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Return to Reality About Race

By Dr. Glayde Whitney

After a century of bizarre wrong-headedness, new genetic discoveries are forcing a return to reality about race. The beauty of science is that it is the only known approach to knowledge that is self-correcting. Mistakes can be made, theories can be wrong, but as long as science is conducted openly and honestly, it is naturally self-correcting. This is because claims must be consistent with observations. If the real world is not consistent with a theory, then the theory is wrong. That is the power of science.

Ideologies, on the other hand, proclaim some favored theory and then support it through authoritarian totalitarianism: If observations of the real world are not consistent with the theory, then suppress the observations. Dissenters with new information are defamed, ostracized, even prosecuted, jailed and sometimes killed. So it is today from the defenders of the races-do-not-exist fallacy. The "races don't exist" fallacy entered the science and culture of White Western Civilization around the turn of the twentieth century. It never took hold among other peoples: The Chinese and Japanese have always known better, as do blacks and Jews and most everyone except the educated white denizens of western "liberalism".

Throughout recorded history people have been aware of some of the differences among them, and racial differences were understood to be heritable, at least in part. When Anthropology and Psychology first emerged as scientific disciplines during the nineteenth century, the importance of race differences and their inheritance was a prominent part of the subject matter.

With the great wave of immigration around the 1880's some very bright and hard working people appeared who set about to instill a new ideology. Imbued with a visceral hatred of traditional Western Christian Civilization, these people were Marxists, socialist followers of the "social justice" and redistribution-of-wealth notions of radical revolutionaries. They intentionally confused the political-ideological notions of equality before the law, with the biological realities of race differences. Prominent among them was the immigrant Franz Boas, who established "cultural" anthropology as distinct from physical anthropology. Boas and his followers pushed the notion that there was no evidence that races were actually different in hereditary capacities-all of the observed differences were said to be the result of historical accidents and cultural-learning.

In psychology the Boas influence took the form of "behaviorism" with the claim that heredity is not important; all of human behavioral differences are learned. Here started moral relativism - no culture [meaning Western Christianity] is better than any other, they are just "different". The apparent race differences were only skin deep, race was an obsolete concept, it was to be replaced with cultural "ethnic groups"; race might be an important social construct, but it had no biological reality.

This denial of the reality of race was soon confabulated with morality, ethics and sin. Israel Ehrenburg, a student of Boas's, in 1942 wrote "Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race" [Ehrenburg changed his name to Montague Francis Ashley-Montague]. After World War II, and progressing through the civil rights movement to today, "race" became linked in propaganda to hate, prejudice, bigotry, racism, Nazism, antisemitism, thuggery, blasphemy, Western Christian Civilization, and other forms of pure evil.

But in the meantime scientific advances were made on many fronts, including genetics. While racial heredity was being denied by many of the elites of western intelligentsia, basic discoveries were made about genetics, hereditary behavior, and race differences. Instead of racial traits being only "skin deep", it became apparent to some scientists that surface traits like skin color, facial shape, and kind of hair, were only the smallest tip of an iceberg of profound differences among the races.

However, the demonization of "racists", and official government-sanctioned egalitarian ideology, has driven many discrete scientists away from studying, or even mentioning, race. For instance, a main college textbook of Behavior Genetics, in the latest edition dropped the word "race" from its index. The text says that Arthur Jensen's prominent mention of race differences in intelligence endangered funding for all research in behavior genetics. Professor emeritus Cavalli-Sforza, the most prominent living geneticist to spend his career investigating race genetics, loudly proclaims at every opportunity that races do not exist; he says he studies the genetics of "populations", not races.

Perhaps most ludicrous, was J. Craig Venter's [Head of Celera] pronouncement that genome sequencing had proved that races do not exist - this at a time when his company had sequenced the genome of one individual (probably his) and was gearing-up to begin sequencing humans chosen to represent certain different "ethnic groups". At about the same time (August, 2000) the prestigious Science magazine, official organ of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, contained the statement that "Ethnicity can be inferred from the frequencies of alternative forms, or alleles, of genes; allele patterns differ by racial origin." So, in order to secure research funding, and to keep out of trouble, scientists tend to shy away from "race", preferring to use euphemisms such as "group", "ethnicity" or "population".

By whatever name there are now known to be many genes (alleles) which are present in certain races but entirely absent among others. Even more common are genes that are present in various races, but at greatly different frequencies. In recent years almost every issue of scientific journals such as the American Journal of Human Genetics contains articles dealing with genetic differences among "ethnic groups".

A sampling of research reported within the last decade includes Cavalli-Sforza and colleagues' book-length report of genetic comparisons of almost 500 different "populations", entitled "The History and Geography of Human Genes"(1994). They are adamant that they are not studying races, but rather populations of humans. Yet their main groups, based on genetic similarity and differences have a familiar ring: "Africans (sub-Saharan), Caucasoids (European) . Northern Mongoloids (p. 79), and so on. They report that "the greatest [genetic] difference within the human species is between Africans and non-Africans ." It so happens that there are three different patterns of gene inheritance that provide different information about relationships.

First there are genes on chromosomes called autosomes that are inherited equally from both parents. Second, there are genes in mitochondria, called mtDNA, that is usually inherited only from the mother. Third, there are genes on the Y-chromosome that are transmitted only from father to son. A recent study compared Y-chromosome gene markers among a diversity of European, Mid-Eastern, North African and sub-Saharan (black) "populations". They found that "sub-Saharan African populations were characterized by an almost completely different set of [markers]", while the other (mostly Caucasian derived) groups shared many of the same markers, but at different frequencies. Israeli scientists have been particularly active in investigating the Jewish gene pool.

Among their discoveries is that the men descended from the hereditary temple aristocracy, the Kohanum, with derived family names such as Cohen and Konen, are more similar for Y-chromosomes throughout Diaspora Jewry than they are to their co-religionists within the same communities. Further, Diaspora Jewish communities throughout Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East are genetically more similar to one another than they are to the Gentile groups among whom they live. The only exceptions, based on Y-chromosomes, were black Ethiopian Jews, who did not resemble other Jews genetically, but were the same as non-Jewish Ethiopians.

On the other hand, members of the black, Bantu-speaking southern African Lemba tribe, who have some rituals similar to Jews and have tribal origin stories that they are descended from Jews, do indeed carry some Y-chromosome markers that are undoubtedly of Semitic, probably Jewish, origin.

Of course some racial populations are clearly of mixed origin. Examples include Somalis and some Ethiopian tribes who tend to have a rather high proportion of Y-chromosomes of Semitic origin, while the maternal genomes [mtDNA] are more heavily loaded with material of black-Bantu origin. Similarly, the population of Finland has mtDNA similar to that from other women of northwestern Europe, while the male Y-chromosomes have a rather high frequency of markers shared with eastern Mongolian populations. After 500 years of active miscegenation, the "white" population of Brazil has been reported to have a lot of Y-chromosomes of European origin, but the maternal contribution, estimated from mtDNA, has over 25% of gene markers from each of American Indian and Black African origin.

In the face of burgeoning knowledge about the great genetic differences among the various races, the races-do-not-exist egalitarians have a few frequently used fallback arguments. One is the simplistic claim that "pure types" don't exist [true], therefore races have no biological/genetic reality [nonsense].

Another is that there are no clear boundaries between groups, therefore different groups don't exist. It is true that some genes show a gradual change in frequency from one geographic race to another. But many others do change quite abruptly; in analyses based on sets of multiple genes it is often easy to demarcate quite abrupt borders. Another argument is that we are all the same for "99.9%" of our DNA, so it follows that any race differences must be trivial.

Well, not quite. Among the 3.1 billion bases that make up the human genome, it is now estimated that about one-in-a-thousand differ, that is, make different DNA codes. About 3 million allelic (gene) differences provide a lot of space for profound race differences. Over a million allelic variants have recently been decoded. The ultimate fallback position is demonization and criminalization. Under the guise of hate-crime and human-rights legislation, citizens of a growing number of western democracies are being called hateful names, losing jobs, and going to jail, for even mentioning the reality of race differences. All history proves that totalitarian suppression of knowledge can delay but not stop the spread of truth. So be it with the genetic reality of race.