Posts Tagged ‘Race’

Will “Americans” and “Europeans” ever become identifiable races?

April 25, 2018

Race is real and not just an imagined construct of modern times. Even two thousand years ago (about 100 generations) races were recognised and used as a classification. They were somewhat different to those recognised today – but not so very different. In the main, racial attribution followed known or assumed tribal affiliations and visible physical characteristics. Even in Roman times, members of the Celtic tribes and the Germanic tribes and Egyptians and Greeks and Africans were all depicted as differing in physical characteristics and of being of different races. Whether among the various European tribes or the 12 tribes of Israel or the castes established in India, parentage and ancestry manifested as visible, physical characteristics were – and still are – used in race classifications. It is virtually certain that the races that existed 2,000 years before the heyday of the Roman Empire were different again. If 5,000 years ago the Harappans were a race, their genes are now spread all over the sub-continent and they are are no longer identifiable.

Though classification of a race is by the visible attributes it is inevitable that they are accompanied by non-visible attributes. The non-visible attributes may show up as the ability to tolerate high altitude, or the aptitude for long distance running, or for sprinting, or for diving. They may include resistance to some diseases and a propensity for others. The non-visible attributes could include any characteristic dependant upon genetics. And even if politically incorrect to say so, it could include the genetic components of intelligence. Insofar as behaviour is determined genetically, a race may have characteristic behaviours.

  1. Race is a system of classification of humans by clustering their visible, physical attributes. The classification is real but is not static. It is dynamic in that the clustering may change over long time periods (hundreds of generations) as mixing or non-mixing between the clusters occurs. (One hundred generations would need about 2,000 years).
  2. Visible physical attributes are primarily determined by parentage and thus by ancestry and thus by genetics.
  3. Racial classification is therefore a genetic classification but sorted by visible characteristics.
  4. Differences in the visible attributes between clusters are emphasised when the clusters are genetically isolated from each other. Geographic isolation contributes but the critical point is genetic isolation.
  5. A particular race cluster persists only if breeding is constrained to be within and among members of the cluster.

Race is classification by snapshot – a current clustering by physical attributes. The clustering will change slowly over tens of generations but at every time, a snapshot of the current races will exist.

Great Britain has been a melting pot of peoples mainly from across Europe for 2,000 years. But the British “race” is still in flux. The US is often considered a melting pot for the blending of genes and it would then make sense for the gradual emergence of an “American” race. With the surge of emigration into Europe and the decline in fertility of the “native Europeans”, a gradual emergence of a “European” race would also seem probable. However the tendency of immigrant groups to marry among themselves and isolate their particular gene pools, works strongly against the emergence of new races.

If continuous, steady, immigration becomes the new normal and immigrant groups keep to themselves, it may never happen. If it does, I expect it will take more than a thousand years (50 generations) before the world sees an identifiable American or a European race.

But a thousand years hence there will still be clustering of peoples by visible, physical attributes and identification of peoples by the races of the day.

Skin colour is by far the most visible and thus the obvious attribute that is first used as a sorting criterion for race classification. I suspect that skin colour would dominate as the sorting criterion even if some race had some very significant, but less visible difference, such as – say – an extra finger.


Related:

The changing colours of the world’s population


 

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Genetic mutations among the Inuit demonstrate the reality of “race”

September 23, 2015

It is politically correct to claim that “race” is just an artificial social construct. But of course “race” is real. It is about ancestry and about genetic differences that are quite real. It is about the groupings of peoples exhibiting the same genetic variations. Genetic studies are increasingly confirming the genetic differences that are distinguishable among the many ethnic groups of humans. Genetic groupings exist and are real but they are dynamic, not static. The genetic groupings (colloquially “race”) were different 1,000 generations ago and they will be different again in the future.

A new study shows that

“the Inuit and their Siberian ancestors have special mutations in genes involved in fat metabolism. The mutations help them partly counteract the effects of a diet high in marine mammal fat, mostly from seals and whales that eat fish with high levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Those genetic mutations, found in nearly 100 percent of the Inuit, are found in a mere 2 percent of Europeans and 15 percent of Han Chinese, which means that these groups would synthesize omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids differently from the Inuit. ….

The mutations seem to be at least 20,000 years old, and may have helped many groups of humans adapt to high-meat, high-fat, hunter-gatherer diets from large land and marine mammals high in certain types of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, ……. They may have arisen among the original Siberians, who have lived in the Arctic for more than 20,000 years and arrived in Greenland when Inuit settled there about 1,000 years ago.”

Matteo Fumagalli et al,  Greenlandic Inuit show genetic signatures of diet and climate adaptation. Science, 18 September 2015 DOI:10.1126/science.aab2319

NewsBerkeley: ……. “The original focus on fish oil and omega-3s came from studies of Inuit. On their traditional diet, rich in fat from marine mammals, Inuit seemed quite healthy with a low incidence of cardiovascular disease, so fish oil must be protective,” said project leader Rasmus Nielsen, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology. “We’ve now found that they have unique genetic adaptations to this diet, so you cannot extrapolate from them to other populations. A diet that is healthy for the Inuit may not necessarily be good for the rest of us.”

These genetic mutations in the Inuit have more widespread effects. They lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and fasting insulin levels, presumably protecting against cardiovascular disease and diabetes. They also have a significant effect on height, because growth is in part regulated by a person’s fatty acid profile. The researchers found that the mutations causing shorter height in the Inuit are also associated with shorter height in Europeans.

Seals and walruses were part of the traditional diet of the Inuit, as seen in this illustration of a native village on Canada’s Baffin Island, from the book Arctic Researches and Life Among the Esquimaux (1865) by Charles Francis Hall.

“The mutations we found in the Inuit have profound physiological effects, changing the whole profile of fatty acids in the body, plus it reduces their height by 2 centimeters: nearly an inch,” said Ida Moltke, a University of Copenhagen associate professor of bioinformatics who is joint first author on the study. “Height is controlled by many genes, but this mutation has one of the strongest effects on height ever found by geneticists.”

Nielsen noted that this is some of the clearest evidence to date that human populations are actually adapted to particular diets; that is, they differ in the way they physiologically respond to diets. Just as genome sequencing can lead to personalized medicine tailored to an individual’s specific set of genes, so too may a person’s genome dictate a personalized diet. 

Nielsen and his colleagues at UC Berkeley and in Greenland and Denmark came to their conclusions after analyzing the genomes of 191 Greenlanders with a low admixture of European genes (less than 5 percent) and comparing them to the genomes of 60 Europeans and 44 Han Chinese. They looked for mutations occurring in a large percentage of Inuit individuals but in few or no other groups, which indicates that the mutation spread throughout the Inuit because it was somehow useful to their survival while not essential in other groups.

One cluster of mutations — in genes that code for enzymes that desaturate carbon-carbon bonds in fatty acids — stood out strongly, said Anders Albrechtsen, an associate professor of bioinformatics at the University of Copenhagen and a joint project leader. Fatty acids are the fat in our diet, and occur in saturated, polyunsaturated and unsaturated forms, depending on whether the molecules’ carbon atoms are linked together with no, some or all double bonds. Saturated fats are considered bad because they raise levels of cholesterol in the blood and lower the “good” high-density lipoproteins (HDL), all of which leads to plaque formation and clogged arteries. Diets rich in polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats are linked to lower heart disease. Desaturase enzymes convert dietary fatty acids into fatty acids stored and metabolized by the body.

The mutations common in the Inuit, once known as Eskimos, decrease the production of both omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, presumably to account for the high amount of these fatty acids coming from the diet. Changing production of one fatty acid affects all fatty acids, however, since they regulate one another in a complex way, Albrechtsen said.

Thus, while it’s not clear which specific gene or genes within the cluster is responsible for the alteration in fatty acid metabolism, he said that “when you change the genes that are involved in fatty acid synthesis, you change the whole conversation among fatty acids, and that has a lot of downstream effects.” …… The researchers discovered another common mutation in a gene that is involved in the differentiation of brown, subcutaneous fat cells and brite fat cells, the latter of which generate heat. This may also have helped the Inuit adapt to a cold environment.

Race is real but it is dynamic. The genetically distinguishable race of Inuits goes back about 1,000+ generations. And some other genetic groupings of humans will be observable 1,000 generations on. But those groupings (races) will still be there. As I observed some time ago

We have no difficulty in accepting that different populations (effectively different races in colloquial usage) have differences of physical characteristics due to their genetic ancestry. There is no great outrage now that recent studies point to some genetic differences that Tibetans have which may give them an advantage in absorbing oxygen at high altitudes. Similarly there are no screams when other genetic studies suggest that East Africans (Kenyans and Ethiopians in the main) have some genes – or combination of genes – which give them better endurance and therefore – given good nourishment – lead to better performance as long distance runners. West Africans, or those of West African descent, it seems may have some genetic advantages which make them the fastest sprinters over short distances. African genes also seem to give a lower fat content in body mass – which is genetic – and may be one explanation why their performance as swimmers is less than exceptional. That Indians are more prone to Type 2 diabetes than other “races” is not indignantly opposed but just taken for the observation it is. Indian-Americans (3 generations) are already exhibiting lower rates than their Indian ancestry would indicate. Japanese have very low rates of heart disease but already (in less than 6 generations) Japanese-Hawaiians have heart disease rates that are 2 -3 times higher.

It is illogical to assume that these genetic variations between different geographic populations ( colloquially “races”) have only manifested themselves as physical variations. It is highly probable and probably inevitable that these genetic developments will also have affected the brain, its functioning and behaviour. And intelligence.

If it is acceptable – and not racist – to observe that there are genetic differences in physical characteristics between the “races” of today, then it is just as acceptable and no more racist to observe that there are genetic differences of intelligence between the “races” of today.

The taboo against even discussing genetic groupings (race) and physical and mental characteristics (intelligence) and behaviour is illogical.

Sweden Democrats try to make nationality a matter of race

December 18, 2014

There is no “Swedish” race – though the Sweden Democrats (SD) would like to think there is.

I take “race” here to be an ethnic grouping based on ancestry. “Swedish” is not a recognised or recognisable ethnic grouping which has any historical basis. There is a loose ethnic grouping of common ancestry across Scandinavia (Norway and Sweden – mainly- and Denmark and to some extent across Finland). These are not the “Vikings” of old, descended directly from the Norse Gods, as the SD would like to think. The inhabitants of Iceland are closer to the SD vision than the Scandinavians. Even this loose Scandinavian ethnic grouping (based on ancestry) has been subject to large amounts of genetic admixing from all over Northern Europe (German, Dutch, Flemish, French, the British Isles) and even much further afield. De Geer and Hamilton and Bernadotte are not Viking in origin.

But the Sweden Democrats are taking advantage of the confusion that is so easy to generate when speaking about “race”, ethnic origins, religion and nationality. But this confusion is evident even in the official record. For example Sweden officially recognises 5 national minorities – mainly defined by language and ethnicity:

Sweden’s national minorities and minority languages

The five recognized national minorities in Sweden are Jews, Roma, the Sami people (which is also an indigenous people), Swedish Finns, and the Torne Valley Descendents (Tornedalians). The historical minority languages are Yiddish, Romani chib, Sami, Finnish and Meänkieli. What is common for the minority groups is that they have populated Sweden over a long period of time and that they constitute groups with a distinct affinity. They also have their own religious, linguistic or cultural affinity and a desire to retain their identity.

These are minorities based on ethnicity (which is a matter of ancestry and is loosely referred to as “race”). The Jews here represent both a religion and a recognised minority. The Samis once practised Shamanism but that has been wiped out by the ideological forefathers of the SD. So if an Ethiopian Jew were also a Swedish citizen, he would have the religion but he would not be part of this recognised minority. But all these minority cultures – while afforded some protection – are still subordinate to the overriding culture of the country. Samis, while maintaining their own sub-culture, are still compliant with the overriding Norwegian or Finnish or Swedish cultures (and laws, rules and regulations) when they happen to be in those countries. One of the failings of all those misguided “do-gooders” who have promoted “multiculturism”, is that they have forgotten to emphasise that sub-cultures in a multi-ethnic society must still – of necessity – be subordinate to an overriding culture (which itself must evolve to incorporate the sub-cultures). There has sometimes been a tendency in most of Europe to support sub-cultures at the expense of the dominant culture, and that has provided many of the right-wing, racist parties the environment in which to prosper.

The SD are now propagating the notion that while these minorities may be Swedish citizens they are not part of their imaginary “Swedish race”. They like to confuse the picture further by referring to their concept of the “Swedish race” as also being the “Swedish nation” and as being something different to “Swedish citizenship”. They are effectively trying to connect “nationality” to ethnicity and to hijack “nationalism” as being the exclusive characteristic of the imaginary “Swedish race”. (Of course all members of SD are naturally assumed to be of this, imaginary, superior “Swedish race” and burning nationalists!).

The Somalis or Syrians or other “new Swedes” who are Swedish citizens may not yet be “recognised minorities” – and may never be. Fundamentally the SD is built on a differentiation by race (ancestry and ethnicity). The unsaid, underlying sub-text of all they say and argue is for a differentiation based on skin colour. They want to promote the concept of the citizens of Sweden being either

  1. those of the “Swedish race” (obviously acceptable though imaginary and unidentifiable)
  2. recognised minorities who are “old Swedes” (and reluctantly acceptable), or
  3. “new Swedes” (who are the bad guys)

Among the SD supporters, the level of “Swedishness” follows this classification. For them, “new Swedes” is a derogatory term which carries the sub-text of skin colour. If they could they would prefer to split the third group on the basis of skin colour with the level of “Swedishness” decreasing with the darkness of skin color. But even they balk at such a blatant differentiation as that. It is quite clear that the SD would prefer to have these 3 groups as 3 classes of citizenship. “New Swedes” (especially those of the wrong skin colour) clearly – in their eyes – are lower class citizens – if at all. I note that the House of Bernadotte only goes back to 1818. (By the SD’s standards, the Royal family should be classified as “new Swedes” and third class citizens). It serves the SD’s cause to separate and isolate the “new Swedes” from the mainstream as much as possible. They would like, for example, ethnicity to be registered for all crimes to further the divide. But the fundamental flaws in the race politics that the SD is trying to promote is that first, there is no such thing as an identifiable “Swedish race” and second, nationality is not a matter of ethnicity. They forget that nationality and citizenship are a matter of residence and behaviour and not of distant ancestry. Immediate parentage can give citizenship but requires residence. And if behaviour is the arbiter, the SD is on shaky ground since it has had more than its fair share of junkies and hooligans.

It should be obvious by now that I am a “new Swede”. But I am a little surprised that so many are taken in by the SD’s view that nationality is a matter of ethnicity. Perhaps they are all supermen who chose their own parents and their ancestry.

The shameful vilification of James Watson

December 12, 2014

In a recent post about the Nobel ceremony I observed that James Watson who had sold his Nobel medal had it returned to him by the purchaser. Apart from his recognition along with Crick and Wilkins for their DNA work, he has been and still is one of the most important evolutionary biologists of our time. But he has become persona non grata now with the self-appointed guardians of public morality and the prevailing “political correctness” which disallows “intelligence” – however it may be defined – from being in any way dependent upon the genetic variations between different human populations. His vilification and downfall was a rapid business in 2007, even though, everything Watson got in trouble for saying was entirely correct” as Gene Expression pointed out in October 2007:

It’s difficult to name many more important living figures in 20th century biology than James Watson. He ushered in the current age of molecular biology with his achievements in 1953, he built up one of the world’s greatest biological research facilities from damn near scratch, and he is a former head of the Human Genome Project.
Given such an august curriculum vitae, you would think that this man perhaps understands just a few things about genetics. But given only the condescending media coverage, you’d think this eminent geneticist was somehow “out of his depth” on this one.
In his interview with the Times on Oct. 14th, we learned that:

… [Watson] is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”, and I know that this “hot potato” is going to be difficult to address.

These thoughts were a continuation of an important theme in his book Avoid Boring People:

… there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so.

Although Watson’s book had already been out for a month with these more euphemistic, but still obvious, comments on race and intelligence, no one expressed any outrage. In fact the reviews were reverential and universally positive.
The explicit reference to intelligence and people of African heritage in his interview was clearly a violation of a much more formidable taboo. Still I am not aware of there being much noise about it until Oct. 17th when the Independent caused an immediate stir by calling attention to the remarks: Africans are less intelligent than Westerners says DNA pioneer.
There’s no point in rehashing the rapid sequence of events in detail: several of Watson’s sold-out speaking engagements were cancelled, many critical articles appeared in the British press, trailed by the American press a few days later, hundreds of blogs were fuming with negative commentary, including ones by the editors of Scientific American and Wired Magazine, a number of associations issued statements condemning his words, and soon he was suspended from his chancellorship at Cold Spring Harbor. Watson cancelled his already ruined book tour and flew home to tend to the destruction. It was too late; the eminent biologist retired in disgrace on Oct. 26th. 
One thing, though, was conspicuously missing from this whole irritating denouement: any semblance of factual refutation. There is good reason for this: everything Watson got in trouble for saying was entirely correct!

Gene Expression goes on to show that the data support what James Watson said.

Unfortunately our esteemed band of sputtering media scientists forgot to provide, in all of these instances, any of their allegedly voluminous citations to the contrary. Allow me, then, to take a different position, with the added benefit of evidence: ………

………. 65 psychometric intelligence study citations for sub-Saharan Africa, collected in IQ & Global Inequality, Race Differences in Intelligence, and IQ & the Wealth of Nations. The citations cover 47% of SS African countries or 78% of the people by national population numbers. The studies vary in quality, sample size, and representativeness, but broadly agree in their findings. Representative studies of the school age population with large sample sizes do not exhibit higher scores, much less scores that approach anything like European norms. …..

….. Thus typical African IQ scores of 70 and below can still be taken as a reliable finding. It is not simply the manufactured data of racialist researchers, or a byproduct of inadequate testing procedures. And, more importantly from the standpoint of the Watson controversy, certainly no reliable body of evidence has shown anything like parity with typical European scores.

The entire episode and shameful treatment meted out to Watson by an unscrupulous and sensationalist media and by politically correct but cowardly members of the scientific community was based, I think, on

  • the intellectual laziness in defining what “race” is, and the sloppy way in which the term is used, and 
  • a fear of confronting the ideological notion that some meaningless, diffuse “equality” of all humans transcends and overrides the real genetic variations due to ancestry

We use the term “race” colloquially and loosely and for convenience. There is no firm scientific definition of what constitutes a “race”. Often it is taken – wrongly – to be just a difference of skin colour. The politically correct brigade claim that race is a “social construct” but this is just nonsense. An “African-American” carries genes from his African ancestry and not any particular social behaviour from his ancestors. But “race” is also a dynamic term and shifts with the generations of man. The races we recognise and classify humans into today, is based on the prevailing groupings of populations that are convenient today. Fifty generations ago the “races” of that time would have been quite different. And fifty generations from now they will be quite different to the “races” we recognise today. The classification is about ancestry and is based on (or should be based on) the separate packages of genetic characteristics (some visible and some not) which are discernible and allow the grouping and classification of populations.

It seems perfectly logical, and is highly probable, that humans, though they may have originated from just a few relatively small populations out of Africarabia, have then over the next 5,000 generations, continued evolving in situ, giving the genetic diversity and the consequent physical diversity that we see today. The geographical populations we observe today are the result both of evolution in situ and a plethora of admixtures as people have migrated and mixed over the last 100,000 years. There were no “African-Americans” 50 generations ago. But already “African-Americans” today are different to “Africans” and both continue to evolve and develop in situ. It is quite unlikely that “African-American” or “Asian-British” or “Turkish-Germans” or “Chinese-Indonesian” will be classifications of race or ethnicity that will be used 50 generations from now. This geographically evolved and still evolving diversity, already shows up as genetic differences not only of skin, eye and hair colour but also as differences in disease resistance, physical characteristics, athletic capabilities, behaviour and surely many more invisible (including mental) characteristics.

We have no difficulty in accepting that different populations (effectively different races in colloquial usage) have differences of physical characteristics due to their genetic ancestry. There is no great outrage now that recent studies point to some genetic differences that Tibetans have which may give them an advantage in absorbing oxygen at high altitudes. Similarly there are no screams when other genetic studies suggest that East Africans (Kenyans and Ethiopians in the main) have some genes – or combination of genes – which give them better endurance and therefore – given good nourishment – lead to better performance as long distance runners. West Africans, or those of West African descent, it seems may have some genetic advantages which make them the fastest sprinters over short distances. African genes also seem to give a lower fat content in body mass – which is genetic – and may be one explanation why their performance as swimmers is less than exceptional. That Indians are more prone to Type 2 diabetes than other “races” is not indignantly opposed but just taken for the observation it is. Indian-Americans (3 generations) are already exhibiting lower rates than their Indian ancestry would indicate. Japanese have very low rates of heart disease but already (in less than 6 generations) Japanese-Hawaiians have heart disease rates that are 2 -3 times higher.

It is illogical to assume that these genetic variations between different geographic populations ( colloquially “races”) have only manifested themselves as physical variations. It is highly probable and probably inevitable that these genetic developments will also have affected the brain, its functioning and behaviour. And intelligence.

“Intelligence” is many things to many people and – by most definitions – more than just an IQ test. The IQ test only really measures the ability to do the test. Nevertheless the IQ test results do seem to correlate well to whatever we may choose to call intelligence. There is without doubt a genetic component to both intelligence and IQ test results. IQ test measurements do show that results are significantly lower – for whatever reason –  among sub-Saharan African populations – on average. If intelligence has a genetic component and the colloquial use of the term “race” refers to an identifiable population exhibiting a certain package of genetic characteristics, then it is quite likely that the different genetic packages lead to some differences of intelligence.

If it is acceptable – and not racist – to observe that there are genetic differences in physical characteristics between the “races” of today, then it is just as acceptable and no more racist to observe that there are genetic differences of intelligence between the “races” of today.

That is all that Watson said.

(What “intelligence” actually is or may be is another story for another day).


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