Debunking Denialism

Defending science against the forces of irrationality.

Tag Archives: human genetic variation

Abusing Heritability: “Libertarian Realist” Edition (Part II)

Libertarian Realist and misuse of heritabilityh

In online exchanges with proponents of pseudoscience, they often tend to derail the conversation by bringing up a large number of peripheral objections not related to the main issues. The reason behind this particular technique is a bit unclear. It could be a method used to hide the fact that substantive arguments are missing or maybe is an act of desperately finding something to object in order to attempt to cast a shadow of doubt over the arguments pertaining to the central issues. Typically, the assertions deployed by proponents of pseudoscience are merely regurgitated and counterarguments are rarely addressed. At this point, further response from scientific skeptics are by no means productive as there are far more deployed distractions than substantive arguments. On the other hand, if you do not respond right away, some may view it like you conceded the argument.

Recently, one of the most active race realists on Youtube (called Libertarian Realist) tweeted me a link to one of his videos. We had a short exchange on Twitter and I wrote a post that exposed his misunderstandings of heritability. First, by the use of deceptive wording, he made it appear as if heritability (the proportion of phenotypic variation in a population and environment that can be attributed to genetic variation) was related to the degree to which genes mattered for a given phenotype. Second, he gave the appearance that heritability estimates were informative about between-group differences (they are not). Finally, he did not seem to understand that heritability estimates depend on the population being studied and what environment they are being studied in. Because a singular, context-free estimate for a given population (especially for composite population) is misleading, this effectively undermined his excessive focus on a particular heritability estimate.

After some time, Libertarian Realist made a video response to my criticisms. However, his response largely lacked substantive content, put an excessive focus on a large number of peripheral objections unrelated to the main issues and he declined to engage with any of my six evidence-based challenges to race realism. This post will examine his response in detail. It is split up into two major sections.

Substantive issues

This first section deals with responses made by Libertarian Realist to the substantive issues I raised in my previous post. This includes topics such as the population and environment dependence of heritability estimates, the non-relevance of with-in group heritability estimates for the causes of between-group differences and the scientific case against race realism.

The bait-and-switch / false dichotomy / straw man combo: Libertarian Realist states that his position is that “genetic differences between Africans and Europeans in the United States account for a significant proportion of the observed differences in IQ distributions between the two groups”. However, he then uses a bait-and-switch tactic when he rhetorically asks viewers “So what is the alternative to the thesis that genetic differences between African-Americans and European-Americans account for a proportion of the observed IQ differences between the two ethnic groups?” Notice how Libertarian Realist has now switched between “significant proportion” and “a proportion”. Although he does not state what he considers this “significant proportion” to be, I suspect that his estimate is more than 0.5 and probably anchored around the within-group heritability estimate for IQ that he holds to (~0.75). Clearly, there are other options besides “significant” (i.e. considerable) and none. For instance, “moderate”, “minor” or “unknown”. Libertarian Realist continues with “the alternative would be that genetic differences play zero role”. In other words, Libertarian Realist tries to portray those who disagree with his position as proponents of an extreme environmental hypothesis.

Indeed, this kind of flawed approach is also taken by people in the comment section of the video.

Youtube comment by White Man

Another case of black-and-white thinking. They apparently reason that either any observed differences is mostly due to genetics, or you have to believe in the blank slate. This is a clear example of false dichotomy. Read more of this post

Mailbag: The Absurdity of Race Realism

I am always happy to answer reader emails set to me via the contact form at the About page of this blog. This email comes from “Nigel”. Nigel writes that:

Speaking about denialism, what about politically correct race-deniers? These people are so wrapped up on some ideology of Boasian Cultural Marxism that they regularly try to subvert the truth.

In just this short message, consisting of nothing more than two sentences, Nigel has managed to set off my baloney detector several times. This is because phrases such as “politically correct” and “cultural Marxism” are buzzwords frequently used by extremist right-wing…thinkers, who are often anti-immigration. “Politically correct” designates their belief that they are being suppressed by the establishment and “cultural Marxism” signifies the related idea that the establishment was been taken over by leftists who ignore the truth that race realists think is plain as day. Thus, Nigel has carried out two very common denialist tactics that I described in the article Common Denialist Tactics Defined and Destroyed, namely playing the martyr card and conspiratorial thinking: Read more of this post


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