Friday, February 03, 2006

Usage and Abusage

When I included in Under the Sun a link to the Social Science Research Council's online forum Is Race Real?, it occurred to me that it would not do the job I wanted it do, namely, pass the question of "race" over to experts in the scientific study of human biological diversity. Now that blogger Dan Jones has taken issue with my post, I feel compelled to reiterate the distinction between Richard Lewontin's political beliefs on the one hand, and the scientific consensus that has built up around the question of "race" on the other. To that end, I now cite the American Anthropological Association's Statement on "Race", their Statement on "Race" and Intelligence, and the American Association of Physical Anthropologists' Statement on the Biological Aspects of Race. I stand by my claim that the consensus opinion among scientists is that race is "not a useful scientific concept. It doesn't describe observable human genetic variation with adequate precision, and it typically introduces more problems than it solves."

As an aside, I repeat my view that the conventional wisdom among scientists is open to revision. It is not my intention to represent the scientific consensus as monolithic, dogmatic or otherwise etched in stone. My criticism is with the way Pinker and Leroi have gone about attacking the conventional wisdom. Strawman arguments and appeals to common sense racism do not cut it in my book.

One of Mr. Jones' more curious objections, indeed it may the substantive thrust of his post, is that reasonable people ought to "be able to discuss the science of race sensibly, without racist connotations." There is in fact no "science of race" among the modern sciences, but rather sciences of genomics, human population genetics, physical anthropology, and so on. However, if one wishes to buck the conventional wisdom by holding on to the claim that races exist and ought to be studied scientifically, then one is a racist by definition, a "scientific racist" to be precise. If you take that position, and the connotations of the word "racist" bother you, then you might take that as an indication that there's a problem with your choice of words. I certainly don't have the power to change connotative meanings, or to redefine "racism" to not mean "racism," and I don't have any solutions for those who want to be racists without being "racists." It's just not my cup of tea.

posted by Fido the Yak at 11:50 AM.


Blogger Dan Jones said...

Hi Fido,

I've replied to your various comments on my post on race in a new post at

It'd be great if you replied to do so in one place, maybe in a new post of your own, as it helps keep track.



February 05, 2006 2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Q: What do you call someone who's winning an argument with Fido the Yak?


February 17, 2006 12:06 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Anonymous, if you want to make a substantive point here you are welcome to do so. I won't be making further comments at Dan Jones' blog. Just so you know, I will delete comments that contain racist epithets, regardless of the merits of any point being argued.

February 17, 2006 4:34 AM  

Post a Comment

Fido the Yak front page