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[OBG] L.L Cavalli-Sforza. A bird in a gilded cage
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This is the draft manuscript of an "alternative" biography of L.L. Cavalli-Sforza. The Foreword is given below. Comments and criticisms are welcome.

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Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza is a complex figure. On the one hand, he has publicly backed those who assert that human races do not exist. On the other hand, by aggregating large volumes of genetic data, he has proven the existence of large continental races, as well as smaller regional and micro ones. By developing the theory of gene-culture co-evolution, he has also shown that humans did not stop evolving genetically when they began to evolve culturally. In fact, the two processes have fed into each other, with humans having to adapt not only to the natural portion of their environment (climate, vegetation, wildlife, etc.) but also to the portion they themselves have created (mode of subsistence, behavioral norms, gender roles, class structure, belief system, etc.).

This has led some to see a double game at work. While bowing to the mainstream taboos, Cavalli-Sforza has quietly amassed evidence that human races not only exist but also differ in ways that are more than skin deep. In time, his weighty tomes will speak louder than his official statements on race. This may indeed be how he sees himself, and it might explain certain contradictions between his public persona and his academic self. Oh, those naïve antiracists, if only they knew how they’re being outfoxed!

Time will tell who is outfoxing whom. To date, the results speak for themselves. When in 1994 Cavalli-Sforza published The History and Geography of Human Genes, academics and non-academics alike were talking more openly about race, as seen by the publication the same year of The Bell Curve and by the willingness of previously silent anthropologists, like Vincent Sarich, to step forward and speak out. That interval of glasnost soon ended, in no small part because of Cavalli-Sforza’s apparent conversion, as attested in his book, to the view that human races do not exist in any meaningful sense.
Why did he convert? And did he really? I doubt there was any conversion. His change of heart was too rapid, and it happened while the zeitgeist was moving in the other direction. Perhaps he saw a chance to gain acceptance for his new tome. Or perhaps he received a letter one day, detailing his wartime record, the people he worked with, and the testing on human subjects …

We will probably never know the full story. One thing is sure. If Cavalli-Sforza is playing a double game, he has been playing it far too long. Such a strategy is excusable for an academic who is young, untenured, poorly known, and far from retirement, but these excuses hardly apply to a professor emeritus like Cavalli-Sforza. The time is overdue to speak frankly and, if need be, pay the price. Anyway, what else can he do now with his vast reserves of public esteem? Take it with him to the next world?
The Foreword looks promising. I am gonna read the manuscript and provide feedback.
Gene-culture coevolution is certainly an important subject, and I am arguing here that also dysgenics should be considered part of gene-culture co-evolution. It's culture relaxing selective pressures on certain traits (maybe IQ? Or diseases?).

This is the draft manuscript of an "alternative" biography of L.L. Cavalli-Sforza. The Foreword is given below. Comments and criticisms are welcome.

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Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza is a complex figure. On the one hand, he has publicly backed those who assert that human races do not exist. On the other hand, by aggregating large volumes of genetic data, he has proven the existence of large continental races, as well as smaller regional and micro ones. By developing the theory of gene-culture co-evolution, he has also shown that humans did not stop evolving genetically when they began to evolve culturally. In fact, the two processes have fed into each other, with humans having to adapt not only to the natural portion of their environment (climate, vegetation, wildlife, etc.) but also to the portion they themselves have created (mode of subsistence, behavioral norms, gender roles, class structure, belief system, etc.).

This has led some to see a double game at work. While bowing to the mainstream taboos, Cavalli-Sforza has quietly amassed evidence that human races not only exist but also differ in ways that are more than skin deep. In time, his weighty tomes will speak louder than his official statements on race. This may indeed be how he sees himself, and it might explain certain contradictions between his public persona and his academic self. Oh, those naïve antiracists, if only they knew how they’re being outfoxed!

Time will tell who is outfoxing whom. To date, the results speak for themselves. When in 1994 Cavalli-Sforza published The History and Geography of Human Genes, academics and non-academics alike were talking more openly about race, as seen by the publication the same year of The Bell Curve and by the willingness of previously silent anthropologists, like Vincent Sarich, to step forward and speak out. That interval of glasnost soon ended, in no small part because of Cavalli-Sforza’s apparent conversion, as attested in his book, to the view that human races do not exist in any meaningful sense.
Why did he convert? And did he really? I doubt there was any conversion. His change of heart was too rapid, and it happened while the zeitgeist was moving in the other direction. Perhaps he saw a chance to gain acceptance for his new tome. Or perhaps he received a letter one day, detailing his wartime record, the people he worked with, and the testing on human subjects …

We will probably never know the full story. One thing is sure. If Cavalli-Sforza is playing a double game, he has been playing it far too long. Such a strategy is excusable for an academic who is young, untenured, poorly known, and far from retirement, but these excuses hardly apply to a professor emeritus like Cavalli-Sforza. The time is overdue to speak frankly and, if need be, pay the price. Anyway, what else can he do now with his vast reserves of public esteem? Take it with him to the next world?
First of all, this is a thorough account of Cavalli-Sforza's paradoxical life as a scientist, and should certainly be published.
Below I add some minor comments, which the author is NOT required to include in the final manuscript or reply to. They are simply observations that readers may find of interest.
It's good that Mayr's criterion for the definition of a subspecies (or race) is mentioned, according to which two or more groups become subspecies when 75% or more of all the individuals constituting the groups can be unequivocally classified as belonging to a particular group.
In my opinion, his time as a researcher in Nazi Germany does not have to be ascribed to his political preferences, but rather to the pragmatic view of an ambitious young scholar who was eager to work with the best geneticits. The picture of a "man of compromise" is evident since his youth. This character is present in many other scientists, for example Wernher Von Braun's chamaleontic behavior. One is given the impression that these people are willing to sacrifice their moral integrity for the sake of science.
The adoption of the surname Sforza is strange, given that he was 28, had a family of his own. However, Sforza in Italy is a very important family since the 14th century (the castle of Milan is called "Sforzesco"). Thus, it is not unlikely that Luigi Cavalli would have appreciated having a surname that sounds so important.
The quote where Bodmer(page 17) states that a statistical difference between African and European IQ is unlikely is strangely prophetic of what I found recently. Bodmer wrote that “it could not be the result of random events, such as genetic drift or founder effects, because intelligence is polygenic. The laws of chance would prevent the many genes involved from having, on balance, more intelligence boosting variants in one human population than in another”. This is exactly what I found (Piffer, D. (2014). Simple statistical tools to detect signals of recent polygenic selection. Interdisciplinary Bio Central, doi: 10.4051/ibc.2014.6.1.0001), where ANOVA found statistically significant differences in the frequencies of “intelligence-boosting “alleles between East Asians, Africans and Europeans. Thus, according to Bodmer’s logic, this result cannot be explained by drift or the laws of chance and must be explained by natural selection having a weaker pressure on Africans' intelligence compared to East Asians and Europeans.

Page 34: I found it serendipitous to read that Cavalli-Sforza’s first project for the study of culture-gene coevolution was on the effects of hunter gathering vs agriculture. This is exactly the subject of a recent paper of mine (doi/10.1537/ase.130731) (which I wrote being totally unaware of Cavalli-Sforza's efforts), where I find evidence for genetic differences between foragers and farmers. Moreover, Cavalli-Sforza wanted to study the Inuit because of their complex artistic skills and curiously I found the world’s highest frequency of a Working Memory boosting allele among the Inuit. I wonder what Cavalli-Sforza would think if he read my paper?
Admin
This is a good paper.

I have one comment. I'd like to see some mentioning of other people who held similar views to his about gene-culture/meme co-evolution. He was certainly not alone in that regard at the time. This subject was a particular interest of E. O. Wilson as well, and Dawkins introduced the word "meme" as the unit of culture, so one they could involve both, maybe together (In The Selfish Gene). Perhaps he grew wary due to the bad treatment that Wilson got, not to mention the psychometricians who received bomb threats etc.

I recently read Segerstrale's account of the sociology wars, which I why I mention this. It might be of interest to you as well.

Segerstrale, Ullica. Defenders of the truth: The battle for science in the sociobiology debate and beyond. (2000).

Wilson, E. O. Genes, Mind and Culture: The coevolutionary process, 1981, Harvard University Press.
Also his book on gene-culture coevolution could be cited as well:
Cultural Transmission and Evolution:
A Quantitative Approach.
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza and Marcus W. Feldman

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/4409.html

This is a good paper.

I have one comment. I'd like to see some mentioning of other people who held similar views to his about gene-culture/meme co-evolution. He was certainly not alone in that regard at the same. This subject was a particular interest of E. O. Wilson as well, and Dawkins introduced the word "meme" as the unit of culture, so one they could evolve both, maybe together (In The Selfish Gene). Perhaps he grew wary due to the bad treatment that Wilson got, not to many the psychometricians who got bomb threats etc.

I recently read Segerstrale's account of the sociology wars, which I why I mention this. It might be of interest to you as well.

Segerstrale, Ullica. Defenders of the truth: The battle for science in the sociobiology debate and beyond. (2000).

Wilson, E. O. Genes, Mind and Culture: The coevolutionary process, 1981, Harvard University Press.
Many famous people of the postwar era were on the "other side" during WWII. Such people included not only Cavalli-Sforza but also such celebrities as Sophia Loren, Jacques Cousteau, Konrad Lorenz, Martin Heidegger, and many others. When the war ended, they had to construct a narrative that minimized their involvement on the Axis side. Typically, this involved claiming to be an unwilling supporter who acted under coercion or simply out of opportunism. Minor disagreements with Axis policies would also be played up to make one seem like a sympathizer to the Allied cause, a resistance fighter "avant l'heure."

Cavalli-Sforza had to remake his life when the war ended. He never denied the nature of his wartime research (the time it takes for anthrax to kill its host) but tried to create the impression that he was doing pure research with no military implications. Yet this was Berlin, in 1943-1944. There was no money for pure research. Was he motivated by opportunism? Perhaps. I don't think so, but to argue the point would involve a lengthy rebuttal about the nature of popular support for Mussolini and the actual ideological climate of Italy at that time. It is enough to say that Cavalli-Sforza saw his wartime research as a stain on his record and tried to minimize it as much as possible. He was thus vulnerable to blackmail, if not by others then by his own fears of being blackmailed.

I agree with the comments about gene-culture co-evolution. I would add, though, that Cavalli-Sforza seems to have been a key initiator and encouraged others to write about this concept, perhaps because he did not want to be too publicly involved.
Of course I cannot say whether he was motivated by pure opportunism or whether he actually believed in the Axis' cause. And I agree that there was no money for pure research in that period, so Cavalli-Sforza must have been aware that his research had practical application for the war.
Whether he was moved by pure opportunism or by an ideological cause is difficult to say. However, as you rightly point out, this period would have constituted a stain on his past...a stain that was common to many famous people of his generation. A parallel with Wernher Von Braun seems warranted here. His collaboration with the Nazi during WWII was evident and much longer than Cavalli-Sforza's, yet this did not prevent him from becoming a prominent scientist in Cold War America. Of course Cavalli-Sforza was not Wernher Von Braun, and it can be argued that Von Braun's dark past was overlooked because he was instrumental in helping the US land on the moon before the Soviets.
"A better approach would be to ask whether there were arguments against Lewontin’s finding, or rather the way he spun it. Such arguments take three forms (pg. 21)"

You mean "take at least three forms". I have come across at least six. In our "Nature of Race" paper, we restated, not very well, Harpending's argument as:

"B4. All of these estimates are arguably low, since we are dealing with genetic variability between diploid populations (Harpending, 2002; Sarich and Miele, 2004). The 12% SNPs variance between continental races refers to the total between continental race variance and not to just the more relevant between individual, between race variance. This variance includes genetic variance of both the intra-individual and inter-individual sort; arguably, only the latter is relevant when it comes to discussions of heritable between population phenotypic differences, as between population phenetic differences represent aggregations of inter, not intra, individual differences. To illustrate the point: Nishiyama et al. (2012) decomposed the SNP genetic variance for various Japanese populations into inter subpopulational, inter-individual, and intraindividual variance. They found that between 96.7 and 99.6% of the variance was located within individuals. When intra-individual variance was partitioned out, roughly the same percent of genetic variance was located between individuals, between subpopulations as between individuals, within subspopulations. The decomposition is shown in the table below. Of course, most of the variance was still "inter-individual" in the sense of inter- plus intraindividual (i.e., intrapopulational). (In the same way, of course, most diversity, in general, is "inter-racial" in the sense of inter racial plus inter individual plus intra individual.) It just wasn't mostly inter-individual in the sense of exclusively between individuals. Does this matter? Well, it casts the oft referenced genetic variance ratios in a different light. And it is relevant if one's argument is that phenetic differences between individuals between groups couldn't be substantially congenitally conditioned because there is "too little" between group genetic variation relative to that between individuals within groups."
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It's good that Mayr's criterion for the definition of a subspecies (or race) is mentioned, according to which two or more groups become subspecies when 75% or more of all the individuals constituting the groups can be unequivocally classified as belonging to a particular group.


A close reading (of e.g., Principles of Systematic Zoology) shows that Mayr didn't equate race with subspecies, but rather equated subspecies with "geographic race" or formally (zoologically) recognized race. He recognized other types of races such as microgeographical ones. As such, his usage was in accords with the long, though not consistent, tradition of using race to describe varying levels of genetic differentiation e.g., major continental to regional genetic (or "biogeographical") populations. Also, Mayr proposed more criteria for formal racial recognition than the 75% rule; and by his quantification of this rule, human continental races wouldn't likely qualify as zoological subspecies. We discuss this and other issues in section IV-G here.
Comments and criticisms are welcome.


I think you should write up a separate to be published essay spelling out, in detail, the fallacious nature of Lewontin's interpretations and then reference that essay (e.g., Frost, forthcoming) instead of trying to discuss those problems, which are numerous and multi-level, in your current essay. That is, I don't like pages 21-22. What is said seems to be out of place -- something asking to be developed into its own essay and then cited -- but is presented, abridged, because no such essay exists. Of course, I am saying this not in small part because I would like, for ease of reference, "On Lewontin's Interpretations of Human Diversity (Frost, 2014)" to exist.
Chuck,

Sometimes, a key argument should be repeated, albeit summarily, especially if it isn't well known. This is especially so if the text is aimed at a larger audience that may be totally unfamiliar with the criticisms of Lewontin's finding.

I didn't include Henry Harpending's criticism because (1) there is no indication that Cavalli-Sforza was thinking along those lines, (2) I don't see it as a fundamental criticism and (3) I wanted to be brief and to the point. I don't take a reader's interest for granted. If I throw out too much information that may seem obscure, the reader will move on to something else.

I see Cavalli-Sforza's life story as a way of explaining how and why human genetics has taken the turn it has. So I would be defeating the purpose of this booklet by sticking to his life story alone and referring the reader to various dry and lengthy papers for the larger issues. Too many readers wouldn't even bother.
Sometimes, a key argument should be repeated, albeit summarily, especially if it isn't well known.... I didn't include Henry Harpending's criticism because (1) there is no indication that Cavalli-Sforza was thinking along those lines, (2) I don't see it as a fundamental criticism... So I would be defeating the purpose of this booklet by sticking to his life story alone and referring the reader to various dry and lengthy papers for the larger issues.


Hi Pete,

I thought your essay was nice. I commented only because you requested criticisms. Just my opinion. I see nothing in need of alteration.
Hi Pete,

I thought your essay was nice. I commented only because you requested criticisms. Just my opinion. I see nothing in need of alteration.


Chuck, I assume this means that you think this paper should be published. If you confirm this, we can proceed with publication.
Chuck, I assume this means that you think this paper should be published.


Yes, it should be published. I can't say that I proofread it, though i.e., spelling check. I just content-read it.
Admin
I concur that it is publication worthy. As three reviewers have expressed consent, the author can provide a final edit to be published.
Emil,

Here is the final version of the paper. I've made a few changes to the introduction and to the chapter on gene-culture co-evolution.

Peter Frost
Admin
Emil,

Here is the final version of the paper. I've made a few changes to the introduction and to the chapter on gene-culture co-evolution.

Peter Frost


I have published it. Let me know if there is something wrong.

http://openpsych.net/OBG/2014/03/l-l-cavalli-sforza-a-bird-in-a-gilded-cage/