dawkins on race

and, incidently, sex. from The Ancestor’s Tale — h/t to the person who linked to this on twitter the other evening. i forgot who it was! (*^_^*) (sorry!) [pgs. 406-408 — links added by me]:

“It is genuinely true that, if you measure the total variation in the human species and then partition it into a between-race component and a within-race component, the between-race component is a very small fraction of the total. Most of the variation among humans can be found within races as well as between them. Only a small admixture of extra variation distinguishes races from each other. That is all correct. What is not correct is the inference that race is therefore a meaningless concept. This point has been clearly made by the distinguished Cambridge geneticist A. W. F. Edwards in a recent paper called ‘Human genetic diversity: Lewontin’s fallacy’. R. C. Lewontin is an equally distinguished Cambridge (Mass.) geneticist, known for the strength of his political convictions and his weakness for dragging them into science at every possible opportunity. Lewontin’s view of race has become near-universal orthodoxy in scientific circles. He wrote, in a famous paper of 1972:

“‘It is clear that our perception of relatively large differences between human races and subgroups, as compared to the variation within these groups, is indeed a biased perception and that, based on randomly chosen genetic differences, human races and populations are remarkably similar to each other, with the largest part by far of human variation being accounted for by the differences between individuals.’

“This is, of course, exactly the point I accepted above, not surprisingly since what I wrote was largely based on Lewontin. But see how Lewontin goes on:

“‘Human racial classification is of no social value and is positively destructive of social and human relations. Since such racial classification is now seen to be of virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance either, no justification can be offered for its continuance.’

“We can all happily aggree that human racial classification is of no social value and is positively destructive of social and human relations. That is one reason why I object to ticking boxes in forms and why I object to positive discrimination in job selection. But that doesn’t mean that race is of ‘virutally no genetic or taxonomic significance’. This is Edwards’s point, and he reasons as follows. However small the racial partition of the total variation may be, if such racial characteristics as there are are highly correlated with other racial characteristics, they are by definition informative, and therefore of taxonomic significance.

“Informative mean something quite precise. An informative statement is one that tells you something you didn’t know before. The information content of a statement is measured as reduction in prior uncertainly. Reduction in prior uncertainty, in turn, is measured as a change in probabilities…. If I tell you Evelyn is male, you immediately know a whole lot of things about him. Your prior uncertainty about the shape of his genitals is reduced (though not obliterated). You now know facts you didn’t know before about his chromosomes, his hormones and other aspects of his biochemistry, and there is a quantitative reduction in your prior uncertainty about the depth of his voice, and the distribution of his facial hair and of his body fat and musculature….

“Now to the question of race. What if I tell you Suzy is Chinese, how much is your prior uncertainty reduced? You now are pretty certain that her hair is straight and black (or was black), that her eyes have an epicanthic fold, and one or two other things about her. If I tell you Colin is ‘black’ this does not, as we have seen, tell you he is black. [he might be mixed race.-h.chick] Nevertheless, it is clearly not uninformative. The high inter-observer correlation suggests that there is a constellation of characteristics that most people recognise, such that the statement ‘Colin is black’ really does reduce prior uncertaintly about Colin. It works the other way around to some extent. If I tell you Carl is an Olympic sprinting champion, your prior uncertainty about his ‘race’ is, as a matter of statistical fact, reduced. Indeed, you can have a fairly confident bet that he is ‘black’.”

of course, don’t forget: there’s more to human biodiversity than just racial differences! see: most of this blog.

see also: Human Genetic Diversity: Lewontin’s Fallacy @wikipedia.

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socio-biologists behaving badly?

i sure hope this isn’t true (links added by me):

“The Weird Irony at the Heart of the Napoleon Chagnon Affair”
“By John Horgan

“…I was still working on my review of [patrick tierney‘s] Darkness [in El Dorado] when I received emails from five prominent scholars: Richard Dawkins, Edward Wilson, Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett and Marc Hauser. Although each wrote separately, the emails were obviously coordinated. All had learned (none said exactly how, although I suspected via a friend of mine with whom I discussed my review) that I was reviewing Darkness for the Times. Warning that a positive review might ruin my career, the group urged me either to denounce Darkness or to withdraw as a reviewer.

“I responded that I could not discuss a review with them prior to publication. (Only Dennett persisted in questioning my intentions, and I finally had to tell him, rudely, to leave me alone. I am reconstructing these exchanges from memory; I did not print them out.) I was so disturbed by the pressure from Dawkins et al — who seemed to be defending not Chagnon per se but the sociobiology paradigm — that I ended up making my review of Darkness more positive….”

=/

see also: napoleon chagnon @wikipedia.

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mara hvistendahl responds to dawkins

mara hvistendahl has responded to richard dawkins who said that her book on the “missing girls” in india and china is critical of science. she says that it is not. further she says:

“[B]eginning in the 1960s a separate group of scientists proposed pushing along research into sex selection — not simply using existing techniques, but actively funding new work — for a reason that had nothing to do with avoiding disease or improving maternal health.

“These scientists were interested in sex selection’s significance in the developing world, where studies had shown many couples wanted at least one son. The idea there was not simply to help parents achieve the family composition of their dreams; it was to stop couples in countries like South Korea, India, and Taiwan from continuing to have girls until they got a boy. To quote from just two of the papers and books mentioning this approach at the time:

“‘A type of research which would have a great effect on population control would be that related to the discovery of methods for sex determination. It has been suggested that if one could predetermine that the first offspring would be a male, it would have a great effect on the size of the family.’ – William D. McElroy, BioScience, 1969

“‘[I]f a simple method could be found to guarantee that first-born children were males, then population control problems in many areas would be somewhat eased.’ – Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, 1968….

“While Western science is not to blame for the disappearance of tens of millions of females from the global population, some Westerners did play a role in bringing sex selection to Asia. It is this role I hope we can discuss.”

first of all, no — westerners did not play a role in “bringing sex selection to Asia.” sure these guys had a role in bringing prenatal sex selection to asia, but asians already did PLENTY of sex selection long before the white man took any hand in it as i showed in my post yesterday. and that sex selection was probably based on INFANTICIDE — and one could make the argument that quite a lot of suffering has been avoided by eliminating a good deal of that.

and, secondly, “it is this role [of westerners] I hope we can discuss.” i’m not sure what there is to discuss, but ok.

what? is not population control — particularly in asia where there are waaaaay too many people that they can barely even feed everybody — not a problem? should we not help asians with their population problem? i think we should. we’ve all got to share this planet and if they’ve got population problems, we’ve got population problems.

there is clearly also a problem with having too many men in a society, but the asians need to work that one out for themselves. politically. they need to, i dunno, have a quota system per district and/or a lottery system (short stick? sorry, you’ll just have to be happy with a girl child). or monetary incentives to have girls! there’s a good one. everybody likes monetary incentives! encourage people to have more girls by handing out cash or free education or dowry funds or whatever.

how’s that for a plan?

previously: mara hvistendahl is a…

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mara hvistendahl is a…

…person who is really wrong about the gender imbalance issue in china and india.

in her recently published book, she apparently blames westerners for all the missing girls. from the guardian:

“Much of the literature on sex selection has suggested that cultural patterns explain the phenomenon. But Hvistendahl lays the blame squarely on western governments and businesses that have exported technology and pro-abortion practices without considering the consequences. Amniocentesis and ultrasound scans have had largely positive applications in the west, where they have been used to detect foetal abnormalities. But exported to Asia and eastern Europe they have been intricately linked to an explosion of sex selection and a mushrooming of female abortions.

“Hvistendahl claims western governments actively promoted abortion and sex selection in the developing world, encouraging the liberalisation of abortion laws and subsidising sales of ultrasounds as a form of population control.

‘It took millions of dollars in funding from US organisations for sex determination and abortion to catch on in the developing world,’ she writes.”

yes, yes — it was the evil westerners. again.

never mind that she’s totally wrong.

coincidentally, emmanuel todd brought up this very topic in his book that i just posted about yesterday [pgs. 48-49]:

“Female infanticide

“Undoubtedly the best indication of the fiercely agnatic character of the Indian family is the existence of a virulent tradition of female infanticide, more marked in north India even than in China. Recent Indian censuses consistently reveal a striking imbalance between the sexes: and excess of males denotes a massacre of female babies. A special supplement to the 1971 census was devoted to the sex ratio which, while normal in south India, frequently falls below 9 women to 10 men in north India (8.8 in Uttar Pradesh, near Delhi). In one group of villages in the Kangra district (Punjab) where a census was held in 1855, there were among children aged 4 to 14 only 393 girls for 1,000 boys.

1855. that’s just a few years before ultrasounds and amniocentesis tests were exported to the east by us evil westerners.

for a change, i’m in agreement with richard dawkins: Sex selection and the shortage of women: is science to blame?

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