No justification can be offered for its continuance

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

Charles Murray’s Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class starts with sex (or gender) and moves on to race:

Naturalists Carl Linnaeus and Johann Blumenbach proposed formal groupings of populations into races based on distinctive morphological features.


Among scholars, the opening of the twentieth century saw a scientific backlash not only against the idea of a racial hierarchy but against the idea of race itself. Its most prominent spokesman was Franz Boas, a pioneering anthropologist and a fierce opponent of what he labeled “scientific racism.” A British anthropologist who studied under Boas, Ashley Montagu, took his mentor’s position to new levels of passion (“Race is the witchcraft, the demonology of our time”) and set the rhetorical tone for today’s academic orthodoxy. The book from which that quote is taken, Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race, was originally published in 1942 and remained in print throughout the rest of the century.


In 1972, Lewontin published an article titled “The Apportionment of Human Diversity.” In it, he analyzed genetic diversity among the different races with the tools available at the time and found that less than 15 percent of all genetic diversity is accounted for by differences among groups. He concluded with a passage that has since become canonical:

It is clear that our perception of relatively large differences between human races and subgroups, as compared to the variation within these groups, is indeed a biased perception and that, based on randomly chosen genetic differences, human races and populations are remarkably similar to each other, with the largest part by far of human variation being accounted for by the differences between individuals.

Human racial classification is of no social value and is positively destructive of social and human relations. Since such racial classification is now seen to be of virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance either, no justification can be offered for its continuance.

The canonical version of the orthodoxy’s second proposition appeared twelve years later, written by Gould for his regular column in Natural History magazine. “Equality [of the races] is not given a priori,” he wrote,

It is neither an ethical principle (though equal treatment may be) nor a statement about norms of social action. It just worked out that way. A hundred different and plausible scenarios for human history would have yielded other results (and moral dilemmas of enormous magnitude). They didn’t happen.

Gould argued for this conclusion along several lines, some of which echoed Lewontin. But he also offered a new proposition that quickly became popular: “[T]he division of humans into modern ‘racial’ groups is a product of our recent history. It does not predate the origin of our own species, Homo sapiens, and probably occurred during the last few tens (or at most hundreds) of thousands of years.” Four Gould, the implication was obvious:

As long as most scientists accepted the ancient division of races, they expected important genetic differences. But the recent origin of races… squares well with the minor genetic differences now measured. Human groups do vary strikingly in a few highly visible characters (skin color, hair form) — and this may fool us into thinking that overall differences must be great. But we now know that our usual metaphor of superficiality — skin deep — is literally accurate.

And so, he concluded in his 1984 article, “Say it five times before breakfast tomorrow; more important, understand it as the center of a network of implication: ‘Human equality is a contingent fact of history.’”


  1. CVLR says:

    On one side, two racist Protestant Germans of the old noble type.

    On the other, four gentlemen of surpassing lineage and striking physiognomy.

    How can the Germans ever compete?

  2. CVLR says:

    *even compete

  3. CVLR says:

    Charles Murray is far too polite. He should just say what everyone is thinking:

    “It’s the — get this — it’s the Unitarians.”


  4. Graham says:

    Any review of updates reported by the likes of Razib Khan suggest that it ranged from the mere thousands to the tens of thousands, with only some ranging to the hundreds of thousands, and that at the margins.

    I realize deep history is deep, but I marvel even so that Gould could cavalierly dismiss these timeframes as trifles.

  5. Graham says:

    Also, they are finding bits of pre homo sapiens admixture all over the place that occurs everywhere, and is so a human universal, but in different proportions from various ancestral homo groups, so it is not.

    I was just reading about the is-ought and fact-value questions raised by Hume, and recalling a Twitter storm unleashed against Dawkins on the 16th February.

    I concluded from it that it is no longer possible for our society to imagine that something is, or works, without feeling obliged to make policy or try it, and therefore anything that one considers not worthy of policy, or immoral to try, must be denounced as nonexistent or unworkable so as to short circuit the problem.

    This is the moral and logical philosophy of an insane people.

  6. UlfViKings says:

    The real fallacy here is supposing a scientific worldview based on the scientific method of observation and experimentation but then arbitrarily enforce moralism and liberal type feelings onto nature (evolution) as correct.

    Even though when you look at the consensus by scientists of “Race and IQ” you will see a tiny percentage of those who believe that genetics has no bearing (0-10%) on IQ on one side, and genetics has (100%) bearing on IQ heritability. You will see that to say that most believe in a 50-50 split of (Socio-economic background) SES and Genetics. Murray adheres to 60% – others more towards 80% and yet a fair amount of scientists in the consensus agree in proportion to such results. Roughly a solid 20-30% would agree.

    Surely its common sense, like profiling a gender in school to see who can pick up a table for the female teacher. You pick a male because most males are stronger than women. The weakest male is typically still stronger than the strongest woman.

  7. Kirk says:

    Where a lot of this crap gets mixed up is that much of our conception of “race” derives from folk wisdom and observation, which got slathered over with a bunch of pseudo-scientific political clap-trap back in the days of the Age of Exploration and the colonial era.

    What it is based on, which I think is an essentially irrefutable proposition, is that behavior is at least somewhat heritable. You can see it all around you–My nephew has personality quirks and mannerisms that are frighteningly like his grandfather, who was dead some fifteen years before his birth. What degree this “inherent biological behavior” extends is arguable; that it exists simply is not.

    From that, you can see that there are family traits which stem from this, and further extend out to see that the surrounding cultural matrix is influenced by all of this, as well. Thus, it is easy to create and rely on stereotypes, to say that Italians a excitable, Englishmen stolid, and all the rest. And, while these stereotypes will be accurate across a broad group you observe, it’s equally true that there will be exceptions to the rule, stolid Italians and excitable Englishmen. In the mass, however? The stereotypes will generally hold true.

    Which is what makes the idea of race, and racism all too easy to believe and operate under. You run into five men who all look alike, and come from the same place, more or less, and who behave similarly, guess what? The sixth guy you run into is going to get lumped in with them, regardless. If every white evangelical Christian you’ve ever had business dealings with has ripped you off, you’re going to characterize white evangelical Christians as hypocrites and thieves–And, then you’re going to act on that belief, and never do business with any.

    Which is the foundation of racism, and the assumption that because some people look somewhat alike, everyone who shares that “look” is the same. Reality? It’s not always the case.

    I look at it as adaptation. If you plunk a hundred thousand white-skinned, blond Englishmen down in Australia, where they are able to maintain the trappings of their culture and so forth, after enough time has passed, you’re going to wind up with a population that looks more like an Australian Aborigine than you are a set of Englishmen–But, the cultural/behavioral genes will probably still remain, so you’ll still have something that looks a lot like England plunked down in a sub-tropical desert.

    On the other hand, you dump that same population into southern Africa, and set the conditions such that organized large-scale civilization can’t be continued, not only are you going to get the physical/appearance adaptations, you’re going to get the same sort of thing in the behavioral genes. The Englishmen will revert to type, and you’re going to wind up with a state of affairs that looks a lot like what the Romans found when they invaded Britain back in the days of Caeser.

    It’s all a question of adaptation. You put people into a howling wilderness under Lord of the Flies rules, and maintain those conditions long enough, you’re going to see that sort of thing expressed in the gene lines before too long–Mainly because anything else is going to die out in short order. Likewise, you put them in civilization, insist on them following the rules, and you’ll very shortly find that you’ve got a “civilized” set of behavioral genes dominating.

    Along with this, we have the problem that we think “Genetics=Predestination” instead of the more accurate “Genetics=Predisposition”. So what if your dad had a heart attack and died before he was 45; he didn’t live a healthy life, and didn’t take care of himself, either–Nothing says you have to follow in his footsteps, and you could take action to drastically lengthen your lifespan. I know people in just that situation who’ve done exactly that, and it’s worked.

    Likewise with the behavioral stuff–If you’re from a lineage that has little experience of civilized life, odds are pretty good that you’re going to find you have things about your genetic behavioral contribution that don’t make it easy to fit in or function in that sort of organized society. But, you can take measures to overcome that, and fit in. Nothing says that those genes lock you in; you are more than your DNA.

    Or, not. It’s mostly your decision. You want to be a low-life criminal, you can justify that with “Muh genes made me do it!!”, or you can rise above that. Predisposition does not equal predestination.

    I think that there’s a lot of long-term observational stuff that goes into many of our religious beliefs about these things. The entire thrust of the Calvinist arguments over predestination would be evidence for that, and I think it permeates a lot of our unvoiced and unrecognized cultural beliefs on these matters. We are racist mostly because that’s what the tradition teaches us, which is that those that don’t look like us aren’t like us. The reality is, the key thing isn’t the appearance, but the behavior. I’ve met Nigerians who were far more civilized in terms of outlook and behavior than many of my supposedly long-civilized white peers, men I’ve had more in common with than many of the whites I grew up with. The whole thing boils down to “adaptation” more than anything else–What environment are you suited for? Perhaps it is the boardroom, perhaps it is the Serengeti Plain. Neither is any more virtuous than the other, in the grand scheme of things. Nobody is going to remember where you were or what you were doing in a few thousand years, anyway. They will recognize how successful you were in passing on your genes, however, and that’s a question for the fates. My suspicion is that whoever wins out in the competition over the long haul probably won’t be who we think it will be.

  8. Paul from Canada says:

    Totally this!

    We often tend to ascribe to genetics that which is cultural, and to culture, that which is genetic.

    Theodore Dalrymple uses an example which I have used to advantage myself. He describes a population of an urban area.

    They live in social housing. The average family is a matriarchy of several generations of women single parents. Grandmothers, mothers and daughters raising multiple children from multiple fathers who have no interest in and provide no support for these children. All dependent on welfare. Welfare, welfare fraud, petty crime and drug dealing are the main “industries”.

    The male culture is a dysfunctional “honor” culture of ego and a thin skinned vulnerability to slights (“dis” culture), leading to rampant violence. A superficial status culture based on “bling”. Having the right clothes, shoes, fancy rims or a big stereo on your otherwise piece-of-shit car, and so on.

    Where is he describing? Detroit? Baltimore? South Chicago?

    No, he is describing a part of Glasgow, Scotland. A population so white, that they get sunburn if you put them under fluorescent light! A population that has produced world class doctors and surgeons, engineers, Generals, administrators and so on.

    Give multiple generations under the same social conditions, and this is what you get. It is CULTURAL, not racial, (although given enough generations of F.A.S and deprivation, and it may well start to become genetic).

  9. Graham says:

    That’s progress.

    I remember in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, when such arguments were getting made by the likes of Thomas Sowell, neocons interested in social science and domestic American problems, and to a lesser extent neocons interested in using American power to remake the world in their image, that liberals and progressives suddenly took up the banner of universal cultural equality. How dare anyone suggest any one culture, let alone ours, was superior in any way let alone in general to some other.

    This had its more and less valid sides- I’m not about to fail to recognize the civilization building qualities of many non-European cultures, or the valuable traits they still possess today from those roots. I find I am more open to that than my average work colleague, confronted with the realities of, say, South Asian cultures.

    Nor do I expect them all to turn themselves into clones of the West at any point, still less of contemporary North America.

    I’m equally aware of flaws in the West, past or present, and sometimes the same ones progs will cite, sometimes not.

    But on the whole, the civilization of which I am a part achieved more, faster, and brought itself to a more advanced position than any other, and not without opposition. If I were to cite any piece of architecture as our greatest monument, at least 4-5 major regional civilizations would have it’s equal. But the products of Western civ that stands as its best monuments are on the moon or near-interstellar space.

    These achievements may soon be surpassed, whether by rivals or by a global civilization of which the Western legacy is only a part. But hasn’t happened yet and there’s a ways to go.

    Similarly, at the smaller scale, bourgeois middle class ways of life in the Angloworld don’t have to be the only ways. They’re a hell of a lot better than underclass life.

    There was a long era there, as early as one of my undergrad classes circa 1989, and as late as ten years ago or less, when making either argument could raise the hue and cry of “racism”. That is was not biological, and assume the universal capacity of all humans to adopt better lifeways, was not relevant. The assumption the culture anyone practices was inferior is racist, absence of consideration of race notwithstanding.

    Silvio Berlusconi caught hell across the world and among my coworkers years ago for asserting what I have asserted, in specific comparison to the civilization of Islam.

    I am myself able to make strong arguments for the virtues of Islam the religion, the culture, the set of laws, and for the longer historical achievements of the peoples of the Muslim world both before and during Islam. Not to mention a plausible argument for the idea that they are in fact a part of Western Civ, as opposed the the dharmic world of the east, an assumption shared by many of the Big History books of the early 20c. But no, it ultimately didn’t do as well as Europe. And it had plenty of chances.

    Not one word of that makes any assumptions about the innate capacity or adaptive powers of anyone in the MENA region, or anywhere else, or in the underclasses of the west, to use better behaviours and buy themselves into a better culture. It would still be considered wildly racist all over the place.

    Still, it is progress that even in liberal circles, if not prog, the idea that it’s all culture is actually staging a slight comeback, if only as a defensive line. It’s a concession to realism, if not to their political opponents of old.

    I will despair if it again becomes an argument for huge interventions in city slums in Detroit or GLasgow for that matter, or for a new colonialism in AFrica, or other such 90s notions. Because it will have some success, and then fail again.

    Because that’s the underlying problem at both levels.

    Cultures can be superior or inferior, in whole or parts, and they can be exported a bit and adapted to, or taught in one’s own country. The British had decent success with both colonialism and with the social reforms of the Victorian era.

    But it isn’t infinitely fungible either. Every ethnic group will not adapt, wish to adapt, or succeed in adapting everything to survive or thrive. And every underclass within an otherwise successful culture will not all become bourgeois, whether it’s mostly a different ethnic group from the rest of society, a related one, or the same one.

    So taking all that in, my conclusion would fall somewhere in the middle.

    Some ethnic groups will not be able to adapt to successful cultures, except perhaps at margins. Some will.

    Some will be so successful in some way or another [demographics is likely] that they will redefine the environment to become one in which they have the adaptive advantage. Then others, now deemed successful, might fail. I recognize that possibility.

    OTOH, I reserve the right to judge them on the one hand as superior by this definition, by surviving, expanding, and shaping their environment, and still consider the output possibly inferior on subjective if defensible grounds. That is to say, the only civilization superior to the West is the one that gets farther into space. If humans never manage it again, all succeeding civilizations yield this point forever.

    On the domestic front, comparing underclasses is a false premise. Every ethnic group will produce them. So far as history is concerned, they’re a long-term feature. If you have scummy urban slums or ignorant peasants but still build any of a number of Chinese empires and produce the mandarin class, you’ve accomplished more than if all you have is scummy urban slums and ignorant peasants.

    If you’re all one ethnic group, then the assessment takes in all the range of what kinds of people you have produced and can produce.

    Sidebar on that- I highly recommend for enjoyment Steve Sailer’s series “Diversity before Diversity from roughly 5-10 years ago, on Unz and on his old site. In particular, his long excerpt with commentary from Lord Macaulay, assessing the transformation of his native Scotland and impressing on the reader the deep Highland-Lowland differences and their conflicts.

    When reading it, I think always of contemporary Afghanistan, albeit the numbers are somewhat larger. Macaulay vividly describes what was possible by the transformation of a culture, by compulsion and example and wide scale “cultural genocide”.

    But he also points out that the Lowlands and Highlands long considered themselves to be different ethnic groups. To a large degree, they were not- all the peoples of the British Isles have a huge common substrate and most of the same mixtures since. TO the degree that operates in actual history, they were.

    Anyway, Macaulay is also a fun read. I suggest reading it and then watching Rob Roy with a glass of nice single malt.

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