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March 27, 2005

Comments

Abiola Lapite

"Therefore sexual selection for white skin, at least for one of the two genders is a fact, and not an "opinion"."

No, it is not a "fact", but an unwarranted conclusion drawn from misinterpreted data. That the Japanese have preferred women who looked as if they were above manual labor certainly does *not* mean that the Japanese have been getting ever lighter through a process of sexual selection, any more than Chinese footbinding means that the feet of the average Chinese person have been shrinking over time.

"As for the other gender, your experience, may be due to the fact that you are handsome, or it may be that Japanese women dislike black men on average, but you attracted the minority that likes them, or it may be that Japanese women are attracted to black men. Therefore, your experience does not tell us what the preferences of Japanese women are."

As flattering as it may be to attribute my experiences to my devastating good looks, the fact is that they're typical for all the black men I know who've visited Japan. The convenient thing about a claim like "it may be that Japanese women dislike black men on average, but you attracted the minority that likes them" is that it renders one's position virtually unfalsifiable; one could as easily say that it may be that blondes in Japan attract the minority of Japanese men who like them, but you don't, do you?

"In those relationships there is the confounding factor of social dominance. In the modern USA where there is neither slavery nor apartheid, we see that whites intermarry with Asians at a much higher rate than with Africans, even though there are more Africans than Asians. Hence, it appears that race plays a significant role in the choice of partner."

Another case of special pleading: we aren't talking about *marriage* rates, which are even more modulated by social status and convention than the relations between slave-masters and their captives, but the rate at which people (to put it bluntly) choose to *fuck* others of different skin colors, and in any case, most Asians are darker-skinned than whites, even East Asians, so the high outmarriage rate for them hardly supports your position, does it? And Indians are hardly the most fair-complexioned people out there, especially the South Indian computer types who come to America. Besides, if light skin is so universal a preference, what are all those tourists from Japan, Australia and the USA doing in the bars of South-East Asia, as opposed to going trawling in Moscow? Why are so many more women from Thailand to be found in Kabukicho than from Vladivostok, despite the Thais being wealthier on average? What drives white tourists to Cuba to seek out mulattas, when Moldava and Belorussia are at hand? I'm sure you'll find convenient explanations for these phenomena as well.

Delmore Macnamara

Abiola, if you think no-one goes to Russia & Moldova for sex tourism, you are very much mistaken. Don't you read the eXile?

Abiola Lapite

Where did I say "no one"? My point is that the number who go to Eastern Europe for sex-tourism is dwarfed many times over by the number who go to Latin America and South-East Asia for the same, which is the opposite of what one would expect if men care so deeply about fairer skin; people are hardly going to be bending to political correctness in choosing where they go to engage in activities which are mostly illegal in their home countries.

Delmore Macnamara

"My point is that the number who go to Eastern Europe for sex-tourism is dwarfed many times over by the number who go to Latin America and South-East Asia for the same, which is the opposite of what one would expect if men care so deeply about fairer skin."

Do you have stats about this for Europeans? To add to the pile of useless anecdotal evidence, I have a colleague who is an immigrant from Russia. According to her, many Englishmen are surprised to find that she came here on the strength of her IT skills, with a Russian husband, rather than in some kind of Pretty Woman/Mail Order Bride scenario invloving a wealthy Englishman. That kind of stereotyping probably does not build up based on merely a handful of examples.

I would also point out that Eastern Europe has presumably only been open for this kind of business since the wall came down. And as far as SE Asia goes, a proportion of the sex tourism is specifically for sex with minors, which I don't believe Eastern Europe has the same reputation (deservedly or not) for. It seems plausible to me that this kind of perverse preference may over-ride (perverse?) racial preferences.

dsquared

Casual empiricism would suggest that women who use chemical means to make their hair look blonde, also use chemical means to make their skin look darker. Casual empiricism also suggests that anyone seriously trying to suggest that there is a genetic basis for one racial group being more sexually attractive than another (particularly if they are trying to claim that there is a different genetic mechanism at work in men and women), probably ought to have a word with themself to introspect whether or not they are just talking bollocks.

dsquared

oh yeh and

[In the modern USA where there is neither slavery nor apartheid]

you gotta laugh, haven't you?

João da Costa

One further point we are all mising in this discussion is that today "light skinned" people (aka, developed world) do show a lower rate of demographic grow (when the rate is really > 0!) than much of the "dark skins" (aka, developing world).
How do we insert this "small detail" in our deliberations? Which genes (alleles) "want" to spread more intensively?
Maybe, it does show again that, at least by now, "dark skin genes/alleles" "want" to spread, at least much more than "light skin genes/alleles".
Just a thought!

P.S.:
Honestly, we must understand that this issue of skin color prevalence has many variables and the future is not so previsible in this area (I was just thinking also about the AIDS epidemic and its distinct effects worldwide, under different scenarios - a cure is discovered "tomorrow" versus a cure is discovered only many decades later, etc)!

Dienekes

>> As flattering as it may be to attribute my experiences to my devastating good looks, the fact is that they're typical for all the black men I know who've visited Japan.

It could be the novelty factor, as blacks are very rare in Japan. And, the fact that it has happened to all the black men does not add to the strength of the argument: since black men are rare in Japan, even if there exists only a small minority, say 10% of Japanese women who like them, there will be many such women per black, as blacks are less than 1% of the population in Japan. Therefore, blacks will experience lots of willing Japanese partners, even if the great majority of Japanese women don't like them.

>> The convenient thing about a claim like "it may be that Japanese women dislike black men on average, but you attracted the minority that likes them" is that it renders one's position virtually unfalsifiable; one could as easily say that it may be that blondes in Japan attract the minority of Japanese men who like them, but you don't, do you?

Of course, it's very possible that only a minority of Japanese men like blondes.

>> but the rate at which people (to put it bluntly) choose to *fuck* others of different skin colors

Well, people may choose to have sex with whoever they want, but that is irrelevant in terms of evolution, because most children are born in long-term relationships and not in casual sex sessions. Sexual selection is not about who one chooses to have sex with, but who one chooses to reproduce with.

>> and in any case, most Asians are darker-skinned than whites, even East Asians, so the high outmarriage rate for them hardly supports your position, does it?

My position is that race plays a role in sexual selection, and the discrepancy between Africans and Asians substantiates that claim. As to the fact that Asians are darker than whites, it does not substantiate any preference for dark skin among whites: whites are the great majority, so Asians will almost certainly intermarry with whites more than with other racial groups. In fact, since they choose to intermarry with whites at high rates, we can be sure that they like their racial appearance, whereas the opposite is not true for whites, because only a very small percentage of whites intermarries with Asians.

PS: As for the sex trade, it is well-known that there is a massive export of Eastern European women to Western Europe, the Near East and North America. And of course, the main factors affecting the sex trade are price and poverty, which is why very light-pigmented Eastern European women and dark Southeastern Asian women are involved in this "business". In other words, high supply of sex workers almost always implies a poor country. The converse is not however true, as there are many poor countries, e.g., in Africa which do not seem to supply many sex workers.

Delmore Macnamara

"Casual empiricism would suggest that women who use chemical means to make their hair look blonde, also use chemical means to make their skin look darker. "

Tanning is a colour change _characteristic_ of some white skin. The fact that it was fashionable during the later part of the 20th century doesn't really prove anything does it?

dsquared

[The fact that it was fashionable during the later part of the 20th century doesn't really prove anything does it?]

Well no, but then nor do any of your just-ain't-so stories about the prostitution industry. By the time you've taken into account your "social structures" and your "novelty effects" and all of that guff, one gets the distinct impression that what you've got, is an explanation in search of a phenomenon.

delmore macnamara

"Well no, but then nor do any of your just-ain't-so stories about the prostitution industry."

I think you will find it was Abiola who introduced that topic. Personally I have _no idea_ whether some or all people have "innate" preferences for particular races, skin tones or whatever, nor indeed what "innate" could mean in this context.

But I do disagree with the alleged implication from "Some white men like to have sex with darker-skinned women when they are in a postion to coerce them to do so" to "Apparent race is not a factor in sexual selection", which appears invalid to me.

Abiola Lapite

"The converse is not however true, as there are many poor countries, e.g., in Africa which do not seem to supply many sex workers."

Someone should tell that to all those women from Nigeria's Benin City who ply their trade on the streets of Italy. In any case, if poverty is the reason why so many white men go to South-East Asia when lighter-skinned Eastern Europeans are closer at hand, shouldn't that also have caused them to flock to Africa as well?

As I've said, the great thing about these "explanations" is that one can always wriggle out of a tight spot as long as one is willing to tack on extra hypotheses ad infinitum, which is just what is happening here: every single data point brought forward can be explained away by "rarity", "social dominance" or some other excuse cooked up on the spot, illustrating vividly the truth of the Quine-Duhem thesis.

Abiola Lapite

"I think you will find it was Abiola who introduced that topic."

No, in fact I was *not* the one to do so. Read carefully through the earlier comments.

"But I do disagree with the alleged implication from "Some white men like to have sex with darker-skinned women when they are in a postion to coerce them to do so" to "Apparent race is not a factor in sexual selection", which appears invalid to me."

It may not be an Aristotelean syllogism, but it *is* empirically suggestive. Ever heard of what economists call "revealed preference?" The fact is that lots of white people seem to have a revealed preference for darker-skinned sexual partners, in contravention of the claim that there's a universal evolutionary tendency to prefer partners who are as fair-skinned as possible, while the sheer scale on which interracial mating has been occurring over the last 500 years is something anyone claiming that race *is* a factor in sexual selection must give a cogent explanation for. What sort of "innate" tendency can weaken so dramatically over such a short timespan? The onus of proof is on those who make claims about the importance of "race" to natural selection in humans, not on the sceptics, and I'm not one to buy into just-so-stories about sexual selection and "racial" features, especially when they fly in the face of what anyone with an iota of knowledge of the world will know for himself.

Delmore Macnamara

"The fact is that lots of white people seem to have a revealed preference for darker-skinned sexual partners"

But do they have a revealed preference for _having darker-skinned children_? I am aware of the link between the two & so are most human beings, even when they are not so intelligent & worldly-wise as you. Nonetheless I doubt that sex tourists are usually seeking to father children.

"the sheer scale on which interracial mating has been occurring over the last 500 years is something anyone claiming that race *is* a factor in sexual selection must give a cogent explanation for. What sort of "innate" tendency can weaken so dramatically over such a short timespan"

At the risk of engaging in more hypothesis-saving, this may have something to do with the increase in contact between the "races" over the last 500 years. One could surely believe that apparent race was significant in sexual selection among humans without believing it was so significant as to swamp all other factors.

"The onus of proof is on those who make claims about the importance of "race" to natural selection in humans, not on the sceptics". I agree. Still, I would be genuinely interested to know what you believe would count as falsifying evidence for the proposition that apparent race is irrelevant to natural selection among humans.

Abiola Lapite

"But do they have a revealed preference for _having darker-skinned children_? I am aware of the link between the two & so are most human beings, even when they are not so intelligent & worldly-wise as you. Nonetheless I doubt that sex tourists are usually seeking to father children."

Since when has sex *primarily* been about having children? The pill wasn't invented until the 1960s, and there's a damn good reason why the sexual act is so enjoyable - to make it so that our desire (or lack of desire) to father children wouldn't factor into the equation. Go to your local abortion clinic if you doubt this.

"One could surely believe that apparent race was significant in sexual selection among humans without believing it was so significant as to swamp all other factors."

But if the races weren't previously in significant contact, what would selection have been acting upon?

"I would be genuinely interested to know what you believe would count as falsifying evidence for the proposition that apparent race is irrelevant to natural selection among humans."

Again, the burden isn't any more on *me* to prove or disprove anything, but on those who make claims about race and sexual selection: you might as well be asking me about my criteria for believing that invisible pink unicorns live on Neptune, as I'm no more in the mood to put myself out for either notion.

Delmore Macnamara

PS Yes, reading up the thread, it wasn't you who introduced the sexual selection/race angle but I do think it was you who brought up the prostitution/revealed preference angle.

PPS I must admit the whole thread appears to have got seriously off-topic now; I am not at all sure what the sexual selection/apparent race issue has to do with the optimal set of colonists for a new world & I certainly don't have any problem with your argument for sending 98 subsaharan Africans & 2 token minorities.

For my part I would send only public school educated barristers, just to see them suffer; but that reveals more about my class prejudices than my racial ones.

delmore macnamara

"Since when has sex *primarily* been about having children?". Precisely, which is why I doubt that revealed preferences concerning sexual partners necessarily equate to revealed preferences for whom one will have children with.

"But if the races weren't previously in significant contact, what would selection have been acting upon?"

The claim is not that they were not previously in significant contact, but that contact over the last 500 years was much more common than previously.

"you might as well be asking me about my criteria for believing that invisible pink unicorns live on Neptune"

But this claim would be unfalsifiable & hence, for a critical rationalist such as yourself presumably unscientific. As I understand it you are not claiming that the assertion that apparent race has no bearing on human sexual selection is unscientific, so presumably you have some falsification criterion for the assertion?

Abiola Lapite

"revealed preferences for whom one will have children with."

This is simply an irrelevant diversion, a meaningless distinction. All that matters from an evolutionary standpoint is whether the empirical evidence supports the notion that people have a *sexual* preference for others of particular races. This talk of "revealed preferences for whom one will have children with" is a load of horseshit.

"The claim is not that they were not previously in significant contact, but that contact over the last 500 years was much more common than previously."

This is as meaningful an answer as asking what the meaning of "is" is: as soon as some number is floated you'll just say that it is or isn't "significant" as it pleases you. Why not try giving an answer to my question instead of engaging in pilpulistic evasions: if the reason why interracial mating has been rising in previous centuries is because of falling barriers, that means the "races" were much more isolated previously, so what on earth would selection have been acting on?

"As I understand it you are not claiming that the assertion that apparent race has no bearing on human sexual selection is unscientific, so presumably you have some falsification criterion for the assertion?"

It should be for the proponents of a theory to make testable predictions that risk falsification, not for me to lay out ahead of time what I will or won't accept.

delmore macnamara

"It should be for the proponents of a theory to make testable predictions that risk falsification, not for me to lay out ahead of time what I will or won't accept."

If you have made a falsifiable prediction based from the theory that apparent race is not a factor in human sexual selection, I think I have missed it.

"This is simply an irrelevant diversion, a meaningless distinction. All that matters from an evolutionary standpoint is whether the empirical evidence supports the notion that people have a *sexual* preference for others of particular races. This talk of "revealed preferences for whom one will have children with" is a load of horseshit.".

I disagree. How long have human beings been aware of the link between sex & procreation? Or that the more often one has sex with a person, the more likely one is to have children with them? So far as I know, throughout recorded history. Humans may or may not have know about the link during prehistory. Neither assertion appears easily falsifiable to me but I suppose if I assert that, for humans, "sexual preference" <> "preference for whom one will have children with" one would thereby be commited to the assertion that they did, which certainly makes me a bit uncomfortable.

"This is as meaningful an answer as asking what the meaning of "is" is: as soon as some number is floated you'll just say that it is or isn't "significant" as it pleases you. Why not try giving an answer to my question instead of engaging in pilpulistic evasions: if the reason why interracial mating has been rising in previous centuries is because of falling barriers, that means the "races" were much more isolated previously, so what on earth would selection have been acting on?"

Thank you for teaching me a new word: "pilpulistic", altho' I must admit, sadly, that I am unlikely to use it myself. I have found that some people consider the use of words like "Talmudic", "Pharisaical" etc. in a derogatory sense to be Judaeophobic.

elmonte


"But do they have a revealed preference for _having darker-skinned children_?"

How about all those African Americans who had fathers over in the 18 and 19th century? That number is not trivial.

"My position is that race plays a role in sexual selection, and the discrepancy between Africans and Asians substantiates that claim. As to the fact that Asians are darker than whites, it does not substantiate any preference for dark skin among whites: whites are the great majority, so Asians will almost certainly intermarry with whites more than with other racial groups. In fact, since they choose to intermarry with whites at high rates, we can be sure that they like their racial appearance, whereas the opposite is not true for whites, because only a very small percentage of whites intermarries with Asians."

Whites are a majority only a Europe. They are not a majority in Asia or in the world. This shows that your model is very culture specific.

Dienekes

>> "But do they have a revealed preference for _having darker-skinned children_?"

>> How about all those African Americans who had fathers over in the 18 and 19th century? That number is not trivial.

To susbtantiate a _preference_ for having darker-skinned children you must show that they tend to have dark children more than they tend to have light children. Of course some of them _do_ have dark children, but that does not substantiate a _preference_ for it.

>> Whites are a majority only a Europe. They are not a majority in Asia or in the world. This shows that your model is very culture specific.

It may very well be that sexual selection operates in different ways in different parts of the world. However, in "most of the world" there are no great opportunities for interracial marriage, and hence the phenomenon can only be studied where such opportunities are common.

kwasi

"I assert that, for humans, "sexual preference" <> "preference for whom one will have children with"

The logic behing this assertion seems extremely shaky to me. Human beings have sex with those we are physically attracted to. Since physical attraction in every other species I know of is heavily based upon physical characteristics that guarantee the survival of offspring, it stands to reason that the same holds true for us. Therefore who you would have sex with is a viable indication of who, barring social factors, you would have children with.

Dienekes

>> Since physical attraction in every other species I know of is heavily based upon physical characteristics that guarantee the survival of offspring, it stands to reason that the same holds true for us.

Humans are not a regular animal species sexually. For example, most other animals have sex only with the purpose of procreation, whereas for humans only a very tiny fraction of our sexual activity aims at- or results in procreation.

kwasi

"for humans only a very tiny fraction of our sexual activity aims at- or results in procreation."

First of all, most, if not all animals don't know that they are procreating. They have sex based on instinctive reaction to certain stimuli (e.g. a female in heat) and the physical characteristics/ social standing of their mates.
Even assuming I granted your point, however this does not affect my argument. Regardless if the differences in when/how often we have sex, the mechanism by which we find people physically attractive is still the same. Symmetry is still a prized feature so are other signs that a person's genes will produce healthy offspring.
Outside of statistically small portions of the population a person who is lean, fit and healthy with perfectly symmetrical features will have far more admirers than a grossly overweight person with a cleft palate regardless of pigmentation or other slight phenotypical differences.
Just out of curiosity, exactly what about the idea that race plays little part in physical attraction bothers you so much?

Dienekes

>> First of all, most, if not all animals don't know that they are procreating.

Exactly. Humans know that every sex act could lead to a pregnancy, so they can exercize conscious control about who to procreate with. Therefore, attractiveness is not the only thing that matters for human procreation, unlike the animals where attractiveness is all that matters.

>> Regardless if the differences in when/how often we have sex, the mechanism by which we find people physically attractive is still the same. Symmetry is still a prized feature so are other signs that a person's genes will produce healthy offspring.

Of course, these are known to make people attractive, but they are not the _only_ things that people find attractive. For example, many people have a strong racial preference in whom they find attractive, and this explains why e.g., there are so many adult web sites which cater to specific racial preferences.

>> Just out of curiosity, exactly what about the idea that race plays little part in physical attraction bothers you so much?

I am sure that there are people for whom race plays little role in physical attraction. But, the idea that most humans are attracted to all races equally does not seem to describe the facts very well.

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