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.)


human biodiversity, racism, eugenics, and genocide

in chapter two of A Troublesome Inheritance“Perversions of Science” — nicholas wade tracks the histories of several lines of thought about human races which have existed over the last few centuries both within as well as outside of various scientific disciplines. he begins with the earliest biologists such as linnaeus, blumenbach, morton, and darwin; continues on through to spencer and his social darwinism and galton and his ideas on eugenics; describes the application of eugenic policies in the u.s. and europe; and eventually finishes up with the holocaust perpetrated by the nazis.

wade “goes there” since much of the fear expressed by people about human biodiversity and its study seems to be connected to the concern that such knowledge will inevitably lead to (what i would agree are) repugnant practices like the forced sterilization of individuals deemed unfit in some way or another, or officially sanctioned discriminatory practices against the members of one or more groups in society, or even genocide. many people seem to think that if we unleash “the horror that is hbd”, some groups will be told to get to the back of the bus or the ovens will be fired up or even worse.

as is often the case, however, i think that the majority is drawing what i call upside-down-and-backwards conclusions here. human groups haven’t committed injustices or atrocities toward each other thanks to understanding, or even misunderstanding, the biological differences between us all — humans are atrocious to one another because of their (our) biology. sadly, it’s in our nature(s).

the nazis, with their particular understanding of human races, did not invent genocide (although they may have come close to perfecting some truly diabolical techniques there). a simple glance at history and prehistory tells us that human populations have been trying to eliminate “the other” since time immemorial despite not having the slightest info about human biodiversity or biology or even science itself. just a couple of examples: genocidal practices were present in the americas long before europeans ever set foot there, and the mongols (as in ghengis khan and co.) were no strangers to genocide either (see “The Origins of Genocide” chapter here — you might also want to flip through the two volume Dictionary of Genocide if you have the stomach for it).

humans don’t really fight and kill neighboring populations or discriminate against subgroups within their nations — not to mention enslave one another — for any of the goofy ideological, religious, or “moral” excuses that they give. those are mostly just after the fact rationalizations that they’ve come up with (no, really — the human brain is not to be trusted!). like other creatures, humans very often try to eliminate or dominate other groups because they are in competition with them for resources [pdf] — or, at least, feel that they are anyway, whatever the reality on the ground may be. this is a behavioral pattern that we share with many other organisms, including some of our closest relatives, the chimpanzees. chimp groups will “go to war” with neighboring groups — very purposefully ambushing and killing individuals from other bands — in order to gain control over new territory, which means access to additional resources and, therefore, better chances of reproducing (which is, of course, what life is all about). we know very well that our ancestors did the same, and if those that did succeeded in reproducing the most, this violently competitive nature would’ve been selected for in humans. and as most of human history has been one of extreme violence with one group pitted against another, i’d say that this is probably exactly what happened.

i think that we need to work toward a better understanding of the biological roots of human drives and behaviors, both those that are universal to our species and any that might be more prevalant in some groups rather than others (that’s the hbd part), including the negative and violent types described above, in order that we may better be able to put an end to war and killing and genocide, etc. i know. i sound like a miss america contestant now — but i am serious!

people have a tendency to favor their own. we know that. monkeys and beetles and — h*ll! — even plants tend to favor their own. plants! this is how fundamental the us-and-them divide is. if you put a bunch of different sorts of people together, society ceases to function well. robert putnam found this in his extensive research [pdf] — and diverse communities have been shown not to work in twenty million different permutations [pdf]. this is really the best case scenario, though, when it comes to trying to get everybody to just get along: that communities are not so cohesive and that there’s a lack of unity amongst the neighbors. the worst case scenarios are agressive and violent and murderous societies. (these, perhaps, may be avoided by making sure that nations are as ethnically homogeneous as possible. perhaps.) understanding human biology, including human biodiversity, can help us hopefully to prevent both.

for those of you out there who don’t like the idea of biological or genetic explanations for human behaviors — who find them distasteful or potentially dangerous — think instead of research into human biodiversity as a way of ruling out such explanations. if science demonstrates that there are little or no biological reasons for our behaviors and/or little or no reality to human biodiversity, i will be the first to say so — i promise! but as ashutosh jogalekar said in his review of wade’s book: “Science is about ideas, not answers…. A scientific topic cannot be declared off limits or whitewashed because its findings can be socially or politically controversial…” and it definitely should not be off limits when the findings might have the potential to help humanity.

i don’t mean minimize the dangers here or say that they don’t exist. as far as i am concerned, the human species has a despicable record when it comes to how its members treat one another (and other species, for that matter), nor do i see that that much has changed over time (although some groups do seem to have been pacified quite a bit at least when it comes to day-to-day within-group interactions). in future some individuals or groups might use the knowledge of human biodiversity as a rationalization when trying to eliminate or discriminate or otherwise repress other individuals or groups. but as i described above, it won’t have happened because of that knowledge. if they succeed, though, that might be because too many people today ignored biology and human biodiversity.

previously: hbd fallout

p.s. – still updating my A Troublesome Inheritance linkfest. don’t miss the latest links there!

(note: comments do not require an email.)

how much longer?

from a study published in 2011 [pdf]:

“We show how the prevailing majority opinion in a population can be rapidly reversed by a small fraction p of randomly distributed *committed* agents who consistently proselytize the opposing opinion and are immune to influence. Specifically, we show that when the committed fraction grows beyond a critical value pc ≈ 10%, there is a dramatic decrease in the time, Tc, taken for the entire population to adopt the committed opinion.”

that in itself is interesting when thinking about how to spread the good news about human biodiversity, sociobiology, etc., etc. — apparently there needs to be a committed (no, not THAT sort of committed) ten percent of us if we’re to have any hope of the majority accepting the realities of hbd. of course, being ten percent doesn’t guarantee that the majority will run with the idea, just that that is A minimum requirement — if these researchers have got it right.

but that’s not what i want to look at right now. what i want to know is: how much longer? how much loooonger do we have to put up with political correctness?! or as jayman asked: “when does it all break?”

there was an interesting chart published online in connection with that 2011 paper showing the trajectory of the spread of a new idea once it starts to be accepted by the majority (again, once ten percent of the population had already accepted it AND were committed proselytizers):

the ten percent

to me, that graphic — the insert (the line graph) — looks like it’s just charting a mania — like a tulip mania or a dot.com bubble or a housing bubble. or the south sea company crash. first a gradual rise, then a sharp, parabolic takeoff — the mania — followed by a crash. well, the crash is not on the above chart, but see here [from the economist]:


this schematic chart graphs what happens in an economic mania, but what if this also happens with ideas, like — i think — the chart from the 2011 paper suggests? witch hunting came and went, for instance, and there was a definite mania phase there. let’s suppose political correctness is a mania. how far along on the chart are we?

it certainly feels like we’re in the mania phase. please tell me we’re not still in the take off phase! if we are, i’m turning off my internet and crawling under the bed…. it seems like every other day there is a new and even weirder pc episode out there — the appearance of “microaggressions” (if you don’t already know, don’t ask!), just a few days ago facebook adds 50+ genders to its website, yesterday a call to put an end to that very annoying thing called academic freedom. and, of course, the constant political correctness on the tv machine and in the media. i mean, how weirder can it get?! haven’t we reached the top of this mania phase YET?!

i dunno.

i checked out a couple of pc keywords on google ngrams — “racism,” “racist,” “feminism,” and “feminist” — just to see how hot they are. unfortunately, google ngrams cuts off in 2008, so we can’t see the trend up until today. (i searched for the four terms in american english. click on charts for LARGER views.):

google ngram - racism etc.

there seems to have been a peak in the use (in books in american english) of all four terms in the mid-1990s, but who knows what’s happened since 2008. did they keep trending downwards? level off? increase again?

so i checked the same keywords on google trends — web searches for the u.s. only between 2004-present:

google trends - racism etc.

they all seem to be holding pretty steady, except for searches for “racist” which appear to have increased somewhat. i would’ve preferred to see all of these trending downwards…like off the scale.

dunno what any of this means. are we still in a pc mania phase with a trajectory pointing right towards the sky? — and is it all going to get even crazier? or have we already gone over the peak and are witnessing “denial” and maybe heading for a short “return to ‘normal'” peak? no idea.

i just hope it’s over soon. in my lifetime at least! although the problem is who knows what stupid idea the masses will latch onto next? maybe i should be careful what i wish for. the next mania could be even worse (although i have a hard time imagining that!).

oh, btw — i have this idea that human population manias (both economic and ideological ones — also fashion trends) are just examples of herding behavior, and that if someone mapped or charted or graphed these human herding behaviors, they’d look very much like the maps/charts/graphs of, say, the swimming patterns of shoals of fish or the migratory movements of wildebeest or the flights of flocks of seagulls. i’d love to see that done someday!

(note: comments do not require an email. tulips!)