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Does Race Exist? Do Hills Exist?
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Although my own academic background is in theoretical physics, I’m the first to admit that field seems in the doldrums these days compared with human evolutionary biology.

The greatest physics discoveries of the last couple of years—the Higgs Boson and strong evidence for Cosmological Inflation—merely confirm the well-established beliefs that physicists have had since before I entered grad school. It’s nice that such experimental evidence means that individuals such as Peter Higgs, Alan Guth, and Andrei Linde, whose names have been prominent in the standard textbooks for decades, have received or will surely soon receive their long-deserved Nobel Prizes, but little new has been learned. Or so is the impression of a lapsed theoretician who left that field over twenty-five years ago and who mostly follows it through the pages of the major newspapers.

Meanwhile, human evolutionary biology has been on a tear, partly due to the full deciphering of the human genome over the last couple of decades and our increasing technical ability to effectively read archaic DNA from thousands or even tens of thousands of years in the past. In recent years we have seen shocking discoveries that most humans possess small but probably significant Neanderthal ancestry and that important genetic changes have regularly swept through our genome. On the theoretical side, it was long assumed that human genes had changed little since Cave Man days, but we now understand that in some respects human evolution may have actually accelerated during the last ten thousand years as our rapidly growing population provided a much larger source of potentially favorable mutations, while agriculture and civilization were simultaneously applying strong selective pressures.

Although my other projects have prevented me from following these developments except through newspapers, blogs, and books, such evolutionary issues have long fascinated me. During the early 1980s I even participated in the field, studying under Harvard’s E.O. Wilson and felt that if physics had not been an option, evolutionary biology would have been my next choice. I remember telling all my skeptical friends in 1979 that Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene was probably one of the most important books of the decade, and I stand by that opinion today.

Yet although our understanding of the origins of modern humans and their biologically-influenced behavior has grown by leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades, these world-changing developments seem to have received extremely scanty coverage in the mainstream press, meaning that many of them have probably not penetrated into the public consciousness of those who are not academic specialists. The assumptions and world-views of most American intellectuals and journalists often seem stuck in the 1980s, clinging to ideas that are almost completely outmoded and incorrect, much like Soviet biology into the 1960s was still crippled by the Stalinist legacy of Trofim K. Lysenko, who had argued for the inheritance of acquired characteristics and purged all those biologists who disagreed.

America’s own Lysenko is surely the late Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, whose platform in the prestige media and widely assigned books have massively influenced entire generations of college students and thinkers. Unfortunately, just like his Soviet counterpart, Gould promoted ideologically motivated misrepresentations of reality, sometimes backed by outright scientific fraud, and people who read his books are regularly absorbing falsehoods.

In a further parallel to the Soviet case, Gould and his Marxist circle of friends and allies, including Richard Lewontin, Steven Rose, and several others, regularly sought to purge or otherwise silence their most honest and courageous colleagues. During the 1970s, Harvard’s Wilson became their particular target for daring to publish his landmark book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, and their wild ideological charges led radical student demonstrators to demand the university fire one of its brightest tenured stars and even to physically assault the mild-mannered Wilson at a meeting of the American Academy of Sciences. Although Gould seems to have been a rather mediocre scientist, some of his radical allies such as Lewontin were first-class researchers, but also ideologues who allowed their politics to dictate their science.

While I was a graduate student at Cambridge University during the mid-1980s, these events occasionally came up in casual discussions across the dining tables. On one such occasion, a former grad student of Lewontin’s said that during the height of the sociobiology controversy he had asked his mentor why he was leveling such ridiculous accusations against a colleague, with the reply being that those accusations were admittedly scientific nonsense, but they served the political interests of Marxism, which was far more important. Meanwhile, given Gould’s strength in words but his weakness in thinking, I find it reasonably likely that he simply believed many of the absurdities he was spouting.

As the years and the decades have gone by, I’ve always assumed that Gouldism was about to lose its grip on American intellectual life, but that assumption has always proven wrong. The totally absurd notion that genetics plays a relatively small role in influencing most human behaviors represents a zombified belief, absorbing endless seemingly fatal scientific wounds at the hands of prominent scholars but remaining almost unkillable, more like a religious dogma than a scientific doctrine.

For example, in 2002 Harvard’s Steven Pinker, one of America’s most prominent evolutionary psychologists, published The Blank Slate, an outstanding critique of this incorrect reigning dogma, which specifically included a lengthy debunking of Gould, Lewontin, and their circle. Not only was the book a huge seller and glowingly discussed throughout the MSM, but I was stunned to read an equally favorable review in The Nation, pole-star of America’s political Left. I naturally assumed that the full collapse of Gouldism was underway, an impression enhanced once the august New York Times later published an article describing an important instance of Gould’s scientific fraud.


But a year or two ago, when I heard smart intellectuals still citing Gould, I asked a prominent academic how that would possibly be the case. He explained that whereas in the 1990s, probably 99% of intellectuals believed in Gould, the massive revelations of recent years had merely reduced that support to 95%, leaving Gouldism almost as entrenched as ever. Whereas worldwide support for Stalinism substantially collapsed following Khrushchev’s 1956 “Secret Speech” Gouldian nonsense seems to have largely avoided that fate.


But perhaps that is now about to change.

One of the oddities of American intellectual life is that although a full-fledged scientific revolution in human genetics and evolution has been taking place for the last couple of decades, very little of this has been reported in the mainstream media, perhaps because the findings so totally contradict the numerous falsehoods that so many senior editors presumably imbibed during the introductory anthropology courses they took to satisfy their science distributional requirement as undergraduates.

Indeed, when I consider the major news stories on evolutionary breakthroughs I have read in our MSM over the last dozen years, the overwhelming majority seem to have been written by a single individual, Nicholas Wade of The New York Times, who recently retired after twenty years as a editor and reporter at our national newspaper of record, following previous decades of work at top scientific publications such as Nature and Science.

When I asked around a little, my impression was confirmed. Our nation of over 300 million may be in the forefront of evolutionary discovery, but Wade has long been almost the only reporter seriously covering these fascinating developments in the mainstream print media. Meanwhile, the weekly New York Times Science Section seems to be moving in the direction of People Magazine, with so much of the coverage seemingly focused on phone apps, dieting, and phone apps to assist with dieting. For example, fully half of the Letters page in this morning’s print edition was devoted to a heated debate on the “Science of Overeating.”

But while his former colleagues often focus on the transient and the trivial, Wade has spent the last couple of years producing an outstanding book to bring awareness of the revolutionary discoveries of modern genetic research to a broader American audience. Generations of Soviets had been taught the inheritance of acquired characteristics in their universities, and I assume they must have been shocked to discover it was all an ideologically motivated hoax. I suspect that many complacent American intellectuals may have a similar reaction to Wade’s book, which focuses on the highly touchy subject of the genetic nature of our distinct human races and the implications for society and history, bearing the descriptive title A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History. I’d certainly rank Wade’s book as the most important popular presentation of these ideas at least since Pinker’s Blank Slate. In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I was also very pleased to see him substantially cite my own major articles from the last couple of years on race, IQ, and wealth and the Social Darwinist roots of modern China.

All too many socially-conditioned Americans have absorbed the Lewontin-Gould mantra that “Race Does Not Exist” which from a scientific perspective is roughly similar to claiming that “Teeth Do Not Exist” or perhaps “Hills Do Not Exist,” with the latter being an especially good parallel. It is perfectly correct that the notion of “hill” is ill-defined and vague—what precise height distinguishes a pile of dirt from a hill and a hill from a mountain?—but nevertheless denying the reality or usefulness of such a concept would be an absurdity. Similarly, the notion of distinct human races—genetic clusters across a wide variety of scales and degrees of fuzziness—is an obviously useful and correct organizing principle, and one which was probably accepted without question by everyone in the history of the world except for deluded Americans of the last fifty years.

Anyway, let us suppose that the Gouldians rising up to denounce the heretic, such as anthropologist Agustin Fuentes, are given their way and the common term “race” is purged from our scientific vocabulary as being meaningless. Well, large-scale genetic population clusters obviously continue to exist in the real world and are an important element in ongoing research, both medical and evolutionary. So it would make sense to conveniently replace an overly cumbersome multisyllabic phrase with a short single-syllabic word now suddenly gone unused, namely “race.”

Indeed, I would suggest that one of the sources of present-day confusion is that the very term “race” has undergone an unfortunate metamorphosis over the course of the 20th century. Today, when people speak of “races” they are almost invariably referring to the continental-scale mega-races such as Asians, Africans, and Europeans. These “races” certainly exist and are highly meaningful and distinct in genetic terms, with blogger Steve Sailer slyly noting that the cover of Prof. Luca Cavalli-Sforza definitive tome on human genetic diversity displays a colored worldwide map looking much like what Sen. Strom Thurmond in his dotage might have drawn on a napkin with crayons.

But I would argue that restricting the term race to merely that small handful of huge groupings is extremely wasteful and we are far better off also applying the term to its traditional meaning, typically aimed at much smaller population groups. One hundred years ago, every educated individual casually used phrases such as “the Anglo-Saxon race,” “the Hungarian race,” and “the Chinese race,” and this is exactly the usage which we should restore. To be sure, these particular genetic population clusters are naturally grouped into higher-level clusters as well—with Russians, Ukrainians, and Poles all being branches of the larger Slav race, itself a component of the European mega-race, but the word can remain flexible in scale without producing any serious confusion. All these groups are exactly the sort of natural statistical clusters that regularly appear during genetic population analysis, and we might as well use the traditional popular term for them rather than inventing an entirely new one.


As for the full contents of Wade’s book, several reviews have already noted a few small glitches here and there and I myself certainly took issue with some of his arguments. For example, I think he is much too accepting of Gregory Clark’s influential 2007 book arguing that the Industrial Revolution occurred in Britain because the British had undergone nearly a thousand years of uniquely strong selection for economic success, a thesis I find extremely doubtful. I also think Wade should have given far more attention to the seminal Cochran-Harpending theory that the rapid growth of human population after the development of agriculture has produced an equally rapid acceleration in mutation-driven evolution during the last ten thousand years, and Wade’s omission surely explains why the notoriously arrogant and irascible Gregory Cochran published such an unfriendly review on his own blogsite. Certainly everyone should explore all sides of the ongoing debate and a small racialist website has conveniently gathered together annotated links to the dozens of reviews across the web, favorable, unfavorable, and mixed. But reading the book itself is essential for anyone interested in the current state of human evolutionary science.

I’d originally intended to publish my own perspective several weeks ago and was delayed by other pressing matters. But I have been very pleased to see that Wade’s book is beginning to receive the major attention it so greatly deserves. American intellectuals must begin shedding a half-century of lies and dishonesty based on the dismally unscientific dogma of Stephen Jay Gould and instead start to discover what modern evolutionary biologists and genetic researchers have all known for years or even decades. A Troublesome Inheritance by Nicholas Wade of the New York Times may represent a huge step forward in achieving this important goal.

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  1. Reader says:

    “But I would argue that restricting the term race to merely that small handful of huge groupings is extremely wasteful and we are far better off also applying the term to its traditional meaning, typically aimed at much smaller population groups. ”

    There’s no reason why people can’t do both. For some purposes, it’s more interesting to talk about continental races. For other purposes, it’s more interesting to break races up into micro-races (ethnicities).

    Looking at Cavalli-Sforza’s genetic distances, both micro-races (ethnicities) and major races cluster together. We can use both classifications.

    “such as “the Anglo-Saxon race,” “the Hungarian race,” and “the Chinese race,””

    How would you refer to most white Americans who, as others have noted, are probably “Celto-Germanic” (with ancestors for British Isles and Germanic countries)? What race are they? Here a more general ‘white’ or ‘European American’ applies.

  2. Reader says:

    BTW, good review!

  3. James says:

    Brilliant. I hope to get many to read it, and Wade’s book. BTW, did anything come of the idea of awarding a Lysenko Prize for which I recall S.J.Gould was to be the first recipient?

  4. ogunsiron says:

    did anything come of the idea of awarding a Lysenko Prize for which I recall S.J.Gould was to be the first recipient?

    It’s in french but it’s the same idea 🙂
    They gave a Lyssenko prize to the french equivalent of Gould.
    Jacquard was the go-to man of the intelligentsia and media on genetics and related topics.

  5. Davidski says: • Website

    I agree with most of what you say, but I’ll be nitpicky because you touched on a subject with which I’m very familiar, and that is Eastern European genetic substructures.

    There are plenty of ethnic Russian populations that won’t cluster with Poles. That’s due to Finno-Ugric admixture which is widespread north and east of Moscow.

    By the way, for those interested, I managed to break up Northern Europe into 20 meaningful clusters. The info is here…

    Eurogenes’ North Euro clusters – phase 2, final results

  6. Kris says:

    For example, I think he is much too accepting of Gregory Clark’s influential 2007 book arguing that the Industrial Revolution occurred in Britain because the British had undergone nearly a thousand years of uniquely strong selection for economic success, a thesis I find extremely doubtful.

    Thank you for this. Now please try to convince Steve Sailer. 🙂

    Overall, a very good review.

  7. John Cole says:

    Many of my friends and acquaintances are descendants of Asians and Europeans, or Africans and Europeans, or Asians and Africans, or Asians and Africans and Europeans. They all notice how common it is for Americans of supposedly pure European descent to obsess about race

  8. J says: • Website

    It is Ok to criticise Gould, but he was no Lysenko. He didnt send anyone to jail for dissenting. If he was so influential, it was because he was a good writer and people found his message reasonable.

    I would not want to return to the “Hungarian Race” era (which, BTW, never ended. The Jobbik party proclaims Hungarians Turanic origin). Genetically, Hungarians are similar to their neighbors and carry no Hun genes. “Hungarian race” was used to exclude them from Europeans or to support Hungarian nationalism.

    I disagree that race is ignored in America. All American statistics are disaggregated by race! One can know how much Pacific Islanders earn or the educational achievements of Africans. No European or Latin or Asian country does this. Americans are obsessed with race.

    Apart from the proposal to return to things like the “Hungarian Race”, your article is empty of any positive, constructive solutions. How do you imagine the world after race is re-instituted?

  9. quarkdork says:

    Your criticism of Gouldism ought to apply in equal force against other rotted edifices such as the Standard Model.

  10. Josh says:

    “Do Hills Exist?”

    Be vary careful ron. You’ve probably just incensed an Aspi geologist. Expect a deluge of them any moment, equipped with obnoxiously intricate facts that delineate a hill.

  11. Rhino says:

    Isn’t epigenetics in line with what Lysenko preached…..although at the time he did not know of epigenetics.

  12. MEH 0910 says:

    “Your criticism of Gouldism ought to apply in equal force against other rotted edifices such as the Standard Model.”

    The Standard Model of particle physics? Quarkdork, what is it about the Standard Model that is rotted?

    Thank you Ron Unz for your criticism of Gouldism.

  13. Dennis Dale says: • Website

    Another idiot reductionist who doesn’t understand anything about the discourse of race

    Ah yes, the “discourse” of race must be understood, not race itself. How very Soviet–I mean sophisticated–of you.

  14. laurais says:

    Many of us who are of Ashkenazic descent have German, Slavic, possibly Turkic/Persian or Middle Eastern and, in my case, French/Gallic ancestry. How are we to be classified and is it important?

    Obviously, you realize that reactions to discussions of “race,” have little to do with genetics and are concerned with the disabilities, in the form of persecution and discrimination, that racial classifications have and may continue to impose.

    • Replies: @Nancy
  15. Mike Zwick [AKA "Dahinda"] says:

    “These “races” certainly exist and are highly meaningful and distinct in genetic terms” Much of this discussion of whether race exists or not is usually between two groups of white people trying to out politically correctify one another. Non-white people generally don’t care how politically correct white people are and know exactly which race they personally belong to. When white people are a minority in the U.S. the first thing that will go right out the window will be political correctness.

  16. Rex May says: • Website

    You’ve put the whole pseudo-controversy in perspective with a wealth of detail. This is quoted, linked, illustrated, and commented on here:

  17. Dr. Doom says:

    Yes, very interesting. I really like how shocked – shocked i say, you are that decades of contrary evidence could fail to take hold in the “Scientific” community. I hope you’re kidding, because if you’re really confused then you don’t know what’s really going on. Please, let me take a moment to enlighten you with the way things Really Are.
    Certainly there is a convenient fiction that academia is a “diverse” collection of individuals dedicated for the “Truth”. Because, the Truth is out there. What the Truth isn’t, is allowed through the doors of the schoolhouse with its magic bus which runs on rainbow farts from Unicorns.
    If you’ve ever attended a meeting of the Politburo of the Supreme Soviet of Enlightened Elitists of the Ruins of the Ivory Tower, you cannot help to notice the Obvious Lack of “diversity”. Sure there is always the obligatory group of token minorities paraded around like seals at Seaworld, but these people are merely mascots that toot their horns and do a little dance for the amusement of the crowd.
    The actual demographics of the Secret Meetings of the Enlightened are actually more like those from the airport at Tel Aviv. This is not accidental. The frauds that started these ridiculous fallacies of “Race is a Social Construct” are Franz Boas and Stephen J. Gould. We all know they’re Jews.
    Not long ago, near the turn of the Twentieth Century, there was a long march through the institutions to take over Media, Academia and Government. These Marxist Jews would make a big outcry to the unfairness of Jewish exclusion to get their foot through the door, and once inside they would force out Whites and turn everything over to themselves.
    The reason that Truth has been silenced, is because it has been purposefully excluded. Much like the Soviet Union, anyone who didn’t toe the line was locked out or blackballed. This is easy when all the departments are headed by Marxist Jews, who like commisars exclude anyone not like them.
    What has changed? Nothing on campus, where unconstitutional speech codes can expel anyone who doesn’t toe the line. No, the real change is the World Wide Web, where mass communication has been decentralised to where gatekeepers cannot keep a lid on Truth. Even now, there are discussions to shut it down, in the erroneous belief things can go back to the Bad Old Days.
    It won’t work. You cannot unsee something. These cracks are the first signs of Catastrophic System Collapse. Some Truth is leaking out while the Conspirators of the Cabal meet and discuss, “What is to be Done?” Their Iron Grip on Media is now irrelevant, as everyone now knows they’re lying. The downward spiral of ratings in Dinosaur Media signal its immanent demise.
    Academia is similarly declining. The only reason people sat through ridiculous lectures by frauds like Gould was the belief that suffering through four years of Alice in Wonderland would lead to a good-paying job. This is no longer true, and people are now questioning the value of incurring student loans if they won’t pay off.
    The next shoe to drop will be Government. The Historic Election of the First Non- White President has became a train wreck, Hindenburg Disaster and Titanic Story all rolled-up into one. Faith is Government is at all-time lows, and plans for Martial Law are now being formulated to save them from imminent destruction.
    Only the destruction of the system, and the permanent removal of these Marxist Jews will return Truth to Media, Academia or Government.

  18. Rachelle says:

    Nice article and I enjoyed reading it.

    I’ve followed Wade’s NYT articles and read his ‘Before the Dawn’ so I naturally grabbed ‘A troublesome Inheritance’ as soon as it was available.

    I was not disappointed with it and not disturbed by his occasional overreach or error. A work this broad is bound to be open to some fair criticism even though the major thesis is true and, more importantly, appears to be true.

    Obviously his major point, that races exist and differ in some respects, has been addressed many times before, but this is the first time I have seen a fairly comprehensive review of the subject with current research laid out for the general reader. It is time that the Gould nonsense be laid to rest and Wade’s book may go a long way toward that goal.

  19. David says:

    I felt I’d come across an old friend when I encountered your name, Ron, in Wade’s new book. Did you review A Farewell to Alms? I found Clark’s argument circumstantially sound.

    I have lived in a couple of grindingly poor countries for a couple of years. Whenever I hear a report from Sudan or Honduras, the unspoken assumption that the local population is capable of emulating western institutions strikes me as the product of a political bias equal to Gould’s. It’s so much easier socially to say that a population is suffering from the effects colonialism than from their own stupidity and selfishness.

  20. “Hills do not exist” is a very bad analogy, because it already stacks the deck. Variations in genetic features are not like variations in altitude. For one thing, altitude is an obvious, objective, one-dimensional geographical measure of hillness. There is no correspondingly obvious, objective, one-dimensional measure of race.

    Also, one of the main controversies in the race debate is the degree to which between-cluster variation justifies calling clusters “races” at all. Visualizing hills, mountains, etc. is misleading because it hides that question. What if altitude were completely clinal, with no gradients more than 1 degree, and the maximum deviation in altitude across the whole earth were five feet? Would geographers still talk about hills? I’m not saying that genetic variation is comparable to that, but I’m saying that we unconsciously assume certain kinds of variation when we visualize hills. It’s question-begging.

    When you ask “do hills exist,” that’s actually more like asking “do genetic populations exist” than “does race exist.” The answer to the former is completely uncontroversial. The answer is yes. As far as I can tell, most of the “HBD” people, like Wade and Sailer, are really just defining “race” to mean exactly what anthropologists and geneticists mean by “population.” It would actually advance the discussion if race-realists could precisely define “race” and explain exactly how it differs from “population.” I’ve seen anthropologists try to get Wade and Sailer to do that, but both of them evade the questions.

    • Replies: @Mike
  21. Everyone knows that race is real. Just look around you. No pseudo-scientific evidence is needed. One drop of black blood (I know its not the blood per se) makes a negro, no matter if he has blue eyes, light hair and skin. He is a negro and his negritude will show up sooner or later in his behavior and achievements or lack thereof.

    Jews on the other hand are not a race, but a group of people whose intermarriage for a long time has resulted in certain physical and mental traits. But one drop of Jewish blood does not a Jew make.

    • Replies: @Oleg Crosby
  22. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Norman: You must have a tough time out on the street. I’ve got news for you. There are a lot more of us mongrels out here than there are “pure bloods” like you. Thank God.

  23. quercus says:

    @Norman Ravitch

    “Jews on the other hand are not a race, but a group of people whose intermarriage for a long time has resulted in certain physical ………………”.

    Is that why there are such a large percentage of physically ugly people among the Ashkenazim, Norman? Too much intermarriage?

    And I have both a son and daughter with that “drop of black blood” (probably more than a drop), both are very attractive, bright, and hard-working. So much for your claim.

  24. Mike says:
    @Aaron Gross

    It would actually advance the discussion if race-realists could precisely define “race” and explain exactly how it differs from “population.”

    @ Aaron Gross,

    Race and population are essentially the same thing – they refer to a group with shared geographic ancestry. In GWAS studies they control for race/populations because of systematic ancestral differences.

    If you read Nevan Sesardic’s paper on efforts to deconstruct race notes an anecdote from AWF Edwards working with Cavilli-Sforza. Apparently, they with one of their papers they changed the word race to population to political reasons. However, the publisher changed it back to race anyway.

    • Replies: @Oleg Crosby
  25. Nancy says:

    “with the disabilities” …. or the advantages that racial classifications have, i.e., nepotism, self serving, exclusion, supremacism, i.e., from a commenter’s employment experience on another thread: “we give money to our race (suppliers) and take money from the non-race customers.”

  26. Oleg Crosby says: • Website
    @norman ravitch

    Lel. Social constructs are real but I guess to those without reading comprehension, they aren’t. Look who’s deluded.

  27. Re-redefining race to be a nationality or maybe even an ethnic group? Wait, words already exist for those and redefining race to an ever smaller unit just proves the arbitrariness of it, ergo proving what we already know – “A race is a grouping of humans based on shared physical or social qualities into categories generally viewed as distinct by society.” viewed as… by society. – Wait, maybe race really is a social construct because ‘a social construct is something that exists not in objective reality, but as a result of human interaction. It exists because humans agree that it exists.’ But maybe people without reading comprehension can’t understand that social constructs are real. It’s literally in the name, construct, which suggests that it has been made into existence ergo it is real but lol go on with your ‘scientific fraud’ propaganda/scam.

  28. @Mike

    Except I can pick random dudes and dudettes all over the world and can call them population even though they could be of different races.

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