PZ Myers responded with typical ignorance to an article by Medved today.
Medved cites two books recently released, that argue that many Americans are genetically disposed to active, aggressive, ambitious behavior, because of the selection mechanism that brought them here. Basically, you had to be really adventurous to voluntarily give up your life in Europe and start fresh on the frontier, so the genetic trait causing that adventurous spirit became overrepresented in the US.
They authors further argue that this selection mechanism differentiates the blacks whose ancestors were brought against their will, by slavers, from those blacks who came voluntarily, in the traditional vein of the ambitious immigrant.
Myers, in an unusually profound moment of stupid, portrayed this idea as racist. How dare Mr. Medved portray the descendents of slaves as lazy, etc.?
But that's not what Mr. Medved even said.
Racism is differentiating based on race -- saying, "Blacks are this way because they are black; whites are this way because they are white."
These guys are differentiating based on the selection mechanism that brought people to America. Thus "stay-at-home white Europeans" are in the same category as "slaves brought here against their will." Similarly, "White immigrants who came out of a sense of adventure" are in the same category as "Black immigrants who came out of a sense of adventure."
There's simply no racism to be found. The argument is that people who come out of a sense of adventure tend to pass that trait on to their descendants, regardless of race, and those who come (or remain) for some other reason do not have such an over-represented adventurous spirit.
Regardless of race.
How is it that people (like Myers) who have been through so much schooling can be so transparently stupid? I don't know. My little sister, a particularly precocious Junior in college, could see right through this bogus argument. Why is Myers unable to maintain logical thought? I don't know.
Maybe there's another selection mechanism in academia: "Those who can, do, and those who can't, teach." Not universal, of course. But maybe a factor?
As to the idea itself, I find it intriguing, but I'm also skeptical of "genetics explains everything" arguments. I'd be more inclined to believe that the selection mechanism favoring an adventurous spirit created a culture of ambition and energy, which continues to attract people who think the same way, and perpetuates itself through the acculturation process.
I'm open to the idea of a gene, of course; but until they actually find the gene i reckon they should shut up about it.