[lit-ideas] Re: What to do with Nicholas Wade's ideas

  • From: Lawrence Helm <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 8 Jul 2016 22:11:34 -0700

No, the means to find such genetic differences don't exist yet. What does exist is the anthropological evidence that man was a hunter gatherer for 185,000 years and then all of a sudden (so to speak) he gave that up that way of life in Europe and Asia and became a farmer and herder. To hypothesize as most have done prior to the advances in genetic study that man has remained unchanged for 200,000 years has resulted in theories that now seem (to most of us in the 21st century) dated. Everyone (almost) is looking for the answer nowadays in the homo sapiens genome -- sort of, that is they expect to find it there one day, but don't at this point know where to look for it. That natural selection worked in such a way as to favor leaving off hunting and gathering and taking up herding and farming seems the most plausible answer to "most." I admitted to being on some scientific news feeds. I can't recall reading a single one that disagrees with the idea that natural selection was behind major events in homo-sapiens anthropological history. Discoveries seem to be occurring almost daily making these exciting times in which to live.


On 7/8/2016 9:20 PM, John McCreery wrote:

That such changes are possible is well-demonstrated. What I am looking for is evidence that (1) such changes have actually occurred so that hunters-and-gatherers are, as such, demonstrably genetically different from agriculturists and (2) that, if such changes exist, what mechanisms explain their relation to the change in way of life.

I am aware that (1') any attempt to demonstrate the presence of such changes must exclude the genetic differences between, say, Inuit, Ituri Pygmies, and Bushmen, all of whom are hunters and gatherers while otherwise racially different and (2') if such changes can be demonstrated, whether the association between genes and way of life is a causal relationship, running from way of life to genes or vice versa, a spurious relationship, or one that depends on a third factor, remains debatable. These are issues that won't go away, regardless of how many, maybe, could be, or even other demonstrable relations are cited.

My tentative, thoroughly biased, conclusion: Wade's argument is nineteenth century thinking in a twenty-first century world. The same could, of course, be said of many of those who argue with him on grounds uninformed by scientific advances.



On Sat, Jul 9, 2016 at 12:17 PM, Lawrence Helm <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx <mailto:lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>> wrote:

    No, none of that.  What we have is evidence of a some recent
    changes, not only that but some differences that are associated
    with geography, genes enabling people living at high altitudes to
    process oxygen better. genes to tolerate lactose so people can
    drink milk. Genes to change skin color so people can live at
    different latitudes come to mind.  The fact that there are recent
    identified genetic changes causes many, not just Wade to suspect
    that there are other changes.  If there is a sudden ability to do
    something or tolerate something or change into something or get
    sick in some new way, there is a suspicion that genetics are
    involved.  And scientists will be trying to prove or disprove an
    association.  Unfortunately (fortunately for sick people)
    scientists are most often looking for genetic causes of diseases.


    On 7/8/2016 7:25 PM, John McCreery wrote:

    As you suggest, let's keep this scientific and avoid the ad
    hominem argument that those interested in genetics as a  possible
    explanation of human behavior are espousing inherently racist
    views. I haven't followed the discussion closely enough to be
    sure that what I write below is relevant. Please correct me where
    my third-hand views of second-hand discussion of primary sources
    I have never read goes astray.

    Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that we have on the
    table the proposition that changes in genes explain the shift
    from hunting and gathering to agriculture.

    Do we have any evidence of any form that demonstrates the
    presence of these genetic changes prior to the appearance of
    agriculture or coinciding with it?

    If we see morphological evidence of, for example, predictable
    changes in the skeletons of those who practice agriculture versus
    those who practice hunting and gathering, how do we determine
    that these are the results of changes in genotype and not changes
    due to behavioral changes required by agriculture, e.g., bending
    over to hoe and weed?

    How do we address the effects of population mobility and the
    mixing resulting from what my first Anthropology teacher called
    the only natural law that anthropologists have ever discovered:
    When peoples meet, they mate?

    And then, of course, we come to the question of genetic
    mechanisms. Here we have to address  recent advances in hard core
    biochemically based studies of genetic processes that indicate
    that the same genotypes can have radically different effects
    depending on the specific proteins with which they interact.. . .
    .Obvious enough when one considers that the same embryonic stem
    cells can become specialized bone, heart or liver cells, but
    sorting out how that happens turns out to be a wicked problem.



    On Sat, Jul 9, 2016 at 11:05 AM, John McCreery
    <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx <mailto:john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>> wrote:

        Larry Kramer. Yes.


        On Sat, Jul 9, 2016 at 10:07 AM, Ursula Stange
        <ursula@xxxxxxxxxx <mailto:ursula@xxxxxxxxxx>> wrote:

            Larry Kramer?

            On Jul 8, 2016, at 8:50 PM, Mike Geary
            <mailto:jejunejesuit.geary2@xxxxxxxxx>> wrote:

            On the old Philosophy and Literature list there were two
            politically conservative posters named Lawrence, (1) you
            - Lawrence Helm and another Lawrence whose last name
            escapes me now.  I used to refer to the two of you  as
            "the two Larrys." Does anyone remember the other Larry's
            name?  As I recall, there were several politically
            conservative leaning members on that list. Perhaps there
            are several here as well but who find this list not the
            proper podium to practice their art. This list is
            certainly a lot less politically oriented.
            Liberal-Conservative stances show themselves far more
            readily in political conversations and those are few and
            far between now. I hail from a very
            liberal,Irish-Catholic, Southern white, working-class,
            maternally-ruled, (my mother could have taught Betty
            Friedan some lessons), Civil-Rights-marching  family of
            five boys and one girl. -- and a very hard working, calm
            and amused father.  At dinner Mom would read a paragraph
            or two from some liberal political magazine such as
            Ramparts and we would all be expected to discuss it.  It
            was argument among the like minded -- but I would often
            play the Devil's Advocate just for fun. I miss growing up.

            On Fri, Jul 8, 2016 at 5:37 PM, Lawrence Helm
            <mailto:lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>> wrote:

                I should have included a disclaimer but I didn't
                know quite how to phrase it.  I still don't but I'll
                try anyway.  For many years I have read or acquired
                to read everything I could find on genetics as it
                affects human and canine evolution. The magnitude of
                my effort strikes me as very small, but I have erred
                in the past when estimating the worth of various
                efforts.  OTOH while I have been receiving three
                news feeds on scientific advances for quite a long
                time, I have not been keeping up very well with
                them.  So, while I am very aware that the study of
                genomes, genes, alleles, etc.  for the purpose of
                determining what everything does is relatively new,
                the nature of natural selection and the recent
                discoveries have triggered speculations not just
                with Wade.  In fact I had already thought of a
                significant percentage of what Wade writes in his
                book.  He is much more thorough than I could have
                been and of course he has access to materials I
                couldn't have or could have but wasn't aware of.
                Still, as has been demonstrated fairly often
                (without a clear explanation of why it happens, a
                "climate of opinion" sometimes exists. Had Darwin
                for example not produced his theory of evolution
                Alfred Russell Wallace would have.

                I am not claiming anything more than a certain
                degree of attentiveness which has caused me to have
                many of "the thoughts floating around out there"
                that anyone (or many ones) interested in these
                aspects of genetics will have.

                I have no reason not to embrace whatever new
                discoveries are made in these fields of genetics.  I
                also confess to not being aware (until reading
                Wade's book) that there was resistance to the
                possibility of racial genetic differences because of
                1) they might inspire new bouts of racism, 2) they
                run counter to Marxist theory, and 3) they run
                counter to Leftist ideas.

                The other day I ran across an old Lit-Ideas' comment
                of Geary's in which he is answering the question of
                someone who hadn't been on Lit-Ideas for a long time
                and was wondering "where everyone was." He
                identified me as the only true "conservative" still
                on Lit Ideas.  I frankly don't think of myself that
                way any longer.  I have "given up politics" for the
                duration.  I don't plan on getting into any of the
                political arguments I did in the past -- and yet
                here we are in a new arena.  Something that strikes
                me as purely scientific, that is, looking at
                evidence from science, history, anthropology etc and
                then speculating or reasoning from it strikes me as
                non-political.  I'm not saying that this reasoning
                somehow turns into evidence or proof.  At best it
                becomes a plausibility to be set alongside other
                plausabilities and I don't see any thing in that to
                be afraid of.  Perhaps other people do however, and
                I can respect that.

                While I had already thought of or encountered
                elsewhere much of what Wade wrote I felt a need to
                post a recognition of and perhaps speculate about
                ideas I hadn't already encountered, but I needn't
                post them on Lit-Ideas. I can post them on my blog
                and have that be the end of them.  I might be able
                to get back to poetry more quickly if I take that


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-- John McCreery
        The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
        Tel. +81-45-314-9324 <tel:%2B81-45-314-9324>
        jlm@xxxxxxxxxxxx <mailto:jlm@xxxxxxxxxxxx>

-- John McCreery
    The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
    Tel. +81-45-314-9324 <tel:%2B81-45-314-9324>
    jlm@xxxxxxxxxxxx <mailto:jlm@xxxxxxxxxxxx>

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John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
Tel. +81-45-314-9324
jlm@xxxxxxxxxxxx <mailto:jlm@xxxxxxxxxxxx>

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