The anthropologists really are buzzing »« Oh, no, I’m getting old!

I would not want to be Nicholas Wade right now

Two more meaty reviews of his li’l book of racism: One by Agustin Fuentes, an anthropologist who debated Wade, and the other by Jennifer Raff, yet another anthropologist with expertise in genetics.

I’ve focused a lot of this review on numerous technical details because I think that it’s very important that non-geneticists understand the degree to which Wade is distorting the results of recent research on genome-wide human variation. I won’t speculate whether this distortion is deliberate or a result of simple ignorance about genetics, but it is serious. There is a great deal more in this book that also needs to be critiqued, such as Wade’s assertion that the genetic differences between human groups determine behavioral differences, resurrecting the specter of “national character” and “racial temperaments”. But as I’ve shown here, Wade’s book is all pseudoscientific rubbish because he can’t justify his first and primary point: his claim that the human racial groups we recognize today culturally are scientifically meaningful, discrete biological divisions of humans. This claim provides a direct basis for the whole second half of the book where he makes those “speculative” arguments about national character. In other words, the entire book is a house of cards.

Although the scientists are all laughing at him, at least he’ll have the praise of David Duke and John Derbyshire as consolation.

Comments

  1. says

    The question is – will this make a difference? Will this be a turning point, when people start to examine these sorts of racist claims skeptically? Or will they continue to dismiss reasoned and scientific objections as PC censorship? This is the first time I’ve felt that a potential for a real turning point exists.

  2. says

    laughing at him

    -The tone I sense from most non-racist reviews is more pity of Wade’s lack of command of the facts rather than gloating over the decline of his credibility.

  3. Nigel Evans says

    Roundup of book reviews of Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance:

    [Racist spam deleted. –pzm]

  4. says

    Even Charles Murray and Steve Sailer have made some less-than-approving statements regarding some of Wade’s claims. So, while I don’t think there will be any major shift in perceptions, Wade has helped sharpen the skepticism of all serious people interested in the matter of differences between and similarities among human races.

  5. says

    The tone I sense from most non-racist reviews is more pity of Wade’s lack of command of the facts rather than gloating over the decline of his credibility.

    Since both of those are consistent with PZ’s statement, not to mention consistent with each other, your statement is pointless.

    Even Charles Murray* and Steve Sailer have made some less-than-approving statements regarding some of Wade’s claims. So, while I don’t think there will be any major shift in perceptions, Wade has helped sharpen the skepticism of all serious people interested in the matter of differences between and similarities among human races.

    You’re a sad, sad troll/ideologue.

    *Read his ever-so-critical review in the WSJ.

  6. A. Noyd says

    @Nigel Evans (#3)
    Why the fuck are you linking a massively racist site here? It’s all pro-HBD and libertarian “Dark Englightment” bullshit.

  7. says

    Well, PZ, I have to say I go one better: I have never wanted to be Nicholas Wade. I was not wanting to be Nicholas Wade before not wanting to be Nicholas Wade was popular, in fact. Does that mean I’m some kind of hipster now?

  8. says

    *Read his ever-so-critical review in the WSJ.

    -I read it. I found it to be one of the most pro-Wade reviews I’ve read in the mainstream press, and even it stated:

    These chapters will be their primary target because Mr. Wade chose to expose his readers to a broad range of speculative analyses, some of which are brilliant and some of which are weak. If I had been out to trash the book, I would have focused on the weak ones, associated their flaws with the book as a whole and dismissed “A Troublesome Inheritance” as sloppy and inaccurate. The orthodoxy’s clerisy will take that route, ransacking these chapters for material to accuse Mr. Wade of racism, pseudoscience, reliance on tainted sources, incompetence and evil intent. You can bet on it.

    -This, while being over-the-top in Galileo gambiting, clearly acknowledges that the book is nowhere near perfect and implies it is in need of revision.

  9. says

    The orthodoxy’s clerisy will take that route, ransacking these chapters for material to accuse Mr. Wade of racism, pseudoscience, reliance on tainted sources, incompetence and evil intent. You can bet on it.

    Ransacking is unnecessary. Note the phrase The orthodoxy’s clerisy – as if those critical of such a book are thoughtless ideologues It is racist and pseudoscientific. . This isn’t over-rhe-top Galileo gambiting, it’s pure racist apologetic bullshit and ignorance of science.

    Maybe you were called a troll since you want to treat such dreck with a “fair and balanced approach” of “both sides”. Just a guess – I have o idea who you are, or what was in SC’s mind.

  10. anteprepro says

    From the quote provided by

    ransacking these chapters for material to accuse Mr. Wade of racism, pseudoscience, reliance on tainted sources, incompetence and evil intent. You can bet on it.

    Oh no! He will be accused of both incompetence and being evil! He will be accused of both relying on bad sources and being biased himself!

    Would Mr. Murray be fine with critics if they only accused Wade of one option but not the other? Or is there not supposed to be any criticism at all?

    It is simply amazing how paper-thin people’s skins become when an otherwise perfectly normal debate happens to intersect and disrupt Almighty Privilege. Nudge that and suddenly scientists should just shut the fuck up and stop criticizing things, lest we do something barbarous and hasty, like call someone “racist”. Erect the shields, fortify the walls, arm the cannons, for the “Orthodoxy” of “Trying To Avoid Culturally Entrenched Racial Bias” is battering down the gates!

  11. anteprepro says

    Sorry Enopoletus Harding. Meant to cite you in comment 12, but had a brain fart and forget to add your name.

  12. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    at least he’ll have the praise of David Duke and John Derbyshire as consolation.

    And Enoleptus Harding bending so far over backwards to be charitable to him one needs non-Euclidean geometry to describe it.

  13. John Pieret says

    I would not want to be Nicholas Wade right now

    Unless, of course, you wanted the royalty checks from the sales to racists.

  14. says

    Nigel Evans seems to be a drive by spammer. I asked him in the previous Wade thread why he linked to that site, and he didn’t respond.

  15. M'thew says

    #16

    He’s been all over the place. I asked him in a similar thread on Why Evolution is True about the all too obvious bias in the way the critiques were presented on the site he linked, and “answer came there none”. He is a drive-by spammer.

  16. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Enopoletus Harding

    -Why do you call me that!?

    Um, did you read the responses in the older thread? You kind of got caught lying there.

  17. jefrir says

    Enopoletus Harding

    You’re a sad, sad troll/ideologue.

    -Why do you call me that!?

    Because we can read the words you have written in your time on this website, and have drawn the obvious conclusion; that you are a racist libertarian shitbag, and that you aren’t here in good faith.

  18. says

    I don’t call you a “sad, sad troll/ideologue”, EH, you poor lamb.

    I call you a dishonest, obtuse, condescending, quoteminer.

    For now. Give me a sec; I’ll call you something completely different.

  19. says

    You kind of got caught lying there.

    -Where? So far as I’m concerned, I have not lied to anyone here and these accusations are baseless.

    you want to treat such dreck with a “fair and balanced approach” of “both sides”

    -I admitted “I know little of biology” in
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/05/11/the-hbd-delusion/comment-page-1/#comment-795241
    For some, ignorance breeds close-mindedness. For me, it breeds attempts at seeing both sides objectively and figuring out which statements of each side are correct and which are not. I see nothing wrong with this. So far, I’ve come basically to the same conclusions as those of Jerry Coyne- human races exist, but Wade has done a poor job defending their relevance to the study of human behavior.

  20. jefrir says

    You kind of got caught lying there.

    -Where? So far as I’m concerned, I have not lied to anyone here and these accusations are baseless

    In the “He’s not a racist!” thread, where you were blatantly quotemining Hank_Says. I mean, it’s that, or you’re too stupid to understand the word “not”. Frankly, I’d say “liar” is the kinder interpretation.

  21. azhael says

    @22 Enopoletus

    Wow…You purposefully and dishonestly quotemined a sentence to completely distort what it was saying and now you are pretending that you don’t see the lie?

    You have not reached the same conclussions as Jerry Coyne because you have no idea what the biological concept of race is and how Coyne uses it. I’ll add to that that i personally think Coyne has failed to do a good job describing his usage of race, which doesn’t help. The biological concept of race for which there is a certain value of “they exist” is based purely on, for the most part, trivially significant statistical differences in allele frequencies. That is a very low value of “they exist”…
    In a way it’s similar to classifying people between adults/non-adults from a certain age. Calling all people who are 18 or older, adults, is a legal, cultural and sociological construct which is useful and has, to some degree, a biological basis. However, it’s artificially discrete and does not reflect a biological reality, let alone one that can be extrapolated to all individuals. We use it because it is useful, not because it is true in any significant way.
    To pretend that it is a biological reality that when a human reaches 18 (or 21 or whatever), they automatically change into adult form, is obviously ludicrous. To pretend that human populations fit into discrete biological races, is equally ludicrous.

  22. David Marjanović says

    PZ, please post this at the ScienceBlogs version of Pharyngula! It hasn’t arrived there yet.

    -I admitted “I know little of biology” in
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/05/11/the-hbd-delusion/comment-page-1/#comment-795241
    For some, ignorance breeds close-mindedness. For me, it breeds attempts at seeing both sides objectively and figuring out which statements of each side are correct and which are not.

    1) It’s a logical fallacy to believe there are exactly two sides to everything.

    2) As long as you know little of biology, you aren’t able to figure “out which statements of each side are correct and which are not”! That’s the problem. First learn the topic, then talk about it.

    The Dunning/Kruger effect happens to everyone. Occasionally I only found out during a discussion that I didn’t understand the topic as well as I thought. Just try not to keep this up.

  23. says

    I won’t speculate whether this distortion is deliberate or a result of simple ignorance about genetics, but it is serious.

    Hah! What a civil way of saying, “I can’t tell if this guy is a huge liar or massively incompetent.”

  24. Anri says

    SallyStrange @ 27:

    Or even: “This is so bad, I can’t tell if this guy is a huge liar, massively incompetent, or both. And I don’t care which.”

  25. says

    EH @ 22, here’s where you lied in the other thread @ http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/05/21/hes-not-a-racist/comment-page-1/#comment-800159.

    You lied about what I said, via quotemine. You cropped my words so that they expressed the complete opposite of the point of view I expressed not six comments previously. And you did it right in front of my face and hoped nobody would notice.

    You blockquoted me as saying this about Africa:

    white influence is entirely responsible for the strife across the continent

    when I actually said:

    Not that white influence is entirely responsible for the strife across the continent but when you pull a knife from a wound, you get spurts.

    Seriously, this is blatant, creationist-level quotemining. If it isn’t (which I find very unlikely), it’s rank incompetence and breathtaking inanity.

  26. lopsided says

    I don’t know why I’m shocked at how terrible his book is, but I am. WTF was he thinking?

  27. neverjaunty says

    Enopoletus Harding @10: That’s not actually criticism. Murray is saying that there are minor flaws in the book, and those are problematic because it gives Bad People an excuse to seize on those minor flaws in order to dismiss the Greater Truths set forth elsewhere.

  28. neverjaunty says

    lopsided @30: As has been pointed out by wiser people than me, there’s a certain mentality that enjoys being the enfant terrible and positioning oneself as the fearless truth-teller in the face of grey groupthink orthodoxy. Whether one’s shockingly outre position is 1) actually all that marginal and 2) right is beside the point.

    Plus, nobody ever went broke in America catering to rich bigots, provided they are willing to use the right veneer of “science” or “reason” to pretend respectability. Charles Murray has done very well for himself off wingnut welfare. I’m sure Wade will profit much more from this book than he ever did as a science writer for the NYT.

  29. brucegorton says

    I just wanted to say thanks for pointing me to Raff’s piece, there were a few misconceptions I had about the issue that it did a good job of clearing up.

  30. numerobis says

    Right now, I bet Nicholas Wade is wondering how he’s going to spend his first royalty cheque. One could do worse.

    OK he outed himself as a racist fuck, but still, there’s well-paying gigs to be had selling to that crowd.

  31. says

    There was absolutely no intentional quotemining of Hank_Says by me. Anyone claiming this has not understood how the broader context of my supposedly quotemined statement could impact my reading of it:

    Nothing at all to do with the fact that Africa was treated like a 24/7 resource supermarket and looted of its riches and its human population treated like livestock for century upon century, then colonised, stripped again of its wealth and left, each nation in turn, to try and pick up the pieces after the white man left, or was kicked out, leaving political wildfires and crumbling infrastructure in his wake. Never mind that the aftershocks are still being felt. Not that white influence is entirely responsible for the strife across the continent but when you pull a knife from a wound, you get spurts. It’s impossible to say what Africa would’ve been like without Europe treating it like a Kwik-E-Mart and battleground for a thousand years; the fact remains that they did and many African nations are still suffering because of it.

    -It is absolutely clear to anyone that when Hank_Says says “Nothing” and “Never mind”, he’s being sarcastic and means the opposite of the literal readings of “Nothing” and “Never mind”. So, there was absolutely nothing preventing me from reading the “Not” in his third sentence in the above-blockquoted paragraph as also being sarcastic and meaning the opposite of its literal reading. I was not taking Hank_Says’s statement out of context. I was reading it in context. Whatever Hank_Says meant, he did not communicate it well enough for me to understand it in his relevant comment.

    So, in short, I continue to deny all wrongdoing in regards to this matter.

  32. says

    @azhael

    To pretend that it is a biological reality that when a human reaches 18 (or 21 or whatever), they automatically change into adult form, is obviously ludicrous. To pretend that human populations fit into discrete biological races, is equally ludicrous.

    -Your first statement is correct, your second one is only somewhat true. Your first statement is no grounds for saying “age doesn’t exist” or “childhood doesn’t exist” or “stages of biological human development do not exist”. Though some populations, like some age groups fit into discrete categories of biological human development, do fit into discrete biological races, many (e.g., most Mexicans and Uyghurs) do not.

    In any case, yours is the first useful analogy I’ve heard in this discussion.

  33. unclefrogy says

    Harding, you are being obtuse. You are also being very stubborn. You say you do not know biology and fail to understand the arguments based in the science or refuse to acknowledge them and go back to your own point. You want races to be real and exist and not be just a social construct with little basis in biology so you think there must be two sides because you can’t admit you do not know and could be wrong. It is an argument from ignorance.
    uncle frogy.

  34. says

    Harding:

    If something I write is unclear to you (say, if you’re not sure if I’m being sarcastic anymore or not), the clever thing to do would be to request a clarification before you post it – especially if you’re going to truncate half of it – and not prevaricate and protest and make excuses after you’re called on it. Not that it’s a big deal, but I notice you appear to be the only one who had difficulty parsing my meaning.

    The fact remains that you posted a modified version of a statement I made which, to any observer who hadn’t read my initial comment, gave the impression that I held the exact opposite position to the one I actually expressed. At my most charitable, that was clumsy. But I’m not feeling very charitable.

    I don’t think you’re obtuse anymore. I think you’re just incapable of an honest discussion.

  35. neverjaunty says

    ‘I wasn’t wrong, and if I was, it was your fault’ – Please. The trick of pretending your opponent’s position was extreme and absolute (when it wasn’t) is a very old rhetorical game, and attributing it to a lack of clarity on their part doesn’t even rise to the level of backpedaling.

  36. says

    Not sure if Harding’s thick enough to think this is a good defence or if he just thinks we’re thick enough to accept it.

  37. Ichthyic says

    -The tone I sense from most non-racist reviews is more pity of Wade’s lack of command of the facts rather than gloating over the decline of his credibility.

    mockery takes many forms. I doubt any specific critique cares about Wade’s personal credibility, yet it IS quite clear they are mocking him for his ignorance.

    what is it you hope to gain by tossing in a red herring like that?

    Hank’s right… you are looking more and more like a dishonest little shit.

  38. says

    what is it you hope to gain by tossing in a red herring like that?

    -I didn’t see it as a red herring, but as simple observation consistent with PZ’s.

    mockery takes many forms. I doubt any specific critique cares about Wade’s personal credibility, yet it IS quite clear they are mocking him for his ignorance.

    -Exactly my point.

  39. says

    Enopoletus Harding, your idiotic replies and persistence in making them are doing your reputation no favor. Are you sure you want to keep circling the drain like this?

  40. azhael says

    @37 Enopoletus

    -Your first statement is correct, your second one is only somewhat true. Your first statement is no grounds for saying “age doesn’t exist” or “childhood doesn’t exist” or “stages of biological human development do not exist”. Though some populations, like some age groups fit into discrete categories of biological human development, do fit into discrete biological races, many (e.g., most Mexicans and Uyghurs) do not.

    In any case, yours is the first useful analogy I’ve heard in this discussion.

    Yeah, the artificial numeric categories are of course discrete, therefore so is age, the point is that the actual biological reality isn’t, you thick fuck. Stages of human development also exist, as artificial constructs that we use in order to identify them and be able to talk about them, like you know, the way all language works. Biologically, though, once again, there are no discrete stages, there is a continuum.
    In the case of “races” nobody is denying that having words (discrete by their own nature) to describe groups of people is both necessary and very useful, particularly in today’s world, but your insistence that this reflects a discrete biological reality is nothing but an unsupported assertion (one that you have repeated again and again and again….and not once have you even tried to support). So, really, on behalf of everybody in this thread i think it’s time for you to put up the evidence to support your assertion that discrete biological groups exist among modern humans, or to shut the fuck up already.

  41. says

    @ PZ Myers #46

    Enopoletus Harding, your idiotic replies and persistence in making them are doing your reputation no favor. Are you sure you want to keep circling the drain like this?

    -Your warning has now been seen by me and is in the process of consideration. I’m considering moving the discussion to Thunderdome.

  42. says

    Stages of human development also exist, as artificial constructs that we use in order to identify them and be able to talk about them, like you know, the way all language works.

    -I find this an acceptable compromise.

  43. Ichthyic says

    -Exactly my point.

    LOL no, it wasn’t.

    which of course is why I posted a response to your “point”

    you’re useless. you can’t decide who you are, what your point is, or even understand what anyone ELSE’S point is.

  44. Ichthyic says

    -I find this an acceptable compromise.

    I find you a pompous ignoramus.

    both of which opinions, plus 6 bucks, will buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

  45. says

    Enoleptus Harding

    -I find this an acceptable compromise.

    It’s not a compromise, you blockhead; it’s the point that everyone in the thread’s been trying to get through your skull all along.

  46. chigau (違う) says

    Enopoletus Harding
    If you will permit me, I shall explain to you PZ Myers #46.
    When PZ’s comments are bright red, you are one step away from banning.
    You can ‘consider’ anything you want but you are not actually in control of the discussion.
    -Your warning has now been seen by me and is in the process of consideration.
    Is does not make you seem eruditer, it makes you seem stupider.
    -and
    -stop
    -with
    -the
    -hyphens