What is Racialism
The Prussian recently wrote a lengthy critique of “racialism”. His central thesis was that:
Biology, and to a lesser extent, genetics, has a powerful influence on individual human life but at the group level it is overshadowed by culture and social institutions.
While he doesn’t precisely define his meaning, he implies that “racialism” is the view that genes condition important outcome differences between racial groups. Here I will briefly add to the points made by Sean Last and Bulbasaur of The Right Stuff and explain why racialism makes sense.
Under What Condition is Racialism True
To show that racialism, so defined, is true one only needs to show that between the said racial groups genetic differences condition practically important outcome differences. Some specific racialist positions might be false but if some are true, racialism as such stands vindicated. In this case, the racial groups under consideration are regional ones (e.g., N.E. Asians, Europeans, West Africans, etc.).
This formulation perhaps does injustice to the situation. After all, there are racialists out there who imagine an endless variety of large regional racial difference (e.g., in personality traits such as conscientiousness, neuroticism, psychopathology, moral looseness, collectivism, and so on) that jointly condition outcome differences. Let us call this view de Gobineauism and tentatively define it as the view that (a) between regional races, individuals differ in a multitude of socially important behavioral traits by at least a moderate amount (per social science standards), (b) that these trait differences condition at least moderate sized outcome differences, and that (b) genes explain a large portion of the trait difference. In this situation race differences would be like individual differences writ large — as individuals do differ in a multitude of traits and as these differences are large, highly genetically conditioned, and practically important.
Let us distinguish this position from narrow racial hereditarianism and define this as the view that (a) regional races differ in some behavioral traits by at least a moderate amount, (b) that these trait differences condition at least moderate sized practically important outcomes differences, and that (c) genes explain a substantial portion of these trait differences. We can also add a third positions called racial geneticism which we can define as the view that (a) regional races differ on the populational level in outcomes by at least a moderate amount due to the aggregate direct and indirect effects of genetically conditioned individual level trait differences. Racial geneticism differs from racial hereditarianism in that it allows for moderate population level differences to emerge from small aggregate individual differences via social multiplier effects.
I will not here attempt to defend de Gobineauism; I will not because I can not; I can not because it’s largely untrue. Boetel and I discussed this in section IV-K of our Nature of Race paper. This section was labeled “Shades of de Gobineau” because de Gobineau’s racialist positions were not altogether incorrect yet also because only a shadow of his views can be rigorously defended.
Here, I will defend racialism qua narrow racial hereditarianism.
But what is race?
Biological races are, and have been thought of as being so since the time of Darwin, subspecific natural populations; natural populations are biological populations delineated in terms of overall genetic (genealogical or genotypic, school of thought depending) relatedness instead of specific genetic characters as in the case of morphs (e.g., sexes) and forms. Subspecific nature populations could be operationalized as: sets of individuals of the same species in which members are less overall genetically related to members of other sets than to members of their own . These populations are basically equivalent to the population geneticists’ (retrospective) genetic populations. Genetic populations are hierarchically nested, with local races nested in regional ones and regional ones nested in continental ones. For example. Aulchenko (2010) tells us:
(Aulchenko, Y. S. (2010). Effects of population structure in genome-wide association studies. Analysis of Complex Disease Association Studies: A Practical Guide, 123.)
As there is no true level of genetic analysis, one can not say that any level of racial analysis is true. Dohzhansky (1946) pointed this out, noting:
One may perhaps question the desirability of applying the term ‘racial differences’ to distinctions as small as those that can be found between populations of neighboring villages and as large as those between populations of different continents. Might one modify the definition of race by specifying that the differences in gene frequencies be above a certain minimum magnitude? Such amodification is undesirable for two reasons. First, since all magnitudes of difference are found among populations, any specified minimum can be only arbitrary. Second, it is most important to realize that the differences between the ‘major’ human races are fundamentally of the same nature as the relatively minute differences between the inhabitants of adjacent towns or villages.
In fact, most racialists have acknowledged the existence of local and regional races and more generally the nested nature of race. For some reason, Mr. Prussian adopts the view that only continental level races exist as races; perhaps he feels that only natural populations with significant genetic discontinuities between them should be called races. This conception, though, is at odds with the majority of the historic race conceptions and with (most) modern biological ones. Much could be said on this matter, but this point has already been discussed extensively elsewhere. In short, one can meaningfully talk about a White (European) evolutionary race in contrast to, say, a Yellow (North East Asian) race. These two races represent natural subspecific biological populations.
What Race differences did you have in Mind, Sir?
If no other form of racial hereditarianism proves correct, racial intelligence hereditarianism alone can vindicate racialism, since global differences in intelligence conditions a large portion of the global differences in quality of life. To give a sense of the significance of these global cognitive differences, I plotted the average of the 52 subcomponent 2014 Social Progress Index scores against National IQs. The correlation between Social Progress and National IQ was 0.82. (For comparison, the correlation between the percent of Muslim population and Social Progress was -0.40.) In short, cognitive ability differences exert a powerful influence on the group level.
There are a number of lines of evidence in support of a racial hereditarian hypothesis for cognitive ability differences (and with them overall quality of life differences). Generally, regional cognitive differences have numerous historic, biological, and genetic correlates; national cognitive differences follow migrants to some degree and transmit across generations in the new regions of origin; within mixed race populations, cognitive related outcomes correlated with racial ancestry.
Phenotypic IQ differences between Biological Races
The Comparative Performance of non-Hispanic White and Blacks in the U.S. by Immigrant Generation
Association between Outcomes and Ancestry in a Mixed Race population
(Cheng, et al., 2012. African Ancestry and Its Correlation to Type 2 Diabetes in African Americans: A Genetic Admixture Analysis in Three U.S. Population Cohorts)
There is very little to argue about here. A substantial global cognitive hereditarian hypothesis is robust yet not established. If global cognitive differences are only 40-60% heritable, we would still have moderate to large congenital cognitive differences, thus vindicating racialism (qua racial hereditarianism).
The Prussian Strikes Back
The Prussian doesn’t consider the racialist case, though. Instead, he moves to dismiss it. He points to, for example, the Flynn Effect, the secular rise in cognitive scores, to call into question the science of mental ability. An example of the Flynn effect is illustrated below. In the figure, age heaping — a measure of numeracy — rates are shown for different ethnic groups across centuries
(Juif, D. T., & Baten, J. (2013). On the human capital of Inca Indios before and after the Spanish Conquest. Was there a “Pre-Colonial Legacy”?. Explorations in Economic History, 50(2), 227-241.)
As can be seen, the ability to correctly report ages, which involves both learning and the ability to learn, has increased over the centuries — because learning has increased. Despite this secular increase, relative differences between ethnic groups (both within and between nations) remain. Chinese were one of the world’s most numerate populations, as measured by age heaping, in the 1600s and they are one of the world’s most numerate populations today as measured by PISA math scores. To be clear: cognitive differences between ethnic groups strongly correlate across centuries.
Now, one can always argue that the general cross century stability is due to stable cultural and or other environmental differences. One can — but one still has to account for the association between genetic differences and ability differences.
The Prussian goes on to point to deviations from well known averages (e.g., that Black African countries have worse profiles than European countries). But since no one argues for racial determinism, let alone racial uniformism, this whole line of argumentation is invalid. He also attempts to dismisses unwanted evidence. He dismisses, for example, the conspicuously low Amerindian and Oceania average abilities on the grounds that these groups were largely replaced by more apt Europeans. This approach allows him to side step the well know intra-national differences. As example of these, self identifying “indigenous” throughout the Americas underperform self identifying “non-indigenous” Europeans. Here is a typical discussion:
The background and test score differences between indigenous and non-indigenous students give additional insight into the distinct challenges that indigenous students face. In every country, the test score gap between indigenous and non-indigenous students was greater in Spanish reading exams than in math exams, and the gaps in both subjects ranged between 0.6 and 1.1 standard deviations. (Hernandez-Zavala, M., Patrinos, H. A., & Sakellariou, C. (2006). Quality of schooling and quality of schools for indigenous students in Guatemala, Mexico and Peru (Vol. 3982). World Bank Publications.)
Moreover, ancestral admixture predicts educational outcomes.
While none of the above proves a causal genetic hypothesis, some explaining is needed. Anti-racialists need to account for the association between ancestry and outcomes (a) between ethnic groups between nations, (b) between ethnic groups within nations, and (c) between individuals within heavily admixed ethnic groups. The Prussian tells us that “cultural institutions trump race – and institutions can be changed” and yet all of the institutional change to date has left the substantial association between ancestry and outcomes largely intact. Apparently, more change is needed — more mixing it up with an extra dose of anti-privilege.
Finally, when not evading evidence, The Prussian attacks the strawview of White Supremacy. We are told, for example, that the Chinese were historically more advanced than Europeans and therefore that Euro-number-one-ism is stupid (which it is, but not for this reason). But if so, this is all the better for a hereditarian cognitive ability hypothesis, as it currently struggles to explain the surprising dearth of East Asians accomplishments.
Significant Scientific Figures and Accomplishments from 800 B.C. to 2000 A.D.
The accomplishment differences are currently attributed to differences in personality factors such as collectivism; while there is a genetic basis to such regional personality differences (e..g, Way and Lieberman, 2010), the connection between these differences and the ones in accomplishments is speculative at best. The Prussian then, at most, simply lifts the burden of accounting for East Asian under-performance.
In summary, The Prussian doesn’t address the evidence in support of racialism, understood as the view that genes condition important outcome differences between racial groups. Instead, he sidesteps the evidence and knocks down strawmen e.g., racial determinism.