Genetic ignorance in the service of ideology

Angela Saini is a British science writer who belongs to what I call the Cordelia Fine School of Science Journalism (CFSSJ): a school whose members have an explicit ideological bias that colors all of their popular writing. In the case of Fine, her ideology is that there is essentially no evolutionary/genetic difference between the brains and neurology of men and women, and so any behavioral differences we see are of purely social origin. Further, hormones play little or no role in behavioral differences between the sexes. Fine’s motive is good—to reduce sexism and bias—but her modus operandus is not, for it involves misrepresenting science.

To buttress Fine’s ideology, her books aim at debunking every study that contradicts her preconceived thesis, even though there is now convincing indication of not only genetically based behavioral and morphological differences based on hormones, but also of differences in the brain. In contrast, Fine goes easy on studies that support her thesis.

In other words, the CFSSJ is characterized by tendentious science writing and confirmation bias, with the bias occurring in how studies are discussed. In the case of Angela Saini, her ideological bias is that all races are equal in any important aspect of biology, and that investigation of differences between races (or, as I call them, “populations” or “ethnic groups”) is liable to play into what she calls “scientific racism”. Ignore the fact that scientists have been trying for decades to debunk the misuse of science in buttressing racism, and most journalists, particularly those with little knowledge of genetics, haven’t been particularly helpful. Some, like Carl Zimmer, know their onions, while others, like Saini, apparently can’t grasp the fundamentals.

I’ve been struck, especially in the CBC interview with Saini shown below, by her willingness to make insupportable statements about differences between groups. I haven’t yet read her book on the topic, Superior: The Return of Race Science, as our library is closed and I don’t want to pay to support ideologically-based biology. But I’ve read other writings of hers, reviews of her books, both pro and con, as well as listened to YouTube videos and lectures. None of this has disabused me of the notion that she’s a member in good standing of the CFSSJ. Further, as we’ve discussed here, she’s misrepresented the situation at University College London by asserting that the scientists there have  papered over the college’s history of eugenics and racism.

I’ll give you just one example of how Saini misrepresents the truth in the service of ideology. I was especially concerned about this one because the misrepresentation crops up frequently in discussion of genetics and “race”, and it’s time that people get the issue clear.

The error comes from an interview Saini did for the CBC’s “Quirks and Quarks” show, which you can hear by clicking on the link below. There’s also a partial transcript: 

Here’s just one Q&A from that show, but it’s an important one:

Let’s move into the modern era then. Biologists have come up with a really strong scientific critique of the idea of race. Can you take me through that? 

Well, for 70 years since this consensus after the Second World War, all that biology has done is reinforce the fact that we are so similar. We imagine the genetic differences between racial groups.

For example, I am of Indian origin. My parents [were] born in India. But if I were to randomly pick a South Asian person on the street and randomly pick a white, Canadian person on the street and test their genomes, it’s perfectly statistically possible for my genome to have more in common with a white person than with the Indian person. That’s how almost complete that overlap is. So we are incredibly similar as a species, and the vast majority of difference that we see is accounted for by individual difference.

Now I’ve tried to parse her statement in a way that it would be correct, but I can’t. In fact, the only way you can say that there’s any validity to her claim of no difference between the South Asians/white Canadians and South Asians/South Asians comparison is to construe “perfectly statistically possible” to mean that you might be able to find one or a couple of South Asians who, throughout their genomes, were more similar to some Canadians than they were to other South Asians. But you will almost never find that. We know this from the genetic data that already exist. You could equally well assert that it’s “perfectly statistically possible” for all the oxygen molecules in your room to move to the other side of the room at once, suffocating you. The error is taking what is possible and making people think that this is what’s common or probable.

In fact, all the genetic data we have shows that Saini’s implications about genetic similarity are wrong. If you want to validate her claim, you would have to look at gazillions of nucleotide bases in the DNA sequences of white Canadians and South Asians (I presume Saini means Indians, as she’s of Indian descent), and show that, on average, the proportion of DNA sites that had identical bases in Canadians vs. South Asians was about the same as the proportion of DNA sites that had identical bases in two randomly selected South Asians.

And that, according to the data we have, is not the case. Because of genetic similarities between populations that are spatially (and historically) contiguous, if you find identical bases at one DNA site, it becomes more likely that you’ll have identical bases at other sites. This is easily shown by combining DNA data from different regions of the genome (different “genes” or “SNPs”) to conduct a cluster analysis of overall similarity. And when you do that, you find that populations cluster based on history and geography. Assuming that, say, you’re not sampling a recent Indian immigrant to Canada as a “white Canadian”, or a Candian who lives in Mumbai as a South Asian, you can pretty well diagnose someone’s geographic ancestry—their “population”—from their genes. Here’s an example from 2015 on a very small scale, showing clustering within the British Isles (click on screenshot to access the paper):

Heres a diagram of the clustering, showing how easily someone’s population can be diagnosed from a large sample of DNA bases. Look, for example, at the demarcation between Devon and Cornwall—populations separated only by a river!

What this shows is that if you use information from the whole genome, people’s origins can be largely diagnosed, even on this small scale that used half a million DNA sites—a small fraction of all the DNA sites, which number 3 billion in humans). If you looked at South Asia versus white Canadians, you’d get even more differentiation. Saini’s claim that it’s likely or probable that you could find more similarity between a Canadian and South Asian than between two South Asians is palpably false.

I think where Saini went wrong is that she committed what’s known as “Lewontin’s fallacy,” named after my Ph.D. advisor and discussed in a paper by the geneticist A. W. F. Edwards. What Lewontin originally asserted, correctly, was that if you take all the genetic variation present in the human species, and apportioned it among individuals, among populations within a so-called “race”, and then among “races” (defined as the classical “races”), you find that of all the variation, 85% can be found among individuals within a population, 8% among populations within a “race”, and only about 6% between “races”. In other words, individuals within a population contain nearly all of the existing genetic variation of our species, and when you add different populations or different races, you don’t beef up the variation much more.

Lewontin took this to mean that there are no such thing as genetically differentiated races (as I said, I prefer, because of the historical freighting of “race”, to use “ethnic groups” or “geographically differentiated populations”). And that’s where he made his error. Lewontin is right if you look at each gene separately and then average the apportionment of variation among different genes. But genes among populations are not independent. As I said, if you’re different at one gene among ethnic groups, you’re more likely to be different at other genes as well. In other words, the structure of genetic variation, because of history and evolution, is correlated. I quote Wikipedia on Edwards’s refutation of Lewontin’s conclusion:

Edwards argued that while Lewontin’s statements on variability are correct when examining the frequency of different alleles (variants of a particular gene) at an individual locus (the location of a particular gene) between individuals, it is nonetheless possible to classify individuals into different racial groups with an accuracy that approaches 100 percent when one takes into account the frequency of the alleles at several loci at the same time. This happens because differences in the frequency of alleles at different loci are correlated across populations—the alleles that are more frequent in a population at two or more loci are correlated when we consider the two populations simultaneously. Or in other words, the frequency of the alleles tends to cluster differently for different populations

In Edwards’ words, “most of the information that distinguishes populations is hidden in the correlation structure of the data.” These relationships can be extracted using commonly used ordination and cluster analysis techniques. Edwards argued that, even if the probability of misclassifying an individual based on the frequency of alleles at a single locus is as high as 30 percent (as Lewontin reported in 1972), the misclassification probability becomes close to zero if enough loci are studied.

The cluster analysis mentioned by Edwards was used in the analysis of the British populations given above.

And if the misclassification probability of an individual becomes close to zero when you add more bits of DNA, as it does, then Saini is simply wrong. Yes, races are not nearly as genetically differentiated as early biologists thought they were, and yes, most of the variation in genes can be found in single populations and not among populations or “races”. But you can still genetically diagnose people as to ethnicity by looking at a big chunk of their DNA. South Asians will be more similar to other South Asians than to a white Canadian.

Most of the bits of genome used in these analyses don’t really do much, or have no functional significance in geographic differences in behavior, morphology, or physiology. But populations also differ in meaningful “adaptive” ways because of natural selection. Lactose tolerance and oxygen-carrying ability of the blood are two famous traits, and this paper by Sarah Tishkoff gives many more. Here’s a figure from that paper. It clearly shows that different populations differ in adaptive traits:

Now just because you can diagnose someone’s ethnicity or geographic origin from their genes does not in any sense buttress racism. All it shows is that our genomes reflect our historical and evolutionary ancestry. Saini, in her desire to show that there are no differences, doesn’t seem to realize that the genetic differences used to diagnose people do not place any races above others—there’s no support for any inherent superiority or inferiority of groups. But rather than admit the truth about genetic difference and then say it doesn’t matter morally or politically, Saini would rather throw out the inconvenient data. This is the hallmark of the CFSSJ: if the data go against your ideology, either ignore them or deny them. Or misrepresent them.

This has already gone on too long, but I’ll support my thesis about Saini’s ideologically based science by directing you to another review of Superior: The Return of Race Science, as well as to an Amazon review which is remarkably thorough. Both reviews discuss Saini’s insupportable and misleading claims about genetics. Looking over her claims (another is that there is no genetic variation within populations affecting cognition; see quote from Amazon review below), I can only conclude that in many places crucial to her thesis, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

The first requirement for writing sgood cience journalism or popular science books should be this: be sure you understand the science. Or, as Davy Crockett said, “Be sure you’re right first, and then go ahead.”

____________________

From the Amazon review of Superior:

On page 221, Saini says, “The question of whether cognition, like skin colour or height, has a genetic basis is one of the most controversial in human biology.” To be clear, this sentence is referring to the causes of individual variation in cognition, not the causes of differences between group averages. The question of whether or not group differences have a genetic basis is indeed controversial, but in 2019, making such a statement about the heritability of individual variation is equivalent to saying that it’s controversial whether or not global warming exists. Ideas such as the existence of global warming or the heritability of cognitive ability are controversial among some political activists, but among professionals in the relevant fields, these questions have been regarded as settled for more than twenty years.

If she really says that on page 221, it’s a howler. The heritability of IQ, for instance, is around 50%, which means that of the variation of IQ scores within a population, half of that variation is due to variation in genes.

54 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted April 22, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    sub

  2. Posted April 22, 2020 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    “In other words, the CFSSJ is characterized by tendentious science writing and confirmation bias, …”

    Along with the moralistic fallacy, namely: “On moral grounds I want X to be the case, therefore X is indeed the case”.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 22, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      To put a name to it, yes.

    • Trevor W Adcock
      Posted April 22, 2020 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      I like the consider it the opposite of the is-ought fallacy. Something ought to be this way, therefore, it is that way. Instead of attacking their opponents ought, they attack the is, even if things actually are that way.

  3. JezGrove
    Posted April 22, 2020 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Nicely and clearly argued. It would be interesting to see Saini’s response! (Coincidentally, I just finished proofreading a journal paper on statistical cluster analysis methodologies yesterday – though relating to Archaeology and ceramics. It was very interesting, but sadly I will have pretty much forgotten everything I learned from it by the time I’ve worked on the next paper, which is for an Economics journal.)

    • mikemikev
      Posted April 24, 2020 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      “Saini’s response” LOL

  4. pablo
    Posted April 22, 2020 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Twenty-first century Lysenkoism is taking over the West. Soon we’ll have to look to Asia for real science. Hopefully this won’t last as long as it did in the Soviet Union.

    • Richard Sanderson🤴
      Posted April 23, 2020 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      PZ and the Horde are big fans of these Lysenkoist “scientists”.

      Naturally.

  5. Pliny the in Between
    Posted April 22, 2020 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I have to hope that someday we reach a point where acknowledging biological variation is neither abused nor used as a slur.

    Biology is biology. So what? Humans create law and social justice to redress the excesses of using biology as a guide post for society. Seems that understanding reality is the only way to create lasting ways to cope with our biological heritage. So what there are differences – that doesn’t need to have anything to do with legal rights.

    That’s the potential beauty of the law. It’s one way we can exceed our programming and create a world that’s better than the one our core nature would suggest.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 22, 2020 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      ” the potential beauty of the law”

      True. Law is also our way of replacing reliance on old religious texts for moral guidance. God won’t condemn you to burn in flames of hell for eternity, but the law will nail you if you get out of line.

  6. A C Harper
    Posted April 22, 2020 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    From Wikipedia:

    “She holds two master’s degrees – in Engineering from the University of Oxford and in Science and Security from King’s College London.”

    So although it is not a foregone conclusion, (she may be well versed in genetics and evolution) the chances are that her motivated reasoning overcame her informed reasoning.

    • Posted April 22, 2020 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      I doubt that either degree provides much education in basic sciences related to genetics and evolution.

      • Posted April 23, 2020 at 12:57 am | Permalink

        You don’t need an entire degree in something to be well informed about something. I saw her work in the very woke Guardian and thought I was losing my mind.

        Intellectually I’m a “well informed tourist” in these matters and very much a beginner (my background is in finance and law), but her howlers confused and annoyed me. Thx for the takedown JAC.
        David Anderson, J.D., NYC

  7. Posted April 22, 2020 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    If Saini would think about it for a minute, many examples from ancestry.com and the like would discredit her claim about geography / ethnicity. According to her, it should be impossible to identify the heritage of people from their DNA, which clearly has been done for millions of people.

    • Posted April 22, 2020 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      Whereas, indeed, genetic accounts of ancestry from such firms accord very well with people’s own reports of their ancestry.

      • Mike
        Posted April 22, 2020 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        It’s true that Ancestry and 23andme give some insight into geographic and cultural backgrounds of their clients. But the causal association between those genetic patterns and self-reported ethnicity of clients actually works the other way: the companies are constantly updating their prediction algorithms based on self-reported ethnicity of clients who send in a DNA sample plus data about themselves. Only part of the algorithm is based on data from known samples of different ethnic groups (e.g., the 1000 Genomes database); much of the algorithm is bootstrapped from self-identified ethnicity reported by clients (similar to self-reported data on medical and other phenotypic traits that the companies also collect from questionnaires filled out by clients).

        • Posted April 22, 2020 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

          Is that relevant though? So long as new customers coming along get their ancestry correctly identified, this shows that ancestry does produce real patterns in genomes.

      • EdwardM
        Posted April 22, 2020 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

        I think it is accurate, despite the fact that a surprising number of people are not related to the people they think they are. Some time ago I worked on project that, among many things, looked at the actual genetic relationships between people involved in a large scale study of human liver transcriptomes; for about 11 percent of the people in the study their genetic father was not who they thought he was. This can have impacts on differences between family accounts and the real genetic history.

        • Posted April 23, 2020 at 1:00 am | Permalink

          Really? I’ve seen in a few places that that kind of cuckoldry is actually in the 2-3% region. Its one of those numbers freighted with morality that’s hard to pin down maybe?

          There MUST be an answer though.

          thx

          D.A., J.D., NYC

      • Mike
        Posted April 22, 2020 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        The bootstrapping from self-reported ethnicity introduces a lot of fuzziness into the results of the algorithm. As EdwardM points out below, the mistakes in self-identification can be big (ten percent or more). I’m not arguing against the proposition that “ancestry produces real patterns in genomes”, just pointing out that the correlation between ethnicity and genomic variation is partly caused by self-reported ethnicity and that there are sometimes errors in those self reports. But yes I agree in many ways the results of those genotyping kits are reliable and interesting.

        • Trevor W Adcock
          Posted April 22, 2020 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

          The correlation isn’t caused by self-reports, that doesn’t make sense. If self-reports weren’t reliable, then there would be less correlation, self-reports can’t make correlation higher, in so far as they are wrong they reduce it. Correlation is caused by correlation. The actual population structure present.

  8. Jon Gallant
    Posted April 22, 2020 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    This was a superb account of how DNA sequence
    correlations relate not only to ethnicity in the usual sense. but to geographic location.
    It is, of course, the inevitable consequence of linneage, so it is also natural that the author of WEIT presents it so well.

    Pablo in Comment 4 also gets it right: we are witnessing a revival of Lysenkoist (or one might better say Prezentist) baloney in the groves of academe of the West. It is time for a sociological analysis of this strange phenomenon. We could use a cluster analysis of memes and clichés in academia, together with a history of their usage.

  9. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 22, 2020 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    So there is a self imposed bigotry to her beliefs not that different from some of the Trump ideology immigration. Just ignore the science and anything is possible.

  10. sgo
    Posted April 22, 2020 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I just want to add that this is a great post that’s very clear. I like the examples too, about the local variations. Very informative.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted April 22, 2020 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      I agree. This is one of those posts where I have nothing to add except to sit back and applaud.

    • Dragon
      Posted April 22, 2020 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

      Agreed.

  11. Posted April 22, 2020 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    A good read, even though I think you made a bit of a strawmperson of her views. I caught myself lampooning the fact that she apparently thinks ethnic differences are undetectable. That would be ridiculous. The fallacy to disregard family resemblance works in macro too. Pick two people; pick a random trait, and most of the time, they come out alike. Yes, it turns out both the Chinese and Canadian have a nose. But that is also trivially true. Obviously, racists are not concerned with similarities but differences. I guess she makes a rhetorical point, that we should consider our similarities, not the differences.

    She cannot actually believe there are none, because says also this:

    “So, for example, for me, I have never really felt the desire to have my ancestry tested, because I know where my family [is] from.”

    That means, she acknowledges that ancestry tests can tell you where you are from, genetically, but it cannot give you “that culture back”. I don’t know what they are even discussing at that moment. It’s hodgepodge of statements.

    My issue here is more where she reveals commom critical race theorist ideology: what is she saying here? What culture? 17th century Ivory Coast culture? What, exactly, is “that culture” of a random pale American? They might list four ethnic groups from Ireland to Italy and from Spain to Sweden? What’s “that culture”? Does she believe in a “White Culture”? That’s the crux with race theorists, they often end up sounding exactly like their Far Right counterpart.

  12. Posted April 22, 2020 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Well said, Jerry. From an earlier post of mine:

    The problem with basing human moral and civil equality on empirical claims about human biological similarity [as Saini apparently does] is that such claims may prove to be mistaken. Because it does not depend on some empirical finding which new data may put into question, I think Edwards has the more robust basis for his moral conclusion.

    As Edwards sums up:

    “But it is a dangerous mistake to premise the moral equality of human beings on biological similarity because dissimilarity, once revealed, then becomes an argument for moral inequality.”

    • JezGrove
      Posted April 22, 2020 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Thanks. A dangerous mistake indeed, and one that Saini is unwittingly encouraging.

  13. Posted April 22, 2020 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Every time this work of Lewontin comes up, I feel compelled to point out that NO PART of Lewontin’s thinking on this was correct.

    “What Lewontin originally asserted, correctly, was that if you take all the genetic variation present in the human species, and apportioned it among individuals, among populations within a so-called “race”, and then among “races” (defined as the classical “races”), you find that of all the variation, 85% can be found among individuals within a population, 8% among populations within a “race”, and only about 6% between “races”. In other words, individuals within a population contain nearly all of the existing genetic variation of our species, and when you add different populations or different races, you don’t beef up the variation much more.”

    Almost all of this is demonstrably wrong. First, Lewontin was NOT calclating variation but uncertainty (entropy) in the identity of a randomly chosen allele at the locsu of interest in the genome.

    Even if he was calculating variation, as his student Lande did, that still wouldn’t have fixed the central problem. The central problem is that neither entropy nor variation reflect the real magnitude of the differentation between groups.

    Anyone can easily disprove Lewontin’s chain of reasoning by considering an extreme example. Suppose isntead of “races” we consider the more extreme case of two different non-interbreeding species with no shared alleles at the locus. And suppose there are twenty equally common alleles at the locus. Then a single population has 81% of the total “variation” using Lewontin’s formulas. This does not indicate anything about the genetic similarity of the groups at this locus– the two groups share no alelles and are completely differentiated.

    If we had used heterozygosity instead of entropy, as Lande would, the result is even worse. the “similarity” or “shared variation” between these two completely different populations would be 97% even though they share no alleles at all.

    This is a straightforward disproof and I do not think it can be considered a matter of opinion. Lewontin is just plain wrong here.

    • Posted April 22, 2020 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      By the way, Lewontin and lande could have done it correctly, and arrived at valid conclusions, if they had looked instead at the exponential of entropy, or 1/(1-heterozygosity). These are true diversity measures and the ratio of within-group value to whole population value does reflect genetic similarity. If there are N equally large groups, this ratio will vary from 1/N (no alleles in common) to 1 (all alleles shared at the same frequencies).

      This is a consequence the mathematics of diversity and differentiation. Again, there is no freedom for interpretation or opinion; someone might as well disagree with the Pythagorean Theorem.

    • John Reynolds
      Posted April 23, 2020 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      It seems that ideologically motivated people take the overlap of two bell curves and go ‘look, a continuum’

  14. Mike
    Posted April 22, 2020 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Just to clarify about “south Asian”: in my part of Canada, this phrase is typically used to refer to people from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, or Pakistan (or their descendants). It’s a helpful phrase compared to “Indian” or “Pakistani” because it refers to a region rather than a country, and lots of people in my city identify as South Asian but are Canadian citizens going back many generations. But the phrase has a loose definition and varied usage.

  15. sted24
    Posted April 22, 2020 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    The Quillette review of “Superior” is by Bo Winegard and Noah Carl, both of whom recently lost their academic positions.

    Winegard: “I’ve Been Fired. If You Value Academic Freedom, That Should Worry You”

    quillette.com/2020/03/06/ive-been-fired-if-you-value-academic-freedom-that-should-worry-you/

    “Noah Carl: An Update on the Young Scholar Fired by a Cambridge College for Thoughtcrime”

    quillette.com/2019/05/28/noah-carl-an-update-on-the-young-scholar-fired-by-a-cambridge-college-for-thoughtcrime/

    • Posted April 22, 2020 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      I gather your point here is to dismiss the contents of the review by impugning the authors. I would have taken your comment more seriously if you had pointed out something WRONG with the Quillette review. Instead, you just say the authors lost their jobs. I knew that, but didn’t mention that because it’s completely irrelevant to the intellectual content of the review, which I thought was pretty good (and thought so when I put it in a post). It’s certainly better than all the praise of Saini’s book by people who don’t know squat about the genetics of human populations.

      Why don’t you be honest in what you’re trying to do here: use ad hominem arguments? Have you ever thought that perhaps those people lost their jobs. precisely because they didn’t hew the woke line about race or other topics? In fact I think it’s the case.

      No, you wouldn’t think that, because you really, really want to use an ad hominem argument. This is not the first time you’ve acted out of line here; you had to apologize for your behavior previously. You are not getting that chance again.

      • Filippo
        Posted April 22, 2020 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        sub

      • sted24
        Posted April 23, 2020 at 8:34 am | Permalink

        This is your site and it is entirely your prerogative to decide who may comment here. However:

        I fear my post has been completely misunderstood. My purpose was to alert others to the DANGERS some scholars face for holding the ‘wrong’ views: they get fired.

        Bo Winegard describes events leading to his firing and argues more generally for the importance of freedom of academic thought.

        The article about Carl Noah (one of several on Quillette) begins: “Quillette has been unwavering in its support of Noah Carl…”

        Both, it seemed to me, detailed grievous misjustices. This was so evident, it seemed to me, no further comment was necessary. So I didn’t.

        It entirely escapes me how my simple 20 word post (the rest was references and links) can be deemed to carry so many sins. As noted above, I support these individuals in their right to say what they think. I am much concerned by their being fired. And their review of Saini? I nowhere mentioned it, but for the record I, too, liked it.

        • Posted April 23, 2020 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

          Further comment was clearly necessary. And you should have realized that and explained what you meant. You are reinstated, but watch your comments, okay? And I’m not talking just about this one.

  16. Posted April 22, 2020 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Woke and whacked by ideology… does it hurt?
    Biology provides colour, variation, differences… and a brain to work out it does not make a difference.

    • Deodand
      Posted April 22, 2020 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      Possibly, there used to be a thing after AncestoryDotCom became a thing of young ‘Black’ people going on YouTube and other social media platforms and bewailing the fact that their ancestral DNA contained ‘White Genes’. If the anguish displayed in those videos was anything to go by, yes there is harm.

      • GBJames
        Posted April 22, 2020 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

        Protect young people from reality! It’s the only way to show true empathy.

      • Posted April 22, 2020 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

        Then it follows that they are of very little ‘brain’ by my account,
        Genes’ are colour blind, it is differential survival rates that matter to ‘them’ and beating youself up over that is born from ignorence.
        It seems perverse to play the race card on yourself and I should have some idea as I am white and brown.

        • Deodand
          Posted April 23, 2020 at 4:20 am | Permalink

          The worst thing was not the browbeating, it’s expected given the way the woke promote the idea that ‘bad things’ are linked to the ‘white gene’.

          It was the dumb comments on some of those videos suggesting the person who made them owed themselves reparations for slavery.

          Trolls can be quite sickening some times.

  17. eric
    Posted April 22, 2020 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m trying to think about a very simply analogy for Lewinton’s mistake, something very accessible to laypeople. I’d welcome feedback on this:

    Imagine each person has a set of color “swatches” from a hardware store. Each person can only select from the same 100 color samples, but they get to pick 10,000 actual swatches. So, they’ll have lots of duplicates.

    Now imagine that people from Britain really like blue, while people from Ireland really like green.

    Now, we ask two questions:
    1. Does your average Irish or British person have at least one of each? I.e. does your typical person, Irish or British, own the full variation of possible swatches? Well, probably yes. Not always, but given they could take 10,000 of them and there was only 100 to pick from, chances are good that pretty much anyone in this toy example would have at least one of each. Every person has the full variation.

    2. Does the fact that most British and Irish own every color (the full variation) mean there’s no difference in their sets? That we can’t tell from a set of swatches who is British and who is Irish? Well actually, we probably can tell – by looking at the predominance of blue vs. green swatches. Telling where someone comes from is not about variation, it’s about the distribution of swatches. Brits will have more blue. Irish folk will have more green.

    That’s a basic analogy to genetic variation and differences: we mostly have all of the variation any human has. But we have different distributions of what’s available in that variation.

    Biologists – is that a reasonable analogy?
    Laypeople – is that understandable?

    How could the analogy be improved? Or should I just go back to the drawing board?

    • Stevec
      Posted April 22, 2020 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      My analogy to explain it goes like this..

      Imagine half the population of both England and France is 50% white and 50% black, and also 50% tall, 50% short.

      So there is literally no genetic difference between these two populations..

      Except, everyone in England is either white and short or black and tall. And everyone in France is either white and tall or black and short.

      So in fact the populations of England and France are completely distinct and anyone can immediately tell whether the person in front of them is from England or France.

      Perhaps this would work as a simple illustration for the average layperson.

  18. Posted April 23, 2020 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Interestingly, Saini hasn’t spoken out on how evolutionary biology, geology, and astronomy renders many religious groups as ignorant people who are now forced to be educated with stuffs that contradict their deeply held beliefs. Christian creationists, Hindu creationists and Native American creationists (see Deloria Jr.) are in the same boat, and yet people like her ignore their plight. The sciences can be used by the Chinese government to persecute Christians and Falun Dafa in China, citing intellectual corruption of the population. This potential for great harm is also ignored by social justice advocates. What a double standard.

  19. peepuk
    Posted April 23, 2020 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    We can easily dismiss ideologically-based science because all good science is value free.

  20. mattw06992014
    Posted April 23, 2020 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    You are wading into the Religion of Equality (ROE.) The ideas promoted by this religion infect almost every aspect of the West. Facts and logic are irrelevant because the believers (of equality) have their own facts and logic.

    There is no ignorance here. It’s outright lying in the name of equality. Believers know that the world is equal and will make it so by lying and by force if necessary.

    When smart people act really stupid that is your clue that something else is going on – the ROE. Their motives are bad but they hide behind good. Then the people don’t understand what is happening before it is too late. Of course, it is already too late.

    The ROE flips the word upside-down. How can some people/groups/countries rise above the rest if we’re all equal? There can be only one answer: They cheated. They must be torn down.

    How can some people/groups/countries fall behind? They were victimized by those who rose above. Facts are irrelevant.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted April 23, 2020 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      Maybe it is the same mistake as assuming life to be fair?

      We can only strive to have democracy and a justice system to regulate the tendency to fairness. When politics want perfect equality, that gives problems. (It is unrealistic, for one.)

      On the other hand, there is the opposite problem of anarchic, libertarian unregulated society as well. When the “rise above” gets harmful*, it can be criticized and moderated.

      *) Which is somewhat a self-fulfilling criteria, since if people believe it is harmful, it will be.

  21. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted April 23, 2020 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    I find it hard to polarize the findings either way.

    – Lewontin’s “fallacy” demonstrates that variation in humans has much less statistical power than people believed. And if you do a PCA cluster analysis, the next important find is not the clusters showing group flow but the geographical, continent wide PCA component gradients that the UK map mirrors. Genetics currently doesn’t primarily tell you what your group is but what your neighborhood is. (That may change if travel becomes feasible in a warming world.)

    – Body-brain traits are affected by both genetics and environment. Heredity of IQ is “a perfect” (50 %) example. But correlation is not causation, brain traits including morphology can be affected by environment. So what is the sexual difference debate really about? (I need more IQ on IQ, whatever the source.)

  22. Mike Shanahan
    Posted April 23, 2020 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I am curious: do Landrasse exist among humans? The map, Global distribution of locally adaptive traits, is suggestive. (I hope this is not a naive question!)

  23. KetchikanGuy
    Posted April 23, 2020 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Do you have a reference for the 50% value on the heritability of IQ?

    • Posted April 23, 2020 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

      You can use Google as well as I can. Just Google “heritability of IQ.”

  24. Posted April 29, 2020 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    These sort of bad genetics arguments in favor of reducing racism ironically leads to more racism and more minorities losing out on life saving medical procedures:

    https://www.boredpanda.com/people-responds-black-donors-need-ad/

    From the article:

    “Sometimes, when there is a shortage of donors in the registry of a certain type, Be The Match will make a call for extra donors that are most likely to carry that type.

    In this case, they requested that Black donors come forward because people who identify as Black or African American have the lowest odds of finding a match: 23% vs 77% for white patients.

    […]

    HLA are proteins — or markers — found on most cells in your body. Your immune system uses these markers to recognize which cells belong in your body and which do not.

    Because some HLA types are more common than others, some patients may face a greater challenge in finding a matching donor. Some HLA types are found more often in certain racial and ethnic groups, which is why Be The Match, a global leader in bone marrow transplantation, has a broad registry of donors from as many ethnic backgrounds as possible.

    Improving the ethnic diversity of the registry improves all patients’ odds of finding a life-saving match, regardless of their ethnic background. Adding more potential donors to increase the ethnic diversity of the registry is a very important focus for Be The Match!

    Not to be deterred in their ignorance, people still kept coming forward with indignant accusations of racism. “


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