For those who read or have heard of Skeptic magazine or the Skeptic society, I just recently came across an interesting article.The Sports Dominance Mystery: Why do certain groups come to dominate some sports but not others? by Stephen Sniderman seems to place all the discrepancy in sport on cultural bias and social preference. This stance seems to ignore a plethora of evidence to the contrary. First off, he tries to dispel the notion that certain races may dominate due to physiological reasons yet his thesis relies heavily on nation-to-nation comparisons, not race-to-race. Any given nation may be comprised of numerous races and where the borders are drawn is arbitrary. It cannot be ignored that sports such as the 100m sprint have such a high degree of black dominance that it is hard to imagine there being only cultural reasons to explain why. In all of history, a little over 70 men have broken the 10 second threshold and only 4 have been non-black. The fastest time for a non-black was just run by Christopher Lemaitre (9.97s), not even close to a record beater. The problem with Stephen's argument is that it is counter to what we can see right in front of us as a clear physical advantage of one race over another. Would Stephen suggest that if motivated enough, Japanese men could compete just as well as black men for the spot on a basketball team if they were so inclined, despite the sports heavy reliance on height? Surely he must see the obvious physical differences between races? Surely he must acknowledge the advantage that certain physical traits would garner someone in certain sports? How is it then that he places almost all the discrepancy on cultural and societal bias?
A better analysis would be to choose sports that are common amongst a wide variety of nations/cultures/races and not waste time looking at sports like ping pong and speed walking. Next, categorize them based upon criteria for metrics such as "use for explosive speed", "endurance", "power", "explosive strength", "necessity for an eclectic synergy of attributes", "jumping vertically, horizontally, and laterally", etc. Once the sports have been organized in this fashion, see if any trends emerge. Maybe blacks tend to dominate sports with certain attributes, but not others. If so, make a prediction about why, and test it. Could it be due to disproportionately sized lungs, or a higher ratio of fast twitch to slow twitch muscle fibre? Lastly, I would define racial dominance differently. If, for example race A is 10% of the population, yet makes up 23% of a given sport, though this may not be domination in the absolute sense, it does infer some degree of difference in ability. Now, whether that ability is the result of nature or nurture is anyone's guess, but when race A is over represented by 130% in one sport, this is worth consideration.
I believe a nature/nurture argument is best in this case, yet the article seemed as though it were written by a sociologist. Perhaps political correctness was the primary motive and not scientific inquisition?
What are your thoughts?