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The pioneering German sociologist Max Weber coined a useful term:status symbol.

This refers not just to the distinctions in clothes and furniture lovingly catalogued by novelists such as Tom Wolfe. There are also status symbols in the realm of ideas.

Perhaps the two doctrines currently most de rigueur for entry into intellectual polite society:

1. That humanity evolved from lower animals according to the process of natural selection outlined by Charles Darwin.

2. That humanity has not evolved any patterns of genetic variation corresponding to geographic ancestry … well, none other than the obvious ones that we can all see.

These two concepts are directly contradictory, as former UCLA professor of science education Cornelius J. Troost points out in his new book Apes or Angels? Darwin, Dover, Human Nature, and Race.Troost’s title refers to how the British politician Benjamin Disraeli wittily rejected the first proposition in his day: “Is man an ape or an angel? My Lord, I am on the side of the angels”.

Yet, the two doctrines, self-annihilating as they may be, are tests of sanctity among the self-righteous of our day. For example,Christopher Hitchens asserted in the Wall Street Journal on January 18, 2008 in The Perils of Identity Politics” :

(Republished from VDare by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Creationism 
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Darwinophobia I

Andrew Ferguson’s March 19, 2001 Weekly Standard article “Evolutionary Psychology and its True Believers,” is representative of a general pattern of Darwinophobia found throughout the Right. It’s hard to think of a major conservative magazine that hasn’t embarrassed itself in recent years by running an article attacking Darwinism.

There are some good reasons for disliking some of Darwin’s modern descendants. The Village Atheist tub-thumping of Richard Dawkins, for instance, is completely unjustified by the science. Further, it’s obviously counterproductive, playing into the hands of the crudest Creationists. In 1999, I wrote two long essays for the National Post of Toronto on “Darwin’s Enemies on the Right and the Left.” In the first,A Miracle Happens Here: Darwin’s Enemies on the Right, I considered the religious question in some detail, concluding that atheistic biologists should learn more about cosmology before spouting off.

Still, it’s more than a little strange to see the Weekly Standard turning for guidance to Leftists who hate the very concept of “human nature” because it implies limits to the effectiveness of the social engineering that they want to force upon humanity. Steven Jay Gould and Company are the spiritual descendents of the anti-Darwin Lysenkoists who sent so many of the Soviet Union’s Darwinian geneticists to the Gulag. (My National Post article “Equality v. Truth: Darwin’s Enemies on the Left,” reviews the ongoing struggle between Darwinists and the Left.)

Ferguson trots out all their tired arguments against neo-Darwinism. For example, he approvingly quotes Anne Fausto-Sterling, “a geneticist and professor of women’s studies,” who poohs-poohs the idea that Darwinian selection caused men to favor quantity in mating partners while women favor quality. Ferguson summarizes her point as, “their ‘hypotheses’ about the origin of sexual roles can’t really be tested, as scientific theories are supposed to be.”

Anne and Andy, of course, miss the key point that lots of other scientific theories “can’t really be tested.” For example, you can’t reproduce Continental Drift in the lab. You can’t scoop up a few continents, go back a billion years, and then see if the same drift happens all over again.

Ferguson thrashes onward, quoting from his new-found pals:

“Return once more to female sexual coyness: Even if one grants that it is found across cultures, can we be certain that the trait is instinctual? ‘It seems just as plausible—if not more so—that these preferences derive from rational, conscious deliberation,’ writes the science writer John Horgan, in a thoughtful dissection of evolutionary psychology included in his recent book, The Undiscovered Mind. ‘By puberty, most females recognize that even if they employ contraception, they are at risk of becoming pregnant during a sexual encounter; it is thus quite rational for females to be more wary of casual sex than males are.’”

Just because you can’t test historical theories like Continental Drift or Darwinism in the lab, it doesn’t mean they aren’t testable. You just have to be more clever. You have to look for naturally occurring tests.

For example, many of us lived through an excellent test of Horgan’s theory that sex roles are not at all instinctual. The introduction of the birth control pill in 1964 and the legalization of abortion in 1970-1973 made having an unwanted baby a negligible risk to women. This lead to the late Sexual Revolution, as men temporarily persuaded many women that the only thing holding them back from the joys of random sex had been fear of pregnancy.

While this brief era provided all sorts of fun to Hugh Hefner, Wilt Chamberlain, and Warren Beatty, it proved much less emotionally and physically satisfying to the great majority of women. Therefore, in the Eighties, women greeted the arrival of AIDS (which never threatened middle class women to any appreciable degree) with tasteless gratitude, finding it the perfect excuse for retiring from the Sexual Revolution.

Of course, much of the wisdom that neo-Darwinians laboriously rediscover had never been lost by non-intellectuals, such as your grandmother, who made these truths about humanity the basis of her nagging.

In 2000, for example, evolutionists won worldwide headlines with the following stop-the-presses findings:

  1. Women like taller men. (“So stop slouching like a slob, young man!”)
  2. Rapists are often motivated by sexual desire. (“So stop dressing like a slut, young lady!”).

The biggest problem with contemporary neo-Darwinism is that – in its reigning “evolutionary psychology” version – it talks solely about sex in order to avoid to having to mention race. Real Darwinism, though, is essentially about two things: sex and race.

Charles Darwin did not dream up the Theory of Evolution. Many earlier thinkers, like his grandfather Erasmus Darwin and the great French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck, had proposed various schemes of gradual changes in organisms. Darwin’s contribution was the precise engine of evolution: selection. Lamarck, for example, had believed that giraffes possess long necks because their ancestors had stretched their necks to reach higher leaves. This stretching somehow caused their offspring to be born with longer necks. Darwin, however, argued that the proto-giraffes who happened to be born with longer necks could eat more and thus left behind more of their longer-necked children than the proto-giraffes unlucky enough to be born with shorter necks.

And what selection selects are hereditary genetic differences. In “The Descent of Man,” Darwin wrote, “Variability is the necessary basis for the action of selection.”

Consider the full title of Darwin’s epochal book: The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” It is hard to imagine two words that could get a scholar in worse trouble today than “Favoured Races.” But that term is not some deplorable Dead White European Maleism that we can scrape away to get down to Darwin’s multiculturally sensitive core idea. Not at all: “Favoured Races” is Darwin’s Big Idea. For if we didn’t differ genetically, selection could not act upon us. We would still be bacteria.

Note well, however, that Darwin wrote “Favoured Races,” not “Favoured Race.” Darwinism is no brief for some purported Master Race. It proposes not that one race is superior in all things, but that all races are superior in several things. That is how it accounts for the glorious diversity of life.

The unity and diversity of the human race are not contradictory ideas. In fact, considering the vast range of geographic and social environments found across the face of the Earth, the only way we could flourish in so many places yet retain our unity is to adapt endlessly. To stay one species, we have to be many races.

Here again Darwin clashes with the Left. While “diversity” and “equality” are both considered Good Things by multiculturalists, that does not make them synonyms. They are antonyms. The more environments we have been selected to adapt to, the more trade-offs selection has had to make.

Thus the more meaningless it is to boast that your group is supreme overall. But the more implausible it also is to expect all groups to be identically favored in each particular setting or skill –whether it is high altitude mountain climbing, engineering, charisma, running the 100 meters, or stand-up comedy.

Unfortunately, the inevitable conservatism of genuine neo-Darwinism made it so many enemies on Leftist-dominated campuses that anthropologists John Tooby and Leda Cosmides found it expedient to relaunch sociobiology under the new, improved brand name of “evolutionary psychology.” In a brilliant marketing ploy, they spin-doctored neo-Darwinism into academic acceptability by pronouncing themselves the truest True Believers in equality. They portrayed human nature as almost monolithically uniform, and proclaimed that science should only study human similarities.

Yet, except for identical twins, no two humans’ genetic codes are the same. So, exactly whose genes were they going to study? Stumped, the evolutionary psychologists responded with name-calling: Interest in human differences was deemed evil, or tedious, or insensitive, or just not done. This conservative-egalitarian party line soon had many smart people parroting silly ideas. For example, one of Steven Pinker’s evolutionary psychology bestsellers concluded, complete with italics: “… differences between individuals are so boring!

Since most highly-educated people are infected with the Platonic virus that makes them prefer to think in terms of nonexistent abstract certainties rather than reality’s fuzzy probabilities, few challenged the new orthodoxy of a homogenous human nature. The evolutionary psychologists themselves, however, soon found that while egalitarianism was a useful cover story, it was a largely useless methodology for learning about humanity. Ironically, but not surprisingly, evolutionary psychology has become primarily the study of sex differences.

Why? Because knowledge consists of contrasts. Information can be boiled down to that most basic of contrasts, the ones and zeroes of digital data, but it can’t be boiled down further to all ones. So, if we want to learn much about human nature, we’re going to need to compare different kinds of humans: male and female, sick and healthy, young and old, smart and stupid, gay and straight, tall and short, black and white, and so forth. They all deserve respect as manifestations of human nature’s rich diversity. (See my National Post article “The Future of Human Nature” for a discussion of what this implies for the future when genetic engineering becomes more advanced.)

If you have a fairly fast web connection, probably the best introduction to the implications of honest neo-Darwinism is my Thatcher Speech Web Presentation. This provides the text and the amusing slides from a speech I gave at a Hudson Institute conference hosted by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog.]

(Republished from VDare by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Creationism 
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Darwinophobia II

Scientific knowledge about the human race is accumulating so quickly that two influential American magazines have felt it necessary to run major articles trying to divert attention away from the true nature of what is being learnt.

An April 2001 Atlantic Monthly profile by Steve Olson of populationgeneticist L.L. Cavalli-Sforza (“The Genetic Archaeology of Race“) is basically a press release from the Cavalli-Sforza Ministry ofPropaganda. It is an uncritical rehash of the great race scientist’s long-running ploy of trying to defend his research projects from his enemies on the left by issuing transparently illogical attacks upon his admirers on the right.

Even more dubious is Andrew Ferguson’s “Evolutionary Psychology and its True Believers” in The Weekly Standard of March 19, 2001. Having signally failed to halt the growth of neo-Darwinism via his earlier angry reviews of books by Steven Pinker and Francis Fukuyama,Ferguson, realizing that he’s outgunned scientifically, turns now to the neo-Lysenkoist Left for expert support. Darwinophobia makes for some strange bedfellows, but few stranger than seeing Marxist warhorse Stephen Jay Gould, peecee biologist Steven Rose, lesbian avenger Anne Fausto-Sterling, and their ilk quoted admiringly in thepages of T he Weekly Standard.

(This is totally off the topic, but does anybody have a theory why practically half the guys who write about genetics are named “Steve?”)

I’ve written several articles before on the strengths and weaknesses of both Cavalli-Sforza’s work and evolutionary psychology. In this column, I’ll offer a few new comments on the Atlantic article, and offer links to my earlier efforts. I’ll then follow up with a review of T heWeekly Standard piece next time.

Let’s first consider Cavalli-Sforza’s disinformation campaign.

The Atlantic article begins:

“Over the past decade or so genetics researchers have beenundermining the widespread belief that groups of people differ genetically in character, temperament, or intelligence. They have shown that all human beings are incredibly similar genetically—much more so than other species of large mammals. They have revealed the folly of attributing group behavioral differences to biology rather than culture.”

This is 180 degrees flat wrong. What the journalist never reveals is that Cavalli-Sforza, the ventriloquist behind his astounding assertions, has practically no professional expertise on this question whatsoever. C-S has carefully avoided studying genes that influence “character, temperament, or intelligence.” Cavalli-Sforza only researches “junk genes” that don’t do anything.

Cavalli-Sforza has a perfectly good scientific reason for this. He wants to understand the family tree of the races. For this, he needs to track similarities and differences among genes that are caused solely by random mutations, and are passed on without alteration from generation to generation. These tell-tale mutations provide hereditary”fingerprints” that can be used to show that, say, most Malagasys on Madagascar off the east coast of Africa are surprisingly closely related to Malayo-Indonesians, four thousand miles east across the Indian Ocean. (Indeed, Madagascar was largely settled by Southeast Asians who rafted that incredible distance in ancient times.) This is wonderful stuff to find out.

What Cavalli-Sforza can’t use in his research are genes that actually do anything. Genes that help you survive and reproduce are not passed on as automatically as neutral genes. Instead, Darwinian selection – natural, sexual, and artificial – is constantly causing changes in gene “alleles” among active genes. Unlike junk genes, important genes change to adapt to local climates and cultures. And that would screw up C-S’s genealogies.

To take an obvious example, tropic peoples in Africa, South India, and some parts of New Guinea and Melanesia tend to have very dark brown skin, suggesting they have similar genes in this regard. That does not mean, however, that they are closely related genealogically.They may have separately evolved a single similar trait – near-black skin – as a response to similar climates. (And, indeed, while Africans and Melanesians tend to behave quite similarly, the dark brown computer programmers from Bangalore are definitely the odd men out of this trio.)

Similarly, muscular West Africans and Samoans from the Pacific areboth heavily over-represented in the NFL, but the genetic similarities that make them formidable football players don’t imply that they are close cousins. Darwinian selection has simply created two racial groupsthat turn out to be similar genetically in football talent. Yet West Africans and Samoans are, according to Cavalli-Sforza’s study of neutral genes, located extremely far apart on the human race’s family tree.

Thus, when Cavalli-Sforza starts issuing obiter dicta about how genetic differences can’t cause behavioral differences, he is talking through his hat. He is simply ignorant on the subject, as you can quickly notice from the obvious mistakes of fact and logic in his writings and those of his acolytes.

For example, the Atlantic article makes the following astoundingly lame argument for why genetic differences in intelligence among races can’t exist, when genetic differences in skin color obviously do exist: “Skin color is determined by a handful of genes … The development of the brain involves thousands of genes…”

Well, so what?

Dogs’ brains also involve thousands of genes, yet dog breeds differ radically in intelligence and personality. Take a look some time at Stanley Coren’s fun ranking of the working intelligence of dog breeds,from the whip-smart Border Collie to the dumb as a tree stump Afghan Hound.

I can certainly forgive Cavalli-Sforza for playing such a devious game to protect his funding from leftist zealots. But I won’t help him play it.

My earlier VDARE articles on Cavalli-Sforza:

Stanford’s Luigi Cavelli-Sforza says race doesn’t exist. He just spends his life studying it.

“Cavalli-Sforza II: Seven Dumb Ideas About Race”

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and

movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog.]

(Republished from VDare by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Creationism 
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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, VDARE.com columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.


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