Observations on the Classification of Idiots

August 18th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 32 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
Saturday August 18 2007

Every now and then something comes along which is so bonkers and so unhinged that it unmoors itself from all cultural anchoring points, and floats off into a baffling universe all of its own. I am a connoisseur of freaky ideas, but nothing prepared me for this gem from the academic journal Medical Hypotheses: an article called “Down subjects and Oriental population share several specific attitudes and characteristics”.

You’d be right to experience a shudder of nervousness at the title alone, since this is an academic journal, from 2007, and not 1866 when John Langdon Down wrote his classic “Observations on the Ethnic Classification of Idiots”. This paper was the first to describe Down syndrome (which Down called “mongolism”) and in it, the author explained that different forms of genetic disorder were, in fact, evolutionary regressions to what he viewed as the less advanced, non-white forms of humanity. He described an Ethiopian form of “idiot”, a mongoloid form, and so on. Looking back, it reads as spectacularly offensive.

Now. People with Down syndrome – who have three copies of chromosome 21, learning difficulties, and other congenital health problems – do indeed look a tiny bit like people from east Asia, to westerners. This is because they have something called an “epicanthic fold”, a piece of skin that joins the upper part of the nose to the inner part of the eyebrow. It makes the eyes almond shaped. You’ll find epicanthic folds on faces from east Asia, south-east Asia, and some west Africans and Native Americans. People with Down syndrome have various other incidental anatomical differences too, if you’re interested, such as a single crease in their palm.

Flash forward to 2007 – I think that’s where we are – to two Italian doctors. They offer their theory that the parallels between Down syndrome and “oriental” people go beyond this fleeting facial similarity. What is the evidence they have amassed? I offer it almost in its totality.

One aspect, they say, is alimentary characteristics. “Down subjects adore having several dishes displayed on the table, and have a propensity for food which is rich in monosodium glutamate.”

I, too, adore having several dishes displayed upon the table. Two doctors, in an academic journal, in 2007, go on: “The tendencies of Down subjects to carry out recreative-rehabilitative activities, such as embroidery, wicker-working, ceramics, book-binding, etc., that is renowned, remind [us of] the Chinese hand-crafts, which need a notable ability, such as Chinese vases, or the use of chopsticks employed for eating by Asiatic populations.”

Perhaps you can think of cultural rather than genetic explanations for these observations. There’s more. “Down persons during waiting periods, when they get tired of standing up straight, crouch, squatting down, reminding us of the ‘squatting’ position … They remain in this position for several minutes and only to rest themselves.” Amazing. “This position is the same taken by the Vietnamese, the Thai, the Cambodian, the Chinese, while they are waiting at a bus stop, for instance, or while they are chatting.”

And that’s not all. “There is another pose taken by Down subjects while they are sitting on a chair: they sit with their legs crossed while they are eating, writing, watching TV, as the Oriental peoples do.”

To me, and I may be wrong, this article is so fantastical and so thoughtlessly crass that it’s impossible to experience anything like outrage. But this is a proper academic journal, published by Elsevier, with a respectable “impact factor” – a measure of how frequently a journal is cited – of 1.299. I contacted the editor. He told me this paper was a very short, discursive and preliminary communication, floating a general idea for discussion and debate, and that taking scientific ideas out of their context could be misleading. I hope I am not misleading anybody. I contacted Elsevier, the journal publisher: they will consider making the article free to access, so that anyone can read it for themselves, and reach their own conclusion. I’ll let you know… [see below]

· Please send your bad science to bad.science@guardian.co.uk

[Ooh, in case you’re wondering why I wrote about this, it’s a setup for something more interesting, and related, next week, assuming nothing topical comes in. And also because it is a fantastic paper.]

And here is the paper.

dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2006.12.043

Down subjects and Oriental population share
several specific attitudes and characteristics q
Federica Mafrica 1, Vincenzo Fodale *,2
Department of Neuroscience, Psychiatric and Anesthesiological Sciences, University of Messina,
Policlinico Universitario ‘‘G.Martino’’, Via Consolare Valeria, 98125 Messina, Italy
Summary Down’s syndrome is characterized not only by a typical ‘‘habitus’’, mental retardation of variable gravity and several alterations of the cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrenteric and immunitary system, but also by specific attitudes and characteristics that are in common with the Oriental population. Starting from the origin of the term mongolism, replaced with other terms such as Trisomy 21, Down’s syndrome, and anomaly of Down because of the racist use made in the last century, we propose, in the light of modern knowledge about the heredity of features, a reflection on those aspects and attitudes which highlight a very particular twinning between a Down person and Asiatic peoples.

Introduction
Down’s syndrome is a condition characterized by a
typical ‘‘habitus’’ and a mental retardation of variable
gravity. The face is oriental: the fissures of
eyes are oblique and present the epicantus; the
nose is short and the root is flat, the knape of the
neck is flat and covered with very loose skin and
subcutaneous. The limbs are short and stocky and
a marked laxity of ligaments is present. Several
alterations of the cardiovascular, respiratory,
gastrenteric and immunitary system can be associated.
In addition, specific attitudes and characteristics
may be shown evidences.
Origin of term ‘‘Mongolism’’
The first description of Down’s syndrome dates
back to 1846 when Seguin [1] spoke about a ‘‘furfuraceous
cretinism’’. In 1866 John Langdon Haydon
Down published an ethnic classification of idiotis.
In this classification, the author distinguished the
idiotis according to an ethnic typology: the Ethiopic,
the Caucasian, the mongoloid. Therefore for
the first time the term ‘‘mongolism’’ appeared [2].

Today this syndrome is nominated with other
terms such as Trisomy 21, Down’s syndrome, anomaly
of Down.
Down peoples and Asiatic peoples
The strong characteristic, that leads Langdon to
compare the Down population to the Asiatic one,
is the eyes with a typical almond-form. However,
it is possible to highlight other aspects of Down
subjects which remind the Asiatic population, such
as fine and straight hair, the distribution of apparatus
piliferous, which appears to be sparse.
Some attitudes and any daily habitus observed in
Down subjects, recall those of the oriental
population.
Down persons during waiting periods, when they
get tired of standing up straight, crouch, squatting
down, reminding us of the ‘‘squatting’’ position
described by medical semeiotic which helps the venous
return. They remain in this position for several
minutes and only to rest themselves this
position is the same taken by the Vietnamese, the
Thai, the Cambodian, the Chinese, while they are
waiting at a the bus stop, for instance, or while
they are chatting.
There is another pose taken by Down subjects
while they are sitting on a chair: they sit with their
legs crossed while they are eating, writing, watching
TV, as the Oriental peoples do.
Another aspect of Down person that remind the
Asiatic population, are alimentary characteristics.
Down subjects adore having several dishes displayed
on the table and have a propensity for food
which is rich in monosodium glutamate (a salt of
glutamate), such as parmigiano, beef broth, tinned
food, etc. [3]. The Chinese food abounds in monosodium
glutamate that seems to be responsible for
the fifth taste or ‘‘umami taste’’ [4] and of the
‘‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’’ [5], (a syndrome
characterized by flushing, tightness and breathing-
difficulties). Furthermore, it has been observed
that Down subjects present a deficit of GABA transmission
due to a higher consumption of glutamate.
In fact, it seems that a biological limit keeps the
brain of Down individuals from having too much
glucose, by acting on its intake. Glucose is a precursor
of l-glutamate acid via the Kreb’s cycle
and glutamatic acid, in its turn, is the precursor
of GABA [6].
The incidence of thyroid disease in the Down
population is another aspect that may be highlighted
since it recall the Asiatic population. In
fact, thyroid disorders are common in the Down’s
syndrome. The prevalence of hypothyroidism has
been found to be greater than that of hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism may be either present from
birth or be acquired [7].
In several studies about the incidence of thyroid
disorders in the Asiatic populations, childhood
Grave’s disease has been reported to be rare, but
epidemiological data showed to be higher in Hong
Kong children [8]. Another study observed that
one large Chinese family harboured susceptibility
loci for autoimmune thyroid disease which is distinct
from those previously found in the Caucasian
population. This suggests that different susceptibility
loci exist between different ethnic groups
[9].
The tendencies of Down subjects to carry out
recreative–reabilitative activities, such as embroidery,
wicker-working ceramics, book-binding, etc.,
that is renowned, remind the Chinese hand-crafts,
which need a notable ability, such as Chinese vases
or the use of chop-sticks employed for eating by
Asiatic populations.
Perhaps the explanation for their capacities resides
in the monkey-like cast of the hand or rather
in the single transversal solcus that replaces the
normal creases of the flexion of the hand, and their
laxity of ligaments. Also this characteristic of the
Down syndrome may be considered a point in common
with oriental populations.
The trisomy-16 murine, a biological model,
could be utilized to understand the molecular and
developmental effects associated with abnormal
chromosome numbers. In fact, the distal segment
of murine chromosome-16 is homologous to nearly
the entire long arm of human chromosome-21 [10].
Conclusion
These observations might highlight very interesting
aspects connected to the supernumerary chromosome
21 in Down’s syndrome, whereas they are
natural features of Asians. It would be just as interesting
to understand why the chromosome should
be in triple copy to express ‘‘these coincidences’’
in the Down subject, whereas it is sufficient in double
copy in Asians, who do not show mental retardation
or malformation in various organs or
systems.
Furthermore, it may be interesting to know the
gravity with which the Downs syndrome occurs in
Asiatic population, especially in Chinese population.
This study may offer the possibility of to know
better the neuropathology mechanisms that are
responsible of mental retardation in Downs syn-
drome and to open a new diagnostic and therapeutic
way for to operate precociously.
Perhaps we could even clear Langdon of all
blame from the accusation of being a ‘‘racist’’
for having first observed a sort of twinning which
could be looked at in more depth in the light of
modern knowledge on the heredity of features
and on genic expression and inactivation.
References
[1] Seguin E. Idiocy and its treatment by physiological methods.
New York: William Wood; 1866.
[2] Langdon-Down J. Observation on an ethnic classification of
idiots. London Hospital Reports 1866;3:259–62.
[3] Cocchi R. Food habits in Down of 10 years or more. Int
J Intellect Impair 1994;7:149–57.
[4] de Araujio IE, Kringelbach ML, Rolls ET, Hobden P.
Representation of umami taste in the Human brain.
J Neurophysiol 2003;90:313–9.
[5] Keney RA. The Chinese restaurant syndrome: anecdote
revisited. Food Chem Toxicol 1986;24:351–4.
[6] Cocchi R. Precursori dell’ac. Glutammico e del GABA
e abitudini alimentari nei Down: Indagine epidemiologica
su 460 soggetti. Int J Intellect Impair 1990;3:
307–12.
[7] Prasher VP. Down sindrome and thyroid disorder: a review.
Down Syndr Res Pract 1999;6:25–42.
[8] Wong GW, Cheng PS. Increasing incidence pf childhood
Graves’ disease in Hong Kong: a follow-up study. Clin
Endocrinol (Oxf.) 2001;54:547–50.
[9] Villanueva R, Tomer Y, Greenberg DA, et al. Autoimmune
thyroid disease susceptibility loci in a large Chinese family.
Clin Endocrinol (Oxf.) 2002;56:45–51.
[10] Galdzicki Z, Siarey RJ. Understanding mental retardation in
Down’s syndrome using trisomy 16 mouse models. Genes
Brain Behav 2003;2(3):167–78.


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32 Responses



  1. dbhb said,

    August 18, 2007 at 1:59 am

    Surely this is a perfect example of Scientism gone Mad. Somebody call that nice Neil Spencer– he’s *sure* to have some relevant wisdom.

  2. woodchopper said,

    August 18, 2007 at 6:53 am

    My first thought was that this must be a hoax. But the authors do seem so have published various other papers that seem a little more sensible.

    1:
    Santamaria LB, Di Paola C, Mafrica F, Fodale V.
    Related Articles, Links
    Preanesthetic evaluation and assessment of children with Down’s syndrome.
    ScientificWorldJournal. 2007 Feb 19;7:242-51. Review.
    PMID: 17334615 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
    2:
    Mafrica F, Fodale V.
    Related Articles, Links
    Down subjects and Oriental population share several specific attitudes and characteristics.
    Med Hypotheses. 2007;69(2):438-40. Epub 2007 Feb 28. Review.
    PMID: 17331663 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
    3:
    Mafrica F, Fodale V.
    Related Articles, Links
    Opioids and Down’s syndrome.
    J Opioid Manag. 2006 Mar-Apr;2(2):93-8. Review.
    PMID: 17315425 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
    4:
    Fodale V, Mafrica F, Santamaria LB.
    Related Articles, Links
    Killer fentanyl: a lesson from anaesthesiology.
    Lancet. 2006 Oct 7;368(9543):1237-8. No abstract available.
    PMID: 17027725 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
    5:
    Fodale V, Mafrica F, Caminiti V, Grasso G.
    Related Articles, Links
    The cholinergic system in Down’s syndrome.
    J Intellect Disabil. 2006 Sep;10(3):261-74. Review.
    PMID: 16916850 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
    6:
    Mafrica F, Schifilliti D, Fodale V.
    Related Articles, Links
    Pain in Down’s syndrome.
    ScientificWorldJournal. 2006 Jan 26;6:140-7. Review.
    PMID: 16493518 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    So I assume that the authors might have been serious. Would be fun to see them try to present this article at a conference.

  3. Pedantica said,

    August 18, 2007 at 10:02 am

    Just to pick one hilarious section:

    Paper was invented in China, indeed it is one of the “Four Great Inventions of Ancient China” along with the Compass, Printing and Gunpower.

    Porcelain was similarly invented in China and it’s manufacture was something China managed to keep secret for an extremely long time whilst trading with western nations. Silk manufacture was similarly kept secret for a long period of history to ensure the Chinese monopoly.

    There is no sense in which Chinese people had a tendancy towards handicrafts. What they had was a monopoly in production due a number of specific inventions that made their luxury textiles and ceramics superior in certain respects to those produced in Europe and other parts of the trading world.

  4. Deano said,

    August 18, 2007 at 11:36 am

    “Surely this is a perfect example of Scientism gone Mad.”

    No – this doesn’t appear to be science at all…

  5. marcdraco said,

    August 18, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    Reads more like something that you might find on Conservapedia than a respected journal. [shudders]

  6. tom said,

    August 18, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    Absolutely amazing. Ben, I understand why you asked everyone if you had missed anything with this paper before commenting on it in the guardian; I could hardly believe it myself.

    I am not a paediatric cardiologist but I think the bit about squatting probably refers to the phenomenon in children with right to left cardiac shunt (eg ventricular septal defects) who squat to obstruct the venous return and hence reduce the left to right shunting. This then improves the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain. Are the authors of the paper suggesting that Asian people all have holes in the heart or is it more likely that there are no seats at the bus stop!

    Oh and just to be a bit pedantic you should say Down’s syndrome (as he named it) not Down syndrome. Munchausen syndrome is named after someone who did not describe it (and was also fictional)!

  7. bbb said,

    August 18, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    I’m not about to start justifying this paper, however if you take a look at the description of the journal (Medical Hypotheses) it may show why such non-results and speculation ended up there:

    “Medical Hypotheses takes a deliberately different approach to peer review. Most contemporary practice tends to discriminate against radical ideas that conflict with current theory and practice. Medical Hypotheses will publish radical ideas, so long as they are coherent and clearly expressed. Furthermore, traditional peer review can oblige authors to distort their true views to satisfy referees, and so diminish authorial responsibility and accountability. In Medical Hypotheses, the authors’ responsibility for integrity, precision and accuracy of their work is paramount. The editor sees his role as a “chooser”, and not a “changer”: choosing to publish what are judged to be the best papers from those submitted.”

    I’ve browsed the other papers in the latest edition and it is pretty interesting. I’m not sure if it qualifies as part of the body of scientific knowledge, it seems to be more of a “forum” for frank exchange of preliminary ideas.

    Ben (not Goldacre)

  8. Bob O'H said,

    August 18, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    Not that I’m trying to vie for the title of über-pedant or anything, but Charles should perhaps note that Ben is writing from the UK. Therefore the possessive would still be appropriate.

    The gauntlet, gentlemen, is thrown down. :-)

    Bob

  9. mikestanton said,

    August 19, 2007 at 1:24 am

    Medical Hypotheses is a junk journal and publishes junk science. I would question Elsevier in all this. They charge the earth for access to their journals. Therefore they should exercise some degree of quality control; unless their only motivation is the money.

  10. Andrew Clegg said,

    August 19, 2007 at 10:44 am

    bbb (post 8) — this paper’s views are certainly ‘clearly expressed’ but are they ‘coherent’? I think not.

    To me they look like a mixed bag of anecdotes, claims lacking quantificaton or in fact any evidence at all, correlation/causation confusions, and existing prejudices dressed up as pseudo-scientific pontificating.

    I mean, Asian people have monkey-like hands? WTF?

    In principle there’s nothing wrong with a journal dedicated to publishing particularly novel hypotheses, but it needs to apply the same standards of intellectual rigour any other scientific journal if it wants to remain in the domain of science rather than wild fanciful speculation. Maybe the journal’s own rules haven’t been applied in this case.

    Andrew.

  11. Andrew Clegg said,

    August 19, 2007 at 10:45 am

    Err, that’s post 8 followed by a ) character, not actually a smiley with shades :-)

  12. Charles Copeland said,

    August 19, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    Andre Clegg writes:

    I mean, Asian people have monkey-like hands? WTF?

    The authors use the term “monkey-like cast of the hand”, which is more sensitively called the ‘simian line’ or, more sensitively still, the ‘single transverse palmar crease’. It is present in at least 50% of Downs persons. According to Jasper Gerald, writing in The Times in 1998, it is also a feature “shared by drug addicts, mass murderers, scientific researchers and religious fanatics” (emphasis mine).

    See here for images:

    home.insight.rr.com/jkmckee/simian_fold.htm

    Perhaps the authors of the controversial Downs article ‘have a point’. According to the ‘East-West Institute for Self-Understanding’:

    “Approximately 4% of Caucasians have this line on at least one hand. Approximately 13% of all Asians have it on at least one hand.”

    On the other hand, the fact that the EWIFSU also has a ‘Psychic, Paranormal and Spiritual Center’ with articles on such topics as ‘My Near Death Experience’ and ‘Line of Clairvoyance’ suggests that its scientific credentials are hardly in the Ivy league class.

    Enrol NOW at BARGAIN RATES for my online palmistry sessions …

  13. Robert Carnegie said,

    August 19, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    Jasper Gerald: “shared by” all kinds of people, perhaps? Big Brother contestants, stamp collectors, barmen, Roman Catholics, train drivers, postal workers?

    I found, as did you, a Web page “not intended to provide undeniable medical proof that there is a biological link between simian lines and criminal behavior, mental illness, abnormality, drug addiction, or fanaticism. In fact, nearly all the information on this page comes from palmistry websites and palmistry books—not medical books.” So there.

    One Web page looked worth checking, out of three, for “simian fold” and “present at birth” – an ADHD page, www.adders.org/drbilly7.htm

    I’m quite willing to ignore this and to suppose that what you do with your hands throughout your life determines where creases appear. Some activities promote the simian fold, some produce the majority-type folding. The scientist grasping the test tube, the mass murderer his dagger, the religious fanatic… his dagger, most likely – this would be the cause. I think people with Down’s syndrome probably spend less time writing than the rest of us do. And maybe more time brachiating, I don’t know.

    And the structure of the tissue underneath, likewise. Cardboard doesn’t fold like paper.

    I appear to have far too many lines on each palm – I hope that doesn’t mean something ghastly.

  14. Coobeastie said,

    August 19, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    I have an argument at work about the possessive and Down(‘s) Syndrome – looking at various organisations in the UK both the possessive and the non-possessive are used. I prefer the non-possessive personally, because it’s not like Langdon Down owns all people with Down Syndrome.

  15. projektleiterin said,

    August 19, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    Edit: “them”, not “it”

  16. Charles Copeland said,

    August 19, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Robert [comment 16]:

    Jasper Gerald was indulging, I think, in “tongue-in-cheek” science. A decade ago, the revelation that Tony Blair has the simian line on both hands triggered quite a response in the UK conservative press. Here’s the Sunday Mail (6 December 1998):

    A rare physical aberration may explain why successful and often obsessive people appear to hold the world in the palm of their hand. […] Among world leaders only Britain’s Tony Blair is known to have the simian line – and on both hands…[… ] Research shows they are generally found on people who are intense and intractable, an observation which will provoke knowing smiles among critics who have branded Mr. Blair a control freak.
    www.jenniferboyer.com/simianlinenews.html

    I loved the ‘Research shows …’ clincher.

    Research shows that journalists who use the phrase ‘research shows’ are normally totally clueless.

    Coobeastie [comment 18]: read my comment 9.

    All a bit off-topic, sorry. I’ll stop now.

  17. Mhairi said,

    August 20, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    I think the authors’ final paragraph really reveals the intention of the article.
    “Perhaps we could even clear Langdon [Down (sic)] of all blame from the accusation of being a ‘‘racist’’”…. hmmmm
    There is no evidence to suggest that Langdon Down was racist, in fact he used his research to suggest that racial categories were non specific and pretty useless due to the fact that phenotypic characteristics present in white people (thought to be superior and evolutionarily more advanced at the time) with certain genetic ‘disorders’, were also present in people who are non-white. Not only did he write this stuff (weird and kinda back-to-front and racist sounding now but truly “radical ideas that conflict[ed] with … theory and practice” at the time) but he worked practically for what might now be called Human Rights, criticising slavery and its apologists and working to improve the quality of life of individuals with genetic ‘disorders’ and special needs.
    Langdon Down was not racist, he was living at a time with embedded ideas of racial hierarchies, and he used that language and model.
    Unfortunately it seems that these ideas are still prevalent in certain parts of the world, notably Italy.
    In fact this article lends itself very well to support the idea that Italians are predisposed to fascism. Other correlations I have noted include the similarity between the flowing lines of Piaggio scooters and VWs, the fact that most Italian men wear black shirts, and in Silvio Berlusconi’s attempt to become Hitler not only through right wing policies but also through a hair transplant to get Adolf’s comb-over.

  18. Teek said,

    August 20, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    spectacular piece of “research.”

    how this tripe gets published at all is close to beyond belief – good for a laugh tho, like the article Ben!

  19. drowned said,

    August 20, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    @coobeastie

    NICE have it as Down’s in their Antenatal Care guidance and the Down’s Syndrome Association do the same nationally, though it appears that regionally some use Downs, though that seems odd as it should surely then be Down as Ben uses. The Guardian style guide goes with Down’s as well, so some copy editor might want to watch for the inevitable P45.

    And to keep it on topic, the paper is offensive nonsense, and I’ll be interested to see what comes next week.

  20. Evilsteve said,

    August 20, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    I have dealt with this comprehensively in my soon to be published book “Down’s Victims: What are they like?”

    It’s very simple. Your oriental is inscrutable whereas Down’s people are very scrutable.

    Also, an attack on an oriental will result in a savage beating (for you) because they are taught Kung-fu from an early age. Your Down’s person is a rubbish fighter and can not be taught Kung-Fu.

    Downs people are, in fact, related closely to Mexicans. You cna tell this just by looking at them. Also if presented with a choice of hats a Down’s person will always choose a sombrero

  21. MarcC said,

    August 20, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    Would Steven Pinker classify this article amongst the “dangerous” ideas as described in this small article:
    www.edge.org/q2006/q06_3.html#pinker

    Is all this: dangerous science ? bad science? pseudo science?

  22. projektleiterin said,

    August 20, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    To Mhairi,

    There is no evidence to suggest that Langdon Down was racist, in fact he used his research to suggest that racial categories were non specific and pretty useless due to the fact that phenotypic characteristics present in white people (thought to be superior and evolutionarily more advanced at the time) with certain genetic ‘disorders’, were also present in people who are non-white.

    Please read it again what you just wrote. A scientists compares people with a genetic disorder, which a great deal of the population without further consideration for political correctness would call “mentally retarded”, with another, then widely accepted as “inferior”, race and comes up with similar characteristics, which the superior white race does not have. How is that not racist?

  23. manigen said,

    August 21, 2007 at 11:41 am

    I don’t know whether Langdon Down was racist or not, but I think Mhairi’s argument is that you have to judge him according the time he lived in. After all, by our standards very nearly everyone was racist at that time, scientist or not.

  24. Mhairi said,

    August 21, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    To Projektleiterin

    The reasons I would not consider Langdon Down a racist, which I thought I’d made explicit, are two fold.

    1) As Manigen points out the landscape within which he was writing was one which we would all now, hopefully, consider racist…

    2) Is the issue of intent. And this is where Langdon Down, and the authors of the paper Ben highlighted in the Guardian this week differ.
    Langdon Down wrote papers with obviously racially (and in many other ways) inappropriate terms and containing incorrect assumptions about ‘inter-racial’ and ‘intra-racial’ differences to propose that distinctions simply along the lines of ‘race’ were a pile of arse……..

    I believe from the concluding paragraph, that the authors of the paper above have written it precisely to “compare people with a genetic disorder” whom THEY consider to be ““mentally retarded” with another” whom THEY consider to be an ““inferior”, race”. Basically they’re shitting on ‘orientals’ and ‘retards’ at the same time.

  25. Maya said,

    August 21, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    I think you should still test the hypothesis that it is a hoax – maybe the writers are trying to prove Elsevier’s and reviewers’ (yes, what about those?) gullibility?
    Presumably there is a contact for the author on the original paper.

  26. NuttyBat said,

    August 21, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Perhaps Richard Dawkins should be sent in to challenge the publishers and authors?!

  27. projektleiterin said,

    August 21, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    Mhairi and manigen, do you mean to say that he is a racist, but not such a bad racist, because he was only the product of his time? Similar to the silent majority that did not oppose segregation in the States, but also never actively supported it? Anyway, he may be excused, but the article of the two Italian scientists is nevertheless a slap in the face of anybody who is Asian or has Down Syndrome. Even if this was a joke as Maya suggested, it’s a stupid and offensive one, the kind of infantile humor that a clown like Berlusconi might enjoy. I don’t know all Italian men, but from what I have seen as far as now, infantile and immature behavior among them seems to prevail compared with men of other nationalities. Hey, no offense meant, just stating my personal scientific observations here. :D

  28. manigen said,

    August 22, 2007 at 9:24 am

    Like I said above mate; I’m not suggesting anything. I don’t know enough about Langdon to have formed an opinion.

    The italian article is idiotic. Merely being offensive isn’t enough to condem research, but being wrong is.

  29. Mhairi said,

    August 22, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    projektleiterin
    I meant to say what I said, if that’s alright? But I think we’re all on the same page anyhow…… or at least in the same chapter, innit!

    Great idea NuttyBat, yeah send Dawkins to rant at, oops sorry challenge these people….. makes more sense than him upsetting dowsers etc.
    In these circumstances would he be classified a biological weapon or an indiscriminate cluster bomb? btw I don’t actually think that Richard Dawkins is deemed to be a weapon under any international agreement.

  30. Fan Gao Rui said,

    August 25, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    That’s quite funny. I might translate it again and post it on 163 to gauge the reaction.

    It’s nonsense of course: the Down’s syndrome rate in China is between 1/600 and 1/800 depending on where you look, with exactly the same risk factors.

    I get the feeling that the authors of that paper have never actually seen a real life “oriental”: our hands do have flexion lines; there is a marked difference in appearance between a down’s baby and a healthy one, and the use of squatting/cross-legged sitting, continued flexibility etc are cultural. Note that second generation Britons of Chinese descent display none of these behaviours.

  31. Ironmonkey66 said,

    May 12, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Wholly macro!! My parents are from South East Asia, and we all hate monosodium glutamate… it makes us sick and drowsy. This article is so funny! That’s what I call free speech in the free world! By the way our family do not seem to suffer from any learning disabilities too… 2 PhDs in science, 1 pharmacist and a degree in marketing are all on the way to graduation.
    I personally think that it is a good thing that a journal aims to publish any paper without (or very little) peer-reviewing in order to promote very exotic and sometimes far-fetched hypotheses and ideas… as long as it is all in the spirit of scientific discourse and enlightenment.

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