After viewing the Fuentes-Wade webinar, and re-reading their positions in the summary of the event, I had to take a step back and attempt to remove my preconceived notions from my judgment. After undergoing a rigorous six-week tour through the anthropological locus of race, it can be difficult to see a dissenting opinion as anything but incorrect. Even after this, I still feel like Fuentes is the clear winner in this ‘debate.’ His ability to present his points clearly and concisely, as well as being able to respond academically to Wade’s posited notions in the webinar made him the clear winner. I found that Wade presented his views and information in a way that only allowed those with an academic history in genetics to fully understand the facts he uses to back those views. Fuentes on the other hand turned this around and explained the very same charts Wade used, acknowledging each aspect, rather than giving a bare-bones explanation. Wade’s argument is founded around his belief that the information in Rosenberg et al 2002, shows that there are identifiable and genetically definable groups that can be labeled as biological races in humans. He goes on to argue that social scientists have demonized the concept of race to the point that human geneticists are scared to even speak of it for fear of being denounced and ostracized.
The three attached articles to this debate contain two criticisms of Wade’s position, and one defense of that position written by Wade himself. All three are well written and provide more insight into the two opposing views. Both Fuentes and Raff share the same opposing viewpoint, however they take two different approaches to arrive at the same conclusion. The most convincing of which is Raff’s breakdown of the technical details used in Wade’s book. Raff takes a comprehensive look at both the verbiage and statistical information she feels Wade has distorted in order to propagate his theory. Starting out she convincingly strikes down Wade’s assertion that genetic makeup contributes to behavioral and economic disparities, in which he credits the racist assumption that Jews are predisposed to thrive in a capitalistic society much like the Eskimos are predisposed to thrive in the cold of the Arctic. She goes on to review his use and assumptions about the Rosenberg survey, pointing out much like Fuentes does that the software used outputs data according to the number of groupings requested by the researcher. She puts the final nail in the coffin by quoting directly from Wade’s book that he chooses five categories in order to keep things simple and practical.
On the other side of the coin it is Wade’s own defense of his book that I find the least convincing. He begins this with the claim that many social scientists have based their opposition to racism in the fact that there are no races. He then says that they (Social Scientists), only say this because they believe that those less enlightened and less intelligent than them will not agree with their position unless they are told everyone is the same underneath the skin. By making this exaggeration, Wade uses a straw man argument to give the impression that he is in fact attempting to protect the laymen from the big bad academics. He continues his trend of logical fallacy by next attacking the perceived pedigree of those who have written in opposition to him, highlighting their careers in a negative light compared to his own. This use of ad hominem is disturbing from someone who takes time to highlight his lengthy career at The New York Times. After this he goes through each author and attempts to discredit their articles by addressing the principal arguments. Here Wade again uses straw man fallacies to make each authors claim easier to refute.
I found it very difficult to find weaknesses in the argument championed by Raff and Fuentes. If there are any it is that the two dissenters of Wade’s opinion fail to give an alternative to what that 0.1% variation in the human genome does imply. Rather they only focus on how Wade is incorrect for interpreting the variation in data as the decider of races.
In much the same way it was very hard to determine the strengths found in Wade’s argument, given that it is laced with logical fallacies. However his argument that allele frequency is the only demarcation of races seems to be an argument that the dissenters do not address nor refute. It is important to note that Wade does not go into specifics either, instead directing one to read his book to understand how that translates into the difference in physical appearance. The other argument Wade makes that carries some weight is that because many social scientists deny the existence of race, biologists do not study its origins out of intimidation. This is a byproduct of that stance, and makes it incredibly difficult to have a simple conversation about race and racial origins, much less lead a scientific inquiry into those origins.