remeasure the entire collection -- they remeasured about half of it.
|S.J.G. -- a man who is a great evolutionary biologist.|
But either way, the flaw with this criticism of Stephen Jay Gould (one which Libertarian Realist took part in) is that it's fallacious. Stephen Jay Gould, even if he had incorrectly criticized Morton, was a great scientist, and his work was phenomenal. One fault in his addressing of human variation, specifically race, would not destroy all of the other contributions he's made to science.
This concludes this mailbag post. The next one will be about more personal questions I've received regarding my life, not my work.
Thank you all for reading.
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