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Nicholas Wade and the paradox of racism

The paradox of racism is that at any given moment, the racism of the day seems reasonable and very possibly true, but the racism of the past always seems so ridiculous.

I’ve been thinking about this for a few months ever since receiving in the mail a new book, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History,” by New York Times reporter Nicholas Wade.

Here’s what I wrote in my review of this book for Slate:

The word “inequality” does not appear in the book’s index, but what Wade is offering is essentially a theory of economic and social inequality, explaining systematic racial differences in prosperity based on a combination of innate traits (“the disinclination to save in tribal societies is linked to a strong propensity for immediate consumption”) and genetic adaptation to political and social institutions (arguing, for example, that generations of centralized rule have effected a selection pressure for Chinese to be accepting of authority).

Wade is clearly intelligent and thoughtful, and his book is informed by the latest research in genetics. His explanations seem to me simultaneously plausible and preposterous: plausible in that they snap into place to explain the world as it currently is, preposterous in that I think if he were writing in other time periods, he could come up with similarly plausible, but completely different, stories.

I suspect that had this book been written 100 years ago, it would have featured strong views not on the genetic similarities but on the racial divides that explained the difference between the warlike Japanese and the decadent Chinese, as well as the differences between the German and French races. Nicholas Wade in 2014 includes Italy within the main European grouping, but the racial theorists of 100 years ago had strong opinions on the differences between northern and southern Europeans.

We don’t hear much these days about the Celtic, Gallic, Teutonic, and Slavic races, but these used to be a big deal. Now that Europe as a whole is relatively prosperous, Wade can lump “the West” into a single category.

My summary:

In any era, racism is typically supported by comparing two groups that are socially unequal and with clear physical differences. But both these sorts of comparisons are moving targets. . . .

That said, I can’t say that Wade’s theories are wrong. As noted above, racial explanations of current social and economic inequality are compelling, in part because it is always natural to attribute individuals’ successes and failures to their individual traits, and to attribute the successes and failures of larger societies to group characteristics. And genes provide a mechanism that supplies a particularly flexible set of explanations when linked to culture. . . .

But I think the themes of a book like Wade’s are necessarily contingent both on the era when it is written and the audience to which it is addressed. At the start of his last chapter, Wade speaks to his readers: “Imagine you, as an English speaker of European descent …” In the spirit of modern ideas in theoretical physics, one might imagine a multiverse of possible Nicholas Wades, writing in all possible epochs and for all possible audiences, dividing up humans into groups at different levels of coarseness and focusing on different economic and social outcomes. The racial explanation tuned to our social group and our time period will look oh so reasonable, while all the others will just look silly, like either historical relics or desperate attempts to shore up the status quo. . . .

At any given time, racial explanations are a convenient and natural way to explain social and economic inequality. Then, as relations between and within societies change, the racial explanations change alongside. The terms of race are simply too flexible given the limited information we have regarding the connections between genes and behavior.

P.S. The most interesting comment I got on all of this was not in the Slate comment section but by email, from Jonathan Falk, who reacted to a place in the review where I wrote, “Indeed, Wade writes, ‘Without Western production efficiencies, the countries of East Asia might still be locked in stagnant autocracies.’ Maybe, but I don’t think Toyota got where it is today by copying the production efficiencies of General Motors.” Falk informed me:

That’s certainly wrong as to the beginnings of Toyota (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Type_A_engine) in which Toyota not only copied the engine, but sourced the parts from GM’s manufacturers (who weren’t GM). The copied everything they could from the the (then) most successful automaker in the world.

Actually, that fits very nicely into the theme of your essay — We associate GM today with bloat and lethargy, but they got where they are by being a very different company, an efficient juggernaut which surpassed Ford by out-Fording them.

I remember how crappy American cars used to be in the 70s and how much better the Japanese cars were. It makes sense: U.S. auto executives were making tons of money producing the same sort of cars over and over, and Japanese executives had different incentives as they were trying to break into the market.

The funny thing is that, just as economists are trying (in my view, often in silly ways) to apply the principles of economic exchanges to all sorts of other areas of life, based on the principle that “Everyone is fundamentally alike”), here we have a science reporter doing the opposite, trying to use evolution and group differences to explain phenomena such as interest rates and business success, that seem fundamentally economic.

In both cases, there is some intellectual joy at explaining an outcome in one area based on a theory coming from somewhere else, and the sense of unlimited possibilities as all the pieces click into place. Perhaps because of my own background (and inclinations) as a statistician and political science, I’m skeptical of these all-encompassing theories. As Nate Silver might say, call me a fox.

One thing that the economists and the racists can agree on, though, is to hate on anthropology. So there should be some room for common ground here.

P.P.S. Cosma Shalizi points me to an excellent bit of old-style racism from 1377: “It has even been reported that most of the Negroes of the first zone dwell in caves and thickets, eat herbs, live in savage isolation and do not congregate, and eat each other. The same applies to the Slavs. . . .”

P.P.P.S. X points me to this very reasonable review by Arthur Allen.

179 Comments

  1. Paul Alper says:

    Andrew does a disservice to himself by not blogging his entire Slate article; I strongly recommend reading the original rather than just his posted excerpt. However, note his opening line on this blog:

    “The paradox of racism is that at any given moment, the racism of the day seems reasonable and very possibly true, but the racism of the past always seems so ridiculous.”

    As an example of racism of the past appearing ludicrous today, I vividly recall something written in the 1940s explaining genetically why there are so few Negro basketball players!

    • Barry says:

      “I vividly recall something written in the 1940s explaining genetically why there are so few Negro basketball players!”

      IIRC, a disproportionate percentage of basketball players were Jewish, which, of course, was a causal outcome of ‘oriental trickiness'[1].

      [1] Yes, the ‘racial classification’ of a people changed with time.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Tom Wolfe lampoons the Jewish obsession with how Jews used to be pretty good in basketball when it was a minor sport with little black participation in “I Am Charlotte Simmons.”

        “… four poorly postured middle-aged white sportswriters sat slouched in little, low-backed, smack-red fiberglass swivel chairs panel-discussing the `sensitive` matter of the way black players dominated basketball. `Look,` the well-known columnist Maury Feldtree was saying, his chin resting on a pasha`s cushion of jowls, `just think about it for a second. Race, ethnicity, all that—that`s just a symptom of something else. There`s been whole cycles of different minorities using sports as a way out of the ghetto.`”

        http://www.vdare.com/articles/tom-wolfe-clear-eye-for-the-different-human

  2. I think Andrew Gelman exaggerates the extent to which NE Asians might have been looked on as permanently backward in earlier eras. Probably at the popular level there was disdain for the poverty of Asia in the 19th century, but amongst racialist scholars of the time there was a different opinion of East Asians. At Steve Sailer’s blog I posted this letter from Galton which is just amazingly prescient (even if the rhetoric is a little shocking today). And I see that Sailer has reblogged my comment.

    • Andrew says:

      Pseudo:

      Galton did some great things but, in addition to thinking there were 9-foot-tall men roaming Britain, he was a bit of a proto- Don Rickles or Jackie Mason, writing things such as “Visitors to Ireland after the potato famine generally remarked that the Irish type of face seemed to have become more prognathous–that is more like the Negro in the protrusion of the lower jaw. The interpretation of that which was that the men who survived the Starvation and other deadly accidents of that horrible time were generally of low and coarse organization.” and “average negroes possess too little intellect, self-reliance, and self-control to make it possible for them to sustain the burden of any respectable form of civilization without a large measure of external guidance and support” and “The Hindoo cannot fulfil the required conditions nearly as well as the Chinaman, for he is inferior to him in strength, industry, aptitude for saving, business habits, and prolific power. The Arab is little more than an eater up of other men’s produce; he is a destroyer rather than a creator, and he is unprolific.” Also this: “One of the effects of civilization is to diminish the rigour of the application of the law of natural selection.” That last quote is amusing because it is precisely the opposite of Wade’s thesis that living under civilization made Europeans so genetically dominant.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Okay, but the point is that you asserted:

        “But … what if Wade had been writing his book in 1954 rather than 2014? Would we still be hearing about the Korean values of thrift, organization, and discipline? A more logical position, given the economic history up to that time, would be to consider the poverty of East Asia to be never-changing, perhaps an inevitable result of their genes for conformity and the lack of useful evolution after thousands of years of relative peace. We might also be hearing a lot about Japan’s genetic exclusion from the rest of Asia, along with a patient explanation of why we should not expect China and Korea to attain any rapid economic success.”

        And yet all the way back in 1873 fairly Galton accurately predicted the economic state of the world 140 years later, rightly distinguishing between nature and nurture (one of Galton’s conceptual breakthroughs):

        “The Chinaman is a being of another kind, who is endowed with a remarkable aptitude for a high material civilization. He is seen to the least advantage in his own country, where a temporary dark age still prevails, which has not sapped the genius of the race, though it has stunted the development of each member of it by the rigid enforcement of an effete system of classical education which treats originality as a social crime. All the bad parts of his character, as his lying and servility, spring from timidity due to an education that has cowed him, and no treatment is better calculated to remedy that evil than location in a free settlement.

        “The natural capacity of the Chinaman shows itself by the success with which, notwithstanding his timidity, he competes with strangers, wherever he may reside. The Chinese emigrants possess an extraordinary instinct for political and social organization; they contrive to establish for themselves a police and internal government, and they give no trouble to their rulers so long as they are left to manage those matters by themselves. They are good-tempered, frugal, industrious, saving, commercially inclined, and extraordinarily prolific.

        • Andrew says:

          Steve:

          One aspect with Wade’s general argument is its flexibility. As with Freudian psychiatry, Marxism, and neoclassical economics, the logic can explain anything. Wade is looking at economic inequality today and ascribing it to race. The study of differences in societies is interesting and I think Wade finds it interesting too (in his book he has some conflicting lines, at some points talking about how culture is all-important and at other places disparaging those social scientists who are interested in culture). Cramming everything (including interest rates!) into a racial framework is not so convincing to me, for the reasons I stated in my review.

          Karl Popper and others have criticized such theories as being nonscientific because they are non-refutable, but I prefer to think of them as frameworks for doing science. As such, Freudianism or Marxism or rational choice or racism are not theories that make falsifiable predictions but rather approaches to scientific inquiry. Taking some poetic license, one might make an analogy where these frameworks are operating systems, while scientific theories are programs. That’s why I wrote that I can’t say that Wade is wrong, just that I don’t find them convincing.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            I’ve been following social science statistics since 1972, and they changed completely. Back then, in Los Angeles, the rankings on most metrics were:

            1. Oriental
            2. Caucasian
            3. Mexican
            4. Black

            Now, 42 years later, the rankings on most metrics are:

            1. Asian
            2. white
            3. Latino
            4. African-American

            So, as you can see, everything has changed!

            • Barry says:

              I would advise you to read Ta-Nesi Coates, but that’d be useless for you.

            • William Tell says:

              This is dishonest. You know if you break down those groups by ethnicity and generation, the picture is much more complicated than you present it, e.g. some Asian groups (Hmong, Thai, Cambodian, certain Vietnamese and Filipinos) do as badly as poor Mexicans, and even the more accomplished East Asians (Japanese and Chinese) experience regression toward the mean. By the third generation, Chinese and Japanese-Americans often do no better than Whites (or worse than Whites, on some measures).

              Likewise, some Hispanics (Colombians, Peruvians) do much better than Mexicans and Central Americans. Some White European groups do much better than others. Etc.

              But of course if you have a right-wing agenda to push, paying attention to nuance is inconvenient.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Seriously, you are arguing that race science in the past hasn’t been falsifiable because you aren’t terribly familiar with it, other than through biased summaries. In contrast, I own anthropologist Carleton Coon’s 1965 bestseller “The Living Races of Man,” and can compare his findings from measuring skulls with calipers and the like to those from genome research, and his glass is about 95% full.

            His big population genetics mistake was he lumped whites and blacks together as being closer to each other than they are to East Asians. The more politically incorrect reality we now know from genome scans is that the biggest divide in humanity is between sub-Sarahan blacks and the rest of humanity. Another mistake Coon made was to speculate that the Ainu of Japan had close ties to Western Europeans.

            But the number of bad guesses he made from phenotype data in the early 1960s compared to what we know now 50 years later from genotype data is impressively small.

            • Andrew says:

              Steve:

              It makes sense to me that old-time physical anthropology measurements could show a high correlation with races and ethnicities as measured by genetic distances. When I was speaking of a non-falsifiable theory I wasn’t speaking of that sort of thing. Rather, I was thinking more about how Wade is reasoning in his book.

              Wade’s model is actually pretty sophisticated: genes affect culture which affects behavior. But it’s one of those can-explain-any-possible-data sorts of theories. If a group does poorly, it’s either bad genes or bad governance that’s unrelated to genes. If a group succeeds, it could be the good genes revealing themselves, or it could be that the genes themselves changed via adaptation. And if a society is poorly governed, this can have no effect on genes, or it can adapt people to behave in an uncivilized way (as in the Middle East and south Asia) or at can adapt people to behave in a civilized way (as in China). Wade offers no particular clue on what happened to make Thais and Malays such losers, but he makes it clear that he thinks their lack of economic success demonstrates that it’s their genes that aren’t up to a world-class challenge.

              My feeling about Wade’s genetic explanations for economic outcomes is similar to my feeling about other all-encompassing supertheories: I respect the effort to push such theories as far as they can go, but I find them generally less convincing as they move farther from their home base. Similarly with economists’ models: they can make a lot of sense for prices in a fluid market, they can work OK to model negotiation, they seem like a joke when they start trying to model addiction, suicide, etc.

              To get back to the race stuff: It might be that there’s better stuff out there and I shouldn’t be reading Nicholas Wade, if so that’s another story. I reviewed his book because (a) I received the page proofs in the mail and so this gave me the opportunity to do a review, and (b) I think racial explanations are always available and so it seemed worth laying out my concerns.

              • Steve Sailer says:

                The British tradition of Darwin-Galton-Fisher-Hamilton and their American followers have a pretty good track record at predicting the state of the world in the 21st Century. Their side doesn’t have their hands on the media bullhorn anymore, so it’s easy to get people to believe they were engaged in “pseudo-science” via mass repetition, but if you go back and look at what they said, it turns out that on the whole their predictions turned out pretty accurately so far, at least compared to rival schools of thought.

              • Steve Sailer says:

                Similarly, from our lifetime: how well has Arthur Jensen’s 1969 meta-analysis in the Harvard Education Review worked out as a prediction of the 2013 NAEP test scores for 12th graders released this week?

                Pretty darn good, actually.

                In contrast, how has Stephen Jay Gould’s anti-Jensen 1981 bestseller The Mismeasure of Man held up? Embarrassingly badly.

                But who wants to admit how wrong they were to love Gould and follow him in hating Jensen?

                After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now
                History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
                And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions, 35
                Guides us by vanities. Think now
                She gives when our attention is distracted
                And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions
                That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late
                What’s not believed in, or if still believed, 40
                In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon
                Into weak hands, what’s thought can be dispensed with
                Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think
                Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices
                Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues 45
                Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.

            • Hermenauta says:

              I think the smoking gun is here:

              “He is seen to the least advantage in his own country, where a temporary dark age still prevails, which has not sapped the genius of the race”.

              Why on Earth was China and the chinamen blessed with this “temporary dark age”? What happened? A meteor? An earthquake? Do they had the bad fortune of a black President? Superior races shouldn´t be bothered by dark ages if left to their own devices, I think.

        • CSB says:

          Steve:

          That is one way of describing the typical “Chinaman.” But there are many others, some not so flattering. What is clear to me, however, is that all of those innately “Chinese” traits and aptitudes owe a great deal to Chinese CULTURE as it EVOLVED over time.

          For example, it was Confucius, through the enormous influence of his philosophical system, who set the stage for many of the elements of Chinese “nature” that we still see, in refracted and modified form, to this very day. There wasn’t anything innately, genetically, biologically “Chinese” about Confucian thought, any more than there was anything biologically “German” about Martin Luther’s thought, or intrinsically “Arab” about the prophet Muhammad’s vision of the universe as set down in the Koran.

          Rather, it is the case that history is governed by the victors: Confucius was driven by the ambition to REDUCE OR ERASE WHAT HE DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT THE CHINESE CULTURE OF HIS DAY, AND INTRODUCE, CONSOLIDATE AND ENHANCE THOSE ELEMENTS OF CHINESE CULTURE HE DID HAPPEN TO LIKE AND ADMIRE. He might have failed, but he didn’t (even though he didn’t live to enjoy the fruits of his success).

          Much of historical development is simply an accident not of genes but of cultural development. Philosophers, politicians, military leaders, scientists, poets: they seize the opportune moment to change the direction of their culture, to guide the stream of behaviour as they see fit.

          None of us live in a pure state of nature. We live in a state of nature relentlessly, ceaselessly modified and transmuted through the medium of culture. We now know that some of our own genes can be switched on or off depending on our individual life experiences.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            The relevant point is that in 1873,Francis Galton made an accurate prediction about the economic state of the world in 2014, while in 2014 Professor Gelman was unable to accurately depict that views of Galtonians in the past.

            • Andrew says:

              Steve:

              My review was about Wade, not Galton. The only place I mentioned Galton was in quoting from him on this comment thread. Given that all I did was quote the guy, I don’t see how you can say I was unable to accurately depict his views.

              • Steve Sailer says:

                But, Andrew, you just asserted that in 1954 followers of the Galtonian tradition like Wade would have come up with some cock-a-mamie genetic explanation for Chinese poverty without you citing any actual examples from 1954 or other periods. Your readers responded by pointing out that Galton himself famously predicted the 2014 economic position of the Chinese in 1873 by attributing their “temporary dark age” to their current culture.

            • Rahul says:

              No True Scotsman?

              If Steve Sailer doesn’t like how you describe a guy you are not accurately describing historical fact?

            • CSB says:

              Steve, I reread the 1873 Galton quote that you provided, and it doesn’t seem to me to be all that terribly insightful. One can find countless descriptions of “the Chinese temperament” that are similar to Galton’s in books published in the late 19th century. One didn’t have to be a Galtonian – or an academic racist of any stripe – to observe those same Chinese traits and characteristics Galton observed. Just read any history book or textbook from that time period.

              But Galton gives me no sense of special insight into China. You say Galton made an accurate prediction about the economic state of the world in 2014, but he gives me no indication that he anticipated what was just around the corner for China in the 20th century, no sense of the Warlord Era or Mao’s regime. You can’t read Galton’s description of what Chinamen are like (“good-natured, frugal, industrious”) and recognize Mao Zedong in that. Was Mao not a Chinese? What explains HIS character and disposition?

              The problem I have is if you simply wait long enough the passage of time will, sooner or later, give you the picture you want. Reading Galton in 2014 makes him look pretty shrewd and sharp, but if you’d read him at almost any time during the 20th century, his insights wouldn’t look all that germane and apropos to what was going on in China. He gives me no sense that he anticipated what shocks, conflicts, high drama, and horrors lay just around the corner for the “frugal,” “industrious” Chinese.

              • Steve Sailer says:

                “You say Galton made an accurate prediction about the economic state of the world in 2014, but he gives me no indication that he anticipated what was just around the corner for China in the 20th century, no sense of the Warlord Era or Mao’s regime.”

                Galton wasn’t Nostradamus. He was making a prediction based on his view of the average hereditary nature of the Chinese, based in part on observing Overseas Chinese in non-native environments. Today, 141 years later, his overall assessment looks pretty good.

                The reason Dr. Gelman’s readers have brought this example up is that Dr. Gelman didn’t cite any actual bad predictions made by Galtonians in the past, he just said he assumed they would have made bad predictions in the past about China’s economic prospects today. In reality, the weight of Galtonian thinking was always that the Chinese were underperforming their potential.

    • William Tell says:

      I think you’re dishonest by quoting Galton and then trying to pass off his idiosyncratic views as the general opinion of “racialist scholars” or even educated people at the time. Surely if you were familiar with the racialist literature of the nineteenth century, you’d know that the most commonly accepted hierarchy at the time was White > Yellow > Black, or Caucasoid > Mongoloid > Negroid, if you wish, with some further hierarchies among the subgroups within those races. Rare was the nineteenth century European who thought Asians were equal or superior to Whites. Why not mention Ernst Haeckel, who was ever bit as highly esteemed and popular as Galton? While Haeckel always gave the Caucasoids first place (with Nordics at the top), the second rank was more debatable for him. He initially placed Amerindians second after Caucasoids, but after the Meiji restoration and Japan’s defeat of Russia, the Northeast Asians were upgraded ahead of the Amerindians. It’s arguable whether or not this was due to the influence of Romanticism, but there actually were a good number of educated people over the centuries who thought Amerindians had untapped potential, among them Thomas Jefferson, Oswald Spengler, and to some extent Madison Grant (!).

      While we’re at it, here’s Karl Marx himself on the Chinese: “It is almost needless to observe that, in the same measure in which opium has obtained the sovereignty over the Chinese, the Emperor and his staff of pedantic mandarins have become dispossessed of their own sovereignty. It would seem as though history had first to make this whole people drunk before it could rouse them out of their hereditary stupidity.”

      And here is Friedrich Engels on the Chinese character: “This is a war pro aris et focis [“for altars and hearth”], a popular war for the maintenance of Chinese nationality, with all its overbearing prejudice, stupidity, learned ignorance and pedantic barbarism if you like, but yet a popular war…”

      But when faced with the Meiji period and Japan’s defeat of Russia, there were more scholars (like Lothrop Stoddard) who were inclined to see Mongoloids as a potential rival for Whites (how could they not?), but even this was often ex post facto, and there were still plenty of intelligent people who thought Mongoloids were inferior to Whites. One such prominent person was the Nobel laureate Charles Richet, who published a book, La Sélection humaine, in which he repeated the White > Yellow > Black hierarchy.

      It should be admitted that Blacks were consistently at the bottom of all racialist hierarchies. Overall, however, Andrew’s assessment of the shifting nature of racialism is sound.

  3. Fernando says:

    When it comes to science I’ve come to the conclusion that ambiguity is public enemy number one.

    I don’t even know what is a race or an ethnicity. I suspect the title of the post is essentially capturing the effects of semantic drift.

    PS in the 19th century the distinction was not only between northern and southern Europeans, Catholic and Protestant but also between Northern and Southern Italy. The latter seen as more backwards even though not long before Naples was the wealthiest city in Italy.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      “PS in the 19th century the distinction was not only between northern and southern Europeans, Catholic and Protestant but also between Northern and Southern Italy”

      There still is a distinction between the two: The NYT has recently run articles on the resurgence of organized crime in Sicily and Naples and the corruption that has slowed infrastructure projects designed to make Southern Italy more attractive to tourists.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Ethnicity just means race. Sometimes people claims that it means culture as distinguished from descent, but they never actually use it that way. It has three uses: (1) a euphemism for race; (2) a small race (for those who don’t want to say “the English race”); (3) the category of Hispanic created by the US government, originally intended to mean the race of mestizos, but that subject made people squeamish, so they weren’t precise and the category spun out of control.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Actually, I think the way the U.S. government uses “ethnicity” as distinct from “race” can be generalized into a useful conceptual distinction. Think of individuals adopted as infants. They tend to belong to their biological parents races and their adoptive parents ethnicities. Thus:

        – A racial group is a partly inbred extended biological family.

        – An ethnic groups is defined by shared traits that are often passed down within biological families — e.g., language, surname, religion, cuisine, accent, self-identification, historical or mythological heroes, musical styles, etc. — but that don’t have to be. (Thus, you can be adopted into an ethnic group, but not into a racial group.)

        With most people, race and ethnicity are fairly similar, but they don’t have to be.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Sure, it could be useful, but I’m talking about words, not concepts. No one ever chooses the word “ethnicity” to be careful about the distinction from “race.” Everyone uses the words “race” and “ethnic group” denotationally identically, except when US forms declare “Hispanic” to be an ethnicity.

          But if you do want to talk about that concept, why use the word “ethnicity”? Why not “culture”? I’m in favor of words that are simple and don’t have the baggage of ambiguity.

          • Joël Cuerrier says:

            Ethnology was a much more useful field of research than sociology. It wasn’t “raciology” or “culturalism” which is a subset of bad sociology.

            No, ethnology was what people use to make until they made junk science: Sociology.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            “No one ever chooses the word “ethnicity” to be careful about the distinction from “race.””

            I do, because the U.S. government does.

            The U.S. government repeatedly emphasized that “ethnicity” is not the same as “race” on the last several Census forms you filled in.

        • Rahul says:

          Steve: So you see a black kid on the street & are willing to grant he might be ethnically white? BS. I don’t buy that. To those who obsesses about such things (e.g. you) both race & ethnicity are in practice determined by appearance and appearance alone. If he looks black he is black. Both ethnically & racially.

          • Anonymous says:

            Then what is Obama’s ethnicity and race?

            He is culturally WASP but he is racially Black (or not? since his Mom was White).

            His kids are more genetically Black but more culturally white. You don’t go to elite private school to be immersed in Black culture.

            • Steve Sailer says:

              Right, Obama is half black racially, but ethnically he’s awfully Yankee, Kansas Jayhawk division through his maternal grandparents. He spent eight years at a prep school founded by the Congregationalist missionary Hiram Bingham I, who inspired the rigid minister played by Max von Sydow in James Michener’s huge bestseller “Hawaii.”

  4. Sheldon says:

    Astrologers were nuts, so don’t trust Astronomers?

    • Highly Adequate says:

      Yeah, it’s a little like arguing that we can just laugh off all of psychology forever because of the silliness of Freud and B.F.Skinner.

      • Andrew says:

        Highly:

        You must not have been reading this blog recently. I make fun of psychology research all the time! Not all of it, just the stuff I don’t respect, where people have vague theories that can fit any data.

        And of course I have a lot of respect for research in genetics. But that doesn’t mean I have to believe the hypothesis that a decline in interest rates is evidence for a genetic shift. Speculations have their role in science, and I respect what Wade wrote as speculation. But it also makes sense to consider this in the larger historical tradition of racial explanations for social and political inequality.

        • hbd chick says:

          @andrew – “But that doesn’t mean I have to believe the hypothesis that a decline in interest rates is evidence for a genetic shift.”

          no one should “believe” it or not until the data are actually in. i’m sure wade doesn’t “believe” it — he’s just proposed some ideas.

          at the same time, you shouldn’t call these ideas racist when they (and nicholas wade) are obviously not. that was just lame to be honest.

          • Andrew says:

            Hbd:

            As I wrote, I don’t say that I know Wade’s theories are wrong, I just don’t find his reasoning convincing, for the reasons I’ve given in my review and on this thread. Based on reading Wade’s book, I think he’s an open-minded person but to me he seems a bit too trapped in his theory.

            Regarding why I describe the ideas as racist, I discussed this point explicitly in my review. Racism has a sliding scale and I’m not saying that Wade’s book is anything close to the most racist stuff out there.

            • hbd chick says:

              @andrew – “I just don’t find his reasoning convincing.”

              right. and like i said, you don’t have to “believe” them. (again, no one should until the data are in.)

              @andrew – “Regarding why I describe the ideas as racist, I discussed this point explicitly in my review.”

              i know. and i discussed in my blogpost why you’re just wrong about that. (^_^)

              • Andrew says:

                Hbd:

                To me, Wade’s comments follow the dictionary definition of racism. The point is not whether he characterizes a racial group as superior “in all traits.” Nobody thinks that. Even David Duke, I’m sure, recognizes black superiority in sprinting and basketball. The point is that when Wade makes his comparisons, inherent superiority is implied when he writes, for example, that the Malays can’t emulate Chinese business success because of genetics, or when he makes other such comparisons throughout the book.

              • Steve Sailer says:

                Wade is echoing the publicly expressed frustrations of the long time president of Malaysia who invented the affirmative action system for Malays like himself in 1969.

  5. Sheldon says:

    Don’t forget, Gelman also wrote:

    I believe (Wade) when he writes that “this book is an attempt to understand the world as it is, not as it ought to be.” If researchers ever really can identify ethnic groups with genetic markers for short-term preferences, low intelligence, and an increased proclivity to violence, and other ethnic groups with an affinity for authoritarianism, this is something that more peaceful, democratic policymakers should be aware of.

  6. Steve Sailer says:

    A big problem is that much of what we think we know about past views of scientists has been filtered for us by chip-on-their-shoulder pundits like Stephen Jay Gould, who projected his own worst vices onto rival predecessors.

    Here’s a 2011 New York Times Editorial on untrustworthiness of Gould’s history:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/15/opinion/15wed4.html

  7. Steve Sailer says:

    As for how a book written in 1954 (the year after the end of desperate Korean War!), would have downplayed the economic potential of Korea and China:

    http://isteve.blogspot.com/2014/05/gelman-on-troublesome-inheritance-in.html

  8. Paul Alper says:

    As long as Stephen Jay Gould’s name and shoulder chip have been brought up in this discussion of the topic, “the racism of the day seems reasonable and very possibly true, but the racism of the past always seems so ridiculous,” here is the beginning and the end of his famous book, “The Mismeasure of Man”:

    “If the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin”–Charles Darwin

    • Steve Sailer says:

      From Darwin’s The Descent of Man:

      “There is, however, no doubt that the various races, when
      carefully compared and measured, differ much from each other,- as in
      the texture of the hair, the relative proportions of all parts of
      the body,* the capacity of the lungs, the form and capacity of the
      skull, and even in the convolutions of the brain.*(2) But it would
      be an endless task to specify the numerous points of difference. The
      races differ also in constitution, in acclimatisation and in liability
      to certain diseases. Their mental characteristics are likewise very
      distinct; chiefly as it would appear in their emotional, but partly in
      their intellectual faculties. Every one who has had the opportunity of
      comparison, must have been struck with the contrast between the
      taciturn, even morose, aborigines of S. America and the
      lighthearted, talkative negroes.”

      The demographics of hip-hop today would not come as a big surprise to Darwin.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Gould’s “Mismeasure of Man” is classic pseudoscience, an antiquarian work to undermine current science by gesticulating at obscure scientists of the distant past. It’s hardly surprising that recent research found out that Gould was more wrong than his first target from the distant past, Morton, on cranium size.

      I know he had a sonorous prose style, but Gould was a bad influence on scientific literacy in America and, sadly, the rest of the world.

  9. ““average negroes possess too little intellect, self-reliance, and self-control to make it possible for them to sustain the burden of any respectable form of civilization without a large measure of external guidance and support”

    You cite this as a howler on the part of Galton but how is the statement still not true ? The only African-populated societies today that do “sustain the burden of any respectable form of civilisation….” are a few, low-population Caribbean societies dependent on tourism and proximity to US sun-worshippers. And the bigger that island, the poorer it is. One of the earliest African societies to go independent — Haiti — performs as badly as Sub-Saharan Africa. African-descended peoples who do the best, economically, are those living in countries where the institutions were set up and the economy is primarily run by non-African peoples. Even within the USA you see this pattern : the larger the electoral constituency that’s African-American, the more likely it is to have management problems. Washington DC is pretty nice now but when it first got political autonomy it bankrupted itself and there is now a permanent IMF-like financial authority keeping a tab. Without that externally imposed constraint you wouldn’t have reversed the white flight.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      The Feds carried out more or a less of a municipal coup on Mayor Marion Barry.

    • Feefee says:

      African countries are all developing exactly the same way as Europe did. Big boom in population followed by a lot chaos, wars, the odd epidemic, some crazy leaders, some military conflicts, revolutions whilst at the same time industrializing and improving the standard of living. Go check the HDI of africa and the poverty rates. Majority of African countries are improving, some have reached middle HDI status already. The only difference is that its slower because Africa is much larger and the countries there are much much more complicated. Nigeria has like 250 different ethnic groups, how much does Korea have? Exactly.

      The difference between Haiti and the neighboring countries is Racism. It has a history of extreme racism. Its birth was a slave rebellion that isolated them. They were then segregated by how “mixed” one is. An entirely new country was formed right next to them because of racism.

      Barbados on the other hand has had very little of you people… and guess what its a first world country.

      I love how you forget how European Americans caused the biggest financial crisis in modern history. People were starving during the great depression. Greece, Iceland, Spain, Ireland. Rome… List goes on.

    • CSB says:

      So pseudoerasmus, is this guy some inexplicable freak of nature then?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ee9rDOTLcM8

      Doesn’t culture, education, and access to information play more of a role than whatever genetic differences may exist between the races?

      This 14-year-old self-taught engineer was only ABLE to be self-taught because he had access to the relevant information i.e. there were reasonably well-stocked libraries he had access to. If he hadn’t had that crucial access, he couldn’t have done what he did.

      Culture. Education. Infrastructure. Access to libraries, schools, and other centres of knowledge. These are what really matter. Not genes alone, operating in vacuo, divorced from any social, familial, or cultural context.

  10. Galton did some great things but, in addition to thinking there were 9-foot-tall men roaming Britain

    You could say the same thing about Newton and his strange Arian*-Socinian beliefs and quasi-mystical explorations. Keynes, who owned some of Newton’s private papers, wrote a great essay on this : http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/history/Extras/Keynes_Newton.html

    * Arian, as in Arius the Libyan ascetic.

  11. jonathan says:

    One of my favorite books – which I seem to have lost! – goes through European attitudes toward Jewish intelligence at the end of the 19th into the early 20thC. Some of the best quotes come from 1905, just months before Einstein’s papers came out. The gist is a massive repetition that Jews are capable of simulation, of pretending to be intelligent in the modes presented to them by the Christian societies in which they live, that they are not capable of original and creative thought. (I guess it was easy to dismiss Freud et al because those were new.) To put this in context, it wasn’t until Napoleon that Jews emerged from, were freed from limited existence and ghettoes in the heart of Europe – and from isolation in village in the east. It was difficult for these Europeans to imagine these fringe creatures could … which tempts me to turn things on their head and say that what has held humanity back is the limited imagination and intelligence of Christian Europe, which has repeatedly demonstrated that killing and oppressing in the name of their God is their default mode … but that would be wrong.

    The same has been written about Japan: imitative. Took over Chinese writing. Took over Taylorism. Can refine things but can’t initiate. That they’re very good at refining ideas is taken as saying they’re not good at coming up with ideas and that confuses a cultural reluctance (and the vagaries of history) with innate ability. It was Roman Catholic Spain which, after all, developed the catchphrase “let no new thing arise”: a lack of creative ability or the effect of the Inquisition or just some phrase used by the elites to maintain power and to justify crushing threats? (In this context, I’m reading Japan 1941 by Eri Hotta. The book acts in part as a reminder of how close 20thC Japan through WWII was to feudal, closed Japan before the Restoration and thus why they made certain decisions.)

    BTW, GM overtook Ford because Ford refused to make different models or even different colors of cars. It wasn’t efficiency but a flowering of production that Billy Durant combined in one legal structure – with a mess of production organization. That model better fit a world in which more people could afford more, in which labor savings devices (like gas stoves and hot water heating) had freed up significant time during the working day, and the “luxury” of a car in red or blue with different features moved into the mass market. (It was very difficult for Edsel to convince his father to change.) Ford was always, always more efficient at production. (Still tends to be, btw. That’s an example of company heritage carrying forward; Ford plants, like the Taurus line in ATL, were competitive in hours per car with the Japanese. But Ford had 6 year or longer production cycles – versus 3 to 4 – and other issues. GM’s response has always been toward implementing technology. It’s interesting to see how these long-lived behemoths reflect their founding, but that’s a very long story.)

    • Andrew says:

      I love the comment threads here!

    • I also think ideas about East Asian creativity will get at least modified eventually. There does seem to be an acceleration in Asian Nobelists since 2000 — at least in chemistry. There are at least 3 Japanese Fields Medalists and Fields unlike the Nobel is quadrienniel. In Japanese industry I see a lot more inventiveness & creativity than people suggest. The Japanese have excelled in food science since the early 20th century having discovered not only umami but also invented MSG (I supposed that would be a mixed blessing but it’s used all over the world). Then there’s robotics which everybody knows about. There’s also polymer injection molding which is not nearly as sexy.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        I agree. In general, I don’t find Japanese claims to be uncreative all that convincing — e.g., Toyota attributing their efficiencies to the American Edward Deming — they seem more like propaganda to make Americans feel better about themselves and not worry enough about Japanese exports.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Right now, the Japanese seem to define themselves as uncreative in big things, although they seem highly creative in small things. I wouldn’t be surprised if, say, the currently culturally self-confident Koreans develop a national self-image for themselves of being creative in big things.

        • Andrew says:

          Steve:

          Toyota copied when it made sense economically to do so, and they innovated when it made sense economically to do so. As I wrote in my above post, it seems a lot more fruitful to explain economic behavior via economics rather than pulling out racial stereotypes.

          • Of course it’s true that Toyota did it out of profit-maximising reasons. But you seem to think that standard economic rationalisation cannot incorporate sociobiological factors. But not everyone can just will themselves into executing just-in-time production, otherwise it would have already happened. You need a certain amount of labour quality or human capital. So then we revert to what best represents human capital. I think IQ does — you can ask how much you can improve IQ in the poorest countries by alleviating environmental deficits like malnutrition, micronutrient deficiency, disease loads, and there’s a lot of room for that. But even if you take a more environmentalist view of IQ than warranted, that would still be progress in terms of recognising the importance of IQ as a robust proxy for human capital. http://ideas.repec.org/a/kap/jecgro/v11y2006i1p71-93.html

            • Andrew says:

              Pseudo:

              Remember that this particular discussion arose from Wade’s statement, “Japan and China, two of [the West’s] chief economic rivals, show no present sign of being better innovators.” This is one particular racial stereotype that even most of the commenters in this thread do not seem to buy.

              • Steve Sailer says:

                The issue is that we don’t have a reliable way to measure current creativity. Japanese spokesmen have repeatedly asserted Wade’s view that they aren’t very creative when it comes to big breakthroughs, and they may very well be right. But it’s hard to tell for sure.

                We do have reasonable ways to judge past creativity. With the benefit of hindsight, we can look back and say with a reasonable degree of confidence that Brunelleschi and Shakespeare and Newton and Galton and Einstein were really creative. When we do that we don’t come up with many historically creative individuals for the 1500-1900 era from outside the West. The main exceptions are in Japan, where the culture was progressing at a steady clip, although not exploding like in Europe. The rest of the world was kind of stuck in cultural stasis.

                Why that was is a really interesting question.

            • Paul Alper says:

              The emphasis on IQ being the driving force (or is it the result?) of human capital/human progress is strange considering how blunt an instrument IQ is; IQ adherents seem to be hereditarian true believers. Binet’s original (binary) intelligence tests were intended to help and improve those who needed help rather than to label in order to limit them. The rank ordering of national IQs, a number which presumably is fixed in time, verges on religious fanaticism for justifying/perpetuating the status quo.

              • This is a clunky comments section. I replied to Alper’s comments above and it showed up several posts above his… Or I’m doing something wrong.

          • Rahul says:

            +1

            But that would be inconvenient to Steve’s flavor of argument where race is tied to stereotypes of behavior, good or bad, and a malleable view of racial or ethnic correlates wouldn’t fit his theories.

            • Popeye says:

              Race would have to explain about 60,000 percent of the variation in outcomes for it to justify the amount of time Sailer spends talking about it. I’m not a professional statistician, is that even possible? Are Sailer’s racial obsessions themselves a product of his racial heritage? Given his worldview, wouldn’t it be strange if race was such a critical driver of everything in the world, and yet his own thoughts on the matter (which seem to constitute about 99% of his thoughts in general) were not racially determined, but rather a function of some free-floating mentality?

              • Rahul says:

                I’m not sure of that 99% estimate. He does devote a fair bit of his time to Misogyny, Liberal-hate and Antisemitism. So it’s not as if race monopolizes his thoughts.

    • Fernando says:

      Jonathan: “It was Roman Catholic Spain which, after all, developed the catchphrase “let no new thing arise””

      And therein goes another stereotype from the Elizabethan Black Legend.

  12. ”But that doesn’t mean I have to believe the hypothesis that a decline in interest rates is evidence for a genetic shif”

    If it were ONLY the very long-run decline in interest rates, that fact in isolation should not be held as so suggestive. But it’s the combination of corelative findings which suggest that Gregory Clark may be right about the “domestication” or the “pacification” or (my preferred term) the “embourgeoisement” of the English population. Not only the decline in interest rates (interpreted here as increased patience), but also the decline in violence, rise in numeracy (as inferred from age-heaping data), and the most important correlate, the clear evidence that the non-aristocratic rich had higher fertility rates than other strata of society and must have repopulated them through downward mobility.

    This is a demographic change but genetic change is by definition a population-genetic effect, i.e., change in frequency of some trait within a population. It could be via selective pressure as in the Clark example but it could also be via what in the social sciences is referred to as self-selection. And self-selection is always cited as a kind of cultural or environmental change rather than a genetic one but if social stratification is substantially genetic then self-selection is also a change in the population frequency of some trait. And a good illustration is another point you make :

    ”how different can the Flemish and the Walloons be, really?

    Walloons & Flemings may not be super-hyper-different, but small differences in population frequency of some trait may matter. I offer an historical example of ethnic selection/attrition to illustrate.

    One of the most enduring myths about European economic development is that the riches of the Americas or the East Indies were crucial to it. Thus the Dutch East India Company is frequently cited as a contributor to (and, by sillier people, the primary determinant of) Dutch wealth in the Golden Age. Never mind there is a problem with timing for this thesis, and that spices were a small part of the overall Dutch industrial mix. More important than spices was the influx of people fleeing the Counterreformation. After Antwerp fell to the American-bullion-fattened armies of the Holy Roman Emperor, Protestants in Flanders were given the choice of exile or recantation. As it so happened, Flemish Protestants were disproportionately merchants and craftsmen, and the loss of the future Belgium was the glory of the Netherlands.

    Back to Belgium : the loss to Belgium was felt differentially. The Flemings remained much more agricultural than the Walloons into the early 20th century. And where was the first industrial area of continental Europe outside the English North and Midlands, in the early 19th century ? The Sillon industriel of Belgium — in the French-speaking Catholic Wallonia.

    But of course Fleming & Walloon fortunes were reversed in the 20th century, but here the point is that the average characteristics of Flemings and Walloons always seem to diverge, at least since the Reformation.

    • And I’m not saying the Flemings and the Walloons must be genetically different, but there’s no reason to rule out some differences in population frequencies which show up as differences in “social phenotypes”. And people mightn’t be so resistant to the idea if their image of “genetic change” wasn’t mutation from a sci-fi movie.

    • Andrew says:

      Pseudo:

      My point about the Flemings and the Walloons (aside from being an in-joke for my friends in Leuven) was not that they have no difference but that (a) this is the sort of comparison that old-time racists would’ve used but that Nicholas Wade had no interest in, and (b) if you were to use Wade’s approach of taking economic success as an indicator for positive genetic traits, then Vlaanderen and Wallonie would keep switching back and forth as to who has (by inference) the better genes.

      • But I’m not saying there must absolutely be consequential population-frequency differences between Flemings and Walloons. I’m just saying there’s no reason to rule them out a priori. Of course the socioeconomic differences between Flemings and Walloons are minor, in the greater scheme of things, and well within the range of noise. But what’s interesting about the differences between the two populations is the persistence of those minor differences, even if they get inverted now and then.

        “if you were to use Wade’s approach of taking economic success as an indicator for positive genetic traits,”

        The correlation between income & IQ, for example, is much smaller within countries or groups than between countries & between groups. So if you’re just singling out a few rich people the predictive power of IQ isn’t great. But at the level of whole countries the correlation is pretty high, and the relationship is quite persistent.

        • Andrew says:

          Pseudo:

          Indeed, the historical differences between Vlaanderen and Wallonie are interesting and we can be sure that many many books have been written on the topic, in particular the fascinating feature that the two groups seem to take turns being the leader, unlike the usual setting where there is one dominant and one subservient ethnic group for a long time. And I could imagine that genetics could be part of such comparisons. But this is a far cry from Wade’s approach, which is to take an existing economic disparity and from there to form a sweeping inference about genetic differences between populations.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        But then you cite the Tutsis and Hutus. Now, the Tutsis rulers of Rwanda and Burundi put out a lot of perfectly understandable propaganda about how there are no differences and it’s just a misunderstanding caused by Belgian divide-and-rule tactics. And yet, the minority Tutsis once again rule both countries, just as their self-images of themselves as cruel, cunning in the arts of command, and born to rule suggest. Moreover, Paul Kagame, the Tutsi dictator of Rwanda, has waged brilliant piratical raids into Congo, all the while maintaining the plaudits of the Great and the Good in the West, something no poor Hutu pulled off.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          The Tutsi and the Hutus resemble the whites and Indians in Latin America, where, despite centuries of inbreeding and occasional propaganda campaigns about how we’re all La Raza Cosmica, more or less white people still have 98% of the good jobs, except when there are occasional revolutions or the shorter masses use their majority to elect a leader.

          • Feefee says:

            Those “whites” and “mixed whites” outnumber everyone in Latin America. “mestizos” can pass for white entirely in many cases. So even in mexico “white” would outnumber the hell out of everyone.

            On top of all of that. Wealth and good jobs are passed through generations.

            Nice nitpick and leaving out parts that don’t gel well.

          • William Tell says:

            “more or less white people still have 98% of the good jobs”

            Absolute nonsense. What an ideologue you are. While, yes, there is a correlation between “Whiteness” and SES in Latin America, it’s nowhere near as strong as you claim. Not unless you think people with non-White ancestry ranging from 30-60% are “White.”

      • Steve Sailer says:

        The Flemings and Walloons speak different languages and thus don’t intermarry much. Since they don’t have a lot of relatives on the other side of the ethnic divide, they don’t have a lot of mutual family feeling, so they don’t feel much joint sense of ownership of the state of Belgium. Thus, there tends to be a lot of ethnic squabbling and ethnic machine corruption, and plenty of people would like the country to break up into more endogamous pieces.

        • Aroobola says:

          So, Sailer, I’ve never heard your family name before. Are you possibly a different race from white people whose family trees haven’t entangled with yours anywhere recently? And if you are a different race from other white families, is yours superior or inferior to those that have produced great scientists and entrepreneurs and such. Because it’s really important that we all know where we stand.

        • Rahul says:

          What’s your point?

  13. Chris M says:

    The argument you’re applying seems to be the argument from contagion: If this argument resembles some bad argument from the past, then by contagion, this is a bad argument. Now it would actually be simplistic to call this a fallacy because there is a Bayesian logic to it. If indeed there are hundreds of attempts to base some argument on a certain type of evidence, and all of those arguments were falsified, then we should adjust our priors, and not be particularly enamored of yet another argument in that vein.

    However, logically speaking, the argument from contagion does fail, because an argument’s soundness doesn’t rest on how much it resembles failed arguments from the past. In fact, if you set your mind to it, you could probably jump to any subtopic in any social science discipline, randomly select a paper, and through sufficient archival searching, claim that it fails by contagion.

    The issue with genetics in particular is that our knowledge is much better than it used to be. Now a hundred years in the future it will be even better so we’re not at some utopian state, but current analyses are sufficiently better than older analyses that we can’t say that Wade is just like a nineteenth century scientist.

    Moreover, the ideology of race egalitarianism, like all ideologies, is a human construction. It would be pretty odd if nature went out of its way to exactly align with its tenets. And it would be pretty odd if nature went out of its way to completely falsify its tenets.

    • Andrew says:

      Chris:

      My point is not that Wade’s argument is similar to bad arguments from the past, it’s that Wade’s logic is itself contingent on its time and its audience, hence my thought experiment of the multiverse of possible Nicholas Wades. The same logic by which 2014 Nicholas Wade celebrates “the West” and describes Chinese people as intelligent but uncreative, is the logic that in other eras would praise other prosperous regions and consider other divisions such as that between northern and southern Europeans, a distinction that was so popular among racists of a century ago.

      • “consider other divisions such as that between northern and southern Europeans, a distinction that was so popular among racists of a century ago.”

        But that division remains perfectly valid in so many ways !

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Right, you are falling for the framework of SJ Gould and cohorts that the WASP scientists of the bad old days were both morally and scientifically bad, unlike their sainted selves. Gould was a master propagandist, but a mediocre scientists an ideologically and ethnically biased historian.

        Right, the reality is that the Darwin-Galton-Fisher-Hamilton tradition is one of the great accomplishments in science, and it excited much envy and insult, but we shouldn’t take our eyes off of the fact that their glass was 80% full instead of obsessing over the 20% empty.

      • Steve Johnson says:

        “My point is not that Wade’s argument is similar to bad arguments from the past, it’s that Wade’s logic is itself contingent on its time and its audience…”

        You’re making a breathtakingly bad argument.

        First – past predictions based on racial differences actually hold up quite well. You yourself cited a series of predictions by Galton above that seem to have been almost entirely borne out (apparently you didn’t intend that interpretation for some reason*).

        Second (and more importantly) the past in 2014 includes the entire past of 1914 and 1814. The nature of science is supposed to be that it includes data as it becomes available. In 1914 the 20th century hadn’t happened yet. In 2014 it has. Wade’s argument is not “at this very second this is the state of the world therefore this is what you can say about the genes of all populations”. Wade’s actual argument is that in 2014 we know the current state of the world and we know what the world was like in 1914, too so we can make more accurate statements about people.

        You’re implying “well, Wade’s argument looks really sound now (and basically at all times in the past) but things could change real soon and Wade would look foolish”. Great. The only problem is that it hasn’t bothered to happen yet and there’s no indication that it will in the future. Who’s looking at the world today and betting that Africa or Haiti will overtake China in wealth?

        “The same logic by which 2014 Nicholas Wade celebrates “the West” and describes Chinese people as intelligent but uncreative, is the logic that in other eras would praise other prosperous regions and consider other divisions such as that between northern and southern Europeans, a distinction that was so popular among racists of a century ago.”

        Of course the differences between northern and southern Europeans matter! It’s hard to fail to notice differences between Greece and Germany, for example. On the other hand if you’re comparing those countries to Haiti then Greece and Germany start to seem much more similar. That’s what having a sophisticated, non-simplistic world view is about.

        * Your Galton quotes

        “average negroes possess too little intellect, self-reliance, and self-control to make it possible for them to sustain the burden of any respectable form of civilization without a large measure of external guidance and support”

        Fair grading of this gives it an evaluation of completely correct.

        “The Hindoo cannot fulfil the required conditions nearly as well as the Chinaman, for he is inferior to him in strength, industry, aptitude for saving, business habits, and prolific power.”

        Fair grading of this gives it an evaluation of mostly correct (Galton seems to have underestimated the “prolific power” of many groups under industrial and post industrial conditions). The Chinaman seems to have developed his country to a significantly greater extent than the Hindoo has developed his. Overall the Chinaman seems to have more aptitude for saving, better business habits and superior industry to the Hindoo not to mention that, unlike India, there isn’t a significant problem with outdoor defecation.

        “The Arab is little more than an eater up of other men’s produce; he is a destroyer rather than a creator, and he is unprolific.”

        Mostly correct with the caveat that Galton didn’t foresee oil funded welfare and its role in funding a population boom.

        These quotes were chosen by you apparently to demonstrate the failure of Galton’s predictions. A fair reading of them absent the modern gasp of horror in noticing things seems to show them as correct.

        • Noah Motion says:

          I should probably know better than to join in. I guess I don’t, though. To pick just one part of your comment, you assert that “fair grading” of the following quote says that it’s “completely correct”:

          “average negroes possess too little intellect, self-reliance, and self-control to make it possible for them to sustain the burden of any respectable form of civilization without a large measure of external guidance and support”

          Galton’s claim is far too vague to support your certainty. Is it just average negroes at issue, or are the 50% of above-average negroes implicated, too? How are intellect, self-reliance, and self-control measured? Did Galton actually measure all three in a reliable, accurate way? Has anyone else? If so, are people from other races with similar quantities of intellect, self-reliance, and self-control similarly beset? What counts as a “respectable form of civilization”? What counts as a “large measure” of guidance and support? What does “external” mean, exactly?

          It’s absurd to claim that a statement as vague as Galton’s can only be fairly graded as completely correct.