What it Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee

Having perused  “What it Means to  Be 98 Percent Chimpanzee” by Jonathan Marks, I have some comments.  As soon as I saw, in the acknowledgments, that the work was funded by the National Science Foundation and had begun in Berkeley, I knew it would contain claptrap about race.  Still, it looked to be interesting and well-written.

As long as the book spoke of DNA and the differences/similarities between humans and the apes, all was well.   There are some great insights as well as interesting facts.

As soon as Marks starts talking about race, however, the trickery begins.  Let me list some of the ways he tries to fool his readers:

1) Implying that racial theories were invented at specific times for political reasons.  Thus he writes (pg. 52), about the ancients, “But there was no hint of the existence of any small fundamental number of natural human kinds.”  Aside from being false, this claim is meant to imply that Europeans of later times invented the concept of race in order to justify their subjugation of non-white populations.  He also writes that the theory of polygenism  “reached its zenith during the American Civil War” (pg 53) – implying that the theory was meant to justify slavery and, therefore, that we may safely disregard it.  The underlying assumption: A theory can be discredited if we show that the motivations for advancing it were less than noble.  By this reasoning, perhaps we should reject all the scientific innovations from the World War Two era.  After all, they were only invented to further the cause of war.

2) Pointing out the errors of early race science in an attempt to discredit the entirety of race science.  Thus we find the author ridiculing Linnaeus for his infamous “Homo sapiens monstrosus” (pg. 56).  Likewise (ibid.) he criticizes Linnaeus for inconsistencies in categorizing humans versus other animal species.  He goes on and on quoting outdated and, by today’s standards, ridiculous racial generalizations.  The intent is to make the reader laugh at the absurdity of it all and, by extension, the absurdity of race science in general.  But there is plenty to laugh about with 18th century medicine as well.  Does this mean we can shrug off the entire field of medicine as “absurd”?

3) Marks spills much ink gratifying himself with the fact that there are not always clear distinctions between the races.  That human variety is a continuum of gradations.  This, in his mind, invalidates the concept of race.  We must assume then, that Marks does not recognize the colors blue or green – since there are many shades between them that are hard to define.  Also, racial distinctions sometimes are seen abruptly from one place to another, such as with large geographical barriers.  I think we should ask ourselves, what kind of person takes solace in confusion and chaos?  It seems to me that a true scientist would seek to find order and meaning in that which he observes.

4) Marks makes much ado about blood groups and how their distribution seems to have little relationship to race in the classical sense.  He delights in this fact – even though he mentions that the apes possess the same blood groups.  It never seems to occur to him that the races developed long after the appearance and distribution of the various blood types.  Marks wastes pages detailing the shenanigans of the Russian science quack Manoilov and his clearly fraudulent blood tests (which could, supposedly, reveal nationality and sexual orientation).  It is a common tactic of those who wish to deceive: cite the most absurd specimens of the opposing camp in order to discredit them.

5) In the past, many people had a notion of “pure races”.  Some still do.  Yet this notion is, by no means, central to the recognition of race as a valid biological concept.  Marks is typical in that he shows us the absurdity of the “one-drop rule”, as practiced in some Southern states, and then expects us to view this as proof that there is no such thing as race.  If Marks is targeting a specific audience, with these anecdotes, I would suggest it be American blacks.  After all, Obama seems perfectly content to consider himself “black” even though at least half his ancestry is white.  As for the question “who is white?”, I’ve dealt with this elsewhere.

To his credit, Marks at least admits the obvious: “People are similar to those geographically nearby and different from those far away.” (pg. 65).   In this sense, he admits the existence of race.  What he objects to are actual boundaries between various races.  He claims (pg. 66) that:

peoples of Somalia are far more similar to the peoples of, say, Saudi Arabia or Iran – which are relatively closer to Somalia – than they are to the Ghanaians on the western side of Africa.

One wonders what he means by “similar”.  After all, the entire first part of the book deals with why it is impossible to arrive at precise percentages and comparisons of one genome to another.  All we can say is that one genome is “very close” to another but no more than that.  Given that all humans are “very close” to each other, how can Marks know that Somalis are more similar to Iranians than to Ghanaians?  This is a clear contradiction.

Marks claims (pg. 66) that the only reason we Westerners have the notion of discrete racial groups is that most of the Africans we encounter are of West African origins, and most of the Asians we encounter are of East Asian origins.  Hence we get the illusion of clear racial differences.   According to Marks, those of us who believe in race, have only the most rudimentary and simplistic grasp of it.  Therefore, when confronted with realities that challenge our assumptions, we will eventually let go of the idea of race altogether.

Things have changed since the writing of this book.  Now we have plenty of immigrants from various “in between lands”.  And yet, we are growing more conscious of race as a result.  Not less conscious.  In Marks’ mind, the presence of East Indians, who are as dark as African blacks, sport Caucasian features but live in Asia, would throw our racial views into disarray.  Now we see that this is not so.  Instead, the presence of groups such as Indians has only made America’s racial politics more complex.  I wonder if it ever occurred to Marks that the various groups he writes of consider themselves as discrete groups.  That Samoans, Indians and Pakistanis prefer their own kind and see others as “outsiders”.  If these groups see themselves as distinct populations, who is Marks to deny them that honor?

Marks makes much of the distinction between “race” and “population”.  The former, in his view, is gross, inaccurate and carries too much baggage.  The term “population”, on the other hand, is more accurate and carries no baggage.  Over time, the definition of “race” has changed dramatically.  Not long ago, one could speak of “the English race” or the “Polish race” because, back then, it simply meant “nationality”.  It made some sense because nations have, historically, derived their justification/meaning from common ancestral origins.  Even when Scotland and England shared the same king, under James VI, this did not mean that these two nations were now one.  It seems to me that, among race-realists, the current trend is to recognize finer racial distinctions and not to merely focus on the continental ones.  Thus, the debate between Marks and the rest of us, may only be a semantic one.

Other than the deceptions listed above, Marks uses the usual old mental tricks leftists always like to pull out of their sleeves: that there is more variation between individuals than between races, that race science never advanced beyond Carleton Coon, that cultural differences are more important than genetic ones, or that skull shapes are malleable.  All of the above have been debunked, or shown to be meaningless, by others.  Sometimes we find a statement that reveals such ignorance, arrogance or both, that we simply must quote it (pg 92):

… many factors go into a performance, only one of which is ability.  Thus, when we encounter the question of whether poor performance – even over the long term – is an indication of the lack of cognitive ability, the only defensible position from the standpoint of biology is agnosticism.  We do not know whether human groups differ in their potentials in any significant way.  More than that, we cannot know, that is a crucial distinction.

There is so much wrong with the above statement, it is hard to know where to begin.  I shall simply ask Prof. Marks the following question:  If we cannot know whether there are innate mental differences between blacks, whites and Asians, does it make sense to spend billions of dollars of tax money under the assumption that they do not exist?

On the matter of Neanderthals, Marks wants them to be considered a subspecies of humans – for the simple reason that this would reduce the temptation to categorize living races of humans into subspecies.  Earlier in his book, he describes skeletal differences among humans as “quite subtle” (pg. 72).  Conveniently, he ignores Australian aboriginal skulls.

Regarding behavioral genetics, Marks cherry picks several findings – which had made headlines – and shows how the genes in question were actually pathological and not involved in normal behavior.  Fair enough.  But does he really believe that “normal” genes have no influence on behavior and that these genes cannot vary from one population to another?  The author’s bias is exposed when he writes (pg. 109):

And certainly if the history of anthropology has shown us anything, it is that science can easily be invoked to naturalize social inequalities, to make it seem as though they are nature’s fault (and not the fault of greedy and evil people), and thus discourage any attempt to make the world better.  And that’s bad both for people and for science.

Let us turn this around and see if it makes any less sense:

And certainly if the history of leftist ideology has shown us anything, it is that politics can easily be invoked to demonize nature’s inequalities, to make it seem as though they are the fault of innocent people (and not the fault of nature), and thus discourage any attempt to make the world better.  And that’s bad both for people and for science.

I think this second version is more in line with reality today and it is what we should be mainly concerned about.

At one point, Marks criticizes William C. Boyd (pg. 132) and others for recognizing a variety of races amongst Europeans while lumping all Africans together into one race.  On this point, Marks is right.  Any attempt to classify the various races of Man, should strive to be objective and many of them were not.  A reasonable person would then strive to be more scientific and objective in his research – not give up the research altogether and throw out the baby with the bath water as Marks suggests.

At one point (pg. 135), Marks attacks the concept of race as a super-extended family.  The problem, he says, is that the very concept of “family” is a cultural one.  Marriage is typically between two unrelated people – and yet, they form a “family”.  I think an underlying defect, with Marks’ thinking, is that he has no trust in nature and no respect for it.  For most of human history, the only one way we could distinguish between one of our own and an outsider was by appearance.  Clearly, there is a reason that various groups of people look different: to facilitate the defense/continuity of different tribes/ethnic groups/races.  We find the same phenomenon with other animals.  Various breeding populations have different methods, at their disposal, to distinguish between one of their own and outsiders.  Some use scent.  Others have mating calls.  Yet others depend upon territory alone.  With humans, it is appearance more than anything else (though dialect and culture also play important roles).  The author does make some good points about similar people’s hating each other – but, even then, his misses the obvious (pg. 142):

It is not, of course, reasonable at all to suppose that group antagonisms occur only between genetically or biologically different peoples.  Were the Hatfields and the McCoys biologically distinct from each other?  Or the Viet Cong and the South Vietnamese?  Or the Bloods and the Crips?  And that’s precisely the central point, the perception of “otherness,” of alienness – is not based on natural differences.  It’s based on language, the deity worshipped, traditions, diet, activities, beliefs – things that are learned, not things that are innate.

Yes, people will always find excuses to fight and kill each other.  But it is difficult to feel much animosity toward a group that is thousands of miles away.  People develop distastes for what they are exposed to – to their neighbors.  Now that people like Marks have forced the various races into close proximity, people will have even more excuses to hate and kill each other.  In the past, the average American had no particular opinion about East Indians.  Now a whole new set of stereotypes have developed about them.  One wonders what Marks thinks about that.

What does Marks do with inconvenient statistics, such as sports statistics that seem to imply black superiority in some fields?  Why, he disregards them, of course (pg. 145):

So what can it mean about “black people” if the ten fastest known sprinters are all black?  In the first place, it is a gross perversion of statistical sensibilities to characterize a population by its ten most extreme members.  And in the second place, the fastest white and yellow people are not too far behind anyway – we’re only talking about the twinkling of an eye here, after all.  And how do you know you haven’t missed some really fast white guy somewhere?

Talk about grasping at straws!  Who’s to say that those ten sprinters were the “most extreme members” of their race?  Why is it any more likely that some fast white or yellow runners were missed than some even faster black runners were missed?  If the author is really interested in the answers to his questions above then, as a true scientist, he would encourage serious research to get to the bottom of it.  But no.  According to Marks, any sort of racial research (pardon me, “population” research) does not even fall under the category of “science” and is socially irresponsible.  There are so many things that Marks does not know – and does not want to know (despite his proclamations to the contrary).

It is the same with twin studies (pg. 149).  Marks would have us believe, on the basis of one or two spectacular twin stories and his own smears against the Pioneer Fund, that twin studies are of little value, being mostly studies of coincidence.

A  chapter is devoted to the “Human Genome Diversity Project” (pg. 202-206).  In a nutshell, Marks see no value whatsoever in studying the genomes of indigenous peoples.  In his view, there is nothing wrong with a tribe such as the Yanomamo becoming entirely assimilated to the point where there is no vestige of their genetic heritage remaining.  In Marks’ world, the entire genetic mosaic of mankind is naught but a chaotic, swirling pot of stew.  I wonder about people like him.  Do they realize how arrogant they seem?  I wonder if they feel the same way about endangered animal or plant species.  What they are saying is that we already know everything that is worth knowing about these genomes and, therefore, there is no value in preserving them or studying them.

In the chapter titled “Identity and Descent” (pg. 219), Marks shows how much he cares for the ethnic identity of Native Americans – even to the point of supporting them in their claim to the skull of Kennewick Man.  In his view, the fact that Kennewick Man appeared to belong to a different “population” than modern Native Americans is only incidental and it irrelevant to their claims that he is their ancestor because (pg 239)…

… all claims of ancestry and descent from Kennewick Man are nonliteral and nonscientific; they are metaphorical.  And we have no objective, scientific basis on which to judge one metaphor’s validity as against another’s.

How touching – and I wonder if Marks affords whites the same level of sensitivity, regarding their ethnic identity, as he does Native Americans.  In all fairness though, I thoroughly agree with his sentiment that scientists should avoid needlessly offending people.

In “Essentializing Blood” (pg. 245- 249), Marks takes apart the so-called “Cohanic gene” theory.  He does good work here; I’ve never taken that theory very seriously myself and have always considered it more wishful thinking than actual science.

As much as people like Marks would like to wish race away, they also take active roles in making it so.  It is not enough for them to show us that “race is an illusion”, they force their version of reality upon us through government legislation in the form of massive immigration and forced integration.  While one hand pretends to be a scientist, guiding us through a presentation, the other hand is holding a gun, forcing us to comply.  This is not “science”.  It is tyranny.

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About jewamongyou

I am a paleolibertarian Jew who is also a race-realist. My opinions are often out of the mainstream and often considered "odd" but are they incorrect? Feel free to set me right if you believe so!
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20 Responses to What it Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee

  1. Kiwiguy says:

    ***He goes on and on quoting outdated and, by today’s standards, ridiculous racial generalizations. The intent is to make the reader laugh at the absurdity of it all and, by extension, the absurdity of race science in general. But there is plenty to laugh about with 18th century medicine as well. Does this mean we can shrug off the entire field of medicine as “absurd”?***

    Sounds like Marks has learned from Stephen Jay Gould’s technique in The Mismeasure of Man!

    Great review. Also interesting point about whether Marks would feel the same about endangered plant or animal species. I actually remember someone on a forum arguing against the idea of race, but then arguing somewhere else about how important it was to protect some subspecies of animal.

    You may have read these, but some other interesting examples of Marks trying to obfuscate discussion and silence opponents.

    http://onestdv.blogspot.com/2009/11/professor-jonathan-marks-responds.html

    http://isteve.blogspot.com/2010/07/one-person-hates-nicholas-wade.html

    • jewamongyou says:

      Thanks Kiwiguy! Thanks also for those great links.

      Just read Sailer’s post in its entirety. I’ve got to admit, Sailer is a lot more charitable than I was – and perhaps I was too harsh on Marks, considering he was willing to debate Sailer. In real life, I’m a nice guy and sometimes I compensate for that in my writing!

  2. Eugenicist says:

    As a former resident of Berkeley, California, this whole review gave me a serious case of deja vu. The obfuscation, the evasion, the ridicule, above all the inability to grasp the simplest concepts or to relate theory to real life, the selective, deliberate blindness. You did an excellent job of reviewing this book and pointing out its flaws.

    I used to think this type of talk was just a smokescreen so that the upper-middle-class could racially discriminate without being obvious about it. Now I’m not so sure. There still is a status element, no question, but it seems to go deeper than that. The Jungian CogSci major in me wants to figure out: what is the point of believing in all of that?

    It’s strictly irrelevant, but how I wonder does Marks conduct himself in private life? Does he live in a “diverse” neighborhood? Does he send his children to “diverse” schools? When he looks to join a social club, does he behave as if races do not exist? It would be intersting to know.

    • jewamongyou says:

      Thanks! Actually, according to his book, Marks does believe in “race” – except that, in his eyes, it is only a social reality. Not a biological one. This would mean that he does not behave as if race does not exist. Instead, his whole life is probably one long “affirmative action” campaign. In other words, he most probably discriminates against whites (in subtle ways, to be sure). Just my guess.

  3. statsquatch says:

    Nice post. Marks wrote a book called, “Why I am not a scientist.” we should take him at his word. Have you read Nevan Sesardic’s work (http://www.ln.edu.hk/philoso/staff/sesardic/publications.html)? I liked “Race: A Social Destruction of a Biological Concept.”

  4. da says:

    I’ve read about some studies that show that blacks have a 5% smaller brains than whites and 6% smaller than Asians(Even the malnourished ones). The size difference can be seen through MRI scans and brain cavity analysis. So it’s pretty straight forward, which makes me wonder why I’ve never seen this brought up by race realist.

    I wonder how an educated leftist would rationalize that. I imagine he would say that IQ has no relation to brain size, but still it would point to some deep differences in the races.

    • jewamongyou says:

      Oh, it’s been brought up. The leftists simply deny it. They attack the methodology of the studies. I do not think the leftists have done any serious studies, on this matter, of their own. They have nothing to gain.

      • da says:

        I guess I should have known. Arguing with a leftist is pointless. The keep changing the rules. These days I just accuse of racism for not living among blacks. It’s pointless but entertaining.

  5. Patrick says:

    Race realists are just as guilty as race deniers of race denial. I have seen many race realists get bent out of shape when differences among white european nationalities have been brought up.

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  7. Joseph says:

    Here are my thoughts after reading this: First, you argue within your counterarguments specific points and then debunk each specific point in order to show Marks as using “absurd specimens of the opposing camp in order to discredit them.” Isn’t this self-defeating? Aren’t you using specific points that Marks makes to debunk him? The issue here is a collective argument. Though Marks certainly uses “outdated” data, he does so to show a diachronic continuity of error. Why didn’t you mention his comments on modern racial politics (e.g. “The Bell Curve” or genomics? Because that would defeat your argument?

    Secondly, you counter that Marks’s argument of racial clines, or gradients, is misleading. In doing so you point out that these gradients are similar to color gradients. How? Marks is specifically arguing that BIOLOGICALLY, there is no way to measure race (i.e. it is a social-political-cultural construction). He does this by showing that “black” has no meaning. Is a West African as “black” as a South African or Northeast African? You point out that he wouldn’t recognize the colors blue or green. Cute rhetoric, but he doesn’t denounce the concept of “race,” he merely denounces its biological basis. Obviously a color scale is irrelevant to compare with biologically. As it is, and as you state, race is seen as black and white and yellow, etc. So how do you label the colors/races in between? Are they separate races or are they still black, white, yellow, etc.? Again, he isn’t “invalidat[ing] race,” he’s merely showing no biological basis. Also on this point, you go on to argue that there is geographic variability, which Marks clearly agrees with and argues for himself. Chaos and confusion? Yeah, you’ve done that well.

    Finally, you consistently argue that Marks is completely dismissing science. This is just false. He is a “molecular” anthropologists. How could he possibly dismiss science? He is simply arguing that science should be reconsidered — it is misleading as it is (hence his detail on 98% similarity…). Science is not purely empirical. I think we can all agree on that. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be arguing for cultural differences as a basis for race, or irrelevant science such as craniometry relating to intelligence. More agreeably, the 98% number wouldn’t range by 10 percentage points among scientists. Science, including Marks’s, has a sociological-political-economical basis.

    However, you do make a very good point in Marks’s attempt at minimizing research. He doesn’t seem to be directly arguing this, but he does denounce the Human Genome Project prior to its completion (in fact, a rather large advancement has been made since the writing of this article). Granted it’s hard to predict the future, but Marks seems to argue certainty where there is none. This still doesn’t invalidate his arguments on “race,” it merely leaves questions unanswered (not unknowable as you seem to think Marks argues).

    • jewamongyou says:

      There is nothing to indicate, when purchasing Marks’ book, that it is intended as an attack on race-realism. On the contrary, one gets the impression that the book is meant to be a primer on the meaning of biological differences/similarities between humans and our ape cousins. Within this context, one should ask what his intentions were in citing the past absurdities of racial scientists. How is this information relevant to us today? The answer, of course, is that Marks’ argument is that just as race science was wrong in the past, so too is it wrong today. In doing so, Marks should have made distinctions between race science of the past and race science of today instead of just lumping them all together. For example, “racial scientists of the past made such and such errors. Current advocates of this approach have improved in this and that area, but they make similar errors to the predecessors and this is why…”. I don’t recall any such statement in the book. As for The Bell Curve, it has already been dealt with extensively by others. I see no reason to chime in when others, far more knowledgeable than I, are already defending that book quite well.

      My point, in making the analogy of color, is that the lack of clear boundaries does not preclude the existence of different groups. I stated that our disagreement is likely one of semantics. What he calls “populations”, others call “race”. I also agreed that the concept of race could always use some fine-tuning – but this does not make it an unscientific concept; it just means it has to be fine-tuned. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear about that – but I get the impression you might have skipped over one or two paragraphs of my review that address what you’re talking about. It is never my intention to cause confusion or to avoid inconvenient truths.

      Marks dismisses science in the sense that he appears to value his own racial belief system more than he values the objective truth. A “scientist” is one who seeks the truth, regardless of where it might lead. As you yourself have admitted, Marks was less than enthusiastic about the Human Genome Project. He writes that this is because he fears the exploitation of indigenous peoples. He admits that these peoples sometimes possess genes that others do not (or in alleles that others lack). It seems to me that such a distinction is “biological” and argues against his own position. Perhaps Marks is also afraid that the project might topple some of his own sacred cows. Only he knows for sure. It would give me much pleasure if those who call themselves “scientists” become more open-minded about HBD. More importantly, it would give me great pleasure if the political climate improves to the point where they are ABLE to do so without fear of negative consequences to their careers.

      • Joseph says:

        It seems to me that race science is just a means to an end. For some reason you notice it and comment on it extensively. Yet he deals with many other topics (e.g. creationism, colonialism, cultural hegemony, etc.). He does this to show faults in science on a continuum. He questions the purity of science, and in doing so, questions race. The former, not the latter, is his ultimate point. And I’m assuming that Marks “lumped” the race science together for three reasons: 1) he considered his readers had come across that science before and were aware of a loose time frame; 2)to make his point more applicable today; 3) and because science today faces the same issues it has for a century, and that includes the Human Genome Project. Granted, the second point may not be the most impartial way to argue but the goal typically overshadows the means (not just within Marks).

        Back to the color analogy. Let me try to do better. You stated: “We must assume then, that Marks does not recognize the colors blue or green.” Not to get into semantics, but this is my point: If your significant other asks you what color to paint the house and gives you the choice of blue, then your logical, first question would probably be “What color of blue?”. Just as this indicates, there are numerous choices of blue, or between blue and green. Similarly, according to Marks, race exists in many varieties called gradients, or clines. You go on to say what some call “populations” others call “race.” This is a completely unscientific relation. Its actually a linguistic one. But the point is there is no line to be drawn. Wherever you might try to divide “races” there are always going to be people overlapping those lines. This is not just theoretical (this reminds me of abortion arguments, but is quite different), its practical and noticeable. Thus, if you try to do this you are going to end up with a large, disagreed upon number of races. Again, he doesn’t deny differences, he denies race as biologically valid. Moreover, you seem to be going back to cultural constructs of “race” within your statement (the existence of different “groups” obviously exists, but this, as you originally stated, could be based on nationality; or religion, eye color, daily water intake, language, caloric intake, or any classification system thinkable). He attempts to show that race is unscientific by displaying cultural, social, other, etc. influences. His point in showing different accounts over different time periods is to show this partly. The arguments in the past century (plus) have changed consistently: skull size, skull shape, IQ tests, blood grouping, mtDNA, etc. Why? Because each one prior has been debunked (based on cultural, etc. constructs, rather than pure science) along the way (much as the “defended” Bell Curve has been, though apparently not universally accepted yet), leading to the latter. But enough about race. Like I said, that wasn’t his main purpose.

        Finally, yes! We agree on this. I think he definitely should be more open-minded concerning science in general. But he admits that people differ in certain genes or alleles. What does this say? He certainly never denies variation, which any scientist will tell you, due to evolution, is less noticeable between certain primate species (namely chimps and humans) due to recent and rapid evolutionary changes. And he certainly is not arguing against biology, as stated in my first post. He’s arguing that science is holistic (social, cultural, political, economic)–which you basically confess within your last sentence (at least to the degree that science is strongly influenced by politics).

        One final note. The Human Genome Project quickly developed another branch of research called the Human Genome Diversity Project. This branched “study within a study” had a stated purpose of undermining the popular belief of distinct races. Of course, that might be one of those inconvenient truths. And I know you couldn’t resist, but really? Has Marks advocated for immigration control reform or “forced integration” (still proposing separate water fountains?)?

  8. jewamongyou says:

    Re: Joseph,

    It seems to me that race science is just a means to an end. For some reason you notice it and comment on it extensively. Yet he deals with many other topics (e.g. creationism, colonialism, cultural hegemony, etc.). He does this to show faults in science on a continuum. He questions the purity of science, and in doing so, questions race. The former, not the latter, is his ultimate point. And I’m assuming that Marks “lumped” the race science together for three reasons: 1) he considered his readers had come across that science before and were aware of a loose time frame; 2)to make his point more applicable today; 3) and because science today faces the same issues it has for a century, and that includes the Human Genome Project. Granted, the second point may not be the most impartial way to argue but the goal typically overshadows the means (not just within Marks).

    If this is the case, I would hardly disagree with him. I might add that, as long as humans are human, science can never be completely “pure”.

    Back to the color analogy. Let me try to do better. You stated: “We must assume then, that Marks does not recognize the colors blue or green.” Not to get into semantics, but this is my point: If your significant other asks you what color to paint the house and gives you the choice of blue, then your logical, first question would probably be “What color of blue?”. Just as this indicates, there are numerous choices of blue, or between blue and green. Similarly, according to Marks, race exists in many varieties called gradients, or clines. You go on to say what some call “populations” others call “race.” This is a completely unscientific relation. Its actually a linguistic one. But the point is there is no line to be drawn. Wherever you might try to divide “races” there are always going to be people overlapping those lines. This is not just theoretical (this reminds me of abortion arguments, but is quite different), its practical and noticeable. Thus, if you try to do this you are going to end up with a large, disagreed upon number of races. Again, he doesn’t deny differences, he denies race as biologically valid. Moreover, you seem to be going back to cultural constructs of “race” within your statement (the existence of different “groups” obviously exists, but this, as you originally stated, could be based on nationality; or religion, eye color, daily water intake, language, caloric intake, or any classification system thinkable). He attempts to show that race is unscientific by displaying cultural, social, other, etc. influences. His point in showing different accounts over different time periods is to show this partly. The arguments in the past century (plus) have changed consistently: skull size, skull shape, IQ tests, blood grouping, mtDNA, etc. Why? Because each one prior has been debunked (based on cultural, etc. constructs, rather than pure science) along the way (much as the “defended” Bell Curve has been, though apparently not universally
    accepted yet), leading to the latter. But enough about race. Like I said, that wasn’t his main purpose.

    Yes, we could divide the “macro-races” into ever smaller “micro-races” and so on until we reach the individual level. But this sort of exercise would be useless to us; we are all already aware of differences between individuals. While it is true that no line can be drawn that can clearly distinguish between one race and another, I would ask you to view things differently. Let’s, for the moment, forget about “race” and pretend the term had never been coined. If I told you that people whose ancestors lived in hot, humid climates had different proclivities than those whose ancestors lived in cold, icy climates, would you have an issue with this? Even race-denier Spencer Wells, in his documentary “Journey of Man…”, notes that the indigenous people of North Siberia have evolved short limbs in order to better retain heat. Others have commented on the higher lung capacity of Tibetans or the fast-twitch muscles of East Africans. All these are adaptations to conditions over thousands of years. Would you dismiss all these studies and observations as meaningless – since there is no clear line to be drawn between a Siberian and a Kalenjin tribesman from Kenya? Yes, we could focus our attention on areas where multiple races mingle freely and where everybody is mutts. But thankfully, most of the world is not yet like that. In short, if you define “race” as a clearly distinct group of people, who can each be scientifically identified by certain markers and that there are no grey areas, then I would agree with you that there is no such thing.

    I wanted to add that it is true – I do mix politics, religion and culture with my observations about race. I do not see how this is avoidable; we cannot compartmentalize our knowledge and strategies without taking a holistic approach to things. Reality is not considerate enough to mold itself after our own arbitrary terminology.
    Finally, yes! We agree on this. I think he definitely should be more open-minded concerning science in general. But he admits that people differ in certain genes or alleles. What does this say? He certainly never denies variation, which any scientist will tell you, due to evolution, is less noticeable between certain primate species (namely chimps and humans) due to recent and rapid evolutionary changes. And he certainly is not arguing against biology, as stated in my first post. He’s arguing that science is holistic (social, cultural, political, economic)–which you basically confess within your last sentence (at least to the degree that science is strongly influenced by politics).

    One final note. The Human Genome Project quickly developed another branch of research called the Human Genome Diversity Project. This branched “study within a study” had a stated purpose of undermining the popular belief of distinct races. Of course, that might be one of those inconvenient truths. And I know you couldn’t resist, but really? Has Marks advocated for immigration control reform or “forced integration” (still proposing separate water fountains?)?

    Every public person, whether in politics, entertainment, sports or what have you, is in favor of forced integration – unless he specifically states otherwise. Forced integration (I.E. the denial of the right of freedom of association) is the default position of everybody in the Western world. Only those who speak out against it can be assumed to be against it. Has Marks spoken out against it?

  9. Pingback: The Left: White men have no brains « Jewamongyou's Blog

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