University of Cambridge > > Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science > Population biology and the implicit scientific backing of the 'Human Biodiversity' movement

Population biology and the implicit scientific backing of the 'Human Biodiversity' movement

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Jacob Stegenga.

The ‘Human Biodiversity’ movement is one of the more recent iterations of purported racial science. According to various websites that are proponents of the movement, the intellectual history includes a number of prognosticators and commentators (de Gobineau), established academics ā€“ both contemporary and historical ā€“ who have professed racist views (Jensen, Morton, Spencer, Rushton), philosophers (Kant, Hegel, Hume), contemporary writers (Wade, D. Reich), historical figures central to the Eugenicist movement (Sanger, Fisher, Galton), and contemporary population biologists (Rosenberg, N. Reich, Burchard, Pemberton).

Directly after the release of Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance in 2014, population geneticists, biologists, and biomedical researchers wrote an open letter to the New York Times stating that ‘We reject Wade’s implication that our findings substantiate his guesswork. They do not’ and that they ‘are in full agreement that there is no support from the field of population genetics for Wade’s conjectures.’ Included in the signatories are Noah Rosenberg, Elad Ziv, David Reich, Neil Risch, Hua Teng, Marcus Feldman, and Trevor Pemberton, amongst others.

Given the open letter and their clear denunciation of the book released by Wade (and presumably other future developments in that vein), it seems that the furor should be over. This paper, however, argues otherwise. This paper makes the argument that a number of population geneticists, especially those listed above, have done enough work in their own reputable academic publications over the last two decades to provide fertile ground and academic justification for repugnant and racist views. This talk will provide evidence from a number of papers, teaching materials, and promotional materials for public and academic talks to argue that those population biologists and biomedical researchers are more than just neutral, value-free scientists whose work has been misappropriated. Rather, they are, through conceptual conflation and reification in their academic work, have actively provided a foundation for what can now be understood as the most recent iteration of race science.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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