Mapping Human History


Using ever improving
molecular techniques, population geneticists study the
history of extended families that are inbred to some
degree. In other words, they trace the genealogies of
racial groups. It`s an inherently fascinating subject,
and science journalist Steve Olson introduces it
adequately in his new book,

Mapping Human History: Discovering the Past Through Our
Genes
(Houghton Mifflin Co. $25). Written in the
breezy style of a National Geographic travel-log,
Olson`s book is a quick read, but a little too
superficial to be intellectually satisfying. Still, it`s
not a bad overview of an important subject.

It would be better,
though, without the recurrent political sermonizing.
Unfortunately for population geneticists, their subject
matter—race—is vastly unfashionable. So, the

dean of the field
, Stanford`s great

L.L. Cavalli-Sforza
long ago developed the
transparent subterfuge of defining the word "race" in
the

most ludicrous straw-man terms possible
—as the
classification of the human race into absolutely
separate, never-overlapping, mutually exclusive
categories—thus allowing himself to deny the biological
meaningfulness of race. (Never specified is exactly who
today believes such a thing: the Grand Kleagle`s
retarded brother, perhaps?) Still, it allows
Cavalli-Sforza to get back to work without being
crucified for political incorrectness, so we shouldn`t
hold it against him.


As I pointed out last year
in my response to Olson`s
Atlantic Monthly

article
about Cavalli-Sforza, the journalist never
seems to grasp that this is just pro forma
boilerplate. In his book, Olson stops every few pages to
tell you that there are no races that have been
absolutely isolated genetically since the beginning of
time because—you will be shocked, shocked to
learn this—humans have been known to outbreed. (The
reality of course is that for any human racial group,
the inbreeding glass is both part empty and part full.)
This makes Mapping Human History rather like a
geology book that repeatedly admonishes the reader that
the Earth is not flat.

I shouldn`t criticize
Olson too harshly even though his attacks on the science
of physical anthropology are certainly unfair. Sure, the
old "bone
guys
" made mistakes, but by

Carleton Coon`s
1965 book

The Living Races of Man,
t
hey had arrived—just by looking at
bones, visible features, and a few rudimentary genetic
markers—at a racial map of contemporary humanity that is
quite similar to what Cavalli-Sforza came up with using
molecular analysis in his 1994 magnum opus

The History and Geography of Human Genes
. In fact,
the molecular anthropologists` most important new
finding was much more politically incorrect than what
Coon had believed. Coon saw Caucasoids as more similar
to Negroids than to Mongoloids. Coon argued that the
fundamental division of humanity ran north-south along
the great mountain ranges of Central Asia, with whites
and blacks on the west and oriental peoples on the east.
In contrast, the population geneticists see the great
divide running east-west through the Sahara.
Cavalli-Sforza wrote, "The most important conclusion in
this section is that the greatest difference within the
human species is between Africans and non-Africans …"

Still, Olson`s a
half-hearted amateur at crushing distorted straw men
compared to the most celebrated popularizer and
politicizer of science, the late Stephen Jay Gould. That
literary stylist perfected the rhetorical device of
discrediting ideologically inconvenient modern
sciences—such as the study of IQ, which he attempted to
exterminate in his best-seller

The Mismeasure of Man
(see Arthur Jensen`s response
"The
Debunking of Scientific Fossils and Straw Persons
")—by
pointing out mistakes made by practitioners in the
distant past. If, for example, Gould`s Marxian
philosophy had made him dislike the discoveries of
modern geology, he would no doubt have demonstrated that
we can`t trust anything geologists tell us because

earlier geological theorists
had concluded that the
world rests on the back of

a giant turtle
.

Another curious feature that Olson`s book shares with
many other contemporary writings about population
genetics is the author`s apparent longing for the
abolition of his own subject matter via universal random
interbreeding. Although animal and plant biodiversity is
routinely celebrated as a supreme good, the conclusions
of books on human biodiversity tend to treat it
as a temporary evil that will soon be gone, and good
riddance to it. It`s as if that geology textbook ended
with an ode to the blessed day when the Earth will
plunge into the Sun, thus happily eliminating the need
for a science of geology.

In his final chapter,
"The End of Race," Olson cites Hawaii as exemplifying
the future of the human race. Still, not even Hawaii has
achieved racial nirvana. Among residents of that lovely
state, social class correlates positively with the
average latitude of one`s ancestors` homelands. People
who trace their descent primarily to New England, Japan,
or China tend to be at the top of the ladder. The
Portuguese and Filipinos are generally farther down, and
Polynesians are near the bottom. Despite interracial
marriage blurring the ethnic boundaries, the Native
Hawaiians are now campaigning hard to have themselves
declared

a sovereign nation
like American Indian tribes. (The
right to run casinos in Hawaii would be lucrative, to
say the least.)

On a vaster scale,

Brazil exhibits the same tendency for class to correlate
with color
, and for the people at the bottom of the
pile to agitate, not unreasonably, for race-based
privileges for themselves. Currently, the government of
Brazil is introducing racial quotas in response to black
demands.

Further, the mixing
of races often leads to new races rather than to no
races, such as the "triracial
isolate
" communities that are found in the backwoods
of the East Coast. The official ideology of Mexico is
that the mixing of Spaniards and Indians created "La
Raza" ("The Race"), also known as The Cosmic Race. (Here
is my article
on the population genetics of Mexico.)

This notion that the
entire world will soon consist of one beige race is both
highly popular and highly dubious. I see little
statistical evidence to suggest that there will be
significantly greater racial admixture in either Asia or
Africa anytime in the 21st Century … and that`s where
most humans will live.

For example, the

UN`s best guess
is that China will have 1,462
million people in 2050. The Chinese government shows no
intention of ever admitting many immigrants, so the
racial admixture level in China will not change
perceptibly. The UN also projects that in 2050, India
will have a population of 1,572 million. Almost all of
these people will be racially descended from current
Indians. Why? Well, who would want to move to India?
It`s a country that`s more than full now, even before it
adds another half billion people. Moreover, the average
Hindu wouldn`t even dream of marrying the 98% of other
Hindus who don`t belong to his particular

caste and regional subcaste
, so Hindus aren`t
suddenly going to start marrying vast numbers of
non-Hindus from distant lands.

Other populous
countries that—trust me—won`t be attracting huge numbers
of immigrants from other continents include Pakistan
(344 million in 2050), Indonesia (311 million), Nigeria
(279 million), Bangladesh (265 million), the Congo (204
million), and Yemen and Uganda (102 million each). In
other words, the absolute numbers of racially distinct
East Asians, blacks, and non-European Caucasians will be
larger in 2050 than today.

Most of the growth in
racial mixing will be restricted to regions where
intermarriage has been a long tradition (primarily Latin
America and some remote islands) or are immigrant
magnets (presumably North America, Australia, and
Western Europe).

In essence, what is
so enthusiastically anticipated is the admixture of
people of European descent. Evidently, there is
something uniquely, even superhumanly evil and dangerous
about European DNA that means it must be diluted.
Strikingly, the greatest enthusiasts for this view tend
to be

highly European
themselves. (Olson, for example, is
blond.) This reflects that weird combination of racial
self-loathing and racial egotism found in so many white
intellectuals. A psychologist once said that alcoholics
are egomaniacs with low self-esteem who see themselves
as the turds around which the universe revolves.
Post-modern whites tend to indulge in the same warped
world-view.

Finally, I doubt that
the Tiger Woodsification of Europeans will proceed all
that quickly. I don`t think it`s at all inevitable that
Eastern Europe will open its borders to non-Europeans.
Prudent statesmen in the ex-Communist countries will be
wary of reproducing Western Europe`s travails with
hostile immigrant minorities, although the European
Union will no doubt try to bully them into sharing their
folly.

So, the odds are
that—on a global scale—the current races will remain at
the end of this century almost as distinct as they are
today. Then, beyond 2100, DNA engineering and, perhaps,
interstellar colonization will likely radically alter genetic
differences among humans.

So, while a better
book than this one could certainly be written about
race, you can feel confident that if you do invest the
modest amount of time required to read Olson`s effort,
you don`t have to worry that its subject matter will
suddenly evaporate.


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


movie critic
for


The American Conservative
.
His website


www.iSteve.blogspot.com
features his daily
blog.]

June 28, 2002