Monday, April 14, 2014

Mailbag: Clearing the Air Anthropologically

I noticed that there are, in addition to the things already discussed, a few questions regarding some of the things I've said having to deal with anthropology; thus, I decided it'd be best if I made another short mailbag post to clear the air.

The first two questions are responding to my post on "Lewontin's Fallacy" and Race, but since these (unlike what I'm used to) are constructive and very clearly objective, I'm going to reply to them despite my having ended any discussion on that post. First:

"Ms. Delanoir, I noticed that on your post on Lewontin and Race, you said that the general scientific consensus is in support of the Out of Africa hypothesis. This really isn't true anymore (although it may have been back in 2010 or 2011). Indeed, anthropologists do support the multiregional hypothesis, which is not to be confused with the candelabra model. Is this why you were confused?"

This email is two things: (A) completely correct; and, (B) a great talking point. It is entirely true that the most up-to-date data in anthropology supports the multiregional hypothesis. The difference between these two hypotheses is that Out of Africa supported the large-scale replacement hypothesis, in that it suspected that modern humans who migrated out of Africa replaced the existing human populations such as the Denisovans and the Neanderthals with little-to-no intermixing involved; however, recent evidence suggests the contrary, that some populations can have as much as 4% Neanderthal admixture. I actually had a brief discussion with somebody on my debate page comments regarding this. These findings do support a multiregional hypothesis (not a candelabra model) because the multiregional hypothesis suggests a series of migrations and back-migrations with substantial intermixing with existing human populations, thus resulting in a widespread, complicated network of human interaction and gene flow.

Often times, I conflate the multiregional hypothesis with the candelabra model for online debates because, considering who I'm debating against, they often do not know the difference, and if I were to tell them I supported the multiregional hypothesis but still believed human race does not exist, they would not understand why. Interestingly enough, the implications of the multiregional hypothesis suggest that Neanderthals and Denisovans are of the same species as Homo Sapiens, but perhaps different subspecies or races. That hurts the debate a little.

But, I'm willing to accept that I was incorrect in my framing of the debate, and I apologize to anyone who I misled. Knowing now that there are legitimate interest readers who look into the true science of what I write about on occasion, I'll do my best to improve my writing so that it is factually accurate, not socially convenient.

Next question.

First, I would like to thank you deeply for your contributions to fighting race revival. Sometimes I look back on the progress we've made in anthropology and think 'where did we go wrong?' In any case, I just have a few minor comments.
You spent a little bit of time defending your citation of both Lewontin and Gould (in separate posts), and I'm just wondering if there's a specific reason you're doing so. In all honesty, even I acknowledge in this debate that citing Lewontin or Gould is kind of remedial, and I often look at it and think 'is that all you got?' There are many other, much more recent authorities and studies to cite that effectively prove the same point. One good place to start would be with this article:
If you're interested in more, let me know!"

I defend my support of Lewontin and Gould for different reasons. Lewontin's research was genuinely the birth of research which would serve to debunk traditional racial categories at the genetic level. Gould was rejected by many scientists in the last decade because of the Morton-Gould War. Neither Lewontin nor Gould deserve to be rejected, but of course, we need more recent and relevant data to defend our position.

Since I want to keep this short, I'll only include one more question:

"I noticed that a lot of issues you're having with people in the race debates have to deal with this mistaken idea that human behavior and phenotypes can be predetermined by their genes. Do you think that there's some inherent human nature that we cannot overcome?"

You know, when I hear the phrase "human nature," I and many people in the field of anthropology let out a heavy sigh and put our fingers in between our eyes in frustration; but then, the words of Tim Ingold echo in my ears, and not only is my headache put at ease, but in all honesty, the eloquent phrasing of Ingold's argument makes my heart throb a little:

"Human capacities are not genetically specified but emerge within processes of ontogenetic development. Moreover the circumstances of development are continually shaped through human activity. There is consequently no human nature that has escaped the current of history.

[...] This does not mean, of course, that a human being can be anything you please. But it does mean that there is no way of describing what human beings are independently of the manifold historical and environmental circumstances in which they become–in which they grow up and live out their lives."

If you asked anthropologists today what their favorite quote was, I think many of them would pick this one out. The suggestion that a person, or a society's culture can be predetermined by their genes is absolutely ridiculous.

Thank you all for your input. Look forward to more

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