How did Darwin define race?

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by Medium Dave, Feb 8, 2017.

  1. Medium Dave Registered Member

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    In On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life?
     
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  3. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Who gives a shit how - or whether - Darwin defined "race"?
     
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  5. Medium Dave Registered Member

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    Uh, I do? You seem kind of triggered by the question yourself actually.
     
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  7. Medium Dave Registered Member

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    I found this:

    My dear Huxley.

    I know you have no time for speculative correspondence; & I did not in the least expect an answer to my last.2 But I am very glad to have had it, for in my eclectic work, the opinions of the few good men are of great value to me.—

    I knew, of course, of the Cuvierian view of Classification, but I think that most naturalists look for something further, & search for “the natural system”,—“for the plan on which the Creator has worked” &c &c.— It is this further element which I believe to be simply genealogical.

    But I shd. be very glad to have your answer (either when we meet or by note) to the following case, taken by itself & not allowing yourself to look any further than to the point in question.

    Grant all races of man descended from one race; grant that all structure of each race of man were perfectly known—grant that a perfect table of descent of each race was perfectly known.— grant all this, & then do you not think that most would prefer as the best classification, a genealogical one, even if it did occasionally put one race not quite so near to another, as it would have stood, if allocated by structure alone. Generally, we may safely presume, that the resemblance of races & their pedigrees would go together.

    I shd. like to hear what you wd. say on this purely theoretical case.

    Ever your’s very truly | C. Darwin

    It might be asked why is development so all-potent in classification, as I fully admit it is: I believe it is, because it depends on, & best betrays, genealogical descent; but this is too large a point to enter on.​

    It seems to me that Darwin defines race by ancestry rather than morphology.
     
  8. rpenner Fully Wired Staff Member

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    Race, as used by Darwin, refers to varieties, not to human races.* It simply points out that some variations that occur naturally survive in greater numbers. Origin of Species hardly refers to humans at all. When properly understood, evolution refutes racism. Before Darwin, people used typological thinking for living things, considering different plants and animals to be their distinct "kinds." This gave rise to a misleading conception of human races, in which different races are thought of as separate and distinct. Darwinism helps eliminate typological thinking and with it the basis for racism. Genetic studies show that humans are remarkably homogeneous genetically, so all humans are only one biological race. So evolution does not teach racism; it teaches the very opposite.​
    Boilerplate taken nearly verbatim from http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/ (See CA005/CA005.2)

    * This is obvious from reading Chapter I, “Variation Under Domestication”


    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/darwins-influence-on-modern-thought/
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2017
  9. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I agree. I think he is conjecturing that if you were to arrange what the Victorians called races of men according to a known genealogy, then that would be the most scientific way to do it, rather than giving precedence to what he calls "structure", i.e. morphology. But then he goes on to say that if one did this, then most likely one would find that in general the resemblances in morphology would be in line with the closeness in genealogy . In other words it would not look very different in practice from an arrangement done by morphology.

    Why do you think this merits discussion? It seems fairly straightforward and uncontentious to me.

    There is nothing about definition of "race" here. If you are looking for that, then I think you need to read a bit about what the Victorian concept of this was, because I imagine this would be what he was referring to. I don't know much about that in detail, but it was probably rather similar to the way the way the US immigration dept asks us to classify ourselves today, when we visit the US, into Blacks, Asians, so-called "Caucasians" and that particularly silly category called "Hispanics".

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  10. Medium Dave Registered Member

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    So you're saying that Darwinism refutes typology and therefore races? Does Darwinism then refute any biological classification? Since as you say all individuals are unique?

    I thought Darwinism refuted immutable Platonic typology, and allowed for classifications based on morphological or ancestral similarity? If not, how do you explain modern taxonomy?

    Contradicting yourself, you say races can exist if there is "enough" genetic differentiation. What is the value of this? How does it compare in non human taxa? Who established the value for "enough" differentiation?

    Your quote says "Darwin completely rejected typological thinking". This is false. He allowed for grouping by similarity or shared ancestry.

    “From the first dawn of life, all organic beings are found to resemble each other in descending degrees, so that they can be classed in groups under groups. This classification is evidently not arbitrary like the grouping of the stars in constellations’’​
     
  11. Medium Dave Registered Member

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    What? Darwin explicitly defines human race by genealogy in that quote and you write "There is nothing about definition of "race" here."

    I don't see how you can write that. It seems like self deception.
     
  12. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    The study of evolution has progressed rapidly since Darwin.
     
  13. Medium Dave Registered Member

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    Do we still use ancestry based classifications?
     
  14. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    There is some utility in that, but the concept of race has changed. We no longer view the human races as separate species. In fact, due to the study of DNA, we now know that human genetic diversity is far less than in most species, especially that of our closest relatives, the apes.
     
  15. Medium Dave Registered Member

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    Darwin didn't view races as species. So the concept has remained the same since Darwin.

    A poster above made the same claim, I wrote: Contradicting yourself, you say races can exist if there is "enough" genetic differentiation. What is the value of this? How does it compare in non human taxa? Who established the value for "enough" differentiation?
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2017
  16. origin Trump is the best argument against a democracy. Valued Senior Member

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    I assume when you say Darwinism you mean evolution, correct? If you mean something other than evolution can you please describe what you mean.

    There was an interesting article in Scientific American that discussed the use of morphology to show how different species of birds are related and then it showed how the species are related using DNA. The morphology method was very close to the DNA method but there were some surprises. My favorite is that falcons are most closely related to parrots, not other birds of prey.

    The term race has fallen from favor with people, I assume because it highlights differences that bigoted people are interested in. I think it is equally clear that there are obvious morphological differences (in general) between someone from equitorial Africa VS someone from Scandinavia VS someone from The Far East. There are also morphological differences between Italians and Germans (in general).

    These morphological differences are starting to fade as there is more and more intermingling of the 'races'. For instance I am European, North African, Central African, Native American and Indian. People would say my 'race' is white, but I ain't close to a single 'race', like many of us I suppose.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2017
  17. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    No he doesn't. He is merely talking about the merits of two alternative ways of classifying races: one by genealogy (assuming for the sake or argument a scenario in which this were possible) and one by morphology. He does not address at all how the races in question might be defined.

    He's assuming them as a given and, like any good Victorian naturalist, he is thinking about how to order the data: how to classify it.

    You write as if you have some sort of agenda here. What are you driving at?
     
  18. Medium Dave Registered Member

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    By Darwinism I mean according to the principles of Darwin. Rather obvious no? That could be evolution, taxonomy, etc.

    You say race has fallen from favor because bigoted people are interested in race differences. Could you define bigoted? Was Darwin bigoted? I thought bigoted meant having a closed mind?
     
  19. Medium Dave Registered Member

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    They are two different definitions. You are being dishonest.
     
  20. origin Trump is the best argument against a democracy. Valued Senior Member

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    Sorry, it was not obvious to me. I will assume that we are talking about the theory of evolution as it stands today.

    Yes, as I said that is only my assumption.
    Sure. The definition I was using was: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
    This is from the merriam-webster site
    I have no idea. Biggotry was rather prevelant in those days, but I do not know what he thought.
    That is another definition of bigoted: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices;
    This is also from the merriam-webster site.

    I was refering to the definition as it relates to racial and ethnic groups.
     
  21. Medium Dave Registered Member

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    What? Darwinism means according to the principles of Darwin. If you want to argue against an imaginary opponent after I explicitly defined my term be my guest.
     
  22. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    No, look, suppose you find a ladybird. And you want to fit this ladybird into a classification system for insects, you will put it among the coleoptera, right? Does that means you have defined what a ladybird is? Nope. A ladybird is "defined" as a small coloured beetle with a pattern of spots on its wing cases that eats aphids - or something along those lines. The classification is not a definition, though it can be part of it.

    There is a whole science of classification in biology, called cladistics: more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cladistics . If you read this, you will find it is not about "defining" organisms, but grouping them in ways that reveal connections and patterns. This, I think, would have most likely been the context to this letter of Darwin's. Though you do not give us the context - can you supply it?

    I have to say that people chucking around accusations of "dishonesty" in the context of Darwin always smell to me like creationists. I would not be totally surprised to find you eventually run up the Jolly Roger. I hope I'm wrong, naturally.

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    But tell me, why do you think I might be being dishonest, in what way and to what end? I assure I have no axe to grind here. I'm just an (ex) chemist.
     
  23. origin Trump is the best argument against a democracy. Valued Senior Member

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    That is not what I am trying to do.

    Well then stricly answering your question of "How did Darwin define race (On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life)?"

    From the Wiki article on Origin of Species..

    Here and elsewhere in the book, Darwin used the biological term "races" interchangeably with "varieties", meaning varieties within a species, in a broad sense covering competing individuals or groups, whether of the same "race" or of different "races". Thus, he discussed "the several races, for instance, of the cabbage" and "the hereditary varieties or races of our domestic animals and plants".

    I hope that answers your question.
     
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