Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Genes, Race and Human History

“Analysis of genomes from around the world establishes that there is indeed a biological reality to race, despite the official statements to the contrary of leading social science organizations.”

“Racism and discrimination are wrong as a matter of principle, not of science. Science is about what is, not what ought to be. Its shifting sands do not support values, so it is foolish to place them there.” 

~ Nicholas Wade in A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History

If you want to accuse someone (or something) of racism, then you should begin with the human genome which is the fountainhead of all races. The difference between the capacities of various races are so clear that only a politically correct intellectual could ignore or evade it. In his book, Nicholas Wade accuses the community of academicians and scientists of suppressing the scientific truth about the significant racial differences among human populations. 

The Ashkenazi Jews have won a disproportionate number of Nobel Prizes (about 100 times the world average). Since 1980, every finalist in the 100-meter race at Olympic games has had a West African ancestry. The Tibetans and Andean highlanders are suited for living at high altitudes. Some populations are lactose tolerant. In some populations there is a high incidence of certain devastating diseases. Some populations have high average IQ. The East Asians score around 105 on IQ tests—this makes them intelligent but intelligence does not imply morality. 

Wade notes that there are three principal races: East Asians (Chinese, Japanese and Koreans), Africans (those living south of the Sahara), and Caucasians (Europeans and the people of the Near East and the Indian subcontinent). The first modern humans appeared 200,000 years ago, and it took them 185,000 years to settle down in different geographically isolated communities. The races that we see today were created in the last 15,000 years through a process of natural selection in the three primary racial groups. 

The most troublesome argument that Wade makes is that “genes and culture interact.” The orthodox academicians prefer to see genes and culture as entirely separate realms. Wade writes: “Each of the major civilizations has developed the institutions appropriate for its circumstances and survival. But these institutions, though heavily imbued with cultural traditions, rest on a bedrock of genetically shaped human behavior.”

This means that economic systems, political institutions, and moral norms are not easy to transfer from one culture to another. “American institutions cannot be successfully implanted in Iraq, for instance, because Iraqis have different social behaviors, including a base in tribalism and a well-founded distrust of central government, just as it would be impossible to import Iraqi tribal politics into the United States.”

We are free to ignore the revelations that genetic science is making but that will not make the differences between the populations vanish. The troublesome truth is that race is not a human invention. The differences between the populations are biological. Biology creates the races and the races create their culture—having said this, I will argue that the differences are not insurmountable. Within populations, some people do well. If some can do well in certain kinds of activities, then why can’t the rest?

There are sections in Wade’s book which are speculative. In his discussion of human behavior, he talks about an “inbuilt sense of morality,” which is not convincing. It is understandable that he has included the speculative sections. Concrete information is not available. The human genome was decoded just eighteen years ago—in 2003. In the next twenty years more information will become available. Overall, Wade has given a fine explanation of the role that genes play in creating the races and driving history.

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