Well, yes. But the question raises some interesting points.

Does a person endorse near slavery, horrific working conditions, the purchase of moral “indulgences” by the privileged, and the manipulation of the population with religious woo-woo when appreciating the architecture of a medieval European cathedral? Because that bad stuff is what happened to make that cathedral exist. If you visit the Sistine Chapel or Notre Dame in Paris you endorse all that is connected to the creation of these edifices. You might as well have personally carried out the inquisition! Especially if you pay to get in or buy a slide set or a curio in the gift shop.

The critiques of Cameron’s Avatar (see this) in relation to Western-centered racism are valid critiques, and lauding various aspects of the movie, enjoying the movie, and telling other people they should see it can be done at the same time.

Humans actually do this … holding contrary beliefs or taking actions that contradict each other … all the time. Only occasionally do we notice a particular contradiction, at which time we may then act in an arbitrary, often political manner. Making Rules and Demanding Purity are common inappropriate reactions to the discovery of contradiction. Another common reaction is sticking the index fingers into the ears and going “La La La La” really loud you can’t hear anyone else’s voice.

This came up in comments here when I made mention of the idea that one could approach a discussion of racism by not assuming, at least initially, that all racism is bad. I admit that when I mentioned this, I was baiting my readers, and one of my readers did indeed retort with a set of excellent questions.

The pragmatic pedagogic reason for starting out a conversation about race by removing the value judgement over racism is simple but takes a bit of explanation.

People often want to classify some behavior related to race as “OK” or “acceptable” such as a doctor knowing what a person’s “race” is in order to more effectively treat them. If you think this is a good thing, because it leads to better medical treatment, then you think of it as a good application of the race concept. Therefore it can’t be “racism” because racism is bad.

However, this causes a problem when we try to classify things people do, think, want, or ways people act as both “not racist” vs. “racist” and “good” vs. “bad.”

The acknowledgement that African Americans have really good rhythm is an example. That is a fairly racist-sounding thing to say. It may have been true at one time … that African Americans had rhythm and the whites who were making this remark did not (as much). Across the world, in most cultures, most individuals engage in production of music including singing and dancing as part of a group. Children grow up singing and dancing far beyond what Western children get in school or home, and rhythm is a trait that they acquire through development. It is probably hard to find a person in such a culture without rhythm. But it is easy to find run of the mill Americans who don’t have rhythm because they did not grow up in such a culture (or otherwise engage in music production as a child). In other words, it may be that in the early 20th century when I imagine (this is a total guess) this “blacks have rhythm” thing to have emerged (I’m sure someone will wikipedia this and correct me if I’m wrong) white people were often deficit in the rhythm department while African Americans were normal …. they had it.

So in that context, acknowledging that “blacks have rhythm” may be a benign, or even complimentary, statement. How nice of those white people to say such a thing.

When Richard Nixon acknowledged African American abilities in the areas of entertainment, perhaps Richard Nixon was being a nice guy, and perhaps it occurred to him that African Americans were acting in a more or less normal manner, and that our strange broken Western culture hobbled most white Americans in our brain development in this area. On the other hand, when he said “The second point is that coming out–coming back and saying that black Americans aren’t as good as black Africans–most of them , basically, are just out of the trees. Now, let’s face it, they are.” or “There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white… Or a rape” … maybe he belied a deep seated racism that would make us wonder about his “complement.”

My point is that the attribution of rhythm to a particular race could be an example of a benign act or a nefarious act, but either way it involves the race concept. I see the color of your skin and I thus know that you likely have rhythm or not. Statistically. And we assume it is innate. Genetic. And so on. That is the race concept in action.

So if you think “Blacks have rhythm” is not a bad thing to say, and you have the usual view of “racism” (that racism is always bad) then the statement is not racist. But if you realize that it really is a bad thing to say, then suddenly saying “Blacks have rhythm” is a racist act. But it is the same act. How can it be racist one time and not the other time? Well, that can only be true if you think that racism is always bad and never good. You are of course free to think that but it is rather poorly thought out. Why not call something that is good “good” and something that is bad “bad” and look at a term like “racist” or “racism” for what it is… the specific set of thoughts and mental models that use a race concept. Racism is simply believing that races exist and matter, and racism is simply an assertion or act based on this belief.

Putting it yet another way, the structure of the act or assertion as racist is one thing, the judgment of it is another, and conflating the two is a lousy way to define a term that one might want to use in any kind of thoughtful discourse.

Yes, yes, yes, I know, there are other words or terms you can use. “Race-based thinking” or “racialization” and so on and so forth. But these terms are claims that races exist, they are claims that races have multiple correlated characteristics some more easily seen than others, and thus these terms are claims that I can look at the color of your skin and tell if you are likely to have rhythm. Statistically.

It is all the same thing.

So that is the structure of the argument, but what is the purpose of the argument? There are two.

First, I want to ask people to consider racism by first removing their existing moral judgement (racism is bad … and a thing that uses or acknowledges races that is not bad can’t therefore be racism) because even if racism is bad, I strongly suspect that your particular construction of both racism and badness and the link between the two is uncritically received knowledge and you will be better off getting yourself out from under that. You can put it back later if it still fits after examining a number of historical and current issues.

Second, there is an argument that “benign racism” is the hobgoblin of the racist conspiracy. Well, at least, I would make that argument. We often see certain arguments about the benign nature of one or another racist assertion, especially related to medical things these days, but in the Jim Crow days there were many others as well. “For their own good” we will do this and that and this. Separate but equal. Happier among one’s own kind. And so on. So, the construction of racism as always bad and the rule that you can’t label a good thing as racist is a trick. A trick to get you to believe certain things because they are not really bad. Even if they are.

These two things are not unconnected.

Comments

  1. #1 Moopheus
    January 1, 2010

    Then how do we explain the invention of jazz by mixed-race New Orleans Creoles?

    And what exactly do you mean by rhythm? Waltzes? Oompah bands? Syncopation?

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    January 1, 2010

    Rhythm is a defined musical concept. What I refer to here is a person’s ability to keep it.

    Then how do we explain the invention of jazz by mixed-race New Orleans Creoles?

    When I try to imagine how that question arises from this post, I get a mild headache…

  3. #3 mk
    January 1, 2010

    First, I am absolutely convinced that I would benefit greatly from sitting in on one of your classes/workshops on race. No joke.

    But outside of your class, in American society, “racism” is still a bad thing. Calling something racist is in no way benign. As I said before, I understand where you are coming from. You may want everyone to stop using racism to only mean “bad” and stop bothering with words like “racialization” or whatever, but suggesting that Cameron is racist or his movie is a racist trope is significantly different than saying something like, “Well, he made a trite movie that deals with culture and ‘race’ in a clumsy, naive manner.”

    Calling it a racist trope in a multi-day workshop on race and culture is one thing, but considering how the word is actually regarded in society isn’t saying it on a public blog is something much more?

    Hmmmm, maybe that’s the whole point. Thinking.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    January 1, 2010

    Hmmmm, maybe that’s the whole point. Thinking.

    Hmmmmm…..

    I have friend who is a professional football player, retired, who is black and who does work in a mainly African American community with mainly black kids who go to his camp and learn social skills and stuff (it’s a basketball camp). When he was in college football he was told by his coach “if you go near the civil rights protests you are off the team.” When he went to his first pro training camp in Nebraska or someplace he was routinely called “nigger” by the kids in the grocer stores and on the street … he was the only black kid in town. And so on.

    I know this man because of all this. This history of his is the reason we ever met. I can not have a conversation with him or think about him or have anything to do with him with it not having to do with race.

    My relationship to him is totally 100% racist. I can’t stop that, I don’t like it, it is not THAT bad a thing, but it is not ideal, and I don’t know what to do about it.

    Thinking … thinking …

  5. #5 mk
    January 1, 2010

    So sorry… reading that back looks as if I was saying you were suggesting Cameron was racist. Did not mean that! Apologies.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    January 1, 2010

    Well, he is! So are you and me.

    (But I do get annoyed at the trivializing of racism by saying that everybody is, so I’ll stop now.)

  7. #7 Scotlyn
    January 1, 2010

    Well the thing is, “racism” can exist and have real social effects and consequences, like limiting access to education, health care, jobs, etc to members of a particular group, even though there are no biological human “races.” And I have to tell you, Greg, that “awareness” of someone’s “race” can vary a lot.

    Anyone who’s ever been to Cuba, for example (and I’m not saying they don’t have their own problems), has encountered a society made up of people with lots of different skin colours where that actual fact means vanishingly little, and what’s even better, you don’t have to be terribly self-conscious about your own particular melanin quotient.

    Any outsider coming into the US is immediately put on notice (don’t ask me how, but its in the air, maybe it’s something about the way people look at you) of what “colour” they are, what “colour” everyone else is, and how very, very much it matters. And this is how you guys live, all the time. Therefore it is impossible to refrain from “racism,” since “race” is busily being constructed around you every minute of every day.

    Oddly enough, the general view in Cuba is not that different from the general view in most American cities – the same ranges of people with endlessly varying shades of melanin in their skin. I may not have explained it very well, but when it comes to “Race” v. “race,” location is everything.

  8. #8 Anon
    January 1, 2010

    “Everyone’s a little bit racist”

  9. #9 Scotlyn
    January 1, 2010

    At this point, I should probably add the well-observed words of an Irish comedian – “We Irish were never racist until the foreigners came here … but then we turned out to be surprisingly good at it.”

    The point is, there are other ways of “othering” and in Ireland and the UK we’ve become very adept at using signals such as accent, dress, religious symbols, word usage, etc to “other” people that share our skin colour. So, although we’ve also turned out to be as good as anyone at “othering” African and Asian immigrants, we really don’t need skin colour to do it with. This makes it easier for us to see how all-embracing the American application of “colour” divisions are, while Americans might more quickly cotton on to class distinctions in Britain and Ireland.

  10. #10 ar
    January 1, 2010

    Doesn’t it matter if you’re talking about social vs genetic racial identification? I’m stuck with that scene in Steve Martin’s “The Jerk” where he explains “I was raised a poor black child”

    I can’t find the study any more, but I remember reading a few years ago about how babies learn rhythm via their mothers (i.e.- playing with their feet/ songs/etc)

    I’m a white guy with excellent rhythm (from a lifetime of formal music study), but I’m not coordinated enough to be a good dancer. Are we conflating rhythm with movement?

  11. #11 Rod Gallant
    January 1, 2010

    Saying ‘ Blacks Have Rhythm’, I think is stereotyping which in my book is wrong. We should learn to look at people as who they are as individuals. Simply say ‘ Gee You have rhythm’

  12. #12 The Science Pundit
    January 1, 2010

    The point is, there are other ways of “othering” and in Ireland and the UK we’ve become very adept at using signals such as accent, dress, religious symbols, word usage, etc.

    Accent is one of the most common and intuitive ways of demarcating us vs. them.

  13. #13 Nemo
    January 1, 2010

    Wow… I didn’t really think that my opinion of Nixon could go lower.

  14. #14 Frank Cornish
    January 1, 2010

    There is another stereotype related to race, that among some is considered to be a “Good Thing.” I consider it to be a
    “bad thing.” And that is that black Americans are more religious and that there are few atheist women (adding the sexist component, too.) Here is a great article on how, logically, it would seem that black women should decidedly not be Christian in America. And Steve Harvey is a hypocritical ass.

  15. #15 Cath the Canberra Cook
    January 1, 2010

    I have a question – how does differential medical treatment even work when Africans are so genetically diverse?

    As I understand it, “black” is totally a social construct. It covers people from dozens of different African tribes, with varying admixtures of European and other peoples from none to 90% (“a drop of the tar brush” used to be enough to make one black enough for slavery). And then there’s Pacific Islanders and Australian Aborigines. It’s not a meaningful category.

  16. #16 Ted Powell
    January 1, 2010

    “Accent is one of the most common and intuitive ways of demarcating us vs. them.”

    “An Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him,
    The moment he talks he makes some other Englishman despise him.”
    Prof. H. Higgins

  17. #17 Elfie
    January 1, 2010

    I don’t know about everybody else – but superficial differences like race are most obvious when you don’t know someone that well. The more you get to know somebody, the more their identity displaces their stereotypes – the black guy, the red head, the geek, the boss. However, for some people, their racial background is a stronger part of their identity than for others (particularly if a large part of their history is organized around race, like Greg’s football friend). If you met a woman who you knew was the victim of a vicious rape, it’s natural to be conscious of this fact when you talk with her – you certainly wouldn’t feel guilty of doing so.

    As a sidenote, I’ve mostly forgotten that Obama is black… sure, when I think about it, I remember that little tidbit. It was definitely prominent in the campaign. But now, familiarity has melded him into simply “my president”, and race has faded from being a conscious fact. Every once-in-a-while I remember this, and relish the fact that it feels “normal” to have a black president (woohoo!!).

    A good post – attaining a completely colorblind viewpoint has always seemed like an artificially sanitized goal to me. Might as well go around trying not to think of pink zebras. Rather than try to police your thoughts, I think the simple solution is to just get to know people of various races/nationalities. If you’ve got a bunch of black friends, you wouldn’t even think of saying something like “all blacks have excellent rhythm” (unless you’re anal about only befriending blacks with excellent rhythm, lol).

  18. #18 Jim Thomerson
    January 1, 2010

    My chair once asked me how many minority (ie black) students I had in class. I told him one, a fairly light skinned person I had not previously had contact with. I completely forgot another black student, a person I had had in class previously. So maybe there is a connection between racial perception and lack of familiarity.

  19. #19 paula
    January 1, 2010

    may be a benign, or even complementary, statement

    I think you meant to write complimentary…

  20. #20 WMDKitty
    January 2, 2010

    Dammit, Elfie@16, now I’m thinking of pink zebras!

  21. #21 Greg Laden
    January 2, 2010

    Cath [14] It doesn’t really work that well. There are times when it COULD work, for specific conditions, so a well trained physician will know when to use this sort of information. But the medical value of race is overplayed and is really just an excuse race-pushers use to keep race on the table, to give some validity to their categorization and research.

    How are things in Canberra?

  22. #22 Greg Laden
    January 2, 2010

    I am blogger. The world is my copy editor.

    Thanks, Paula.

  23. #23 Cath the Canberra Cook
    January 2, 2010

    Things in Canberra? Well that’s a bit general! The pollies are on holiday, and the rest of us are recovering from our New Year excesses. January is the summer holiday, so it’s quiet except for the annual visitation of the revheads.

    In the longer term, and relevant to the OP, our racial issues are drastically different to the US. Our blacks are good artists and athletes, apparently, when they’re not embarrassing us by living in 3rd world conditions. Rhythm is rarely mentioned. Recently we’ve acquired a lot of Sudanese and Ethopian refugees, who are changing our racial profile interestingly.

    Canberra is a very white place compared to many other parts of Aus. Canberrans are notoriously middle class, well-educated and left wing. We do attempt not to be racist, but may well screw that up by sheer insular ignorance. And of course it’s just so terribly bogan (lower class) to be obviously racist…

  24. #24 speedwell
    January 2, 2010

    Well, how about this? Last month, I held a small, ultra-fancy dinner party for my team at work (we are all in IT). I enjoy entertaining, and I spent a lot of money on it and used my heirloom linens. Before dinner, we had some excellent wine and cheese and talked about books and music. Dinner want off without a hitch and everyone was impressed (whew, what a relief!). Afterward I played the piano (I was a piano performance major in college), and someone noticed I don’t have a TV in the living room and we talked about why, and then we talked about some more geeky stuff. Judging from comments from those in attendance as well as from people at work they told, the evening was an amazing success. Yay!

    Later I had a conversation with a co-worker who was not there, but who had heard about it somehow. She asked me for some of my recipes; I am proud of them and glad to share. At some point she made the following comment: “Wow, fancy food, embroidered tablecloth, music, books, everything was so perfect. But you Jews are just perfect at everything, aren’t you.”

    I was absolutely gobsmacked. I could not possibly, of course, take offense, and I was not going to turn the fulsome, admiring compliment into a mean-spirited insult. I think I said something like, “Oh, you work with me; you know exactly how perfect I’m not, haha…”. But wow, just wow.

  25. #25 JediBear
    January 2, 2010

    A key point I think you failed to make here is that racism actually is bad, not because the racist act is bad in itself but because the concept of race is itself bad. It’s deeply flawed, thoroughly incorrect, and any judgement drawn from it is fundamentally invalid. It may be right, but only trivially, as it is invalid.

    You’re right that the linkage of bad-racism is flawed, but folks really shouldn’t walk away from your post (as they now can) thinking that racism isn’t bad, or that there’s any racist action that’s good (except, of course, trivially.)

  26. #26 Greg Laden
    January 2, 2010

    Speedwell: Holy crap. I don’t think that is even a racial stereotype, is it?

    This is one of those things where you want to have an answer ready next time, but there never will be a next time.

    Possible answers:

    “Yeah, why do you think Martha Stewart is so successful? Stewart is her married name, you know.”

    or

    ” …ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.” (Leviticus 3:19:23)

    or something.

  27. #27 Greg Laden
    January 2, 2010

    It’s deeply flawed, thoroughly incorrect, and any judgement drawn from it is fundamentally invalid.

    That is correct.

    but folks really shouldn’t walk away from your post (as they now can) thinking that racism isn’t bad, or that there’s any racist action that’s good (except, of course, trivially.)

    I can’t really help what people walk away with. The post you just read can not be asked to bear the burden of the entire conversation, and if I made sure every post I wrote on race and racism included all of the key points I’d ultimately want people to get, then each post would be a partial clone and it would be boring and people would stop reading my blog and there would be no sense to any of it.

    This post is actually half-done, strategically, as is the last post I wrote on racism. That is very much on purpose. Oh, and my posting of Rushton’s table without comment is also very much open in its meaning, again, on purpose.

    I take your point but I don’t agree that I’ve failed with this post. Rather, there is a list of things I’ve strategically left out of each of these posts to keep the conversation going. I’m pretty sure that someone who reads the above post and comes away with the idea that racism is good, and does not have a problem with that, was broken before they arrive!

    Or hopefully they will read your comment and my response to it, and other comments, and learn new things.

  28. #28 sharky
    January 2, 2010

    The thing is, it’s inherently othering to do it. When “blacks have rhythm,” there’s an unconscious couple of assumptions: one, every black person is alike in some inherent way past melanin, and two, every black person has at least one invisible, inescapable trait.

    I’m not sure “medical racism” is really racism, either; it describes genetic overlap that happens to be visible, but it doesn’t have anything to do with personal qualities or qualities that other people may or may not have. If a doctor asks a woman if she’s got any Native American ancestry, he’s not asking to verify his own ideas, or because the laser treatments have racist views–he’s asking because a laser treatment could damage her skin.

  29. #29 JediBear
    January 2, 2010

    @27:

    We don’t seem to communicate so well, you and I. I will continue to assume it’s my fault and see what I can do about it.

    I didn’t mean to imply that the post was itself a failure — I think you made the points you were meaning to make. Rather, I was cognizent as one myself that any blog has a lot of drop-in viewers who won’t see every post in an ongoing series, so since you hadn’t made that point (in this post,) I thought I’d try to make it for you.

    My aim and hope was precisely what you suggest, that someone who left your post with the wrong ideas could use my comment as a stop-gap stand-in for your doubtless superior followup.

  30. #30 Greg Laden
    January 2, 2010

    I will continue to assume it’s my fault and see what I can do about it.

    Of course it’s your fault!!11!!

    … but seriously …

    I was cognizent as one myself that any blog has a lot of drop-in viewers who won’t see every post in an ongoing series, so since you hadn’t made that point (in this post,) I thought I’d try to make it for you.

    I totally agree with you, and I appreciate that you made the comment.

  31. #31 Miss Cellania
    January 2, 2010

    “Blacks have excellent rhythm” may SEEM like benign thing to say, but it’s a generalization. And it’s generalizations people make about groups of people who have something else in common that lead to racism. Generalizations are often made about a large group by someone who only has limited experience with rather few members of that group. But generalizations get passed along, and when you start thinking in generalizations, that’s the beginning of racism.

  32. #32 Stephanie Z
    January 2, 2010

    sharky, of course medical racism is racism. Dark blond, green-eyed me has never/would never get asked that question, despite the fact that I would answer, “Yes.”

  33. #33 becca
    January 2, 2010

    “Racism” is a rather culturally loaded phrase. Stereotyping and bias are good for discussing the gray cases.

    Tangentially related: I recently had a conversation with my Mom that made me think about the value of stereotyping again. She said something about how it always seems to be the Catholic women who really have the kindness and good sense to give you stuff that’ll be useful after a week, with reference to baby showers.
    I can certainly *see* an objectionable angle or two for this one, but it’s got more than a kernel of truth and there is a really genuine appreciation and admiration behind it.
    Really, there’s a level of generalization which is pretty necessary to human cognition; though there is definitely a level which I could dispose of which I haven’t (that’s why I wonder about stuff like that example).
    Generally, I feel that as long as you remain flexible in your views, and rapidly adapt based on the data from the people around you, it’s not intrinsically wrong to generalize just because it involves group membership that is culturally loaded. But I think purposefully pruning out of your brain negative stereotypes, especially those that are part of ‘cultural smog’, to the best of your ability, is the sign of a healthy psyche and a social mature mind.

  34. #34 Douglas Watts
    January 3, 2010

    The question misses the forest for the twigs. Much of West African music is based on polyrhythms, ie. two or more rhythms occurring simultaneously, while pre-20th century European music uses one rhythm exclusively (aside from changes in tempo, time signature, etc.). Black slaves brought to the U.S. a West African polyrhythmic musical concept which was later blended with European styles when they were no longer slaves. This blending created such forms as ragtime, blues, swing, big band, rock and jazz. The “back beat” or “swing” in rock and jazz and ragtime is polyrhythmic. The musical term “getting behind the beat” means playing polyrhythmically, rather than everyone playing “on” the beat. Another term for this is syncopation.

    The idea that “blacks have excellent rhythm” is a very old meme which refers to a time, long ago, when non-black Americans and Europeans were so unfamiliar with the West African concept of polyrhythm (as filtered through U.S. black musicians) that they could not “get it.” This time has long passed, since the musical concept of a backbeat is now worldwide.

    Also, some people have an innately better ability to hear and respond to polyrhythmic music than others. It requires either pure ability (like having perfect pitch), long exposure to that style of rhythm from childhood, lots of practice, or all three. If you were brought up hearing and singing music in 5/4 or 7/8 from birth, you could do it without much thought. For everyone else, it’s not easy to learn.

    P.S. The verse sections of “Money” by Pink Floyd are in the odd rhythm of 7/8. You count seven times before the next strong beat. The guitar parts are in 4/4. Try it. It’s not easy. And “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck is in 5/4. It’s also odd. You have to count it to hear it.

  35. #35 Douglas Watts
    January 3, 2010

    In the U.S., the West African style of polyrhythm is now so firmly stuck in our collective psyches and culture that the pre-20th century European style of “straight-up” rhythms of waltzes and marches sound very odd, stiff and foreign to our ears. Unless you are doffing your powdered wig and artificial mole.

  36. #36 Deen
    January 3, 2010

    Thinking about separating the validity of racism from the value judgment about racism, I wondered about a possible “good” type of racism, which leads to a bit of a paradox. Before you can combat racism, you first have to be able to recognize it. And wouldn’t you need to be a little bit of a racist to be able to detect racism in the first place?

  37. #37 Frank Cornish
    January 3, 2010

    Deen – Not being an anthropologist myself, I would have to agree with you. I spend a great deal of time recognizing that I have racist tendencies based on my cultural background. I couldn’t very well just wake up one day and say “I will no longer be racist,” could I?

    I once called in to a radio talk show on a conservative station, and I was trying to explain to the host that I think that everyone has racist tendencies and profiling is a part of that. She cut me off before I could explain what I was trying to say. Yes, we have to combat those tendencies when we are dealing with racism, sexism and other faults. But first we need to know what they are, what they do and how we manifest them in our own thinking.

    My thought is that in a human recognition patters, race is a factor when meeting a new person and one of the things we check off when approaching a stranger is to determine whether or not that person will fit or not fit the stereotype we have. If the predisposition is to be fearful, we will do a more careful check of that stranger before deciding whether or not to accept an offer of, say goodwill from that stranger.

    We do that based on race, class, gender and even professional class. I am wary of car salespeople, but I feel justified in that. If I am either more wary of a black person or more eager to be their friend so that I can fight my own racism, I am still being a bit racist.

    Recognize it, fight it, educate on it.

  38. #38 Scotlyn
    January 3, 2010

    Frank Cornish:

    “My thought is that in a human recognition patters, race is a factor when meeting a new person and one of the things we check off when approaching a stranger is to determine whether or not that person will fit or not fit the stereotype we have.”

    Frank, I think you are right, but what I was trying to say above is that this use of “race” or “skin colour” particularly as something you “check off” when meeting a stranger, is not a universal.

    For example, I lived in Belfast for a few years in the mid-eighties, at a time when its citizens devoted a lot of attention to reading all the micro-signals that differentiated the Catholics from the Protestants in what was a fairly (genetically) homogenous, even inbred, population. In those days, clocking that someone was a “foreigner” – whatever their skin colour, immediately consigned them to the category of “non-hazardous oddity.” As a “white” American I fell into that category, as did my Saudi Arabian friend. (There was the local joke about the Jewish person being asked “But are ye a Protestant Jew or a Catholic Jew?” – recently this joke has been modified to substitute a Muslim for the Jewish person.) The point is that in Belfast, the chief source of threat to anyone is still someone from the other side of the historical religious/social/political divide, so that is what you are paying attention to.

    When I lived (for most of my childhood and adolescent years) in Latin America, there was skin “colour” clocking on the very African-looking people living on the Carribean coasts, but the rest of the population, with mixed Spanish, African and pre-Columbian native heritage did not indulge in clocking too fine a differentiation between the quite varied resulting skin colours.

    In China, I was a “ghost”, a curiosity, an oddity, but certainly not a threat.

    But, as an American that has spent most of the years of my life abroad, I find that when I set foot in the US, that is when I am transformed into a “white” person (ie am forced into a self-consciousness of bearing an “identiy” based on my low melanin quotient) and equally become hyper-aware of who around me is “black” “hispanic” “asian” etc. It is uncomfortable, and unspoken, but is somehow maintained by a continuous collective construction process taking place all around you. Perhaps it is by a similar process that I find setting foot in the US also immediately makes me feel “fat.”

    These are features that become important to your self-awareness only inasmuch as the people around you keep “clocking” them. It is possible to be in places where they are either not clocked or are clocked differently, but if you have never left the States, it is harder to appreciate this.

    Frank, I think you are right in another way. To end the “race” clocking, there has to be an end to the real entrenched causes of wariness and suspicion. Whereever that takes us.

  39. #39 Frank Cornish
    January 3, 2010

    I recognize that what I write is largely anecdotal, and so I am fascinated by Greg’s series on race, and the posts he has written anecdotally at Quiche Moraine. I had the interesting experience of being in Mexico City for 6 weeks when I was a kid. The racial heritage factors differ there, in that there are many people who are white because of the Spanish/Basque heritage and so I was not marked immediately as a foreigner until I opened my mouth to say, “No se habla, lo siento.”

  40. #40 speedwell
    January 3, 2010

    Greg, thank you for the insights.

    I talked to my 90-year-old grandmother about the incident, and she was able to put, chillingly, into words the reason why my colleague’s praise sent the red flag aloft…

    “Yeah, my mother [a Russian Jewish immigrant] used to tell me, ‘First they praise you for being intelligent and successful, then they break down your door and take everything you have.’ Envy gives people a reason to turn vicious and feel virtuous.'”

    I can’t see why a middle-class American woman who works for a firm the sun never sets on would think such a thing, unless her attention had been drawn in some unusual fashion to prominent Jews in Hollywood, prominent Jews in science, Jews in culture, Jews in academia, philosophy, politics, business, high society…. I had a long conversation with some very young skinheads at a bus stop once, and their talk about “Jews taking over everything” seemed to be based strongly on a feeling that Jewish people naturally had some mysterious (intellectual?) advantage that left them and theirs at an unfair disadvantage. Peculiar.

    Incidentally, when I was a child and a Christian (Mom decided it was better if we were “like the other kids”), I remember having gone to a Southern Baptist Sunday school with a friend, and we were talking about the role of Jewish people at the “end times.” I mentioned that I was, in fact, Jewish, so I had a more than usual interest in the subject, and I got a mixture of blank and hostile stares from around the circle. Never brought the subject up to “church” people again.

  41. #41 Rob Ryan
    January 3, 2010

    I’m a white male. My wife is “100% Guamanian” (i.e., a Pacific Islander born in Guam; I tease her by calling her “Guamish” or “Guamese”) as she calls herself. Her two children have an African American father, thus my stepchildren are Pacific Islander/African American. I’m a hermit by nature, my wife is very social, hence at least 95% of the visitors to my house are one, the other, or both of those two ethnicities.

    So, I’m sitting here reading with the Steelers/Dolphins game on in the background. I note that about 80% of the starters appear to be generally African American. Both starting quarterbacks appear to be Caucasian. Thinking of the NBA, the distribution is even more clearly biased toward players who appear to be African American.

    Clearly, no kind of statistical analysis could conclude that this is a random fluctuation. Is superior athletic ability a trait to be attributed to African Americans? Is it racist (in the bad way) to even ask the question? Does it matter?

    Does it change my opinion or reaction upon meeting someone who appears to be African American? Thinking.. Thinking…

  42. #42 Greg Laden
    January 3, 2010

    Rob, yes, keep thinking. Try this:

    Assume for a moment that your statement about black skin and athletics is wrong. Just go with that. Now try to talk yourself out of it.

    With a little work, not to much, you’ll find at least two major flaws, possibly three, in your argument.

    But if you are sure you are right (and I’m not saying you are thinking that) then you will never change your mind. If you challenge yourself you might come up with something new. Seriously. Give it a try.

    If yuou can’t find the flaws in your argument, get back to me and I’ll tell you what they are.

    You might start by contemplating why there are not black hockey players of note. It is not NECESSARY to even consider hockey, but I have found that when people go from the argument you made above to sonsidering this, they often get pretty far.

  43. #43 Rob Ryan
    January 3, 2010

    Yes, I appreciate the consideration of not assuming that I’m sure that I’m right (I actually don’t see that I took a position, even an implied one). But the fact of the matter is I’m always only as sure that I’m right about anything as anyone with a scientific viewpoint can ever be.

    And the cultural and societal influences giving African Americans the incentives and opportunities in athletics and entertainment and closing or at least narrowing the opportunities elsewhere are clear (and not unrecognized by me).

    But effects have causes. If you take a random male American, it’s about (from memory) 12% likely he’ll be African American. If you take a random NFL player, it’s (estimating here) at least 75% likely he’ll be African American. This is an effect. It has a cause or causes. Discussion of these, in my opinion, does not constitute racism (in the bad sense). Considering it so would certainly would make Chris Rock a racist (refer to his joke about what NFL stands for) though I suppose many would call him that. Failure to discuss it is makes for a faulty world view.

    My opinion is this: It is always, without fail, no exception, every person’s moral obligation to deal with (I don’t use “judge” or “evaluate” because those terms also have highly negative connotations) any other person as an individual. I do this to the extent that a fallible human can.

    But I think it’s naive to assume that racial differences (in the statistical sense) are limited to melanin. Whatever other differences there may be are modified by society, culture, neighborhood, family, and myriad other influences but I’ve never read that no such differences exist. Discussing the existence and nature of such differences is fraught with danger but a scientist should be willing and able to do it.

  44. #44 Greg Laden
    January 3, 2010

    Rob, it is kind of sad that you are not going to give this the thought it deserves.

  45. #45 Rob Ryan
    January 3, 2010

    Greg, please elaborate. I am seriously always willing to give thought and consideration to a worthy topic. What, exactly, is it that I should be thinking about? I ask sincerely, not confrontationally and because I don’t know what you mean, not because of sarcasm.

  46. #46 Rob Ryan
    January 3, 2010

    Rereading your latest reply, I was too considerate. It was quite condescending, addressing nothing I said and implying that, because I didn’t agree with you I was sadly unthinking.

    My #45 still stands but you’ll have to do better than merely (paraphrasing) “it’s kind of sad that I haven’t given it enough thought to reach your conclusion.”

    Should you prefer instead that I go away, so state and it shall be done.

  47. #47 Greg Laden
    January 3, 2010

    Historically, many sports have had a given ethnic group as the superior group, and every time the assertion was made that this was genetic. Jews were the best boxers. Then Irish. Then African-Americans, then Hispanic… How did the genes transfer between ethnic groups? Why was the genetic superiority hypothesis not dropoped every time it was falsified? What do we think of a hypothesis that is falsified again and again but keeps coming back, when it also has strong political and social implications that favor those who keep bringing it back?

    How does a genetic propensity for being a great football player make you a great basketball player? How does a genetic propensity for being a great basket ball player make you great at some other sport? Isn’t the better explanation that “Blacks” are highly diverse physically, and among Black populations you can find great athletest more easily for a wide range of sports than white populations, because of some limitation of whites, a bottlneck or something?

    That is one possibility, but it may be wrong.

    Another possibility is what you mention, but also dimiss quite inappropraitely. I don’t quite see why you think disparities between blacks and whites in terms of opportunities and wealth are diminishing. They are increasing. The athletic route is still orders of magnitude more attractive to young black kids than to young white kids. This is a HUGE effect and it is not an effect that has weakened in any way.

    Jockiness and racism have often been linked in this country. Only recently have there been non-white coaches and owners of teams. That matters.

    Have you inspected the urban/suburban landscape recently? Look for the distribution of poor vs. middle class regions, and look at skin color. Then look for tennis courts and basketball courts. Then ask yourself about the history of tennis and then look at the skin color of the tennis players.

    Variation across sports in who is good by skin color remains uneven and non-representative and likely for a very large number of reasons.

    Now, ask yourself why innate genetically determined explanations, despite the absence of direct evidence of such explanations, are so attractive to you.

    Then say a dozen Hail Marys.

  48. #48 Rob Ryan
    January 3, 2010

    Well. I don’t even disagree with you. I’m curious to know where you think I dismissed my statements about incentives and opportunities or where you think I stated or implied that such disparities are decreasing. I don’t hold these views and I can’t see how what I wrote can be construed to conclude that I do. Finally, while I raised the topic, I didn’t take the position that there is a genetic component to athleticism in professional sports. I did take the position that analysis of such an anomaly is a worthy topic of investigation.

    In any case, this is certainly an eye-opening example of how blog discussions can go astray.

    I am Irish, by the way, on my father’s side (who are also Catholic) but my Presbyterian mother’s parents wouldn’t give permission for my father to marry my mother unless “the children are raised Presbyterian.” They were also extremely concerned and warned my mother that “he’ll turn out to be a drunk.” He did. So did I. We were both fortunate enough to find sobriety. The point: I don’t know the Hail Mary ritual.

  49. #49 Greg Laden
    January 3, 2010

    Sorry, I was being oversensitive.

    I’m half Irish, so that happens.

    Then, the other half is German, so I keep wanting to TAKE OVER THE WORLD and stuff…

  50. #50 Isabel
    January 3, 2010

    “I don’t quite see why you think disparities between blacks and whites in terms of opportunities and wealth are diminishing. They are increasing.”

    Between blacks and whites who are not in the upper middle class and above? I strongly doubt it.

    Greg, I have two complaints about your blog

    1. Your refusal to proof and edit your writing is insulting to your readers. There is nothing special about blogging that makes it acceptable.

    2. You seem unaware of the many ways class and race intersect. For example, working class whites are far more likely to interact with and get to know blacks for reasons that have to do with what they have in common, rather than their differences, as in your athlete friend example.

    Another example: the gap between upper class and lower class whites is also widening.

  51. #51 Stephanie Z
    January 3, 2010

    It’s times like these I wish popcorn didn’t give me migraines.

  52. #52 Isabel
    January 3, 2010

    “The critiques of Cameron’s Avatar (see this) in relation to Western-centered racism are valid critiques, and lauding various aspects of the movie, enjoying the movie, and telling other people they should see it can be done at the same time.

    Humans actually do this … holding contrary beliefs or taking actions that contradict each other … all the time.”

    Also, I fail to see how these beliefs are contradictory. They are referring to different aspects of the movie.

    This is a very strange blog. It seems you enjoy baiting, and then berating people.

  53. #53 Greg Laden
    January 3, 2010

    Between blacks and whites who are not in the upper middle class and above? I strongly doubt it.

    That is hardly who we are talking about.

    Your refusal to proof and edit your writing is insulting to your readers. There is nothing special about blogging that makes it acceptable.

    Then you really have to go away, Isabel. You will never be happy here. This is not a matter of refusal. It is a matter of it not being at all appropriate to ask me to begin with. This is not only “a” blog, and a blog is an informal communication tool, but it is MY blog, and I chose to treat it informally most of the time, and to not use the big screen in the basement that allows me to even SEE my errors (I’m visually impaired at close range), and I can’t spel for shit anywahy. It is part of my charm.

    You seem unaware of the many ways class and race intersect. For example, working class whites are far more likely to interact with and get to know blacks for reasons that have to do with what they have in common, rather than their differences, as in your athlete friend example.

    I am not even close to getting what you are trying to say here, other than telling me that there is shit I don’t know. You have made comments before on this blog citing your own authority as a “blue collar” person. Well, me too. Is that what this is about? Shall we step outside and duke it out?

    Anyway, since you can’t stand my blog,and will be going away now, I suppose I’ll never know…

    Another example: the gap between upper class and lower class whites is also widening.

    Yes it is. And the meaning of this is? Are you simply annoyed that I did not say it? It supports your position in what way? And your position is?

  54. #54 Greg Laden
    January 3, 2010

    Isabel! I thought you had deemed my blog as beneath you and gone away! Welcome back!

  55. #55 Isabel
    January 3, 2010

    “Yes it is. And the meaning of this is? Are you simply annoyed that I did not say it? It supports your position in what way? And your position is?”

    Try thinking about it.

  56. #56 Greg Laden
    January 3, 2010

    Oh dear. I’m being challenged to think by Isabel. Who never seems to keep her promise to go away.

    Seriously, Isabel. We both know why you are here now complaining. Timing is everything.

  57. #57 Bryan
    January 3, 2010

    Nah Greg. It’s not just your blog. It can’t be when you post as a scientist at science blogs.

    You don’t see some level of responsibility to ensure academic integrity on your part here?

  58. #58 Stephanie Z
    January 3, 2010

    Yes, Bryan. Posting as a scientist at ScienceBlogs is soooo authoritative that no one ever, ever, ever challenges you.

    We’ve been through this before. Bryan, you do know the bit about repeating yourself and expecting different results, yes?

    It’s also highly amusing the way you point to IQ-race researchers as martyrs to the cause but wanted Greg kicked off ScienceBlogs for disagreeing with you.

  59. #59 Bryan
    January 3, 2010

    This is serious business– all my opinion. Were I Harvard, I’d be yanking degrees over it.

  60. #60 Greg Laden
    January 3, 2010

    Nah Greg. It’s not just your blog. It can’t be when you post as a scientist at science blogs.

    Huh? Your delusions are worrisome.

    And that is the last time you will be accusing me of ethical violations or a lack of integrity. You are one pitiful son of a bitch.

    I’m not saying this to insult you. I’m not saying this for fun. You have beliefs about how the world works that would worry me if I lived in the same house with you.

  61. #61 Bryan
    January 3, 2010

    Banning me?

    It is your blog.

    Be careful about having greatness thrust upon you.

  62. #62 Greg Laden
    January 3, 2010

    No, Bryan, I’m asking you to not be an unmitigated asshole. Can you handle that? Are you capable of being anything other than an unmitigated asshole?

  63. #63 Stephanie Z
    January 3, 2010

    Be careful or what, Bryan?

  64. #64 daedalus2u
    January 3, 2010

    I think that Bryan is simply showing off the type of social hierarchy he is familiar with, one based on threat, bluff, authority, insinuation, BS, and the stoking and anti-stroking of egos.

    Dissing Greg because of his bad grammer is a form of anti-stroking. A technique that only works with people who care more about their grammer than they do about the science and how well it corresponds with reality. In short the kind of “mentors” that Bryan is familar with and looks up to.

  65. #65 Rob Ryan
    January 3, 2010

    Wow. I had no idea what kind of swamp into which I’d chanced to step. Y’all have fun now, c ya!

  66. #66 Elfie
    January 4, 2010

    Isabel does have a point – Greg comes across as having an ivory tower commentary on racism. Lots of theory, lots of baiting, lots of “your reflexive common sense is racist!! haha!!”. Don’t see it as remarkably helpful. These posts always seem to devolve into silly partisan bickering… the tone of the author sets the mood.

    I just assume it’s how Greg thinks people learn – not saying it’s wrong, perhaps some people enjoy the bickering. I see Greg as a spider who enjoys playing with the flies in the comments – the internet is a brutal place, it’s natural to find a way to thrive off some of the crap out there.

    However, Rob did get shafted here. You obviously want people to figure it out on their own, but the “society explains it all!!” argument isn’t exactly obvious. With a simplistic background in evolution, on the surface, intuition says this is a case of natural selection (strong survive! go Darwin!).

    So your counter-argument appears to be that a wide social disparity exists between black/whites – therefore blacks, with their limited options, are funneled into things like football/basketball. Plausible, is there any research on the socioeconomic background of NFL players? This would seem to imply that most successful football players will come from poor backgrounds, right?

    Interestingly, I can find very little research on this topic. All I can find are racial percentages in various sports – nothing attempting to dig a little deeper. Strange.

  67. #67 Stephanie Z
    January 4, 2010

    Elfie, when was the last time you saw a post explicitly on the subject of racism where the comments didn’t dissolve into much worse than what’s going on here? What kind of blogging do you think would get better results? Getting rid of commenters like Isabel and Bryan who have a history of making OTT claims about the honesty of the blogger if the conversation doesn’t go their way? And yes, I’m serious about asking what you think would change the course of the conversation.

    No, the observation about which sports African Americans are pushed into doesn’t automatically lead to successful (NFL?) football players coming from poor backgrounds. It does, however, lead to the vast majority of unsuccessful players having grown up poor and continuing to be poor after they failed to make the cut. The proportions aren’t necessarily maintained in the second selection process, particularly when it eliminates almost all of the main group, as this process does. Good nutrition and coaching add to the odds of success and are less likely to be accessible to the poor.

  68. #68 bryan
    January 4, 2010

    Check out the JREF for dozens of debates on exactly this subject that are far more rational and less ad hom than the crap here.

    pot kettle much?

  69. #69 Greg Laden
    January 4, 2010

    Elfie, the first part of your comment is little more than the usual whinging about style when you have nothing to say about substance, but I’ll address (in part) the second part of your comment. But only briefly because we are in very touchy territory here and I’m not sure how much I can or should say at this point in time.

    Yes, yes, there are some studies, and we do know some things about the racialized aspects of sports other than what happened to randomly occur to commenters on this blog or to me. It requires some investigation and learning and reading and stuff.

    All I want to say at this time is the following: Most pro athletes come from college athletics. College athletics has the problem, across “race,” with academics. The athletes do not do as well as other students on average. One of the reasons for this is that athletics takes away a lot of the time and energy. Another is the culture of athletics vs. academics. Another is that the students arrive academically disadvantage because these factors have been part of their HS education as well.

    What most people do not realize is that the institutions involved have developed what is in a sense a kind of human trafficking surrounding athletics. The term “human trafficking” is too strong a term but at the moment I’m at a loss for the right term here. There are certain parts of the country (poor, rural, southern, black, as a few of the demographics) where High Schools are essentially producing high potential athletes for certain colleges that then bid to take these students in, carefully balancing the students’ academic potential (so they are not a total embarrassment) and athletic ability (so they are worth the investment).

    These universities then provide the high end potential athletes to the pros.

    Money changes hands. Large, large amounts of money. Mostly, perhaps all, legal.

    Some colleges engage more blatantly in this practice, some less so. Those that engage in it more have the teams you see in the bowls. Those less so have … well, gophers.

    This may seem somewhat tangential to the discussion of race and IQ, but it is not. There is a complex process with people … a few thousand people … who are paid very well to do nothing but manage this system. There is a context here. There is a reason that when the football players recite their alma mater during the intro to the game, four or five will say “The U” and those four or five are usually black, only barely literate, and from … rural Tennessee.

    I’ve said too much.

  70. #70 Stephanie Z
    January 4, 2010

    Bryan, the pot and kettle metaphor is used to point out unequal treatment of comparable behavior. Do I need to remind you how many times you’ve accused either Greg or I of doing something in this discussion only to apologize for it later when pressed for examples? “OTT” was being polite. The correct phrasing is “untruthful.”

  71. #71 Spartan
    January 4, 2010

    Isn’t the better explanation that “Blacks” are highly diverse physically,

    Does that diversity have nothing to do with genetics?

    How does a genetic propensity for being a great football player make you a great basketball player? How does a genetic propensity for being a great basket ball player make you great at some other sport?

    Uhhh, if the genetic propensity makes you faster and stronger, then that works equally well for football and basketball. There have been track & field sprinters who have gone to play football as wide receiver.

    Which is not to say the other factors you mention aren’t valid. But the large disparity between the number of American black vs white professional basketball players relative to their respective populations sure seems to imply, admittedly mistakenly perhaps, that there is something innate going on. Are there a lot of great white college players who are turning down the NBA to pursue a career in their degree or something? To be clear, the question isn’t why are blacks better than whites at basketball; the question is why are there so many *professional* black basketball players compared to white pros. Sure seems like the fame and wealth that comes with that position would be a very strong motivator for all races.

  72. #72 Stephanie Z
    January 4, 2010

    Spartan, the way you word your comment implies that being a professional basketball player is a matter of choice. It isn’t, except that one can choose not to be. Putting that much of your life into work that might result in a payout is, frankly, going to be much more appealing to people who don’t think they risk much by going the slow-and-steady route.

    You can choose to view it as “something innate,” but there certainly isn’t any reason to–except attribution bias.

  73. #73 Paul
    January 4, 2010

    Generally, I feel that as long as you remain flexible in your views, and rapidly adapt based on the data from the people around you, it’s not intrinsically wrong to generalize just because it involves group membership that is culturally loaded.

    becca,

    The problem there is that no single person is ever going to assimilate enough data to be able to accurately generalize across a demographic via their anecdotes. For example, you noted the statement Catholic women who really have the kindness and good sense to give you stuff that’ll be useful after a week, with reference to baby showers. But from my personal experience, I could just as easily (and truthfully, in my experience) say Catholic women will be the ones that come to the party without a present and drink all your booze. But in the end, our generalizations are only useful for “Catholic women we are acquainted with”, which is a very different set than “Catholic women”. Recognizing cognitive biases and not doing everything to root them out is fine and natural, but stating them outright in the latter generalized form is intrinsically innaccurate (I’ll leave it to the committee to determine if it’s ‘wrong’, wrong of course being a social construct).

  74. #74 Isabel
    January 4, 2010

    “Isabel and Bryan who have a history of making OTT claims about the honesty of the blogger if the conversation doesn’t go their way?”

    When did this happen? Do you mean the last time I stopped by here, when Greg was insisting he had data that hunter-gatherers had larger brains and were more intelligent than agrarian groups? He swore up and down he was serious but then admitted in the end that he made the whole thing up so he could catch racists, and accused me of not believing him because I couldn’t handle the truth because I was a racist. What a moron! The truth was I had recently taken a human evolution course and knew he was lying.

    Is that the “history” you are referring to?

    Ah well. I have been slow to pick up on the 1960’s style antagonistic teaching technique or whatever the hell is going on here on this blog.

    “I don’t quite see why you think disparities between blacks and whites in terms of opportunities and wealth are diminishing. They are increasing.”

    “Between blacks and whites who are not in the upper middle class and above? I strongly doubt it.

    That is hardly who we are talking about. ”

    Greg, If you were referring to a specific minority group of whites why didn’t you make that clear?

    “It is a matter of it not being at all appropriate to ask me to begin with. ”

    First of all, you opened the subject up for discussion yourself saying somewhere around here recently “the world is my copy editor” and I was simply responding to that philosophy. Secondly, I didn’t ask you to do anything. I was just pointing out your rudeness. You can deal with that knowledge any way you please. With my permission!

  75. #75 Isabel
    January 4, 2010

    Well, it seems us racists cannot have it both ways, alas!

    Intelligence And Rhythmic Accuracy Go Hand In Hand (Apr. 21, 2008) — People who score high on intelligence tests are also good at keeping time, new Swedish research shows. The team that carried out the study also suspect that accuracy in timing is important to the …  > read more

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080416100459.htm

  76. #76 Stephanie Z
    January 4, 2010

    Thanks, Isabel. That’s a perfect example of what I meant. Entertainingly, that would be the continuation of the discussion in which you said, “Blog cops need to get a life!”

  77. #77 bryan
    January 4, 2010

    Isabel. There is about nothing that IQ won’t predict.

    Pick any 100 important outcome variables. IQ will correlate with 85 of them (95 of them if confounds are controlled).

    Here are some examples using the 50 U.S. states:

    State IQ correlates:
    -.74 with temperature,
    -.35 with happiness,
    -.44 with income inequality (GINI),
    -.28 with porn consumption
    -.28 with smoking
    -.37 with whether a state has amended its constitution to ban gay marriage,
    -.57 with violent crime,
    -.65 with unwed moms,
    -.71 with teenage pregnancy,
    -.49 with drunk driving,
    -.71 with low birth weight,
    -.59 with inmates per capita,
    -.38 with unemployment,
    .27 with % active doctors,
    -.33 with % protestant
    .29 with % godless
    -.70 with murder rates
    -.71 with burglary rates.

    Etc., Etc.

    (some of these correlations are reported in Pesta, McDaniel & Bertsch, 2010): article 17, here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/01602896

  78. #78 Greg Laden
    January 4, 2010

    Uhhhh … Spartan, on a single pro football team the requirements for aerobic demand vs. strength are extraordinarily diverse and DIFFERENT depending on position, let alone comparing football to basketball.

    (I’m reminded of a recent game when a defensive back ended up with the ball on a fumble, ran 60 yards for a touchdown, collapsed, and was taken off the field with an O2 mask. Nothing unusual happened. He was someone endowed with the prefect black genes to be a football player….)

    Which is not to say the other factors you mention aren’t valid. But the large disparity between the number of American black vs white professional basketball players relative to their respective populations sure seems to imply, admittedly mistakenly perhaps, that there is something innate going on.

    No it doesn’t!

    To be clear, the question isn’t why are blacks better than whites at basketball; the question is why are there so many *professional* black basketball players compared to white pros

    Indeed. And the explanation so many such as Bryan seem to be insisting on … essentially, that there is a set of alleles that when expressed in a person increase their likelihood of being in the NBA or NFL … is absurd. Consider the number of steps that go in between the expression of genes during development or later on in life and someone’s career as an athelete (only a few of which I mention in my comment above). To have even a vague understanding of all that is involved and to insist that the primary explanation is the distribution of base pairs in the genome is either abysmally stupid or monumentally racist.

    What genes in the human genome make people insist on a simple racialized explanation for anything is anybody’s guess.

  79. #79 bryan
    January 4, 2010

    I’d bet money there is a general factor of athletic ability, much like the general factor of IQ.

  80. #80 Greg Laden
    January 4, 2010

    Bryan Pesta: You really are an unmitigated racist, aren’t you? Is there also an index of criminality, an index of morality, and an index of kootie-infestation? It is rather easy to find out. All you need to do is ask your friends the heavy hitters what to think about this and I’m sure they’ll tell you.

  81. #81 Lee
    January 4, 2010

    @ bryan:

    “I’d bet money there is a general factor of athletic ability, much like the general factor of IQ.”

    Of course there is, bryan. It exists by definition, if one were to construct the tests for athletic ability the way that tests for IQ are constructed. And it would be just as meaningless as “g” is.

  82. #82 becca
    January 4, 2010

    The only data I’ve heard about (and, alas, do not have a cite for) is that most NFL players end up poor after their playing career is over (despite their salaries being high enough that, properly managed, they would never have to work again).
    Didn’t make any sense to me. But if they are coming from poverty, that may explain part of it (cynically, that they’ve had less access to financial education, or, charitably, that they know a lot of people who need the money more than they do and it tends to get sent off to them rather than saved up for retirement).

    Paul- What if I said:
    “No single person is ever going to be able to assimilate enough data to be able to accurately generalize traffic decisions via their anecdotal own driving experiences.”

    That is, there is a theoretical optimal way to drive. And no one will ever attain it; because we don’t all have experience driving with desert sun in our eyes AND over black ice on a highway AND in roundabouts AND uphill in the snow on a dirt road AND a thousand and one other specific conditions that influence how we should drive. Yet people manage to get around by automobile. Not perfectly; it’s a hazardous proposition. But does the fact that it’s less than completely accurate mean that all generalizations about driving are useless? That no one should ever write down some general principles of safe driving?
    We do make generalizations about what and who we encounter all the time. Expressing them *is* inaccurate, but it’s sometimes all we’ve got.

    Moreover, I think your perspective misses the obvious dilemma of what to do about *actual* data that span beyond our own personal experiences. Good social science research can be done- we can assess a much more accurately random cross-section of “Catholic women” than “Catholic women of my personal acquaintance”. Technically, all surveys should be reported as “X% of surveyed blue persons believe in Zoidzurkery”; in practice we commonly think of, and speak of, this as “X% of blue persons believe in Zoidzurkery”. Sometimes we can get *accurate* ideas about groups in a generalized fashion, and it’s not always ‘right’ to say those things either.
    So it’s much more complicated than “generalizations are inaccurate”.

    Isabel- Greg soliciting open comments on his grammar (asking for *copy* editors) is discrete from him opening all threads of his to all tangentially related topics (asking for *content* editors to rewrite all posts on racism to be about classism).

    Bryan- I’d bet money there *isn’t*, assuming we keep in mind the vast array of human sport. There’s too much intrinsic trade off between, e.g. strength and speed. You really think that a family of Kenyan sprinters is more likely to produce a heavyweight champion than a random family?
    “Athletic ability” isn’t one thing. Protip- neither is intelligence.

  83. #83 Isabel
    January 4, 2010

    “Entertainingly, that would be the continuation of the discussion in which you said, “Blog cops need to get a life!”
    Stephanie Z”

    In reference no doubt to people, usually bloggers themselves, who were trying to harrass and control commenters on other people’s blogs. Not the same thing!

    Also, Stephanie, no offense but it wouldn’t hurt to lighten up a bit. Learning to not take everything so literally might help your reading comprehension.:)

    Greg, I don’t agree that whether you play your racism-baiting game or not is just a “stylistic” decision. I would suppose there are moral issues involved in weaving a web of lies in order to catch your unsuspecting racist readers in acts of racism, for example. But in any case it’s YOUR decision because it’s your blog! Whatever you want to do is fine with me!

  84. #84 Isabel
    January 4, 2010

    “Isabel- Greg soliciting open comments on his grammar (asking for *copy* editors) is discrete from him opening all threads of his to all tangentially related topics (asking for *content* editors to rewrite all posts on racism to be about classism).”

    This is just stupid Becca, What are you talking about?

  85. #85 Greg Laden
    January 4, 2010

    Isabel, would you like to back up your accusation that I’m lying about something? Or would you prefer to just go away. Reading my blog is obviously a very painful experience for you. In fact, maybe you should first take some Advil next time.

  86. #86 Isabel
    January 4, 2010

    Sorry for the typo. Should be:

    This is just stupid, Becca. What are you talking about?

  87. #87 Stephanie Z
    January 4, 2010

    Isabel, remind me to tell you to lighten up the next time you get on someone else’s case. Now that I know you’ll take it well….

    Becca, a certain amount of the post-NFL poverty has to do with medical bills. If you wanted some verification that Greg’s exploitation scenario has merit, you should see how the system treats even its top players.

  88. #88 Isabel
    January 4, 2010

    Isabel, would you like to back up your accusation that I’m lying about something?

    What are you talking about? You admitted as much in the example I just mentioned. As you yourself concluded in that thread, as I recall, the data do not support larger brain size in HGs. After berating me for not being able to find any published papers, you admitted the relevant data had not been published. That’s when you admitted that the unpublished data did not support your earlier assertions and it was all a big ruse.

    As far as the current thread, where did I accuse you of lying?

    “Or would you prefer to just go away.”

    I am happy to leave if I am not welcome. See ya!

    “Reading my blog is obviously a very painful experience for you. ”

    It’s mildly entertaining, actually.

    Happy hunting!

  89. #89 Greg Laden
    January 4, 2010

    I find it hard to believe that you will actually be going away.

  90. #90 Stephanie Z
    January 4, 2010

    Isabel, I don’t know whether you’re lying or just not expecting to be “taken seriously,” but that is nothing like what Greg said. I linked in comment #76 to the discussion you’re talking about. Feel free to go back, read it, and apologize to Greg.

  91. #91 Isabel
    January 4, 2010

    Greg started out saying
    “We don’t have IQ data on hunter-gatherers, but we do have some brain size data. Absolute and relative brain size is larger for hunter gatherer populations, both living and prehistorically.”
    
…
    “It is distinctly possible that the non-hg Euro-farmers are simply innately not as smart as foragers. The brain size is different. Sorry. You might have to live with that fact.”

    “But prior to agriculture, human brains were larger world wide, and today the large brains popluaton wide seem to be in HG groups.”

    Then finally admitted:

    “The only groups that seem to have different brain sizes among living humans are some forager groups, the data for which are being held hostage by the meanie blogger, but those data sets are so small as to not be definitive, and there are no IQ data. The meanie blogger, having lived with one of these groups for a couple of years, thinks they are really really smart, smarter than most people he’s met in Teh West before or since. But that is his own personal experience and when he says that to white western people they tend to get all hot under the collar because they don’t like getting intellectually outflanked by little black people who “still” live in the jungle and so on.”

    Apologize to Greg for what? I think my summary was pretty accurate.

  92. #92 Stephanie Z
    January 4, 2010

    Isabel, comment #91 equals this?

    He swore up and down he was serious but then admitted in the end that he made the whole thing up so he could catch racists, and accused me of not believing him because I couldn’t handle the truth because I was a racist.

    Worry about your own reading comprehension before you worry about mine. The first quote you give from him and the last contain the same information, for one thing.

  93. #93 Isabel
    January 4, 2010

    “The first quote you give from him and the last contain the same information, for one thing.”

    This is a very strange blog indeed!

  94. #94 Stephanie Z
    January 4, 2010

    Why, yes, Isabel, it must be if you claim that the blogger lies then admits to making stuff up–all while he’s saying the very same thing.

  95. #95 bryan
    January 4, 2010

    Give me the list of poor retired NFL players. I will dig up their Wonderlic scores and show they score much lower than non-poor retired NFL players with similar injuries.

  96. #96 Stephanie Z
    January 4, 2010

    Really, Bryan. You know that going in. You know that it has to do with IQ and not with their injuries. This is how Bryan Pesta practices science?

  97. #97 Isabel
    January 4, 2010

    Sorry Stephanie, but the onus is on you to make the case that he is in fact saying the same thing, as those are two very different statements.

    I will point out that he makes a definitive statement “Absolute and relative brain size is larger for hunter gatherer populations, both living and prehistorically.” Yet in the end he can only offer as evidence to a few data sets that “are so small as to not be definitive.”

    And what about the fact that he berated me repeatedly for not being able to track down the relevant research on my own to back up his claim; but then he gradually admitted it was so obscure even he couldn’t find it easily, it was confined to a couple of groups, and finally that it was mostly unpublished. So why did he (and others) berate me for not being able to find it??

    Of course, at the time I was not familiar with the hyperbolic, aggressively “controversial” teaching techniques Greg employs.

  98. #98 Stephanie Z
    January 4, 2010

    Isabel, stop lying. You were given information on the prehistoric part of the claim, the only part he ever claimed to be able to offer you easy evidence on. I don’t see why, after he offered you a reference for that and you came back and said, “I couldn’t locate that article you recommended via web of science or google scholar, and I have my doubts about the whole brain size claim,” he should think you were talking about anything but the prehistoric data he was pointing you to. The fact that you wanted a different set of data but weren’t specifying it was no problem of his.

    Nor did you ask how general his statement about hunter gatherer brain size was. You just assumed he was speaking universally and got upset about it, finally deciding the problem was his honesty, not your ability to handle a two-part claim or to put the statement in the context of the post, which was dealing with the claim that civilization is more complex than “primitive” cultures. That means that he only had to show negative examples to falsify the claim, not that he was trying to prove the opposite.

    As for what onus I now carry, all I need to support is my claim that you’re over the top in your accusations about Greg. I’ve already done that. However, this is nearly irresistible. Compare statement (1) to statement (2).

    (1) We don’t have IQ data on hunter-gatherers
    (2) …there are no IQ data. The meanie blogger, having lived with one of these groups for a couple of years, thinks they are really really smart, smarter than most people he’s met in Teh West before or since. But that is his own personal experience…

    (1) …but we do have some brain size data. [emphasis added]
    (2) …some forager groups, the data for which are being held hostage by the meanie blogger, but those data sets are so small as to not be definitive… [emphasis added, as well as a note to say said meanie blogger declined to dig into not-easily-accessible files for references on demand and gave whiny, OTT commenter permission to disbelieve him for that reason]

    (1) Absolute and relative brain size is larger for hunter gatherer populations, both living and prehistorically.
    (2) The only groups that seem to have different brain sizes among living humans are some forager groups…

    That’s it. That’s everything in comment (1) repeated in comment (2) except the prehistoric data, which had already been given.

    OTT, Isabel. Huffy, whiny, petulant and based somewhere in your head instead of in what was actually written.

  99. #99 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 4, 2010

    Loonabel! Now you’re fucking around on G-Lad’s blog??

  100. #100 Isabel
    January 4, 2010

    That’s right Cee My Pee-pee! And right now, as we speak, I’m telling him how to run his blog!!!! Where the hell have you been? You must be slacking off.

    Actually I was just asked to leave, so I’m on my way out. Stephanie keeps lobbing attacks though. I’ll just have to cover my ears and make a run for it.

  101. #101 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 4, 2010

    Stephanie keeps lobbing attacks though.

    Loonabel, being told you are totally full of shit is not “lobbing attacks”. All that fucking reefer is making you paranoid.

  102. #102 Greg Laden
    January 4, 2010

    Isabel, I don’t remember anyone asking you to leave. You said you were leaving. I made a bet that you weren’t. And you didn’t.

    You need to learn that life is a lot easier if you just assume I’m correct no matter what I say. OK?

    Loonabel! Now you’re fucking around on G-Lad’s blog??

    CPP, is she a friend of yours???? Or is this YOU doing your Anthony Perkins imitation!!!!???

  103. #103 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 4, 2010

    Loonabel is one my favorite LOON ALERT loons.

  104. #104 Greg Laden
    January 4, 2010

    Isabel has been a regular on this blog, stopping by about once a month or so for a round of conversation. Then silence for a few weeks. I suspect she has a job as a tug boat pilot or something.

  105. #105 Isabel
    January 4, 2010

    Once a month?

    No way.

    “You said you were leaving.”
    No I didn’t; after you said that 3 or 4 times I took the hint. Anyway you seemed a little anxious, and I hate seeing you guys flailing – it’s sad.

    hey Greg, you never answered me – how in the hell is this post even about contradictions? it’s a house of cards, as usual. Hey did you publish that HG brain-size data yet?

    Actually, Greg is in a hurry for me to leave because no one else calls him on his bullshit.

    And I love this whole “We’re BLOGGERS so you can’t say anything mean or critical to us” thing. Hilarious.

  106. #106 Stephanie Z
    January 4, 2010

    Greg, Isabel likes to show up at DrugMonkey to jump all over his ass whenever he puts up a post about marijuana that’s anything but “Legalize eet now!!!” Her favorite tactic is posting off-topic links and telling him he’s a bad man because he hasn’t read them–whether or not he has.

    And of course, whenever the subject of racism comes up.

  107. #107 Greg Laden
    January 4, 2010

    Isabel, I already gave you the information on brain size, and as I recall you wanted it spoon fed as a URL or perhaps a photocopy mailed to your home or something. I don’t do other people’s homework.

    However, your bringing it up (and some other things) comes at a time when I’m coming across other info on the topic … because of something I’m working on regarding brain size … and I found two new Eskimo brain size estimates that I can share with you.

    One is in Man volume 27 a note by Karl Pearson, and it is on a sample of several skulls, apparently, giving a value for “The Eskimo Race” of 1472.1 cc That’s about 100 cc’s above the “White Race” estimate that is usually used by Rushton and others, which is 1350 IIRC, but in line with the one Eskimo skull I personally measured which was just over 1400.

    The second is a single case, and this is a brain mass estimate … the weight of a brain in grams is almost the same as the value in cubic centimeters … and this is by Ales Hrdlika, the famous racist anthropologist and it is a direct measurement, not an endocranial estimate .,.. and it is 1503g. That’s in American Anthropologist vol 8 no 3.

    So there you go, dear. Have a nice time finding the original refs.

  108. #108 Greg Laden
    January 4, 2010

    Oh, by the way, there are also naked pictures of the Eskimo and as well as his young son, taken while they were still alive before the brains were extracted. In case you want to study Eskimo genitalia or something.

  109. #109 Greg Laden
    January 4, 2010

    jump all over his ass whenever he puts up a post about marijuana that’s anything but “Legalize eet now!!!”

    It is totally wrong that marijuana is illegal.

  110. #110 Isabel
    January 4, 2010

    “You need to learn that life is a lot easier if you just assume I’m correct no matter what I say. OK?”

    Yeah I got the drift and now know how I SHOULD act in order to participate in this sadistic little bait-n-berate game you’ve got going here.

    No thanks.

    But carry on. It’s YOUR blog!

    PP, you are an idiot if you agree with Stephanie that Greg did not overstate his case about the HG brains in order to egg people on and increase his blog traffic.

  111. #111 Stephanie Z
    January 4, 2010

    Isabel, CPP didn’t say whether he agreed with me. He said you were wrong about what I was doing. Learn. to. read.

    Greg, as may be. DM prefers to keep the blog officially agnostic on the subject, for which our dear little, literacy-impaired friend likes to accuse him of being several sorts of monster. Again, rather than getting her own blog, Isabel tries to run other people’s.

  112. #112 Greg Laden
    January 4, 2010

    Isabel [105]: Once a month? No way.

    The mean dates of your previous visitations here are Dec 23,
    Sep 24, Aug 22, Mar 27, and Mar 1. I assume you were busy for Apr through Jul, but otherwise you seem to have a monthly cycle. Well, closer to 28 or 29 days perhaps.

    Thus my suggestion that you are actually a tug boat pilot. That would fit. Perhaps other explanations would fit as well.

    Last time you were here, I got several complaints by email from various readers. This time so far only one complaint. I’m not quite sure why you think our little arguments increase blog traffic (other than you checking every few seconds to see if anyone has responded to your comments).

    The same thing is happening this time as last time, by the way. You demand further info, I give it to you, you ignore it, then later you scream about how I didn’t give you what you wanted. Are my Eskimo brains not good enough for you?

    Now, I insist that you apologize to Stephanie for the shit you’ve been giving her and say you’re sorry to Comrade PhysioProf for calling him an idiot. Nobody gets to call CPP an idiot on my blog. Other than me, of course.

  113. #113 Isabel
    January 4, 2010

    “as I recall you wanted it spoon fed as a URL or perhaps a photocopy mailed to your home or something. I ”

    You lie!

    I did NOT want it “spoon fed,”! the citation would have been fine, and you know it. And you never gave me any information on HG brain size. You knew I spent time looking for it, and ultimately it was too obscure, which you knew all along but you found it – what – amusing? that I was spending time trying to find it, so you didn’t say anything. Asshole.

  114. #114 Lizzie
    January 4, 2010

    OMG Isabel, you need to take a trank. You are acting like you are in love with Laden and he scorned you. Srsly. Get a grip.

  115. #115 Neurodoc
    January 4, 2010

    I don’t suppose there is any IQ data to go along with those brain size data for the Eskimo?

  116. #116 daedalus2u
    January 4, 2010

    It makes sense to me that Inuit would have the largest brains. They need them as a heat source. Their diet is very rich in lipids and in omega-3 fatty acids, exactly the structural lipids that the brain is made out of. The brain already has an excellent blood supply, making it a little bigger is pretty simple evolutionary task. The brain can run on ketones, reserving glucose (which must be made from proteins, which produces ammonia which must be converted to urea and then excreted as a solution, requiring more water intake. The glucose is best reserved for muscle where it can be stored as glycogen for an emergency, while running on lipid mostly. Using muscle for heat would also produce heat in the periphery, where it isn’t needed and is more easily lost. The brain is really the only organ that can be increased to make more heat.

    They also live in an environment that is quite featureless, or rather the features are all very similar. They need large brains to do all the signal processing to detect the subtle features that are present, and to remember them to find their way back.

  117. #117 Isabel
    January 4, 2010

    “Last time you were here, I got several complaints by email from various readers.”

    really? Such as?

    This is really nutty!

    “our dear little, literacy-impaired friend likes to accuse him of being several sorts of monster. Again, rather than getting her own blog, Isabel tries to run other people’s.”

    How is arguing with a blog owner over a post, in the comments section, trying to run their blog anyway?

    And it was fun yelling at NIH dork who tries to cast aspersions on what he refers to as the “legaleez crowd” that exists in his (and appaqrently Stephanie’s) imagination.

    And DM not reading my posts is one thing. That’s his business. But summarizing my views totally incorrectly is fucked up.

  118. #118 Chris
    January 5, 2010

    So then, why are Eskimo cranial capacities and brains larger than the average human? I have read that there is a decrease in human brain size. Is this then a case that Eskimo have essentially un-touched paleolithic brains that were not diminished? Let’s hope that if they drop the big one, the Eskimo survive it to perpetuate the species, and not the idiots who drop it!

  119. #119 Jon M.
    January 5, 2010

    Isabel needs to say “thank you” for the Eskimo brain data Dr. Laden just spoon fed her.

  120. #120 Alice
    January 5, 2010

    Greg, consider this an open email complaining about izzie the tizzie. (Sorry lizzie)

  121. #121 Peter
    January 5, 2010

    The brain can run on ketones

    Are you sure of that? I don’t think that is true.

  122. #122 Stephanie Z
    January 5, 2010

    You knew I spent time looking for it, and ultimately it was too obscure, which you knew all along but you found it – what – amusing? that I was spending time trying to find it, so you didn’t say anything. Asshole.

    Lying again, Isabel. We were just through this.

    Or is the lying compulsive? If it is, it would be rude of me to point it out each time. Let me know.

    How is arguing with a blog owner over a post, in the comments section, trying to run their blog anyway?

    How is showing up to tell them what they need to change, either in their subject matter or in the way they produce their text, anything but?

    And DM not reading my posts is one thing. That’s his business.

    Not that you’ve ever asked whether he’s read them. You just assume he’s not endorsing your views because he hasn’t. Like you assumed Greg has been amusing himself at your expense. Like you assumed CPP was agreeing with me. Great way to get things totally wrong, Isabel, but I suppose it’s easier than finding something real to get mad about.

  123. #123 Isabel
    January 5, 2010

    “OMG Isabel, you need to take a trank. You are acting like you are in love with Laden and he scorned you. Srsly. Get a grip.

    Posted by: Lizzie | January 4, 2010 11:49 PM”

    Lizzie dear, I think it’s you that needs to get a grip. Of course “you lie!” was a joke, duh, but there was a serious intent to my comment, that it’s outrageous how he is acting. This guy is a real nutjob. It is total bullshit that I wanted it “spoonfed” – just follow the link and read it for yourself! This is not just a detail – it’s the whole problem the HG brain size argument rests on – Greg’s inability to substantiate anything he claims.

    Also Lizzie, I’m kind of playing with people sometimes, okay? Even intentionally acting stupid like a ten-year-old boy just to get a reaction from someone I don’t like, or just amusing myself, okay? So you can relax.

    Please stop trying to control my commenting Lizzie! You might consider privately emailing the blog owner. Perhaps I’ll get lucky and he’ll ban me.

    ps. what is a trank?

  124. #124 Trina
    January 5, 2010

    “in love with Laden and he scorned you” + “tug boat captain” = ROFLMAO!!!!!!

  125. #125 Lizzie
    January 5, 2010

    Isabel, I know that Greg does not toy with people as you say he does. He is a straight shooter. I see, though, that you admit that you do. Yes I caught the “You Lie” joke.

    A trank is a tranquilizer.

  126. #126 DuWayne
    January 5, 2010

    You know Isabel, Greg is not only taken – he and his wife just had a baby…It is just not going to happen – you might as well give it up now, while you are only a couple miles behind.

    Relax – take it easy…Spark another joint and let it move you – preferably to see a therapist.

  127. #127 Question Authority
    January 5, 2010

    Yes, it is a racist thing to say (just adding my vote)

  128. #128 becca the angry lizard!11
    January 5, 2010

    “Actually, Greg is in a hurry for me to leave because no one else calls him on his bullshit.”
    I am OFFENDED!

    Also, CPP is an idiot.

    (@Peter- I don’t know about ketosis for long periods of time. I *do* know that in most people eating ‘normal’ diets, you need a continual supply of glucose, either exogenous or made from gluconeogenesis, to keep the brain happy. However, if you go long enough without a source of glucose [approximately 24 hours; once all the glycogen in your liver is used up] your body will kick in with ketosis so that your brain has another fuel source. If you ever fast for a few days at a time, you can usually feel the ketosis kick in. At least, I assume that’s what the decrease in the ‘starving!’ feeling and increased alertness is.)

  129. #129 Stephanie Z
    January 5, 2010

    Also Lizzie, I’m kind of playing with people sometimes, okay? Even intentionally acting stupid like a ten-year-old boy just to get a reaction from someone I don’t like, or just amusing myself, okay? So you can relax.

    Isabel, no one here has given you permission to play with them. If you don’t understand why that’s important, then yes, Greg should ban you. You’re uneducable at that point.

  130. #130 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    I will never ban Isabel. I’m keeping her in reserve in case my family leaves me.

    daedalus2u (and Peter): You may be right, and that is what has been suggested. But there are two things to mention: There is a large increase in brain size with latitude that Rushton explains as people being smarter because they are challenged with bad weather, and yes, the Inuit have the largest brains in these series. However Eskimos can’t have larger brains that make them smarter because they are dumb huntergatherer brown people.

    Oh, no, wait, they are asians. Thus they are even smarter than Bryan Pesta and Rushton! But wait, if they are so smart (a trait conferred on them by smart genes making big brains) then … then … .oh, whatever.

    In any event, if white male Europeans were ID’s with larger brains, you know who woudl be saying that is because of their high IQ. But if brown people somewhere are found to have larger brains, than a non-smart related explanation will be presented. This is how it always is, and this is how the pseudo science of psychometrics and race science ‘progresses’

    And by ‘progresses’ I mean stinks like shit.

  131. #131 Isabel
    January 5, 2010

    “Isabel, no one here has given you permission to play with them. If you don’t understand why that’s important, then yes, Greg should ban you. You’re uneducable at that point.”

    Stephanie, if you really feel this way, it seems a little hypocritical that you would so enthusiastically assist Greg with his sadistic little bait’n’berate “teaching” games.

    It’s annoying that Greg can just lie, and we are all supposed to go along with it to keep the peace.

    But hey, it’s not my blog, so be it. I hope people do check out the previous threads though. And then make up their own minds about Stephanie and Greg’s distortions.

    Til next month’s episode…

  132. #132 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Once again, I doubt you are really leaving. In fact, I’m certain that you are not done commenting. And you should know by now that I’m always right.

  133. #133 Mac
    January 5, 2010

    I’ve often been confused over racial generalisation .v. racism.

    For example, which of these are racist or sexist ?

    1. “Men are (on average) taller than women.” Is that statement sexist?
    2. “Blacks have fewer melanomas than Caucasians”. Is that statement racist ?
    3. “Blacks are (on average) taller than Chinese people”. Is that statement racist ?
    4. “Blacks have (on average) are longer femur:stature ratio than Caucasians.” Is that statement racist ?
    5. “Black men have (on average) longer penises than Chinese men”. Is that statement racist ?

    All of these are basic medical facts – even if they are (by definition) based on averages. I’m guessing that we all know tall women and short men.

    (Note: ‘Black’, ‘Caucasian’ & ‘Chinese’ are based on what people self-identify as on medical forms. I simplified ‘Han Chinese’ to ‘Chinese’)

    Clearly the last one is the most emotionally provocative – but that’s only because we seem to put some kind of value on the length of that body part but get bored when talking about people’s femur:stature ratio.

    But, logically, it would seem that either all statements are racist/sexist or that none of them are.

    Mac

  134. #134 becca
    January 5, 2010

    Mac- Why is 2. not “Caucasians are at an increased risk for melanomas”?
    Also, one should probably always note that the melanomas black people *do* get tend to be more aggressive.

    And to answer your question, in my personal opinion it logically depends on context.

  135. #135 Deen
    January 5, 2010

    @133 Mac:

    I don’t think the first statement is in the same category as the others. After all, gender is a real biological category. We can easily compare the chromosomes and see who has a Y-chromosome, for instance (although I’m aware it gets more complicated than that when you consider the various intersex conditions). So we have a good biological understanding of what gender is (even though it has become increasingly clear that the division isn’t quite as sharp as some people think or want to think). We also have a reasonable understanding of how differences in hormonal activity between males and females cause differences in height. While that doesn’t mean that there can’t be no sexist statements about male/female differences, there are good reasons to not consider statement 1 sexist, but simply a biological fact.

    The division of the human species into races, however, is not such a fact. Even if you think human races exist in a biologically meaningful way, you’ll have to admit that this is not generally accepted by biologists.

    What makes statements 2-5 racist is that they first divided people into culturally determined (not biologically determined!) categories, and only then they went to look for differences between them. Eventually, some differences are bound to come up. The differences may be real, but they might be mostly meaningless if the categories are meaningless. Your statement 2-5 seem to therefore mostly serve to confirm the cultural division of people into races. So even though these statements may be factual and not contain value judgments in and of themselves, I would still consider them racist.

    Another thing. Take the second statement. You could express this information much more accurately without referring to race at all. You could just as easily say that people with more melanin in their skin tend to get fewer melanomas, or lower melanin levels are correlated with a higher risk of melanomas, or something like that. This formulation even shows the actual likely cause-and-effect relationship, rather than implying that being of a certain “race” determines your melanoma risk. I can’t really think of a good reason to phrase it the way you did instead.

    Also racist: the requirement that people fill in their race on medical forms. The idea that you would be forced to pick a race for yourself is racist in and of itself. This practice just seems ridiculous to me.

  136. #136 Spartan
    January 5, 2010

    What makes statements 2-5 racist is that they first divided people into culturally determined (not biologically determined!) categories, and only then they went to look for differences between them.

    Other than the obvious skin color and superficial characteristics, on average, are Asians shorter than Caucasians because of genetic factors? I realize that nutrition has a lot to do with it, but everything I can find on it mentions that genetics is also a factor. Similarly, are there really no differences, on average, between blacks and whites as far as muscle mass or limb length? I’ve seen lots of references on the tubes to these types of physical differences, again on average, but none that I can find that isn’t repeated second-or-more-hand and there’s far too much racist crap to give the claims too much trust.

    Greg brought up some excellent food for thought for why the NBA is overwhelmingly black, but given the enormous incentives, the popularity of the sport, and the extremely skewed racial representation relative to the population, I just wouldn’t expect that the pros racial make-up is mainly a result of their training and dedicating themselves more than their counterparts. These racial differences seems more logical for something not as mainstream, such as sprinting or even hockey, where because of cultural reasons, different races might pursue different sports.

  137. #137 becca
    January 5, 2010

    Deen- to the best of my knowledge, melanoma rates do not vary by amount of melanin per se. Rather, they are directly correlated with amount of *visible* melanin under different conditions. This is because people with lower-melanin appearing skin have melanocytes that are further down, away from the surface (presumably to help them absorb vitamin D, but that’s speculative). These melanocytes are more *migratory* than melanocytes in people whose melanin is more visible. This migratory phenotype (e.g. freckling, moles) is more associated with melanocytes that become cancerous (melanoma). In other words, a white person doesn’t have less melanin than a black person, it’s just contained in cells that tend to be located further from the surface.

  138. #138 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Spartan: I realize that nutrition has a lot to do with it, but everything I can find on it mentions that genetics is also a factor.

    A -fucking- HA … this is exactly what we’re talking about here. Great example. No, genetics is probably NOT a factor here, and there is not one bit of evidence suggesting that there is. But there are a LOT of people assuming it MUST be a factor, and saying that it “probaby is” a factor, and if you say the same thing again and again and again over and over in every single textbook chapter and publication it becomes common knowledge.

    This is the strategy of Rushton and Bryan Pesta…. keep saying it and people start to think they’ve seen lots of evidence of it (though they a doing it with IQ.)

  139. #139 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Becca: Not exactly but close. Melanocytes are similarly distributed in terms of quantity across different humans as you say, but the largest differences in skin color is due to the amount of melanin they produce. Depth may matter as well, and depth of blood diffusion sites (which is always below the epidermis) matters (red pigment), but that is not the main factor with melanin. Carotene is similar to melanin in that it is the amount that varies, and that matters.

  140. #140 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Mac, the whole point of my post was to bring up and discuss the use of the term “racism” in exactly the way you bring it up in your comment, so refer back to the post for the reason that all of the statements you make should be considered “racist” (but also, for what “racist” means).

    The parallel between “sexist” and “racist” is a falsehood. There are sexes (by some definitions, two) but races are a biological fallacy.

    As pointed out, some of the statements you use as examples are not accurate.

  141. #141 Deen
    January 5, 2010

    @becca: thanks for the correction. It doesn’t change the gist of the argument much though: risk of melanomas is caused by the properties of your skin, not by what race you self-identify as. I see no good reason for presenting melanoma risk as a racial trait.

  142. #142 DrugMonkey
    January 5, 2010

    Greg, meet Isabel.

    Isabel, meet Greg.

    Now, now, if you two would just settle down and stop waving your swords at each other I think you will find you have a great deal in common.

    It is totally wrong that marijuana is illegal.

    See, right there! And you are both totally obsessed with race. wow. This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

  143. #143 daedalus2u
    January 5, 2010

    Becca is right, on most diets ketosis is avoided by consumption of sufficient carbohydrate. That is not possible with the traditional Inuit diet because it was essentially completely devoid of vegetable matter and was comprised of animal products.

    The liver can make carbohydrate from amino acids, but the does result in ammonia requiring urea synthesis. The capacity of the liver to make urea is insufficient for humans to live on a diet solely of protein. Calories are needed from either fat or carbohydrate.

    Some tissues require glucose, red blood cells for example lack mitochondria and only generate ATP via glycolysis. Much of the immune system also uses glycolysis. Lactation requires glucose to synthesize lactose. I would be very interested in the physiology of lactation of Inuit women while on their traditional diet. I suspect that they have less lactose, and perhaps Inuit infants remain in ketosis as they nurse.

    I suspect that supplementing the traditional Inuit diet with carbohydrate rich foods should be done very carefully because ketosis is probably the “normal” state, and transitioning in and out of that due to supplemental foods may put more stress on their physiology.

  144. #144 becca
    January 5, 2010

    Greg- ah! Actually, that makes sense, given what I vaguely recall about the genetics of the pigments. The genetics of that weird ion channel that’s associated with coloration in zebrafish and humans is a bit different, and that comes to mind more easily. However, I’d argue that it’s *not* the absence of melanin that is the key to melanoma formation, but that melanoma is truly is tied to the migratory phenotype (the migratory phenotype is very tightly linked to the same processes that allow melanomas to metastasize and become deadly; the lack of melanin will allow more UV damage, but much of that results in benign skin neoplasia, much less worrisome than melanoma). Also, when people of African decent *do* get melanoma, it’s more likely to be on places like the bottom of their feet. I wonder if that’s area where the melanocytes aren’t as close to the surface, or if the lack of melanin produced by those melanocytes is less (are people really much sun exposure on the soles of their feet?).

    Deen- it doesn’t change your argument a whit. I could pretend I’m a stickler for accuracy, but then I would have looked it up rather than going from memory. Actually, I just think it’s neat cancer biology.
    If anything, I would argue very strongly that we shouldn’t emphasize race when talking about melanoma. Onocologists need to get through to the public that race doesn’t protect from melanoma, although properties of the skin may change what you need to look for (African Americans die at a higher rate than whites from melanoma, and later detection probably plays a role).

  145. #145 Irene
    January 5, 2010

    DrugMonkey: Are you, then, obsessed with “medical research” or is it simply true that if you blog about a certain topic you are blogging about a certain topic, but if Laden does it he is obsessed?

  146. #146 Stephanie Z
    January 5, 2010

    Irene, DM’s just hoping he can make Isabel like it enough over here that she won’t come back to his blog. Doing it with snark, of course, because that’s the way he operates, but it’s a goal I can sympathize with. Of course, if I’d known he wanted her gone, I could probably have arranged something before now….

  147. #147 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Isabel can’t come back because I did to he what Captain Kirk did to that space robot thingie. She is now busy calculating PI to the last digit.

  148. #148 Stephanie Z
    January 5, 2010

    Of course, Greg, that assumes that she won’t just refuse to think about that, too.

  149. #149 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Nope, she’s gone, she said she was going away and she’s gone away. And I said that she’s full of shit and will be back, and that I’m always right. She wants to come back and tell me that I’m not always right. But that would make me right, and her wrong….

    3.1415926535897932384626433832795028…

    Kablooie!!!!

  150. #150 Scotlyn
    January 5, 2010

    Do you know that an ad for “interracial romance” – looks like a dating introduction site – has just popped up beside this post?

  151. #151 Stephanie Z
    January 5, 2010

    Oh, I understand the problem, Greg, but I think I also understand the problem. Which is not to say there won’t be explosions, just that they won’t be internally generated.

  152. #152 bryan
    January 5, 2010

    You all think these oncologists are being ignorant by even considering / asking about race? In other words, if only they had your knowledge, they’d stop factoring race into their treatments, diagnoses, hazard ratios, etc?

  153. #153 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Stephanie, I no longer understand the problem.

    Scotlyn: It must be a flash ad (I blog flash). Lucky me!

  154. #154 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Bryan Pesta, you know nothing about medicine (or science). An oncologist examining a patient’s skin can look at the patient’s skin. The oncologist does not need to ask the person if they are black or white or some other color.

    Using your approach (and that of your friend Rushton and the other “heavy hitters”) is more useful for the following construct:

    “Black people have low IQ, breed like rabbits, and will hit you over the head and take your wallet. There are racial differences in disease incidence, ideal treatment, and outcome. Since black people are so annoying, cost society more than they are worth, and this can’t be fixed because it is so built into their genome, we should bias the spending of research dollars to favor the superior races.”

    Right?

  155. #155 Stephanie Z
    January 5, 2010

    Greg, the ISABEL system, when faced with a problem that would require large amounts of computing power or changes to factory programming, immediately dumps all working memory while writing an ironically error-filled error message. While some users have called this a bug of unprecedented proportion, the ISABEL manual clearly documents this behavior as a feature.

    See “would you like to back up your assertion that I’m lying about something” as an example.

  156. #156 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    So when she says “back up” she means …. “backup”… .

  157. #157 bryan
    January 5, 2010

    I’m talking about those doing cancer research, not treatment.

    There was a semi-recent blog on SB about incidence of breast cancer being higher in black women, even when controlling for the kitchen sink.

    I’m just trying to understand– if only they had your expertise regarding racial fallacies, they could free up resources and do real science and ignore messing around with the biology of race?

    You should write them a letter, as clearly they don’t know how to research their field like you do.

  158. #158 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Well, Bryan, I’m just giving you the hard time that you deserve. If you read my post you’ll see that racists such as yourself often use the medical/race thing as an excuse to promote their immoral research. It is true that sometimes using various self-reported or otherwise determined categories such as “race” in research is important for controlling studies and for looking for biases in outcomes, but the underlying science of racial categorization is so bad that the validity of research based on race is somewhere between a valid category (such as BMI, gender, etc.) and astrological sign.

    Your snark aside, it is really alarming that you would take such a laissez faire attitude regarding the quality of the data especially when it comes to people’s health.

    See this: http://scienceblogs.com/digitalbio/2010/01/you_may_think_youre_african-am.php

    On the other hand, self reported “racial” categories CAN be useful when looking at bias in behavior by are givers, researchers, etc.

    If there are real genetic links to a disease, test for the alleles. This is not hard to conceptualize. It is a little hard to operationalize at this point in time, but with more research will become easier.

    Oh, but where to get the research dollars from? Some other research will have to be cut …

    Oh … I know …

  159. #159 Stephanie Z
    January 5, 2010

    Bryan, below is the only recent post I could find about the higher incidence (more aggressive quality, lack of diagnosis, etc.) of breast cancer in black women. It specifically discusses environmental factors. If you had something else in mind that actually matches your description and isn’t a product of your tendency to see what you want in reports of science, please point to it.

    http://scienceblogs.com/isisthescientist/2009/12/do_the_new_breast_cancer_guide.php

  160. #160 becca
    January 5, 2010

    Bryan- most of the cancer researchers I know who are working specifically on individual and population susceptibility care a great deal about race. Whether there is any connection between the notorious irreproduciblilty of such molecular epidemiology and the recently documented fact that self-identified “African Americans” can share anywhere between 1-99% of their genes with those of European ancestry, is anybody’s guess.
    But yeah, short answer- they don’t know what they’re doing. Hey! Have you ever thought about looking for a job doing Real Science in a lab that studies molecular epidemiology of cancer? I bet you’d fit right in.

  161. #161 becca
    January 5, 2010

    Greg- do you object to Bryan’s research because it is fraudulently conducted unethical research, or because it is immoral to research that topic?
    I’d bet the former, but you should probably be explicit here- ‘immoral research’ has an icky tone.

    Also, BMI and gender are totally invalid categories.
    % bodyfat and X/Y chromosomal status on the other hand…

  162. #162 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Greg- do you object to Bryan’s research because it is fraudulently conducted unethical research, or because it is immoral to research that topic?

    Neither. I object to willful misconduct in research (though maybe sometimes it is fraud) and in this case, tag it as immoral because of the horrendous effects of racism.

    Yes, the use of race as a category is somewhere between bmi or gender and astrology. It is no where near valid. A test for the alleles of interest would be valid! (Like percent body fat)

  163. #163 Stephanie Z
    January 5, 2010

    Becca, just as self-reported race can be important when looking at bias, gender has a place in social science research as well.

  164. #164 bryan
    January 5, 2010

    Stephanie– your link is the one. My comment stemmed from comments in the blog, starting with #11.

    I see Becca posted their too.

    Given competition and scarce resources for grant money, etc., is it your contention that the hypothesis: “the biology of race might affect disease patterns” is not worth studying in epidemiology?

    If you guys are so certain and up on this, you seem to have a moral obligation to put these people in their place, so that obvious blind alleys wastes of resources are not pursued when people are dying.

    Tell them your science bloggers! I’d bet they’d invite a submission from you.

  165. #165 Stephanie Z
    January 5, 2010

    And once again, Bryan fails to ask for credentials or citations from someone agreeing with him. AND fails to have the tiniest sliver of imagination required to come up with anything not on the list of what’s already been controlled for (even assuming the commenter is correct). AND fails to note that there are a number of people studying cultural differences and racism and their contributions to differential outcomes in health care. AND fails to note that the people he accuses of doing nothing are engaged in a certain amount of education on the subject already.

  166. #166 bryan
    January 5, 2010

    Becca my sarcasm meter is broken today and I can’t tell whether you were making fun of me or the Greg/Stephanie twins.

    Perhaps my point was not clear, I think it lolzy that those out of field would have a better sense of what’s worth studying and what’s not, compared with those in field. That’s why I think Greg should write a letter to these cancer researchers so they can redirect their focus on something appropriate and blank slate.

  167. #167 bryan
    January 5, 2010

    Stephanie, we agree. Clearly you and Greg are experts on race. You have a moral obligation to get these cancer researchers to redirect their efforts on things scientifical.

    Becca: Would it be appropriate to start with clustering studies? Don’t even call it race (instead, say, cluster 1, 2, 3) to see if early screening might benefit one cluster but be a waste of resources for another cluster?

    Not every study would have to do this, but certainly 1 good one that looks at the issue: do clusters predict, even after controlling for kitchen sink environmental stuff?

    This still wouldn’t prove “race is biologically the cause” but it would be a face-valid measure of race (which I’d argue correlates +.80+ with self-reports anyway, but let’s not go there).

  168. #168 Stephanie Z
    January 5, 2010

    The funny thing is, Bryan, that I’m not an expert on race. I’ve looked at the methodology of a bunch of studies, but it isn’t my field. You, however, come riding up as its champion, pointing to this and that and making strong pronouncements, and demonstrably fuck it up all over the place. If this is what “biological race” has for experts….

  169. #169 bryan
    January 5, 2010

    Becca: I went back and read some of your earlier posts given that you seem to be practicing science with license here, and I see that as rare for SB.

    You said:

    Bryan- I’d bet money there *isn’t*, assuming we keep in mind the vast array of human sport. There’s too much intrinsic trade off between, e.g. strength and speed. You really think that a family of Kenyan sprinters is more likely to produce a heavyweight champion than a random family?

    I use this example often in class. Let’s pick 4 people (ignore the biased sample; just focus on the concept):

    Me
    Lebron James
    the best high school soccer player in the state of Ohio.
    Hugh Hefner

    Let’s give all 4 a battery of athletic ability tests from strength to speed to endurance to whatever you think is a unique ability, uncorrelated with any other ability.

    For a general factor to emerge, the difference between MY scores on running, bench pressing and shooting free throws has only to be smaller than the difference between me versus the other three people on each dimension. I’m pretty certain that’s a no-brainer.

    Within the normal range of athletic ability, this would happen as well. I’m no athlete; neither is Greg. I suspect if I can out run him, then I can also out bench press him and out-free throw him.

    You guys focus too much on extreme cases (Lebron versus Tiger) in deciding that separate uncorrelated dimensions of athletics exist. The key would be the difference between Joe six pack and John wine drinker; differences in the fat part of the curve.

    JMO.

  170. #170 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Bryan Pesta drones: I think it lolzy that those out of field would have a better sense of what’s worth studying and what’s not, compared with those in field.

    It’s funny you should say that. I’m a biological anthropologist. Although I don’t think of myself as a medical anthropologist, this falls firmly within that field, and it is a field I have some background in. In fact, if you look up “medical anthropology” in the Dictionary of Anthropology, you’ll see a definition that is widely used.

    I wrote that definition. Literally.

    So I am probably someone most would consider “in field” (as you so quaintly put it).

    Lolzy indeed. Sir, I double LOL you!

  171. #171 bryan
    January 5, 2010

    Looks like there’s a large literature on this already. Search “general athletic ability” if interested.

    It is like IQ g; those extremely gifted do so by investing (i.e., investment theory) their innate talents in something specific like hitting a golf ball or shooting a basketball.

  172. #172 DuWayne
    January 5, 2010

    Yup, IQ concern = compensation. Out of curiosity Dr. bryan, do you have a particularly large IQ?

  173. #173 Matt
    January 5, 2010

    Greg, I expect you are familiar with some of the research surrounding the ACTN3 genotype.

    This paper suggests an evolutionary athletic performance ‘trade off’ between endurance and speed traits. And that these traits are not distributed randomly throughout the human population.

    Has this line of research been discredited?

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1180686/

  174. #174 becca
    January 5, 2010

    Stephanie Z- many false categories (e.g. ‘introvert’ vs. ‘extrovert’) have a useful place in social science research.

    Greg- Ah! That would be a good thing to be objecting to.

    On cancer epidemiology- if you want to be accurate, most scientists would *love* to just sequence the entirety of everyone’s genome and then correlate with disease risk in massive prospective trials. If you got the money, that is. At this time considering race, or any possible genetic cluster, is not cost-effective in the treatment of diseases (as a general rule), and not nearly as interesting in the research of diseases as we wish it were.

    “I can’t tell whether you were making fun of me or the Greg/Stephanie twins.”
    Can’t it be both? And cancer molecular epidemiologists as well?
    :-P

    “I suspect if I can out run him, then I can also out bench press him and out-free throw him.”
    See, I can outrun *most* people in the middle part of the curve that can out bench press and out free-throw shoot me.

    Also, you would be *amazed* at who is a good curler or pitcher. Some athletic abilities do not correlate *at all* with the skills that are generalizable across many sports (e.g. pitching accuracy does not correlate with running speed; look at the body types of pro baseball players and how different the pitcher is from everybody else)

    I don’t think *the maximum running speed a given person can train to* is correlated at all with *the maximum amount a given person can learn to lift*. You have to compare maximums to get some idea of what genetic capacity is; otherwise you’re just arguing that jocks get more practice in sports. Functionally, you might be able to find a general factor, but genetics is the last place I’d look for the cause.

    “I think it lolzy that those out of field would have a better sense of what’s worth studying and what’s not, compared with those in field.”
    Not intrinsically. You do get inability to see the forest for the tree type blindspots when you spend too long in a field.

    Also, as Greg points out, he is an expert on EVERYTHING.

  175. #175 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Matt, I’ve written about that.

    It is annoying, though, how easy it is to go from an allele that has a measurable effect depending and is unevently distributed around the population to people with X skin color have this here trait which is way different from people with that there skin color who have that there trait, and every time we discover something like this the same “races” seem to be winners and the same “races” seem be be losers.

  176. #176 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Also, as Greg points out, he is an expert on EVERYTHING.

    No. But, I started very young, I’m very old, I’ve been paying close attention, and I am in a field that is based on being eclectic. I don’t claim to be an expert on everything. I just claim that your life will be easier if you simply assume that I’m right. No mater what I say.

    Or at least, that’s what I keep telling people, and I’ve learned (from Bryan and others) that if I say the same thing again and again over and over relentlessly people will eventually assume it is true because they’ve heard it so many times. It would be helpful to me if you’all would repeat this … the part about how Greg is always right … as often as possible. And if anyone produces evidence that that is not correct, tell them that they need to stop victimizing you (and me), that they are just being politically correct, and if that does not work, threaten to bring out the heavy hitters…. We can make this work!!!

    Hooya!!!

  177. #177 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Oooo!!!..oooo!!!..oooo!!!nBryan! Bryan!!!!! BRYANNNNNN!!!!!!

    I gotta ask you… are you in with Loopy Larry here? Is he essentially correct or what? What do you think about what Loopy Larry is saying here??????

    I just want to know before I delete the sick motherfucker.

  178. #178 Elaine
    January 5, 2010

    Matt,

    You have cited a paper about a genetic polymorphism in white people. You seem to be using this as evidence for a racial difference in athletic ability.

    Please explain.

  179. #179 Matt
    January 5, 2010

    Greg, I didnt follow your response @ # 175. I see you’ve made another post specifically on this topic so I’ll read that now.

    Elaine, this is from the paper I linked to above. Bold mine. You are correct in pointing out this paper is not the one which produced those assertions (facts?) I bolded. Im looking for the Rankinen 2002 paper now, but unsure from the text if thats where that came from. I got wind of this paper up from a discussion on this topic by W. Saletan over at Slate magazine a year or so ago.

    In addition, the frequency of the α-actinin-3–deficient genotype (577XX) varies from 25% in Asian populations to 1% in an African Bantu population; the frequency in Europeans is ∼18%. This raises the possibility that ACTN3 genotype confers differential fitness in humans, under certain environmental conditions. The force-generating capacity of type 2 muscle fibers at high velocity, the speed and tempo of movements, and the capacity of the individual to adapt to exercise training are all strongly genetically influenced (Rankinen et al. 2002). Thus, we hypothesized that ACTN3 genotype may be one of the factors that influence normal variation in muscle function.

  180. #180 Elaine
    January 5, 2010

    The assertion has been made that this explains elite athletes being found in Africa, but given these percentages, and the fact that elite athletes are less than one percent of the population, makes this interesting but not THAT interesting.

    Still, those who want races to be real and to be easily linked to genetic systems will not notice the numbers. Matt has already cited a study that does not show what he says it will, so I’m confident he will find the next study to fully support his presupposition.

    Matt cites that “in a Bantu population” the allele is virtually absent. But this is not the reported frequency for Africans more broadly. That’s called cherry picking the data. Not to mention that “Europeans” “Asia” and “A Bantu Population” are not comparable groups in any way shape or form.

  181. #181 daedalus2u
    January 5, 2010

    When Roger Bannister was training to break the 4 minute mile, one of his coaches told him to do push-ups, which he refused because he couldn’t do any. The coach said he wouldn’t amount to anything if he couldn’t do push-ups.

  182. #182 Matt
    January 5, 2010

    Elaine, if it wasnt clear, everything after the dashes in my previous post were from the Yang et al paper, not my assertions.

    you said ‘Matt has already cited a study that does not show what he says it will, so I’m confident he will find the next study to fully support his presupposition.’

    what did I say that paper was supposed to show? And what are my presuppositions?

    In post #138, Greg said “A -fucking- HA … this is exactly what we’re talking about here. Great example. No, genetics is probably NOT a factor here, and there is not one bit of evidence suggesting that there is.” Bold mine.

    ACTN3 and its uneven distribution seems to be one bit of evidence.

  183. #183 Stephanie Z
    January 5, 2010

    Matt, comment 138 is referring to height.

  184. #184 Elaine
    January 5, 2010

    Matt, I think you have decided black people and white people are different subspecies (that is a different word for race) and you will fit whatever evidence you find into that mold.

    Or not. Please tell me not.

    And try not to be defensive, dear boy.

  185. #185 Matt
    January 5, 2010

    Stephanie,

    Yes Spartan was discussing height with regards to Asians. Spartan also said at #136 “Similarly, are there really no differences, on average, between blacks and whites as far as muscle mass or limb length?”

    This paper refers to a genotype found or absent in muscle fiber and its influence on muscle function.

  186. #186 Matt
    January 5, 2010

    Elaine, thanks for answering the second question I posed to you.

    Subspecies, as I recall from Bio 101, are two distinct populations of a species that could produce viable offspring, but do not for various reasons, usually geography. Humans do not fit this definition.

    Try not to be so condescending, dear woman.

  187. #187 Stephanie Z
    January 5, 2010

    Matt, so you weren’t trying to answer #138, about height, with your citation, about muscle fibers? Because that’s what you said you were doing in #184.

  188. #188 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Matt, Elain is correct. Condescending, yes, but correct.

    The terms race, subspecies, and variety (the latter for plants) are synonyms. Biology 101. If you make the claim that humans are divisible into races then you are making the claim that humans are divisible into subspecies. If that may or may not make you uncomfortable but that does not allow you to re-define your way out of it by changing the meaning of terms that have been in use for a a century and a half.

  189. #189 Observer
    January 5, 2010

    ***Bryan- most of the cancer researchers I know who are working specifically on individual and population susceptibility care a great deal about race. Whether there is any connection between the notorious irreproduciblilty of such molecular epidemiology and the recently documented fact that self-identified “African Americans” can share anywhere between 1-99% of their genes with those of European ancestry, is anybody’s guess.
    But yeah, short answer- they don’t know what they’re doing. Hey! Have you ever thought about looking for a job doing Real Science in a lab that studies molecular epidemiology of cancer? I bet you’d fit right in.

    Posted by: becca | January 5, 2010 2:37 PM***

    Neil Risch has written about the importance of this in medical research:

    “However, this risk needs to be weighed against the fact that in epidemiologic and clinical research, racial and ethnic categories are useful for generating and exploring hypotheses about environmental and genetic risk factors, as well as interactions between risk factors, for important medical outcomes. Erecting barriers to the collection of information such as race and ethnic background may provide protection against the aforementioned risks; however, it will simultaneously retard progress in biomedical research and limit the effectiveness of clinical decision making…

    There are estimated to be at least 15 million genetic polymorphisms,12 and an as yet undefined subgroup of these polymorphisms underlie variation in normal and disease traits. The importance of such variation is underscored by the fact that a change of only a single base pair is required to cause many well-known inherited diseases, such as sickle cell disease, or to increase the risk of common disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Studies in population genetics have revealed great genetic variation within racial or ethnic subpopulations, but also substantial variation among the five major racial groups, as defined above.5 This variation has been demonstrated in at least three ways…

    There are racial and ethnic differences in the causes, expression, and prevalence of various diseases. The relative importance of bias, culture, socioeconomic status, access to care, and environmental and genetic influences on the development of disease is an empirical question that, in most cases, remains unanswered. Although there are potential social costs associated with linking race or ethnic background with genetics,35 we believe that these potential costs are outweighed by the benefits in terms of diagnosis and research. Ignoring racial and ethnic differences in medicine and biomedical research will not make them disappear. Rather than ignoring these differences, scientists should continue to use them as starting points for further research. Only by focusing attention on these issues can we hope to understand better the variations among racial and ethnic groups in the prevalence and severity of diseases and in responses to treatment. Such understanding provides the opportunity to develop strategies for the improvement of health outcomes for everyone.”

    Burchard EG, Ziv E, Coyle N, Gomez SL, Tang H, Karter AJ, Mountain JL, Perez-Stable EJ, Sheppard D, Risch N. The importance of race and ethnic background in biomedical research and clinical practice. N Engl J Med. 2003 Mar 20;348(12):1170-5.

    https://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/348/12/1170

  190. #190 Matt
    January 5, 2010

    Stephanie,

    I noticed in Gregs response @#138 to Spartan @#136, he said there was ‘no genetic evidence…etc’

    Spartan was asking about height, limbs, muscle mass etc.

    The line of research discussed in the paper I linked to contradicts Gregs statement.

    Elaine, Here is a link to an abstract of another paper on the same topic. This same researcher, Yang, uses the term ‘African’ this time, instead of ‘Bantu’, as you pointed out before.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19696509?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_SingleItemSupl.Pubmed_Discovery_RA&linkpos=2&log$=relatedarticles&logdbfrom=pubmed

    This paper does suggest athletic ability has a genetic component, that genotype is non-randomly distributed over what people colloquially call ‘race’. Bold in the following quote is mine.

    “ACTN2 is expressed in all muscle fibers, and expression of ACTN3 is restricted to the type 2 (fast glycolytic) fibers that are responsible for forceful contraction at high velocity. There is a common stop codon polymorphism R577X in the ACTN3 gene. Homozygosity for the R577X null-allele results in the absence of alpha-actinin-3 in fast muscle fibers with frequencies that vary from less than 1% in Africans to approximately 18% in Caucasians. A number of association studies have demonstrated that the ACTN3 R577X genotype influences athletic performance in Caucasians; the frequency of the XX genotype is significantly lower than controls in sprint athletes, and it appears that alpha-actinin-3 deficiency is detrimental to sprint performance. In the general population, the ACTN3 genotype contributes to the normal variations in muscle strength and sprinting speed.”

  191. #191 Stephanie Z
    January 5, 2010

    Matt, try reading comment #138 again. There’s a line quoted in it, which is what Greg is responding to.

    There’s nothing wrong with saying, “Oops. I misread that.” Mischaracterizing your host’s argument, however, particularly once it’s been pointed out to you, is a hanging offense.

  192. #192 Matt
    January 5, 2010

    If I in any way conveyed that the paper I posted was in reference to genetics, nutrition, and height differences between Asians and Caucasians, I apologize.

    As you no doubt read for yourself, Spartan throws in a ‘similarly’ before his next question regarding blacks, whites, genetics, and potential muscle differences. Yes Stephanie, in #138, Greg cuts off his quote of Spartan just before that.

    Based on that, you seem to be saying it was wrong of me to assume the paper I linked to had any bearing at all on their discussion. I disagree.

  193. #193 Stephanie Z
    January 5, 2010

    Observer, it’s news when the population geneticist says, “Nope. Sorry. I don’t think my field has anything to offer you.”

  194. #194 KristinMH
    January 5, 2010

    Loopy Larry’s example is very stupid. Gee, you see kids imitating the behaviour of the adults in their culture? Quelle surprise!

    Going off on a tangent that is sort of related to the OP, perfect pitch – the ability to identify pitches without a reference pitch, in western music an indicator of musical ability – doesn’t occur in people who haven’t been trained in a fixed-pitch system. Which makes sense. If you don’t have names for specific frequencies, how would you develop it? Does that mean that a musician who plays tabla (classical Indian drums, and classical Indian music isn’t fixed pitch) and doesn’t have perfect pitch is less musical than someone who plays the violin and, for whatever reason, does? No, it’s just that the violinist’s brain was – as in Greg’s example – given the necessary stimulus in childhood.

    Developing this further, the violinist would lack the rhythmic skill of the tabla player, just as the tabla player lacks the violinist’s skill in pitch perception. Because each has developed the skills they need for their respective musics. Duh.

    What’s the line about George W Bush? Born on third base, thought he hit a triple?

  195. #195 Stephanie Z
    January 5, 2010

    No, Matt. I’m saying you’re wrong that Greg was talking about anything other than height in that comment. You’re making a remarkably big deal out of you misreading a comment.

  196. #196 Matt
    January 5, 2010

    Greg, a #190, thanks for the clarification. I was not aware that race and subspecies were interchangeable terms. Reading about the ICZN on wiki confirms what you’ve said and I dont mean to redefine terms.

    What do these terms like Caucasian, African, Bantu, and Asian, which appear in these papers ive linked to, refer to? Is clines a better word for these terms?

  197. #197 KristinMh
    January 5, 2010

    I forgot to add that of course, individuals vary in musicality, which is why perfect pitch is relatively rare even among elite western classical musicians, and very few people earn their living playing tabla.

  198. #198 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    It would be very useful to try to understand the word cline. The race terms you mention (and others) are not clines. People sometimes hear that “clines” is better than “races” and then start using the word “cline” instead of “race” … that doesn’t do anything,

    A cline is a gradient across space. The cline assumes a continuous variable, which genes are not (alleles are discrete) but percentages of a polymorphic allele are sufficiently continuous that cline works.

    But I guarantee that if your model of how humans work is that there are races, a modest foray into clines is not going to ket you away from races … if race is where you want to be that’s where you’ll remain.

    What might be more useful is to first think about what race really means, what a race would look like on a map, genetically, in other ways … rigorously. Define race carefully and explicitly. Then it will be possible to see what a contrast between race and other models would look like.

    What most people who start out with race-based thinking do (and this is, frankly, most people) is to have a vague idea of what race is, and then as they encounter critiques of that idea, find it easy to claim that that is not what they were thinking (even if it was). Having a clearly defined concept off race … saying it out loud and really getting at the details … is important.

    Oh, and it can’t just be any definition one happens to think of. The word has been in use for a long time. It has features that are always in place. A definition of race requires reference to the historical and literary record. It is not a winged monkey flying out of the ass situation. But you could consult wikipedia and such sources, I suppose.

  199. #199 Matt
    January 5, 2010

    Greg,

    is there another species, plant or animal, besides human, associated, rightly or wrongly, with the term ‘race’?

    Yes, there are no races in homo sapiens, but the two terms are wrongly associated with one another. Is there another example?

  200. #200 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    There could be human races. It is theoretically possible. There probably have been at some times in the past.

    Over time, in zoology, the trend has been to identify lots of “races” (subspecies) in lots of species of animals. The height of this was in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It was at that time that the human races we recognize now were defined.

    But the race/subspecies concept has been discovered to apply far far less often than originally supposed, and it has been dropped for most of the mammals and birds it was used for originally. It was retained for humans not for good biological reasons but because it was politically, culturally, socially so heavily in use that it was hard to get rid of. Today, there is a whole industry dedicated to maintaining the concept because certain entities find it useful.

    If you read the original literature on elephants, buffalo, leopaprds, and other cat species, hyenas, various antelope, deer, bears, and on and on and on you’ll see the rise of subspecies/race, and it’s decline (in most cases) and you’ll see that where it is used today it is generally with the caveat that “this is of course not a valid classification, but we use it for convenience”

    The problem with humans is that using race as a convenience has nasty consequences. Those who claim that the consequences are nnot bad or that this is just how it is probably don’t have any close relatives who have been hung by the neck from a nearby streetlamp until dead. Or whatever.

  201. #201 Matt
    January 6, 2010

    Greg, interesting last post.

    You said “But I guarantee that if your model of how humans work is that there are races, a modest foray into clines is not going to ket you away from races … if race is where you want to be that’s where you’ll remain.”

    Im not trying to develop my own model of humans, what im curious about is what these researchers like Yang and the others are modeling. Im just an interested layman.

    Perhaps its silly of me to assume you’d know what Yang et al are talking about in their papers, but you used the term ‘Blacks’ in the title of your post. So are you and Yang using the term ‘Blacks’ in the same way?

  202. #202 Bryan
    January 6, 2010

    Greg: The problem with humans is that using race as a convenience has nasty consequences. Those who claim that the consequences are not bad or that this is just how it is probably don’t have any close relatives who have been hung by the neck from a nearby streetlamp until dead.***

    Or, maybe they have relatives currently dying of a cancer that could have been diagnosed earlier or treated more effectively, if someone else were allowed to study it scientifically, without risking his/her career.

    Or, maybe they have relatives living in poverty; perhaps substantially worse off now than they would be were research on race differences in important traits not immediately labeled as racist, and were the people doing the research mis-characterized and dismissed as racist loons no matter what data is presented.

    It goes both ways is all I’m saying. We have a method that works (science). We have race inequality as a compelling social problem for as long as we’ve existed as a country. But, we’d rather stick our heads in the sand than try to understand reality for fear that maybe we won’t like the explanation.

    Same result, you guys just don’t have to spend money on rope.

  203. #203 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    Matt: I don’t know. I’m not using the word “black” to do a lot of work here in this post, scientifically speaking.

  204. #204 Observer
    January 6, 2010

    ***Racism is simply believing that races exist and matter, and racism is simply an assertion or act based on this belief.***

    I guess you’re not a fan of Japanese or Israeli immigration policies?

  205. #205 Observer
    January 6, 2010

    And how about those racist Tibetans!

    http://www.tibet.org/Activism/Rights/poptransfer.html

  206. #206 Stephanie Z
    January 6, 2010

    So, Observer, you’re now making the argument that what you’re calling races are simply cultural groupings with nothing to do with underlying biology?

  207. #207 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    Or, maybe they have relatives currently dying of a cancer that could have been diagnosed earlier or treated more effectively, if someone else were allowed to study it scientifically, without risking his/her career.

    Bryan, you are setting up the usual straw man argument here. First of all, I have not argued against using self reported ethnicity or race in research. I just know that it is very very limited. Over the last ten years as this argument has developed, most people actually doing this work have not gotten particularly excited about it. This really is not an issue except for the race baiters who want everything to be about race. You are exploiting people’s perception of misery and fear to keep your racist ideas alive, and it is really rather pitiful and objectionable.

    Or, maybe they have relatives living in poverty; perhaps substantially worse off now than they would be were research on race differences in important traits not immediately labeled as racist, and were the people doing the research mis-characterized and dismissed as racist loons no matter what data is presented.

    Bryan Pesta, you are so full of shit that when you blow your nose the nearest farm gets over fertilized.

    It goes both ways is all I’m saying. We have a method that works (science). We have race inequality as a compelling social problem for as long as we’ve existed as a country. But, we’d rather stick our heads in the sand than try to understand reality for fear that maybe we won’t like the explanation.

    Bryan Pesta, you should be ashamed of yourself. The world has moved on to more realistic and useful approaches to meet real objectives. What a waste of talent.

    Or maybe not.

  208. #208 Spartan
    January 6, 2010

    No, Matt. I’m saying you’re wrong that Greg was talking about anything other than height in that comment. You’re making a remarkably big deal out of you misreading a comment.

    Well then I think you’ll have to count me in as misreading that comment also. Greg of course is not my monkey and can respond to what he likes, but I’d find it a curious omission in his comment, since I’m specifically talking about the NBA’s racial makeup, if no, there is no racially genetic component to asian’s height, but there are differences on average between blacks and white as far as muscle mass and limb length that he didn’t mention, since if there are, those obviously may lead to a greater athletic ability. The questions I’d have based on the feedback to my comments are:

    1) Greg mentions that there may be more diversity in blacks, but didn’t respond to whether that is what we would consider a genetic difference (which is not a criticism of him). Obviously height is very important to basketball players with a few exceptions, and if blacks have more genetic diversity which results in more blacks being above a certain height threshold then wouldn’t that count as a potential genetic advantage based on their race?

    2) Specific to my Asian height question, and I hesitate to argue something that is ‘common knowledge’ given how often it is incorrect, but there is a genetic component to height, correct? Taller people tend to have taller parents, it just might not be related in any way to their race?

    3) Greg has said something to the effect of this statement a few times now, although in response to other commenters: “how easy it is to go from an allele that has a measurable effect depending and is unevently distributed around the population to people with X skin color have this here trait which is way different from people with that there skin color who have that there trait,”. However, I’m discussing the attributes of the top athletes, and the traits do not need to be ‘way different’ for it to make a potentially large impact at this high level. Do blacks have slightly greater muscle mass or limb length than whites, or do we not know?

  209. #209 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    Obviously height is very important to basketball players with a few exceptions, and if blacks have more genetic diversity which results in more blacks being above a certain height threshold then wouldn’t that count as a potential genetic advantage based on their race?

    That’s a funny way to put it. In order to get to this way of thinking, one has to have a purely racialized view of humanity, and one has to be making an explicit grouping in which there are, say, “white people” and “black people” and these two groups are, as groups, roughly the same kind of entity. In other words, you are going far beyond comparing “apples and oranges” when you develop this kind of model. You are comparing one person’s apples to another person’s vegetative matter.

    Which brings me back to one of the main points I’ve been trying to make, but that many people simply seem incapable of understanding. For many people the following things are true: 1) They have a received view of the world which is highly racialized and has specific features (the standard racist model) and 2) they need, for some reason, to not have his view challenged. If all you have is a hammer, you will treat everything like a nail. If all you have is a racilized view of humanity, I promise you that you will never find anything to refute it. All bits and pieces of information you encounter will fit into your view, and you will never advance in your thinking.

    but there is a genetic component to height, correct?

    That statement belies a misunderstanding of what the basic question is, so I’ll rephrase it for you. Do humans have “height”? Yes. Do genes help make “height” happen? Yes.

    BUT!!!!!!

    Is variation in height … meaning the difference betwee YOUR height and MY height, or the difference between one group of people and another caused by corresponding differences in genes?????

    The simplest answer to that question, given “yes” vs. “no” has to be no.

    Taller people tend to have taller parents

    Yes, that is correct.

    Do you know what secular variation in height is? Secular variation in height is the primary form of variation we see in the modern world, and IT IS NOT GENETIC. Secular. Variation. Is. Not. Genetic. This means that almost every instance of difference in stature between one population and another IS. NOT. GENETIC. (There are some exceptions which are really little more than a distraction at this point.)

    Well, then, you ask, how and why does stature vary between these groups??? FOR A DIFFERENT REASON of which you happen to be, it would seem, ignorant.

    Only you can fix that ignorance, but before that happens you have to understand the basic, and sad, fact that I started this comment out with. If you have racialized view of the world, you will find a way to fit any and all information you encounter into it.

    There is probably a genetic component to height that varies across individuals, and there are some cases of different groups having different maximum attainable stature. But the VAST MAJORITY OF THE ACTUAL VARIATION WE SEE and the variation you are talking about in comparing the groups you are comparing IS NOT GENETIC but rather environmental.

    But it turns out that for reasons that are a bit obscure, tiny women who are tiny because they live in a culture (yes, a culture) that has tiny people (because of the environment, NOT THE FUCKING GENES) do not, when the environment changes to allow for bigness, give birth to whopping big giant fucking kids. They give birth to kids who are a little bigger (in attained adult sature). Then that generation gives birth to bigger kids. And so on.

    THIS

    IS

    NOT

    GENETIC

    CHANGE

    … and the resulting differences beteween the original population, which may well be still in place, and the transformed population (which may be a third or fourth generation immigrant population elsewere)

    IS NOT GENETIC!!!!11!!!

    Taller people tend to have taller parents, it just might not be related in any way to their race?

    Ah, no. Do you understand why? Yet?

    I’m discussing the attributes of the top athletes, and the traits do not need to be ‘way different’ for it to make a potentially large impact at this high level. Do blacks have slightly greater muscle mass or limb length than whites, or do we not know?

    The fact that we are talking about top athletes means the following:

    Unless “races” really exist and are really really REALLY fucking different, taking the top one 1/100th of one percent of a population of a billion people and comparing it to the top one 1/100th of a population of 100 million people is an utterly meaningless comparison and can not possibly explain the pattern we see. Do you not see that the racialized/genetic explanation for what we see in athletics is something like five orders of magnitude more stupid than the theory that the mafia and the cubans got together to kill Kennedy? Seriously. Think about it.

    But if you have a racialized view of the world then you will fit every thing you observe, hear, or think into that race model.

    Oh, and one very serious fallacy many people make and that you make in two or three places in your comment is this: That there being a genetic basis for something means that there is a race-difference. One does NOT follow from the other. Genetic basis is a necessary BUT NOT SUFFICIENT condition of racial differences. And, phenotypic variation is less diverse than genetic variation.

  210. #210 DuWayne
    January 6, 2010

    All right then Mr. Smarty Pants, explain why my neighbor is fucking tall and has tall kids…

    (Sorry, I couldn’t resist a really stupid question in the face of your succinct, yet thorough explanation)

  211. #211 becca McSnarky
    January 6, 2010

    More to the point, explain how I can make my son (of 5’3″ mommy and 5’8″ daddy) into a giant (I want at least 6’2″ or above!!!)?!

    DuWayne- his explanations are *not* thorough. I wanna know why height has an 80-90% heritability if it’s not genetic.

  212. #212 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    Language, which is clearly a biological trait because it involves CELLS! (neurons) has a heritability much higher than for height.

  213. #213 Observer
    January 6, 2010

    ***So, Observer, you’re now making the argument that what you’re calling races are simply cultural groupings with nothing to do with underlying biology?

    Posted by: Stephanie Z | January 6, 2010 2:11 AM***

    Those cultural groupings also have shared ancestry, so they are genetically more similar.

    For instance, the Dalai Lama himself has argued that Tibetans are a distinct race from the Chinese:

    “Recent studies of archaelogical findings have revealed that the Tibetans and Chinese have been two distinct peoples since the dawn of human civilisation. There are clear evidences that the genesis of civilisations in China, Tibet and India are different. Based on this, the distinct existence of the Tibetan race is clear”. (Tibetan Bulletin July-August 1993).

    “Historically, it is well known that Tibetans diverged from northeast Asians, which has been confirmed by genetic studies using classical autosomal markers (Du and Xiao 1997) and microsatellite markers (Chu et al. 1998).

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3659/is_200612/ai_n19431793/

  214. #214 Stephanie Z
    January 6, 2010

    Based on that reasoning, Observer, how many races does humanity have?

    And the Dalai Lama is not a scientist.

  215. #215 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    “Dalai Lama himself ” .. wow, talk about argument from authority!

    Recent studies of archaelogical findings have revealed that the Tibetans and Chinese have been two distinct peoples since the dawn of human civilisation. There are clear evidences that the genesis of civilisations in China, Tibet and India are different.

    The physical anthro also shows that the people who lived in the region are probably not closely related to anyone who lives there now.

    Anyway, are you now arguing that “tibetan” is a race and “chinese” is a race? Because all the precious race data and race models and assumptions and all of it have those people as “Asian” …. perhaps one needs to refine the model.

    And while you’re busy refining the model you might as well break the “chinese” race down further because everybody knows that there are several different “ethinic groups” and of course each would have its own history.

    And those histories can be VERY VERY different.

    The race-worshipers insist that latitude matters. The chinese race, when you break it down, will have people who lived in tropical rain forest and people who lived in temperate and subarctic areas. They say civilization matters. So there are “Chinese” people (or at least asian) who were hunter gatherers within the last century, and those who have had “civilization” for thousands of years. If the race-lovers are right, then when you break the “chinese” or “Asian” race into the actual subraces, you’ll see the IQ-which-predicts-everything track those differneces two multiple standard orgasmic deviationz!!!

    … sorry, I’m being snarky. I just think it is hilarious that you just discovered history and complexity. Or at least, a bit of it. And all it took was a word from your nearest religious leader.

    wow

  216. #216 ildi
    January 6, 2010

    Not to get stomped as part of the general cat fight…

    As an example of Father Sarducci’s “what you remember five years after graduating from college,” I seem to recall that the prof made a distinction between stereotyping and prejudice in that stereotyping is part of the way our brains organized memory, but prejudice was not looking past this organizational schema to evaluate the individual.

  217. #217 Observer
    January 6, 2010

    ***Based on that reasoning, Observer, how many races does humanity have?

    And the Dalai Lama is not a scientist.

    Posted by: Stephanie Z | January 6, 2010 3:56 PM***

    Stephanie Z & Greg,

    I wasn’t really citing the Dalai Lama so much for his scientific expertise. More to try and make the point that by what you’re saying above then he is technically a racist? Which seems an inappropriate term for what he is talking about – discussing the uniqueness of his people & their culture. You could extend that to other indigenous peoples also?

    Admittedly, you are talking about the unfairness of using race as a predictive tool for individuals rather than a part of group identity.

    ***And while you’re busy refining the model you might as well break the “chinese” race down further because everybody knows that there are several different “ethinic groups” and of course each would have its own history.***

    Yes, you can trace the ancestry of peoples (races, ethnic groups, tribes, castes etc.) to determine the patterns of genetic similarities, intermixing, and differences. If you use “subspecies” to refer to subdivisions that are analogous to ethnic group, and “strain” and “substrain” might be analogous to tribe and family?

    ***The race-worshipers insist that latitude matters. The chinese race, when you break it down, will have people who lived in tropical rain forest and people who lived in temperate and subarctic areas. They say civilization matters. So there are “Chinese” people (or at least asian) who were hunter gatherers within the last century, and those who have had “civilization” for thousands of years. If the race-lovers are right, then when you break the “chinese” or “Asian” race into the actual subraces, you’ll see the IQ-which-predicts-everything track those differneces two multiple standard orgasmic deviationz!!!

    sorry, I’m being snarky. I just think it is hilarious that you just discovered history and complexity. Or at least, a bit of it. And all it took was a word from your nearest religious leader.
    ***

    If it’s good enough for Richard Gere it’s good enough for me.

  218. #218 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    Yes, you can trace the ancestry of peoples (races, ethnic groups, tribes, castes etc.)

    BZZZZZZZZZT

    If you presuppose the utility of races and see the world in a racialized way then every piece of information you encounter will be … bla bla bla …

    You call yourself the observer. Your are actually the blindered.

    But there is hope for you. You are recognizing and talking about smaller and smaller groupings, at least. Eventually you’ll get to the unit of analysis that always and indubitably matters.

  219. #219 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    Observer. Let’s look at it this way:

    You made the clam that …

    IQ correlates:
    -.74 with temperature,
    -.35 with happiness,
    -.44 with income inequality (GINI),
    -.28 with porn consumption
    -.28 with smoking

    Have these been tested in the Tibetan case?

    You made the claim:

    I’d bet money there is a general factor of athletic ability, much like the general factor of IQ.

    Has THAT been tested with the “chinese/tibetan” comparison?

    You said, Observer, that:

    I will dig up their Wonderlic scores and show they score much lower than non-poor retired NFL players with similar injuries.

    When?

    If you can answer these three questions properly I guarantee you can make an important step to understanding the whole race thing.

  220. #220 becca McSnarky
    January 6, 2010

    “Language, which is clearly a biological trait because it involves CELLS! (neurons) has a heritability much higher than for height.”
    Ya don’t say.
    http://www.scientificblogging.com/files/images/n1217208313_380874_7942659.jpg

    Are you saying I need to teach my child to be tall? I still wanna know how to make a giant.

    Also, I *hope* the Dali Lama is an expert on Tibetans.

  221. #221 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    Becca, no way. The Dali Lama is no more by default an expert on Tibet’s history and archaeology than the Pope is an expert on Roman archeology or George Herbert Walker Bush on the arcaheology of Native Americans of the Plains. Other than the time George dug up that guy’s head and brought it to Yale.

    To assume so is probably some kind of act of racism.

  222. #222 Observer
    January 6, 2010

    ***Observer. Let’s look at it this way:

    You made the clam that …

    IQ correlates:
    ….

    You made the claim:

    I’d bet money there is a general factor of athletic ability, much like the general factor of IQ.

    ….

    You said, Observer, that:

    I will dig up their Wonderlic scores and show they score much lower than non-poor retired NFL players with similar injuries.

    When?
    ***

    Hold on, those are interesting claims but I think those comments were made by Bryan? Again, I wasn’t using the Tibetan example for any claim about predicting group outcomes. I was using it as an example of a group seeing race as something of value, but which could be termed racism. But is that a bad thing in that particular case or with other indigenous groups?

  223. #223 Spartan
    January 6, 2010

    If you have racialized view of the world, you will find a way to fit any and all information you encounter into it.

    Well thankfully I don’t have a racialized view of the world in the sense that you mean, no matter how many times you assert it and condescendingly and ignorantly project that psychobabble bullshit on to me. I don’t find that statement to be particularly informative anyway, as you can plug in ‘theological’, ‘astrological’, ‘Tolkien-based’, etc, for ‘racialized’ and it’s equally as true. Yet we have people like DuWayne who did find a way to break out of his, rather rigid IIRC, former theological view of the world. I get the gist of your post, but you apparently are taking my questions as some insistence that I want to hammer things into some imagined racialized view, or you are just plain confusing me with other commenters. On the contrary, you’ve brought up several points that I had not considered before that I think are very interesting. But you don’t seem capable of understanding how anyone, especially a layman such as myself, could possibly think that the genetic differences between the ‘races’ may manifest itself physically beyond skin color and propensity for epicanthic folds, without resorting to something to the effect of, “you just have some need to keep your racialized view of the world intact”. Just trying to learn, man, and from some other things I’ve been able to find I think your non-racially-genetic explanations have more validity for the racial dominance we see in things like basketball, but I’ll stop asking apparently stupid questions if it’s irritating.

    Well, then, you ask, how and why does stature vary between these groups??? FOR A DIFFERENT REASON of which you happen to be, it would seem, ignorant.

    You mean the environment and most importantly nutrition? You mean like my statement above, “I realize that nutrition has a lot to do with it, but everything I can find on it mentions that genetics is also a factor. “, that you specifically quoted and responded to above in post 138? And I’m seemingly ignorant; sheesh.

    But back to my stupid questions. I agree, the simple answer to why you and I are of differing heights isn’t because of differences in genes. Is there any component of our differing heights that is a result of the difference in our genes, even if it’s a small effect? Is there any component of the secular variability in height that is genetic, even if it’s small? Given that there are large differences in nutrition and environment currently and that these factors have a far larger impact on height than any genetic influences, if there was slight genetic variation coinciding with what we call race, would we even know? I’m not asking so I can then tie it in to the racial-genetic argument; I have found enough support for your counter-assertions that make them far more feasible than they initially appeared to me.

  224. #224 Bryan
    January 6, 2010

    If you presuppose *A COMPLETE BLANK SLATE* and see the world in a *naive empiricist* way then every piece of information you encounter will be … bla bla bla .

    ftfy.

  225. #225 Bryan
    January 6, 2010

    Observer, it’s not possible in greg’s world view that two people can disagree with him, so he is assuming I am posting as a sock puppet under your name.

  226. #226 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    Observer: Hold on, those are interesting claims but I think those comments were made by Bryan?

    My model of the world places much much more emphasis on the primary, organizing, overarching role of larger categories than individual opinions or statements by individuals. If you claim to have said a particular thing or not, is really of no concern to me. You are one of the Bryanoids and that is all I need to know. If one of you says something statistical studies I have done have proven to a significant level that every one of the bryanoids things the same thing. Even if you and other Bryanoids are occasionally different from each other, on average you are much more the same than you are different. I can predict your average opinion quite accurately.

  227. #227 sailor
    January 6, 2010

    The only non-racist thing I can think of saying about blacks and whites are as follows:
    Black people have good sun protection
    White people have good vitamin d absorption

  228. #228 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    Bryan Pesta, the ratio of your comments that are unredeemable snark to comments that are about the topic at hand has gone way south. But you are acting exactly as I expected you to act given … the type of person you are, and all.

  229. #229 Rita
    January 6, 2010

    I love it. A race of racists.

  230. #230 Stephanie Z
    January 6, 2010

    Greg, you do have to give Bryan a point or two for the sheer, unmitigated irony of the “naive empiricist” comment.

  231. #231 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    Not really. I have never advocated a blank slate, and when Bryan has attributed the blank slate rhetoric to me I’ve corrected him.

    The problem with this Bryan Pesta guy is that he does not pay attention, does not absorb new information very easily, is driven more by emotion than rational thought, and prefers to sling shit than to converse in a reasoned way. Very much like a poorly trained ape.

  232. #232 Stephanie Z
    January 6, 2010

    Well, yes. The irony comes from the fact that he’s endorsing a naive empiricist view: “I can see that these ‘groups’ differ in some way, so what I see must explain the differences between them.”

  233. #233 DuWayne
    January 6, 2010

    I would suspect the problem with Dr. bryan is much simpler…He obviously has a huge IQ…

  234. #234 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    Right, I see. Bryan Pesta … man if Iron. Eee.

  235. #235 Bryan
    January 6, 2010

    Are you guys trying to link your lolzy blog to my name by constantly using it?

    My myspace group actually made a tee shirt of me with my face and cig smoking pose. I will gladly mail one to anyone here who wants one.

    Curious what IQ debates here recently have done to your hit count, or whatever stats you bloggers mull over?

  236. #236 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    To be honest, the IQ discussions have not been that heavily viewed. In this case, there is a reverse correlation between comment count and hit count. That often happens. Every time I repost this:

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2010/01/what_to_do_with_bible_thumping_1.php

    it gets a lot of hits. Linux posts automatically seem to have a built in large readership. But nothing does better than the noah’s ark cartoons, my domestication of the chicken post, and a post on the evolution of cats.

    School Projects and LOL cats for the win. I tried to combine the concepts once with a series of LOL scientists, included here:
    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/lol/

    but no one looked at them.

  237. #237 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    Oh… and BINGO!!!!

    (The accusation that I’m only in it for the hits always comes at some point after the substantive argument is settled. Which I think it pretty much is now.)

  238. #238 Deen
    January 7, 2010

    @sailor: sorry, that’s still racist, as it presupposes (at least) two distinct categories of people, “blacks” and “whites”. It also implies that both categories have certain unique traits, which further implies that those could be used to tell the two apart.

    Is there any good reason you couldn’t have just said that “people with darker skin have better sun protection, people with a lighter skin have better vitamin D absorption”? It’s much more accurate, and doesn’t have any of the bad implications of your statement.

  239. #239 sailor
    January 7, 2010

    Deen, point taken. There are blacks and whites at the two extremes, but yes it is a continuum from the darkest to the lightest which ignoring recent geographical dislocation coincides pretty much with how much sun people get.

    My point is that sun protection/vitamin D absorption, is probably the only really relevant thing about skin color. The rest is historic/cultural.

  240. #240 Greg Laden
    January 7, 2010

    Is there any good reason you couldn’t have just said that “people with darker skin have better sun protection, people with a lighter skin have better vitamin D absorption”?

    That would serve the same purpose, more effectively, and without the racialization of the problem. I’m sure Bryan Pesta and other racists will have a reason to not do what you suggest.

    Sailor: Right, and the racial categories focus so much on skin color that the presumption that a “black” person had dark skin and a “white” person has light skin is not especially crazy. But other traits require difficult to support assumptions about the distribution of other traits, and that very problematic.

  241. #241 Andrew
    January 8, 2010

    Your neighbors are clearly of the same race, and the tallness tells me that they are black.

    Am I right?

    By the way, you’all know about the Maasai

  242. #242 Bryan
    January 8, 2010

    Greg

    I’ve made an arrangement with the James Randi Educational Foundation. They will start a moderated thread where you and I can debate this. A moderated thread, basically, forces the parties to argue on the issues, but is open to the public to expose your or my ignorance (or both).

    I know you are a member there, and the JREF is as good as it gets in terms of providing a neutral and fair forum for me to show all why you are an idiot. You can link your crappy blog to the JREF thread, and maybe you will pick up a few readers (thereby doubling your reader base).

    I cannot debate you here. Your science blog kool aid click and you controlling the posts make it a wholly unfair forum.

    Given conventional wisdom on race and IQ, this should be a very easy victory for you. Please list here your excuse for not taking the challenge. If you do reject, please stop mentioning my name in further blog posts (I am very serious on this point. If you reject my offer and further defame my name, I will seek an injunction and legal action against you and seed media).

    Bryan

  243. #243 Greg Laden
    January 8, 2010

    Bryan, you put the “less” in clueless.

  244. #244 Stephanie Z
    January 8, 2010

    Bryan, you’ve already suggested a debate. The problem remains now, as it was then:

    …if you want to debate Greg, you need to start by summing up where you think the two of you disagree on the topic, as he’s already suggested you do.

    So what is it that you believe about race and IQ that runs counter to Greg’s views?

  245. #245 Irene
    January 8, 2010

    You do not unilaterally arrange a debate with someone, then show up at their place, slap them with numerous insults, then demand an explanation for why they won’t accept the terms of the duel.

  246. #246 Bryan
    January 8, 2010

    I’m not debating it here.

    I’m asking for mitigation of damages before this becomes serious for Greg and seed media. Consider how many parties could/would join me in legal action over this.

    If Greg won’t stop defaming me, I will seek a legal remedy.

  247. #247 Greg Laden
    January 8, 2010

    Irene: it is a page out of the Creationist Playbook. That and demanding that another person take a money-bet and then insisting when they decline that that must be rong!!!!

    Stephanie, as you point out, I have in numerious places asked Bryan to address very specific issues that may or may not be differences between us. He had refused.

    Also, note Bryan’s mention of my membership in JREF. I think he continues to confuse JFEF with QM.

  248. #248 Stephanie Z
    January 8, 2010

    Bryan, you’re not debating WHAT here?!? What do you want to debate?

  249. #249 Bryan
    January 8, 2010

    Two separate issue in my recent post. The debate; defamation. I see the answer is No on the debate– fine.

    I’m now asking publicly if Greg is willing to take steps that limit potential damages against him and seed media should my/my university’s last recourse be a law suit.

  250. #250 Stephanie Z
    January 8, 2010

    Bryan, once again, debate on what?!?

  251. #251 Greg Laden
    January 8, 2010

    Bryan, I don’t think I need to give you anything, and I don’t think I’ve been anything but a mirror for your own defamation. I also think, and I’m trying to be helpful here because of our colleague-ship in areas other than race, that you are making yourself look rather foolish right now.

    But having said that I’m willing to give you this: A guest post spot. Write a post laying out your position on race and IQ and keep it to reasonable length and I’ll post it as a guest post.

    But then you have to leave. You’ll be welcome to comment on that post, to respond to comments other make, etc. but I don’t want you commenting elsewhere on this blog because you have become an annoyance and a liability. But on that one post you will be free to comment as long as you stay within the normal rules of conduct.

    The best way to send me your post is in HTML format. Any graphics you use need to be no more than 500 pixels wide and preferable in JPEG format. Just put markers in the text where the graphics are to go and I’ll put in the links.

    If you prefer, and if Mike and Stephanie agree, perhaps you’d like to put the guest post at Quiche Moraine instead.

  252. #252 Jason Thibeault
    January 8, 2010

    Oooh, oooh, Bryan, I have an idea, perhaps you could file a DMCA report against Greg for his use of your obviously copyrighted name when referring to you. Seed Media would obviously have to shut down his blog immediately! It’s a plan that cannot fail!!!!1

  253. #253 Bryan
    January 8, 2010

    Greg

    It’s not about debating IQ at this point; I am seeking to protect my professional reputation against knowingly false claims made to harm me (reputation-wise, financially, emotionally).

    At a minimum, you need to delete all references to my name that defame me. You need to stop making further defamatory comments. My understanding is the sooner you do this, the less your (and seed media’s) damages.

    I’m asking sincerely, nicely; professionally that you do this.

    If you won’t, I will make the same request to seed media. If they won’t, I will seek a legal remedy.

  254. #254 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 8, 2010

    Bryan: LOON ALERT!!111!!!11!11!!

  255. #255 MonkeyPox
    January 8, 2010

    ZOMFG, Bryan are you still trying to protect your imaginary reputation? And even if you had a reputation, how can we possibly protect you from your own asinine ejaculations?

    And, FWIW, if you are a famous dude with a rep, the bar is set rather high for “defamation”.

    Greg may or may not be a clueless ass, but you’re clearly an idiot.

  256. #256 Stephanie Z
    January 8, 2010

    If you do reject, please stop mentioning my name in further blog posts (I am very serious on this point. If you reject my offer and further defame my name, I will seek an injunction and legal action against you and seed media).

    It’s not about debating IQ at this point; I am seeking to protect my professional reputation against knowingly false claims made to harm me (reputation-wise, financially, emotionally).

    At a minimum, you need to delete all references to my name that defame me. You need to stop making further defamatory comments.

    Bryan, the only person who has used your name in blog posts is me. I used it when reviewing your paper, and I used it when referring to an argument you made under that name. Both are quite clearly non-defamatory uses of your name, and the analysis of the paper you expressly invited.

    Greg ceasing to do something he hasn’t done yet won’t make any difference in the world. What is it you want him to stop doing to you that you didn’t first do to him? The question of doing it first may not be a legal requirement for defamation, but it does assure that you taking legal action would, at the very least, do more to damage your reputation than any spouting off on a blog could possibly do.

    Aside from that, which statements by Greg mischaracterize your position? How can anything possibly be a “knowingly false claim” when you cheer on some thoroughly nasty racist commenters while refusing to clarify your own position? Is close scrutiny of that something you really want to invite? Talk about damaging one’s reputation.

    Kind of like going from setting up a debate to “It’s not about debating IQ at this point” in just over an hour.

  257. #257 Greg Laden
    January 8, 2010

    Greg may or may not be a clueless ass, but you’re clearly an idiot.

    This is totally my new blog banner.

  258. #258 mk
    January 8, 2010

    Dr Bryan…

    Even if they deleted all “defamatory comments” about you… there is still the problem of um… your comments! YOUR comments. Your ignorant, racist comments.

    Dude, there’s no saving you from you!

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