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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