Discussion in 'Human Science' started by paulsamuel, Apr 1, 2004.

  1. leda Registered Senior Member

    The belief that the universe is neatly arranged into hierarchical structures is flawed. This is generally a structure that we have imposed ourselves. It is not my argument that this model does not in some cases fit well (even perfectly on things with fewer features) with the world. It is, however an oversimplification of the facts. Surely there are certain cases within taxonomies where boundaries are somewhat arbitrary. The structure of the biological taxonomy comes from a period in time when there was no such thing as genetic typing. Some of the divisions must be a relic from this time.

    Within machine learning, in any real world problem of more than a certain level of complexity, it is generally impossible to find any way of creating a classifying function. This is because complex real world things generally don't exist in hierarchical structures. I'm a computational linguist myself, and can tell you straight out, there's no such thing as a noun, verb, whatever.

    I would argue that the only empirically real set structures are those in very pure science, that acknowledge a set of axioms and then say, "GIVEN this is true, blah, blah, blah". All that said, science has the right to say, "from the perspective of science, there is no whatever" (although I think it needs to specify which science, as they don't always agree). Science at least has a defensible methodology for setting up its taxonomies.

    The problem here is that people have a category system in their minds which is conflicting with the scientific version. The people in here are saying, "Okay, maybe you're right about the genetics thing, but there's still race, isn't there?" And it certainly does exist, because we as humans think it does. Yes it is a social and cognitive construct, but this does not make it any less real. You yourself, as well as having your scientific taxonomy will have mind categories that enable you to group people according to proximity to a racial stereotype.

    This ability may have served a Dawkins style genetic purpose at some point, allowing us to recognise tribes that were close enough relatives to share a few genes. Its a great shame that we still have these reductive categories, and a bigger shame that people believe them to have objective truth, and attatch unpleasant connotations to the groups.

    I don't think we have any disagreement here at all really. I think that I am just advocating a different approach. Don't be dismissive of people's categories. They are as valid as scientific categories in many ways. Make people understand that they are subjective, that they reflect your own mind more than the things they categorise. If anyone has a group entitled 'negro' it merely means they are a racist, not that the inhabitants of that group are negroes. If people choose to attach attributes like intelligence to these groups, again, it says more about their own.
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  3. kriminal99 Registered Senior Member

    How can categories exist without something percieving them? For all you know NOTHING exists outside of your perception. The categories chosen by biology are just as much human perception cognition etc as race is. Species is ability to reproduce among themselves is it not? And race to people that use it is something like frequency of reproduction... whats the difference...

    If your saying that if there is another sentient life form on another planet they probably use the same criteria, well thats not true. They could use anything relevant to them...
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  5. paulsamuel Registered Senior Member

    I agree that in many instances, categorizations are imposed by humans, however there are 'natural' groups that result from natural phenomena.

    Taxonomic groupings are sometimes based arbitrarily, but only because of incomplete knowledge of the group. Theoretically, taxonomic groups are natural groups. They are groups that exist independently of humans.

    You may be right that science imposes a false order on reality, however it does make the distinction between reality and belief. Beliefs are completely intrinsic to humans, they don't exist without humans, and when humans disappear, these beliefs will disappear with them. They have no independent reality. 'Real' things, or reality, if you will, are independent of human beliefs or even human existence. This is the main separation between what is real and what is opinion.

    As we've said, anyone can group things anyway they want. The question is, are the groups 'real' or just based on opinion of what is 'obvious to anyone' (this is the argument of some of these posts here, contending that human races exist because it is obvious to anyone that people are different and can be grouped based on these differences)?

    Just because I say something, e.g. there are pink elephants orbiting the earth, doesn't give it a reality just because I believe it. And so, 'race' isn't a reality just because some people believe it (i.e. that it's a social and cultural construct).

    I think we are disagreeing on a conceptual level, that being the very nature of reality vs. belief, i.e. epistemological ontology.
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  7. Persol I am the great and mighty Zo. Registered Senior Member

    Well no. Once again, it does have a basis in biology... but that doesn't mean it is a useful group to make for anything besides identification.
  8. kriminal99 Registered Senior Member

    Taxonomic groups do not exist independent of humans... Their criteria might exist independent of humans, and so would the criteria for race. In any case there is no differentiation between the nature of race, species and other taxonomic groups...

    I challenge you to describe the criteria which would allow you to exclude race from other taxonomic groups for what you consider to be "real"

    The only such criteria is that you and others do not like the idea of race which of course you would not say because it is obvious that this is not valid.

    IE differentiate why frequency of interbreeding is not valid but ability to interbreed is. But then I guess it just comes down to how much do we want our science to model reality and provide complete and accurate information.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2004
  9. Big D Registered Senior Member

    The police department in this seaside town has dropped its swimming requirement for new officers -- in part, to recruit more blacks to the force.

    North Miami officials said knowing how to swim is not really necessary. And they said the requirement has discouraged some blacks in this Haitian-American enclave from joining the department.

    "They have been intimidated because they don't swim. Very few of them swim," Mayor Joe Celestin, who is Haitian-American.

    In fact, experts said blacks in general are less likely than whites to be proficient swimmers.

  10. Raithere plagued by infinities Valued Senior Member

    How about you stop trying to find excuses and start dealing with the relevant points? I had no trouble identifying differing shades of skin color but neither I, nor anyone else, have based any arguments upon that game. It's simply an exercise in perception. One which, I might add, you seem to find offensive.

    The fact is they do represent major populations. For instance, consider the entire Mediterranean coastal region, the Middle East, much of India and Southwest Asia, the entire Sino-Russian border, most of Central and South America. So what do you propose we do with the billions of people that don't fit into a particular racial profile? Do we pretend they don't exist? Do we force them into categories? Face up to the facts. Most of humanity does not fit into neat little categories.

    Why do you continue to assert this fallacy? It's a circular argument. We can do this for any pre-selected population. We can differentiate Germans from Dutch, English from French, and Bostonians from Chicagoans. All this means is that for any population we select we can build a genetic profile by which to identify it. Again, the question is upon what do you assert any particular significance to racial distinction?

    Quite obviously it's not. All humans share a majority of traits. You'll notice, for instance, that we all have opposable thumbs. Race is about a very selective, tiny handful of traits.

    The question is not simply whether or not we can categorize people by a selection of traits, obviously we can. We can categorize by any range of phenotypes or by any combination of over a hundred-thousand genes. Of course, if we categorize by different traits we get different categories that have little or no relation to racial categories. If you overlay these different groupings, racial lines become completely obscured.

    The pertinent questions are, "Do the traits by which we classify race have any outstanding biological significance?" and "Do these traits relate to a larger genetic pattern?" The answer to both questions is no. Are the traits that distinguish traditional races somehow special or more important? Can you validate this logically or empirically? Or is it entirely dependent upon subjective perception and prejudice? If you're going to try to tell me that a particular handful of genes outweigh the hundred-thousand or so other genes that make up the human genome then you need to get cracking on an argument as to why. I'll wish you luck because you're going to need it.

    No, I've carried out my own argument. Thus far no one has even come close to adequately addressing it. The counter argument till now essentially boils down to, "Race must exist because I can recognize people of different races", which is intrinsically subjective, hopelessly circular, and ultimately irrelevant.

    Please show where racial populations ever stopped mixing with other racial populations. Physical barriers slowed down the interactions but never stopped them and the 'psychological barrier' you're relying upon is demonstrably false.

    There has been a constant pattern of warfare, migration, trade, exploration, and empire building throughout history and pre-history. There were repeated migrations from Africa, repeated migrations into America, various populations that warred and traded and intermingled on the steppes and the plains of Eurasia, constant interaction though Egypt and Northern Africa through Central and Southern Africa. There have been empires throughout history and pre-history and on every continent that conquered foreign peoples and traded with other empires.

    For instance, there was the Sumerian Empire, Mongolian, Egyptian, Hittite, Babylonian, Byzantine, Ottoman, Persian, Roman, Greek, Assyrian, Manchuan, Nigerian, Mali, Ashanti, Syrian, T'ang, Yuan, Han, Mayan, and Aztec. The list goes on and on. There are empires whose names have been lost to history.

    Shall we look at trade routes and migrations? Here are a few maps:

    Here's a brief overview of African/European interaction going back some 5000 years.

    How about Africans in America 50,000 years ago?

    Or how about we look at linguistic patterns. Note that these patterns indicate interactions going back at least 11,000 years.

    How then do you explain all those people of 'mixed race' that you had trouble identifying in the game? How do you explain all the children with mixed parentage in the U.S. or that resulted from the Korean and Vietnam wars? Face up to the facts; people like to fuck and when it comes down to it most really don't give a shit about race. You might take umbrage with it but, historically, humans have no compunctions about it.

    What physical barriers? If there were barriers how did people get on opposite sides in the first place? There are only obstacles.

    Take a look at the links and examples I provided above. I only spent about 30 minutes searching for those references; imagine what I could do in a few weeks or months.

    Sounds like you've been watching too many 'cave-man' cartoons. Where did you dredge this notion up?

    Guess why? How people smell is largely affected by diet.

    And all the millions of examples where two groups interbred are evidence of what? Or are we just not supposed to talk about those things?


    Really? I suppose he goes up to each of them and gets a genetic confirmation of his predictions? Maybe he asks each of them for a record of their ancestry? How does he verify his determination? Where has he published this study?

  11. paulsamuel Registered Senior Member


    kriminal just got his ass kicked.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

  12. kriminal99 Registered Senior Member

    I find the game and the site on which it resides offensive because its based around trying to decieve people. I like the promotion of understanding of the world around us, not the confusion of it for misguided purposes. Every bit of this type of cofusion added to the world reduces people's faith in logical thinking and science. And I really don't care what you claim to have been able to see on the picture, I am saying that because of the lighting I could not tell what color someones skin is. Not I couldn't tell what group that skin color would belong to, I couldn't tell the color because the lighting was not sufficient enough to keep it from being ambiguous. This was obviously done on purpose to decieve the players. THAT I find offensive.

    Your second and third paragraph is flat out not true. If most people didn't fit into neat categories at all there would be noone arguing against you. As Ive said already, You can't EASILY distinguish between subcategories among people of the same color (that live near each other), but you can EASILY distuingish between people of drastically different colors and appearances or between people that live really far away from each other. Its quite easy to tell the difference between japanese and black people and people of say european descent. It IS signifigant because its caused by these people not frequently interbreeding with people across these groups. And they do indicate that you will not often find the exact same traits from one racial group in another.

    What facts are you claiming Im having trouble with here? What I am saying is while there may be many for example scotish-germans, french-british people etc, there aren't anywhere near as many black-asians, indian-american indians, black-whites etc This site is unrepresentitive because it has many people that would fall into the second category while there is in actuallity very few of them. Perhaps it was not done with an intention to decieve so much as mistakenly generalizing the amount of mixing done among people of the same color and location to all populations. But it is still very disappointing.

    I meant the majority of VARIABLE human traits not just the majority of traits as in any possible traits of any living being (was this not obvious?). Of course there are traits we can use to group that give us the racial categories we already use. How can you claim otherwise? The obvious one is skin color. Then there are traits that are mostly found with that group. Just because one or two people exist with traits from 2 different races doesn't mean we can't use race anymore. White people have a zillion different traits maybe the only common one being their skin color, but then thats all the name implies isn't it? Its signifigant because people avoid breeding with people who look drastically different than them whenever possible. IE very similar criteria to species. Far back in time classifying by continent of origin might have been equally as signifigant since large numbers of people could not (and did not) easily travel between them. Obviously it is not AS signifigant any more but that doesn't mean that other characteristics that signify frequency of interbreeding arent, or that it has completely lost signifigance. Most Chinese have features that most Europeans do not for example, even though their different appearances might not be distinct enough to prevent them from interbreeding for psychological reasons if the populations were mixed.

    You obviously didn't comprehend my argument if you think "race exists because I can percieve it" is any of the things you used to describe it. I wouldn't use that as my whole argument because I know that people that may not know exactly what situations common sense could be mistaken in might claim that this could be wrong. But this is not the kind of situation where common sense could be wrong. We do not need science to try and deny what we already know to be true, its goal is not to make us stupider. In this respect your argument is similar to claiming that in order to truly know that 1+1=2 we must add 1 and 1 100 times and then average the results. But ignoring this and evaluating the argument we see it is plainly based on mishandling statistics. You look at the amount of traits mixed among people of the same race (white) and then generalize these results between say whites and blacks which we already know to not be true.

    The whole point of race is and always has been dealing with groups that don't interbreed either because they don't want to or aren't able to due to location. The best you can offer is to try and confuse people by pointing to how people who were never in different racial groups (or who were in groups that depended on locational restrictions that were then removed) interbreed. Or the few instances of when different racial groups interbreeded when they obviously had no other choice. This is not sufficient to even begin to reconsider race as a method of differentiating. No amount of statistics you provide can prove your point because all someone has to do is walk outside and see that the majority of black people are not intermixed with whites...

    And for the few that are, we simply classify them as multi-racial. Unless it was one of the few cases where it was done on a large scale due to unusual circumstances like an army of men only having women of a different race to breed with, and then we just give the results a new category of their own like we naturally do. Some infintesimally small percentage of people interbreeding with people that would normally be in a different race doesn't break down racial distinction, sorry.

    What is the point of all the maps? I think you are completely missing the point here. The issue isn't weather some traders dealt with people in different countries or continents. Locational restrictions means people who would interbreed on a large scale but don't because they didn't have access to each other on a large scale. Who did or didn't ACTUALLY have access to each other is irrelevant to this general idea (especially on a small scale) and so is the very small % of people who did interbreed among different racial groups... Groups that did have access to each other and did interbreed on a large scale are not in different racial groups...

    My dad confirmed his guesses by walking up to people and asking them. Maybe sometimes he heard their voices which would be a big clue granted, but he did not need to and often didn't. Normally you might think it was a wierd way to start a conversation but he was almost always right and the people would be flattered that he knew of their culture. Even the few times he was wrong he was usually close in some respect or other and the people would still laugh and talk to him. Now you are the one presenting a circular argument. He is able to tell through traits because traits are a good indicator. He does not need to check their ancestry because if ancestry wasn't a good indicator he would not know where they were from... Most people just don't know as many traits and associated cultures as he does.

    How so? Raith didn't even address my argument and the stuff he posted wasn't even relevant to it or were flat out lies (such as people don't care about race when dating)

    Raith throughout your entire drawn out post nothing even addresses the issue. Plain and simple race = groups that dont frequently interbreed and always has, weather its due to large scale locational restrictions or lack of desire to for psychological reasons.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2004
  13. paulsamuel Registered Senior Member


    I finished reading those NEJM articles, and it appears I was right. They are arguing about using racial categories on medical forms, thereby associating 'race' with medical conditions.

    Some quotes to support my understanding of their argument:

    There were 3 articles.

    The first was an NEJM editorial about the argument by E.Phimister entitled 'Medicine and the Racial Divide.' Her explanation of the argument is, "Cooper [et al.] argue that the potential for abuse is a reason to disregard race"............ whereas "Gonzalez Burchard [et al.] say that it is only by recording race that racially biased health policy and practices may be uncovered" (p. 1081). This reveals the narrow scope of the argument to the recording of 'race' associations to disease.

    The second was an article by Cooper et al., entitled 'Race and Genomics' who argue that, "[o]ne view holds that the ability to categorize persons according to continental "race" [quotations in original] validates the clinical and epidemiologic use of self-reported racial ancestry in terms of the categories of white, black, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American used by the U.S. Census. We disagree." They disagree based on the fact that...."population geneticists concur that the bulk of genetic variation (90 to 95 percent) occurs within, not among, continental populations," [that] "variation is continuous and discordant with race" [and that] "there is no evidence that the units of interest for medical genetics correspond to what we call races." Concluding that genomics has not "provided evidence that race can act as a surrogate for genetic constitution in medicine or public health."

    The third article was by Gonzalez Burchard [et al.], entitled 'The Importance of Race and Ethnic Background in Biomedical Research and Clinical Practice' who argue that, "[e]recting barriers to the collection of information such as race and ethnic background may provide protection against the aforementioned risks [i.e. those associated with racism and abuse of medical and racial associations]; however, it will simultaneously retard progress in biomedical research and limit the effectiveness of clinical decision making." However, they also admit (and this is the crux) that, "nlike a biologic category such as sex, racial and ethnic categories arose primarily through geographic, social, and cultural forces" [emphasis mine]. So it appears that Gonzalez Burchard et al. concede that race is a social and cultural construct but conclude that, "[a]lthough there are potential social costs associated with linking race or ethnic background with genetics, we believe that these potential costs are outweighed by the benefits in terms of diagnosis and research."

    Since these articles don't appear to be an argument about the existence of race in humans, I still don't believe that there are real and current scientific debates about the existence of race in humans.

    So, these articles do not contradict my statement that only idiots believe in race. I will qualify 'idiots.' I don't mean that in a literal sense. I mean ignorant people drawing conclusions on race with no basis in science (i.e. biology).
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2004
  14. kriminal99 Registered Senior Member

    What you quoted really just says that the writer does not want to analyze it further on because its outside his chosen field (biology). Where a category arose doesn't effect weather or not it has biological signifigance, nor does it negate the possibility that the net result is less frequent interbreeding. Frequency of interbreeding (the commonly held subconsious definition of race) can easily be argued to have biological signifigance.

    It seems in this case chosen ignorance is more common among the supposed specialists than people with common sense.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2004
  15. Raithere plagued by infinities Valued Senior Member

    On the contrary, I thought its point was quite clear; it's not always easy or even possible to categorize people.

    Then as a proponent of science, you should understand the weaknesses and errors inherent in categorical methodologies. Categorization is generalization. It is useful in modeling reality but it is not reality.

    While you're preparing your argument, here's some evidence to the contrary.

    "Virginia’s most frequently chosen multi-racial groups are White and Other Race (with 33,137 members), White and Asian (27,827), White and Black (24,537), White and American Indian (17,671) and Black and Other Race (8,628).
    Most of the multi-racial Virginians live in the state’s two largest metropolitan areas, Northern Virginia and the Tidewater. Fairfax, for example, has over 35,000 multi-racial residents; Virginia Beach and Prince William each have over 10,000; and Arlington, Norfolk, and Alexandria each have over 5,000."

    "The 2000 Census was the first Census that allowed respondents to select more than one race. Nationwide, approximately 2.4% of the population, or over 6.8 million Americans, identified with two or more races."

    Do note that census data is self-reported and people have a strong tendency to identify themselves with a particular race. None the less, aside from the fact that there are 6.8 million people in the U.S. alone that claim mixed heritage, you will notice a distinct pattern in the statistics. The more diverse the local population is the more likely it is that different 'races' will interbreed. Opportunity and cultural influences, rather than some biological imperative, is the basis for what you deem a tendency not to intermix.

    Here are some more references regarding intermixing.

    Europeans 'largely descended from Middle East farmers'

    "The Levant versus the Horn of Africa: Evidence for Bidirectional Corridors
    of Human Migrations"

    An outline of: "The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey”

    How about this one? Here's a trait that is believed to have descended from Genghis Khan's family alone. Do note the crossing of national, geographic, and 'racial' boundaries.

    Okay, can we be more obvious? I've said the same. The difference is you dismiss all the intermediate populations as irrelevant while I find them to be a crucial aspect of the argument. Do you see the problem, the error in methodology? You're selectively choosing representative populations to determine race rather than taking a random sampling. The same error is true of all genetic tests that distinguish race.

    All traits are variable. You're really reaching now, aren't you?

    I don't claim that they do not exist and never have. What I am stating is that these traits are of no special significance. Grouping by other traits reveals different but equally viable categories. What you need to defend is why the traits by which we distinguish race are special.

    Yes, skin color is obvious and, as I've stated before, it is just as obvious that skin color is an environmentally selected trait. Northern Asians are lighter skinned than equatorial Asians, Northern and Southern Native Americans are lighter skinned than equatorial Native Americans, and Northern Europeans are lighter skinned than Southern Europeans.

    I've never said you can't use race anymore. What I'm saying is that the grouping of traits we call 'race' has no particular, scientific relevance.

    No, they don't. Refer again to the above census data. Proximity is apparently a far greater influence than appearance. Racially diverse societies interbreed.

    Large numbers of people also could and did. Yes, much of the time interaction was slow and followed a chain like pattern where each population mostly interacted only with its neighbors. But this interaction is extremely significant. It means that on the whole all populations were constantly interacting and interbreeding. Add to this the constant history of migration and conquest, dramatic mixings of populations.

    You're still saying pretty much the same thing. You're telling me that if you deliberately select people from disparate lineages you can genetically differentiate them and then you're indicating that this is somehow relevant.

    What, someone put a gun to their heads?

    In other words you don't care what the actual facts are, you can 'see' it thus it is so. Dismissed.

    Dodge and retreat... keep it up. Wasn't one of your initial points that human races split apart and developed in isolation from each other? In fact, you said, "The point is different groups of our species split off from each other really far back in time and had time to progress on their own and develop different traits." So what's you argument now? That the 'races' didn't split apart and develop separately but it was the scale of the interbreeding that mattered?

    What is the general idea at this point?

    Then please show us the clear lines of division because as the maps I provided demonstrate the areas of interaction are essentially global.

    Mmmhmmm. And did he do this with an entirely random sampling of people or did he first identify an individual and then pose a guess and get a confirmation? Again, this is simply selective sampling, nothing more.

    You are indeed full of it. I have addressed all of your points. I also never said that people "don't care about race when dating" I said that your assertion that races don't interbreed is fallacious and I proved it by giving you evidence of massive migrations and patterns of interaction throughout history.

    If you want to categorize people based upon a few selective traits fine; so be it. But stop asserting that this handful of traits has any particular or special scientific significance because it simply isn't true. They're largely irrelevant taken into account the entire range and patterns of human variation. They're of no more importance than which groups of humans inherited the ability to curl their tongues.

  16. paulsamuel Registered Senior Member



    Raithere = 2

    kriminal99 = 0
  17. Canute Registered Senior Member

    I was just browsing through this and a couple of things came to mind. If I've misunderstood the discussion my apologies.

    Is all this not simply a matter of how to define the word 'race'? It is an ambiguous word because it used to have a different and looser meaning, often true of the terms that science appropriates. But wouldn't using two terms, 'race' and 'racial sub-group' say, solve the problem?

    This would avoid the different meanings getting muddled, as in Raithere's comment "Racially diverse societies interbreed" which seems oxymoronic in the context. But I've missed a lot of the discussion so may be missing the point.

    Raithere, you also said "Do the traits by which we classify race have any outstanding biological significance?" and "Do these traits relate to a larger genetic pattern?" The answer to both questions is no."

    This seems to suggest that race is not a biological issue, which seems odd.
    It also suggests that we know more about genes than we do. The genome is a complex dynamic system. Is it not therefore possible that a change in a handful of genes (theoretically just one) could cause a race to divide into two?

    Special or more important than what? To me a different skin colour denotes a different racial heritage. Is this technically wrong?

    Are not all definitions of everything entirely dependent on these things? The definition of race that I've got (Penguin Science) is 'a group of organisms within a species that are genetically or physiologically distinct from other members of the species'. My dictionary might not be very good but this defintion seems to suggest that the human species breaks down into races.

    Only handful of genes separates human beings from many other species as I understand it. It doesn't seem hard to imagine a few different genes separating races (given the above definition of race).
  18. Raithere plagued by infinities Valued Senior Member

    Not really. One problem lies in the selection of traits used for categorization. Selecting those traits as typically define race and you can get racial groupings. But if we select a different trait or batch of traits we get different racial groupings unrelated to traditional racial categorizations. An example that I keep using is lactase persistence, which forms a grouping inclusive of several 'races' and exclusive of other members of those same races. So simple sub-categorization won't work, we'd have to include many cross-categories.

    The question becomes, "What makes this particular set of traits special or scientifically significant that we should use it as the primary measure of human categorization?" a question that no one has bothered to even attempt to answer thus far.

    I don't think it can be avoided, race is a muddled term. What I was responding to was kriminal's assertion was that people of different races do not interbreed except under unusual circumstances. However, the evidence indicates otherwise.

    I'm not questioning the genetic origin of racial traits I'm questioning the validity of the selection.

    Yes. Skin color is believed at this point to be determined by 6 alleles. If we were to scientifically categorize people based upon skin color we would do so by finding out how many of these alleles are 'turned on', coming out with 7 races. We also find that environmental pressure has more to do with skin color than heritage. That is, populations that live in areas with stronger sunlight have darker skin than people who live in areas with weaker sunlight.

    While heritage is the primary factor for the individual the traits occurrence in the population is governed by the environment. For example Sub-Saharan Africans have the same skin coloration as Australian Aborigines despite that both populations are more closely related to some of the lighter skinned Asians than each other.

    The problem is that there are no clear dividing lines. To categorize a species into racial groupings one must be able to clearly differentiate them. But humans have been continually interbreeding throughout history and what we know of prehistory. The only way to make such differentiations is to select distinct populations that are far removed from one another and ignore the vast intermingling populations connecting them. But looking at humanity and its historical interaction as a whole we can see that this selective sampling is disingenuous... it is simply false.

    Another monkey in the wrench is that the variation within a 'race' is greater than the variation between races. Thus any random black person may easily have more genetically in common with a random white person than another random black person. Where then is the racial distinction?

  19. paulsamuel Registered Senior Member

    right, and the reason we don't see concordance in phenotypic traits is that the phenotypes cross genealogical lines. i.e., in phylogenetic terms, so called "racial" characteristics are not monophyletic with respect to genealogy.

    Again, this is correct. The chosen genetic characteristics need to be neutral to remain unbiased according to evolutionary phylogenetic assumptions. The assumption is that neutral genes will evolve at more or less the same rate (=the background mutation rate) therefore it wouldn't matter which gene you chose, as long as it was neutral, cause all would give the same phylogenetic (presumably genealogical) tree. This has been borne out over the years of phylogenetic studies, within a certain range of variation and corrected by life history characteristics like regeneration rates, which will affect rates of recombination. Genes under selection will have too variable of mutation rates to give unbiased phylogenetic studies.

    race is only muddled in terms of human biology because it has been stubbornly held onto. in other species, races can be clearly delimited and the biological definition of race is adhered to (since race is a biological term). if the race designation is suddenly falsified by phylogenetic studies, then the designation is dropped with little discussion.

    But what is important is the monophyly of the traits in regards to the hypothesized race which is where human racial divisions break down.

    One can have clear and distinct groups within the human species without racial grouping. For example, familial groups, Hasidic Jews, the Amish. These however are not races. It has to do with monophyly, i.e. distinct groupings alike by descent. If one takes a negroid phenotype and plots these traits on to a human phylogenetic tree, the traits are not monophyletic, therefore cannot be a race because they don't form a distinct group.

    This is the crux of it as Raithere has correctly pointed out. The fact that genetic variation is partitioned in such a way that human genetic variation is greater within than among hypothesized races precludes one from making monophyletic racial groups.
  20. Canute Registered Senior Member

    Ok, I'll forget my dictionary then. But now I'm not at all clear what the correct scientific definition of race is, or what makes that definition non-arbitrary. Or is 'race' just one of those words that is bound to be ambiguous?
  21. paulsamuel Registered Senior Member

    well, race is rarely used now-a-days in biology because of the confusion and fervor surrounding the term, but it was originally a taxonomic term and has since been mostly replaced by the term sub-species, a genetically distinct monophyletic lineage within a species. the human 'races' are a carry-over from Victorian era biology, before the time of genetics and when the different human phenotypes were considered distinct. we now know that this is not the case. the term 'race' has since been co-opted to distinguish different human ethnicities although, as I have been trying to point out, this has no basis in biology and the human races are not biological groupings but social and cultural constructs based on arbitrary classifications.

    So, the real definition of race, as a biological term is;

    subspecies, race - (biology) a genetically distinct taxonomic group that is a division of a species; usually arises as a consequence of geographical isolation within a species.

    misuse of the term is rampant which has probably led to a number of incorrect definitions.
  22. Canute Registered Senior Member

    Does this mean 'race' has no meaning anymore? Also does "a genetically distinct monophyletic lineage" signify a sub-species unless it prevents interbreeding, where it is signifies a different species? How does one define 'genetically distinct' here? (Sorry about the questions, but I'm trying to get the terms clear).

    I know I'm being pedantic but doesn't the occurence of genetically distinct monophyletic lineage signify a distinct difference in phenotype? After all ones phenotype is determined by ones genes. If one varies consistently then does this not entail that the other must vary consistently also?

    This is where I have a problem. Why is skin colour an arbitrary grouping? If all phenotype differences are arbitrary then of what significance is any difference in genotype? In other words how does one identify a genetically distinct racial subgroup if one ignores all arbitrary phenotypical differences? Surely we can't tell from analysis of the genes themselves whether they code for a racial subgroup. Don't we have to examine differences in the phenotype to do this?

    Why can't one use 'race' colloquially instead of 'subgroup'? Or are we talking politics here?

    Does this mean that a genetic trait unique to a sub-species signifies a distinct taxonomic group regardless of whether or not this genetic difference is expressed? That would seem odd to me.

    Yeah. I suspect a majority of disagreements are caused by differences in interpretations of words. As a non-biologist I'm happy with my dictionary, but I'd like to be clear about the technical use of it among biologists.
  23. paulsamuel Registered Senior Member

    No, what it means is that the only possible human race went extinct some time ago and was called Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.

    genetically distinct means that the two populations have been separated long enough to differentiate genetically so that all members of one population are more closely related to each other than they are to members of the other population.

    You're not being pedantic. Sometimes one sees phenotypic differences, sometimes not. Some genetic differences do not alter the phenotype.

    there are many individual differences in humans, i.e. lots of phenotypic diversity. to choose one of them, or even a number of them for no reason is the definition of an arbitrary choice.

    No one is contending that phenotypic diversity in and of itself is arbitrary.

    No, we can choose neutral genes (i.e. non-coding genes where mutations can occur without affecting phenotype and without inducing selective forces) to create the phylogeny. This will presumably reflect the genealogical tree of the group in question. One can then 'map' the hypothetical racial characteristics on the tree. If those characteristics do not represent monophyletic groups, then they cannot be racial characteristics.

    You can, and many people do. But it will have no basis in biology, but it won't matter if people know what you mean.

    Yes! But, in general, they are associated with some phenotypic differences, even if we can't see them.

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