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“With Brexit, the stagnant pool has been replaced by a running stream …”

Andrew Kennedy writes at Conservative Home about how the Conservative Party has seen a post-Brexit surge in membership. Commenters point out that the same thing has happened in the other British political parties. But why? None of the parties performed in recent weeks in a particularly attractive manner, so what’s happening?

I think that commenter David Webb, a recent (re)joiner of the Conservative Party, nails it:

I rejoined post-referendum because of a feeling that politics mattered again. Within the confines of the EU, nothing much was worth debating, as nothing much could be changed. Apart from the continuous drift to the bureaucratic European superstate, inertia ruled.

With Brexit, the stagnant pool has been replaced by a running stream … that’s not to say everything will be wonderful, but once again ideas count, and things can get done.

But then, I would think that David Webb nails it, because I said something very similar in my posting here at the time when the referendum result was becoming clear. I didn’t say that all the political parties would now have a membership surge, but I could have and should have, because it was the logical thing to deduce from what I was then realising. Political debate matters again, not just for me and for all those who think as I do, but for everyone with any sort of political opinion.

As David Webb says, “ideas count” means that bad ideas also now count for somewhat more than they did, unless they are the bad ideas that the EU stood for and imposed upon us, in which case they now count for slightly less.

It will be interesting – and no doubt in some ways rather scary – to see what British public opinion now consists of, given that for the last few decades much of it has been sedated by our EU membership. First out of the blocks were the racists, who perhaps imagined that Britain voting Leave meant that all the bloody foreigners now had to leave.

But what other political ideas will emerge? As I also said in that earlier posting: good times for blogs like Samizdata, where our good ideas will be celebrated anew and the bad ideas of others will be denounced. Again, speaking for myself, I find that the urge to blog is now stronger. Because it will count for a bit more than it did.

Perhaps the most important next discovery about another bit of British public opinion will concern the forthcoming Labour leadership contest. Labour has also, see above, had a post-Brexit surge in membership. But are those new members yet more Corbyn supporters, or are they anti-Corbynists, wanting a nicer and more traditional Labour Party? My guess is that the Labour leadership contest will be closer than it was last time around, with quite a few who voted for Corbyn last time voting against Corbyn this time around, but not close enough to unseat Corbyn. The Labour collapse will continue. But, what do I know? We shall see.

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49 comments to “With Brexit, the stagnant pool has been replaced by a running stream …”

  • Cal

    All true, but we haven’t left the EU yet. And I think that’s another reason for the surge in membership. There’s going to be a battleground very soon, which will go on for a few years, about when and how we leave the EU.

    Another reason why the Tory membership has surged may be because people now have the idea — whether rightly or wrongly — that perhaps ordinary people will get a voice in the party again, after a decade or so of tightly managed centralism, and posh public school Oxford boys running it all.

  • Paul Marks

    Politics does not matter if the E.U. Commission makes the decisions.

    Of course good decisions may not be made by the democratic process (none of us believe in the “Divine Right of the 51%) – but at least there is a chance now.

    As for whether we will leave the E.U. – yes we will.

    I trust David Davis on this.

    And it is rare that I trust anybody about anything.

  • Snorri Godhi

    But are those new members yet more Corbyn supporters, or are they anti-Corbynists, wanting a nicer and more traditional Labour Party?

    Or are they Tories excited like naughty schoolboys at the thought of voting for Corbyn?

    Of course good decisions may not be made by the democratic process

    There is nothing democratic about the process by which modern “democracies” make decisions — except when there is a referendum.

  • John Galt III

    “First out the blocks were the racists…” ?????

    Poles are the same race as Brits – shock number one
    Islam is not a race – shock number two

    Quit using the Cultural Marxist term “racist” – you are just as witless and clueless as to its usage and meaning as the Left is. If you meant to say some Brits are xenophobic or have pride in their heritage says so, but stop the “racist” bullshit. It’s lazy and inaccurate.

  • Quit using the Cultural Marxist term “racist” – you are just as witless and clueless as to its usage and meaning as the Left is

    Er, no. I think Brian knows what racist means just fine. You on the other hand do seem a bit semantically challenged…

    If you meant to say some Brits are xenophobic or have pride in their heritage says so, but stop the “racist” bullshit. It’s lazy and inaccurate.

    I am pretty sure that is not what Brian means, even if you would like that to be true. So my guess is that your request for him to stop using the term “racist” will be met with a well known and very appropriate two-fingered gesture much favoured in the Sceptred Isles.

    Anyone claiming there are no racists in the UK & that they were not part of the highly informal ‘grand coalition’ that prevailed in the Brexit vote is just flat out lying. I supported Brexit but I am well aware not everyone else who did had the same motivations as me. Far more than Poles (increasingly the girlfriends of choice in the UK these days, though personally I prefer Slovaks), it is Pakistanis such racists have in mind, and they are indeed a different race to your typical thick-as-mince British racist, as well as their less common and more wilfully deceptive apologists.

  • Laird

    If “ideas count” again, and public participation in politics is increasing, it would be interesting to know if visits to this blog are also growing. I’m sure you have access to the statistics; what do they say?

  • We do not make a habit of writing about party politics (with the last few weeks being rather the exception), but yes, out eyeballs are somewhat up. However I would be surprised if Guido was not up massively, for he all about politics.

  • rapscallion

    Perry de Havilland. Well then what does Brian mean? To a very large extent I agree with John Galt III. Some of my extended family are Dutch, and we as a family are all Caucasian – which is our race. The same is true for the majority of white Europeans because we do not belong to the Mongoloid or Negroid races. Any differences between white Europeans are of an historical/language/culture bent. Islam is not a race either and nor is Christianity – both are religions who have people from all races as members. If you’re going to use nationality as a “racist” term, then how do you account for the populations of virtually every country that comprise of the 3 primary races? Perhaps Brian could enlighten us of precisely what he does mean.

  • Well then what does Brian mean?

    Brian is free to answer that should he wish to (not that I think he should bother frankly) but by racist I suspect he means people who want to exclude others based on their race.

    To a very large extent I agree with John Galt III

    Well then like him I assume you are just another apologist for racists who wants to claim it is really just about culture and values, but who is revealed by their allergic reaction to even seeing the word “racist”.

    Funny thing is, I am indeed a cultural chauvinist and happy to trumpet the manifest superiority of liberal western enlightenment values over those of Islamic based cultures, or indeed any other culture. But that does not blind me to the fact some people who might agree with me on that score are doing so because it is seems to be comparable with their racism, even if their racism is in fact atavistic pre-enlightenment primitivism that is not uniquely ‘Western’ at all.

  • Derek Buxton

    Paul,
    I do hope that you are correct, but I suspect that Mrs May may have a different script. She loudly proclaimed that “Brexit meant Brexit” but she is far too close to the “remainers” in the party. We also have the slight problem that the Foreign Secretary is iffy on the EU details as I hear is Davis. I live in hope but fear for the future. There seems to be no plan for an orderly exit, we must have one ASAP. The gap is allowing more scare stories to emerge, talking down the currency and the Country. I do not think that our political class have realised just what we must have, the Referendum was about our governance as well!

  • Watchman

    Quick point on race – this is not a cultural Marxist construct, but an absolute construct. It has no particular meaning, since all human can breed successfully with each other and share pretty much the same genetic makeup (minus a few cosmetic features and one or two regional abnormalities), so are not distinguishable as separate in the way say Homo Sapiens and Homo Neanderthalus (I think that’s correct) would be if they were both around today. I suppose you could argue regional genetic differences define races, but I do not know of a single marker that is universally present in an indiginous population and not in others.

    So I am not sure a Pakistani (or a Britain of Pakistani ancestry) is another race, unless you, me or they wish to create that construct. For people like John Galt III there is apparently some marker of difference between me and this hypothetical Pakistani, but other than appearance I cannot say what it is – if it is a culture thing, that is clearly not race since I can adopt exactly the same cultural markers should I choose.

  • Ellen

    We have a fair supply of whites, blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, Hmong, and others in my city. In these parts, “racist” usually refers to how whites feel about blacks.

    Now first of all, we have blacks whose ancestors have been here a very long time; secondly, Somali refugees, far too many of whom go back to the Middle East as Islamic militants. But I don’t think I am allowed to see these differences, and certainly know I’m not allowed to say anything about them.

    I’ve noticed three general public styles of black men: black men walking down the street, black men walking down the street wearing a scowl, and scowls walking down the street wearing black men. (There are, of course, many other kinds of black man — and that doesn’t even consider black women, let alone people with some admixture of black genetic heritage. That gets pretty complicated. I’m discussing a relatively simple distinction.)

    I get along with the black man walking down the street. The more ingrained the scowl, the more I fear and avoid them. Can I be blamed for that? Well, yes I can. But should I?

    The way I see it, if I can make distinctions between scowl and non-scowl, whatever I’m doing is at LEAST as much cultural as racial. Hell, I make the same distinctions among whites.

  • Mr Ed

    Might it have been more accurate to use the term ‘chauvinist‘ rather than ‘racist’ for those whom I presume that Brian was referring to? i.e. those with a preference for persons ‘British’ as they accept them, (on the basis of their own subjective judgment as to who is and who is not acceptable) which is something that is likely to differ for every individual according to where the ‘line’ is drawn?

  • It has no particular meaning, since all human can breed successfully with each other and share pretty much the same genetic makeup

    No it has some meaning, in that it indicates some differences in morphology, propensity to certain characteristics (such as blood group, ankle structure, hair, skin and eye colours, hair types, etc.). Race is “real”, it just is not as important or meaningful as “racists” tend to think it is. But does mean something.

  • “First out of the blocks were the racists”. No, first out of the blocks were the Remainers, who knew, in the usual elitist way, that anyone who voted against them was racist. They therefore, in their bitterness of losing, highlighted the rare and unrepresentative weirdo to push their narrative.

    All my life, “racist” has been used to mean, “He dared to disagree with the narrative; to the dungeons with him”. A reaction of distaste to the accusation of racist is normal for an honest commentator, like the snarl of a dog kicked too often. I have plenty of time for Brian’s posts and will not take his (in my opinion, very mistaken) statement about Racists rather than Remainers being first out of the blocks to mean he has sold out to the blob. 🙂 But I can sympathise with anyone who reacts with distaste to “racist” even as I also sympathise with Perry’s defence of Brian against a harshly-phrased rebuke.

  • As regards the more technical discussion in this thread, evolutionary jargon defines distinct races of a species as having genetic differences that are not so large as to prevent interbreeding – and that may be very slight, though noticeable – whereas species are too genetically distinct to breed two generations (e.g. tygons and ligers can be born and live, but are infertile, as are mules). A common theoretical construct assume that species arise from races – which does not mean that all or even most races will one day be species.

    An ideological racist will insist that some fact about human races is settled, no more open to further research than global warming, and of political importance.

  • BTW if anyone were to imagine that Brian had sold out to the blob, his earlier post he that he links to half-way down the one above would surely clear his name. I especially liked the comments on Eddie Izzard’s possible unhelpulfulness to the cause. 🙂 I invite John Galt III to read it and be reassured.

  • Snorri Godhi

    It is a pleasure to see how many Samizdata comments anticipate what i meant to say. Niall has been doing a good share of such comments, recently.

    I am a bit puzzled as to why Perry thinks that prejudice against Pakistanis has induced some people to vote Leave: surely there are very few Britons who blame Pakistani immigration on the EU! (John Galt III is American, however, and therefore might hold such a mistaken opinion.)

    Speaking of Pakistanis: they are noticeably different in appearance from the British natives, of course, but it is of some interest that, genetically, South Asians are closer to Whites, and Whites are closer to them, than either group is to East Asians or Black Africans or Australian natives or American natives.

  • Eric

    Anyone claiming there are no racists in the UK & that they were not part of the highly informal ‘grand coalition’ that prevailed in the Brexit vote is just flat out lying.

    That may be true, but how many? Enough to matter? The charge of “racism” is the most overused of any I can think of.

  • Runcie Balspune

    The racist argument stems from the fact that in all likelihood, most racists probably voted Leave, but then the Remain bloc had its fair share of religious fascists cheering them on. As JG3 points out, the “racist” argument falls flat when applied to Europeans, although I’d still consider that being anti-Slav in general could be considered racist.

    It’s all a moot point, we know why people voted Leave, and it was all about control, not foreigners.

  • I am a bit puzzled as to why Perry thinks that prejudice against Pakistanis has induced some people to vote Leave

    No, no. Context. The racists of the BNP and their ilk voted LEAVE not because they think the EU causes Pakistani immigration (though it could lead to massive middle eastern immigration) but rather as part of their revolt against the establishment. Indeed they are more against the established order of things that we are. And moreover many of the same people who opposed Pakistani immigration also oppose Polish and other Central/Eastern European immigration, hence they were part of the informal ‘Grand Alliance’ I mentioned. There is clearly a racist element to some people’s motivations, but now that we have our Brexit vote in the bag (even if Brexit itself is a work in progress), no need to maintain a dignified silence about such folks any more. Cynical, I know.

  • It’s all a moot point, we know why people voted Leave, and it was all about control, not foreigners

    No, that was why a majority voted LEAVE. But a sizeable minority voted LEAVE because of the immigration issue. I am just being realistic. But yes, LEAVE got the neo-fascist vote, REMAIN got the Islamo-fascist vote 😉

  • The ratio at the last election between BNP votes (derisory) and UKIP votes (13.4% – and many voted Tory who would have voted UKIP if they could have won) should reassure anyone that there is no sizeable minority in the UK to vote Leave – or vote anything – from actual rationally-defined racism. UKIP could not have effortlessly wiped away the brief and small BNP uptick caused by Tony’s “replace the electorate” immigration cheating if even the voters in that uptick had truly wanted actual racism. As soon as they saw their choices, they knew what they wanted. Those who wanted a chance of winning voted Tory. Those who wanted racism voted BNP. Those who put Leave-style beliefs above winning but were not racists voted UKIP. The numbers tell their own story.

    Things may change now. In Labour heartlands, brexit may make voting UKIP look viable as a way to win. No doubt some true BNP voters will switch because of that. But look at their vote in 2015 – and, in large part,, their vote for decades – to see how irrelevant that will be to any but the closest contests, and how gross will be the lies of Remainers pretending it is the explanation.

    (More generally, of course, we could not be in this mess if there were any sizeable minority of actual racist electorate in the UK. If anything of the kind had been so, we’d have other problems but not the ones we have.)

    Guardian / beeb lies about Leavers being racists will remain a staple for years. We need to be strong in the face of them.

  • Alisa

    What Watchman said regarding race – it is a “mere” construct. Of course the source of differences in external appearance* is genetic, but – shockingly enough – the source of differences in ideas and customs driving a person’s behavior is not genetic, it is cultural.

    But then, what Perry said, or at least seems to have implied: the fact that race is a construct (an idea) does not make it any less real than a physical object such as a tree or a bird. Ideas are real, even when they are based on factual falsehoods – simply because people believe in them and act on them. In that sense, Marxism is real, and so is Islam, etc. And just as a person who believes in Marxism is a Marxist, so is a person who (unlike Watchman and myself) believes in the existence of races – as somehow relevant to the way members of these “races” think and behave – is a racist.

    *And it need not necessarily be about different skin color (both ways) – it can be any number of other physical attributes, such as crooked noses (Jews), high cheek bones (Slavs), slanted eyes (Asians), etc.

  • Watchman

    Alisa,

    I like that…

    My problem with using the biological construct of race is that someone has to select which genetic characteristics are definitive for a race anyway, so this is still a cultural construct, both for humans and for animals (if anyone wants to discuss the cultural implications of the racial definition of sheep, I am not sure this is the right board however…). There is no genetic marker for race or even species in our DNA other than what we choose to identify.

  • Alisa

    I agree, Watchman – but then most constructs are cultural. By definition, those that are not, are not wide-spread enough to warrant a public discussion.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Sorry to burst your bubble, Watchman and Alisa, but if you send a human DNA sample to a specialist lab, without any identifying information, the lab will be able to tell you which of 5 human “races” the sample came from, quite reliably. That does not mean that the word “race” is always used in a way that corresponds to reality, obviously. (I use scare quotes because “race” is probably a word that anthropologists refuse to use, understandably.)

    The comparison to sheep is deceptive, because sheep, like dogs, have breeds, developed by artificial, not natural selection.

    There is no genetic marker for race or even species in our DNA

    There is no single marker, but labs that specialize in this sort of things take hundreds of markers, each of which is only statistically related to a specific “race”; but taking together all markers, the identification is reliable.

  • Alisa

    I’m sure you are bursting some bubble, Snorri – but I’m not sure why do you think it has anything to do with me. Nowhere have I claimed that there are no genetic differences between different groups of people. Problem is that just as you or your lab may identify one set of groups (5?), someone else may identify a different set given different criteria. Which is all fine and even interesting, but note that the original topic has been immigration.

  • Mr Ed

    It would be more accurate to say that a genetic lab can take a piece of human DNA and find in it various alleles of genes, and other bits of DNA that are known to be distributed in a way that has been mapped to various ‘races’, so they are not testing for ‘race’ so much as genes that are found in particular ‘strains’ (for want of a better term) of the human species, and can say that this bit of DNA indicates inheritance from this population or that population, and some genes may be found only in particular populations.

    I know of one example of a lab analysing DNA of departmental members which found, looking at some particular markers:

    1. A British bloke with a German surname had a close match to a remote tribe of Venezuelan indians.

    2. An Ashkenazi Israeli had a close match with a Pakistani colleague.

    which naturally led to much hilarity in the department.

  • Watchman

    Snorri,

    My point is that the defintion of those races is something done by humans, not obvious from the DNA – we are looking for certain select genetic markers which have been given significance in determining race (in reality they are simply part of the complex genetic structure of individuals). So yes, we can search for these, but what they tell us only makes sense in terms of a structure which assumes there are five races (or whatever) in the first place – I bet the races were defined before the genetic markers were identified as well, and the markers were fitted to the races…

  • The five races were indeed defined long before modern genetic markers were knowable. The modern markers confirmed common sense in noting that these are the major statistically-correlated genetic varieties of human. These groupings emerge naturally from the data under ordinary statistical analysis. To that extent, noticing these groupings over others in an abstract discussion of human genetic variation is not simply a cultural construct. (I’m guessing this was the point Snorri had in mind.)

    The same applies with animals. For example, the silver and black-backed gull are connected to each other by a chain of intermediate varieties around the north pole. Where the ends of the chain overlap, in the UK, they do not interbreed and so appear separate species, but each interbreeds with its respectively eastern and western neighbours, who then interbreed with the siberian gull variety. (I quote this research from memory.) This case shows how these gull races are very far from social constructs of the researchers; these gulls are in a half-way state to becoming distinct species.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Looks like i’ll have to give a detailed reply to Watchman (that should also take care of Alisa and Mr Ed). First, though, let me make a more general point.

    I assume a superficial familiarity with the concept of motte+bailey doctrines (or strategies, as i prefer to call them). Now, there are some people (not including me) who use the following motte+bailey strategy:
    Motte: there are distinct human “races” (genetic clusters).
    Bailey: racial differences between humans must inform politics.

    Now, my objection to the arguments of Watchman and Alisa, is obviously not that they are adopting a motte+bailey strategy: what i object to, is that they are furiously attacking the impregnable motte, while leaving the enemy free to roam the bailey. Why i assert the motte to be impregnable, will be explained in a follow-up comment, after i refresh my memory about the relevant research.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Looks like i have been smited. Meanwhile, a quick question to Niall: which 5 races were identified without genetic markers? I ask because, if i were to go by looks, i might well cluster the Australian Aborigines together with Black Africans: they look different, but not that different.

  • Watchman

    If you hold the motte the bailey is dependent on you. Hence my attack on the core of racist belief. Niall is not wrong that there are distinct genetic clusters which accord with existing racial divisions. However there is no evidence this genetic variation is a significant stage in forming distinct genetic groups – it is simply standard genetic variation which clusters in local populations. To claim that this justifies the apparent a priori existence of race is to hand the keys to the motte to the racists. Bottom line is we are all one species and there is strong evidence that any racial distinctions in behaviour are cultural. It is possible to use genetic differences to divide the species but remember the genetic similarity is still much more pronounced (and I believe I am correct in saying individual genetic variation is much more pronounced than the limited variation accorded to race).

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker!) Gray

    All right-thinking people know that there are three races, descended from the sons of Noah, Ham and Shem and someone else. Ham is supposed to have colonised Africa, Shem stayed where he was, and the rest of us come from that someone else. There, fixed your races for you!!

  • Rich Rostrom

    I think we have confusion with people using “racist” when they mean “bigot” or “bigoted”. Religious prejudice is not racism, but it is bigotry.

    As to the effect of Brexit on British political participation:

    year Total votes for Parliament

    1987 32,530,204
    1992 33,614,074
    1997 31,288,108
    2001 26,365,192
    2005 27,148,510
    2010 29,653,638
    2015 30,732,452

    I don’t know what happened in 1992-2001 to reduce the electorate by over 20%, but maybe it is finally wearing off.

  • Rich Rostrom (July 20, 2016 at 2:51 am): “I don’t know what happened in 1992-2001 to reduce the electorate by over 20%.” Tony Blair happened. I am not surprised that his project to obtain a partially new electorate was accompanied by much discouragement of the old. Tony had the same backing as Obama from the media (the corridors of the beeb were littered with champagne bottles the day after he won power) and he was a good deal subtler than the chosen one – for example, there was more deceit and less “so we’re breaking the law; suck it up” about Labour’s immigration targets. Thus where the US had a tea party, we merely had a discouraged electorate.

  • I think that Watchman’s comment (July 19, 2016 at 9:57 pm:) is a curate’s egg – that is, it contains both correct and not-so-correct statements.

    Watchman says, “there is strong evidence that any racial distinctions in behaviour are cultural”. It is indeed the case that, even after discarding the rubbish of political correctness – or maybe especially after discarding that, since PC often conceals or distorts cultural differences – one can indeed present a strong argument for cultural explanation of observed politically-consequential differences. The historically-recent breakdown of the black family is an example. In periods between the end of slavery and the era of PC, the marriage data for US blacks was sometimes (marginally) better than that for whites and always respectable in both the scientific and colloquial sense. Today, it is much less likely that a black child will be raised in a traditional two-parent family than a white child. The change can be naturally explained as PC culture having a greater impact on people whom that culture claims to patronise. Since it occurred almost within our lifetimes, it is not at all naturally explainable as a genetic difference. Applying data on the impact of marriage within each racial group to the cross-racial disparity statistically explains many black-white differences in the US.

    However, Watchman also says: “. To claim that this [genetic variation which clusters in local populations] justifies the apparent a priori existence of race is to hand the keys to the motte to the racists.” If you go around the country saying: “The moon is made of green cheese; anyone who denies this is a racist”, then what you are actually doing is calling racism true. Many PCers do this often, as do others who mean well but think less well: when JKRowling recently claimed that we were all racists for thinking that Hermione was known to be white, this was exactly what she was really saying to us. For racism to be false, no true fact can be racist. To call a true fact racist is to call racism true.

    In my very first post, I said that an ideological racist will insist that some fact about human races is settled, no more open to change or clarification from further research than belief in global warming, and of political importance. These days, it is usually PCers who fit this description. They incessantly make claims so wild that a mere regard for accuracy forces an honest commentator to disagree – or to be silent because they will yell racist at any correction. Watchman’s vehement assertion about what local genetic variation must not be called, lest it “hand the key to the motte to the racists” is mild by comparison, but tending the same way. The claim is open to honest scientific challenge. (And, as it happens, I think it is not only not needed to combat any prejudice one may meet but would tend, by its tendentiousness, to have a ‘moon is made of green cheese’ effect.)

  • “In my very first post” should have read “In my first comment on this aspect of the thread”.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Watchman writes a reasoned reply at 4:23 pm and … well, a less-reasoned reply at 9:57 pm, illustrating the danger of writing comments too late in the day.

    Let’s begin with the reasoned reply; but first, i provide a reference (Rosenberg et al) which motivated my claim about the 5 human genetic clusters. Unusually for this sort of papers, there is no paywall. There must be more recent research, but i do not follow this issue.

    Note the paragraph beginning with

    Our evidence for clustering should not be taken as evidence of our support of any particular concept of “biological race.”

    (Read also the rest of the paragraph.)
    I appreciate the political convenience of this remark, but i shall call the genetic clusters “races”: i like to make people uncomfortable.

    On to Watchman’s sensible comment:

    My point is that the defintion of those races is something done by humans, not obvious from the DNA

    The authors used an unsupervised clustering algorithm. Only AFTER the clusters have been found can they be named as races that we are familiar with — and even then we do not actually have a name for the race/cluster that includes Europeans, North Africans, Middle Easterners, and South Asians (a race that your typical racist, whether pro-White or anti-White, would not define a priori).

    Note also in fig.2 that all individuals in a given population (eg Yoruba, Russian, Druze, Kalash. Han, Papuan, Maya) are assigned to the same cluster, or ssometime mixture of clusters — even though the algorithm does not know that they all come from the same population.

    we are looking for certain select genetic markers which have been given significance in determining race (in reality they are simply part of the complex genetic structure of individuals).

    No: the authors did the clustering with different sets of markers, and as long as they used enough markers, they got the same clusters.

    Once you have found the clusters, you can of course move on to supervised clustering: you can select the best markers, so that you need fewer of them to identify the cluster for a given individual.

    So yes, we can search for these, but what they tell us only makes sense in terms of a structure which assumes there are five races (or whatever) in the first place

    That is an important point: you do have to specify the NUMBER of clusters before you run the algorithm. So how do i know that there are only 5 races? well, i don’t.

    Rosenberg et al run the algorithm thousands of times, varying all the parameters, including number of clusters. The clustering was done with anything from 2 to 6 clusters. As you can see from fig.2, increasing the number of clusters does not change the boundaries between clusters (except for adding a new boundary of course). If you go to 6 clusters, then the algorithm becomes less consistent:
    in their previous work, the Kalash population becomes a distinct cluster; in the paper at the link, the native American cluster is split into 2 clusters. In either case, all the other populations remain in their clusters.

    In other words: one can reliably identify at least 5 races/clusters, without any knowledge other than the markers, and the identified races will be such that (a) all individuals in a population belong to the same race and (b) the races are divided by obvious geographical barriers: oceans, the Sahara, the Himalayas.

    I bet the races were defined before the genetic markers were identified

    You lose.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Watchman again:

    If you hold the motte the bailey is dependent on you.

    This is what i meant by saying that you leave your enemies free to roam the bailey. Racists start with a sound claim, that there are human races (IFF “race” is defined properly); and an inane claim, that if there are distinct races, then government must take it into account. You reject their sound claim, and accept uncritically their inane claim.
    (Actually it is not inane, when it comes to funding medical research.)

    Niall is not wrong that there are distinct genetic clusters which accord with existing racial divisions. However there is no evidence this genetic variation is a significant stage in forming distinct genetic groups – it is simply standard genetic variation which clusters in local populations.

    I cannot make any sense of this: the statement between “However” and the hyphen is flatly contradicted by both the statement preceding it and the statement following it.

    To claim that this justifies the apparent a priori existence of race is to hand the keys to the motte to the racists.

    YOU are the one who hands the keys to the motte, by accepting uncritically their inane claim. And i have no idea what “the apparent a priori existence of race” is supposed to mean.

    there is strong evidence that any racial distinctions in behaviour are cultural.

    And who said anything about behaviour? and anyway, if distinctions are cultural, then they are not racial distinctions.

    The rest of the comment is answered by my more technical comment with the Rosenberg reference.

  • Alisa

    And who said anything about behaviour?

    I did, as this is the only aspect of this entire discussion at all relevant to the original topic.

  • Alisa

    You lose.

    What are you, 7?

  • Alisa, Snorri’s sentence struck me as a good-humoured joking reply to Watchman. Watchman said “I bet” to begin his statement and Snorri was summarising his analysis of it (which I agree with). The clusters arise without human input except the choice to look for 5 of them, and even this is not arbitrary – the analysis is stable under perturbation at 5, not at higher numbers. Therefore the ‘bet’ that they are mere arbitrary human constructs looks unlikely to pay out in the current state of our knowledge. 🙂

    However one sentence of Snorri’s confused me. He says ‘You’ [i.e. Watchman] ‘reject their sound claim, and accept uncritically their inane claim.’ I think Watchman rejects the inane claim as well. Snorri may mean that, by basing rejection of the inane claim on rejection of the factual, Watchman abandons the argument just where it should be made.

  • Alisa

    Well, my apologies to Snorri if I missed the humorous nature of his remark.

    That said, the turn this discussion has taken strikes me as pointless. Watchman seems to have made too wide a point about lack of racial differences*, and Snorri chose to dig deeper into that. Well, I leave them to enjoy the rest of it then 🙂

    *Namely, “there is no such thing as race”, instead of “there is no such thing as race when it comes to behavior”. Of course there are differences between human races – a common example that comes to mind is of Africans and Asians having much higher rates of lactose intolerance. But genetic health issues is not what is being discussed in the context of immigration – behavior is.

  • rapscallion

    Perry de Havilland
    Your statement that I am ” just another apologist for racists who wants to claim it is really just about culture and values, but who is revealed by their allergic reaction to even seeing the word “racist”. is utterly fatuous. Clearly you failed to read the rest of my comment otherwise you might have gained some understanding, but no. My gripe is the deliberate misrepresentation of the word “racist”. In short it can be taken to mean anything damn thing you want it to mean. That’s just sloppy.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Alisa: your timely apology is belatedly accepted, the delay due to my being busy. I should myself apologize to Watchman for tearing into his comment about motte+bailey, more than was needed. My more technical comment was a worthwhile intellectual exercise btw.

    Watchman is welcome to comment on this, but I stand by my remark that he implicitly accepts the racists’ inane claim when he writes:

    If you hold the motte the bailey is dependent on you.
    […]
    To claim that [the existence of genetic clusters] justifies the apparent a priori existence of race is to hand the keys to the motte to the racists.

    I hope this addresses Niall’s concern.

    A few femarks about the influence of genetics on behavior (by way of neurology):
    * As Steven Pinker remarked, we know what proportion of behavioral differences are due to genetics WITHIN populations (roughly 50% for IQ and most personality traits, i believe) but we do not reliably know anything about differences BETWEEN populations, and a fortiori between races.
    * It must be admitted that it would be very unlikely that all 5 human races/clusters have exactly the same average genetic IQ and average genetic personality.
    * Nonetheless i believe that we cannot dismiss the possibility that any behavioral difference that we do observe, is due predominantly, even entirely, to environmental causes; even differences between American Whites and Blacks, in spite of both having access to American TV, going to American schools, and eating American food.

    Call this the inner bailey: the motte is that there are human races (genetic clusters); the inner bailey is that some human races behave “better” than others (by some measure) for genetic reasons; the outer bailey is that this should inform government policy.

  • Snorri Godhi

    My more technical comment was a worthwhile intellectual exercise

    I mean, for me! I reread the paper, then i had to go back to it several times while writing the comment.

  • rapscallion

    It might seem fatuous to you but it is probably true. Over the years of running this blog I have observed a correlation very close to 1 between people looking for wriggle room as what “racist” means… and being a “race realist” or whatever the euphemism du jour is. That is why it would be a waste of Brian’s time to clarify what he means by “racist”.

    So if you are not in fact a racist jackanapes, well sorry, I apologise. But you probably are.