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Monday, November 19, 2018

Razib Khan and the race science project to deny history

Although Razib Khan posted this article on Medium on July 4 of this year, I didn't see it until today. It confirms exactly what I have been noticing about proponents of race science - they think that genetics tells us more about human culture than the historical record:
And yet genetics can shed light on historical patterns. Unlike written text genetics is neutral. It does not present a particular narrative or agenda. 
That's his bold emphasis in the original. This is the underlying justification for the erasure of history that allows Khan and Sam Harris and Charles Murray to assume that failure of blacks to thrive in the US has nothing to do with 300 years of slavery, a hundred years of apartheid and fifty years of discrimination but rather their own genetic inferiority.

As usual with Khan his essay is a combination of no-duh ("Much of the wealth of the kingdom which the planters were building unfortunately consisted of slaves") and ideas he either is unwilling to express clearly, or lacks the literary ability to express clearly:
While Indiana was settled mostly from the South, there were far more Yankees who founded towns in Michigan and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Ohio and Illinois were both divided between a northern portion settled from New England, and a southern expanse dominated by Scots-Irish “Butternuts.” 
All this seems clear in the genetic results. Now we can quantify the differences. Illinois is tilted a bit to the northern migrants. Ohio somewhat to the southern ones. Historical debates can be resolved through genetic analyses!
Nowhere does he say what "historical debates" he thinks are resolved through genetic analyses. Is that oversight a deliberate dog whistle for other race science proponents? Or is it just the output of a lousy writer who lacked a professional editor?

At the end of the essay, Khan is all enthusiasm for the Triumph of the DNA Test:
Over the next few years tens of millions of more Americans will obtain direct to consumer genetic tests. The database will grow larger and larger. Many demographic questions related to the history of this country will not need to be explored through reconstruction of texts and laborious perusal of letters and court documents. Rather, scientists will simply scan through the pedigrees they construct from human genomes, and synthesize their results with the rich assortment of resources already available from the fields of genealogy and history.
This time the bolded emphasis is mine. To realize the silliness - or the hidden agenda - of that bolded sentence one needs only reflect for a moment: genomes don't tell us that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863 or how many lynchings were perpetrated. Does it really matter if the lynching party was composed primarily of individuals with a genetic heritage of Scots-Irish with a small expression of German-French?

In spite of Razib Khan's literary inadequacy we can see clearly the tactic favored by proponents of race science: deny the importance of history because only science is pure enough to tell us anything about the world.

Now the nonsense that Khan is spewing is no more incoherent or useless than anything written by Steven Pinker on the topic of history and culture and race - it must really piss Khan off the way Pinker is well-respected and highly-remunerated and beloved by the mainstream media - here they are fawning over Pinker again in this interview at the NYTimes - while saying much of what Khan says and just as badly.