Discussion thread

July 18, 2022 • 12:30 pm

I was preparing a post on the topic “Are races purely social constructs without biological meaning?” (my answer is “no”, but it’s nuanced), when I heard that a friend of mine is in a very bad way and that made me too sad to post.

So, if you will, please comment below about what you want until tomorrow. There are lots of things to discuss, here are three in increasing order of importance.

  1.  I usually don’t eat potato chips as they’re not good for you. I do love them, though, and when my grocery store had a special half-price sale for registered customers (like me), I decided to look into it. It turned out that the half price was for a “family sized” bag of chips (if you have a family of two), and the regular price was $6.50!! For chips! That’s unconscionable. If you want to beef (so to speak) about food prices, or anything else, go ahead. (I didn’t buy the chips.)
  2. People keep telling me that wokeness is on the wane now; that in ten years the crazy excesses of the “progressive” Left will be gone. I don’t think so, if for no other reason than DEI initiatives are in place in many universities, companies, and organizations, and many of people who work in those organizations make their living by constantly emitting the narrative of oppression, division, intersectionality, and so on. These people are not going to put themselves out of a job, so they keep the narrative going.  Don’t get me wrong: we need to have some way to ensure that bigotry is frowned upon (but also a way to teach students about what freedom of speech is). Still, the enormous progress in racial relationships and equality of the sexes that has been achieved are ignored. (Yes, of course we still have racism and sexism.) But to listen to some, it’s as if we’ve been stuck in the 1950s for 70 years. That’s just not true. So, Will Wokeness Wane?
  3. And of course, let’s have your opinions about whether race is just a “social construct” (it’s best if you define “race” and “social construct” in your answer). I’d like to hear what readers have to say before I write what I was going to write.

Or talk about anything else you want.

153 thoughts on “Discussion thread

  1. Yes, “races” are indeed biologically real (though there is then a layer of social construction on top in how they are regarded in any given culture).

    Thus, as humans spread across the globe, they produced a real pattern of shared-ancestry clustering. (Given the modern ease of long-distance travel that pattern might wash out over succeeding decades, but it is clear and real today.)

    That shared-ancestry clustering pattern is fractal (so not countable) and is also fuzzy edged (since humans are all one species and interbreed), and of course branches can merge. Hence races are not discrete and countable, but they are biologically real.

    The details of how that fuzzy-edged, fractal branching pattern is then divvied up and labelled, in a given culture, is a social construct.

    1. Agreed. It is clear that Homo Sapiens varies based on ancestral environment. I am amazed by people who will agree that this results in world class track runners being mainly of a specific race, but deny that race differences may impact diversity in less physical endeavors.

      1. Agree fully with Coel at #1.
        On world class track runners being of a specific race, Mel, I’m not so sure the data is there yet to make any solid conclusions. Just 40-50 years ago all world class track runners were white, in contrast to the current situation. All pro basketball players were also white some 60-70 years ago. And while nearly all world class runners are now black, roughly speaking, there are still any number of sports where blacks could presumably just as well make inroads and/or soon dominate, but they are almost non-existent, such as swimming, alpine and cross-country skiing and cycling. Surely it is cultural reasons that explain the latter absence, not that whites have evolved to swim, ski and cycle, blacks to run. So, again, I’m not sure the data allows any robust conclusions here (yet).

        1. In the world of international association football (aka “soccer”), the US women are playing Canada tonight in the CONCACAF Final (a regional tournament for North and Central America that helps determine qualification for the WC and the Olympics).

          I REALLY hope that Canada wins this game. Canada is a rising power in football for both men and women, and it would be great for the region and the women’s game overall if more nations show that they can beat the US.

          In the last few years the US women were starting to resemble the UCLA Bruins basketball team of the 60s/early 70s…basically dominating so much that the only question before each game was how much they were going to win by. That kind of dominance is great for the US supporters but horrible for neutrals!

  2. I hope your friend recovers swiftly!

    I’m pretty frugal in general – with the exception of food – I buy what I want to eat. That said, I’ve balked at prices a couple of times lately. A small box of nut thins is over $7? No thanks! My favorite sourdough loaf (not artisan, just sliced) was also over$7. I’m going to have to start skipping my lite local store and braving WinCo. Usually I find the shopping environment there too competitive for my taste.

    1. Food (and other) prices are soaring (will lead to Republican election victories). Sugar, e.g., has gone from $0.50/# to $0.75.

      1. I’m don’t know that I agree with your prediction, and hope folks are more worried about their substantive due process rights than sugar. But inflation still blows.

        1. Think about bread. Companies need to pay for the sugar.

          I noticed certain flours are pricey – this is pure anecdote, but the idea is : sugar is needed for bread, which companies have to pay for.

          Not just Aunt Tillie at her tea party.

        2. Doubt it, but they’ll still be stuck with expensive sugar, just minus their rights. Unless someone’s got the ability to magically increase production and solve global logistical issues nothing’s going to change much.

          1. Joining China by abandoning the Net-Zero folly would at least put the world on a level playing field. If China and India were actually trying to get off fossil fuels but struggling in the face of Western demand for the products they make, I can see how it would be churlish for the U.S. to abandon it. But China and India (and Nigeria, whose population will soon exceed that of the U.S.) have said (at COP26) they have no intention to even slow the rate of growth in their use of coal. China’s coal consumption is 4-5 x that of the U.S. and India’s coal consumption passed America’s last year. (Our World in Data.)

            Climate change is no longer something the rich OECD countries have any control over, not even the moral suasion of setting a good example for “the inferior races” to emulate. The Chinese are laughing at you.

            Those who still call for a wholesale transition away from fossil fuels in the West are following some lodestar other than catastrophic climate change.

  3. Interesting Letter to the Editor in yesterday’s Denver Post laying out some interesting reasons [some of the reasonable] why the Dems should run Liz Cheney for President 🙂

    1. That would be honest. She’s a supporter of torture, supported the Iraq War (which coats tens of thousands of lives, willy-nilly) and is opposed to gay marriage. In sum, a better person than Amon Göth, but would still be hanged if there was a Nuremburg Trial today. Since the Democrats are just Republicans of a generation ago, it would fit.

      1. Agreed – I await the Dems snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The certainly seem to be pushing a lot of moderates toward the Repugnicans.

  4. I don’t think Wokeness is on the wane. I think it is more out in the open now, and that it is so at odds with traditional conceptions of justice and fair play that it will struggle. I don’t think we can say we’re over the hump, yet. In fact, we might never be; the candle could be going out. That the media and the schools and even the corporations are bought in does not bode well.

    1. I think its name may change, but as the cartoon from Mad Magazine, 1969 reminded us, the woke–at least the college ones–are not new nor are they likely to fade away. It’s spread a bit farther than in the past, and that may lead to greater societal turmoil, but its character is similar. It’s not an evolutionarily stable strategy, so to speak, but then again, species can evolve themselves into extinction, and so can political systems.

    2. Perhaps what’s called “Wokeness” contains the seeds of its own destruction, relying as it does on the belief that the average person is both privileged and wrong about pretty much everything. When the scrappy outsiders accusing the Establishment of ignoring Truth, Justice, and Science starts looking more and more like the people who disagree with you and less and less like the Bundy brothers, it might be time to flip.

      I urge all parents of children between 10 and 20 to dye their hair green and come out as “non-binary.” Kiss of death.

    3. I was thinking that it could continue to shift left-ward since it is inspired by one-uppery. So people who think they are safe and proper allies now can find themselves to be pilloried in the future.

  5. [My sympathies on your friend.]

    Race has biological meaning but, as with the terms “species” and “life”, there are no definitive boundaries. The extremes can be clearly labeled but there are borderline cases which defy classification.

    Subsequent chips never taste as good as the first one, leading to consumption of the entire bag. Ruffles are better than plain, but consumption of a family size bag of either will leave your mouth with minor lacerations.

    1. I think asking the meaning requires another question first.
      Why do you want to know? What differences would matter?
      What is the purpose of defining the word, in the first place?

      1. Yes! This should be the response to a lot of difficult questions, because words don’t have ‘correct’ definitions, just more- and less-useful ones. .

        “Before we discuss X, let’s first define the key terms (for this discussion only) in ways that help us clarify the issues.” For some other discussion we may find that a different definition will be more helpful.

  6. The notion of the redheaded stepchild is an interesting example of a social construct. The distrust of the redheaded children was a sublimated distrust of the Celts and the Vikings and their incursions into British villages.

    The children themselves were probably evidence of the presence of Nordic and Celtic genes in the population, often caused by some pretty vile deeds by the invaders, so the underlying phenomenon was likely real, but the prejudice and distrust against the kids themselves was a completely unnecessary social construct. Especially when it applied to children born several hundred years after the events which originally caused the problem.

    ‘Gingers’ were still regularly bullied in UK schools until at least the 1990s, which is when I left school myself. It’s interesting how long it has persisted.

    1. Today redheads are getting preferential treatment.
      Washington Post today-

      Britain’s redheads offered free movie tickets to dodge extreme heat.

      I think woke is here for a long time. The pronoun stuff seems to be rampant in schools and many organizations.

      1. It’s The Red-Headed League in Woke World.

        Sherwoke Holmes is afoot.

        I got my rest, can you tell?

      2. As a ginger, can I expect this preferential treatment to arrive with my Soros bucks & Obama phone?

      3. Oh the pronouns —

        The Titania 1w337 on today’s Hili Dialogue coincided with my conclusion about the pronoun fad :

        The little “pronouns:____” that can be found on some emails, or in general, are a way to control speech. I think that is a statement of fact. At a higher level, they control spontaneous thought – “hmmm, this person seems male, so I’ll say “Mr.” – [ **klaxon alert** ] Wrong, evildoer!

        … or at least, if pronouns are _requested_, they _attempt_ to control speech, and especially to appease those requesting them. Perhaps to make them feel safe? Hard to know.

        Personally, if I’m ever faced with that, I’ll put “pronouns : declines opportunity to control speech”.

        1. Yes, I have wanted to have a reply ready when someday asked for “my pronouns”. I do like your example, but for me it feels somewhat too wordy and insufficiently snarky. I would much appreciate the group’s ideas, please.

          1. The only time I’ve ever been pronouns asked’ was at a women’s martial arts conference. Fortunately, the woman ahead of me was equally old, and just motioned to the next person (me) and I did the same. It wasn’t (then) seen as a sign of disrespect, but for the practicality— just another thing that must be done before you can get to the actual workshop, and it was a large group.

            My guess is that only the truly committed are even allowed to ask. Asking a solo stranger, “What are your pronouns?” would probably elicit a puzzled look, or anger, if you don’t have the credentials or authority to be asking.

            Now, I hope I’d go with “whatever” as I really truly don’t care. But then, older people can get away with more.

            1. [ just brainstorming here ]

              What are your dietary restrictions?
              What are your allergies?
              What are your pronouns?
              Wheat or white?
              Plastic or paper?
              Mustard or ketchup?

              Yes, it sounds like I’m a VIP at a conference, or otherwise attended to or being served by someone. I personally endure it, but I suppose I’d have to say “white” for the bread.

              The pronouns though, I think there’s a distinction with a difference – the difference being directly in the realm of speech – not diet, allergic reactions, or how I tote my veggies.

      4. All the NGOs said climate change would result in more inequality, and it looks like those predictions are coming true! What about dark haired and olive skinned me? I’m just left to bake? Sounds an awful lot like white supremacy to me! /s

        On a serious note, it has been uncomfortably hot (41c / 105f) in the major UK cities the last few days. The humidity in the UK is usually quite high too, so the heat index has been even higher, making conditions stifling. So, here’s a suggestion to those establishments: instead of silly marketing gimmicks like this, why don’t you open your doors to the homeless? Unlike the average redhead, they can’t go home. They cannot go to a mall, supermarket, cinema for the AC etc as they’ll get chucked out. They may struggle to get cold drinks etc.

        Do something good and worthwhile; help people who actually need helping!

        1. if the movie theatres don’t allow drug use on their premises they will get no takers, any more than shelters do. The reason for no drug use is not Victorian prudery but rather because it’s a fire hazard and creates a risk of violence to staff and customers…and emergency response to overdoses makes it hard to watch the movie, you know, the movie that customers paid to see?

          You want to help keep the homeless cool, build a big safe-consumption site with air-conditioned space. They love those and will flock in from hundreds of miles away. Right next to your house would be an ideal location, or across from the school your kid attends.

          1. Well, my comment was really intended as a dig at the cinema’s cynical and performative marketing bollocks. However, from your reply, I’m persuaded that the cinema is not the only source of cynicism in this conversation.

            Putting that to one side for the moment, I am of the opinion that providing respite to the homeless is a humane thing to do. Nevertheless, I’m glad I read your comment before doing anything about it.

            I can’t believe my naivety now, but I was going to build a cinema to bring local children together with the homeless drug using community. It was to be located next to my daughters’ school, right opposite my house. We were in a desperate rush to finish, as we wanted to give the addicts free tickets to family screenings of the new Minions film.

            But silly old me, I was completely unaware of the issues you raised. Who could have predicted that semi-conscious drug abusers might block exits, require medical attention, or present a risk of violence? Who would have thunk it ?

            I’m embarrassed, as during my student days I worked for 5 years part-time at a crowd/event safety firm; and they never taught me that. Maybe I’m just a little dim and have no common sense.

            I don’t understand your snark Leslie, I see it from virtually no-one else on this site. Surely there’s no need for it, is there?

    2. And how far it’s on the way out. My first and third daughters, born in 1982 and 1989, are redheads (inherited from my mother – interesting how the gene(s) can skip a generation). Neither had to put up with any bullying at school or anywhere else. My first daughter’s own two daughters (5 and nearly 2) are both redheads as well. I hope the habit of mocking gingers (often pronounced with two hard ‘g’s’) has now dropped out of the culture.

      1. I admit that I’m using a small sample size here, but as a Brit, my distrust of redheads is based on a study I performed. It was ethnographic and participatory in nature, and lasted two years. I assumed the identity of ‘boyfriend’ whereas the redheaded subject assumed ‘girlfriend’ identity. What transpired was two years of arguments, resentment, anger, contempt and disdain directed at me by her. I made the difficult decision to terminate the study for reasons of health and severe ethical concerns.

        Since then, the male participant has remained true to his word that he would not engage in another relationship with a redhead, due to the ‘excitable and robust’ nature of the previous participant’s temperament. He realises that this is an illogical decision to make, as no evidence links red hair to these characteristics. He knows that the old wives tale of redheads being fiery is nonsense. Even so, he would rather err on the side of caution on this matter.

  7. Jerry, best wishes to your friend.

    Here’s something I like that makes a good potato chip replacement (IMO) that is marginally less unhealthy: “Harvest Snaps” baked peas/beans, which come in a variety of flavors. My favorite was habanero, but unfortunately, apparently they’ve stopped making the habanero flavor (at the least, I’ve been unable to find them. Still, if one just has a hankering for something salty and crispy, I recommend trying these.

  8. When I was a kid, some friends of my parents gave me a 1929 encyclopedia. It had a long section in it — five pages or more — including a page with pictures of all 24 races.
    That’s right — they had definitively determined that there were 24 races. No more, no less.

    That surprised me. When I was in elementary school, they taught us that there were only three — Mongoloid, Negroid, and Caucasoid. I asked what American Indians were. The teacher explained that they had originally come over on a land bridge from Asia. Therefore, they were Mongoloid, just like the Chinese.
    I had a hard time figuring out how Chinese people were related to American Indians. If they were related at one time, it seemed like they had changed enough that they should get their own group, by now.

    I had read a story in an newspaper from the late 1800s about how they determined which race was which. A bunch of drunk guys in a bar argued about it. To settle the issue, they kidnapped a Chinese guy and an Indian. Then they took them both out to a bridge over the river and threw them off. The Indian swam to shore while the Chinese guy drowned. From this, they concluded that they were two different races.

    That method seemed like it wasn’t entirely scientific, but it brought up the question:
    What exactly determines the difference between the races?
    And another question:
    Once you know a person’s race, what are you going to do with that information? Why would it even matter to you?

    There are black people in Africa and black people in New Guinea. They look a lot alike. Are they one race or two? Likewise with Pygmies and Watusis, or any number of other groups. How about people from India? They have dark skins but Caucasian facial features. What are they?

    I scoured the pictures for hours to figure out what were the distinguishing characteristics that would tell you whether someone was the same race as someone else. Is it hair? Is it skin color? Is it shape of the nose?
    All of those arrived at uncertain results, to say the least.

    After long and careful deliberation, I arrived at the one thing you could always use to tell someone was a different race than another person.

    It was their hats. No matter what their hair was, or their skin color, or anything else, you could always tell the difference between their races by their hats.

    That’s what it is all about. Hats. Unfortunately, I rarely wear a hat. For everyone else, I will make up whatever suits me. That’s what race is.

    1. Nice one. Full marks. Good thing for hats.

      I think a race is just a way to define which people get to play the race card without anyone daring to challenge it. This will become important when it comes time to pay reparations for slavery. But note the challenge to someone’s claim to entitlement won’t come from the bureaucrat peering from behind the wicket in the Race Office No, the challenge will come from the other supplicants in the queue stretching around the block who will diligently drive off posers and interlopers. After all, a tribe gets to set its own criteria for membership.

      Neither Barack Obama nor Kamala Harris is descended from slavery in the United States. Are either of them even Black, therefore, in the USAian sense?

      The concept of race doesn’t apply to North American Indigenous people because they were placed here de novo by the Creator in time out of mind as a spiritual event unconnected with human development in the Old World. They get annoyed when people call them Siberians.

      1. “I think a race is just a way to define which people get to play the race card without anyone daring to challenge it. This will become important when it comes time to pay reparations for slavery. ”

        Well, to be fair, none of their ancestors had the chance to challenge it. See Twelve Years a Slave.

        And slavery in the US continued until at least 1942. That was the first time that anyone got prosecuted for it. So it isn’t as ancient history as we would like to believe.

  9. Chihuahuas are social constructs.

    Crisps … potato flavoured are my favourite. They are worth a shorter life. Off topic a bit I was listening to the CBC, a pod cast on eating meat. I thought the pod cast was fair and the general gist was he would cut down a bit – good for the environment and health. Got me wondering would a shortened life also be good for the environment?

    Woke – still going strong.

  10. All this talk of crisps/chips and race just gave me an idea. Maybe we replace race with ‘flavor’ (or flavour, if you will). I use the term when asking someone what faith tradition they were raised in. Flavors also combine. What do you all think?

    1. I use flavour when referring to different sects, religions and gods.

      And what’s your favourite flavour of Christianity?

        1. Well, the NT god might be nicer in some ways, but he still plans to fry everyone who is not a believer; women are to stay quite in church and obey their husbands; slaves are to obey their masters; his favorite put down is “whore”. And I could add another 20-30 unsavoury points, but why repeat what everyone should know but for the good work of the cherry picking churches?

          1. That’s right 🙂 I shall have to change my favourite flavour: ‘Two gods, both alike in villainy’ should do the trick. If people disagree with the ‘both alike’ part, I should be able to make something up in defence. Not having to make any sense is a great boon.

  11. IF I recall correctly, there once was a T.V. advert for potato chips which declared, “Betcha can’t eat just one!”. I considered that a challenge and often failed that test until I found that having some other salty, crunchy and oily snack (cashews and\or almonds, pecans or macadamia nuts etc…) handy to act as a ” chaser ” helped.

    1. Omg, excuse my language but you just unearthed a memory! It’s ruffles lays, no one can eat just one. And it was popular when I was in middle school in Delhi. And I memorized the Hindi commercial – I literally cannot think of the last time I thought of this! I still remember the lyrics it turns out- advertising is amazing.

  12. 1. The Crimson reports that fewer than 2% (closer to 1%) of faculty claim being “conservative” politically: https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2022/7/13/faculty-survey-political-leaning/. While there have been some hopeful signs, such as McWhorter now writing for the NYT, I do not see wokeness plateauing anytime soon at top universities. I’m currently preparing application materials and must write DEI statements to be considered, a simple way for universities to prevent conservatives, moderates, and liberals (anyone who isn’t progressive) from obtaining faculty positions. Sure, I could apply to mediocre schools eager to get talent from Harvard and get those jobs. But I must be dishonest to land at MIT, Yale, Berkeley, etc. — self-flagellate and virtual signal for job safety, because the top schools pressure us to compromise academic and personal integrity in the name of so-called “inclusion.” Lie or be irrelevant.
    2. I listened to a podcast between Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins in which Dawkins mentioned that he’s penning a book entitled The Genetic Book of the Dead. The idea is that DNA contains a record of ancient-past environments. We can, for instance, find signatures someday (maybe now?) for settings like “ancient ocean” or “ancient desert.” Ancestry is merely the genetic signature of those who survived and reproduced successfully in particular past environments. Because of this, ancestry is not a social construct. On the contrary, it is a deep and fundamental biological reality. Skin color, however, is a gross proxy for ancestral continent. Informal association of skin color and other easily visible behavioral traits stereotypically is a type of social construction in that the stereotypes are shorthand for (accurate and inaccurate) correlations. Correlation is not necessarily causation. But knowing this has led many to erroneously assume that ancestry itself, then, is merely a construct of fishy correlation.

    1. 1) From talking with lots of Trump supporters, that seems like the effects of education.

      2) I have met lots of people who talked about what race someone was. Not one of them mentioned what you said, or DNA. Every person I have met, other than a few medical specialists, defined it by visible traits, arbitrarily selected. We make it up as we go along.

      1. According to wm97, the conversations they’ve had with others constitute “the public conversation”, and we are not discussing things that resemble wm97’s perception of “the public conversation” – which are somehow important points to make in wm97’s view. Additionally, according to wm97, our discussion here is pointless because we are not making medical decisions. However, despite the fact that wm97 isn’t making medical decisions on this discussion thread, they’ve found it worthy of plenty of their time.

  13. I can think of a few things that could alter the course of Wokeism in academia. First, if the illiberal leftists succeed in empowering the Right to return to power and overthrow future elections by main force, and we lose essential freedoms including new restrictions in freedom of speech up to and including the Wokeists’. Second, sufficient lawsuits by those whose rights are suppressed by universities to produce enough of a body of case law, that university lawyers themselves push back with warnings like “don’t push this- the law isn’t on your side”. Third, if extra-academic organizations begin educating students and faculty on their rights and how to push back when the DEI folks “lovingly” threaten them with sanctions and cancellation if they don’t bend the knee. Fourth- Sufficient amounts of alumnus dollars are withheld to pressure change. Fifth, if the Sensible ever succeed in roping the Woke to debate and argue their positions in public, that can’t hurt.

  14. No kettle cooked chips are safe in my vicinity. We don’t keep chips in the house regularly but indulge from time to time. Cape Cod are the best in my local grocery store. I’m willing to pay the price, especially when they are “buy 1 get 1 free,” which they are with some frequency.

    My 2 biggest gripes regarding food prices are beef and fish. Beef prices are ludicrous, have been for quite a while now, long before the current inflation. Even what used to be cheap cuts are now too expensive for me to buy. Lately even “stew meat,” the left over scraps, has been over $8/lb. Every now and then I’ll splurge on ground beef but I’m not a serious beef lover so it’s been easy for me to mostly stop eating beef.

    Fish has been harder. I live on the coast and fresh snapper, grouper, pompano (the best), etc. are favorites, but these days they go for $25 – $30+ per pound. Crazy. I should start fishing again and catch my own.

    1. Absolutely! You can catch your own for only $150/pound!

      I kid, slightly, but unless you can fish from a dinghy (or better yet a dock or jetty) your cost will almost certainly exceed that of commercially caught fish.

      1. It can easily, but it depends on many factors of course. There was a period in my 20s during which I fished a lot, all saltwater at inlets, surf and intercoastal. It did cost a bit for initial layout and then much less for lures and bait, though even that can get pretty darn expensive in hard conditions like an inlet. But I ate all the fresh fish I could hope for of a dozen or more varieties.

        Definitely was cheaper than buying it, unless you figure your time. If you figure your time, forget it. But if not, back then I was definitely eating mangrove snapper, sheepshead, red drum, snook, pompano, blue, shark and more, for cheaper than I could buy it.

    2. I hear you on the fish. Halibut and salmon are my favorite. Halibut WAY back in the 90’s cost around $8/ lb. and would regularly go on sale for under $5. Salmon prices were similar. Now halibut will go on sale for $17-20/ lb., (rarely). Normal price $25+/ lb. Prices for King Salmon this year have hit $60/lb. WTF? Summer coincides with fishing season around here, and fish is on the menu (usually) 3 times a week. I’m still paying, but this hike can’t stand. Or maybe it will give the fisheries a break, which is a silver lining. The covid plague did improve the planet’s wildlife populations, after all.

      Your mentioning of grouper had my mouth watering…best battered fish I think I’ve ever had. Halibut is a close second, but damn, that grouper…
      Have never heard of, or tried pompano afaik…the best fish usually stay close to their shores. Up here in the NW, you won’t find fresh fish from FL and I’m sure the vice is a versa.

      1. Grouper is good, love it though not in my top 5. Definitely great for frying. Pretty much any snapper is ahead of it, and sheepshead is too I think. And then there’s Pompano. Pompano is something like Red Snapper that has just been kissed with a touch of oiliness characteristic of swordfish, King, tuna and similar. I typically caught them while surf fishing. If you ever have a chance to try it I highly recommend it. Only if it’s fresh though!

        1. I wonder if it’s like black cod, also called sable fish and butter fish. Also a white fish reminiscent of snapper, but with the oil of salmon. If I ever come across Pompano on a menu, I’ll be ordering it. And I agree that Red Snapper is a superb fish. Snapper Veracruz is one of my all-time favorite dishes.

            1. It is wonderful smoked. It’s a really versatile fish, and sustainable to boot. Though it ain’t cheap!

              1. In the early 90s I used to eat it all the time. A friend who lives in nearby San Pedro, CA worked as an accountant for a fish distributor. She used to bring black cod home saying that there wasn’t a market for it. Another friend did the smoking and hosted the gatherings in which it was lustily consumed. That all changed when so many restaurants started offering it. Besides the smoked version, the Japanese version where it is marinated in miso is also very good.

  15. Jonathan V. Last of the Bulwark+ posted “Rise of the Republican Confederacy —
    The takers are secession-curious.” (For paid subscribers, I only got the poll results)

    After many years of strutting and posturing that “We’re gonna take our state and… (go or do something), have these folks ever proposed any plan at all about how this will happen?

    Surely there must be steps— elect your own government, stop paying taxes, banning vegans… whatever… Why are they so hesitant to share at least some plans, hopes, etc.

    Maybe other states would be willing to help. Maybe even a GoFundMe.

  16. People keep telling me that wokeness is on the wane now; that in ten years the crazy excesses of the “progressive” Left will be gone.

    Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I think that this is possible because:

    (A.) Woke people can’t seem to form a unified front in the long term. They have a habit of turning on each other and splitting apart into ever smaller identity factions (e.g. You’re not just a trans person, you’re a Latinx trans person with a different set of interests than other trans people). This has been pretty well documented on this site and others.

    (B.) An organization run according to purely woke principles would collapse in a matter of years, if not months. The woke dismiss traits such as objectivity, punctuality, attention to detail, reliance on the written word — the traits needed to run a large organization — as being part of this amorphous thing called “white supremacy culture.” But without them, a corporation or a non-profit can’t function efficiently. (Sadly, a government agency could probably keep going for a while longer, since it’s insulated from the effects of competition.)

    Basically, I suspect (and hope) that wokeness contains the seeds of its own demise.

  17. I like to think I’m progressive, but with Jerry’s scare quotes he may think it means something else.

    Universal health insurance? That’s a progressive idea.
    Legalize marijuana at the federal level? That’s a progressive idea. (Actually, I want to see cocaine and heroin legalized as well.)
    Abolish the Second Amendment? That’s a progressive idea.
    Abolish capital punishment? That’s a progressive idea.
    Abolish for-profit prisons? That’s a progressive idea.
    Boost the minimum wage? That’s a progressive idea.
    Instigate a radical shift away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy? That’s a progressive idea.
    Reproductive freedom? Same. https://www.nationofchange.org/2022/07/18/progressives-release-blueprint-for-federal-action-on-reproductive-freedom%ef%bf%bc/

    So, yeah, count me as a proud progressive Democrat. Enough already with the moderates (Kyrsten Sinema) and the conservatives (Joe Manchin).

    As for all the woke stuff, I’m still not sure what the difference is between being woke and being politically correct. “Woke,” if I’m not mistaken, emerged from Black culture. To be woke means to be awake to injustice. But now the word “woke” is used as a bludgeon mainly by right-wingers.

    1. I’m reluctant to speak for Jerry, but he has often referred to the “regressive left” who seek to shut down ideas they don’t agree with. So I think when he uses scare quotes around “progressive” he is referring to these people, who claim to be progressives but are actually regressive.

    2. Hi Barry. I happen to agree with the ideas you mentioned. However, I would consider these as main stream liberal ideals. (Clarify, maybe, but not abolish the Second Amendment?). Sure, they are ‘progressive’ compared to even the most centrist leaning Repugnicans (an endangered species) but I believe that when ‘progressive’ is used pejoratively what comes to mind include but are not limited to 1) abolishing the police force 2) abolishing national borders 3) abolishing meritocracy in schools and workforce 4) virtue signaling 5) elevating the importance of pronouns over character 6) making every cis-white-male the scapegoat for all the worlds ailments or 7) labeling of persons as transphobic, racist, etc simply for the crime of questioning woke dogma.

    3. I think “woke” was invented by the pearling industry since there are now so many people looking for pearls to clutch of the terrible woke and their cancellings

  18. My thoughts on race: the same approach used by Michael Shermer in his recent post to define sex categories (prototype theory) can be used to perform classification of populations (or even species). Prototype theory is an idea from cognitive science which says that many categories are not crisp and instead have fuzzy boundaries; therefore, we define if a member belongs to a category by counting how many characteristics match up. For instance, a penguin is not the best prototype of a bird, because it cannot fly, but it lays eggs and has wings, so it still counts as one. In the same way, people belong to some populations more than they belong to others based on their ancestry and their physical traits. This means that “race” is a multivariate category with fuzzy boundaries, and that there is no such thing as pure races with no common ancestor and no physical overlap. But it also means that people are not equally related to one another and that human populations are not identical.

    1. I think we missed a question: Why do you want to know? What is the purpose of knowing?

      It seems to me that before you can determine what makes a race, you have to determine the factors that would be important to the question. Your reason for wanting to know should tell you what factors to consider when you make your decision.

      If this was the 1800s, then “race” might give someone a clearer picture of the only Chinese person in town. In the 2000s, I can’t think of any reason it would be useful to me. These days, Chinese people dress and act like everyone else.

      In the US, the primary use of race has been to tell us who is eligible to be a slave and who shouldn’t be allowed to get a mortgage in my neighborhood or ride the bus next to me. That definition of race had a specific and openly admitted purpose. It defines all the people who are lesser creatures than me.

      So why does anyone want to know? If someone you meet is Race A, as opposed to Race B or Race C, how does that change your plans for the day? What would it matter?

      The only good explanation I have seen is that it makes people feel comfortable to put arbitrary labels on things. People make it up to suit them, for their own internal purposes.

      1. Dear wm97, from your post I am guessing you are not an evolutionary biologist. You are adopting a strong blank slate position which assumes races are not valid biological categories, and that they are only a cultural label. It is a belief popularized by Franz Boas and his followers, so I am guessing you must be a cultural anthropologist. This is clearly wrong from modern science, as you would learn from reading just a few papers on population biology. Human races differ in many traits, including polygenic traits like height. Now to answer your question of why we should care, there is a large number of scientists who are concerned about how genetic differences between human populations (races) affects their risks for many diseases. For example, people from some parts of Africa have a genetic mutation that makes them more likely to have sickle cell anemia. There are also genetic differences between the races in their adaptation to digest different types of food, like milk or rice. Those genetic differences extend to psychological phenotypes, like risk of schizophrenia and other mental problems. So there are good reasons for people to care.

        1. Are scientists the ones driving the public conversation about race?
          Are scientists the ones who determined that black people are eligible to be slaves?
          Are scientists the ones who determined that black people should not be hanging around in my neighborhood?

          The point being that — apart from the person who is studying DNA and medicine, race is something they made up to suit them.
          That is for 99.999999% of all the common uses, it is a social construct — made up to suit our prejudices.

            1. Well, yeah, actually. They were developed specifically by humans to meet particular needs. So, yeah, they were constructed by society. They are such strong constructs that people actually manufactured real living objects to match what they wanted.

              Why is it important for you to know what breed a dog is?
              Why is it important for you to know what race a human is?

              What difference does either of them make?
              I pick GSDs because working breeds have been bred to cooperate with humans. They are naturally easy to train and get along with. We made them that way.

              How does that apply to humans?

              1. So people who choose a particular breed are practicing discrimination?

                Just asking dumb questions (am I allowed to say dumb these days?)

            2. “So people who choose a particular breed are practicing discrimination?”

              Yes, obviously. That’s why the Chihuahuas are picketing outside.

              1. The concept of a social construct is itself a social construct. This whole argument of against social constructs is a house of cards.

        2. “It is a belief popularized by Franz Boas and his followers, so I am guessing you must be a cultural anthropologist.”

          Don’t take the exam for promotion to Detective, just yet.
          I am just a dumb guy who asks dumb questions.

      2. In aggregate, the groups we call races exhibit clear patterns of differences in behavior and ability. (Pick your favorite explanation for why the differences exist, but exist they do.) These differences are stable and consistent through different eras and across different countries with widely varying histories. Tremendous amounts of money, effort, and social and political capital are spent trying to “close the gaps” in some of these differences, especially the large differences in violent crime, IQ, academic and professional achievement, etc.

        If we want effective social policies, we have to both recognize the existence of these differences and ultimately understand their causes. Pretending race doesn’t exist blinds you to a similar degree – and in some cases an even greater degree – to pretending that sex doesn’t exist. Should we recognize that men and women exist and have different propensities, like including a ~10x greater propensity for violence in men versus women? Should our social policies pretend women are just as violent as men are? Should they blame the ‘epidemic of male violence’ on female privilege and misandry? Should they assume it’s “just the way men are”? The answers to these questions matter for crafting good social policy, and if you’re trying to build a functioning multiracial society, the answers to similar questions about racial differences also matter.

        On a personal level, you can certainly infer statistically accurate information about people based on their appearance. People of race A may be 30x as likely to rob you as people of race B. People who “look like junkies” and have facial tattoos are more likely to rob you than clean-cut people wearing business suits and holding briefcases. Etc. You can choose to ignore these correlations for a variety of reasons, but some people – say a woman who must walk to her car at night every day – may have good reasons to pay attention to them.

        Chinese people certainly do not “act like everyone else”. There is a massive difference in violent crime, academic achievement, mathematical ability, etc. between Chinese- and African-Americans, say.

        1. “In aggregate, the groups we call races exhibit clear patterns of differences in behavior and ability. (Pick your favorite explanation for why the differences exist, but exist they do.) ”

          Cool. So which particular differences defined the difference between any two races, and what magnitude of change in the combination means “new race”? There are Vietnamese people and there are Hmong people. As near as I can tell, the only significant difference is height, and that’s a big difference.
          Are they one race, or two? What else would they need to be two?

          The answer is that it is like what they said about porn – “I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.”

          “Chinese people certainly do not “act like everyone else”. There is a massive difference in violent crime, academic achievement, mathematical ability, etc. between Chinese- and African-Americans, say.”

          Well, I am rarely involved in violent crime from anyone, I don’t grade tests, and I don’t much care how good they are with math, unless they mess up making change for me. So, for my purposes, they act like anyone else. They don’t bother me very much at all. Their race, whatever it is, doesn’t make any difference in my life, unless I need to feel superior to someone. That might concern teachers and cops. It shouldn’t make a difference to anyone else.

          1. “So which particular differences defined the difference between any two races, and what magnitude of change in the combination means ‘new race’?”

            My answer is either “none of them” or “it’s hard to say”. Subgroups of humanity were genetically isolated and evolved independently for tens of thousands of years to the point where we can reliably tell them apart both genetically and just by looking at them, and that’s what makes them different races. There has to be some difference in order for us to be able to tell them apart, but mere differences don’t make races – only those differences resulting from differential genetic evolution.

            It’s possible some of the differences are merely cultural. I’m not saying that Chinese are genetically less violent (though it’s likely true). I’m saying that the Chinese, who are a genetically distinct people – a race – are also distinct behaviorally and ability-wise in a way that’s consistent all across the globe. Whatever the reason, there’s a strong correlation between race, average behavior, and average ability, and this reality is important to consider if you want to create a well-functioning multiracial society, or if you want to “close the gaps” between the races.

        2. “People of race A may be 30x as likely to rob you as people of race B.”

          My guess is that this is probably an exaggeration.

          ” People who “look like junkies” and have facial tattoos are more likely to rob you than clean-cut people wearing business suits and holding briefcases.”

          Because those are all changes to their appearance that people chose to make to define themselves to others. Black people don’t wear black skin because that was what they went shopping for.

          1. “My guess is that this is probably an exaggeration.”

            Well, it ranges from roughly 10x to 50x depending on where you’re at and what crime you’re talking about – maybe worse now since the big post-2019 crime spikes – though it’s practically impossible to get exact numbers on, say, the Chinese robbery rate in America because government statistics tend to group everyone into only three or four categories.

      3. “In the US, the primary use of race has been to tell us who is eligible to be a slave and who shouldn’t be allowed to get a mortgage in my neighborhood or ride the bus next to me. That definition of race had a specific and openly admitted purpose. It defines all the people who are lesser creatures than me.”

        I think you are wrong on a couple of those points. One was eligible to be a slave if one arrived in the US as a slave, or if one was born of a mother who was a slave. There were free Blacks who owned plantations and profited mightily on the slave trade. If the African slave markets that were the source of slaves had still been trafficking in other races when the Atlantic trade began, the whole situation might have looked very differently.
        My understanding of the redlining issue is that it was a matter of actuarial figuring. Black residency statistics in neighborhoods could be a signifier of whether property values in that area were expected to climb or decline. I could be wrong on this, but my limited reading on the issue indicated that the issue was not so much the race of the borrower, but the health of the property of an investment. That puts Black buyers into an unfair and untenable situation, of course. To them, it looks like racism for oppression’s sake. My reading of the matter indicated that a White buyer would also find difficulty purchasing the same house in the same redlined neighborhood.
        Of course, human prejudices came into play as well.
        It reminds me a bit of the new findings that AI can come to troublesome conclusions when tasked with similar questions.

        Knowledge of a person’s race has a couple of practical uses. It helps determine risk factors for some diseases and health conditions, and may guide the best treatment options.

        It may factor into education strategies. Whether the reasons are cultural, biological, or economic, Effective teaching strategies are going to differ in a classrooms in majority Black, majority white, or majority Asian schools. Some of the genesis of the “White Characteristics” lists come from that.

  19. Will wokeness ever wane?

    No, and for the exact reason that you stated:

    I don’t think so, if for no other reason than DEI initiatives are in place in many universities, companies, and organizations, and many of people who work in those organizations make their living by constantly emitting the narrative of oppression, division, intersectionality, and so on. These people are not going to put themselves out of a job, so they keep the narrative going.

    This happens any time you put people in power who have to find unorthodoxy in order to keep their jobs (see political officers in the Soviet Union, heresy hunters in the middle ages, McCarthyites, ad nauseam).

    In fact, the only two things that will even slow it down are (1) it will splinter, as each group vies to present themselves as the most oppressed (I already read things about people “not being the right kind of black” or “not acting like trans people really do”); and (2) the steel-toed boot in the gonads that wokie crazies are going to get in the November elections.

  20. I think Wokeness is on the wane but will last a long time for the reasons you mention. My confidence in its waning comes from the observation that people are starting to associate Wokeness with a bad education or a bad job. Most people actually prefer meritocracy and free speech. They also dislike being bullied. Any virtue one gets from being Woke fades quickly as it is a race to the bottom. The other current that pushes against Wokeness is that the “minority” groups it is supposed to protect care about it less. We’re seeing it with Hispanics rejecting “latinx” and the pushback by women who resent their well-defined group being made blurry for political reasons. Finally, Democrat politicians are finally taking on the idea that pandering to the Woke is not a path to political success and longevity.

    1. While I agree wokeness is bad for Democrats, the issue I see is whether it is a generational phenomenon. The data show that woke stuff is strongly supported by the younger generations, and remember, they are the future. As the older, less woke people gradually die out, the woke youth will take over all of politics and all institutions and corporations. So no, I do not think it will fade away. It will probably increase with time.

      1. While I can easily believe that young people are more likely to be Woke than older people, do we have any evidence that the majority of the young are Woke (given a suitable definition)? In other words, where’s your data?

        Ideas aren’t always held for entire lifetimes. It has often been noted on this website that the Woke in college may get quite a shock once they try to get jobs. While corporate America has adopted some Wokeness, it is unlikely to drop meritocracy any time soon. There are strong selection forces working against it. Also, Woke bullying only goes so far when employees fight back with wrongful discharge or lack of due process law suits.

        Wokeness has definitely inserted itself in many parts of our society but I think it has been able to do so largely by flying under the radar of normal folks. It started innocently enough with X Studies departments in college and people just fighting racism. Then we passed through a phase where pundits are split on whether it exists or not. I think we are just now coming out of that phase and into one where powerful forces are starting to fight against it.

  21. There’s an interesting documentary, “Little White Lie”, about a girl raised in a Brooklyn Jewish community who was half-black on account of her mother’s secret affair. The family myth was that she took after her Sicilian grandfather, and nobody really questioned it, including the girl herself.

    So it seems that race can be a social construct at least in borderline cases, e.g., people can see Sicilian-ness or half-blackness depending on what they’re told to see.

    1. In what situation would it NOT BE a social construct?
      That is — something somebody made up to suit their own purposes.

        1. Apart from medical issues.
          The vast majority of the people I see making determinations of race are not medical personnel, and they are not discussing oximeters. The major use I see of it was to determine who was eligible to be a slave and who wasn’t allowed to live in my neighborhood.

          So, other than medical issues, how is it useful for anything?
          Why do I care if some stranger is Race A or Race B? What is important about that to me?

          1. “So, other than medical issues, how is it useful for anything?”

            Medical issues are a rather big thing. Health seems fairly important to one’s well-being.

            1. Medical issues are not what drive the public discussion. Never have been. We didn’t have a bunch of doctors wearing white sheets and burning crosses.

              1. ***wm97 in nearly every interaction on this discussion thread***

                ‘Race and gender are social constructs. Medical issues aside, there is no reason to discuss whether someone is race A-Z or gender A-Z.’

                wm97’s interlocuter:
                ‘What about case X?’

                ‘Case X is not driving the public conversation; bigotry is. So, aside from medical issues, it is useless to talk about whether someone is transgender or transracial.’

                wm97’s interlocuter:
                ‘What about case Z, which not only affects transgender/transracial people but also the families and friends of transgender/transracial people as well as civil rights activists who are deeply emotionally invested in the issue.’

                ‘I’ve never heard anyone talk about case Z. Take a look at the vast majority of conversations throughout human history – how has case Z ever been part of the public conversation? It effectively doesn’t exist.’

                wm97’s interlocuter:
                ‘Here’s a link to a reputable source that indicates that specific case Z does exist, that it affects people, and that it is part of the public conversation.’

                ‘Well, it’s clearly not *driving* the conversation, and the very few people who might be discussing it are not the ones lynching people and burning crosses.

                This discussion about whether race and gender are social constructs is useless because, aside from medical decisions, it doesn’t affect anybody, and it is grounded in hatred, bigotry, and prejudice. You should watch movie B, then you might understand.’

  22. W.E.B. Du Bois, after struggling with all the biological/morphological ways to classify somebody in America as “black”, finally concluded that a black person is “somebody who must ride Jim Crow in Georgia”. That era is thankfully over, so Du Bois’ method no longer applies. I note that Adolph Reed Jr. argues that one’s race is whatever the police say you are.

    1. I met a woman who was a pure blooded German. She could trace her German ancestry back hundreds of years. She had reddish hair and blue eyes and looked as German as anyone you have ever seen. Her parents moved to Mexico City about a month before she was born so her birth certificate said Mexico.
      She said that, for her entire life, every time she indicated her race as Caucasian or white on some government form, some government official would change it to Hispanic.

  23. Hello, Jerry Coyne,

    Re your request for input about topics: Yes, please do write on the race-as-construct idea. I’m not any sort of biologist so am not qualified to opine on this. But clearly it’s a loaded issue in which people typically take sides based on politics, not science. Is it even possible to do objective science in such a context?

    Please also consider writing on the transgender issue: trans-women in women’s sports, prisons, safe spaces (e.g., domestic abuse shelters; restrooms, locker rooms), and groups (e.g., Amer. Assoc. of University Women, women-only goddess religions, the Girl Scouts).

    Thanks for your time and your wonderful blog.
    Nancy Young

  24. In the sense of a “one drop rule,” race is a social construct. In the sense that you can take an individual’s DNA sample and fairly accurately trace their ancestry to continents, it seems quite real.

    I suppose I believe that “races” are real, but what we choose to do with this information is entirely socially constructed.

    1. That seems like regional differentiation, not exactly race.
      Outside of medicine, why would it be useful to know anyone’s race?

      1. Now we’re just quibbling about the definition of “race.” If race is defined as a set of genetic markers arising from long periods of evolution in a geographic region (i.e. a similar set of selection pressures acting on a population over a long period of time) then sure, we’re talking about regional differentiation by a different name. That said, a fifth-generation South African will not have the same genetic markers as a five-hundredth generation South African, so merely calling it regional differentiation doesn’t really capture it.

        Based on your other comments on this thread (and be warned, your copy-pasting of the same response to many comments may draw censure from the host) I don’t disagree with you. Outside of medicine and science, race as a category has no purpose outside of social categorization.

        1. I am a pretty old guy. I recognize that this is nothing but a quibble about the definition of race, and it is a pretty new quibble, at that. In the 1960s, they would have told you that they call race as they see it and they are proud that they don’t hang around with anyone that doesn’t look right.
          Then the races started mixing and people started pointing out that the one-drop-black rule didn’t make a lot of sense. The southerners didn’t care. They called it as they saw it. And they were proud that they didn’t mix.
          As far as medicine went, race was used to determine who was eligible for the Tuskegee Experiment.
          It was only after all that, when racism became unpopular that anyone put any serious thought to what “race” is. Before that, everyone knew just by looking.

          See “Black Like Me”. For those who aren’t familiar — a white guy goes through a certain area and records how people greeted him. Then he changes his skin color and goes through again. Big difference — just because of what people see. Same guy, just different color. That’s what it is about.

          So, I view the whole discussion as a little comical. It is an artifact of the various explanations that white southerners came up with to explain why their racism wasn’t really a bad thing.

          And just to let you know, I never copy-paste anything I write. I taught myself to type well over 100 WPM a long time ago, so I don’t need to. If I repeat words, it is because I have found that they are an effective way to describe that particular point.

      2. I’ll go you one better. Even inside of medicine it’s not necessary to pigeonhole the patient in front of you into a racial category in order to treat him or her. There are only a few diseases that are so much more common among people of African descent (as opposed to recent travel by anyone) that you have to check them off in your mind. Certainly if someone has dark skin you have to be cautious interpreting any observation that relies on being able to see through the layer of epidermis where the melanin is. But that would be true even for a white patient who had a disease (e.g. Addison’s) that caused his skin to overproduce melanin or any other pigment.

        The O2-sat meter story is well known. The discrepancy is small but can lead to errors if people put blind faith in the readings and lose situational awareness about the whole patient.

        Canada doesn’t collect any health statistics by race. But we didn’t have slavery here. YMMV.

        I think race as a concept is now more useful to the “racialized” than to the oppressor.

        1. Except that surveys show that medical professionals have a tendency to believe things like black people can stand more pain than white people and thus get less pain medication. That seems to be true regardless of the race of the care provider.

          So, turns out, race still oppresses in some ways, even among people with the best intentions.

          I used to do speeches in front of groups. I would often ask a simple question:
          By show of hands, who has ever been pulled over by the cops for no apparent reason?

          Ninety percent of the hands that went up would be black.
          Then I asked: “How many have had it happen more than once?”

          All the hands that went up were black. Some reported that it was a monthly occurrence it they were driving a nice car or in a white neighborhood.
          So I believe that black people have some legitimate complaints, still. We are better than we were, but there are still things to fix.

          1. I don’t believe your “surveys”. I have never encountered that belief. I honestly don’t know what you’re taking about. I don’t think you do either.

            The rest of your response has nothing to do with anything I said.

  25. In post #13 Roz observes: ” the top schools pressure us to compromise academic and personal integrity in the name of so-called “inclusion.” Lie or be irrelevant.” Maybe that is how woke power at the administrative level will
    continue to undermine the academic enterprise for many years, even after the worst of the woke clichés have gone out of style. In the late-lamented USSR, the precepts of Lysenkoism were enforced for less than 20 years. Yet Soviet biological research remained rather unproductive for many years afterward, which seems odd in view of the academic resources that seemed available. I suggest that this was a result of the promotion of careerist fakery during the relatively brief period of the Lysenkovshchina. I wonder if the US ivory tower is in for a repeat of this phenomenon, in many different
    fields, over perhaps the next five decades.

    1. I’m guessing that the best academic talent in STEM fields will flee to private corporations, or maybe even to other non-woke countries.

  26. In my experience, the folks that tend to use the “race is a social construct” in an argument are similar/the same to those that use “sex is a spectrum” or “sex is not a binary” in their argument. The underlying driving force is a need for “blank slatism” to be true. They simply do not like any heritability higher than zero percent! Same folks who believe that XXY existence means that there are more than two sexes.

    They confuse fuzzy borders and overlaps for either a completely random and/or an arbitrary construction – and performed by those in power against those without.

    1. If you are not in the medical profession, what does it do for you to know someone’s race?
      They said they are Race A. You can see very clearly that they are Race B. So what? How did that change your day?
      Same with gender. If you aren’t in the medical profession providing medical care, or looking to have sex with them, why do you care?

      1. That’s a bit of an odd way to look at things. A concept/idea does not have to serve me directly for me to think about it and believe in it as a concept/idea.
        I’m not a biologist either. I care because knowledge is a good thing.

        1. So it really doesn’t make any difference. Just another interesting piece of trivia. Hardly worth discussing, really.

          A quick read of history shows that isn’t the majority view. It’s a noble expression, but I have found that, more often than not, it isn’t really the truth.

          It also would not explain any part of the public discussion of race. Good for you. You are going to have small club meetings, though.

          1. What about in the case of transgender athletes, like Lia Thomas, who was recently nominated for NCAA’s woman of the year award for winning a women’s swimming championship – after competing on the men’s team from 2017 to 2020 with no comparable achievements?

            This phenomenon of biological males competing in women’s sports seems to be occurring with increasing frequency. Should the administrators of women’s sports teams, the biological females who are competing on those teams, and women’s rights activists not be concerned about this phenomenon because they are not in the medical profession? The biology of transgender athletes “doesn’t make any difference” to anyone outside of the medical profession or in the transgender mating pool?

            As for race: What about the case of Rachel Dolezal – the white woman who identified as a black woman, falsely claimed to have considerable Native American ancestry, and modified her appearance to appear nonwhite. She was an NAACP chapter president, and when her parents confirmed that she had been lying about her ancestry, many people of color were outraged. Should those who were outraged have thought that Dolezal’s true ancestry “doesn’t make any difference”?

  27. Some mental representations are released universally, such as knowing what a mother is, and by extension, what mothers are to other people. Some mental representations like money are strong social constructions, because what they represent is not itself a fact: there is nothing inherently valuable in printed paper, gold, or numbers on an ATM screen (i.e. the “moneyness” is not itself apparent). It arises out of social interactions that create money, and gives it meaning.

    Races are a form of weak social construction. They do arise out of facts, but the boundary is not just fuzzy, but also partially arbitrary. This arbitrariness is not the same as random: a community agrees which facts count, and which don’t. Genetic facts did play a major role, or for people ignorant of genetics, origin and heritage. But not exclusively, and consistently. Newly arrived Irish immigrants were not admitted into the club of “whites” in the USA, even though their origins, genetics or heritage was well within the parameters of what was accepted previously as white. Italians, likewise were not seen as a white. Indeed, southern Europeans can appear sufficiently different from pale Englishmen that they were often not seen as whites.

    And that’s the whole problem. Race realists play fast and loose with the race idea. For example, some feature like running fast is mentioned, but not all (or even most) members of the proposed race can run fast. It might be just one high altitude region that produced many prodigious speedsters, and that region just happens to be in Africa. It doesn‘t say anything about groups thousand miles away ostensibly of the same race, just because the intense sunlight turned their skin dark as well. Especially the “Big Races” are based on a few salient features, but they only work when you ignore all of the inconvenient rest, which is a whole lot. Mediteraneans were classically seen as “caucasians” mainly because the racists of the 19th century were fond of the classic antiquity, until such people showed up as poor immigrants. Are semites whites? What about Jews? To which race belong the people of India? There are a whole lot of them, and you’d be lying it’s clear where they belong. They aren’t like Europeans, despite indo-european roots, and they aren’t like Han Chinese or Koreans. What about the vast turkic peoples, who populated the landmass diagonally from Turkey north-east across Siberia.

    Nobody in their right mind denies that genes shape how someone looks like. Genetic clustering leads to similarities in appearance, which are then represented by population clusters in regions. Most humans for the longest time were surrounded by people who looked more like themselves, with people looking more different with longer distances, and across continents. But it’s not possible to construe meaningful “races” from such clusters. The keyword is meaningful. We can propose humans are split into two races — those who can move their ears and those who can’t. That is as much a fact, and yet it would be silly to go on this very far.

    1. Hah! Clearly someone who can’t wiggle their ears and is jealous of the natural superiority of those who can.

    2. “Newly arrived Irish immigrants were not admitted into the club of “whites” in the USA, even though their origins, genetics or heritage was well within the parameters of what was accepted previously as white. Italians, likewise were not seen as a white.”

      I’ve heard this claim repeatedly, but it seems false to me. I’ve looked at census records back to the year 1800, and Irish or Italians were never classified as anything but white. Restrictive covenants in some areas prevented people who weren’t white from living there, but Irish and Italians were not barred from those areas. More to the point, the United States originally restricted naturalization to “free white persons … of good character”, and Irish and Italians were able to become naturalized citizens.

      Perhaps there were some individuals who didn’t think Irish or Italians counted as white – though I’ve never heard of any specific ones – but it doesn’t seem to have ever characterized American society in the main.

      1. I double checked. I was wrong on that part, thanks for pointing out: on documentation and legally, they were listed as white, but people used to say things like “the anglo-saxon race”, “german race”, “jewish race” and so on. A “race” was understood as something as we’d call “ethnicity”. In other languages “race” was used like this, too, and it seems in the USA, which then still makes the point.

  28. An excellent 2005 NYT article by evolutionary biologist Armand Marie Leroi explains very well why the concept of race has a basis in genetics.

    He traces the still-prevalent social-construct idea in academia to a 1972 article where Richard Lewontin wrote that most human genetic variation can be found within any given “race”, and that if one looked at genes rather than faces, the difference between an African and a European would be scarcely greater than the difference between any two Europeans.

    Leroi counters that view thus:

    “But this is not true when the features are taken together. Certain skin colors tend to go with certain kinds of eyes, noses, skulls and bodies. When we glance at a stranger’s face we use those associations to infer what continent, or even what country, he or his ancestors came from—and we usually get it right. To put it more abstractly, human physical variation is correlated; and correlations contain information.”

    NYT link: https://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/14/opinion/a-family-tree-in-every-gene.html?smid=em-share

    1. Why would anyone have any use for that information if they weren’t providing medical care?

      “But this is not true when the features are taken together. Certain skin colors tend to go with certain kinds of eyes, noses, skulls and bodies.”

      Cool. Just list the particular shades, shapes of noses, skulls, and bodies and the required dimensions for any given race. At what point is there enough variation in that combination of those things that it defines a different “race?”

      The traditional standard is that one drop of black blood defines a black person. 99 drops of white blood won’t define them as white. So why does one drop outweigh all the others?

      Answer: They are a different race when they look different to us, and the only reason we need to know is to treat them differently because of it. We enjoy feeling superior to others, and race is a quick and easy way to make up a reason.

      And, they wouldn’t have had this argument back in the 60s. Everybody recognized it was arbitrary, and proud of it.

      1. That may have been the traditional answer in some areas. (In others it was greater than 1/8th or 1/16th.) But nowadays we have DNA analysis, which can predict a person’s self-identified race with over 99.9% accuracy. DNA reflects one’s ancestry, which is a prime criterion in the consideration of race.

        As for the question of where the boundaries are, well, that is arbitrary to some degree, but mostly not. No DNA clustering analysis would consider Danes and Swedes to be different races while considering Danes and Somalis to be the same race, because Danes and Swedes are much more closely related than Danes and Somalis are. You can choose how many clusters you want to find, but the boundaries between those N clusters are rigorously defined.

        The man on the street isn’t running DNA analyses, of course. Yeah, in that case it’s based on “looking different”, and that’s an inherently fuzzy criterion, but even if you have a hard time telling Chinese from Japanese (though they can tell each other apart), nobody has any trouble distinguishing between a Dane and a Somali. These rough distinctions aren’t too far off from what you’d get from a DNA analysis in most cases.

      2. I think you’re mistaken about two things. First, the basic concept underlying “race” — in its usages across history and different cultures — is that of shared-ancestry groupings. Visible characteristics are markers for that, but are not the underlying concept.

        Second, “race” arose as a concept because that (shared-ancestry groupings) is how humans are, it didn’t arise as a tool to oppress (it may have been used for that, but didn’t arise for that purpose).

        Thus, for example, the argument was not: We want to oppress those people there; how can we justify that? Let’s invent the concept of race and call them a different race. (This is obviously incorrect since you need the concept of difference to have the initial “those people there”.)

        Rather, given the existence of (obvious) shared-ancestry groupings (aka “races”), people then pointed to that as part of their justifications.

        1. Again, Coel is right on the money here in my view.
          I would just add, though I fear that I am merely stating the obvious, that humans have long grouped themselves and/vis-à-vis others based on a wide range of characteristics, including language, dress, culinary habits, degree of sedentarism and urbanism, religion and, of course, race, to name only a few. The word most often used with reference to these groupings is or has been ethnicity, though this term has also been challenged in recent years.

  29. There seems to be a lot of concern about the usefulness and historical vulgar definitions of race. These are independent of whether the concept of race has any biologic meaning.

    1. As near as I can tell, just about none of the public discussion is whether it has any actual biologic meaning. I don’t see a lot of doctors arguing about it.
      The ONLY reason it gets this much discussion is because of the historic and vulgar definitions of race.
      And, as near as I can tell, the biologic meanings don’t really match the social definitions, anyway.

      1. Ontology vs. epistemology. Our host is asking an ontological question about what is. All you care about is the epistemological questions about how do we know and why would we want to know. I think that if there is something to know, somebody will want to know it. Judge as you might.

        Yes. The public discussion about race is based on local (in place and time) social constructs. In the USA, because of the whole slavery thing, we have pretty much polarized to Black and White, oh and then Asians, Hispanix (joke), Native Americans (formerly yellow, brown, red). Just dumbing all the way down to supposed skin color, at least in nomenclature. Another place, another time, you get different groups being recognized as different ‘races’, perhaps emphasizing other phenottypic characteristics instead of or in addition to skin tone.

        Ah but see the thing is, those phenotypic characteristics being used to differentiate local social-construct ‘races’ do in fact owe to genetic differences which are inherited. So aggregate phenotype does–pretty much–reflect one’s geographic ancestry.

        Human genetic diversity is hierarchical; there are differences between villages in Wales and between Wales and England, Britain vs. the Continent (a problematic phrase), equally Japan vs. Taiwan, Europe vs. Asia, Old vs. New World. At what level of the hierarchy do you want to differentiate groups? You can have as many races as you want to have. Armand Leroi: “Race is merely a shorthand that enables us to speak sensibly, though with no great precision, about genetic rather than cultural or political differences…One could sort the world’s population into 10, 100, perhaps 1,000 groups”, and describes Europeans, Basques, Andaman Islanders, Ibos, and Castilians each as a “race” [source]

      2. Okay. I’ll say it.
        You can stop posting now. The repetition is killing me.
        There’s no movement in your view despite reams of ‘discussion’.
        You’re right. We’re idiots
        Typing fast doesn’t mean typing interesting.
        Okay – I’m clearly having a bad day, so feel free to come after me.
        Or better yet, post something different.

  30. Wokeness won’t go away. For 2 reasons: It has “infected” a generation of students now at their most formative time, and ….
    There is too much money, big time money, behind it AND TO BE MADE FROM IT!
    Those factors alone. Unfortunate but true.

  31. DEI should be reworked as DIE. Re-ordering those alleged desiderata yields an acronym which points to the fact that the dogma behind DIE causes the open discourse essential to scientific and social progress to die.

    There are a few victories for reason here and there to celebrate, but I fear David Anderson’s comment is true.

    1. Frances Widdowson, formerly tenured professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, called it DIE and got fired for it. It seems to have been part of the collegiality rap that allows colleges to fire tenured pressers for cause….after they’ve decided they don’t like your academic opinions which of course was the real reason for the boot.

      You are absolutely correct about the consequences of DEI.

  32. The only thing I’d like to say, not necessarily discuss, is that we, as Americans, deserve better. What the plutocrats want and the autocrats want and the theocrats want, is antithetical to what the Founders wanted and what the majority of Americans want. No one can speak for the Founders per se, but surely, the state of America today is more of a nightmare vision of their vision. We have a minimum of 4 SCOTUS justices who view the world through the lens of: the Christian God runs the world (and their version is the prude god who is a complete dick); the Constitution is immutable and we alone have the power to interpret it; the Constitution is directly linked to the Christian God, and I am here to make sure God’s will is established in America. This has been the decades work of the odious Federalist Society where ideology is paramount and God’s will is somehow above that. This is an extreme cancer to our body politic, and unfortunately, RvW is now the cancer’s metastasis; this way of thinking will continue rolling over the precedent laws of America that most Americans take for granted. Tumors will grow and spread.

    There are signs of folk waking up, but it’s slow. I know what Christian zealot nationalists believe and will die for, and it is scary shit. Guns are always involved. Now, they’re creating an America they believe a large segment of Americans will die for. That’s the tragedy. Religion and politics is a deadly mix, leading inexorably to violence.

    I’m posting w/o editing…just had to say something that’s been on me mind. sorry for any stupid word/grammar stupes.

    1. The Founders feared political parties or “factions” as they called them. They recognized that such a development could tear the country apart. Yet, the constitution they promulgated failed utterly in preventing the growth of political parties. This realization became apparent not very long after the Constitution went into effect. They would be aghast at how a theocratic minority has captured one political party that has gained power and is in position to impose its views on the majority.

      What drove the writers of the Constitution was to create a system whereby the ruling elite would remain in power while throwing enough crumbs to the masses to maintain social stability. The Constitution has had a mixed record in this regard. Of course, it failed utterly in preventing civil war. The planter elite was replaced by the industrial elite. But, nevertheless, an elite still ruled. Now, the Constitution is being tested once again. Can it remain the basis for maintaining social stability? An affirmative answer is very much in doubt.


    2. Well said Mark. Seems to me we are at a cusp in our history. The Christian authoritarian types have noticed for decades that their cultural dominance and power are waning, and that their decline is accelerating. They are going down and it’s fight or die time. CA groups like the Federalist Society and The Family were created purposely to infiltrate government and related institutions like the military, and a certain major party that was losing voters took them into their tent to use as a tool. The RP sort of lost control in later years. I think if we can hold on for just a few more years, probably less than 10 years, things could change rapidly for the better. Meaning both the CA’s and the RP could lose significant political power. If not I think we are in some seriously deep shit, like we turn into something more like Russia, a mafiacracy.

  33. I usually throw in a box of Good & Plenty to satisfy my sweet tooth and licorice love, but found myself purchasing one separately. $2.69???!!! I need to pay better attention. I paid for it but it will be my last…

  34. I think the term social construct is misunderstood and often misused. It helps to go back to Peter Berger’s The Social Construction of Reality. Berger’s point was that we construct, perpetuate or change social categories through our mutual interactions. The way we think about race in the US is definitely such an example. We defined race uniquely in American society to correspond solely with skin color and African descent. No other society with a history of involuntary immigration by enslaved Africans defined race purely by the hypo-descent rule. There is clearly a social category of race. I personally don’t like to use the term social construction because it is so overused and misused. I prefer to use “humanly devised institutions”. They are still real in a social sense. Drawing a distinction between biology and social category is tricky. Obviously, there are genes for skin color and genetic markers for African populations or European populations, etc. But physical appearance varies in Africa by many more factors than just skin color and not only Africans are black. This is a place where I think that Darwin’s emphasis on population thinking helps a lot. I prefer not to use race because it implies a level of essentialism and uniformity in populations that isn’t there. So if by race you mean a population with shared characteristics and some degree of common descent then I am OK with the term though you will create a lot of misunderstanding from people if you don’t define this to them very, very carefully. These populations also overlap and they are not really reproductively isolated. So in my view, there really is no such thing as a “black race” or a “white race”, etc. from a biological perspective. They are categories we created on the basis of phenotypic appearance with a focus on just one characteristic. I don’t think that any of the people emphasizing race as a social construction are really intending to say that skin color is not genetically based nor are they denying that there are characteristics of people with African or European descent. I think that people want to emphasize how the social understandings of race were create through human social action. I often think this blog would benefit from a better understanding of the social sciences-even if I agree with a substantial portion of what is written on it.

  35. Why would anyone buy chips? Surely you can cut a potato & fry them yourself?!

    Oh – you mean crisps… well, processed food, do not buy it!

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