Michael Eisen joins the firing squad against Nicholas Wade’s new book. His argument is that we don’t know much about natural selection in humans (what was selected, what was the strength and type of selection, etc.) so Nicholas Wade’s speculations that different populations have different propensities for various kinds of behavior are unfounded.
This is of course too harsh. Wade adequately warns about the speculative nature of this part of his book and nearly always qualifies his statements with caveats. He also always stresses that genetic explanations are mediated by culture and that culture and environment may often override genetic inclinations. He argues on the plausibility of his speculations, and while someone may agree or disagree with him on specific conjectures, this hardly makes his book unscientific. There is room in science for both hypothesizing and for experimental verification/rejection of hypotheses.
No one claimed that the vitamin D hypothesis for skin depigmentation in Europeans was unscientific even though no one had the vaguest idea of which loci were involved in skin depigmentation of Europeans twenty years ago. No one claimed that it was wrong to speculate on genetic underpinnings of diabetes susceptibility before loci conferring such susceptibility were identified. Biology has a long tradition of proposing adaptive explanations for trait characteristics before the genetic underpinnings of these adaptations were understood. By Eiesen’s standard, the entire field of evolution was misguided until the genetic revolution because people could talk about selection for this or that but had no clue what the actual selected loci were (or even if they existed).
Eisen’t criticism is thus unfounded. But, egalitarians are generally hypocritical about race differences. Europeans and Africans differ in hair texture and skin color, and egalitarians see no reason to deny that genetic factors are behind these differences. But, raise even the possibility that the lower average intelligence of Africans is due to genetics, and the egalitarian Thought Police is sure to strike.
If criticism of Wade-like speculation is that “we shouldn’t speculate on things we don’t know for sure”, then the same criterion should also apply to those who speculate on the opposite end: that all human populations are statistically equal in intelligence, beauty, kindness, time preference, and a variety of other such traits. Mais non, if someone claims that human groups are equal and only differ in skin color, hair texture and other “skin deep” traits, he is usually lauded as a sensitive, progressive, and socially conscious scientist even though he has absolutely no reason to make such claims. By Eisen’s logic, if consistently applied, proponents of human genetic equality should be chastised, but of course neither he nor anyone of the Politically Correct Clan ever complain about egalitarian rhetoric. It is only those who propose hypotheses about genetic inequality and how it came to be that are singled out for victimization and name calling.
There is really no limit to the hypocrisy of the egalitarian mind when it comes to race.
The problem is that – for the moment at least – that’s about all we can say. It turns out to be far easier to demonstrate that there has been a fair amount of recent natural selection acting on the human population, than it is to pinpoint specific examples, or to rigorously evaluate specific hypotheses. The reason is that different types of evolution (drift, positive selection, purifying selection) leave different fingerprints in the genome, and we can use these to estimate how prevalent each of these forces has been in human history, and, to a lesser extent, identify regions of the genome that have been subject to certain types of selection. – See more at: http://www.michaeleisen.org/blog/?p=1609#respond