Friday, January 8, 2010

The Post-Racial Era is Over

The headline from LiveScience reads, “Boys with ‘warrior gene’ more likely to join gangs.” The byline reads, “By LiveScience Staff.” This is an era in which the death of a popular president is met with the reminder that he supported “states’ rights,” which was supposed to be racist code to win white votes. Therefore, surely the mainstream media must have had some unease to pass along research on the genetics of the “gangsta.” Despite the Borat-reminiscent choice of subject, the actual study did not broach genetic racial differences. The study reported that males with 2, 3, or 5 repeats of the promoter to the MAOA gene were twice as likely to join gangs and violently use weapons and four times as likely to both join gangs and violently use weapons. Another statistically significant finding was that white males were a third as likely to join gangs as non-white males. That MSNBC would pick up the story about race, violence, and genetics only a week after YouTube banned me for reporting on similar studies is rapid progress, indeed.

Change is here.

Last year, Jared Taylor and John Zmirak had an interesting exchange about race and IQ. Put me in Taylor’s camp, insofar as discussion of IQ is self-defense against blacks’ smashing of American education and standardized testing with disparate impact. However, the IQ emphasis is a throwback to the era of political correctness. This was a time of obfuscation about social science and statistics. The evidence was unsatisfying, and the debates were ugly. Despite some studies uncovering apparent IQ genes like DTNBP1, CHRM2, SNAP25, and COMT, the search for a genetic map of IQ has eluded scientists. A recent review article determined that the effect of any one such gene accounts for less than 1% of IQ variance, and not a single genetic locus is “unequivocally associated” with IQ. Moreover, as Taylor admits, “comparisons are odious.” Comparing IQ scores is particularly unseemly, as the very concept inspires ambivalence. Obsessing over IQ creates the impression that race realists consider the human brain to be little more than an IQ-producing machine. An inability to grasp the multifaceted nature of the personality suggests a lack of dimensionality in one’s own. It is not anti-intellectual to stay the boldest assertions about the genetics of race and IQ until the evidence exceeds mere statistical associations between behaviors and test scores.

So, it is time for race realists to get real. The time for arguing about the biology of intelligence has not yet come. Now is the time to educate people about the steady flow of data showing how recent evolution and the Founder effect have resulted in manifold genetic differences and genetic disparities between racial and ethnic groups. Usually the evidence will be nuanced with different prevalences of specific alleles in specific populations, as is the case with MAOA. However, a patience for working through the daunting complexity will have a lasting impact. The totality of the evidence will take heat off of groups that are traditional scapegoats due to their strengths and successes, such as Asians and whites. Likewise, it will end the patronizing implicit suggestion that sub-Saharan Africans are uniquely lacking in free will, such that oppression is to blame for their every problem. Obviously, the evidence will face resistance. As Jonathan Haidt predicted, “the ‘Bell Curve’ wars of the 1990s, over race differences in intelligence, will seem genteel and short-lived compared to the coming arguments over ethnic differences in moralized traits.”

On the other hand, notice how lacking in dissension the media’s reporting on the “warrior gene” has been. Violence is about as manifest as a phenotype can get. Violent delinquency possesses no equivalent of the Flynn effect. In terms of ethics, racial differences in genetic violence beg the question, “Who is oppressing whom?” I remember how a news anchor empathized with African-Americans who rioted in Los Angeles in 1992. When Indonesians rioted against Chinese people in 1998, no Western media outlet, to my knowledge, bestowed the Indonesians with righteous excuses. Mao Tse-tung said, “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” In our media-driven society, the interpretation of violence has a far greater effect than the violence, itself.

The single greatest obstacle to the new racial realism may be overcoming the sense that it is a hopeless conclusion. Considering the latest progress in genetic engineering, as well as the possibility of other treatment modalities and early screening, a moral argument against spreading this knowledge is far more subjugating. What if race realism could cure inequality?


Anonymous said...

Too much confusion. Too much detail unclear thinking and if I read this correctly, dare I say a bit racist.

nooffensebut said...

I think you are confused and consider it racist because you were not a member of the target audience that follows this science closely. Also, dismissing what you consider racism will not make it go away. People who think of themselves as against racism keep repeating the cliché that we have come so far but have so far still to go. It seems to me that we have not come so far. Our cities are rather segregated. Why is that? Why do liberal whites not move near poor black people? If we are not willing to consider root causes, we cannot change much. It is shallow to think that the only root causes are the ones that politically correct people have been willing to consider. How has that approach worked so far? The root causes of racism include realistic observations about black violence. You probably think that considering genetic causes of higher rates of violence among black people is racist no matter how much evidence may exist to support the notion. If you are wrong but your beliefs hold all power to affect change, then an opportunity to address and quell both violence and racism will be gone.

Anonymous said...

I am not of the opinion that possible underlying genetic propensities should not be explored further, I am curious as to what *your* proposed solutions would be? Are you in favour of eugenics? In what pragmatic way could you possibly implement such a policy? And for those who may be wondering, I too am "not of your intended audience."

nooffensebut said...

"I am curious as to what *your* proposed solutions would be?"

In this post, I linked to an article about progress in genetic engineering, but in my last essay, I briefly mentioned that an antipsychotic (called rispiridone) had successfully treated Brunner syndrome. Research in mice has had success with the experimental drugs, Fenclonine, Ketanserin, and tetrabenazine. There are a number of avenues to investigating practical solutions to genetics-influenced violence syndromes.

"Are you in favour of eugenics?"

Eugenics is commonly defined as the sort of involuntary sterilizations practiced in America in the 1920's. The US Supreme Court has defined this as unconstitutional. I have not advocated eugenics. Eugenics could be defined more broadly to include genetic engineering or even falling in love with someone because the person is intelligent or attractive. Charles Darwin was an advocate of positive eugenics, that is, to encourage those with excellent hereditary qualities to have more children. Singapore has tried to practice this, and our education system probably has the opposite effect. What qualifies as eugenics or dysgenics can become very complicated because each generation produces so many deleterious mutations, especially among those who put off childbirth.

"In what pragmatic way could you possibly implement such a policy?"

I would not know how to promote a cause of eugenics. I think promoting research on the genetics of violence is hard enough. I hope that genetic diseases and genetic misbehavior can be solved through medicine so that no one loses any rights, and so that we can follow a path of least resistance.

"And for those who may be wondering, I too am 'not of your intended audience.'"

Well, of course, I want to share my thinking and have these conversations with a broad audience. I only said that because someone found my writing confusing after I wrote this post to target the IQ-obsessed wing (actually almost the whole bird) of so-called "human biodiversity." If you read my blog, you will see that I have confronted the views of so-called "white nationalists" frequently. I did not mean that my audience was the group with whom I agree or my little club or clique.

Black Satellite said...

So ignoring the truth is the right thing to do because acknowledging the truth might lead to solutions that some people are uncomfortable with? Or in other words, let's just keep ignoring reality because the alternative is scary. LOL

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece. Some great comments too. I'm trying to make my way through some standard texts on "Genetic Analysis"; also been catching up to some stuff on "ethnic group survival strategies". Thanks for your WEB blog and comprehensive library of work. Very instructive. I love science.