(Part one of a continuing series.)
After millennia of controversies, passions, and subjugation, the issue of race was resolved over the weekend when a chain-smoking man with the equivalent of an associate degree won an over three-hour BlogTV debate against a former white nationalist who is part African-American. The winner of the debate, who goes by the pseudonym “Skeptical Heretic,” successfully used a debating style that was a cross between James Carville and Tony Soprano, despite a limited grasp of the primary subject, race and IQ. (This lack of proficiency was revealed in previous videos in which he confused anti-IQ polemicist Richard Nisbett with The Bell Curve co-author Charles Murray and the neo-conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, with the eugenics science non-profit, the Pioneer Fund.) Nevertheless, his opponent’s exacerbated pauses with Al Gore-like sighs signaled to the approximately 300 viewers that the contest was decided, and doctors and scientists alike would no longer feel confident studying biological racial differences. Research oncologist Kathy Albain could not be reached for comment at the time of this writing, but presumably her groundbreaking investigations of the genetics of racial disparities in cancer mortality will be immediately shuttered.
Much of the victor’s case expectedly rested upon on the common linguistic argument of the continuum fallacy applied to race with the conclusion often summarized as “race is a social construct.” Anticipating this tact, I asked Heretic prior to the debate whether his disbelief in race extended to Neandertals. As I previously reported, Neandertals bore children with early non-African humans, and now people finally have access to a blood test that answers the eternal question, “Am I more Neanderthal than Ozzy Osbourne?” Thus, I was using the famous reductio ad absurdum argument to take his reductionist claims to their logical conclusion: Neandertals did not exist as a distinct group. Humanity is one! In fact, Heretic’s other major line of attack, which is commonly referred to as Lewontin’s fallacy, also has a rendition that applies to the distinction between humans and Neandertals, as University of Wisconsin-Madison professor John Hawks observed, “there are some human genes for which two human copies taken at random are more different from each other than one of them is from the Neandertal.”
To my inquiry, Heretic responded that Neandertals are not “established as an individual species or as a subspecies of modern mand [sic]. Right now, from what I can tell, the jury is still out, partially due to the mitochondrial observations.” For those unfamiliar, he is referring to the study by Green et al in 2008 that proved that humans and Neandertals do not share mitochondrial DNA. However, Neandertals cannot be a separate species by the classical definition of the term because Green et al in 2010 proved that Neandertals do share nuclear DNA with humans. I am not sure which deserves more blame for such a notable human as Heretic disowning his Neandertal relatives, public education or science reporting. Ironically, he cited a study to deconstruct race that also raised concerns about subspecies classifications for their “arbitrariness of criteria.”
During the debate, Heretic also disputed the validity and heritability of IQ. He never gave any indication that he had ever read a genome-wide association study on the topic (the first of which will celebrate its tenth anniversary next month) and admitted after the debate that he had not read Davies et al, which proved a week prior that fluid intelligence has a “lower bounds” narrow-sense heritability in a Scottish population of at least 51%. (For the record, I personally left him a link to this study several days before the debate.)
Perhaps racial political correctness deserves a more qualified public intellectual. However, I plan to make analysis of his case a continuing series for the simple reason that it was bad enough to be good.