Angier`s Wager? Race schizophrenia at the New York Times

"All I know is what I read in the
papers," said Will Rogers. He`d get
intellectual whiplash reading the New York
coverage of race and genes. The flood
of new data on race is exposing the fundamental
conflict between the Times` two roles:
newspaper of record and high priestess of
political correctness.

The Times` reporters keep piling up
facts showing that race and genes are terribly
important. The Times` pundits respond by
torturing logic to reassure their readers that
"the standard labels used to distinguish
people by `race` have little or no biological

For example, the NYT devoted much of
the summer to saturation reporting on the Human
Genome Project [].
So heredity sure does matter, right?

Further, the Times ran an interminable
15 part series on "How Race Is Lived."
Despite their political correctness, it
succeeded only in confirming in exhausting
detail most of the common stereotypes about the
differences between blacks and whites. In the
profile of two rival Army sergeants, for
instance, the white one is smarter, but the
black one has more masculine charisma, and thus
is a better leader of men. (The one article
definitely worth reading — "At a
slaughterhouse, some things never die" —
is, not surprisingly, one of the few that
notices that there are more than two races in
America. It documents the disastrous impact that
illegal Mexican immigrants in North Carolina are
having on African-American butchers.
Apparently, race is pervasively important, no?

But meanwhile the Times` opinionizers
have been desperately telling us that Race Is
Meaningless. The Times recently ran a
second laudatory review of population geneticist
L.L. Cavalli-Sforza`s Genes, Peoples, and
. []
This one was by leftwing English evolutionary
pundit Mark Ridley (who, by the way, is not
rightwing English evolutionary pundit Matt
Ridley, author of Genome
Like the previous Times` review, Mark
Ridley praises Cavalli-Sforza for both

A. Using "genetic differences among
people from various places to reconstruct the
`tree` of human evolution: a branching diagram
of relations among different populations."

B. "Exploding the theory that races are
genetically distinct."

To his credit, Ridley vaguely senses that
there might be a bit of a contradiction here.
But, being the kind of politically-acceptable
poobah who gets invited to review books for the New
York Times
, Ridley assumes that this
inconsistency casts some doubt on
Cavalli-Sforza`s half-century of scientific work
on racial differences – rather than on the
"No Races" boilerplate that
Cavalli-Sforza shoves into all his books to keep
from being lynched by the likes of, well, the New
York Times
. (My VDARE review of
Cavalli-Sforza`s two-faced book is at

The Times` top human sciences
essayist, Natalie Angier, then repeated Ridley`s
contention that racial differences are only
"skin-deep" in a long article entitled
"Do Races Differ? Not Really, DNA
Shows." []

Angier simply recycles all the tired clichés
that I refuted last spring in "Seven Dumb
Ideas about Race" [].
For example, she writes: "[Scientists] say
that while it may seem easy to tell at a glance
whether a person is Caucasian, African or Asian,
the ease dissolves when one probes beneath
surface characteristics and scans the genome for
DNA hallmarks of `race.`"

This is balderdash. Far from confusing racial
identifications, the new genetic analyses allow
forensic anthropologists to pinpoint the racial
origin of DNA samples left at crime scenes with
revolutionary accuracy.

Yet, even before the invention of DNA tests,
physical anthropologists had little trouble
determining the race of skeletons. Dr. George W.
Gill of the U. of Wyoming told the PBS series
Nova: "The idea that race is `only skin
deep` is simply not true, as any experienced
forensic anthropologist will affirm… I have
been able to prove to myself over the years, in
actual legal cases, that I am more accurate at
assessing race from skeletal remains than from
looking at living people standing before

When white people like Ridley and Angier
assert that racial differences are only
skin-deep, they are merely demonstrating that
they don`t respect people of other races enough
to look at them carefully. White liberals tend
to ethnocentrically assume that other peoples
are merely white liberals with different colored
skins. African Americans are far more conscious
of other common racial differences – in skulls,
buttocks, muscularity, and general skeletal

And they`re right. Recall the last time you
met an African American albino. With skin color
held constant, the underlying physical
differences among the races are especially

It`s easy to dupe laymen about something as
esoteric as genetics. So let`s reduce the
controversy to the concrete.

Would Ms. Angier care to wager a sizable
amount against me on the racial results of the
upcoming Olympics? Since she claims to believe
that racial groups don`t really differ, she
should be perfectly happy to place her bets by
random racial quota. In other words, she should
be content to bet on, say, a Mexican winning the
100m dash, a Samoan triumphing in the marathon,
and so forth.

In contrast, I`ll bet by race: East Africans,
especially members of the amazing Kalenjin tribe
of Kenya, will dominate distance running. People
of West African descent will rule sprints,
hurdles, long jump, and basketball. Southeast
Asians will do best in sports like badminton
that require quickness rather than brute
strength, etc.

Ready to put your money where your mouth is,

[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and

movie critic

The American Conservative
His website
features his daily

September 10, 2000