Saturday, November 30, 2013

Does Nyborg's study make sense?

Immigrants to Denmark come largely from the Muslim world, where fertility rates are converging to the European norm. In the future, most immigrants will come from sub-Saharan Africa, where the fertility decline has stalled and has actually reversed in some countries. (source)

My last post dealt with Helmuth Nyborg’s study and the decision by the Danish Committee for Scientific Dishonesty to have it deleted from the scientific literature. Please note: this is not about barring a study from publication. That happens all the time. This is about removing a study that has already been published.

Let me now turn to the study itself. What do I think? Does it make sense?

First, I seldom see a paper I fully agree with. Something usually seems wrong. Often, the authors overstate their case, out of enthusiasm or fear of being ignored. This is normal, and the only way to learn the whole truth is to encourage others to speak up and provide their views.

But, yes, Nyborg’s study does make sense, if only because his population projection holds true regardless of how imperfect his data may be. The result is overdetermined. If a population opens up its territory to immigration while having below-replacement fertility, it will eventually become a minority within its own borders. The actual timeline may be unsure. Things may happen slower or faster than predicted. But the end result is a sure thing.

Of course, immigration might stop. And Danish fertility might return to replacement level. But such an eventuality will not happen unassisted. It will come about through deliberate changes to public policy. And that will happen only through free debate—the very thing that Nyborg’s critics apparently wish to prevent.

So please let me state what I think, at the risk of being likewise erased from the scientific literature. 

Nyborg’s model: fertility rates and birth rates

Clearly, Danes are below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman (the figure was 1.73 in 2012). And since their mean age is rising, their birth rate is falling despite a constant fertility rate. Fewer and fewer Danish women are of childbearing age.

Meanwhile, immigrants to Denmark have a rising birth rate because they increasingly come from high-fertility societies in the Muslim world and sub-Saharan Africa. Nyborg thus argues that their natural increase will eventually overtake immigration as the main impetus for Denmark’s population growth: “Whereas 72% of growth in 2010 was due to new immigration, by 2072 more than three quarters of further growth will be driven by the higher fertility of non-Western immigrants” (Nyborg, 2011).

Nyborg’s model assumes that the immigrant birth rate will remain high. Yet this is already less and less true, as shown by a Statistics Denmark study in 2010:

The fertility rate has fallen among immigrants of non-Western background and is now flush with the fertility rate among women of Danish background. [...] For many years, immigrants born in non-Western countries had far more children than women of Danish origin. In 1993 immigrants born in non-Western countries had 3.4 children on average, while Danish women gave birth to 1.7 children on average. The fertility rates have since converged, and in 2009 both immigrants from non-Western countries and Danish women gave birth on average to 1.9 children, according to figures from Statistics Denmark. (Nielsen, 2010)

While this convergence may reflect assimilation to Danish cultural norms, we should remember that fertility has sharply declined throughout most of the Muslim world, which is Denmark’s leading source of non-Western immigrants.

Of course, despite this convergence of fertility rates, the birth rate will still be higher among women of non-Western origin because they are younger on average. And, unless the immigration tap is turned off, they will be continually joined by immigrant women who are drawn disproportionately from the childbearing age bracket. Nonetheless, even if immigration continues unabated, this factor will lose importance as the community of non-Western origin grows larger and larger. Over time, the birth rates of both communities should converge, just as their fertility rates have already converged. This point was actually made by Nyborg’s critics. So his model may be too pessimistic.

Or maybe not. Although Nyborg’s model took into account the current shift toward non-Western sources of immigration, it did not allow for the likelihood that non-Western immigrants will increasingly come from sub-Saharan Africa. While fertility rates have fallen sharply throughout most of the Muslim world, there has been little or no decline in most of sub-Saharan Africa (see previous post). In some countries, like Somalia, fertility rates are actually rising. This trend has been noted in the latest UN population projections:

In the new revision, the estimated total fertility rate (TFR) for 2005-2010 has increased in several countries, including by more than 5 per cent in 15 high-fertility countries from sub-Saharan Africa. In some cases, the actual level of fertility appears to have risen in recent years; in other cases, the previous estimate was too low. (United Stations, 2013, p. 2) 

[…] Between 2013 and 2100, the populations of 35 countries, most of them LDCs, could triple or more. Among them, the populations of Burundi, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia are projected to increase at least five-fold by 2100. (United Nations, 2013, p. 5)

In any case, Nyborg’s predictions will come true even if the immigrant birth rate converges to the Danish norm. The immigrant community will expand through immigration alone. And the ethnic Danish community will shrink once its deaths begin to outnumber its births. One group will replace the other.

Nyborg’s model and IQ

Human populations differ statistically in mean IQ. We can argue why this is so. Genetics? Poor upbringing? Racism? Whatever the reason, these differences exist. The only real debate is whether they will persist over time or gradually disappear as the immigrant community assimilates and becomes increasingly Danish-born. Some observers see this problem as a generational one. The older immigrants may be too set in their ways, but their children should turn out all right.

Intelligence does seem to be more malleable in children than in adults. If one intervenes early enough, differences in cognitive ability should therefore be erased, and these equal outcomes should persist into adulthood. This was the thinking behind the Head Start Program, which provides American 3 and 4 year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds with early educational training. Unfortunately, even its proponents have concluded that the IQ benefits fade away and are usually gone by Grade 2. Longer-term benefits tend to be non-IQ-related, such as a greater willingness to stay in school and comply with the school regimen. Moreover, all of these improvements tend to be larger and longer-lasting in white children than in black children, even when the white children are initially more disadvantaged (Wikipedia 2013).

Do these different outcomes reflect the different family and community environments of white and black children? This is the currently favored explanation: no matter how poor a white child may be, he or she benefits from a society that allocates fewer resources to black families and black communities. The IQ gap will thus disappear only when white and black children share the same resources.

The most radical solution would be to raise black and white children together in the same households. Yet even that kind of environment fails to eliminate the IQ gap. This was the finding of the Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study —a longitudinal study of black, biracial, and white children adopted into white middle-class Minnesotan families, as well as the biological children of the same families (Levin, 1994; Lynn, 1994; Scarr and Weinberg, 1976; Weinberg,Scarr, and Waldman, 1992). IQ was measured when the adopted children were on average 7 years old and the biological children on average 10 years old. They were tested again ten years later:

Test ------------------ 1st --- 2nd 

Black children ----- 97 ---  89
Biracial children - 109 ---  99
White children --- 112 --- 106 (adopted)
White children --- 117 --- 109 (biological)

Between the two tests, all four groups showed a decline in mean IQ that may or may not have been due to changes in testing and norms. On both tests, however, the differences among the four groups remained unchanged, particularly the 15-point IQ gap between blacks and whites that comes up in one study after another. Whatever it is that causes this gap, it must happen very early in life. In the womb? But how do we explain the poorer showing of the biracial children? They were born overwhelmingly to white mothers.

In sum, early intervention does help, but it helps all children equally. And this benefit seems to fade away in all children as time goes by.

Perhaps there is another explanation. Perhaps, in early humans, learning was just a means of encoding information while a young child is becoming familiar with the world. Once this critical period was over, the brain no longer had to be so malleable and lost its plasticity.  This developmental trajectory then began to take place more slowly in some human populations than in others. Why not? Different populations have to cope with different physical and cultural environments, and some of those environments require more lifelong learning than others. This adult retention of mental plasticity may be analogous to adult retention of lactase (the enzyme that infants use to digest milk) in those populations that have domesticated cattle.

Yes, this is just theorizing. Nothing has been proven. But isn’t the burden of proof on those who seek irrevocable change? In any case, whatever the cause, this IQ gap seems almost intractable. If it cannot even be narrowed in the shared environment of a nice Minnesotan household, how are you going to eliminate it in a country where a native European population has so little in common—culturally, linguistically, and ideologically—with an increasingly African immigrant community?

Closing thoughts

One other thing bothers me. So please let me say it.

Why must the Danes prove that they deserve to keep their country to themselves? Isn’t that a basic right? They have only one land to call home … unlike the many “refugees” who regularly visit their own homelands. Once the Danes lose majority status in their country, they’ll be like the Copts of Egypt and other minorities in this world. They’ll have to live by their wits, trying to balance off one potential enemy against another. 

I wouldn’t wish that fate on anyone, let alone on the Danes.


Levin, M. (1994). Comment on the Minnesota transracial adoption study, Intelligence, 19, 13-20. 

Lynn, R. (1994). Some reinterpretations of the Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study, Intelligence, 19, 21-27. 

Nielsen, J.B. (2010). Indvandrerkvinder og danske kvinder føder lige mange børn, July 27, Kristeligt Dagblad. 

Nyborg, H. (2011). The decay of Western civilization: Double relaxed Darwinian Selection. Personality and Individual Differences, 53, 118-125. 

Scarr, S., and Weinberg, R.A. (1976). IQ test performance of Black children adopted by White families, American Psychologist, 31, 726-739. 

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2013). World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables. Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP.227. 

Weinberg, R.A., Scarr, S., and Waldman, I.D. (1992). The Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study: A follow-up of IQ test performance at adolescence. Intelligence, 16, 117-135. 

Wikipedia. (2013). Head Start Program 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cleansing the scientific literature

 Morten Østergaard, Danish Minister for Research, Innovation, and Higher Education (source: VicVal). Morten, if you’re reading this post, please reply to my e-mail.

I first learned about Danish psychologist Helmuth Nyborg while working on my doctoral thesis. In those pre-Internet days, I plodded my way through the academic literature largely by consulting the Science Citation Index and then pulling bound journals off library shelves. This was how I encountered Dr. Nyborg, or rather his studies on hormones and behavior.

As early as the late 1980s, he began to take an interest in “human biodiversity,” i.e., the belief that heritable mental and behavioral traits differ among human populations just as they do among individuals. At the time, I had an attitude of friendly skepticism, being still influenced by the belief that cultural evolution had replaced genetic evolution way back in the Pleistocene. Only later did I learn that cultural evolution had actually accelerated the pace of genetic evolution (Hawks et al., 2007).

In recent years, Dr. Nyborg has turned his attention to the demographic changes that are sweeping through Western Europe and his own country. In this, he has acted not just as an academic who wishes to understand reality, but also as a Danish citizen who is concerned about his country’s future. What will Denmark look like half a century from now? Will it still be recognizably Danish? Will it still be functioning as a modern society with a high quality of life?

On the basis of population projections, he concluded that ethnic Danes will become a minority in their own country, the tipping point being sometime in the late 21st century. In addition, the Danish population will no longer be able to provide the standard of living that Danes have long been used to. Denmark will cease to be a First World country.

His study made the following points:

- Contrary to official statistics, immigrant birth rates are not falling. In fact, they have been rising since 1980 and were over twice the ethnic Danish birth rate in 2009. Meanwhile, the ethnic Danish birth rate has been falling since 1995 and reached a new low of 9.31 in 2009.

- After rising for half a century, average national IQ began to fall in 1997. This decline has also been observed in Norway, even though average IQ has continued to rise elsewhere (in line with the Flynn effect).

- By 2050, less than one fifth of the population will have IQs in the 90 to 104 range, whereas over half will have IQs in the 70 to 85 range. Primary schools will mainly have low IQ children of sub-Saharan, Middle Eastern, North African, Latin American, and Caribbean backgrounds.

- By 2072, ethnic Danes will have fallen to 60% of the population and 33% of all births. They will become a minority around 2085.

This study was met with much criticism. Unfortunately, not content with making their views known in academic forums, three people complained to the Danish Committee for Scientific Dishonesty. The committee ruled that two of their complaints were justified: “the defendant had committed scientific dishonesty by appearing as the sole author of an article and by including a reference which did not support the data it indicated to support.” The committee also ruled that Dr. Nyborg must withdraw his study from the scientific literature.

The two complaints seem to me weird. Yes, another person had contributed to the study, but he had specifically requested that his contribution remain anonymous. The second complaint is a bit more valid. Dr. Nyborg had not explained how he had converted his fertility rate data into birth rate data. Nonetheless, he corrected that shortcoming by having an addendum published in a subsequent issue of the journal.

I was initially stumped by the ruling that Dr. Nyborg must withdraw his study from the scientific literature. How can one withdraw an already published study? Then the penny dropped. Most journals are now published online, and cash-strapped university libraries have been phasing out their paper subscriptions. So it’s quite easy to “disappear” a published study.

I e-mailed the following letter to the Danish minister responsible for this committee:

Morten Østergaard, Minister for Research, Innovation, and Higher Education

Subject: Decision that Helmuth Nyborg must withdraw a published paper from the international scientific literature

Dear Mr. Østergaard:

I have known Dr. Nyborg for many years. He is much appreciated in the international academic community and has published on many subjects, some of which are controversial. Recently, the Danish Committee for Scientific Dishonesty has ruled that Dr. Nyborg must withdraw a published article from the international scientific literature. In my opinion, this kind of ruling is unprecedented and should not go unchallenged.

Scientific papers are published with a view to provoking debate. If other scholars consider a paper to be "dishonest," they are free to write a letter to the journal of that paper and, normally, such letters will be published in a subsequent issue. They are also free to denounce the paper at conferences or in their own published papers. That is how the system works, and to date it has worked very well.

But no one has the right to delete a paper once it has been published. The paper no longer belongs solely to its author. It also belongs to the international academic community. It is part of the marketplace of ideas. Yes, in the past, certain governments would try to remove books, articles, and papers from circulation. Police officers would go into bookstores, libraries, and publishing houses and literally remove the offending publications from the shelves. Must I state the obvious? Such governments were totalitarian. They were either communist or fascist.

Yes, thanks to electronic publishing of academic journals, it is much easier to delete a published paper. But that does not change the rightness or wrongness of the act. Your ministry is acting in a way that is morally wrong. Not technically wrong. Morally wrong. This decision is an offence not just to the Danish academic community, but also to the international academic community.

Please, think long and hard about the implications of this decision.  

Yours sincerely,

Peter Frost, Ph.D. 

Université Laval
Quebec City, Canada

I resisted the temptation to write something like: “I disagree with what he says, but I defend his right to say it.” That goes without saying. Just as physicians must swear the Hippocratic Oath, academics are supposed to defend the marketplace of ideas.  

I will say more in my next post. In the meantime, I encourage others, especially other academics, to denounce this decision by e-mailing Morten Østergaard (


Hawks, J., E.T. Wang, G.M. Cochran, H.C. Harpending, and R.K. Moyzis. (2007). Recent acceleration of human adaptive evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 104(52), 20753–20758. 

Nyborg, H. (2011). The decay of Western civilization: Double relaxed Darwinian Selection. Personality and Individual Differences, 53, 118-125.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The White man has no friends

Togolese representation of a white man (source)

In a previous post, I wrote that the recently published book De quelle couleur sont les Blancs ? was originally supposed to provide a new perspective on French race relations. How do the Français de souche perceive, imagine, and experience their increasingly multiracial society? What does it mean to be White in France? The “invisible majority” would thus be brought into the dialogue of race relations and given its own voice.

In this, the book has failed. From beginning to end, the Français de souche are objects, and not subjects. They are commented on, but never allowed to comment. They are analyzed at length, but given no chance to challenge this analysis. Yet one cannot hope to understand ethnic relations unless one hears both sides. This one-sidedness appears in a chapter where a man with Algerian parents recounts his childhood in Toulouse:

In the neighborhood, we had a chum who was blond with blue eyes. He was the son of a working man, of a modest background, like us, but he seemed perfect to us: beautiful, blond, white. We were subordinate to him. Until the moment when someone from our gang came and confronted him. When the blond got his first punch in the mouth, he was demystified. (Cherfi, 2013, p. 61)

It would be interesting to know how their blond “chum” perceived this demystification. North African boys like to act collectively, and such collective action takes precedence over individual ties of friendship. For French boys, individual action is the norm. No white gang comes to the blond’s defense. This is a recurring pattern, as in a case that Frantz Fanon took on as a clinical psychiatrist during the Algerian War:

Case no. 1 – Murder by two young Algerians 13 and 14 years old of their European playmate.

The 13-year-old:

- We weren’t angry with him. Every Thursday we would go hunting together with slingshots, on the hill above the village. He was our good buddy. He no longer went to school because he wanted to become a mason like his father. One day we decided to kill him because the Europeans wanted to kill all the Arabs. We can’t kill the “grownups.” But him, as he was our age, we can. We didn’t know how to kill him. We wanted to throw him into a ditch, but he might have been only injured. So we took a knife from home and we killed him.

- But why did you choose him?

- Because he played with us. No other person would’ve gone up with us, up there.

- Yet he was your buddy?

- What about them wanting to kill us? His father is a militiaman, and he says we should have our throats cut.

- But he [the boy] had said nothing to you?

- Him? No.

- You know he’s dead now?

- Yes.

- What is death?

- It’s when it’s all over. We go to heaven.

- Did you kill him?

- Yes.

- Does that do anything to you to have killed someone?

- No, since they wanted to kill us, so …

- Does that bother you to be in prison?

- No. (Fanon, 1970, p. 195)

Over the past millennium, Western Europeans have created a social environment where the individual is largely free from collective ties of kinship and ethnicity. Because the State has imposed a monopoly on the use of violence, there is less need to rely on kinsmen to safeguard one’s life and property. That’s what the government is for. In many other societies, however, the State is much more recent and often foreign. Collective identity still matters most and, when the chips are down, personal ties of friendship matter little. Your real friends are your “blood.” In any case, real friendship isn’t just about sharing your recreational activities. It’s also about risking your life for someone else.

Collective identity likewise trumps the pursuit of truth. Only when the individual is freed from the collectivity does truth apply equally to everyone, whether friend or foe. Only then does true science become feasible. Did the boy’s father really say that all Arabs should have their throats cut?(1) Does that make sense at a time when the French militias relied so heavily on Arab auxiliaries?

European individualism comes up in another chapter of De quelle couleur sont les Blancs ?, where Mineke Schipper reviews African oral and written literature:

Impatience, love of money, individualism, all of these traits define Westerners for Africans: “The Whites don’t stop running, they want to stay ahead of us. We take our time. […] One day, surely, they will stop. After all, one cannot endlessly run for centuries. They will understand that two or three weeks of vacation are not enough for the kind of life they lead.”

[…] According to Matip, African solidarity is under threat of giving way to the European every-man-for-himself. In African novels, this counter-discourse is seen in remarks like “the White man has no friends” or “we aren’t Whites who couldn’t care less about the misfortunes of others.” (Schipper, 2013, pp. 100-101)

Yet individualism also seems to be part of the White man’s secret of success. In African literature, the desire to know this secret is a recurring theme, along with a feeling that Christianity is a false secret, an attempt to keep the real one hidden:

Their conversion was motivated by the promise of recompense: the Whites were stronger and the secret of the White man’s strength could only be his religion. One evening, while Father Dumont observed that the Africans, who until then had been converting in great numbers, were now abandoning the faith, his cook Zacharia explained to him: “The first of us who came rushing to religion, they came as they would to a revelation… The revelation of your secret, the secret of your strength, the strength of your planes, new railways, how can I put it … The secret of your mystery! Instead of that, you began talking to them about God, about the soul, about eternal life, and so on. Don’t you think they already knew all of that before, long before you came? Gracious me, they got the impression you were hiding something from them.” (Schipper, 2013, p. 105)

Africans have some awareness that the White man’s strengths are related to his weaknesses. Because the White man has no friends, he doesn’t have to share his wealth with them. He can invest it as he sees fit. But how can one live without friends? In Africa, you need friends to defend you and fight for you. Otherwise you’ll still have to share your wealth … but with a lot of thieving non-friends. 

Christianity, too, is part of the White man’s secret—not the Christianity of the 1st century but the one that developed during the Middle Ages, the one that supported the State in its effort to punish the wicked so that the good may live and prosper in peace … in short, by executing violence-prone individuals on a large scale (see previous post). Only then did it become possible to create a high-trust society where people could better themselves through work and trade … and not through theft and plunder. But this too is both a strength and a weakness. A pacified society is dependent on a State that may, one day, refuse to do its job.


1. According to the older boy’s testimony, this threat was not heard directly from the victim’s father or from anyone within the French community: “In our community (chez nous), people said that the French had sworn to kill all of us one after another” (Fanon, 1970, p. 196).


Cherfi, M. (2013). “Quand je suis devenu blanc…” in S. Laurent and T. Leclère (eds.) De quelle couleur sont les Blancs ? Des « petits Blancs » des colonies au « racisme anti-Blancs » (pp. 58-64), Paris: La Découverte, 298 p.

Fanon, F. (1970). Les damnés de la terre, Paris: Maspero. 

Schipper, M. (2013). « Le Blanc n’a pas d’amis. » L’Autre européen dans les littératures africaines orales et écrites, in S. Laurent and T. Leclère (eds.) De quelle couleur sont les Blancs ? Des « petits Blancs » des colonies au « racisme anti-Blancs » (pp. 98-109), Paris: La Découverte, 298 p.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The ancestors with no descendants

Venus of Mal’ta, a figurine from a site in eastern Siberia (source). She comes from a population that was related to modern Europeans and Amerindians but not to modern native Siberians. The Mal’ta Siberians died out at the height of the last ice age and were replaced by people spreading north from East Asia and west from Beringia.

On the eve of the last ice age, Siberia was home to a people who were related to modern Europeans and Amerindians but not to modern native Siberians. So concludes an analysis of DNA from the remains of a boy who lived 24,000 years ago at Mal’ta near Lake Baikal, Siberia.

They found that a portion of the boy's genome is shared only by today's Native Americans and no other groups, showing a close relationship. Yet the child's Y chromosome belongs to a genetic group called Y haplogroup R, and its mitochondrial DNA to a haplogroup U. Today, those haplogroups are found almost exclusively in people living in Europe and regions of Asia west of the Altai Mountains, which are near the borders of Russia, China, and Mongolia.

One expected relationship was missing from the picture: The boy's genome showed no connection to modern East Asians. DNA studies of living people strongly suggest that East Asians—perhaps Siberians, Chinese, or Japanese—make up the major part of Native American ancestors (Balter, 2013).

These findings are consistent with earlier ones. Strong dental and cranial affinities exist between remains from the same site and those of Upper Paleolithic Europeans (Alexeyev and Gokhman, 1994). Also, when we compare the Clovis sites of early Amerindians (13,000 BP) with early European and Siberian sites (20,000-15,000 BP), we find many features in common: characteristic lithic technology, grave goods with red ocher, and sites with small shallow basins (Goebel, 1999; Haynes, 1980; Haynes, 1982).

What do these findings tell us? I would propose the following:

1. When the last ice age began some 25,000 years ago, a single population of nomadic hunters occupied the steppe-tundra that stretched from southwestern France to Beringia.

2. Ancestral East Asians had already split away from this proto-Eurasian population. They had probably adapted to life farther south in the more temperate environments of what is now north China. The Ainu may be an evolutionarily conservative branch of these East Asians.

3. At the height of the last ice age some 20,000 to 17,000 years ago, Siberia became virtually devoid of human life (Graf, 2009a; Graf, 2009b). Proto-Eurasians survived in refugia in parts of Europe to the west and in coastal regions of northeast Asia, Beringia and northwest North America to the east. Kennewick Man (c. 9,000-10,000 BP) may have been an example of this refuge population.

4. Siberia was then repeopled by two streams of settlement. One was composed of ‘Kennewickians’ spreading westward and inland from coastal refugia. The other stream was composed of early East Asians spreading northward.

5. This new mixed population of eastern Siberia and Beringia would later spread eastward into the interior of post-glacial North America around 13,000 years ago. These people were the early Amerindians of the Clovis culture.

It would be interesting to know what the reconstructed Mal’ta genome tells us about the skin, hair, and eye color of the proto-Eurasians. Were they pale-skinned with a diverse palette of hair and eye colors, like modern Europeans? Or were they brown-skinned with black hair and brown eyes, like modern Amerindians?  Probably the second possibility, given that the European color scheme seems to be a later evolutionary development—11,000 to 19,000 years ago for white skin and probably the same time frame for diversification of hair and eye color (Beleza et al., 2013). The Mal’ta people might have gone on to develop the same characteristics during this time frame, but they all died out at the height of the last ice age. 

In short, the Mal’ta people probably looked very much like native Indians with a more European skull shape, perhaps like the Ainu of northern Japan or the Kennewick humans of North America. 


Alexeyev, V.P., and I.I. Gokhman. (1994). Skeletal remains of infants from a burial on the Mal'ta Upper Paleolithic site, Homo, 45, 119‑126. 

Balter, M. (2013). Ancient DNA links Native Americans with Europe, Science, 342, 409-410.

Beleza, S., A. Múrias dos Santos, B. McEvoy, I. Alves, C. Martinho, E. Cameron, M.D. Shriver, E.J. Parra, and J. Rocha. (2013). The timing of pigmentation lightening in Europeans, Molecular Biology and Evolution, 30, 24-35. 

Goebel, T. (1999). Pleistocene human colonization of Siberia and peopling of the Americas: An ecological approach, Evolutionary Anthropology, 8, 208‑227.;2-M/abstract

Graf, K.E. (2009a). “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”: evaluating the radiocarbon chronology of the middle and late Upper Paleolithic in the Enisei River valley, south-central Siberia. Journal of Archaeological Science, 36, 694–707.

Graf, K.E. (2009b). Modern human colonization of the Siberian Mammoth Steppe: A view from South-Central Siberia. In M. Camps, P. Chauhan (eds.), Sourcebook of Paleolithic transitions (pp. 484-496), Springer Science & Business Media.

Haynes, C.V. (1982). Were Clovis progenitors in Beringia? In D.M. Hopkins (ed). Paleoecology of Beringia, (pp. 383‑398), New York: Academic Press. 

Haynes, C.V. (1980). The Clovis culture, Canadian Journal of Anthropology, 1, 115‑121.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

What color are Whites?

I’m one of the contributors to a recently published French book De quelle couleur sont les Blancs? The following is an abstract:

Within each human population, skin color varies mainly by age and by sex. These two sources of variation dominate the range of complexions one sees as long as the third source, ethnicity, contributes little. This is the situation that once prevailed in most human societies. Relatively pale complexions signified infants or women; red-brown complexions, men. A cult of female whiteness thus developed, especially within a large zone of Eurasia. Today, this mark of femininity is losing its social significance with the growing importance of ethnic differences in skin color and, also, the mounting popularity of tanning among women. These changes are described with respect to France, although many other countries have taken part in them. 

The proposed title for this book was initially La question blanche en France (The White Question in France). As such, the aim was to examine the role of “Whites” in French race relations. How do the Français de souche see themselves? And how do they see the “Others”? This would have been a novel perspective, since books on race relations tend to focus on minorities and their views of reality.

Sadly, this aim has not been achieved. The book does excel at giving voice to minorities and presenting their perspectives. Thus, Naïma Yahl provides a wealth of intimate details on how the White French woman, la Roumia, is perceived in Algerian popular culture. But none of the contributors provide the reverse perspective, at least not to the same degree. Leafing through this book, I sometimes feel like I’m reading a wartime letter with key passages inked out. Laurent Dornel, for instance, describes how, during the First World War, France brought in 257,000 workers from North Africa, Madagascar, Indochina, and China to replace the French men who had been sent to the front. I had known about this mass influx but was unaware of the rioting that resulted:

[…] the colonial and Chinese workers were the target of growing “racial violence” among the common people. Beginning in May 1917, almost everywhere in France (Brest, Dijon, Le Havre, Paris, Toulouse), brawls and even riots broke out more and more often, often causing serious injuries and deaths. The French reproached the colonial workers for being strikebreakers and making it possible, by their presence, to keep French workers at the front. They also denounced the sexual competition that their presence had provoked (p. 209).

At that point, the text moves on. There is a recurring tendency by all of the contributors to describe the grievances of one side at great length, while being much more restrained in describing those of the other side. This is unfortunate because the aim of the book was to put the Français de souche in the spotlight and to let them take the floor. This lack of balance is particularly evident when the different contributors discuss racisme anti-Blancs (anti-White racism). Sadri Khiari argues:

But if one envisages racism as a power relationship, one cannot place on the same level those who benefit from the entire power of the racial system and those who often have only their words to resist. Today, the notion of “anti-White racism” is being mobilized to delegitimize the anti-racist movement […] (pp. 45-46)

Yet anti-White racism is not just a matter of shouting sale Blanc! It’s also violence. If one examines interracial acts of violence, the trend is overwhelmingly in one direction. How come? If “Whites” are so powerful, why would they allow this to go on? And why would they allow immigration to continue at such a rate that large areas of France are now French in name only? In reality, most Français de souche act as individuals and have only a weak sense of their collective interest. Collective action is instead wielded by better organized factions, particularly the globalized business community—which lobbies hard to outsource employment to low-wage countries and insource low-wage workers.

Ironically, although Khiari uses much leftist rhetoric, he has no understanding of class differences—or any intra-ethnic differences for that matter. There are only “Whites” who form a monolithic bloc in defense of their interests, from the poorest laborer to the globetrotting businessman. This is the kind of delusional thinking that used to characterize the real racists. Today, it has become the stock in trade of the anti-racist.


Frost, P. (2013). De la pâleur au bronzage. Les idéaux de la beauté féminine en France. In: S. Laurent and T. Leclère (eds.) De quelle couleur sont les Blancs ? Des « petits Blancs » des colonies au « racisme anti-Blancs » (pp. 170-177), Paris: La Découverte, 298 p.