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Dear Jim: [Email Jim Manzi]

I’ve thought some more about why your National Review cover story Escaping the Tyranny of Genes,” [June 2, 2008], into which you clearly put a lot of effort, is getting such a skeptical reaction from the small number of people whose respect you should worry about. (Forexample, I’m told that Richard Lynn, when he came to the part about the Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study, simply stopped reading your article.)

I think I’ve figured out how you went off track.

You started with the reasonable goal, one that I’ve pursued myself several times, of trying to criticize the pop journalism about genetics that has been common for the last 15 years. There have been repeated sloppy headlines about the discovery of “A Gene for … Homosexuality (or Happiness or Infidelity or Whatever) “. Some of those “Gene for” headlines have turned out to be wrong.

For example, gay geneticist Dean Hamer got enormous publicity in 1993 when he declared he had found “The Gay Gene” (at least for men). This was hugely popular in the media for a while because a genetic cause for homosexuality is politically correct—it’s assumed to be a rebuke to Christians. But 15 years later, you never hear muchanymore about Hamer’s “discovery”.

It’s probably not very true. As physicist turned evolutionary theorist Greg Cochran has argued since the 1990s, it’s unlikely that a gene for gayness could evolve, because gay men have so fewer children.

Similarly, the hunt for genes that cause fatal diseases has been going slower than expected, probably because, as English science writer Matt Ridley pointed out, your genes didn’t evolve to kill you.

Your NR article didn’t spell out what bad effects you expect to be caused by credulous science journalism. When you were pushed toclarify your fears in the comments section of The American Scene blog, you wrote:

“I suspect that the analogous policies that might beestablished if an (incorrect) view of the linkage between gene patterns and mental characteristics and capabilities became more widely and deeply entrenched would be unpredictable, but more likely to be related to the relaxation of the notion of personal responsibility—replacing justice with therapy, greater paternalism in constraining economic, political and lifestyle decisions for those who are ‘unable’ to exercise ‘true’ choice, targeting government services based on genetic content and so on.”

That’s pretty vague. But perhaps you fear a “liberal therapeutic regime” rather like the one Anthony Burgess described in A Clockwork Orange, where the young thug Alex, rather than being locked up, is conditioned into not liking violence anymore.

Unfortunately, you didn’t spend much time at all on these valid examples of weak pop journalism that might support your thesis that the press is overemphasizing genetic explanations. Instead, you chose to devote a huge amount of space to a single example—race and IQ—so incredibly ill-chosen as a case study for your argument that it has proven disastrous to the reception of your article.

As we all know, but you ignored to your credibility’s severe detriment, much as the mainstream media want to hear about the Gay Gene andsuch, they do NOT want to hear about racial differences in IQ. And, the MSM especially do not want to hear about evidence for genetic causes for racial differences in IQ. How many voices in the press stood up to defend America’s most eminent living scientist, James Watson, when he got fired last year? (Answer: none—and notably not National Review).

Moreover, the small number of race-and-IQ researchers, the Arthur Jensens and Charles Murrays, are not slapdash Dean Hamers goingwith the flow of popular opinion. They tend to be cautious and careful scientists aware that they are infringing elite taboos by carrying out unpopular studies certain to be picked at by legions of hostile critics.

Real IQ scientists, like Cochran and Henry Harpending, authors of the 2005 theory [PDF] attempting to explain the evolution of high average IQs among Ashkenazi Jews, are generally close students of the theory of natural selection. So they are less likely to fall for evolutionarily dubious ideas like the Gay Gene.

The evidence for a genetic link between IQ and race is broad but not conclusive. For example, Jensen and Rushton’s 2005 summary paper [Thirty Years Of Research On Race Differences In Cognitive Ability(PDF)] listed, I believe, ten different lines of non-genetic evidence for a genetic link.

Occam’s Razor, which tells us that the simplest explanation is most likely right, suggests that Jensen and Rushton are probably correct, especially because there is so little evidence for the more sociallyacceptable opposite view.

You mention Sandra Scarr‘s Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study,but what you don’t mention is that it was originally trumpeted in the 1980s as proof of closing of the racial gap through improved homeenvironments for black children. (The adoptive fathers averaged a year of grad school each.) When the black adoptees were tested as 7-years-olds, they averaged around 100. This was a very popular study at the time.

Then when Scarr went back and retested the kids when they were teenagers, their average IQs only came out to 89. This was horrible news and so she buried it in her subsequent paper. Nobody noticed what had actually happened except a CCNY philosopher named Michael Levin, who publicized the actual results.[Comment on the Minnesotatransracial adoption study. Intelligence , 19 , 13-20, 1994]This led poor Dr. Scarr to do a lot of soul searching. [PDF]

There is the Flynn Effect—the tendency for average IQs to rise over time—which shows we don’t fully understand IQ. But otherwise, even though any social scientist who could publish a valid study showing the race gap in IQ could be eliminated would become an academic superstar, there is remarkably little evidence supporting theconventional wisdom. Thus, when James Flynn debates Murray, he ends up harping on Eyferth’s unreplicated 1959 study of the childrenof black American soldiers and German women for lack of anything better to cite in the way of positive evidence.

But the Jensens and Murrays do NOT claim they’ve proven their case. They hope to live long enough to see the genome analyses dramatically lower the uncertainty level.

Murray said in 2003 that we’ll know from the genome studies one way or another within a few decades. James Watson guesstimated in 2006 that it would take 15 years, but on second thought decided it might be as little as ten.

In the long run, the number of years or decades doesn’t much matter. We’ll find out, one way or another.

Hence, your race-IQ example is precisely backwards and undermines the point of your article.

Jim, I imagine you are upset at present that your article has elicited so much scoffing. I hope this helps you understand where your chain ofargument derailed itself—so you can get back on track in the future.

[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: Human Genome 
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Symptomatic of the intellectual and moral decline of National Review into just another dispenser of theconventional wisdom is its latest cover story Escaping the Tyranny of Genes, [June 2, 2008], an ambitious but remarkably muddled attack on the human sciences.

(Republished from VDare by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Human Genome 
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Through genetic selection and modification, we will be soon be able to transform human nature, for better . . . or worse.

Some find this exciting. I find it mostly alarming.

The good news: we still have time to figure out what the physical, psychological, and social impacts of these gene-altering technologies might be – by studying naturally-occurring human genetic diversity.

The bad news: we won’t fund research into existing human biodiversity – because it’s politically incorrect.

Genetic engineering, and associated technologies such as neural implants, is explored in two new books.

Microsoft programmer Ramez Naam, author of More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement, never seems to have met an idea for fiddling around with our genes that he didn’t like. I find his optimism likable even though I don’t share it. Unfortunately, the numerous small errors of fact in his book saps confidence in his overall reliability.

In contrast, Washington Post reporter Joel Garreau – known to VDARE.COM readers as author of the provocative The Nine Nations Of North America – can’t seem to make up his mind in his upcoming Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies—and What It Means to Be Human.

Garreau evenhandedly interviews futurist cheerleaders, like inventor Ray Kurzweil, who takes hundreds of nutritional supplements daily as part of his plan for living forever, and doomsayers, like Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy, who fears that genetically manipulated germs could wipe out all of humanity.

(The inaptly named Joy strikes me as a Gloomy Gus. But, just in case some apocalyptic catastrophe does transpire, it would make sense to pay a couple of dozen military families to live for two year stretches at the bottom of a Kansas salt mine, from which, if the worst were to happen, they could eventually re-emerge like Noah’s family to repopulate the planet.)

What Naam and Garreau can agree upon is that the post-human age will be here Real Soon Now.

I’m not so certain. Medicine progresses slowly these days. But I am sure that that it’s time to start getting serious about whether we want it or not.

The situation oddly resembles the political impact of immigration. When I first started writing about immigration, it was widely assumed thatthe Hispanic share of the vote had become so huge that it was political suicide to try to cut back on immigration. Yet closer study showed this was far from true.

For example, in the overall 2004 exit poll, the un-massaged Hispanic share of the respondents turned out to be only 5.9 percent, far below the 8 or 9 percent forecast by Michael Barone.

Similarly, when it comes to human bioengineering, the future hasn’t yet gone through the formality of taking place.

We still have time to figure out what we want to do and what we don’t.

But how? Answer: By studying honestly the human genetic diversity we see all around us – and learning how it already affects society.

Unfortunately, political taboos against the study of human biodiversity retard this crucial work.

Occasionally, I get emails telling me I’m foolish to worry about the long term effects of immigration because genetic engineering will soon give us all IQs of 1,000 … or we’ll live forever … or robots will take over and enslave us … or nanotechnology will make us all richer than Croesus … or nanotechnology will run amok and suck all the life out of everything on Earth … or …

But technological trees don’t always grow to the sky. Consider the rise and fall of the Transportation Revolution. From the development ofthe steamship to the moon landing took less than 170 years. Smart science fiction writers like Robert A. Heinlein assumed that this progress would continue.

Yet, in the last quarter of a century, the greatest breakthrough in transportation technology has been, what, the minivan? The Concorde is dead, the Space Shuttle is teetering …

Nor do technical revolutions always arrive on time. Medical gene engineering of humans has been much slower to become usable than many assumed a decade ago.

One problem: getting the effectiveness to risk level high enough. Operating on humans isn’t like engineering corn or mice, where youcan throw away your mistakes.

Another difficulty: although there was a vast amount of publicity back in 2000 about how the genome had been “mapped,” we still don’t know what most genes actually do.

Moreover, while a few diseases, such as sickle cell anemia and Huntington’s, are the result of a single bad gene, the big bad illnesses seem to have other causes. Indeed, Darwinian logic, as first enunciated by Gregory Cochran, suggests we might have been focusing too hard on finding heritable genetic causes for diseases. In the words of top British genetic journalist Matt Ridley, “Your genes don’t exist to kill you.”

A new report called Microbial Triggers of Common Human Illness from the American Academy of Microbiology supports Cochran’s insight that many diseases that are assumed genetic maymore likely be triggered by germs.

That’s because natural selection would tend to eliminate harmful genes in us, but pathogens evolve at least as fast as our defensesagainst them.

Your genes haven’t evolved to make you sick, but to give you capabilities to survive and reproduce. So genetic technologies might be more suited to enhance skills than to cure illnesses.

Yet some capacities are likely to require many genes working together in complex ways, so the payoff from altering a single gene would be small. Superstar cognitive scientist Steven Pinker has said, “I think an Achilles heel of genetic enhancement will be the rarity of single genes with consistent beneficial psychological effects.”

Considering the intricacy of the human brain, this is particularly likely to be true of intelligence, which would make engineering higher IQsdifficult.

Conversely, single genes often have multiple uses, which means that genetic engineering could often have unfortunate side effects.

For example, back in 1999, Time Magazine ran a cover story called “The I.Q. Gene? about how Dr. Joe Tsien had genetically engineered “Doogie” mice to have superior memories.

But subsequent studies showed the Doogie mice (named after the supersmart TV character Doogie Howser, M.D.) are also more sensitive to chronic inflammatory pain, which isn’t a trait you’d want your children to possess.

Farmers have been modifying their barnyard animals’ genetic frequencies for thousands of years through selective breeding. One of the many interesting aspects of the new book Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior by animal sciences professor Temple Grandin, who is America’s best known autistic, is how she documents some of the weird things that go wrong when breeders emphasize a single genetic trait.

For example, don’t expect Lassie to figure out anymore that the way to rescue little Timmy from the quicksand is by extending a long branch to him. Since WWII, collie breeders have been trying to give collies narrower and narrower snouts because they look so darn elegant that way. Unfortunately, they made their skulls so narrow there is no room left for brains. Collies are now dumb as a box of rocks.

Side effects can be more unpredictable and even nastier. In recent years, as chicken ranchers have bred for more meat on their birds,they’ve had to deal with an unprecedented rash of rooster sexmurderers who kill hens.

In humans, Cochran has pointed out that torsion dystonia, a hereditary illness which puts about 10 percent of its sufferers in wheelchairs at anearly age, may be a side effect of intense selection pressure for higher IQ. In one study, the average IQ of patients was 122.

So parents may not rush into genetic engineering their children quite as fast as the futurists expect.

Futurists—being smart, nerdy guys—generally assume that the most desirable human trait is IQ.

But we can look right now at racial groups with higher average IQs, such as Northeast Asians and Ashkenazis, to get some idea of the social impact of high IQ.

Higher IQ groups tend to exhibit positive social patterns such as low crime rates and high wealth creation rates. Unfortunately, what Amy Chua calls market dominant minorities haven’t always been looked upon favorably by the masses. Top IQ researcher LindaGottfredson points out in her important article “What If the Hereditarian Hypothesis Is True?” that “Virtually all the victim groups of genocide in the 20th century had relatively highaverage levels of achievement (e.g., German Jews, educated Cambodians, Russian Kulaks, Armenians in Turkey, Ibos in Nigeria).”

Among average people, it is not at all clear that intelligence is considered as desirable as desirability. I suspect that most parents would choose attractiveness over intelligence for their children, because being able to outcompete your peers for the best spouse is so important, especially in making grandchildren, that looks matter greatly.

Heinlein might have been the first thinker to explore some of the consequences.

In his prescient 1942 novel about a genetically engineered future,Beyond This Horizon, the world is populated by fairly intelligent but extremely sexy people straight out of a Hollywood casting call.

The men are manly and the ladies lovely. The men are so macho, in fact, that no gentleman would be seen without his gun, and dueling has made a major comeback. The strict code of etiquette that limits when these square-jawed bravos are allowed to blast away at each other inspired Heinlein’s famous remark, “An armed society is a polite society.”

As insightful as the best science fiction writers are, we can learn the pros and cons of a higher testosterone future society right now byexamining the social behavior of current racial groups with higher levels of male hormones and stronger male hormone receptors, such as African-Americans.

But, that kind of research on naturally occurring genetic diversity is largely taboo. Instead, we will probably walk blindly into the era of genetic engineering.

Good luck to us all. We’re going to need it.

[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: Human Genome 
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Using ever improving molecular techniques, population geneticists study the history of extended families that are inbred to some degree. In other words, they trace the genealogies of racial groups. It’s an inherently fascinating subject, and science journalist Steve Olson introduces it adequately in his new book, Mapping Human History: Discovering the Past Through Our Genes (Houghton Mifflin Co. $25). Written in the breezy style of a National Geographic travel-log, Olson’s book is a quick read, but a little too superficial to be intellectually satisfying. Still, it’s not a bad overview of an important subject.

It would be better, though, without the recurrent political sermonizing.Unfortunately for population geneticists, their subject matter—race—is vastly unfashionable. So, the dean of the field, Stanford’s great L.L. Cavalli-Sforza long ago developed the transparent subterfuge of defining the word “race” in the most ludicrous straw-man terms possible—as the classification of the human race into absolutelyseparate, never-overlapping, mutually exclusive categories—thus allowing himself to deny the biological meaningfulness of race. (Never specified is exactly who today believes such a thing: the Grand Kleagle’s retarded brother, perhaps?) Still, it allows Cavalli-Sforza to get back to work without being crucified for political incorrectness, so we shouldn’t hold it against him.

As I pointed out last year in my response to Olson’s Atlantic Monthlyarticle about Cavalli-Sforza, the journalist never seems to grasp that this is just pro forma boilerplate. In his book, Olson stops every few pages to tell you that there are no races that have been absolutely isolated genetically since the beginning of time because—you will be shocked, shocked to learn this—humans have been known to outbreed. (The reality of course is that for any human racial group, the inbreeding glass is both part empty and part full.) This makes Mapping Human History rather like a geology book that repeatedly admonishes the reader that the Earth is not flat.

I shouldn’t criticize Olson too harshly even though his attacks on the science of physical anthropology are certainly unfair. Sure, the old “bone guys” made mistakes, but by Carleton Coon’s 1965 book The Living Races of Man, they had arrived—just by looking at bones, visible features, and a few rudimentary genetic markers—at a racial map of contemporary humanity that is quite similar to what Cavalli-Sforza came up with using molecular analysis in his 1994 magnum opus The History and Geography of Human Genes. In fact, the molecular anthropologists’ most important new finding was much more politically incorrect than what Coon had believed. Coon saw Caucasoids as more similar to Negroids than to Mongoloids. Coon argued that the fundamental division of humanity ran north-south along the great mountain ranges of Central Asia, with whites and blacks on the west and oriental peoples on the east. In contrast, the population geneticists see the great divide running east-west through the Sahara. Cavalli-Sforza wrote, “The most important conclusion inthis section is that the greatest difference within the human species is between Africans and non-Africans …”

Still, Olson’s a half-hearted amateur at crushing distorted straw mencompared to the most celebrated popularizer and politicizer of science, the late Stephen Jay Gould. That literary stylist perfected the rhetorical device of discrediting ideologically inconvenient modern sciences—such as the study of IQ, which he attempted to exterminate in his best-seller The Mismeasure of Man (see Arthur Jensen’s response “TheDebunking of Scientific Fossils and Straw Persons“)—by pointing out mistakes made by practitioners in the distant past. If, for example, Gould’s Marxian philosophy had made him dislike the discoveries ofmodern geology, he would no doubt have demonstrated that we can’t trust anything geologists tell us because earlier geological theorists had concluded that the world rests on the back of a giant turtle.

Another curious feature that Olson’s book shares with many other contemporary writings about population genetics is the author’s apparent longing for the abolition of his own subject matter via universal random interbreeding. Although animal and plant biodiversity is routinely celebrated as a supreme good, the conclusions of books on human biodiversity tend to treat it as a temporary evil that will soon be gone, and good riddance to it. It’s as if that geology textbook endedwith an ode to the blessed day when the Earth will plunge into the Sun, thus happily eliminating the need for a science of geology.

In his final chapter, “The End of Race,” Olson cites Hawaii as exemplifying the future of the human race. Still, not even Hawaii hasachieved racial nirvana. Among residents of that lovely state, social class correlates positively with the average latitude of one’s ancestors’ homelands. People who trace their descent primarily to New England, Japan, or China tend to be at the top of the ladder. ThePortuguese and Filipinos are generally farther down, and Polynesians are near the bottom. Despite interracial marriage blurring the ethnic boundaries, the Native Hawaiians are now campaigning hard to have themselves declared a sovereign nation like American Indian tribes. (The right to run casinos in Hawaii would be lucrative, to say the least.)

On a vaster scale, Brazil exhibits the same tendency for class to correlate with color, and for the people at the bottom of the pile to agitate, not unreasonably, for race-based privileges for themselves. Currently, the government of Brazil is introducing racial quotas in response to black demands.

Further, the mixing of races often leads to new races rather than to noraces, such as the “triracial isolate” communities that are found in the backwoods of the East Coast. The official ideology of Mexico is that the mixing of Spaniards and Indians created “La Raza” (“The Race”), also known as The Cosmic Race. (Here is my article on the population genetics of Mexico.)

This notion that the entire world will soon consist of one beige race is both highly popular and highly dubious. I see little statistical evidence to suggest that there will be significantly greater racial admixture in either Asia or Africa anytime in the 21st Century … and that’s where most humans will live.

For example, the UN’s best guess is that China will have 1,462 million people in 2050. The Chinese government shows no intention of ever admitting many immigrants, so the racial admixture level in China will not change perceptibly. The UN also projects that in 2050, India will have a population of 1,572 million. Almost all of these people will be racially descended from current Indians. Why? Well, who would want to move to India? It’s a country that’s more than full now, even before it adds another half billion people. Moreover, the average Hindu wouldn’t even dream of marrying the 98% of other Hindus who don’t belong to his particular caste and regional subcaste, so Hindus aren’tsuddenly going to start marrying vast numbers of non-Hindus from distant lands.

Other populous countries that—trust me—won’t be attracting huge numbers of immigrants from other continents include Pakistan (344 million in 2050), Indonesia (311 million), Nigeria (279 million), Bangladesh (265 million), the Congo (204 million), and Yemen and Uganda (102 million each). In other words, the absolute numbers of racially distinct East Asians, blacks, and non-European Caucasians will be larger in 2050 than today.

Most of the growth in racial mixing will be restricted to regions whereintermarriage has been a long tradition (primarily Latin America and some remote islands) or are immigrant magnets (presumably North America, Australia, and Western Europe).

In essence, what is so enthusiastically anticipated is the admixture ofpeople of European descent. Evidently, there is something uniquely, even superhumanly evil and dangerous about European DNA that means it must be diluted. Strikingly, the greatest enthusiasts for this view tend to be highly European themselves. (Olson, for example, isblond.) This reflects that weird combination of racial self-loathing and racial egotism found in so many white intellectuals. A psychologist once said that alcoholics are egomaniacs with low self-esteem who see themselves as the turds around which the universe revolves. Post-modern whites tend to indulge in the same warped world-view.

Finally, I doubt that the Tiger Woodsification of Europeans will proceed all that quickly. I don’t think it’s at all inevitable that Eastern Europe will open its borders to non-Europeans. Prudent statesmen in the ex-Communist countries will be wary of reproducing Western Europe’s travails with hostile immigrant minorities, although the European Union will no doubt try to bully them into sharing their folly.

So, the odds are that—on a global scale—the current races will remain at the end of this century almost as distinct as they are today. Then, beyond 2100, DNA engineering and, perhaps, interstellar colonization will likely radically alter genetic differences among humans.

So, while a better book than this one could certainly be written aboutrace, you can feel confident that if you do invest the modest amount of time required to read Olson’s effort, you don’t have to worry that its subject matter will suddenly evaporate.

[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: Human Genome 
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Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes, author of The Seven Daughters Of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry just might have what it takes to become another Carl Sagan or Louis Leakey – that rare scientist with both the scientific skills and genius for self-promotion needed to make himself a household name.

Sykes has many talents, as well as some useful vices. As this book shows, he’s a fine popular science writer. He also has a sizable ego and a flair for self-dramatization that annoys other scientists but appeals to the public. He often tends to portray himself in The SevenDaughters as a Galileo single-handedly doing battle with the benighted masses of anthropologists and geneticists like Stanford’s distinguished L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, who, according to Sykes’ not exactly neutral account, just didn’t want to admit the importance of his mitochondrial DNA research.

Most importantly, though, Sykes has grasped a simple fact about population genetics that resounds emotionally with the average person, yet has largely eluded most learned commentators. Namely,genes are the stuff of genealogy. Each individual’s genes are descended from some people, but not from some other people. Thus,Sykes discovered, people often feel a sense of family pride and loyalty to others, living and dead, with whom they share some DNA.

Further, if you read between his lines, you can readily understand why – despite all the propaganda that “race does not exist” – humanity will never get over its obsession with race: Race is Family. A racial group is an extremely extended family that is inbred to some degree.

In fact, people are so interested in tracing their family connections that Sykes has gone into business for himself. He started a for-profit firm OxfordAncestors.com. “Discover your ancestral mother,” he advertises. For $220 he’ll trace your DNA (actually, a particular set of your specialized mitochondrial DNA) back to one of the seven StoneAge women who are the ancestors in the all-female line of 95% of all white Europeans.

Sykes calls these “the Seven Daughters of Eve.” (He’s piggybacking on the much-publicized concept of the primordial “Mitochondrial Eve” from whom all women are supposedly descended.) One of his sales slogans: “Which daughter was your ancestor?”

(If you happen to be from a non-European race, well, Sykes has got 27 other matrilineal clans sketchily worked out for you. Still, the Eurocentric, cashocentric Sykes tends to treat those non-Caucasian ancient mothers as if they were The Twenty-Seven Stepdaughters of Eve.)

Some scientists are appalled by Sykes’ shameless entrepreneurialism. Myself, I think that the self-effacing saints like the late William D. Hamilton (the greatest theoretical biologist of the 20th Century and the genius behind more famous biologists like Edward O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins) and the attention-seekers like Sykes both serve useful purposes in advancing science.

The key to Sykes’ business is that within a particular set of stable “junk DNA” in the mitochondrial code, mutations happen every 10,000 years on average. Last spring, in “Darwinophobia I,” I explained why junk genes are so useful to geneticists studying individual or racial genealogies, yet so useless to the bodies they inhabit since they don’t do anything. But these genes’ uselessness means they aren’t subject to Darwinian selection. So they are passed on unchanged, except by random mutations.

Of course, precisely because population geneticists like Sykes and Cavalli-Sforza study only useless genes that don’t do anything, they don’t have anything credible to say about useful genes, like the ones that influence IQ. To learn about nonjunk genes, you need to read behavior geneticists like twin expert Nancy Segal or intelligence gene finder Robert Plomin.

Without going into the technical details, a study of mitochondrial DNA allows you to track the line of purely female descent in your genealogy. This is the opposite of the “paternal line of descent” by which your surname came down to you. (The male line can be tracked through tests of the Y chromosome.) The maternal line is yourmother’s mother’s mother’s etc. – all female, all the way back.

You can visualize your maternal line this way. Mentally lay out your family tree, with you at the bottom. Place your father above you to the left and your mother above you to the right. Fill in all your grandparents, great-grandparents, and so forth, always keeping themales to the left in each pair. Then, the matrilineal line of descent is the extreme right edge of your family tree (just as your last name comes from the extreme left edge).

Sykes has put together a chart of these functionally trivial but genealogically interesting mutations that allow him to state, for example, that the woman who claimed to be Anastasia Romanov (who was portrayed by Ingrid Bergman in her Oscar-winning performance in Anastasia) could not have been the daughter of the Czarina murdered by Lenin.

(Of course, considering how many surviving members of the Romanov extended family she fooled into thinking she was Anastasia, the possibility remains that she might still have been some kind of biological relative of the Romanovs. Perhaps she was fathered illegitimately by a member of the Czar’s side of the family. Neither Sykes’ matrilineal test, nor a Y chromosome patrilineal test can rule that out.)

Sykes has identified seven mitochondrial mutations of particular genealogical importance. Logically, for each mutation there existed an individual woman.

Who were these seven women? They weren’t the only women alive at the time. They probably weren’t even the first ones to be born with their distinctive mutant junk gene. Each of the seven daughters is simply the first after the appearance of their mutation to have a daughter who had a daughter who had a daughter and on and on in anunbroken line of female descent down to the present day. They are special only in the rather arbitrary genealogical sense of each being on the extreme right edge of the family tree of tens of millions of modernEuropeans.

For example, Sykes estimates that the oldest of his Seven Daughters lived about 45,000 years ago. Judging from the archaeological record and from where her descendents are found today, he guessed that she lived in Greece. Then, going completely off the deep end, he decides to name her “Ursula.” He even appends a fictional chapter about what life was like for this purported Ursula in a bison-hunting tribe. He does the same for the other six matrilineal forbears.

Obviously, these seven chapters owe as much to Clan of the Cave Bear and the novels of James Michener as they do to hard science. Forinstance, we don’t even know whether humans 45,000 years had names – they might not yet have had much in the way of language.

Still, while Sykes doesn’t write as engrossingly as Michener did, he’s not bad at all for a lab scientist. Controversial as these fictional chapters are, they do provide some of Michener’s didactic virtues.

Significantly, it turns out that people can’t help caring, emotionally, about who is in their family tree as far back as 1,800 generations ago. As Sykes says, “When two people find out that they are in the same clan they often experience this feeling of connection. Very few can put it into words, but it is most definitely there.”

Humans may be hardwired to care about their genetic relatives. Of course, having family feeling toward somebody 45,000 years distant would appear to be a little too much of a good thing! (Natural instincts are often taken to extremes in modern settings.)

I suspect that women tend to be more interested than men are in their matrilineal ancestors. That’s fair enough – genealogists have been tracing the patrilineal line for centuries. For example, my father’s laboriously devised family tree begins with a shadowy character known only as:

“X Sailer, patriot from Lucern, 1290-1340.”

Obviously, my connection with old X is extraordinarily tenuous – especially since I’m adopted!

Yet sometimes I hope that, seven centuries from now, somebody named Sailer will be looking at his family tree and wondering about:

“Steve Sailer, patriot from Studio City.”

[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: Human Genome 
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Human Genome Project scientists have been conspiring with journalists recently to lard press reports on their findings with politically-correct disinformation.

Nobody was bamboozled more than former GOP vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, who informed us, “The human genome project shows there is no genetic way to tell races apart. For scientificpurposes, race simply doesn’t exist.”

Of course, if all you know is what you read in the newspapers, you’re not going to know much about the scientific reality of race.

For example, Eric Sorensen, Seattle Times science reporter, wrote,

“The human genome, to be published in nearly complete form this week in the journals Nature and Science, stands to cure cancer, prevent mental illness, and even, as one local researcher joked, locate the “don’t-ask-for-directions gene” on the Y chromosome unique to men. But billions of pieces of genetic code sequenced thus far are notable for what they don’t appear to contain: a genetic test to tell one race ofpeople from another.”

I asked evolutionary biologist Gregory M. Cochran about this Race-Is-Not-A-Scientific-Concept party line emanating from the Human Genome Project.

“I don’t know what they are talking about. I suspect it’s all political. These days, you could certainly screw up your academic career with a single truthful comment,” snorted Dr. Cochran. “No such thing as race? Then how can population geneticists like L.L. Cavalli-Sforza calculate your ancestry from different parts of the world to the percentagepoint? How come forensic anthropologists can determine a suspect’s racial makeup from hair or semen left at the scene of a crime?”

Indeed, the Canadian Society of Forensic Sciences even provides ahandy web page where crime fighters can enter the data from nine loci of DNA extracted from crime scene evidence. Then, by comparing this individual’s DNA to racial databases provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI, the website calculates for them the odds that the perp belonged to such racial groups as Caucasians, African-Americans, East Asians, East Indians, and “Saskatchewan Aboriginals.”

Cochran is a physicist turned evolutionary biologist. He is best known for developing the “New Germ Theory,” which attempts to drag medicine into the Darwinian age. He argues that germs, not genes, must cause most chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease because, according to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, killer genes tend to kill themselves off. (Click here to read the February, 1999 Atlantic Monthly cover story about Cochran and his research partner, Paul Ewald, a prominent public health biologist at Amherst College. Click here to buy Ewald’s recent book, Plague Time: How Stealth Infections Are Causing Cancers, Heart Disease, and Other DeadlyAilments. And for the scientifically-inclined, click here for Cochran and Ewald’s landmark scientific paper “Infectious Causation of Diseases: An Evolutionary Perspective.”)

Maggie Fox of Reuters asserted that the Human Genome scientists “have also confirmed that there is no genetic basis for what people describe as race, and found only a few small differences set one person apart from another. … [W]e all are essentially identical twins – even more than I thought. … [R]ace is not a scientific concept,’ [Craig] Venter [of Celera Corp.] said.”

I asked Cochran, “Can differences in only a small number of genes account for racial differences in looks, physical abilities, personality, and other capabilities?”

“Sure they can,” Cochran replied. “We don’t know for sure for any particular trait, but it’s often a definite possibility.”

“Go ask the guys working on the Dog Genome project about how few genes separate Dachshunds from Weimaraners.” Cochran suggested. “Go ask the cattle breeders. There are only a few genetic differences between Guernseys and Longhorns. Yet they sure act different. It’s not cultural. Longhorns don’t learn how to act like Longhorns by watching Western movies!”

Folks, genetic differences are all relative. The notion that, say, basketball behemoth Shaquille O’Neal and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg are “essentially identical twins” is more likely to make sense to three-headed flying saucer pilots from the planet Zweeb than to their fellow Earthlings. Differences among humans that would seem negligible to Zweebian saucer jockeys can loom very large in influencing, say, who makes the NBA All Star Game (which, you may have noticed, had only one white player again this year).

Of course, the Zweebsters would probably consider humans to be “essentially identical twins” to all other mammals on Earth. As Venter himself pointed out, “There are only a few hundred genes that we have in the human genome that are not in the mouse genome.” Another story reported, “Given the minor difference between man and mouse, Dr. Venter said he expected the chimpanzee, which parted company from the human line only five million years ago, to have an almost identical set of genes as people but to possess variant forms of these genes.” So, Venter’s statements about how large the variances among humans are in some ill-defined absolute sense are meaningless.

The announcement that the number of human genes is probably in the range of 30,000 rather than 100,000 – as was widely guesstimated until recently – has inspired all sorts of propaganda about how this shows that nurture is more powerful than nature. Harvard paleontologist Steven Jay Gould unburdened himself of some of his trademark sonorous imponderables in The New York Times.

“The social meaning may finally liberate us from the simplistic and harmful idea, false for many other reasons as well, that each aspect of our being, either physical or behavioral, may be ascribed to the action of a particular gene “for” the trait in question. But the deepest ramifications will be scientific or philosophical in the largest sense.”

Robin McKie of The Guardian (U.K.) made the same point more blatantly:

“This is a far lower total than expected, and dramatically undermines claims that human beings are prisoners of their genes.… ‘We simply do not have enough genes for this idea of biological determinism to be right,’ said Dr Craig Venter, the U.S. scientist whose company Celera was a major player in the sequencing project. ‘The wonderful diversity of the human species is not hard-wired in our genetic code. Our environments are critical.’”

Do fewer genes mean nurture is more important than we had thought?

“It means no such thing,” said Cochran.

We already have a very good idea of how important genes are from twin and adoption studies. Identical twins are genetically identical. For asurprising number of traits, identical twins raised apart are more similarthan fraternal twins raised together. And the correlations between adopted siblings tend to be very low. Whatever the final number of genes turns out to be can’t make those facts disappear.

This spin is the logical equivalent of Exxon announcing that they’ve discovered that cars have 30,000 parts in them instead of 100,000,and therefore you should buy expensive premium gas. “Hey,” Exxon would say, “Even if experience has shown you that high octane gas doesn’t help your car’s performance much, the Car Genome Project has demonstrated scientifically that your car has fewer parts than you thought it did, so the difference between Ferraris and Plymouth Voyagers must be environmental. Who are you going to believe:Science! … Or your lying eyes? So, spend, spend, spend!”

Why do Human Genome laboratory scientists so often issue unsupportable pronouncements about race? A leading genetic anthropologist reflected, “I can understand the genome people spouting it: they are afraid of bad press about genetics. The posturing is defensive.” (See my VDARE essay on race scientist Cavalli-Sforza’s addiction to politically correct boilerplate.)

However, he went on to note another cause: the “bench” scientists who have become media celebrities during Human Genome Mania don’t actually know much about what they are asked to comment upon. “Human evolutionary genetics has lots of people who are geniuses in the lab (‘good hands’) and who contribute great data sets but who have no clue about what they mean,” said this veteran anthropologist, who has spent years working with both the most sophisticated mathematical population genetics models and with the Bushmen of the Kalahari. “What people like these guys you see quoted know about is whether to put vinegar or lemon juice in the test tube.”

Cochran backed this anthropologist up. He feels the lab guys seldom understand evolutionary theory. “They say a lot of things that aren’t true, like these genes are going to explain the roots of most diseases,” Cochran argued. “From twin studies, we can see that no more than 5% or 10% of major chronic diseases are likely to stem from heredity. A full 3% percent of breast cancer appears to derive from bad genes.”

According to Cochran, “The Human Genome Project will uncover a lot of interesting stuff, but how much will be good for human health? Developing new antibiotics will be a lot more effective over the next few decades.”

According to Cochran, the fundamental flaw of the Human Genome Project is that “Genes exist for function, not for disease.”

In an upcoming essay, I’ll describe in more detail why genetic research is going to uncover less about health and more about racial differences than the media want to know.

[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: Human Genome 
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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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