It has been a lively week on this blog. “DAD” and Razib Khan have challenged our (Michael Scroggins and myself) basic competency to discuss genetics and race/intelligence/etc. We have responded with similar incredulity to their ability to critique anthropology.
In other words, we in the social sciences think they are naïve, and they think we are dunderheads.
This overall does not seem to be a very productive set of assumptions to go forward with; Razib and DAD actually appear to be relatively well-read people, though clearly we do not read the same things. So what I propose here is that each of us propose what books/readings would be part of a graduate “Human Genetics and Social Theories” class. I will start, while knowing that what I propose will probably annoy the geneticists (I guess I already have at some level). They should feel free to call me on my naivete without concern: I am a tenured full-professor fully capable of taking critique. Likewise the last Genetics course I took was in 1979 which was really a long time ago. My last Anthropology course was about 1991. Anyway, here goes some initial suggestions:
1) Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man (and yes I know that Gould has been accused of mis-representing his data)
2) Jonathan Marks What it Means to be 98% Chimpanzee
3) Michael Young The Rise of the Meritocracy, 1870-2030
4) And because I really don’t like the misuse of psychometrics: Ross Douthat, Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class, Daniel Golden, The Price of Admission: How America’s Buys its Way Into Elite Colleges, and Nicholas Lemann, The Secret History of the American Meritocracy.
5) Durkheim on religion social groups
6) I’m open to parts of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel (and Collapse), and Steven Pinker’s new book on violence. Both Diamond and Pinker are in places quite good (though I’m critical of Pinker’s socio-biology which appears in the latter part of the book, and Diamond’s forays into using his data to advocate social and economic policies).
8) Reviewing psychologist Donald Campbell’s critique of the misuse of quantitative data is always a good idea too.
Ground rules for proposing readings: Please avoid charges of racism, general fraud, left-wing creationism, and so forth when it comes to the people commenting. If you want to call the authors of the books proposed by these names, it is fine with me. Idiot and moron are out though, since they are archaic psychological a terms (see Gould). If you want to call me crazy, though, that’s fine.
Please try to stick to questions of scholarship, and focus on advocating your own proposals, though of course brisk critique of others is welcome.
Anthropologists might keep in mind what John Hawks recently wrote on his blog:
Like any radicals, [anthropologists] weren’t always right. Any working scientist will be wrong about most of the details, if we revisit his work after fifty years. What makes anthropology weak today is that so many anthropologists learn nothing about scientific anthropology after Boas. They’re reactionaries against science, without knowing what today’s scientists do.
[But] consider our scientific history. With sheer empirical observation, anthropologists unshuttered the folds of humanity, raising people who had been derided as “primitives” up to their rightful place beside the pampered dons of Western culture. In so doing, their science transformed “civilized” culture itself….
We can be part of the future by reinvigorating anthropological science and by developing a deeper conversation with other scientists outside anthropology. Tomorrow’s anthropologists must know the field’s successes as well as its failures. The way to combat bad science is to do better science.
What I am hoping for is that “deeper conversation” Hawks writes about.
As for what Geneticists want to keep in mind…I’ll leave that to Razib or DAD to provide!