Dienekes was shocked by this travesty and decided to make a blog post about it. To my surprise his outrage was not about the social conditions in West Oakland but rather about the loose use of fitness employed in the blog. He took the statement by my students and postdocs literally and pointed out that if you include all the different components of fitness, and not just viability, there is in fact no good scientific evidence that the absolute fitness of individuals growing up in capitalist societies is reduced.
I largely ignore economics and politics in this blog, not because I have no interest in them, but because this is an anthropology blog. And, while I'm sure social conditions in West Oakland may be in great need of improvement, it's not my business to improve them; apparently there are plenty of kind souls working toward that goal already.
It is one thing to hold a political opinion as an individual and another to link that opinion to one's scientific discipline. An electrical engineer, a medical doctor, and a biologist may think that capitalism is a terrible or wonderful system, but if they attempted to link that opinion with electrical engineering, medicine, or biology, I would like to see the evidence for it.
The people in question explicitly linked their political opinions with evolutionary biology, both by ascribing those opinion to "rEvolutionary biologists" and by explicitly linking their dismissal of capitalism to fitness, a central concept in evolutionary biology.
Dr. Nielsen continues:
Most of the students and postdocs in my group are from Europe, and many have not been here for long. They have perhaps not quite gotten use to American political discourse and may not express themselves in a way that most Americans find convincing. But at least they haven’t quite lost their sense of empathy and care for other people. I figure that if I keep them here, in an American academic environment, for a couple of years more they will get cured of that problem and will be able to concentrate fully on their research careers without getting distracted by the economic and social problems they encounter in the neighborhoods around campus on their commute from and to work. If I push them hard, the may even eventually end up getting real jobs and move up in the East Oakland hills. They will then never have to worry about the problems in West Oakland again, and can spend all their time making sure they include all components of fitness when making blog posts.
Last time I checked, both East Oakland and West Oakland, and indeed the entire United States have a capitalist economy. If someone cares why people in West Oakland have a different life expectancy than those in East Oakland, they must seek the explanation elsewhere, and not in their common economic system. If they wanted to examine the influence of capitalism on life expectancy, they could, perhaps, compare South vs. North Korea, two countries with similar populations, that also happen to have a difference in life expectancy of about 10 years, with capitalist South Koreans outliving non-capitalist North Koreans.