The African running straw man
Mar 9th, 2011 by Unamused
From the 2008 summer Olympics, here is The Times on race and athleticism. It’s old news, but the article so annoyed me that I felt compelled to analyze it in detail. That’s all I’m going to do. If that doesn’t grab you, skip to the punchline in the last three paragraphs.
Anyway, the article is just one big straw man argument against race realism, a product of the author’s unwillingness to acknowledge the existence of subraces. It starts by acknowledging the so-called African running phenomenon.
On Saturday the world will witness the latest chapter in sport’s most vivid narrative. The sense of expectancy is notching ever higher as three extraordinary human specimens await their opportunity to do battle for the mythic title: fastest man on the planet.
… Pundits are sharply divided as to the outcome. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that the winner will be black.
As will all the other finalists. And most of the semi-finalists. … Black athletes have monopolised every Olympic 100metres for the past quarter of a century, without a white man making the final. The same dominance asserts itself at the World Championships, in which every sprinter in eight of the past nine 100metres finals has been black. …
What conclusion should we draw from all this? That blacks have a genetic advantage over whites when it comes to sprinting?
No, because that is a straw man. We should conclude that the black subrace comprising West Africans and their descendants, also known as the Sudanid subrace, has a genetic advantage over whites (and everyone else) when it comes to sprinting.
It would seem a natural inference except for a nagging voice giving warning about the consequences. If we were to acknowledge systematic genetic differences between the races, where would it lead us? To the conclusion that the superior performance by whites in education is genetic? These are deep waters indeed.
Mine would seem a natural inference. (His is just silly.) There are systematic genetic differences between the races to acknowledge. The superior performance by whites in education does have a significant genetic component (since IQ does). I don’t feel like I’m drowning yet. Quite the opposite: compared to the nagging voice of political correctness, honest science is a breath of fresh air.
The most famous argument for the reality of black genetic superiority is to be found in Jon Entine’s Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We Are Afraid to Talk About It. Entine’s principal argument is not that all blacks are gifted at sprinting, but rather those that can trace their ancestry to West African coastal states. Indeed, Entine makes the point that “no white, Asian or East African has broken ten seconds in the 100metres.”
East Africans, by contrast, find their metier in distance running. … So let us grant that the success of West Africans in sprints and East Africans in distance running has genetic causes. Does that mean that blacks are naturally better athletes than whites?
No it does not. What it means is that West Africans are naturally better at sprinting and East Africans are naturally better at distance running, with whites probably somewhere in between. So why make the further claim that blacks in general are better at sprinting and distance running?
Who, besides the author and whatever racist caricature he’s debating, is making that further claim? Why isn’t this article about the amazing genetic differences between black subraces? The author has already granted that one subrace is genetically advantaged in sprinting, and another subrace genetically advantaged in distance running. How is that a more palatable conclusion than the statement about blacks in general? Why is the nagging voice silent now?
The answer is that the author simply does not acknowledge the existence of subraces. He is happy to prove that the black race isn’t genetically advantaged in sprinting because he has overlooked the possibility that West Africans might just be more similar genetically to other blacks than to whites, but nevertheless distinct from East African blacks (they are).
As for the supposed superiority of black athletes: West Africans are the best sprinters. East Africans are the best distance runners (on average). Judging by the racial composition of the NBA, blacks — meaning the Central Congoid race, which does not include Pygmies, contrary to the author’s claim—are better at basketball. Whites are better quarterbacks. They’re probably better at polo, too. Asians seem to enjoy table tennis. If you want to lump all of that together under “athleticism” — not to mention bowling, speed skating, and the luge—and average it out, blacks might come out on top (consider their muscle mass and leg length advantages), but that’s not a very useful statistic, is it? Even if the author was using the narrower definition of “athlete,” we still have to consider the shot put, discus, javelin, hammer throw, and pole vault.
Finding genetic variation between populations (such as the Rift Valley) is to be expected. Small populations have distinct traits because nature has selected physiques that suit their natural environments. Such genetic differences exist across the planet. But why lump together all the diverse populations that happen to share similar skin pigmentation? Or, to put it another way, why bundle West and East Africans together when, according to Entine’s own arguments, they lie on either end of a genetic continuum of athletic abilities?
Hm, could these small populations be subraces, with their distinct adaptive traits and genetic differences? There’s another straw man here: races aren’t defined by skin pigmentation, although that’s a convenient metric in America (not a lot of Pygmies or Bushmen here to confuse with Central Congoid blacks). Finally, none of this suggests that West Africans and East Africans lie on either end of a “genetic continuum of athletic abilities,” but rather that blacks are basically better runners than whites, though the whole truth is more complicated because it involves subraces.
Anyway, here’s the punchline:
The one thing Entine is correct about is that the general reluctance to talk about “black” athletic success has bolstered the idea that there is a truth about racial differences that is being suppressed by political correctness. This has done untold damage to blacks in areas in which the stereotype says they are inferior — a suspicion that, in the case of IQ, can be exploded with a few minutes’ research.
620 studies. 800,000 subjects. A 15 point IQ gap between whites and blacks. All of it “exploded with a few minutes’ research.” Note that no such research is cited.
It must be nice to be a race denialist. A handful of Big Lies really cuts down on research time.