Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cavalli-Sforza's about-face

The renowned geneticist Luca Cavalli-Sforza is identified with the position that human races do not exist. In his opus The History and Geography of Human Genes, he included a chapter on the ‘failure of the race concept’ and declared that “the classification into races has proved to be a futile exercise".

This position gets much play in the media. An article published in The Economist tells us that the work of Cavalli-Sforza "challenges the assumption that there are significant genetic differences between human races, and indeed, the idea that 'race' has any useful biological meaning at all." This is also how he is seen in an article in The Stanford Magazine:

And he has received another kind of recognition —stacks of hate mail from white supremacists —for his well-publicized insistence that DNA studies can serve as an antidote to racism because they reveal an underlying genetic unity that cuts across racial groupings, making race a scientifically meaningless concept.

Yet not everyone believes he is a convinced antiracist:

How is it, then, that Cavalli-Sforza now finds himself accused of cultural insensitivity, neocolonialism and "biopiracy"? Late in his career, as he struggles to organize his most ambitious project yet -- a sweeping survey of human genetic diversity -- why are some people calling him a racist?

Perhaps because some people feel he is too inconsistent. On this issue, there are really two Cavalli-Sforzas: the one who denounced the race concept in 1994 … and the one who upheld it in 1976:

Today, all continents of the world are inhabited by representatives of the three major human races: African, Caucasian and Oriental. The proportions of the three groups still differ considerably in the various countries, and the migrations are too recent for social barriers between racial groups to have disappeared. The trend, however, seems to be in the direction of greater admixture.

On the most general level. geographic and ecological boundaries (which acted as partial barriers to expansion and migration) help to distinguish three major racial groups: Africans, Caucasians, and a highly heterogeneous group that we may call "Easterners". The Easterners include subgroups that were separated in various older classifications, such as American Natives (American Indians) and Orientals (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans). Some regard Australian aborigines as a separate race, but they do not differ much from Melanesians. From the Melanesians, we can trace a sequence of relativelygradual changes through the transition to Indonesians, then to Southeast Asians, and on to East Asians. American Natives and Eskimos probably both came from a related Northeast Asian stock from (or through) Siberia into North America. Eskimos, however, came much later than American Indians, and they subsequently expanded further eastward to Greenland.

The African continent contains, in the north and east, populations that have various degrees of admixture with Caucasians by all criteria of analysis. In the western, central and southern parts of the continent, Africans are relatively homogeneous - although some isolated groups of hunter-gatherers (like Pygmies and Bushmen) show cultural and physical peculiarities that suggest they should be considered somewhat separately. In fact, the Pygmies at least have attributes that indicate they may be "proto-African" groups — populations that have been the least altered by more recent events.

We tend to side with those taxonomists who prefer to group the human species into a few large racial groups (such taxonomists have been called "lumpers"). Others ("splitters") prefer to distinguish a large number of groups differing in relatively subtle ways. (Bodmer & Cavalli-Sforza, 1976, pp. 563-572)

Even later in time, particularly in journal articles, one can find references to race-based thinking:

The first split in the phylo-genetic tree separates Africans from non-Africans, and the second separates two major clusters, one corresponding to Caucasoids, East Asians, Arctic populations, and American natives, and the other to Southeast Asians, (mainland and insular), Pacific islanders, and New Guineans and Australians. Average genetic distances between the most important clusters are proportional to archaeological separation times. (Cavalli-Sforza et al., 1988)

What happened after 1976 to change Cavalli-Sforza’s views on race? Very little in terms of data. Four years earlier, the case against the race concept had already been made in a paper by Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin. Frank Livingstone, an anthropologist, had even earlier presented similar arguments in his 1962 paper: “On the non-existence of human races”. Both papers had been published in leading journals and were still being widely discussed when Cavalli-Sforza co-authored a genetics textbook in 1976. Evidently, he was not convinced.

At least not then. As one anthropologist told me: “I don't think our perception of the general patterns of genetic variation changed much from '76 to '94, but the intellectual climate that geneticists operate in sure did.”


Anon. (2000). The Human Genome Survey, The Economist, 1 July 2000, pg. 11

Bodmer, W.F. and L.L. Cavalli-Sforza. (1976). Genetics, Evolution, and Man. WH Freeman and Company, San Francisco. pp 563-572.

Cavalli-Sforza, L.L., Menozzi, P. & Piazza, A. (1994). The History and Geography of Human Genes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Cavalli-Sforza, L.L., Piazza, A., Menozzi, P., and Mountain, J. (1988). Reconstruction of human evolution: Bringing together genetic, archaeological, and linguistic data. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 85, 6002-6006.

Leslie, M. (1999). The History of Everyone and Everything. The Stanford Magazine. May-June.

Lewontin, R.C. (1972). The apportionment of human diversity. Evolutionary Biology, 6, 381-398.

Livingstone, F.B. (1962). On the non-existence of human races. Current Anthropology, 3, 279-281.


Anonymous said...

Problem is, this ideology of "everybody's the same" is becoming one strong political pillar to support the view that massive immigration in europe is OK and that a world wide melting pot should be a non-issue.

Of course, If everybody's the same, it is possible to replace, let's say, 60 millions native french by 60 millions africans or asians, with no consequences.

In France, ethnic statistics are forbiddden, which say a lot, but a study (retired from circulation) leaked and revealed that already one quater of the young french people are now from non-european background (one or two parents) and soon one third.
Despite that, a presidential commission lead by Mr Attali, recommended the input of 60 millions more non-europeans immigrants into Europe in the next 30 years, a total ethnic cleansing by the womb !

However, I am convinced that archeo-genetic studies like those made by Bryan Sykes in the British Isles will proved to be, on the long term, much more important and the best ally in support of the Identitarians and Nationalists who protest againts this ethnic cleansing.

This is because archeao-genetic studies make sense ONLY in a cultural and historical context while Cavalli-Sforza conclusions don't make any sense at all in a historical context.

Let's say I am a celt and, according to cavalli-Sfroza, I am as close genetically to a Bantu than a chinese Han or my own relatives, OK, but does that mean that my father was Han Chinese, my grand father a Bantu, my great grandfather a German, my greatgreat grandfather a Persian etc. ?

That's not what my family line, written in stone in the cimetery, tells me.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to add something about why, in my opinion, genetic ancestry is so important for identitarians and Cavalli-Sforza's results, even if they are true, are completely irrelevant.

The liberal ideology who is now using Sforza's results is also the same ideology that a century ago started to legitimate rights accorded to american first people, the amerindians, also called First Nations.
And now you have Nunavut territory in Canada and many tribal reservation in the USA with their own rights and rules. The notion of white people culpability in the disapearence of amerindian culture and the fact that amerindians should have undeniable rights on their territories is now a banality. Certainly, no immigrationist would dare to suggest to flood these First Nations with immigrants.

I'm not going here to contest the amerindian status, rather, I am going to ask the immigrationists to acknowlegde the fact that Europeans ARE First Nations in Europe.

Genetic ancestry studies made in Ireland, Scotland and UK showed that today's Irish, for example, ARE first nations in Ireland.
Scottish are First Nations in Scotland, they largely derive from Picts.

If these studies were allowed in France, they would surely show(because France was already densely populated by the time the Romans invaded Gaul) that the french genetic stock also largely derives from first french settlers and that, here again,
French ARE First Nations in France, until recently that is.

Recently, two german people living in a nearby towns, have been found to be the DIRECT descendants of a man or woman, whose 3000 years old squeletton was found in the same area of germany.
Similarly, around Paris, 9500 years old skelettons have been found. Were they post-glacial early settlers ? are today's french people related to them ?

We'd like to know, but I suspect that pro-immigrationist politicians whose dream is probably to replace the european culture by a gigantic casino with topless dancing, don't want us to know.

But I guess that Identitarian claims have a legal precededant:

"The United States of America has continually violated the independent Native Peoples of this continent by Executive action, Legislative fiat and Judicial decision. By its actions, the U.S. has denied all Native people their International Treaty rights, Treaty lands and basic human rights of freedom and sovereignty. This same U.S. Government, which fought to throw off the yoke of oppression and gain its own independence, has now reversed its role and become the oppressor of sovereign Native people.[37]"

This is drawn from the Declaration of Continuing Independence from the Lakotah's founders.


Anonymous said...

There is an unspoken policing of genetic work. Anyone whose reseaching has potential to even implicitly undermine the status quo* is required to give loud explicit support for the Proven Non-Significance of Genetic Differences*. Possibly Cavalli- Sforza's about face was motivated by a desire to keep working in the field with top notch facilities. If so his perception was that cutting edge research from an acknowledged world authority would be no match for the zeitgeist -- or its enforcers. A not entirely unrelated example of what happens when you don't about face and get on the wrong side -- Norman Davies.

Anonymous said...

I used to consider myself an anti-racist. I even once sat on the board of directors of an anti-racist organization. Today, I have trouble recognizing myself in what this belief-system has become.

Why did I identify with anti-racism? I saw it as a means to defend non-European peoples who had become politically and demographically marginalized, often to the brink of extinction. This was, and still is, the case with Canada’s First Nations, but it’s also the case with many other peoples, including some that are oppressed by governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. As an anthropologist in particular, I saw anti-racism as a moral duty.

I don’t believe in conspiracy theories. But I do believe that ideologies can be exploited to serve new ends. In this case, anti-racism has gradually become an instrument of political disenfranchisement and demographic replacement – in a word, the very thing it used to combat.

This gradual change has turned what was once an ideology of the Left into an ideology of the Right. Anti-racism now serves the interests of a corporate globalist elite for whom the free flow of labor dovetails with their belief in the free flow of capital and trade. For these people, it doesn’t matter that their ideology will destroy long-existing cultures and populations. They don’t even feel guilty about what they’re doing. Anti-racism gives them a clean conscience.

Anonymous said...

"This gradual change has turned what was once an ideology of the Left into an ideology of the Right. Anti-racism now serves the interests of a corporate globalist elite for whom the free flow of labor dovetails"

This is true, but the funny thing is that ideology is still protected by most leftists, for the best intentions.

What is a racist ? this is a worker who has been laid off because cheaper workers from abroad are available in massive numbers. When he was working, his salary was kept low for the same reason but he was still laid off. Delocalisation, stockholder's game whatever. When he was working, he was told that anything against liberalism equaled racism and nazism and so, he used to vote for the leftists, knights of the anti-racism and pro-immigrationists.

The problem is obviously not the immigrants but those who use them for their greed.
This largely goes beyond the low income class workers. It has now spead to middle class and ...the academic.

It is absolutely fantastic to see american biology labs, entirely funded at 100% by american tax payers (those who have not been laid off) being entirely staffed at 100% by foreigners or recent permanent residents, mostly asians.
In effect, this blocks the entry of american natives in american labs (no return of investissement in time and money to get there)
And those who use the shortage of american graduates to justify the lack of "natives" in their labs are actually using the effect to justify the cause.

And political correctness, I should rather just say politic, rules in the academic so, Cavalli-Sforza is well wised not to disturb the s't.
His story has been said so many times, leftists thinkers perfectly know about it, and it is a habit to hear repetitively in televised talk show, that races don't exist, in order to justify immigration.

The leftist knigths are killing their base and faithfully serve their masters of the Liberal Right. Those real Masters that nobody can touch or name. But in France and a couple of other countries in Europe, it's over for both of them, good.


Anonymous said...

C-F's (wearing his cultural hat) Dual Inheritance theory has a mechanism of cultural evolution called context bias it includes Success bias and Prestige bias. Both these may explain his own behaviour.
Conspiracy is covert and requires that those engaging in it have an awareness of doing something wrong. Immigration enthusiasts are quick to impute a conspiracy theory to their opponents. Another brickbat phrase they are quick on the draw with is "everthing he says always goes back to immutable racial categories" (P.Weiss not a bad person )

Guessedworker said...


I guess you are only in your thirties. So you cannot have taken up anti-racism before its reformation in the 1980 and 90s into a Jewish can-opener of the supposed social construct of supposed white supremacism. In other words, you cannot possibly have experienced the protest-based form of anti-racism that existed in the 1950s and 60s.

It seems that you have a need to avoid responsibility for bad decisions, and involving yourself with a hate-ideology for faux-moral reasons was a pretty rotten one.

And then there's your very convenient excuse that the hate-ideology has been taken over by "the Right". That looks awfully like a case of Freudian projection to me. But I will give the benefit of the doubt and assume that you simply haven't mosied on down the corridor to Humanities and discovered that the corrosive anti-racist left is alive, well and and as sick as ever.

In the end, Peter, matters of life and death expel all the grey areas, all the comforts of obfuscation, and force clarity of decision upon us. You have to be pinned to the wall and forced to argue for or against European survival. You have to say whether European Man may live, and pursue his own genetic continuity regardless of means or cost to those who oppose that ... or whether such decisionism would be unacceptably "racist", and he must therefore quietly roll over and die? You have to explain why only Europeans are required to jump this moral bar in order to be race-replaced, and who benefits from his race-replacement (not "the Right", I assure you).

You have to explain which interests surpasses what Frank Salter terms the ultimate interest ... whether, for example, the left's values of tolerance, fairness, equality etc are of higher human import than the obligation to be, and why.

If you cannot prosecute the leftist argument successfully in this respect - and you can't - you too will have to choose, like Er in Plato's myth, what kind of life you will lead henceforth. The honourable unhesitatingly choose to be liberally smeared as a racist and an illegitimate human being for cleaving to Nature's truth and love of kind (believe me, it's a privilege).

Captainchaos said...

End game Peter. Will you speak out in support of the European peoples' efforts to ensure their genetic continuity? Yes or no. Which is it?

Anonymous said...

Frost appears to think that anti-racism is a tool used for the purpose of spreading capitalism? This is why he’s now “against it.” He’s not wrong, he just doesn’t understand the whole truth. The main objective is race replacement for the purpose of creating a more “manageable” population. The practitioners of race replacement need the capitalists on board to make the race replacement process move easier. Dr. Frost must understand this. Capitalism is not the goal, its a tool in accomplishing the goal. The goal is total loss of ethnic identity in order to create a new slave race of people whose roots and culture can be sold to them or seen on TV. Again, the capitalism part is a derivative of the main objective; that being the creation of a new multicultural master race of slaves who are bred to run the machines and fight those who may resemble a threat to the global elites.

Guessedworker said...

Come on, Peter. There are challenges here to your failure to speak for your own people. Let's hear from you.

Anonymous said...

Rienzi's Rottweilers should lighten up on Master Peter. Otherwise, they must explain the mass immigration of distant peoples into North America during the 19th century. Race replacement of the founding Anglo-Saxon people by Slavs & Meds? Or just cheap labour for unmitigated capitalism so eagerly embraced in the 1864 Republican presidential platform?

Alex posted a bounty of material at MR regarding the pursuit of cheap labour in 19th century America.

The issue that's not been addressed except by arguing just because it was adaptive before, doesn't mean it adaptive now, is evolutionary competition at the individual level. In other words the high IQ "elites" that promote these labour transfer policies, benefit from the accumulation of wealth.

Captainchaos said...

Well, Frost won't lead us to the promised land of racial purity. All is lost. Genocide it is then. Carry on. As you were. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Anonymous said...

So when one biologically distinct European tribe replaces/absorbs another biologically distinct European tribe that's not genocide, it's white nationalism.

Phew! I feel so much better now.

Anonymous said...

So when one biologically distinct European tribe replaces/absorbs another biologically distinct European tribe that's not genocide, it's white nationalism.

Tell us again about Christie Pits, Uncle Des. Make it all scary as you normally do when you talk about those Eye-talians. I don't like those U-craniums too. My uncle Des says they are bad....

Anonymous said...

Boo Hoo.

Poor Guido.

Tell us us 'bout you pappa. He suffered sooo... :(

Anonymous said...

Don't cry Uncle Des. Tell us about how everyone is out to get you. The Italians, Ukranians, Welsh, Scots, French. Was your pappy on the receiving end from all those people, uncle Des? Is that where all the bitterness is coming from? Maybe your pappy was just no good?

Anonymous said...

Desmond, why should the natural desire of immigrants and minorities to advance their collective interests prevent natives and majorities from wanting to advance their own? The Whiteness of these peoples is immaterial - your detractor is right - stop whining.

If "White Nationalism" is not for you, fine, but you stand to gain precisely nothing from constantly provoking division in its ranks.

Anonymous said...

I don't normally check the comments on my old posts, so this is a bit of a surprise. I can only offer the following comments in exchange:

As an anthropologist, my political involvement has been to defend native peoples, primarily those of Canada but also those of other countries (and not simply Western countries). I have no apologies to make for this involvement, since my political positions have not really changed.

I deplore the use of anti-racism to further the agendas of globalization and unrestricted immigration, particularly for settled societies that have never had a history of immigration. This is a recent development and is cloaked in the language of both the political right and the political left.

But the main pressure comes from the corporate right, particularly interests in agribusiness, the slaughterhouse industry, and the service sector in general.

The political left has been in decline throughout most of the Western World. In those countries where it still holds the reins of power (e.g., the Labour Party in Britain), it does so only as a co-opted shell of what it once was. There is really not that much difference -- ideologically, politically, and organizationally --- between the Labour Party in Britain and the Republican Party in the U.S. (or the Conservative Party in Canada). That may sound weird, but that's my distinct impression.

Anonymous said...


The anti-racist who says: "ewwwww", there's a cluster of White people, we have to diversify it by inviting/importing/subsidizing amerinds/asians/africans who will make their boring existence more vibrant, is not motivated by profit. Their motivation is patent genocidal anti-Whitism.

Without such poison-spewing minds and their guilt-inducing narratives damning the European man for everything bad (including corporations) Whites would find it much less difficult to curb corporate greed and prevent their own destruction. Instead many Whites welcome their demotion and demise, again not for profit, but because they rightly perceive it as payback - a richly deserved punishment for the sins of their fathers.

- An anti-anti-racist

Anonymous said... not motivated by profit. Their motivation is patent genocidal anti-Whitism.

How do you explain the transformation of a place like Altoona PA if it's not about profit. Was the motivation patent genocidal anti-Americanism?

"Unions had strong reasons for wanting a foothold within the shops. While safety was not a high priority for any industry in the early 20th century, railroading was particularly dangerous and working conditions were sometimes deplorable. Men working in the foundries complained of their green urine and sweat, and many died from copper poisoning. The air in the erecting shops always had the appearance of being smoky because asbestos floated through the air workers breathed. Before 1900 six out of ten men working as brakemen were killed or injured each year. Furloughs also put railroaders out of work. Tom Lynch, a shop worker, told of how each man had several skills to fall back on when out of work. While some complained about having to use these skills to eke out a living when laid off, Tom did not, declaring, “Hell, I felt safer working in the coal mines than I did on the shop floors!”

Conditions were even worse for the new immigrant workers who began to enter Altoona’s labor force in the early decades of the 20th century. Throughout the 19th century the PRR kept the city white, Protestant, and ethnically centered on the “traditional” Pennsylvania family of English, Scottish, and German descent. The PRR sought to keep Altoona homogeneous by preventing immigrant trains traveling from eastern ports inland to the nation’s major industrial cities from debarking passengers in Altoona.

By the early 20th century, though, the need for labor outweighed any desire for homogeneity. The PRR began to accept and even recruit workers from eastern and southern Europe and African Americans from eastern cities and the South. These new workers often had to accept the least desirable or most dangerous jobs.

According to one popular expression, “You could tell the destiny of a man by the ring on his finger.” If the worker had a Knights of Columbus ring he was destined to be a laborer all his life. However, if the ring was a Mason’s, his future would be in management. Promotions often were based on connections, ethnicity, and race, not on experience and skill. With dangerous working conditions and poor advancement opportunities, immigrant and migrant railroad workers joined the fight against the company-controlled unions and worked to replace them with more effective unions. Company unions continued, though, until 1934, when the Railway Act of 1926 was amended and company unions outlawed. Altoona workers’ sense of independence, however, led many railroaders to choose independent unions even in the early years of the labor movement.

Tensions existed among laborers as well as between labor and management. Xenophobia and racism were pervasive, as it was throughout the nation. The Ku Klux Klan marched through the city in protest over the perceived threat presented by the newly arrived Catholic “Papists.” Each neighborhood had its street gangs, and violence was common. When the PRR furloughed 2,100 workers in 1909, ethnic and economic tensions culminated in a riot. The Altoona Mirror headlines were big and bold. The Mirror reported that a large group of Italian workers converged on a city street-paving company looking for jobs. On the following day the headlines reported a riot that ensued when several hundred furloughed PRR workers who had been long-time residents of the city clashed with the Italians, believing they were more entitled to the available jobs.

While working and living conditions were often difficult, as was the case in many cities, successive groups of immigrants found refuge among others of their own ethnic, religious, and racial origin. The influx of new immigrant and migrant workers began to change the landscape of Altoona. New ethnic neighborhoods formed: Little Italy, Jew Hill, Boogie Bend, Bloody Eighth, and Dutch Hill. Each ethnic group established churches of its own, conducted in its own tongue: Gaelic, Italian, Hungarian, and so forth. By 1936 there were 80 different churches in the city of 80,000. The church was the single most important organization, outside of the PRR, in the lives of most laborers. That same year there were 136 taverns and pubs within the city limits, which provided meeting places for friends, family, and organizations for the discussion of labor and management issues, social causes, neighborhood disputes, and politics.

The cultural practices of Altoona’s residents also began to change. “Hopin’ John” (African American rice and black-eyed peas) found its way onto the dinner table, as did gnocchi (Italian pasta) and haluski (Polish cabbage and noodles). Within a generation “healers” began working across cultural lines and storytellers found favor no matter what their ethnic/racial background. Various cultural practices gradually became a part of the larger culture, in some instances changing altogether and in others maintaining their distinctive character."

Anonymous said...

How do you explain the transformation of a place like Altoona PA if it's not about profit.

I wasn't trying to. There is no doubt material greed explains a great deal of what's going on.

I was pointing out the large number of people to whom profit is secondary or does not matter at all - the ones who disguise their disgust for indigenous Whites behind a mask of false compassion for non-white "migrants" and "refugees", and who do so by ignoring or minimizing any cost to the White communities the interlopers disrupt.

- An anti-anti-racist

Anonymous said...

The position is still tenuous.

Either you believe that the "poison-spewing minds and their guilt-inducing narratives" were absent from the previous mass immigration of ethnic whites, in which case the "American" was still unable to forestall his displacement in the face of rampant desire for cheap labour. Or the poison spewers did exist and therefore there is little difference between the two events, except for point of origin.

Desmond Jones

Anonymous said...

I really liked the book titled "The History and Geography of Human Genes" because it contains very interesting information. I agree with the author in the sense that human beings is only race.