Your debate with Jennifer Raff — did you copy and paste that from something else you’ve written or is that original? I want to post some of it, so I’m wondering where the best version would be.
I’ve been working on an extended, polished version of my “Nature of Race” paper. You read the first cut, right? Thus, I’ve been trolling for counter arguments and working though some ideas — while trying to finish up some new analyses. The comments were kind of dopey, so I would prefer that you not post them.
Chuck, I made a long comment on Jennifer Raff’s article, stimulated by your discussion with Colin. Its at the bottom as an independent comment. Please take a look and tell me if you think I’m thinking about it properly and on the right lines. Thanks.
i’ve added numerous more comments now but I’m asking you to look at the really really long one, posted at 10:47am. You can ignore the others if you like. You can ignore all of them and this if you like of course but I would appreciate your feedback. thanks.
I liked your discussion regarding the grains of resolution issue. Let me just make one conceptual clarification:
I justifiably identify race with natural divisions of a species; a division based on overall genotypic similarity would be such one; one based on similarity in only e.g., allele A would not. As I see it, race does not necessitate genetic discontinuities; thus, you can carve out races from two ends of a population continuum; this is even done with subspecies — formally recognized races — at times. The term “clusters” is confusedly used; so I try to avoid it. We discussed this in our incomplete nature of race paper, if obliquely. First, clusters are data outputs, not populations. Second, these outputs are reliably generated — at least when using programs such as Structure — when genetic data comes from natural populations between which there are at least small genetic discontinuities. This has led to an association of the term “cluster” with “genetic discontinuities”. Thus, identifying races with clusters identifies them — at least in the mind of many — with natural populations between which there are genetic discontinuities of some magnitude — and this leads to all sort of “discontinuity arguments”, ones which I don’t consider to be particularly germane. To avoid this, I use the term “natural population” and say that cluster analysis, and cluster outputs, can evidence these. Perhaps you feel that genetic discontinuity is important. Whatever the case, the natural versus artificial and continuous versus discontinuous distinction needs to be kept in mind.
Thanks. I just assumed that discontinuities were needed for there to be separate and distinct ‘races’ . I thought that was the whole point actually. Thanks for pointing that out to me.
Do you think it is important in some way for race applied to humans to have mainstream and intellectual acceptance or is it for you just a matter of fact/ matter of scientific accuracy? If the former, what is the importance of it? I suppose it makes it easier for people to talk and think about genetic population differences, although as I pointed out rejecting race as a concept doesn’t really obviate the population IQ and genetics issue.
btw I caught the end of Wade on Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN international today, June 7th show. It looked like he got some of his ideas across without being trashed and it doesn’t get much more mainstream (or international) than CNN.
Regarding the first point, in absence of discontinuities, you get more individuals falling in an undifferentiated/mixed zones. Just imagine cutting out regions of euclidean space where in each region points are closer to other points in the same region than to points in different ones. You know, the race concept was developed in contrast to the (officially heretical) view that different human groupings represented different species. Racialists were the egalitarian ones! In their arguments against the polygenists, they often pointed to continuous variation e.g., Darwin (1871): “But the most weighty of all the arguments against treating the races of man as distinct species, is that they graduate into each other, independently in many cases, as far as we can judge, of their having intercrossed….. This diversity of judgment does not prove that the races ought not to be ranked as species, but it shews that they graduate into each other, and that it is hardly possible to discover clear distinctive characters between them”.
As for the question, we might disentangle issues:
1. Is a discrete based concept that can be applied to genetic variation important?
Concepts based on discrete categories e.g., tall/small, upper class/lower class, yellow/orange, etc.) are analytically handy, if only for idiosyncratic human biopsychological reasons. A Cylon might think otherwise. I suppose that one could exclusively think of genetic variation in terms of coordinates in relatedness space. thus, a race-like concept is not necessary; it is, though, user friendly.
2. Is a discrete based concept that specifies genetic relatedness important?
One could use the generic concept “population” to describe regions of genetic space; as such, one need not employ a concept that denotes that members are grouped by genealogical/genotypic similarity. But more generic concepts (e.g., vehicle instead of boat, organisms instead of plants) have the drawback of being more ambiguous. Using specific concepts adds clarity to discussions. So again, such a concept is not necessary; it is, though, useful..
3. Is the term “race” necessary?
While the term “race” is not needed to describe “discrete units where members are grouped by genetic similarity”, it is useful since (a) there presently is no better substitute term and (b) the terms is informationally loaded as it readily references an extensive noological network (e.g, Darwin’s race + the zoologist’s “geographic race” + plus what biological race proponents deny + etc., etc.). “Why should we call what has been called “race” “race”?” is akin to asking, “Why should we call what has been called “religion” “religion” — why not call it “hsjeusb” or “group” instead?”
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