In the August 12, 2014 Issue of the Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik wrote the following:
“Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History“, is the new book by science writer Nicholas Wade that asserts a genetic basis for certain human behaviors and distinguishes them by race. It’s been widely panned in book reviews, especially by experts in the fields of science and social science touched on by the work.
Reviewers have cited scientific errors in the book, but typically aim more directly at Wade’s conclusions.
The most newsworthy reaction to the book has just come from the genetic sciences community, in the form of an open letter signed by (as of this writing) 143 senior biologists and geneticists from around the world, decrying what they say is Wade’s “misappropriation of research from our field to support arguments about differences among human societies.”
They write: “Wade juxtaposes an incomplete and inaccurate account of our research on human genetic differences with speculation that recent natural selection has led to worldwide differences in I.Q. test results, political institutions and economic development. We reject Wade’s implication that our findings substantiate his guesswork. They do not.”
Wade’s book is well timed for the recent gathering in August 2014 of African leaders with U.S. corporate leaders and others in Washington to further explore incursion of U.S. corporations in Africa. The book in a sense offers the justification of corporate take-over and land grabbing of the continent, as in, “intelligent” people should control the land.
When I was a high school student in the early 1960s in Atlanta there was some study presented to my “white” high school colleagues and me about intelligence along these same lines presented by the outrageous Nicolas Wade. Even then, at age 16, I knew this was not correct. I spoke out in the class about this and criticized it. My teacher was nonplussed by my comment. I suspected some inappropriate manipulation was going on here and I was right. I usually think of this kind of analysis as a way for whites to assuage their guilt of abuse of others and justifying this abuse by making the point they are more intelligent. What nonsense! If this sort of so-called intelligence makes for abusive behavior then forbid anything of us should have it!!!
But then explaining differences in human groups was what Jared Diamond explored in his book “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies” (1997). He was attempting to address differences in acquisition of buildings, various and sundry structures, written language and so on and especially weapons accumulation…and, in fact, ultimately imperialist ventures and violent abuse of others throughout the world which, unfortunately, distinguishes European behavior. China also evolved similarly.
It goes back to agriculture according to Diamond – it is the fount of it all. Its mass production is thought to have started in Iraq some 13 thousand years ago. It led to the diversification of human societies (i.e. farmers, philosophers, builders, scientists, etc.), the creation of written language and then villages, city states, nations and on because food was assured – people didn’t need to hunt for it or gather it as before. They could stay situated.
Diamond maintains that virtually every human group attempted to domesticate what was available to them – both plants and animals – but what made the difference is climate and, essentially, the latitude or longitude where humans lived. When the agriculture methods and domesticated animals moved north of Iraq, or when the humans in the north developed domesticated animals and crops themselves, there was a huge latitude in the plains of central Asia from Europe to China that allowed the crops and animals to acclimatize themselves. When the weather changed during the year, humans in this latitude made sure the food was stored and protected. It was protected often by weapons they developed for this purpose or to hunt on the open plains, so that the availability of the food was not a problem in difficult times of the year. (I maintain weapons systems by the west developed thousands of years ago have got out of hand!!!)
The point is, however, that all human groups are intelligent and what makes the difference in terms of what “things” they might have developed is determined by their needs and environment with the primary goal being able to adapt to our environment and to survive.
Africa is huge longitudinally. Because of that, as crops and animals from Iraq started moving down the continent it took thousands of year to acclimatize to the various longitudinal levels. But furthermore, Africa on the whole didn’t need this type of agriculture production. Food was readably available throughout the year in the tropics. And they didn’t necessarily need their food to be stored in the same way as the weather was not as radically changing compared to the northern climates. Besides they were engaged in their own local production of food as well as hunting and gathering as most human groups have done for time immemorial.
Australian aborigines also attempted to domestic plants available to them, but this was not a long-term viable option given the dry Australian climate. When I lived in Australia in the 1960′s and 1970′s someone said to me, “The aborigines aren’t anything – what have they built?” And I thought at the time, “So that’s the criteria. What human groups have built or made seems to be what gives the impression of intelligence.”
Whereas the fact is, as mentioned, that what’s ultimately important is being able to adapt to your environment. Believe me, Europeans could not survive in the stark Australian desert without Australian aboriginal assistance. They didn’t have the collective intelligence on knowing how to do this.
Virtually all human groups will figure out a way to adapt to their environment but some humans abuse the environment as we in the west have done and are doing. Interestingly enough, however, in Australia for thousands of years the aborigines learned to adapt to the varying water shortage dilemma. Now, because of water and environmental problems in Australia and European abuse of the environment, Australians of European descent are trying to garner the wisdom of the ancient and accumulated aborigine knowledge. Here is a link to an article about this entitled “Living Wisdom: Aborigines and the Environment” by Olga Gostin and Alwin Chong (1994):
But herein lives the difference in attitude of the European worldview versus aborigines as from this article. It is critical to understand this difference.
“The European world view tends to separate the spiritual, natural and human domains whose characteristics and attributes are ever open to challenge, debate and reinterpretation. In this lies another important distinction between the two cultural traditions as expressed in attitudes towards knowledge. In the Aboriginal world view, knowledge is an extension of the cosmic order and comprises the accumulated wisdom of the group since time immemorial, handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. This does not mean that the body of knowledge is changeless or finite, but rather that changes and additions become incorporated into the collective wisdom of the group. The individual acquires this knowledge progressively and cumulatively during a lifetime punctuated by periods of intense learning now described in many parts of Australia as “going through The Law”. Knowledge is acquired both by imitation in day-to-day contact with peers and older persons, and by bestowal by specialist older persons.”
I maintain that those of us of European descent are, if anything, arrogant and misled to think we have intelligence that can challenge the wisdom of the likes of the Australian aborigines and Africans. We have largely abused our gift of life and land by thinking that we can challenge and control nature. We can’t. We have not been respectful of it. Some have referred to GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) by likes of Monsanto as “God Move Over”. Indeed.
The consequences of our European abuse of nature are immense and regard even the survival of the planet as we know it. Just recently in Atlanta I was talking with some friends about south Georgia. There are some beautiful marshlands in the area. It was brought up that all of the land was at one point underwater – all of it part of the ocean. This, of course, includes all of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, the Carolinas and on. Indeed one of the oldest mountain ranges in the country are the Appalachian Mountains in the south that evolved some 480 million years ago. By comparison, we human beings are primates and we evolved in Africa some 6 to 2 million years ago.
The life and land were gifts to us and yet we have abused this gift. We, primarily those of us of European descent, have polluted the land and air. We have thought we could control nature and manipulate it at will rather than being respectful of it. And now we are beginning to lose it all thanks to our abuse. The ocean, for one, is reclaiming the land in Georgia and Florida and all over the world we are witnessing loss of island land and countless other environmental challenges because of this abuse. This is thanks to climate change largely brought on by environmental reaction of our massive chemical abuse used in agriculture and transportation. And you call this intelligent behavior? I think not.
Nicolas Wade needs to get a grip on history and knowledge of human groups and their evolution. He obviously knows nothing. And further African leaders and all of us should be incredibly cautious of the American corporate demands and investment in the huge African continent for the sake of Africans, their well-being and safety, and for the planet itself.
HEATHER GRAY produces “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia and can be reached at email@example.com