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Jerry Coyne on genetics and race

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From diehard Darwinian Jerry Coyne, on the work of motivated journalist Angela Saini, whose work was discussed on the Canadian government broadcaster, CBC’s Quirks and Quarks:

Here’s just one Q&A from that show, but it’s an important one: Let’s move into the modern era then. Biologists have come up with a really strong scientific critique of the idea of race. Can you take me through that?

[Saini responds] Well, for 70 years since this consensus after the Second World War, all that biology has done is reinforce the fact that we are so similar. We imagine the genetic differences between racial groups.

For example, I am of Indian origin. My parents [were] born in India. But if I were to randomly pick a South Asian person on the street and randomly pick a white, Canadian person on the street and test their genomes, it’s perfectly statistically possible for my genome to have more in common with a white person than with the Indian person. That’s how almost complete that overlap is. So we are incredibly similar as a species, and the vast majority of difference that we see is accounted for by individual difference.

[Coyne comments] Now I’ve tried to parse her statement in a way that it would be correct, but I can’t. In fact, the only way you can say that there’s any validity to her claim of no difference between the South Asians/white Canadians and South Asians/South Asians comparison is to construe “perfectly statistically possible” to mean that you might be able to find one or a couple of South Asians who, throughout their genomes, were more similar to some Canadians than they were to other South Asians. But you will almost never find that. We know this from the genetic data that already exist. You could equally well assert that it’s “perfectly statistically possible” for all the oxygen molecules in your room to move to the other side of the room at once, suffocating you. The error is taking what is possible and making people think that this is what’s common or probable.

Jerry Coyne, “Genetic ignorance in the service of ideology” at Why Evolution Is True

But if Saini is Woke and Correct, her output doesn’t need to make sense. That’s what the last twenty years of higher education have largely been about. Jerry’s attempt to correct the errors is creditable but he is facing a tsunami. You can’t correct a tsunami. One hopes this kind of thing doesn’t end badly for him. He doesn’t deserve that.


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