Featured Post

The Brian Ferguson Interview

I talked with Rutgers University professor of anthropology R. Brian Ferguson about Steven Pinker, Napoleon Chagnon, Marvin Harris, anthropo...

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Quillette doubles down on race science: Bo Winegard and Noah Carl

The Sami people ("Lapps") of northern Finland
were not considered  by Blumenbach to be
part of the "becoming" Caucasian sub-group.
Today we see a team-up of long-time Quillette-published proponent of race science and other forms of hereditarianism, Bo Winegard, and Noah Carl, who was in the news recently after he was dismissed from a Cambridge University college due to his "collaboration with far-right extremists."


I haven't read the book so I won't evaluate how accurately the review describes Saini's arguments. My impression of the book is that Saini made it as much about herself as about a critique of race science, with big glossy photos of herself with every article about the book, which dampened my enthusiasm for reading it. Plus I haven't had time.

The review itself is chock-full of the usual race science claims which I have been critiquing, but I want to focus on one section in particular:
The primary reason that natural philosophers began to classify humans into different races is that human populations look different from one another. Their skin colors, hair textures, facial structures, and stature all differ, often in predictable ways. Furthermore, these differences reflect their divergent geographical origins. 
The "philosophers" link is to work by Johann Frederich Blumenbach, whom I was just talking about recently in relation to carelessness in race science terminology and Blumenbach's invention of the term "Caucasian."

It's interesting to compare Blumenbach's description of "Caucasian" to Winegard's. In "The Anthropological Treatise of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach" he describes light skin as "most handsome and becoming" but he also includes "Eastern Asians" (which are now known as South Asians) and North Africans.
Caucasian variety Colour white cheeks rosy s 43 hair brown or chestnut coloured s 52 head subglobular s 62 face oval straight its parts moderately defined forehead smooth nose narrow slightly hooked mouth small s 56 The primary teeth placed perpendicularly to each jaw s 62 the lips especially The lower one moderately open the chin full and rounded s 56 In general that kind of appearance which according to our opinion of symmetry we consider most handsome and becoming To this first variety belong the inhabitants of Europe except the Lapps and the remaining descendants of the Finns and those of Eastern Asia as far as the river Obi the Caspian Sea and the Ganges and lastly those of Northern Africa.
He says that Caucasians are all the way to the Ganges river, which is on the eastern border of India. As I mentioned in the other post, people of South Asian descent, considered Caucasian by Blumenbach, are sometimes called "black" in Great Britain.

Although Blumenbach loves those rosy cheeks, he also includes people with different skin colors and people outside of Europe as Caucasians, and excludes the entire eastern half of Russia.

Winegard uses the term Caucasian differently, in another article in Quillette, "On the Reality of Race and the Abhorrence of Racism":
If one knows that Thomas is a Caucasian, one can be reasonably sure that Thomas has relatively light skin, and that he has recent ancestry in Europe. 
We see Winegard's approach - you create a category, "Caucasian" and then you see if a person can be placed into the category by looking at his skin color and checking the geography of his ancestors.

Winegard, who clearly knows the provenance of the word "Caucasian," has redefined Blumenbach's term - no longer may North Africans or Asians be considered part of the group, now a Caucasian must have light skin and come from Europe.

Winegard's redefining "Caucasian" for his own artisanal classification system is not an error though, it's deliberate - for Winegard's article, co-written with his brother Ben and "biosocial criminologist" Brian Boutwell makes it clear that you can decide who counts as whichever race at your convenience:
But racial categories, like film categories, aren’t immutable essences that perfectly sort humans into distinct groups. There aren’t a fixed number of racial categories, and the number researchers use is partially a matter of convenience. One might start with five continentally based categories (i.e., Caucasians, East Asians, Africans, Native Americans, and Australian Aborigines) and then add more categories as one’s analysis becomes more granular (e.g. Ashkenazi Jewish, Mizrahi Jewish, and so on). These categories aren’t real in some metaphysical sense, but they are useful, and they do have predictive value. 
He mentions Ashkenazi Jews as a "granular" category, but other race science proponents, including Linda Gottfredson, whom Winegard mentions with approval in his Quillette article in defense of "The Bell Curve" counts Ashkenazi Jews as a distinct race, more intelligent than Caucasians as we see her doing in this interview with Stephan Molyneux.

In other words, Bo Winegard's race classification system is "Caucasians, East Asians, Africans, Native Americans, and Australian Aborigines" with Ashkenazi being presumably a granular sub-category of Caucasian, while for Molyneux and Gottfredson, the race classification system is "Ashkenazi Jews, Asians, Caucasians, Hispanics, Blacks and African Blacks."

As we see, again and again, sloppy, incoherent and "useful" race classification is the very essence of race science. Race science proponents don't even agree with each other on which races exist.

Winegard claims these hazy random ad hoc classifications are useful.

How are they useful? Unless your goal is the Libertarian one - to declare that some poor people, easily identified by the color of their skin, are just too genetically stupid to help via tax-payer funded social programs, and so we should therefore stop funding them.

In other words the policy proposal at the heart of The Bell Curve.

I will be getting back to my Bell Curve series soon, but first I will talk about anthropologist R. Brian Ferguson's critique of the claims of Ashkenazi intelligence (claims that were endorsed & promoted by Steven Pinker) that Molyneux uses to place Ashkenazim at the top of the racial intelligence hierarchy as well as Ferguson's critique of another theory endorsed by Pinker - and a discussion of Pinker's shamefully sloppy work.

Blog Archive