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Thread: Is the Concept of Race Valid?

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    Is the Concept of Race Valid?

    I find this a little disconcerting. When were these maps drawn? From my studies, I've found that the vast majority of anthropologists have abandoned race/subrace theory in favor for a "race as a cultural construct" theory.
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    Quote Originally Posted by EngelDesKrieges
    I find this a little disconcerting. When were these maps drawn?
    Coon drew his in the first decades of the 20th century. His book The Races of Europe appeared in 1939. I'm not entirely sure about the others.


    From my studies, I've found that the vast majority of anthropologists have abandoned race/subrace theory in favor for a "race as a cultural construct" theory.
    But are they correct in this? In my humble opinion, racial reality is somewhere in between. Who is and is not considered White or Black is to a significant degree a social construct, but human biodiversity is quite real, as exemplified by many, many differences in skeletal build, hormone levels, hair type, pigmentation (of skin, iris, and hair) etc. The 'races' and 'subraces' of physical anthropologists are just clusters of kindred humans with similar physiological traits.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Siegfried
    Coon drew his in the first decades of the 20th century. His book The Races of Europe appeared in 1939. I'm not entirely sure about the others.
    Well, that's helpful.

    Quote Originally Posted by Siegfried
    But are they correct in this? In my humble opinion, racial reality is somewhere in between. Who is and is not considered White or Black is to a significant degree a social construct, but human biodiversity is quite real, as exemplified by many, many differences in skeletal build, hormone levels, hair type, pigmentation (of skin, iris, and hair) etc. The 'races' and 'subraces' of physical anthropologists are just clusters of kindred humans with similar physiological traits.
    I am certainly not a geneticist, but from the research I've done on human migration, basic racial theory, etc., it comes down to a very simple idea that all humans can interbreed (whether anyone likes it or not). Since all humans can interbreed, they're all the same race. While obviously we have some visible physical variations, I think there are some major issues in actually trying to identify the lines where one becomes black or white, because all of these traits that we identify, in essence, are continual traits. There is an obvious difference between blacks who live in Africa and whites from Norway, true, but if you walked from Africa to Norway, when would you stop seeing blacks and start seeing whites? This is very problematic for racial theory, don't you think?
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    Quote Originally Posted by EngelDesKrieges
    I am certainly not a geneticist, but from the research I've done on human migration, basic racial theory, etc., it comes down to a very simple idea that all humans can interbreed (whether anyone likes it or not). Since all humans can interbreed, they're all the same race.
    It rather means they are all the same species. Here's a definition of 'race' from the American Heritage Dictionary:

    1. A local geographic or global human population distinguished as a more or less distinct group by genetically transmitted physical characteristics.
    2. A group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality, or geographic distribution: the German race.
    3. A genealogical line; a lineage.
    4. Humans considered as a group.
    5. Biology.
    a. An interbreeding, usually geographically isolated population of organisms differing from other populations of the same species in the frequency of hereditary traits. A race that has been given formal taxonomic recognition is known as a subspecies.
    b. A breed or strain, as of domestic animals.
    6.A distinguishing or characteristic quality, such as the flavor of a wine.
    The whole 'does race exist' argument is mostly a matter of semantics. Human biodiversity and the genetic clustering of ethnic groups are quite real.


    While obviously we have some visible physical variations, I think there are some major issues in actually trying to identify the lines where one becomes black or white, because all of these traits that we identify, in essence, are continual traits.
    Yup. We're dealing with genetic and physiological clines.

    There is an obvious difference between blacks who live in Africa and whites from Norway, true,
    Exactly.

    but if you walked from Africa to Norway, when would you stop seeing blacks and start seeing whites? This is very problematic for racial theory, don't you think?
    It's problematic if you want to define race as a self-contained, discrete, pure, genetic 'box'. This is, however, an enormously simplistic approach and unsupported by science (genetic and physiological). Even Charles Darwin mentioned back in the 19th century that racial differences were gradual; see The Descent of Man. There are, however, areas were a geographical barrier causes a rather sharp difference between two populations; think, for example, of Africans north of the Sahara and Africans south of the Sahara.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EngelDesKrieges
    There is an obvious difference between blacks who live in Africa and whites from Norway, true, but if you walked from Africa to Norway, when would you stop seeing blacks and start seeing whites? This is very problematic for racial theory, don't you think?
    It is not problematic at all, but to be expected given the ability and expectation of overlapping areas to interbreed. Let me give you another example with the same analogy:

    The Sahara desert is very dry. But further south, the Zaire river basin is extremely wet with high rainfall. As the average annual rainfall gradually decreases from south to north in this part of Africa, one cannot draw an exact line of where the rain is "much" or "scanty". This does not mean that wetness or dryness does not exist, or does it?

    The fact that different races can produce offspring is also not controversial or pointing to the idea that race does not exist. Even some different species can interbreed and produce fertile offspring. Canis lupus and Canis familiaris are two such examples.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EngelDesKrieges
    I find this a little disconcerting. When were these maps drawn? From my studies, I've found that the vast majority of anthropologists have abandoned race/subrace theory in favor for a "race as a cultural construct" theory.
    As Sigfried has already stated, the book (The Races of Europe) by Carleton Coon from where some of these maps were taken, was published in 1939.

    I'm not 100% sure when Czekanowski published the map that I posted but he lived between 1882-1965....

    The work by Lundman from which the map in this thread was taken was published in 1977 and can be found on www.nordish.com.

    Von Eickstedt lived from 1892-1965. As with Czekanowski, I am not certain exactly when his map/book was published.

    Lastly, Gunther lived in a similar time (1891-1968).

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    On the Concept of Race and its Applicability to Humans

    Biological research on race has often been seen as motivated by or lending credence to underlying racist attitudes; in part for this reason, recently philosophers and biologists have gone through great pains to essentially deny the existence of biological human races. We argue that human races, in the biological sense of local populations adapted to particular environments, do in fact exist; such races are best understood through the common ecological concept of ecotypes. However, human ecotypic races do not in general correspond with ‘folk’ racial categories, largely because many similar ecotypes have multiple independent origins. Consequently, while human natural races exist, they have little or nothing in common with ‘folk’ races.

    "...The moral man is a lower species than the immoral, a weaker species; indeed - he is a type in regard to morality, but not a type in himself; a copy...the measure of his value lies outside him. ... I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage; I do not account the evil and painful character of existence a reproach to it, but hope rather that it will one day be more evil and painful than hitherto..." (Nietzsche)

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    Re: On the Concept of Race and its Applicability to Humans

    Thank ye, sir. Now I have some nice bedtime reading for tonight (Resisting urge to insert winky emoticon!).

    Nice to see some something of this nature coming from academia.

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    AW: On the Concept of Race and its Applicability to Humans

    However, Vicente et al.’s (2001) work on
    Xanthomonas campestris (a bacterial pathogen that infects plants of the
    genus Brassica) makes race out to be about particular ecological adaptations,
    not population origin.
    Races, then, can be defined and picked out in a number of ways. Several
    ways of picking out races will likely overlap because of the nature of
    biological organisms; for example, if a population is ecologically distinct
    (e.g., it lives at high elevations) it is also likely to be geographically
    isolated (by virtue of occurring in a location at high elevation) and to be
    somewhat genetically differentiated. But while genetic and phenotypic
    differences between local populations will often be associated with phylogenetic
    distinctiveness, such differences do not imply phylogenetic distinctiveness,
    nor, a fortiori, do they imply incipient speciation. For a
    lineage to acquire phylogenetic distinctiveness, gene flow with other
    closely related populations must essentially cease. If gene flow is still
    significant, the lineage is evolving according to a reticulate, not cladistic
    (branching) pattern. While it is still possible for such an entity to maintain
    ecological distinctiveness (see below), its historical roots are continuously
    reshuffled by migration events. Thus, while ecogeographical-genetic differentiation
    tend to correlate with each other they do not imply cladogenesis
    and speciation, though the latter two are themselves associated.
    That biologically meaningful races do not have to be phylogenetically
    distinct is obvious when we consider the case of ecotypes. The concept of
    ecotype was introduced by Turesson (1922) to describe genetically based
    specific responses of plants to certain environmental conditions, although
    the idea has been applied to the animal literature as well. The King and
    Stansfield’s dictionary defines an ecotype as a ‘‘Race (within a species)
    genetically adapted to a certain environment.’’ It is important to understand
    three things about ecotypes: (1) there must be a connection between
    genetic differentiation and ecological adaptation, (2) ecotypes are not
    (necessarily) phylogenetic units; rather, they are functional-ecological
    entities, and (3) ecotypes can be differentiated on the basis of many or a
    very few genetic differences.
    These facts about ecotypes have several important implications. Similar
    ecotypic characteristics can and do evolve independently in geographically
    separated populations (see McPeek and Wellborn 1998). These similar
    phenotypic characteristics may, or may not, be mediated by similar genetic
    differences from other populations of the species (see Schlichting and
    Pigliucci 1998, 142–146, and cites therein). Further, gene flow between
    different ecotypes is relatively common (see Futuyma 1998, and cites
    therein); if there is sufficient selective pressure to maintain the genetic
    differences associated with the different adaptive phenotypes, other genes,
    not so associated, may flow freely between the populations.
    Very good points I usually try to emphasize as well, though I would add, for the human case, that the way of living, social and cultural aspects being part of the adaptation race is about, simply because a herder-warrior group will be different from gatherers even from the same climatic area. Insofar humans always influenced their own evolution and racial specialisation through their cultural innovations and traditions they formed - the subsistence pattern and food they eat in the first place with the social organisation and values of a given entity following.

    Further, because different ecologically important characteristics are not guaranteed to coincide, a single population can consist of multiple overlapping ecotypes. In such cases, whether two organisms belong to the same ecotype will depend on which ecotype one is referring to.
    Exactly. F.e. two herder-warrior groups are similar in some ways even if living in different climates, and different from peasantry in the same region, but at the same time they are different from each other and similar to the peasantry by climatic adaptation obviously.

    These points will become particularly important when we discuss why
    we think that insofar as there might be human races of biological interest,
    these will best be thought of as ecotypes. Many of the arguments that conclude
    that there are no human races depend upon definitions of race at odds
    with the ecotype interpretation. It is through the ecotype concept that biologically
    interesting and significant human races may well be discoverable.
    Absolutely agreed.

    Rather, human evolution seems to have been marked by extensive
    gene flow.
    With very important phases of isolation though, especially if comparing f.e. Europid and Mongolid evolution, there was a phase of relative isolation for sure which was the precondition for the distintive developments of this two major groupings in Eurasia.

    The
    relative lack of genetic variation between populations compared with
    within population samples does imply that the populations have not been
    reproductively isolated for any evolutionarily significant length of time.
    The question is
    not whether there are significant levels of between-population genetic
    variation overall, but whether there is variation in genes associated with
    significant adaptive differences between populations (see our discussion in
    Kaplan and Pigliucci 2001).
    Correct.

    Part of the reason undoubtedly
    has to do with the history of the term ‘‘race’’ as it is applied to
    humans. Insofar as one is asking a question not about the existence of
    biologically significant races (of the sort that exist in certain species of
    Drosophila, for example) but rather about the existence of a biological
    justification for the ‘‘ordinary’’ language racial categories, the concept of
    race appealed to will have to be quite strong. As, for example, Appiah
    (1996) and Hull (1998) point out, the races colloquially appealed to are
    generally supposed to differ from each other not merely in one particular
    adaptive trait, but in many traits simultaneously (a kind of racial ‘‘essentialism’’
    and, as Hull notes, a throw-back to typological thinking). Knowing
    someone’s (biological) race, on this view, would permit one to make accurate
    predictions about a wide range of traits they possess—as Keita and
    Kittles put it, that ‘‘visible human variation connotes fundamental deep
    differences within the species, which can be packaged into units of nearuniform
    individuals’’ (1997, 534). This, however, will likely be impossible
    if there is little systematic between-population genetic variation compared
    to variation within the populations in question, and is in any event biologically
    unrealistic. Very few if any species have subpopulations that
    form groups of that sort, and the search for such groups seems to be a
    holdover of pre-Darwinian typological thinking (Futuyma 1998). So while
    the amount and distribution of genetic variation is largely irrelevant to the
    question of whether a species is divided into biologically significant races
    generally, it is relevant to the question of whether ‘‘ordinary’’ conceptions
    of folk racial categories in humans have any biological support, and to this
    question there is a broad consensus that the answer is ‘‘no.’’ Biology, it has
    been rightly noted many times, cannot underwrite the sort of racial concepts
    that have usually been applied to humans.
    First: There was no "massive free geneflow" between human populations of the world most of the time in human history and secondly the overlap of different environmental (widest sense for humans) challenges and ecological (widest sense) adaptations had to mean to affect a wide variety of different traits and aspects of a given racial unity. The typological concept is perfectly compatible with the ecotype-theories noted above, but for "politically correct" and short sighted reasons the author seems to reject such an idea and think of it being "a throw back" (Hull s.a.) and probably even "repulsive" to some.
    Actually the newer typological concepts fit perfectly into what the author said above if being applied in the right way, since its obvious that ecotypological adaptation results in feature combinations which produce a "full product" and not just "one aspect" most of the time, since one trait and one challenge influences others (f.e. diet, climate, ways of individual and group competition in a given habitat and population etc.).

    While it seems clear that biologically meaningful races will not correspond
    particularly well to folk racial categories, this does not imply that folk
    racial categories are completely orthogonal to biologically meaningful
    racial categories.
    I guess the author knows better but simply tries to "speak around" honestly, since its very obvious that "folk racial categories" will in many cases correspond directly to biologically meaningful racial categories. Since a British or Swede is simply no tropical gatherer adaptation to begin with...

    Rather, even if all that Entine claims is true, the only
    conclusions that can be drawn are that smallish particular populations
    generate the athletes that dominate particular sports. In other words, as
    even Entine admits, ‘‘blacks’’ are not better runners—rather, some West
    African black populations produce more world-class sprinters than the
    proportion expected from their population size and the assumption of
    random distribution of athletic talents among humans would generate, and
    Kenya (especially the Nandi region) similarly produces far more than its
    share of great marathon runners. It is certainly possible that these regional
    differences in the production of top athletes reflect regional differences in
    athletic ability (or, better put, differences in physiology more generally),
    and it is even possible that these differences are the result of local
    adaptations to particular environmental (including perhaps long-term
    cultural) pressures. If this is so, on an ecotypic conception of race, there
    would in fact be ‘‘races’’—and indeed, races associated with athletic
    ability.
    Right. Compare:
    http://forums.skadi.net/why_negroids...rs-t40907.html

    However, what one must remember is that the races in question do not,
    in this scenario, have much to do with folk races. If instead of phrasing the
    issue in terms of ‘‘race,’’ Entine had put it in terms of local adaptations
    within smaller populations (ecotypes), his book would likely have been
    seen as far less controversial.
    There are simply different levels, there is a hierarchy of racial variation, beginning with major racial groupings largely associated with climate (Europid, Mongolid, Negrid) followed by more specific racial types, varieties (like Nordid, Sudanid, Tungid) and finally more local or specific variants and subtypes, which finally end up in what is meant with ecotypes in this paragraph.

    About "subraces":
    http://forums.skadi.net/conceptions_...id-t30748.html

    None of this should come as a surprise. The issue is not, as Gould and
    others have been fond of claiming, that skin color is only ‘‘skin deep’’ but
    rather that ‘‘skin color’’ is an ecologically important—not a phylogenetically
    significant—trait. If skin color had evolved only once, such that populations with different skin colors formed at least partially monophyletic
    populations, we would expect to find many other phenotypic
    differences associated with differences in skin color; some would be the
    result of different selective regimes, but some would no doubt be the result
    of, for example, drift. The reason that skin color is not well correlated with
    other phenotypically important features is, at least in part, that skin colors
    evolved independently several times, and often evolved in populations that
    were not genetically isolated from other populations (Diamond 1997)—
    similar skin color therefore represents not a shared ancestry but rather
    similar selective pressures.


    The only thing that fair-skinned people share is
    that, at one time or another, their ancestors lived in an area with low levels
    of sunlight and ate a diet poor in vitamin D. As there were many such areas
    and many such times, fair skin says little or nothing about phylogeny.
    Well, if most fair skinned people come from the same region (unlike very dark skinned ones) and share other adaptations as well as a common population history because of (even if just relative) geographic isolation things look different. However, its still true that this is just one trait out of others being the result of adaptation and other evolutionary trends might be contrary like in the case of Osteuropids and Nordids.

    Important conclusions:
    But while skin color is not well correlated with other phenotypic traits
    of interest in humans, there is, despite Gould’s claims (Gould 1996) to the
    contrary, no guarantee that particular populations of humans will not, due
    to particular features of their environment, share particular distributions of
    adaptive behavioral (including intellectual) traits, as opposed to simple
    physical traits. To the best of our knowledge, there is no evidence that such
    populations exist, nor are there reasons to suppose that such populations
    must exist. Given the difficulty with testing hypotheses regarding the
    adaptive significance of behavioral tendencies in humans simpliciter
    (Lewontin 1998), the lack of evidence for behavioral (and/or intellectual)
    ecotypes in humans is not surprising. But it is intellectually dishonest to
    move from the lack of evidence for such differences to claiming that there
    is evidence for an absence of such differences, a move all too often made
    (oddly enough, both by Gould and by some of his opponents in ‘‘evolutionary
    psychology’’ (see, for example, Gould 1996, Tooby and Cosmides
    1990)). The conviction that there are no such populations emerges not
    from research or principled arguments, but rather, we suspect, from fear
    that to even suggest the existence of such populations is to fall into the
    worst sort of racist thinking.
    The key points made above regarding
    ecotypes—that they may or may not be phylogenetic units and may or may
    not limit gene flow—also hold true for clinal variations, as does the observation
    that an individual may simultaneously be a member of multiple
    different ecotypes (as in multiclinal variation).
    Overall a good and refreshin article on the subject. I just wonder about the aversion against typological (even more modern) concepts in general, since they grasp adaptations visible or measurable in a group's phenotype much better than other concepts and are even a good mean against too superficial and even "flat folk race" concepts in the USA, like a less than 26 percent Negroid individual being "black" or the term "Hispanic" for everybody from a pure European descendent of a noble conquistador to an Indianid or Negroid. Actually such notions "made in USA" made the attacks on "race" easier for certain ultra-egalitarian propagandists which harmed biological science. Something I said in various other threads as well.
    Magna Europa est patria nostra
    STOP GATS! STOP LIBERALISM!

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    Lightbulb Race is an un-scientific concept

    the problem with race is that although it undeniably exists, it is a very un-scientific concept. any sort of separation guidelines would result in too many borderline cases and would be a bit too arbitrary and unscientific even for biology.

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