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December 11, 2007

Race and Evolution

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Steve Sailer looks at the stats and concludes that the U.S. is turning Hispanic a lot faster than anyone expected -- even faster than alarmists have predicted, in fact. Fun passage: "Half of all Hispanic women who gave birth in 2006 were unmarried." These are the people who -- and these are the policies that -- are going to be saving Social Security? It sometimes seems to me that the people we're importing in such droves can't even do a good job of cleaning our hotels.

* Fred Reed thinks that it's time for the mainstream media to stop concealing the race of people accused of horrifying crimes.

* The new Cochran, Harpending, Hawks, Moyzis, and Wang paper is a corker. This particular Blowhard has always been unable to believe the usual polite thing, namely that evolution stopped 50,000 years ago. Why should it have? But Hawks, Cochran, Harpending and their posse argue something far more radical: that evolution has in fact dramatically accelerated in recent years. Swallow that one, polite society! Steve reprints an informative press release here. John Hawks blogs here. Here's Scientific American's report.



posted by Michael at December 11, 2007


Concealing the race of criminal suspects is one thing. What is far, far worse is what the hugely popular Law and Order shows do - they portray most criminals as white, when in real life things are quite different.

Posted by: Peter on December 11, 2007 1:14 PM

"In other words, the post-'70s feminist effect on American education has been to "empower" girls at the expense of boys."

You haven't provided any evidence of a causal connection, or even a plausible mechanism of how it might work. I haven't seen anyone else do so either. This is pathetically sloppy thinking.

"Fred Reed thinks that it's time the mainstream media stop concealing the race of people accused of horrifying crimes."

It does not. The vast majority of stories about such crimes include photographs, and many times the race is named in the article.

Also, I suspect you know from personal experience that what Fred says about black neighborhoods is nonsense.

"This particular Blowhard has always been unable to believe the usual polite thing, namely that evolution stopped 50,000 years ago."

This has never been a "thing," polite or otherwise.

"But Hawks, Cochran, Harpending and their posse argue something far more radical: that evolution has in fact dramatically accelerated in recent years."

Unfortunately, this doesn't mean what you want it to.

Posted by: BP on December 11, 2007 1:30 PM

Peter -- The "Law and Order" thing is pretty funny, isn't it? I remember spending six weeks on a NYC grand jury 15 or so years ago. In that entire time I don't think we saw a single white defendant-to-be. We were pretty upset about it, as a matter of fact.

BP -- Apologies for any confusion, I moved the young women/young men bit to its own posting. As for your points: 1) try this book, or this article. I think the burden fo proof is on you, not me. 2) From a couple of decades -- er, three decades, actually -- in the media field I'd say that Fred Reed is right on the money when he says that the media often try to soft-pedal how many violent-crime defendants and criminals are black. I've seen it happen many times. 3) You live in a different world than I do apparently. In my experience of polite society, suggesting that evolution has been happening over the last 50,000 years is completely verboten. 4) I have no idea what you're getting at, or what you imagine I'm trying to say.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 11, 2007 1:41 PM

1) I don't think the first link is what you meant. What book are you recommending? The article establishes that boys are lagging behind girls, especially at lower income levels, which is indisputably true. How do you establish a causal link with feminism?

2) I still don't get this. The media prints photographs of crime suspects when possible, making the suspect's race obvious. When police suspect a racially motivated attack, the race is mentioned in the article. What Fred, and you, seem to object to is that the media does not go out of its way to emphasize race a lot more when reporting crime. Why?

3) Suggesting that evolution has happened over the last 50,000 years has only been verboten when it is used to suggest significant genetic differences in intelligence or personality between races. I'm not saying that this taboo is a good thing, though there are readily understandable reasons that it came about. However, no one has ever been really bothered by the suggestion that lactase or malaria resistance are recent in origin.

In the last few years, there has been a backlash against the taboo, which seems to have made you happy. The leaders of the backlash think of themselves as modern-day Galileos, believing that they have overwhelming scientific evidence on their side and that anyone who disagrees with them does so not in good faith but out of adherence to politically correct orthodoxy, which is idiotic.

4) Since the idea of recent human evolution only offends "polite society" when it breaks this taboo, I assumed that's what you wanted this study to do.

Posted by: BP on December 11, 2007 2:08 PM

BP -- Whoops, link now fixed. Damn sticky mouse ... 1) I'm flabbergasted. How can you think that feminism hasn't played a big role in the educational developments of the last 30 years? I've run into lots of people who think this is a good thing, and some who think it's a bad thing. But I've never run into anyone who doesn't think feminism hasn't played a big role in redefining how kids are raised, educated, and socialized these days. Anyway, the book the corrected link leads to explains it all in some detail. 2) I'm re-flabbergasted. There have been a number of cases in the last few years of spectacularly violent (ie., newsworthy) crimes that either didn't get much coverage, or whose coverage pussyfooted around the question of the race of the suspects. And the polite-er media are very wary of showing too many black-suspects faces on their pages and screens, let alone discussing black crime rates. This is or isn't a good thing, btw. Though I think it's unhealthy, I can see someone making a case that it's ... humane, or respectful, or something. But again, I marvel that anyone can question that (good or bad) the protectiveness is a genuine thing. 3) Are we dramatically different in age? When I was a college student anybody who suggested that biology and evolution might play a role in human life (aside from having gotten us here in the first place) was literally ostracized from polite society. It was one of the first things I learned on emerging from the hicks into an upper-middle/"educated" world. You didn't say certain things, you didn't think certain things, with evolution-and-humanity high on the list. E.O. Wilson was physically attacked and roundly shamed just for writing a book entitled "Sociobiology." Things are obviously somewhat more open today than they were then, but are they that much more open? In liberal Manhattan circles you're still assumed to be a Nazi-until-you-prove-otherwise if you demonstrate any interest in evolutionary biology at all.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 11, 2007 2:47 PM

Clearly whites and white culture are superior to both blacks and black culture and hispanics and hispanic culture. But until all those who know this can overcome the terror of being ostracized for saying it and acting on it we will continue down the suicidal path.

Posted by: ricpic on December 11, 2007 3:39 PM

Up here in Canada, in Toronto, the ethnicity of the perpetrators of the recent wave of gun violence has been suppressed, and very nervously. That's because Jamaicans have been behind a disproportionate amount of the gun violence. Indeed, crime stats in Toronto are not kept by ethnicity, IIRC. Good thing, since we can't have all that Chinese violence give people the wrong idea.

As for the taboo, BP has been living in his own world for a long time now. E. O. Wilson was pilloried not for suggesting that genes were responsible for personality or intelligence differences between the races, but for suggesting that genes influenced human cognition and behaviour at all.

Posted by: PatrickH on December 11, 2007 5:01 PM

This reminds of a bearded Soviet joke.
There is a boxing match on TV screen. Commentator's voice-over:
"In the ring there are Soviet and American athlets.You can recognize the American by the color of"

Posted by: Tatyana on December 11, 2007 5:59 PM

About evolution: Like BP I never heard anyone say that we aren't still evolving, or try to suppress discussions of the subject, and I can't imagine why this particular aspect of evolution should be taboo in polite society.

Incidentally, considering those two issues together, I don't understand why the IQ-obsessed appear to believe that races have some sort of inherent genetic potential where IQ is concerned, and are unlikely to rise above this without extensive intermarriage with other races. For animal species to have evolved in such wildly different directions at all, mutations and "sports" (offspring that do not resemble their parents) must have been frequent throughout biological history, surely? And is it impossible that a species' or subgroup's efforts to adapt to its environment might actually trigger such mutations, by some as yet unknown mechanism? I'm not being contentious here; I would like to know where to look for an answer to such questions.

I must say I find it difficult to understand how anyone can speak of genetic superiority, in the broad sense (I mean, outside the IQ question). If a particular race has evolved with particular abilities to adapt to a particular environment, how is it inferior to another race that has evolved in a different direction to adapt to another environment?

Finally, if our potential for cultural and intellectual development really is determined by entirely or almost entirely by our genes (as John Derbyshire, for example, believes), then it seems absurd, to me, to take pride in the achievements of white culture or to condemn black culture. According to this understanding of evolution, surely they are what they are because of the genetic inheritance of the various races.

p.s. Law and Order, in its early years, was far more realistic about crime and race, as I remember from the days when I used to watch it. I read an interview with the producers once, in which they said that audiences simply got bored watching the shows that dealt with policing black-on-black crime. The crimes were repetitive and took little ingenuity to solve, so that the plots of the shows grew stale. And so the producers decided to take it in a different direction.

Posted by: alias clio on December 12, 2007 1:17 AM

With regard to evolution, BP and alias clio, here in rural Texas students wear "Darwin Lied" t-shirts to high school biology class. When fancy hydrologists out of Austin said our aquifers originated eons ago, city fathers were shocked. Everyone knows that can't be true because the world is only 6,000 years old. Here evolution equals atheism because it contradicts a literal reading of the bible so no, people don't talk about it in polite society. What world do you live in?

Posted by: not securely anchored on December 12, 2007 9:39 AM

Un-anchored, I can't figure out whether you're speaking tongue-in-cheek or not. I always thought that biblical literalists of the kind you describe didn't exist any more, and that they were just just a myth that the American Left likes to use to try to embarrass the Right.

Posted by: alias clio on December 12, 2007 12:06 PM

"I always thought that biblical literalists of the kind you describe didn't exist any more,"

Very common in the U.S. and becoming more so, thanks to the apparent respectability given by "intelligent design." I graduated from high school in Midland, TX, and most of my friends (Southern Baptists) were biblical literalists.

Posted by: CyndiF on December 12, 2007 1:06 PM

Stephen Jay Gould said “There's been no biological change in humans in 40,000 or 50,000 years. Everything we call culture and civilization we've built with the same body and brain.“

Wrong, of course.

Posted by: gcochran on December 12, 2007 3:08 PM

But intelligent design supports evolution: it just says that there's a design behind it. It really doesn't leave much room for biblical literalism, if that means believing the world was created in 7 days, etc.

Posted by: alias clio on December 12, 2007 4:02 PM

"But intelligent design supports evolution: it just says that there's a design behind it. It really doesn't leave much room for biblical literalism, if that means believing the world was created in 7 days, etc."

Oh, don't get me started, Clio. If I may sound paranoid, "that's what they want you to believe." The actual intelligent design picture makes a distinction between micro-evolution and macro-evolution, to use their terms, so that they can acknowledge natural selection but deny the evolution from one species to another new one. Intelligent design was developed within a religious framework specifically to circumvent a U.S. court ruling that creationism was religious and could not be taught in schools. As a scientist, I have a real problem with intelligent design because its proponents deliberately blur the definition of a scientific theory and use specious arguments to attack the current picture of evolution.

Leaving aside my personal animus for intelligent design, it remains true that biblical literalists are common among evangelicals and fundamentalists in the U.S. I know and am related to many such people. They are not a myth. I was raised Catholic and think the novel is one of the great creations of man, so I have no problem with the idea that "truth" can be found in fiction, but for many the literal inerrancy of the Bible is a key component of their faith.

Posted by: CyndiF on December 12, 2007 8:21 PM

Well, I'll put my cards on the table and say that as a believer and a Catholic, I accept the truth of evolution but I don't believe that it happened at random. If that aligns me with biblical literalists (which I don't for a moment believe), well, so be it.

In any case, I confess that you do sound a little paranoid to me, in that you appear to think there was an element of conscious conspiracy at work here among different interested parties. I can't for the life of me see how intelligent design supports the theory that the world was created in seven days 6,000 years ago - and that's what a biblical literalist believes. I can believe that anti-evolutionists might seize upon ID in delight to support the idea that there is some disagreement about the process by which evolution happens.

Meanwhile, I don't know enough about how evolution was supposed to have functioned in order to answer all my own questions about it. I've always accepted, though, that it was a self-sustaining system and that it did not require actual intervention once set in motion, which I suppose excludes me from the Intelligent Design crowd. I believe, though, that there is a Designer.

Incidentally, I haven't forgotten how, in the 1970s, my high-school science teachers scoffed at the Big Bang theory and said that it was a piece of nonsense invented by a priest to make science's account of the origin of the universe line up better with biblical accounts of creation.

Posted by: alias clio on December 12, 2007 8:56 PM

Hi Clio,

I was trying to state that ID advocates imply that anyone who believes in a Creator must ergo believe in intelligent design, rather than suggest some broader conspiracy. ID is more specific in its attacks against current scientific theories of evolution than just a statement of belief in a prime mover. (However, it is also true that the development of ID, at places like the Discovery Institute, has been driven by former biblical literalists seeking a more sophisticated attack against evolutionary theory.)

Science operates on conflict and test. I hate to place too much credence on the opinions of science teachers (who, like Galileo's academic critics, are often more concerned about maintaining the status quo than seeking understanding) but current theories of evolution (among others--let's see if anyone believes in dark energy in a decade) will change with time and as the result of challenges. The problem with ID is that it claims to be a scientific theory, rather than a theological argument, but fails to meet basic scientific criteria, such as proposing a falsifiable hypothesis.

Posted by: CyndiF on December 12, 2007 9:44 PM

Re ID not providing a falsifiable hypothesis: I had understood that much that is wrong with Intelligent Design, and I certainly see why people object to teaching it or discussing it (except to explain the problems in it) as part of a science course. It was the "literalist=Intelligent Design theorist" idea that didn't make sense to me.

My great trouble with books about evolution that I've picked up and thumbed through (to see if they might help me to acquire a sounder understanding) is that the ones written for lay people appear to be fighting battles that are not the province of scientists. I have some real questions about how evolution functions; I'd like to find books that might address them.

I only mentioned my science teachers and their views on the Big Bang theory (our text books said it too, for that matter) as a tease. It proves nothing about ID, of course, but it shows that science education has its own dogmatists.

Posted by: alias clio on December 12, 2007 11:17 PM

The economist has an excellent and fairly long open access article on the Hawks, Cochran, Harpending acceleration paper.

Posted by: dougjn on December 14, 2007 2:28 PM

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