Another Example of the Replication Crisis

A Waste of 1,000 Research Papers
by Ed Yong

Between them, these 18 genes have been the subject of more than 1,000 research papers, on depression alone. And for what? If the new study is right, these genes have nothing to do with depression. “This should be a real cautionary tale,” Keller adds. “How on Earth could we have spent 20 years and hundreds of millions of dollars studying pure noise?”

“What bothers me isn’t just that people said [the gene] mattered and it didn’t,” wrote the psychiatrist Scott Alexander in a widely shared blog post. “It’s that we built whole imaginary edifices on top of this idea of [it] mattering.” Researchers studied how SLC6A4 affects emotion centers in the brain, how its influence varies in different countries and demographics, and how it interacts with other genes. It’s as if they’d been “describing the life cycle of unicorns, what unicorns eat, all the different subspecies of unicorn, which cuts of unicorn meat are tastiest, and a blow-by-blow account of a wrestling match between unicorns and Bigfoot,” Alexander wrote. […]

“We’re told that science self-corrects, but what the candidate gene literature demonstrates is that it often self-corrects very slowly, and very wastefully, even when the writing has been on the wall for a very long time,” Munafo adds.

Many fields of science, from psychology to cancer biology, have been dealing with similar problems: Entire lines of research may be based on faulty results. The reasons for this so-called “reproducibility crisis” are manifold. Sometimes, researchers futz with their data until they get something interesting, or retrofit their questions to match their answers. Other times, they selectively publish positive results while sweeping negative ones under the rug, creating a false impression of building evidence.

Beyond a few cases of outright misconduct, these practices are rarely done to deceive. They’re an almost inevitable product of an academic world that rewards scientists, above all else, for publishing papers in high-profile journals—journals that prefer flashy studies that make new discoveries over duller ones that check existing work. People are rewarded for being productive rather than being right, for building ever upward instead of checking the foundations. These incentives allow weak studies to be published. And once enough have amassed, they create a collective perception of strength that can be hard to pierce. […]

Similar debates have played out in other fields. When one group of psychologists started trying to reproduce classic results in much larger studies, their peers argued that any failures might simply be due to differences between the new groups of volunteers and the originals. This excuse has eroded with time, but to Border, it feels familiar. “There’s an unwillingness to part with a previous hypothesis,” he says. “It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that maybe you were on a wild goose chase for years.”

Keller worries that these problems will be used as ammunition to distrust science as a whole. “People ask, ‘Well, if scientists are publishing crap, why should we believe global warming and evolution,’” he says. “But there’s a real difference: Some people were skeptical about candidate genes even back in the 1990s. There was never unanimity or consensus in the way there is for human-made global warming and the theory of evolution.”

(Credit to Nina Teicholz for bringing my attention to this article.)

Are Wrens Smarter Than Racists?

Race realists and racial supremacists have many odd notions. For one, they believe humans are separate species, despite all the evidence to the contrary (e.g., unusually low genetic diversity as compared similar species; two random humans are more likely to be genetically similar than two random chimpanzees).

But an even stranger belief is that humans, despite being such a highly social species, are assumed to be incapable of cooperating with other humans who are perceived as different based on modern social constructions of ‘race’. Yet, even ignoring the fact that all humans are of the same species, numerous other species cooperate all the time across large genetic divides. This includes the development of close relationships between individuals of separate species.

So, why do racists believe that ‘white’ Americans and ‘black’ Americans must be treated as separate species and be inevitably segregated in different communities and countries? That particularly doesn’t make sense considering most so-called African-Americans are significantly of European ancestry, not to mention a surprising number of supposed European-Americans in the South that have non-European genetics (African, Native American, etc).

Wrens don’t let racism get in the way of promoting their own survival through befriending other species who share their territory. Do human racists think they have less cognitive capacity than wrens? If that is their honest assessment of their own abilities, that is fine. But why do they assume everyone else is as deficient as they are?

* * *

Birds from different species recognize each other and cooperate
by Matt Wood, University of Chicago

 

Cooperation among different species of birds is common. Some birds build their nests near those of larger, more aggressive species to deter predators, and flocks of mixed species forage for food and defend territories together in alliances that can last for years. In most cases, though, these partnerships are not between specific individuals of the other species—any bird from the other species will do.

But in a new study published in the journal Behavioral Ecology, scientists from the University of Chicago and University of Nebraska show how two different species of Australian fairy-wrens not only recognize individual birds from other species, but also form long-term partnerships that help them forage and defend their shared space as a group.

“Finding that these two species associate was not surprising, as mixed species flocks of birds are observed all over the world,” said Allison Johnson, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Nebraska who conducted the study as part of her dissertation research at UChicago. “But when we realized they were sharing territories with specific individuals and responding aggressively only to unknown individuals, we knew this was really unique. It completely changed our research and we knew we had to investigate it.”

Variegated fairy-wrens and splendid fairy-wrens are two small songbirds that live in Australia. The males of each species have striking, bright blue feathers that make them popular with bird watchers. Their behavior also makes them an appealing subject for biologists. Both species feed on insects, live in large family groups, and breed during the same time of year. They are also non-migratory, meaning they live in one area for their entire lives, occupying the same eucalyptus scrublands that provide plenty of bushes and trees for cover.

When these territories overlap, the two species interact with each other. They forage together, travel together, and seem to be aware of what the other species is doing. They also help each other defend their territory from rivals. Variegated fairy-wrens will defend their shared territory from both variegated and splendid outsiders; splendid fairy-wrens will do the same, while fending off unfamiliar birds from both species.

“Splendid and variegated fairy-wrens are so similar in their habitat preferences and behavior, we would expect them to act as competitors. Instead, we’ve found stable, positive relationships between individuals of the two species,” said Christina Masco, PhD, a graduate student at UChicago and a co-author on the new paper.

Black Global Ruling Elite

One of my favorite activities is reversing arguments, in order to make a point. It is using the structure of an argument to contradict someone’s claim or to demonstrate the fundamental irrationality of their worldview. Also, sometimes it can just be an act of playful silliness, a game of rhetoric. Either way, it requires imagination to take an argument in an unexpected direction.

To be able to reverse an argument, you have to first understand the argument. This requires getting into someone else’s head and seeing the world from their perspective. You need to know your enemy. I’ve long made it a habit to explore other ideologies and interact with those advocating them. It usually ends in frustration, but I come out the other side with an intimate knowledge of what makes others tick.

The opposing group I spent the most time with was HBD crowd (human biodiversity). HBDers are filled with many reactionaries, specifically race realists and genetic determinists. The thing about reactionaries is that they love to co-opt rhetoric and tactics from the political left. HBD theory was originated by someone, Jonathan Marks, making arguments against race realism and genetic determinism. The brilliance of the reactionaries was to do exactly what I’m talking about — they reversed the arguments.

But as chamelion-like faceless men, reactionaries use this strategy to hide their intentions behind deceptive rhetoric. No HBDer is ever going to admit the anti-reactionary origins of human biodiversity ( just like right-libertarians won’t acknowledge the origins of libertarianism as a left-wing ideology in the European workers movement). The talent of reactionaries is in pretending that what they stole was always theirs. They take their games of deception quite seriously. Their trolling is a way of life.

“There’s only one thing we can do to thwart the plot of these albino shape-shifting lizard BITCHES!” Their arguments need to be turned back the other way again. Or else turn them inside out to the point of absurdity. Let us call it introducing novelty. I’ve done this with previous posts about slavery and eugenics. The point I made is that, by using HBD-style arguments, we should actually expect American blacks to be a superior race.

This is for a couple of reasons. For centuries in America, the most violent, rebellious, and criminal blacks were eugenically removed from the breeding population, by way of being killed or imprisoned — and so, according to HBD, the genetics of violence, rebelliousness, criminality, etc should have decreased along with all of the related genetically-determined behavior. Also, since the colonial era, successful and supposedly superior upper class whites were impregnating their slaves, servants, and any other blacks they desired which should have infused their superior genetics into the American black population. Yet, contradicting these obvious conclusions, HBDers argue the exact opposite.

Let me clarify one point. African-Americans are a genetically constrained demographic, their ancestors having mostly come from one area of Africa. And the centuries of semi-eugenics theoretically would have narrowed those genetics down further, even in terms of the narrow selection of white genetics that was introduced. But these population pressures didn’t exist among other African descendants. Particularly in Africa itself, the complete opposite is the case.

Africa has more genetic and phenotypic diversity than the rest of the world combined. Former slave populations that came from more various regions of Africa should also embody this greater genetic diversity. The global black population in general, in and outside Africa, is even more diverse than the African population alone. As such we should expect that the global black population will show the greatest variance of all traits.

This came to mind because of the following comment:

“Having a less oppressive environment increases variance in many phenotypes. The IQ variance of (less-oppressed) whites is greater than (more-oppressed) blacks despite less genetic diversity. Since women are on average more oppressed (i.e. outcasted more for a given deviance from the norms and given norms that take more effort to conform to) their traits would be narrower.”

The data doesn’t perfectly follow this pattern, in that there are exceptions. Among certain sub-population in oppressed populations, there sometimes is greater IQ variance. There are explanations for why this is the case, specifically the theory that females have a greater biological capacity for dealing with stressful conditions (e.g., oppression). But for the moment, let’s ignore that complication.

The point is that, according to genetic determinism, the low genetic diversity of whites should express as low IQ gaps, no matter the environmental differences. It shouldn’t matter that, for example, in the US the white population is split between socioeconomic extremes — as the majority of poor Americans are white and the majority of rich Americans are white. But if genetic determinism is false (i.e., more powerful influences being involved: environment, epigenetics, microbiome, etc), the expected result would be lower average IQ with lower class whites and higher average IQ with higher class whites — the actual pattern that is found.

Going by the data, we are forced to conclude that genetic determinism isn’t a compelling theory, at least according to broad racial explanations. Some HBDers would counter that the different socioeconomic populations of whites are also different genetic sub-populations. But the problem is that this isn’t supported by the lack of genetic variance found across white populations.

That isn’t what mainly interested me, though. I was more thinking about what this means for the global black population, far beyond a single trait. Let us assume that genetic determinism and race realism is true, for the sake of argument.

Since the African continent has more genetic diversity than the rest of the world combined, the global black population (or rather populations) that originated in Africa should have the greatest variation of all traits, not just IQ. They should have the greatest variance of athleticism to lethargy, pacifism to violence, law-abiding to criminality, wealth to poverty, global superpowers to failed states, etc.

We should disproportionately find those of African ancestry at every extreme across the world. Compared to all other populations, they would have the largest numbers of individuals in both the elite and the underclass. That means that a disproportionate number of political and corporate leaders would be black, if there was a functioning meritocracy of the Social Darwinian variety.

The greater genetic variance would lead to the genetically superior blacks disproportionately rising to the upper echelons of global wealth and power. The transnational plutocracy, therefore, should be dominated by blacks. We should see the largest gaps within the global black population and not between blacks and whites, since the genetic distance between black populations is greater than the genetic difference between particular black populations and non-black populations.

Based on the principles of human biodiversity, that means principled HBDers should support greater representation of blacks at all levels of global society. I can’t wait to hear this new insight spread throughout the HBD blogosphere. Then HBDers will become the strongest social justice warriors in the civil rights movement. Based on the evidence, how could HBDers do anything less?

Well, maybe there is one other possible conclusion. As good reactionaries, the paranoid worldview could be recruited. Accordingly, it could be assumed that the genetically superior sub-population of black ruling elite is so advanced that they’ve hidden their wealth and power, pulling the strings behind the scenes. Maybe there is Black cabal working in secret with the Jewish cabal in controlling the world. It’s this Black-Jewish covert power structure that has promoted the idea of an inferior black race to hide the true source of power. We could take this argument even further. The black sub-population might be the ultimate master race with Jews acting as their minions in running the Jew-owned banks and media as front groups.

It’s starting to make sense. I think there might be something to all of this genetic determinism and race realism. It really does explain everything. And it is so amazingly scientific.

Tortured Data

“Beware of testing too many hypotheses; the more you torture the data, the more likely they are to confesss, but confession obtained under duress may not be admissible in the court of scientific opinion. ”
—Stephen M. Stigler, “Testing Hypotheses or Fitting Models?” (1987)

That is useful advice for everyone, but even moreso a warning to those seeking to massage cherrypicked data to tell just-so stories. In particular, a few HBDers (human biodversity advocates) can be quite brilliant in their ability to speculate and gather data to support their speculations, while ignoring data that contradicts them. This is seen in the defense of race realism, a popular ideology among HBDers.

Some HBDers and other race realists are so talented at speculating that they come to treat their ideologically-driven interpretations as factual statements of truth, even when they deny this is the case. Just as they deny the consequences of such ideologies being enforced for centuries through social control, political oppression, and economic inequality. A result can be misinterpreted as cause, an easy error to make when evidence for direction of causation is lacking. It leaves the field open to self-serving bias.

When one starts with a hypothesis that one assumes is true, it’s easy to look for evidence to support what one already wants to believe. There are few people in the world who couldn’t offer what they consider evidence in support of their beliefs, no matter how weak and grasping it might appear to others. This is even easier to accomplish when looking for correlations, as anything can be correlated with many other things without ever having to prove a causal connection, and it’s easy to ignore the fact that most correlations are spurious.

None of that matters to the true believer, though. Torturing the data until it confesses is the whole point. As in real world incidents of torture, the validity of the confession is irrelevant.

Racist Realist

I’m a racist realist. I accept the reality that some people are just racist.

I wish there was something we could do as a society to help them. But it apparently is just in their nature to hold a morally depraved worldview. They will likely always be racist.

The best we can do is separate them from the rest of society. We could either put them into some kind of ghetto housing or maybe deport them out of the country. Whatever we do, we should keep their genetics as far away as possible from mixing with the general population.

* * * *

The funny part is this is actually a serious argument. Many human biodiversity (HBD) proponents make this kind of argument, although stated differently and with other conclusions about remedies.  Actually, most HBDers often limit themselves just to theory and let the political implications speak for themselves. Other race realists will speak more blatantly.

HBDers, however, will go pretty far in the implications they point to. They often talk about clannish societies in terms of mating patterns, and they conjecture that the clannish cultures are largely a result of genetics. Xenophobia as racism is just one particular expression of clannishness.

So, from view of HBDers, racist realism is directly connected to race realism. They see both race and racism as natural facts and inevitable realities of human nature. Most race realists aren’t as sophisticated in their thinking as HBDers, but they share some basic elements.

* * * *

I do realize genetics influence our behavior, in complex interaction with other genetic and environment factors. But the simplistic view of genetics is not so convincing, where genes alone have an almost deterministic influence.

I take seriously genetic arguments and those who make them. I like to consider the unintended consequences, the inconvenient implications of the race realist worldview.

In this light, what if we take the HBD hypothesis seriously and treat it as a proven theory? If both race and racism are genetic, doesn’t that justify anti-racists seeking an anti-racist society to genetically isolate racists from the breeding pool?

Even HBDers admit that clannish societies tend to have lots of social problems, from violence to poverty. So, why would we want to allow the most clannish-acting citizens to freely mate and spread their genetics? Anyway, clannish people don’t like people outside their group and so doesn’t that justify us forcing them to only mate among themselves? Maybe we could pass laws that racists can only marry other racists.

This a straightforward application of human biodiversity theory to public policy. We could, through the knowledge that HBDers give us, permanently breed racism out of our society. We wouldn’t even have to make racism itself illegal for we could eliminate racism at its root by eliminating the genetic cause.

From an HBD perspective, why not?

Single Men and Human Biodiversity Theory

Over at hbdchick’s open thread, a person named ckp left a comment:

There’s the thesis that outbreeding among north-west Europeans contributed to their disavowal of nepotism, clan rivalries, advancement of capitalism, etc. They trusted distantly related people more than did their more inbred cousins in southern and eastern Europe. This brings me to my confusion – in European colonies the attitudes towards the natives seems to be the opposite of what this hypothesis would predict. Northwest Euro colonizers (British, Dutch, later the Germans ..) had very restrictive rules about how different ethnicities interacted with each other – segregation and apartheid. In contrast, the more clannish Euros mixed much more freely with the natives and imported slaves – the Portuguese are canonical examples, but the Spanish did the same. I would have thought that it would be the other way around.

Is this a problem for the hypothesis? Or is it accounted for in a way that I haven’t grasped yet?

Those are the kinds of observations I tend to make. I always have these nagging doubts about HBD theory, a sense that many aspects therein are dependent as much on the data excluded as the data included. There is so much data that it is hard to account for it all. I’ve specifically wondered about demographics like this about gender and marriage rates.

To hbdchick’s credit, she did her best to make sense of this data:

i think the difference probably stems from the differing migration patterns between the nw european colonizers vs. the iberians: the britich, dutch, and germans tended to migrate in whole family units — mom, dad, the kids (see Albion’s Seed on this, for example) — whereas the iberians tended to be mostly males (at least early on — i’m not sure why this was, actually — did they have an excess of second sons or what?). with the mostly male spaniards and portugese in the new world, of couse they were going to “fraternize” with the locals, because they wanted wives (and there were comparatively few iberian girls to choose from)! the nw europeans in north america — they were arriving with whole societies in tow — priests, merchants, farmers — and all with their families. they were really and truly transplanting themselves and their (ideal) societies in the new world.

If she were correct about this difference, the issue may well be fully explained. It is certainly correct that in the northernmost colonies immigrants were more likely to come as family. However, that wasn’t true for the colonies from the Dutch to the Deep South.

“Colonial New Netherland (New York), like Jamestown and other trading post colonies, attracted single men, few women, and even fewer families.
Dutch Americans by Herbert J. Brinks

“In sharp contrast to New England, which was settled mainly by families, most of the settlers of Virginia and neighboring Maryland were single men bound in servitude. Before the colonies turned decisively to slavery in the late seventeenth century, planters relied on white indentured servants from England, Ireland, and Scotland. They wanted men, not women. During the early and mid-seventeenth century, as many as four men arrived for every woman.”
Life in Early Virginia

​”a. Surviving males competed for the affections of the extremely scarce women, whom they outnumbered nearly six to one in 1650
b. Although they were still outnumbered by three to two at the end of the century, eligible women did not remain single for long
c. Families were both few and fragile in this ferocious environment; most men could not find mates and most marriages were destroyed by the death of a partner within seven years”
Chapter 4: American Life in the Seventeenth Century, 1607-1692

“Unlike the New England experience, where young, single men faced a high likelihood of marriage, bachelors in the Chesapeake often remained unmarried into their thirties or beyond.”
Single Men in America by Carl Robert Keyes

Furthermore, this trend of men outnumbering women was true beyond just the beginnings of a few British colonies. In general, “The majority of seventeenth-century English emigrants were poor, young, single men…” The reason for this is, coming “from the bottom rungs of English society”, that “Two-thirds of English settlers came to North America as indentured servants”; single male indentured servants, of course, being more sought after (also, maybe more available along with more willing).

In fact, this trend wasn’t just a general truth in the colonial era. It was also a general truth during the early American period and well into the 20th century. The reason it was so enduring is that America is an immigrant nation and American immigrants for most of our history have been disproportionately single men. This demographic and cultural history is explained well in a passage from David T. Courtwright’s Violent Land (Kindle Locations 69-87):

“Anyone who looks closely at the underside of American history will find mostly young and single men. They have accounted for far and away the largest share of homicides, riots, drug dealing, and the like. This pattern is common to all societies. But the American experience with young, single men has been unusually bad because, until recently, the country has had a higher proportion of them in its population than the European, African, and Asian nations from which its immigrants came. America’s violent history was played out with a bad hand of cards dealt from a stacked demographic deck. As an immigrant society America experienced a more or less continuous influx of youthful male workers, resulting in a population with more men than women for every year prior to 1946. In a monogamous society, many of these surplus young men could not marry. Insofar as young, single men are any society’s most troublesome and unruly citizens, America had a built-in tendency toward violence and disorder.

“The demographic tendency was heightened by cultural and social influences. American men, especially southerners and frontiersmen, were contemptuous of other races and touchy about personal honor, which they were inclined to defend by violent means. American men drank a great deal of hard liquor and grew up in cultures that equated drunkenness with obstreperousness. American men, particularly those of the lower classes, resisted attempts at religious conversion and the feminized style of life associated with it. They often took their recreation with other men in bibulous places of commercialized vice, such as gambling halls and saloons, thereby multiplying the opportunities for violent conflict. The guns and knives they carried increased the likelihood that such conflicts would have fatal results. When killings did occur the police and courts were often unable or indisposed to deal effectively with them.

“This mixture of demographic, cultural, and social characteristics guaranteed that American society would experience unusually high levels of violence and disorder, but not that American society would be uniformly violent and disorderly. These troublesome elements-the surplus of young men, widespread bachelorhood, sensitivity about honor, racial hostility, heavy drinking, religious indifference, group indulgence in vice, ubiquitous armament, and inadequate law enforcement-were concentrated on the frontier. An expanding subnation of immigrants within a larger nation of immigrants, the frontier was, at least as far as white Americans were concerned, the most youthful and masculine region of the country and, consequently, the one most prone to violence and disorder.’

“The frontier was the principal arena of single male brutality in American history. Tens of thousands of drunken and disorderly white frontiersmen perished prematurely, as did countless native and animal inhabitants whose territory they despoiled. Nor is the carnage entirely in the past. Insofar as the frontier experience has become a foundation of the national self-image-that is, insofar as Americans continue to think a manly man is someone with a gun and an attitude-it continues to influence the amount and type of violence in the United States, as well as our collective response to it.”

As Brian Ehresman wrote, along with mentioning of single males: “The South also did not have as good of relationships with the Native Americans as the other regions.” Now that is a major understatement. Even with New England’s rough relationship with the natives, there was a pathway to assimilation and there never was an equivalent to the Trail of Tears. Northern communities with strong foundations of family life, churches and civic-mindedness allowed for assimilation in a way not as possible in the South and it wasn’t for a lack of trying by the natives in the South. Prior to the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee went further than any other tribe to model their entire lifestyle on the example of white people, even owning slaves like their fellow white Southerners.

What made the Iberian and French people so much less clannish than the British? And what is the relationship between clannish cultures in immigrant nations and high rates of single male immigrants? Or is there any direct relation at all? The single male immigrants in the British colonial South had many native women who were theoretically available to marry, but these British men were apparently more resistant to going native than were the Iberian and French men. Why is that? Maybe it is because Iberia and France had long histories of ethnic mixing and so more collective experience with multiculturalism. But if so, how can this cultural element explained by HBD theory?

Here is my personal speculation. Maybe it has more to do with proximity to the Roman Empire and also the nations that maintained longest the political traditions of the Roman Empire. The empires of France, Spain and Portugal followed closest the example of the Romans.

The one thing that the Roman Empire did well that allowed them to survive for so long was multiculturalism. This multiculturalism wasn’t always about inter-marriage/breeding between ethnic groups. Actually, the Roman model purposely allowed for separate ethnic cultures such as the ethnic enclaves and islands of Jews. This model can still be seen in Spain and France to this day. Take for example the Basque who live along the border of these two countries or, as another example, the independent Roma in Spain.

I’ve also speculated that the only reason the United States has lasted as long as it has is because the Northern multiculturalism was able to moderate all of the diversity in this country. It was the South that nearly tore this country apart. The American culture that developed in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern region was in many ways a repeating of the pattern going back to the Romans. I’ve pointed out how William Penn was strongly influenced by French culture and how the French Huguenot immigrants had great influence in shaping important elements of American culture.

Just speculations, of course. Whatever one speculates, it is odd the correlation between single males and the enduring American culture of violence, xenophobia and racism. It is also interesting to note that, as this correlation weakened as the gender ration equalized in the late 1800s to early 1900s, the Southern states lost and the Northern states gained political power. Maybe the Civil War was essential in killing off so many of those single men and so allowing a shift in American culture to happen.

Eugenics: Past & Future

So far, I’ve written five posts where I mention or discuss race and eugenics, although I may have briefly touched on the idea of eugenics in other earlier posts: Race & Racism,  Slavery & Eugenics, Part 2, Black Superiority, and Racial Reality Tunnel. The first post listed (and the first in order of being posted) only briefly mentions eugenics so as to dismiss it from the central point of my thoughts. The other four posts directly consider eugenics and its implications for the American racial order.

Out of curiosity, I Googled these search terms: slavery, eugenics, and miscegenation. You might think that hundreds or even thousands of results might come up. But that isn’t the case. Only 22 results were given. Of these, there was an interesting Wikipedia article on slave breeding in the United States and a few other articles worth reading (here, here, here, and here). On a related note, there is also a thorough Wikipedia article on eugenics in the United States and a small section of a Wikipedia article about compulsory sterilization in the United States.

The last of the anti-mescegenation laws were overturned only in 1967. That is 8 years before I was born, 22 years after my mom was born, 25 years after my dad was born, and 2 years after my parents were married. Just imagine that. When my parents married, it would still have been illegal in some states for them to have been married if they had been legally determined to have been of different races. My parents are old enough to remember what America was like during the height of Jim Crow in the 1950s. My dad even remembers Jim Crow laws from when he visited his maternal grandmother in the Deep South where he and his brother wondered about the water fountains with signs that said “Colored”.

Also, consider that the last forced sterilization happened in 1981. Prior to that, over 65,000 forced sterilizations were done all across the United States. These weren’t just done to minorities, but that was one of their major targets.

This is all still fresh in the minds of many Americans. Many blacks who voted for the first black president didn’t even have the right to vote for much of their early life. The victims of Jim Crow, of anti-miscegenation laws and forced sterilizations are still with us today and they are a significant portion of the population. Heck, the last Civil War veteran was still alive when my parents were growing up (around when my dad would have been starting high school) and there still is a child of a Civil War veteran who is presently living (last I heard) and receiving a Civil War pension.

One point I made in my posts about race and eugenics is how it applies to the human biodiversity (HBD) view of recent human history and evolution. I mention how HBDers like hbdchick like to discuss the manorial system which allowed feudal lords to decide who could marry and so was one of the earliest somewhat systematic attempt at eugenics. I don’t know that it was the intention of feudal lords to breed a better human, but HBDers believe that was the result in the creation of a specific genetic inheritance for large areas of Western Europe.

I must give credit to hbdchick. Her posts are heavy on the data and she makes a very strong case for this, intentional or not, (proto-)eugenics practice of social/genetics engineering. HBDers like hbdchick, however, are less upfront about how this eugenics past could or should apply to our present. I doubt most of them are willing to go back to a time of anti-miscegenation laws and forced sterilizations (whether in terms of slavery or Jim Crow), but it is less than clear what they see as the practical implications of their racialist ideology. I would guess that some of them at least favor heavy-handed segregation through isolationist or semi-isolationist immigration laws and maybe some old school repatriation of unwanted or ‘illegal’ populations.

Vagueness or obfuscation aside, I do think HBDers make a good argument and I think it should be taken very seriously. I take it so seriously that I extend their argument into even more recent history. I see all of slavery and Jim Crow as a centuries-long eugenics program. It wasn’t always systematic in its application and its success is questionable at best, but it must be considered in its totality. As I’ve pointed out, the highly atypical bimodal distribution of racial genetics in the United States offers strong evidence for at least partial success of this state-sanctioned eugenics.

I honestly don’t know what to think of a lot of this. I’m a proponent of civil rights, both in terms of social freedoms and individual liberties. Yes, oppressive laws and practices are bad. But the world is becoming increasingly complex.

Between GMOs and DNA screening, we are truly entering a brave new world of genetic engineering. It always comes down to who is making the choice and who is suffering (or benefiting) from the consequence. Is embryonic eugenics all that much different from Spartans throwing their unwanted babies off of cliffs? I don’t know. But just imagine if feudal lords and slave-owners had the genetic knowledge and ability we have today. When HBDers look at the data about the past, the present real world implications are stark.

It gets me wondering, as it gets many people wondering. Certainly, it has caused more than a few fiction writers to wonder, from Philip K. Dick to Margaret Atwood.

How do our potential futures reflect our past? If we don’t learn from the past, what might we repeat? What if society finally succeeded in creating separate races of humans, what would that mean? And if some powerful nation such as China took up such a project, who would stop them? Is this dystopian vision an inevitable reality? Is a genetically engineered future necessarily dark and oppressive? Will humans ever learn to use our power responsibly?

What motivates my thinking is a single insight that, as far as I can tell, is original. Like others, I keep repeating that race isn’t biologically real. However, unlike others, I argue that race could be made biologically real. It matters not if it merely began as a social construct and opponents are naive to dismiss the power of beliefs such as these.

I wonder why I haven’t come across this insight before. What is so unusual about it? Why does it go against so much of the polarized debate about race and racism? To my mind, this insight naturally follows from the disagreement between the race realists and social constructionists, a bridging of the divide that may not make either side happy. To argue that there was an at least partially successful American eugenics project to create a black race is about as taboo as it gets when it comes to political correctness.

Eugenics in general rarely gets much attention in the mainstream media. There is something in all of this that our society is still afraid to face, even as it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore. It is the territory of the dark imagination, of unmentionable possibilities.

Black Superiority

Now that I caught your attention with my title…

An interesting thing happened the other day. After writing my second post on slavery and eugenics, I came across a passage from a book that spoke directly to my stated hypothesis. I was just conjecturing for the fun of it. I wanted to see how human biodiversity (HBD) logic could be turned on its head, but I wasn’t thinking in terms of actual evidence.

The book I was reading is The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America by Steven Fraser. The passage covers various studies and so it is a longer passage. I won’t quote the passage in full. Instead, I’ll just give you the conclusion (Kindle Locations 501-509):

There are a total of seven studies providing direct evidence on the question of a genetic basis for the B/W IQ gap. Six of them are consistent with a zero genetic contribution to the gap (or with very slight African superiority) based just on the raw IQ numbers, and though all of these six suffer from some interpretive difficulties, they mostly boil down to a single objection. If it was very low IQ whites who mated with blacks (or very high IQ blacks who mated with whites), the results could be explained away. (One study, which compared blacks and whites in the same institutional environment, is free from this objection.) The self-selection factor would have had to be implausibly great, however, and would have had to be present under a variety of circumstances, in several very different locales, at several different time periods. The remaining study-the only one that the authors write about at any length-is at least on the face of it consistent with a model assuming a substantial genetic contribution to the B/W gap. But that study has as many interpretive problems as the others, including the two studies which the authors mention only to dismiss. Any reader would surely reach very different conclusions about the likely degree of genetic contribution to the B/W gap by virtue of knowing the facts just presented than by reading the highly selective review presented in The Bell Curve.

Here is the hypothesis from my previous post:

Several centuries of black women were impregnated by upper class whites (slaveholders, aristocrats, business owners/employers, etc). According to HBD logic, these upper class white men carried superior genetics in terms of social and economic success, including higher average IQs. The continuous infusing of these supposed superior genetics, if HBD theory is correct, should lead to an increasing concentration of superior qualities among blacks. Thus, a super black race should have been created.

I was just playing around with this notion. It was fun to think of an alternative perspective. I didn’t think that I would come across a conclusion of the evidence as I found in the above quote. Let me repeat it because the key assertion is so mind-blowing:

“There are a total of seven studies providing direct evidence on the question of a genetic basis for the B/W IQ gap. Six of them are consistent with a zero genetic contribution to the gap (or with very slight African superiority) based just on the raw IQ numbers”

Basically, when you control for all the confounding factors, blacks aren’t shown to have inferior genetic-based intelligence and if anything they show some superiority. If you support HBD theory, this is a challenging conclusion, to say the least. It is the absolute polar opposite of what standard HBD logic leads one to conclude, as based on preconceived premises and cherrypicked data.

Of course, I’m wary of this style of thinking. Science is complex, especially about genetics. I’ve yet to meet an HBDer who seems to fully comprehend this compexity. As far as I can tell, the research hasn’t yet reached a level where a fair conclusion can be made with any great degree of certainty. So, even the evidence referred to in the above quote is just more data. It is interesting, but I wouldn’t take any conclusion too seriously. It merely proves that HBD theory is more conjecture than anything else at this point.

Anyone can hypothesize anything they want, but they are near impossible to prove or disprove, mostly non-falsifiable. I’m not against speculating on evidence. It is fun. I just think people should be very upfront that is all they are doing. Also, people should be honest with themselves why they continually argue for certain hypotheses while dismissing equally or even more plausible hypotheses. HBDers should ask themselves why they feel so drawn to try to prove blacks are inferior, especially considering the evidence is so weak.

Slavery and Eugenics: Part 2

In my last post about slavery and eugenics, I used the logic of human biodiversity advocates (HBDers) in order to come to the opposite conclusion about the most probable expected results.

The alternate premise I used for the HBD-style logic was that of how for most of US history defiant blacks were more often imprisoned, killed or otherwise removed from the breeding pool. Hence, defiance-related genetics would have been severely lessened in the African-American population. As I concluded in that post, if the HBD theory is applicable to how genetics and society actually interact in terms of human behavior, American blacks should be the least defiant (and so most submissive, obedient, rule-following, law-abiding, non-violent, non-criminal, etc) demographic among all Americans. My point was that this is the opposite of the conclusions of HBD theory, at least as presented by the typical HBDer.

There is another argument that HBDers (and race realists) often present. I wish to turn it on its head as well.

This other argument is that blacks are so aggressive and criminal because generations of black women were raped by aggressive and criminal white men. So, the premise is that the white genetics that American blacks possess (on average 20% with 1/10 having +50%) is disproportionately the worst possible white genetics. Let me reverse this premise by pointing out that many of the white men impregnating black women throughout history have been white men with power (slaveholders or friends of slaveholders, employers, etc). So, actually the white genetics would quite likely be disproportionately from whites who were the most successful, often from Southern aristocracy or other elites (e.g., Thomas Jefferson).

I began thinking about this second line of thought because another book I’m reading: Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. Here is the relevant passage (The Definitive Griffin Estate Edition, Kindle Locations 1906-1928):

He told me how all of the white men in the region craved colored girls. He said he hired a lot of them both for housework and in his business. “And I guarantee you, I’ve had it in every one of them before they ever got on the payroll.” A pause. Silence above humming tires on the hot-top road. “What do you think of that?”

“Surely some refuse,” I suggested cautiously.
“Not if they want to eat – or feed their kids,” he snorted. “If they don’t put out, they don’t get the job.”
I looked out the window to tall pine trees rising on either side of the highway. Their turpentine odor mingled with the soaped smells of the man’s khaki hunting clothes.
“You think that’s pretty terrible, don’t you?” he asked.
I knew I should grin and say, “Why no – it’s just nature,” or some other disarming remark to avoid provoking him.
“Don’t you?” he insisted pleasantly.
“I guess I do.”
“Why hell – everybody does it. Don’t you know that?”
“No, sir.”
“Well, they sure as hell do. We figure we’re doing you people a favor to get some white blood in your kids.”

I wondered what moral and ethical difference there was between this sort of rape by coercion that threatened to starve a person, and rape by coercion that threatened to knife or shoot a person. Newspapers play up as sensational every attempt by a Negro to rape a white woman. Yet this white rape of Negro women is apparently a different matter. But it is rape nonetheless, and practiced on a scale that dwarfs the Negro’s defaults.

The grotesque hypocrisy slapped me as it does all Negroes. It is worth remembering when the white man talks of the Negro’s lack of sexual morality, or when he speaks with horror about mongrelization and with fervor about racial purity. Mongrelization is already a widespread reality in the South – it has been exclusively the white man’s contribution to the Southern Way of Life. His vast concern for “racial purity” obviously does not extend to all races.

(Later I encountered many whites who freely admitted the same practices my companion described. In fairness, however, other Southern whites roundly condemned it and claimed it was not as typical as my informants suggested. None denied that it was widespread.)

Now combine several centuries of decreasing defiance-related genetics with several centuries of superior white genetics. What we’d expect is, according to mainstream American standards, a superior African-American population (whether or not you want to conjecture this constitutes a separate breed of human). African-Americans should share more of the genetics of these upper class whites which, as HBDers argue, would include a stronger genetic predisposition toward higher IQ and such.

However, HBDers argue that the average lower IQ and higher criminalization rates of blacks is primarily genetic. But what is the basis of the HBD argument? Why doesn’t generation after generation of infusing supposed superior white genetics lead to an above average black population on various measures? Maybe because it isn’t primarily about genetics.

In reality, American blacks don’t seem all that different than any other group of people when all other confounding factors are controlled for. The only main difference is the racism/racial-bias with which they are treated.

Slavery and Eugenics

I was reading a book about racism which I just started: Racial Paranoia by John L. Jackson jr. In one passage, the author discussed slavery and the abuse of slaves. This was in the context of violence by slaves in defiance, whether revolts or poisonings, along with the broader context of mistrust and paranoia that continues to pervade our society. But that isn’t the point of this post.

The author’s standard description of slaveholder violence wasn’t unusual, besides the context of the book’s analysis. What got me thinking was an entirely different context, that of human biodiversity (HBD) that originally inspired my reading all these books on race and racism. I was reminded of how much impact such violence would have had.

HBDers speak of social orders acting as intentional or unintentional eugenics/breeding programs. A common example is that of feudal lords deciding who could marry whom. Another example would be Spartans throwing deformed babies off cliffs to their deaths. These weren’t systematic eugenics in the modern sense and for most societies this would have been haphazard.

In the modern era, there are no known eugenics programs that could be declared as successful. The problem is that potentially creating a breed of humans would take centuries to accomplish, without invasive genetic engineering. It takes many generations to create a breed of dog, but it takes less amount of time because dogs have shorter lives and so reach breeding age more quickly; plus, dogs have large litters at a time from which to choose for the next generation of breeding a particular line.

Nonetheless, the closest humans have come to systematically trying to create a new breed of humans was slavery. Slaveholders chose who was allowed to impregnate their slaves and which slaves were allowed to live. Plus, any slave with negative traits such as defiance would have been likely killed, whether intentionally or not. A slave can only defy so often before the whippings, beatings or other abuse takes him or her out of the breeding pool. Even after slavery, through the enforcement of the KKK and Jim Crow, whites continued to eliminate defiant blacks and their genetics. So, combined that is more than three centuries of controlling which black genetics gets passed on the most.

This got me thinking. If HBDers were correct about their theory, a new breed of blacks should have been created. Three centuries is probably more than enough time to create a new breed of humans, assuming such is likely to happen through normal social means as HBDers conjecture.

This breed of blacks would be submissive, obedient and law-abiding for these were the slaves most likely to live long lives and hence have the most children and pass on more of their genetics. It makes no sense that HBDers instead argue that genetics are what cause blacks to be more violent and criminal (i.e., less submissive, obedient and law abiding). If HBDers were correct, blacks would on average be the most loyal patriots, most lawful citizens and most obedient workers who would always do what authorities told them to do. This hypothetical breed of American blacks would be superior to American whites on all these behavioral traits.

What this proves is that either genes aren’t that powerful by themselves in determining behavior or social forces aren’t that effective in creating genetic-determined behavioral traits. Humans, societies and genetics are more complex than HBDers are allowing for in their theorizing.