R M Cullen
MD MSc MFM BA DipStats DipProfEthics
|elite athlete development||diabetes reversal||genome topology||evolution|
|tamaki sports academy||diabetes blog|
In The Myth of Race: the troubling persistence of an unscientific idea Robert Sussman, Professor of physical anthropology at Washington University in St Louis writes (p 305) "Race is not a biological reality among humans; there are no human biological races. What humans have designated as races are based on non-existent differences among peoples. People are more similar to one another biologically and genetically as a whole than they are to any of the classifications that racists have devised."
Sussman's book is a history of white racism (not Chinese racism or Japanese racism or African tribalism) which simply denies, without presenting evidence, that human races exist.
Sussman is one of a large number of anthopologists who reject the concept of human race.
Their view is at odds with standard evolutionary theory. Darwin argued, strongly, that there was nothing exceptional about the human ape. We are just another animal. Sub-populations of humanity will become reproductively isolated (for example by geography), will accumulate small changes over many generations, and become first sub-species of, then species distinct from homo sapiens. When the new species and the old meet, one will eradicate the other. Eventually one of the daughter species will supplant homo sapiens.
The race deniers advance an essentially creationist argument. They argue that humanity came into existence with a full range of diversity, that the species has always been static, and is immune from sub-speciation.
The race-deniers rely on the (true) observation that human attributes exist on a continuum, with no clear racial divide. They point to the fact that the human genome is consistent between races, and assert that the genetic differences within a racial group are larger than the genetic differences between racial groups.
However, these are not sufficient to prove that there is no such thing as human races. The same kind of arguments could be used to "prove" that there is no such thing as a different make and model of car, or that there are no different breeds of dog, there are only dogs. If genetic similarity were determinative, Sussman might argue that there are no males and females, only people. It is certainly true that the genetic differences within "males" is greater than the genetic difference betwen males and females. If the idea that nothing can be inferred from combinations of characteristics because each of these exists on a continuum is true, then there are no human children or adults, only humans.
When biologists talk about "race" they mean subspecies. They are making judgments about ancestry and about evolutionary futures. One of the things they are saying is this: if Africans stayed in Africa and if Asians were confined to China, then the differences that are already apparent would, over the course of several million years, result in the development of two populations that could no longer interbreed i.e two distinct species would result.
They are also saying that if fossilised skulls from Asians, Africans, and Europeans, were examined by a disinterested competent (say robot) antropologist they would be judged to come from subspecies of homo sapiens
Biologists say this because ancestry can be determined, in the majority of cases, by inspecting the skull, particularly the face of humans.
Some of these differences are
None of these are absolute indicators, but humans are good at judging ancestry from facial appearance. Indeed, many Koreans can distinguish their faces from that of a Japanese in the same way that a Zulu can distinguish a fellow Zulu from a Xhosa, and a Xhosa from a Matabele.
Sussman is foolish to deny that these differences in appearance exist. He is ignorant to claim that there must be a genetic base for phenotypic (or more precisely perhaps, ontogenic) difference. He is correct to claim that these differences in appearance tell us nothing about the 'worth' of the different races.