Saturday, October 27, 2007

Evolution, Morlocks, and Cold Spring Harbor

We don't often delve into the subject of Genetics and Science here on east coast mark - mostly because I spend all day talking about these subjects. However, this past week, James Watson was basically forced to resign from his job as Head of the renowned Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in NY - following some recent comments he made while on a book tour.

For those of you not familiar with Dr. James Watson, he is half of the duo 'Watson and Crick' - better known as the two British blokes who discovered the structure of the DNA in 1953...ushering in the modern Genetic Age. Double Helix, eh guvna? Watson has been a pioneer and innovator in Genetics ever since.

The comments that caused the uproar were about the evolutionary and genetic differences between Westerners and people of African decent. These are the kind of comments that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson sit around just waiting to pounce on...and usually blow out of proportion. However, when I read Watson's comments from a scientific point of view - I can't help but see some sense in what he's trying to convey, albeit clumsily. Now, that's not to say I agree with ALL of what Watson had to say...specifically his comment about 'having to deal with black employees...' that is a generalization not based in any sort of scientific reality.

Watson was quoted as saying he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says not really."

He also asserted there was no reason to believe different races
separated by geography should have evolved identically, and that while he hoped everyone was equal, "people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true."

Despite the initial knee-jerk reaction to comments like this, what I think Watson clumsily was trying to say was that it's clear that Africans evolved separately from Caucasians. Dalmatians and Golden Retrievers are both canines - but phenotypically different, much like Caucasians and Blacks. Anyone who's ever been in 3rd grade has learned how Man moved out of Africa, into Europe, and eventually across Alaska and into modern day America. This took place over hundreds of thousands of years, and mankind evolved into numerous different races. What Watson is saying is, 'Why should we assume that man who left Africa should have evolved exactly the same as man who stayed in Africa?' Scroll back up and read his comments again - based on what I just tried to clarify for him.

In the dream worlds of the United Nations and Left Wing Think Tanks - they'd have us believe that 'we are all created equal'. But at a genetic level...are we? Why do Kenyans win all the marathons? Am I created the 'same' as Kevin Garnett? Isn't it possible that these same genetic evolutionary differences also relate to intelligence? This is what Watson was saying....clumsily. He is saying that governments make policy assuming that Bill from Boston is the same as Ndulu from Nigeria, and science is telling us this isn't necessarily so - and so we should address it.

Then, I read another article this week that discusses how 10,000 years from now Man will diverge into two different species. (It's worth a read - did you know in just 1,000 years we'll all be nearly 7 feet tall and live 120 years?) However, after that want to make sure you're on the right side of the selective breeding. Remember H.G. Wells' novel The Time Machine? Pretty much the book was right on, and we'll diverge into the 'haves' and the 'have nots'....the Eloi and the Morlocks. I mention this article to make a point: given how Man may diverge in the future, should we also assume that these two groups will be 'the same'? Created equally? In an ever shrinking world economy, we need to make policy, medicine, education...all specifically tailored to the different phenotypes.

The niceties of pretending that we're all created equally and identically is to ignore the differences written in our DNA. To ignore these literal inherent differences between Caucasians and Africans (and other races) prevents us from tackling issues that separate world cultures. Once we acknowledge and study what makes us different, we can create policy and solutions based on scientific fact - and not just politically correct policy that fail to address our differences.

1 comment:

-Matt- said...

Interesting post east coast mark. Genetic differences in intelligence? I think it is a fallacy.

This is based on a wrong starting point because we're not talking about the same notions of "intelligence." Sure, an African bushman cannot do algebra, because he does not need algebra, but he knows how to stay alive in the African bush. That does not seem like the same intelligence, but if you or I were placed in the African bush, would we know how to find water? Would we know what to eat? Could we survive? In that sense, we lack African "intelligence" just as much as an African lacks our notions of scientific "intelligence."

Is one set of intelligence better than another? Depends on where you stand... if you stand in the African bush, algebra means nothing, just as much as if an African bushman stands in Times Square, his intelligence means nothing.

A good book on this Subject is Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. Diamond debunks this argument pretty quickly in the book and ties intelligence to environment. More "nurture" rather than "nature." It's a fascinating read and I highly recommend it. He won the Pulitzer with this book.

The ethnicity of a person does not dictate their intelligence; rather, it is the environment that contributes to the intelligence of an individual. Black students who are placed in the same environment as whites (which is not often) perform at the same level as other white students. One of the reasons that black students do not exhibit the same notion of intelligence as whites is because even in America, most of those black families are concentrated into environments that are not conducive to white intelligence. Those environments can be: single families, poor neighborhood, unemployment, lack of proper schooling, etc. And guess what--when white students come from those environments, they typically don't have a high level of intelligence either...

What do you think?