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What Is Race and Does it Inherently Exist

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Initial post: Mar 1, 2010 10:40:10 AM PST
Bean Slap says:
(Rules: No racists)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2010 11:14:25 AM PST
Excellent incendiary topic. Modern humans (homo sapiens sapiens) evolved over 300,000 years ago and have spread to six out of seven continents - almost every corner of the globe. Given the wide geographical distribution and the length of time available it's hardly surprising that separated populations of humans would form discrete populations and begin to manifest morphological differences. We see these differences manifest themselves in a range of attributes, degree of melanin in the the skin correlating roughly with latitude, length of torso and limbs shortened in populations living in cold climates, eye folds, distribution of blood types etc...

Humans being what they are (i.e. territorial xenophobic clan oriented primates) it isn't surprising that stereotypes and discrimination became attached to racial categorizations. In the US we had slavery up until less than a century and a half ago but the legal edifice of discrimination persisted (i.e. Plessy v. Ferguson in the 1890s) The process of the civil rights movement is still under way and the topic still explosive. Internationally, racial prejudice was used to justify conquest and subjugation (colonialism). The cultural impacts of colonialism are still in play. Racial prejudice affected more than just statecraft. The science of genetics engendered the eugenics movement which added a scientific veneer to many cultural and emotional categorizations of race.

Given this legacy it is hardly surprising that there is a cultural and scientific movement to ignore race. This movement is supported by the slippery taxonomic nature of the concept of race. Given genetic variation within populations it is extremely difficult to specifically and objectively identify race using objective criteria. This is stunningly at odds with our subjective experience of "you know it when you see it". Most of us have little problem deciding if a particular person is "black", "white", "asian", or "latino". Scientifically, however, the constellations of attributes blend into adjacent populations without clear demarcations. For example, South Asian populations are considered "caucasian" yet sometimes have more melanin in their skin than so called "black" populations. Genetic markers, such as blood type, disease resistance, and various traits reflect the evolutionary selection pressures each population has experienced, but don't tell a consistent story of difference among what we usually think of as race. Furthermore, the global nature of our culture is rapidly erasing the population isolation which created these differences in the first place. Given the realities of global travel, we should expect racial distinctions to rapidly decline in the future.

So, if the notion of race is historically tainted with the sins of colonialism, subjugation, discrimination, and slavery - and is taxonomically difficult to boot - what value is it? The answer is that race is evidence of the human evolutionary past. The traits we associate with race are part of the legacy of distinct populations that composed the history of humanity. The genes and traits tell us of our history of disease, fashions of sexual selection, chance population bottlenecks, environmental factors etc... It is eminently worthy of study.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2010 11:26:55 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 1, 2010 11:28:00 AM PST
Bean Slap says:
I agree with the aesthetic differences, but wouldnt ethnicity be the better, more accurate word since humans developed these traits based on geography after we seperated a long time ago? From my personal research (as a lay person going on the internet) I have seen alot of claims by scientists that 'race' taxonomically doesnt exist that it goes homo sapiens as the species and homo sapien sapiens as the sub species. I have seen race described as a sub species of human, so wouldnt it be more accurate to say that race is another word for homo sapien sapien as the sub species of homo sapiens and ethnicity is the external differences we see since ethnicity is corelated to geography which is what shaped our external differences? I figure ethnicity would be a better word since it is defined as being connected to geography. There tends to be alot of argumentation.

Posted on Mar 1, 2010 12:18:16 PM PST
bree says:
race is a social construct.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2010 12:28:08 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 1, 2010 12:46:10 PM PST
Bean Slap says:
Thats what I keep reading, but when people refer to countries with external characteristic similarities (ie, blond hair, blue eyes, or brown hair and green eyes, black skin and aqualine features) isnt that ethnicity since we are referring to the geographic changes that happened over a long time within a certain area which is what seems to be the definition of ethnicity (ie, it pertains to geoprahic area where the word race doesnt and is often used erroneously)? But I agree, race seems to be very maleable when looked at over different cultures. Some cultures define it differently, some dont even use it but have different ways of referring to external differences.

Posted on Mar 1, 2010 1:15:48 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 1, 2010 10:04:27 PM PST
Gary S. Hurd says:
My students would raise the same sorts of concerns, and offer similar responses (ie. races is a social construct). And race is a social construct.

What people call "races" based on physical attributes are unstable. If we tried to create a "race" based on skin color, we would quickly find that our criteria failed badly at capturing even the 3 or 4 generation reproduction history (genealogy) of nearly all of the people we try to classify. In the 1920s there were in fact such efforts, and articles were published as to just where on the body one should measure "skin tone." This is because "skin tone" varies greatly based on environmental factors. In fact, this is also a socioeconomic variable. Poor rural people spend a great deal of time in the sunlight. They work in the fields. They have darker skin. Poor urban people have paler skins because they work in the less desirable night shifts, or indoors in the day time.

Our social interjection on "race" contaminates every effort to characterize it. Every physical attribute used popularly to characterize "race" fails when a sufficiently large global sample is studied with sufficiently careful measurement. Darwin proposed that human variation was totally the result of environmental adaptation, which in his terms were products of just a generation or so.

I'll give a few links at the end. In biological anthropology, we have dropped "race" all together, and instead use the more limited idea of "clines." These are closely constrained sets of physical traits shared within a population due to direct common ancestry/genealogy. We can often trace specific mutations to specific ancestors within a cline. (Rather dull reading, but important theoretically).

There are important population issues that are not adequately addressed by the "cline" concept- at least according to some work in public health. The seemingly strong data that American Blacks have elevated risk to develop high blood pressure is one example. But, if we control for diet, and obesity these correlations fall apart. This is an exact repetition of the pattern set by the 19th and early 20th century anthropologists. They focused on just one or two controlled variables, and cross-correlated them with socially constructed way to clump people into groups. It fails.

I was thinking to post several references, but reading them over again lead me to just select one in particular;

"AAPA Statement on Biological Aspects of Race" Ed Hagen, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 101, pp 569-570, 1996

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2010 2:43:47 PM PST
Michael H. says:
"race is a social construct." I agree, but what does that mean? I interpret the phrase to mean that race is not the factual skin color or facial structure, but rather the infusion of such characteristics as being important enough do distinguish along such lines: that it is not the biological fact itself, but human reaction to biological fact which constitutes race. Though I admit, this is a rather crude first attempt that doesn't come anywhere near fully describing the phenomenon of race.

Posted on Mar 1, 2010 4:25:13 PM PST
Hoo-Zen!! says:
Yes it does exist and it is inherent but so what - its a regional variation among rational animals (human beings) that's all race is in itself ... as a marker for acceptable injustice Racism deserves condemnation.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2010 7:17:56 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 1, 2010 7:25:41 PM PST
RR says:
It's hard to understand what you mean by "inherently". You could say Asians have inherently dark hair and brown eyes, except for the descendants of the mongols who invaded Russia. They have blue almond shaped eyes and blond hair. Blue eyes are a Slavic trait, until the Vikings came to visit, and now it's a Scandinavian one as well.

Natural selection and genetic drift sculpted the differences between these sub-populations thousands of years ago when humans left Africa. Reproductive isolation is more or less a thing of the past, especially in the new world. Who really thinks that over the next 10,000 years there's going to be a lot of reproductive isolation affecting human sub-population evolution? Who really thinks culture will affect sub-populations over the next 10,000 years? This really is about culture and history of groups, which use phenotypes as markers, not about phenotype expressions themselves.

Posted on Mar 1, 2010 9:58:39 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 1, 2010 10:00:31 PM PST
Gary is absolutely correct. Racial theory is a myth. Most "family resemblances" are far deeper than external similarities, and those external similarities do not necessarily mean that those who look alike are more genetically alike than those who do not. While I am on my soap box the truth of the matter is that most atrocities of peoples against peoples are really cultural and not genetic, and the most heinous atrocities have usually occurred against peoples who are actually more similar to each other than other groups. The English and the Irish, Japanese and Koreans, Jews and Arabs, Catholics and Protestants, Tutsi and Hutu... the list goes on and on. A lot of this can be blamed on proximity and a struggle over control of regional resources, but the fact is that it is human nature to see what is different in things and use it to their own advantage. This is the same when the other is objectified. The closer we are to one another, the finer distinctions become... I dread the day when the "hard atheists" pogrom against the "soft atheists"... not that it is a likelihood, but you get my meaning.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2010 11:21:09 PM PST
This is an easy one, Bean Slap [Is 'Bean' your real name or only your nickname?],

Anyway, Race=Subspecies and Subspecies=Race. Depending on whether you are a splitter or lumper, most species of plants and animals have several to many subspecies/races. The differences are primarily anatomical and are usually geography based. Sometimes the differences are extremely subtle. The Western and Eastern meadowlarks are almost morphologically indistinguishable but have very different territorial songs.

Subspecies/Races are the very stuff of speciation. Given enough time and enough geological isolation, many subspecies evolve to become completely new species. Speciation occurs when behavioral, anatomic or genetic changes become so great as to preclude cross breeding. There are exceptions: Dogs, wolves, jackals and coyotes can all cross breed and produce viable offspring. Usually, however, the only carnal interest they have in one another is dietary. The mule deer is now thought to be the result of the coupling of a female whitetail deer and a male Pacific coastal blacktail deer. Interestingly, the 'hydrid' mule deer seems to have little interest in outbreeding with whitetail or blacktail deer.

Human races are no different than the races of other species. The human species is composed of multiple subspecies. We aren't special.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2010 11:29:15 PM PST
Bean Slap says:
I checked my question up online and this is what was said. I also found a place where they claim that homo sapiens have no subspecies:

A:Aren't the different races of people subspecies of Homo sapien? Just like, for example, the Gray wolf (lupis) and Red wolf (rufus) are subspecies of Canis (canine). And to the people this offends, it shouldn't. Humans are animals after all. All the races.

Q:Absolutely not. There are no sub-sepcies of Homo sapiens. All 6 billion of us are a single interbreeding population. Racial differences are notable only for certain phenotypic characteristics (skin color, facial features, etc.) that give the illusion of separate populations. DNA sequencing tells a different story.

In reality, there is just as much genetic variability between any two blacks, any two Caucasians, etc., than there is between two members of different races. For humans, "race" is not a genetically meaningful concept.

its from

and from 'ethnicity'

"Ethnic groups are not races, since ethnicity can be more precisely defined than race or even logically independent"

My thesis is that people mistake race for ethnicity, when technically race doesnt exist, and often get them confused. Every site I've gone to basically says that race technically doesnt exist and at most is mistaken for species. From that I conclude that race simply means homo sapien.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2010 8:03:33 AM PST
Bean Slap says:
michael H:
By inherent I mean inherently different from one another.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2010 9:05:28 AM PST
Horse Doo Doo, Bean,

Morphologists split nondescript sparrows into subspecies based on minute geographic differences in color, feather pattern, beak length etc. Human beings are far more geographically variable.

Anybody who wrote that H. sapiens has no subspecies knows nothing...let me repeat that...NOTHING about biology. You evidently failed highschool biology, too. Subspecies are simply that...subspecies i.e. geographic morphs within a species. They are, by definition, interfertile, otherwise they'd be full blown species. Do you understand?

The southern red wolf, by the way, is probably neither a wolf subspecies or full species. It seems to be a hybrid swarm...the result of some ancient mating of a coyote with a gray wolf.

Ethnicity, however, does not equate with race or subspecies. While there is a Mongolian Race/Subspecies there is no Finnish or Korean 'race'.

Your ardor, Bean, for the oneness of Man, shouldn't overwhelm your intellectual good sense.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2010 9:12:51 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Mar 3, 2010 12:25:40 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2010 9:25:47 AM PST
"Morphologists split nondescript sparrows into subspecies based on minute geographic differences in color, feather pattern, beak length etc. Human beings are far more geographically variable."

If this were the case with humans, Norway would be filled with "races" as their geography is so prone to isolation that you can tell where someone comes from, down to the city, by how they speak.

"Subspecies are simply that...subspecies i.e. geographic morphs within a species. They are, by definition, interfertile, otherwise they'd be full blown species. Do you understand?"

Way to make it "sciency".

"there is no Finnish or Korean 'race'."

I don't know about that. Have you talked to Martti_s? /sarcasm off

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2010 11:59:27 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 2, 2010 12:02:48 PM PST
Bean Slap says:
Hey Ron, Mr. Incomprehension,
Did I say we didnt have a subspecies or did the information I found on the internet say so? You havent provided me with any information that counteracts those claims, so it appears you not only failed biology but basic logics and rhetoric too. You need to go back and take your meds. Regardless even your claim that we have a subspecies supports calling it ethnicity not race since race has been seen as false many times over from many sources and discredited. Ethnicity is connected to geography and identifies differences stemming from that. Race is just another word for species and each different ethnicity isnt a different species from one another. The "subspecies" (aka race) would be homo sapien sapiens, not for example; Italian or Korean. I agree with hurd, cian and feldman on this one who have actually provided an rationale behind it along with doing so without coming off like a mental troll.

....but seriously take your meds, the internet is full of trolls enough already

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2010 12:08:35 PM PST
Bean Slap says:
florida resident,
What do you mean ardor for the oneness of humankind?

This isnt about political philosophy but accuracy. I'm not making a statement about the 'oneness' of people. I never said that the human species doesnt have external differences, but that people use the wrong word to describe it. Race isnt the correct word since when you start asking questions and deduce back far enough it doesnt hold up. Ethnicity would be more correct since it specifically refers to geography, while race changes according to culture and doesnt hold up biologically. I read that two people of supposed different races can have more similarities with someone of a different "race" than within their own one. Unlike race, ethnicity also denotes cultural aspects as well which would make it appropriate when referring to people how we usually do, ie, talian, German, Egyptian, Japanese, ect.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2010 12:14:41 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 2, 2010 12:15:34 PM PST
Dear Ben Slap !
Here is a duplicate of my post from the first page HBD thread:

Dear Isabella, the Chic-Geek !
Try to read this:

The Homo Sapience species separated from other primates in Africa about 1,000,000 or 500,000 years ago. They continued to evolve further in Africa. You probably know this since early childhood.

Now, do you know, or do you know not, this:

About 50,000 years ago a group of approximately 150 to 200 humans managed to move from Africa to Eurasia through what is now Bab-el-mandeb straits (and at that time it was land, or very narrow stripe of sea), and since that time there was no genetic exchange between those peoples and the African population of homo sapience.

_All_ (repeat, all) the peoples in Europe, in south-east Asia (proto-Chinese), in south Asia (proto-Indians) and in Oceania , including Australian Aborigines, are the descendants of that group of 150 people.

About 10,000 years ago a group of people (I do not remember the estimate of their number) crossed what is now Bering straits form Asia to Americas continent (the latter had no humans before that instant), and since that time there was no exchange of genes between Americas' branch of homo sapience and the rest of the humans.

If you did not know this, you can read Nicholas Wade's "Before the Dawn. Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors". Nicholas Wade was editor of the top scientific journal "Nature", and for the last several years he is Scientific correspondent of "The New York Times". The evidence for what I have just described, following Wade, and following many other sources, has been established by the analysis of nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA and RNA of living people, _not_ of fossils, and became possible only after the decoding of human genome.

_It_was_the_absence_ of genetic mixing between these large chunks of Homo Sapience, which lead to evolution of humans into different races. Almost no mixing between proto-Europeans, proto-Chinese and proto-Indians due to georaphical obstacles, and hence the coresponding races.
We still are _one_biological_species_, since all humans of all races can interbred with each other. But races do exist.

Politically corrrect (and scientifically incorrect) line of thought is that exactly 50,000 years ago, after the separation or "150-group" from African part of humanity, evolution of Homo Sapience came "to screeching halt", in order to satisfy the ideas of political correctness. That it is not so, you can read in many sources, including this book: "The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution" by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending.

Yours friendly, Florida resident.

Product links:

Nicholas Wade,
Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors;

Cochran and Harpending,
The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2010 12:44:32 PM PST
Gary S. Hurd says:
There are in fact taxonomic rules to use when separating species into subspecies. If we systematically apply conventional taxonomy to H. sapiens we do not find support for human subspecies.

Earlier I provided a link to a short article, "AAPA Statement on Biological Aspects of Race," American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 101, pp 569-570, 1996. I know that you will understand that I consider the AAPA a better source than you are. Some of the points you seem to have missed;

"3. There is great genetic diversity within all human populations. Pure races, in the sense of genetically homogenous populations, do not exist in the human species today, nor is there any evidence that they have ever existed in the past."

"5. For centuries, scholars have sought to comprehend patterns in nature by classifying living things. The only living species in the human family, Homo sapiens, has become a highly diversified global array of populations. The geographic pattern of genetic variation within this array is complex, and presents no major discontinuity. Humanity cannot be classified into discrete geographic categories with absolute boundaries. Furthermore, the complexities of human history make it difficult to determine the position of certain groups in classifications. Multiplying subcategories cannot correct the inadequacies of these classifications.

Generally, the traits used to characterize a population are either independently inherited or show only varying degrees of association with one another within each population. Therefore, the combination of these traits in an individual very commonly deviates from the average combination in the population. This fact renders untenable the idea of discrete races made up chiefly of typical representatives."

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2010 12:51:25 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Mar 3, 2010 12:25:40 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2010 1:05:52 PM PST

I have degrees on zoology, medicine, anatomic and clinical pathology and am presently writing a treatise on my devolultionary theories on cancer causation.

You, on the other hand, are buried in ideology up to your eyeballs. If a very nonideological taxonomist/space alien arrive from planet Mongo, he would...after identifying discrete species...subdivide them into subspecies. In the case of H. sapiens he would easily subdivide our SPECIES into several subspecies. If his is a 'lumper', he will stop there. If he is a splitter, he will probably look for finer subdivisions. In subSahara Africa, for example, he/she/it might want to subdivide people into Bantu, Nilotic and/or Bushmen types. In Europe and Asia, he/she/it might want to subdivide people into Mediterranean, Indian and Northern European types. In Asia and the Americas, into Mongolian, Southeast Asian, Inuit, and 'Native American' types.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2010 1:17:33 PM PST
Bean Slap says:
Regarding subspecies.....exactly, thats what I keep reading. Theres no actual argument for dividing homo sapiens into a sub group. From what I've read homo sapiens sapiens is the same thing as homo sapien.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2010 1:23:28 PM PST

If talking about individual genes, you might be right. I might share a gene identical--let's say a gene to code for an enzyme metabolising fructose--to a tiger and you may not. This does NOT, however, prove that I am more closely related to a tiger than you are. It's just the shakeup of the lottery of evolutionary history.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2010 1:23:38 PM PST
Bean Slap says:
Ideology? I am only following what I've read from many many sources. Having degrees in something doesnt mean anything when youre flat out wrong. Were talking about claiming inherent racial differences and from my reading it has been said that two people of one 'race' have more in commone with someone of a different 'race' than one of their own. Race doesnt take into account reality and has been a ever changing concept according to different cultures. Ethnicity would be the appropriate term over race. Youre claim that humans have subspecies is not supporting by reality or genetic reality nor does the different races corespond to the definition of subspecies. So how you can make that claim is merely off of vapid old think rather than reality and science. The ethnic types that you listed wouldnt be races but ethnicities since they coorespond to similarities based on geography.
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Discussion in:  Science forum
Participants:  38
Total posts:  429
Initial post:  Mar 1, 2010
Latest post:  Mar 28, 2010

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