RWP was born in Manchester, in the north of England, in the late 1950s, so he is very old. He really liked the north of England, which by 1965 was hip and had three TV channels, and where he went to a coed school. His parents, for reasons best known to themselves, then yanked him away, to Belfast and then Dublin, which had one TV channel that started up at 6 pm with the Angelus (Catholic call to prayer). He also had to go to an all boys school, where he realized he really missed girls. This probably let him focus on schoolwork, though, and at age 19, after he had finished college, he set off for America, where he still resides. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. from Harvard in biophysics, and has lived also in Mainz, Germany, Setauket NY, and Richland WA. He currently divides his time between Nebraska, Rosslyn VA, and Florida.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Biology is racist!

UNLHaters' most recent nugget of h8 is this tweet.
I don't know or care who the tweeter is, and gauging by his other effusions, he's a drunken little maggot. We should probably be thankful his habitual intoxication seems to be limiting his internet output. However, just for the heck of it, let's examine the offensiveness of the statement. First, is it true? Well, yes it is. Michelle Obama does look like an ape. She looks like an ape because she is an ape. Barack Obama is an ape. Mitt and Ann Romney are apes. Gary Johnson is an ape-Libertarian. Everyone who cast a vote in the election was an ape, including moi, though a few may have been dead or fictional apes, particularly in Chicago.

Biologists, after a long struggle, now universally accept that it makes no sense to classify humans as other than apes. Our nearest relatives, chimps and bonobos, split off from our ancestral line about 6 million years ago, and they are apes. Gorillas split off earlier, orang-utans earlier still, and all are apes. A concept called monophyly says that any biological taxon must have a common ancestor, and all descendants of that common ancestor must belong to that taxon. Thus there is no allowable classification that makes chimps, gorillas and orang-utans apes and humans something else.

I doubt either this larval Reichardt or the twit(s) who maintain UNL-haters have a clue about any of this, but in fact our best estimate is that, under the fairly unlikely assumptions that Michelle Obama is 100% of West-African ancestry and Reichardt's ancestors all hail from somewhere in Central Europe, we all shared a common ancestor no more than a couple of hundred thousand years ago, assuming Mr. Reichardt has no Neanderthal genes (and I hope he hasn't, because I rather like Neanderthals). That would say that we are all about 30 times more closely related to each other than to any other ape. Humans, according to biology, are actually not a very diverse species. If only there were some Neanderthals or Denisovians to give us a truly diverse perspective in our college classes!

In any case, most comparisons to other members of the Hominidae are a bit stretched.

You object, as a multiculturally-educated postmodernist, that African Americans have historically been denigrated (oops!) by comparison with apes, in the sense of non-human apes, and so it's racist to continue to make that comparison. Indeed they have. So have Darwinians, the Irish, Slavs, Jews, and probably if you look carefully enough, any group that fell afoul of any other group. We apes can be pretty nasty.

But isn't it pretty obvious Mr. Reichardt's intent was racist? Well, no, not if you don't possess mind-reading abilities. UNL-haters, like almost all of the left, inevitably end up having to make the claim they know what other people are thinking. They don't.

What point am I trying to make here? First, that even things that are 'obviously' racist often don't hold up under any sort of objective analysis. And second, being 'racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic' isn't the only or even the worst way to be obnoxious.

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