Harvard genetics professor David Reiche‘s op-ed and interview in the New York Times is making waves.

Williams professor Phoebe Cohen tweets:

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EphBlog is here to help! The key issue with Reich is that he believes that there are important genetic differences between human population groups.

It is likely that a few stereotypes will be validated by findings from genetics — even if it is also certain that a great majority will be disproved. … So how should we handle the eventuality that for a few traits, average differences among populations arising from genetics will be discovered? I do not think that the right approach is to pretend that scientific research has shown there can be no meaningful average genetic differences among human populations, because that message is contradicted by scientific facts. … Given that all genetically determined traits differ somewhat among populations, we should expect that there will be differences in the average effects, including in traits like behavior.

I suspect that this is not a point of view that Cohen has come across that often among her Ph.D. peer group. But she should get out more! Indeed, there are professors now at Williams who have published along these lines. Start with economics professor Quamrul Ashraf. Consider his paper, “The “Out of Africa” Hypothesis, Human Genetic Diversity, and Comparative Economic Development”:

This research advances and empirically establishes the hypothesis that, in the course of the prehistoric exodus of Homo sapiens out of Africa, variation in migratory distance to various settlements across the globe affected genetic diversity and has had a persistent hump-shaped effect on comparative economic development, reflecting the trade-off between the beneficial and the detrimental effects of diversity on productivity.

Key message is that one of the reasons Peru is poor and Japan is rich is that the genetics of Peruvians differs from the genetics of Japanese in ways that influence economic growth. This is not a popular opinion in the academy and I am occasionally surprised by the lack of controversy at Williams about Ashraf’s extensive (and impressive!) research effort along these lines.

Psychology professor Nate Kornell is almost certainly a alt-right fellow traveler when it comes to the topic of the reality of IQ and its genetic component. His puckish side comes out when he likes tweets like this which highlight the almost religious nature of the opposition to Reich.

Modest Proposal: Professors Cohen, Ashraf and Kornell should organize a panel at Williams to discuss Reich’s views about the genetics of racial differences. (EphBlog has covered this topic before.) Williams is an college, not a madrassa, so an open-minded professor like Cohen has nothing to fear from a discussion about the views of a scholar from Harvard . . . right?

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