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Geneticists use code words for race, science writer says

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Yesterday, we noted that well-known science writer Nicholas Wade is about to publish a book, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, attempting to rehabilitate the idea of racial differences based on modern genetics. More on that here.

In a 2006 interview with American Scientist on the publication of a 2006 book, Wade offers comments might help one interpret denser genetics papers:

It seems that the problem might be, as you said, that there is so much historical baggage associated with the term race. Is there a way to get around that? Do we just need a different term than race to talk about these genetic differences?

I’m not sure how that will play out. The geneticists, if you read their papers, have long been using code words. They sort of dropped the term “race” about 1980 or earlier, and instead you see code words like “population” or “population structure.” Now that they’re able to define race in genetic terms they tend to use other words, like “continental groups” or “continent of origin,” which does, indeed, correspond to the everyday conception of race. When I’m writing I prefer to use the word race because that’s the word that everyone understands. It’s a word with baggage, but it’s not necessarily a malign word. It all depends on the context in which it’s used, I guess.

The question is, of course, in what context is such a word likely to be used, and what is the justification for using it?

Well, we haven’t seen the new book, but here’s a thought: Darwinizing culture, to borrow a phrase from an enthusiast, necessarily means seeing randomly occurring, possibly growing differences between races are quite believable. Not out of bad will, to be sure, but because that is the theory. This includes differences in sensitive areas like intelligence (or, as the jacket copy of Wade’s book puts it “Also controversial are his findings regarding the genetic basis of traits we associate with intelligence, such as literacy and numeracy, in certain ethnic populations”).

In Darwinian theory, genes are uncaused causes within the person, unless they are randomly mutated, in which case they become uncaused causes in the naturally selected heirs. Non-Darwinians, by contrast, can accept a broad range of environmental causes. One obvious example is established epigenetic causes (systems within the body act on the genes, determining whether, when, and how they are active*).

Epigenetics, in other words, envisions neither “the genes” nor “the environment,” but rather a continuous conversation between them. A child can be conceived with the ability to get an honours BA in STEM subjects, but grow up among lifetime alcohol and drug abusers, prone to random violence. That environment will doubtless affect his attitudes. But part of the mix may also be effects on which genes express themselves where, when, and how. So twenty years later, he does not appear to have such potential. These acquired effects may then be passed on for several generations (usually not indefinitely though).

To the Darwinist, it looks like selfish genes (but then everything does). The rest of us would not put that much faith in the gene alone as the unit of inheritance. Separated from the rest of the story, it is probably usually meaningless.

*See, for example: Epigenetics: Possible reason mice are so timorous

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One Reply to “Geneticists use code words for race, science writer says

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    I’ve noticed for a long time that while society rejected race as a origin for smarts or morals and punishes those who say otherwise remember that Watson guy about Africa YET evolutionists, some oe many, presume race/sex as controling smarts.
    Someone ask President Obama about the science evidence behind race/intelligence since he knows global warming science so well.
    YEC shy from the issue even though it helps us because it hurts the big targets about racial inferiority. Blacks and browns.
    They try to say racial stuff is okay because they exalt Jews and orientals.
    As long as its not Aryans or men its kosher.
    After al the trouble surely evolutionists should be held to account for riving ideas before other options.
    There is so much creationists can gain from this but theres this fog of historical hurt.
    I don’t care but YEC shys from attacking them on this point.
    The big thing to say is YES men were always different in intelligence and YES you can measure it.
    The measuring is over centuries ago.
    We simply believe anyone can get as smart as anyone.
    Its in free will. Thats what the bible says.
    then look at how inferior peoples all came up to the level of the English people group.
    Thats a final evidence for racial irrelevancy innately.
    Its over. Another stupid dream of modern evolutionism and a fawning liberal establishment I think.
    UD should keep a close eye on this. This could discredit evolution as it deserves,.

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