knowledge about the human race is accumulating
so quickly that two influential American
magazines have felt it necessary to run major
articles trying to divert attention away from
the true nature of what is being learnt.
April 2001 Atlantic
Monthly profile by Steve Olson of population
geneticist L.L. Cavalli-Sforza ("The
Genetic Archaeology of Race") is basically a
press release from the Cavalli-Sforza Ministry of
Propaganda. It is an uncritical rehash of the great race
scientist`s long-running ploy of trying to defend his
research projects from his enemies on the left by
issuing transparently illogical attacks upon his
admirers on the right.
more dubious is Andrew Ferguson`s "Evolutionary
Psychology and its True Believers" in The Weekly Standard of March 19, 2001. Having signally failed to halt
the growth of neo-Darwinism via his earlier angry
reviews of books by Steven Pinker and Francis Fukuyama,
Ferguson, realizing that he`s outgunned scientifically,
turns now to the neo-Lysenkoist Left for expert support.
Darwinophobia makes for some strange bedfellows, but few
stranger than seeing Marxist warhorse Stephen Jay Gould,
peecee biologist Steven Rose, lesbian avenger Anne
Fausto-Sterling, and their ilk quoted admiringly in the
pages of The Weekly
is totally off the topic, but does anybody have a theory
why practically half the guys who write about genetics
are named "Steve?")
written several articles before on the strengths and
weaknesses of both Cavalli-Sforza`s work and
evolutionary psychology. In this column, I`ll offer a
few new comments on the Atlantic
article, and offer links to my earlier efforts. I`ll
then follow up with a review of The Weekly
Standard piece next time.
first consider Cavalli-Sforza`s disinformation campaign.
Atlantic article begins:
the past decade or so genetics researchers have been
undermining the widespread belief that groups of people
differ genetically in character, temperament, or
intelligence. They have shown that all human beings are
incredibly similar genetically—much more so than other
species of large mammals. They have revealed the folly
of attributing group behavioral differences to biology
rather than culture."
is 180 degrees flat wrong. What the journalist never
reveals is that Cavalli-Sforza, the ventriloquist behind
his astounding assertions, has practically no
professional expertise on this question whatsoever. C-S
has carefully avoided studying genes that influence
"character, temperament, or intelligence."
Cavalli-Sforza only researches "junk genes"
that don`t do anything.
has a perfectly good scientific reason for this. He
wants to understand the family tree of the races. For
this, he needs to track similarities and differences
among genes that are caused solely by random mutations,
and are passed on without alteration from generation to
generation. These tell-tale mutations provide hereditary
"fingerprints" that can be used to show that,
say, most Malagasys on Madagascar off the east coast of
Africa are surprisingly closely related to Malayo-Indonesians,
four thousand miles east across the Indian Ocean.
(Indeed, Madagascar was largely settled by Southeast
Asians who rafted that incredible distance in ancient
times.) This is wonderful stuff to find out.
Cavalli-Sforza can`t use in his research are genes that
actually do anything. Genes that help you survive and
reproduce are not passed on as automatically as neutral
genes. Instead, Darwinian selection – natural, sexual,
and artificial – is constantly causing changes in gene
"alleles" among active genes. Unlike junk
genes, important genes change to adapt to local climates
and cultures. And that would screw up C-S`s genealogies.
take an obvious example, tropic peoples in Africa, South
India, and some parts of New Guinea and Melanesia tend
to have very dark brown skin, suggesting they have
similar genes in this regard. That does not mean,
however, that they are closely related genealogically.
They may have separately evolved a single similar trait
– near-black skin – as a response to similar climates.
(And, indeed, while Africans and Melanesians tend to
behave quite similarly, the dark brown computer
programmers from Bangalore are definitely the odd men
out of this trio.)
muscular West Africans and Samoans from the Pacific are
both heavily over-represented in the NFL, but the
genetic similarities that make them formidable football
players don`t imply that they are close cousins.
Darwinian selection has simply created two racial groups
that turn out to be similar genetically in football
talent. Yet West Africans and Samoans are, according to
Cavalli-Sforza`s study of neutral genes, located
extremely far apart on the human race`s family tree.
when Cavalli-Sforza starts issuing obiter
dicta about how genetic differences can`t cause
behavioral differences, he is talking through his hat. He is simply ignorant on the subject,
as you can quickly notice from the obvious mistakes of
fact and logic in his writings and those of his
example, the Atlantic
article makes the following astoundingly lame argument
for why genetic differences in intelligence among races
can`t exist, when genetic differences in skin color
obviously do exist: "Skin color is determined by a
handful of genes … The development of the brain
involves thousands of genes…"
brains also involve thousands of genes, yet dog breeds
differ radically in intelligence and personality. Take a
look some time at Stanley
Coren`s fun ranking of the working intelligence
of dog breeds,
from the whip-smart Border Collie to the dumb as a tree
stump Afghan Hound.
can certainly forgive Cavalli-Sforza for playing such a
devious game to protect his funding from leftist
zealots. But I won`t help him play it.
earlier VDARE articles on Cavalli-Sforza:
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and