Race: Yea or nay?

I want to continue the debate started here, with a few questions.

  1. Do you believe in biologically determined races?
  2. Why/why not?
  3. If yes…
    a) What are they (the number)?
    b) What are the parameters of the groups?


  1. No.
  2. Because I am not in the habit of following 18th century determined, physical taxonomy and pretending that it trumps 21st century determined, human genetic variation.

PS - Mods, if the other thread doesn’t get closed you can bump this one to In My Humble Opinion.

Hm…could be opening up a can of worms here. Oh well, what the hell.

I suppose it depends on ones definition of ‘race’. Myself, the way I learned it is basically that ‘race’ equals ‘breed’, or a population that can still interbreed with the main population but who has distinct physical differences. The best example that was told to me were dogs. They are all the same species, but because of selective breeding they come in a huge number of shapes, sizes, fur colors, type and all manner of specialized skills depending on which breed you are talking about. Assuming you mean race in this way, I’d say it’s definitely biologically determined…how else? Whether it’s selection due to an adaption to a local condition, or it’s adaption that is driven by our desire to see more red heads or larger breasts, or whiter teeth, or whatever, it’s still biological, assuming I’m understanding the question.

The list I learned when I was a kid is probably far out date and I haven’t exactly kept up on this stuff. IIRC there were something like 10 distinct human ‘breeds’ or races (3-4 African types alone), but I’m not sure if anyone even bothers to categorize this kind of stuff anymore, since it can open that can of worms.

The differences could the the distance and position of the eyes, various bone structure elements, hair and skin color, shade and texture, the length of fingers and toes, amount of body hair…all sort of stuff from memory.


  1. No
  2. Because if you remove the preconceived notion of ‘race’ from the argument, you don’t see evidence for it. Also, if it there was such a thing, it would be defined. But the attempted definitions are always narrowly defined to justify an argument based on ‘race’ in the first place.

This will be a dull discusion if it’s just you and me.

I’ve gone over the material you posted on the other thread. I’m not so detail oriented. I prefer to rely on simple logic, and avoid appeals to authority, even when the authorities present information that can be weighed on it’s merits. I don’t understand why the absence of a consistent definition of ‘race’ isn’t obvious to people. I notice you use the term ‘racialist’ which is growing in popularity. I prefer the term ‘racist’, because it suits my abrasive personality. Good luck with this thread. I wish I had your patience.

Personally, I don’t believe in “races” per se, but we have to realize that we don’t have the same ancestors. It is a very touchy subject, but biological differences are obvious.

Humans are remarkably genetically similar to each other. Their is some “plumage” change in skin, hair, and eyes, but we are not even remotely close to seperating into subspecies like some racial supremacists desire. However, our own medical science tells us that their are differences that go a bit more than skin deep. This is due to the fact that humans are NOT immune to evolutionary pressures. Sickle cell trait gives a person a modicum of resistance to malaria. The trait is far, far more common in people who can trace their ancestry to Africa.

The interesting thing about modern medical science is that we have found that we are more similar to each other than most species are to themselves (I think there was an evolutionary bottleneck somewhere back in our history), but we are beginning to get the tools to examine, and treat, medical problems tailored to the specific individual. But for that, we have to examine family history.

“Race” is just family history on a larger scale.

*1. Do you believe in biologically determined races? *
Fuck, no.
2. Why/why not?
Because human variation is so clearly, obviously a continuum. And unbiased, properly-constituted studies show this. We are a cline (or clines), not clades.

BUZZZ Disease genetic distribution Fail. SS is far, far more common in people from historic malarial areas. That this happens to include a third of Africans is irrelevant. It also includes Greeks, Arabs and Indians.

That this has been pointed out to you in just the last couple of days, yet you still repeat it, is a bigger fail:dubious:

Wikipedia is not a cite. The CDC is.

Don’t be pedantic.

Your own cite clearly supports what MrDibble said. Also, Wikipedia is not a cite for academic writing. It’s probably just fine for the SDMB. Most science matters on Wikipedia are well referenced and provide adequate information. Pendantic, jeez.

Other than that, I pretty much agree with MrDibble’s responses. Also, Tripolar’s use of the term racist seems perfectly suitable and there is no reason to use a new term.

Ha! Wikipedia is too a cite, and a good one. That Wikipedia article has copious references (including…the CDC). Many of those are to peer reviewed articles, too. Now, how many peer review articles does your CDC cite have? IS your cite a peer review article? Or just an easy-to-digesta public health pamphlet?
America is not the world, and what does your own cite say (with my emphasis)?:

Why, that’s almost exactly what I said. Selective quoting fail.

What is point? Is it that sickle cell trait is equally prevalent among populations?

What is your point?

The point is that localized environmental conditions are the best predictors of variation in specific human traits. Also, variation in human traits such as skin color and propensity for sickle-cell anemia do not necessarily covary. These two facts alone do not support the concept of races. While playing around as I answered your question I found this website which summarizes the argument in an easily digestible format


](http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?p=12911609&postcount=227)That is plain false.[

](NCBI)In fact they lay out a precise set of Guidelines for Referring to the HapMap Populations in Publications and Presentations

Shakes fist at Inbred Mm domesticus like an old man

You are participating without responding to the OP.

Yes. There is a set of human populations which have a higher prevalence of sickle cell, and that set **does not match up **with any pre-defined set of human populations commonly known as “races”. In fact, the ethnic group with the highest SCD prevalence is not even African. Sickle cell is not a black disease, and the artefact of sorting that makes it seem so in the US is just that, an arbitrary datum blip, not an indicator that race is a meaningful concept in medicine.


“Race” is an unscientific idea created by people who had no real clue about human genetics who were mainly just trying to come up with an excuse to conquer and enslave people. It doesn’t reflect real human variation at all well; look how for example “black people” born in Africa and “black people” born in America are both considered black despite the Americans having a highly mixed ancestry. Or look how people are arbitrarily divided into races by skin color and not by, say, eye or hair color; hair and eye color are just as genetic as skin color after all.

Sorry, that should read SCT not SCD, for Sickle cell trait (one set of the gene)

  1. Yes
  2. Because to say otherwise is to commit a long-beard fallacy, aka continuum fallacy. Just because the boundaries are ill-defined doesn’t mean that there’s no such thing as race. Just because I’m not educated/experienced enough to tell the difference between a Nigerian and a South African, it doesn’t mean I’m the same race as them.

Finally, you’ve got people that say “Well, race is a social construct.” But they never say why that means there’s no such thing as race. Marriage is a social construct. So is color. And freedom. And entertainment. Do those things not exist either?

The question is, “Do you believe in biologically determined races?”; if it’s a social construct, then it isn’t biologically determined.

Don’t have a coronary old man! In my first post I said I agreed with MrDibble because he pretty much stated my thoughts on your questions in the OP and stated them better than I would have. Sorry for the confusion sir.

And this is where your point falls apart. Surely you don’t mean that someone adopted into that ethnic group who learns the language and customs is more likely to acquire SCD? So what you are saying, is that there exist groups, that can be characterized by physical characteristics, and who share a common geographical origin. Sounds like a race to me. The fact that it does not line up traditional 19th century races does not change that.

How would you describe the difference between Han Chinese and Mongols for example?