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Spanking Nicholas Wade

Wade’s li’l book of scientific racism has been repudiated by over 100 scientists working in the fields of evolutionary biology and population genetics.

As scientists dedicated to studying genetic variation, we thank David Dobbs for his review of Nicholas Wade’s “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History” (July 13), and for his description of Wade’s misappropriation of research from our field to support arguments about differences among human societies.

As discussed by Dobbs and many others, Wade juxtaposes an incomplete and inaccurate account of our research on human genetic differences with speculation that recent natural selection has led to worldwide differences in I.Q. test results, political institutions and economic development. We reject Wade’s implication that our findings substantiate his guesswork. They do not.

We are in full agreement that there is no support from the field of population genetics for Wade’s conjectures.

Ow, that has to sting. But I know exactly how the Human Biodiversity wackos will respond: all those scientists must actually be acolytes of the New Creationism.

Comments

  1. Ichthyic says

    no, they’ll claim that it’s an argumentum ad populum.

    which, technically, would be correct. But of course would ignore the actual substance of the argument.

  2. chrislawson says

    If one person contradicts you, it’s the lunatic fringe. If two or more people contradict you, it’s groupthink.

  3. says

    I think Wade’s book, contrary to his intentions, might have marked a positive turning point. In the past, works of racist and sexist pseudoscience kicked up a media storm even in many cases before they were published. Later, when scholars had an “opportunity” to read the books, they had to play catch up. Individual responses received less media attention, and books refuting the pseudoscientific arguments were years in the making. Now, scientists are much more aware of the potential misuse of their work (and, I think, more attuned to the importance of speaking out in defense of science and against the distortion and misrepresentation of their scholarship), and they’re better able to communicate with one another, the public, and the media.

    This letter, signed by some of the scientists – e.g., Bamshad and Rosenberg – whose work is misused by Wade, comes soon enough after the book’s publication (and on the heels of individual articles and posts that have received attention) to prevent the bogus narrative about “brave scientific truth-teller battling the anti-science forces of political correctness” from taking root. In fact, public statements like this call attention to the racist abuse of science. Makes it just that much harder for the next purveyor of pseudoscience. Well done, evolutionary biologists and population geneticists.

  4. Kevin Kehres says

    I saw a comment to the effect that the signers were “not scientists”, but were “permanent academics”…or some such.

    Never mind that when Wade misappropriated their work, they were hailed as the greatest scientismists EVER!!! Now, when they dare to say, “ahem, that’s not what my research says”, suddenly they’re no longer scientists but “academics”.

    Fuck all if I know what that means. But it’s out there as a meme.

  5. kayden says

    It is great that these scientists have taken a public stance against this latest offering of b.s. dressed up in scientific language.

  6. Matt G says

    When the people you cite accuse you of misrepresenting their work, you are in big trouble.

  7. shoeguy says

    Even if the concept were valid, scientifically, the history of racism and the postulate of one group being more or less intelligent than another based on skin color or ethnic background history proves that road only leads to unspeakable horrors. As much as I love science, racial intelligence studies should be out of bounds because we have proven ourselves unable deal with or interpret the resulting data.

  8. bachfiend says

    This mightn’t be the appropriate place to comment, but I read Wade’s book (and thought it terrible, despite not having the expertise of a geneticist), because Wade’s thesis is just highly implausible. That human nature (including intelligence) is under strong selection pressure and capable of evolving rapidly, within 600 years or around 25 generations, accounting for the success of Western European civilisation dominating the modern world.

    His evidence? The silver foxes in Novosibirsk who were made tame within 20-25 generations by selective breeding (not ‘strong’ selection pressure, but ‘extremely severe – only the tamest 3% of males in each generation were allowed to breed).

    His mechanism? The rich in earlier Western societies had 4 surviving children instead of the 2 of the less well-off, causing an improvement of the genetic stocks of the less well-off as some of the rich offspring drift into the lower classes (begging the question as to whether the rich are rich because they’re genetically superior or because they were born there ).

  9. firstapproximation says

    Allen Orr wrote a good take-down of Wade’s book at The New York Review of Books.

    The sad part is that this book is still probably going to get read more the papers Wade misuses. I find it really hard to believe a reputable journal would have published Wade’s ideas. The lesson: if you want to publish speculative, racist bullshit without a shred of evidence, do it as a popular book.

    At least this letter shows the work will be criticized.

  10. vaiyt says

    Wade juxtaposes an incomplete and inaccurate account of our research on human genetic differences with speculation that recent natural selection has led to worldwide differences in I.Q. test results, political institutions and economic development.

    For a moment I thought you were talking about The Bell Curve. This is the same bullshit that has been regurgitated with different words since the beginning of the 20th century.

  11. vaiyt says

    I’m reading Orr’s review, and located the first false premise of the book.

    Because of their geographic isolation from one another, these groups of human beings necessarily evolved mostly independently over the last tens of thousands of years.

    Oh look, another doofus who thinks Europe is “geographically isolated” even though it shares a huge land border with Asia and is close enough to the Middle East that the ancestors of Europeans came FROM there before recorded history.

    Overall, Wade writes the same anti-historical, circular drivel as every white supremacist stooge before him. “Things are this way because they are this way, and that’s why they should be this way”. Genes are the cause of cultural shifts, and the evidence for that… are the cultural shifts themselves. From there, he spins pretty tales that will sound plausible for whoever takes his premises as a given, but which have no hard genetic evidence to corroborate them.

  12. dianne says

    As much as I love science, racial intelligence studies should be out of bounds because we have proven ourselves unable deal with or interpret the resulting data.

    I disagree. I think that they should be out of bounds because it’s a freaking solved problem! The studies have been done, there is no difference in intelligence between people of different races that isn’t accounted for by environmental effects, get over it. Let’s go study something where the data are controversial like whether gravity really does lead massive objects to be attracted to one another or whether combining oxygen, fuel, and heat really does lead to ignition.

  13. blf says

    Because of their geographic isolation from one another, these groups of human beings necessarily evolved mostly independently over the last tens of thousands of years.

    Is that statement actually true for any group of humans? Maybe the Americas vis-à-vis RoW (Rest of World) after the last Bering Land Bridge, but only just, sortof, if you squint — c.10,000 years, not tens (multiple) of thousands — and ignores the extensive intra-Americas trade among the numerous First Nations. (One of my favourite examples: Maize (corn), from Mexico, was known-to and grown-by people in New England when the Pilgrims invaded.)

    Other than that one dubious case, I can’t think of any example where one group has been isolated from ten(s?) of thousands of years. (Aboriginals in Australia, maybe… sorry, I haven’t a clew as to the precise history here!)

  14. Lofty says

    blf @16

    (Aboriginals in Australia, maybe… sorry, I haven’t a clew as to the precise history here!)

    Tasmania was isolated from the mainland as sea levels rose after the last ice age around 10Kya, not longer. Native boats weren’t seaworthy enough to manage the distance across Bass Strait. The Oz continent proper was frequently visited by traders from the north so not really isolated.

  15. bachfiend says

    blf,

    The Australian Aborigines and the New Guinean Highlanders were isolated for at least 40,000 years, the Australian Aborigines for perhaps up to 60,000 years, save for limited contact with Melanesians in Northern Queensland within the last 4,000 years (who also introduced the dingo into Australia).

    They might have introduced some genes into the northern areas of Australia, but there wouldn’t have been much dispersal into the remainder of Australia. Australian Aborigines were strongly tribal with more than 400 languages, and intertribal marriage was very rare.

    Certainly enough time to acquire significant genetic differences. There’s no evidence that their innate intelligence is inferior to other human populations, despite Wade’s claim of significant differences in IQ scores between ‘races’. Australian Aborigines for example thrived in a very harsh environment for tens of thousands of years, whereas European explorers, such as Burke and Wills, perished.

    IQ tests don’t really measure intelligence – they just measure IQ, which is heavily dependent on cultural and education factors.