It has been common for several years now to assert that science shows the concept of race has no biological basis, and that we must see it instead as a social construct. That case was argued, for example, by Kenan Malik in his 2008 book Strange Fruit, and it is presented, too, in Angela Saini’s Superior (which I reviewed for the Guardian in July), a popular choice on many “books of the year” lists.Wow, Ball is hinting that he is a White Supremacist.
I used to be sceptical about this claim. I have all the liberal lefty’s revulsion at racism, but I couldn’t help thinking: “If we insist that race is not biologically determined, won’t that just confuse people, given that it is so blindingly obvious that characteristic markers of race are inherited?” ...
Our concept of race is not really about skin colour or eye shape, and never has been. ...
Saini shows that what we have understood by race encodes the belief that literally superficial aspects of our appearance act as markers for innate differences we can’t see. ...
For example, people from Asia are much more likely to be lactose-intolerant than people of European heritage. But what our brains find so hard to process is that no one is lactose-intolerant because they are Chinese.
If you want to be a science writer who publishes in mainstream sites like Ball, you have to present as a liberal lefty. And you have to buy into the prevailing fictions on identity politics, such as race not existing.
But, it is blindingly obvious that there are races of humans, and that race is not really about skin color or eye shape. It is about the broad set of traits that get inherited together.
The tell is to say "no one is lactose-intolerant because they are Chinese." The reason for saying something so silly is that his editors expect race denial gobbledygook.
Of course Chinese people are lactose-intolerant because they are descended from other lactose-intolerant Chinese people.
When yesterday's NY Times article described characteristics of Jews, it made a point of restricting to Ashkenazi Jews. In other words, it was a genetic theory of what it considered the Ashkenazi Jewish race.
What is a White science journalist to do? Praise some racist book by a non-white Indian woman with some caste resentments, and hope no one outs you as a White supremacist.
It's a fascinating topic and a decent attempt at explanation I thought. Believers in scientific method understand that causation and correlation are decidedly not the same thing, a distinction which seems to elude my more supremacist thinking friends. Lactose intolerance in Asians will be expected to decline as more Asians consume dairy past the normal breast feeding years. Evolution: you gotta love it!
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