This little story popped-up last week:
Learn about racism, homophobia and sexism by watching Millwall! Brighton college in A-level sociology gaffe
Millwall’s historical notoriety is barbarically being used as part of an A-level sociology course, with a college offering students the opportunity to learn about working class habits and racism at Friday’s game against Brighton.
The sociology students would go on a trip to a Millwall game and there they would see ‘working class culture’ with all its racism, sexism and homophobia. What a fascinating and enlightening experience for them. Apparently, the students would learn all about ‘issues around racism, homophobia and sexism’. In my opinion, if you want to learn about these things the place to go is not a Millwall game. The place to go is a lecture series by a Nobel Prize winning geneticist or population demographer.
Let’s go through these three fascinating subjects and see what these budding scholars might learn. Though I’m still not clear how they’ll learn these things at a Millwall game…
Racism – I suppose they’ll learn about racial differences. I.e the obvious fact that two groups isolated from one another for 50,000 years will evolve along different lines – depending on natural selection, sexual selection and genetic drift, that these differences do not only apply to superficialities such as skin colour and hair type, but also include vulnerabilities to different diseases and medical conditions, and differences in behaviour and intelligence. I guess they could, in theory, get a glimpse of such differences by observing the different athletic abilities of different footballers but that wouldn’t really work given that this whole topic depends on the law of big numbers – and 22 isn’t big enough a number.
Perhaps they’ll learn about various genetic markers – the MAOA gene and its variants for example:
“In 2006, Lea reported that MAOA-3R — one of the low-activity risky variants — was more common in Maori males than in white males. According to Lea, the 3R version was associated with a lineup of undesirable personality traits: risk-taking, violence, aggression, gambling, addiction and criminal behavior. Suddenly, it seemed genetics could possibly explain the Maori/white ethnic divide in achievement and social outcomes.
“MAOA-3R — the “original warrior gene” — was the first gene linked with antisocial characteristics. But Maori were not the only ethnic group with a high frequency of this variant. It turned out that while 3R was found in 56% of Maori males, it occurred in 58% of African American males and 34% of European males
“MAOA — an enzyme that degrades neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine in the brain — is coded for by the MAOA gene. Neurotransmitters play a pivotal role in mood, arousal, and emotions, even affecting impulse control.
“Beaver’s team has focused only on the 2R variant rather than the low-expression variants combined. He and his colleagues have discovered that African American males carrying 2R were more likely to be involved in extreme violence — shooting and stabbing — than African American men with other MAOA variants. The relationship between the rare MAOA version and antisocial behaviors has raised eyebrows because, quite simply, this gene is not distributed equally across ethnic groups. In the Add Health database, 5.5% of African American men, 0.9% of Caucasian men, and 0.00067% of Asian men have 2R. (No information is currently available on the frequency of 2R in males of African black descent outside the United States.) Since the rare MAOA variant is virtually non-existent in whites, all of the males in Beaver’s study were black Americans.
That should get them started on their lessons in racism. Next…
Homophobia – Again, I have no idea what the students will learn about homophobia at a Millwall game in particular but I guess if they bump into the Millwall-Supporters/Geneticists crowd they might discuss a couple ideas, such as genes determining homophobia:
“Previous research has shown that many heterosexuals hold negative attitudes toward homosexuals and homosexuality (homophobia). Although a great deal of research has focused on the profile of homophobic individuals, this research provides little theoretical insight into the aetiology of homophobia. To examine genetic and environmental influences on variation in attitudes toward homophobia, we analysed data from 4,688 twins who completed a questionnaire concerning sexual behaviour and attitudes, including attitudes toward homosexuality. Results show that, in accordance with literature, males have significantly more negative attitudes toward homosexuality than females and non-heterosexuals are less homophobic than heterosexuals. In contrast with some earlier findings, age had no significant effect on the homophobia scores in this study. Genetic modelling showed that variation in homophobia scores could be explained by additive genetic (36%), shared environmental (18%) and unique environmental factors (46%). However, corrections based on previous findings show that the shared environmental estimate may be almost entirely accounted for as extra additive genetic variance arising from assortative mating for homophobic attitudes. The results suggest that variation in attitudes toward homosexuality is substantially inherited, and that social environmental influences are relatively minor.
Jayman on the irony of genetic homophobia:
“Irony comes in because (obligate homosexual men, who most are concerned with) were not “born that way” at all, since male homosexuality almost certainly is the result of a childhood infection.
Worse still, homophobia (or homoaversion, as it should properly be called, according to Greg Cochran) is itself heritable, at least 54% so. Yes, homophobes were much more “born that way” than homosexuals themselves!
It doesn’t get much more ironic than that.
But the “born that way” meme does speak towards the prevailing attitude towards genetics. Nothing undesirable can be much heritable, for if it is so, it is seen as (not exactly accurately) being immutable. Hence, this is why sexual orientation can be inborn, but IQ, sex, or racial differences cannot.
Perhaps, having discussed the genetic foundation for homophobia they can then consider Gregory Cochran’s germ theory of homosexuality, mentioned above. It ain’t established science as far as I know but it is interesting nontheless.
Sexism – And finally, on their little trip to see Millwall the budding scholars can learn all about sexism. Perhaps this lesson will cover sexual dimorphism in humans, given that different attitudes to men and woman are very likely based on men and women actually being different:
In both human and animal examples, behavioral differences are based on the details of the underlying neural circuitry. Accordingly, neurobiologists have long looked for differences between the brains of females and males that might explain sexually dimorphic behaviors and… have found many examples. These differences in the nervous system, like the behavioral differences they give rise to, are also referred to as sexually dimorphic.
To ignore or deny obvious differences between men and women would, of course, be something only a total fool (read feminist) would do.
What an enlightening time the students must have had at the Millwall game! Personnally, I never knew Millwall FC was such a hotbed of genetic and behavioural research… so I learned something too!
East London Genetic Research Centre, Yesterday