I presently lack the patience needed to write out a formal critique of this gross stupidity; so I will merely reference my many rebuttals of denialist arguments which are strewn across the comment sections of the following blog posts and review:
re: philosophers Massimo Pigliucci and Jonathan Kaplan
(see also Jayman’s)
re: anthropologist Jennifer Raff
re: some guy
The level of sophomoric sophism is simply mind boggling.
[Biological races can be said to be divisions of a species -- or infraspecific populations -- where members are classified or arranged according to their propinquity of descent (Darwin) or genotype (Mayr). Because they are so arranged, they constitute natural, not artificial biological divisions; forms and morphs (e.g., sexes) represent examples of the latter. Thus, as Dobzhansky (1970) noted, blue eyed individuals are not races distinct from brown eyed ones and "a racial classification should ideally take cognizance of all genetically variable traits". Such populations are theoretically interesting because they are inductively potent, owing to their manifoldness of correlated genetic variation; biological diversity, in general, is largely organized along genealogical lines for the same reason. As Steve Sailer has noted, biological races can be defined as partially inbred extended families. Such an understanding accords well with classic ones. Nearly two-hundred and forty years ago, Immanuel Kant noted:
Those features belong to varieties -- which are, therefore, by themselves hereditary (even if not always) -- can through marriages that always take place within the same families, even produce, in time, something that I call family stock. These features ultimately become rooted in the reproductive power so characteristically that they come near to forming a variation in the way that they perpetuate themselves....If nature, when undisturbed (without the effect of migration or foreign interbreeding) can effect procreation everywhere, she can eventually produce an enduring stock at any time. The people of this stock would always be recognizable and might even be called a race, if their characteristic features does seem too insignificant and so difficult to describe that we are unable to use it to establish a special division. (Kant, 1775. The classification of Races.)
This extended-family conception, of course, can readily be translated into a discrete population genetic definition of race: an extended family that has inbred enough for members to be more overall genotypically similar to each other than to members of other extended families, one which in impervious to fuzzy set objections. ]
re: Massimo Pigliucci and Jonathan Kaplan
Massimo Pigliucci criticizes the position that ordinary human racial classifications (e.g., five continental races) map onto ordinary human biological races concepts. The critique is untenable. “Race” has often been understood to refer to sub-specific groups in which members are arranged by overall genetic similarity (i.e., natural populations). For example, Darwin, who naturally conceptualizing “genetic” genealogically, noted to Huxley:
“Grant that all [phenotypic] structure of each race of man were perfectly known — grant that a perfect table of descent of each race was perfectly known. — grant all this, & then do you not think that most would prefer as the best classification, a genealogical one, even if it did occasionally put one race not quite so near to another, as it would have stood, if allocated by [phenotypic] structure alone. Generally, we may safely presume, that the [phenotypic] resemblance of races & their pedigrees would go together”
This formulation is congruent with Darwin’s widely adopted natural classification system, one in which organisms are arranged [according to] overall genetic relatedness. In the modern reformulation, genetic qua genotype [simply replaces] genetic qua genealogy. Thus, for example, in Mayr’s evolutionary taxonomy, organisms are grouped by genotypic similarity:
“Once we accept the basic principle of biological classification, that organism are to be classified according to the information content of their genetic program, it is evident that [retrospective] monophyly must be required. Artificial taxa, containing descendants of different ancestors, would be unable to fill the demand one places on scientific theory, owing to the heterogeneity of the included genetic programs”
Races from this perspective, that which gives us our familiar zoological subspecies, corresponds nicely with common population genetic conceptions. Discussing this, Hartl and Clark (1997) state:
“In population genetics, a race is a group of organisms in a species that are genetically more similar to each other than they are to the members of other such groups. Populations that have undergone some degree of genetic differentiation as measured by, for example, Fst, therefore qualify as races. (Hartl and Clark. Principles of Population Genetics, Third Edition. 1997.)
In all cases above, we are dealing with races as biological natural populations. These are of interest because, unlike as with artificial biological populations, where members are arranged in terms of relatedness in specific characters which say little about evolutionary relationship, natural groupings allow for a high degree of inductive inference, which is why biologists privilege them. Massimo doesn’t seem to care for such an understanding — given its inductive potency and generality, so he sets out to introduce an alternative conception. He tells us of his conception:
“Pigliucci and Kaplan’s (2003) suggestion that [the biological interpretation of the concept of race] is not meaningless, but it does have a sufficiently different meaning from that of folk races to create serious problems for most of the published scientific and philosophical literature on biological differences among ‘‘races.’’
How does he conclude that Darwin and Mayr -like “folk” classifications are unbiological? He and his collaborator first move to eliminate human races as understood non-ecologically. To do this, they ignore the population genetic and cladistic natural population conceptions and highlight the popular zoological one. They then move to eliminate human races given this conception by (a) equating zoological race with subspecies, (b) introducing idiosyncratic subspecies qualifying criteria, and (c) pointing out that no human populations meet such criteria. Above, Massimo tells us:
“Here is how the great evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr famously put it: “a subspecies is a geographic race that is sufficiently different taxonomically to be worthy of a separate name” . In that sense, then, there most definitely are no human races, for the simple reason that there is no deep phylogenetic separation (no evolutionary branching) among human populations.”
It doesn’t take a close reading to see that the first part (a) of their first argument is untenable. In the very excerpt quoted, Ernst Mayr draws a distinction between subspecies and geographic races. The sentence could be rewritten: a geographic race THAT is NOT sufficiently differentiated to warrant a trionomen is NOT a subspecies. Given the distinction, showing that there are no human zoological subspecies does not show that there are no human races, zoologically understood. Part of the confusion arises because Mayr frequently used the term “geographic race” as a synonym for “subspecies” when describing the subspecies concept. However, Mayr nonetheless made the conceptual distinction between races and subspecies, the latter said to be formally recognized races. For example, Mayr noted: “[R]ace that is not formally designated as a subspecies is not recognized in the taxonomic hierarchy. However, the terms subspecies and geographic race are frequently used interchangeably by taxonomists working with mammals, birds, and insects. Other taxonomists apply the word race to local populations within subspecies.” Generally speaking, per Mayr’s conception, when formally recognized, races are called zoological subspecies or “geographic races” (Mayr and Ashlock, 1991). While only Mayr’s formally recognized races (zoological subspecies) are taxonomic units, his lesser races (e.g., microgeogaphical races) are nonetheless biological units — in the sense that “clines” or other taxonomically unrecognized biological constructs are — they are simply natural populations which have not differentiated enough to warrant on pragmatic groups being assigned a trinomen. It’s epistemically incoherent to grant the taxonomic validity of Mayr’s formally recognized races without also granting the biological validity of non-formally recognize ones — as if races that failed to meet the vague conventional subspecies qualifying criteria could not be thought of. This consideration brings to mind Kant’s reply, when his race concept was challenged on the grounds that it didn’t describe a formal taxonomic unit: “The fact that this word does not occur in the description of nature [i.e., in Taxonomy] (but instead of it that of variety), cannot prevent the observer of nature from finding it necessary with respect to natural history.”
The second part (b) of their first argument is likewise flawed, though readers unfamiliar with the literature could not possibly see this. Dr. Pigliucci fails to inform the readers that his ground for disqualifying human races as zoological subspecies (e.g., “deep phylogenetic separation”) are his and his colleagues idiosyncratic invention; there is, in fact, no such general criteria. Pigliucci and Kaplan (2003) more or less acknowledge this but in subsequent discussions (e.g., here or in Pigliucci (2013), Dr. Pigliucci does not inform readers that the criteria (e.g., “serious barriers to gene flow”, “deep phylogenetic separation”) are not standard biological ones but are only applied, by him and some of his colleagues, in the case of humans out of sociopolitical concerns. Dr. Pigliucci also neglects to inform readers that Mayr himself determined that there were human geographic races (presumably in the sense of zoological subspecies) given common criteria. In, “The biology of race and the concept of equality”, this giant of evolutionary biology stated:
“Let me begin with race. There is a widespread feeling that the word “race” indicates something undesirable and that it should be left out of all discussions. This leads to such statements as “there are no human races.” Those who subscribe to this opinion are obviously ignorant of modern biology…No matter what the cause of the racial difference might be, the fact that species of organisms may have geographic races has been demonstrated so frequently that it can no longer be denied. And the geographic races of the human races – established before the voyages of European discovery and subsequent rise of a global economy – agree in most characteristics with the geographic races of animals. Recognizing races is only recognizing a biological fact.”
After seemingly eliminating the possibility of human zoological races, Massimo then introduces an ecotypic concept. Massimo quotes the following definition in his 2003 paper:
“Race (within a species) genetically adapted to a certain environment. “A phenotypically and/or geographically distinctive subspecific group, composed of individuals inhabiting a defined geographical and/or ecological region, and possessing characteristic phenotypic and gene frequencies that distinguish it from other such groups.” (King and Stansfield, 1990)
This is where the argument because murky. Darwin and Mayr-like folk human race classifications are natural ones. Ecotypic races/subspecies at very least can represent natural ones — and I would argue that they generally do. So Darwin and Mayr-like folk classifications are, in principle, compatible with the ecotype race concept. Indeed, Mayr himself pointed out that there was no conflict between zoological and ecotypic races:
“The recent work on geographic variation has led to the reinterpretation of geographic race as a genetic-physiological response to a local environment. There is no antithesis between geographic race and ecological race (or ecotype) because not a single geographic race is know that is not also an ecological race; nor is there and ecological race that is not at the same time at least a microgeographical race.” (Populations, Species, and Evolution pg. 213).
Thus, Darwin and Mayr-like folk race classifications could also — and do –map onto the ecological understanding, thus strengthening their status as biological races. Nonetheless, in his 2003 paper, Massimo manages to deduce: “[I]t seems clear that biologically meaningful races will not correspond particularly well to folk racial categories”.
Presumably, the argument is that Darwin and Mayr-like folk classifications encompass too many ecotypic subgroups to constitute coherent ecotypic races. Yet, nowhere in typical ecotypic definitions does it specify that ecotypes can not represent aggregate local populations which taken as a whole differ — due to ecological adaptation — from other aggregate local populations taken as a whole. Surely, Mayr’s characterization of ecotype doesn’t lend itself to this conclusion, nor does that of prominent researchers such as Jerry Coyne.
Massimo, of course, can read the definitions as he wishes and construct arguments based these local readings — but insofar as he wishes to contend that “folk” racial classifications don’t map onto ordinary sense biological racial concepts, he needs to start dealing with non-idiosyncratic readings and non- idiosyncratic criteria.
[Regarding the referenced article by Templeton], I briefly discussed it in section V.B.1 here: :humanvarieties.org/2014/03/02/the-nature-of-race/. (Work in progress.) It suffers from the same flaws as does your own, except that Templeton’s zoological subspecies disqualifying criteria — a Fst value > 0.25 –wasn’t conjured up, it was based on misrepresentation!
Again, I appreciate the logic of your and Templeton’s arguments. They’re just untenable . As noted in the previous comment, Biological races have frequently if not typically been understood to refer to intra specific natural populations, meaning populations where members are arranged according to pedigree or genotypic similarity. These types of populations are seen somewhat differently from the perspective of different biological research programs e.g., taxonomy, population genetics, zoology, ecology — this results in the major varieties of race concepts e.g., population genetic, zoological, ecological, phylogenic — and then scores of local definitions. The situation is not dissimilar to that with regards to species.
The Blumenbach partition clearly cuts out human zoological, ecological, and population genetic
biological races in some common biological senses. One might debate whether or not the groups deserve formal zoological recognition — but such a debate can go nowhere because the conventional standards for formally recognizing zoological races are all over the place.
As for population genetic races, you criticized Dobzhansky’s “old definition”. (Do you have a specific reference?) In ‘The Race Concept in Biology’ (1941), we are told: “A geneticist can define races as populations that differ from each other in the frequencies of certain genes.” I agree that this definition is somewhat unclear; by it, races could represent either natural or artificial populations (in the ordinary biological sense). If Dobzhansky’s old definition allowed for the latter, I would agree with you — it cuts out some groups that generally would not be said to be races e.g., morphs and forms, blonds versus brunets. Ok, but I cited a clearer modern version: ” a group of organisms in a species that are genetically more similar to each other than they are to the members of other such groups” Here ” genetically more similar” means overall similar as opposed to similar in specific, local genetic characters. With this definition, we have a clear natural population one — and so it agrees with at least Dobzhansky’s later ones.
Now, a natural population understanding does indeed cut out good races. And these are exactly the type of races that Lewontin’s discussion was taken to imply did not exists. Right? The gist of the clams was that since two individuals from the same “folk race” were not more overall genetically similar to each other relative to two individuals from different “folk races”, “folk races” did not correspond to biological ones — as classically understood. You wouldn’t deny that this was one of the arguments made, would you?
Let me put it this way:
(a) The biological natural population concept of race corresponds well with typical ordinary, modern biological, and early biological sense of biological race. Darwinian races, Mayrian races, at least later Dobzhanskyian races and many other formulations at least appear to be these.
(b) Folk classifications cut out biological natural population races. (This, of course, is an empirical claim.)
(c) Folk classifications need not cut these out — and it was often argued that they didn’t e.g., that folk race similarity was just skin, not whole genome, deep; thus (b) has substance.
As for your arguments concerning the biological non-reality of race, I agree with Q. Spencer’s criticisms but I would go further. But this isn’t the place.
Since there are so many conflicting views as to what it means to be “biologically real”, it might be helpful to make a list of possibilities and see where out positions fall. To start:
1. Picks out a partition that could be picked out given some biological definition of race and biological data.
2. 1+ the biological definition of race must corresponds well with ordinary, modern biological, and the early biological senses of biological race . (For example, Jarred Diamond’s lactose intolerance races — which are biologically arbitrary groupings — would not, nor would Dobzhansky’s old race concept if it allowed for these.)
3. 2 + Whatever it is that you wish to add.
My claim would be (2), which isn’t to say that this is all that I would claim.
As for genetically conditioned sociologically important differences, it’s, in my opinion, absurd to set the existence of these as a prerequisite for the biological reality of racial classifications. For one, this makes no cross-species sense (and the race concept was always employed cross species). As a result, by ‘biologically real’ you end up meaning something quite different from ‘referencing biologists’ grouping’. You end up meaning “being sociologically important due to, in part, biology” — in that sense, then, social class can be said to be “biologically real”, at least in part. For another, people have always discussed human local biological races between which there were never said to be any really socially important differences. Also, the cause of the sociologically important differences that were said to be was always debated and disputed; you always had your genetic, epigenetic, and environmental theorists. In short, the idea of sociologically important differences was never incorporated into the concept of biological race (except, of course, by opponents thereof); thus the claim that a racial classification picks out biological races — is, itself, biologically real — is not burdened with the claim there are epi/genetically conditioned sociologically important differences between the groupings.
Neither Jonathan Kaplan nor Massimo Pigliucci have disputed my critique of their position regarding the biological validity of common sense racial classifications such as the Blumenbach partition. As such, I will move on to another claim. Jonathon has claimed that biological facts about the populations cannot explain why we pick out common sense racial classifications. I will argue here that this is a strange claim give a common biological understanding of race. For this understanding, I point back to Darwin:
“Grant that all [phenotypic] structure of each race of man were perfectly known — grant that a perfect table of descent of each race was perfectly known. — grant all this, & then do you not think that most would prefer as the best classification, a genealogical one”
To Mayr’s principle of natural classification, under which formally recognized races represent a taxon:
“Once we accept the basic principle of biological classification, that organism are to be classified according to the information content of their genetic program…
To Boyd’s 1950 discussion:
“Dobzhansky and Epling also point out that it would be equally fallacious to define race as a group of individuals having some single gene in common, or some chromosome structure in common…. In the ideal case, one would take account of all the variables genes and chromosome structures in order to describe a given race.”
And to Hartl and Clark’s 1997 population genetic definition of race:
“In population genetics, a race is a group of organisms in a species that are genetically more similar to each other than they are to the members of other such groups.”
Since “information content of their genetic program” indexes pedigree, the latter three conceptions correspond nicely with the former. So the population genetic and evolutionary taxonomic understanding matches with the old time one based on genealogy, which goes back to Buffon — and so also the cladistic/phylogenic one. The ecotypic conception often merely describes a variant of this, as noted my Mayr. So we have a well grounded unified concept or race with definitional variations when it comes to specific research domain perspective. Compare the situation to that with species.
Now, it seems that I just have to show that “folk” races pick out biological groupings were members are arranged according to pedigree or genotype. This was done by Rosenberg’s 2002/2005 — and the many replications thereof. The authors test this very position:
“Most studies of human variation begin by sampling from predefined “populations.”
These populations are usually defined on the basis of culture or geography and might not reflect underlying genetic relationships”
It turns out that out that our “folk” races do in fact pick out biological races as often understood. I don’t think that this can be disputed.
And I don’t imagine that Jonathan Kaplan would. Instead, he would probably distinguish between the following claims:
(a) folk races pick out biological races as often understood.
(b) biological data lets us pick out folk races
(c) biological data necessitates our picking out folk races
And then (1) argue against (c) and (2) argue that “biological real” in one of his senses — Jonathon’s biological real type 1 (JBR1) — means (c).
I, of course, would not dispute (1) or (2). I would just note that Jonathon’s biological real in this sense (JBR1) doesn’t correspond to my or many people’s understanding. By JBR1 zoologically subspecies wouldn’t be biologically real (Wilson and Brown’s critique), nor would demes and many other biological things. Of course, Jonathon can idiosyncratically define biologically real — but he should, at least, be consistent and not, for example, cite, in discussion, Templeton’s paper as evidence against the biological reality (or at least validity) of races if he is going to understand “biologically real” in such a way that subspecies wouldn’t be this.
Because he both cites Templeton’s paper and seemingly defines biological real in a way by which subspecies would not be this, I label his position “strange”. I do not yet claim that it is inconsistent because I have not studied his argument enough.
I maintain that human folk races are biologically real in the common sense way in which the subspecies of the Plain Zebra can be said to be so. The folk classifications pick out classifications consistent with a common well grounded biological race understanding, that is, they pick out ordinary biological races (which isn’t to say zoological subspecies).
re: Jennifer Raff
Razib, this was a pretty vapid and somewhat ditzy critique of the biological race concept — but then maybe you don’t have a good handle on the concept yourself…..
Raff: “Groupings of people by skin color did not produce the same result as groupings of people by skull shape, nor of blood type.”
This is called the independent variation argument; it doesn’t stand up to multivariate analysis, a technique which, in practice, is hardly novel: Blumenbach (1795): “To this enumeration, however, I must prefix a double warning; first, that on account of the multifarious diversity of the characters, according to their degrees, one or two alone are not sufficient, but we must take several joined together; and then that this union of characters is not so constant but what it is liable to innumerable exceptions in all and singular of these varieties”
Raff: ” it became apparent that human genetic variation does not divide humans into a few discrete groups….”
Ok, but what did early racialists actually argue?
Blumenbach (1795): “Thus too there is with this that insensible transition by which as we saw the other varieties also run together”
Darwin (1871): “But the most weighty of all the arguments against treating the races of man as distinct species, is that they graduate into each other, independently in many cases, as far as we can judge, of their having intercrossed”
Also, there is a nonsequitor embedded here. One doesn’t need sharp boundaries to divide individuals into discrete populations. Rather, in absence of sharp boundaries more individuals will fall in an undefined region (e.g., zones of intergradation). Imagine carving out regions in space. One could define a region as a set of points in which each point is more similar in distance to others in the same region than to points in a different region. This would results in discrete categories (e.g., either region A or B or neither), with some points — the number dependent on the number of dimensions under consideration and the shape of space — in the undefined region. So, yes, you can more or less classify individual into discrete natural populations; hence Tal (2012): “The probability that a random pair of individuals from the same population is more genetically dissimilar than a random pair from distinct populations is primarily dependent on the number of informative polymorphic loci across genomes from the total population pool. This probability asymptotically approaches zero with a sufficiently large number of informative loci, even in the case of close or admixed population.”
Raff: “These observations have led the majority of physical anthropologists, human biologists, and human geneticists”
A while back, I looked through all of the published surveys which asked a variant of the question, “Do human biological races exist?” These surveys were mostly from the U.S, and Western Europe and didn’t include China and Russia, countries in which the reality of human races is overwhelmingly accepted. About 50% said “no”, 10% were undecided, and 40% said “yes”. The reasons given for rejecting races were silly, though: more variation within races, gene flow between populations, no pure races, etc. Clearly what was being rejected was not a typical concept of race, modern or historic (keep in mind that early pre-Darwinian racialists, being monogenists, believed that races (as opposed to species) were different inbred lineages of
Adam, only several thousand years separated).
Raff: “Racial groupings differ from culture to culture. For example, although in the United States Chinese and Japanese peoples are usually viewed as one “race””
So, race is a polyseme and the different concepts lend themselves to different classification schemes. But Wade is dealing with a typical biological race concept in which races are understood to be subspecific natural populations (here “natural population” is an analogue of “natural classification” which is juxtaposed with “artificial classification”. So given this biological concept…
Raff: “One should be able to define each race with a set of objective criteria, which could be used by any person to independently reach the same classifications (and number of classifications) as Wade”
In biology there are a number of race concept, just as there are a number of species concepts (e.g, Autapomorphic species, Biospecies, Cladospecies, Cohesion species, etc.). Wade defensibly equates races with the populations geneticist’s races — now called “genetic populations”. So you either have to critique this high currency concept or launch a semiotic attack on the label. Good luck with ether — for example, compare Wade’s population genetic races to e.g., Boyd’s. As for an operational definition of “genetic population, some have offered: “Two individuals, I1 and I2, belong to the same genetic population if (a) their genetic relationship, measured with the coefficient of kinship, is greater than zero and (b) their kinship is much higher than kinship between them and some individual I3, which is said to belong to another genetic population.” (Aulchenko, 2010. Effects of population structure in genome-wide association studies).
Personally, I would operationalize them as: “sets of (subspecific) population whose members are more overall genetically dissimilar to members of other sets than they are to other members of their own set.” But then I like the idea of quasi (relational) essentialistic races. The point though is that since Wade identifies races with genetic populations, logically one would have to take on the population genetics concept or the race label. Unsurprisingly, nether was done.
Raff: “But these patterns of human diversity don’t give us a scientifically viable definition of race as a taxonomic unit. As Agustin Fuentes puts it, with emphasis added:”
So, Fuentes argues that there aren’t human races given (Ernst Mayr’s) — apparently scientifically viable — subspecies concept and some made up — by Templeton — genetic differentiation criteria and from this you get: there is no “scientifically viable definition of race as a taxonomic unit”?
The last point touches upon a central problem with this critique. Either there are biologically valid concepts of race or there are not. But Raff wishes to have it both ways, so she can say that there are no races because there is no scientifically viable definition of them and because there are viable definitions of race and human populations don’t qualify as races by these. Well, which is it?
I can think of four prominent biological race concepts off of the top of my head: cladistic, evolutionary, population, and ecotypic. They are biological races seen from the perspective of different biological research programs. For a discussion of the former two, see the following defenses: Andreasen, R. O. (2004). The cladistic race concept: a defense; Hardimon, M. O. (2012). The Idea of a Scientific Concept of Race. To note, the population genetic concept does not purport to be a taxonomic unit, but rather a conceptual tool for understanding human biological variation. This concept refers to breeding populations (sometimes also confusingly called genetic populations) retrospectively understood.
The evolutionary race concept is Mayr’s evolutionary — as in evolutionary taxonomy –based one; when formally recognized, that is, when given a trinomen, these are called zoological subspecies or “geographic races” (Mayr and Ashlock, 1991) (not to be confused with Mayr’s “microgeographic racees” or with geographically delineated races in general). While only Mayr’s formally recognized races (zoological subspecies) are taxonomic units, his lesser races are nonetheless biological units — in the sense that “demes”, “morphs”, “clines” or other taxonomically unrecognized biological constructs are — they are subspecific natural populations which simply have not differentiated enough to warrant, for pragmatic reasons, being assigned a trinomen. I simply can’t see how one can grant the taxonomic validity of formally recognized races without also granting the biological validity of non-formally recognize ones — as if races that failed to meet the vague conventional subspecies qualifying criteria couldn’t be thought about. This consideration brings to mind Kant’s reply, when his race concept was challenged on the grounds that it didn’t describe a formal taxonomic unit: “The fact that this word does not occur in the description of nature [i.e., in Taxonomy] (but instead of it that of variety), cannot prevent the observer of nature from finding it necessary with respect to natural history.”
The final concept is the ecotypic one: King and Stansfield (1990): “A phenotypically and/or geographically distinctive subspecific group, composed of individuals inhabiting a defined geographical and/or ecological region, and possessing characteristic phenotypic and gene frequencies that distinguish it from other such groups. The number of racial groups that one wishes to recognize within a species is usually arbitrary but suitable for the purposes under investigation” I find this conception to be somewhat vague (e.g., “Can forms be ecotypes?”). but apparently ecologists find it useful.
The point here is that there are a bunch of viable well vetted biological race concepts — in addition to bio-anthropological ones They differ mainly in the way that species concepts differ (e.g., genetic species versus ecospecies), but they are related in that they generally — I don’t know about ecotypes — describe populations where members are arranged by genealogical and/or genotypic relationship, where what is of interest is overall similarity not just similarity in specific genetic characters such a specific chromosomes e.g., as in the male morph.
We need not worry about all these concepts though and their various operationalizations, since Wade focuses on the population genetic ones, which is very similar to Mayr’s evolutionary one in that the matter of concern is relative geneotypic similarity. Now, either “genetic populations” represent a viable biological construct or not. They obviously do — granted, the operationalizations are all over the place. And either these genetic populations can reasonably be labeled races or not. Again, they obviously can on a number of accounts. So we have our scientifically valid, viable race concept, which allows us to discuss human races. Now, with this as our basis, we can better examine your critique.
Raff: “To begin with, Wade can’t provide a clear definition of “race.” He tries to rely instead on loose associations rather than definitive characteristics”
Ok, but population genetic and evolutionary races are defined in terms of overall genetic similarity, not in terms of “definitive” characteristics. The situation is similar to that of twins. Twins are define by their coefficient of relatedness; this relatedness conditions character similarity; this character similarity can be used to diagnose twin status, but it doesn’t define it. Alternatively, ducks have wings; but they are not ducks because they have wings; rather, they have wings because they are of the duck lineage which has been subject to such and such evolutionary pressure. .
Raff: “With such a shifty, casual footing, it’s no surprise that Wade’s conclusions are unsound. He can’t keep the number of races straight:”
Ok, but everyone recognizes the nested nature of “genetic populations”. To quote Aulchenko (2010) again: “One can see that this definition is quantitative and rather flexible (if not to say arbitrary): what we call a “populations” depends on the choice of the threshold for the “much-higher” probability. Actually, what you define as “the same” genetic population depends in large part on the scope and aims of your study. In human genetics literature you may find references to a particularly genetically isolated populations, populations of some countries (e.g., “German population”, “population of United Kingdom”), European, Caucasoid or even general human population. Defining a population is about deciding on some probability threshold.
If you look at the old taxonomies, you will see that races will be prefixed with terms like “primary” or “major” or “continental” for this reason. This surely isn’t a novel point (see for example: Coon and Garn’s (1955): ” On the Number of Races of Mankind.” ) Generally, you can’t determine a true number of races or a true classification because there is no way to determine a “true” level of genetic relatedness; you can only determine a specific number and a specific classification given a pre-selected grain of genetic focus. This, of course, holds for all natural populations. The shifty biologists talk about x kingdoms, y classes, z species — they classify Sailer as an animal then a mammal then a primate — they can’t keep there natural populations straight! Madness.
Raff: “He uses terms like “major race”, “race”, “subrace”, “group”, or “population,” but doesn’t provide any serious, objective ways to distinguish between these terms for arbitrary groupings of people arbitrary groups”
Except, cluster analysis.
Because, in biology, arbitrary groupings are ones that don’t indicate evolutionary relationship, thus overall genotypic similarity. Mayr and Ashlock (1991): “classification based on convenient and conspicuous diagnostic characters without attention to characters indicating [evolutionary] relationship; often a classification based on a single arbitrarily chosen character instead of an evaluation of the totality of characters”.
What distinguishes (population genetic and evolutionary) races from other groupings is that they are not biologically arbitrary groups. Darwin (1859): “From the first dawn of life, all organic beings are found to resemble each other in descending degrees, so that they can be classed in groups under groups. This classification is evidently not arbitrary like the grouping of the stars in constellations’’ (or like forms or morphs). So there is a sense in which class and order are arbitrary groupings — as one could make an indefinite number of subdivisions or none– but there is a sense in which they are not, since members are arranged according to genetic similarity (genealogical for cadists and genotypic for evolutionary taxonomists).
I don’t see why this is difficult.
Raff: “The program was designed to partition individuals into whatever pre-specified number of clusters the researcher requests, regardless of whether that number of divisions really exists in nature.”
But seriously, how could the “number of divisions really exists in nature”? This is a genetic problem, of course. For example, how many particles does a carbon atom comprise? More importantly, no one ever claimed that some level of racial analysis was True — say, for example, in the way that it was once believed that species represented ontologically privileged level of analysis.
Raff: “The authors of the paper he relied on, as well as subsequent studies, showed that different runs of the program with the same data can even produce different results (Bolnick, 2008).”
The best way to do this would be to use whole genome analysis to sort people by continental level races. Alternatively, you can look at the results from multiple studies using different loci. At the continental level, the five major races keep popping out.
Raff: ” Human biological variation is real and important….But Wade, and others who agree with him, have decided that certain patterns of variation—those which happen to support their predefined notions of what “races” must be—are more important than others.”
Well, this is what it’s all about them: what “we” should see as important. It’s funny that you don’t notice the asymmetry here. Wade and others don’t argue that seeing genetic diversity in terms of race is the only way of seeing it, but that it is one valid way. No one argues, for example, that “Only race exists!” (Please show me a counter example, if you can.) Rather, the anti-race crowd — which you apparently fall into — argue that “Only non-race exists!” i.e., “Race does not exist!” This asymmetry is parallel to that between the environmentalists — “Only environment!” — and hereditarianism — “Genes too!” But of course, since you KNOW that you are right, since you know that “Only non-race exists!” you can’t help but seeing seeing pluralism i.e., “Race. too” as an imposition.
But we can go beyond that. It so happen that in biology, natural populations are deemed to be more important that artificial ones — they are given quasi privileged status. Hence, our taxonomic systems organize life by either genealogical (cladistics) or geneotypic (evolutionary taxonomy) similarity, and not by similarity in so called arbitrary character traits. There is a reason for this, of course, and it’s that such categories allow for more inductive inferences. If my “genetic populations” are based on similarity in two genetic characters, I have less inductive leverage than if they are based on evolutionary relationship and consequently similarity in terms of the whole genetic program. So, Wade and others have sound biological precedence for saying that race (qua subspecific natural population) is a generally more important grouping than others. It’s a well founded prejudice, no? And of course, we can make a similar argument for continental races relative to micogeographic ones. After all, these are the types of races that zoologists themselves privilege when it comes to other species. So there we go…
Raff: “Folk notions of what constitutes a race and how many races exist are extremely variable and culturally specific.”
Which is why the primary/major/continental level races/varieties of Berneir (1688), Linnaeus (1735), Buffon (1749), Kant (1775), Blumenbach (1795), Cuvier (1828), Coon and Garn (1955), Gill (1988), Risch et al. (2003), and Rosenberg et al. (2011) look remarkably the same: Why didn’t any manage to classify North Africans with other Africans or to classify South East Asians with South Asians? Of course, what you mean is that sociological races — ones defined by sociologists — are extremely variable and culturally specific. Which is why you should be criticizing those (e.g., “Asians Americans”). Or possibly what you mean is that biological and bio-anthropological race is a flexible tool that allows for nested classifications.
Here’s an excerpt from one of Darwin’s letters to Huxley:
“Grant that all structure of each race of man were perfectly known — grant that a perfect table of descent of each race was perfectly known. — grant all this, & then do you not think that most would prefer as the best classification, a genealogical one, even if it did occasionally put one race not quite so near to another, as it would have stood, if allocated by structure alone. Generally, we may safely presume, that the [phenotypic] resemblance of races & their pedigrees would go together” [comment: when he says "even if.." I imagine that he's referring to situation like negritos and negros.]
Darwin largely established the modern view of natural classification, that based on descent. Though, he argued that “modification” should be taken into account (e.g., because of genetic divergence, birds shouldn’t be lumped with crocodiles).
The evolutionary taxonomists — following Mayr — more or less reunderstand natural classifications to be based on genotype. Genealogy is back fitted:
“Once we accept the basic principle of biological classification, that organism are to be classified according to the information content of their genetic program, it is evident that [retrospective] monophyly must be required. Artificial taxa, containing descendants of different ancestors, would be unable to fill the demand one places on scientific theory, owing to the heterogeneity of the included genetic programs”
This genotypic understanding — which currently has less currency than the cladistic = genealogical only one — brings the classification principle somewhat back in line with Aristotle’s and forward in line with population genetic thinking. Of course, on the level of the individual organism, the genotypic and genealogical conceptions — both of which can be said to be “genetic” –produce the same, or at least very similar, results. And, on the population level, genotypic and Darwin’s “descent plus modification” also effectively act the same.
Regarding pre-Darwinian conceptions of race, my impression was that they were genealogical, too. During this time, some argued that human groups represented different species (polygenists), but most argued that they represented races in the sense of subspecific lineages (monogenist). The concept of race itself — largely developed by Buffon — was based on lineage (as in race de noble) and breed — so it should be a given that “race” was and is somehow associated with ancestry. There’s a lot of confusion on this, though, because anthropologists and sociologists hurriedly dig through the literature intent on debunking something and, in their rush, miss important disagreements such as the race/species one. So, they will say that race and species was used interchangeably, when, in reality, there was an ongoing race/species debate This confusion leads them to make all sorts of silly claims and to miss the whole point of the race concept.
One can tell that Wade associates races with “genetic populations” (in the retrospective sense i.e., natural populations) based on his discussions. First, in the chapter, “Races as Clusters of Variation”, where Wade clarifies his conception, we are told:
“A necessary approach to studying racial variation is to look not for absolute differences but at how the genomes of individuals throughout the world cluster together in terms of their genetic similarity. The result is that everyone ends up in the cluster with which they share the most variation in common.”
Wade, then, goes onto cites genetic clustering research:
“In one of these more sophisticated studies, a team led by Noah Rosenberg of the University of Southern California and Marcus Feldman of Stanford University looked at the number of repeats at 377 sites on the genome of more than 1,000 people around the world. When this many sites are examined on a genome, it’s possible to assign segments of an individual’s genome to different races if he or she has mixed ancestry. This is because each race or ethnicity has a characteristic number of repeats at each genomic site.”
That is, he cites population geneticists who refer to their groupings as “genetic clusters” or “genetic populations”.
Elsewhere Wade tells us, for example:
“The classification of humans into five continental based races is perfectly reasonable and is supported by genome clustering studies”
“One might suppose that races differ in having different alleles of various genes. But, though a handful of such racially defining alleles do exist, the basis of race rests largely on something even slighter, a difference in the relative commonness, or frequency, of alleles, a situation discussed further in the next chapter”
I agree that he didn’t explicitly state that his races are (or, at least, are a type of) population geneticists’ genetic clusters/populations — instead, he just says that they are genetic clusters — “races as Clusters of Variation” — and then references population genetic research on genetic clusters — but he makes this point clear enough. (Perhaps not enough, though.)
Perhaps it helps to have read his Times articles. For example, in a February 2014 one, he states:
“The genetic atlas of human mixing events was published on Thursday in the journal Science by a team led by Simon Myers of Oxford University, Garrett Hellenthal of University College London and Daniel Falush of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Having sampled genomes from around the world, they found they could detect about 95 distinguishable populations.
Though all humans have the same set of genes, their genomes are studded with mutations, which are differences in the sequence of DNA units in the genome. These mutations occur in patterns because whole sets of mutations are passed down from parent to child and hence will be common in a particular population.
Based on these patterns, geneticists can scan a person’s genome and assign the ancestry of each segment to a particular race or population. (Tracing Ancestry, Researchers Produce a Genetic Atlas of Human Mixing Events )”
I suspect that his vagueness e.g., races AS clusters of variation versus races ARE clusters was tactical. Races, in the sense of sub specific natural populations, are generic biological phenomena. One can investigate them, and so conceptualize them, from different perspectives; the population genetic one, which deals with sets of individuals, is just one. Another is the evolutionary perspective, which deals with, as the unit of analysis, populations. Wade approaches races from both angles. For example, in a chapter he says:
“Races are a way station on the path through which evolution generates new species. The environment keeps changing, and organisms will perish unless they adapt. In the course of adaptation, different variations of a species will emerge in conditions where the species faces different challenges. These variations, or races, are fluid, not fixed. If the selective pressure that brought them into being should disappear, they will merge back into the general gene pool.”
This is an evolutionary perspective, one which is characteristically vague when it comes to the question of what makes an individual a member of one race and not another; it is since from this perspective the unit of analysis is the (sub)population (an entity, which unlike the individual organism, can evolve.)
If you’re going to approach the phenomena from multiple angles, then it’s best to not to over-specify the definition/ operationalization.
Raff: (Also see Templeton AR, 2013. Biological races in humans. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.04.010)…Wade even seems to agree with population geneticists that there aren’t any races, just clinal distributions of genetic diversity: “Because there is no clear dividing line, there are no distinct races—that is the nature of variation within a species.” (p 92).”
I commented on Templeton before. His argument is: (a) “biological race” should refer to zoological subspecies, (b) the criteria for being a zoological subspecies is having a Fst value greater that 0.25; (c) the Fst value between human populations is typically lower that 0.25. Of course, his Fst criteria, which makes little sense, was contrived – the paper he cites for this rule doesn’t discuss it — but rather discusses a multivariate version of the old 75% rule by which there would be human zoological subspecies. But Templeton keeps repeating it, so some people take it seriously More significantly, his argument rests on a word game. Races, we are told, are really “geographic races” — a term which Mayr used synonymously with zoological subspecies (i.e. formally recognized zoological races) and the subspecific natural populations that don’t make the conventional formal recognition cutoff are something else. Stop think. Of course, not accounted for are the evolutionary taxonomist’s microgeographic races and, more generally, non-formally recognized races i.e., the things that zoological subspecies are aside from being formally recognized. The whole argument is really silly — but at least — and this is the point — Templeton recognized the biological validity of at least one biological race concept. When one does, barring extreme disingenuity, one is forced to recognize that race is a fact of evolution; when you don’t you are left with conceptual schizophrenia e.g., ‘race isn’t a valid concept, therefore there are no human races like those of the Plain Zebra.’
And then we have the “just clinal distributions of genetic diversity” part. Cline once referred to character clines. Huxely (1939). “Some special term seems desirable to direct attention to variation within groups, and I propose the word cline, meaning a graduation in measurable characters…Clines may be of inter- or intra-group nature. Inter-group clines connect the mean values of the subspecies of a polytypic species (or of the species of a geographical subgenus or Artenkreis)”. The concept has since been extended — by whom? — to include population continua. But a character cline and a population continuum are very different. For example, an indigenous pigment character cline cuts across the southern hemisphere, yet a population continuum doesn’t. Generally, the presence of a population continuum isn’t inconsistent with that of biological races, it isn’t even inconsistent with the formal recognition of these: Quote: “The population continuum is that part of the species’ range where there is continuity of contact among local populations, some of which may be recognized as subspecies if sufficiently differentiated. (Gorilla biology: a multidisciplinary perspective”); see also: Mayr and Ashlock (1969;1991). The point is that populations carved out of a population continuum are still natural ones; ones carved out of a character cline (that doesn’t perfectly overlap with a population continuum) would constitute an artificial biological population and, thus, neither evolutionary, population genetic, nor cladistic races.
…. You’ll notice that zoos don’t define subspecies by present geographic location, either; you’re not the only animal dislocated form its ancestral geographic range. But what’s particularly odd about your comment is that the race concept was developed in part to explain why varieties of the same species retained their characteristic traits after relocation, that is, why some varieties are constant.
“Quite in line with this, the problem that Linnaeus saw in the well known case of “Ethiopians” was not to explain that and how their skin colour persisted, but rather that they possessed a distinctive character – black colour – that remained constant even under varying climatic and geographic conditions, while they nevertheless doubtlessly belonged to the same species as other humans: “Who would deny that the Ethiopian is of the same species as we humans”, as it says in a paragraph discussing difficulties in distinguishing varieties from species in the Critica botanica (1737), “and yet the Ethiopian brings forth black children in our countries.” (Cabbage, Tulips, Ethiopians–“Experiments” in early modern heredity.)
“How does Buffon reconcile such a statement with his theory of the production of races through the influence of climates and life conditions? This question is not very difficult to answer, but it is important concerning the very concept of “race”. Climate and life conditions act over time. They are transmitted through generations and inscribed in the
body through genealogy. For instance, «the germ of blackness is transmitted to children by their fathers and mothers so that in any country where a Negro may be born, he will be as black as if he were born in his own country.» (p. 523) Over time, relatively “constant races” are created this way. It means that, according to Buffon, history, kinships and transmission of characters over generations creates relatively constant varieties transmitted over time. (Race and Genealogy: Buffon and the Formation of the Concept of ‘Race’.)
Why do e.g., South Asians in Europe (Gypsies) look, in pigment, like South Asians in South Asia was a very old question. And one of the answers was “race” — more specially that they descend from a common lineage which somehow acquired characters that were somehow genealogically passed on.
“How do you objectively, in practice, determine a person’s race or distinguish between marginal cases?”
(a) start with a biological race concept e.g, population genetic
(b) operationalize it — that is, decide what exactly it is that makes an individual a member of one genetic division (i.e., one race) as opposed to another e.g., pairwise genetic similarity
(c) pick a grain of resolution i.e., determine how many genetic divisions you are interested in looking at
(d) decide if you want fuzzy or discrete sets
(e) obtain a reference sample e.g., hapmap.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
(f) categorize these individuals into your pre-selected number of natural population divisions + a nonassignable onw
(g) obtain a sample from your particular individual
(h) compare (f) to (g) — if you are working with discrete sets, the “marginal cases” may fall into the nonassignable group; from a zoological perspective, they fall into a zone of intergradation; however, if you are working with fuzzy sets you could give them values describing their relation to the defined divisions — basically, percent ancestry .
“Let’s go back to my question: “How does it apply? How do you objectively, in practice, determine a person’s race or distinguish between marginal cases?”
Must you be spoon fed? For example, here is a population genetic operationalization:
“sets of (subspecific) population whose members are more overall genetically dissimilar to members of other sets than they are to other members of their own set”
This is based on Hartl and Clark’s 1997 definition
“Two individuals, I1 and I2, belong to the same genetic population if (a) their genetic relationship, measured with the coefficient of kinship, is greater than zero and (b) their kinship is much higher than kinship between them and some individual I3, which is said to belong to another genetic population.”
This is based on Aulchenko (2010)
As I mentioned a number of times, the specific operationalizations differ since there are different ways to define “genetic similarity”.
Now go through steps c-h.
“Your position here assumes that population and race are equivalents”
I originally said:
“(a) start with a biological race concept e.g, population genetic
(b) operationalize it — that is, decide what exactly it is that makes an individual a member of one genetic division (i.e., one race) as opposed to another e.g., pairwise genetic similarity”
In response, you said: [(a) and (b)] are vague descriptions of what an answer might conceivably look like”. And so, I offered a very precise operationalization. Yet, in reply, you wrote: “Your position here assumes that population and race are equivalents”. But my position assumes no such thing, since I originally said “start with a biological race concept e.g, population genetic”. To spell things out with big goofy crayons — since, apparently, I must — I didn’t say that a population genetic race concept was THE biological race concept, hence I used “e.g [exempli gratia] population genetic” not “i.e. [id est], population genetic”.
Recall that in one of my initial comments I said: “I can think of four prominent biological race concepts off of the top of my head: cladistic, evolutionary, population, and ecotypic. They are biological races seen from the perspective of different biological research programs.” I clearly recognize that there are multiple related biological races concepts. I noted also that most can be subsumed under a natural population conception of race. Compare this to the situation with species: de Queiroz, K. (1998). The general lineage concept of species, species criteria, and the process of speciation.
“The result is a conceptualization of “race” that’s whatever you want it to be, producing whatever results best suit your ultimate goals”
When I specify a concept you accuse me of being too arbitrary (“Why not some other concept?”); when I generalize you accuse me of being too vague (“what does this mean specifically?”). Either you are being disingenuous or fuzzy-headed.
If the latter, to better understand, first distinguish between words and concepts. In and of themselves words means nothing; they gain meaning only through reference to concepts. Thus we need to focus on concepts. Second, recognize the nested nature of concepts: general to specific. For example:
a.Generic race (GR). Races as populations some how defined in terms of ancestry, real or imagined.
b.Biological race broadly constructed (BRBC). Races as populations defined in terms of biological ancestry.
c.Natural biological race (NBR). Races as populations defined in terms of overall biological ancestry.
d.Population genetic race (PGR). Races as populations defined in terms of overall biological ancestry understood from a population genetic framework..
f.Pairwise population genetic race (PPGR). Races as populations defined in terms of overall biological ancestry understood from a population genetic framework and operationalized in terms of pairwise similarity.
Concept (f) is nested within concept (a). Because it is more specific it is necessarily more exclusive and less general.
You argue that (f) is arbitrary because it’s a subtype of all possible concepts called “race”. (“But why choose this concept?”). This makes zero sense, You are now applying the goofy grain of resolution critique to the very concept of race; both applications fail for the same reason: biological racialists don’t claim that only one conception of race more generally understood — as in (a) — is true; they only claim that some biological concepts — b-f — are valid and that by these there are human biological races.
If someone here can show that by concepts b to f there are no human races or that some of the human races which are by these concepts don’t reasonably correspond to common sense once-said-to-be-biological races (e.g, continental races) or that these concepts themselves can not, given historical term usage, justifiably be called race concepts, I will try to eat my keyboard. If you can’t show this,what are you arguing against? If you are arguing that human races don’t exist because there is (a) no true number of them or (b) no true concept of them, please justify this requirement given the typical historic usage of the term “race” or given present biological race conceptions. If you are arguing that human races don’t exist because they are not discontinuous enough or differentiated enough or something else, please again justify these requirement in the same manner.
Having said that, is it possible that you’re right? It’s almost certain, because your central point appears to be that you can construct a definition of race that does whatever work you want it to, apart from generate new and significant insights into objective reality….”
No, my point is that given concepts and operationalizations that biologists have already constructed to understand genetic diversity in non-human species, there are humans “biological races” by which I mean biologists’ races. Let’s take a definition from a dictionary of zoology:
“An interbreeding group of individuals, all of whom are genetically distinct from the members of other such groups of the same species. Usually these groups are geographically isolated from one another, so there are barriers to gene flow”. (Allaby, 2010. A Dictionary of Zoology)
This is nearly identical to the population genetic race definition which I offered above. Clearly, I’m not doing to definition construction; I’m simply applying biologists’ definitions (and doing a little exegesis on the side when these are conceptually vague). Now, I agree that race concepts are constructs; epistemologically, I’m a conventionalist, as such, I see most concepts as constructs. My point is that given biologists’ definitions there are human races. Do you agree or not? If so I will address some of your other points
All you’ve done is identify a measure by which taxonomists can distinguish groups in animals, and slapped the word “race” on it.”
I cited a dictionary of zoology’s definition of “race”. Thus I am offering a referential account: accordingly, a biological race is what such and such biologists say it is. Do you agree that there are human biological races by this particular definition? As for correspondence, I have already shown that some “folk race classifications” such as classic continental ones qualify as races by this definition. Of course, your statement ” If you’re not connecting” is a non sequitur, since the said concept could allow for (e.g, bio-medically) useful classifications which are orthogonal to “folk” classifications.
[By the way, where is your evidence for this: "obviously most biologists don’t agree that “given biologists’ definitions there are human races.” I'm only aware of three surveys concerning biologists' opinions, one from 1983, n=147 (73% yes, 30% no), one from 2001, n=22 (45% yes, 55% no), and one from 2003 n= 56 (53% yes, 30% no) (Lieberman et al. 1992; Morning, 2011; Strkalj, 2008); has some new data been released?]
Yes, you cited a zoological definition of race. I don’t believe that it’s intended to apply to humans.”
At what point in human evolution do you imagine that humans ceased to be animals such that this pan species definition could not, in principle, apply to them? If you think that it doesn’t in practice explain why.
“How is that definition different from the definition of “population,” as applied to humans?”
In biology, the term “population” is generic. It can, for example, refer to the concept of breeding population(which is defined in terms of probability of sharing descendents). Generally, “race” specifies a particular type of biological population. Some, of course, use the term “population” as a euphemism for the term “race” to refer to the type of populations that “race” frequently refers to i.e., natural populations. But this all gets confusing.
“How distinct does a population have to be among animals to be “genetically distinct from the members of other such groups”?”
Not much. I cited tal 2012 above: “The probability that a random pair of individuals from the same population is more genetically dissimilar than a random pair from distinct populations is primarily dependent on the number of informative polymorphic loci across genomes from the total population pool. This probability asymptotically approaches zero with a sufficiently large number of informative loci, even in the case of close or admixed population.” I’m 90% sure that “distinct” in this definition means genetically differentiable — in the sense that members of populations don’t overlap in N-dimensional genetic space.
“Are the current geographical barriers to gene flow, if any, significant under this standard given human breeding habits?”
I don’t see why this would matter. Imagine perfect geographic genetic homogeneity tomorrow; we would still need to describe past (and future) variation.
“I’d be curious to hear from an actual expert, but that definition seems to make assumptions that don’t apply to humans—the most obvious is the assumption that geographic barriers are a significant barrier to reproduction, which isn’t true (or is true in a vastly different way) in humans.”
You’re either arguing:
(1) “I doubt that the members of such and such human populations are in fact more overall related to each other. How could they be so, given the history of human gene flow? As such, I doubt that such and such human populations meet the explicit requirements of this definition.”
This type of argument might have worked in the 80s when the genetic evidence wasn’t plentiful enough; but it’s untenable now.
(2) “While human populations clearly meet the explicit requirements of this definition, I suspect that the authors had in mind others — for example, that between populations there were “significant” barriers to reproduction, ones large enough not just to ensure that members of populations met the stated requirement, but large enough to ensure that these populations differed by quite a bit. I doubt that human populations would meet this intended requirement.”
The author offers some examples such as the island races of the St Kilda wren … but I was unable to find data on genetic differentiation. Before I spend more time looking, verify that you mean (2). In the meantime, we can look at related definitions. For example:
“In population genetics, a race is a group of organisms in a species that are genetically more similar to each other than they are to the members of other such groups. Populations that have undergone some degree of genetic differentiation as measured by, for example, Fst, therefore qualify as races.”
Removing all ambiguity, the authors continue:
“Using this definition, the human population contains many races. Each Yanomama village represents, in a certain sense, a separate “races”, and the Yanomama as a whole also form a distinct “race”. Such fine distinctions are rarely useful, however. It is usually more convenient to group populations into larger units that still qualify as races in the definition given. These larger units often coincide with races based on physical characteristics such as skin color, hair texture, and body conformation. Contemporary anthropologists tend to avoid “race” as a descriptive term for human groups because culture and linguistic differences, which are important, are often discordant with genetic differences and sometimes discordant with each other.” (Hartl and Clark. Principles of Population Genetics, Third Edition. 1997. Page 121-122.
I probably should have just cited this one from the beginning — since it’s so close to the one I originally offered and since it’s so very explicit. So what is it that you’re objecting to?
These definitions, that is, the ones by which there are human biological races, can’t be too marginal since otherwise few biologists would accept the existence of human races — yet, as the survey data shows, many do.
You might argue that there are just too many definitions, rendering the issue somewhat subjective. That’s not untrue — by my argument was merely that there are human biological races given some common biological definitions.
Speaking of which, I came across the following discussion:
” But some, like Jody Hey, think that species do not exist except in the minds of biologists and their public. So for them, zero.
Final score: 26-27, 7, 2, 1 or 0.
What to think? My solution is this:
There is one species concept (and it refers to real species).
There are two explanations of why real species are species (see my microbial paper, 2007): ecological adaptation and reproductive reach.
There are seven distinct definitions of “species”, and 27 variations and mixtures.
And there are n+1 definitions of “species” in a room of n biologists.””
(Wilkins, J. (2010). How many species concepts are there. The Guardian, London.)
As with species, so with subspecies and race. You have one major biological concept i.e., intra species natural populations, four major research programs (ecological, evolutionary, cladistic, population genetic), at least four major race concepts that fall in line with these programs, and scores of definitions or sub-concepts. Because there are so many definitions, and because human populations are so race-like, it’s easy for me to find ones by which there are human biological races. This might prove your point that there is much subjectivity involved; but it also proves mine that the definitions are biological and that I — an amateur race scientist –am not the one dreaming them up.
Once you agree with this, I will address your semiotic attack –
“You agree with X and then I’ll address Y” is a symptom of a conversation that is well and truly bogged down.”
Said Cratylus to Socrates when he recognized where the dialogue was headed.
I’ll take it that you concede the argument.
“My point is rather that “race” is a subjective concept without nearly as much objective grounding as “species,” to the extent that there is virtually no practical purpose to defining or focusing on race as a concept.”
One doesn’t focus on race as a concept, rather one applies the conceptual tool of biological race to focus on an aspects of biological diversity. If this conceptual tool has little practically utility then why is it so well established in the biological sciences. Or do you want to argue that this conceptual tool has virtually no practical utility only in regards to humans? (Yet how could this constitute an argument against the existence of human biological races — as opposed to merely an argument against research on differences between them? ) But I just cited a well known population genetics book which maintains otherwise. And a google scholar search turns up papers such as: Risch, et al. (2002). Categorization of humans in biomedical research: genes, race and disease. Genome Biol, Do you agree, at very least, that some geneticists apply this conceptual tool to explore practically useful concerns – and that some geneticists consider the application of this tool to human genetic diversity to be practically useful?
“If I divide humanity into groups based on whether they have an even or odd number of whorls in their left thumbprint, I’m using a definition that’s grounded firmly in biology.”
Yet I already anticipated this. I wrote:
It so happen that in biology, natural populations are deemed to be more important that artificial ones — they are given quasi privileged status. Hence, our taxonomic systems organize life by either genealogical (cladistics) or geneotypic (evolutionary taxonomy) similarity, and not by similarity in so called arbitrary character traits. There is a reason for this, of course, and it’s that such categories allow for more inductive inferences. If my “genetic populations” are based on similarity in two genetic characters, I have less inductive leverage than if they are based on evolutionary relationship and consequently similarity in terms of the whole genetic program. So, Wade and others have sound biological precedence for saying that race (qua subspecific natural population) is a generally more important grouping than others. It’s a well founded prejudice, no?”
Do you agree that biologists, at least from Darwin on, tend to privilege biological natural populations over biological artificial ones? Do you agree that this privilege is epistemically justified on the grounds that the former allows for more inductive leverage?
“It is empirically false [that " One doesn’t focus on race as a concept, rather one applies"].. See, for example, Steve Sailer pontificating about race as a measure of some nebulous, undefinable …”
The population genetic definition which I offered can readily be translated into Saileresque: an extended family that has inbred enough for members to be more overall genotypically similar to each other than to members of other extended families. Thus the Sailer race concept encompasses this. See below.
“I’d say rather that race is useless because the only function it seems to have is as a proxy for other, better-defined concepts like population or specific ancestry.”
So, in a parallel manner, the concept “vehicle” is useless because it only functions as a proxy for more specific concepts such as “automobile” or “boat”? The epistemic utility of a more general concept is its ability to tie together the specific forms of it.
Look, what would you like to call the general pan research program (population genetic, ecology, zoology, phylogeny, etc.) concept of “sub-specific biological groups where members are arranged according to overall genetic relatedness”? Population? This is overly confusing because population can refer to e.g., breeding populations. Typical definition: “a group of interbreeding individuals that exist together at the same time.” Also, population has a statistical meaning — set of individuals. Genetic population? Better — but ‘genetic population’ often is used to refer to breeding populations, too. How about a pure neologism: “Geme”? This works for me. But how do we handle past usage. Just re-translate everything going back to e.g. Darwin? Hmmm. Or do we say that “geme” (a play off of “deme”) is a refined version of the vague race concept? I can work with this. So you agree that there are human biological gemes*, right — for example, the continental gemes* such as mongoloids, caucasoids, etc.
*also still called “races”
I’m not opposed to changing the term — if we do so consistently going way back — or with refining the concept — if we note that this is the new and improved version of what was once called “races” — just with this verbal hocus pocus.
Colin: “The rest of us are left wondering why racialists care so passionately about race. What does it do?”
It does what such concepts are meant to do: it allows us to organize our knowledge and to see relationships, especially evolutionary ones. What’s the utility of derecognizing the biological geme* concept — or of proscribing the use of the term “race” as a synonym for geme*. Yes, we know that “it’s a loaded term” — loaded with information.
Dtizy: “silly or scatterbrained.”
I used “ditzy” descriptively. This was a silly piece in which a number of sophomoric criticisms, fallacies, and nonsequiturs were made and in which major internal inconsistencies can be found. I detailed some above. My characterization was generous compared to her characterization of Wade’s book as “pseudoscientific rubbish”. If you want, I will detail, paragraph by paragraph, the problems.
To take another example:
“Rosenberg et al. never published any statistical evidence that justifies picking 5 races instead of 7, or 4, or 2 (although such methods do exist–see Bolnick et al. 2008).”
But in Rosenberg, et al. (2005), we are told:
“When the number of loci, sample size, and correlation model were held constant, K = 2 (that is, two clusters) generally produced smaller clusteredness than did the larger values of K (Figures 3 and 4; Table 1). For the correlated allele frequencies model, K = 5 and K = 6 tended to have higher clusteredness than did K = 3 and K = 4, whereas the reverse was true for the uncorrelated model (Figure 4).”
As Dienekes notes, “some numbers of K fit the data better than others” dienekes.blogspot.com/2005/12/clusters-strike-back-ii.html
So, if Jennifer meant Rosenberg et al. (2002), the statement while correct is deceptive as we see in Rosenberg et al. (2005) that there is “statistical evidence that justifies picking 5 races instead of 7, or 4, or 2″ — as least as far as there can be. That is, there is no “real” — to use her term (quote: “number of divisions really exists in nature”) — level of genetic analysis, but preferring some divisions over others can be justified on empirical grounds GIVEN some idealized notion of races. And since Jennifer contrasts races with clines (quote: “there aren’t any races, just clinal distributions of genetic diversity”), presumably she would think that clustered populations make for better races; thus we have an idealized notion. More clustered, less clinal — note: for reasons discussed above, I consider the race/cline dichotomy to be conceptually confused.– populations make for better races. Thus based on Rosenberg et al. and given this prejudice we can say that K=5 is preferable to 7, or 4, or 2.
I was clear on this point; reread what I said again.
There can not be a true level of genetic analysis; no proponent of biological race claims that there can. So Jennifer’s critique regarding STRUCTURE not establishing a “real” number is vapid. That said, you could prefer some level of genetic analysis GIVEN some pragmatic or other concerns. For example, taxonomists only formally recognize — they prefer — races that “differ enough”? Why? Because to do otherwise would lead to taxonomic chaos since it’s races all the way down. This pragmatic concern arises regarding human races, too; thus Leroi (2005) noted:
“[t]here is nothing very fundamental about the concept of the major continental races; they’re just the easiest way to divide things up. Study enough genes in enough people and one could sort the world’s population into 10, 100, perhaps 1000 groups, each located somewhere on the map. (Leroi, 2005)”
Now, I noted that Jennifer seems to see “clines”, meaning something like population continua, as antithetical to races. She says: “there aren’t any races, just clinal distributions”. Am I misreading this? If not, then it follows that less “clinal”, meaning less continuous, populations would make for better races (given her conception), no? Well, Rosenberg (2005) happens to present a clusteredness analysis. And some of the populations were found to be less “clinal”, meaning less continuous. So, given Jennifer’s apparent cline versus race conception and given Rosenberg (2005)’s results, some populations make for better races than others — and that would be k=5 (or 6) versus K=7, or 4, or 2. Thus, you have empirical justification to pick a number, GIVEN some conception about preferable races. Of course, if you have no preferences, then you couldn’t possibly empirically objectively prefer any level of analysis. Well, duh.
But why is this preference better than others? I’m not the one who entertains it. I see no population continua problem. But Jennifer does. So ask her,
The philosopher-biologist Quayshawn Spencer discussed this issue recently. Quote:
“As for (b), Hochman (2013, p. 348) claims that there is a ‘‘grain-of- resolution problem’’ insofar as there is no ‘‘principled reason’’ for calling one collection of genetic clusters of human populations “‘races’’ and not the rest. For example, we might be tempted to call K = 5 ‘races’ in Rosenberg et al.’s studies because it matches current U.S. Census racial groups. However, according to Hochman (2013, p. 348), the ‘‘chosen number’’ should not simply reflect a ‘‘folk assumption’’ since such a move would be an arbitrary reason for designating each cluster a subspecies. (Spencer, 2014. The unnatural racial naturalism)”
Hochman’s ‘‘grain-of- resolution’ is my “level of genetic analysis” and Jennifer Raff’s “number of clusters”; as Hochman notes, there is no ‘‘principled reason’’, that is, there is no reason in principle, for calling the genetic divisions based on one level of analysis but not others races. Of course, you can stipulate certain levels e.g., primary/major/continental races but there are no purely genetic grounds for saying that these e.g., k=5 really are the true or real races. There is no true, with a capital T, level of analysis. Ok, but a typical solution is simply to grant that the natural population divisions at different levels of subspecific genetic analysis are races (to note, following
Dobzhansky and others I take an extremist Horton Hears a Who, a race is a race no matter how undifferentiated, approach; others are more exclusive); hence, Wade notes that there are primary races, continental races, and subraces.
Now, as said, one can nonetheless prefer some grain-of- resolution over others, just as taxonomists do. So, for example, Risch et al. 2002 tells us: “genetic differentiation is greatest when defined on a continental basis’’ If this is true, we can use this fact to construct an empirically grounded justification for preferring (that is, focusing on) continental level races, granted that we consider “genetic differentiation” to be an important consideration . This isn’t to say that the other divisions cease to be races, rather they are less prioritized. Now, Wade more or less makes this point. Which is why Jennifer’s criticism in this regards, like others, is misplaced. But maybe she didn’t well understand him. Let’s look at some quotes:
Wade: “True, races are not discrete entities and have no absolute boundaries, as already discussed, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The classification of humans into five continental based races is perfectly reasonable and is supported by genome clustering studies. In addition, classification into the three major races of African, East Asian and European is supported by the physical anthropology of human skull types and dentition..”
Here Wade doesn’t say that the “continental based races” are THE races but are race; they are continental level ones. He notes that one can also have a three MAJOR race classification. There is no inconsistency here because the five continental races consist of the three MAJOR races plus two less differentiated — due to time of separation — continental ones. Thus Wade says:
“A practical way of classifying human variation is therefore to recognize five races based on continent of origin. These are the three principal races—Africans, East Asians and Caucasians—and the two other continent-based groups of Native Americans and Australian aborigines…”
Wade: ” Within each continental race are smaller groupings which, to avoid terms like subrace or subpopulation, that might be assumed to imply inferiority, may be called ethnicities. Thus Finns, Icelanders, Jews and other groups with recognizable genetics are ethnicities within the Caucasian race.”
Here Wade recognizes the nested nature of race. He just calls the divisions produced by finer partitions, the sub- races,”ethnicities” so as not to imply inferiority.
Wade: “Such an arrangement, of portioning human variation into five continental races, is to some extent arbitrary. But it makes practical sense. The three major races are easy to recognize. The five-way division matches the known events of human population history. And most significant of all, the division by continent is supported by genetics.”
Here Wade recognizes the arbitrariness of selecting a grain of focus.
Wade: ” Lewontin’s answer came out to 6.3%, meaning that of all the variations in the 17 kinds of protein he had looked at, only 6.3% lay between races, while a further 8.3% lay between ethnic groups within races. These two sources of variation add up to around 15%, leaving the rest as common to the population as a whole…..The 15% genetic difference between races, in other words, is not random noise but contains information about how individuals are more closely related to members of the same race than those of other races. ”
The final sentence of this excerpt makes it clear that Wade considers ethnic groups (or sub-races) to actually be races — as the “15% genetic difference between races” is partitioned between [continental] races and between ethnic groups. Knowing this, the first sentence can be read: “Lewontin’s answer came out to 6.3%, meaning that of all the variations in the 17 kinds of protein he had looked at, only 6.3% lay between continental races, while a further 8.3% lay between sub races within continental races.”
Wade: “A necessary approach to studying racial variation is to look not for absolute differences but at how the genomes of individuals throughout the world cluster together in terms of their genetic similarity. The result is that everyone ends up in the cluster with which they share the most variation in common.”
Here Wade clarifies what races are. They are populations defined in terms of overall genetic similarity i.e., natural populations and not in terms of specific characters e.g., artificial populations.
Wade: “A variation on the no distinct boundary argument is the objection that the features deemed distinctive of a particular race, like dark skin or hair type, are often inherited independently and appear in various combinations…..But as already noted, races are identified by clusters of traits..,,Even when it is not immediately obvious what race a person belongs to from bodily appearance, as may often be the case with people of mixed-race ancestry, race can nonetheless be distinguished at the genomic level.”
Here Wade reiterates that races are defined multivariately — that is, in terms of overall similarity, Unfortunately, he fails to make it clear in this passage that the defining feature is (overall) genetic similarity and that phenotypic similarity is an index of this. But the last sentence, and others — such as that quoted above — indicate that this is what he’s thinking of — and thus that his race concept doesn’t substantially differ from typical biological natural population ones.
Regarding the level of genetic analysis issue, below is Kitcher’s 2007 discussion: :
“Faced with the statistical analysis, and especially with the illuminating figures that present the data, it is tempting to say that here we have a completely objective division of the human species into infraspecific groups. We have put the question, and nature has spoken: there are races, or something akin to them. That conclusion, however, has to be hedged with qualifications. First, it is important to understand the question that has actually been put. Given rich data about individuals and bits of their DNA sequences, computer programs have sought divisions, being told in advance how many clusters they are to find. So, for example, we might ask, “If our species were to be divided into just two groups on the basis of genetic similarity, how would geographical populations be assigned to those groups?” and we would discover that the two clusters are “anchored by Africa and America” (Eurasian populations would be lumped with the African ones). Ask for three groups, and Eurasia is split off; ask for four, and East Asian populations form a distinct fourth group; ask for five, and Oceania is separated from the other East Asian populations. 21 So there is a genuine issue about level or fineness of grain, one that can only be settled on pragmatic grounds: the clusters, or races, will be picked out by fixing the number so that the resulting division best accords with the inquiries we find valuable. Picking out new clusters preserves, in an important sense, the boundaries that have already been drawn. You may find new subdivisions within a previously identified unit, but you do not generate new clusters that straddle earlier ones. If two populations are assigned to different clusters at one value of the parameter, they remain separated at all higher values. On this basis, one might conclude that the pragmatic component in dividing the species is relatively insignificant, just a matter of finding the appropriate level in an objective tree-structure”. (Does ‘Race’ Have a Future?)
Races are nested within races. As a result, you can split major geographical races into minor geographical ones and you can lump the latter into the former. Thus one must select — when doing a genetic analysis — a grain of resolution. That is (a). (b) is that you can empirically justify selecting a grain of resolution GIVEN some views about what makes for better races. For example, you could add a subroutine to STRUCTURE and tell it to select the grain of resolution, the K=, that shows the greatest level off differentiation or the most clusteredness or the smallest dissimilarity fraction. If you did this, you would (typically) get K=5. (c) is that Jennifer does consider some natural populations to make for better races than others e.g.,ones that are not located on a population continuum — or, in her terms, are not clinal.. Given this and given the empirical results, one can justify selecting a particular grain of resolution and so K=5
I’m not saying that one should select k=5; I’m saying that one can empirically justifiably do this, given Jennifer’s (apparent) better-race standards.
You said: “Incidentally, your arrogant and insulting style made me curious about the depth of your own expertise”
Now and then, I post at humanvarieties.org/ and openpsych.net/ODP/ Since topics often involve race, the SF crowd now and then links to HV. As for research, supposedly I’m a second author of a paper in a third rate chemistry journal — though, I lost contact with the advising professor, so I don’t know which. Also, I have half of a phd in experimental psychology from a second rate university; as for biology, I once had a secondary teaching license — that was when I had the crazy idea of teaching in the U.S., after having a blast teaching abroad, I have a bartending certificate — from my early 20s — not sure if that counts. Ya, so when a schmuck like myself can figure things out better than learned professionals that tells you something about either those professionals or their profession, no?
Among others, I made the following points:
Position (1): Biological race proponents generally do not claim that there is a privileged grain of genetic resolution or a true number of races.
We might take some examples:
Leroi, A. M. (2005). A family tree in every gene. Journal of genetics, 84(1), 3-6.
Sesardic, N. (2013). Confusions about race: A new installment.
Shiao, J. L., Bode, T., Beyer, A., & Selvig, D. (2012). The genomic challenge to the social construction of race. Sociological Theory, 30(2), 67-88.
This position is hardly a new; Mayr, Dobzhansky, Coon, Darwin, Kant, etc. all acknowledged the validity of different levels of racial analysis. The typical position was and is similar to that expressed by Leroi:
[T]here is nothing very fundamental about the concept of the major continental races; they’re just the easiest way to divide things up. Study enough genes in enough people and one could sort the world’s population into 10, 100, perhaps 1000 groups, each located somewhere on the map.”
Wade maintained a similar view; hence, he (a) recognized different grains of focus (e.g., a three primary race systems and a five continental race one), (b) noted that the choice was arbitrary in the sense that one could choose otherwise, and (c) pragmatically grounded his choice of focus. You don’t dispute any of this, presumably because you can not. Instead, you trot out the number or races strawposition.
Perhaps you might explain why you feel that for race to be a valid biological construct there must be a biological or genetic way of establishing a preferable or correct or true or privileged grain of resolution? Do you feel that this requirement holds for other biological entities such as demes or taxon in general, if not why?
Position (2): One can justify a preference for a grain of resolution on the basis of genetic and biological data, such as that presented by Rosenberg et al. (2002;2005), given some prior conceptions of what better races look like, conceptions such as those you yourself seem to hold.
I noted for example, that you consider genetic discontinuities — in your parlance non clinality — to be one important quality; you also seem to consider magnitude of genetic differentiation to be another. I then pointed out that Rosenberg et al. (2002;2005) presented evidence that support the position that (a) continental level races exhibit higher levels of clusterability than some other grains of resolution [K5].
My point was not novel — For example, here was Quayshawn Spencer’s (2014) discussion:
” First, some levels of genetic clustering corresponded nicely with certain folk racial classifications. For example, at K = 3, the clusters picked out Mongloids, Caucasoids, and Negroids. Furthermore, at K = 5, the clusters picked out current U.S. Census races: Sub-Saharan Africans (hereafter ‘‘Black Africans’’), Caucasians, East Asians, Amerindians, and Oceanians. K = 6 was similar to K = 5, except it had a single Pakistani population (the Kalash) in a part all by itself. A second interesting result was that the level of populations with the highest among-part genetic variance (r2a) was K = 5, which was 4.3 ± 0.40 at 95% confidence (Rosenberg et al., 2002, p. 2382). This last result seemed to support Risch et al.’s famous claim that ‘‘genetic differentiation is greatest when defined on a continental basis’’ (Risch, Burchard, Ziv, & Tang, 2002, p. 3).”
Now, it needs to be stated at this point that Wade only obliquely made the above argument. He mentioned the two points, (a) and (b) above:
“Many larger and more sophisticated surveys have been done since, and all have come to the same conclusion, that “genetic differentiation is greatest when defined on a continental basis…The Rosenberg-Feldman team then reanalyzed their data and gave their survey finer resolution by looking at 993 sites, not just 377, on each of the genomes in their study. They found that the clusters are real. Although there are gradients of genetic diversity, there is also a clustering into the continental groups described in their first article.”
Yet he did not clearly construct an argument and he characterizes the choice of continental races (K=5) as both somewhat arbitrary and practical.
Regardless, I do maintain that one can justify K=5 using Rosenberg et. al’s data.. You dispute this — or at least a straw version of it e.g., that the results provide “definitive proof of discrete races”, by arguing that ∆K is a best measure of the “best” K and that the results for ∆K are not give. Yet I gave a clear and unambiguous justification for using clusterability and degree of genetic differentiation as a measure of preferability: your own prior conception of what ideal races should look like. (Recall that I myself have no problem with microraces or with races locate in a population continuum; to my mind, the acceptance of these (as historically understood races) is very defensible; I, instead, justify prioritizing continental races on the basis of my limited memory span; 5-7 works well for me.) Now, you might argue that we should take into account ∆K, but in absence of this value we only have ones for clusterability and degree of genetic differentiation. Given this situation, you can only argue that clusterability and/or degree of genetic differentiation fails as a justifiable ways for justifying a K. I’m waiting for that argument. Make it or concede the point.
You also argue that the authors did not attempt “to provide statistical support for different values for K”, but I never asserted that they did — but only that, contrary to what you wrote, one can construct a justification based on the results which they presented. Also, you argue that the authors NEVER TESTED ABOVE K=6; yet Rosenberg et al. 2002 did — see table 1. In that table, you will see that the between region variance is lower at K=7 than at K=5. Am I misreading this? Regarding your other comments concerning STRUCTURE, at best they weaken the two justifications offered. However, weak justification is still justification, and you have yet to provide countervailing evidence.
More generally, STRUCTURE can only provide evidence for or against the coherence of certain racial partitions e.g., the lumping South and East Asians into a pan Asian race. It does this by evidencing that predefined populations represent natural populations, which is what races have frequently been understood to be. Rosenberg et. al. (2002) note that this — showing that predefined populations represent natural ones i.e., ones defined in terms of genetic relationship — was the point of their study:
“Most studies of human variation begin by sampling from predefined “populations.” These populations are usually defined on the basis of culture or geography and might not reflect underlying genetic relationships”
Note that the clusters generated by structure are not races themselves, rather they are the statistical outputs which one would expect where predefined “populations” natural populations — at least, discontinuous ones. This being the case, challenging the validity of STRUCTURE’s results does not challenge the validity of the race concept per se — just the evidence that some groups often said to be races qua natural populations are in fact these. But there are multiple lines of evidence indicating that the classically defined continental level races are in fact natural populations — for example, evidence from the PCA method, classic and newer. Throwing out STRUCTURE’s results would, then, still leave intact the other evidence.
Which points above do you disagree with? And do you agree that your original post was somewhat silly?
Surely you can do better.
Your argument now is:
(a) “the authors of STRUCTURE note in the program’s documentation, it is not designed to be applicable to populations that experience IBD”
I will note, firstly, that I find your excessive focus on STRUCTURE to be odd — there are a number of other methods (e.g., DAPC) in use which produce convergent results. As such, attacking an inferred population structures by attacking the program STRUCTURE is akin to attacking heritability estimates by attacking MZ twin research. Whatever the case, this is what we’re told by Pritchard et al.:
“The underlying structure model is not well suited to data … [which exhibits IBD]. When this occurs, the inferred value of K, and the corresponding allele frequencies in each group can be rather arbitrary. Depending on the sampling scheme, most individuals may have mixed membership in multiple groups. That is, the algorithm will attempt to model the allele frequencies across the region using weighted averages of K distinct components. In such situations, interpreting the results may be challenging”
This means that in absence discontinuous jumps, one can not place high trust in the coherence of the clusters identified by STRUCTURE — which, of course, is all the more reason to prefer, at least when limiting consideration to this method, those sets of clusters which correspond to those populations between which there are jumps, such as K=5. But how do we know that there are such jumps at K=5. Apart from looking at google map or from experience traveling, we do because Rosenberg et al. (2005) tested for clusteredness, which effectively tests for the degree of genetic discontinuity. That is, Rosenberg et al.’s (2005) clusteredness results provide evidence that at k=5 there is less IBD relative to other Ks, which was the whole point of that 2005 cline-cluster paper, no?
So I can reformulate the argument:
P1. more clusteredness = larger jumps in genetic distance (Rosenberg, 2005)
P2. larger jumps in genetic distance = less IBD (Prichard et al. 2010 section 5.4)
P3. less IBD = more trustable, less arbitrary, more coherent (easy to interpret) partitions (Prichard et al. 2010 section 5.4)
P4. more coherent clusters more likely to better identify races as natural populations
P5. partitions that better identify races are preferable (inferred from Jennifer, 2014)
P6. K=5 shows more clusteredness (Rosenberg, 2005)
C K=5 shows more clusteredness (6), thus more likely to identify races as natural populations (1-4), thus, more preferable (5).
But maybe you intended this — argument (a) — as one to be directed against K \= 5?
Recall that my position with regards to programs such as STRUCTURE is very circumspect. I said: “Note that the clusters generated by structure…. And, in fact, my evidence for races — adopting Hartl and Clark’s definition — comes from analyses such as:
Tal, O. (2013). -individual genetic distance & Gao & Martin (2009). Using allele sharing distance for detecting human population stratification
Regarding STRUCTURE, my criticism was very narrow: Contrary to what you keep claiming, Rosenberg et al. 2002/2005 did provide evidence that could be used to justify K=5. Next argument:
(b) “They did not publish any statistical justification [Pr (X|K)] to justify any particular value of K over another…but Pr (X|K) is not the same thing as ∆K, nor of Rosenberg et al’s 2005 “clusterdness” statistic.”
Here you are just being disingenuous. My argument was very clear. I even explained the way to construct a counter. I will merely restate what I said:
“You dispute this … by arguing that [Pr (X|K) or] ∆K is a best measure of the “best” K and that the results for [Pr (X|K) or] ∆K are not give. Yet I gave a clear and unambiguous justification for using clusterability and degree of genetic differentiation as a measure of preferability: your own prior conception of what ideal races should look like///Now, you might argue that we should take into account [Pr (X|K) or ∆K, but in absence of this value we only have ones for clusterability and degree of genetic differentiation. Given this situation, you can only argue that clusterability and/or degree of genetic differentiation fails as a justifiable ways for justifying a K.
In response, you only pointed out that I neglected to include Pr (X|K) along with ∆K. But even so, nothing I said appears to be inaccurate. You still haven’t explained by clusteredness and highest among-part genetic variance are voiceless.
(c) “Rosenberg et al. 2005 (You appear to mix these two studies up) does not test values of K over 6.”
The confusion arose because I initially wrote:
“So, if Jennifer meant Rosenberg et al. (2002), the statement while correct is deceptive as we see in Rosenberg et al. (2005) that there is “statistical evidence that justifies picking 5 races instead of 7, or 4, or 2″ — as least as far as there can be.”
In response to: “So, when Rosenberg et al. (2002 …Rosenberg et al. never published any statistical evidence that justifies picking 5 races instead of 7, or 4, or 2….”
I was wrong because both Rosenberg et al. (2002) and Rosenberg et al. (2005) provide evidence that can be used to justify 5 versus “7, or 4, or 2″. Rosenberg et al. (2002) provides evidence for 5 versus 7 (lower among-part genetic variance than K=5) and Rosenberg et al. (2005) provides evidence for 5 versus 2 and 4 (less clusteredness than k=5). So, in fact, your statement was incorrect, not deceptive
re: some guy
Your statements are chock full of misconceptions — in part because you misunderstand the structure of the arguments. There are several overlapping semi-independent ones taking place:
(1) Human biological races exist. The genetic differences that define these are not socially scientifically interesting. The “race making” differences are mostly in neutral genetic variation that indexes genetic lineage/ pedigree.
(2) Global genetic variance underlies global phenotype variance in a number of socially significant traits. This variance is mostly clinal and is not the type that could delineate races as natural biological populations.
(3) Connecting (1) and (2), due to their global distribution, human biological races differ on average in genetically mediated socially significant traits, just as they differ on average in skin color.
(4) Non-biological “races” (e.g., U.S. Asians = Mongoloids + South Caucasoids) also differ on average in genetically mediated socially significant traits, just as they differ on average in skin color.
You say: “I looked over some of your references and see that you believe IQ testing could be a reliable way to differentiate groups, and perhaps be a validator of a biological construct of race.”
Again, intelligence as measured by IQ cannot possibly define race membership, but races can nonetheless differ on average in this or other traits. The average intelligence differences, which are modest compared to those within populations, are important insofar as they explain average outcome differences. The average outcome differences are important to economics and sociologists who want to “close the gaps” nationally and internationally; regarding average differences, the biological race question is orthogonal. It’s largely a separate debate.
You say: “For a biological construct of race to be robust and practical”
Biological race, that is Biologist’s race is robust. Is it practical? It is in that it tells one about ones ancestry and relatives. Since this race is defined largely by neutral genetic variation it will not be practical in many other senses. (You seem to want biological race to be defined in terms of socially important differences — but we discussed the folly inherent in doing this. When so, biological race — that is biologist’s race — ceases to be biologically defined, since “socially importance” is social, not strictly biological scientific.
You say: “To my knowledge, IQ correlates highly with socio-economic level, quality of education”
It does but the relation is bidirectional. Biometrics e.g., Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis attempts to disentangle nature, nurture, etc.
You said: “Unless you have IQ data … “
First, Biological races are not being “built with” IQ; they are being identified based on correlated, largely, neutral variation. As natural populations, they index overall relatedness not the presence of socially “important” traits. Second, in our section IV-L, we present residual scores for regional/continental races; various seemingly “environmental” effects were regressed out. Third, as noted, many seemingly environmental differences are just as likely causally genetic as causally environmental; the “environment” is in part an extended genotype; so one can not simply regress the effects of apparent environmental factors out; the studies I cited above approach the issue by looking at the association between genetic relatedness and IQ on the international level and by comparing frequencies of intelligence/education affecting alleles.
“It’s not enough to demonstrate some arbitrarily defined degree of genetic similarity or dissimilarity – “
More idios. The race concept, and, more generally, the natural population one, is a general conceptual tool used for understand biological diversity; it’s not human specific. That a tool is multipurpose and flexible is not a good argument against its existence. That you don’t personally care to use it is also not a good argument against its existence.
“which by itself would be trivial in any case against the backdrop of our overall species similarity. “
A minute is a nick of time and a long stretch, depending. To go beyond impressionism we need to specify context. That regarding, I don’t know what “overall species similarity” means. Regional race differences can be quite large using individual differences as a metric. For example, the color difference between Han and Yoruba is a couple of within population standard deviations in magnitude.
“You would have to show that the degree of similarity or lack thereof expresses something important and relatively durable against non-genetic variables..”
We already went over this. The race concept — like the “statistical population” concept — is a useful tool because it allows one to evaluate the magnitude of differences. If you want to stipulate that we call “subspecific natural populations” “races” if and only if they have such differences, then you still have to grant the “subspecific natural population” concept so that we can determine if any are races. We end up fighting over semantics — which is only a problem when we are not clear about the disagreement.
Let’s keep the interchanges as tangent free as possible so to maximize clarity.
“The term sub -specific natural populations can’t possibly serve as an operational definition of race because it’s impossibly vague.”
This would be the definition.
An operationalization would be: a set of (subspecific) populations whose members were more overall genetically related to each other than to the members of the other populations in the set. (Alternatively: a set of (subspecific) population whose members are more overall dissimilar to members of other sets than they are to other members of their own set.)
The definition is more general than the operationalization because it is a broader concept that cross cuts more disciplines: evolutionary biology, taxonomy, zoology, population genetics, ecology, behavior genetics, etc.
Per your mind, what is wrong with the above operationalization of subspecific natural population (– we can call it the “discrete set operationalization”)? (This has been given by others, so it is not just my own)
You said: ” Any operational definition worth its salt should stand on its own in terms of objective clarity, and any reasonable person of reasonable intelligence ought to be able to read it and know precisely what you’re talking about…. No “natural” populations exist, except the entire human population.”
As noted before, anyone familiar with taxonomy, ecology, zoology, and population genetics should recognize the term “natural population”. That you don’t just speaks of your level of familiarity
There are literally an indefinite number of such races in the U.S. Anytime you have freely interbreeding populations where the members of each population are more overall genetically similar to each other than to the members of other populations of the same set of populations under consideration you have races. Some, however, argue that only large enough natural populations — or “genetic populations”, as population geneticists tend to call then — should be called “races”. I don’t presently want to debate over semantics, so I will use the neutral term “natural populations” to describe these entities. Since natural populations are defined by overall genetic similarity, their utility comes from the fact that (a) one can make genetic inferences (since one is dealing with genetically defined not culturally defined populations) and (b) one can look at multiple genes at a time, their relations, etc. I guess I don’t understand where you are coming from. Just read some papers on the use of ancestry in medicine. The complication arises from the crude overlap between natural populations (biological race, proper) and self-identified race/ethnicity (sociological race, proper), etc.
On to some specific question:
You said: ” African Americans are made up of recent African immigrants and Caucasian-African hybrids. I don’t know how you define either of those”
Historic continental races can be objectively identified using unsupervised genetic clustering. If you feed HapMap data intothe program STRUCTURE and you set the number of desired populations to 5, you get the five classic races (natural populations) of man: Sub Saharan Africans, West Eurasians, East Eurasian, Oceanians, and Amerindians. This has been called the Blumenbach partition. One can describe the sociological race called “African Americans” in terms of its continental Ancestry. This sociological race is mostly Sub Saharan (West) Africans and (North) West Eurasians.
Races: populations defined in terms of overall genetic similarity (caveats needed); operationalization (1, a discrete pairwise formulation): sets of individuals who are more pairwise genotypically similar to each other than to members of other sets (caveats needed). Example: Han and Yoruba as, given a large number of informative polymorphic loci, any Han will (almost always) be more overall similar to another Han than to a Yoruba. (See: Tal, 2012). Points of interest: (a) this is a discrete formulation because individuals can be given a value of 1 or 0 with respect to a given population and because membership is exclusive (given a level of analysis and allowing for undefined populations), (b) membership is durable to the degree that genetic character is, (c) race membership is broadly probabilistically informative as membership can be predictive of the presence of a given allele with a likelihood dependent on the overall genetic distances of the races in question, (d) overall genetic similarity is an objective feature of the world, as such races can be objectively delineated given some (1) set of individuals and (2) some desired coefficient of relatedness. Practical utility: e.g., ancestry informed medicine.
Populations, genetic or otherwise, can be nested; as such, one has to pick a level of analysis. Again, I am equating biological races with natural populations — populations delineated in terms of overall genetic similarity. I think this is pretty standard, if not always spelled out. There are a number of ways of formalizing this understanding, just as there are a number of ways of formulating what precisely “social classes” are.. Here is a population genetic formulation:
Two individuals, I1 and I2, belong to the same genetic population if (a) their genetic relationship, measured with the coefficient of kinship, is greater than zero and (b) their kinship is much higher than kinship between them and some individual I3, which is said to belong to another genetic population. (Aulchenko, 2010. Effects of population structure in genome-wide association studies).
(I wouldn’t say that this “is” the formulization — because one can understand things differently.)
The author continues:
One can see that this definition is quantitative and rather flexible (if not to say arbitrary): what we call a “populations” depends on the choice of the threshold for the “much-higher” probability. Actually, what you define as “the same” genetic population depends in large part on the scope and aims of your study. In human genetics literature you may find references to a particularly genetically isolated populations, populations of some countries (e.g., “German population”, “population of United Kingdom”), European, Caucasoid or even general human population. Defining a population is about deciding on some probability threshold.
The author is describing nested population, which go all the way down.
You said: “Why use the word race in this context instead of simply “subculture?”
We discussed this obliquely in the paper which I linked you to. In the loosest etymologically consistent sense, race refers to ancestry or lineage — the term comes from the French term ‘noble de race’ and was largely imported into anthropology by du Comte de Buffon. In that archaic sense, it means lineage, as in noble linage. If you read old translations of classic works you will from time to time come across race used this way e.g., the last of his race = house, the race of Augustus. Technically, populations defined this way, by pedigree, are biological races — as pedigree is biological — they are just not natural biological populations and so have low inferential power. Given the term’s etymology, groups defined in terms of ancestry have a more or less legitimate, to my mind, claim to the term “race”. The groups in the U.S. called races by sociologists and the U.S.G. are, as best I can tell, understood this way — if not consistently. While George Zimmerman probably could not have defended himself by claiming that he was African American — true by the law of hypodescent — a person with 50% Black African or 12.5% Amerindian ancestry can by informal standards claim to be a member of the “Black” or “Amerindian” race — at least when it comes to claiming social privileges such as Affirmative Action — because race in this sense mean having this regional ancestry. That said, I would not mind if, in the future, race was exclusively used to describe natural populations. We could then discuss the racial = natural population components of various cultural groups. But again there is a plausible justification for calling these cultural/ethnic/groups races — they are more or less defined in terms of (geographic) ancestry, even when grouped nonsensically from a genetic perspective. For related discussion, you might refer you self to Hardimon’s paper: “The concept of socialrace”.
Look, you’re obviously a smart guy — so why are you having trouble with this? If I can figure it out, you should be able to. The idea of biological race should be no less confusing than the idea of “cultural group” or “sociological race” or “ethnic group”. Yet while you imaginably have no trouble understanding those ideas — when some brings up “social class” do you pepper them with definitional questions? — you are perplexed by “biological race”.
ou said: “nor do I know why the hybrids are put in the black rather than white group, from a biological point of view”
From a biological point of views it depends on overall genetic relatedness. Let’s start with two of our continental level natural populations: Sub Saharan African and West Eurasian. If we add a third group that is more or less uniformly 4% Sub Saharan African and 96% West Eurasian, this groups will end up clustering with the sub Saharan African one — similar to how Europeans with 4% Neanderthal cluster with other modern humans. This group will be hybrid in the sense of having recent continental admixture and not in the sense of clustering with one of the former two races. Now if we increase the admixture of our third group enough — assuming, of course, we give them time to inbreed — they would separate, in multi-dimensional genetic similarity space, from the former two races. Imagine, for example, an ancestrally 50-50% hybrid Neanderthal-Modern Human population. We wouldn’t be able to call them Neanderthals or Modern Humans in the way that we can call Modern Humans with 4% Neanderthal admixture Modern Human, because they wouldn’t cluster with the latter group, let alone the former. Regarding self identified African Americans (in the U.S,) many form such a hybrid natural population. There are “full blooded” African (recent immigrant) and European Americans. And there are genetically intermediate individuals; of course, because genetic space is highly dimensional, “intermediate” doesn’t mean not mean: not forming a separate natural biological population.
You said: “You also didn’t tell me how this presumed biological race characterization allows you to make important scientific statements and predictions about the group.”
You don’t need genetics to make group predictions. And you don’t need biological race to make group predictions grounded in genetics. For example, without looking at the data I would (a) predict that Hindus were on average darker than Zen Buddhists and (b) that there was a genetic basis to the average difference. I would base this on my understanding of the global distribution of melatonin affecting alleles and the global distribution of religions. When you have biological races, though, you can make evolutionary based predictions. For example, I know that North East Asians (Yellows) were, as a population, cold climate selected, so I can predict that they will be so adapted. Relative to warm climate evolved natural populations, they will tend to have shorter stockier bodies and rounder heads so to conserve energy
You said: Presumably President Obama would be seen as both a hybrid and the son of a recent African immigrant. What are the characteristics of this group that he shows, and how do they relate to his high achievement?
You could say that Obama is a West Eurasian-S.S. African hybrid or a European – East African one. His color is intermediate to the average of the latter two regional races; I predict that much of this morphology is also — what about you and why? In terms of high achievement, he himself is a prediction of sorts; the most successful people of African Ancestry in the U.S. and elsewhere tend to have substantial out-of-African admixture; I showed you admixture mapping results, did I not? The situation is complex, of course, because we are dealing with statistical averages and also because African immigrant to the U.S. are highly selected — and where even more so decades ago. But of course, this allows for another prediction: the less selective immigration is from Africa, the less accomplished the immigrants and their U.S. born offspring will be. And in fact this prediction holds.
A. Races in the US
We discussed this. See section II- “Sociological Clarifications”. From the continental perspective, Non-hispanic Whites are mostly indoEuropeans who are C*ucasoids. African Americans represent recent N*groid immigrants and C*ucasoid-N*groid hybrids. Hispanics are an ethnicity in the cultural sense. Asians are a political construct (Nixon’s stupidity): M*ngoloids and South C*ucasoids.
Hybrid populations can, when they do, constitute their own races. We quoted Tal (2012)
“The probability that a random pair of individuals from the same population is more genetically dissimilar than a random pair from distinct populations is primarily dependent on the number of informative polymorphic loci across genomes from the total population pool. This probability asymptotically approaches zero with a sufficiently large number of informative loci, even in the case of close or admixed population (Two complementary perspectives on inter-individual genetic distance.)”
See for example: Tishkoff, et al. (2009). The genetic structure and history of Africans and African Americans. Science, 324(5930), Figure 2.
Our preferred formulation of race was somewhat strict — because we wanted discrete semi essentialist races. For an alternative fuzzier biological population concept see here: Hardimon, M. O. (2013). Race concepts in medicine. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 38(1), 6-31. In biology races are natural populations — ones defined in terms of overall relatedness; but this conception allows for a number of formulations — it’s somewhat fluid.
B. U.S. Race-IQ-evidence.
Again you don’t need biological race when dealing with mean differences. Sociological race,based on self-ID, does just fine, in fact better. It just happens that in the U.S. sociological race reasonably corresponds with genetic clusters ~ biological race. See: Tang, et al. (2005). Genetic structure, self-identified race/ethnicity, and confounding in case-control association studies. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 76(2), 268-275.
Anyways, I discussed this in the paper. See, for example:
Rowe, D. C., & Cleveland, H. H. (1996). Academic achievement in blacks and whites: are the developmental processes similar?. Intelligence, 23(3), 205-228.
I consider biometric decomposition of mean differences to be genetically informative. It’s considered to be so in other instances. Also, education, income, and occupational status correlate with White ancestry in the African American populations (in the U.S. and throughout the Americans). See, for example table 2: Cheng, et al.. (2012). African ancestry and its correlation to type 2 diabetes in African Americans: a genetic admixture analysis in three US population cohorts. PloS one, 7(3).
When using skin color and self reported ancestry you find the same with IQ — no one would share results for IQ and genetic ancestry, though; the data is just being sat on. Anyways, presumably SES/IQ isn’t causing the differences in Ancestry. But maybe “colorism” or shared environmental effect e.g., more privileged AA out-marry and pass the benefits on. I could explain why “colorism” is a poor explanation, but the other is plausible. Whatever the case, I would nonetheless consider this to be conditional evidence. Not proof, evidence. So, as I see it, there are a bunch of convergent lines of evidence. But we will have to wait for more intelligence affecting alleles to be unearthed before the debate can be put to rest.
“you have still not provided an operational definition of race which passes muster in terms of”
Let’s distinguish between John races and David races.
John races — subspecific natural populations (add operationalization)
David races — subspecific natural populations WITH practically important etc. differences
To empirically determine if there are David races we need to grant the scientific validity of the John race concept. Once we grant this we see that John races are just a fact of biology. You seem to grant this, so the issue is semantic. For coherence, when considering “biological race”, we should label consistent with natural scientific usage. Unfortunately, that usage itself hasn’t been consistent. A number of biological conceptions perfectly agree with mine — I am not particularly creative; I just adopted the most Horton-Hears-a-Who-race-is-a-race-no-matter-how-insignificant inclusive conception. Nonetheless, many require noticeable morphological differences. However, none (in biology contra sociology or cultural anthropology) require David-like differences — for one, because it’s difficult to apply this criteria to other species or to biologically objectively define what “practically important” means. (After all, when you say “practically important” you mean “sociologically important” — hence you are left with sociologically defined races.) So John races are on much more solid semiotic ground than are David races. Of course, I’m not opposed to David races. I’m a big fan of using qualifiers to delimit concepts. And I have no problem with polysemes. What I object to is your refusal to recognize John races — that is, evolutionary races — and to recognize that this is a valid formulation which has been used by a number of biologists.
“which passes muster in terms of objectivity, measurability, practical importance, durability or intelligibility”
What is your justification for requiring biological races to have “practically important” differences.
What practically important differences do races (in this cases formally recognizes ones) of the Plain Zebra (e.g., Equus quagga borensis and Equus quagga boehmi) have?
The comment was rambling but not irrelevant; I will circle back to the points made therein later. Let me first address your most recent arguments.
Argument 1p: Race (sub-specific natural population) is a valid biological construct; there are both non-human and human races; but we shouldn’t recognize the human races because “humans are different”. Comment: Were you to maintain that humans were different such that this species did not have biological races, I could accept the argument; I would simply point out the unsoundness of it. But instead you absurdly argue that we shouldn’t recognize the existence of human races because doing so distorts your preferred image of humanity (and not because they don’t actually exist). Were a neocreationist to grant evolution, non-human and human alike, but to argue that we shouldn’t recognize it in context to humans on the grounds that doing so would distort the proper imagine of humanity (since, after all, humans are so unalike other evolved life) we would both deride her — apparently, though, for very different reasons.
Argument 2p: John races are, in principle, valid biological constructs; they exist in other species; but we should only say that they exist in the human species if at least some are David races; John has not established that some John races are David races; as such, we should say that John races don’t exist. Comment: Were you to maintain that John races could not be David races or that that none, in fact, were, I could accept the argument as a semi-coherent one, loaded with a slew of hidden premises. Yet, you show no such thing -(because you can’t), thus leaving open the prior possibility that some John races are David races; in granting that it’s justified to recognize John races on condition that they are David races, you effectively grant that it’s justified to determine if some John races are David races; but this determination requires the prior acceptance of John races as valid constructs — yet you absurdly rule out the possibility of determining this from the get go. In short, the burden is on you to show that no John races are David races; until then, recognizing John races is justified, per your own logic, as doing so allows one to look amongst these for David races, a finding of which you would consider to be worthwhile. (This argument is a perverse version of Lewontin’s 1974 one — he, at least, tried to show that John races couldn’t be David-like ones and so avoided the circularity.)
You have yet to make a coherent argument against the recognition of human biological races (as natural populations). Try again
“The only way that a concept of genetically based natural populations could be generally important as applied to humans, is if it would be important to the things that actually make us uniquely human.”
Human races necessarily are human populations — as such, by definition, they can’t differ in whatever traits you imagine are unique to homo sapiens; the same hold for other recognized human biological groupings such as sex mophs.
Whatever the case, before I can proceed, I must better understand your meaning. You now say that “behavior, social and psychological functioning, broad intelligence capacities …make us uniquely human”. While many personality traits are pan-species, comparing individual or sub-populational differences between species is difficult at best — for one because there are often qualitative differences e.g., a typical zebra isn’t just less generally intelligent than a typical Han, but is also differently intelligent. Generally, there are quantitative and qualitative trait differences. Between species we have both, but within species we mostly only have the former. If you mean that subspecific biological populations can only matter (to you) if they exhibit (between species) qualitative trait differences, then you have a prior ruled out interest in all types of subspecific biological populations. There is nothing much more that we can discuss, as by your idiosyncratic value system none of these types of populations could ever be of interest — though, how your personal disinterest can ontologically demote these groupings to the status of not being is still unclear.
However, if you mean that subspecific biological populations could/do matter (to you) if they exhibit trait differences that are species characteristic yet which vary quantitatively such that there are inter-species differences in these traits, we can continue but we need to make some clarifications. For one, it’s not clear (to me) how you imagine that these variable traits can make a species what it is, except, perhaps, when taken in aggregate. For example, an elephant has a characteristic nose and elephants and humans differ in nose size both in quantitative and qualitative manners. If we say that quantitative differences which vary within species (e.g., such as nose length) make an elephant an elephant, since there is variance within species we might say that some human are more elephant and some elephants are less so, depending on the individual’s trait profiles. Is this what you mean?
So maybe there are “behavior, social and psychological functioning, broad intelligence traits” that vary both within and between species, thus allowing both the intraspecies differences and interspecies typicality prerequisite for us to even have this discussion. If we grant that these are human typical traits, we could say that human sub-populations differ in human typicality; we would, of course, have to say that individuals within these populations do — so for example, human mentally retar.ded individuals are by definition less intelligent than normal functioning humans so one could say that they have a lower level of the traits that “actually make us [...] human” — and characterize them as being less human typical. Is this roughly what you mean? And then you would like for me to show you average between natural population differences in “human typical” traits?
our most recent rationalization for David races was silly. Human populations, natural or otherwise, will mostly vary in quantitative, not qualitative, traits — they will vary in the type of traits that vary between individuals within groups. As such, (a) differences will either necessarily not be in the types of traits “that actually make us uniquely human” or (b) there will necessarily be inter-individual differences (within races) in human-making traits — and, seemingly consequently, in degrees of humanity. Now, I would hazard that you don’t want to state that you consider e.g., mentally reta.rded people to be less human on account of being less psychometrically intelligent than average, so it stands (to rhetoric, if not reason) that this type of difference can not be one in a human-making trait. These traits, then, are socially valued ones with no more intrinsic-worth and/or human making value than e.g., disease resistance. So what are we left with? David races without a justification.
But, yes we can talk about inter-individual and inter-populational differences in e.g.,psychometric intelligence if you so desire. We might take the case of sociologically defined African and European Americans, since, in the U.S. the sociological categories overlap with natural populations (as discussed days ago) and since the difference between these groups is fairly well studied. Since we are concerned with mean differences we can function just fine using self identification, given a reasonable correlation between self ID and genetic population membership (for the groups in question). (On the association, see, for example, Tang, et al. (2005). Genetic structure, self-identified race/ethnicity, and confounding in case-control association studies). The measure is psychometric intelligence, which is perhaps the most well studied psychological construct. The differences, in this case, are stable, having remained at about 1 SD over the last century, a time during which there has been vast changes in cultural, socioeconomic, political, etc. The difference has a substantial genetic basis as determined by biometric decomposition of mean differences. And the majority of published intelligence researchers seem to agree with a partial hereditarian hypothesis. What further about this topic would you like to discuss?
You said: “are suspect on their face of racism.”
I don’t see racism, at least in many senses, as being morally problematic. For example, in a recent Slate article, Andrew Gelman, citing Websters dictionary, more or less defines it as the belief that there are race differences in such and such traits. He subsequently characterizes Wade as a racist simply for positing these differences. I have no problem with being a racist in this sense; in fact, since I think that it’s morally good to be truthful and since it is true that there are such differences, racism, at least in this sense, must be morally good. You perhaps mean something else, though — it’s an awfully confusing word! Since I don’t know what you mean — I can’t comment in detail on this point. I will note, though, that I don’t see a problem with ranking populations on the basis of traits — at least anymore of one than I see with so ranking individuals (within populations).
“Morphological and medical differences are well-known and obvious and are not the subject of any serious intellectual disagreement…”
My narrow point was that human biological races exit. You challenged this position by arguing that this concept lacked a scientifically valid definition (and operationalization). When I explained what biological races were, you accused me of dabbling in philosophy and then argued that the existence of biological races required important and significant differences; you later stipulated that these differences had to be in “human making” traits. I disputed your position for about a week. I eventually grew weary of the back and forth and said: “But, yes we can talk about inter-individual and inter-populational differences in e.g.,psychometric intelligence if you so desire”. Do you not recall these exchanges?
“I accepted that as a start to the discussion, but pointed out that it is nothing more than a rough marker for schools success, and subsequent real world success.”
I offered psychometric intelligence as an example because you stated: “You would have to have measurements of intelligence … which are objective, valid and reliable, and show that such differential measurements are relatively resistant to changes…” We could discuss other forms of “intelligence” such as so-called “athletic intelligence”, but psychometric intelligence is the best validated one. And the best current measures of this ability are none other than those created by pyschometrcians. You propose other measures, yet these fail to meet your very own standards of an objective, valid, and reliable measures of the construct under question. To be clear, I am not arguing that “real world achievement” can not be used as an index of intelligence; rather I am arguing that it isn’t, as currently presented by you, an objective, valid, or very reliable one. It isn’t the former because you haven’t operationalized “real world achievement”; it isn’t (construct) valid because the ordinary sense of “intelligence” as “(general) cognitive ability” often doesn’t align with “real word achievement” e.g., “business savvy” and “intelligent” are not synonyms; it isn’t super reliable, where reliability is indexed by the correlation between e.g., general factor scores and individual outcomes. Now, you might argue that the above matters not at all since “real world achievement”, as you mean it, is independently important; I agree that it is, but, as I noted above, this is another topic. Recall the point of this discussion.
To be clear, either you wish to talk about psychometric intelligence or not. If not, be clear; if so, we need to pick an objective, reliable, valid measure; if you don’t like the one developed by psychometricians, offer a well validated, reliable alternative; if you think that “real world achievement” is one, please clarify the construct and provide some citations in support of it’s construct and other validity as an index of psychometric intelligence.
I don’t apologize for the redundancy — clearly it’s necessary