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Genetic Superiority

  1. Apr 13, 2003 #1

    Les Sleeth

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    Okay, today is a clearing-out day. I posted one thread about an unresolved question that came up in a thread . . . here's another.

    Those who say humans are wholly a product of evolution, genetic programming and conditioning nonetheless seem to insist that the varieties humans come in -- races, gender, nose shape, boob/thingy size etc. -- are not contrary to some supposed principle of equality inherent in humanity. Consider these comments from the thread, Nature or Nurture?:

    "When they have experienced one alleged scientist [beginning] a discussion by rationally talking about genetic differences between races, and winding up by saying blacks are inferior to whites, they are not going to wait for the next geneticist to finish. That next geneticist may very well be discussing the dangers of sickle-cell anemia, but as soon as he starts discussing genetic, racial differences, the audience smells racism and his message fails to reach them. It is wrong. It is unfortunate. It is also very understandable. Combatting this mentality requires not just education in science, but also education in human nature."

    After reading that I said:

    "What I don't understand is how someone can be certain there aren't superior races if he/she believes that humans are entirely a product of material processes. In that view, the universe hasn't guaranteed equality between the races, and there is nothing special about humanity over any other physical manifestation in creation. So why then couldn't the Black race be utterly inferior to the White race, or men superior to women, or any other twist evolution wants to give life?"

    Would anyone care to explain why equality should be assumed if one believes only material processes have brought us about?
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2003
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 13, 2003 #2
    Jeez, we aren't a racist, are we?

    First off, skin color doesn't make someone a mamber of a different species. This whole thing is like linking 'superiority' to shoe sixe or hair color.

    Secondly, you would have to define 'superior' objectively...good luck!
  4. Apr 13, 2003 #3
    Actually, I know of one such case from personal experience. My kids are of european Jewish decent on their mother's side of the family. European Jews were segregated for centuries in small ghettos and inbred as a result. My kids' mother was determined to not continue this inbreeding and to this day Jews of european descent are encouraged to at least get tested for Taysack's (sp?) disease before marrying or having children.

    Similarly, sickle cell annemia is thought to be an african genetic adaptation to malaria. With modern medicine such an adaptation is no longer necessary and can be lifethreatening. Therefore, in some sense you could argue that certain races do have genetic superiority in the modern world. At least, as far as inheritable diseases are concerned.
  5. Apr 13, 2003 #4


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    Because superiority in terms of evolution is not an absolute measure, but rather is dependent on the environments we live in. Superiority in this way, in the game of natural selection, is based on survivability. While, say black skin is useful in places of high solar radiation, white skin may be useful in the more northern areas. Thus, evolutionarily, white people are more survivable than blacks in the north, and vice versa around the equator. This hence does not translate to one race being "better" than the other, but rather shows how the individuality and variation of mankind came about. Everybody is well adapted to their respective environments, and absolutist concepts like superiority can not arise scientifically. So, the idea of "nothing special" special about humanity, which you used, also means there is "nothing special" about men, or whites, or whatever.

    And overall, the degree of variation amongst races, and between men and women is very small. When you decide superiority, you can only decide subjectively. So while you may consider men to be superior to women etc, the concept does not exist in nature. And the method of preventing racism is to change the subjective criteria with which you decide human superiority to things that we have in common, like intelligence, shown scientifically to be independent of race, rather than skin colour. That's the only way modern society can continue in stability, with our cherished values intact.

    Equality, superiority and inferiority don't exist in genetics. Subjective equality isn't an assumption. It is a goal to change the way we judge equality to make subjective equality a fact.
  6. Apr 13, 2003 #5

    Les Sleeth

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    No Zero, there's not a trace of that in me. My question is a practical one aimed at materialist philosophy. I believe it was last summer that some scientist proclaimed Blacks were of inferior intelligence. I don't think he was racist, but had come to that conclusion through his studies. The rest of the scientific community rose up against his hypothesis, but I remember thinking then that if we are just evolved matter, then why couldn't he be correct?

    It seemed to me that the resistance and even outrage at the idea might have been our true human nature stepping up. Maybe we do have some sort of soul, for example, that at the core of our being makes us equal in the truest sense; and maybe that is why when someone tries to develop a phillosophy harmful to humanity it is resisted. Of course, one could explain it in terms of survival of the species too.

    I wasn't talking about something so superficial as skin color, but I agree "superior" needs to be defined.

    Let's say "superior" means better adapted. So the above scientist's view that Blacks intelligence is inferior to other races would means it isn't capable of operating as effectively (I repeat, I don't buy any of that, whether it is race or gender or whatever).
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2003
  7. Apr 13, 2003 #6

    Les Sleeth

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    Good points, especially since you wrote this before I defined "superior" (read my post to Zero).

    Yet to some degree you make the case that some segment of humanity might indeed evolve characteristics which are better adapted than other segments. Since intelligence is on that what's-evolved list, then why couldn't some segment have higher intelligence, and other segments lower? And if this were accepted, then why wouldn't policies regarding hiring, education, etc. then be based on such scientific findings? (Although I do see and agree with your point that, "And the method of preventing racism is to change the subjective criteria with which you decide human superiority to things that we have in common, like intelligence, shown scientifically to be independent of race, rather than skin colour. That's the only way modern society can continue in stability, with our cherished values intact.")
  8. Apr 13, 2003 #7


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    No reason, except that all races should have the same evolutionary pressure for intelligence. Remember that geographically, genetically and in terms of natural selection the entire human race was very localised until very recently, only a few million years. Even after mankind spread to take over the world, more or less, it is just as advantageous to be smart and black, and smart and white. And hence, any sort of divergence in this region is simply due to random action.
    Of course, this doesn't mean there are no such variations across races. Indeed there are. But statistical studies (and that's all we have in the abscence of discovery of an intelligence gene) show that in this category at least, there is as far as we can tell no difference. Without such a link between intelligence and race, all such discrimination have no scientific basis.

    But it's tougher when there IS some difference between races. Then the morality becomes more strained. Let's take lung capacity. As you may know, people from high-lying areas tend to have a larger lung capacity than those from lowland regions. Part of this has indeed been shown to be genetic, though of course exercise and living in low air pressure regions can offset that. So what happens about this? In certain athletic sports, people from the alps say do have an advantage over people without. Should we then enact discrimination?
    The way most modern societies deal with this sort of situation is that they ignore it. They neither use negative discimination, nor positive discrimination. They let each athlete preform as they would. Such racial differences are assumed to be within the tolerances of individual variation. Few such athletes are around anyway, so overall we get away with it. But innately, the world is not fair.

    So yes, the possibility of there being a scientific grounding for racial discrimination does exist, and some races can turn out to be better at certain jobs than others. But fortunately, in this world, that is generally not the case. An assumption of equality is fortunately not too naive, and indeed is neccessary as geographical barriers of the world breaks down. But if we were unlucky enough to be in a scenario where mankind has truly diverged to such an extent that such specialisation is apparent, then society would have to make some tough decisions. The whole structure of society may be drastically different.
    Read Huxley's Brave New World or Wells' The Time Machine?
  9. Apr 13, 2003 #8

    Les Sleeth

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    Lots of good points in that post FZ.

    I might point out that major adaptive changes and even speciation in other animals, such a finches, is known to happen within a few generations. Don't you think it is interesting that in the million or so years modern humans have been spreading out across the planet, in all those pockets of culture and climates (some of it radically different from any other) no significant differences in consciousness has occurred? It doesn't seem to follow the norm for evolution does it?
  10. Apr 14, 2003 #9
    This is gross error imo. Major changes in human consciousness have occured. Civilization and the invention of logic present perhaps the most demonstrable changes. Shamanistic hunter-gatherer societies are radically different from civilized ones. Until you've been immersed in cultures that have profound beliefs in everyday magic you cannot appreciate how far civilization has taken us from our roots. What civilized people consider absurd is just par for the course among primitives.

    The very languages and concepts of such cultures differ as dramatically as any behavioral differences you can point to in a single species in nature. Today, shamanistic cultures are seriously threatened with extinction. Not only their lifestyles but their distinct ways of thinking are being lost.
  11. Apr 14, 2003 #10

    Les Sleeth

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    We've learned, true, and it's taken millenia. But I am talking about the potential for learning born into humanity. There are areas of the world now where such primitive conditions exist as you refer to. Take a reasonably healthy and intelligent infant from that culture (i.e., before he can be significantly affected by the environment), and place him in a home in modern society. Don't you think he has a good chance of getting along just nicely?

    So I am talking about inherited ability, not the degree one's environment is prepared to help develop one's inherent potentials.
  12. Apr 14, 2003 #11
    What you are talking about then is not intelligence or how people think, but instinct. Intelligence is the ability to learn and figure out new things. Instinct is what you aer born with.

    The fact that human instincts haven't changed much is often attributed to the idea that we are so successful as a species. People do display certain physical adaptations to distinct environments, but our brains are so adaptable to differing environments, as you pointed out yourself, that adaptations our instincts have not yet been necessary.

    Concidering modern humans have only been around for 100,000 years and sucessfully colonized every continent on the planet before the advent of civilization, this is a pretty believable scenario. We are by far the most successful large animals ever. There are some 14 billion birds in the world, some 10 billion bats, and 6 billion people and counting who are magnetudes larger than birds and bats.
  13. Apr 14, 2003 #12
    This is an interesting conversation. It shouldn't be bashed for having racist overtones.
    I think the whole discussion revolves around the interpretation of two important adjectives: 'superior' and 'intelligence'.
    If 'intelligence' becomes the attribute which eventually destroys our planet and our people, then it can be argued that human-intelligence is ultimately inferior to animal-intelligence. In this sense, the lower-intelligence of a being can be refered to as 'superior', ultimately.
    It is difficult to establish, as fact, that intelligence is superior to non-intelligence. Perhaps it is another attribute of the mind which should be used to define the superior-branch of a species. Perhaps sensitivity (emotional) is the superior trait. I don't think that we can know which traits of humanity are superior to others. Not yet, anyway.
  14. Apr 14, 2003 #13

    Another God

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    I do not understand why anyone ever tries to fool themselves into the belief that all humans are equal. Its a pretty absurd idea. Nature doesn't make things equal. Equality is not a natural goal.

    No, the key concept is that we treat everyone equal, not believe that they are. Because it is blatently obvious to any casual observer, that Tiger woods and I are not equally good at golf, nor is someone with downs syndrome equal to Richard Feynman, nor is Brad pitt equal to how I look etc...

    Equality is not inherent in nature at all. It is a social imposition on our thoughts. We choose to impose this concept onto our thoughts, because it allows us to function more fairly.

    And yes, I believe that particular 'races' have particular tendencies to be a particular way, different to other races. ie: Black people 'tend' to be dark skinned, for example... So no, no races are identical, and therefore not 'equal'. Perhaps congruent is a better description.

    As has already been pointed out anyway, and it is the most important point, 'Superior' is usually a subjective concept, or is only objective when put into a particular environment. And even when it is objective, chances are, we aren't able to recognize the objective nature of it...
  15. Apr 15, 2003 #14

    Les Sleeth

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    A very insightful post AG, thanks. I started this thread mostly to stir up trouble, but everyone resonding seems to have an excellent grasp of humanness.
  16. Apr 15, 2003 #15


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    If you are talking about "The Bell Curve" the author WAS a racist and the purpose of that book was to justify his racism. It was scientifically invalid.

    There is a WORLD of difference between skin color or even sickle cell anemia and intelligence. Altering the intelligence level requires altering the structure of the brain itself. Such a change takes far longer in an evolutionary timeframe (>100,000 years) than it took for the various races to differentiate (~10,000 years).

    Another God, well put. No reply necessary.
  17. Apr 15, 2003 #16

    Another God

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    Does it?
    We all agree that some people are naturally more intelligent than other people don't we? So, what happens if we take all of the stupid people, put them in north america, all of the les stupid people, put them is south america, all the median intelligence people and put them in europe asia, put all of the above average intelligence people and put them into africa, and then put all of the Brilliant people and put them in Australia. We then stop all travel between those continents completely. Leave it for 4 or 5 generations, completely forget that we ever set up the situation artificially, and take the analyse the results.

    You will see that the people from north america were markedly less intelligent than the people from australia (perhaps I shouldn't have used real places...I am not actually trying to ...make fun of anyone here... [;p]) Since we had decided to completely forget that we set the situation up, we would then conclude that the Australians had evolved to be more intelligent than the north american people.

    The point I am making is that evolution doesn't need a long time to do anything, it just needs a selective pressure, or an isolation event. We already have parts of our population evolved into higher intelligence than other parts. Evolution is ready for an isolation event or a new selective pressure. Perhaps in the past this has occured to the isolated 'blacks' or to the isolted 'whites' or the isolated 'Asians' etc. I believe it to be quite possible that a race is, on average, more or less intelligent than any other given race.

    Just remember, averages are just averages. They still don't mean everyone is equal.

    Even if it was shown that black people were on average more intelligent than asian people for instance, then it would still be possible for the most intelligent asian to be more intelligent than the most intelligent black person....
  18. Apr 15, 2003 #17
    I don't think many of you understand the concept of race. "Race" is purely a social phenomenon. Biologically speaking, there are definitive human races. Skin color is one of MANY human variations, why is it THE variation that decides race? Biologically speaking, there is more variation found within certain "races" (87.5% of all human genetic variation can be found within a population), while only 15% of all human variations can be found between populations. Get the difference??? There is more variation found within the gray wolf population than there is in the human population. This means that we are all VERY similiar, and have a not too ancient common ancestor.
    So, anyone who says that different races have different levels of intelligence, ie, some races are smarter than other races, is a racist himself. Its just not true in a biological sense.
  19. Apr 15, 2003 #18
    well, the impact of society would have an affect on ethnic differences,, but i think russ_waters is right,, they're extremely insignificant.. or impossible to tell

    take math for example..do more advanced cultures that have been using math for thousands of years have a "superior" brain structure because they have exercised that area of the brain? what about a culture that doesn't use math, but instead believes in magick?

    pit in a battle against each other, it's pretty obvious who would win, mathematics leads to engineering of "superior" weapons, while the other culture would be summoning gods and casting hexes.

    but the question is, would the part of the brain that contemplates math be different than the part of the brain that contemplates magick? if a baby from each culture were swapped, would there be a difference between the two?

    i'd say no,, i think racial differences are tiny when intellect is concerned. the physical differences are much more obvious, but that is due to climate adaptation and besides, intellect is our selective advantage..

    a very scary thought though = with bio-tech engineering, couldn't a person create a virus that would target all but a certain race? or even a certain lineage within that race??

    if that were to happen, "superior" would cease to be subjective and could actually become objective in a sense - selective advantage favored the Evil Scientist who figured out how to kill all competitors!!!

    it's scary stuff,, and you know people will try..
  20. Apr 15, 2003 #19
    Let me repeat: there is no such thing as biological race. So no, bio-tech engineering could NOT be used to attack a certain race. It could attack a certain trait, but since traits are not racially distinct, the attack would certainly harm others not deemed to be a part of a certain race, and would NOT harm others OF the race that was being attacked.
    Furthermore, superior intelligence is not necessarily a selective advantage; it depends upon context. Are you speaking of species wide advancement? What kind of population are you talking about? Superior intelligence won't save you if you live in a malarial environment and don't have sickle-cell trait.
    Try to think outside of the proverbial box. We are inundated with concepts of race, etc., that are completely false.
    Why can't we seem to grasp the FACT that biological race is false???
  21. Apr 16, 2003 #20
    Right, i know what you're saying.. that the genetic make-up between the "races" are not very different - only certain traits are different.

    you could take any asian person, black person and white person (each with it's own subdivisions) and trace a common ancestor within what, a couple thousand generations? it's not too far and evolution hasn't changed much,, just brought out certain traits.

    but that's what i'm saying.. say i took my own DNA and created a self-replicating nano-robot that would 1.)check it's host DNA structure and a.)if the host structure is my own - shutdown or b.) if it's not my own - replicate and destroy white blood cells.

    how deep could bio-engineering go? at the deepest level, there are 6.2 billion "races" - each person is different..

    i don't think any certain "group" could be more intelligent and i agree that racial differences are just different traits due to heritage, but there are differences in genetic makeup..

    i mean, couldn't you make a nano-machine that targeted all people who will go bald? that's not a racial trait, but it is a trait..
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