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Why Purely Physical Things Will Never Be Able to Think: The Irreducibility of Intentionality to Physical States
What do “normativity” and “intentionality” mean?
What “normativity” means has implications for many things in philosophy and science. Normativity has been distinguished between “semantic normativity” and “conceptual normativity” (Skorupski, 2007). On the semantic version, “any normative predicate is definitionally reducible to a reason predicate” and on the conceptual version “the sole normative ingredient in any normative concept is the concept of a reason” (Skorupski, 2007). Skorupski rejects the semantic version and holds to the conceptual version. The conceptual version does hold value, so I will be operating on this definition in this article. “Intentionality” is the power of mental states to be “about” things. My mental state right now is to write this article on the normativity of psychological traits, so I have a desire to perform this action, making it normative.
Regarding the mind-body problem, the meaning of normativity entails that what is normative is not reducible to (physical) dispositions. Human psychology is intentional. What is intentional is normative. Intentions are done “on purpose”, that is, they’re done “for a reason.” If something is done for a reason, then there is a goal that the agent desired by performing their action. When someone performs an action, we ask “Why?”, and the answer is they performed the action for a reason. “Why did I go to work?”, because I wanted to make money. “Why did I write down my thoughts?”, because I wanted a written record of what I was thinking at a certain moment in time. So how the normativity of intentionality comes into play here is this—if agents perform actions for reasons, and reasons are due to beliefs, goals, and desires to bring about some end by an agent, then what explains why an agent performed an action is their reason TO perform the action.
When one “does something for a reason”, they intend to “do something”, that is they perform an action “on purpose”, meaning they have a desired outcome that the action they carried out will hopefully, for the agent, manifest in reality. The best example I can think of is murder. Murder is the intentional killing of an individual. For whatever reason, the agent that committed the act of murder has a reason they want the person they killed dead. Contrast this with manslaughter, which is “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice.” There are two kinds of manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter which would happen in the heat of the moment, think a passion killing. The other kind being the unintentional killing of a human being. This distinction between murder and manslaughter is, basically, down to what an agent INTENDS TO DO. Thus, one is a murderer if they set out one night to kill an individual, that is if they plan it out (have a goal to murder); and one commits manslaughter if they did not intend to kill the other individual, let’s say two people have a fight and one punches the other and the hit person hits their head on the curb and dies.
Now that I have successfully stated what normativity means, and have distinguished between intentional and unintentional action (murder and manslaughter), I must discuss the distinction between intentions and dispositions.
The normativity of psychological states
The problem of action is how to distinguish what an agent does for reasons, goals, or desires, and what merely happens to them (Paul, 2021). I have argued before that reasons, goals, beliefs, and desires (what an agent does) make the distinction between antecedent conditions which then cause an agent’s movement but were not consciously done (what happens to them).
We know what intentions are, but what are dispositions? Behavior is dispositional, so Katz’s considerations have value here:
a disposition [is] a pattern of behavior exhibited frequently … in the absence of coercion … constituting a habit of mind under some conscious and voluntary control … intentional and oriented to broad goals” (1993b, 16).
There is a wealth of philosophical literature which argues that intentions are irreducible to dispositions (e.g. Kripke, 1980; Bilgrami, 2005, 2006; also see Weber, 2008). Intentional states are, then, irreducible to physical or functional explanations. It then follows that intentional states can’t be explained/studied by science. If intentional states can’t be explained/studied by science, then intentional states are special, indeed they are unique to agents (minded beings).
In the conclusion to Self-Knowledge and Resentment, Akeel Bilgrami describes his pincer argument using a Fregean extension of Moore’s non-naturalism:
Via a discussion of an imaginary subject wholly lacking agency, it was shown how deeply the very notion of thought or intentionality turns on possessing the point of view of agency, of subjectivity, the point of view of the first, rather than third, person. And it was there shown via an argument owing to a Fregean extension of Moore’s anti-naturalism that such a picture of intentionality required ceasing to see intentional subjects in wholly dispositional terns and, indeed, requires seeing intentional states such as beliefs and desires as themselves normative states or commitments. When so viewed, intentional states are very different from how they appear to a range of philosophers who think of them along normative lines, such as [Donald] Davidson. When so viewed, they are not only irreducible to and non-identical with the physical and causal states of the subjects; they cannot even be clearly assessed to be dependent on such states in the specific ways that philosophers like to capture with such terms as ‘supervenience’. (There are of course all sorts of other dependencies that intentional states have on the states of the central nervous system, which do not amount to anything like the relations that go by the name of ‘supervenience’.) This is because when they are so viewed, they are essentially first-person phenomena, phenomena whose claims to supervenient dependence on third person states such as physical or causal properties are either stateable or deniable. (Therefore, not assesable.) (Bilgrami, 2006: 291-292)
Intentionality is a sufficient and necessary condition for mentality according to Brentano. And intentionality along with normativity are 2 out of 5 of the “marks of the mental” (Pernu, 2017). It can even be said to be the aboutedness of the mind to a thing other than itself. If I talk about something or state that I have a desire to do something, this is the aboutness of intentional states. So mental states that are directed at things are said to be intentional states. Intentionality requires goals, beliefs, and desires, so this designates the intentional stance as one of action, which is distinguished from behavior. Since the mental is normative (Zangwill, 2005), then, since we have the problem of normativity for physicalism, this is yet another reason to reject dualism and to accept some kind of dualism.
Goal-directedness is another mark of intentionality. When one acts intentionally, they act in order to bring about a goal they have in mind about something. Take the example of murder I gave above. Knowing that murder is the intentional killing of a human being, the murderer has the goal in mind to end the life of the other person. They act in accordance with their desired to bring about the goal they have in mind.
Since psychological states are intentional states, and intentional states are normative (Wedgewood, 2007; Kazemi, 2022), then psychological states are normative. Since mental states that have content are normative then we cannot reductively explain mind. Thus, Yoo’s (2004) discussion of the normativity of intentionality holds value:
Thus, the reason why thought and behavior cannot be explained in terms of non-intentional, physical, vocabulary comes down to a certain “normative element” constitutive of our interpretation and attributions of the propositional attitudes. Clearly this normative element plays a pivotal role. But in spite of its significance, it is highly obscure and insufficiently understood. Indeed, there have been no serious attempts to systematically examine what, exactly, the normative element amounts to.
As Davidson points out, the normative element ultimately has its roots in the object of the interpreter’s inquiry, which is another mind. Unlike black holes and quarks, which do not conform to norms, let alone the norms of rationality, a mind, by its very nature, has to conform to the norms of rationality. Otherwise, we are not dealing with a mind, should no or too few norms of rationality apply. Black holes and quarks certainly conform to laws – nomological principles – that support statements like “Light ought to bend in a black hole,” but such uses of “ought” have no normative implications (see Brandom 1994, ch. 1). The mental states that make up a mind, on the other hand, are such that they bear normative relations among each other, since their very contents are individuated by the norms of rationality (which is clearly stated in the third account). And the observer of a person’s mind must discern in the other’s bodily movements and vocal utterances a rational pattern that is itself a pattern to which the observer (attributor, appraiser) must subscribe. Hence, insofar as the norms of rationality are reflexive – they constrain both the mental states of the interpreted mind as well as the process of interpretation engaged by the interpreter herself – this aspect of the normative fully satisfies the third constraint.
Many arguments exist which conclude that the mental cannot be explained in terms of words that refer only to physical properties, and this is one of them. And since the mental is normative, this is yet another reason why there cannot—and indeed why their never will be—reductive explanations of the mental to the physical.
The irreducibility of intentionality
If physicalism is true, then intentionality would reduce, or be identical to, something physical. Then we should have an explanation of intentionality in physical terms. However, I would say this is not possible. (See Heikinheimo’s Rule-Following and the Irreducibility of Intentional States.) It’s not possible because physical systems can’t intend, that is they can’t act intentionally.
The argument is a simple one: Only beings with minds can intend. This is because mind allows a being to think. Since the mind isn’t physical, then it would follow that a physical system can’t intend to do something—since it wouldn’t have the capacity to think. Take an alarm system. The alarm system does not intend to sound alarms when the system is tripped. It’s merely doing what it was designed to do, it’s not intending to carry out the outcome. The alarm system is a physical thing made up of physical parts. So we can then liken this to, say, A.I.. A.I. is made up of physical parts. So A.I. (a computer, a machine) can’t think. However, individual physical parts are mindless and no collection of mindless things counts as a mind. Thus, a mind isn’t a collection of physical parts. Physical systems are ALWAYS a complicated system of parts but the mind isn’t. So it seems to follow that nothing physical can ever have a mind.
Physical parts of the natural world lack intentionality. That is, they aren’t “about” anything. It is impossible for an arrangement of physical particles to be “about” anything—meaning no arrangement of intentionality-less parts will ever count as having a mind. So a mind can’t be an arrangement of physical particles, since individual particles are mindless. Since mind is necessary for intentionality, it follows that whatever doesn’t have a mind cannot intend to do anything, like nonhuman animals. It is human psychology that is normative, and since the normative ingredient for any normative concept is the concept of reason, and only beings with minds can have reasons to act, then human psychology would thusly be irreducible to anything physical. Indeed, physicalism is incompatible with intentionality (Johns, 2020). The problem of intentionality is therefore yet another kill-shot for physicalism. It is therefore impossible for intentional states (i.e. cognition) to be reduced to, or explained by, physicalist theories/physical things.
This is similar to Lynn Baker’s (1981) argument in Why Computers Can’t Act (note how in her conclusion she talks about language—the same would therefore hold for nonhuman animals):
P1: In order to be an agent, an entity must be able to formulate intentions.
P2: In order to formulate intentions, an entity must have an irreducible first-person perspective.
P3: Machines lack an irreducible first-person perspective.
C: Therefore, machines are not agents.
So machines cannot engage in intentional behavior of any kind. For example, they cannot tell lies, since lying involves the intent to deceive; they cannot try to avoid mistakes, since trying to avoid mistakes entails intending to conform to some normative rule. They cannot be malevolent, since having no intentions at all, they can hardly have wicked intentions. And, most significantly, computers cannot use language to make assertions, ask questions, or make promises, etc., since speech acts are but a species of intentional action. Thus, we may conclude that a computer can never have a will of its own.
So PP’s “depression” about ChatGPT “scoring” 11 points on his little (non-construct valid) test is irrelevant. It’s a machine and, as successfully argued, machines will NEVER have the capacity to think/act/intend.
What does this mean for a scientific explanation of human psychology?
The arguments made here point to one conclusion—since intentions don’t reduce to the physical and functional states of humans (like neurophysiology; Rose, 2005), then it is impossible for science to explain intentions, since what is normative isn’t reducible to, or identical with, physical properties. This is another arrow in the quiver of the anti-physicalist/dualist to show that there is something more than the physical—there is an irreducible SELF or MIND and we humans are the only minded beings. Science can’t explain the human mind and, along with it, the intentions that arrive from a deliberating mind. This is also an argument against Benjamin Libet’s experiments in which he concludes that the subjects’ brain activity preceded their actions, that is, it is the brain that initiates action. This view, however, is false, since the (minded) agent is what initiates action. Libet is therefore guilty of the mereological fallacy. Freely-willed processes are therefore not initiated by the brain (Radder and Meynen, 2012).
Elon Musk and Sam Harris have warned of a “robot rebellion” like what occurred in The Terminator. Though, since what I’ve argued here is true—that purely physical things lack minds, that is they can’t intend or think—then such worries should rightly stay in the realm of sci-fi. The implication is clear—since purely physical things cannot intend, and humans can intend, then there is an irreducible SELF or MIND which allows us to intend. The claim, then, that the human brain is a computer is clearly false. It then follows that humans aren’t purely physical; there is a mental and physical aspect to humans—that is, there are two substances that make us up, the mental and the physical, and it is clear that M (the mental) is irreducible to P (the physical). Sentient machines are, luckily, a myth. It’s just not possible for scientists to imbue a machine with a mind since machines are purely physical and minds aren’t. John Searle’ s Chinese Room Argument, too, is an argument against strong A.I.. Machines will never become conscious since consciousness isn’t physical.
This is yet another argument against the scientific study of the mind/self and, of course, against psychology and hereditarianism. This is then added to the articles that argue against the overall hereditarian program in psychology, and psychology more broadly: Conceptual Arguments Against Hereditarianism; Reductionism, Natural Selection, and Hereditarianism; and Why a Science of the Mind is Impossible. For if the main aspect of IQ test-taking is thinking, thinking is cognition, cognition is intentional and therefore psychological, it follows that since there can be no explanations of intentional states in terms of physical vocabulary, and if cognition—being a psychological trait—is normative, then the conclusion is, again, that hereditarianism and psychology fail their main goal. It is impossible.
P1: Dualism is the belief that the mind is a nonphysical entity that is distinct from the body.
P2: If dualism is true, then the mind cannot be studied by science since science can only study physical processes and phenomena.
C: Thus, since dualism is true, the mind cannot be studied by science. (modus tollens, P1, P2)
P1 defines what dualism is. P2 states that if dualism is true then it cannot be studied by science since science can only study what is physical and it’s processes. So the conclusion follows from P1 and P2 using modus tollens, since dualism is true then the mind cannot be studied by science. Evidence and reasons for each premise will be given in the body of this article.
The relationship between the mind and body—termed “the mind-body problem”—has puzzled us for many millennia. Over this time period, many philosophical theories/arguments have been made claiming to solve the problem. From physicalist, to dualist, to eliminativist, to idealist, and everything in between, many arguments have been mounted that claim to have solved the problem. The solution (or lack thereof) to the problem has implications on what we think of the mind and how—if it is indeed possible—to study the mind using the principles of science. In this article, I will review some arguments for physicalism of the mind, some hereditarian thoughts on the mind (since hereditarianism is a form of mind-brain identity theory), and finally, I will argue that if the mind is not a physical object then it cannot be (1) selected for by the environmental filter that “selects for/against” deleterious/advantageous traits and (2) an object of scientific study. Mind is distinct from body, making it outside the realm of scientific explanation. Psychology is said to be the scientific study of the mind, but if what I argue here is true, then there cannot be a science of the mind as the mind is immaterial.
The nature of mind
What is the mind? The mind is, very simply, what allows our mental life—it’s a set of mental faculties which allow our mental life. Concepts of the mind are similar cross-culturally in 5 different cultures and these concepts are present by mid-childhood but there were differences in how the social-emotional concepts were thought of (Weisman et al, 2021). Physicalists claim that since the mind is just the brain, then if we study the brain then we can study the mind—what allows our mental life.
On functionalism about the mind, the mind is what the brain does just like digestion is what the stomach does. That is, digestion is just the result of physical processes that occur when one is hungry and then eats so then the mind is what the brain does and this mental activity arises when the agent sees physical things. However, minds are intentionally constituted, and digestion is not so this analogy fails.
So the implicit claim here is that there can basically be a physiology of the mind on functionalism. Functionalist accounts of the mind suggest that mental particulars could be physical and so by studying the physiological states of the brain, we can then study the mind. Since physiology is a result of the interactions between mental life and what the agent experiences/sees then we can study this process scientifically. But there are problems with the functionalist account of mind.
The two main issues are (1) functionalism can be seen to be a type of mind-brain identity (which is the claim that mental states are merely brain states and so the mind is identical to the brain and its physiological processes; Smart, 2007) and (2) since all formal thinking is determinate and no physical process can be determinate then formal thinking cannot be physical or a result of physical processes, which then refutes functionalism of the mind (Ross, 1992; see also Feser, 2013). The argument can be formulated like this:
1) All formal thinking is incompossibly determinate
2) No physical process or functions of physical processes are incompossibly determinate
∴Thoughts aren’t a physical or functional process; no physical process is formal thinking; therefore functionalism and physicalism are false
The claim that the mind is what the brain does entails that mind reduces to brain and so the brain is the thing that thinks and feels and decides. This, however, is an example of the mereological fallacy (Kitchen, 2015). This kind of conceptual confusion arises when one imputes psychological predicates to the part (in this case the brain) when they actually apply to the whole (the self, “I”, the person). Brains don’t think, humans think. Brains don’t get sad, happy, or angry. Humans do. Brains are needed to think, to be happy, sad or angry. But this does not entail that brains are “feeling” the emotions or thinking. Psychologist Richard Haier has a lecture titled The Intelligent Brain, and this shows that he falls prey to the mereological fallacy. The brain is the thing that allows us to think, this is true. But to IQ-ists like Haier, it is the “quality” of the brain (whatever that would mean) that would dictate IQ scores. (This claim can be evidenced by looking at Haier’s brain imaging studies and attempts to correlate/localize aspects of cognition to fMRI readings and similar technologies along with his 2016 book—The Neuroscience of Intelligence. But we cannot localize parts of the brain to aspects of our cognition using meta-analyses of fMRI and IQ studies, see Uttal, 2012, 2014.) Hereditarians fall into this same conceptual confusion about the relationship to the mind and the brain, which I will review below.
Cognitive scientists, it is said, have been “implicit” dualists; that is, what they write can be construed as having dualist sympathies and that they are guilty of the mereological fallacy (Bennett and Hacker, 2004; Smit and Hacker, 2014; Kitchen, 2015; Boyles and Garrison, 2017). The mind is NOT merely the brain, as many have claimed. And if one does make that claim then they are guilty of the mereological fallacy.
The physicalist argument for mind-brain identity and functionalism is therefore refuted on a priori grounds. Since physical states are indeterminate, that means that there is nothing about a particular physical state that would tell you exactly what it would/could be and it could in fact be many incompossible forms. The argument shows that the mind is non-physical and if it is non-physical then it cannot be studied by physical sciences.
Dualism is true
If dualism is true, then attempts at a science of the mind are impossible. The immateriality of the mind can be proven a priori. Empirical evidence, then, is irrelevant to a priori, conceptual arguments. Conceptual arguments are based on logical coherence and not empirical evidence.
Thomas Nagel (2012), with the publication of his Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False, set off a firestorm with his arguments against Darwinism (as did Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini, 2009; see Evan, 2014). Nagel argues that the natural and social sciences cannot explain the existence of the mind and so we must revise our conception of nature. Nagel’s (2012: 23) argument is:
But if the mental is not itself merely physical, it cannot be fully explained by physical science. And then, as I shall argue, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that those aspects of our physical constitution that bring with them the mental cannot fully be explained by physical science either. If evolutionary biology is a physical theory—as it is generally taken to be—then it cannot account for the appearance of consciousness and other phenomena that are not physically reducible. So if mind is a product of biological evolution—if organisms with mental life are not miraculous anomalies but an integral part of nature—then biology cannot be a purely physical science.
Mind is not a product of biological evolution since it is not physical, but if we accept physicalist premises then biology is something more than a physical science. I don’t think many physicalists would accept this. The first argument in this passage is sound and it establishes the fact that what is not physically reducible (consciousness) cannot be explained by science. If science cannot study what is immaterial, then it cannot explain what is immaterial. So science therefore cannot explain the mind. Since (some forms of) materialism requires reductionism and reductionism is false, then materialism cannot explain the mind. The argument has force against, of course, evolutionary psychology as well. Along with being a field full of just-so stories, even if we disregard that, since the object of their “study” isn’t physical, then we cannot explain it using scientific principles and so, natural selection about the mind fails which then refutes neo-Darwinian hereditarian theories of the mind and the evolution of racial differences in mind, as well.
Of course, the physical being a necessary pre-condition for human mindedness matters, but it is not a sufficient condition to explain our mental life (Gabriel, 2017). The claim that the mind can be explained scientifically is, also, basically scientism, which is the claim that we can only derive knowledge from our 5 senses. Some arguments that argue for the physicality of mind state that if brain damage occurs then the mind is, too, affected and this proves that the mind has a physical basis. This, however, is expected on a dualist account as well. Scientists (physiologists) can study physiological states, but since the mind isn’t simply the brain’s physiology—that is, since the mind is not identical to physical or functional states (i.e., the mind is not simply what the brain does just like digestion is what the stomach does)—then since the arguments given above prove the immateriality of mind, mind is outside of the realm of scientific study.
Scott Brisbane argues a case against physicalism and for a form of substance dualism. Using modus ponens, he argues that a physicalist would try to argue that: If we are the result of natural evolutionary forces, then physicalism is true. However on the modus ponens form, if we are the result of natural evolutionary forces, then physicalism is true.
Yet, placing talks of biological origins aside, consider this evolutionary argument framed in the modus ponens form:
1. If we are the result of naturalistic, evolutionary forces, then physicalism is true.
2. Humans are merely the result of naturalistic, evolutionary processes.
3. Therefore, physicalism is true.
Despite differing words, physicalism is assumed for both sides in the first premise, which clearly begs the question. Yet the dualist could turn the argument around to be more favourable:
1. If we are the result of naturalistic, evolutionary forces, then physicalism is true.
2. Physicalism is not true.
3. Therefore, we are not the result of naturalistic evolutionary processes.
If evidence for a non-physical mind is good, then perhaps the latter modus tollens form of the argument should be embraced?
Now, the thing is, we are not simply just bodies or just brains (which is why Markus Gabriel’s (2017) book I am not a Brain is important reading here). If we are not simply bodies or brains, then there is an aspect of our constitution that is not physical. If there is an aspect of our constitution that is not physical, then physicalism is false. If physicalism is false, then science cannot study the mind since the mind is immaterial.
Robledo-Cardona (2021) argues for what he terms “biological materialism”—which is an attempt to naturalize/biologicize the mind. The claim is that consciousness is an evolved biological mechanism that was naturally selected for. He argues that consciousness is a biological mechanism that is composed of parts and organizations—neurons and wiring, respectively. (This is like what Bennett and Hacker call “neural materialism.”) Reading this paper, the author assumes that there is something “it is like” to be certain animals (it is true that there is something that “it is like” to be certain animals) and that this “what-it’s-likeness” is selected-for by natural selection. This assumption is false, since only physical things can be selected, “what-it’s-likeness” isn’t physical, and no argument the author made undercuts any argument made by Fodor and Piatteli-Palmarini (2009). He assumes that natural selection causes biological mechanisms.
Under Robledo-Cardona’s (2021) biological materialism, “a man is a sum of physical objects that is more than an aggregate of parts since these parts are organized. The same would apply to consciousness: a biological mechanism that consists of both parts (neurons) and organization (wiring).” But if we take “Man” to mean a “self”, if we take the self to be “I”, if we take “I” to be simple and not composed of proper parts, and if our brain contains proper parts, then “I” am not my brain and by studying the brain science is not studying “I”, it is only studying a part of “I” that cannot be reduced. “I” cannot be reduced, nor can it be divisible into parts since it is simple (Barnett, 2010). Barnett’s argument from simplicity can be formualted like this:
I am simple; I contain no proper parts (there is no such thing as half an “I”); but my brain contains proper parts (that is, my brain is divisible, there is such a thing as half a brain); therefore “I” am not my brain.
This argument is like Descartes argument from divisibility: My brain can be divided but my mind cannot. If my brain can be divided and my mind cannot, then it follows that my mind is not identical to my brain; the mind is distinct from the brain (that is it is a distinct subtance). “I”—that is, the bearer of mental states—cannot be divided even though my body and its parts can.
Adults are intuitive mind-brain dualists (Forstmann et al, 2015) and people—including children—are overwhelmingly mind-brain dualists (Joubert, 2016). Although this isn’t evidence that dualism is true, I think it is quite suggestive that dualism is intuitive to humans.
The self is not identical to the brain, the body, the central nervous system, nor any part of the body. If the self is not identical to any part of the body, then the self is sui generis—it is unique. The self is an immaterial substance, as shown by Lund (2005: 176-177).
(1) Whatever is secunda facie conceivable for me is something I am secunda facie warranted in believing to be metaphysically possible.
(2) I can clearly and distinctly conceive of myself with exactly my thought properties existing in isolation from all material things (i.e., this state of affairs is secunda facie conceivable for me).(3) Therefore, I am secunda facie warranted in believing that my existing in isolation from all material things (i.e., as disembodied or even in the absence of all material things) is metaphysically possible.
(4) It is not metaphysically possible for a material thing to become immaterial and exist in isolation from all material things;
which, along with (1)–(3), yields:
(5) Therefore, I am secunda facie warranted in believing that I am not a material thing.”
Premise (7) of Hasker’s (2010: 215) Unity of Consciousness argument also establishes that the subject of experience (“I“) isn’t the brain or nervous system:
If the subject is not the brain or the nervous system then it is (or contains as a proper part) a non-physical mind or soul; that is, a mind that is not ontologically reducible to the sorts of entities studied in the physical sciences.
“I” and not any part of my body or its physiological processes is the subject of experience. E. J. Lowe’s Unity argument (Lowe, 2010: 481) further establishes the claim that “I” am not identical with my body or its physiological processes:
I am the subject of all and only my own mental states.
Neither my body as a whole nor any part of it can be the subject of all and only my own mental states.
I am not identical with my body or any part of it.
Morch’s argument in Phenomenal Knowledge Why: The Explanatory Knowledge Argument Against Physicalism (2019: 274) in The Knowledge Argument (2019, ed. by Sam Coleman) establishes that some facts are non-physical and so if some facts are non-physical then it follows that physicalism is false and dualism is true.
1. All physical facts are knowable without experience.
2. Some explanatory facts are no knowable without experience.
3. Therefore, some facts are non-physical.
These arguments establish the claim that the self isn’t identical with anything physical and that some facts are non-physical. So if what I argue here is true—that science can only study what is physical—then the self cannot be studied by science.
Before I begin, I need to make a distinction: one between what I call “psychological hereditarianism” and “racial hereditarianism.” Psychological hereditarianism is the claim that mental states/abilities can be genetically transmitted. Racial hereditarianism is the claim that natural selection molded the minds of different racial groups, and that mental differences between racial groups are genetically heritable and so genetically transmitted. As can be seen from the overall argument I’ve been mounting, psychological hereditarianism is false, therefore racial hereditarianism is false.
I personally don’t discount the claims from racial hereditarians on the basis that race doesn’t exist—since I am a pluralist about race. I discount the claim for a variety of reasons. Mainly the facts that (1) IQ tests aren’t construct valid, and so IQ isn’t real; (2) IQ tests are mere knowledge tests and the item content on them are class-specific; (3) the irreducibility of mind to anything physical and (4) natural selection isn’t an explanatory mechanism so it can’t select-for traits, not least psychological traits which are immaterial.
Michael Egnor is a pediatric neuroscientist/professor of neurological surgery, intelligent design advocate and a blogger for the Discovery Institute. Using the long-dead, outdated concept of “heritability” (Moore and Shenk, 2016), Egnor argues that the capacity for abstract thought is material since intellectual activity is passed genetically from generation to generation:
The widely accepted heritability of IQ…is strong evidence for the materiality of the intellect.If intellectual activity is passed from generation to generation by DNA, then the capacity for abstract thought would seem to be material,and not immaterial nor spiritual.
Egnor claims that “What is heritable about IQ is not intellect and will but the capacity for perception, imagination, memory and emotion“—these make up “the material powers of the soul.” He is assuming here that the capacity for perception, imagination, memory, and emotion are physical—material—“powers.” But this claim fails. It fails because the aforementioned things are immaterial, not material. We of course need our organs to function properly in order to be capable of experience—meaning that they are necessary. But this does not license the claim that the “powers” are physical in nature.
This is quite obviously a ridiculous claim. The concept of “heritability” has been scrutinized for decades as an invalid concept (Layzer, 1974; Richardson, 2012, 2022; Joseph, 2014, 2022; Moore and Shenk, 2016; Charney, 2012, 2017, 2020). “Heritability” estimates for IQ are said to range from .5-.8, based on a range of twin, adoption, and family studies. However, the actual—unreported—“heritability” of IQ in the MISTRA was 0% (Joseph, 2022)! The fact of the matter is, the methods that hereditarians use are highly confounded and do not license the conclusions they make from the data they have. Further, their newest attempt at proving that psychological traits reduce to genes is polygenic scores (PGS). However, PGS, too, has similar pitfalls as GWAS (since they are derived from GWAS data). The hereditarian must construct an valid deductive argument in which the conclusion is the phenomena to be explained; they must provide an explanans that has a law-like generalization; and they need to show that the preceeding premises have empirical content and are true. In absence of an answer to this challenge, the claims hereditarians make about PGS fail. Moreover, the larger a dataset is, the higher chance of spurious correlations (Calude and Longo, 2016), and there are nothing but spurious correlations that arise from GWAS and PGS (Richardson and Jones, 2019).
Back in 2019, I published an article with 4 sections with arguments against hereditarianism. One of the arguments I provided was one that showed that anything that cannot be described in physical terms using words that only refer to material properties is immaterial. And since the mind cannot be explained in that way, it is therefore immaterial. The other argument I provided stated that if physicalism is true then all facts can be stated using a physical vocabulary but facts about the mind cannot so the mind must not be physical. Philosopher of mind William Jaworski provided a similar argument against materialism and why it has nothing to do with the mind since not everything can be explained using a physical vocabulary and that since explanations of biology appeal to biological organization/structure, and there are good reasons to believe that such descriptions and explanations cannot be eliminated, reduced or paraphrased in physical terms, then materialism must be false (Jaworski, 2016).
Hereditarianism, in my view, assumes a form of mind-brain identity as I have argued in the past. And because of this, hereditarianism falls prey to the mereological fallacy—which is when one ascribes psychological predicates to the brain when they are predicates of the whole human. This is seen in hereditarian neuroimaging studies, for example. Contemporary hereditarians aren’t using phrenological methods anymore, nor are they really measuring skulls anymore and ascertaining “qualities” of the person from the skull. But there is a “new phrenology” and this new phrenology is cognitive neuroimaging.
Recall how above I stated that minds are intentionally constituted. If mind-body reduction is possible, then there must be functional definitions of mental properties in terms of lower-level properties. But, drawing on Kripke’s normativity argument, Heikinheimo argues that such definitions are not attainable for mental properties and this, then, has implications for the attempted explanations of intentional states in terms of brain states. There must be causal-functional analyses of meaning and this is just not possible. Bilgrami (2006) in Self-Knowledge and Resentment argued that we have privileged access to our intentional states and that human agency and the intentional states of human agents are irreducibly normative. One reason why is the simple fact that science is third-personal and cannot possibly study first-personal states (Nagel, 1974). Another reason is that intentional states don’t reduce to physical states. And so, if minds are intentionally constituted, then it follows that minds are irreducible and therefore non-physical.
We have fMRI machines. Using these machines, we can measure small changes in blood flow in the brain—we can basically see which parts of the brain are active during certain tasks. Physicalists may then claim that if you do a task and a certain part of the brain lights up, the identity between the two shows that we can either read minds (a dubious claim) or we know which part of the brain is responsible for carrying out the task in question. The use of fMRI has been used by hereditarian researchers to attempt to localize cognition to certain aspects of the brain and outlandish claims have been made that one’s “intelligence” can be gleaned by just resting in an fMRI machine. Unfortunately for these theorists (eg, Jung and Haier, 2007), conceptual arguments undercut the claim that cognition can be localized to certain parts of the brain (Uttal, 2012). In my view, newer forms of hereditarianism have begun to lean toward a type of mind-brain identity—hereditarians assume physicalism is true and either attempt to reduce mind to genes, brain states, or neural states. But the falsity of mind-brain identity and the conceptual errors in attempting to localize cognition to parts of the brain means that this research program is a conceptual failure.
It is impossible to localize cognitive processes in the brain—effectively “pinpointing” where in the brain a certain cognitive task is occurring. This is due to many conceptual and methodological issues that Uttal (2001; 2012) brings up. There is neurophysiological variability in subjects and we can’t just pool neuroimaging studies together to get “a look” at an active brain and then correlate cognitive processes to it. Therefore, the attempts of hereditarians who use this research fail—conceptually—as well as empirically. Such follys like this arise since the assumption is the mind is what the brain does—basically, that the mind is merely the brain’s physiology at work. But such a claim needs to be rejected, since physicalism is false. And if physicalism is false, as has been successfully argued, then hereditarianism is false.
Speculative claims of “brain-based mind reading” have been made stating that we could use this technique to read the brains—and therefore minds—of, say, prisoners and see if they have or would have done something under a certain condition (Glannon, 2017). As Glannon rightly notes, fMRI detects brain function but not mental function so mind reading wouldn’t be possible. Since the mind refers to mental states, and we can correlate brain states with mental states, then there has to be a material basis of the mind and it must be able to be studied by science (Rainey et al, 2021).
The fact of the matter is, claims such as these are assuming that thought has determinate content. But going back to Ross’ (1992) argument above, we cannot ever “read minds” in a way that a physicalist wants to. Fortunately, mind privacy is different from brain privacy in that we can scan brains but we cannot scan minds. External access to one’s mind does not exist—it is completely internal. So mental privacy cannot be breached (Gilead, 2015).
But what [further knowledge of the brain] cannot do even in principle is fix a single determinate interpretation of those thoughts, or reduce them entirely to neural activity. So, no entirely empirical methods could, even in principle, allow us to “read” someone’s thoughts in anything more than the loose and familiar sense in which we can already do so. — Ed Feser, Mindreading?
Anything material can be studied by science. The brain is material. So the brain can be studied by science. Thoughts are immaterial. So thoughts cannot be studied by science. The only way for scientists to be able to study the mind is if the mind is the brain—if the mind reduces to or is identical to the brain—but this is impossible due to what is argued above. So a science of the mind is impossible and hereditarianism fails.
The failure of psychometrics in measuring the mind
Psychometrics has been touted as giving us the ability to measure the human mind. There are many baked-in assumptions, though, that make the claim that psychometry is a measurement enterprise fail.
Most important for the claim that psychometrics is a science and that the mind is a measurable object is that we can therefore “number” and “rank” the minds of people using psychological tests. There are many types of measurement tools we can use to understand human bodies, like a scale and a ruler to measure height, and these are physical measures. For instance, when one steps on a scale they then see a number in a few seconds. What this number means is their weight—it is basically their mass. A unit of measurement is a magnitude of a quantity—that is, a physical quantity. Meters measure length, kilograms measure weight, and seconds measure time. Thus, weight is a measure since it satisfies the basic tenets of metrication.
Take the example of length. If we want to know how long, say, a stick was, then we need to satisfy three properties: (1) The measured object is the stick; (2) the length of the stick is the object of measurement; and (3) the measurement unit would be inches, centimeters, feet, etc.
Now that I have given some examples on what we claim to measure and how we know it is measured, I will now turn to how psychological measurement fails.
When it comes to psychiatric and psychological tests, it needs to be stated that they get a lot of their “data” from questionnaires that give numerical values which then gives the illusion of the ability of psychologists/psychiatrists to measure human mental states and put a number to them. This issue is put well by Berka (1983: 202-203):
…the methodologists of extraphysical measurement are very well aware that, unlike in physical measurement, it is here often not at all clear which properties are the actual object of measurement, more precisely, the object of scaling or counting, and what conclusions can be meaningfully derived from the numerical data concerning the assumed subject matter of investigation.
Put another way, psychometricians don’t actually conceptualize an object of measurement that meets the minimal requirements of measurement. The point is, argues Berka (1983) and Nash (1990), that there is no measurement unit for psychological kinds, and so if there is no measurement unit for psychological kinds, then the claim that mental “measurement” is possible fails.
In his recent book In the Know: Debunking 35 Myths about Human Intelligence, Warne (2020:12) argues that just as kg and lbs are measurements of weight, so too is IQ a measurement of intelligence:
IQ, or an IQ score, is not the same as intelligence or g. Instead, IQ is a measure of general intelligence. To use an analogy, just as kilograms and pounds are measures of weight, IQ is a measure of intelligence. IQ is not intelligence itself any more than the number on a scale is a person’s weight. In both cases, the number is a measurement and not the real topic of interest.
How strange that Warne does not discuss measurement units, specified measured objects or objects of measurement for the “trait” that the book is about. It’s because he—quite obviously—CAN’T. This is in stark contrast to Richard Haier’s (2011: 463) article The Biological Basis of Intelligence in The Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence where he claims that “Even polygenetic scores or DNA profiles might provide new definitions of intelligence.” Haier (2018), in his article A View from the Brain in the book The Nature of Human Intelligence, admits that there is “no measurement of intelligence comparable to a unit of distance or weight.” This fact means that the “measurement” of psychological traits is impossible because they aren’t physical and lack physical properties. Dario de Judicibus (2015) tries to argue that “intelligence” “is the ability to develop and manage relational schemas“, which of course depend on being exposed to the item content, which is class-specific. This, contrary to his claims, is NOT an “operational definition.” There is a list of 71 different “definitions” of “intelligence“, and they all have intentional content/mentalistic wordings in them, so my argument above about being able to describe psychological traits in words that refer only to physical properties still holds. The hereditarian has to give a definition without using mental phrases, and if they cannot describe the mental in words that refer only to material properties then it is immaterial and therefore immeasurable. In any case, the definitions that hereditarians have given over the years fail, since it does not refer to a single measurable property. And attempting an analogy between temperature and IQ and height and weight
Construct validity is the degree to which a test or measure assesses what the measurement tool is supposed to measure. In this case, construct validity refers to how well IQ tests “measure” “intelligence.” But, as we know from the arguments above, psychological traits are immaterial and what is immaterial is immeasurable so IQ tests can’t possibly be a measure of anything psychological. I made an argument using modus tollens back in 2019 arguing against the claim that IQ tests are construct valid:
Premise 1: If the claim “IQ tests test intelligence” is true, then IQ tests must be construct valid.
Premise 2: IQ tests are not construct valid.
Conclusion: Therefore, the claim “IQ tests test intelligence” is false. (modus tollens, P1, P2)
If IQ is real, then IQ is measurable. If IQ is measurable then IQ is physical. So if IQ is real, then IQ is physical. The main aspect of IQ test-taking is thinking, which is irreducible. If thinking is irreducible, then it cannot be physical. If thinking isn’t physical, then IQ can’t be physical. So IQ can’t be measured. Therefore IQ isn’t real.
What IQ tests are are mere class-specific knowledge tests:
If IQ tests are merely class-specific knowledge tests, then they include class-specific item content. IQ tests include class-specific item content. Therefore, IQ tests are merely class-specific knowledge tests.
Over the past 100 years such tests have been used for malicious reasons, like to sterilize those who score low on the test (see the story of Carrie Buck). Who is or is not “intelligent” was decided a priori, by the test’s constructors, and so they designed the test to fit their desires. This means that IQ is arbitrary. In any case, as I have successfully argued here, hereditarianism is false. And if it is false and we believe it to be true, then that could cause bad outcomes policy-wise for certain groups. See the argument for banning IQ tests below:
(P1) The Hereditarian Hypothesis is false
(P2) If the Hereditarian Hypothesis is false and we believed it to be true, then policy A could be enacted.
(P3) If Policy A is enacted, then it will do harm to group G.
(C1) If the Hereditarian Hypothesis is false and we believed it to be true and policy A is enacted, then it will do harm to group G (Hypothetical Syllogism, P2, P3).
(P4) If the Hereditarian Hypothesis is false and we believed it to be true and it would harm group G, then we should ban whatever led to policy A.
(P5) If Policy A is derived from IQ tests, then IQ tests must be banned.
(C2) Therefore, we should ban IQ tests (Modus Ponens, P4, P5).
IQ tests aren’t construct valid, they aren’t true measures, they are mere class-specific knowledge tests, and so putting this all together, we must ban the use of IQ tests, since they don’t measure what they purport to and, due to the biased nature of the tests, we could harm certain groups on the basis of their test scores.
Thus, what psychometrics is isn’t a measurement enterprise, it is merely a political ring (Garrison, 2009). Standardized tests (which IQ tests are as well) “exist to assess social function” (Garrison, 2009: 5). Psychometricians render “mere application of number systems to objects” (Garrison, 2004: 63), so they just assume that their object of measurement is quantitative, without showing that it actually is.
Uher (2021) states that “psychometrics does not establish systematic relations to individuals’ minds as needed for measurement and that, consequently, psychometric results should not be used to make decisions about persons.” It is not a fundamental measurement, and analogies to physical measurement are false. Psychometricians just assume, without argument or showing how, that psychological traits are measurable and thusly quantitative. The claim that psychology is measurable is a “highly questionable idea” (Franz, 2022). Thus, according to Michell (2008), psychometrics is a pathological science, where a pathological science is when a hypothesis is accepted as true without testing it, and as so happened with psychometrics, it is assumed to be quantitative without it being shown that it is indeed the case.
The falsity of physicalism has been argued by many authors (eg., Chalmers, 1996, 2010; Koons and Bealer, 2010; Hasker, 2001; Lowe; Lavazza and Robinson, 2014 ; Robinson, 2016; Swinburne, 2019). As I have successfully argued here, if there are 2 kinds of substances—that is, if there is mental stuff and physical stuff—then a science of the mind is impossible since the mental stuff isn’t the same stuff as the physical stuff which is the object of scientific investigation.
A science of the mind is possible if, and only if, the mind is a physical object. If the mind is an immaterial object, then it cannot be studied by science, since science only studies the physical. This also has implications for AI, since AI (computers) are made up of a suite of physical parts and a mind isn’t made up of a suite of physical parts. Knowing this, this allows me to make this argument against the possibility of AI ever being able to think.
Only things with minds can think. Purely physical things lack minds. So purely physical things can’t think. Thinking is an action and machines don’t act so machines don’t think.
So now, after laying out the evidence and arguments, I can now make this argument:
If dualism is true, then it follows that the mind is not physical. If the mind is not physical (and if the mind is not a mere product of the brain), then it cannot be studied by science, since science studies what is a part of the natural world, that is it studies what is physical. Though it could be said that mind is part of the natural world, that doesn’t mean that it is physical and if it isn’t physical then it’s not amenable to scientific investigation. This means that the ultimate aim of psychometry and psychology (and by consequence, hereditarianism) is simply impossible. Mind-brain monism is an unconfirmed hypothesis (Joubert, 2016)—it is merely assumed that physicalism is true by people like psychologists and that, for example, that psychology can be reduced to the physical.
Indeed, even ignoring the arguments for the irreducibility of mind, it would still be impossible for psychology to be an empirical science (Smedslund, 2016). Moreover, psychological phenomena aren’t manipulable nor controllable, so they are immeasurable and a Galliean revolution in psychology isn’t possible if the quantification problem isn’t solved (and I claim that it’s a logical impossibility for them to be quantified) (Trendler, 2009). This also has implications for “general intelligence” or “g” theory and other hypothetical constructs—for if psychological traits are immeasurable, then claims that “g” is measurable fail, too. And there is the fact that there are no psychophysical or psychological laws, and that the mental is irreducible to the physical, which also mean that attempts to measure the mind will fail.
Although I have come to my conclusion that psychological traits are immeasurable from different avenues, other authors have (rightly) argued the claim that psychometrics isn’t measurement since psychology isn’t physical. And if it’s not physical—as I have successfully argued here—then dualism is true and psychology can’t be amenable to scientific investigation.
Yet we get tremendously increased phenotypic variation … because the form and variation of cells, what they produce, whether to grow, to move, or what kind of cell to become, is under control of a whole dynamic system, not the genes. (Richardson, 2017: 125)
In 1976 Richard Dawkins published his groundbreaking book The Selfish Gene (Dawkins, 1976). In the book, Dawkins argues that selection occurs at the level of the gene—“the main theme of his book is a metaphorical account of competition between genes …” (Midgley, 2010: 45). Others then took note of the new theory and attempted to integrate it into their thinking. But is it as simple as Dawkins makes it out to be? Are we selfish due to the genes we carry? Is the theory testable? Can it be distinguished from other competing theories? Can it be used to justify certain behaviors?
Rushton, selfish genes, nationalism and politics
JP Rushton is a serious scholar, perhaps most well-known for attempting to use r/K selection theory to explain human behavior (Anderson, 1991). perhaps has the most controversial use of Dawkins’ theory. The main axiom of the theory is that an organism is just a gene’s way of ensuring the survival of other genes (Rushton, 1997). Thus, Rushton’s formulated genetic similarity theory posits that those who are more genetically similar—who share more genes—will be more altruistic toward those with more similar genes even if they are not related and will therefore show negative attitudes to less genetically similar individuals. This is the gene’s “way” of propagating themselves through evolutionary time. Richardson (2017: 9-11) tells us of all of the different ways in which genes are invoked to attempt to justify X.
In the beginning of his career, Rushton was a social learning theorist studying altruism, even publishing a book on the matter—Altruism, Socialization and Society (Rushton, 1980). Rushton reviews the sociobiological literature and concludes that altruism is a learned behavior. Though, Rushton seems to have made the shift from a social learning perspective to a genetic determinist perspective in the years between the publication of Altruism, Socialization and Society and 1984 when he published his genetic similarity theory. So, attempting to explain altruism through genes, while not part of Rushton’s original research programme, seems, to me, to be a natural evolution in his thought (however flawed it may be).
Dawkins responded to the uses of his theory to attempt to justify nationalism and patriotism through an evolutionary lens during an interview with Frank Miele for Skeptic:
Skeptic: How do you evaluate the work of Irena”us Eibl-Eibesfeldt, J.P. Rushton, and Pierre van den Berghe, all of whom have argued that kin selection theory does help explain nationalism and patriotism?
Dawkins: One could invoke a kind “misfiring” of kin selection if you wanted to in such cases. Misfirings are common enough in evolution. For example, when a cuckoo host feeds a baby cuckoo, that is a misfiring of behavior which is naturally selected to be towards the host’s own young. There are plenty of opportunities for misfirings. I could imagine that racist feeling could be a misfiring, not of kin selection but of reproductive isolation mechanisms. At some point in our history there may have been two species of humans who were capable of mating together but who might have produced sterile hybrids (such as mules). If that were true, then there could have been selection in favor of a “horror” of mating with the other species. Now that could misfire in the same sort of way that the cuckoo host’s parental impulse misfires. The rule of thumb for that hypothetical avoiding of miscegenation could be “Avoid mating with anybody of a different color (or appearance) from you.”
I’m happy for people to make speculations along those lines as long as they don’t again jump that is-ought divide and start saying, “therefore racism is a good thing.” I don’t think racism is a good thing. I think it’s a very bad thing. That is my moral position. I don’t see any justification in evolution either for or against racism. The study of evolution is not in the business of providing justifications for anything.
This is similar to his reaction when Bret Weinstein remarked that the Nazi’s “behaviors” during the Holocaust “were completely comprehensible at the level of fitness”—at the level of the gene.” To which Dawkins replied “I think nationalism may be an even greater evil than religion. And I’m not sure that it’s actually helpful to speak of it in Darwinian terms.” This is what I like to call “rampant adaptationism.”
This is important because Rushton (1998) invokes Dawkins’ theory as justification for his genetic similarity theory (GST; Rushton, 1997), attempting to justify ethno-nationalism from a gene’s-eye view. Rushton did what Dawkins warned against: using the theory to justify nationalism/patriotism. Rushton (1998: 486) states that “Genetic Similarity Theory explains why” ethnic nationalism has come back into the picture. Kin selection theory (which, like with selfish gene theory, Rushton invoked) has numerous misunderstandings attached to it, and of course, Rushton, too, was an offender (Park, 2007).
Dawkins (1981), in Selfish genes in race or politics stated that “It is annoying to find this elegant and important theory being dragged down to the ephemeral level of human politics, and parochial British politics at that.” Rushton (2005: 494), responded, stating that “feeling a moral obligation to condemn racism, some evolutionists minimised the theoretical possibility of a biological underpinning to ethnic or national favouritism.“
The main premise of Dawkins’ theory is that evolution is gene-centered and that selection occurs at the level of the gene—genes that propagate fitness will be selected for while genes that are less fit are selected against. This “genes’-eye view” of evolution states “that adaptive evolution occurs through differential survival of competing genes, increasing the allele frequency of those alleles whose phenotypic trait effects successfully promote their own propagation, with gene defined as “not just one single physical bit of DNA [but] all replicas of a particular bit of DNA distributed throughout the world.“
Noble (2018) discusses “two fatal difficulties in the selfish gene version of neo-Darwinism“:
The first is that, from a physiological viewpoint, it does’t lead to a testable prediction. The only problem is that the central definition of selfish gene theory is not independent of the only experimental test of the theory, which is whether genes, defined as DNA sequences, are in fact selfish, i.e., whether their frequency in the gene pool increases (18). The second difficulty is that DNA can’t be regarded as a replicator separate from the cell (11, 17). The cell, and specifically its living physiological functionality, is what makes DNA be replicated faithfully, as I will explain later.
Noble (2017: 156) further elaborates in Dance to the Tune of Life: Biological Relativity:
Could this problem be avoided by attaching a meaning to ‘selfish’ as applied to DNA sequences that is independent of meanings in terms of phenotype? For example. we could say that a DNA sequence is ‘selfish’ to the extent which its frequency in subsequent generations is increased. This at least would be an objective definition that could be measured in terms of population genetics. But wait a minute! The whole point of the characterisation of a gene as selfish is precisely that this property leads to its success in reproducing itself. We cannot make the prediction of a theory be the basis of the definition of the central element of the theory. If we do that, the theory is empty from the viewpoint of empirical science.
Dawkins’ theory is, therefore “not a physiologically testable hypothesis” (Noble, 2011). Dawkins’ theory posits that the gene is the unit of selection, whereas the organism is only used to propagate the selfish genes. But “Just as Special Relativity and General Relativity can be succintly phrased by saying that there is no global (privileged) frame of reference, Biological Relativity can be phrased as saying that there is no global frame of causality in organisms” (Noble, 2017: 172). Dawkins’ theory privileges the gene as the unit of selection, when there is no direct unit of selection in multi-level biological systems (Noble, 2012).
In The Solitary Self: Darwin and the Selfish Gene, Midgley (2010) states “The choice of the word “selfish” is actually quite a strange one. This word is not really a suitable one for what Dawkins wanted to say about genetics because genes do not act alone.” As Dawkins later noted, “the cooperative gene” would have been a better description, while The Immortal Gene would have been a better title for the book. Midgley (2010: 16) states that Dawkins and Wilson (in The Selfish Gene and Sociobiology, respectively) “use a very simple concept of selfishness derived not from Darwin but from a wider background of Hobbesian social atomism, and give it a general explanation of all behaviour, including that of humans.” Dawkins and others claim that “the thing actually being selected was the genes” (Midgley, 2010: 47).
Developmental systems theory (DST) explains and predicts more than the neo-Darwinian Modern Synthesis (Laland et al, 2015). Dawkins’ theory is not testable. Indeed, the neo-Darwinian Modern Synthesis (and along with it Dawkins’ selfish gene theory) is dead, an extended synthesis explains evolution. As Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini (2010a, b) and Fodor (2008) state in What Darwin Got Wrong, natural selection is not mechanistic and therefore cannot select-for genes or traits (also see Midgley’s 2010: chapter 6 discussion of Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini). (Okasha, 2018 also discusses ‘selection-for- genes—and, specifically, Dawkins’ selfish gene theory.)
Dawkins’ theory was repurposed, used to attempt to argue for ethno-nationalism and patriotism—even though Dawkins himself is against such uses. Of course, theories can be repurposed from their original uses, though the use of the theory is itself erroneous, as is the case with regard to Rushton, Russel and Wells (1984) and Rushton (1997, 1998). Since the theory is itself not testable (Noble, 2011, 2017), it should therefore—along with all other theories that use it as its basis—be dropped. While Rushton’s change from social learning to genetic causation regarding altruism is not out of character for his former research (he began his career as a social learning theorist studying altruism; Rushton, 1980), his use of the theory to attempt to explain why individuals and groups prefer those more similar to themselves ultimately fails since it is “logically flawed” (Mealey, 1984: 571).
Genes ‘do’ what the physiological system ‘tells’ them to do; they are just inert, passive templates. What is active is the cell—the genome is an organ of the cell and is what is ‘immortal.’ Genes don’t “control” anything; they are used by and for the physiological system to carry out certain processes (Noble, 2017; Richardson, 2017: chapter 4, 5). There are new views of what ‘genes’ really are (Portin and Wilkins, 2017), what they are and were—are—used for.
Development is dynamic and not determined by genes. Genes (DNA sequences) are followers, not leaders. The leader is the physiological system.
Helmuth Nyborg published an article in Psych titled Race as Social Construct (Nyborg, 2019). In the article, he responds to a National Geographic article There’s No Scientific Basis for Race—It’s a Made-Up Label. In the article, Nyborg quotes, what apparently are quotations, from the article. Yet, for example when it comes to this:
‘There’s No Scientific Basis for Race’—‘It’s a Made-Up Label’… ‘Races do not exist because we are equals’, ‘the concept of race is not grounded in genetics’, etc.
The second quote “Races do not exist because we are equals” is not in the article. (Though this is probably a general call-out to so-called “social constructivists about race.”) Now, I won’t’ nit-pick about it, since he is apparently speaking to his critics who make these claims. In any case, Nyborg’s article is titled Race as Social Construct. Where are constructivists about race said to be anti-realists or eliminativists about race? If Nyborg is really speaking to constructivists about race, then he’s strawmanning their position. Because social constructivists about race are realists about race.
Take the new AAPA Statement on Race and Racism, where they write:
… race has become a social reality that structures societies and how we experience the world. In this regard, race is real, as is racism, and both have real biological consequences.
““race” as a social reality — as a way of structuring societies and experiencing the world — is very real.”
So, if constructivists about race claim that “Races do not exist”, then why are social constructivists about race literally saying “race is real” and “”race” as a social reality … is very real”? Weird… Almost as if Nyborg is strawmanning the constructivist position. Nyborg asks if “NG also think[s] of species as a social construct?“. See Elstein (2003) for a view that species are socially constructed. In any case, I don’t think that Nyborg is familiar with the philosophical literature on the status of species.
Here is Nyborg’s first syllogism:
Samuel Morton is a reprehensible model racist with a fixed defintion of race.
1. Samuel Morton is the father of scientific racism.
2. (We “know” that the father of scientific racism has THE correct understanding of race).
3. Morton thinks that races represent separate acts of creation.
4. Morton thinks that races are ranked in a divine hierarchy.
5. Morton did not think that races were closely related.
6. Morton thinks that races has distinct characters which:
(a) Are immutable or “fixed” across generations (i.e., no transmutation, aka evolution).
(b) Are homogenous of “fixed” (in these senses of fixation) across individuals within races.
Morton is wrong about 3-6, and thus represent the opposite of reality. We can then say, given 1-2 and 3-6, that races do not exist.
This is ridiculous. Where has anyone written anything like this, that since Morton was a “racist” that “races do not exist”? Did Gould make that claim in Mismeasure? I personally think that Morton’s analysis was flawed by his own biases, but I do not make the claim that “races do not exist” because of it.
In any case, when it comes to Gould’s critique of Morton’s skulls, contra Jensen (1982), Rushton (1997) , and Lewis et al (2011), Gould’s arguments about Morton were largely correct (Weisberg, 2014; Kaplan, Pigliucci, and Banta, 2015; Weisberg and Paul, 2016). Specifically, Weisberg (2014) writes that “Although Gould made some errors
and overstated his case in a number of places, he provided prima facia evidence, as yet unrefuted, that Morton did indeed mismeasure his skulls in ways that conformed to 19th century racial biases.”
Now when it comes to this one, we’re getting somewhere:
Race does not Relate to Geographic Location
1. There are no fixed traits with specific geographic locations …” because …
2. “… as often as isolation has created differences among populations, migration and mixing have blurred or erased them.
3. “… our pictures of past ‘racial structures’ are almost always wrong” and harmful.
This is a good argument. However, it fails, in my opinion. Yes, there is no sharp delineation in traits between what are purported to be racial groupings. However, for biological racial realism to be true, there do not need to be. Take my article You Don’t Need Genes to Delineate Race. By looking at average facial and morphological features that exist in any continent, we can say that, although there is no sharp gradation and there are clines in phenotypes, that does not mean that there is no what we can say “average look” for the group. (Nyborg discusses “IQ” there, but I won’t get into it.)
Now take this one:
Races do not exist: We are Equals and Africans
1. “… all humans are closely related.”
2. In a very real sense, all people alive today are Africans.”
3. Genetic diversity in Africa is much larger than outside this continent.”
4. Because they [migrants] were just a small subset of Africa’s population, the migrants took with them only a fraction of its genetic diversity.”
5. Admittedly, “… the longer two groups are separated, the more distinctive tweaks [mutations] they will acquire”, BUT …
6. “The concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis.” (NG here refers to a Craig Venter statement at a White House meeting, June 2000; see later).
7. “Science tells us there is no genetic or scientific basis for race. Races do not exist because we are [all] equals.”
1-5 are true; though 6-7 are false. In any case, the existence of race is not a scientific matter. The questions “What is race?”, “Is race real?”, and “If race is real, how many races are there?” are philosophical, not scientific, matters. Nyborg brings up “Lewontin’s fallacy”, but take what Hardimon (2017: 22-23) writes about the matter:
It is worth noting that the force of the argument against the existence of racialist races from Lewontin’s data analysis is unaffected by the critique A.W.F. Edwards made in his 2003 paper “Human Genetic Diversity: Lewontin’s Fallacy.” The fallacy Edwards imputes to Lewontin consists in inferring that racial classification has no taxonomic signifigance from the finding that the between-race component of human genetic diversity is very small. The inference is fallacious because the fact that the between-race component of human genetic diversity is small does not entail that racial classification has no taxonomic signifigance. Lewontin’s locus-by-locus analysis (which does not consider the possibility of a correlation between individual loci) does not preclude the possibility that individual loci might be correlated in such a way that people could be grouped into traditional racial categories. The underlying though is that racial classification would have “taxonomic signifigance” were it possible to group people into traditonal racial categories by making use of correlations between individual loci. However, Lewontin’s argument that there are no racialist races because the component of within-race genetic variation is larger than the component of between-race genetic variation is untouched by Edwards’ objection. That conclusion rests solely on Lewontin’s statistical analysis of human variation (the validity of which Edwards grants) and does not pressupose the absence of correlational structure in the genetic data. In short, Lewontin’s data do not preclude the possibility that raciual classification might have taxonomic signifigance but they do preclude the possibility that racialist races exist.
Nyborg is, obviously, pushing the concept of racialist races, though Hardimon has shown that they do not exist. Nyborg says that “Educability and IQ are arguable [sic] physiological (Spearman, 1927)“. Nope.
Nyborg then presents his next syllogism:
Admixture and Displacement Have Erased All Race Differences
1. Race implies unadmixed groups between which there are fixed—“fix”, in the sense of fixation index—traits.
2. (From Reich (2018) race implies “primeval” groups…separated tens of thousands of years ago”.
3. Genetics shows that mixture and displacement have happened again and again”… and … as a result “Differences have been blurred or erased”.
4. Thus, “there are no fixed traits associated with specific geographic locations…”
5. And “our pictures of past ‘racial structures’ are almost always wrong” and harmful.
Since human descent groups are mixed and do not exhibit fixed trait differences and since there are no 10-thousand-year-old primeval groups, there are no races.
This one is strong, and if an eliminativist/anti-realist about race were to use this argument (remember, Nyborg doesn’t understand that social constructivists are realists about race), then it would be strong. But that human populations are mixed and do not exhibit trait differences does not mean that race does not exist, that does not follow. That is a carry-over from the racialist concept of race, which is false.
Nyborg then presents his fifth syllogism:
Race is only Skin Color Deep
1. “When people speak about race, usually they seem to be referring to skin color and, at the same time, to something more than skin color.”
2. “This is the legacy of people such as Morton, who developed the “science” of race to suit his own prejudices and got the actual science totally wrong.”
3. “Science today tells us that the visible differences between people a re accidents of history. They reflect how our ancestors dealt with sun exposure, and not much else.”
4. There is no homogenous African race.
Since race is only based on skin color, it is made up by racists.
I have heard an argument similar to this, and it fails. Race isn’t ONLY BASED ON skin color, but it is a marker of race, along with ancestry and location. Of course, morphology and other phenotypic traits ground the scientific concept of “race” (minimalist/populationist race). Race, of course, does not mean only skin color, there are many other ways to delineate races, with skin color being but one tell.
Nyborg then writes:
Ducrest, Keller, and Rouling, 2008)  thus observed that darker color is associated with greater aggressiveness in 10 mammal species, three kinds of birds, and more Lizard forms entirely evaded them. They condemned the color analogue with respect to humans, and reacted forcefully when Rushton and Templer (2009)  drew data from no less than 113 countries and found that “… murder, rape, and serious assault were associated with darker skin color, lower IQ, higher birth rate, higher infant mortality, higher HIV/AIDS rate, lower life expectancy, and lower income”
Yea, Ducrest, Keller, and Rouling (2008) is one study that Rushton loved, as it, supposedly, gave a basis for darker color being associated with aggressiveness in a slew of different animals. I rebutted Rushton and Templer, in any case. Their study was ridiculous and they did not even heed what Ducrest, Keller, and Rouling (2008: 507) stated “… that human populations are therefore not expected to consistently exhibit the associations between melanin-based coloration and the physiological and behavioural traits reported in our study.” Must be hard for Rushton and Templer to read.
In sum, Nyborg is wrong that racial constructivists claim that “Races do not exist”, for if they did not exist, then what would constructivists be fighting for? Nyborg seems to be talking to anti-realists/eliminativists about race. Nyborg pushes a racialist concept about race, which was refuted by Hardimon (2017: Chapter 1). Races exist in a minimal sense (Hardimon, 2017) and U.S. sense (Spencer, 2014), but not in the racialist “HBD” sense. In this case, biological racial realism (Spencer, 2011) is true, but if we are going by Kaplan and Winther’s (2014) definitions, Rushton, Jensen, Lynn, and Nyborg would be the biological racial realists, whereas myself, Hardimon and Spencer would be biogenomic/cluster race realists. It seems that Nyborg needs to brush up on the philosophical literature, because what he claims that social constructivists about race believe are not true; he just strawmanned their position. In any case, I’ve shown that constructivists about race do not believe that race is not real. They may not believe that race is real in a biological manner, but they do in a social one, and that is enough for them to be race realists and believe that race exists.
(Also note how Kaplan and Winther (2014) note that “Social racial realism defends the existence of distinct human groups in our ordinary discourse and social interactions. Such groups are often identified and stabilized by “surface” factors such as skin color or facial features.” So, again, those who push a socialrace-type concept do not deny that race exists, on the contrary, they are realists about race. Nyborg got it wrong, and some of his critiques are good against those who deny the reality of race, but his racial ontology is false.
Barnett argues in The Waning of Materialism that for any pair of conscious beings, it is impossible for that pair itself to be conscious. I punch myself and feel pain; You punch yourself and feel pain. But our pair wouldn’t feel a thing. Thus, pairs of people are incapable of experiencing pain. This is what Barnett call’s “The Datum.” He posits six explanations for explaining “The Datum”:
(1) Pairs of people lack a sufficient number of sufficient parts; (2) Pairs of people lack immediate parts of standing in the right sorts of relations to the other and the environment; (3) pairs of people lack the immediate parts of the right kinds of nature; (4) pairs of people are not structures, they are unstructured collections of two parts; (5) some combination of 1-4; and (6) pairs of people are not simple.
Let’s take (1): Imagine that each human on earth is in severe pain, while the collection of people is experiencing pure bliss. This is untenable. Thus, no matter how large, a collection of people cannot be the subject of experience. So pairs of people do not have a sufficient number of immediate parts and thusly do not explain “The Datum.”
Now let’s take (2): Let’s say that scientists shrink you and I down into someone else’s brain, me being the left hemisphere and you being the right hemisphere. Then someone punches the person we have been implanted as their hemispheres; they then react. We then stimulate neurons and the person defends themselves, putting their hands up in defense. We do just what that person’s hemispheres would have done. So we function just like a regular brain. So now you and I have a new relation: is it conscious? You and I may remain conscious, but arethe pair conscious? No. Thus, pairs of people lack the right parts necessary to stand in the right sorts of relations to themselves and the environment and therefore do not explain “The Datum.”
Now let’s take (3): Let’s say I tell you that I have two objects—(a) and (b)—in mind. You, clearly, need more information to conclude that (a) and (b) are conscious, but you don’t need more information to conclude that the pair—comprised of (a) and (b)—is conscious. We know a priori that pairs of things are not conscious; pairs of, say, TVs, rocks, shoes, beds, are not conscious. So, that any pair—(a) and (b)—may be conscious is absurd is not evidence that the two alone are not conscious.
Now let’s take (4): We can know by reflection that the pair comprising (a) and (b) are not conscious. We know a priori that pairs of things are collections while conscious beings are structures. Collections exist iff whenever the comprisal of what makes up the collections exist; a structure of things exists iff the things in question exist in relation to a certain structure. So consider the atoms in the threads in my pillow as a collection and my pillow as a structure. So if we were to disperse the atoms in the thread making up my pillow out into space, the atoms would still exist but my pillow would not. So are pairs of people incapable of having experience because they are not structures? Let’s now return to (2), when you and I were placed in someone’s brain as their hemispheres. So unlike the pair, the system (brain) is a structure and it would cease to exist if you and I were removed from the individual’s brain, though the pair that you and I form would not. However, the system of people is not a candidate for the subject of experience than the pair that constitutes the system. So the idea that pairs of people are incapable of experience since they are not structures does not explain “The Datum.”
Now let’s take (5): Maybe “The Datum” is not explained by (1)-(4). Maybe some combination of the 4 explains “The Datum.” Maybe pairs of people aren’t conscious because it is a collection which results from the existence of two people; maybe a conscious being is a structure comprised of many cells, organs, standing with one another and the environment they are in certain causal dependent relations. So human bodies which are physical structures that are comprised of organs, cells, blood, etc, are conscious; the differences between human bodies are captured in (1)-(4); the four hypotheses do not explain “The Datum” alone; so some combination of (1)-(4) must explain “The Datum.” So let’s go back to (1). If we consider 7 billion people—and not a pair—then we know that no matter the number of people, that collection is not, itself, conscious. Now take (2), but on a larger—societal—level. If everyone in that society has a similar goal and aims for those goals, are they conscious? No; the claim that they are is absurd. Sure, the society functions just as human brain functions, but is that society—itself—conscious? No. Now take (3), but imagine that every neuron in your head was replaced by a mini-man. Thus, if we shift our attention to the number of mini-men in the head to the structure they comprise, it does not make any difference: (1)-(3) does not explain “The Datum.” Finally, let’s take (4). Imagine that your brain was sliced in half and dispersed into vats. Then those hemispheres are halved—while radio transmitters are placed in your hemispheres (preserving communication with the CNS)—and so on and so forth, until each of your neurons sits in its own individual vat. Now imagine that each neuron is paired up with an individual and the neuron gets a break, with the individual then carrying out the function of the specific neuron, Now, what concerns us is whether or not ‘you’ are identical to the scattered parts of what used to comprise ‘you’ and the system that controls your body. Certain times, billions of people operating billions of radio transmitters are operating the system; other days its billions of neurons operating billions of radio transmitters. So these billions of objects which still interact with your nervous system interact with your nervous system just like your brain used to when it was confined to its skull. So whether or not these billions of people that comprise your radio transmitters that control your scattered neurons is irrelevant; what matters is whether the system itself is a subject of experience—and it is not. So no combination of (1)-(4) explains “The Datum.”
Now, finally, let’s take (6): Are pairs of people not qualified from being conscious because they aren’t simple? In all 4 of the hypotheses, composite entities are presented and we ask whether or not the entity may be conscious. Whether or not the entity in question has 2, 100, 100,000, 100,000,000,000 parts is irrelevant. What does matter—however—is whether or not the posited entities presented are a composite. So there is absurdity in the idea that they are identical to a subject of any experience. The only hypotheses that rival this preceding explanation are (1)-(4), but they are inadequate. So simplicity best explains “The Datum.”
So conscious beings must be simple. We are not simple particles, so Barnett’s argument is an argument against materialism. So correlations between our mental states and our brain states do not give reason to identify ourselves with our brains. Therefore we are not our brains.
I am simple. I contain no proper parts (there is no such thing as “half an *I*”). However, my brain contains proper parts. Therefore I am not my brain.
How much admixture does it take for one race to no longer exist? The answer to the question is intuitive, and using Hardimon’s (2017) minimalist race concept, it is also easily answerable on logical grounds. For example, the answer to the question will show that the “one-drop rule” (that “one drop” of “black blood” makes one black) doesn’t make logical sense. These kinds of holdovers are from the racialist concept. Racialist races do not exist, therefore the concept of the “one-drop rule” does not either, since there are no facts of the matter the two concepts explain.
The maintenance of the races that current exist depend on, at the moment, social barriers to reproduction, such as racism, segregation, differences in culture and class, role segregation and racial discrimination. Thus, social isolation is important for the maintenance of the current races. Social isolation, like geographic isolation (i.e., oceans, mountains, deserts, etc.) impedes racial interbreeding and thus ensures the continuation of the genetic transmission of distinct patterns of visible physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry.
Social isolation mechanisms have been in effect for hundreds of years, which began with the advent of African slavery to the New World. Laws against miscegenation existed in some states (Phillips, Odunlami, and Bonham, 2007), which is part of the reason why it’s (an unspoken) taboo to racially intermarry and bear children with someone not of their own race. Due to this, the few interracial unions that did produce children were specifically barred—in the eyes of society—to only be able to have children with others of their same socialrace at the lower ends of the social hierarchy.
Social isolation mechanisms have ensured the continuation of human races after the discovery of the New World when the geographic isolation mechanisms began breaking down due to exploring new lands. These isolating mechanisms on the populace ensured little admixture in the European population, but compared to European Americans, African Americans have a higher percentage of the opposite admixture. Understanding racial admixture and the genetic transmission of distinct visible physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry is extremely important to understanding when races “disappear” due to inbreeding.
Therefore, social isolation—ever since 1492—and the laws/rules that came after the breakdowns of geographic isolation between races still ensured the existence of the races as we know them today. Social factors acted as de facto physical barriers that impeded the races from breeding, thusly keeping their visible physical features intact, which means keeping their racial phenotype intact since races are defined—most importantly—on the basis of visible physical features. Social isolation can, clearly, be just about as “strong” as geographic isolation, since the social repercussions of interracial unions may exile them from the groups they were in. Thus, people would be wary of interracial unions, even if—as it seems—our culture in America seems to be swaying towards inclusivity in regard to interracial relationships, people still generally associate with and date people who look like themselves and their parents (see below).
How Much Admixture?
How much admixture can one race take before said race ceases to exist? Since C 1 (a group is distinguished from another group on the basis of distinct visible physical features) doesn’t require sharp lines between said visible physical features, C 2 (members linked by peculiar ancestry) also doesn’t require that all of the ancestors of Rs (races) be Rs.
The best possible example for an answer to the question of “How much admixture?” is simple. Think of Europeans (a subrace of the Caucasian race). When Europeans interbreed with non-Europeans, they begin to lose their distinct pattern of visible physical features which correspond to their geographic ancestry. Thus, in the case of Europeans, the answer to the question of “How much admixture?”, meaning “How much interbreeding can the European subrace take before it is “bred out” of existence?” is, of course, not too much.
Think of a union between a black woman and white man (using the social race designation; their populationist race is African and Caucasian, respectively). The child the woman bears will share some of her physical features, but barely. The baby will look more like the non-European parent, but of course, a baby who is the product of the union between an African and European will share features with both parents, and thus, the baby can “roughly fit the pattern” of a minimalist race. We can easily explain this: mixed-race individuals can err, physically, to one minimalist race over another because they are the products of individuals who do fit the patterns (of visible physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry).
Contrary to the alarmist claims heard in the media and from the altright, trends in interracial marriages do not indicate that minimalist (populationist) races are coming to an end (in this case, the white (social) race).
It is true that in the modoern (post-1492) world there is vastlty more racial interbreeding than there was before 1492. And if one is referring to the very long run, then races are almost certainly on their way out. But it is one thing to say that the human races will cease to exist at some point in the distant future and quite another to say that they are likely to disappear anytime soon. It is by no means clear that we are in an epistemic position to make the latter claim.
Contrary to what some writers suggest, recent trends in racial intermarriage in the United States do not indivate the imminent end of populationist (or minimalist) races. 5 The skyrocketing rates of intermarriage in this country notwithstanding, it remains true that the vast majority of Americans continue to marry within their own conventionally designated racial group. Despite the remarkable fact that the multiracial, multi-ethnic Americans have apparently become the fastest-growing demographic group in the United States, their numbers are still swamped by individuals who are members of a single continental-level minimalist races. 6 I don’t think that the significant fraction of DNA traceable to “Europeans” in most black Americans, and the small but real fraction of DNA traceable to “Africans” in white Americans, makes the end of the populationist (or minimalist) race significantly more imminent.
There is no evidence of which I am aware indicating that the rate at which racial interbreeding in the United States (or anywhere else) is occurring is one that would lead to the elimination of all racial differences—a situation in which no two groups could be distinguished on the basis of patterns of visible physical corresponding to differences in geographic ancestry—in the near future. To sum up: the increase frequency of encountering individuals of mixed racial ancestry does not mean that the concept of race is going to go out of business anytime soon. (Hardimon, 2017: 122)
Yaeger et al (2009) show that, in their sample, self-identification as African American is a reliable indicator of ancestry. Their findings also “suggest that self-reported race and ancestry can predict ancestral clusters, but do not reveal the extent of admixture.” Thus, self-identified race—even in the presence of admixture as is the case with African Americans—can show the racial category that an individual belongs to (based on their ancestry).
Hardimon (2017: 49) articulates a simple rule that employs the minimalist concept of race:
If both parents of an individual belong to one particular racial group R, that individual will belong to R.
What happens, however, if one parent belongs to R1 and the other parent belongs to R2. The minimalist concept of race does not say. Still less does it tell us what one’s race is if one’s grandparents belongs to an R1, another to R2, another to R3, and another to R4. This is a further respect in which the minimalist race concept is vague.
Particular conceptions of race (for example, the infamous “one-drop rule”) may specify the race of the individuals of “mixed” parentage, but the minimalist concept of race does not. The idea that a genune concept of race must specify the race of each individual is a hangover from the racialist race concept. Recall here that the minimalist racehood is not defined in terms of the characteristics of the individuals who belong to races. It is defined in terms of characteristics of groups.
So, the minimalist concept of race is vague, just like the populationist concept. But we can make one claim on the answer to the question “How much admixture?”: “Once a race loses its specific phenotype due to racial interbreeding, then the race ceases to exist.”
The one drop rule (also known as the law of hypodescent), is a form of racial essentialism (Perez and Hirschman, 2009), which states that “one drop” of another, inferior (on the basis of racialist races) race’s blood denotes him to the inferior race in the social hierarchy. The one drop rule was created back during the slave days and signified who could breed with who, on the basis of how “pure” their blood was. It was, and still is today, a way for race deniers to deny the existence of race.
The one-drop rule stated that anyone with one black ancestor was classified as black (Pauker et al, 2009). That is, his position on the socialrace hierarchy (a hierarchy since it’s based on the false racialist race concept) is based on the fact that he has one black ancestor. Due to this, and other differing amounts of admixture in certain ethnic groups and other social groups taken to be races, people have—fallaciously—stated that races do not exist since the unions of two separate races “erases” one, or both, of the races in question.
This rule helped to ensure the maintenance of populationist races, since society frowned upon interracial marriage. This, obviously, was a social custom. The Jim Crow laws helped to ensure the maintenance of the physical characteristics of the races in question, though the laws were enacted to ensure the “racial purity” (whatever that is) of the European race, it helped to ensure lower amounts of admixture in black Americans. Thus, black Americans would be expected to self-identify as black (Liebler and Zacher, 2017).
Liebler and Zacher (2017)‘s data “supports the notion that this “rule” has some power even today, as there are almost 30 times as many people reporting that they are racially black with American Indian ancestry (weighted N=522,607) as there are people reporting American Indian race with black ancestry (weighted N=16,226).” Bryc et al (2015) show that, despite the expectations of the one drop rule “individuals identify roughly with the majority of their genetic ancestry.”
Most people in one sample that had less than 20 percent African ancestry identified as white. In the US, “Latinos” (a social-race) were estimated to have 65.1 percent European, 6.2 percent African, and 18.6 percent Native American DNA. Overall, 3.5 percent of European Americans had 1 percent or more African ancestry, while 1.4 percent of self-reported European Americans had were estimated to carry at least 2 percent African ancestry (Bryc et al, 2015).
Importantlty, Guo et al (2014) write:
The one-drop rule represents an important case in which social context trumps bio-ancestry. When asked to classify into a single race, most individuals with 30 % to 60 % African ancestry self-report as black; virtually all respondents with >60 % African ancestry self-classify as black. In contrast, a substantially higher proportion of European ancestry is “required” to self-classify or to be classified by an interviewer as white than the proportion of African ancestry necessary to self-classify or be classified as black. However, when given the option of identifying as multiracial, the majority of individuals with 40 % to 60 % African ancestry in both ROOM and Add Health and substantial proportions of individuals with >60 % African ancestry in ROOM stopped self-classifying as only black and primarily chose a multiracial classification.
“The infamous one-drop rule is peculiar to this country [America] but it is a feature of the American conception of race, not the minimalist concept of race.” (Hardimon, 2017: 56) The one-drop rule is a clear tell to how the socialrace concept acts. It is an essentialist concept, which means that it is necessarily racialist—since “one drop” of black blood makes one black—according to the rule.
The Maintenance of Races
It is possible that one society could take social measures to ensure the existence of their specific racial phenotype (that is, the existence of their minimalist race or subrace). Such a society would have to grapple with the moral and ethical underpinnings of such measures to ensure the maintenance of their phenotype (see Glannon, 2001’s book Genes and Future People for an extensive review of the moral, political, social, and ethical implications of human genetic engineering). This could also include genetic modification, though sound arguments exist that show that the way most people view genetic modification depends on a “strong view” of genetic determinism, which is false (Resnick and Vorhaus, 2006). However, it is possible that, through the will of the people in the society, that social isolation can lead to a de facto “physical” isolation through the social norms of the society in question.
However, since the races as they currently are are in no danger of non-existence, such measures, while they would (presumably) work, do not need to be taken. Such measures, though, do not need to be taken, since most people want to court with others who look like themselves, and those who are more likely to look like themselves are people of their own ethny, which is to say, people of their own populationist race. Thus, social measures to ensure the maintenance of races do not need to be taken.
As noted above, certain concepts from the days of the one drop rule are still in effect today, as a holdover from the days of Jim Crow and before. Some of these holdover concepts, though, help to maintain the races we know today. However, there is a possibility that our populationist races, too, have benefits socially constructed. Hardimon (2017: 126) writes (emphases his):
If populationist races exist, the role human action plays in their maintenance is rather more pronounced then the role it played in their genesis. Insofar as social norms and practices prohibiting or discouraging intermarriage have been the primary mechanisms preventing racial interbreeding since 1492, the maintenance of the separation has been intentional: this outcome is the very point of the discriminatory activity and practices in question. There is thus an especially strong sense in which, if populationist races exist, populationist race has been socially constructed since 1492.
Hardimon (2017: 126) goes on to say that the maintenance of populationist races “is not a natural process outside of human control”, nor is it “immutable or inalterable“, while “its existence is not an invariant, unchangeable,”natural” fact” and “The continued existence of populationist races, if it is a fact, is a fact within our power to change.” Thus, if populationist races exist (and they do), they exist by virtue of existing in nature.
So the races are not in danger of non-existence anytime soon, since the percentage of interracial unions are not too high compared to those who marry within their populationist races. The maintenance of populationist races comes down to—and will come down to, as long as humans are around—to social policies, whether enacted by state/country governments or the people themselves, sans any laws on miscegenation.
It has been said that we are attracted to people “who look like us“, “who look like our parents“, and “‘who are more similar to ourselves“. This means—NECESSARILY—that people are more likely to be attracted to people of their own race/ethnic group. People “who look like us” are co-ethnics and people of the same racial background; people who “look like our parents”, are, again, people who would share the same geographic ancestry. Since the physical features that delineate races are genetically transmitted from parent to offspring, then, people are more likely to be attracted to people of their same race. Finally, “people more similar to ourselves” doesn’t necessarily mean “people more racially/ethnically similar to ourselves”, since, of course, there are many other things that individuals have in common other than their race/ethnic group. However, it has been established that we are attracted more to people who share more similar genes than ourselves (Rushton,1997, 1998; Sebro et al, 2017). Thus, logically, since we are attracted to people who look like ourselves and our parents, we are attracted to people of our own ethnicity/race, as a matter of fact.
The question “How much admixture does it take for one race to no longer exist” is answered simply once the term “RACE” is defined: the amount of admixture it takes for one race to be “bred out” of existence is proportional to the amount of admixture it takes for one race’s physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry which are exhibited by the real group in question (this case being a subrace of a minimalist/populationist race). Europeans can’t take “much”, if any, other admixture, otherwise the traits that make Europeans European (which are, of course, not mutually exclusive to them, but the traits they—and their ethnies—exhibit are distinct) will disappear and so one of the Caucasian subraces will disappear as well. Social isolation, at the moment, is maintaining the races as we know them—and will far into the foreseeable future (there is no evidence that they will disappear anytime soon). “Violations” of the one drop rule abound, but they mean little to the minimalist/populationist concepts of race since the visible physical features which distinguish the races remain intact.
The fact that people are more attracted to people who look like themselves and their parents is an implicit way of saying that people are more attracted to people who are physically similar to themselves—that is, racially/ethnically similar to themselves—and shows that the races will not be going anywhere for the foreseeable future.
Human races will continue to exist as long as the social barriers that impede racial interbreeding remain. (Of course, if these social barriers did not exist, a majority of people still would court people who look like themselves and their families.) This is evidence that, contra social laws that impede or frown upon interracial marriages, we do not need such laws/rules because people stick to their own anyway. Therefore, the races are not in danger of disappearing anytime soon.
Over at the blog Anthropology 365 the author—Adam Johnson, biocultural anthropologist—wrote an article titled Populations, Race, and The Sorites Paradox, in which he argues that, since there are no “clear lines” and they are “wuzzy”, we cannot say where one race ends and another begins, therefore race does not exist. His whole argument is largely just the continuum fallacy—that since we cannot show where one race, in this instance, ends and another begins, therefore, race does not exist. This reasoning, however, is very flawed.
The beginning of his article is concerned with laying out the sorites paradox. Imagine zero grains of sand, then continuously add grains of sand, 1, 5, 10, 100, 1000, etc. When does the heap become a pile of sand? Johnson attempts to use this logic regarding races and populations: where does one population end and another begin? (You already know where this is headed; it seems that this is the ‘argument’ that gets the most play nowadays when it comes to race-denialism and racial eliminativism when there are better, non-fallacious, arguments out there to attack the concept of race in our ontology. Using the old and tired “continuum fallacy” no longer makes sense because the objection that “Race does not exist because we cannot tell where one race ends and another begins” has been responded to numerous times, most recently (and forcefully) by philosophers of race Michael Hardimon and Quayshawn Spencer.)
He defines “population”, stating that—in biocultural anthropology—that a population is simply a group of like kinds that interbreed with each other which are separated by geographic barriers. Nothing wrong with that—it’s true. He then makes the huge leap in logic to a within-country comparison (America), showing two arbitrarily circled “populations” on the east and west coasts of America. He admits the circles are “arbitrary”, then adds another purple circle in the middle, and finally a green and purple circle in between the original circles, signifying five populations (the image can be seen below).
He says that “It is often impossible to draw neat boundaries around a group”, but I am aware of no author making any claim that it IS possible (and easy) to draw neat boundaries around groups. To do so, you only need simple conditions; and if there is any deviation out of those conditions, then the population in question do not fit the definition of what you were constructing and they can thus be removed. Johnson says “where does yellow end and purple begin?” since there is so much overlap between all five colors in this image. He says that this reasoning shows how “crude” the concept of population is regarding the accepted definition: a group of like kinds that can interbreed but are geographically separated.
One who denies Hardimon’s (2017) 3 conditions for to establish that populations are minimalist races (C1. visible patterns of distinct physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry; C2. that the members in this group are linked by a common ancestry; and C3. they must originate from a distinct geographic location) may then take to this idea that these arbitrarily drawn circles which are supposed to be “populations” (to Johnson) are then races; but Johnson never left any conditions, only a vague definition. One could argue that two of those clusters satisfy C1-C3 (that the cluster in question shares visible patterns of distinct physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry [the people who, say, make up one town in one of the arbitrarily drawn circles may have different visible patterns of distinct physical features which correspond with their ‘geographic ancestry’], that the members are linked by a common ancestry [the town they now live in, say], and they derive from a distinct geographic location [the arbitrarily drawn circle is a distinct geographic location].
However, for one to say that C1 holds for these arbitrarily drawn circles, they have to stretch the definition in order to accept random populations within a country. They then need to say that C2 refers to any type of “common ancestry” of a certain town; and that C3 then shows that they derive from a distinct geographic location. However, in regard to C2 and C3, one who would attempt such an argument would be equivocating on “geographic ancestry” and “distinct geographic location”, thusly claiming that an infinitude of races exist because the conditions are vague. While I do admit that minimalist concept is vague, in my view, it does not allow for one to equivocate on certain words used in the argument to show that any and all arbitrary populations can be called “races”; it does not work like that because there are distinctive conditions that must be met before further thinking on whether or not a population in question is a “race” or not.
Johnson then quotes Scientific American writer John Terrel who writes in his article “Plug and Play” Genetics, Racial Migrations and Human History:
“Distinguishing between races and populations is effectively making a distinction without a difference. If this comes across as sounding crazy to you, then tell me this. What is a population? How can you tell whether you are “inside” a population or “outside” it? How many of them are there “out there” in the real world? How many did there used to be? More than today, or fewer? (Now substitute in these simple questions the word “race.” Doesn’t make much difference, right?)”
What is a population? Good question. The definition left by Johnson above is alright, but we can refine it. I can simply cite Michael Hardimon’s definition of “populationist race” (Hardimon, 2017: 99; my emphasis):
“A race is a subdivision of Homo sapiens—a group of populations that exhibits a distinctive pattern of genetically transmitted phenotypic characters that corresponds to the group’s geographic ancestry and belongs to a biological line of descent initiated by a geographically separated and reproductively isolated founding population.”
Using this definition of race, a race is a group of populations that exhibits a distinctive pattern of genetically transmitted phenotypic characters that corresponds to the groups’ geographic ancestry. Thus, with “population” having a much more non-vague definition, we can then begin to look for populations that exist in reality (not arbitrarily demarcated “populations” like Johnson did—using arbitrary circles as population groups in America).
Now that population is defined, what about the next question: “How can you tell whether you are “inside” a population or “outside” it?” Since we now have a better grasp of what “population” means in this context, then this question is simple to answer. You can tell whether you are “inside”‘ or “outside” a population by looking in a mirror and then thinking about any “population” as defined above. It really is that simple. However, it is hard when “population” is defined so vaguely, and so you get flaws in reasoning like the one from Johnson.
Now that we know that we can tell whether or not we are “inside” or “outside” a population, his next question is: “How many of them are there “out there” in the real world?” According to the definition presented by Hardimon above, there are 5 current races in the human subspecies. That’s the number of races that are ““out there” in the real world” (as opposed to a possible world we can imagine—which is not the topic of contention).
Now that we know how many of “them” [races] exist, the next questions are: “How many did there used to be? More than today, or fewer?” I won’t pretend to know the answer to this question, but I will say one thing: the number of races that used to exist in the past comes down to the number of populations that exhibit a distinctive pattern of visible physical features which are genetically transmitted by geographically and reproductively isolated founding populations. Though, the number of races that “used to” exist is irrelevant to the fact that races exist today and the number of races that do exist today.
Johnson then claims that we, in the West, have a “long history” of constructing different races. And while this is true, this does not go against the claim that biological racial realism is true. Johnson says that “We homogenized entire continents of people into essential “types” and used the assumptions intrinsic to those types to make grand statements about the “natural” divisions in the human species and the value and meaning associated.” Well, these “entire homogenized continents of people” DO fit into “types”—though they are not “essential”; there are “natural” divisions within the human species BUT one does not have to put value and meaning onto the existence of these populations that we call ‘races’, since they are based solely on distinct pattern of genetically transmitted characters which then correspond with the group’s geographic ancestry.
“Anthropology has since moved on from it’s [sic] assumption that the human species is divided up into natural kinds“, Johnson writes. It seems that Johnson is ignorant to the work of Hardimon (2017) and his racial typology using the minimalist concept of race along with its “scientific equivalent” the populationist race concept. Minimalist races are a biological kind “if only a modest one” (Hardimon, 2017: 91), and so, just because “Anthropology has since moved on from it’s [sic] assumption that the human species is divided up into natural kinds” DOES NOT MEAN THAT there are no “kinds” within the human species. The argument for the existence of minimalist races establishes the claim that the human species is, in fact, divided up into kinds:
P1) There are differences in patterns of visible physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry
P2) These patterns are exhibited between real groups, existing groups (i.e., individuals who share common ancestry)
P3) These real, existing groups that exhibit these physical patterns by geographic ancestry satisfy conditions of minimalist race
C) Therefore race exists and is a biological reality
Minimalist races exist and are biologically real; if minimalist races exist, then populationist races exist; populationist race is the “scientization” of minimalist race; minimalist races entail kinds, and so since minimalist races entail kinds then so do populationist races; therefore both concepts speak to kinds within the human species and their biological reality.
Either way, we can also accept that anthropology has moved away from the assumption that the human race is divided into kinds and not have to give up the argument for the existence of race. Instead of arguing that human races are “kinds” as Hardimon (2017) does, Spencer (2014) argues that since Americans defer to the US Census Bureau regarding race, the must be referring to biologically real groups. The US Census Bureau defers to the Office of Management and Budget. The OMB discusses “sets of” populations. K= 5 delineates populations that Americans refer to when referring to race. So since Americans defer to the Census Bureau and the Census Bureau defers to the OMB, when we Americans talk about race, we talk about proper names for population groups as denoted by the OMB—even though ‘race’ looks like a ‘kind’ term, according to Spencer (2014: 1028) “its current use in US racial discourse is that of a proper name. It is a term that rigidly designates a particular set of “population groups.” This means that race is a particular, not a kind.”
So, there are two sound arguments for the existence of race (the argument for the existence of populationist races from Hardimon and the argument for the existence of Blumenbachian partitions—which both use the same population genetics paper (Rosenberg et al, 2002) to buttress their claims that their “kinds” (Hardimon, 2017) and “partitions” (Spencer, 2014) exist in reality.
Lastly, Johnson cites Galanter et al (2012) who genotyped “populations” throughout South America:
He then states that we have a bunch of South American populations here, all with differing amounts of admixture (which, of course, coincide with three of the five populationist races). He pretty much says, “How can we draw neat circles around these populations to call them “populations”, and what about those other populations not sampled in the analysis?” It makes no sense; when you’re just drawing circles anywhere on any map and then claiming that they are “populations” that satisfy a vague criteria/definition, then you don’t understand any of the newer arguments put forth by philosophers on the existence and reality of racial population groups.
He concludes the article simply:
To conclude, it’s always important to parse in our assumptions and take into account that our levels of analysis (the unit we are studying) may not represent reality. When we equivocate levels of analysis with levels of reality when examining human diversity, as Terrell says, we end up making a distinction between race and populations with no real difference. However, if we understand that the “population(s)” of interest are not reflections of reality, but merely constructed entities that represents an amalgamated web of kinship, political, biological, economic, and random histories at a particular time and place, we can avoid the trap of racial thinking (without using ‘race’) that some scholars fall in to.
He seems to be conflating two concepts here: how we view these visible physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry (our socialview of these populations) and their actual existence completely removed from our social conventions. Yes, socialraces are groups that are taken to be racialist races (that is to say, they are taken to have a specific essence particular to that race and only that race); but the concept of socialrace—the types of social values we give to these populations (think that the minimalist concept of race denotes certain social groups on the basis of distinct visible patterns which correspond to geographic ancestry; the socialrace concept is a good concept since it presents a way of thinking about (1) social groups that are taken to be races (such as ‘Latinos’/’Hispanics’); (2) the social positions that the social groups occupy; and (3) the systems of social structure of which those positions are parts (Hardimon, 2017: 139).
The “populations of interest”, are, indeed, of interest because they pick out what ‘we already know to be’ races.
Races, then, are both socially and biologically constructed. The minimalist concept of race shows the phenotypes that the socialrace concept chooses out when denoting a population its socialrace status in a given society. It shows that there are both biological and social underpinnings to racial categories—that is, there is both a “biological” and “social” realm to race in our ontology, and if we want to understand both ontologies, then we must first think of the consequences of thinking of “race” as only a biological concept and only a social concept and then—after we have thought of “race” as a biological and social concept on its own—we can think of “race” as both a social and biological phenomenon because that’s the best way to describe race in out ontology.
I find it funny how Johnson brings up “population thinking”; but I am probably thinking of it in a different way then he was in his article. When he brings up “population thinking” he wants you to think in terms of his definition of “population”, which pretty much means any group he circles is deemed a population, and thus, since there is no easy way to delineate populations from each other, therefore race does not exist (we must be eliminativist about race). Though when I think of the term “population thinking”, I think of Ernst May’s use of the phrase populationist thinking is more apt: “populationist thinking” is directly opposed to “typological thinking”: “populationist thinking” holds that there are no intrinsic “biological essences”, nor any property—or set of properties—that all, and only all, members of a population share.
For the populationist “all organisms and organic phenomena are composed of unique features and can be described in collectively only in statistical terms. Individuals, or any kind of biological entities, form populations of which we can determine the artihmetic mean and the statistics of variation. Averages are merely statistical abstractions. . . . For the typologist the type (eidos) is real and the variation is an illusion, while for the populationist the type (average is an abstraction and only the variation is real (Mayr, 1976; quoted in Hardimon, 2017: 20).
For example, “Caucasian” is a valid taxonomic category when discussing populationist races. One classified as “Caucasian” might have absolutely none of the genotypic or phenotypic markers associated with “Caucasian-ness”; that is, population thinking does not assume that any one genotype or phenotype is essential to any one population. Thus, there are no intrinsic properties that all members of a race—and only members of that race—share.
To conclude, contrary to the claims of Johnson and Terrel, race does exist and there are reasons why we should accept the existence of these population groups we call races. Johnson largely uses the old and tired continuum fallacy—the fallacy of the beard, whichever name you like—to attempt to argue that “race” does not exist. But he did not even state any conditions on what “population” entails; he just drew random, overlapping circles proclaiming “Ha! Where does X color end and Y color begin!!??” This type of thinking, though, is fallacious, as can be seen. It is completely possible to delinate races on the basis of visible physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry.
Articles like Johnson’s and Terrel’s are easy to come by: they just adopt a racial eliminativist stance on race (that it should be removed from our ontology entirely). They use fallacies like the continuum fallacy to show that since there is no clear ‘genetic line’ (see my article You Don’t Need Genes to Delineate Race) separating so-called races, therefore races do not exist (we must then take an eliminativist approach to race). I’m of the belief that the answer to the question “Does race exist?” will be—and only can be—answered by philosophers of race. We know that geographic variation exists—however small it may be. We know that we can distinguish continental populations on the basis of visible physical features. From there, it’s only a short bit of reasoning to reason, correctly, that race exists and is a biological reality (as the arguments in Spencer, 2014 and Hardimon, 2017 attest to).
Michael Hardimon has some of the best defenses of the reality of race that I am aware of. His 4 concepts are: the racialist concept (he says racialist races do not exist, which I will cover in the future), the minimalist race concept, the socialrace concept (which also will be covered more in depth in the future) and the populationist race concept. Racialist races do not exist, according to Hardimon. However, that does not mean that race does not exist nor does it mean that race isn’t real. On the contrary, race exists and is a biological reality. Simple arguments for the existence of race do indeed exist and see where mixed-race individuals, ‘Latinos’, and Brazilians fall. (Author of the book A Theory of Race Joshua Glasgow also reviewed Hardimon’s book (Glasgow, 2018), and I also left my thoughts on his review.)
Now, minimalist races exist and are biologically real. The concept, though, is vague. It doesn’t state which populations are races, but the populationist race concept, however, does. Hardimon (2017: 99) defines populationist races:
“A race is a subdivision of Homo sapiens—a group of populations that exhibits a distinctive pattern of genetically transmitted phenotypic characters that corresponds to the group’s geographic ancestry and belongs to a biological line of descent initiated by a geographically separated and reproductively isolated founding population.”
Are there groups that exhibit patterns of a distinctive pattern of visible physical features which are genetically transmitted and correspond to the group’s geographic ancestry? Are there groups that belong to a biological line of descent which was initiated by geographically and reproductively isolated founding populations? The answer is, obviously, yes. Which groups satisfy the definition of populationist races? I will discuss this below.
An important question to answer is: are races subspecies? The two terms are similar. Merriam Webster defines subspecies as: “a category in biological classification that ranks immediately below a species and designates a population of a particular geographic region genetically distinguishable from other such populations of the same species and capable of interbreeding successfully with them where its range overlaps theirs.” While “race” is similarly defined. So, are races subspecies?
The fixation index (Fst) is a measure of population differentiation due to genetic structure which is estimated from SNPs or microsattelites. Generally, the accepted criterion for subspeciation is between .25 and .30. Human groups have an Fst between .05 and .15, so human groups fall way short of subspeciation. Fst estimates for humans fall between .05 and .15, which is far and away what the consensus is on the delineation of subspecies within a group of like kinds. Further, Fst does not support the existence of distinct clusters in humans (Maglo, Mersha, and Martin, 2016; it should be noted that they believe that for human races to exist, human races must be subspecies—similar views are held by philosopher of science Adam Hochman—but their contentions were addressed by Spencer, 2015). Human populations are not subspecies, and the fact that they are not subspecies does not rail against the existence of populationist races.
Hochman (2013) makes the case that in order to claim that clusters represent subspecies, four conditions have to be met: “(i) the range of allele frequency differences between genetic Fstclusters corresponding to race must be relatively uniform, (ii) there must be a determinate number of such clusters, (iii) the allelic frequencies within such clusters must be relatively homogeneous, and (iv) there must be a large jump in genetic differences between such clusters” (Hardimon, 2017: 108).
Thus, the human species does not contain subspecies in the technical sense of the word, as humans Fst estimates range between .05 to .15. This further attests to the fact that the clusters—identified by Rosenberg et al (2002)—are not subspecies. “There is no need for US racial groups to be subspecies or clades, have high genetic variation among them, or be fundamental categories in human population genetics just in order to be biologically real races. Rather, in order for US racial groups to be biologically real races, they just need to be races and biologically real (Spencer, 2015: 6).
The populationist race concept, however, does not require that a division in a species be represented by a particular Fst estimated. It further doesn’t say that Hochman’s (2013) conditions must be met in order for the clusters to be races. Therefore the populationist race concept is not a subspecies concept; there are no subspecies in our genus. Though, if we were forced to accept Hochman’s (2013) conditions (which we do not have to), human races do not exist.
Next is the concept of phylogeny. If phylogenetic is taken to in the normal biological terminology, then the question is whether or not racial lines of descent capture evolutionary significant relationships. And if “evolutionary significant relationships” are taken in the normal biological context then the answer to the question is “no.” This is because the term “evolutionary significance”, taken in the general biological terminology, is understood in a way that for a relationship between populations to be “evolutionarily significant”, then the differences between these populations must be blocked by extensive gene flow.
However, regarding the populations that we take to be populationist races, if the features of these races have adaptive significance, such as skin color for differing climates, then the populationist race concept is of interest to evolutionary biologists since biological raciation makes it possible for divisions of Homo sapiens to survive in different climates. Thus, when discussing how and why divisions of our species adapted to different climates—physically speaking—then this concept is of use to evolutionary biologists since it can explain the adaptive physical features of divisions of Homo sapiens. We then have two choices. We can then further take the idea that to be “phylogenetic”, populations must block extensive gene flow, though we can grant that populationist races may well be of interest to evolutionary biologists (due to their adaptive features that arose due to climatic adaption), despite the fact that populationist races are nonphylogenetic (Hardimon, 2017: 111).
The populationist race concept is a candidate scientific concept. This is because the concept uses biological terminology such as “reproductive isolation”, “transmitted phenotypic characteristics”, “founding population”, and “geographic ancestry.” Hardimon then discusses how and why the concept can form a scientific concept:
“… concept C has the “form” of a scientific concept in biology if
(i) it is formulated in a “biological vocabulary”,
(ii) it is framed in terms of an accepted biological outlook,
(iii) it is suitable for deployment in an accepted branch of biological inquiry, and
(iv) it presents the scientific ground of the phenomenon it represents” (Hardimon, 2017: 112).
This concept satisfies all four conditions. It satisfies (i) since it uses biological vocabulary (e.g., phenotype, reproductive isolation). It satisfies (ii) since it’s framed in what Mayr terms “population thinking” (which is the rejection of essentialism—“the view that some properties of objects are essential to them.”. It satisfies (iii) since it is suitable for deployment in ecology, ethology and evolutionary biology. Areas of study, for example, can focus on how and why differing populationist races have differing patterns of visible physical features (i.e., how and why phenotypes changed as migration occurred out of Africa into Eurasia, the Pacific Islands and the Americas). And it satisfies (iv) in that representing populationist races as having arisen from reproducively isolated founding populations.
Now which groups are candidates for populationist races? There are two conditions: (1) they exhibit distinctive patterns of phenotypic characters which correspond to that population’s geographic ancestry and (2) belong to biological lines of descent which then trace back to geographically separated and reproductively isolated founding populations.
There are populations which exhibit distinctive patterns of visible physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry, and they are Sub-Saharan Africans, Caucasians, East Asians, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders. The distinctive patterns of visible physical features are genetically transmitted, and they correspond to geographic ancestry. These populations belong to biological lines of descent which can then be traced back to geographically separated and reproductively isolated founding populations. Thus, conditions (1) and (2) are satisfied, therefore populationist races exist.
Further support for (iii) (that the populationist race concept can be deployed in the biological sciences) can be found in my article You Don’t Need Genes to Delineate Race. I discussed differences in gross morphology between the races; I discussed differences in physiognomy between the races; and, of course, the differences in geographic ancestry that caused the differences in morphology and physiognomy (see here for discussions on skin color). Differences in climate that Homo sapiens encountered after trekking out of Africa then caused the distinctive differences in visible physical features which correspond with geographic ancestry which then make up populationist races. Thus, the study of populationist races will elucidate the caused of phenotypic differences between populationist races since they exist and are a biological reality.
There is a relationship between populationist and minimalist races, though they’re defined by different concepts. However if minimalist races are populationist races, then the kind minimalist race=populationist race. “The claim that minimalist race=populationist race is analogous to the claim that water=H2O. The latter claim, since true, provides scientific insight into the nature of minimalist race” (Hardimon, 2017: 120).
Furthermore, we can assume that the populations identified by Lewontin (1972) as races can be interpreted as lending support to the biological reality of populationist races exist. We can also assume that African, Caucasians, East Asians, Oceanians, and Native Americans constitute populationist races, then Rosenberg et al (2002) show support for the biological reality of populationist races, even though the fraction of diversity separating the clusters is between 3-5 percent, this still shows that populationist races capture a portion of biological human variation, no matter how small it is.
“If it is assumed that Africans, Eurasians, East Asians, Oceanians, and Americans constitute continental-level populationist races, Rosenberg and colleagues’ 2002 study can be interpreted as providing support for the biological reality of populationist race inasmuch as it shows that a very small fraction (3-5 percent) of human genetic variation is due to difference among continental-level populationist races. Modulo our assumption, the study results indicate that populationist race is a minor principle of human genetic structure and that populationist race is a minor principle of human variation.” (Hardimon, 2017: 124)
The same points made that minimalist races are human population partitions, that races can be distinguished at the level of the gene, and that the continental-level minimalist races differ in a small number of coding genes, also carry over to the populationist race concept since minimalist race=populationist race, so the biological reality of minimalist race carry over to populationist race. So if the five populations are populationist races, then populationist race correspond to a partition of genetic variation found between the races in the human species, which is then evidence for the existence of populationist races.
The five populations that make up populationist races are Native Americans, Caucasians, East Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Sub-Saharan Africans. These populations are biologically real, and they exist. They generically transmit phenotypic characteristics across the generations; these phenotypic characteristics differ due to geographic ancestry. These populations are identified in numerous K = 5 runs. So if we assume that the five populations are populationist races then K = 5 shows the real, but small, human genetic variation found within continental-level populationist races which is how the visible patterns of visible physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry are genetically transmitted.
The populationist race concept is a candidate scientific concept. This is a way to study the small genetic variation between the continental-level clusters. Human phenotypic (and physiologic) differences arose due to adaption to different climates. Thus, since populationist race is a biological reality then studying populationist races will better elucidate how and why differences in phenotype arose.
Both the populationist and minimalist race concepts are vague, I admit. However, they’re not so vague that one could argue that villages, countrys, social classes etc are populationist races. It should be noted, though, that it is implicitly stated in the definition for populationist race, that a morphological component exists. Therefore, groups like the Amish, social classes etc. Thus, the populationist race concept gaurentees that races will be races in the ordinary sense of the word (see Hardimon, 2003). So we can take two groups—G1 and G2—and if G1 does not have any pattern of visible physical features which distinguish it from another group, G2, then G1 is not a race. These visible physical differences that distinguish races from one another are biological in nature—hair color/type, skin color, eye type, morphology etc. This gaurentees that different villages, countries, economic classes and ethnies within a race are not counted as “races”, so defined.
The thing about the populationist race concept is that it directly relates to the minimalist race concept. Once we acknowledge that races exist and are real (since minimalist races exist and are real), then we start thinking “Which populations sastisfy the conditions of populationist races?” The populationist race concept—in tandem with the minimalist race concept—shows us that the patterns in visible physical features are genetically transmitted characters which which correspond to the population’s geoprahic ancestry who belong to biological lines of descent which were initiated by geographically separated and genetically isolated founding populations. The populationist race concept supports the claim that the minimalist race concept is a biological concept and secures the existence of minimalist races since minimalist race=populationist race.
P1) The five populations demarcated by Rosenberg et al (2002) are populationist races; K = 5 demarcates populationist races.
P2) Populationist race=minimalist race.
P3) If populationist race=minimalist race, then everything from showing that minimalist races are a biological reality carrys over to populationist races.
P4) Populationist races capture differences in genetic variation between continents and this genetic variation is responsible for the distinctive patterns of visible physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry who belong to biological lines of descent which were initiated by geographically isolated founding populations.
C) Therefore, since populationist races=minmalist races, and visible physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry are genetically transmitted by populations who belong to biological lines of descent, initiated by reproductively isolated founding populations, then populationist races exist and are biologically real.