Friday, January 18, 2008

World turned upside down!   posted by Razib @ 1/18/2008 01:26:00 AM

A site with the URL puts up a post titled Fighting the mantra, "People vary more within the groups than vary between groups"? What's going on here! Since Lewontin's Fallacy is one of the axioms at the heart of much of modern anthropology (that is, when anthropologists bother to accept the validity of linear-logo-centric analytic frames), I think someone might have their card revoked soon. Be afraid! Of course, we know what type of person runs

Readers who want to dig deeper into the nature of the pretty charts in the papers that the apostate anthropologist mentions above should check out Inference of Population Structure Using Multilocus Genotype Data: Linked Loci and Correlated Allele Frequencies, an early paper introducing STRUCTURE. K's in the hiz houze, as they say.

Update: Some concern in the comments that I'm painting with too broad a brush in regards to anthropologists. Obviously since I am avid follower of the work of people such as John Hawks, Henry Harpending and Heather Norton, who are all trained as anthropologists, I don't think it's all crap. That being said, physical anthropologists are anthropologists in the same way that a follower of Milton Friedman is a liberals. There are historical and definitional reasons to call oneself a liberal in such a case, but quite often it simply results in confusion because of other definitions in circulation (context matters here, since the older definition of liberal is still in currency in much of the rest of the world). In this case, there is Anthropology which deals in Theory and Ways of Knowing, and anthropology which is driven by data, models and analysis.

Of course, this isn't a total dichotomy. There are cultural anthropologists who attempt to work within a scientific framework, general hypotheses, see how the data fits the inferences, and so forth. But they seem a very small minority at this point.