June 17, 2013

Interesting commentary on the Morton/Gould affair

Interesting commentary by the author of a 1988 undergraduate thesis that revolved around re-measuring part of Morton's skulls and concluding (contra Gould) that Morton's measurements were accurate.

I haven't read it fully (it is in four parts), but here is the concluding paragraph from part 4:
In the final analysis, the Morton-Gould Affair, which has been popularized as a diagnostic example of the role of unconscious bias in science, is simply a case of two over-eager scholars jumping to conclusions based on a small amount of data. It is unfortunate that the discussion of Morton’s work has occupied so much energy over the past 30 years, when a more important issue is Gould’s historically inaccurate misrepresentation of Blumenbach’s work, which unlike Morton’s was a foundational element of modern physical anthropology and public policy regarding racial variation that still impacts us today. A proper representation of Blumenbach’s theories and an accurate translation of his major Latin publications into modern English and German are long overdue and would be of great benefit to science and society at large.
Should be interesting reading for anyone fascinated by the history of ideas.

17 comments:

Grognard said...

http://johnhawks.net/weblog/topics/meta/gould-morton-lewis-2011.html

The reality is that Gould was the one who tampered with his own data to get a result that wasn't true.

This is bad enough on its own but it's made much worse when he has effectively destroyed what everyone thinks of Morton and painted him as a racist for all time. Morton didn't have any racial bone to pick, and was quite enlightened for his day by any fair account. He just reported the truth with the specimens he gathered.

Onur said...

I was likewise branded as racist by Luis Aldamiz (a.k.a. Maju) for calling mixes of human races hybrid. As if the word hybrid is an insult! In reality, calling racial mixes hybrid is a common practice in biology and in daily life and in no sense is an insult.

Grognard said...

Everyone is a hybrid, probably no "race" of today is what existed 20k years ago.

Onur said...

Everyone is a hybrid, probably no "race" of today is what existed 20k years ago.

That is not how it works. Races of a specific time are defined based on the contemporary genetic and phenotypic variation, not the past variations. Additionally, an individual or population with a small level of total admixture from other races is not considered hybrid.

terryt said...

"Everyone is a hybrid"

Absolutely.

Unknown said...

From the article:

"As noted above, I have concluded that that Morton was a racist whose research on supposedly ancient Egyptian skulls was flawed by multiple errors, and that it appears that he may have pre-sorted his skulls to conform with his documented racist views.

Superficially, it may seem that I am in agreement with Gould’s assessment of Morton. However, there is one major distinction: Gould claimed that Morton had an unconscious racial bias, of which Morton was not aware.

Gould said Morton was racist but he didn’t even know it. I make no such claim. Instead, rather like a lawyer, I propose that the preponderance of evidence indicates Morton was a racist, and that additional evidence suggests racism may have skewed his research. For the latter charge, he is innocent until proven guilty."

Unknown said...

FROM THE ARTICLE:

"As noted above, I have concluded that that Morton was a racist whose research on supposedly ancient Egyptian skulls was flawed by multiple errors, and that it appears that he may have pre-sorted his skulls to conform with his documented racist views.

Superficially, it may seem that I am in agreement with Gould’s assessment of Morton. However, there is one major distinction: Gould claimed that Morton had an unconscious racial bias, of which Morton was not aware.


Gould said Morton was racist but he didn’t even know it. I make no such claim. Instead, rather like a lawyer, I propose that the preponderance of evidence indicates Morton was a racist, and that additional evidence suggests racism may have skewed his research. For the latter charge, he is innocent until proven guilty."

Grognard said...


"That is not how it works. Races of a specific time are defined based on the contemporary genetic and phenotypic variation, not the past variations. Additionally, an individual or population with a small level of total admixture from other races is not considered hybrid."

Yes exactly we are all hybrids of other older tribes we don't know much about. A "nordic" person of today is not much like a nordic person a thousand years ago let alone 20k years ago.

"Gould said Morton was racist but he didn’t even know it. I make no such claim. Instead, rather like a lawyer, I propose that the preponderance of evidence indicates Morton was a racist, and that additional evidence suggests racism may have skewed his research. For the latter charge, he is innocent until proven guilty."

Maybe he should read what I linked to and the study that shows how full of crap Gould was. I believed Gould too, until then, but it's obvious he simply made it all up and accused the guy of number fudging that he himself was guilty of. That is he cherry picked the numbers even as he accused Gould of it.

Just because you don't like your answers doesn't mean you throw them out but that happens all too often.

Onur said...

Yes exactly we are all hybrids of other older tribes we don't know much about. A "nordic" person of today is not much like a nordic person a thousand years ago let alone 20k years ago.

Note that by hybrid I meant racial hybrid.

terryt said...

"Races of a specific time are defined based on the contemporary genetic and phenotypic variation, not the past variations".

Ye. I agree. "Additionally, an individual or population with a small level of total admixture from other races is not considered hybrid".

So what groups do you consider to be pure populations?

"Note that by hybrid I meant racial hybrid".

It seems all humans outside Africa have something like 2% Neanderthal admixture. In animal breeding terms that comes out at something between 1/32 and 1/64 Neanderthal. For most animal breeders that would still be enough to consider the individual to have hybrid ancestry.

zadeh79 said...

The criticism of Gould is silly, as it still doesn't change the fact that brain size and IQ are weakly related. It's Morton that made the example of bad science.

Grognard said...

First off like I said Morton didn't go into detail about races that's just slander. Darwin was a lot more racist than Morton any day of the week, yet he gets held up as some kind of paragon. The reason being that it's politically convenient to applaud him because he is the trump card of atheists in their misguided war against a made up straw man religious right who all believe in strict creationism.

Second, the correlation is .4. That's not weak at all. Further, there's a correllation between certain genes and between both IQ and brain size. Case closed, intelligence is genetic and it is more evident in some groups than others. And if you do believe in natural selection obviously this HAS to be the case.

Back to darwin, he believed less advanced peoples would inevitably be exterminated. But it doesn't have to work like that. Selection on critical genes is very strong. Just one person in a group gets it and it's almost guaranteed to become fixed in a population even if nothing else is being transfered along with it. That is the gene is transfered without the demographic changing much, the other genes are largely preserved.

This is happening right now with brain related genes from europe, cardiovascular genes from amish community, and likely many other genes we don't know about. And the process is pretty fast, fixation could be achieved in less than 10k years into every remote corner of the world, especially now that travel is so easy.

Onur said...

So what groups do you consider to be pure populations?

Racial purity is more context-dependent and relative than racial hybridity. So we can at most define racial purity of a population or individual x relative to a population or individual y. As an example, genetics shows that Sardinians are probably the purest extant Caucasoid population, and all other extant Caucasoid populations are racially pure relative to populations genetically less Caucasoid than themselves and racially impure relative to populations genetically more Caucasoid than themselves.

As for racial hybridity, if, for instance, the non-Caucasoid genetic admixture of a population or individual is in a level small enough to have no clear effect on that population or individual's physical characteristics, then that population or individual cannot be considered as racially hybrid but have to be considered as racially Caucasoid.

It seems all humans outside Africa have something like 2% Neanderthal admixture. In animal breeding terms that comes out at something between 1/32 and 1/64 Neanderthal. For most animal breeders that would still be enough to consider the individual to have hybrid ancestry.

Those small levels of Neanderthal admixture do not seem to have any clear effect on the physical characteristics of modern humans with that Neanderthal admixture. Also, the extant non-Negroid human races have almost equal levels of Neanderthal admixture, so it is today an integral part of the extant non-Negroid human races.

terryt said...

"As an example, genetics shows that Sardinians are probably the purest extant Caucasoid population"

But even Sardinians are most probably the result of ancient admixture between differing populations.

"all other extant Caucasoid populations are racially pure relative to populations genetically less Caucasoid than themselves and racially impure relative to populations genetically more Caucasoid than themselves".

But, as in all species, the populations most different from the average are those at the geographic margins of a species' range. So what you are in effect saying is that those human populations at the geographic margins are the most pure. But that is a result of gene flow. Genes flow from the middle of a species' geographic spread to the margins and from margins to the middle, but not generally between the various margins. So we finish up with 'Caucasoids' in the northwest, 'Mongoloids' in the northeast, 'Australoids' in the southeast, 'San' in southern Africa and 'Negroid' in West Africa. All other populations are basically a hybrid between one or more of these groups.

Onur said...

But even Sardinians are most probably the result of ancient admixture between differing populations.

That in no way contradicts my statements. You do not have a consistent opinion on the issues of racial purity and racial hybridity. Being racially impure relative to a population x does not mean being racially hybrid. Elsewhere at this blog you wrote, "I haven't been able to find a single image of a Vologda Russian who looks remotely 'Mongoloid'". Do you think Vologda Russians are racially Caucasoid or Caucasoid-Mongoloid hybrids?

But, as in all species, the populations most different from the average are those at the geographic margins of a species' range. So what you are in effect saying is that those human populations at the geographic margins are the most pure. But that is a result of gene flow. Genes flow from the middle of a species' geographic spread to the margins and from margins to the middle, but not generally between the various margins. So we finish up with 'Caucasoids' in the northwest, 'Mongoloids' in the northeast, 'Australoids' in the southeast, 'San' in southern Africa and 'Negroid' in West Africa. All other populations are basically a hybrid between one or more of these groups.

See above.

terryt said...

"Do you think Vologda Russians are racially Caucasoid or Caucasoid-Mongoloid hybrids?"

Caucasoid-Mongoloid hybrids. They don't have to look 'Mongoloid' to be such. Cattle with 1/16 of a particular breed would usually pass as a member of the majority breed but are often not accepted into stud books of that breed.

Onur said...

Caucasoid-Mongoloid hybrids. They don't have to look 'Mongoloid' to be such. Cattle with 1/16 of a particular breed would usually pass as a member of the majority breed but are often not accepted into stud books of that breed.

What is the purpose of the concept of hybridity if it has nothing to do with phenotype? A hybridity concept that is not based on phenotype is both impractical and useless (especially in humans and other wild animals).