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184 of 257 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent - Just don't swallow the "No Races" squid ink, May 25, 2000
This review is from: The History and Geography of Human Genes (Paperback)
Cavalli-Sforza & The Reality of Race by Steve Sailer The New York Times has hailed "Genes, Peoples, and Languages", the new book by Professor Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, the dean of population geneticists, for "dismantling the idea of race." In the New York Review of Books, Jared Diamond salutes Cavalli-Sforza for "demolishing scientists' attempts to classify human populations into races in the same way that they classify birds and other species into races".
Cavalli-Sforza himself has written, "The classification into races has proved to be a futile exercise"; and that "The idea of race in the human species serves no purpose."
Don't believe any of this. This is merely a politically correct smoke screen that Cavalli-Sforza regularly pumps out that keeps his life's work -- identifying the myriad races of mankind and compiling their genealogies -- from being defunded by the commissars of acceptable thinking at Stanford.
What's striking is how the press falls for his squid ink, even though Cavalli-Sforza can't resist proudly putting his genetic map showing the main races of mankind right on the cover of his 1994 magnum opus, "The History and Geography of Human Genes."
(Here's also a link to Cavalli-Sforza's map on the website of molecular anthropologist Jonathan Marks, author of "Human Biodiversity," one of the few leftists acute enough to notice the spectacular contradiction between Cavalli-Sforza's boilerplate about the meaninglessness of race and the cover of his most important book.
This is Cavalli-Sforza's own description of this map that is the capstone of his half century of labor in human genetics: "The color map of the world shows very distinctly the differences that we know exist among the continents: Africans (yellow), Caucasoids (green), Mongoloids ... (purple), and Australian Aborigines (red). The map does not show well the strong Caucasoid component in northern Africa, but it does show the unity of the other Caucasoids from Europe, and in West, South, and much of Central Asia."
Basically, all his number-crunching has produced a map that looks about like what you'd get if you gave Jesse Helms a paper napkin and a box of crayons and had him draw a racial map of the world. In fact, at the global level, Cavalli-Sforza has largely confirmed the prejudices of the more worldly 19th Century imperialists. Rudyard Kipling and Cecil Rhodes could have hunkered down together and whipped up something rather like this map in honor of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.
Cavalli-Sforza's new book, "Genes, Peoples, and Languages," is a surprisingly readable updating of a series of lectures on his work that he's been giving for years. It's not at all a bad introduction to this hugely productive scientist. But to find out just how politically unpopular Cavalli-Sforza's findings really are, you need to crack open his tecnically intimidating but endlessly fascinating landmark, "The History and Geography of Human Genes." (The reaonably priced abridged version is all that you'd ever need; the $195 unabridged volume is for libraries only.) It remains the best summary of how the early humans of Africa split apart into the countless racial groups we see today.
Cavalli-Sforza's team compiled extraordinary tables depicting the "genetic distances" separating 2,000 different racial groups from each other. For example, assume the genetic distance between the English and the Danes is equal to 1.0. Then, Cavalli-Sforza has found, the separation between the English and the Italians would be about 2.5 times as large as the English-Danish difference. On this scale, the Iranians would be 9 times more distant genetically from the English than the Danish, and the Japanese 59 times greater. Finally, the gap between the English and the Bantus (the main group of sub-Saharan blacks) is 109 times as large as the distance between the English and the Danish. (The genetic distance between Japanese and Bantus is even greater.)
From these kind of tables, Cavalli-Sforza reached this general conclusion: "The most important difference in the human gene pool is clearly that between Africans and non-Africans ..." As you can imagine, this finding could get him in a bit of hot water if the campus thought police ever found out about it. So, we should certainly forgive the charade he keeps up to fool the New York Times. But, we definitely don't have to believe it.
Ultimately, what is a "race"? It is essentially a lineage, a family tree. A racial group is merely an extremely extended family that inbreeds to some extent. Thus, race is a fundamental aspect of the human condition because we are all born into families. Burying our heads in the sand and refusing to think clearly about this bedrock fact of life only makes the inevitable problems caused by race harder to overcome.
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Showing 1-10 of 28 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 14, 2006 9:30:06 PM PST
This is a comment of the review of Cavalli-Sforza's "The Reality of Race"


The Reality of Race" is based on scholarly deliberation of an enormous amount of genetic information gathered from around the world. Its greatest value is to peer researchers which is serves as the founding resource in this field.

In the past, theories of Race with a a priori political motivations was the popular world view especially in the U.S (specially conservatives). The political notion came first, the pseudo-science later. This theory justified the Holocaust of the Native Americans, slavery amount Africans in America, and second class citizenship of many non-Protestant European groups in America. Many nations such as Germany also committed horrific actions in the name of race and Racial classification.

So when non-revisionist speak of the theory of race, the theory of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach's Multi-regional origin(Carleton Coon et al.) is meant. This theory (among other things) states that human evolved from Homo Erectus who spread over the world, later to evolve independent into Homo Sapiens. Because of this independent evolution certain races, where more advanced race evolve earlier, the various races are not related as humans (Homo sapiens). Racial relationship is only derived from an ancestor species, therefore the closeness of racial relations among humans is the same as between horses and donkeys. Cavalli-Sforza (and many other researchers) have clearly disproved this notion know as Multi-regional origin or Race Theory. We are all Homo Sapiens.

Mr Steve Sailer review is clearly disingenuous presentation of the work, unless he dose not understand fundamental biology concepts. If so he should not be a review, but fox news has a job for him. Anytime a serious reviewer used the phase "political correct" in reference to scientific works or resort to name calling "leftists" in should raise a flag among sober readers.

The reviewer mentions "commissars of acceptable thinking" and "charades...the New York Times" reminds one of the "black helicopters" and "UN invasion".

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 23, 2007 3:37:58 PM PST
reader 1001 says:
Your post misrepresents Sailer's review. Sailer's review does not propose a multi-regional origin for Homo Sapiens. The different races evolved from a single colony that left Africa approximately 50,000 years ago by genetic drift, mutations and natural selection. Sailer's review explains why Cavalli-Sforza would make a statement contradicted by his life's work. Indeed the cover of the book contradicts the "race-is-merely-a-social-construction" idea.

Posted on Feb 28, 2007 7:49:18 PM PST
Are you a three year old? "Leftist!" "Campus Thought Police!" "Commissars of Acceptable Thinking!" It's dizzying how much ideological boilerplate you fit into your review of a book that isn't even political in nature. Are you paid by the slur?

The author suggests that race, as we think of the term, is not appropriate or accurate. You dispute the claim. Or rather you dispute the seriousness with which he made the claim. Please leave it at that, and confine your histrionics to a review of Barack Obama's autobiography or something that mentions Hillary Clinton by name.

Posted on Apr 17, 2007 2:26:38 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 17, 2007 2:27:03 PM PDT
D. Books says:
Steve Sailer's politicized rant distorts the very real contributions of this outstanding work.

If you look at Cavalli-Sforza's maps of gene distributions and his summary maps, all the colors shade into each other. Thus Cavalli-Sforza, who's scrutinized his data more than anyone else, concludes that relatedness among human populations as a graded phenomenon. It's especially obvious if you look at transition zones like the Horn of Africa and the Caucasus, but the same basic phenomenon applies everywhere.

Reasonable scientists and educated readers can differ about how much to emphasize the similarities or differences in the data; obviously Japanese and Bantus are relatively different genetically compared to, say, Azerbaijanis and Armenians.

But Steve Sailer, who is far from being a scientist (he's a movie critic), does a great disservice to this book by using it to promote his "racial differences" hobbyhorse.

The most laughable part of his review is the following: "race is a fundamental aspect of the human condition because we are all born into families." How exactly does it follow that because you're a member of a family of 4...you're a member of a "race" of 100 million? Nice extrapolation, Steve.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2007 3:21:25 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 10, 2007 1:40:42 AM PDT
A family is a family because the members of the family share closer ancestry with each other than they do with people outside the family.

For instance, a man and his full brother share their father and mother in common, and therefore they are part of the same family.

In the same way, that same man and his 1st cousin share two grandparents in common, and this makes them part of the same family. Yes, they're less closely related than the two brothers, but they're still in the same extended family.

How can this be?

Its because though the man and his 1st cousin are less closely related to each other than the man and his brother, that is irrelevant to the definition of family, which is based on the members of the family being more related to each other than to non-family.

In a very similar way a race is a race because the members of the race share more ancestry with each other than they do with people outside the race.

If in fact it can be shown that the unadmixed members of a race are, in fact, not more related to other members of the race than they are to non-members of it; than one might say that in that case the race does not actually exist as a race (though it may of course exist as an ethnicity).

This book appear to offer no evidence along those lines, however, and therefore interpreting it as a blow to the race concept as it applies to the Human Species is, to say the least, a strange conclusion.

Their are various races (or breeds) of Domesticated Animals and it is very notable that they are called breeds (which is equivalent to calling them races from the standpoint of meaning) in spite of there being plenty of Animals which are halfway and/or partway between one breed and another.

This suggests some natural flexibility in the concept called race.

Why is this obvious natural flexibility in the concept ignored?

Well, given how obvious it is, there's no reasonable conclusion but that this ignorance of basics is a pretended ignorance and that the pretense is put on for purely manipulative reasons.

Posted on Nov 30, 2007 1:32:41 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 30, 2007 1:48:27 AM PST
bg says:
Sailer quotes Cavalli-Sforza as follows:

"The color map of the world shows very distinctly the differences that we know exist among the continents: Africans (yellow), Caucasoids (green), Mongoloids ... (purple), and Australian Aborigines (red)."

Notice the ellipsis. The full quote from Cavalli-Sforza is:

"The color map of the world shows very distinctly the differences that we know exist among the continents: Africans (yellow), Caucasoids (green), Mongoloids, including American-Indians (purple), and Australian Aborigines (red)."

American-Indians and Hispanics are part of the Mongoloid cluster on Sforza's map of world genetic clusters. Sailer removed this from the quote so that he could make the following claim:

"Basically, all his number-crunching has produced a map that looks about like what you'd get if you gave Jesse Helms a paper napkin and a box of crayons and had him draw a racial map of the world."

In fact, Sforza's work is not in line with the "races" recognized by most people in the United States, and surely not good ol' Southern "racialists" like Helms. Helms would likely draw a map with Hispanics as a "race." They would probably also tell you that Aboriginal Australians, Ethiopians, and other "darkies" are part of the black "race". Not only does Sforza's book show us that such a view is false, he is also correct that "race" is not a biologically meaningful concept in regards to humans.

Sailer's central claim is that Cavalli-Sfroza's cover map supports the idea of race. If Sailer would have quoted the paragraph which followed from the one he quoted, he would have exposed the falsehood of this view:

"There is one important limitation to the use of synthetic maps for describing the complex genetic patterns found when analyzing the whole world. It is well known that PCs can reveal a limited number of clusters: at a minimum, the number of PCs used plus one...Thus, a color presentation using three PCs, like ours, can in principle reveal only four clusters plus intermediate ones. We see, in fact, four major clusters and several intermediate ones."

The method that Cavalli-Sforza uses (PC, or Principal Component Analysis) can "in principle" only reveal 4 clustered areas plus the intermediate transitions between them. Sailer erroneously takes this fact, which Sforza accurately labels a "limitation", as evidence of the existence of 4 distinct races, corresponding to each cluster. If Sforza used a method that had 5 PCs, Sailer would think there were 5 races in the world.

(Rosenberg, 2002 and Rosenberg, 2005) used a method which produced 6 clusters. The clusters corresponded to Africa, Europe and the part of Asia south and west of the Himalayas, East Asia, Oceania, the Kalash (of Pakistan) and the Americas. Yes, you read that right. A small ethnic group in Pakistan called the Kalash were a cluster, along with all of Africa and all of Europe! I don't hear Sailer calling them a race.

Race doesn't exist. Buy the book though, and learn about the wonderful genetic history of Homo sapiens.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 10, 2007 2:12:57 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 10, 2007 2:39:35 AM PST
This post by Benny G is so self-contradictory that it boggles the mind.

Of course the map isn't 100% in line with the Races recognized by Americans; and as a matter of fact Benny G himself helpfully explained why when he pointed out that Cavalli-Sforza's technique led to a situation where at most 4 separate races could be discerned.

And then Benny G trys to make a big deal that for the alleles Cavalli-Sforza checked, Hispanics aren't distinct enough from Mongoloids to be one of the four most elemental racial groups. So WHAT? Jesse Helms could still be 100% justified, from a genetic standpoint, in considering the Hispanics as racially distinct from the Mongoloids.

Surely you understand, Benny G, that if there are more than 4 meaningful genetic clusters in the Human Race, highly meaningful racial breaks are going to be missed by Principle Component Analysis?

And with the Australian Aborigines, what evidence does Benny G or anyone have that most Americans group them in with Black Africans? Given his wild and evidence-free generalizations, one must wonder whether Benny G even bothered to ask a single actual American his viewpoint on whether Aborigines are the same race as Black Africans.

What the map on the cover of "The History and Geography of Human Genes" says is that Americans are right to racially group Black Africans together, right to group White Europeans together, and right to group Mongoloids together.

That's an awful lot that they got right and Benny G is villainously refusing to give credit where credit is due.

Also, it is naive to make a big deal about the Rosenberg study finding the Kalash to be the 6th most elemental cluster as that study, in sharp contrast to Cavalli-Sforza's work, failed to focus on biologically meaningful genetic variation.

But most importantly, not a SINGLE particle of evidence or argument is provided by Benny G to support his assertion that Race does not exist.

At most he provided an argument that the average American's understanding of race might be off in two limited areas (namely whether Hispanics are actually Mongoloids and whether Australian Aborigines are the same race as Black Africans).

And the thing is that even if he was right on both of these points, it would mean nothing at all save that the Folk beliefs about race are not 100% accurate at this time.

Which would really be more of an argument for better public education on this subject than anything else.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 12, 2007 4:33:19 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 13, 2007 1:53:08 AM PST
bg says:
Seiter: "Of course the map isn't 100% in line with the Races recognized by Americans...Benny G himself helpfully explained why when he pointed out that Cavalli-Sforza's technique led to a situation where at most 4 separate races could be discerned."

It's not even 50%. Racial categories such as "Asians", "Hispanics", and "Blacks" used in everyday life are contradicted by Cavalli-Sforza's 4 major clusters. Furthermore, I was discussing how 4 major genetic clusters could be discerned, not 4 "races." Contrary to what Sailer says, Biology doesn't define races vaguely as "big ol' families" but as phylogeographic groups with a certain degree of genetic distance between them (if you want me to go into detail about how the clusters don't have enough genetic distance between them to qualify as races under the biological definition, please ask and I'll do that.).

"And with the Australian Aborigines, what evidence does Benny G or anyone have that most Americans group them in with Black Africans?"

Read up on the history of racism, specifically in America and the "one drop rule." "Blackness" in America is associated with a dark skin color and certain cranial features (phenotype), not with overall genotype. If a sociological/historical definition doesn't work for you, and you want a dictionary definition, here you go:

"pertaining or belonging to any of the various populations characterized by dark skin pigmentation, specifically the dark-skinned peoples of Africa, Oceania, and Australia." (Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.)

"Also, it is naive to make a big deal about the Rosenberg study finding the Kalash to be the 6th most elemental cluster as that study, in sharp contrast to Cavalli-Sforza's work, failed to focus on biologically meaningful genetic variation."

Care to be more specific as far as how Rosenberg's cluster analysis is less "biologically meaningful" than Cavalli-Sforza's, and also to cite this claim?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 27, 2007 9:55:47 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 27, 2007 10:30:29 PM PST
Benny,

"It's not even 50%. Racial categories such as Asians, Hispanics, and Blacks used in everyday life are contradicted by Cavalli-Sforza's 4 major clusters."

I must confess I don't really know what you mean when you say that the map isn't even 50% in line with the races recognized by Americans. To clarify, could you inform me in precise terms how much consonance there would have needed to be for you to say it passed the threshold of 50%?

(Or is it that you're just throwing the number "50%" around to give a non-numerical statement the fraudulent patina of exactness?)

Anyway, to me the Map VERY clearly shows all the Black Africans as cohering into the same cluster, and that matches the way the racial category is used in everyday life.

As for the Asians, when people use that word in a racial way they mean, simply, people with slitty eyes (aka Mongoloids), and all the Mongoloids seem to cluster together rather nicely save for perhaps the Japanese, where an Ancient Ainu influence is quite likely.

As for the Hispanics, I was really hoping you wouldn't make me call you on this, but the Map was never constructed with a mind to saying a single thing about Hispanics as Cavalli-Sforza's data for North and South America was only based on samplings of Indigenous Groups.

And even if we choose to follow your imprecise lead and assume that "Hispanic" and "American Indigenous Group" are just two ways of saying the same thing, the map most assuredly would not disprove the notion that Hispanics represents a meaningfully distinct population cluster given that Cavalli-Sforza's technique was so very crude as to only allow the Human Family to be divided into 4 Populations no matter how many more distinct population clusters did or did not actually exist.

Now please bear in mind that I'm not saying that Hispanics are a meaningful population cluster, but rather only that to suit your pre-existing agenda, you are twisting Cavalli-Sforza's research to say something it doesn't even indicate.

"Read up on the history of racism"

This is so dishonest of you Benny. 100% of your claims about the American People were made in the present tense, and therefore bringing up history as evidence for one of your claims when there should be ABUNDANT present day evidence for your view, if it is actually true, is a profoundly unscientific and deceptive action on your part.

If you really believe the view you're propounding here, my good man, you should have the nerve to ask an actual living breathing American whether they consider Blacks and Australian Aborigines as belonging to the same Racial Group.

Certainly, if you look at the level of language, the very fact that most Blacks of African descent get called "Blacks" by White people and most Australian Aborigines get called "Aborigines" by White people, when it would've been easier just to group them together, is POWERFUL evidence that the two categories are not seen as being Interchangeable.

"Blackness in America is associated with a dark skin color and certain cranial features (phenotype), not with overall genotype."

I agree with you here. However what you left out is that Blackness in America is also strongly associated with African Descent.

"Care to be more specific as far as how Rosenberg's cluster analysis is less "biologically meaningful" than Cavalli-Sforza's, and also to cite this claim?"

The Rosenberg study failed to focus on biologically meaningful genetic information, and the proof of this is that the study said that: "The dataset employed is an expansion of our original data [3] to 993 markers, including 783 microsatellites [11] and 210 insertion/deletion polymorphisms" without giving the slightest indication that those microsatellite markers and insertion/deletion polymorphisms were selected for the quality of being in regions of the genotype known to be of biological relevance.

And if they were selected for that quality without a indication of it being given in the article, it would've been a grave breach of basic Scientific practice on the part of Rosenberg.

Please see here: http://genetics.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pgen.0010070

In sharp contrast, Cavalli-Sforza wrote specifically in his book "The History and Geography of Human Genes" that his team looked at alleles, and alleles by definition are gene variants, and genes by their definition are biologically meaningful.

Please see for instance page 4, where the technique used by Cavalli-Sforza is first set out before the reader: "One way of studying living populations is geographic representation of the data. For this purpose we first consider each gene (a segment of DNA endowed with a specific function) by itself, and for each gene we separately analyze the different forms that we can recognize, the alleles of that gene."

For this reason I could rightfully say that Cavalli-Sforza's cluster analysis focused on "biologically meaningful" variation, whereas Rosenberg's study did not.

But back finally to the main point:

"Biology doesn't define races vaguely as "big ol' families" but as phylogeographic groups with a certain degree of genetic distance between them"

I would indeed love it if you could be more specific here about how much genetic distance you think population clusters have to have between each other before Biologists would consent to describe them as races.

Also, if you could give me sourced statements by Biologists backing up your view, that would be appreciated as well.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 28, 2007 12:38:40 AM PST
bg says:
I'll reply to this later this week, but in the mean time, I'd like it if you didn't just quote me as: "Read up on the history of racism". I quoted a dictionary definition from 2006 to prove my point-- the burden of proof is on *you* to show that I am wrong, since I've provided a source and you haven't.

So please reply more in depth on that note (preferably without accusing me of "dishonest[y]" and I'll reply to your whole post tomorrow or else later this week. Thanks.
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