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Hopefully this is not exploited to "scientifically" explain the inferiority of sub-Saharan Africans vis-a-vis the rest of humanity.

One of the unfortunate side effects of the way that newspapers report on scientific research is that journalists' lack of knowledge of the subject matter leads to lots of vague statements that can be easily twisted around to have just about any desired meaning.

The equality of humanity is not an empirical judgement. It is a value judgement. It rests, not on scientific grounds, but on ideological grounds.

Not in basketball or sprinting. There are huge differences between women and men [1] [2]. Not everyone is equally equal beautiful snowflakes, and that's fine with me. Do the best you can with what you have.

[1] http://healthland.time.com/2011/06/28/why-women-are-better-a... [2] http://www.psy.fsu.edu/~baumeistertice/goodaboutmen.htm?

When someone talks about 'equality' in terms of values, they're probably talking more about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and less about ability at basketball or sprinting.

Men take more risks, they are more at the top and at the bottom of society because it's in their nature to be slightly more extreme. Wouldn't you say that that applies to life outside of sports?

Again we seem to be at cross purposes. One type of equality might be described thusly:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights"

The other like this:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women!) are absolutely inseparably as good as each other at sports, that they are endowed by their Creator with a complete knowledge of the rules of basketball"

The latter would be an absurd thing to say, but would be easy to judge empirically. The former is a statement of a certain set of values - widely held, I'd hope, but nevertheless impossible to justify experimentally, beyond the fact that (again, I'd hope) most people have experienced in their lifetimes that it's nice when we all get along with one another.

Either way, they use the concept of 'equality' quite differently. I felt Dove actually captured this very succinctly, which is why I'm surprised it's been misconstrued twice now.

Let's go back to the post Dove was replying to, for context. There are many people who would happily grant the abovementioned rights to all, while still considering a subset of the population somehow less inherently able. The parent comment was talking about one type of equality, Dove another (why?), me again the first, you again the second, and then you tell us twice that we're not getting it.

I find your interpretation of that post equally astonishing.

performance != value

This is an empirical judgement: http://kuvaton.com/kuvei/evolution5.jpg

Feel free to google Great Zimbabwe, Old Ghana, Mwene Mutapa or Timbuktu. I could give you a tonne of other examples but your ignorance, I fear, is incurable. All the same, Rome != Europe, and Africa is not a fucking city. And how - what I presume to be a - German, interprets the feats of a culture whose development is only remotely connected to his own, is something beyond my African capacity to comprehend.

His argument is completely flawed. All areas surrounding the Mediterranean benefited greatly from being able to cover large distances by boat. This allowed trade to flourish and civilizations to prosper in this part. The fertile crescent was the hub of all this, you can trace the origin of European civilization to this point. You could simplify it and say that it went like this: Egypt, Greece, Rome and Europe. Meanwhile, there was a huge dessert isolating Sub-Saharan Africa. You have to keep in mind though that Timbuktu for example didn't spring out of nothing but thanks to Muslims from the North.

Other places were able to get their own civilization thanks to one reason or the other, e.g. Eastern China.

All that has to do with achievements of different societies. Now at the individual level, how do we know whether groups with Caucasian genes would have been able to develop a civilization if they had lived in a place with the same geography and conditions as Sub-Saharan Africans? We can't know.

What we know though is that the conditions are there now for individuals with predominantly Sub-Saharan ancestry to show what they are capable of. Eventually they'll produce someone like Mozart, Newton, Confucius, Sun Tzu, Jabir ibn Hayyan or Abbas ibn Firnas. Or maybe they won't. Perhaps too early to tell.

One of the points I was trying to make was, "Africa" as an entity does not exist, save for in Western and post-colonial Pan African texts. We do not see ourselves as African, identifying primarily as one of hundreds, maybe thousands, of distinct ethnolinguistic groups - tribes, if you will. I am a Luo. I only see myself as a Kenyan when I'm outside the country. African cultures - specifically Black African cultures - tend to have strong oral traditions that do not lend themselves well to transcription using Western templates for historical writing. In my tribe, there's a legend of a man known as Lwanda Magere, who conquered nations surrounding the Luo. This would be our equivalent of Alexander the Great. My guess is you've never heard of this, or the million other similar stories from Black Africa. The Mozart's of your world exist because you developed writing or borrowed it from close by civilizations. It's all about records.

>You have to keep in mind though that Timbuktu for example didn't spring out of nothing but thanks to Muslims from the North.

This would be like calling Sicilly an Arabic city. Timbuktu grew as a center of trade within Black Africa as a result of trade with the northern Arabic and Arabized Berber states. This does not make it any less valid as an example.

PS: May not look like it, but I largely agree with you.

Sicilly is not a city, is an island with a lot of cities. Before the Arabs even existed, Greek colonists founded Syracuse (which is around 2700 years old) the birth place of Archimedes.

>You could simplify it and say that it went like this: Egypt, Greece, Rome and Europe.

Not necessarily. The first big European civilization was the [Cucuteni-Trypillian culture](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cucuteni-Trypillian_culture) which developed north-west of the Black Sea and was quite ahead of what was developing in the Middle East or elsewhere at the time (they had better pottery, barter tokens, biggest settlements in the World - up to 15000 people-, and were possibly the authors of the first writing system, 1000 years before the Summerians).

Fortified church build by a small German village of less than 1000 people around 1100, in Transylvania.


Now compare that with anything build by the Great Zimbabwe, Old Ghana or Timbuktu. Don't worry, that fortified church is just one of many.

I'm sorry we didn't adopt Christian architecture, in pre-Christian Africa. I find that to be subjective, simply a matter of taste. We have wildly different cultures so I should expect the same of our aesthetics. I find it absurd that you expect Greco-Roman or Gothic architecture in places that were never at any point under the respective empires. Black Africans did not share European sensibilities, and attempting to use that single, alien yardstick to gauge all civilizations under deprives you greatly from enjoying all the beauty humanity has got to offer. But that's your loss, not mine. I'm only able to appreciate the beauty of the Sistine Chapel because MY education system exposed me to your culture. This doesn't make me view the shrines of the Mijikenda as any less beautiful, nor the temples of my Hindu countrymen and women. Aquired tastes my friend. You're only looking to enforce your world view, and pathetic as I think that is, it's not my place to deny you.

Thanks for the Sicillian clarification BTW. I'll be sure to go there next time I'm in Greece. Oh, wait...

I think there are numerous examples of ancient architecture from even before the age of Rome found in Africa. Particularly northeast-africa.

Africa is just too big and diverse too be lumped into one category. However I did get a good chuckle out of the jpeg.

I do have to agree with the some of the sentiments here. There are examples of Africans who also have the Neanderthal presence in their DNA, again, east-africans. Probably explains why they're so different to other Africans. Though I still don't know whether they're considered sub-saharan africans or not. They are genetically very distinct from surrounding Africans.

Hey. Just a point of correction - East Africans are just as black as people from the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa. You may find communities along the coasts, such as the Swahili, with significant Arab ancestry but most inland tribes are not different from their Western or Southern African counterparts. The greatest differences occur between language groups. Take the Nilotes for instance - the linguistic group which my tribe, the Luo, belongs to - we tend to be relatively tall and thin, with very dark skin, as compared to the more stout, lighter skinned Bantu groups. These distinctions also exist between the Western African branches of Nilo-Saharan (the Nilotic parent group) and the Bantu communities in the region. Southern African communities are largely Bantu though. In short, the vast majority of East Africans are what you'd call black, no different from any other black populations.

PS: "Sub Saharan" is rather long. We really don't mind "Black" Africa.

Thank you, that's very interesting. I was more referring to Horners. Ethiopians, Somalians, Eritreans. But that brings up another interesting question for me. How would you consider them? I know outside of Africa they are considered caucasians and have significant caucasian influence ( we're talking at least or over the 50% range.)

Pictures results after googling around a bit:



In my opinion, this just shows that humanity is a gradient. Overlapping. It's rather fascinating.

Yeah, it really is fascinating. Sorry, my previous comment didn't talk much about the Cushites. We have a large Kenyan Somali population - close to a million - and an even larger diaspora from Somalia with residency or refugee status, because of the civil war in their country. The Somali myth of origin, if I remember my high school history, goes something like this. A Yemeni man marries the daughter of a man - ethnicity not specified - called Darrod. Assuming Darrod was black in the typical sense, this story might point to a "biracial" origin of the Somali. The Ethiopians on the other hand, have a story about a creator making humans out of clay. Those who stayed too long in the kiln became black and were placed south, those who didn't stay in long enough became white and were placed to the north and the Ethiopians who stayed in for just the right amount of time were placed somewhere in the middle. I read it when I was a kid, so I don't quite remember if it placed any distinctions between the Tigre and Amhara, the most dominant tribes in Ethiopia. I assume it's the same for the Erritreans, as they were essentially a single nation at some point.

Cushites - are "Black" in a political sense, maybe less so in a cultural sense as I've been made to understand that Ethiopians generally don't see themselves as lowercase "b" black.

About the gradient thing, black people have a huge spectrum of different skin colors, even within the same family. My Mum for instance, is light skinned. My sister and I are quite dark. The funny thing is we started out really light skinned as children, perhaps till we each turned three. I've heard some kids start out blonde and end up with dark hair? I find it all quite interesting.

I agree! I have a somali friend. The general somali myth is that they all, the tribes, came from one Somali man and his wife. I think the Somalis generally realize they're not from arabs. And abhor even the suggestion! haha.

But he said that you are correct, if you go in the north of Somalia, where currently, Somaliland is. You will find that many Isaacs ( clan name) think they are descendants of the arab tribe of Mohammed. My friend tells me these people are just confused. And I think we can agree that DNA analyses seem to suggest he's correct.hehe. DNA and linguistic research seems to suggest the Earlier Egyptian,Somali, Amhara and Eritrean populations to be close relatives. With the Somalis having the least influence of surrounding nations ( Arabs, west-africans etc.) Funny how the ones that don't think they're purely Africans, are the ones that in fact, are!

"Particularly northeast-africa."

I hesitate to say this since I had been planning on staying away from this conversation, but northeast africa is not part of sub-Saharan Africa which this article seems to be concerning (at least according to the Discover writeup, which I only skimmed).


Ah ha! Thank you for that,it was enlightening. I have heard before that East-Africans are considered caucasians. Though I don't know this for sure. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caucasian_race Wikipedia for 'caucasian' seems to suggest they are though. Strange!

You're falling way below the usual standards of discourse on this site.

I love, love love the book Guns, Germs and Steel. It's not perfect but the author throws in so many great ideas as to why certain groups did better than others. None because any group is inherently superior.


I liked that book, too, but later controversies surrounding Diamond have made me wonder how much I should rely on the narrative presented there.

I think don't rely at all, just add it to the set of things you include when thinking about the issues. The book is awesome because it added so many dimensions to consider that I never had before.

I hope not as well. Lots of the replies seem to be stating a difference between 'science' and 'values', but the fact is there has been a long history of using science or pseudoscience to justify claims of inferiority amongst other humans. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_racism for some examples.

> Hopefully this is not exploited to "scientifically" explain the inferiority of sub-Saharan Africans vis-a-vis the rest of humanity.

IIRC correctly, Neanderthals had smaller brains.

I believe that is actually a "stupid cavemen" popular myth. From wikipedia:

  Neanderthal cranial capacity is thought to have been as
  large as that of a Homo sapiens, perhaps larger,
  indicating their brain size may have been comparable, as
  well. In 2008, a group of scientists created a study using
  three-dimensional computer-assisted reconstructions of
  Neanderthal infants based on fossils found in Russia and
  Syria, showing that they had brains as large as modern
  humans' at birth and larger than modern humans' as
  adults.[8] On average, the height of Neanderthals was
  comparable to contemporaneous Homo sapiens. Neanderthal
  males stood about 165–168 cm (65–66 in), and were heavily
  built with robust bone structure. They were much stronger
  than Homo sapiens, having particularly strong arms and
  hands.[9] Females stood about 152–156 cm (60–61 in)
Of course whales have big brains too and they are pretty dumb, so our mileage may vary ;)

edit: formatting

Thanks burgerbrain. It seems I didn't remember correctly (or did - it's been a long time since I last got really interested in this, perhaps the early 90's). And I also have some reading to do ;-).

OTOH, in regard to the parent post, reason never stopped a racist before. It's doubtful it will now.

Yep, it's not purely the brain size that matters, it's the ratio of brain size to total body mass. And Neanderthals did indeed have larger brains than humans. They also started wearing pigmented jewelry before we did, in fact we might have learned it from them.

I would consider a function of surface and volume, as well as the kinds and "bandwidth" of the senses and complexity of society. You have to process all the sensory input that comes through the skin, eyes, sonar and keep your friends friendly.

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