problems with data


Presently, genetics uses the terminology and framework of racists so much so that there are race realists who are specialists on genetics and ‘human biodiversity.’

There are a lot of weird blogs floating around. One of the weirdest I’ve seen is a response to ‘race realists’, who publish scientific studies to back up blatantly racist points of view. Ethnicmuse, the blog claiming to provide accurate data to challenge the racists, has a stunning banner picture but is rather dull in content, with tables and graphs galore on ethnic condom preferences, the effects of testosterone on different ethnic groups and loads of other rather seemingly odd topics presented in a curiously dry manner.

Lighthearted stereotyping is something I think we all do. English people are boring, Japanese people are polite, Australians are drunk, French people are arrogant, Americans are insular, Brazilians are relaxed, Scottish people are tight, Ethiopians are good at marathons. When we do it on a cultural basis, it seems less harmful, as we know the factors are usually environmental and, let’s be honest, it’s a fun way to wind people up. When tendencies and stereotypes reach an ethnic level, there’s an impulse to tread carefully. Genetic differences that can be demonstrated through science, when brandished by people with racist agendas, can take a seriously ugly hue.

I was provided with a link to a race realist publication, where you see the data interpretation in action:

The reason why Whites and East Asians have wider hips than Blacks, and so make poorer runners is because they give birth to larger brained babies. During evolution, increasing cranial size meant women had to have a wider pelvis. Further, the hormones that give Blacks an edge at sports makes them restless in school and prone to crime.

This is a really weird area but one that I think merits serious discussion. I’ll assume the data is accurate: white people have in general have bigger brains, and black people, in general, have narrower pelvises and more testosterone. What thoughts come to mind?

  • these are generalisations and tell you nothing about individuals
  • a bigger brain doesn’t mean better processing – I know lots of people with big brains full of facts that can do nothing with the information
  • I wish I could run faster and am envious of people with a naturally aerodynamic body
  • men with high testosterone levels enjoy a number of benefits – higher levels of confidence and less likely to suffer from depression among them.

And in response to the prior conclusion about schools and crime, I would say that socio-economic factors resulting from a history of discrimination that continues to this day are undoubtedly the main cause, and it’s obvious that school systems need overhauled so they are challenging and interesting for everyone.

The Ethnicmuse blog comes from a very unusual perspective and I don’t agree with a lot of opinions the author holds. However, I do agree that it’s important that we don’t shy away from data that racists are salivating to get hold of – because there is nothing that science can tell us about ethnic groups that can make hate-filled points of view make sense. The problem is not in the data, the problem is in the flawed analysis from ignorant people filled with hate and fear.