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September 25, 2004

Dawkins on race

Richard Dawkins has a long piece in The Prospect on the issue of race (based on a section of his new book The Ancestor's Tale : A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution). Two points:

  • He rejects Lewontin's Fallacy (more here).
  • He avoids the full implications of some of the statistical assertions he is making about how "informative" racial identity can be.

I will leave it to readers to to figure out what I'm talking about on point #2, partly because I think we should focus on point #1 and be positive, and partly because it would serve you to "read the whole thing."

When arguing about science in public forums, "Lewontin's Fallacy" and the race-is-social-construct meme are really hard to refute, because people don't really care much about the nitty-gritty, they take the word of "world famous evolutionary biologists" like Stephen Jay Gould as the last word. Well, Richard Dawkins just asserted in the above article that "In short, I think Edwards is right and Lewontin wrong." Edwards is the geneticist who authored Human Genetic Diversity: Lewontin's Fallacy.

Richard Dawkins is no W.D. Hamilton, J.M. Smith, let alone R.A. Fisher. Nevertheless, he is accepted by the public as an "authority," so his words are precious gems that can to be used like drilling diamonds to bore into the established orthodoxy. I doubt most of the public has read The Darwin Wars or Defenders of the Truth, so they would not be aware that Gould and Dawkins were the leaders of two rival evolutionary biology polemical gangs. Rather, Gould and Dawkins are writers of books you have to have, but never need to read! Dawkins can help nullify Gould & co., and more importantly, for some in the liberal set, since Dawkins is European, and it's always "better in Europe," he trumps Gould!

Update: Dawkins on Race by Steve Sailer.

Posted by razib at 04:00 AM