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Tom Bethell on “Troublesome Inheritance”: Evolution and race

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Charles Murray defends the idea that evolution means that “race matters” here, in a review of Nicholas Wade’s Troublesome Inheritance.  Bethell responds,

My own feeling is that there are real racial differences and they are (partly) inherited. But Murray and Wade (of the New York Times) go too far in trying to demonstrate it by referring to genes “for” this or that trait.

I have always been suspicious of Nicholas Wade. In a NYT story in 1998, he was the first to promote embryonic stem cell research, which has turned out to be so fraud-laden. Wade actually pushed the idea that ESC’s could stop aging.

In the Greek myths, a terrible price is always paid by humans who seek to live forever, as if to discourage people from even the thought of sharing in the defining attribute of gods. Tithonus, a youth with whom Aurora, the goddess of the dawn, fell in love, was granted immortality, but as he grew more bent and decrepit longed only for one other gift, the relief of death.

Chastened by such cautionary tales, we meekly accept that death is as inevitable as the dawn, knowing that our bodies will run down like an aging automobile when they exceed their design limit. So it was almost disquieting rather than uplifting to hear scientists at the Geron Corporation in Menlo Park, Calif., talk about ”immortalizing” certain cells that they hoped to derive from the recently isolated human embryonic stem cells. Surely the scientists were speaking metaphorically.

They were not.

The study of aging is undergoing a possibly profound change, and a handful of biologists, whose hubris has not yet been punished with a thunderbolt from Mount Olympus, are beginning to think about interfering with the mechanisms that make the body mortal.

The issue also turned out to be a big embarrassment for Science magazine, which overlooked the fraudulence and treated ESC claims as a “breakthrough of the year.”

As for the conflict between Murray and R.C. Lewontin, I am closer to Murray politically but I always admired RCL for challenging evolutionary orthodoxies, notably the ideas of adaptation and natural selection. Gould (and Eldredge) also challenged the Darwinian orthodoxy that evolution was slow and steady, and pretty much seem to have overturned it.

As to Murray’s last sentence above: I think there are scientific reasons for doubting his conclusion. First, and built in, is the widespread confusion between the sequencing of the genome and its “decoding.” Just because we know the sequence of a string of letters does not mean we know what that string means. Recently, “the orthodoxy” has cast doubt on what a gene is. Murray seems not to know that. He writes about genes as though they are well known to code for traits, or characters. But that idea belonged to an older conception of the gene, no longer thought to be valid.

More and more, today, “the orthodoxy” refers to the genome rather than individual genes.

For sure, when we consider all the articles that roll through the system here on epigenetics, supposed junk DNA that plays a role, and convergent evolution.

See also: Real clear racism: Does it mean that as long as you front Darwin, you can be a racist?

Real racism means not liking Mexican food: It’s so last century to see racism as being about race or something.

Rod Dreher’s take on Wade wade-ing into evolution and race: Maybe the point is just to see what people can be got to accept if you call it “evolution” that they would despise if you called it, who knows – family values?

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8 Replies to “Tom Bethell on “Troublesome Inheritance”: Evolution and race

  1. 1
    OldArmy94 says:

    With the ability to narrow everything down to an individual vis-a-vis genetic testing, isn’t this talk about racial groups really a moot issue?

  2. 2
    News says:

    Quite likely, so why … ?

  3. 3
    goodusername says:

    Charles Murray defends the idea that evolution means that “race matters” here, in a review of Nicholas Wade’s Troublesome Inheritance.

    No, he defends the idea that genetic differences in human populations are sufficiently great enough to warrant them being called biological races.

    I’m skeptical that human biological races actually exist, but I wouldn’t say that someone is racist merely for that belief, as you seem to do here. Since Bethell says that he believes races are real, would you say that he is racist?

  4. 4
    OldArmy94 says:

    So why? It seems to me that the broader stereotyping that we might’ve seen 100 years ago are now pointless exercises when the individual, ala Gattica, can be evaluated on his/her genetic platform.

    I am sorry, but I really don’t have an agenda or point to make, I guess. This is just my stream of consciousness at work. 🙂

  5. 5
    jerry says:

    I am about 40% of the way through Wade’s book and it is all about genes/alleles. So far nothing about regulatory elements in the genome other than promoters etc.

    Also it is one “just so” story after the other with some actual research thrown in. Though most may be just speculation, some of the actual research is very interesting.

    There definitely seems to be some genetic basis for races but there is no basis so far for anything of consequence. Many morphological differences but so what.

  6. 6
    JesusTalks says:

    Anyone defending Wade’s Satanic evolutionist racist book will burn in the fiery flames of Hell!

  7. 7
    Robert Byers says:

    This murray person also already pushed race/genetics.
    Aside from the bible and modern common sense and modern society fed up with crackpot ideas on race THERE is a bigger issue.
    These people do not accept the superiuority of the English people and civilization.
    They already cheat. tHey don’t do controlled experiments.
    they score everyone after bringing them to live with us or after we went to them and educated them up.
    They must start first with british civilization and then the other protestant peoples/nations and then europeans.
    IF we were all equally created by god, we are, then it would be that inferior, originally, peoples would assimulate our smarts bY LIVING WITH US.
    Not a genetic leap.
    The results are in. The losers moved to the winners.
    They can’t NOW score it.
    They are simply looking at present scores that are only possible after assimilation.
    Its hilarious in their arrogance and presumption
    anyways its a chance for creationism however uncomfortable.
    In fact its part of a bigger problem in society about who decides who gets what.
    There is a great historic issue here about interference with the native and the breaking of social contract by immigrants.
    there is something brewing underneath on these matters finally.

  8. 8
    jerry says:

    Over half way through the book and it seems that Wade has lost his meds somewhere along the line. It is more sociology and political science as opposed to science.

    He is saying things like the gene pool in England changed over time from 1200 to 1800 so that there were new genetic elements in the English genome that would lead to acceptance of the Industrial Revolution. And that the gene pool of the Chinese, Indians and Middle East all are different from each other and have led to the social institutions that they accept. He has his favorite political and sociology authors and seems to be trying to force genetics into their speculative conclusions.

    It is getting a little nutty. Maybe it will get back to the science of genetics instead of the speculation of what genes might be doing.

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