The second Scopes trial

We write a lot about race on this blog because it is the great, unspoken, unsociable elephant in the room that terrifies our politicians. No issue should be avoided as much as race (and other issues) is avoided.

This week, we write about it more than ever before, only partially because the Democrats are gearing up for their 2012 campaign, whose theme will be (not a repeat from every election year since 1962) The Enlightened Progressives Against the Racist Throwbacks to an Elitist, Ignorant, and Pro-white Time.

Although past writing on this blog has covered the biological basis of race, and its importance in determining the genetic abilities and inclinations of individuals, we have often spoken of the scientific gray area in which race exists. Specifically, how do we subdivide a species, and if animals can take multiple evolutionary paths to the same end result, is it possible that a species can arise in multiple places and interbreed without being genetically from the same origin?

Q: What is the definition of ‘race’ or ‘subspecies?’

The terms ‘race’ and ‘subspecies’ are most often used synonymously [1,2] although the former is normally used when talking about human populations. When a distinction is made, ‘race’ generally implies a lower level of differentiation, but because this term is not commonly used in the recent non-human literature, ‘race’ and ‘subspecies’ are used interchangeably throughout this paper.

Much of the debate over the existence of human races stems from how one chooses to define ‘race’ (or ‘subspecies’). No realistic definition can avoid using qualitative terms, yet these invariably invite disagreement in their application: “a group of individuals in a species showing closer genetic relationships within the group than to members of other such groups”[3]; “essentially discontinuous sets of individuals”[4]; “conspecific populations that differ from each other morphologically”[5]; “genetically non-discrete (confluent) populational entities”[6]; “geographically circumscribed, genetically differentiated populations”[7]; or groups identified “by the usual criterion that most individuals of such populations can be allocated correctly by inspection.”[8] Compounding the confusion, still others employ the term ‘race’ in a way more akin to ‘species’ than to ‘subspecies.’[9]

In response to questionable interpretations of the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and to help ensure the evolutionary significance of populations deemed ‘subspecies,’ a set of criteria was outlined in the early 1990s by John C. Avise, R. Martin Ball, Jr.[10], Stephen J. O’Brien and Ernst Mayr [11] which is as follows: “members of a subspecies would share a unique, geographic locale, a set of phylogenetically concordant phenotypic characters, and a unique natural history relative to other subdivisions of the species. Although subspecies are not reproductively isolated, they will normally be allopatric and exhibit recognizable phylogenetic partitioning.” Furthermore, “evidence for phylogenetic distinction must normally come from the concordant distributions of multiple, independent genetically based traits.”[12] This is known as the phylogeographic subspecies definition, and a review of recent conservation literature will show that these principles have gained wide acceptance.


The arbitrary division of an interbreeding, genetically unstructured group will result in subgroups that are genetically indistinguishable, whereas populations that evolve more or less independently for some length of time will accumulate genetic differences (divergent gene frequencies, private alleles, etc.) such that they “exhibit recognizable phylogenetic partitioning.” – John Goodrum, “The Race FAQ”

For years, we relied on the simple definition that a species was any group of animals that could breed amongst each other. If they’re that closely genetically related, we reasoned, they had a common origin and were basically the same thing.

This allowed us to make tidy assumptions about racial and ethnic groups: if we’re all related, and part of the same species, “race” must be inconvenient clusters of traits that really have no bearing on anything, because since we’re all of the same species, we must have a common ancestor.

But now the spectre of convergent evolution, where multiple paths lead to similar appearances and in some cases genetic compatibility, rears its head:

Dr. Roland Kays, the Museum’s curator of mammals, was one of 15 other national and international scientists who collaborated on the study that used unprecedented genetic technology, developed from the dog genome, to survey the global genetic diversity in dogs, wolves and coyotes. The study used over 48,000 genetic markers, making it the most detailed genomic study of any wild vertebrate species.

The research results are especially relevant to wolves and coyotes in the Northeast. The study shows a gradient of hybridization in wolves, with pure wolves in western states and increasing hybridization as you move east. Wolves in the western Great Lakes area averaged a genetic makeup of 85 percent wolf and 15 percent coyote,

My wife saw one of these wolf-coyote hybrids in Racine, Wisconsin a dozen years ago: it looked big, assertive, and scary like a wolf, but was fairly solitary, like a coyote. In Southern California, in contrast, there are no wolves, and coyotes furtively skulk around by themselves.

while wolves in Algonquin Park in eastern Ontario averaged 58 percent wolf, and the ‘red wolf’ in North Carolina was only 24 percent wolf and 76 percent coyote. Populations of eastern coyotes, which only colonized the region in the last 60 years, were also minor hybrids, with some introgression of genetic material from wolves and domestic dogs. For example, Northeastern coyotes, including those in New York State, had genetic material primarily from coyotes (82 percent), with a minor contribution from dogs (9 percent) and wolves (9 percent). …

Kays said “In most cases this breeding across species lines seems to have happened at times when humans were hunting eastern wolves to extinction, and the few remaining animals could find no proper mates, so took the best option they could get.” Kays continues, “The exceptions were an older hybridization between coyotes and wolves in the western Great Lakes dating from 600-900 years ago, and a coyote-dog hybridization in the eastern U.S. about 50 years ago, when coyote were first colonizing eastern forests.” – Steve Sailer, “Wolves, coyotes, and dogs: species or races?”

Denying racial differences has been a pet delusion of the left for a century now.

Never mind that in doing so you deny all ethnic groups a sense of pride. “My ancestors tamed the mighty forest, slayed the sabretooth tiger, and survived assaults by many invaders.” Oh, no they didn’t — you evolved in the suburbs like the rest of us. You’re equal just like us, not exceptional.

In another time, it would be seen as an insult. “Your ancestors shopped at Wal-mart!” Oh yeah? Stab!

The feeling is that if we deny our human differences, we deny our sources of conflict, and therefore will live in peace. Gliding over the fact that peace as a goal is like saying we never want to resolve underlying conflict, and that it’s more likely that our sources of conflict are our similarities (wanting the same thing) rather than our differences, it is a pleasant enough fiction.

We have made a social climate where we are denying not only what each of us sees with his or her own eyes, but what science tells us. It is reminiscent of this sad period in American history:

The early 1920s found social patterns in chaos. Traditionalists, the older Victorians, worried that everything valuable was ending. Younger modernists no longer asked whether society would approve of their behavior, only whether their behavior met the approval of their intellect. Intellectual experimentation flourished. Americans danced to the sound of the Jazz Age, showed their contempt for alcoholic prohibition, debated abstract art and Freudian theories. In a response to the new social patterns set in motion by modernism, a wave of revivalism developed, becoming especially strong in the American South.

Who would dominate American culture–the modernists or the traditionalists?


William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic candidate for President and a populist, led a Fundamentalist crusade to banish Darwin’s theory of evolution from American classrooms. Bryan’s motivation for mounting the crusade is unclear. It is possible that Bryan, who cared deeply about equality, worried that Darwin’s theories were being used by supporters of a growing eugenics movement that was advocating sterilization of “inferior stock.” More likely, the Great Commoner came to his cause both out a concern that the teaching of evolution would undermine traditional values he had long supported and because he had a compelling desire to remain in the public spotlight–a spotlight he had occupied since his famous “Cross of Gold” speech at the 1896 Democratic Convention. Bryan, in the words of columnist H. L. Mencken, who covered the Scopes Trial, transformed himself into a “sort of Fundamentalist Pope.” By 1925, Bryan and his followers had succeeded in getting legislation introduced in fifteen states to ban the teaching of evolution. In February, Tennessee enacted a bill introduced by John Butler making it unlawful “to teach any theory that denies the story of divine creation as taught by the Bible and to teach instead that man was descended from a lower order of animals.”


Opening statements pictured the trial as a titanic struggle between good and evil or truth and ignorance. Bryan claimed that “if evolution wins, Christianity goes.” Darrow argued, “Scopes isn’t on trial; civilization is on trial.” The prosecution, Darrow contended, was “opening the doors for a reign of bigotry equal to anything in the Middle Ages.” To the gasps of spectators, Darrow said Bryan was responsible for the “foolish, mischievous and wicked act.” Darrow said that the anti-evolution law made the Bible “the yardstick to measure every man’s intellect, to measure every man’s intelligence, to measure every man’s learning.” It was classic Darrow, and the press–mostly sympathetic to the defense–loved it.


On Thursday, July 16, the defense called its first witness, Dr. Maynard Metcalf, a zoologist from the Johns Hopkins University. The prosecution objected, arguing that the testimony was irrelevant to Scopes’ guilt or innocence under the statue. – UMKC

History repeats itself, doesn’t it? Today the zoologists are defending evolution from another crusade of religious fervor, except this time the holy book is the doctrine of equality which presumes that to have political equality, we must all be the same inside.

That doctrine is defending against our modern scientific knowledge that if the genes are different, the behaviors and abilities are probably different too; while said knowledge is controversial with race, that’s a small fraction of how controversial it is when applied to social classes or nationalities.

At the original Scopes trial, evolutionists got accused of “bigotry” and being ignorant throwbacks to the middle ages.

The roles are reversed, however — the “traditionalists” now are the left, who is defending its 1968-era doctrine of universal equality, and it is defending it against science. Since science has found zero evidence that all human beings are identical, the doctrine of equality is bound to fall — and the new evolutionists are those who accept this fact.

Like the original Scopes trial, the new one is a showboat for those who want to curry favor with the dominant religious fervor, which is equality. They want to do that for political gain, because convincing other people that you’re a nice guy because you’re an altruist is how you build a broad coalition in a modern democracy:

Sociologists never rejected Karl Marx’s brilliant breakdown of society into classes. But his idea of an upper class–the owners of “the means of production”–and their satellites, the bourgeoisie, in a struggle with the masses, the working class, was too rigid to describe competition among human beast in the 20th century. Weber’s entirely novel concept of “status groups” proved to be both more flexible and more penetrating psychologically.


Status groups, Weber contended, are the creators of all new styles of life. In his heyday, the turn of the 19th century, the most stylish new status sphere, no more than 30 years old, was known as la vie boheme, the bohemian life. The bohemians were artists plus the intellectuals and layabouts in their orbit. They did their best to stand bourgeois propriety on its head through rakish dishabille, louder music, more wine, great gouts of it, ostentatious cohabitation, and by flaunting their poverty as a virtue. And why? Because they all came from the bourgeoisie themselves originally and wanted nothing more desperately than to distinguish themselves from it. They seldom mentioned the upper class, Marx’s owners of “the means of production.” They seldom mentioned Marx’s working class, except in sentimental appreciation of the workers’ occasional show of rebelliousness. No, as the late Jean-Francois Revel said of mid-20th century French intellectuals, the bohemians’ sole object was to separate themselves from the mob, the rabble, which today is known as the middle class. – Tom Wolfe, “The Human Beast”

The game today is not to show your allegiance to the Bible, but your allegiance to what the intellectuals and bohemians think is important, which is the doctrine of equality.

For that doctrine to exist, it must deny parts of science, including the nature of race, the nature of subspecies and — perhaps most importantly — the heritability of traits like intelligence and moral character.

But if better nutrition, higher levels of stimulation, and lower infectious disease load are at least partially responsible for the trend of rising IQ scores, we should expect improvements in scores across the more impoverished areas of the third world which are able to move out of poverty.

How much of an improvement? One possible answer would be to look at the children of affluent persons in third world nations, as a “preview of coming scores.” Rich people’s children are generally provided with the best medical care, education, and generally more intellectually stimulating environments. Look at the top end of performance for the most advantaged children in these countries. What do you find?

You will find the “gifted” and “advantaged” in countries across Subsaharan Africa topping out at 1 standard deviation below average populations of the advanced world and about 2 standard deviations below gifted children in the advanced world. In most of tribal Asia, gifted and advantaged groups top out at roughly 1 standard deviation below their counterparts in advanced countries — higher than Africans but significantly lower on average than East Asians and Europeans.

Similarly, you can look at the segment of African American children in the US which is most advantaged and gifted, and find persistent IQ score gaps between this group and far less advantaged European and East Asian children — who nonetheless score higher on IQ and aptitude tests than their more advantaged black cohorts.

It is wrong to assume that the Flynn Effect will raise the overall average human IQ score of Earth, and it is wrong to assume that it will equalise IQ scores between population groups which have maintained stable and long-lasting differences in IQ scores over time.

Whenever nutrition, education, medical care, and intellectual stimulation are roughly equal, the genetic component in bounding intelligence comes to the forefront. – Al Fin, “Flynn Effect” Contradicts Heritability of Intelligence?

Our preferred modern illusion is that everyone is born equal in ability, and each person loses some ability based on their circumstances.

For example, if you’re born without rich parents, or with any disadvantage whatsoever, that took away your ability to be rich, beautiful, famous and successful.

In reality no one believes this. We all know the truth: some are more competent than others at both particular tasks, and some at life itself.

We do not have a problem making fun of someone who is stupid. But if that person is retarded, from a minority or protected gender-group, or impoverished, and we feel bad about it. Maybe it “wasn’t their fault.”

This does not change the fact that our genes determine who we are, and what our abilities are. This fact however is taboo in modern society.

Again, race is the smaller battle here. The bigger battle is within an ethnic group, say white people, where the poor, clueless, drunk, miserable, bored, sad, distracted, lonely, lost and resentful band together to argue they were robbed of their potential by outside forces.

This is why the taboo on genetics is so powerful. People do not want to believe that they were born to a certain role and not above it. That some are born geniuses, and kings, and that those tend to work very hard to develop those skills, but without that inborn talent, hard work does not make “normal people” into kings and geniuses.

As a result, we created the fallacy that we are all one species and race does not exist; this is a subset of our impression that class does not exist, and that people who are congenitally poor are not radically different in intelligence and other genetic factors from other social classes.

I believe that the “Bell Curve” wars of the 1990s, over race differences in intelligence, will seem genteel and short-lived compared to the coming arguments over ethnic differences in moralized traits. I predict that this “war” will break out between 2012 and 2017.

There are reasons to hope that we’ll ultimately reach a consensus that does not aid and abet racism. I expect that dozens or hundreds of ethnic differences will be found, so that any group – like any person – can be said to have many strengths and a few weaknesses, all of which are context-dependent. Furthermore, these cross-group differences are likely to be small when compared to the enormous variation within ethnic groups and the enormous and obvious effects of cultural learning. But whatever consensus we ultimately reach, the ways in which we now think about genes, groups, evolution and ethnicity will be radically changed by the unstoppable progress of the human genome project. – Edge

What Haidt is talking about applies to ethnic groups as well as castes within the same ethnic group.

  • If your ancestors did not leave the verdant tropical land where getting food was as easy as picking fruit or snaring bush meat, they did not develop agriculture, advanced language, and the moral character necessary to collaborate with others but not put up with parasites.
  • If your ancestors always worked for other people, and did not leave the comfort of functional linear roles for the responsibility of independent homesteading/farming, business ownership, a military career or leadership at a business, they did not develop the ability for critical thinking and independent action with a moral center.

What our moderns want us to deny: the above traits are encoded in the genes, just as the lack of them is encoded in the genes.

All of this comes back to our mythos that race does not exist, and social caste does not exist; instead, we should realize that not only does evolution branch and favor those who took risks, but also, convergent biology means that human races are radically different and may have different origins:

A Duke research team has found that lichen that seem identical in all outward appearances and produce the same internal chemicals are in fact two different species, one living in North America and one in Australia. They’re an example of “convergent evolution,” in which two species evolve separately but end up looking very similar, like the Tasmanian wolf and the American wolf.


Hodkinson and Lendemer used this analysis and computer modeling of the lichens’ evolution to digitally reconstruct a family tree. The tree clearly showed that the Australian lichen evolved on a branch completely separate from the North American lichen, suggesting that the organisms are separate species. – Science Daily

As we find out more, this should be an exciting return to the Scopes trial. Do we trust knowledge and learning, or do we insist on upholding the prevailing orthodoxy of universal equality granted by either a creator or some mystical process that magically makes us all equal?

It’s clear which is more popular: the comfortable illusion.

But which opens a pathway to a new future?

Share on FacebookShare on RedditTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Recommended Reading