Want to know what race is or isn’t? Don’t ask a radical social scientist!
Jun 10th, 2011 by Unamused
From Psychology Today, six days ago (H/T Sofia): “Want to know what ‘race’ is or isn’t? Don’t ask the dictionary!” by Dr. Mikhail Lyubansky, a psychology professor at the publicly funded University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The article is about what you would expect from the author of “A Manifesto Against Truth.” (For my take on that, consult the comments.)
Lyubansky does not seem to know very much about race and genetics. As a result, his analysis is completely, irredeemably wrong. This, in particular:
the genetic data suggest that there is no biological evidence for human subspecies (what we might call racial groups). To the contrary, all people are about 99.5% similar genetically, and the genetic variability that does exist (the remaining .5%) tends to be greater within ethnic groups than between them…
This is a form of “Lewontin’s Fallacy” and again, it’s simply wrong. A complete rebuttal may be found in Neven Sesardic’s 2010 paper “Race: A Social Destruction of a Biological Concept” (Biology and Philosophy 25 p. 143-162), available in .pdf format here. At twenty pages, it is well worth reading in its entirety, but the sections “Genetic differences” and “Morphological differences” are most relevant.
Since I have little to add to Sesardic’s analysis, I’ll just note here that two people of the same race are always more similar genetically than two people of different races (Sesardic, p. 150–154). The problem is, Lewontin and Lyubansky measure genetic variation by looking at each genetic indicator separately, and thus fail to account for genetic clustering. Their reasoning is fallacious. When you take a less simple-minded approach, what do you find?
- a 2002 paper in Science showed that people cluster genetically according to major geographic regions (in other words, races)
- genetic clusters match self-reported race (White, Black, Hispanic, East Asian) 99.9 percent of the time (Sesardic’s source here)
- you can literally see the races when you graph the principal components of genetic variation, as in this figure from Tishkoff et al.’s 2009 paper “The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans” (Science 22:1035–1044)
The only real questions are: why does Psychology Today pay Lyubansky to write about race, a subject in which he clearly has no expertise? And why does his university pay him to expose impressionable college students to already-refuted race-denying radical pseudoscience?
We’ve separated Church and State, but religious fundamentalism is harmless compared to the politicized science of such hopelessly biased “experts” as S.J. Gould, L. Kamin, R.C. Lewontin, P.Z. Myers, and of course M. Lyubansky. What we desperately need to do is separate science from the State.
Or at least separate Lyubansky from his students.