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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Jon Entine, Taboo, and Black Athletes - The Boston Marathon

Jon Entine is a sensationalist journalist and a former member of Steve Sailer's Human BioDiversity (HBD) group way back around the late 1990s to early 2000s. It was his book, "Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We’re Afraid to Talk About It" published in 2000, that gave him some publicity, and his analysis on race, genetics, and sports that got him invited to Sailer's HBD group.

It's been 15 years since Taboo was published. Let's analyze how accurate Entine's analysis and predictions came about. While some of his Sailer-esqe sensationalized pseudo-science and pseudo-journalism have relevant facts, there is always a cloud of doubt, and critical facts refuting their ideas are often omitted.

I'll cover three sports that the book Taboo analyses in depth: The Boston Marathon, Basketball, and Football. First is the Boston Marathon.

Taboo mentions East Africans, such as from Kenya and Ethiopia, are genetically gifted with slow twitch muscles which give them genetic superiority in long distance marathon running. Look at the history of Boston Marathon winners - East Africans from Kenya and Ethiopia have mostly won the first place spot since 1991 for Men's and 1997 for Women's.

Winning the Boston Marathon is an impressive feat. It is a 26.2 mile course and the Men's winners complete the course in a little over two hours. To run a marathon in 2 hours and 11 minutes, you would have to run at a consistent pace of 5 minutes per mile throughout the whole marathon with no breaks.

Jon Entine would like to make it seem East Africans have a astronomically dominant genetic advantage in the marathon, which makes other races genetically incapable of competing or beating East Africans in the marathon. After all, the odds of a Kenyan winning the Men's Boston Marathon from 1991 to 2000 (Taboo was published in 2000) is some astronomical, outrageous figure of many millions times billions to one.

A more realistic analysis into the Boston Marathon shows quite a lot of absurd overexaggerations by Jon Entine. If you look at the Kenyan winners of the Boston Marathon, many of them are repeat winners who have won multiple years. Most of the Kenyan have won first place at least twice, and Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot from Kenya won five times.

Can other races compete with or even beat East Africans in the marathon? Yes. Just one year after Taboo was published, Lee Bong-Ju from South Korea won the Boston Marathon in 2001. The Men's Kenyan Boston Marathon winners have times from an all time best 2:03:02 to 2:12:40. Here are Boston Marathon winners outside of East Africa since 1980 who have ran the time in the Kenyan winners' time range.

  • 1980 - Bill Rodgers - United States (MA) - 2:12:11
  • 1981 - Toshihiko Seko - Japan - 2:09:26
  • 1982 - Alberto Salazar - United States (MA) - 2:08:52
  • 1983 - Greg Meyer - United States (MI) - 2:09:00
  • 1984 - Geoff Smith - United Kingdom - 2:10:34
  • 1986 - Robert de Castella - Australia - 2:07:51
  • 1987 - Toshihiko Seko - Japan - 2:11:50
  • 1990 - Gelindo Bordin - Italy - 2:08:19
  • 2001 - Lee Bong-Ju - South Korea - 2:09:43

There is a much bigger picture than analyzing just one winner out of thousands of the best marathon runners in the world. Every year thousands of the best marathon runners in the world compete in the Boston Marathon. Let's analyze the top 10 winners of the 2014 Boston Marathon.
  • 1) Meb Keflezighi - United States - 2:08:37
  • 2) Wilson Chebet - Kenya - 2:08:48
  • 3) Franklin Chepkwony - Kenya - 2:08:50
  • 4) Vitaliy Shafar - Ukraine - 2:09:37
  • 5) Markos Geneti - Ethiopia - 2:09:50
  • 6) Joel Kimurer - Kenya - 2:11:03
  • 7) Nicholas Arciniaga - United States - 2:11:47
  • 8) Jeffrey Eggleston - United States - 2:11:57
  • 9) Paul Lonyangata - Kenya - 2:12:34
  • 10) Adil Annani - Morocco - 2:12:43
The first place winner, Meb Keflezighi, is born from East Africa, so I'll count him as an East African like Kenya or Ethopia. In 2014, the top ten winners consisted of 6 East Africans, 3 White European descent (places 4, 7, 8), and one from Morocco which is more Arabic (place 10). They all have respectable times just a few minutes of the first place winner, and demonstrate they can compete against the best Kenyan runners.

The Women's Boston Marathon winners also show a similar story. While East Africans won most of the first place sports since 1997, many of them were repeat winners who won multiple years. White Russian women won the Women's Boston Marathon in 2003 and 2007, and runners all around the world can compete with the East African runners.

Conclusion of Taboo? Well, it was an old book and some parts were right for its time. It got Jon some revenue and publicity. But as a whole package it never passed as credible scientific research; it only survived in isolated pseudo-scientific groups like Sailer's HBD group. Everyone has to make a living, but that book is past and it looks like Jon have moved on to other research areas to make a living.


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