wade treading carefully

h. allen orr thinks that nicholas wade should’ve tread more carefully in A Troublesome Inheritance:

“There is, however, another distinction that Wade doesn’t seem to appreciate at all. He’s right that political sensitivities shouldn’t distort scientific truth: the facts are the facts. But as Pinker notes, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be particularly careful when discussing race. History has shown that this is an especially dangerous subject, one that has resulted in enormous abuses. There is nothing unscientific about recognizing this and treading carefully.”

sometimes i think i must’ve read a different version of the book than all these reviewers. here’s an excerpt [kindle edition pgs. 71-72]:

“Races are a way station on the path through which evolution generates new species. The environment keeps changing, and organisms will perish unless they adapt. In the course of adaptation, different variations of a species will emerge in conditions where the species faces different challenges. These variations, or races, are fluid, not fixed. If the selective pressure that brought them into being should disappear, they will merge back into the general gene pool. Or, if a race should cease to interbreed with its neighbors through the emergence of some barrier to reproduction, it may eventually become a separate species.

“People have not been granted an exemption from this process. If human differentiation were to continue at the same pace as that of the past 50,000 years, one or more of today’s races might in the distant future develop into a different species. But the forces of differentiation seem now to have reversed course due to increased migration, travel and intermarriage.

“Races develop within a species and easily merge back into it. All human races, so far as is known, have the same set of genes. But each gene comes in a set of different flavors or alternative forms, known to geneticists as alleles. One might suppose that races differ in having different alleles of various genes. But, though a handful of such racially defining alleles do exist, the basis of race rests largely on something even slighter, a difference in the relative commonness, or frequency, of alleles, a situation discussed further in the next chapter.

“The frequency of each allele of a gene changes from one generation to the next, depending on the chance of which parent’s allele is inherited and whether the allele is favored by natural selection. Races are therefore quite dynamic, because the allele frequencies on which they depend are shifting all the time. A good description is provided by the historian Winthrop Jordan in his history of the historical origins of racism in the United States. ‘It is now clear,’ he writes, ‘that mankind is a single biological species; that races are neither discrete nor stable units but rather that they are plastic, changing, integral parts of a whole that is itself changing. It is clear, furthermore, that races are best studied as products of a process; and, finally, that racial differences involve the relative frequency of genes and characteristics rather than absolute and mutually exclusive distinctions.'”

i dunno, but that seems pretty careful — and reasonable — to me. i guess maybe wade could’ve been even more careful — and not publish the book at all!

also, previously: human biodiversity, racism, eugenics, and genocide

(note: comments do not require an email. treading carefully.)

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13 Comments

  1. “i dunno, but that seems pretty careful — and reasonable — to me. i guess maybe wade could’ve been even more careful — and not publish the book at all!”

    I think that’s your problem, every time I hear this claim come up.

    Reply

  2. @jayman – “I think that’s your problem, every time I hear this claim come up.”

    yup. i think that might be the consensus of the critics — wade just shouldn’t have published at all! =/

    Reply

  3. […] H. Allen Orr: “Gene Stretch” (Like Coyne, Orr admits race is real (sort of) but doesn’t think conclusions can be drawn from this reality.  Like Coyne, does Orr think human evolution for the last 50k years has occurred only from the neck down? Orr has long railed against evolutionary psychology or any notion that biology might affect human behavior.  A sarcastic older piece on Orr by Razib Khan. Razib tweets on Orr’s review. HBD Chick responds here.) […]

    Reply

  4. The human race would be very highly malleable if they had not started unequally or differently. It’s like in a Formula 1 race.
    If the first Asians were now taciturn and pragmatic then its race to become as creative as the Europeans will be much higher.
    Must exist, behavioral and cognitive traits that determine the general character of a people, that is to say, all people of a particular ethnic community present more or less these few traits, this determine us different, as american-italians and american-irish.
    Human races are malleable but within their own areas of evolution. The selection of a black race with the same average behavior of the Scandinavians would take many centuries, because even among black people who have incompatible behaviors with the average of their race, have high chances of having children with the most characteristic traits. My thought.

    Reply

  5. @gottlieb – “The human race would be very highly malleable if they had not started unequally or differently.”

    yes. once a group has gone down a particular evolutionary path, it can be difficult to double back. (^_^)

    Reply

  6. ”yes. once a group has gone down a particular evolutionary path, it can be difficult to double back. (^_^)”

    The single fastest way would be miscegenation, but also would be the way to greater chance of risk. It seems that when you have a human mixed race population, you need to be a while separating the good apples from the bad apples, rather than in a purified race because miscegenation is like a building, is an anthropomorphic construction, especially when the human being the practice on their own will. It is another step in human evolution. The separation of human mentality of animal mentality. Animals only mix when there is no other way to prevent the extinction of their species. There is no choice.
    If the world will become more culturally diverse, more rigorous control of errors is required.
    I continue with my theory of anthropomorphic evolution. The human being born of a significant deviation from the norm of nature. He preferred to think and develop your thinking to be a mechanical machine survival, as with all other adaptations of nonhuman species. The human being, modified his environment, rather than to change itself to the environment. The more evolved civilization or society is, the greater the demand for anthropomorphic selection or cognitive traits, rather than physical traits, for survival.

    The humans will evolve to the point of being your own master and dictate their own rules of evolution, without needing to demote to the selection rules of nature.
    This relates to our increased longevity as well as the significant reduction in risk of dying when the first stage of anthropomorphic modification has been completed.
    That’s exactly what we did with the cities, where once was a forest.
    The chances of dying in cities, even the most violent, is much lower than in the forest, especially if you are a modern human being.

    Cultural liberalism is only the tip of the initial foot, this likely walk, curious humans to completely control their destiny.

    Reply

  7. Orr says “History has shown that this is an especially dangerous subject, one that has resulted in enormous abuses. There is nothing unscientific about recognizing this and treading carefully.”

    True. But blank-slate ideas like Communism have, if anything, taken even more lives. Communism also shreds the pre-existing social order so thoroughly that members of the former Soviet Union (+70 years of it) are still “in recovery.” The FSU is not in very good shape anywhere.

    But even being an open Communist these days is considered no more than mildly eccentric. I protest!

    Reply

  8. “History has shown that this is an especially dangerous subject, one that has resulted in enormous abuses.”

    Compared to what? My reading of Pinker’s data and general non-American centric knowledge of history tells me that far more enormous abuses had happened as a result of very different things. Racial slavery and 20th century racial violence are a small blimp on the landscape of human abuses.
    The whole notion that talking about race would call out some special demons is another manifestation of “original sin” taboo thinking of westerners. The rest of the world laughs.

    Reply

  9. The New York Review of Books is a journal for intellectuals, in the bad sense or in George Orwell’s IngSoc sense: the important thing is power, not truth, and one arrives at power by manipulating words and ideas. The NYRB is summed up well in an image posted at John Derbyshire’s site:

    The New York Review of Us: Chomsky on Mailer on Sontag on Bellow on Chomsky

    Reply

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