Pharyngula

Michael Medved says something dumb

Did someone declare this National Flaming Racist Idiot week, and I just didn’t notice until now? You have got to read Michael Medved’s latest foray into pseudoscience: he has declared American superiority to be genetic, encoded in our good old American DNA. Because our ancestors were immigrants, who were risk-takers, who were selected for their energy and aggressiveness. Oh, except for those who are descended from slaves.

The idea of a distinctive, unifying, risk-taking American DNA might also help to explain our most persistent and painful racial divide – between the progeny of every immigrant nationality that chose to come here, and the one significant group that exercised no choice in making their journey to the U.S. Nothing in the horrific ordeal of African slaves, seized from their homes against their will, reflected a genetic predisposition to risk-taking, or any sort of self-selection based on personality traits.

But, he hastens to add, modern African-American genetics have been leavened with the genes of recent, self-selected immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa, so their unfortunate stay-at-home genes have a “less decisive influence”.

As is usual for Medved, a dullard incapable of any kind of thought beyond the superficial, he doesn’t think his thesis through. Wouldn’t this imply that Moslem immigrants to Europe, with their risk-taking willingness to move to new environments, are their true hope for the future? That the old blue-bloods of this country are less fit than, say, the Nisei? And if the descendants of African slaves are not successful go-getters because their arrival was coerced, what about the immigrants who were fleeing religious persecution, or all the Americans who are descended from indentured servants? Are there no successful entrepreneurs in Europe or Asia or Africa? Should we give extra bonus points to the descendants of nomadic tribes of warriors, like the Germans? It’s a very peculiarly narrow view of a kind of simplistic genetic determinism that ignores the complexities and the varieties of ways people got here to promote a ridiculous premise.

And it just gets sillier.

Senators Obama, Clinton and other leaders who seek to enlarge the scope of government face more formidable obstacles than they realize. Their desire to impose a European-style welfare state and a command-and-control economy not only contradicts our proudest political and economic traditions, but the new revelations about American DNA suggest that such ill-starred schemes may go against our very nature.

Uh, what? Republican policies are now part of our genetic nature, and the Democrats will be defeated by our capitalist genes?

This is Michael Medved of the Discovery Institute, an organization that has recently been raving about the evils of eugenics and the soulless Darwinian view of nature. Yet here he is, spouting off the kind of smug, invalid, pseudo-biological jingo that belongs in the Gilded Age and would be comfortable in the mouth of a robber baron trying to justify a war in Latin America. It’s nothing but handwaving rationalizations for an intrinsic superiority to our tribe, with a complete absence of evidence.

Comments

  1. #1 Jen R
    May 14, 2008

    This is Michael Medved of the Discovery Institute

    So, presumably he doesn’t accept evolution.

    You mean, it’s possible for people to come up with pseudo-scientific justifications for their racism and nationalism without recourse to Darwin’s theories?

    Someone notify Ben Stein!

  2. #2 MAJeff, OM
    May 14, 2008

    The idea of a distinctive, unifying, risk-taking American DNA might also help to explain our most persistent and painful racial divide – between the progeny of every immigrant nationality that chose to come here, and the one significant group that exercised no choice in making their journey to the U.S. Nothing in the horrific ordeal of African slaves, seized from their homes against their will, reflected a genetic predisposition to risk-taking, or any sort of self-selection based on personality traits.

    And of course, because slave owners never raped their slaves, contemporary African Americans don’t share any genetic material with those risk taking rapists.

    Now, cue someone to excuse and celebrate their own ignorance.

  3. #3 beagledad
    May 14, 2008

    For your header, you really could just leave it at “Michael Medved.” We would infer that he just said something dumb, because he generally does.

  4. #4 Doug
    May 14, 2008

    Wow, Medved’s comments are so stupid beyond belief I’m at a lost to say anything.

  5. #5 Dutch Delight
    May 14, 2008

    I like this guy, although i think he missed something. Us surviving Europeans stayed behind to confront our problems instead of running away from them like cowards. Therefore, American genes are pretty much the wastebin of our species.

    Thank you very much, i’ll be here all night.

  6. #6 Emmet Caulfield
    May 14, 2008

    The title of this post would lose no meaning in being exactly one word shorter.

  7. #7 nkb
    May 14, 2008

    PZ,
    You may need to work on your headlines. ;)

    Blaring “Michael Medved says something dumb” is the equivalent of proclaiming “the Earth is not flat”.

  8. #8 Bob L
    May 14, 2008

    Wow, they really just know enough about science to be dangerous with it it? I mean how do you parody a statement that dumb?

  9. #9 Jams
    May 14, 2008

    Weirdly enough Chris Rock has a strange version of this. Something about the descendants of slaves being selected for physical prowess or something. I think he called them “super slaves”.

    I have to admit, there might actually be something to the Chris Rock thing. I’m a little suspect though.

  10. #10 Jams
    May 14, 2008

    …I’m also suspicious.

  11. #11 Tracy P. Hamilton
    May 14, 2008

    What I find ironic is that there is a tiny “Flag this comment as offensive” on comments, but strangely enough it is not an option on the original article.

  12. #12 Paul Lamb
    May 14, 2008

    So does this mean all of those “energetic” and “agressive” folks from south of the Rio Grande who are vigorously choosing to come here as well have his stamp of approval? Where does he draw the line? I mean, they have brownish skin. Surely his idea of superior genetics stops at skin color, even if the very same behavior he praises is exhibited in other “tribes.”

    Unfortunately, there is a large portion of the voting public who will agree with his “scientific” explanation of politics.

  13. #13 octopod
    May 14, 2008

    #9, that’s actually a little bit more reasonable. That was ACTUAL and well-recorded artificial selection (seriously, people were deliberately bred like cattle), and on things which are definitely and obviously genetically based. Of course, the slave-owners got their own randomly shitty genes all mixed up in there by raping enslaved women, so apply salt as necessary.

    And Michael Medved makes me nostalgic for the ’90s. And by that I mean 1890s.

  14. #14 Brownian, OM
    May 14, 2008

    Sounds like the kind of ‘theory’ a university freshman would come up with after three pitchers of Kokanee in order to impress a Poli Sci major without tipping her off that he’s never really read Leviathan after all.

    What a fucking wannabe.

  15. #15 nkb
    May 14, 2008

    Couldn’t you draw the exact opposite of this conclusion, using the same dim-witted logic?

    Is America made up of all the losers that couldn’t deal with adversity in their original countries, and took the cowardly approach of fleeing, instead of standing up and fighting through it?

  16. #16 Jim Battle
    May 14, 2008

    There is nothing surprising here. DI doesn’t “get” science. The them, science is just a word one invokes in an attempt to establish credibility.

    Medved has a conclusion he’d like to reach, generates “data,” and whaddaya know? The data points fit the “hypothesis.” Science!

  17. #17 Glen Davidson
    May 14, 2008

    You mean that he thinks selection works?

    All in all, though, this is great. The only thing missing from Ben Stein’s self-destruction was that he wasn’t a fellow of the DI.

    Medved decided to be the DI fellow who would jump the shark in the eyes of those dull enough to still think that the DI might be a think tank, instead of a propaganda tank.

    Anyhow, watch your own last shreds of respect tank, Medved. But be sure to hang on to the DI for dear life as it does, since you could be the anchor that drags them into Davy Jones’ locker.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  18. #18 Dutch Delight
    May 14, 2008

    I’ve always wondered if anyone ever compared dental stats to see if african-americans today have “profited” from the selection imposed on them by the traders of their forefathers.

  19. #19 Forodrim
    May 14, 2008

    I wonder what he has to say about Australian DNA …

  20. #20 Matt Heath
    May 14, 2008

    No, no, give the poor man a chance. He is a scientist and he has put forward a testable hypothesis. Now, lets assume that the descendants of immigrants do all have ruggedly individualistic American Conservative politics etched in every cell of their bodies. That gives us predictions. We would expect for example to find that none of Canada, Brazil or New Zealand would have well developed welfare states or ever have had left wing governments.

    Now how to test these predictions…

  21. #21 Curt Cameron
    May 14, 2008

    Wouldn’t the implication be that African-Americans should be slow runners?

  22. #22 Allen
    May 14, 2008

    And to think that John McCain accepted an invitation to speak to these Discovery Institute yahoos and no one seems to care.

  23. #23 Tosser
    May 14, 2008

    Do the two books Medved cites actually agree with this view of genetics?

  24. #24 Hank Fox
    May 14, 2008

    Given their early history, I’m wondering what Medved would say about (European-derived) Australians.

  25. #25 Linda
    May 14, 2008

    I always thought that African-Americans whose ancestors survived the hell of the Middle Passage and the torture of slavery and racism would be all the tougher for it. That’s a legacy–the people who survived and thrived must have had some kind of fortitude. I’d be proud to be their decendant.

    Medved is an ass.

  26. #26 George Cauldron
    May 14, 2008

    And also don’t forget, that if the DI or their supporters ever did ‘win’, Medved’s gibberish is what ALL science in America would look like.

    Europe, India and China would probably get a hearty laugh out of it, tho.

  27. #27 Russell
    May 14, 2008

    Forget Medved — It’s all the Kaiser’s fault.

    http://adamant.typepad.com/page/2/

  28. #28 Dennis N
    May 14, 2008

    Hey, I’m sure the Discovery Institute will soon put out a press release denouncing these comments, and explain how they aren’t the Institutes views [/sarcasm]

  29. #29 Colugo
    May 14, 2008

    Medved is parroting it, but Peter C. Whybrow came up with it.

    Medved: “Whybrow explained to the New York Times Magazine that immigrants to the United States and their descendents seemed to possess a distinctive makeup of their “dopamine receptor system – the pathway in the brain that figures centrally in boldness and novelty seeking.””

    Bill McKibben blurbed American Mania, the book in which Whybrow presents this theory.

    From Whybrow’s website:

    “Peter C. Whybrow, M.D. is Director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior (previously known as the Neuropsychiatric Institute) at the University of California in Los Angeles.”

    But theories about alleged personality differences between populations related to dopamine receptor alleles are not unique to Whybrow.

    In our genes. 2002. Henry Harpending and Gregory Cochran. PNAS. 99: 10-12

    “A survey of world frequencies of DRD4 alleles has shown striking differences among populations, with population differences greater than those of most neutral markers. … (T)he allele associated with ADHD has increased a lot in frequency within the last few thousands to tens of thousands of years…

    There are at least two hypotheses to explain the world distribution of 7R. The first … is that it is a dispersal morph. They argue that the allele increases the likelihood that its bearers migrate. As modern humans colonized the earth, bearers of 7R were more likely to be movers so that populations far away from their ancient places of origin have, in effect, concentrated 7R. …

    The second hypothesis is that 7R bearers enjoy a reproductive advantage in male-competitive societies, either in competition for food as children or in face-to-face and local group male competition. Societies in which this advantage would be present were rare before the spread of agriculture, but common after it.”

    Note that Harpending and Cochran are two of the authors of the recently hyped ‘accelerated human evolution’ paper.

  30. #30 Matt Heath
    May 14, 2008

    #26
    Not so much. We don’t want to have to have our OWN governments fund out post-doc positions.

  31. #31 brokenSoldier
    May 14, 2008

    It is amazing to me that he can tout the fact that Americans have their own specific DNA and someone will still employ him. As long as racists are still on this planet, they will try to find empirical support for the basis of their prejudices. And genetics will continue to be their favored area, because if they can establish a difference on the genetic level, then their arrogance will at least have a physical base, if not still completely morally irreconcilable. Once someone isn’t “the same as us,” in these views, they’re less somehow valuable and can be discriminated against, or even exterminated, without reproach.

    Medved is an idiot, bigot, and educated enough to let the rest of us know just how ignorant and misguided he and his cronies are over at the Discovery Institute

  32. #32 azqaz
    May 14, 2008

    “Nevertheless, two respected professors of psychiatry have recently come out with challenging books that contend that those who chose to settle this country in every generation possessed crucial common traits that they passed on to their descendents.”

    Wow, I know I always go to psychiatrists for my genetics information. Later today I’m going to talk to my astrophysicist about my fear of flying.

  33. #33 Raynfala
    May 14, 2008

    So, let’s review:

    Somebody cherry-picks an aspect of the science of genetics, warps it into something that can only be charitably described as pseudo-science, and bandies it about as proof-positive of the superiority of one population over others.

    Now why am I thinking about a certain European country, circa 1934? No reason, I guess…

  34. #34 George Cauldron
    May 14, 2008

    In addition to its multiple layers of stupid, it’s also a covert racist explanation for why Blacks don’t vote for Medved’s beloved GOP. Expect a *lot* more of that over the next 6 months.

  35. #35 beagledad
    May 14, 2008

    Has Medved been seen wearing a Curious George t-shirt recently? Just wondering . . .

  36. #36 jfatz
    May 14, 2008

    Wait a sec… wouldn’t our USAUSAUSA! DNA be more rightly comprised of cowards who were fleeing religious and other persecution in their home countries, rather than take a courageous stand in their homeland and try to change things there?

    And later on, was it really “risk taking” or was it simple greed and or lazy indulgence to travel to “the land of milk and honey” and try to increase your lot?

    I have a feeling Mr. Medved hasn’t fully analyzed his idea here…

  37. #37 JakeS
    May 14, 2008

    His understanding of genetics would fit right in in 1930s Germany.

  38. #38 Dennis N
    May 14, 2008

    This does go a long way in explaining why there’s so many religious nut jobs around. Their ancestors were so insufferable in Europe that they were driven away. It’s in their DNA.

  39. #39 beagledad
    May 14, 2008

    If one accepts Medved’s simplistic notion of evolutionary psychology, one could draw very different conclusions from his. Many of the original European settlers in the Americas were religious cranks who had to come here because people in their countries of origin found them insufferable. (See, e.g., “the Pilgrims” who settled in Massachusetts.) One would then conclude that the U.S. is infested with insufferable religious cranks, which would be . . . hey, wait a minute, maybe there’s something to this Medved guy!

  40. #40 SteveM
    May 14, 2008

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I think there is something to the idea that immigrants tend to be more productive and their kids do better in school, but I don’t think it is in their genes. Clearly there is an advantage to the personality that is motivated to seek a better life elsewhere and will likely expect more from their own children. But to say that this is encoded in their genes is pretty ridiculous.

    So I guess Medved would advocate giving citizenship to all the illegal immigrants in America because they have this “American gene”? I somehow doubt it.

    But I would, not for their genes, but for their motivation and determination. I figure if an immigrant managed to get here and get a job and be productive, then that’s the kind of people we want as citizens. Filling out a W-4 should be an automatic green card.

  41. #41 adam
    May 14, 2008

    I am Sorry What American superiority?

  42. #42 tony
    May 14, 2008

    JakeS @ 37

    His understanding of genetics would fit right in in 1930s Germany.

    Personnaly, I think his understanding of Genetics would fit. right. here >.<

  43. #43 Colugo
    May 14, 2008

    Forget about Medved for a second. We all know that he is an ass and an ignoramus. A more interesting question is why there has hardly been a peep in the science blogosphere about the rising trend of research in dopamine receptor variants and personality differences, as well as related studies on alleged inter-population cognitive and affective differences. This is carried out and published not by movie critics at crackpot think tanks, but prestigious scientific institutions and journals. We can flay Medved all we want, but this isn’t going away. It’s only going to get bigger.

  44. #44 beagledad
    May 14, 2008

    But tony, Medved used the words “dopamine receptor system,” so he sounds all scientificish and everything! How can you doubt the depth of his knowledge?

  45. #45 Etha Williams
    May 14, 2008

    Manifest Destiny with a pseudo-scientific bent. Sickening.

  46. #46 WTF
    May 14, 2008

    “Because our ancestors were immigrants, who were risk-takers, who were selected for their energy and aggressiveness.”

    It is not often that the author of a statement such as this can be the living counterpoint to their own arguement. Mr Medved should really try and cough up some of that aggressive energy and apply it to revealing some evidence for their Intelligent Design hypothesis. What with a genetic advantage in risk-taking you would think they would have that all pegged down by now.
    Then again maybe we can just file him in with Junk DNA Hmmm?

  47. #47 Fatboy
    May 14, 2008

    It’s not really all that original of an idea, either. I remember hearing it from certain relatives while growing up in the ’80s.

  48. #48 Michelle
    May 14, 2008

    Eh what?

    …that is all.

  49. Hmm – while we’re discussing American DNA, how did all those nuclear tests work out for you?…

  50. #50 Orac
    May 14, 2008

    Michael Medved:

    The stupid, it doesn’t just burn, it sears with the power of a thermonuclear bomb of dumb.

  51. #51 Ryan F Stello
    May 14, 2008

    Colugo (#43) posits,

    We can flay Medved all we want, but this isn’t going away. It’s only going to get bigger.

    True, but it’s Medved’s interpretations on such phenomenon that is being flayed and ridiculed.
    There are better ways of understanding the research than making half-assed patriotic/racist pronouncements.

    I can think of a few myself, but that’s really not the point.

  52. #52 Tushar
    May 14, 2008

    Somebody cherry-picks an aspect of the science of genetics, warps it into something that can only be charitably described as pseudo-science, and bandies it about as proof-positive of the superiority of one population over others.

    Now why am I thinking about a certain European country, circa 1934? No reason, I guess…

    Spin it anyway you want – it’s all science’s fault.

    I know because Mr Stein told me so.

  53. #53 ddr
    May 14, 2008

    My ancestors were exiled from Scotland for backing the wrong side in a bid for independence. So I guess I’m a genetic malcontent who can’t pick the right side of a conflict

  54. #54 Darwin's Dagger
    May 14, 2008

    I thought Medved was a film critic. That must be where he gets his ideas about Americans, in the movies they are all bold and clever. Most of the ones I know are just fat and lazy.

  55. #55 Chris P
    May 14, 2008

    There may well be something to his comments. New Scientist once published a graph of the number of patents authored by people in Scotland over the period when many of the best inventors left for the US. The graph plummeted initially but after a few decades began to rise again.

    So, presumably after a few generations the mix of smart, inventive people rose as random changes came back.

    My theory for the US is the reverse happened. All the smart and inventive people came over to the US and then over the generations have dumbed down to a normal distribution.

    Chris P

  56. #56 Colugo
    May 14, 2008

    “True, but it’s Medved’s interpretations on such phenomenon that is being flayed and ridiculed.”

    Right; journalists and pundits always distort and simplify any kind of human bio-behavioral research, whether the topic is hormones, neurology, or genetics – and whether are endorsing or critiquing it. However, the scientific researchers are themselves interpreting their data. And among their interpretations is that genetic variants in dopamine receptors helps explain cultural differences and historical events. Michael Medved didn’t make that up.

    Of course the Discovery Institute is a more tempting target of (well deserved) derision than is PNAS, UCLA, or other institutions engaged in developing and publishing this growing body of research and theory.

  57. #57 Justin
    May 14, 2008

    This one is easy to refute. The european immigrants to America came here usually because they could not inherit property-they were not firstborn sons. Hence, their arrival was spurred by environment (inheritance tradition), not genetics.

  58. #58 JessC
    May 14, 2008

    Is it just me, or has he been taking colloidal silver?

    http://images.michaelmedved.com/images/bio/bio6.jpg

  59. #59 beagledad
    May 14, 2008

    Forodrim @ #19:

    Little English Girl: “Mummy, I want to go to Australia.”
    Mum: “Hush, dear, that’s where they send the criminals.”

    Little Australian Girl: “Mummy, I want to go to England.”
    Mum: “Hush, dear, that’s where the criminals come from.”

  60. #60 "Q" the Enchanter
    May 14, 2008

    I thought the supposed problem with Darwinism was that it’s racist. I guess “microevolution” has the same problem.

  61. #61 Mena
    May 14, 2008

    I’m trying to figure out how this isn’t a form of eugenics. WTF?

  62. #62 jonathan
    May 14, 2008

    Economists have been making similar arguments, sometimes in contradictory ways. For example, you can read arguments that slave trading damaged the basic fabrics of African societies by removing skilled or intelligent people – and then you find the opposite argument about immigrants from Mexico coming here and being more productive because those immigrants, some economists argue, the more motivated workers. These ideas are crap and reflect a form of observer bias.

  63. #63 Snark7
    May 14, 2008

    People like medved are living arguments against their thesis.

  64. #64 Kermit
    May 14, 2008

    Bwahahaha! Brain scans already suggest that political conservatives are less flexible than self-identified liberals (is anyone surprised?).

    http://tiny.cc/rkPiE

    “Brain recordings taken using electroencephalogram (EEG) technology showed that liberals had twice as much activity in a deep region called the anterior cingulate cortex. This area of the brain is thought to act as a mental brake by helping the mind recognize “no-go” situations where it must refrain from the usual course of action.”

    In any event, it would be dangerous to extrapolate genetically linked personality traits from generations past. We Yankees are descended from risk-takers, true. Also, those who ran away from debts, criminal charges, and many who simply wanted the easy wealth from cities whose streets were paved with gold. And the religiously intolerant. And convicted criminals. And the second sons of farmers, with no inheritance expected.

    Personalities are complex expressions of many interacting genes, and cultural and familial environments.

  65. #65 SpotWeld
    May 14, 2008

    Did this guy write one of those “Politcally Incorrect Guides”. He reads just like one of them.
    That is to say, wrong.

  66. #66 Sastra
    May 14, 2008

    “Accelerated human evolution” indeed. Whatever legitimate questions regarding dopamine receptor variants, personality differences, and alleged inter-population differences there may be, I don’t see how anyone is going to see any effect on DNA based on selective pressures that are only a few hundred years old at most, and contaminated by many contingencies and nuances.

    Medved’s position here reminds me of the Creationist position that “macro-evolution” is too implausible to have happened, but after the Ark landed all general animal “kinds” began to split into millions of variant micro-species at a dizzying rate.

  67. #67 Josh
    May 14, 2008

    Allen wrote: And to think that John McCain accepted an invitation to speak to these Discovery Institute yahoos and no one seems to care.

    Indeed. I once thought that if I were ever going to vote for any Republitard it perhaps might maybe possibly could be McCain. I mean, he actually has the experience I would want in a Commander-in-Chief (i.e., knows what it sounds like when rounds are fired at you in anger) and has stood for some good things in the past or at least has nodded his head in the right direction (e.g., McCain-Feingold; Lieberman-McCain).

    And then he gave a talk at Liberty “University” or some similar “educational” institution.

    Done.

    The DI thing, well…I dunno…super done?

  68. #68 tony
    May 14, 2008

    I’m a Scot by birth, with 100% Irish ancestors.

    My grandparents moved to scotland as a result of the irish potato famine.

    Does that make them ‘risk takers’ or ‘avoiders’?

    My eldest brother moved to Canada when 22, and subsequently returned to Scotland with his wife after the birth of their son (and has ultimately been quite successful in his career). Are they ‘risk takers’ or ‘avoiders’?

    I have lived in five different countries, and worked in many more, since my mid 20s. I now live in the US.

    Does that make me a ‘risk taker’ or ‘avoider’?

    Sounds to me like an a priori answer looking for somewhat conformant research, and definitely. not. science!

    Tony

  69. #69 Dennis N
    May 14, 2008

    I always thought McCain was a decent guy, I think he’s just doing a lot of pandering these past few years.

  70. #70 Aaron Baker
    May 14, 2008

    Crikey! All you need to do now is link to something by David Klinghoffer, and you’ll have have some sort of idiot Trifecta.

  71. #71 tony
    May 14, 2008

    Re: McCain.

    John McCain is a politician.

    The only difference between a lawyer and a politician… a lawyer will stay bought!

    ;)

    Tony

  72. #72 J-Dog
    May 14, 2008

    Well, he’s got to do SOMETHING while he’s waiting to discover BigFoot. Really. It’s in his bio.

    Medved is actually PERFECT. A perfect example of the kind of idiotic moron attracted to the failed people, policies and positions of the “Discovery” Institute.

  73. #73 MikeM
    May 14, 2008

    You know, this really makes me mad, because my wife is an immigrant. I think hopping onto a boat and crossing from Vietnam to Hong Kong, then living in a refugee camp, then coming to America, then graduating from a university, required her to have about 50 times as much bravery as Medved has.

    I find his assertion very insulting. What a dick.

    I take this one kinda personally.

  74. #74 Paul W.
    May 14, 2008

    Is America made up of all the losers that couldn’t deal with adversity in their original countries, and took the cowardly approach of fleeing, instead of standing up and fighting through it?

    And Texas was largely settled by hillbillies whose poor social skills got them run out of Appalachia by other hillbillies.

    (I’m of largely Scottish->Appalachian->Texan stock myself–my family tree is a wreath.)

    Gee, this evolution stuff explains a lot, including our “outlaw country” and “psychobilly” music.

  75. #75 Colugo
    May 14, 2008

    Sastra: “I don’t see how anyone is going to see any effect on DNA based on selective pressures that are only a few hundred years old at most, and contaminated by many contingencies and nuances.”

    Very few in the blogosphere discerned the possible implications of the ‘accelerated evolution paper’ for human group differences in cognition and temperament, even though some of the authors – especially Harpending – were happy to point them out.

    Earlier there was Harpending and Cochran’s ‘smart Jews’ theory, relating current Ashkenazim high IQ to selection within the ghettos of Europe. Also the recent book Farewell to Alms by economist Gregory Clark, relating the rise of bourgeois values to genetic selective advantage in the last few hundred years.

    This dopamine-culture-history stuff is only one facet of a larger body of research on human population differences that combines population genetics, endocrinology and neurology, and social science.

  76. #76 Greg Peterson
    May 14, 2008

    The book “Survival of the Sickest” addresses the possibility that some higher incidence of certain illnesses in African-Americans (high blood pressure, diabetes) might be a genetic legacy from surviving the Middle Passage. The book is quite speculative and some of the attempts at humor are eye-rollingly stupid, but at least it’s not, you know…Medved stupid.

  77. #77 M. Robert Bond
    May 14, 2008

    Maybe our ancestors gave us the appalling “manifest destiny” gene, and so we need to voluntarily kill ourselves off while there’s still some vestige of compassion left in isolated pockets of the gene pool?

  78. #78 roddg
    May 14, 2008

    “Michael Medved says something dumb”

    Whoa, stop the presses!

  79. #79 Nightsky
    May 14, 2008

    Wow. Good to see we’re still #1 at someting, even if it’s “racist just-so stories that would be laughable if they weren’t so stupid”. America–Fuck Yeah!

    Also, how does this theory square with the Brown Menace who’re invading us to have “anchor babies” and live on the dole?
    Or with, arguably, the bravest immigrants of all–the proto-Native Americans who immigrated, 30K years ago, to a continent that still had frikkin MAMMOTHS, not to mention dire wolves and dire bears. Which they fought with bits of sharpened rock. Doesn’t their DNA count or something?

    Anyway, *I* am descended, in part, from fierce Viking warriors (who, by the way, are genetically indisposed to creating a welfare state–that’s why they’re still out there, raiding Northern Europe in their mighty longboats), so I’m sure Medved won’t mind if I go kick his ass. It’s in my genes.

  80. #80 OriGuy
    May 14, 2008

    We’re all very different people.
    We’re not Watusi.
    We’re not Spartans.
    We’re Americans.
    With a capital A, huh?
    You know what that means?
    Do you? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world.
    We are the wretched refuse.
    We’re the underdog.
    We’re mutts.
    – Here’s proof. His nose is cold.
    – So is his brain.
    But there’s no animal
    that’s more faithful, that’s more loyal,more loveable than the mutt.
    — Bill Murray, Stripes

  81. #81 SteveM
    May 14, 2008

    #71:You know, this really makes me mad, because my wife is an immigrant.

    You completely missed Medved’s point. He is saying that people like your wife are the “true Americans” and have some kind of special gene common to all the other immigrants that had to fight and claw their way here. The racism is when he examines the converse, that all those who were dragged here kicking and screaming (in slave ships) must therefore lack this special gene and so explains their “listlessness” and poverty. Couldn’t be due to oppression, no, it must be their genes, and it is the genes of the “true immigrants” that entitles them to their positions of superiority.

    So be angry at Medved for his racism, but not that it is directed at your wife (apparently).

    So, is this Medved’s real opinion or is he trying to use this as an argument to discredit “Darwinism”? “See, this is where Darwinism leads to racism” bullshit. See, by applying the rules of darwinian selection to human immigration, I can come up with a thoroughly hateful conclusion. Therefore Darwin was wrong, evil, and a racist and his evil theory must be rejected. Is this what he is doing?

  82. #82 Gadfly22
    May 14, 2008

    Gosh, this Herr Professor Doktor Medved makes it sound like the waves of immigrants to the ol’ U.S. of A. were all self-motivated entrepreneurial futurists with a keen eye for where to successfully put down roots and invest.

    But I can’t help but think a lot of those immigrants were given a kind of choice: either fly to the New World owing to internal pressures or stay in the home country, organize and fight.

    Doesn’t that make them flight-takers rather than risk-takers?

    And also, what about those South Murkins? Plenty of Euro-DNA infiltrated south of the border too, but they remain a lacklustre economic and underachieving crowd. Too many brown people down there dilute a chromosome or 2 in the stalwart Aryan helix?

  83. #83 Kristine
    May 14, 2008

    It’s always been my suspicion that the Discovery Institute creationists were screaming “Darwin caused the Holocaust!” with more envy than alarm.

  84. #84 Caveat
    May 14, 2008

    “…the new revelations about American DNA suggest that such ill-starred schemes may go against our very nature.”

    Where are these new revelations? Isn’t the US a melting pot, or supposed to be?

    Which ‘Americans’ is he babbling about? North Americans? Mezo-Americans? South Americans?

    Medved is almost as stupid as Pateuse Pantload – almost.

  85. #85 LightningRose
    May 14, 2008

    Oh, people, lay off poor Michael Medved. He’s clearly just genetically predisposed to saying stupid things.

  86. #86 Peter Ashby
    May 14, 2008

    OK Forodrin I’ll bite. Well since the Aussies are all descended from transported criminals or the press ganged soldiers and sailors then they must be wonderful since criminality has been shown to be due to highly risk taking activity. The meek don’t steal, they starve instead.

    I am comfortable saying the above since NZ was never a penal colony, our settlers were sober folk making investments in the future. Mind you we were historically lucky as colonisation missed the peak of both the Irish potato famine and the hights of the Highland Clearances.

  87. #87 MikeM
    May 14, 2008

    #79, I don’t know about that. Would Medved have gotten on to the same boat my wife did? Was my wife’s decision to get on that boat genetic?

    I’d say no to both of these questions.

    Medved’s dumb and racist. Sadly, this isn’t exactly news.

    Pretty consistent with everything we’ve heard him say so far, though.

  88. #88 Sastra
    May 14, 2008

    Years ago I read a book called something like Women’s Diaries of the Westward Movement. It was edited by sociologists who had collected and then poured through as many personal diaries and records from women pioneers of the 19the century they could gather. They were looking for commonalities, and comparing them to similar records made by men.

    I still remember one thing they pointed out. With perhaps one or two exceptions among dozens of personal accounts, the women traveled West because their husbands made the decision: they did not want to go. Unlike the male diaries, female diaries recounted (or at least mentioned) every child’s death along the arduous journey, from their own family or others. They knew what leaving the East meant: the odds that at least some of their children would die along the way was virtually guaranteed. But, given the culture, refusal was seldom a realistic option. If the husband wanted to go, you generally went.

    We get DNA from both our fathers AND our mothers. Wives and kids dragged along reluctantly by a head-of-household risk-taker (who could be motivated by all sorts of reasons having nothing to do with his genetic propensities) shouldn’t count the same way. I understand that this area has some scientific value, but Medved’s version sounds simplistic in the extreme.

  89. #89 BoxerShorts
    May 14, 2008

    I love the part about “new revelations about American DNA.”

    Mikey, Mikey, Mikey. Stupid crap that you just made up are not “new revelations.”

  90. #90 MikeM
    May 14, 2008

    Off-topic, but…

    There’s another thing going on in the news that I find reeks of (Chinese) nationalism… The Chinese are rejecting assistance from the Japanese, South Koreans and Australians because they can’t work out transportation issues:

    http://www.thetimes.co.za/News/Article.aspx?id=766356

    I just find this to be so disturbing. They’ve never heard of helicopters? Time is running out on 40,000 people, and they can’t figure out how to transport 100 people. I don’t get it. I’m not saying these 100 or so people would save 40,000 lives, but they MIGHT save some of them. I think they’re blowing it.

    They turned away the Japanese team at the airport. The Japanese are really good at earthquake rescue.

    Americans aren’t the only people who make stupid decisions. Unfortunately, I think this decision may be somewhat race-based, too.

  91. #91 Ryan F Stello
    May 14, 2008

    Colugo, as much as you seem pre-disposed to give Medved a free ride, even you have to admit that Whybrow and Gartner (if they are even right in their analysis) are describing the genetic landscape, as it were, 300 years ago.

    Medved is using it to argue that politics are working against the “immigrant genotype” in the present, whereas the data could just as well suggest that the politics in question arouse from such a genotype (e.g. a strong desire to make government work to support and protect it’s people better).

    He even stumbily tries to apply it to future political concerns.

    That’s the problem. It’s not that Whybrow and Gartner even presented and argued for the existance of the genotype. It’s that Medved takes it to mean something that seems very different.

    Do you understand?

  92. #92 negentropyeater
    May 14, 2008

    If Whybrow, Gartner and other analysts are right about the role of inherited traits and tendencies in shaping our national character then the insight carries crucial political implications.

    Of course, this just means absolutely nothing, but from this, without further elucidation of any of the hypotheses, any further form of reasoning, any questions raised or discussed, he just jumps to the conclusion that he always had in mind, the one which has completely transformed and destroyed all of his intellect, his preferred ideology ;

    Their desire to impose a European-style welfare state and a command-and-control economy not only contradicts our proudest political and economic traditions, but the new revelations about American DNA suggest that such ill-starred schemes may go against our very nature.

  93. #93 SLC
    May 14, 2008

    I’m sure that fucktard Medved will be horrified but his views are the same as Adolf Hitlers. Hitler also thought that people who emigrated to America were superior to those left behind because of their willingness to take the risks of what was a perilous journey in the 17th and 18th centuries. This was stated in a book he wrote which was planned as a sequel to Mein Kempf but was never published. Who would have thought it, asshole Medved a Hitler clone. Of course, after taking power, Hitler changed his mind and became convinced that actually the Jews controlled the US, making it inferior.

  94. #94 Mark B
    May 14, 2008

    I have a considerable amount of American Indian genetic makeup (my grandmother grew up in a reservation in Louisiana). I suppose that makes me genetically predisposed to have my land stolen and get infected with unfamiliar diseases from invading Europeans.

  95. #95 Dianne
    May 14, 2008

    A fair number of my ancestors ended up in the US because they were kicked out of the British Isles for chronic indebtedness or other criminal activities. They didn’t want to go just thought that waiting to land sounded better than jumping out of the ship they’d been forced on to mid-ocean. At least one other set left Spain one step ahead of the Inquisition: again, not necessarily people who wanted to leave, just thought it better than getting burned. Others got kidnapped from Africa. Still others wandered across the Bering strait, though whether that argues a risk taking tendency or poor sense of direction, I don’t know. And even the one who came in the late 19th century was just dodging the draft, not setting out on a grand adventure. And I’m from a very, very old American family…So who are these “adventurers” that Medved thinks make up the US?

  96. #96 Colugo
    May 14, 2008

    Ryan F Stello:

    Due to his complete lack of qualifications to comment on scientific findings, Medved has dumbed-down and distorted Whybrow and Gartner, who have popularized research and theory on population frequencies of the DR alleles and their causes, which itself was prone to dumb interpretations by some its own authors (‘dispersal morph’ vs ‘dads and cads’).

    Medved’s sad sack of shit of an opinion piece is just a symptom. I advise observers to look to the source.

  97. #97 Colugo
    May 14, 2008

    In fact, most of the comments on this thread that address and debunk Medved’s claims focus on the alleged selective significance of migration – and these are not at all original to Medved but are part of the larger decade-old ‘DR, novelty-seeking, and group differences’ line of research as filtered through through Gartner and Whybrow.

  98. #98 WRMartin
    May 14, 2008

    @ DutchDelight #5: Harumph!
    Yeah, what about America (South Carolina in particular) being a colony for petty criminals? Didn’t England also use Australia as an off-shore jail? With apologies all around, that doesn’t quite sound like the cream of the crop.

    P.S. My granddaddy’s family was from S.C. Heh! Anyone want to buy a horse – slightly used by an old lady who only rode it to church on Sunday?
    ;)

  99. #99 Dennis N
    May 14, 2008

    Remember, this is a discovery because they’ve redefined the word “Discovery”. Discovery now means “regurgitating old ideas with fancier pseudoscience”.

    Wouldn’t memes have a lot lot more to do with their choices than DNA? We’re not migrating birds, we’re people. Our higher brains took over a long time ago; but maybe not in the people Medved hangs with.

  100. #100 qedpro
    May 14, 2008

    yup,
    that’s the kind of ignorance that takes your breath away.

  101. #101 Kelly
    May 14, 2008

    Mike M, I’m not sure that the Chinese situation is racial as much as it is nationalism. The Japanese and Chinese do *not* get along and the Chinese are still agrieved of the wrongs that Japan did during WW II. I don’t know what their relations are with Korea.
    Refusing Australian help seems more nationalistic pride as well. Chinese pride is already taking a beating with the various political protests surrounding the olympic flame, and then problems with its exports.

  102. #102 Ryan F Stello
    May 14, 2008

    Colugo (#95) said,

    Medved’s sad sack of shit of an opinion piece is just a symptom. I advise observers to look to the source.

    On that, I can agree, so I ordered a copy of “American Mania”.

    From what I read, Whybrow argues for the trait in 1st generation immigrants, but I’m still suspect about how he applies the type in latter generations, whether he diverges into some nightmare of social-darwinism, etc.

    P.S. Thanks for coming out with your opinion of Medved’s tactics, I had my worries.

  103. #103 blf
    May 14, 2008

    Mark@92 already made the point, but I’ll chime in as well (perhaps a bit more incoherently than usual since I find these slimy remarks very upsetting besides mind-bogglingly stupid): What about the Amerindians? They’ve lived on both continents for vastly longer than any of the more recent arrivals, arrived by travelling mostly on foot, and had a rather highly-developed set of cultures before being invaded and ethnically cleansed by guns, germs, and steel (to borrow the title of Diamond’s excellence book) deployed by, by and large, a rather wacky assortment of invaders–who are, very loosely speaking, the origins of goofballs like Medved.

  104. #104 kamenin
    May 14, 2008

    Pseudosciene — it leads to killing people.

  105. #105 jimmiraybob
    May 14, 2008

    I mean, he actually has the experience I would want in a Commander-in-Chief (i.e., knows what it sounds like when rounds are fired at you in anger)…

    This is the first time I’ve seen such advocacy for the otherwise dispossessed and disenfranchised crank-dealer/pimp constituency.

  106. #106 Svetogorsk
    May 14, 2008

    Talking of ignorance that takes your breath away, take a look at this, from a very strange individual named David Lindsay.

    Here’s a sample:

    Yet the cult of Dawkins is the most fanatical in Britain today. Just try pointing out that a gene can no more be selfish than it can be envious, or empathetic, or altruistic. Or that memes are a ridiculous concept, as evidenced by (to use only the example of religion) the fact that people regularly change religions, or become religious having been atheistic and secular, or become atheistic and secular having been religious. The Dawkinsolaters believe, as Dawkins himself shows signs of believing, that whatever he says is by definition science, so that anyone who questions or denies it is by definition anti-scientific.

    But then, try pointing out that the theory of the survival of the fittest is tautologous, since the only way to spot the fittest is that they are the ones that survive. Or that the hugely popular drawings of an ape slowly moving upright until it becomes a man are dishonest on every conceivable level. Or that nothing at all is proved by the fact that one species inhabited a place later than another to which it was, in whatever way, relatively similar, there being no ground whatever for supposing on this basis that the later species was descended from the earlier one.

    And never, ever ask about irreducible complexity. Or, since all cells come from cells, about where the first cell came from, and why this can never be repeated. Or why, for example, Dawkins and the late Stephen Jay Gould agreed with each other about practically nothing in any specific way, except their shared disagreement with Darwin about practically everything specific. It is forbidden to ask these questions at all.

    The fact that Lindsay claims to be running for political office would be mildly alarming if he stood the faintest chance of being elected. Fortunately, there’s not much call for dogmatic Catholic fundamentalists in Britain, and his chances are as close to zero as to be statistically irrelevant.

    Anyway, do feel free to rip him to shreds. He probably won’t allow critical comments on his blog, but there’s an uncensored Lindsay discussion going on here.

  107. #107 qedpro
    May 14, 2008

    The only difference between a lawyer and a politician… a lawyer will stay bought!

    Lawyers – the larval form of politicians.

  108. #108 qedpro
    May 14, 2008

    Remember, this is a discovery because they’ve redefined the word “Discovery”. Discovery now means “regurgitating old ideas with fancier pseudoscience”.

    no it means pulling shit out of your ass and selling it as caviar.

  109. #109 Kay
    May 14, 2008

    Odd that Americans are evolving…er…I mean…changing…I mean…moving as a group in a particular direction…I mean…genetically…our genes are making us…from our ancesters we are changing…I mean…shit….what do I mean?

    PS. MY ancestors were slavic immigrants. We definitely came here because we were adventure seekers (*wink). Medved’s ancestors came here because they were cowards. They were running from bigots. I’d have expected in breeding from his ancestors would have produced a tail between their legs.

  110. #110 jre
    May 14, 2008

    No one should dismiss Medved’s potential as a source of innocent merriment without reading Sadly No’s classic post.

  111. #111 Arnaud
    May 14, 2008

    But… surely that’s why the French, who historically don’t emigrate much, are so great!
    Wait, even for me that doesn’t make sense…

  112. #112 Dennis N
    May 14, 2008

    Svetogorsk,

    I couldn’t get past Lindsay mentioning CS Lewis. That guy was a deluded hack. Even Christians should be ashamed of his theology work. Some of the Narnia work was ok, but that’s for another day.

  113. #113 thalarctos
    May 14, 2008

    I always thought that African-Americans whose ancestors survived the hell of the Middle Passage and the torture of slavery and racism would be all the tougher for it. That’s a legacy–the people who survived and thrived must have had some kind of fortitude.

    Having worked in a refugee clinic in a major urban medical center, I’d tend to agree with you, Linda, except I think what you describe is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition.

    You’d have to have some kind of fortitude to make it, but there were also a lot of people with fortitude who didn’t make it all the way, and I don’t want to cast any aspersions on them for not being able to do so. I think fortitude + luck is the combination for the ones who made it.

    I’d be proud to be their decendant.

    Yup, I would, too.

    Medved is an ass.

    Yup, again. His ass-itude certainly is the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it?

  114. #114 JeffreyD
    May 14, 2008

    WRMartin, re #96, minor nitpick/correction, Georgia was the penal colony, not SC.

    This whole thing is so not new. I was taught the same idea in the 1950’s in school, America is special because only the tough and brave came her to settle. They just did not bother to dress it up with pseudoscience then.

    For the record, Mother’s family transported to America as indentured servants. Father’s side left Ireland during the Famine.

    Ciao – Jeffrey

  115. #115 Spaulding
    May 14, 2008

    I wonder if those like Medved who advocate genetic justifications for social and political policy will maintain their convictions in the face of actual genetic data?

    You know, the data that suggests that Africa’s got the most genetically diverse human population and longest duration of large population bases of any continent. The implication of this is that one could reasonably expect populations of direct African descent to be the most optimized via selection for a variety of generally beneficial traits, even if there are exceptions for regionally specific optimizations like vitamin D synthesis. In other words, if you’re one of those people that expects to find a “master race,” the current evidence only points to Africa. Oops!

  116. #116 Julian
    May 14, 2008

    This is just mind-bottlingly idiotic.

    I’m usually one of the first to bust out the scholarship to discredit an asinine argument based on false history and science, but considering how pitiful this one happens to be, I’ll just keep it fair and use Will Farrel-inspired insults.

  117. #117 Pen
    May 14, 2008

    The sanest Americans I know have moved to Europe. So now what? Yeah, yeah, I know, I live in Europe so biased sample and all… but why should I try to be better than Medhead.

  118. #118 That Guy
    May 14, 2008

    My family immigrated here in the late 1800s for the hot women!

  119. #119 Ryan F Stello
    May 14, 2008

    Spaulding (#113) said,

    I wonder if those like Medved who advocate genetic justifications for social and political policy will maintain their convictions in the face of actual genetic data?

    Exactly.

    At it’s simplest level, the argument for genetic determinism fails because of a limited sample or overly selective criteria, or just blind, pig-headed determination (like what Medved tries to celebrate).

  120. #120 Jeff
    May 14, 2008

    Excuse me, but what about American – Native American genetics? I suppose Medved would discount it…WAY too much stay – at – home genes. And just to make a point, in my less than august opinion, we screwed over the Native Americans much more thoroughly and savagely than the African slaves (if you want to get in a “mine is worse than yours” contest.

  121. #121 sailor
    May 14, 2008

    “Wouldn’t the implication be that African-Americans should be slow runners?” Curt Cameron

    Good one!

    “Weirdly enough Chris Rock has a strange version of this. Something about the descendants of slaves being selected for physical prowess or something. I think he called them “super slaves”.

    One thing is sure, the conditions on the slave ships were truly horrible and the death rate high, so there certainly could have been some selection of the fittest there; Those who made it were tough.

  122. #122 Jonathon
    May 14, 2008

    What a bunch of codswollop! Didn’t this sort of social Darwinism fall out of favor decades ago? Note to Medved: Americans are the same species as everyone else on the planet. We’re no better nor worse than anyone else.

  123. #123 Chironex
    May 14, 2008

    Oh, MAN! I mean, I knew there where really stupid people out there. But this is just a whole new league of stupid. What a blatant display of assholery.

  124. #124 blf
    May 14, 2008

    The sanest Americans I know have moved to Europe.

    Thank you!

    Well, yeah, Ok, so we don’t actually know each other, but I’ll barge into your sample anyways.

    (Tries hard to not go off on a rant about being called an american rather than a USAian….)

  125. #125 Joe Shelby
    May 14, 2008

    uh, lets work backwards – we already have a command and control economy. the “invisible hand” hasn’t been invisible for 3 decades now.

    how does his “risk-taking” genes theory adapt to the fact that many of our ancestors were not just indentured servents, but also those seeking an alternative to debtors’ prisons?

    or the victims of the highland clearances and the irish potato famine? at a certain point, people left not because they were go-getters, but because it was move or die, simple as that.

  126. #126 Arnaud
    May 14, 2008

    just a question by the way: wouldn’t a criteria for selection applied to only one generation (here, the one that decided to move across the ocean) be invalid? I always thought that to create a significant and durable change you need to have sustained environmental pressure.

  127. #127 gwangung
    May 14, 2008

    My theory for the US is the reverse happened. All the smart and inventive people came over to the US and then over the generations have dumbed down to a normal distribution.

    A hypothesis! Let’s test it…

    Hey, waddya know…research into Asian Americans show that with each passing generation, test scores regress back to the median!

  128. #128 MikeM
    May 14, 2008

    Kelly, #92.

    Yes, I’m aware of the still-going conflict between the Chinese and the Japanese. I think if there was ever an opportunity for both sides of an argument to be wrong, this is is.

    Damned right the Japanese haven’t done enough to apologize for WWII. Absolutely.

    Between the revolution, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, responses to natural disasters… I don’t think the Chinese government has apologized enough either.

    It’s good that the Japanese government responsible for WWII is dead and buried (and hopefully not forgotten), but Mao’s government lives on. That part saddens me. Their government will never admit that their actions have resulted in tens of millions of dead, tortured, impoverished and imprisoned people.

    Change of topic: I see an argument here forming that African-Americans were treated worse than Native Americans, and I’d like to suggest this argument should stop. They were both treated badly, as were Chinese immigrants, Japanese immigrants, Japanese-American citizens, Mexican immigrants, and so on. In fact, my opinion is that this country was only sort-of founded in 1776. To me, we weren’t really a country until the 1960s, with the Civil Rights movement.

    Any country that treats citizens as second-class people based solely on racist and sexist grounds isn’t really a country.

    Medved’s doing his part here to ensure we keep treating certain people as though they were inferior. Sick bastard.

  129. #129 Spaulding
    May 14, 2008

    Well, at least Medved’s respect for immigrants is something I agree with and think deserves frequent repetition. In America at least, immigrants are some of the hardest working folks you’ll meet; and they understand the value of money, education, and sacrifice enough that a prosperous second generation is common. It’s the “American Dream”, and we ought to celebrate it rather than demonize immigration!

  130. #130 Ichthyic
    May 14, 2008

    after reading the selected quotes, I was sure that Medved was using this as a ludicrous example and play this up as something like:

    “See? this is why ‘darwinism’ fails: It simply is a bunch of ludicrous storytelling!”

    but, no, he seems to have completely lost his fucking mind.

    …completing the process he appears to have been working so hard at for the last decade.

    sometimes, the shit these people say still manages to catch me by surprise, even after all the years of watching them say really, really, stupid shit.

    this one has to go in my top-ten stupidest things ever said by someone associated with the Disinformation Institute.

    …and that’s including the things said by Casey Luskin.

  131. #131 Mark B
    May 14, 2008

    It amazes me how a stupid and hateful man like Medved has any kind of a job at all. If there were any justice, he’d make his living picking garbage out of dumpsters. There are tons of people better and smarter than him that do exactly that.

  132. #132 Dianne
    May 14, 2008

    Another way to look at who immigrants to the US (at least recent immigrants, say the last 3-400 years) are is that they’re the cowards who ran away from problems rather than trying to fix them. No wonder the US never attacks a country unless it believes it to be totally helpless with that genetic background (/snark.)

  133. #133 AstroAnde
    May 14, 2008

    “Risk-taking” isn’t exactly how’d I’d describe my Puritan ancestors. “Witch-burning” is I think more apt.

  134. #134 WRMartin
    May 14, 2008

    @JeffreyD, #112 – thanks for the correction. I should stick to work instead of commenting online during the day. Just reduced: One horse, slightly used…

  135. #135 Ichthyic
    May 14, 2008

    Odd that Americans are evolving…er…I mean…changing…I mean…moving as a group in a particular direction…I mean…genetically…our genes are making us…from our ancesters we are changing…I mean…shit….what do I mean?

    you mean:

    “His majesty shines out like a shaft of gold when all around is dark.”

  136. #136 Etha Williams
    May 14, 2008

    While the phrase “American DNA” does take the obviousness of Medved’s stupidity to a whole new level (which is really saying something), the content shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. In Medved’s “Six Inconvenient Truths [sic] About the US and Slavery,” the sixth “truth” was:

    6. THERE IS NO REASON TO BELIEVE THAT TODAY’S AFRICAN-AMERICANS WOULD BE BETTER OFF IF THEIR ANCESTORS HAD REMAINED BEHIND IN AFRICA.

    (ALL CAPS his.)

  137. #137 Ichthyic
    May 14, 2008

    “Risk-taking” isn’t exactly how’d I’d describe my Puritan ancestors. “Witch-burning” is I think more apt.

    Hey now, witches are dangerous!

    Turned me into a newt!

  138. #138 Dianne
    May 14, 2008

    Re the “native” Americans: They* aren’t native: H. sapiens did not evolve on the Americas. They’re immigrants just like everyone else. And immigrants who came to the Americas via a temporary and probably icy land bridge or primitive canoe or other risky routes. In short, either extreme risk takers or people with a very poor sense of direction.

    *Arguably, I could say “we”, but the majority of my genetic background and virtually all my cultural background are European so I’m third personing.

  139. #139 craig
    May 14, 2008

    Michael Medved and his brother wrote a book of movie reviews when then were teenagers.

    His wealthy parents had it vanity published for them, and off they went… Medved continued the movie review thing, and broadened it out into social commentary.

    That’s all you really need to know about the guy. He’s his generation’s Jonah Goldberg.

  140. #140 negentropyeater
    May 14, 2008

    Just thinking of the 300 million Americans and imagining the complexity and diversity of the reasons that caused their ancestors to come to the USA, and deducing from that highly complex pattern of causal relationships a generic genetic resistance to social welfare programmes…

    Now let me remember, when was the last time that some fuckwits came up with pseudo scientific theories regarding the particular genetics of their inhabitants to derive social policies ?

    How can this kind of nation wrecker even keep his job ? If I were the owner of Townhall.com or whoever else this moron spreads his venomous columns, I’d just fire him.

  141. #141 qedpro
    May 14, 2008

    hurray for canadian DNA.
    my DNA totally kicks your yankee DNA’s ass.
    no wait….

    my DNA totally kicks your yankee DNA’s helix.

    yeah that’s it.

  142. #142 Petzl
    May 14, 2008

    My mind was reeling as i was connecting the dots of Medved’s
    amazingly perverted thesis: all immigrants who _do_ choose
    to come to the New World have this “superior” “American” DNA.
    Uh, except those guys who _didnt_ choose, well, sorry, they
    probably have and-its-scientists-saying-this-not-me-Michael-
    Medved, inferior DNA. poor slaves, with their inferior
    DNA. if, after the fact, they thrive after becoming freed,
    perhaps they can apply for a DNA dispensation attesting to
    their evidently strong DNA.

    Medved, we love you. You never disappoint: from your
    inferior movie reviews, ridiculous right-wing political
    views, and deeply flawed science-related articles.

    Don’t ever change.

  143. #143 Ryan Cunningham
    May 14, 2008

    Discovery Institute… advocating Social Darwinism… while sponsoring a movie… condemning Social Darwinism…

    YOUR HEAD A SPLODE!

  144. #144 Nova
    May 14, 2008

    MikeM:

    Americans aren’t the only people who make stupid decisions. Unfortunately, I think this decision may be somewhat race-based, too.

    I can’t comment on this other than to say it definitely wasn’t racially motivated. Communism, weak with dogma like all other religions, has however always striven to eliminate racism and sexism as nasty elements of capitalism, in the early Soviet Union women were completely equal to women unlike unlike any other country.

    Even China’s very liberal communism would carry on this focus and as such they perfectly balance their parliament to give all races proportional representation.

    PZ typed:

    That the old blue-bloods of this country are less fit than, say, the Nisei? And if the descendants of African slaves are not successful go-getters because their arrival was coerced, what about the immigrants who were fleeing religious persecution, or all the Americans who are descended from indentured servants? Are there no successful entrepreneurs in Europe or Asia or Africa? Should we give extra bonus points to the descendants of nomadic tribes of warriors, like the Germans?

    PZ makes an interesting point here, if Michael Medved’s views were taken seriously, then we would end up with a sort of crazy eugenics’s tally chart of nations adding up genetic points supposedly leading to certain policies or superority, inferiority, taking his insane logic further would be like:

    Germany, nomadic warriors – add a point! Britain, Vikings and Romans were pioneers who settled and spread pioneering DNA – add a point! Australia, penal colony, your original population were criminals, minus a point!

    it would be madness.

  145. #145 craig
    May 14, 2008

    So Medved thinks Mexicans coming into the U.S. are superior to U.S. citizens.

    Cool headline.

  146. #146 Darwin Youth
    May 14, 2008

    “We are our DNA, and we dance to its tune.”

    As someone said. You are all afraid to face the implicatons of what you are promoting.

  147. #147 J
    May 14, 2008

    A good way to dispose of his absurd little racist theory is simply to question its explanatory power. What’s it supposed to explain? America’s economic superiority? We already had dozens of plausible explanations. There’s no theoretical need to invoke genetic superiority.

  148. #148 JD
    May 14, 2008

    “Michael Medved Says Something Dumb”

    In other news, the sun rose in the East today, expected to set in the West later on.

  149. #149 Chris
    May 14, 2008

    Hmmmmm, since most immigrants to this country came seeking opportunity they couldn’t find at home, doesn’t this suggest that our ancestors were all inherently less fit than people that COULD make it in their home countries? Aren’t we all descended from a bunch of hacks that just couldn’t cut it in their own culture?

    The above is just more proof that pseudoscientific babble without any basis in reality can be used to reach any conclusion or support any thesis. The important thing is to keep the argument entirely semantic without looking at any actual evidence. Why, those almost sound like the requirments for taking ID seriously…

  150. #150 Ichthyic
    May 14, 2008

    “We are our DNA, and we dance to its tune.”
    As someone said. You are all afraid to face the implicatons of what you are promoting.

    note that nobody said what you quoted in this thread, nor did even Medved say that.

    something tells me that if I ask you to clarify, you will say something just as stupid as Medved did, but what the hell.

    *sigh*

    here goes:

    What do you mean by that?

  151. #151 Etha Williams
    May 14, 2008

    @#148 Ichthyic —

    “We are our DNA, and we dance to its tune.”
    As someone said. You are all afraid to face the implicatons of what you are promoting.

    What do you mean by that?

    After some convoluted google-fu trying to figure out what “someone” said this, I found the origin of at least the second part of his statement:

    DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music. (Dawkins, River Out of Eden)

    The first part of his statement — “we are our DNA” — is, as far as I can tell, something he made up entirely.

  152. #152 khan
    May 14, 2008

    On my mother’s side: large amounts of ancestors/relatives came from Germany/Poland (they didn’t move but the border did) around 1890 – 1900; tired of war and poverty.

    Father’s side: About 200 years of mainly British Isles folks; family rumor is that some were just ahead of the local constabulary. One great-grandmother was pretty much sold by her folks (in Scotland) to be a nanny/housekeeper at age 16.
    ————————————–
    And one more point: did the mixed-race children of USA military in Vietnam, Philippines, et al, inherit the superior American DNA?

  153. #153 Sven DiMilo
    May 14, 2008

    Re the “native” Americans: They aren’t native

    I think after a couple thousand generations we can let ‘em slide.

  154. #154 Ichthyic
    May 14, 2008

    “we are our DNA” — is, as far as I can tell, something he made up entirely.

    actually, I was more thinking of it explaining the meaning of:

    You are all afraid to face the implicatons of what you are promoting.

    My “creodar” went off when I read that (well, that combined with the handle: “darwin youth”. It could be wrong, but it hasn’t been in many years.

    I’m guessing the rest of its explanation would be more relying on AIG for support.

    Frankly, I now regret asking because if it decides to respond, it will only be with something so endlessly refuted that it would be tedious to do so again.

  155. #155 Jams
    May 14, 2008

    “I think after a couple thousand generations we can let ‘em slide.” – Sven DiMilo

    – You’re native if you were born in a place.
    – You’re an aboriginal if you’re a descendant of the first humans to live in a place.

    The distinction helps bypass a lot of, you know, idears.

  156. #156 Calilasseia
    May 14, 2008

    So, the same Michael Medved best known here in the UK for introducing us to bad 50s sci-fi movies via a Channel 4 series in the 1980s now has a delusion that he’s a serious scientific commentator?

    Perhaps he got that idea from the bad movies that he was presenting. Along with his attachment to the errant nonsense of the DI on the nature of living organisms. After all, Buranga The Tree Monster, Teenagers From Outer Space and the Godzilla movies (of which his favourite was, apparently, Godzilla Versus The Smog Monster) all feature, if memory serves, creatures that were “designed”. Perhaps Medved decided to mainline some weapons-grade hallucinogens one day whilst watching some of these and decided that they were documentaries.

  157. #157 Arnosium Upinarum
    May 14, 2008

    craig, #137: Good that you point that out. This guy is nothing but a lousy movie critic. I remember first encountering him doing a review of a film on some morning program years ago. I only remember it because his whining, full-of-himself delivery was so annoying that I shut it off.

    I don’t think he can have “expanded” from there into anything else, let alone social commentary. When I read anything he’s written, I can hear his obnoxious self-important voice and even see (gulp) his twinkle-eyed smiling smirk designed to signal victims (er, viewers) that he’s got the panache to know-it-all (Which says something like, “Oh, trust me, trust me, I’m the greatest thing to come along since Wayne Newton”)…and it makes me want to vomit.

    Any opinions offered up by this imbecile remain as self-serving, unobjective and ignorant as his movie reviews were.

  158. #158 Ryan F Stello
    May 14, 2008

    Etha Williams (#149) said,

    The first part of his statement — “we are our DNA” — is, as far as I can tell, something he made up entirely.

    The only reference I found was in some Acupuncturists newsletter: http://www.ashlandacu.com/readingroom/newsletters/WinterImmuneNewsletter2007.pdf

    Right before a reference to that idiotic movie, ‘What the Bleep Do We Know?’.

  159. #159 ShemAndShaun
    May 14, 2008

    At last we have the explanation for the obesity problem in the USA. It must be all that good ol’ American DNA.

  160. #160 amphiox
    May 14, 2008

    Re: China and Japan

    This nationalism thing is really getting tiresome. Are three world wars not enough (I’m counting the Napoleonic Wars as WW0)?

    I remember after the big Indian Ocean tsunami, India was reluctant to accept foreign aid, because they wanted to demonstrate that they weren’t a third world country anymore and could handle it on their own. I think the Chinese are partly thinking along these lines, too.

    Makes you wonder, if the Yellowstone supervolcano goes kablooey tomorrow, and Syria or Iran offered aid, would the US government accept it?

  161. #161 MikeM
    May 14, 2008

    I don’t know, “Native American” just sounds so much more graceful than “The people who got here before the Europeans came along and f-ed it up,” even if the second description is more accurate.

    In spite of this, I’ll continue to call them Native Americans. It doesn’t seem like a lot of tribes object to the term.

    And my original point was to please not get into a game of, “This group got worse treatment than that group.” The Trail of Tears was certainly worse than the Internment, but it’s not exactly like the Internment wasn’t bad enough.

    I talk to my kids about how things were in some parts of the country back in the 1960s, in my lifetime, with white-only bathrooms, dining areas, schools… They just can’t fathom what it must have been like. My neighborhood is pretty integrated; I think that’s the way it should be.

    When my parents bought their house in about 1964, it had a whites-only CC&R. From what I understand, some real-estate agents STILL won’t show some houses to certain “groups” of people. If I ever run across an agent like that, I’ll flip.

  162. #162 Alcari
    May 14, 2008

    Let’s ask our good friend Morbo, what he has to say.

    http://i32.tinypic.com/1zqyijq.jpg

    Thank you Morbo. Goodnight.

  163. #163 Fernando Magyar
    May 14, 2008

    Tony re #66,

    I have lived in five different countries, and worked in many more, since my mid 20s. I now live in the US.

    Does that make me a ‘risk taker’ or ‘avoider’?

    Neither, it makes you a nomad, I should know because I am one too ;-)

  164. #164 Graculus
    May 14, 2008

    #21 Wouldn’t the implication be that African-Americans should be slow runners?

    OK, I woke the cat up laughing at that one, it’s so close to my “second slowest antelope” explaination of selection.

  165. #165 Jaycubed
    May 14, 2008

    Michael Medved has always impressed me with the high quality of his stupidity.

    He can put more stupid into fewer words than just about anyone not actually spouting gibberish.

    He doesn’t disappoint here. He continues to show his stupidity is a growth industry.

  166. #166 Christopher Waldrop
    May 14, 2008

    After reading this I did some looking around and found a frightening amount of support for Medved. I hate to sound cynical, but I’m afraid that Medved outing himself as a racist isn’t news to his supporters either. It’s certainly not alienating his Discovery Institute brethren. I guess being as stupid as Michael Medved means never having to say you’re sorry.

  167. #167 Christianjb
    May 14, 2008

    I always wondered why you white Americans are so genetically superior, and now I know.

    BTW, doesn’t this analysis also work for Hispanic immigrants and shouldn’t illegal immigrants be by rights the most genetically fit risk takers in the country?

    Genetics. It’s so confusing.

  168. #168 Ichthyic
    May 14, 2008

    It’s certainly not alienating his Discovery Institute brethren.

    upthread, I thought I saw that someone pointed out the hypocrisy of the DI pushing for a film that supposedly castigates social darwinism (Expelled), while supporting one of its own members pushing social darwinism himself.

    there’s gotta be another PZ – worthy post in that.

  169. #169 ungtss
    May 14, 2008

    So much ignorance on this blog, as always.

    You call him “racist,” when in fact the thesis he’s citing differentiates not along racial lines, but along the lines of the selection mechanism that brings people to the US. According to this thesis, the blacks who were brought here on slave ships (which he describes as ‘horrible’) fall into the same category as the “stay-at-home” Europeans … who happen to be white.

    Did you grasp that? Blacks and whites in the same category, based on a race-neutral selection mechanism?

    He further clarifies this distinction by distinguishing between the blacks who came to the US against their will and the blacks who came to the US out of a sense of adventure.

    Get that? Blacks in both the “adventurous” and “non-adventurous” camps, based on the selection mechanism that brings them to the US? Again, a race-neutral selection mechanism?

    The distinction cuts across racial lines — it’s based on the selection mechanism of an “adventurous spirit.” I have no doubt he’d also distinguish between “frontier” folk (of all races) who moved West, and stay-at-home Northeasterners. In sum, it’s just plain stupid to accuse him of racism. He’s distinguishing based on a selection mechanism that cuts across racial lines.

    You also credit him for this “dumb” idea — but actually he’s just summarizing books written by two psychiatry profs at major schools. Whether or not there’s any validity to their ideas is an open question, but to credit (or blame)him for these ideas is just stupid. He cites them for the idea, and never claims that its true. He says things like “if this is true, it would explain” …

    If you were willing to put effort into thinking intelligently, you might key into the real critiques of this idea — one, the empirical facts underlying the argument, and two, the possibility that culture and environment also play a role in the “hypomanic” state of American activity.

    But don’t let reality get in your way — go ahead and misrepresent the thesis as racist. He’s with the DI, after all. Must be racist.

  170. #170 Ichthyic
    May 14, 2008

    So much ignorance on this blog, as always.

    no need to toot your own horn, ungtss

  171. #171 Pam Spaulding
    May 14, 2008

    Jeebus H. Christ. And I thought Bush’s comments that gave up golf in solidarity out of respect for U.S. soldiers killed in the war was the winner of the dumbassery remark of the year. Boy was I wrong.

  172. #172 Ryan F Stello
    May 14, 2008

    He’s with the DI, after all. Must be racist.

    Well, yeah.

  173. #173 Jams
    May 14, 2008

    If risk-takers chose capitalism, what’s the big fear of welfare states? Apparently, they’re less risky.

  174. #174 Sioux Laris
    May 14, 2008

    MM is paid to be a stupid, servile stooge willing to promote a certain type of propaganda. hence the otherwise inexplicable fact that he is well-paid for such poorly-wrtten, unoriginal idiocy.

    What I wonder about, really, is whether there is a genetic basis for “stoogery” of this sort. People who play this role seem to have many other largely genetically-based qualities in common, and being predisposed to playing the yes-man role would lead to higher selection rates, especially once more complex human hierarchies had evolved.
    Can this sort of thing really be entirely socialized behavior?

  175. #175 Etha Williams
    May 14, 2008

    @#167 ungtss —

    You also credit him for this “dumb” idea — but actually he’s just summarizing books written by two psychiatry profs at major schools.

    If you read the comments upthread (mostly particularly #89 and #94, you will see that we recognize that this is not Medved’s original idea (has Medved ever even had an original idea? questionable). It’s Medved spouting off a misinterpretation of someone else’s (Whybrow and Gartner’s) popularized interpretation of scientific data. And even if this is an honest misinterpretation, it’s hard to say that Medved is merely “summarizing” given the rather biased title of the article (“Respecting – And Recognizing – American D.N.A.”).

  176. #176 John
    May 14, 2008

    beagledad wrote:
    “Many of the original European settlers in the Americas were religious cranks who had to come here because people in their countries of origin found them insufferable. (See, e.g., “the Pilgrims” who settled in Massachusetts.)”

    IIRC, the Pilgrims were Congregationalists who wanted to be left alone by the government. Congos (now part of the Rev. Wright’s UCC) are liberals, not evangelicals.

  177. #177 Laser Potato
    May 14, 2008

    Get that plank outta yer eye, ungtss, and then we’ll talk. (continues listening to Air Man ga Taosenai)

  178. #178 Ken
    May 14, 2008

    Michael Medved says something dumb

    In other news, water is wet…

  179. #179 Laser Potato
    May 14, 2008

    …Super Mario Bros. 2 still hard.
    No, no no! Not Doki Doki Panic! The OTHER Super Mario Bros. 2!

  180. #180 Arnosium Upinarum
    May 14, 2008

    @167: “You also credit him for this “dumb” idea — but actually he’s just summarizing books written by two psychiatry profs at major schools. Whether or not there’s any validity to their ideas is an open question, but to credit (or blame)him for these ideas is just stupid. He cites them for the idea, and never claims that its true. He says things like “if this is true, it would explain” …”

    Is he? What a marvelous equivocation you have there! So it’s NOT racist when Medved SELECTIVELY grabs from – not just one, but TWO, yet ONLY these two, mind you – quirky books by “psychiatry profs at major schools” in order to SUPPORT the racist thesis he repeatedly and transparently suggests in his article WITHOUT citing any of the far more abundant studies and books that contradict such obviously racist claims?

    In other words, something like, “don’t let the apparently racist context get in the way of any of your preconceived notions of reality.” Do you take us all for idiots? Get that?

  181. #181 negentropyeater
    May 14, 2008

    ungtss,

    so of course, you see nothing wrong with this conclusion :

    [Obama & Clinton's] desire to impose a European-style welfare state and a command-and-control economy not only contradicts our proudest political and economic traditions, but the new revelations about American DNA suggest that such ill-starred schemes may go against our very nature.

    So, may I ask, what are those formidable new revelations about “American DNA” that warrant this conclusion ?

    You don’t think for a second, that he is just making things up in order to support his preferred ideology ?

  182. #182 Julie Stahlhut
    May 14, 2008

    So, let’s see … the Italians, Slavs, Scandinavians, Irish, Germans, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Lebanese, South Asians, and various other populations that were the source of considerable amounts of voluntary immigration into the U.S. during the last century or two have all introduced the same genes into the population? And the kidnapped African slaves and ferociously persecuted Native Americans who survived (and whose descendants are still surviving) centuries of bigotry are genetically predisposed against having any kind of personal resilience?

    Man, I wish this guy could have met my father’s cousins. Four guys whose parents arrived from the old country on separate boats. None married, none (as far as I know) ever so much as dated, none traveled for work or pleasure, the two who went into the army during WWII moved right back in with their parents afterwards — and in a macabre parallel to the “empty nest” phenomenon, the two who lived into their eighties moved straight from their folks’ old place into nursing homes. Guess their genes weren’t American enough.

  183. #183 Arnosium Upinarum
    May 14, 2008

    @ etha williams #175: “even if this is an honest misinterpretation, it’s hard to say that Medved is merely “summarizing” given the rather biased title of the article (“Respecting – And Recognizing – American D.N.A.”).”

    It’s not hard at all: Medved’s article IS his idea, however he may cite the work of others in it in order to support HIS thesis in HIS article, and that those ideas of HIS are blatantly racist.

    That’s not at all hard to say.

  184. #184 Malcolm
    May 14, 2008

    Surely, if this idea had any validity at all, New Zealanders would be genetically superior to Americans. For Europeans; No slaves, no indentured servants, a lot greater risk coming here from Europe, and ancestral Polynesians were obviously risk takers.
    If Medved were right, New Zealand should be an extremely right-wing country.

  185. #185 Kseniya
    May 14, 2008

    Did this guy write one of those “Politcally Incorrect Guides”.

    Nope. He’s famous for the “Incorrect Guides”.

  186. #186 david winter
    May 14, 2008

    Late to the party I know, and sorry if this has already been brought up.

    The unintentionally funny bit of Medved’s post is the way it sounds almost exactly like early 20th century eugenicists. People like Goddard and Davenport wrote how on one hand the good out-going genes of New England’s settlers set the country on a good foundation and on the other how the pathological outgoing-ness (wanderlust) of Central European and Jewish genes would undermine everything. It’s this kind of thinking that led to the Immigration Act of 1924 which to limited the number of immigrants from undesirable countries. What’s the bet Medved wants to keep Mexican immigration low?

  187. #187 Laser Potato
    May 14, 2008
  188. #188 Sven DiMilo
    May 14, 2008

    K, you’re supposed to be out celebrating.

  189. #189 wrpd
    May 14, 2008

    Medved is obviously still sticking his lead-tainted, Chinese-made toys in his mouth and eating paint chips from his crib.

  190. #190 thalarctos
    May 14, 2008

    Michael Medved says something dumb

    In other news, water is wet…

    …and a bear relieves himself in the woods.

    (…??????? ???????????? ? ????.)

    [Etha, Kseniya, did I get that right?]

  191. #191 JM Inc.
    May 14, 2008

    Is it possible he’s trying to be ironic? Intelligent design creationists do an awful lot of bitching about what they call Darwinian, materialistic over-reaching, in criticising evolutionary psychology and so on. Perhaps he’s trying to sound ignorant so that he can tar evolutionary psych with as being the same sort of claptrap he has just expounded upon. Seems plausible to me, although I might be giving too much credit.

    Just a thought…

  192. #192 scarshapedstar
    May 14, 2008

    Hrm, there may be a “risk-taking gene”, but as I recall it’s usually associated with irrational, self-destructive behavior. I have no idea what study I’m recalling, though.

  193. #193 defectiverobot
    May 14, 2008

    Emmet Caulfield (#6),

    The title of this post would lose no meaning in being exactly one word shorter.

    You mean replacing the word “says” with a comma?

  194. #194 windy
    May 14, 2008

    Colugo wrote:

    And among their interpretations is that genetic variants in dopamine receptors helps explain cultural differences and historical events. Michael Medved didn’t make that up.

    “Genetic variation helps explain cultural differences” does not equal “a welfare state is incompatible with American DNA”.

    Forget about Medved for a second. We all know that he is an ass and an ignoramus. A more interesting question is why there has hardly been a peep in the science blogosphere about the rising trend of research in dopamine receptor variants and personality differences, as well as related studies on alleged inter-population cognitive and affective differences.

    I agree that the research itself should be discussed in addition to stupid claims about the research, but there’s not much in the blogosphere about behavioural genetics in any organism, so I don’t think some kind of self-imposed silence is necessarily at work here.

  195. #195 MJ
    May 14, 2008

    risk-taking American DNA

    I’d argue that risk-taking is cultural, like the DI’s idiocy…

  196. #196 Etha Williams
    May 14, 2008

    @#190 thalarctos —

    (…??????? ???????????? ? ????.)

    [Etha, Kseniya, did I get that right?]

    ???, ??.

    ??????!

  197. #197 Steve_C
    May 14, 2008

    When Medved writes… stupid happens.

    Without fail.

  198. #198 Badger3k
    May 14, 2008

    Damn – Medved made 198 (? – counting this) comments! I remember him as an ugly, repulsive, bizarre movie critic whose reviews I rarely agreed with. Now I know why. (Actually I knew before, but this just brings it to the surface)

  199. #199 shoshidge
    May 14, 2008

    I just finished re-reading Robert Heinlein’s “Time Enough For Love”, an enjoyably demented book, in spite of it’s many flaws.
    His protagonist, Lazarus Long, asserts this theory several times throughout the book, namely, the idea that pioneering fast-tracks natural selection.
    I’m willing to accept that this idea might’ve been valid back in those days, but whatever genetic advantge that could have existed will have been diluted at this point.

  200. #200 Jennie
    May 14, 2008

    Late to the party again. :-(
    Anyway, in addition to the very many other things that are wrong with this argument, there’s a big honking fallacy in the middle. (Pay attention, ungtss).
    Accept for the sake of argument that emigrating to the US voluntarily required some sort of risk-taking personality. The claim is that this risk-taking personality was not required for African slaves to make it to the US, because they were brought forcibly. But you can’t then conclude that they don’t have risk-taking personalities, only that it is possible that they don’t.
    Medved fails basic modal logic.

  201. #201 shane
    May 15, 2008

    Makes you wonder, if the Yellowstone supervolcano goes kablooey tomorrow, and Syria or Iran offered aid, would the US government accept it?

    Didn’t Venezuela and Cuba, hilariously, offer assistance after Katrina?

  202. #202 ?????
    May 15, 2008
  203. (…??????? ???????????? ? ????.)
  204. [Etha, Kseniya, did I get that right?]
  205. “????”? ????…

    ? ????? ??? ???. ? ?? ???????? – ?? ? ????a?a ?? “??????? ???????????? ? ????.”

  206. #203 George Cauldron
    May 15, 2008

    [Obama & Clinton's] desire to impose a European-style welfare state and a command-and-control economy not only contradicts our proudest political and economic traditions, but the new revelations about American DNA suggest that such ill-starred schemes may go against our very nature.

    Yup, that special American gene for hating National Health Care, which is somehow absent from Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders. Have one of your DI buds write up a paper on what part of the human genome that resides on.

  207. #204 George Cauldron
    May 15, 2008

    6. “THERE IS NO REASON TO BELIEVE THAT TODAY’S AFRICAN-AMERICANS WOULD BE BETTER OFF IF THEIR ANCESTORS HAD REMAINED BEHIND IN AFRICA.”

    “The idea of a distinctive, unifying, risk-taking American DNA might also help to explain our most persistent and painful racial divide – between the progeny of every immigrant nationality that chose to come here, and the one significant group that exercised no choice in making their journey to the U.S. Nothing in the horrific ordeal of African slaves, seized from their homes against their will, reflected a genetic predisposition to risk-taking, or any sort of self-selection based on personality traits.”

    Hmmm. Medved really doesn’t like shvartzes, does he?

    A good fit for the D.I.

  208. #205 Kseniya
    May 15, 2008

    K, you’re supposed to be out celebrating.

    Yeah… well, I did go out for a celebratory plate of Chicken Kiev (appropriately enough) with a friend of mine, but I’m not in a party mood. I’m very tired. I don’t really drink, anyways…

    It’s complicated.

  209. #206 Steven Carr
    May 15, 2008

    We have yet one more example of how the scientific thought of the Discovery Institute is being EXPELLED from serious debate.

    In much the same way that my urine is EXPELLED from my body several times a day…

  210. #207 Kseniya
    May 15, 2008

    Lessee now… my grandparents were born in the Ukraine, which makes me second-generation Ukrainka-Amerikanka, so I guess that makes me a real go-getter, according to Tovarisch Medved. Yes indeed. Sacajawea, here I come.

    ungtss:

    You know, I think you have a point there. I may be wary of the talent for sophistry that you’ve displayed here on this blog in the past, but it’s only fair to examine your argument with a skeptical eye… and… I have to agree with you, I don’t see anything particularly racist about Medved’s speculations.

    But as others have pointed out, his arguments do reek of genetic determinism, and fail on many levels.

    Medved is implying that the reason African-Americans have struggled here – a gap which he euphemistically (though not discompassionately) characterizes as “our most persistent and painful racial divide” – is primarily genetic! Genetic! And that the reason contemporary African-Americans have been doing better is because of “the entrepreneurial energy of these newcomer communities” – so any improvements in the fortunes of African-Americans over the last quarter-century is also primarily genetic. Good grief!

    These speculations may not be racist, and may not be without some factual basis, but beyond that they are dizzingly myopic, appallingly blind, and stupefying in their total disregard for some of the most glaringly obvious and salient facts of U.S. social and political history.

    I call this a very bad case of “Blaming The Victim.” It may not be racist in the strictest sense, but to imply that African-Americans haven’t done as well as European-Americans because they just weren’t up to it is not only moronic, it’s contemptible.

  211. #208 JJR
    May 15, 2008

    “American DNA”…

    …In an earlier age they would’ve been babbling on about “The Anglo-Saxon Race”; y’know, before they decided Italians, Irish, Poles and Jews also counted as “White”, therefore possessing this mysterious melting pot mutation known as “American DNA”.

    Must protect our vital national…fluids.
    (from Dr. Strangelove)

    (Medved):
    “…Nothing in the horrific ordeal of African slaves, seized from their homes against their will, reflected a genetic predisposition to risk-taking, or any sort of self-selection based on personality traits.”

    Underground Railroad…
    Assorted slave rebellions…
    Serving in the Union Army…
    Frontier Buffalo Soldiers…
    The Great Migration northward after emancipation, in search of a better life in the industrial cities of the North…
    (and that’s just the 19th century)

    No, no risk-taking at all (eyes roll).

  212. #209 Etha Williams
    May 15, 2008

    @#207 Kseniya —

    …they are dizzingly myopic, appallingly blind, and stupefying in their total disregard for some of the most glaringly obvious and salient facts of U.S. social and political history.

    IMO, this is a great description of most (all?) of Mr. Bear’s incompetent ramblings on politics/history/sociology.

  213. #210 Etha Williams
    May 15, 2008

    @#202 —

    “????”? ????…

    ? ????? ??? ???. ? ?? ???????? – ?? ? ????a?a ?? “??????? ???????????? ? ????.”

    ?????? “???” (? ?? ????)? ? ?????, ??? “????” ????? ?????? “forest” ??-??????.

  214. #211 blf
    May 15, 2008

    Didn’t Venezuela and Cuba, hilariously, offer assistance after Katrina?

    Cuba certainly did (dunno about Venezuela). I presume it was a genuine offer; Cuba has lots of experience with hurricanes. Cuba’s offer was not accepted (I dunno if it was explicitly turned down, or simply ignored).

    After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, numerous countries offered assistance, but all were turned down. My understanding is the reason was because the President of the day wanted to show that the States could handle the disaster.

    Several years ago there was a major earthquake in Turkey. They accepted aid from many places, including Greece. That lead to a rather amusing incident when one Turkish politican claimed the Turkish people/victims would not accept the Greek (specifically) aid; as I recall, numerous articles and letters where published in Turkish newspapers et al. saying he was full of it, we very much need it and appreciate the help. (I have a vague memory a higher-up in the Turkish government of the day (maybe even the PM) publically apologised to the Greeks.)

    Then, one(? two?) weeks later, another earthquake hit–this time in(? nearer to?) Greece. Turkey promptly sent some aid (mostly as a token guesture of thanks, as I recall; quite reasonable given they were still dealing with the previous earthquake). To the best of my recollection, no-one in Greece complained, and indeed thanked Turkey for sending what help they could.

  215. #212 Honest George
    May 15, 2008

    Damn you all!! Especially Dutch Delight. (#5).

    I had it all figured out, to wit – the bullheads and the bottom suckers stayed in the pond back in Europe and later on the American east coast – while the sleek, fighting game trout (like myself) moved west and conquered our great continent. Now some of you are intimating that quality stayed behind and faced the issues while the weak ones left. I’m adrift.

  216. #213 thalarctos
    May 15, 2008

    ?????? “???” (? ?? ????)? ? ?????, ??? “????” ????? ?????? “forest” ??-??????.

    ? ????? ??? ??????? ????? “does a bear shit in the woods?” ? “does a bear defecate in the forest?”.

  217. #214 Kseniya
    May 15, 2008

    (Well, I thought “woods” was a better fit, but pushcha may be more idiomatically correct. I don’t know, and I’m nowhere near fluent enough to know.)

  218. #215 Kseniya
    May 15, 2008

    ??? ??-??????, “When is a bear like a seagull?”

    *snicker*

  219. #216 mock turtle
    May 15, 2008

    isnt it possible medved got it backwards?

    the immigrants ran away from europe etc because they were failures there and were pushed out of there to over here…or not…i dont know and neither does he.

  220. #217 Humpty Dance
    May 15, 2008

    Anybody else notice that Medved’s entire argument requires one very silly assumption? He implicitly assumes that immigrating to the New World was the most significant risk to be taken… even compared to all other possible risks… throughout all periods of immigration.

    Moving other countries must therefore be easy (child’s play, even) in comparison to coming to America. Nevermind tackling any civil or societal risks in one’s own country.

    No, immigrating TO AMERICA is apparently only for the cream of the crop, the best of the best, the toughest of the tough. Regardless of when.

    Of course, this assumption actually defeats his conclusion. If indeed America was such an extreme environment, those here against their will would have needed extraordinary virtues and talents to survive here.

    In fact, surviving here with the additional burden of slave status would imply superiority to those who had to rely on the wimpy luxury of “individual freedom” as a crutch just to get by.

  221. #218 Kseniya
    May 15, 2008

    ?????? ? ????a?a ?? “??????? ??????? ? ????.”

    ?-)

  222. #219 SocraticGadfly
    May 15, 2008

    This is in the same level of cluelessness as Hamer’s gay gene, Jensen’s gene(s) for “x” and other nonsense.

    A “gene” for adventurousness? Even if there is such a thing, Medved ignores the environmental stimuli of poverty, war, being a non-inheriting secondborn son, etc., as well as epigenetic factors.

    Or is there a gene for poverty? Etc.

    As for Colugo who actually mentioned the need to talk more about dopamine and personality variants…

    That’s just the neurotransmitter du jour, to some degree.

    Five years from now, Lilly, Glaxo or another BigPharma company will surely roll out the first SDRI “mental health” psychoactive drug. Dopamine is no more the “answer” to issues you mention that Hamer’s “gay gene” is the “answer” to what causes male homosexuality.

  223. #220 melior
    May 15, 2008

    It’s all fine and good to suggest a theory. But the Discovery Institute claims to do science — next Medved’ll need to define an experimental methodology, gather some data, analyze it statistically, submit a peer-reviewed paper… woo! haha what am I saying, I have to stop, I crack myself up.

  224. #221 Dave Wisker
    May 15, 2008

    Medved sounds like Trofim Lysenko’s idiot offspring.

  225. #222 Jerome ^
    May 15, 2008

    An amusing point on this subject is: why do Afro-Americans perform quite well in sports, mainly in athletism? (for instance, most of the best French, English or Dutch sprinters are actually Caribbean)… this *might* be because their ancestors were harshly selected, and bred, for physical brawn.

    (And all of this happened before Darwin, of course).

  226. #223 alloy
    May 15, 2008

    Didn’t Heinlein espouse a similer view in “Time Enough For love”?

    All the brave and worthy left for other planets leaving Earth the dumber for it?

  227. #224 Adolph Shicklgruber, Jr.
    May 15, 2008

    Yes, we need a master race.

  228. #225 Milo Johnson
    May 15, 2008

    Medved said something stupid? Egads, alert the media!

  229. #226 Blaidd Drwg
    May 15, 2008

    Is it just me, or is the hand of the DI evident in this proclamation?

    After all, we have Medved spouting these crazy, racist ‘theories’, carefully couching them in ‘scientific’ terms. The net effect will be to illustrate that ‘science’ is a racist pursuit, which will reinforce the “Science leads to killing” viewpoint.

    Watch Medved’s space (usually found between his ears) in the next few weeks for signs of DI creeping in…

  230. #227 Erridge
    May 15, 2008

    My goodness, that is so dumb, ahistorical and awful in so many ways…

  231. #228 Tom
    May 15, 2008

    I think Medved should go back to reviewing movies… and stay there.

  232. #229 AlanSmithee
    May 15, 2008

    No thanks! We don’t want him either. Medved’s as lousy at movie reviewing as he is a genetics.

  233. #230 MaxCat
    May 15, 2008

    The only safe thing you can possibly attribute to being locked into many of mankinds dna is the belief that there is a god and all the hogwash that goes with it. Like this Medved hogwash for example.

  234. #231 Dianne
    May 15, 2008

    It’s nothing but handwaving rationalizations for an intrinsic superiority to our tribe, with a complete absence of evidence.

    For what it’s worth, this is by no means a uniquely US-American perversion. Most tribes’ names for themselves translate to “the people”. The slightly more “sophisticated” version is to acknowledge the humanity of the other but still describe oneself as the best group: the chosen people, the Ubermensch, the most adventurous…it’s a common, if unfortunate, tendency of humanity and suggests that US-Americans are, in fact, just like everyone else. No better, but no worse either.

  235. #232 Santiago
    May 15, 2008

    Hey, that means that all those desert-crossing, risk-taking Latin-American illegal immigrants are the future of the USA!

    Seriously, someone should point out to him that that would make the millions of people that didn’t come in ships but that crossed a friggin’ continent, mostly by night to evade immigration cops in Mexico, only to walk three days through the Sonora Desert logically give the US the genetic boost it needs to have a (second?) Golden Age.

    Not to mention that these guys leave their families and friends behind, work their asses off in a country where they are seldom appreciated and often vilified, and cross *several* times, as they go back to Mexico (or wherever) to visit family and then back to the US to work.

  236. #233 Hematite
    May 15, 2008

    Steve_C(#197):

    When Medved writes… stupid happens.
    Without fail.

    That’s funny, I could have sworn Medved’s work was made of fail.

    Thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all week.

  237. #234 BlueIndependent
    May 15, 2008

    Leave it to conservobots to attempt to sound intelligent on anything. They try to work their psychological imagery into everything. They try to make the unreal real. Thus we have “American DNA” (whatever the F that is), and we have, apparently, two presidential candidates running against the “very nature” or our “American DNA”. Nevermind the fact that this “very nature” only a few decades ago was entirely different economically speaking. But oh! Is this some awkward admission that perhaps “American DNA” evolves? That evolution might be right? Oh no, it’s only microevolution that they accept, not macro…

  238. #235 Soundboy_Jeff
    May 15, 2008

    hmm… the Discovery Institute?

    so… if evolution is a myth to begin with (that’s sort of what they’re pushing anyway)… how can he argue that DNA stores any characteristics of human nature?

    Isn’t he touting superiority INHERITED from our forefathers kinda proving evolution takes place?

    I AM however starting to believe that there’s no such thing as natural selection… Medved’s still writing.

  239. #236 Johnbo
    May 15, 2008

    This swill is in perfect lock-step (goose-step?) with the arrogant assertion by the right-wing of something they call American “exceptionalism” – a blanket assertion that whatever we do out there in the world is good because we’re Americans and our intentions are good. This principle allows us to invade countries and overthrow governments because we are the “good” Americans fighting “freedom” for all.

    Reminds me of a quote by the spiritual leader, Hazrat Inayat Khan, who brought Sufism to the U.S. back in the early days of the last century: “Evil is manifest by our inability to conceive of causing it”.

  240. #237 George Cauldron
    May 15, 2008

    so… if evolution is a myth to begin with (that’s sort of what they’re pushing anyway)… how can he argue that DNA stores any characteristics of human nature?
    Isn’t he touting superiority INHERITED from our forefathers kinda proving evolution takes place?

    Ah! He would probably claim either than (a) it’s ‘microevolution’, which doesn’t count, or (b) the rugged-individualist Republican gene he’s describing has been present since Adam, and that thus nothing has changed.

  241. #238 Karl Boyken
    May 15, 2008

    Wasn’t Georgia originally a penal colony? Weren’t many early Americans indentured servants? Weren’t a lot of the Germans who emigrated to America dodging the Prussian draft? Why do I even have to ask these questions?

  242. #239 macushla
    May 15, 2008

    Um…so I suppose this lame critic’s favorite movie is “Triumph of the Will.?”

  243. #240 Jaycubed
    May 15, 2008

    Three things that we all, evolutionist & IDer alike, should do well to remember, especially when talking about our own species:

    GENES MAKE PROTEINS, NOT BEHAVIOR.

    BEHAVIOR IS A STATISTICAL PHENOMENA, IT HAS RANGE.

    STATISTICAL CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION.

    DNA encodes many things, including statistically significant tendencies for behavior, but not the behavior of all individuals of a species, especially those with advanced cerebral functions.

    Human behaviors have little to do directly with genetics. Using the so-called Gay Gene as an example:

    Not all carriers of the so-called Gay Gene exhibit sexual desire or behavior for members of their own gender.

    Not all people who do exhibit sexual desire or behavior for members of their own gender are carriers of the gene.

    There is a positive statistical correlation between gene carrier & described behavior.

    Whether there is any causal element between gene & behavior is unclear.

    There is no direct causal relationship as evidenced by the range of behaviors exhibited by those carrying & not carrying that specific gene.

    Our evolution as the carrier of a powerful, adaptable & general purpose computer, the cerebellum biased brain, allows us a range of behavioral potential far beyond that of the more pre-programmed, instinctual, brains of other animals.

  244. #241 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 15, 2008

    Ehem. Where did this moron get the idea that an EU-style welfare state is a command-and-control economy? The Commissioner for Competition is the greatest force for capitalism in the world!

    ????…

    ??? ??????? “???”. ???????. (??????? ? ???? ????????.)

    For what it’s worth, this is by no means a uniquely US-American perversion. Most tribes’ names for themselves translate to “the people”.

    That comes from not having a name for one’s own tribe, or only for a larger group that has fragmented long ago, or only for a smaller group but not the whole. The Slovenes, Slovaks, and Germans still don’t have names for themselves… well, the Germans do, but only because all other meanings of the word they use happen to have died out.

  245. #242 Jes
    May 15, 2008

    Wow. He’s ignorant of not only science, but American history. Not just African slaves came here against their will! There are also descendants of people exiled to the American Colonies for crimes and a large group of the oldest Irish settlers who were brought to the colonies as slaves. Not to mention Native Americans who were already living here, or people who were forced to immigrate to the US regardless of their will.

  246. #243 Dianne
    May 15, 2008

    The Slovenes, Slovaks, and Germans still don’t have names for themselves… well, the Germans do, but only because all other meanings of the word they use happen to have died out.

    Was ist den Deutsche?

  247. #244 Donnat
    May 15, 2008

    Didn’t the Germans measure the skulls of Germans and jews to try to prove Aryan superiority over them?

    Medved, Bush certainly like to evoke Nazi Germany in their babble, I think they are nostalgic.

  248. #245 Dianne
    May 15, 2008

    Didn’t the Germans measure the skulls of Germans and jews to try to prove Aryan superiority over them?

    I don’t know, but several British and American researchers measured skulls to try to prove the superiority of Anglos over blacks. Unsuccessfully, needless to say. At least, unsuccessfully when the data was analyzed in a more objective manner.

  249. #246 Ed Darrell
    May 15, 2008

    I know I had that Slobbovian dictionary around here somewhere . . .

    Ah.

    medved (med’-ved) n. not thinking correctly, or not thinking at all; “Ever since he took a header off the ladder while painting his swimming pool, he’s been medved.”

  250. #247 Ed Darrell
    May 15, 2008

    Um…so I suppose this lame critic’s favorite movie is “Triumph of the Will.?”

    He’s never seen it. Says he refuses to look at dull movies about probate.

  251. #248 damix austex
    May 15, 2008

    Genetic superiority in willful emmigrants? The playing field was leveled in the generation of the reclining chair and remote control. And now, with medical advances, it’s a non issue.
    Nah, I ain’t buying it.

  252. #249 Longtime Lurker
    May 15, 2008

    Ruh-roh, originally posted on the wrong thread:

    I loathe Medved, has he ever stopped to ponder that, for many of us, our ancestors’ emigration to ‘Merka had more to do with potato genetics than human genetics? Oh, and the fact that a murderous, sociopathic aristocracy was exporting foodstuffs in an effort to kill off the peasantry…

    The meme that “slavery wasn’t so bad for Africans” is getting a lot of play lately among repugs, probably because of B.O.’s melanin. Pat Buchanan, America’s Racist Uncle (TM) had a piece about a month ago to this effect. Concerning Medved’s Townhall piece, this was my comment:

    “Medved’s attitude toward slavery begs the question- at the Medved family Seder, do you suppose he serves not-so-bitter herbs to commemorate the enslavement of the Israelites?”

    Townhall’s latest John Birch screed about red-blooded ‘Merkins can be found here:

    http://www.townhall.com/columnists/KathleenParker/2008/05/14/getting_bubba

  253. #250 Ben
    May 15, 2008

    I’m sure there is a grain of truth in what he is saying. Genetics have been shown to play huge roles in peoples lives. I agree with him in a VERY limited sense.
    As for eugenics, Ive never seen the problem from a completely scientific stand point; besides that it is kinda evil.
    *flame suit on*

  254. #251 khan
    May 15, 2008

    What percent black or white or whatever does one have to be to exhibit the positives or negatives of that ‘race’?

  255. #252 John C. Randolph
    May 16, 2008

    Medved’s misunderstanding of biology notwithstanding, this country has benefitted from the fact that we have been the place that people went to if they weren’t content to put up with a bad situation wherever they were. From English peasants who weren’t content with being serfs, to the Jews fleeing the pogroms, to the physicists who fled Europe in the 1930s, we’ve gained a lot of exceptional individuals through immigration, and we’re all far better off here because of them. Tesla, Steimetz, Einstein, and thousands upon thousands more.

    -jcr

  256. #253 Bruce
    May 16, 2008

    And this from someone who’s parents had to suck the dregs from the bottom of the gene pool.

  257. #254 Hematite
    May 16, 2008

    Ben (#250):

    As for eugenics, Ive never seen the problem from a completely scientific stand point; besides that it is kinda evil.

    I’m feeling daring today, so I’ll try and answer that without siding with teh evil nazis.

    Historically eugenics has been corrupted by groups who placed value on inappropriate genetic traits, so the term is tainted. The science of eugenics is value-neutral, but it has constantly been subverted by racist and nationalistic ideas about what ‘good’ genes are (see Medved). Science has nothing to say about what is good – value must be assigned non-scientifically.

    Now, most people would feel confident saying that genes specifying fatal congenital defects are ‘bad’, and a eugenics program could presumably be run to remove such genes from the population. I must point out again that science does not say what is good or bad; in this case it says “this gene will kill you” and we say nonscientifically that the gene is bad.

    However, it’s almost impossible to defend any kind of eugenics that is less blatantly beneficial than that. For one thing, there is a strong case to be made that the most beneficial genetic situation is for the population to contain as many gene variants as possible, regardless of any minor inconveniences they may bring. Genes which code for shortsightedness may coincidentally protect against some horrible disease which would otherwise signal The End Of Humanity. Sickle cell anaemia is the classic example.

  258. #255 Steve J.
    May 16, 2008

    Uh, what? Republican policies are now part of our genetic nature, and the Democrats will be defeated by our capitalist genes?

    I think Herbert Spencer beat Medved to this one.

  259. #256 Shygetz
    May 16, 2008

    As for eugenics, Ive never seen the problem from a completely scientific stand point; besides that it is kinda evil.

    The argument against eugenics, much like the argument against human vivisection, is not based on the fact that it would be bad science. Technically speaking, it would be a fine way to study genetic inheritance much in the way we currently do with animal models. It is based on the fact that it would be unethical and immoral science, which is sufficient objection for me. If, in the future, we find the need to tinker with gene frequencies in our population, I bet we’ll do it through gene therapy rather than forced sterilization and forced breeding.

  260. #257 thepoetryman
    May 16, 2008

    Nothing in the horrific ordeal of African slaves, seized from their homes against their will, reflected a genetic predisposition to risk-taking, or any sort of self-selection based on personality traits.

    Sure, much like Medved’s racist diatribe.

  261. #258 Nick Gotts
    May 16, 2008

    Surely those Africans taken as slaves would have been those who could not run very fast, particularly over short distances (any slave-taker would surely be acting like a predator, minimising effort and risk)? Ah! So that explains why African-Americans are so bad at athletics, particularly the sprint events. Err…

  262. #259 IludiumPhosdex
    May 16, 2008

    How do we know that these remarks aren’t really nothing short of an attempt to “rehabilitate,” as it were, Lystenkian theory?

  263. #260 Daniel W.
    May 16, 2008

    Jaycubed said:

    Three things that we all, evolutionist & IDer alike, should do well to remember, especially when talking about our own species:

    GENES MAKE PROTEINS, NOT BEHAVIOR.

    BEHAVIOR IS A STATISTICAL PHENOMENA, IT HAS RANGE.

    STATISTICAL CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION.

    YES! Thank you, for pointing this out, Jaycubed. Medved is obviously off his rocker, but even the scientific types like Dawkins and the author of American Mania have a very flawed understandings of the complex connections between genetics, environment, and human behavior. Many studies of genetics that seek to explain human behavior (evolutionary psychologists are some of the worst offenders in this regard) have a horribly reductionist (and scientifically flawed) understanding of the connections between genes and behaviors. They often assume that if you find a correlation between genes and a type of behavior that this means that the gene caused the behavior. As any statistician will tell you, BIG no-no.

    But not only do the evolutionary psychologists mistake correlation for causation, they tend to have very little understanding of how genes actually work. The vast majority of the genes we humans have our incredibly flexible, meaning that they predispose us to adopt a wide variety of behaviors. In other words, most of our genes do not FIX behavior. They, on the contrary, allow us to express a variety of diverse and culturally unique behaviors. Our common human genes ALLOW for cultural differences and distinctions in behavior. They do not PREDICT them.

  264. #261 Petro
    May 16, 2008

    “Uh, what? Republican policies are now part of our genetic nature, and the Democrats will be defeated by our capitalist genes?”

    That is the funniest goddamn rhetorical snark I’ve read in a long time. Yer killin’ me…

  265. #262 George Arndt
    May 16, 2008

    He’s embracing eugenics, the racist pseudo-science which was once popular around the world before World War II. Many retarded people were sterilized. In the US, there were was the “nordic” movement which postulated that Whites from Northern Europe were genetically “fitter” than other groups. Even Eastern Europeans were viewed as “feeble-minded”. And of course, this movement was a big influence on Nazi Germany. You know what they say about those who ignore the lessons of history..

    It makes my head spin that a major commentator in this country would embrace such nonsense. The Republican war on science has gone off the deep end.

  266. #264 Andrew
    May 16, 2008

    Medved’s on the intellectual level of Cliff on Cheers, who once insisted that men were superior because, “DNA stands for ‘Dames are Not Aggressors.'”

    Correction: Cliff’s a Rhodes Scholar next to Mikey.

  267. #265 deane
    May 16, 2008

    It’s nothing but handwaving rationalizations for an intrinsic superiority to our tribe, with a complete absence of evidence.

    If Mr. Medved fails to quote evidence in his article, surely it’s because the evidence is all around us, plain for anyone to see.

    Just look at the scions of America’s most successful families: engaging in musical careers despite a complete lack of talent, funneling thousands of family dollars into eponymous scents and fashion lines which lack any distinctive character, driving while intoxicated, driving without a license…

    Compare that with the thousands of Americans who lift themselves out of DNA-induced poverty each year. Oh sure, some so do by risking eveything to start a business or pursue a dream — there are outliers in any population — but the vast majority do it the tried and true way. Go to school. Study hard. Get a job. Work hard.

    That’s hardly the sort of risk-taking bravado upon which America was built.

  268. #266 deSelby
    May 16, 2008

    I am not well-educated, but I know bullshit when I smell it.

    I’m particularly interested in learning more about the part of this argument that’s meant to sound verrry scientific. So far, I’ve learned that Whybrow’s book tosses out the “D4-7 allele in the dopamine reward system” as the magical American Gene, but there is no supporting data.

    I’ve spent over a dozen minutes scouring the internet for information about the distribution of D4 allele variants among populations within the US, but the only thing I’ve turned up so far is a small study about smoking. In this (small) sample, the (oh so groovy) D4.7 variant was actually slightly more prevalent in the African American subjects.

    Can anyone point to studies that estimate the D4.7 allele distribution by race in the US?

    I’m also open to any corrections to my rather blind usage of scientific terminology.

    Thanks.

  269. #267 tguy
    May 17, 2008

    I think the DI isn’t too bothered by Medved and this stuff because it doesn’t really involve evolution. Clearly Gawd is intelligently designing ‘Mercans to be the Master Race.

  270. #268 Bob
    May 17, 2008

    It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Medved that those risk-taking Afro-Caribbeans who have migrated to the U.S. since 1980, drastically altering the genetic make-up of black Americans in only one generation (!) are themselves the descendants of enslaved Africans brought to the Caribbean against their will, at the same time as enslaved Africans were brought to the U.S. So why would these “risk-taking, entrepreneurial genes” be found only in Caribbean blacks, and not in U.S. blacks?

  271. #269 Hap
    May 17, 2008

    #235: There is a bias in the environment countering the normal preference for intelligence – the desire of a set of ignorant people to preserve their ignorance against anything. Maybe it’s like chemical equilibrium – everything has to equilibrate to ambient conditions unless there’s some energy flow to maintain it against equilibrium. In Medved’s case, there must be a nuclear power plant somewhere tasked to maintain the vacuum in his head – I assume he went in on the construction costs with Ms. Coulter and Misters Limbaugh and D’Souza.

    Oh, and I’m sorry for slandering Kenny previously – I should not have used him as an avatar for ignorant conservate creationists. I should have remembered Kseniya’s Rule of Commenting first.

  272. #270 Raging Bee
    May 18, 2008

    Nothing in the horrific ordeal of African slaves, seized from their homes against their will, reflected a genetic predisposition to risk-taking…

    Except maybe running away from their owners’ plantations, or engaging in underground political action to subvert and abolish slavery. Or joining colored regiments to fight the (quite formidable) Confederate army head-on.

    And of course, because slave owners never raped their slaves, contemporary African Americans don’t share any genetic material with those risk taking rapists.

    That doesn’t really refute Medved’s thesis: raping a slave isn’t exactly risky behavior.

  273. #271 windy
    May 19, 2008

    YES! Thank you, for pointing this out, Jaycubed. Medved is obviously off his rocker, but even the scientific types like Dawkins and the author of American Mania have a very flawed understandings of the complex connections between genetics, environment, and human behavior.

    You mean the genetic determinist straw-Dawkins that people like to beat on has a flawed understanding. Read the second chapter of the Extended Phenotype and then come back.

  274. #272 Daniel W.
    May 21, 2008

    I have read “The Extended Phenotype.”

    Note that it is not that I think that Dawkins doesn’t know what a phenotype is (he clearly does), but that he has a flawed theory of the relationships between genetics, environment, and the organism. It’s not that I don’t find Dawkins smart or interesting, or that I think his reductionist theory is illogical (and I am using reductionist descriptively here, not in some pejorative sense), it’s that I don’t find he gathers enough empirical and historical evidence to make me buy his “gene as homunculus of man” argument.

    I find those working within dynamic or developmental systems theory (DST) to have a more robust and empirically-supported argument about the complex connections between genes, human behavior, and environment.

    Read some of Susan Oyama’s work and then come back.

  275. #273 Anonymiss
    May 21, 2008

    Weirdly enough Chris Rock has a strange version of this. Something about the descendants of slaves being selected for physical prowess or something. I think he called them “super slaves”.

    I have to admit, there might actually be something to the Chris Rock thing. I’m a little suspect though.

    Yeah, Chris used “super slaves.” He was talking about how there was forced breeding between slaves to produce the likes of Michael Clark Duncan because they were believed to be more desirable for strenuous labor or activity because they’d be naturally inclined to excel in those areas. That belief is still held when selecting Black athletes.

    Anyway, Medved isn’t an intelligent man. Anyone that takes this as the gospel is equally as stupid.

  276. #274 lewis stoole
    May 21, 2008

    michael medved gets it right!
    maybe you just don’t have the right american dna to understand this; or maybe, your dna is not even american!

  277. #275 Mickey
    May 21, 2008

    I don’t know. He may be on to something. I’ve been reading a lot of American history lately (by choice, believe it or not) and find myself wincing at what a bunch of obnoxious yahoo’s our ancestors were, on the whole. Bloody, violent, self-righteous, ignorant, proud of their ignorance–it does sound a lot like modern day Republicans…

  278. Bravo, Paul Lamb!

    Hey, forodrim, .au has V8 Supercars, which is great fun, and we have NASCAR, which is corporate and stupid. How could you take a sport where people could die and make it boring? We’ve done it.

  279. OK, I call Poe’s Law. Michael Medved is actually a clever, witty guy and a master parodist.

  280. #278 Ga
    May 21, 2008

    It is ‘aggressive ignorance.’ And the worst part of this is that townhall.com publishes it.

    And by reading the comments there one can conclude that this aggressive ignorance is widespread in a large portion of the American populous — what a horror this would be if that ignorance was in their DNA!

  281. #279 brad
    May 22, 2008

    As Mencken said, “A horse-laugh is worth a thousand syllogisms,” and what we have here then, is worth millions and millions of syllogisms. Thanks, all, for the great and funny comments. I only mention that I DO slightly disagree with nkb, who said that the statement, “Medved says something dumb” is like saying the earth is round. No, nkb, it’s a real tautology. Just as one automatically KNOWS that one is a unmarried once one knows what a bachelor is, once one knows who Michael Medved is, one KNOWS that what he says is dumb.

    Thanks again, all, for the very appropriate laughs.

  282. #280 Marion Delgado
    May 24, 2008

    Michael Medved’s risk-taker genes led him to blow the lid off the Palisades High School Babylon, clean up Hollywood, and Keep Christ in Christmas. Ben Stein’s genes made him go to bat for the Lord’s Special Creation.

    John Kerry misused his risk-taker genes by protesting the Vietnam War and wind-surfing.

    We’re just giving you the facts. How you use them is like how you use your superior American genes – up to you.

  283. #281 Jack Fuller
    May 25, 2008

    The only people more stupid than the likes of Michael Medved are his brain dead sycophantic supporters.

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