The Left Discovers Human Biodiversity

Blank-slatism is a cornerstone of leftist orthodoxy: all humans are the same and race is a social construct. Even though Diversity is Our Strength™ anyone can be anything, do anything. Imagine my shock at coming across an article in a leftist publication endorsing human biodiversity:

The scientific research hits on some of the most sensitive racial anxieties of Western-African relations, but it’s also an amazing story of human biodiversity.

It turns out that even The Atlantic could not fail to notice the wildly disproportionate representation of Kenyans among marathon winners. Sure, noticing is “…complicated by some particularly thorny racial politics” because  “…there’s a nasty history, after all, to white scientists evaluating the physical attributes of Africans.” As it turns out, “…the statistics are hard to ignore” since “…up to about 70 or 80 percent of its winners since the late 1980s … have been from Kenya.” To the horror of blank-slaters, “it turns out that Kenyans’ success may be innate.” Humans in different parts of the world may have evolved different traits. Katy bar the door!

Fear not, there are more recent defenders of the blank slate. Greg Cochran points to Angela Saini, who reviewed a book entitled Skin Deep in Nature. As Cochran notes,

Skin Deep [is] a ridiculous book about how racial differences have no role in sports achievement. Of course, that’s just nonsense, obviously so: some Kenyan and Ethiopian populations are way better at distance races, while people of west African descent always win the Olympic 100-meter.

The Atlantic manages to stray into this dangerous territory while being only mildly apologetic. Denying human biodiversity might even be racist:

…we tend to embrace theories that downplay legitimate biological distinctions and emphasize the idea that Kenyans simply work harder. But this kind of thinking, though clearly well intentioned, is a kind of condescension in itself.

It took Nixon to go to China. Maybe leftist publications will have to be the ones to undermine the blank slate. One caution: the article dates from 2012. Still, it’s heartening to see the phrase “human biodiversity” without “pseudoscience” in the same sentence. It’s an amazing human biodiversity, no less. I’m amazed they published it.

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Author: drlorentz

photon whisperer & quantum mechanic

7 thoughts on “The Left Discovers Human Biodiversity”

  1. drlorentz:
    It turns out that even The Atlantic could not fail to notice the wildly disproportionate representation of Kenyans among marathon winners.

    Even “wildly disproportionate” doesn’t do justice to the dominance of certain small populations in some sports.  This is from my review of Jon Entine’s 2000 book Taboo.

    In the last four Olympic games prior to the publication of this book in the year 2000, there were thirty-two finalists in the men’s 100-metre sprint. All thirty-two were of West African descent—a region which accounts for just 8% of the world’s population. If finalists in this event were randomly chosen from the entire global population, the probability of this concentration occurring by chance is 0.0832 or about 8×10-36, which is significant at the level of more than twelve standard deviations. The hardest of results in the flintiest of sciences—null tests of conservation laws and the like—are rarely significant above 7 to 8 standard deviations.

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  2. John Walker:

    drlorentz:
    It turns out that even The Atlantic could not fail to notice the wildly disproportionate representation of Kenyans among marathon winners.

    Even “wildly disproportionate” doesn’t do justice to the dominance of certain small populations in some sports.  This is from my review of Jon Entine’s 2000 book Taboo.

    In the last four Olympic games prior to the publication of this book in the year 2000, there were thirty-two finalists in the men’s 100-metre sprint. All thirty-two were of West African descent—a region which accounts for just 8% of the world’s population. If finalists in this event were randomly chosen from the entire global population, the probability of this concentration occurring by chance is 0.0832 or about 8×10-36, which is significant at the level of more than twelve standard deviations. The hardest of results in the flintiest of sciences—null tests of conservation laws and the like—are rarely significant above 7 to 8 standard deviations.

    Is it because of their blood having more oxygen?

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  3. John Walker:
    In the last four Olympic games prior to the publication of this book in the year 2000, there were thirty-two finalists in the men’s 100-metre sprint. All thirty-two were of West African descent—a region which accounts for just 8% of the world’s population. If finalists in this event were randomly chosen from the entire global population, the probability of this concentration occurring by chance is 0.0832 or about 8×10-36, which is significant at the level of more than twelve standard deviations. The hardest of results in the flintiest of sciences—null tests of conservation laws and the like—are rarely significant above 7 to 8 standard deviations.

    This is all fine and good if the probability distribution is strictly gaussian, even way out in the tails. Nassim Taleb has made a career out of pointing out that this is a poor assumption. Even if the distribution looks gaussian near the middle it might not be so at the 4 or 5 sigma point, much less 7 or 8. Verifying that a sample obeys such a distribution is almost impossible because occurrences way out in the tail are so rare.

    Billions of dollars have been lost by neglecting fat tails.

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  4. drlorentz:

    John Walker:
    In the last four Olympic games prior to the publication of this book in the year 2000, there were thirty-two finalists in the men’s 100-metre sprint. All thirty-two were of West African descent—a region which accounts for just 8% of the world’s population. If finalists in this event were randomly chosen from the entire global population, the probability of this concentration occurring by chance is 0.0832 or about 8×10-36, which is significant at the level of more than twelve standard deviations. The hardest of results in the flintiest of sciences—null tests of conservation laws and the like—are rarely significant above 7 to 8 standard deviations.

    This is all fine and good if the probability distribution is strictly gaussian, even way out in the tails. Nassim Taleb has made a career out of pointing out that this is a poor assumption. Even if the distribution looks gaussian near the middle it might not be so at the 4 or 5 sigma point, much less 7 or 8. Verifying that a sample obeys such a distribution is almost impossible because occurrences way out in the tail are so rare.

    Billions of dollars have been lost by neglecting fat tails.

    There is A rap song in there

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