Meaningfull Biological Definition of Race

But no two people seem to agree on what the criteria are for those groups. Those biological characteristics place people on a variety of smooth spectrum. Where you draw the lines is seemingly arbitrary. You could do the same with height, saying people over 5’ 6" are one race and the people below 5’ 6" are another and it would have similar validity. It can be useful for a variety of reasons, but it doesn’t correspond to a meaningful definition of race.

No one seems to have a problem with the idea that populations and individuals have a whole mess of biological characteristics that are different and inheritable. But they’re not organized enough to support the kind of classifications of people who want to define “races.” If they did, we’d have a set of race definitions that people could agree on to some objective standard.

Unless we’re defining “race” as something that can evolve in 1 generation, that is completely beside the point.

Just because you said that in other threads doesn’t make it correct.

Tell us what the races are and how you determined them to be. Then tell us why you chose those races (as opposed to any other scheme) and what we can tell about individuals in those races based only on their racial classification.

In that case do you believe that there are no useful definitions of species or subspecies? Chuck, who posted on some of the earlier discussions, provided an interesting summary of research. The discussion about Sewell Wright & the Fst ~.10 figure at the end of the post is particularly interesting. Also, this FAQ is helpful in terms of FST figures and comparisons with other species.

It’s all about education.

I’ll believe a biological definition of race is “meaningful” when it agrees with genetic reality: when “Everyone Not African” is one race group, and there are at least 4 or 5 African ones.

Any scheme that lumps all of Africa together biologically (or only makes a distinction between Negroid and Capoid :rolleyes:)is unscientific, at best.

dog breeds. same species.

the external physical differences between one perceived race from another is so obvious it requires no science. the differences will be maintained in the greater part unless intermarriage between these races become the rule, not the exception.

Are you trying to goad someone into saying that all humans are caucasian, negroid or mongoloid? Because few modern people believe that. If you’re waiting for a chance to jump in and say “Gotcha!”, you’ll have a pretty long wait.

Racial differences are mostly cultural. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Hispanics in America have a degree of cultural common cause with one another, but Puerto Ricans cop an attitude toward Mexicans and neither group feels a great kinship with Salvadoreans, any more than Swedes feel a bond of whiteness with Sicilians.

Only on breeds that have been carefully maintained by selective breeding over many generations. Humans have no analog and it doesn’t apply to us.

of course it does too with humans. people with similar features tend to be proximal to each other (usually defined along national boundaries in fact.) so people are likely to breed within those boundaries, so their shared features will be retained.

Except history has shown that we really don’t do that, except in much smaller isolated populations. Humans have a long history of interbreeding and our DNA demonstrates that.


:rolleyes: And around and around we go–youve taken us all the way back to the OP. To repeat, you are essentially constructing a false dichotomy. You are saying “either (1) tell me what the races are or (2) the term race has no meaning biologically.” You are ignoring the huge middle ground of “race has meaning biologically even though it’s possible to draw the lines in different places and come up with different numbers of races.”

Of course I’ve taken us back to the OP. The idea that “race” has biological meaning for humans even though there are thousands of way to define it is nonsense. When something is that ill defined, it ceases to have “meaning”.

There are populations, clusters of people sharing genetic traits, and fixed geographical populations tend to share a lot of genetic traits with their neighbors. Beyond that, what do you get from it?

Ok, the second factor is obvious, you can determine the race through a measure of distance. So, from that determination of race you can determine what?

At least you included some scientfic-y evidence in your response.

Maybe I should have considered snakes and aliens in my OP.

Nothing really. I take it as a given that if there is a definition for something it can be presented in written form. So this is the opportunity for those who contend there is a meaningful biological definition of race to put it in writing.

Snakes, aliens, and national borders. Why didn’t I think of these things before?

Isn’t that a true dichotomy?

The point is that physical differences can be meaningless when trying to predict any other complex human phenotypes. Dog breeds were unnaturally selected for certain characteristics (not always physical). Also, because of the breeding process, dog breeds are less diverse and easier to detect.

Humans can be differentiated by regional genetic bottlenecks but there was a huge amount of mixing because humans are migratory, then settle in new places. Since the so-called races are much more diverse, physical characteristics do not predict other phenotypes. For example, I’ve seen ridiculous threads here where people were trying to make claims on the intelligence of Africans. (Well, I guess the first ridiculous part of that is properly defining intelligence in a way that can predict differences in civilizations.) Although the majority of Africans can be found in only about three haplogroups, the diversity within these groups (especially the largest) is huge. Africa is a continent after all. It’s pointless to call them a single race and try to pinpoint certain phenotypes (other than obvious things like skin color and sickle cell anemia). So, from a genetic perspective, the races are generally meaningless and sometimes they’re wrong.

‘Race’ can be important is when one is dealing with how people are grouped by society into these races and how they are being treated or to get epidemiological data on certain cultural groups that may have similar behaviors. Of course we all already know that.

Nevertheless, much like dogs, there are specific, and frequently overlapping, gene pools among humans. Before modern transportation, human populations were relatively isolated and adapted to local conditions. I don’t why being unusually small was an advantage to Pygmies, or why being unusually tall was an advantage for Bantus, but to insist the difference between them is “just a social construct” is obviously absurd.

Heavier objects (like a cannon ball) fall to earth faster then lighter objects (like feathers). The observation is so obvious it requires no science.

So, let’s confine ourselves to Europe and Asia (including what we call the Middle East). What are the obvious differences between the populations, and which groups of people are in which populations?

Go ask an ethnographer.

I know, I know! Europeans fall faster than Asians, right?

But they float better than Africans. :smiley:

Then list them.

No one saying that there aren’t populations with a trend towards certain characteristics. This is a basic tenet of biology. But that doesn’t equal “race” by any reasonable definition. Why would you group Bantus and Pygmies in a single race if they have such different characteristics?