Wednesday, February 6, 2019

More carelessness from Razib Khan

Razib Khan, writing for Areo, the only slightly less right-extremist race science twin of Quillette says:
Our intuitions about race are in many ways imperfectly related to the genetic realities from which they emerge. And those intuitions are embedded in the social histories of our cultures. In the United States one hundred years ago, segregation was a fact of law, and there were black Americans and white Americans. Today, it is not a fact of law—and there are black Americans and white Americans. There was no scientific difference between then and now. There has been a historical and moral process of change and development. 
The dream of the beige future obviates the need to emphasize the moral and ethical aspect of the way we organize societies—in both its urgency and its difficulty. The dream is that science and the march of history will magically make the problems of racism disappear because racial distinction will disappear.
In the first paragraph quoted above he claims there is no "scientific difference" between 1918 and 2018. Since science has so manifestly changed in a hundred years, we can probably safely throw out a perfectly legitimate reading of the sentence "There was no scientific difference between then and now."

But what can that sentence really mean? There's no genetic difference between the population who was "black" a hundred years ago, compared to now? Or that "black" and "white" as classifications haven't disappeared and therefore there is no "scientific difference"?

But before talking about that, there's the issues of Khan's claim that "one hundred years ago, segregation was a fact of law."

As Ezra Klein had to clarify to the equally careless Sam Harris:
Segregation, my mom was alive in segregation. Charles Murray was alive during segregation. We’re talking, I think, it’s within the week of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. This is not ancient history, it is recent history.
So actually the time-span of post-segregation is HALF of Khan's example. I would believe cynically that Khan deliberately said a hundred years instead of fifty years in order to bolster his claim about the rock-solid boundaries of race, but knowing Khan's work as I do, it could be simply that Khan is a bad writer and a lazy thinker. But being a recipient of wing nut welfare will do that to you.

This isn't the first time Khan has reassured his readers that racial boundaries are distinct. And we do know that Khan feels that history tells us much less than genetics when it comes to human culture.

And then there's the issue of the tenuous connection between "black" and "white" and science, never mind "scientific differences." I'll talk about that next.

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