hbd and racism

some people seem to be under the impression that being interested in human biodiversity is somehow racist. they couldn’t be more wrong.

first of all, what is racism? merriam-webster* tells us that racism is:

“A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

so there are TWO criteria there that have to be fulfilled to meet the definition of racism: you have to think that 1) race is the primary determinant of human traits, and 2) racial differences inevitably mean that one race is superior to the others.

with regard to the first one, i can’t think of any serious hbd blogger or commenter in the hbd-o-sphere that thinks that biological differences between the races are the primary determinant of “human traits and capacities.” far from it, in fact. i certainly don’t (see: the entirety of this blog). i’m sure, too, that steve sailer doesn’t think that. nor does john derbyshire. not greg cochran. not henry harpending. not razib either. i know that neither jayman nor super misdreavus think that. and on down the list, etc., etc.

why would any of us think that when it obviously doesn’t make ANY sense? the primary determinant of human traits and capacities *is* biological (largely genetic), of course, but it doesn’t exist at the racial level. race’s got nothing to do with it. the primary determinants exist at the level of individuals — or more precisely at the level of the genes themselves. racial differences are just one set of *average* differences between some groups. one set of many. race doesn’t determine anything.

the second part of the definition is that the biological differences between races therefore mean that one race is superior to all the others. again, i don’t think that. neither does steve sailer (ctrl+f “master race”). pretty sure not cochran or harpending. definitely sure not razib, jayman, or super misdreavus. same for all the rest, as far as i am aware. the only writer in the hbd-o-sphere that i know of that does think that there might something to this superiority business is john derbyshire (more on that another time), but since he doesn’t meet the first criterion, he’s still not a racist either.

having said all that, i’m not blind. i do see that out there there are some people who, for whatever reasons, have a bug against certain ethnic groups and/or races and use (typically only a selection of) hbd facts or ideas to support their claims/arguments/cause/whatever. while they are entitled to their opinion, i’ve already had a word with those people and told them that they cannot pick and choose which elements of hbd they like and ignore the rest (which, as i say, too many of them seem to have a tendency to do). (btw, i could’ve easily picked on some people on the political left in that post — the people who think that homosexuality is genetic but that next to nothing else is! — but i thought that since many of my readers are on the right politically, i’d admonish those who focus only on the racial stuff.)

as i said in “why human biodiversity is true”: “ignoring or denying the existence of human biodiversity won’t make it go away.” ignoring parts of hbd won’t make them go away either. plus, if any of you out there cherry-pick your hbd, i shall be very annoyed.

what i want to explain to you now, though, dear reader is that you should not confuse your average, everyday hbd-er with other people who seem to be actual racists and who selectively use hbd data or info for their own purposes. that would be committing one of those logical fallacies that we all learned about in phil 101. you remember those — syllogistic fallacies or something like that:

some people interested in hbd are racists.
all hbd-ers are interested in hbd.
therefore all hbd-ers are racists.

no. obviously not. got it? good.

so, to sum up: being interested in human biodiversity is not inherently racist. additionally, you should not — cannot — pick and choose which aspects of hbd you want to believe in and those which you do not. and while i’m at it, as i’ve said many times: there’s more to hbd than just racial differences (MUCH more!), and there’s more to hbd than just iq. and don’t forget to brush your teeth before you go to bed. and eat more vegetables!

*hey, if it’s good enough for andrew gelman, it’s good enough for me. however, if, like humpty dumpty might’ve, you’ve made up your own definition of racism — like that it involves *any* discussion of race at all — then, i’m sorry, but i can’t help you out. thanks for stopping by though!
_____

this is one of a set of posts on What is Human Biodiversity? please, before you fire off a rant leave a comment here, check out the other posts, because your question or objection may have been dealt with in one of them. here they all are!:

what is human biodiversity (hbd)?
what human biodiversity (hbd) is not
examples of human biodiversity (hbd)
why human biodiversity (hbd) is true
hbd and politics

(note: comments do not require an email. the primary determinant of human traits and capacities.)

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23 Comments

  1. Well said!

    Though, I must say, there is some room for interpretation. If one were to claim that some groups (“races”) are superior to others with the understanding that you’re talking statistically and in some narrowly-defined criterion (e.g., sprinting, swimming, astrophysicising), then one could legitimately make a case for such. It’s predictive ability would be highly limited, if you’re interested in particular individuals, but it would have some utility.

    However, I do say that, absolutely, it is the individual which is the unit of difference. No two individuals are perfectly alike, no even identical twins. This is extremely important for many who fail to understand that no set of individuals, not even MZ twins, can stand in as perfect controls for each other in any sort of non-experimental comparison. People on the genetically-ignorant and the genetically-“informed” teams make that mistake.

    Now that said, there is a unit larger than of individuals that appears to be highly predictive (“determining”) of outcomes: your family/clan. Gregory Clark’s work showed that certain lineages do consistently better than others, with little long-term change. Even within a clan, there is a great deal of variation, but knowing what clan (a good word to use, by the way, even though it appears less applicable to most Westerners) someone is from does tell you quite a bit about their potential.

    Glad you did hit the born that way bit about homosexuality as well. That meme I believe is highly telling of the attitude towards innate qualities, and why there may be some resistance to understanding that such other traits are inborn.

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  2. I take issue with one part…

    “… the biological differences between races therefore mean that one race is superior to all the others. again, i don’t think that. neither does steve sailer (ctrl+f “master race”). pretty sure not cochran”

    While I’d say no race is superior, some appear to be superior at certain tasks. When it comes to entering the upper-class of the 1st world, it looks like Euros and Asians have an advantage.

    Now, Cochran himself calls this “the only game in town”

    http://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/the-only-game-in-town/

    I’m not calling him racist, I love his work, just nit-picking. I think most people who understand the quality-of-life implications of IQ and racial IQ averages acknowledge this on some level without calling it “superiority”

    There is always a chance our environment will change and high-IQ, K-strategy weaklings will be at a disadvantage

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  3. There is a place in The 10000 Year Explosion where Cochran says that the immune system of Europeans was superior to that of the Native Americans.

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  4. @jayman – “Though, I must say, there is some room for interpretation. If one were to claim that some groups (‘races’) are superior to others *with the understanding that you’re talking statistically* and in *some narrowly-defined criterion* (e.g., sprinting, swimming, astrophysicising), then one *could* legitimately make a case for such. It’s predictive ability would be highly limited, if you’re interested in particular individuals, but it would have some utility.”

    yes, absolutely. we can talk about various populations having certain traits which are better or superior to the traits in other populations — maybe even collections of traits — but that still wouldn’t mean that one group was superior in all of their traits than all other groups. that’s just extremely unlikely.

    e.g. tibetans, on average, have superior high altitude adaptations than the rest of us (afawk right now), but they don’t have a superior sprinting ability. or a superior adaptation that protects them from malaria.

    some argue that the traits which allow for success in our modern world make some groups superior to others, but is that really the way to judge success in biology? in the natural world, surely success is rated by how many descendants one leaves behind. in that way, indians (in india) are very successful — more successful than europeans — since there’s 1.2+ billion of them right now, but they’re not that successful in the modern world. they do ok (better than most subsaharan africans), but new delhi is not new york. and they certain didn’t invent the modern world.

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  5. @nobody – “While I’d say no race is superior, some appear to be superior at certain tasks.”

    agreed.

    @nobody – “When it comes to entering the upper-class of the 1st world, it looks like Euros and Asians have an advantage.”

    yes, but there’re more asians than euros. WAY more!

    so who’s superior? the population that manages to run with modernity fairly smoothly because they invented it (nw europeans), or the 3+ billion asians who have adopted modernity imperfectly (with the exception maybe of the japanese) but who have reproduced in greater numbers?

    @nobody – “Now, Cochran himself calls this ‘the only game in town’…I’m not calling him racist, I love his work, just nit-picking.”

    well, he still (i’m sure) doesn’t meet the first criterion of the definition of racist, so he’s still safe. (whew! (~_^) ) point taken, though. maybe he’s closer to the derb on the whole superiority question.

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  6. @anon – “There is a place in The 10000 Year Explosion where Cochran says that the immune system of Europeans was superior to that of the Native Americans.”

    i don’t recall that, but i’ll take your word for it. that’s still just one trait, though. not everything about europeans.

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  7. The fact that it takes 3 billion Asians to be on par with the Euros is a testament to the Euros superiority. Reproduction today is a non factor in the ‘civilized’ world. Gone are the days of survival of the fittest. Replaced with welfare, food stamps, unemployment, disability..etc.

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  8. And also. Comparing ‘traits’ isn’t very becoming. A dog is faster than me. A whale can no doubt hold its breath longer. Human civilization and our society was built on intelligence. If you look to the jungles of Africa and South America you will see where we’d be without it.

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  9. One last thing. Success isn’t measured by how many descendants we leave behind. The reason there are so many Indians is the same reason inner city women have so many children. Or the reason a cat has 6 kittens. In nature the cat has 6 kittens because it’s a tough world and without human interference half won’t survive. Trust me. I’m an inner city mailman. All the kittens don’t survive. But! There is a gigantic population of malnourished, wild cats running around. Inner city women are the same. 3 or 4 kids isn’t enough. Drive by shootings, drugs, murder, limited resources and jobs, jail, etc. I’ve met women and men who’ve had up to 30 kids. Crazy. And you are going to tell me they’re winning the biological race? Don’t you think 2 kids educated and successful would be winning? My credentials are 10 yrs of inner city mail delivery in Camden Nj. The on and off most dangerous and poor city in the US. I am the Jane Goodall of the inner city. We’re not insects. Less is more.

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  10. ” i can’t think of any serious hbd blogger or commenter in the hbd-o-sphere that thinks that biological differences between the races are the primary determinant of “human traits and capacities.”

    Sailer, razib, jayman, and hbdchick all think this or something really close to it.

    Sure, there are lots of exceptions to any generalization, but genes are a very important causation factor of “human traits and capacities” and they are strongly but incompletely correlated with ethnic group.

    HBD is at it’s core, completely rational racism. Denying this is PC silliness.

    @gs
    “I’ve met women and men who’ve had up to 30 kids. Crazy. And you are going to tell me they’re winning the biological race? Don’t you think 2 kids educated and successful would be winning?”

    The people, usually wildly dysfunctional having 30 kids are winning the biological race. It’s horrifying, but that’s reality. Having two educated, well behaved, successful kids is great, but that is losing the biological race.

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  11. @massimo – “Sailer, razib, jayman, and hbdchick all think this or something really close to it.”

    nope.

    read the post again…this time *carefully*. if you still don’t understand, feel free to ask questions.

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  12. “There is a place in The 10000 Year Explosion where Cochran says that the immune system of Europeans was superior to that of the Native Americans.” If he meant in terms of immunity from Old World diseases, of course it was. If he meant it in terms of immunity from New World diseases, of course it was inferior – for example, immunity to the worst effects of syphilis.

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  13. “[…]but that still wouldn’t mean that one group was superior in all of their traits than all other groups. that’s just extremely unlikely.”

    I’ve never met a single person who has made such a claim. There’s a lot more to HBD than IQ, but IQ seems to have the most real world impact on people’s lives, and there does seem to be a racial pecking order (speaking of averages). The problem is, that the vast majority of people these days think you are a racist if you acknowledge that different races have different average IQ, and that those differences manifest in different life outcomes.

    I mean, even the most virulent racist can observe that every finalist in the 100M dash in the Olympics is of West African descent in the last umpteen Olympiads and determine that Blacks, on average, and at the top end, run faster than Whites, and make the correct determinations as to which race is faster. As I said, I’ve never met a single person that asserts that any particular race was superior to other races in every particular. Let’s be honest, it’s the acknowledging of racial differences in average IQ, and nearly only that, that will bring you the scarlet R. Nobody really takes much issue with HBD outside of IQ. Nobody has a problem with it when addressing disease that impact certain populations more than others.

    Just my lay opinion.

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  14. @hbdchick,

    “the primary determinant of human traits and capacities *is* biological (largely genetic), of course, but it doesn’t exist at the racial level”

    I understand your point. There isn’t a direct causation from race to human traits, there is a direct causation from genes to human traits including race. And the corollary is that there are strong correlations between race and human traits, but that’s not a causation.

    For example, being of Asian decent doesn’t cause the dry earwax phenotype, it’s genes that cause both the dry earwax phenotype and correlate with other genes that cause the Asian race/ethnicity categorization. In a very delicately worded sense, race in no way determines earwax type.

    I understand your delicate path of reason that puts HBD views outside a strict definition of the term racism. I feel you are being daft.

    One could make similar delicately phrased arguments that the HBD viewpoint is completely within the definition of “racist” that you cite, and that’s not an argument I feel worthy of further debate.

    More importantly, “racist” is more of an emotional term than a technically precise term.

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  15. @massimo – “I understand your delicate path of reason that puts HBD views outside a strict definition of the term racism. I feel you are being daft.”

    hey. i’m just using the definition of racism that was used by a well-known academic (andrew gelman in slate) when he wrote his critique of nicholas wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance. i have to assume — especially when that’s the dictionary definition of the word — that that is the most common and accepted usage of the word.

    if people have their own humpty dumpty usage of the word, i can’t help them out.

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  16. @hbdchick, thank you for the response. I’d like to try once more:

    The definition that you’ve chosen: “race is the primary determinant of human traits”… that is pretty much impossible to agree with and not what anyone means when they use the label “racist”.

    How about the miriam webster definition of racist: “the belief that some races of people are better than others”.

    I’d clarify that definition: racist means that some races or ethnic groups have innate genetic based predispositions that go beyond environmental circumstances to be better or worse at given traits than other races. This is the heart of HBD.

    The overwhelming claim of racism is where one ethnic demographic does worse on academic tests, university enrollment, career success, or school/adult discipline behavior records, and the people accused as “racists” attribute this to some innate genetic based predisposition correlated with the demographic rather than environmental factors.

    The intellectually honest thing to say is that HBD is trying to battle some of the hypocrisy around race discussion, and acknowledge some reasonable realities that are normally expurgated under the umbrella of “racism”. It is childish dissimulation to pretend that HBD isn’t racist at all.

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  17. @Massimo:

    When the definition of “racist” encompasses believing objective facts about the world (i.e., reality), then the word has little utility.

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  18. My opinion correlates quite closely with Cochran’s:

    The second, more substantive reason, is that the issue matters. If it was an irrelevance, I obviously wouldn’t bother (though tellingly, most people have no problem discussing genetic causes for relatively unimportant things, such as the preponderance of Kenyan marathoners, or East Asians’ lack of alcohol tolerance). But there is a mountain of evidence indicating that IQ levels have a very real and direct influence on the world, from the life earnings potential of individuals to the wealth and poverty of nations.

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  19. you think john derbyshire does not qualify as a rascist? you’re kidding right? and for a moment i was going to take this blog seriously…..

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  20. “so who’s superior? the population that manages to run with modernity fairly smoothly because they invented it (nw europeans), or the 3+ billion asians who have adopted modernity imperfectly (with the exception maybe of the japanese) but who have reproduced in greater numbers?”

    Here’s an interesting correlation: running with modernity smoothly seems to go alongside with populations that are no longer interested in reproducing themselves. This includes the Japanese. Unless you guys are just making a sprint for the singularity, definitely not a good move for the genes there.

    There’s more to life and meaning than both modernity/technology/etc and success at reproduction. If we are going to have a “superiority” comparison of any sort, let’s find some higher criteria?

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  21. I have a huge problem with the discussion of race and superiority. Both are figments of the human imagination. If you could enter and collate all the genetic information of every human being in the world, it would be impossible to find a place where you could say that everybody on this side is black and everybody on this side is white. Black people aren’t even black and Caucasians don’t come from the Caucasus region. Mahatma Gandhi had nothing to do with Battle of the Little Big Horn. Race isn’t even an effective or accurate way to describe hbd. Referring to race is as arbitrary as determining when a human being can be aborted or when a fetus assume the rights of a human being.

    Superiority in the eyes of nature is plain, unvarnished survival. I don’t care how smart or clever a culture is, if it is out bred by competing cultures, it is doomed. That being said, imagined superiority does have an impact on events albeit a transitory one. The British and the Germans (Saxons), the Japanese and the Jews are just a few cultures that do or have openly expressed and even codified their superiority over other cultures. Many others, past and present can be included.

    The ultimate question to me is how do you manage or survive cultures and people that believe these things, and how do these beliefs impact the welfare and happiness of others.

    Reply

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