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Jun 15 2013

I’m a professional “biologist”!

Vox Day/Theodore Beale really is hilariously easy to trigger into paroxysms of foolishness. He now refers to me as a professional "biologist" in those lovely scare quotes, because he thinks his understanding of “genetic science” is better than mine. He explains what he meant by his remarks that he, a white man, and NK Jemisin, a black woman, are not equal.

You see, Africans are pure homo sapiens sapiens.  Non-Africans are not. NK Jemisin, being of African extraction, is almost surely more purely homo sapiens sapiens than I am.  Or, for that matter, than PZ Myers is. 

"Previous research has revealed that Neanderthal DNA can be found in the genomes of everyone who isn’t of African extraction. But, as Pääbo said, "The Denisovans had contributed DNA only to people in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Australia, and other places in Melanesia." In other words, modern humans entering Asia interbred with Denisovans. But the Denisovan DNA didn’t wind up circulating to other areas of the world the way Neanderthal DNA did."

So, everyone who isn’t African possesses DNA from other homo species, including Homo neanderthalensis and what is either Homo denisova or Homo sapiens denisova.  This is why I often mock those who believe in both evolution by natural selection and human equality, because humanity is not only NOT all the same under our skin, we are not, according to current genetic science, even all entirely the same subspecies.  If we apply their idiot logic, then I was actually claiming that I am not fully equal to Jemisin rather than the other way around.

Pure what? What is a “pure” human? Every single person on this planet belongs to the same identical species, Homo sapiens, so his distinctions by differences in alleles is irrelevant. I must also mention that his habit of capitalizing the binomial name is a bit irritating. We teach a class in science writing here that hammers on a lot of the scientific conventions, and we literally tell our students that one of the first signs you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t know basic biology is that they get the punctuation wrong.

The existence of individual variants, even regional patterns, is an expected aspect of the genetic complement of a population. A species is not ever assumed to be genetically homogeneous, so it’s ridiculous to point to one member with a particular admixture of genes within a group and say they’re more a member of the group than someone else with a slightly different genetic complement.

It’s pure typological thinking. Theodore Beale has a crude version of 19th century biology (to be generous) rattling around in his head, and he thinks it makes sense.


Oh, look, Sinfest has a comic just for Theodore.

newknowoldass

42 comments

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  1. 1
    ChasCPeterson

    homo sapiens sapiens

    huh. coincidence?

  2. 2
    Inaji

    If we apply their idiot logic, then I was actually claiming that I am not fully equal to Jemisin rather than the other way around.

    Beale certainly isn’t the equal of N. K. Jemisin. N. K. Jemisin can write one helluva book.

  3. 3
    remyporter

    I am now dumber for having read that. Msr. Beale has outdone even the creationists for sheer “How do you breathe and walk at the same time, because you obviously don’t have the brainpower for both?”

  4. 4
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    Beale is ignorant on so many subjects. And proud to display his ignorance.

  5. 5
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    TB is a classic example of what happens with a small amount of knowledge and a vastly over-inflated ego. It wold be pure comedy except he is serious. But still worth laughing at him. *points finger at TB* Bwahahahahaha

  6. 6
    David Gerard

    This is straight out of contemporary scientific racism^W^Wrace realism^Whuman biodiversity, as it’s currently euphemised – ni^Wblack^WAfricans are dumb, so therefore Europeans must be magically smarter, and it’s all because of the Neanderthal genes and their larger brain cases. Yeah. Never mind that Africa has the most variation in the human genome, ‘cos it’s where we radiated out from.

  7. 7
    Lausten North

    Besides not really saying anything about what he originally meant, he is playing with the words “created equal”. Obviously we are not all equal in that we are not exact duplicates of each other. If I understand my constitution, “created equal” implies that we begin with that assumption and treat each other as if it is true. Your actions and words can result in some of that equal treatment being denied, from being thrown in jail to people slowing backing away or suddenly remembering that they need to be somewhere else.

    We don’t do that based on someone’s genes. Well some people do, but politics or legal systems based on the idea of judging people based on their ancestry are kinda out dated. Just because you can now make those claims based on actual genes doesn’t make it any better.

  8. 8
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    This is why I often mock those who believe in both evolution by natural selection and human equality, because humanity is not only NOT all the same under our skin,…

    “equal” ≠ “the same.”

    Which is heaviest, a pound of lead or a pound of feathers?

  9. 9
    upprunitegundanna

    Again and again I find that conservatives adhere to a lurid essentialism when thinking about people and things: whether it’s the belief that some people are “true Americans” while others aren’t, or that Obama can somehow “be” a Muslim, despite not practising that religion, or the generic belief that there is such a thing as racial “purity”. And here it is again: somehow the existence of Neanderthal DNA in non-African populations imbues the possessors with an entirely separate essence to Africans; and of course he can’t resist the temptation to assume that some kind of hierarchy exists between the “kinds” he has identified.

  10. 10
    Anthony K

    If my father was in jail because he didn’t fully comprehend the intracies of modern ownership and taxation, I wouldn’t be working so hard to prove a connection between genetics and civilised behaviour.

  11. 11
    gravityisjustatheory

    Beale claims not to be homo [sic] sapiens sapiens.

    Homo sapiens sapiens is “wise wise man”.

    Put like that, I think he’s right.

  12. 12
    Donovan

    Whenever I’m having an argument, especially with an non-biologist, and they decide to bring up evolution, I am now in the habit of saying, “Stop. Just stop. Don’t try to support your argument with evolution. You’re going to look foolish and I’ll handily win. If you think you’re right, please offer some evidence you actually know something about.”

    They usually just shut up and sulk, but the last person chose to call my bluff and didn’t talk to me for 2 months after I finished explaining how incomprehensibly ignorant he was on evolution and biology in general (he was trying to support the death penalty by evolutionary psychology).

  13. 13
    Vall

    My apologies if this has been brought up before, but, I am fond of puns and unintentional humor. I think it’s funny that Beale’s initials are TB or VD. Either way, that guy is sick.

  14. 14
    John Pieret

    It just goes to show that Homo mensa isn’t very bright.

  15. 15
    Ace of Sevens

    Pure Homo sapiens sapiens are inferior? I think this guy fancies himself a real-life Magneto.

  16. 16
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Which is heaviest, a pound of lead or a pound of feathers?

    Is it pound-mass or pound-force, and if the former, is it being weighed in an atmosphere?

  17. 17
    RFW

    If non-Africans are not pure Homo sapiens, what is the non-H.sap. part derived from? Pixie dust?

    P-zed, screeds like the one you quoted are nothing more than word salad, concocted to baffle the opposition with bullshit. The more closely you look at them, the more obvious that they are devoid of meaning.

    Not worth worrying about.

  18. 18
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I think this guy fancies himself a real-life Magneto.

    But he only has a superhuman power of repulsion.

  19. 19
    blbt5

    The deep fallacy in the discussion of homo subspecies by Beale et. al. is that the focus on inclusion of DNA from other subspecies is due to a random act of discovery, which is an illusion. In addition to Neanderthal DNA, Caucasian DNA may contain a number of contributions from other undiscovered subspecies, which is also doubly true of African DNA since DNA has not incidentally been isolated from its contributing subspecies. Beale can’t get used to the idea that we’re a mongrel species, along with every other living creature on the planet. As Dawkins pointed out, one rabbit – even of the same species – is not the same as another.

  20. 20
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Is it pound-mass or pound-force, and if the former, is it being weighed in an atmosphere?

    The former, and no.

  21. 21
    coffeehound

    Wow. That was deep. I guess he schooled the biologist. But then having a Mensa Mind allows you to tie sociological observation and a paradigm of superiority/inferiority to the most rudimentary of basic genetics tidbits. Causality (not to mention an explanation for the implied idea that African DNA is somehow isolated, as it’s more ‘pure’) is reserved for mere mortals . You know, people with biology degrees. When all you need is a Mensa Mind and a subscription to Scientific American.

  22. 22
    heliobates

    Which is heaviest, a pound of lead or a pound of feathers?

    European or African feathers?

  23. 23
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    Well we all know VD has the last word on other people’s professional qualifications. It’s all that sooper special evolution he’s personally undergone: he can now tell, despite the degree, years of professional activity and position as a professor that you don’t know the REAL (his) biology.

    In other news, the fact that he hasn’t been showered in prizes for his great contributions to society is, I’m sure, merely an oversight. Or maybe a conspiracy—evil feminists. They’re oppressing him everywhere.

  24. 24
    Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy

    A pound of feathers is heavier than a pound of gold, but I don’t think lead is measured in troy weight.

  25. 25
    waldteufel

    Curious to see if this VD character was in PZ’s Dungeon (where he belongs), I clicked on the Dungeon button at the top of the page, It is apparently a broken link that returns “Error 404 – Page not Found”.

  26. 26
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Oh gawd, what did I start?

    European or African feathers?

    Erm, not sure, but definitely from an unladen swallow.

  27. 27
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Curious to see if this VD character was in PZ’s Dungeon (where he belongs), I clicked on the Dungeon button at the top of the page, It is apparently a broken link that returns “Error 404 – Page not Found”.

    PZ disabled the link due to rampant sockpuppetting.

  28. 28
    twas brillig (stevem)

    re waldteufel @25:

    Curious to see if this VD character was in PZ’s Dungeon (where he belongs), I clicked on the Dungeon button at the top of the page, It is apparently a broken link that returns “Error 404 – Page not Found”.

    Yes, the Dungeon is now GONE, gone, gone. Blown away by “No More Mr. Nice Guy” PZ.
    That is, he just announced it recently in a post with that “…Nice Guy…” title. Search for it, my html fu is down right now, so no link from me.

    But, in addition, IIRC, Vox Day was indeed a very “prominent” member of the dungeon, and well deserved too.

  29. 29
    doublereed

    I had no idea that the word “pure” could be used in biological conversations.

  30. 30
    tigtog

    I had no idea that the word “pure” could be used in biological conversations.

    Yeah, I thought that it only ever applied to particular piles of horseshit.

  31. 31
    Owlmirror

    But, in addition, IIRC, Vox Day was indeed a very “prominent” member of the dungeon, and well deserved too.

    Memory is like a whatchacallit.

    Neither Vox Day nor Theodore Beale appear in the dungeon, of which I took a Google cache after it first 404′ed.

    Nor was he in the Sb dungeon, per the web archive.

    This does not mean that none of the assholes who were in the dungeon (on either site) were not secretly VD using a different alias, of course, but he never posted enough, using either nym or name, on either instance of Pharyngula, to warrant dungeoning under that name.

    It would not surprise me in the least to find out that he has posted to Pharyngula using different nym(s), but he hasn’t done so openly.

  32. 32
    Endorkened

    I used to loooooove trotting that stuff out to annoy conservatives.
    “Hey, you’re half right–there IS is a sub-human mongrel race right under our noses. Just read a SciAm article about the little halfbreeds–apparently they run the world and have a long history of subverting and destroying other cultures. Wanna know which one?”

  33. 33
    Cyranothe2nd, there's no such thing as a moderate ally

    18 @ Azkyroth

    I think this guy fancies himself a real-life Magneto.

    But he only has a superhuman power of repulsion.

    One shiny new internet, coming your way. I just hope I can get the tea out of my keyboard.

  34. 34
    chrislawson

    So which one is less of a dog: a bloodhound or a Great Dane?

  35. 35
    Azuma Hazuki

    In complete, verbatim agreement with Remy Porter at #3…I am a geologist by training and sell office supplies for a not-dying (not a living) and that still made me go “No, no, no, wrong, no, nope, not even wrong here…”

    Why do so few people take the time to inform themselves? I’m getting a picture of the inside of this guy’s head and it is freaking scary. Someone upthread used the phrase “lurid essentialism” which is very well put, and I’d like to add “pathalogical compartmentalization” and “epistemic solipsism” (i.e., his definitions are the measure of all reality” to the pile.

  36. 36
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    This illustrates the difference between science and science fiction: what one is allowed to make up. This distinction may be lost on Beale.

  37. 37
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    Completely off-topic, but inspired by the word “pure”, I should mention the episode of Supernatural wherein they assert that the Monster of the Week can only be killed by a weapon of pure brass. I laughed so hard I had to run the DVD back to catch the next couple of scenes.

  38. 38
    Owlmirror

    a weapon of pure brass

    Chutzpah: the ultimate weapon.

  39. 39
    Holms

    I must also mention that his habit of capitalizing the binomial name is a bit irritating.

    I’m in no place to argue being that I’m not in biology, but I thought the correct binomial was always either [capitalised genus name] [lower case species name]; or [capitalised genus initial]. [lower case species name]?

  40. 40
    moarscienceplz

    So Mr. VD thinks it is a point of pride that he shares a smidgen of DNA with a subspecies that utterly lost the reproduction sweepstakes in only a couple of hundred generations? Perhaps we can encourage him to emulate his noble ancestors.

  41. 41
    moarscienceplz

    Sorry, should have said a couple thousand generations.

    Math, how does that freakin’ work?

  42. 42
    David Marjanović

    Msr. Beale has outdone even the creationists

    He is, unsurprisingly, a creationist.

    Memory is like a whatchacallit.

    *steal*

    I’m in no place to argue being that I’m not in biology, but I thought the correct binomial was always either [...]

    Yes. I don’t know what PZ is talking about here; apparently he has misquoted Beale as getting it right, and complains about Beale’s habit of not capitalizing genus names.

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