Metamorphosis of Spirit

Sources for the Metamorphosis: the Ages of Man and the three metamorphoses of spirit

Zarathustra tells how it is that the human spirit, overcoming morality, becomes a sumpter, a predator, and a quasihuman redeemer, a culminating jester representing our second child-hood. The human spirit loses its innocence. Morality brings man to embarrassment, shame, and guilt. Imposing moral world-order onto existence, man loses contact with the Dionysian innocence of becoming. At length, the newest and most unrelenting of all moral imperatives voices its commandments to mankind, the unconditional will to truth. Like Oedipus, whose heroic drive to knowledge drew him into unspeakable crimes against nature, parricide and maternal incest, we, too, must be brought, by our stern unwillingness to deceive ourselves, to an involuntary murderous assault on the resentment fathering our passionate and unbridled lust to uncover, penetrate, and know the truth as well as to an incestuous assault on the artistic illusions mothering it. Knowledge turns us into animals. As camels, we gladly assume the gravest and most demanding burdens, burdens which might easily crush others lacking our strength and reverence. We patiently, lovingly, obediently submit ourselves to trying labors, testing our loyalty and disciplining our characters into wholeness. As true ascetics, we deny ourselves any indulgence in independent cognitions, volitions, or actions, and we bind ourselves as tightly as possible to our servitude. We accept our moral responsibility to do the truth, and, doing so, we regain our innocence. As lions we rise up in violent rebellion against our absolute master, one we knelt down to in love as perfect servants. Renouncing any power to create, we strike out in destructive frenzy, declaring autonomous, arbitrary independence. We struggle against our moral obligations, refusing to believe in their sacred inviolability, hence summoning their ultimate origins and values into question. We even dare to be honest about what honesty actually means, insisting on knowing the ugly, unseemly truth about truth, and, as a result, we finally overthrow our draconic master and assert our freedom. As children, we rediscover our ability to be and to become the truth, will-ing our own wills and giving ourselves the right to act in an innocent style, playing as children play, without expecting unity, reality, absolute veracity, or any other moral attribute to rule our lives. Hence, our creative energy returns, the strength and the force that makes us gods, the power to create new values, superhuman meanings. At this stage, our ludic virtues are complete. We are as innocent, as independent, and as strong as children at play. We have lived as consummate animals as a means to overcoming, integrating, and elevating ourselves as consummate men—as supermen.


The geography of thought

In The geography of thought: how Asians and westerners think differently– and why, Richards Nisbett dismantles the universalist pretension that all peoples think alike and demolishes the radical environmentalist claim that differences in geography alone explains different historic paths.

Recently, Ian morris argued the radical environmentalist case:

So strong are the similarities between the Greco-Roman, Jewish, Indian and Chinese classics, in fact, that scholars often call the first millennium bc the ‘Axial Age’, in the sense of it being an axis around which the whole history of Eurasian thought turned. From the Mediterranean to the Yellow Sea, larger, more complex societies were facing similar challenges in the first millennium bc and finding similar answers. Socrates was part of a huge pattern, not a unique giant who sent the West down a superior path.

So what do we learn from all this history? Two main things, I think. First, since people are all much the same, it is our shared biology which explains humanity’s great upward leaps in wealth, productivity and power across the last 10,000 years; and, second, that it is geography which explains why one part of world – the nations we conventionally call ‘the West’ – now dominates the rest.

But Nisbett shows that the structure of East Asian thought is markedly different from European thought when it comes to Logic, categorization, causal attribution, field dependence, etc (1). For example, when it comes to categorization, while Europeans tend to classify and group objects on the basis of category membership, East Asians tend to classify and group objects on the basis of family resemblance.

Figure 2. Fig. 2. “Which group does the target object belong to?” Target bears a family resemblance to group on the left but can be assigned to group on the right on the basis of a rule.

Nisbett goes on to make a strong case that these differences in ways of thinking, and cognitive processing (2), influenced historic societal development — for example, the development of scientific method in the West and all that that entailed:

The collective or interdependent nature of Asian society is consistent with Asians’ broad, contextual view of the world and their belief that events are highly complex and determined by many factors. The individualistic or independent nature of Western society seems consistent with the Western focus on particular objects in isolation from their context and with Westerners’ belief that they can know the rules governing objects and therefore can control the objects’ behavior.”

The greatest of Greek scientific discoveries was the discovery – or rather, as philosopher Geoffrey Lloyd put it, the invention – of nature itself, The Greeks defined nature as the universe minus human beings and their culture. Although this seems to us to be the most obvious sort of distinction, no other civilization came upon it. A plausible account of how the Greeks happened to invent nature is that they came to make a distinction between the external, objective world and the internal, subjective one

This was basically the case I made here:

These changes, of course, were not discovered, the discovery was the knowledge and technology that led to them, which happened, in some part, due to the unique ways of thinking which were collectively pioneered. People of different cultures have different ways of thinking about the world and thinking about thinking.

These ways of thinking and looking, or cultural perspectives, are culturally promoted ways in which we separate or combine basic elements of how we relate to the world, others, and ourself. That is, through mental synthesis and partitioning. For example, we typically relate to some entities, such as other people, subjectively and we relate to other entities, such as rocks, objectively — though sometimes what counts as what is debated. Regardless, how we relate varies across culture and time, and of course , across people within a particular epoch. And how we relate to one thing, effects how we relate to other things, as our ideas work in systems, and often dualities.

Western Caucasians pioneered a Rational-Empirical perspective, which allowed then to explore nature, or as some might lament, rape and pillage it in the most horribly productive way. This way of thinking came about, in part, due to the marriage of three unique cultural perspectives, ones adapted from the Hellenes, the Persians, and the Hebrews.

Overall, this book offers an antidote to some of the radical leftist ways of thinking — and all that that entails. That said, the culturalism gets out of hand, and the work could use a little biogeographic thinking(3).

(1) Refer to Nisbett and Masuda, 2003. Culture and point of view.

(2) For example, refer to: Chee, Zheng, et al., 2010. Brain Structure in Young and Old East Asians and Westerners: Comparisons of Structural Volume and Cortical Thickness

(3) Consider this tortured passage:

When I speak of Westerners I mean people of European cultures. When I speak of European Americans, I mean black and white and Hispanic — and anyone of non-Asian descent. This somewhat odd usage can be justified by the fact that everyone born and raised in America is exposed to similar … cultural influences. This is true for Asian Americans too,obviously, but in some of the research discussed they are examined as a separate group because we would expect them to be more similar to Asians than we would expect other Americans to be — and in fact this is what we find.

Philosophy and Biology: Where did all the Liberals Go?

In moral philosophy, ideas are frequently investigated through hypothetical considerations. Through hypotheticals, we are forced to confront contradictory implications. Ideas are tested against the manifold of our dispositions. Most people have heard variants of this one:

As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by dropping a heavy weight in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you – your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you proceed?

When it comes to Human Biodiversity and society we have the following dilemma:

Imagine a society in which there are different recognizable ancestral and ethnic populations. Imagine you know that these populations, on average, will not perform equally across all social dimensions, and particularly in some desired fields. Do you structure society to make sure that there is proportionate group representation in desired fields or do you affirm individual rights.

This hypothetical tests how we think about equality in relation to individuals, groups, opportunity, and outcomes. It’s interesting to see the answers we get. It’s even more interesting to see the attempts made to not answer it. Take Richard Nisbett’s comment in Race, genetics, and IQ:

If such a difference were wholly or substantially genetic in origin, the implications for American society would be dire. It would mean that even if the environmental playing field were leveled, a much higher proportion of blacks than whites would have trouble supporting themselves, and a much lower proportion of blacks than whites would be professionals and successful business people. A recent example of this claim can be found in the phenomenally successful book The Bell Curve (1994), by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray.

Why, exactly, would the implications be dire? One can either continue with group based discrimination or focus on individual rights. Jensen made this point a while back:

However, note that adverse impact is a phenomenon wholly related to group differences. It need not be seen as a problem if selection were only thought of in terms of individual differences. Thus the “dilemma” referred to in the title of my essay really boils down to the kind of question that science is unable to answer. It is the old question of whether group rights should predominate over individual rights. This is inherently not a scientific question at all, but a philosophical and ethical one. I have spelled out my opinion about it elsewhere (Jensen, 1991), to the effect that insistence on individual rights will, both in the short run and in the long run, provide the best assurance of whatever fairness for all persons lies within the power of human endeavor to achieve. The emphasis, I believe, should be on furthering equal opportunity and equal treatment for all persons, and let group outcomes become what they may, rather than eliminating adverse impact merely by having group rights trump individual rights. On this point, of course, the argument devolves wholly on philosophic principle and social consent. Scientists may legitimately formulate predictions about the probable outcomes of different public policies, but they are no better qualified philosophically or ethically than any other citizens to choose which policy should be empowered. In our system of government, such decisions rest with the citizens, their elected representatives, and ultimately with the courts.
– Jensen, 2000.

The dire aspect for Nisbett et al., is that it would force them to face the above hypothetical, which they don’t want to, because it shatters their liberal ideas. Elsewhere I noted that Flynn holds that the Flynn effect offers analytic proof against Jensen’s “steal logic”; in the same way, we might say that HBD offers an analytic demonstration of the incoherence of contemporary Liberal thinking.

Modus Vivendi Liberalism and the Right

Over at Alternative Right, Jim Kalb and others frequently argue for a return to traditionalism. I think it would be more effective to simply argue for a return to Liberalism. (From a purely pragmatic perspective, you simply are not going to go from perfectionist liberalism to a traditional form of perfectionism.)

Patrick Neal, in his Liberalism and its Discontents (1998), outlines the situation and the type of liberalism I am speaking of:

Contemporary liberal discourse is dominated by the competition between political (Rawls) and perfectionist (Raz, Dworkin) models. The ignored third party to this conversation is that of what Rawls calls the “modus Vivendi” view, or what I refer to here are vulgar liberalism. Both political and perfectionist liberals, as well as critics of liberalism, take it as more or less obvious that this model is deeply deficient. This chapter tries to show that this is not so, and that there a good deal to be said in defense of “merely” vulgar liberalism.

But is “a good deal” enough? That is more difficult to say. It may well be that case that only those claimed by and devoted to something other than liberalism could be enthusiastic about the appeal of this minimalistic type of political liberalism. But that itself would be a telling fact, at least in light of the professed attempt by ecumenical political liberals to propose terms of political association with broad appeal to more people than simply those who already affirm liberalism as a comprehensive philosophy of life. Vulgar liberalism is less liberal but more political than political liberalism – and therefore more likely to approach the ecumenical ends sought by political liberalism itself.

By vulgar (or minimal) liberalism, Neal is not referring to libertarianism. Libertarianism is just a theory of (minimal) governance, which may or may not aspire to Liberal or illiberal ends. Rather, he is referring to a minimalistic theory of the Liberal Good – that is, a political theory of Justice and Morality.

The virtues of the Hobbesian, modus vivendi account of liberalism are best appreciated when seen against the background of the vices arising from perfectionist and neutralist versions. Modus Vivendi liberalism certainly does not constitute a political theory capable of speaking to the deepest needs of the human soul; indeed, as I understand it, it openly eschews the attempt to do so and acknowledges (at least ideally) both its modest reach and limited aspiration. The essence of the idea is that political justices is to be understood as an agreement upon terms of political procedure which an be worked out amongst the actual existent group embodying differing accounts of the good in a given set of circumstances. The agreement is provisional and always subject to change, and is understood to be so by those who have agreed to abide by it….
…The differences between the Rawlsian idea of overlapping consensus and the idea of modus vivendi is not that the former presumes a motivating desire to seek and live by principles of justice whereas the latter does not, but that the overlapping consensus restricts the bounds of political community in a way that the modus Vivendi idea does not. In the overlapping consensus idea, conceptions of the good and the groups embodying them which reject the liberal principle of political legitimacy are defined outside the sphere of full political legitimacy. I think this is too narrow a view of pluralism to adequately capture and express what is best about the essential spirit of liberalism, that “imagination of various possibilities” of which Trilling spoke.

While non-modus vivendi Liberalism is anathema to Right-thinking — modus vivendi Liberalism can co-exist with it.

For those interested, I linked (to a link of — copyright and all) his essays on which this concept is based.

Liberalism and Neutrality
A Liberal Theory of the Good?
Perfectionism With a Liberal Face? Nervous Liberals and Raz’s Politial Theory
Vulgar Liberalism (1993).

A Giant and some Dwarves: Anticulturalism and the handling of Western Man

Repost. Nietzsche’s pregnant tale and the Culture of critique (my translation):

“My brothers,” said the oldest dwarf, we are in danger. “I understand the mannerisms of this Giant; this great big fellow feels like doing his thing. When this number one takes a number ones, we will be eliminated; for when a giant takes a leak, we have a great flood. And I need not speak of what other horrible element we will be drowning in.”

“Problem,” said the second dwarf, “how does one keep a number one, from taking a number one.”

“Problem,” said the third dwarf, “how does one keep a Big Shit from being a Big Shit.”

“I thank you,” answered the oldest dwarf, in a dignified tone. “In so characterizing the problem as a twofold desire, the solution has become clear.”

“We must frighten him,” said the fourth dwarf.
“We must tickle him,” said the fifth dwarf.
“We must bite his toes,” said the sixth.”

“And we must do so all in union,” decided the oldest. “I see we have raised our low standing. This Great One will not piss all over us.”

The dwarves had a little problem. A Giant. And that Giant was double trouble, because giants do what giants do — and nature is such that when a number 1 and number 2 is done it falls on whatever is below. The Dwarves came up with a brilliant solution. Realizing that their problem was dual in nature, they realized that the solution was too: They needed to double the Great Guy in two by, first, splitting him from his Greatness and the natural externalities of this and, second, by teaching the Big Guy to identify with his big messes and feel not so great about being what he is.

I’ll leave it at that. Obviously, in our case, a disproportionate amount of Jews played the role of Zwergen. Of course, they weren’t alone. In any event, they all did their frightening, tickling, and biting to “refigure whiteness in antiracist, antihomophobic, and antisexist ways.” They disconnected the Greatness of the West from its nature, cultural or otherwise, and highlighted the largeness of the shit that this Big Oaf-civilization produced. The stupid fellows thereof have since been ashamed of being themselves — and are terrified at the thought of starting to do so.

So lehre ich sie, ihren Koth lassen und Götter werden.”
— Nietzsche

Atavistic Right

I affiliate with the so-called Alternative Right because I find “progressivism,” with its liberal perfectionism, perverted inverted Christianity, and totalitarian pan-humanism to be an affront to my philosophical and spiritual sensibilities. And the Tim Wises and Noel Ingnatievs of the Left with their unbridled hostility to my ethnic identity married to their exaltations for diversity don’t exactly moderate that offense.

That said, the crash, penurious, and narcissistic sentiment of the Alternative Right gives my rationalization hamster quite a workout.

The essence of right-thinking, as we mean it, is Gemeinschaft. National community. And, yes, Community proper implies exclusion, and exclusion implies differences, and differences implies conflict.

Community proper is what was valued by the UN when it adopted Resolution 260 (III):

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

It is the basic human way that has been defended from Mencius to John Paul the II .

It is clear why the New right has embraced an atavistic sense. Liberalism, progressivism, cultural Marxism, and Leftism all define themselves in terms niceness. Because the New right opposes the destruction of Community, rejects progressive whiggery, and finds the Manichean “multicultural” moral-theology nauseating, it embraces the inverse sentiment:

That, of course, is a mistake. An alternative left is also needed. One that is ground in a tragic sense of life which accepts the beautiful ugliness of being and the rich dirtiness of man — (read: conflict happens, that’s the price of being) — and so does lust to re-engineer man and society in manic pursuit of some abstract ideality.

Philosophy and Biology

Over at Intersecting Processes: complexity & change in environment, biomedicine & society, Pete Taylor has a few cogent posts on the issue of Human Biodiversity. He offers some thoughtful meditations on Neven Sesardic’s Race: A Social Destruction of a Biological Concept. I posted a long reply. As it might be of interest for references, I will repost it here:

A few comments…

Point 1. “Biology is more than genetic variation. For example, experience of racial discrimination by African-American women has been associated with higher risk of pre-term delivery of their babies even after controlling… Race can be linked with biology even if races cannot be distinguished on the basis of genetic differences.Sesardic (2010) makes the point that the fact that genetic variation within a group is of larger than variation between (the average of) the groups does not mean that the groups cannot be distinguished. This point is not, however, sufficient to rehabilitate a biological picture of race. I continue from the previous post to sketch the issues we face once we delve deeper into the relevant scientific knowledge, concepts, methods, and questions for inquiry…

Your point 1 is confusing. First you talk about non-genetic biology (something like G-E interaction or epigenetic, I guess) and than Sesardic’s defense of race. But those are distinct issues. (And your conclusion that the African-American pre-term delivery risk is a consequence if discrimination does not follow — since, obviously, this could be also explained by way of population genetics [1]).

Lets start with some conceptual footwork. There seems to be rather different definitions of ‘race’ floating around For example, the atrocious Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on race defines race as a class of individuals with perceived shared phenotypes. I guess that would be something like the ‘race’ or highly pigmented people. But most people don’t conceive of race that way — rather they conceive of the term as meaning ‘ancestry’ or if you will ‘descendancy.’ I have never heard anyone, after all, seriously speak of the race of dark people in a sense were dark Pakistanies and Sub Saharan Africans were lumped together. Race as ancestry captures all major definitions of the concept: the broad phylogenic one (i.e. subspecies) used by Linnaeus, Kant, and Darwin; the more specific idea of ethnorace (2), the ethnohistoric one based on some idea of culture and average shared regional ancestry (African-Americans), and the supposed (and supposedly disproved) social one which is said to be based on some belief in a phylogenic concept. So let’s use that as our generic definition and then qualify it with the terms “phylogenic,” “ethno” and “ethnohistoric” or “social”

Sesardic is defending the phylogenic conception [or attacking the arguments against it] (3) [“Abstract: It is nowadays a dominant opinion in a number of disciplines (anthropology, genetics, psychology, philosophy of science) that the taxonomy of human races does not make much biological sense…I hope to demonstrate that their eliminativist views are actually in conflict with what the best contemporary science tells us about human genetic variation..”] The conceived phylogenic races roughly correspond to the major phylogenic branches (ancestral populations) in Luca Cavalli-Sforza’s The History and Geography of Human Genes or the major populations as inferred by factor analysis (4) in contemporary population genetics.

The fact that aggregated genetic variation between populations is always larger than aggregated variation within populations means that populations can be genetically distinguished. But this isn’t sufficient to establish that these populations represent phylogenic races (subspecies). It’s generally argued that significant noticeable differences between population are required — the debate turns on a conceptualization of what it means for a population to be different (do different populations need to share one or more distinct trait or does a cluster of average traits suffice, if the population is somehow otherwise related?)– which is why Sesardic would have to make the argument that patterns of noticeable phenotypic differences (shared by genetically distinguishable [read: ancestral] populations) constitutes population differences, and therefore human subspecies. [Again, in the cited source, Sesardic is attacking arguments against phylogenic race, not arguing for it]

(1) Something along the lines of: Pennington R, Gatenbee C, Kennedy B, Harpending H, Cochran G. Group differences in proneness to inflammation OR Risch, 2005. Dissecting Racial and Ethnic Differences OR Gottfredson, 2005. Thinking more deeply about health disparities.

(2) To use Johnathan Haidt’s definition: ”any group of people who believe they share common descent, actually do share common descent, and that descent involved at least 500 years of a sustained selection pressure, such as sheep herding, rice farming, exposure to malaria, or a caste-based social order, which favored some heritable behavioral predispositions and not others.”

(3) An example of a taxonomic defense would be: Woodley, 2009.Is Homo sapiens polytypic? Human taxonomic diversity and its implications

“The term race is a traditional synonym for subspecies, however it is frequently asserted that Homo sapiens is monotypic and that what are termed races are nothing more than biological illusions. In this manuscript a case is made for the hypothesis that H. sapiens is polytypic, and in this way is no different from other species exhibiting similar levels of genetic and morphological diversity. First it is demonstrated that the four major definitions of race/subspecies can be shown to be synonymous within the context of the framework of race as a correlation structure of traits. Next the issue of taxonomic classification is considered where it is demonstrated that H. sapiens possesses high levels morphological diversity, genetic heterozygosity and differentiation (FST) compared to many species that are acknowledged to be polytypic with respect to subspecies. Racial variation is then evaluated in light of the phylogenetic species concept, where it is suggested that the least inclusive monophyletic units exist below the level of species within H. sapiens indicating the existence of a number of potential human phylogenetic species; and the biological species concept, where it is determined that racial variation is too small to represent differentiation at the level of biological species. Finally the implications of this are discussed in the context of anthropology where an accurate picture of the sequence and timing of events during the evolution of human taxa are required for a complete picture of human evolution, and medicine, where a greater appreciation of the role played by human taxonomic differences in disease susceptibility and treatment responsiveness will save lives in the future”

(4) See: Li, et al., 2008. Worldwide Human Relationships Inferred from Genome-Wide Patterns of Variation. Or Jinchuan Xing et al. 2010. Toward a more uniform sampling of human genetic diversity: A survey of worldwide populations by high-density genotyping.

Point 2. [a] Suppose we imagine an original human gene pool that dispersed at some point of time from its origins in Africa around the world and was not subject to subsequent breeding among widely dispersed parts of the pool. [b] Cluster analysis techniques could be used on genetic data to divide humans into, say, N groups. [c] If we looked for groups that had similar within-group genetic variation, most of the N groups would be in Africa. [d] In other words, the traditional subdivisions of human races would have to be reformulated. However, experience using cluster analysis in large agricultural data sets (Cooper and Hammer 1996) suggests that many individuals cannot be consistently be assigned to one group versus another…

Your point 2 is behind the times. Worse all of this was addressed in Sesardic article.
There is nothing to suppose about [a] (5). [b] Has already been done; N =5-7 (6). [c] is incorrect if you use cluster analysis — given the (relatively) large genetic separation between Sub-Saharan African and other populations (7). When it comes to human population genetics. [d] is known as the Lewontin fallacy (8) — this is why populations can be genetically distinguished.

5. Look at the divergence map in: Campbell and Tishkoff, 2009. The Evolution of Human Genetic Review and Phenotypic Variation in Africa.

6. Refer to note 4.

7. For example, look at figure 1 in Bastos-Rodriguez, Pinmenta, Penal, 2006/ The Genetic Structure of Human Populations Studied Through Short Insertion-Deletion Polymorphisms.

8. Refer to: Edwards, A.W.F. (2003). Human genetic diversity: Lewontin’s fallacy. Given two (biological) populations, if enough gene loci are analyzed the overlap reduces to nil and individuals can be definitively assigned to either population. (The point about more different within groups than between applies to single genes not aggregates.)

Point 3. Suppose we now add migration subsequent to the initial dispersal, but without cross-breeding among the groups. Picking up this last point in #2, if individuals from non-African groups outweigh those from African groups in, say, the United States, then how well could we recover from the U.S. data all the groups delineated in #2? That would be an empirical question, but the experience from agriculture warns us not to be optimistic.

You can check the Hapmap. CEU is European-American. Take a look here (9). The rate of human evolution may have rapidly increased — but not that fast!

(9). Nelis, 2009. Genetic Structure of Europeans: A View from the North–East; Zakharia, et. al. 2009.Characterizing the admixed African ancestry of African Americans;

Point 4. Of course, #3 [a] There has been considerable migration and cross-breeding subsequent to the initial dispersal from the place of human origin in Africa, including but not confined to the recent centuries of cross-Atlantic slavery and master-slave relations. [b] How well could we recover from current individuals the one or more groups (as delineated in #2) that make up the individuals´ ancestry? Again, this is an empirical question. [c] Biomedical researchers…

As for [a], refer to (9). Better, refer here: Risch,et al., 2009. Ancestry-related assortative mating in Latino populations. As for [b], it seems pretty well (10). As for [c], we surely assume ancestry when it comes to talking about the “historic legacy” of slavery, discrimination, Affirmative Action, and defacto quotas — and no one seems to mind the sociopolitical implications of those assumptions and attributions.

More generally this is confusing phylogenic race (Sesardic’s concern) with ethnorace and cultural-historic race. When it comes to average genetic differences, which seems to be your concern — all that matters is that the social classification corresponds to different average gene pools (think Amish or Jews and various genetic risk factors).

(10) See: Mountain and Risch, 2004. Assessing Genomic contributions to phenotypic differences among “racial” and “ethnic” groups.

Point 5. [a] Perhaps, we could ask less than we have in #4. Rather than full recovery of original ancestries, we might seek simply want to predict whether an individual patient has some major biomedically relevant genes that differed, on average, among the original groups. [b] These predictions, necessarily probabilistic, would be limited in value given the recently-emerged consensus that most medically significant traits are associated with many genes of quite small effect (McCarthy et al. 2008). Moreover, given that the groups delineated in #2 would not match the traditional subdivisions of human races or those current in the U.S.—there would be several different groups of African origin—medical practitioners would need to disregard superficial assignments to racial groups.

[a] Ok, but this issue is rather separate from Sesardic’s immediate concern — let me bring that point home. Imagine that by year 2100 all members of the said ancestral populations had mixed. We could still ask if the original populations constituted subspecies or phylogenic races. And we could determine relative percentage.

[b] As being able to distinguish populations refer back to (10). As for the utility of ethno/ethnohistoric race and biomedical research refer to (11) — there is broad agreement that such research is worthwhile. [c] Presumably, Medical practitioners could use more specific terms as needed and population geneticists would use more general terms.

(11). Beckman, 2006. The Race for Ancestral Genetics in Clinical Trials; Race, Ethnicity, and Genetics Working Group, 2005. The Use of Racial, Ethnic, and Ancestral Categories in Human Genetics Research; Rotimi, 2005. Understanding and Using Human Genetic Variation Knowledge in the Design and Conduct of Biomedical Research. (Discusses the relevance of Race in biomedical research)

Point 6. [a] What could we do with that knowledge that there is a difference between the average genetic profiles for groups A and B when there is large within-group variation for most genetic loci (at least, for those that vary within the human species)? Let me accentuate this question with using the IQ test score case Sesardic has paid considerable attention to (2005). [b] Suppose we knew (which we do not) that only a certain small set of genes influenced IQ test scores. What could we do with the knowledge that there is a large difference between the average IQ test score for two groups and this difference is smaller than the within-group variation? (To visualize this situation, imagine one of the axes in the Figure is IQ test score.) [c] I would not use my ability to assign humans to original post-dispersal groups based on genetic profiles as grounds for using an individual´s membership in a group to make educational or employment decisions for the individual. But I will not speak for Sesardic; I do not know what he thinks would follow if a biological view of race were to be rehabilitated along the lines he discusses

[a] Let’s break this down into three questions1) what’s the (social or scientific) utility of knowledge of phylogenic race; what’s the (scientific) utility of knowing about the population genetics of ethnoraces or ethnohistoric races? What the (social) utility of knowledge about the population genetics of ethno races or ethnohistoric races?

First, in general, knowledge is presumable between that ignorance. With regards to 1) I’m not aware of any social utility and I’m not sure what scientific utility means. The concern here seems to be that resurrecting a phylogenic race concept, would lead to racism. I think the evidence for that is slim. I don’t remember reading about anyone marching on the banner of ’Caucasian nationalism’ where Caucasians included all west Asians, north Africans, and some South Asians. I guess you could argue that the original idea in the US or Australia was based on a phylogenic sense — but they were really based on a ethno racial/ cultural senses, with “white” designating Europeans, in the sense of western civilization. With regards to 2) you can refer above or see also (11).

[b] Asks about the social utility of knowledge about the population genetics of ethnoraces or ethnohistoric races. As example, You ask “what could we do with the knowledge that there is a large difference between the average IQ test score.[?]” Here, you’re really asking two things: 1) What’s the social utility of knowing about [ethnoracial or ethno historic] group differences? And 2) What’s the social utility of knowing the etiology of these differences?

As for 1), quite a few people seem to be interested in knowing about average group differences [Disparate impact; closing the achievement gap; understanding the nature of group differential performance; national differences in Intelligence] and we already know about them (12) — so this is a mute question. As for 2) ,presumably, one reason for the interest is that social policy can be formulated around these differences; knowing the etiology of them seems to be rather important when it comes to developing social policy (13) [for example, knowing the cause (as example, 14) of National differences, informs how undesired ones are addressed)

[c] There are a couple of issues here that are all bundled together: 1) the acceptability of using ethno race/ancestry as an inclusion criterion for private club, businesses, or group membership, 2) the acceptability of drawing and acting on Bayesian inferences, and 3) the social impact of knowledge of genetic etiologies for some of the know differences (12).

Generally, the substantial issue with 1) and 2 is independent of considerations of race. With 1), the larger question is: is it acceptable to base the inclusion criterion for private clubs, businesses, or group membership on anything other than the functional needs of the said establishment. (Say, is it ok to just hire Catholics? Or, Is it ok to exclude Homosexuals from the Boy Scouts ) With 2) this issue is: is it acceptable to draw and act on any inferences (Think Juan Williams).

1) and 2) are complex topics. I don’t see how they are directly relevant to the present consideration. Let’s pretend that the socially recognized races are actually just “social constructions.” They had no connection with differential population genetics, differential ancestry, or differential geographic origin. Let’s pretend that the socially recognized races are like star (and starless) bellied Sneeches. We know that Sneeches make (or at least once made) inferences about star (or starless) bellied Sneeches and use (or at least used) starhood as an inclusion criterion. How would substantiating that star bellied Sneaehes came from the stars, or adapted to star life, or had star ancestry alter things?

Now we get to 3). “I would not use my ability to assign humans to original post-dispersal groups based on genetic profiles as grounds for using an individual´s membership in a group to make educational or employment decisions for the individual.”

Regardless of what you would do, our government surely does use racial profiles “to make educational or employment decisions.” When it comes to the Bell Curve debates, the issue, obviously, isn’t about replacing the current fuzzy and inconsistent legal understanding of race with a more empirical understanding based on population genetics. No one is advocating that the 20% indoEuropeanness in the African American genetic pool should be factored in when it comes to the 4/5ths rule! It’s about demonstrating that the average African-American ~ 1 stdv IQ (and Hispanic .3-.8 stdv) deficit is the cause of some of the oft discussed disparities, and demonstrating that this has a partially genetic etiology, and arguing that the disparate impact rulings (defacto quotas) should take that into account — and so not discriminate against Eurasians. (See (15) and refer back to note (1) )

(11) Lahn and Ebenstein, 2009. Let’s celebrate human genetic diversity

(12) Refer here: Roth, Bevier, Bobko, et. al., 2001. Ethnic Group Differences in Cognitive Ability in Employment and Educational Settings: A Meta-Analysis. Gottfredson, 1987. The practical significance of black–white differences in intelligence; Stevens, 2007. Researching Race/Ethnicity and Educational Inequality in English Secondary Schools: A Critical Review of the Research Literature Between 1980 and 2005; Rindermann, 2007. Relevance of education and intelligence at the national level for the economic welfare of people;

(13) Gottfredson, 2005. Suppressing intelligence research: Hurting those we intend to help; Singer, 2007. Should We Talk About Race and Intelligence? Hunt and Carlson, 2007. Considerations Relating to the Study of Group Differences in Intelligence; Rindermann, 2009. Educational policy and country outcomes in international cognitive competence studies

(14) Eppig, Fincher, and Thornhil, 2010. Parasite prevalence and the worldwide distribution of cognitive ability

(15) Levin, 1997. Why Race Matters; Gottfredson, 2004. Social Consequences of Group Differences in Cognitive Ability; Gottfredson, 2010. Intelligence and social inequality: Why the biological link?; Lahn and Ebenstein, 2009. Let’s celebrate human genetic diversity

Point 7. A biological notion of socially and historically varying racial categories lies well outside the scope of “what the best contemporary science tells us about human genetic variation.”

Point 7 brings us back to point 1 and the distinction between “phylogenic,” “ethno” and “ethno historic” race. When you say “race” has been a socially and historically varying category, you surely are correct. But, then, “population” is a rather variable category. In population genetics one can speak of the human population, major geographically defined intrahuman ancestral populations, or local populations, such as ethnic Han. Alternatively, in sociology, on can speak of older populations and such. I don’t think anyone would argue that since the population of older people lack a common genealogy, population genetics is bunk! One would expect the same when it comes to race.

We have these questions:

1) Can “[c]luster analysis techniques could be used on genetic data to divide humans into, say, N groups” ? (Can populations be distinguished?)
2) Do the N groups correspond to regional ancestral populations?
3) Are there patterns of phenotypic differences between the regional ancestral populations?
4) Do the regional ancestral represent human subspecies (phylogenic races)?

5) When people refer to races in the social and political context do these represent populations with different average regional ancestry (regional population admixture)?
6) Can any of the average behavioral/ performance differences between the above populations be ascribed to average genetic difference?
7) Can any of the average behavioral/ performance differences between ethnoracial populations (as defined by “people who believe they share common descent, actually do share common descent, and that descent involved at least 500 years of a sustained selection pressure” ) be ascribed to average genetic differences?
8 ) Can X behavioral/ performance differences between socially defined race/ethnorace A and B be ascribed to average genetic difference?

The best of contemporary science should be able to (and has) answer(ed) all of these — in the affirmative — but 4) and most variants of 8 )

I think (read: I know) that the motivating concern about “biological” concepts of race, let alone phylogenic classifications, is the concern that they can reinforce so called US/THEM thinking — and that concern doesn’t seem to be completely unfounded. This is a really complex issue, so I will have to take that up another time. But let me leave off with a reply that I made to a similar concern:


“I love how you find it valid to apply the “PC” label to the issue of species classification among humans. Surely you’d have to be addled with political correctness to not have qualms with some people not being fully human, right?”

Part 1. I love how you come across as an idiot. The PCness would be altering the species classification just because and only when we are talking about humans. And you would, indeed, have to be addled with PC thinking — or a profound lack of philosophical depth — to conclude that labeling a Neanderthal as a separate species would mean that some humans are less human, by virtue of their genome being mixed/or not mixed with that of the Neanderthal.

As for the later, are you saying that a Neanderthal would not be human — when classified as a separate species? When mass genetic engineering comes on line and humans, embracing bioliberalism, begin to genetically differentiate themselves on a large scale — will they cease to be humans? If I banged a cat girl or a Vulcan, would any kids be “not fully human” by virtue of genetic differences?

The term “human” derives from the Latin term humanus, which means “earthly beings” — as opposed to gods. It’s a moral-philosophical concept not directly related to the scientific concept of homo sapiens sapiens. It implies that all said creatures (L. creatura “things created”) exist in the same moral sphere,which is below that inhabited by gods and sacred spirits and above that inhabited by things and profane objects. The former you worship, which is a step above respect and honor, and the latter you use.

As a typical PC liberal, you, of course, are working from the very frame of thought that leads to the idea that “some people are not human.” I am not. Your concern is that we also differentiate amongst animals (L. animale “living being, being which breathes”). We distinguish between human animals and non-human animals — and relate to the latter more like more like we do to “things” or objects to be used. And since, like a typical intellectually shallow liberal, you unreflectively work form the Darwinian (philosophical) frame, you define the borders of humanness — of moral participation — in terms of genetics relatedness. I do not.

This is similar to how other liberals find “innate” (L. innatus “inborn” related to L. gnasci/L. genus = genetics/race) intellectual differences between humans to be troubling. They unreflectively work form the pre-Darwinian Western frame, which speaks in terms of Aristotelian categories (instead of statistical averages) and defines the borders of humanness in terms of rational capacity — a view with persisted into the 1800′s and was understandable then. By the first framem a Romulan or Neanderthal is not human by virtue of genetics. By the second, an intellectually impaired adult — and possibly infant — is not human by virtue of cognitive predilection.

I’m not sure what to say. For you, keeping science out of moral-philosophy is “sick garbage” — and I guess that I am too — because you are working from a frame in which science is entangled with moral-philosophy and is entangled in such a way that it can (and often does) lead to the very conclusions you don’t like. As the Buddhists would say, change your way of thinking — not the world to fit it. Moreover, don’t abuse me on the basis of the conclusions that you think I draw, based on your projected atavistic conceptualizations.

As a final note, it should be pretty clear the genetic engineering will lead to large scale differentiation. Compared to today, the hominids of the future will be radically dissimilar. So crack open a philosophy book and get used to the idea. And while your at it, stop being a tool of the liberal intelligentsia. They are perpetuating the fallacious ways of thinking that you echo for sociopolitical ends — specifically as a means of stopthink. And those ends have little to do perceptions of humanness — and keeping the supposed Nazis at bay. If public and large portions of academia could be so conditioned to stopthink and mimic the PC lines when it comes to population genetics, psychometrics, and history — with all the research and information readily available — would it be that difficult to condition people to divorce sciencethink from moral-philosophy?

Whiter Privilege

In spite of what your typical leftist nutjob argues (1), the abolition of White people and the “restoration of the natural laws of breeding” will not usher in a global egalitarian utopia — it won’t even usher in national “post-racial” socioeconomic proportionality.

Villarreala, 2010. Stratification by Skin Color in Contemporary Mexico (Click on the upper left corner to view)

Boundaries between the remaining ethnic or racial categories were further blurred in the twentieth century following the Mexican revolution (1910 to 1920). A new generation of Mexican intellectuals and policymakers promoted a nationalist ideology that defined Mexico as essentially a mestizo nation (Bonfil Batalla [1987] 1996; Brading 1988; de la Peña 2006; Knight 1990; Lomnitz 1992). Writers such as José Vasconcelos ([1925] 1997), who served as Secretary of Education, glorified the mestizo as the only agent capable of leading Mexico into a new era of progress and modernization. In this new racial ideology of mestizaje that emerged in post-revolutionary Mexico, no further ethnic or racial categories were recognized within the majority mestizo population. Moreover, the difference between indígenas and mestizos was defined primarily in cultural terms, not by skin color or ancestry (Brading 1988; Doremus 2001; Gamio [1916] 1982; Marino Flores 1967). Policymakers viewed indigenous cultures as inherently backward and inferior; however, the fact that indigenous identity was culturally defined meant it could be changed through educational campaigns. As Knight (1990) argues, government “acculturation” programs constituted an attempt to “mestizo-ize” the indigenous population…..

Research on race in Latin America has focused almost exclusively on countries in the region with a large recognized presence of individuals of African descent such as Brazil. Racial categories in these countries are based on skin color distinctions along a black-white continuum. By contrast, the main socially recognized ethnic distinction in Indo-Latin American countries such as Mexico, between indigenous and non-indigenous residents, is not based primarily on phenotypical differences but rather on culture and language. A state-sponsored ideology explicitly denies the existence of any further racial or color distinctions among the Mexican population. Yet many Mexicans today express a preference for whiter skin and European features, even though no clear system of skin color categorization appears to exist. The Mexican case may therefore be described as one of extreme ambiguity in skin color classification.

Despite this ambiguity, I found evidence of profound social stratification by skin color in contemporary Mexico. Individuals with darker skin tone have significantly lower levels of educational attainment and occupational status, and they are more likely to live in poverty and less likely to be affluent, even after controlling for other individual characteristics. Differences in socioeconomic status between Mexicans of different skin tones are indeed large. Although measurement differences preclude precise cross-country comparisons, the differences between Mexicans in the three color categories used in this study, and particularly between individuals classified as white and non-white, are comparable to the differences between African Americans and non-Hispanic whites in the United States…

Educational attainment

Results of the first set of regression models presented in Table 4 indicate a very strong association between respondents’ skin color and their educational attainment. Individuals with darker skin tones have substantially lower education levels even once other sociodemographic characteristics, such as their age, gender, and indigenous background, are taken into account. Using the top educational category as an example, the regression coefficients for Model 4 indicate that the odds of having a college education or more are 29.5 percent lower for respondents who are light brown compared with those who are white (1−exp(−.350)). Similarly, the odds of having a college education or more are 57.6 percent lower for respondents who are dark brown compared with those who are white (1−exp(−.857)). The difference between the coefficients for light- and dark-brown respondents is statistically significant at the .01 level, suggesting that the non-white population should be disaggregated into two separate categories. Nevertheless, because I found a greater consensus about who is white than about who belongs to either of the two other categories, I also compare the educational attainment of whites versus non-whites in Model 5. White respondents have 68.2 percent higher odds of having a college education or more compared with non-whites (exp(.520)−1). The coefficient for the skin color scale in Model 6 is also statistically significant in the expected direction.

These differences in socioeconomic outcomes are, of course, insufficient to demonstrate the persistence of discriminatory practices against individuals based on the color of their skin. However, the fact that differences in occupational status across skin color categories cannot be fully explained by other factors, such as respondents’ age, gender, education, or the region of the country in which they live, suggests that Mexicans with darker skin tones may in fact face discrimination in the labor market.

Apparently, “White privilege” is readily replaced by “whiter privilege (2).”

(1) According to Noel Ignatiev, “the key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race [indoEuropean identity]” and “[t]reason to whiteness is loyalty humanity.” For him and other anti-race-ists, the New Jerusalem is to be obtained through promoting ethnic and national Mestizaje between Europeans and “the other,” thereby negating indoEuropean ethnoculture coherence, and so destroying the perceived Great Satan.

2) “Whiter privilege” is the alternative interpretation that Wendy Johnson is referring to in her reply to Lynn.

From: Johnson, 2009. “The global bell curve: Race, IQ, and inequality worldwide, Richard Lynn, Washington Summit Publishers, Augusta, GA, USA, ISBN: 978-1-59368-028-2 (pbk) Pages: xviii, 298 pp. body text, 360 including references.”

Pages, even volumes, could be and have been written questioning the methods and assumptions that underlie the innate race differences in intelligence thesis. Major points include the shaky validity of some of the tests used in some of the studies Lynn cites, the issue of the population representativeness of many if not most of the samples, the appropriateness of the assumption that IQ tests measure intelligence to the same degree in different cultural and racial groups, the oversimplification of the concept of race as dependent on skin color, the appropriateness of the assumption that the presence of substantial genetic variance in intelligence indicates that intelligence is innate and relatively fixed, the appropriateness of the assumption that conformance to western work ethic reflects intelligence, the misattribution of causation to correlation, etc. These questions are all relevant and important, but at least to my mind the ones that question the basic data are rather nit-picky. Lynn’s data are essentially correct and do reflect the general state of the world.The science involved in Lynn’s causal attributions is, however, another matter. What is the optimal scientific experiment that would test the theory of innate race differences in intelligence as the causal explanation for social hierarchies correlated with race? There is no question that both intelligence and social outcomes such as educational attainment, earnings, and occupational status develop within a cultural framework as individuals grow from birth and well into adulthood. Frankly, however, at this point our understanding of how this occurs is really poor, the high heritability of intelligence notwithstanding. I think most would agree that this means that the optimal scientific experiment to test Lynn’s causal attributions would involve being certain that cultural environments (keep in mind which cultures developed the IQ test) and educational and social opportunities are equal across race in infancy and even before, and ensuring that those environments and opportunities remain equal throughout at the very least childhood and adolescence and likely much further in the lifespan than that.

Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate!

Gene-Culture Co-evolution

Here’s a good recent article on the subject.

Laland, Odling-Smee, Myles, 2010. How culture shaped the human genome: bringing genetics and the human sciences together

Abstract | Researchers from diverse backgrounds are converging on the view that human evolution has been shaped by gene–culture interactions. Theoretical biologists have used population genetic models to demonstrate that cultural processes can have a profound effect on human evolution, and anthropologists are investigating cultural practices that modify current selection. These findings are supported by recent analyses of human genetic variation, which reveal that hundreds of genes have been subject to recent positive selection, often in response to human activities. Here, we collate these data, highlighting the considerable potential for cross-disciplinary exchange to provide novel insights into how culture has shaped the human genome.


Stearns, Byars, Govindaraju, and Ewbank, 2010. Measuring selection in contemporary human populations.

Abstract | Are humans currently evolving? This question can be answered using data
on lifetime reproductive success, multiple traits and genetic variation and covariation in those traits. Such data are available in existing long-term, multigeneration studies — both clinical and epidemiological — but they have not yet been widely used to address contemporary human evolution. Here we review methods to predict evolutionary change and attempts to measure selection and inheritance in humans. We also assemble examples of long-term studies in which additional measurements of evolution could be made. The evidence strongly suggests that we are evolving and that our nature is dynamic, not static.

Kitayama and Tompson, 2010. Envisioning the future of cultural neuroscience

Abstract: In the present commentary, we first examine the three target articles included in the Asian Journal of Social Psychology special issue on cultural neuroscience. We spell out the contributions that the articles have offered to the field. We extend this examination with our own theoretical model of neuro-culture interaction, which proposes that brain connectivity changes as a function of each person’s active, repeated engagement in culture’s scripted behavioural patterns (i.e. practices). We then locate the current endeavour of cultural neuroscience within a broader framework, detailing empirical, theoretical, and meta-theoretical reasons why the approach of cultural neuroscience is important to both socio-behavioural and biological sciences. It is concluded that the scholarship demonstrated in the target articles will be an important collective asset for all of us who aspire to understand the human mind as fundamentally biocultural and to study it as such.