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Saturday, February 8, 2020

David Reich and the hereditarians

Originally posted on my person blog March 28, 2018

I found it amusing to read Razib Khan suggesting that the work of David Reich is support for  Khan's own beliefs. In The National Review he writes:
Who We Are and How We Got Here then addresses the reality that large numbers of public intellectuals are extremely hostile to the idea that humans can be grouped together into distinct population clusters. In other words, since race is a pernicious social construction, population geneticists need to tread very carefully. Reich is frank that the time may have come to break the alliance geneticists have made with academics who declare that all differences between groups are trivial. He suggests that science is advancing at such a rate that we will soon understand the genetic basis of complex behaviors in exquisite detail — and that researchers should be prepared for the possibility that some findings will be discomfiting to contemporary sensibilities.
As always with hereditarians, Khan lies about "large numbers of public intellectuals" but then that's the purpose of straw men. Few people deny that there are ethnic differences but in order to paint the Enemy as anti-evolution hereditarians constantly conflate ethnicity and race. The only question is, are they too stupid or careless to realize that's what they are doing, or are they just weasels?

In any case, what Reich said in his NYTimes op-ed piece last Sunday is the opposite of what hereditarians like Khan believe:
At a meeting a few years later, Dr. Watson said to me and my fellow geneticist Beth Shapiro something to the effect of “When are you guys going to figure out why it is that you Jews are so much smarter than everyone else?” He asserted that Jews were high achievers because of genetic advantages conferred by thousands of years of natural selection to be scholars, and that East Asian students tended to be conformist because of selection for conformity in ancient Chinese society. (Contacted recently, Dr. Watson denied having made these statements, maintaining that they do not represent his views; Dr. Shapiro said that her recollection matched mine.) 
What makes Dr. Watson’s and Mr. Wade’s statements so insidious is that they start with the accurate observation that many academics are implausibly denying the possibility of average genetic differences among human populations, and then end with a claim — backed by no evidence — that they know what those differences are and that they correspond to racist stereotypes. They use the reluctance of the academic community to openly discuss these fraught issues to provide rhetorical cover for hateful ideas and old racist canards.
Razib Khan is on the record supporting both Watson and Wade:

But obviously The National Review wants plausible deniability for its long history of racism and hereditarians like Khan are happy to provide it.

And Reich agrees with what I've said about addressing hereditarian views: Reich wants scientists to fight against the Pinkers and Khans of the world:
This is why knowledgeable scientists must speak out. If we abstain from laying out a rational framework for discussing differences among populations, we risk losing the trust of the public and we actively contribute to the distrust of expertise that is now so prevalent. We leave a vacuum that gets filled by pseudoscience, an outcome that is far worse than anything we could achieve by talking openly.
The reason that scientists aren't fighting against hereditarian views is because most of them have dismissed them as nonsense. And scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson would rather not focus on it.