The Fault in Our HBD

I recently blogged in HBD vs DNA, about how PZ Myers – who blogs Pharyngula at ScienceBlogs – took Nicholas Wade to task in The hbd delusion. HBD is short for human biodiversity, but also code for a reaffirmation of the belief that race is easily discerned by appearance, that the DNA of races are profoundly different, and that some races, “are more equal than others.”

Wade writes about science for the New York Times, so one might have expected his book to get some consideration in its Sunday Book Review. In, The Fault in Our DNA, however, David Dobbs instead relentlessly savages the basic premise:

… 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.” …

Wade runs into much trouble making this argument. He indulges in circular logic. He tells just-so stories. While warning us to avoid filtering science through politics, he draws heavily from conservative historians who minimize the roles played by political power, geographic advantage, momentum, disease and dumb luck. Conveniently, this leaves more historical questions for genetics to answer. …

If Wade could point to genes that give races distinctive social behaviors, we might overlook such shortcomings. But he cannot. …

The result is a deeply flawed, deceptive and dangerous book. Its most pernicious conceit is that it’s finally safe to talk of racial genetics because “opposition to racism is now well entrenched.”

It does seem that some Homo Sapiens, after leaving Africa, intermarried with Neandertals while others intermarried with Denisovans. Many sources affirm that about 1 to 4% of European DNA may be Neandertal and some 4 to 6% of some Asian and Melanesian DNA may be Denisovan. So if everyone had stayed put a few thousand years ago, there might be some truth to the idea that there are fixed differences between the races. But groups of humans kept migrating, conquering and intermarrying to the point where there is more likelihood of greater biodiversity between two ‘black’ people than between some black and white people. Among scientists without a racist agenda to grind, terms like ‘black’, ‘white’ and ‘asian’ have no useful scientific meaning.


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