Lewontin’s fallacy

No, I’m not dead, just recovering from an MS attack that ‘turned off’ my curiosity and messed up my memory for a couple of months. I will look at the comments (all 254 of them) eventually.

I was slightly irked at watching channels 4’s shockingly bad and biased series on race, in which it trotted out Lewontin’s fallacy on the programs and on its supporting material on its site. All the criticisms I posted (they had an OOA date of 50k ago, don’t get me started…) have not been allowed through to the site, so I’m going to have a mini rant here. It’s not that they are supporting the ‘no race’ line (hey, you can disagree with me), but that they are pretending that it is the consensus view among anthropologists and geneticists- no-one is allowed to post the recent work that outright states that race is real.

First of all here is the article which explained why the claims for low diversity in humans were over exaggerated…

Human genetic diversity: Lewontin’s fallacy

In popular articles that play down the genetical differences among human populations, it is often stated that about 85% of the total genetical variation is due to individual differences within populations and only 15% to differences between populations or ethnic groups. It has therefore been proposed that the division of Homo sapiens into these groups is not justified by the genetic data. This conclusion, due to R.C. Lewontin in 1972, is unwarranted because the argument ignores the fact that most of the information that distinguishes populations is hidden in the correlation structure of the data and not simply in the variation of the individual factors. The underlying logic, which was discussed in the early years of the last century, is here discussed using a simple genetical example.


Worth a read.


4 responses to “Lewontin’s fallacy

  1. For a start: welcome back to the land of the living. Great to have you posting again. I always go to dienekes forum via yours in the hope you’ve been able to put something up.

    “It has therefore been proposed that the division of Homo sapiens into these groups is not justified by the genetic data”.

    So how come you can tell immediately, with very little margin of error, what region of the earth any particular person you happen to see comes from. Sure, people of mixed ancestry can present a problem but even then you’ll still pretty easily guess where the major part of their ancestry lies. I’ll grant that the 84% of their ancestry means they usually have a nose on the front of their face, two arm, two legs etc.

    • 84% of their ancestry means they usually have a nose on the front of their face, two arm, two legs etc


      I think people forget just how much of our DNA we share we with a banana!

  2. I don’t get Channel 4 here in Oz and I don’t really care about anyone’s opinion whether learned or ignorant. It is the prevailing paradigm, been around too long already, that race in humans does not exist just minor variations due adaptations to climate and geography. The 85/15% rule is one of their biblical like quotes. It is interesting that using SNPs which are mostly non coding, in introns, show that even ethnic groups based on recent nations in Europe, vary so much that any European’s dna scan can put them into their correct European GPS origin point. Europeans, Black Africans and Mongolians of various types are so widely separated from each other that no overlaps occurs.

    Just accept that others don’t want to accept race exists, and that the time of the origin of out of Africa humans differs from yours. I know that there were AMH in the Middle East 100 kya, the skulls and bones don’t lie or have an agenda.

    • It was the Ch 4 page that bugged me. Every mangled media driven innacuracy all up on the same page.. Oy. You’d think they’d check with an archaeologist.

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