Cavalli-Sforza`s Ink Cloud

Cavalli-Sforza II

The New York Times has hailed Genes,
Peoples, and Languages
, the new book by
Professor Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza
the dean of population geneticists, for
“dismantling the idea of race.” In the
New York Review of Books, Jared Diamond
salutes Cavalli-Sforza for “demolishing
scientists` attempts to classify human
populations into races in the same way that they
classify birds and other species into
races” .

Cavalli-Sforza himself has
written: “The classification into races has
proved to be a futile exercise.” He says
his research is “expected to undermine the
popular belief that there are clearly defined
races, [and] to contribute to the elimination of
racism.”  He adds:  “The
idea of race in the human species serves no

Don`t believe any of this. It`s
merely a politically-correct smoke screen that
Cavalli-Sforza regularly pumps out to keep his
life`s work — distinguishing the races of
mankind and compiling their genealogies — from
being defunded by the leftist mystagogues at

What`s striking is how the press
falls for his squid ink – even though
Cavalli-Sforza can`t resist proudly putting this
genetic map showing the main human races right
on the cover of his magnum opus of 1994, The
History and Geography of Human Genes

(Here`s a link to website of molecular
anthropologist Jonathan Marks, one of the few
leftists acute enough to notice Cavalli-Sforza`s
sleight of hand: HGDP Map

This is Cavalli-Sforza`s
description of the map that is the capstone of
his half century of labor in human genetics:

“The color map of the world
shows very distinctly the differences that we
know exist among the continents: Africans
(yellow), Caucasoids (green), Mongoloids …
(purple), and Australian Aborigines (red). The
map does not show well the strong Caucasoid
component in northern Africa, but it does show
the unity of the other Caucasoids from Europe,
and in West, South, and much of Central

Basically, all his
number-crunching has produced a map that looks
about like what you`d get if you gave an
unreconstructed Strom Thurmond a paper napkin
and a box of crayons and had him draw a racial
map of the world.

In fact, at the global level,
Cavalli-Sforza has largely confirmed the
prejudices of the more worldly 19th Century
imperialists. Rudyard Kipling, Cecil Rhodes, and
Francis Galton could have hunkered down together
and whipped up something rather like this map in
honor of Queen Victoria`s Diamond Jubilee.

Cavalli-Sforza`s new book, Genes,
Peoples, and Languages
, is a surprisingly
readable updating of a series of lectures on his
work that he`s been giving for years. It`s not
at all a bad introduction to this hugely
productive scientist. But to find out just how
politically unpopular Cavalli-Sforza`s findings
really are, you need to crack open his
intimidating but endlessly fascinating landmark,
The History and Geography of Human Genes.
(The abridged version is all that you`d ever
need; the $195 unabridged volume is for
libraries only.) It remains the best summary of
how the early humans of Africa split apart into
the myriad racial groups we see today.

Cavalli-Sforza`s team compiled
extraordinary tables depicting the “genetic
distances” separating 2,000 different
racial groups from each other. For example,
assume the genetic distance between the English
and the Danes is equal to 1.0. Then,
Cavalli-Sforza has found, the separation between
the English and the Italians would be about 2.5
times as large as the English-Danish difference.
On this scale, the Iranians would be 9 times
more distant genetically from the English than
the Danes, and the Japanese 59 times. Finally,
the gap between the English and the Bantus (the
main group of sub-Saharan blacks) is 109 times
as large as the distance between the English and
the Danish. (The genetic distance between
Japanese and Bantus is even greater.)

From these kind of tables,
Cavalli-Sforza reached this general conclusion:

“The most important difference in the human
gene pool is clearly that between Africans and
non-Africans …”

As you can imagine, this finding
could get him in a bit of hot water if the
campus thought police ever found out about it.
So we should certainly forgive the charade he
keeps up to fool the New York Times. But
we definitely don`t have to agree.

A race is simply a lineage. A
racial group is simply an extremely extended
family that inbreeds to some extent. Race is a
fundamental aspect of the human condition.
Burying our heads in the sand and refusing to
think about this fundamental aspect only makes
the inevitable problems caused by race harder to

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and
movie critic for The American Conservative.
His website features his daily

May 24, 2000