Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Dobbs attacks Wade

Considering the following review by David Dobb of Nicholas Wade's A Troublesome Inheritance.  Dobbs first paragraph reads,

Now, in “A Troublesome Inheritance,” Nicholas Wade, a longtime science writer for The New York Times, says modern genetics shows that “the three major races,” Africans, Caucasians and East Asians, are genetically distinct races that diverge much as subspecies do, and that their genetic differences underlie “the rise of the West.”

[This is mostly true although Wade doesn't say the races are subspecies.  He says that if the percentage of genetic distinctions that are found distinguishing the "five" races were found in other species, they would be considered subspecies.]

Dobbs second paragraph reads, "This racial divide started, Wade says, when humans began migrating out of Africa some 50,000 years ago. As groups entered diverse environments, they faced differing pressures that selected for gene variants creating different traits, including dissimilar social behaviors. Genetic selection for distinctive physical traits in different populations, such as lighter skin to maximize sunlight absorption, is well established and widely accepted. Decidedly not well established, however, is Wade’s proposal that genetic selection gives different human populations distinct behaviors. Because this is the heart of his argument, and because social behavior is far more complex than, say, skin color, it seems fair to ask that his evidence clear a high bar. Does it?"

[This is not a fair representation of Wade's argument.  He describes natural selection favoring man's ability to adapt to different physical environments.  This doesn't go beyond the obvious.  Eskimos living in cold climates adapted genetically to them but because of the harsh physical conditions the Eskimos never developed cities or the cultural benefits associated with cities.  The same is true of the hunter-gatherers of Australia.  Physical conditions did favor genetic adaptations to the more benign physical conditions north of the Sahara in Europe and China, the Caucasian and East Asian "races."

I should read further in Wade's book before commenting further on Dobbs criticisms, but in regard to Wade's distinguishing between the three major races institutions, he writes "Chinese society differs profoundly from European society, and both are entirely unlike a tribal African society.  How can three societies differ so greatly when their members, beneath all the differences of dress and skin color, resemble one another so closely in terms of the set of behaviors that comprise human nature?  The reason is that the three societies differ greatly in their institutions, the organized patterns of behavior that structure a society, equip it to survive in its environment and enable it to compete with neighboring groups." 

[Dobbs gives the impression that Wade is sort of winging it and bringing in non-genetic results to bolster wild claims, but if one reads the paragraph above we see Wade sticking closely to the ideas of Natural Selection.  Genetic mutations that enhance a groups ability to live in a particular environment will grow more prominent in a population over time.  We can see that the five races do live in different environments; so what genetic differences have been discovered that enhance the five races' ability to adapt to their peculiar environments?  I expect Wade to discuss them as I read on.]

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