WAR ON WORDS: Why Race Is NOT A Social Construct

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A group of race-diverse people from Asia

Image via Wikipedia

Over the last few decades, a strange idea has taken root that I am in fact quite sympathetic to, at least in spirit. Now, the view of race as a social construct is not necessarily wrong, depending on what one means by ‘race’, and especially by ‘social construct’. Yet as I’ve proposed elsewhere, scientists are often poor communicators, and the reality of what they’re arguing can be muddied by everything from word choice to an inability to meaningfully parse definitions. Usually, the science, itself, is not at fault. It is really the packaging of science to an even less sophisticated audience that’s at issue, particularly when it deals with a highly politicized topic whose buzzwords are valued over nuance and hard data. No, race is not a social construct, but what does this mean, exactly? Moreover, what does it mean politically? Finally, what should it mean for liberals who are uncomfortable with what is, at bottom, a simple misunderstanding of their own principles?

Prior to deconstructing all this, let us look at the key claims, and – perhaps even more importantly – how these claims get articulated. The position of the American Anthropological Association is clear- race’s primary importance is social rather than biological. The issue, however, is that one can construe any number of sentences, within, as either attesting to or rejecting the existence of race as a taxonomic category. This is unfortunate, and many political activists have latched on to the statement as ‘proof’ that race is biologically meaningless. Others, like this study from 2012, note that the sentence “No races exist now or ever did” found only 17% agreement among scientists 40 years ago, with 53% agreeing today. Yet even 53% is still a far cry from ideological certainty on the Left about what is, in essence, a semantic question whose answer might very well change based on the conceptual categories the word calls to mind.

In ‘pop’ science, writers often lay out some of the most common objections to race, which, while on one level quite valid, are also quite incomplete. There is much to comb through (most of it not worth the time), but I’ve distilled them into six basic arguments laid out in ascending order of correctness. If anyone gets tripped up by my handling of earlier points, read all of my responses to them, first, to get a better sense of the science:

1. There is no race gene, which means the genetic underpinnings of race are quite tenuous

The first part of this statement is obvious, and undeniable. There is no ‘race’ gene because race is not any one thing. Rather, it is a genetic complex which encompasses everything from skin color, to disease propensity/resistance, to facial proportions, to the distribution of sweat glands, hair color, and more. No, you cannot simply use one marker for determining race and ancestry, but the more genetic markers are used, the greater the likelihood (in fact, it is a near-certainty) of being able to trace one’s roots. By contrast, there is no such thing as a ‘gay’ gene. Yet would liberals be comfortable arguing that therefore there is NO genetic basis for sexual preference? Obviously, there is, much to right-wing dismay, although it is not the simplification progressives wish it to be, either, partly because- from a political standpoint- it ought not matter either way. There is also no such thing as the ‘basketball’ or ‘math’ gene, although it would be silly to suggest that at least the predisposition for a given skill, all other variables being equal, has no genetic basis whatsoever. In the same way, race is, to the naked eye, a very rough but pragmatic way of dividing some (actually, a tiny fraction of) human characteristics that, due to accidents of evolution, happen to be quite visible much of the time, despite being none too salient from a purely biological standpoint. Yet ‘salience’ is a very different quality from ‘existence’, and it is their conflation that is often at the heart of such disagreements.

2. Race-based thinking has been quite dangerous in the past, and any attempts to further use such is simply… [insert moral panic here]

This is absolutely true, but also misleading. In short, while it is true that race-based thinking has and will continue to be abused for questionable political goals, the solution cannot be to shy away from biology-first discussions of race…if only we engage in such for the purpose of discrediting them. It really bears repeating that the reason why liberals tend to hate concepts like human nature or sexual dimorphism is because they don’t understand their own politics. Liberals ought not preach tolerance and equality due to a proposed lack of innate differences, but in spite of them: meaning, whatever we might discover of human variation should not figure into deeper issues of rights and dues. Otherwise, this would degrade liberalism into mere right-wing lunacy, which is often their de facto position because- whether they admit it or not- it strikes so many of them as reasonable, since they lack an intellectual framework from which to rebut it.

3. It is difficult, if not impossible, to categorize races genetically, or to merely ‘eyeball’ them, partly because the concept itself changes over time

Now, this is where things get interesting, since we can actually start to deal in nuance. First, for a good layman’s perspective on all this, I’d recommend watching this short video on race and genetics. Note what is said about midway in- that, from a purely genetic basis, we can (if we so choose) split the races into our modern, conventional denominations with good accuracy. This is important, since it is a de facto admission of race, even as the video’s comments are filled with ideologues who wish to cherry-pick the data for their own agenda.

Second, to get a deeper appreciation of why this is so, let us now consider Lewontin’s Fallacy, A.W.F. Edwards’s classic response to Richard Lewontin’s thesis on human variation. Edwards’s objection, in short, is that while the bulk of human variation is in fact overwhelmingly non-racial, as Lewontin claims, the pattern of this variation has tell-tale signs that indicate racial categories…if, again, we so wish to tap them over other, more salient categories. This is why complaining about a missing race gene is pointless when we could simply look at genetic clustering. To quote the Wikipedia link directly:

Edwards argued that while Lewontin’s statements on variability are correct when examining the frequency of different alleles (variants of a particular gene) at an individual locus (the location of a particular gene) between individuals, it is nonetheless possible to classify individuals into different racial groups with an accuracy that approaches 100 percent when one takes into account the frequency of the alleles at several loci at the same time. This happens because differences in the frequency of alleles at different loci are correlated across populations—the alleles that are more frequent in a population at two or more loci are correlated when we consider the two populations simultaneously. Or in other words, the frequency of the alleles tends to cluster differently for different populations.

This is undeniable, and yet, I’m often amused to the silly responses to A.W.F. Edwards. Turning back to the Wikipedia page, it is only the now-nutty Richard Dawkins who makes genuine sense in his critique – even if one might disagree with Dawkins’s concept of ‘taxonomic significance’ being defined by anything that’s merely ‘informative’. This is technically true, but opens up taxonomy to an almost infinite reduction that becomes less and less useful the deeper one goes, which is the spirit of Edwards’s original comment.

Kaplan and Winther note that Edwards is in fact correct, even as Lewontin’s argument still holds true. They note, for instance, that Edwards’s conclusions do not imply that racial categories are the most basic level of human distinction. But one merely needs to look at Dawkins’s objection to Edwards’s dismissal of racial taxonomy as ‘non-salient’ to see that Edwards was not arguing for a basic human distinction to begin with. The issue, then, is less with Kaplan and Winther than it is the way that opponents of race might latch on their critique as a critique of Edwards, himself, which – by not dealing with his real point – cannot even be a genuine criticism. It is merely a distillation of Edwards’s own beliefs on an unrelated topic. Jonathan Marks and several other anthropologists are likewise quoted as if in response to Edwards, even though, again, they are simply shedding light on the claims’ surrounds, and not engaging with the claims as written.

Reading further, Dorothy Roberts throws out a series of red herrings meant to distract one from the argument. It is strange, indeed, to read any number of correct claims, from the thinness of purely racial variation in terms of total genetic makeup, to her assertion that no racial group has an exclusive claim on a genetic marker, as if any of this has anything to do with what’s under discussion. The question Edwards addressed was NOT whether it makes good taxonomic sense to categorize people into races, but whether we can. The answer, of course, is that we can, and do, even if one could then (and only then) argue that it is a non-salient method of categorization.

In other words, we are getting a lot of uncomfortable circling about the issue, and yet, I am not exactly sure why it must be at all uncomfortable. To say ‘Edwards is right, but…’ implies that Edwards’s argument cannot, as stated, be consistent with a liberal position on race. This is simply untrue, as I’ve already pointed out, and a misunderstanding of both liberalism and science.

4. ‘Population’ is a better term for race than ‘race’

This is actually something I can get behind, provided there is some mechanism to prevent the slippery-slope thinking I’ve outlined. ‘Race’, obviously, is a very loaded word, with implications that often go well beyond what is scientifically reasonable. It is, in that sense, a poor way of communicating genetic makeup. At the same time, ‘population’ has the contextual disadvantage of having been hijacked by activists who, while denying the underlying basis of race, nonetheless use it in instances where the word ‘race’ might mean the same thing. The trick, then, is to re-organize public perceptions of what race is, not by sanitizing it, but treating it as no more (and no less!) than what we know it to be. A change of language can be useful to this end, as long as it is not used as a mask for reality.

5. The conventional notion of race is a very crude and biologically arbitrary way of categorizing human beings

The first part of the statement is true. Given that there are, literally, a million ways we can categorize human beings, from height, to eye color, to intelligence, to predisposition for patellar dislocation, with many potential categories having more intrinsic genetic weight than the genetics of race, there is something going on here other than science. But is it ‘arbitrary’? Perhaps, although one must limit one’s definition of ‘arbitrary’ to pure salience in that case: meaning, there are better categories out there, not that this category has no intrinsic basis.

6. There is a great deal of human genetic variation, but only a fraction of it (perhaps 6%) can be ascribed race

This is the least controversial of the six claims, and both the start and end point for better understanding race, as well as settling on a better way of discussing it. Consider, really, what the above means- if there is a consistent percentage of genetic material that can reliably be patterned into racial categories, the implicit admission is that there is a predictable and quantifiable basis for ‘race’, period. There is, obviously, a lot more that can be said here, but at least this much cannot be denied, and any position that hopes to occlude this fact would be dishonest.

Second, this 6% racial variation is- depending on whom you ask- either salient, or not. Those, for example, who know nothing of evolution and the origins of human intelligence will assert genuine intellectual gaps between races, while those who are troubled even a little by the concept of race might suppose this variation is purely limited to skin color. Yet when I say this variation is unimportant, I mean exactly that- it will, by itself, tell you next to nothing about the salient features of a human being. It will tell you only what we have evolved to accept as salient, which is ethnicity. This may be hard to understand, but ethnicity in the Ancestral Environment meant a lot more than skin color. It also meant- with decent probability- that ‘this’ person was a potential threat, or ‘that’ person a potential ally who might share both your values as well as your taboos. As Joseph Henrich writes in The Secret Of Our Success:

Finally, the psychological machinery that underpins how we think about ‘race’ actually evolved to parse ethnicity, not race. You might be confused by this distinction since race and ethnicity are so often mixed up. Ethnic-group membership is assigned based on culturally-transmitted markers, like language or dialect. By contrast, racial groups are marked and assigned to perceived morphological traits, like skin color or hair form, which are genetically transmitted. Our folk-sociological abilities evolved to pick out ethnic groups or tribes. However, cues such as skin color or hair form can pose as ethnic markers in the modern world because members of different ethnic groups sometimes also share markers like skin color or hair form, and racial cues can automatically and unconsciously ‘trick’ our psychology into thinking that different ethnic groups exist. And this by-product can be harnessed and reified by cultural evolution to create linguistically labeled racial categories and racism.

Underlining this point is the fact that racial cues do not have cognitive priority over ethnic cues: when children or adults encounter a situation in which accent or language indicate ‘same ethnicity’ but skin color indicates ‘different race,’ the ethnolinguistic markers trump the racial markers. That is, children pick as a friend someone of a different race who speaks their dialect over someone of the same race who speaks a different dialect. Even weaker cues like dress can sometimes trump racial cues. The tendency of children and adults to preferentially learn and interact with those who share their racial markers (mistaken for ethnic cues) probably contributes to the maintenance of cultural differences between racially marked populations, even in the same neighborhood.

My point is that because of culture-gene coevolution, humans reliably develop the psychological equipment to map and navigate a world of immense cultural diversity. However, in mapping the social world around us using both our own observation and culturally acquired categories, our folk-sociological system, like our visual system, errs on the side of providing us with only the essential landmarks and main avenues around us, while ignoring lots of detail. Thus, the dynamically shifting gradations and clines of cultural variation are often rendered as a snapshot in stark relief.

Now we’re getting closer to an actual theory of race that liberals can work with, rather than embarrassing themselves with poor word choice and wishful thinking. Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to say that white and black people might, as a purely psychological tendency, prefer their own in-groups- provided, of course, that they grow up believing themselves to really be part of that group. The first point is a constant, but the second is pure acculturation. Yet if this is admitted, it must also be admitted that this tendency is nothing more than a cognitive bias no different from the other biases we have had to shutter. ‘Race realists’ (i.e., alt-right dummies) like to say ‘tough luck’, and propose wholesale segregation as a means of getting over this problem. Yet this is would be as logical as giving into the cognitive bias which offers women preferential treatment in criminal courts, or cult leaders power over their followers. These are, obviously, human failings to be weeded out, not embraced out of some vaginal approach to life’s difficulties.

These, then, are my recommendations. First, scientists ought to take a deep breath and stop putting out well-meaning but poorly executed statements on race. If publications write misleading headlines that are not in line with a more nuanced understanding of anthropology (“race does not exist”), scientists ought to push back, and stop giving straws for racist morons to grasp. If anything, the perception of science as politically-motivated is going to be far more damaging than putting out the whole story and merely hoping for the best. The point is that racists will find ad hoc rationalizations for anything, and in anything- this is how ideology works! Worrying about a subsection of idiots does nothing but encourage pandering, which brings everyone else down too.

Second, there ought to be at least a few universally agreed-upon statements on race for both scientists as well as laypersons, even if that means the willfully ignorant might do their best to cherry-pick. Put another way, if there is no point of departure, there is also no real aim. Yet science has a goal. What is it? Once this question is treated seriously, the following will no longer be too controversial:

1.  There is a vast and quantifiable difference between the words ‘salient’ and ‘real’ that should never be confused.

2. Race is not a social construct, but real, at least in the sense that we can reliably corral human beings into racial categories according to patterns in a tiny fraction of their genetic makeup.

3. Although we can taxonomically divide people into races, the deeper question is whether we in fact should, given the existence of hundreds of other potentially more salient categories.

4. This is not a political project, but a scientific one, since liberal principles should remain unchanged even with the discovery of racial hierarchies.

The question now, I guess, is whether liberals are self-secure enough to truly believe #4. Ask yourself, really, whether you’d feel comfortable advocating for equal treatment even in the face of some unfortunate race-based group tendency. If not, you best practice your best salute, and leave liberalism to the liberals.

13 Comments WAR ON WORDS: Why Race Is NOT A Social Construct

  1. Peter Clease

    Henrich is wrong when he states ethnicity is distinct from race. It is, definitionally, but they have psychological overlap. I have heard arguments that intelligence dimmers away race’s significance, but, when you look at history, former or modern, some of the greatest scientists have been bigots. To many, race is more than melanin intake; it’s a cultural marker- just as, on a more ‘ethnic’ level, gay speak is; and people, despite their supposed complexities, tend to self-segregate- not just in race, but in life. That, plus the hive-mind persisting, keeps race meaning more than it really is. I mean, think of the utter droneship of most of the human race. This can be applied to any form of grouping. Man is still very tribal, and familiarity, even on a surface level, can influence. I think, only now, humans are beginning to grow out of this tendency, but the idea of ‘The Other,’ rooted in Simian instinct, will always be there. The thing is humans are actually very stationary creatures, thus will always inject meaning in banality. This is why, as much as things progress, history has been cyclic, and goes on and on.

    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      My understanding, though, is that’s Henrich’s point, which is perhaps occluded by anthropologists’ technical use of the word ‘ethnicity’. It’s a poor choice since almost no one has those ideas in mind.

      There’s probably as much correlation between intellect and bigotry as there is between intellect and religion. Perhaps now, intelligent people tend to be less bigoted and religious than average, but historically, there’s no reason why you’d see that. Such things tend to be emotional responses stiffened up by ad hoc, post hoc rationalizations.

  2. ProbablyNotHere

    I’m kind of shocked you wrote all that without clearly defining your terms i.e.

    What are _you_ defining as a “social construct”?
    Particularly when, writ large at the top of the piece is thisapparent promise to do just that:
    “No, race is not a social construct, but **what does this mean, exactly**?”


    On the whole, I agree that people do, observably divide others by physical features and that evolutionarily kin recognition and threat recognition likely drove this.

    We’re pattern matching machines with a habit of forming heuristic biases based on perceived patterns. These heuristics tended to give an equitable trade off between energy cost and survival.

    The implication of “Racial Sience” however appears to be that race is purely objective and recognition of race is akin to acrophobia – a fear of hights can be rational and preserve life, it’s legitimate to address these fears through safety measures and increasing psychological comfort at height.

    I’d argue that while the ability to discriminate (I don’t mean that in the loaded sense of the term, just as “tell the difference between) between various morphologies (incl. colouration) is inate, the degree to which those features labelled as “racial” are used is not.

    In a similar way the the ability co perceive and categorise colours of light is universal, the tendancy to categorise in certain groupings appears to be cultural.
    [*]. Moreover, the adopted strategy appears to bias against the ability to make other discriminations on the same criterium.

    [*] https://www.sapiens.org/language/color-perception/

    Back to the social construct point – I can’t really attempt to refute it unless the meaning of the term is agreed.

    What I can say is that anecdotally, and generalised, a child’s preception of race is not the same as an adult. I’m loath to invoke Jane Elliott’s “Blue eyes, brown eyes” exercises as it’s not an empirical study [^] and its aim is to change behaviour, not measure it. BUT in the course of the training, a maleability in race-like, morphological discrimination is observed and that part has been repeatable.

    The implication being that a social _response_ to the morphology of others, and the way the grouping of people is _delineated_ by such, is flexible and can be learned, socially.

    [^] assessments/followups are somewhat more rigourous: https://dacemirror.sci-hub.tw/journal-article/d622bab5ed7f90b63b2122d358018f3f/stewart2003.pdf

    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I’m kind of shocked you wrote all that without clearly defining your terms i.e.

      What are _you_ defining as a “social construct”?
      Particularly when, writ large at the top of the piece is thisapparent promise to do just that:
      “No, race is not a social construct, but **what does this mean, exactly**?”

      I’m not sure that I understand your criticism. The phrase “social construct” appears in dictionaries, and in the second paragraph I distinguish between taxonomy and reality, as well as reject the idea that race is “biologically meaningless”. Based on these facts, what did YOU think I meant by social construct, and do you think I’m using the term in a way that’s inconsistent with debate on the topic over the past several decades?

      If you insist on a definition, I’d say it like this- a social construct is that which is made real only by consensus. I later argue that ‘social construct’ is simply too strong of a term, since what scientists really mean to say is ‘salience’- race is not biologically SALIENT, which is defensible, while the idea that race is purely a social construct is not. The social construct, here, is only that race is given more salience than is appropriate, not that the referent itself is made up.

      On the whole, I agree that people do, observably divide others by physical features and that evolutionarily kin recognition and threat recognition likely drove this.

      We’re pattern matching machines with a habit of forming heuristic biases based on perceived patterns. These heuristics tended to give an equitable trade off between energy cost and survival.

      The implication of “Racial Sience” however appears to be that race is purely objective and recognition of race is akin to acrophobia – a fear of hights can be rational and preserve life, it’s legitimate to address these fears through safety measures and increasing psychological comfort at height.

      I’d argue that while the ability to discriminate (I don’t mean that in the loaded sense of the term, just as “tell the difference between) between various morphologies (incl. colouration) is inate, the degree to which those features labelled as “racial” are used is not.

      I agree.

      In a similar way the the ability co perceive and categorise colours of light is universal, the tendancy to categorise in certain groupings appears to be cultural.
      [*]. Moreover, the adopted strategy appears to bias against the ability to make other discriminations on the same criterium.

      [*] https://www.sapiens.org/language/color-perception/

      But this itself says little of people-grouping, or discrimination more broadly. As a trend, discrimination (again, going by your use of the term, not the modern sense) exists to save energy and give a snapshot of something. If you are living among groups known to kill perceived outsiders, this killing may or may not be driven by color, but the point is that color- along with language, cultural behavior, dress- is one of the sign-posts that can be used for in-group/out-group categories. There is no evidence that color supersedes all other considerations, psychologically, but it IS a potential mechanism.

      What I can say is that anecdotally, and generalised, a child’s preception of race is not the same as an adult.

      I agree, and I’ve experienced the same thing, myself.

      And you’re right- the *degree* to which we respond to race IS socially constructed. But the point is that the degree is not zero, in most people, as a baseline, and an equally important point (as indicated in the Henrich quote) is that we can find things that supersede race in terms of psychological response.

    2. ProbablyNotHere

      I think my point on definition was more that “social construct” or social constructivism more generally is used so loosely these days that your piece would have benefited from a clarification

      – the context of many uses I’ve seen suggests the writer/speaker just means “has a strong cultural element” – that they don’t define terms or are sometimes inconsistent is noted, but having read a couple of pieces from you before, I’d expected terms to be defined up front to head that off.

      Apologies on the colour-grouping thing –

      that wasn’t supposed to evoke skin colour, merely that a shared, learned culture (and social constructs therein) may have very strong biases towards certain groupings, while leaving members virtually unable to distinguish certain other groupings based on the very same attribute.

      I included it as it’s a strong piece of research that indicates a biological ability to group things, with the actual grouping determined by culture and tradition which in turn were informed by – or at least have some basis in – environmental factors (be they current or evolutionary past).

      I think we’re on the same page on that.

      In summary, my position is (as with most behavioural observations) it’s a bit of both (evolotuinary and social)

      The mechanisms which are the foundation for grouping by morphology are well founded adaptations for kin recognition & disease and threat avoidance.

      The shape of the groups layered on top of that are historic/cultural.

      The degree to which the divisions are applied and the actions taken to enforce and apply logic based upon those divisions is cultural/socially constructed.

      To be clear:

      aside the exceptions from powerful individuals, where (e.g.) a proportion of slavers knowingly exploited these biases to both gain/maintain social acceptance of the practice, and to maintain”happy slaves” in a planned/cynical fashion

      the population (or sections of it) as a whole are not conspiring to create a racist pollemic, they’re responding based on biases, the priming of cultural history and the framing presented by current social influencers.

      > Would I be right in picking up a rejection of a grand “consipiracy of racial discrimination” as a primary motivator for your post?

      If so, I concur. There’s no way to tackle anachronistic bias if the root cause is misidentified as a wilful conspiracy of the general populace.

      That there are those, who chose to creste this is troubling, but to apply the same lens one might apply to those individuals and groups, to the general populace is IMHO counter-productive to say the least.

      I’ve tailed off to the point writing any more would just be rambling.

      Good to read your response.

      p.s. appologies for all the typos – im using a touchscreen and it’s driving me quietly insane.

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I think my point on definition was more that “social construct” or social constructivism more generally is used so loosely these days that your piece would have benefited from a clarification

      – the context of many uses I’ve seen suggests the writer/speaker just means “has a strong cultural element” – that they don’t define terms or are sometimes inconsistent is noted, but having read a couple of pieces from you before, I’d expected terms to be defined up front to head that off.

      But I’m arguing that this looseness about a word that DOES have a very specific meaning is part of the issue. You’re right, I did take it for granted that people would define social constructivism as I’ve defined it, though, mostly because the various dictionary definitions are good.

      Apologies on the colour-grouping thing –

      that wasn’t supposed to evoke skin colour, merely that a shared, learned culture (and social constructs therein) may have very strong biases towards certain groupings, while leaving members virtually unable to distinguish certain other groupings based on the very same attribute.

      I don’t deny that possibility, and it’s obviously true in many instances. However, what I said before still holds true- skin color is a simple and common way to group people, and therefore persists as an average when dealing with group responses. But, it is not the ONLY mechanism to leverage in-group/out-group thinking, and it is liable to become psychologically unimportant amidst more salient ethnic markers that have nothing to do with color (language, cultural behaviors, etc.). There’s nothing any more ‘special’ about skin color in terms of tribal thinking, but it’s easy, and it latches on to something immediately visible.

      Also, back to pure color perception. Even if some groups say they see brown and yellow or whatever as equivalent, that obviously says nothing about what they ACTUALLY see. It only refers to the culturally-mediated concepts they have at their disposal to describe what they see in exactly the same way we see it. Sure, we can’t ‘really’ know this, for a fact, but in absence of any good biological explanation for why some minor sub-group of a race see color differently from us, cultural mediation must be our null hypothesis.

      Further, think about what the above might mean for survival on an evolutionary scale. If a group of people is more willing to see past racial color than another, as an enduring feature of their culture (say, at least a few generations), it needs to be more biologically viable than the alternative- color-based cautiousness, since (many) others ARE willing to kill them on account of race. We know this DOES happen, but obviously, race-based cooperation can also be biologically preferable in other situations. Yet if both exist, it does imply that the two POVs are competing with each other as the Ancestral Environment has room for both. And my argument is that, cognitively, we have parameters for both. There is a baseline, and my issue with scientific terminology around this debate implies that there is no baseline.

      the population (or sections of it) as a whole are not conspiring to create a racist pollemic, they’re responding based on biases, the priming of cultural history and the framing presented by current social influencers.

      Yes, I agree. There’s no conspiracy from the bottom, there’s just cognitive biases and ignorance related to the perceived (even if subconsciously perceived) ‘needs’ for survival, most of which are not at all needs and irrelevant to modern society.

      I’ll refer to the classic line by Leda Cosmides and John Tooby- ‘we are not fitness maximizers, but adaptation executors’.

      Think about that one.

      Thanks for reading.

  3. alien

    New scientific discoveries from the past decade should be taken into account when discussing the concept of race. Since the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome in 2010, it has come to light that about 1-2% of the genomes of modern humans descended from the last successful Out of Africa migration (50-70k years ago), that is to say Eurasian populations and their derivatives, are composed of introgressed Neanderthal DNA. This proportion varies across populations, but is virtually non-existent in Sub-Saharan African populations. North Africans populations that received genes from Eurasians migrating back to Africa have a negligible signature of Neanderthal admixture.

    From what we know of the Neanderthals, their average cranial capacity was about 1600 cm3 for men and 1300 cm3 for women. This is about 20% greater than modern human averages. From extensive measurements, we know that SSA’s have the smallest average cranial capacity, with Europeans and East Asians having greater cranial capacities, on average and in that order. It just so happens that this is also the order of Neanderthal admixture proportion (~0% for SSA, 1.8-2.4% for West Eurasians, 2.3-2.6% for East Asians).

    We have also discovered the existence of other extinct hominin species that contributed to modern human genomes. After the Neanderthals, the most important archaic species is the Denisovans. We have discovered that up to 6% of the genomes of Oceanian populations can be traced back to Denisovan introgression. They also contributed to East Asian and Amerindian populations on the order of <0.2%. Modern Tibetans received genes adapted for survival in high altitudes from the Denisovans.

    We also know that there were other archaic hominins, as yet unidentified, that interbred with the ancestors of modern human populations all over the world and at different points in time.

    More info on wikipedia:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interbreeding_between_archaic_and_modern_humans#Proportion_of_admixture

    To suggest that these genetic differences, which go down to the level of (sub-)species, do not affect any physiological or cognitive faculties, or behavioral tendencies, across populations is absurd. Especially, if you look at these parameters in the aggregate and highest and lowest bounds.

    It should also be noted that "people today are genetically more different from people living 5,000 years ago than those humans were different from the Neanderthals who vanished 30,000 years ago, according to anthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin."

    From: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-evolution-human/rapid-acceleration-in-human-evolution-described-idUSN1043228620071210

    Given that human evolution has accelerated in the past 10k years, to the point where the term "modern human" seems like it should describe something more recent than the 200k+ year old "species" it's meant to describe now, we should go further than just re-thinking our definition for "race." The terms "species" and "sub-species" are in need of reevaluation as well.

    At the rate that new discoveries are happening in fields like paleoanthropology, archaeogenetics and population genetics, as well as cultural shifts regarding these issues (see:Brexit), I suspect that the public's understanding of these concepts will see a major transformation in the coming decades.

    Given that we're also discovering genetic bases for sexual behavior, the same applies to our understanding of human sexuality, as well as many other aspects of our species. And all this will be lead by the honest, objective science.

    https://science.sciencemag.org/content/365/6456/eaat7693

    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      New scientific discoveries from the past decade should be taken into account when discussing the concept of race. Since the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome in 2010, it has come to light that about 1-2% of the genomes of modern humans descended from the last successful Out of Africa migration (50-70k years ago), that is to say Eurasian populations and their derivatives, are composed of introgressed Neanderthal DNA. This proportion varies across populations, but is virtually non-existent in Sub-Saharan African populations. North Africans populations that received genes from Eurasians migrating back to Africa have a negligible signature of Neanderthal admixture.

      Yes, this is all 100% true- notice that you made a simple, factual description. So far, there’s no normative recommendation, except for the need to add this information to our discussion of race. Then you say this:

      From what we know of the Neanderthals, their average cranial capacity was about 1600 cm3 for men and 1300 cm3 for women. This is about 20% greater than modern human averages. From extensive measurements, we know that SSA’s have the smallest average cranial capacity, with Europeans and East Asians having greater cranial capacities, on average and in that order. It just so happens that this is also the order of Neanderthal admixture proportion (~0% for SSA, 1.8-2.4% for West Eurasians, 2.3-2.6% for East Asians).

      Why do you feel it relevant to bring up Neanderthal brain size? This is non-salient, as it says nothing reliable about a species’s cognitive ability. Yes, Neanderthals had bigger brains, but sperm whales have the biggest brains of all. Oh, but it’s the brain/body mass ratio that’s important; well, mice and human beings have a similar brain/body mass ratio. Then there’s actual brain structures themselves and other confounding variables. For example, Homo floresiensis not only had a small brain, but also a brain/body mass ratio similar to apes. Yet they were making and using tools similar to that of Homo erectus, indicating that there’s more going on than just brain size.

      The point is that you’ve latched on to a physical feature which might have been important, or might in fact have the same salience as blond hair. Yet you chose to discuss one over the other without first making a case for the salience of one over the other. Why?

      Also, out of all the potentially salient physical features you could have listed, you chose the exact one that sub-Saharans happen to lack, then used the more flattering phenotype associated with that missing feature, as opposed to bringing attention to a less desirable phenotype of that feature. Why?

      We have also discovered the existence of other extinct hominin species that contributed to modern human genomes. After the Neanderthals, the most important archaic species is the Denisovans. We have discovered that up to 6% of the genomes of Oceanian populations can be traced back to Denisovan introgression. They also contributed to East Asian and Amerindian populations on the order of <0.2%. Modern Tibetans received genes adapted for survival in high altitudes from the Denisovans.

      Ok, but unremarkable.

      To suggest that these genetic differences, which go down to the level of (sub-)species, do not affect any physiological or cognitive faculties, or behavioral tendencies, across populations is absurd. Especially, if you look at these parameters in the aggregate and highest and lowest bounds.

      They may have had effects on human behavior, but with only a small % of- say- Neanderthal DNA across human beings, you have no way to know which genes get expressed, what they entail, and how deeply they are mediated by their surroundings vis-a-vis the environment of adaptation. What if, after thousands of generations, the only Neanderthal DNA that could survive in Homo sapiens is that which does not express itself outside of the bounds of what we now term ‘human’? There’s little reason to emphasize this admixture over (say) the long-term effects of not having local beasts of burden. This means that, yes, all groups have distinctions, they have slightly different combinations of ancestral genes, this can effect behavior, but the same exact thing could have been said about *identical* groups spread into different environments- the ‘randomization’, therefore, is the same, when you no longer ignore expression.

      This means you don’t even have to go back to Neanderthal DNA. You can simply find the most violent tribe over 100 miles, map their genome, see the % in others, then construct the same fantastical narrative for them as anyone.

      Also, the problem with saying ‘cognitive abilities’ is that you must now supply a fresh theory of intelligence that is consistent with the idea of group cognitive differences across Homo sapiens. *Human* intelligence, as distinct to us, came about in an environment where Homo sapiens was winning the evolutionary game year after year, with the biggest threat to human beings now other human beings, and the greatest advantages lay in extremely nuanced socialization. This was the same everywhere, as all human beings found anywhere had out-competed everything around them. Thus, the cognitive functions that we’d consider most salient (i.e., ‘most human’) and broadly relevant to survival came from cognitive equipment long in place. Be careful of how much actual work the study of “cognitive faculties” entails, IF you wish to say something knowable and falsifiable about cognitive differences.

      It should also be noted that “people today are genetically more different from people living 5,000 years ago than those humans were different from the Neanderthals who vanished 30,000 years ago, according to anthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin.”

      Well, yeah, the further back in time you go, the closer we all are to the same prokaryotes.

      Given that human evolution has accelerated in the past 10k years, to the point where the term “modern human” seems like it should describe something more recent than the 200k+ year old “species” it’s meant to describe now, we should go further than just re-thinking our definition for “race.” The terms “species” and “sub-species” are in need of reevaluation as well.

      Sure, but it’s hard to figure out what the categories ought to be, since you can draw the line almost anywhere. Did the 21st century create a new human species? It seems like it, but there’s zero chance of being able to isolate and understand those genes any time soon. What about the advent of city life next to hunter-gatherer life, even if only spaced 1000 years apart? Both gene and gene expression would probably be altered. Is that 1000 year disconnect a new species? This is why speciation is so controversial to begin with.

      At the rate that new discoveries are happening in fields like paleoanthropology, archaeogenetics and population genetics, as well as cultural shifts regarding these issues (see:Brexit)…

      What do you mean by, see Brexit? What are the cultural shifts of Brexit, what do they have to do with those fields, and what are they saying about those fields?

  4. alien

    **”Why do you feel it relevant to bring up Neanderthal brain size? This is non-salient, as it says nothing reliable about a species’s cognitive ability. Yes, Neanderthals had bigger brains, but sperm whales have the biggest brains of all. Oh, but it’s the brain/body mass ratio that’s important; well, mice and human beings have a similar brain/body mass ratio, while Neanderthals were physically larger than Homo sapiens. Then there’s actual brain structures themselves and other confounding variables. For example, Homo floresiensis not only had a small brain, but also a brain/body mass ratio similar to apes. Yet they were making and using tools similar to that of Homo erectus, indicating that there’s more going on than just brain size.”**

    https://www.cell.com/current-biology/pdf/S0960-9822(15)00671-5.pdf

    I agree, there are other variables in brain structure that are just as important as brain size for determining the intelligence of a member of genus Homo. But I also believe that the modern human populations carrying Neanderthal DNA benefitted from an increase in cranial capacity that would prove more useful to them, due to superior brain structure/function, than it was to the Neanderthals. The extra brain matter of Neanderthals was devoted to coordinating their bigger bodies as well as the occipital region, which is the visual processor of the brain. They probably had vision much sharper than modern humans. But the cognitive faculties and mode of social organization of Sapiens were better at adapting for survival as well as outcompeting others, like the Neanderthals who we probably outnumbered 10-to-1.

    And we’re not comparing different species like Florensiensis to Sapiens, but Sapiens with vs Sapiens without Neanderthal admixture. Given roughly the same design for the brain, wouldn’t a significant boost in size only result in a proportionate amplification in pre-existing faculties?

    European early Modern Humans (aka Cro-Magnons) are believed to have possessed craniums that were about as big as Neanderthals. I wonder if that’s influenced any of the historical output/sophistication of those regions compared to their southerly neighbors?

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/92/Cro-Magnon_migration.gif

    **”The point is that you’ve latched on to a physical feature which might have been important, or might in fact have the same salience as blond hair. Yet you chose to discuss one over the other without first making a case for the salience of one over the other. Why?”**

    The salience of brain size for members of genus Homo is evident in the progression from smaller to larger brains over millions of years and the concurrent rise in intellectual capacity, as evinced through cultural achievements and technological sophistication. Homo Floresiensis likely evolved from Homo Erectus, or some derivative of it, as a response to a low resource environment and consequently underwent the process of insular dwarfism, which explains the reduction in cranial capacity and concurrent retention of higher cognitive faculties, which is most likely due to sharing a very similar brain structure to Erectus and others. And it’s obvious that brain size is more salient than traits like hair color, since it has been demonstrably tied to the evolution of our cognitive faculties.

    **”Also, out of all the potentially salient physical features you could have listed, you chose the exact one that sub-Saharans happen to lack, then used the more flattering phenotype associated with that missing feature, as opposed to bringing attention to a less desirable phenotype of that feature. Why?”**

    As I explained in the previous paragraphs, the salience of this phenotype is obvious from its connection to human progress. Not progress like blond hair becoming predominant in some areas due to sexual selection, but progress like going from a primitive mode of life to behavioral modernity, which is obviously more “salient” than traits purely tied to appearance. Traits connected to cognition and behavior are obviously more important because they play part in determining the historical outcomes of these societies. It might just be that some people cannot adapt to certain cultures due to a difference in capabilities.

    And you’re right about there being other potentially more salient characteristics of human populations that determine our survival. It is known that genes associated with aggression and hyperactivity are found only in Homo Sapiens and that other humans lacked these genes. It is also apparent that adapting to the Eurasian environment lead to societies with a reduction in these characteristics, which allowed for greater cooperation and thus progress. One could argue that the human tendency to spread and conquer as much land and resources as we can is a defining characteristic of our species and probably explains why we were able to outcompete everyone else to the point where we’ve become the undisputed rulers of the Earth. I am reminded of the scene from 2001 where the ancient hominid invents the first technology by using a bone as a weapon of war.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4947341/

    **”you have no way to know which genes get expressed, what they entail, and how deeply they are mediated by their surroundings vis-a-vis the environment of adaptation. What if, after thousands of generations, the only Neanderthal DNA that could survive in Homo sapiens is that which does not express itself outside of the bounds of what we now term ‘human’? There’s little reason to emphasize this admixture over (say) the long-term effects of not having local beasts of burden. This means that, yes, all groups have distinctions, they have slightly different combinations of ancestral genes, this can effect behavior, but the same exact thing could have been said about *identical* groups spread into different environments- the ‘randomization’, therefore, is the same, when you no longer ignore expression.”**

    There has been a good amount of research conducted to investigate the effects of Neanderthal genes on modern humans and they have been discovered to be important for the regulation of gene
    expression. And, of course, not all of it is good. Such problematic effects include increased susceptibility to certain mental illnesses, autism, addiction, etc. I suspect further discoveries will reveal that archaic DNA is much more significant than some might think.

    https://www.the-scientist.com/features/neanderthal-dna-in-modern-human-genomes-is-not-silent-66299

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170223124316.htm

    You’re right about other factors such as availability of beasts of burden having significant impact on historical outcomes. But understand that such factors will also influence our genes through gene-culture coevolution. Identical groups placed in different environments will no longer be identical groups once environmental pressures begin to shape selection over proceeding generations. In the group placed in an environment with beasts of burden, those that are capable of taking advantage of them will become the future of that group. The consumption and produce generated from these animals will also influence or physiological adaptations. Environment, culture, genetics… all interconnected and influential on each other. I never meant to say that archaic admixture is the only or even the most important factor in human evolution and classification, although I believe it is more significant than you think.

    **”This means you don’t even have to go back to Neanderthal DNA. You can simply find the most violent tribe over 100 miles, map their genome, see the % in others, then construct the same fantastical narrative for them as anyone.”**

    Here you go:

    https://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-europe/yamnaya-culture-0012105

    And it’s important to take into account genetic distance. While we can say the same thing about tribes like this, we know that the genetic distance between certain human populations would qualify for sub-species classification, if we used the same metric for classifying subspecies as we do for other animals. Could archaic DNA have something to with making us different to such a degree? This makes it obvious that the influence of a tribe of humans on other humans would not be as significant as the influence of another species (as defined by genetic distance) on humans.

    https://i.warosu.org/data/sci/img/0091/59/1505034081610.png

    See the section “The Arabic Reversal” from the following article for an interesting and intuitively persuasive explanation for the effects on historical outcomes from different population admixtures: https://web.archive.org/web/20180325131019/http://mlwi.magix.net/raceinsight.htm

    **”Thus, the cognitive functions that we’d consider most salient (i.e., ‘most human’) and broadly relevant to survival came from cognitive equipment long in place.”**

    Cognitive equipment which seemingly received a dramatic boost once our species adapted to Eurasia, leading to accelerated progress within 40k years compared to the progress made over +200k years and continuing today with the tribes who continue this unbroken +200k year primitive mode. Environmental adaptations, ie evolution, which may include interbreeding with other species to receive the beneficial traits they’ve adapted over hundreds of thousands of years in these environments. If not for other benefits, than at least for immunity to local pathogens, the independent evolution of which would have set us back thousands of years, most likely.

    **”Well, yeah, the further back in time you go, the closer we all are to the same prokaryotes.”**

    Look at the proportion of difference relative to time though. Evolution, and thus speciation, has been accelerated.

    **”Sure, but it’s hard to figure out what the categories ought to be, since you can draw the line almost anywhere.”**

    As I mentioned earlier, what if we held the same standards to us as we did to other animals?

    **”What do you mean by, see Brexit? What are the cultural shifts of Brexit, what do they have to do with those fields, and what are they saying about those fields?”**

    What I meant is that one of the motivating factors behind Brexit has been a disillusionment with mass immigration. It seems that more people are becoming aware that differences between human populations can be more than just skin-deep. Some groups might not be capable of reaching an aggregate level of performance is some areas necessary to properly function in sophisticated modern societies. With the research that has been committed to this controversial topic, as well as that which is indirectly relevant to it, from the past several years, it seems that racialism is seeing something of a resurgence. The mainstream public will come to accept these scientific facts. What can you expect, when multiculturalism’s flaws have been made so apparent over the past few years?

    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I agree, there are other variables in brain structure that are just as important as brain size for determining the intelligence of a member of genus Homo. But I also believe that the modern human populations carrying Neanderthal DNA benefitted from an increase in cranial capacity that would prove more useful to them, due to superior brain structure/function, than it was to the Neanderthals. The extra brain matter of Neanderthals was devoted to coordinating their bigger bodies as well as the occipital region, which is the visual processor of the brain. They probably had vision much sharper than modern humans. But the cognitive faculties and mode of social organization of Sapiens were better at adapting for survival as well as outcompeting others, like the Neanderthals who we probably outnumbered 10-to-1.

      But, again, you’re choosing to hang a conclusion flattering to Eurasians re: human intelligence and/or evolutionary fitness, on something that is pure conjecture on your part, while ignoring conclusions less flattering to Eurasians on a thousand other things that might have the same salience. For example, Homo sapiens and Neanderthals *from the same time period* actually had similar if not identical skull volumes, a change which almost anything could have caused. Did Eurasians then forgo the good cranial DNA, and instead get the Neanderthal traits less conducive to evolutionary fitness? You know, things like low-population groups like Neanderthals being more inbred? Also, you’re overstating the findings that we do in fact have. It is true that SOME scientists believe Neanderthals had somewhat better vision, leading to their extinction from brains hyper-focused on visual processing rather than social intelligence, but others don’t. Eiluned Pearce did a study where she concluded that orbital volume is associated with eyeball and visual cortex volume. Yet the orbital volume of all living primates today is associated with something that we can actually measure: larger social groups and other markers of sociability. The cortex is also involved in so many other cognitive functions, since dreaming, planning to see friends, and even more pro-social activities tap visual resources. And intensifying activity of the visual cortex and/or increasing its size tends to have a reverberating affect on the brain’s entire size. Also, we’re talking about visual acuity in the sense of low-light conditions, which is pretty undemanding on the cortex. Fine detail requires more resources, but this is not the adaptation we’re talking about. Yet by highlighting this poorly understood difference between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, you simultaneously make Neanderthals appear more ‘alien’, then use this ‘alien’ DNA to align Eurasians against sub-Saharan Africans, implying the genetic differences are SALIENT by picking your original example when pretty much any other, less flattering example would do.

      And we’re not comparing different species like Florensiensis to Sapiens, but Sapiens with vs Sapiens without Neanderthal admixture. Given roughly the same design for the brain, wouldn’t a significant boost in size only result in a proportionate amplification in pre-existing faculties?

      No, and you need to understand why these sorts of questions are so boring to the average evolutionary scientist. You’re throwing around tons of conjectures and what-ifs, you’re taking only the useful (for your argument) parts of the limited data we do have, then declaiming whatever fantastic narrative emerges as The Narrative.

      European early Modern Humans (aka Cro-Magnons) are believed to have possessed craniums that were about as big as Neanderthals. I wonder if that’s influenced any of the historical output/sophistication of those regions compared to their southerly neighbors?

      Ok, instead of giving you my objections, I’ll give you something better. Answer this- what are the more common explanations for “historical output/sophistication of those regions compared to their southerly neighbors”? And you’ve devoted many paragraphs to your own surmise, so let’s make a serious effort here to understand the opposing POV.

      The salience of brain size for members of genus Homo is evident in the progression from smaller to larger brains over millions of years and the concurrent rise in intellectual capacity, as evinced through cultural achievements and technological sophistication. Homo Floresiensis likely evolved from Homo Erectus, or some derivative of it, as a response to a low resource environment and consequently underwent the process of insular dwarfism, which explains the reduction in cranial capacity and concurrent retention of higher cognitive faculties, which is most likely due to sharing a very similar brain structure to Erectus and others.

      Yes, the size, shape, and uniqueness of the human brain is salient, in general, but that’s not the question I asked you. I asked why, in inheriting 1-2% DNA from a less genetically fit species that- among a million other things- happened to have a larger skull, you latched on to the larger skull as 1) inherited, 2) salient, when any other conjecture would do? To say that brain size is salient is NOT to say that brain size in those extremely specific circumstances (1-2% DNA, no evidence this slice of genetic material is linked to brain size, Neanderthal/Homo sapiens living in close proximity at the same time, near-identical brain size when contemporaneous) is salient. Those variables completely change the question and absolutely do deflate the importance with which we typically think of ‘brain size’ in the abstract. Many other variables, such as brain size within families, would have the same effect. Then, after failing to even make the material case, you think it justified to conclude something 100X harder to conclude- ‘this is why Eurasians are more sophisticated’.

      And it’s obvious that brain size is more salient than traits like hair color, since it has been demonstrably tied to the evolution of our cognitive faculties.

      But in the way that I’ve re-framed it, it is not. And you need to show why the re-frame is illegitimate.

      Here you go:

      This link may or may not have factual information- we don’t even have to debate that point- as the issue is what you’re trying to say with this information.

      See the section “The Arabic Reversal” from the following article for an interesting and intuitively persuasive explanation for the effects on historical outcomes from different population admixtures: https://web.archive.org/web/20180325131019/http://mlwi.magix.net/raceinsight.htm

      Um, let’s see- 7 crusades by 1100, the Siege of Baghdad in 1258, salination, desertification, the Black Death, Europe finds a new market to import/dump its own goods, but the more salient point in all this is that Arabs and Africans had fucked? And historians are not ‘puzzled’ by the decline of the Islamic Golden Age, with some extending it past 1258.

      Cognitive equipment which seemingly received a dramatic boost once our species adapted to Eurasia, leading to accelerated progress within 40k years compared to the progress made over +200k years and continuing today with the tribes who continue this unbroken +200k year primitive mode. Environmental adaptations, ie evolution, which may include interbreeding with other species to receive the beneficial traits they’ve adapted over hundreds of thousands of years in these environments. If not for other benefits, than at least for immunity to local pathogens, the independent evolution of which would have set us back thousands of years, most likely.

      ‘Leading to accelerated progress’ from just a few materially well-situated loci at any given time, under circumstances that- in a geographical sense- were just extraordinary, and would invariably be tapped by any Homo sapiens in a similar environment. Look at the direction and speed with which inventions traveled, and how quickly a single breakthrough (which is materially unavailable elsewhere) begets fresh breakthroughs. It is nuts that you’re intellectually comfortable blaming Arab decline on genetics when there are so many more rational explanations available which don’t depend your multiple layers of conjecture.

      As I mentioned earlier, what if we held the same standards to us as we did to other animals?

      Then you’d have the same exact controversies and philosophical debates about animal classification multiplied 100X.

      What I meant is that one of the motivating factors behind Brexit has been a disillusionment with mass immigration. It seems that more people are becoming aware that differences between human populations can be more than just skin-deep. Some groups might not be capable of reaching an aggregate level of performance is some areas necessary to properly function in sophisticated modern societies. With the research that has been committed to this controversial topic, as well as that which is indirectly relevant to it, from the past several years, it seems that racialism is seeing something of a resurgence. The mainstream public will come to accept these scientific facts. What can you expect, when multiculturalism’s flaws have been made so apparent over the past few years?

      Hell yeah differences between human populations are more than just skin-deep. You think an uneducated Syrian refugee fleeing civil war won’t have some ‘adjustment issues’? Their ‘aggregate level of performance’ goes UP in Germany.

      Racialism is seeing a resurgence because of the ease of platforming it, people’s lack of satisfaction with themselves and their situations, the desire to be ‘part’ of something and feel like you have some sort of forbidden answer, and how easy it is to delude oneself on most questions.

      By the way, I e-mailed you.

  5. .

    You always exclusively pick out the most unrigorous, reductive articles you can find to support your contentions; nor are your responses to even *those* pop-science pieces particularly compelling. I’m rather disillusioned with this page.

  6. alien

    But, again, you’re choosing to hang a conclusion flattering to Eurasians re: human intelligence and/or evolutionary fitness, on something that is pure conjecture on your part, while ignoring conclusions less flattering to Eurasians on a thousand other things that might have the same salience. For example, Homo sapiens and Neanderthals *from the same time period* actually had similar if not identical skull volumes, a change which almost anything could have caused. Did Eurasians then forgo the good cranial DNA, and instead get the Neanderthal traits less conducive to evolutionary fitness? You know, things like low-population groups like Neanderthals being more inbred? Also, you’re overstating the findings that we do in fact have. It is true that SOME scientists believe Neanderthals had somewhat better vision, leading to their extinction from brains hyper-focused on visual processing rather than social intelligence, but others don’t. Eiluned Pearce did a study where she concluded that orbital volume is associated with eyeball and visual cortex volume. Yet the orbital volume of all living primates today is associated with something that we can actually measure: larger social groups and other markers of sociability. The cortex is also involved in so many other cognitive functions, since dreaming, planning to see friends, and even more pro-social activities tap visual resources. And intensifying activity of the visual cortex and/or increasing its size tends to have a reverberating affect on the brain’s entire size. Also, we’re talking about visual acuity in the sense of low-light conditions, which is pretty undemanding on the cortex. Fine detail requires more resources, but this is not the adaptation we’re talking about. Yet by highlighting this poorly understood difference between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, you simultaneously make Neanderthals appear more ‘alien’, then use this ‘alien’ DNA to align Eurasians against sub-Saharan Africans, implying the genetic differences are SALIENT by picking your original example when pretty much any other, less flattering example would do.

    Are you sure this comparison is between Neanderthals and Sapiens of the time that had no Neanderthal admixture? Cro-Magnons did have an average cranial capacity of about 1600 cm3, practically the same as Neanderthals, and they interbred with the Neanderthals and adapted to the Eurasian environment, which, at the time, seems to have facilitated selection for greater cranial capacity.

    It seems unlikely they would have retained genes counter to evolutionary fitness, as the hybrids who would go on to reproduce were the ones who did receive genes that were conducive to evolutionary fitness (eg immune systems with resistance to Eurasian pathogens) which is why all humans with Eurasian ancestry also have Neanderthal ancestry. Those that weren’t so lucky with genetic recombination died out. The negative effects that can be caused by their DNA only remain with us because of the other genes that are actually useful and for that reason continue to live on in us +30k years after the extinction of their source.

    The scholar you mentioned, Eiluned Pearce, is one of the scientists that came to the conclusion that a greater proportion of Neanderthal brains were devoted to somatic and visual systems.

    https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2013.0168#RSPB20130168C43

    It is, however, unclear whether this could have lead to the extinction of the Neanderthals, as a variety of explanations have been proposed, from competition/conflict with Sapiens to climate change to random/natural fluctuations in demographic compositions and fertility rates. To my knowledge, no single explanation seems to have more validity over others and it was likely a combination of multiple factors that lead to their demise.

    And I am simply pointing out that while, yes, Neanderthals themselves were most likely not geniuses or anything of the sort, the genes Eurasians received from them likely had beneficial effects on cognition and not just things like disease immunity.

    I am not saying that it was purely Neanderthal admixture that has lead to augmentation of cognitive abilities, but generally adaptation to the Eurasian environment, which created different evolutionary pressures than those of Africa. It was this new environment’s demand of Sapiens for more sophisticated systems of social organization, shelter and technology (Neanderthals evolved on a different trajectory given the same environment; eg robust, bulky bodies compared to our more gracile builds which meant they could attack big game at close range and didn’t need to develop better tools such as the atlatl, etc) which lead to civilization and the precedents required for its advent. Interbreeding with Neanderthals likely gave us a boost in this regard, as the independent evolution of genetic adaptations to this environment would have required a greater length of time than what it actually took for us.

    No, and you need to understand why these sorts of questions are so boring to the average evolutionary scientist. You’re throwing around tons of conjectures and what-ifs, you’re taking only the useful (for your argument) parts of the limited data we do have, then declaiming whatever fantastic narrative emerges as The Narrative.

    The evolution of hominin brains concurrent with increasing cranial capacity suggests otherwise. I am not saying that bigger brains was the only reason why, for example, H. erectus was smarter than, say, Australopithecus or Paranthropus, but that it was a significant factor and that it did not suddenly stop being significant 50k years ago. You are simply choosing to ignore it entirely because it wouldn’t support a PC agenda. Studies have demonstrated a correlation between brain size and intelligence. Research has not revealed that brain size absolutely determines one’s intelligence, not by any means, but that it does play some part. At the group aggregate level, the influence of this difference, even if it’s small, is manifest in behaviors and outcomes compared to others, although it does not explain all of the difference and the exact extent may not be readily identifiable. But it’s there.

    Ok, instead of giving you my objections, I’ll give you something better. Answer this- what are the more common explanations for “historical output/sophistication of those regions compared to their southerly neighbors”? And you’ve devoted many paragraphs to your own surmise, so let’s make a serious effort here to understand the opposing POV.

    I admit, that line this paragraph is in response to made it seem like brain size is more important than it actually is. My point about brain size is really just an extension of my larger point about evolutionary adaptation. Migrating to the Eurasian environment brought evolutionary pressures that selected for intelligence. One result of this evolutionary adaptation was increased brain size, which is correlated with intelligence. This is not the only adaptation that lead to greater intelligence. And, sure, it wasn’t just the adversities present in this environment, but also the resources available, that lead us down the path that allowed us to advance as we did. But that means these resources contributed to our evolution and not to others, as they were not present in certain parts of the world. Evolutionary adaptation leading to cognitive differences leading to different outcomes.

    Yes, the size, shape, and uniqueness of the human brain is salient, in general, but that’s not the question I asked you. I asked why, in inheriting 1-2% DNA from a less genetically fit species that- among a million other things- happened to have a larger skull, you latched on to the larger skull as 1) inherited, 2) salient, when any other conjecture would do? To say that brain size is salient is NOT to say that brain size in those extremely specific circumstances (1-2% DNA, no evidence this slice of genetic material is linked to brain size, Neanderthal/Homo sapiens living in close proximity at the same time, near-identical brain size when contemporaneous) is salient. Those variables completely change the question and absolutely do deflate the importance with which we typically think of ‘brain size’ in the abstract. Many other variables, such as brain size within families, would have the same effect. Then, after failing to even make the material case, you think it justified to conclude something 100X harder to conclude- ‘this is why Eurasians are more sophisticated’.

    If I made it seem like the Neanderthal DNA in our genomes was the sole explanation for Eurasians being more sophisticated, then let me clarify that archaic admixture is most relevant for classification of humans into different groups. These groupings are not cleanly cut by any means–it’s not like we can put every individual in a single closed off box when they have traits that could belong to any one of the groupings–but obviously do exist in the form of clusters, at least, and are important at the group level. Genomic analysis can quite accurately identify the race of an individual. Neanderthal DNA distinguishes us from SSA, just as their own introgressed DNA from unidentified archaics does the same. This was only one of multiple factors leading to the result, the causes for which we’re arguing over. But these were all driven by the same process of evolutionary adaptation.

    But in the way that I’ve re-framed it, it is not. And you need to show why the re-frame is illegitimate.

    https://cdn.britannica.com/93/393-050-12C6DE14/increase-capacity.jpg

    If brain size had remained constant over this period of time, do you think human progress would be the same? Even if our living ape relatives had similar brain structures to ours, a brain of this type at their size would make for a far less intelligent hominin than one with our size.

    ‘Leading to accelerated progress’ from just a few materially well-situated loci at any given time, under circumstances that- in a geographical sense- were just extraordinary, and would invariably be tapped by any Homo sapiens in a similar environment. Look at the direction and speed with which inventions traveled, and how quickly a single breakthrough (which is materially unavailable elsewhere) begets fresh breakthroughs. It is nuts that you’re intellectually comfortable blaming Arab decline on genetics when there are so many more rational explanations available which don’t depend your multiple layers of conjecture.

    You’re correct that any humans would tap into the advantages provided by geography. This will also change them from what they were before the introduction of these resources into humans whose evolutions were influenced by these resources. Look at how much difference it made over time. The Sapiens that took advantage of these resources were given evolutionary advantages that lead to genetic differentiation from those who did not. Geography influences culture influences genes influences culture influences… Gene-culture coevolution. Those not given the same environmentally-determined resources did not undergo the same evolutionary adaptive process.

    Then you’d have the same exact controversies and philosophical debates about animal classification multiplied 100X.

    Or a more accurate description of speciation in humans. Regardless, the point remains. Human populations are markedly different and there is a biological basis for these differences. You might bring up the point that Africa has more genetic diversity than the rest of the world but genetic diversity does not equate to phenotypic diversity, which is what really matters.

    Hell yeah differences between human populations are more than just skin-deep. You think an uneducated Syrian refugee fleeing civil war won’t have some ‘adjustment issues’? Their ‘aggregate level of performance’ goes UP in Germany.

    I’m not surprised that moving to developed societies leads to gains in people from less developed societies. They benefit from all that these other societies have been able to produce, which others have not. Anybody can leech off of the productivity of others.

    “Let’s be frank. The high productivity of North America, Western Europe, and East Asia has profound behavioral and psychological causes. It is not due to political ideals, universal education, or a particular legal system. It is due to a higher level of social trust, as well as a higher level of cognitive ability and a lower level of personal violence. When immigrants enter that kind of environment, their productivity dramatically rises. They are now working in a society where laws are observed, where information is reliable, and where disputes are not normally settled through violence. We all benefit from that kind of society—simply by virtue of living in it.”

    https://web.archive.org/web/20200110192226/http://evoandproud.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-2020s-are-here.html

    The larger point I’m trying to make is supported by more than just archaic admixture. Due to multiple factors, some humans have evolved to be more intelligent than others.

    Racialism is seeing a resurgence because of the ease of platforming it, people’s lack of satisfaction with themselves and their situations, the desire to be ‘part’ of something and feel like you have some sort of forbidden answer, and how easy it is to delude oneself on most questions.

    I won’t deny that some people are responding unpleasantly to cultural/demographic shifts due to personal deficits. But scientific research has yielded evidence supporting biological diversity in humans. These differences are not insignificant. The problems with certain groups cannot be explained solely by factors like environment or culture or structural oppression. I’m not saying these are not factors, I am making the case for the salience of biology in considering differences across groups, both historically and in the present day, whether it be for intelligence, behavior or what have you.

    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Are you sure this comparison is between Neanderthals and Sapiens of the time that had no Neanderthal admixture? Cro-Magnons did have an average cranial capacity of about 1600 cm3, practically the same as Neanderthals, and they interbred with the Neanderthals and adapted to the Eurasian environment, which, at the time, seems to have facilitated selection for greater cranial capacity.

      Maybe, or maybe not; you’re asking an unknowable question, then hanging so much of your POV on its answer, which – surprise – you yourself supply in a way that only helps this narrative. Yet look at how many gaps must be filled. You need to show, for example, that it was interbreeding, specifically, that led to greater cranial capacity, as opposed to any number of other things which might have caused this. You need to show that greater cranial capacity in people will *necessarily* (or even tend to) cause a subsequent increase in brain size with the kind of effects you propose. You need to show that brain size, TODAY, will reliably predict what you say it will, and (this is most important of all) that epigenetic explanations are insufficient. You need to explain why brain size differences only account for a tiny percentage of the racial IQ gap, then explain away black American predisposition towards the very triggers known to decrease both brain size and IQ. You need to explain why, although skull size is largest in the North as a simple adaptation to cold, high civilization did not emerge from these regions. In fact, high civilization began in Egypt, Asia, Mexico, and the Fertile Crescent, where skull sizes are smaller, with European civilization limited just to two cities that inherited Near Eastern technology. The rest of Europe was widely deemed to be barbaric well into the Roman Empire. South American civilization, likewise, was at its highest in the heat of Mexico, despite Native Americans having larger cranial capacities to the far North and South. There is SUCH an obvious pattern to all this, IF YOU JUST LOOK AT A MAP, that it’s clear you’ve simply made an emotional investment in a contrarian explanation, then latched on to some post hoc, ad hoc justification dependent on a thousand moving parts. And so you refuse to budge.

      It seems unlikely they would have retained genes counter to evolutionary fitness, as the hybrids who would go on to reproduce were the ones who did receive genes that were conducive to evolutionary fitness (eg immune systems with resistance to Eurasian pathogens) which is why all humans with Eurasian ancestry also have Neanderthal ancestry. Those that weren’t so lucky with genetic recombination died out. The negative effects that can be caused by their DNA only remain with us because of the other genes that are actually useful and for that reason continue to live on in us +30k years after the extinction of their source.

      This is wrong. Genes counter to evolutionary fitness are shed according to some mostly unknown rate, which itself can fluctuate quite rapidly in a changing environment. Even our previous example of cranial size can be used here, since increased cranial size improves fitness in the North, but reduces it in the South. You can then offset this by other things, and thus keep the adaptation, or a negative externality to life more broadly (even if not to fitness) can be introduced by sexual selection. It’s absurd to think we DON’T inherit maladaptive genes, even if it means they must be cyclically dormant. Then, there’s the just-so stories, about specific genes, or theories whether Neanderthal genes for poorer sociability led to psychopathic behavior in the smarter Homo sapiens, which now requires violent intervention against whites, which is why we have so many SJWs today and white people annoyed at having to give up power, like any other object of Darwinian evolution. (See, anyone can bullshit in this way.)

      The scholar you mentioned, Eiluned Pearce, is one of the scientists that came to the conclusion that a greater proportion of Neanderthal brains were devoted to somatic and visual systems. It is, however, unclear whether this could have lead to the extinction of the Neanderthals, as a variety of explanations have been proposed, from competition/conflict with Sapiens to climate change to random/natural fluctuations in demographic compositions and fertility rates. To my knowledge, no single explanation seems to have more validity over others and it was likely a combination of multiple factors that lead to their demise. And I am simply pointing out that while, yes, Neanderthals themselves were most likely not geniuses or anything of the sort, the genes Eurasians received from them likely had beneficial effects on cognition and not just things like disease immunity.

      Yes, she did that study, but the rest of the comment was my response to it. Or rather, the response of other scientists. Remember the chronology of argument- you began by saying that Neanderthal genetics led to bigger brains in Homo sapiens, who were able to use this extra brain (unlike Neanderthals) for something more creative. Yet as I state in my comment, increasing the amount of brain matter dedicated to visual (and even somatic) processing reverberates across the entire brain, thus increasing intelligence more broadly. So, the “unfit Neanderthal brain which was simply in need of a more human touch” is simply a way to avoid dealing with inconvenient truths, such as lingering cranial differences by climate patterns, or underperformance by European people compared to everything South of them. You might even need to posit that the groups with the most Neanderthal DNA in fact inherited the “less fit” genetics, while Southern Europeans, Asians, and Near Easterners got the less bad stuff, and off you go to the races again, looking how to justify yet another flight of fancy.

      I am not saying that it was purely Neanderthal admixture that has lead to augmentation of cognitive abilities, but generally adaptation to the Eurasian environment, which created different evolutionary pressures than those of Africa. It was this new environment’s demand of Sapiens for more sophisticated systems of social organization, shelter and technology (Neanderthals evolved on a different trajectory given the same environment; eg robust, bulky bodies compared to our more gracile builds which meant they could attack big game at close range and didn’t need to develop better tools such as the atlatl, etc) which lead to civilization and the precedents required for its advent. Interbreeding with Neanderthals likely gave us a boost in this regard, as the independent evolution of genetic adaptations to this environment would have required a greater length of time than what it actually took for us.

      This is just another set of just-so stories which you’ve justified by your god of the gaps. It’s also obvious that you started reading about genetics, intelligence, etc., under the auspices of the race realist movement, because you make mistakes you otherwise would never make, had you actually done the hard work of a more systematic reading in biology. For example, there is no robust model of human intelligence that can explain it by geographical and/or climactic pressures. It is sociability, first, as the blueprint, even as single invention (such as the wheel) takes root and multiplies like a virus, speeding cultural evolution as it travels a pre-defined geography. This reminds me of the lonely boys who read Jordan Peterson as their first entry to evolutionary psychology, then assume they have some fair representation of the field in their heads.

      The evolution of hominin brains concurrent with increasing cranial capacity suggests otherwise. I am not saying that bigger brains was the only reason why, for example, H. erectus was smarter than, say, Australopithecus or Paranthropus, but that it was a significant factor and that it did not suddenly stop being significant 50k years ago.

      Yes, it was, and it’s telling that you think this an objection to anything I’ve said. In fact, I agree with this. But you can’t make a perfectly reasonable claim, like this one, then assume it gives you the intellectual edifice to argue something completely unrelated and unknowable, such as Arabs fucking their slaves leading to the downfall of a major civilization. Yet you are so far gone that you actually called this “intuitive” when far better explanations exist.

      You are simply choosing to ignore it entirely because it wouldn’t support a PC agenda.

      Do you see how the gaslight is starting? Do you even know that you’re doing this? I’ve discussed the brain in a VERY precise fashion, not only by describing how visual processing in fact works, or the environmental pressures that lead to differences in cranial size, to epigenetics as they relate to brain size and IQ, but also provided a broader context, as defined by intelligence researchers. But I am said to be “ignoring brain size entirely”, not because I am (again, just re-read my comments), but because I frame these issues in a way that doesn’t fit your bias.

      Studies have demonstrated a correlation between brain size and intelligence. Research has not revealed that brain size absolutely determines one’s intelligence, not by any means, but that it does play some part. At the group aggregate level, the influence of this difference, even if it’s small, is manifest in behaviors and outcomes compared to others, although it does not explain all of the difference and the exact extent may not be readily identifiable. But it’s there.

      Yeah, sure. Let’s not do the motte and bailey from here though, nor assume that the motte and bailey is the most logical conclusion of this completely uncontroversial paragraph.

      I admit, that line this paragraph is in response to made it seem like brain size is more important than it actually is. My point about brain size is really just an extension of my larger point about evolutionary adaptation. Migrating to the Eurasian environment brought evolutionary pressures that selected for intelligence. One result of this evolutionary adaptation was increased brain size, which is correlated with intelligence. This is not the only adaptation that lead to greater intelligence. And, sure, it wasn’t just the adversities present in this environment, but also the resources available, that lead us down the path that allowed us to advance as we did. But that means these resources contributed to our evolution and not to others, as they were not present in certain parts of the world. Evolutionary adaptation leading to cognitive differences leading to different outcomes.

      I asked you for the mainstream scientific explanation for differences in civilization/development, and you don’t even know what that is. Think about that, you are so intent on destroying the PC narrative, but you have no idea what the argument is. You don’t even know what you’re responding to, because you thought you could jump-start the process of science research by avoiding the actual debates within mainstream science, and just going straight for the outliers. Then you wonder why I spend so much time on ad hominem and pointing out the emotional deficiencies of race realists, when in fact this provides the FAR better intellectual accounting for their theories and stratagems, than the actual theories themselves.

      If I made it seem like the Neanderthal DNA in our genomes was the sole explanation for Eurasians being more sophisticated, then let me clarify that archaic admixture is most relevant for classification of humans into different groups. These groupings are not cleanly cut by any means–it’s not like we can put every individual in a single closed off box when they have traits that could belong to any one of the groupings–but obviously do exist in the form of clusters, at least, and are important at the group level. Genomic analysis can quite accurately identify the race of an individual. Neanderthal DNA distinguishes us from SSA, just as their own introgressed DNA from unidentified archaics does the same.

      None of this is wrong, but none of it is relevant to anything that we’re debating about. Then we get to this:

      This was only one of multiple factors leading to the result, the causes for which we’re arguing over. But these were all driven by the same process of evolutionary adaptation.

      You notice how, in the midst of presenting very uncontroversial facts, you then sneak in an unwarranted conclusion? You then complain about my rejection of the unwarranted conclusion by spending an entire paragraph presenting the uncontroversial facts. You MUST understand how circular this is?

      https://cdn.britannica.com/93/393-050-12C6DE14/increase-capacity.jpg

      If brain size had remained constant over this period of time, do you think human progress would be the same? Even if our living ape relatives had similar brain structures to ours, a brain of this type at their size would make for a far less intelligent hominin than one with our size.

      No, I don’t. But you’ve not answered the objection.

      You’re correct that any humans would tap into the advantages provided by geography. This will also change them from what they were before the introduction of these resources into humans whose evolutions were influenced by these resources. Look at how much difference it made over time.

      You can’t just leave your first sentence like that, deflating it. The issue is that there was NO geographical advantage to tap in a large number of these experiments, with identical results. Those with geographical advantage became what you now term to be people of superior genetic stock, and because of your bias, you mix up cause and effect. To do this, you must bring in variables and conjectures extraneous to the geographical explanation, then act as if they are critical to it, again without offering any evidence.

      Or a more accurate description of speciation in humans. Regardless, the point remains. Human populations are markedly different and there is a biological basis for these differences. You might bring up the point that Africa has more genetic diversity than the rest of the world but genetic diversity does not equate to phenotypic diversity, which is what really matters.

      Yes, more accurate, in one sense, and quite distortionary in others, which is why speciation is controversial even without bringing human beings into it.

      I’m not surprised that moving to developed societies leads to gains in people from less developed societies. They benefit from all that these other societies have been able to produce, which others have not. Anybody can leech off of the productivity of others.

      Gains imply an ability to gain, which means the gainer started at sub-zero, which is then ignored as a causative power. And “leech” is a value judgment, which will take even more proofs from you. Jews, Italians, and Russians were once thought to “leech”, due to the same emotional bias you have, and the same ad hoc, post hoc rationalizations you’ve provided. It doesn’t matter that you can read some technical terms 150 years later, especially if you don’t understand these terms in the way the science understands them.

      I won’t deny that some people are responding unpleasantly to cultural/demographic shifts due to personal deficits. But scientific research has yielded evidence supporting biological diversity in humans. These differences are not insignificant. The problems with certain groups cannot be explained solely by factors like environment or culture or structural oppression. I’m not saying these are not factors, I am making the case for the salience of biology in considering differences across groups, both historically and in the present day, whether it be for intelligence, behavior or what have you.

      What do you mean by “some”, and “unpleasantly”? What is an “unpleasant” response in the face of the ‘literal’ truth these people are arguing for: that their ‘white nations’ are being ‘invaded’, and their collective intelligence diluted? I’d say even violent acts are warranted here. Fuck, a black kid growing up in a lead-paint apartment- THAT in quite a few moral systems would justify violence, as well. But now you’re bringing in all of this war imagery too, all of these personal violations of the human body, this disgusting interbreeding…I’m not so sure why you think a “pleasant” response to such supposedly correct data is warranted. Why would it be? The response ought to be WAR! Richard Spencer got coked up, and went on a rampage about inferior races being under his boot- but that’s not so very far from reality if, according to your own words, we must deal with a bunch of “leeches” who are only slowing down “our” productivity. And yeah, I get it, Spencer’s personal life is bad, given the long record of domestic abuse he has, but you can sort of understand that too- diversity is SO HORRIBLE (in fact, you implied it was a kind of existential threat) that why wouldn’t he lash out in this way? Same with Stefan Molyneux. Or pedophile Alex Jones. Or Mike Cernovich. Yep, no very obvious pattern here, total psychopathy and mental illness personified, again and again and again and again, but let’s deal with their core ideas as charitably and as credulously as possible.

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