Arguments regarding the existence of races

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Arguments regarding the existence of races
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Race and intelligence: The genetics or not debate
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Differential K theory
Human Accomplishment
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Related research areas
Boasian anthropology
Contact hypothesis
Effects of race mixing ‎
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Inbreeding depression and
outbreeding depression
Pathological altruism
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Smart fraction
The sociologist's fallacy
White flight
White demographics

The existence of human races was almost universally accepted by scientists before the middle of the twentieth century. Thereafter, it has become increasingly politically incorrect to support the existence of human races but many scientists still do. This article discusses the scientific arguments regarding the existence of human races.


Emotional and censorship arguments

It is sometimes argued that there is a scientific "consensus" or a "vast majority" scientific opinion against the existence of races. The 2015 peer reviewed book The Nature of Race: the Genealogy of the Concept and the Biological Construct’s Contemporaneous Utility reviewed surveys concerning the existence of human biological races (as defined by the scientists themselves) and found "12 separate, non-redundant samples from studies conducted between 1985 and 2003. Of these, nine were composed of anthropologists, two of biologists, and one of anatomists. Across studies, 39% of the respondents agreed that there were human biological races (in some sense), 52% disagreed, and 9% were undecided. Based on the results, we can infer that the “vast majority” of anthropologists and biologists do not reject the existence of human biological “races” (in some sense)."[1]

The book argued that those who stated rejection of race could be influenced by political rather than scientific considerations or by dislike of the word "race" due to negative associations. Another possibility was that "Race is conceptualized by some in a biologically unrealistic way. [...] many AAA members feel that biological race (1) precludes population continua, (2, 3) requires high levels of genetic homogeneity, and (4) is at odds with gene flow. Obviously, this notion of race is rather unlike the concept which we have been discussing. Many of these anthropologists seem to not even be considering a biologically realistic or historically grounded concept. To be clear, we agree that such human AAA races do not exist. Such races, though, are caricatures; they do not correspond with races as generally understood by actual employers and proponents of biological race concepts."[1]

Note that the above surveys mainly reflect the views of Western anthropologists. Non-Western and non-anthropological scientists have often expressed much higher support for the existence of biological races. See the section "Views of scientists" on this and other topics.

See the section 2013 AAA survey on widespread lack of basic knowledge of race and genetic population research by American anthropologists.

A common cause of opposition to the existence of races is from associating race emotionally with racism, slavery, colonialism, and so on. This is a form of guilt by association rather than a scientific argument regarding the existence of races. See also articles on these subjects.

A related argument is that even if race differences exist, then it would be better to censor such knowledge. See the Racism: Race research and the origin of racism regarding this.

Straw men "essentialist" definitions of race

Straw men "essentialist" arguments are very common, insisting that the definition of race includes that all race members must have certain "essential" characteristics that non-race members do not have, but that traditional races do not have such "essential" characteristics, so there are no races. This is part of the discussion of how to define race so it is discussed in the main Race article and in particular in the section Race: Straw men definitions.

The existence of races and the existence of genetic differences between human populations

Race denialists often seem to think that if only they can disprove the existence of human races according to some definition (such as the above mentioned straw men "essentialist" definitions), then this would mean that they have also disproven the existence of genetic differences between human populations (except for genetic differences affecting physical appearance such as skin color). In particular, there would be no genetic population differences affecting politically sensitive mental characteristics.

This is incorrect since regardless of if races exist or not according to a particular definition, there are many proven genetic differences between different human populations. Examples includes population differences regarding the frequency of gene variants affecting resistance to malaria,[2] lactose intolerance and the ability of adults to eat dairy products,[3] and the activity of the brain enzyme monoamine oxidase which has been linked to personality characteristics and behaviors.[4][5][6][7]

It is sometimes argued that "race is just skin deep". This diagram from a 2011 study shows how much three populations (from Africa, East Asia, and Europe) differ genetically from one another (according to the genetic measure used) and regarding gene groups with different functions. Red lines (additions to the original image) mark gene groups stated to be involved in pigmentation, hair development, and skeletal development (physical appearance). There are numerous other gene groups including many involved in the nervous system or potentially involved in the nervous system (including the brain). The gene group showing the largest population differences was involved in pituitary gland development. The pituitary gland is the part of the brain which controls the hormone system which has many effects on the whole body (including the brain itself).[8]

Genes can be classified into different groups based on the function of the genes. In many cases the exact function of a gene is unknown but the gene may still be classified based on similarities to genes with known function. Studies on such gene groups show that different human populations differ regarding gene groups involved in the brain, brain development, pituitary gland development (the part of the brain which controls the hormone system including many hormones affecting the brain itself), growth factors involved in the nervous system, neurological system processes, neuropeptide signaling pathways, transmission of nerve impulses, neuron development, neuron differentiation, and cognition.[8][9][10]

There are also more "politically correct" gene groups that differ between populations and that are involved in pigmentation, hair development, and skeletal development (physical appearance).[8] However, such gene groups may also be involved in more politically incorrect areas. Thus, gene groups which affect skeletal development may also be involved in population differences regarding cranial cavity volume and gene groups involved in pigmentation may have many unexpected effects in politically sensitive areas (see Race and morphology/physiology: Pigmentation).

Race denialism may thus in many cases be attempts to avoid a politically sensitive issue simply by defining it away. This will however not change the underlying reality. An analogy may be made with, for example, mountains. By changing the definition of mountain it is possible to claim that there are no mountains in the world. This will however not change the underlying reality of altitude differences between different areas.

Predictive value

Jean Philippe Rushton in 2001 stated that "In science, a concept is useful if it groups facts so that general laws and conclusions can be drawn from them. Predictions can be made using the taxonomic category of race because, on average, the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans are similar to each other and different from White Americans, Germans, and Russians, who are similar to each other and different from Black Americans, Haitians, and sub-Saharan Africans. Predictability is the criterion by which the value of a hypothetical construct like race is evaluated. As I will show, race is highly predictive. [...] In summary, the same racial pattern would not occur so consistently all around the world and over time if race were a mere social construct. If it were a meaningless construct, it would have no power to predict phenomena like brain size, growth rate, life span, crime, and family stability. Other evidence also shows that race is a biological reality. For example, coroners in crime labs can identify race from a skeleton or even just the skull. They can even identify race from blood, hair, or semen. How could they do this if race was only a social construct? The scientific evidence shows that the politically correct mantra "race is just skin deep" is a case of deep denial."[11]

A criticism is that the predictive ability of race is limited on the individual level. Thus, if looking at two individuals from two different races with different measured average IQ, then it is not possible to predict with absolute certainty which individual has a higher IQ based solely on race (but it is possible to predict which individual is more probable to have a higher IQ). A counter-criticism is that this uncertainty disappears if looking at the group level and group differences instead of at the individual level and individual differences. Furthermore, for society at large it is usually the group level and group differences that are important.

Average vs. extreme groups differences

Another point is that only looking at average differences between groups may be misleading. Many characteristics that are influenced by many factors (like by many genes) will (due to the "central limit theorem") have a "normal distribution" (a "bell curve" distribution). However, a characteristic of this distribution is that differences will be amplified at the extremes. Thus, group differences will be more pronounced at extreme values than they are at more average values. In practice, this means that racial differences will be more pronounced at extreme values (such as at extreme IQ values). Furthermore, in some situations these extreme groups may be particularly important. For example, it may be extreme rather than average persons that make most inventions. Thus, only looking at average group differences may in some situations be misleading.

See also the article on the Smart fraction.

Variable definitions of race and variable racial classifications?

Tree diagram showing genetic relations between different mammal populations.[12]
Tree diagram showing genetic relations between different major human populations according to a 1994 study.[13]
Tree diagram showing genetic relations between different Amerindian populations according to a 2007 study. The tree diagram also shows that populations with similar genetics tend to have similar languages.[14]

Note that two persons can be in complete agreement regarding the human (or mammal) taxonomic hierarchy but still count very different number of races (or mammal taxonomic groups) simply by looking at different levels of the hierarchy. If arguing that this "proves" the non-existence of different human races, then the same argument can be used to "prove" the non-existence of different mammal taxonomic groups (such as different mammal species and higher order taxonomic groups such as primates and mammals).
Diagram showing genetic population clusters in Central and East Asia. East Asians form a cluster distinct from Indians and Central Asian Uyghurs (CN-UG in the diagram). Singaporeans are a mixed group which is reflected in the diagram. The East Asians can in turn be divided into different smaller clusters demonstrating a hierarchy with different levels.[15]
Several diagrams showing different levels of genetic structure. The top left diagram shows Europeans forming a cluster clearly distinct from Han Chinese from Beijing (CHB), Japanese from Tokyo (JPT), and Yoruba from Nigeria (YRI). American Utah residents with ancestry from Northern and Western Europe (CEU) form a cluster within the Europeans. The bottom left diagram shows clusters within the European cluster again demonstrating a hierarchy with different levels.[16]

One criticism has been to argue that different researchers have proposed different definitions of race or different racial classifications. One response is that this is nothing unique to human taxonomy but applies to taxonomy in general.

Very large changes have occurred in taxonomy in general as scientific knowledge has advanced and in particular in response to the recent appearance of increasingly detailed genetic studies. For example, there have even been very different views regarding the most fundamental taxonomic ranks such as kingdoms and domains. There is also disagreement in taxonomy in general regarding the taxonomic ranks below the species level. Many different terms and definitions have been proposed.[17][18] However, such disagreements in taxonomy in general is not seen as evidence proving the non-existence of taxonomic groups and taxonomic hierarchies.

In some cases the disagreement is simply due to different researchers looking at different levels of the nested hierarchy which may seem to produce very different number of races. However, such researchers may still agree with one another regarding the existence and the structure of the nested hierarchy itself.

Furthermore, it has been argued that many of the definitions describe the same concept but emphasize different aspects and that many racial classifications basically agree very well with one another. This regardless of if they are based on morphology or on genetics.[1][19][20] See the race article for further discussions.

Straw men definitions of race

See Race: Straw men definitions.

Arbitrary definitions of race

See Race: Arbitrary definitions.

Mixed race groups

See Race: Mixed race groups.

99.9% shared DNA?

It has been commonly stated that all human share 99.9% of their DNA with other humans. This has been used as an argument against human races.

However, this refers to base pairs in the DNA. Genes are often encoded by very large number of base pairs. A single base pair difference in a gene can dramatically change the functions and the effects of the gene. This means that the percentage of genes that differ between humans could theoretically be very large even if the percentage of base pairs that differ is very small. Furthermore, some genes controls other genes. Thus, a single base pair change in one such regulatory gene could influence many other genes causing very large effects.

Even if only looking at base pairs, since there are about three billion base pairs, then a 0.1% difference still means that there are about three million base pair differences. The number of different unique combinations possible of such individual base pair differences is extremely large.

Furthermore, the number is frequently misinterpreted as claiming that only 0.1% of human differences are due to genetics. Instead, all humans share a very large number of characteristics. Some examples include all humans sharing the characteristics associated with being primates (and mammals, vertebrates, and numerous other taxonomic groups) as well as all humans sharing numerous basic cell and biochemical structures/functions. Shared DNA codes for such shared characteristics. This means that the non-shared DNA may be very important for the remaining characteristics on which humans do differ from one another. See Other race differences: On human traits on general on "heritability" estimates finding large genetic influences on the variation of all studied human traits.

The number of base pairs that humans and chimpanzees share has been estimated to be 98.77% (and the same study stated that humans share 99.83% of their DNA).[21] This demonstrates that a high number is perfectly compatible with very large differences.

Other research have stated that humans share approximately 99.7% of their DNA with Neanderthals, approximately 90% of their DNA with cats, and approximately 60% of their DNA with banana plants.[22][23][24]

More recent research has also stated that the 99.9% figure is incorrect since earlier measurement methods could not detect certain kinds of genetic differences such as copy number variation. For example, a 2006 study stated that the correct number is 99.5% or lower.[25][26]

Regarding politically sensitive group differences, if this argument is argued to prove that genetics cannot have a substantial influence, then the argument would arguably also prove that there cannot be large genetic influences on group differences involving physical appearance such as skin color, which is false.

Enough time?

Another argument is that the human species has existed for only a short time period and that this would be insufficient to cause large genetic group differences. A counter-argument is that large group differences may occur when a species move to new areas as is the case for humans. Besides very different natural selection in very different geographic areas there are also mechanisms such as the founder effect which may cause groups differences as a small group move to a new area. There are examples from other mammal species of large differences developing between different groups within the species over a short time period.[27]

Recent evidence showing interbreeding with groups such as Neanderthals, Denisovans, and possibly other archaic human groups means that the origins of the human species are much older than previously thought. See the article on recent African origin of modern humans.

Such old ancestry differences may have various current effects. For example, a 2017 study found that a higher degree of Neanderthal-originating genetics in modern humans is associated with having a skull shape having a higher degree similarity with Neanderthal skull shape. Furthermore, this was associated with the shape of different brain regions and the study suggested that "Neanderthal-derived genetic variation is neurologically functional in the contemporary population."[28]

Furthermore, experimental studies have shown that very large group differences may develop over a short time period when the selection pressure is intense. Thus, experimental studies on rats and foxes have demonstrated that very large groups differences regarding aggression and related traits can occur over a short time period when these traits are selected for in breeding.[29]

The book The 10,000 Year Explosion stated evidence for that the speed of human evolution greatly accelerated after the development of agriculture due to the many new challenges and lifestyles that resulted and that the ensuing adaptations have greatly varied across different human populations. A related 2007 study found evidence for that since the agricultural revolution approximately 10,000 years ago, the human genome has been changing 100 times faster.[30]

That also IQ can relatively quickly change by such factors was supported in a 2017 study which examined genetic markers associated with differences in IQ and how their frequency have changed over time for 99 ancient Eurasians who lived between 2540 B.C. and 809 A.D. The study found support for that the average genotypic IQ increased over this time period.[31]

See also adaptive radiation.

Identical social environment?

Another race denialist argument is that the individuals in all human populations are argued to have faced the same main mental problem which is argued to have consisted of in all societies identical social competition from other humans. Or at least this is argued to have been the case in the hunger-gatherer societies in which humans have lived during most of human evolutionary history. Thus, individuals would not have to solve different mental problems due to the different natural environment in different areas. This identical social environment for all humans (at least before the development of agriculture) is argued to have ensured identical evolutionary developments for all humans populations for all politically sensitive mental characteristics.

One problem with this argument is that it seems to imply that all humans should have identical mental characteristics which is obviously incorrect. Another is that it is not possible to cleanly separate the social from the natural environment. For example, different natural environments will cause differences regarding population density and parasite prevalence in an area which will affect social environment factors such as the degree of hierarchy possible in a society and the risk with having contacts with strangers who may transmit dangerous infectious diseases. Also, genetic differences caused by different natural environments may have side-effects influencing and causing differences regarding social behavior (for example, see Race and morphology/physiology: Pigmentation). A third is that in very harsh natural environments (such as the environments in cold climates lacking significant food sources during a large part of the year) it is very dubious that there would not have been significant mental challenges from the natural environment. A fourth counterargument is that evolutionary development also during recent history since the introduction of agriculture may be important (or even especially important due to factors such as recent higher population density allowing the possibility of more new beneficial mutations and more contacts allowing easier spread of such new beneficial mutations) and that different human groups have clearly lived in very different social environments during this time period which has lasted many thousands of years.

Furthermore, even if all hunter-gatherers initially had completely identical genetics and lived in completely identical social environments, then subsequent events would have changed this. This since random beneficial mutations would have occurred in some populations but not in others, some populations would have made innovations affecting social environment not made in other populations, and so on. This would have differentiated the genetics and social environments of different populations which in turn would have caused different future evolutionary paths.

More generally, more advanced mental abilities are not necessarily always the best evolutionary strategy. There are numerous successful species with small or non-existant brains. Brain tissue is very energy-demanding which implies a large disadvantage with having a large brain. Furthermore, in many developed countries today, higher IQ is associated with lower fertility. See also the Differential K theory article.

Social construct arguments

Race denialists who view races as mere social constructs have used several misleading tactics in order to "prove" that races are arbitrary social constructs.

It is today possible to genetically test mixed race individuals/groups and objectively determine the different racial ancestries and how much each racial ancestry contributes. The map shows the proportions of African, Amerindian, and European racial ancestry in various populations in Latin America according to a 2012 study.[32]
Diagram showing a genetic principal component analysis of Amerindians, Europans, Sub-Saharan Africans, and various mixed Caribbean groups. The diagram shows that mixed groups are placed between the groups their ancestors belonged to on such analyses. It also shows that the occasional race denialist argument that such analyses would have difficulty with mixed groups is wrong.[33]

Confusing mixed race groups with races

Mulattoes/Mestizos have by themselves or by society been racially classified variously and inconsistently. Furthermore, in for example Brazil such classifications may be partially influenced by socioeconomic status and other factors so that a Mulatto/Mestizo with a high socioeconomic status tends to be classified as White.

The problem with this argument is that the difficulty to classify the race of such groups is due to these groups not being races but instead being mixed race groups. A similar situation exists in taxonomy in general where it is accepted that some individuals in a species (such as those in border zones between recognized subspecies) do not belong to any of the recognized subspecies.

In addition, regardless of how such mixed race individuals or groups are classified by themselves or society, it is today possible to genetically test and objectively determine the different racial ancestries and how much each ancestry contributes for such mixed race individuals or groups. See also Race: Mixed race groups.

Confusing religious groups with races

It has been argued that in the United States groups such as the Irish were once considered non-Whites.[34]

This is incorrect since they were never affected by the many laws making distinctions between Whites and non-Whites. There was large scale opposition towards Catholic immigration and perceived increased Catholic influence (for example, the Know-Nothing movement). Fierce and sometimes derogatory rhetoric could be used against the Irish and other Catholics but this does not mean that they were considered to be non-Whites.[34]

Social constructionists have cited some examples of the Irish being called non-Whites but such statements were likely intended insults rather than intended taxonomic claims. The word "White" and various words for non-Whites were often used as idioms, intended to express compliment or insult, rather than always being intended as actual taxonomic terms. Thus, the French Canadians could be called "Chinese" which should not be interpreted as an actual taxonomic claim but as an intended insult.[34]

Confusing subgroups with major races

In antiquity, it was common for Romans to classify themselves as different from groups such as Germans, Egyptians, and Blacks ("Nubians"). These groups were in turn considered different from one another. This is argued to be a different classification from the major races used today.

This ignores that Europeans in antiquity had no knowledge of groups such as Amerindians and Australoids and very limited knowledge of groups such as East Asians. Furthermore, it also ignores that the major races can be divided into minor races who in turn can be subdivided further, and so on. Thus, subdividing into smaller groups than the major races is not necessarily inconsistent with the existence of the major races.

A similar, contemporary argument is the argument is that immigrants from a particular region (such as sub-Saharan Africa) in their original territory may be viewed as belonging to different (African) ethnic groups/tribes, but in their new country they may be viewed as Africans. The problem with this argument is again the assumption that an individual may not at the same time belong to both a major race and to smaller subgroups withing this major race.

Other social constructs

It is possible to find examples of social race classifications that to some degree do not correspond to genetically based classifications. For example, in the United States the "Asian" classification includes both South Asian Caucasoids and East Asians. However, this does not invalidate the genetic classifications anymore than the existence of incorrect historical classifications such as the four elements (earth, water, air, and fire) invalidating current chemistry and physics. Such arguments seem to be a form of guilt by association.

Terms such as elements, atoms, and species once had meanings more or less dissimilar from the current meanings of these terms. This is not evidence for that the current meanings are wrong. Thus, arguing that the term race has been used in different and incorrect ways does not prove the non-existence of races.[1]

Furthermore, It has been argued that there is a coherent, operationalizable concept of race which has been remarkably stable across time since it was developed in the 1700s and which underlies and integrates a plethora of local definitions.[1] See also the Race article.

The social construct fallacy

Socially constructed groups unrelated to any race concept are not necessarily free of genetic difference between the groups. Thus, genetic studies have increasingly found various genetic differences between groups such as liberals - conservatives, criminals - non-criminals, low SES - high SES, and so on.

The book The Nature of Race: the Genealogy of the Concept and the Biological Construct’s Contemporaneous Utility stated that "This author, and many others, make what we might call the social construct fallacy, according to which the social construction of groups somehow implies that all group differences must be non-genetic in origin – as if groups could not be socially constructed around genetic differences! (Consider, again, the tall and the small.) This point deserves more development. Showing or claiming that sociological races do not correspond with biological ones provides no leverage in arguing that there are no significant genetic differences between them. This is because there obviously are socially important genetic differences between many socially constructed groups, such as social classes. “Social construction,” then, necessarily can not be inconsistent with “genetic differences.” Groups obviously can be socially constructed around genetic differences. Knowing nothing else, one would treat socially constructed groups as arbitrarily constructed ones. The a priori probability that any differences between arbitrarily constructed groups is a function of the heritability of the trait in the population (see Tal (2009) for proof concerning individual differences). This is merely a restatement of the behavioral genetic default according to which group differences should be, knowing nothing else, assumed to have a genetic basis since genes condition differences between individuals within the population at large."[1]

The current races will cease to exist in the future?

Another argument is that the current races, even if they are assumed to exist, will cease to exist in the future due to race mixing and/or eugenics.

However, even if this should occur, this would not change that these races existed historically, just as the disappearance of the Neanderthals has not changed the fact that the Neanderthals once existed.

The Neanderthals also continue to have a genetic influence today by having interbreed with more anatomically modern humans. This genetic influence varies in strength for different human groups. Similarly, different races have genetic influences that vary in strength on different mixed raced groups and individuals.

Also, extensive race mixing has occurred in Latin America for many centuries but race continues to be extremely important. There is a marked racial hierarchy in which individuals and groups having a lighter skin color usually have higher socioeconomic status as well having higher average results on many other beneficial statistical variables. This has been argued to be the most important social structure and more important than traditional classes.[35]

Even if human eugenics were to be accepted and increasingly technically sophisticated in the future, then eugenic changes would likely affect only new generations and would initially only be affordable/achievable for limited groups, likely meaning that the current races will not cease to exist anytime soon due to eugenics.

Disease arguments

One race denialist argument is by arguing that knowing an individual’s race is of limited value when identifying and treating an individual’s disease(s). Instead, ideally, genetic testing of the individual should be done in order to determine the presence or not of genetic factors influencing disease(s). One problem with this is that genetic testing may be costly and/or time-consuming and thus not possible.

Furthermore, this argument only applies when looking at individuals who may differ greatly from group averages on particular characteristics. The situation is different when looking at groups instead of at individuals, such as in epidemiology and public health policy, where group averages are very important. See also the section “Predictive value” on the difference between the individual level and the group level.

There seem to be few objections to using race categories when the issue is demanding more resources for racial groups with on average poor health on some variables.

Another argument is that single-gene disorders are typically not “exclusive” to a particular race, but instead occur in different races, although often at different frequencies. However, this is an example of using a straw man definition of race and/or Lewontin’s fallacy. See the Race article and there the section “Definitions of race” and in this article the section “Genetic variation between populations compared to the genetic variation in populations”.

When trying to find a suitable donor for a bone marrow transplant, which involves not a single but many genes, then race is very important, which can be seen as reflecting that the accuracy of racial classifications increase greatly when using many genetic markers instead of just a single genetic marker.[36]

See also Race and health.

Nihilistic arguments

One form of arguments consists of making extreme demands for precision. If applied to other areas this would lead to denial of the possibility of knowledge and nihilism. The geneticist Neil Risch stated in 2005: "if you expect absolute precision in any of these definitions, you can undermine any definitional system. Any category you come up with is going to be imperfect, but that doesn't preclude you from using it or the fact that it has utility.'

We talk about the prejudicial aspect of this. If you demand that kind of accuracy, then one could make the same arguments about sex and age!

You'll like this. In a recent study, when we looked at the correlation between genetic structure [based on microsatellite markers] versus self-description, we found 99.9% concordance between the two. We actually had a higher discordance rate between self-reported sex and markers on the X chromosome! So you could argue that sex is also a problematic category. And there are differences between sex and gender; self-identification may not be correlated with biology perfectly. And there is sexism. And you can talk about age the same way. A person's chronological age does not correspond perfectly with his biological age for a variety of reasons, both inherited and non-inherited. Perhaps just using someone's actual birth year is not a very good way of measuring age. Does that mean we should throw it out? No. Also, there is ageism—prejudice related to age in our society. A lot of these arguments, which have a political or social aspect to them, can be made about all categories, not just the race/ethnicity one."[37]

Adaptive vs. neutral genetic variation

Several of the genetic arguments in the debate depend on measuring or estimating the degree of genetic variation in different groups, between groups, in different geographic areas such as in border zones between populations or over the whole planet, etc.

This is often problematic since genetic variation consists of both adaptive variation (due to different natural selection and occasional advantageous mutations) and neutral genetic variation (due to random genetic drift and the more common neutral mutations). It is usually the adaptive genetic variation that is phenotypically and practically important but it is difficult to separate from the neutral genetic variation in measurements. There may also be large differences regarding the degree of phenotypic importance within the adaptive genetic variation.

Several race denialist arguments depend on incorrectly using the total genetic variation when making comparisons and analyses. Several examples are given in the sections below.

Comparisons with recognized subspecies

Races and subspecies

Many morphological and genetic studies have generally supported five major races: Amerindians, Australoids, Caucasoids, East Asians ("Mongoloids"), and Sub-Saharan Africans ("Negroids"). Disagreements have usually involved border areas between these major races where groups are not well separated or admixed.[1]

In addition, many genetic cluster studies performed with different clustering methods and with different data are argued to fairly consistently have found genetic clusters corresponding to these major races.[1]

The discussion regarding human subspecies have generally involved if these major races or some of them qualify as subspecies. Even if not, these groups, and the subgroups they may be further divided into, may still be genetically and practically important groups.[1]
Genetic distance map showing 18 human populations. They group into the previously mentioned five major races.
The five major races correspond to major geographic barriers between human groups: the Oceans, the Sahara desert in Northern Africa, and the Himalayas mountain range in Central Asia (and the deserts and the mountain ranges bordering on the Himalayas). These geographic barriers can be distinguished in the above satellite imagery of Eurasia and Northern Africa.

Many species have recognized subspecies with Latin taxonomic names. This also includes many primate species such as the chimpanzee with Latin taxonomic names such as Pan troglodytes verus and Pan troglodytes ellioti.

Today it is often argued that the modern human is the only living human subspecies (Homo sapiens sapiens). This may be used as a race denialist argument. Critics of this argue that comparisons with recognized subspecies in non-human species demonstrate that the major human races are subspecies. Furthermore, even if the major human races should not qualify to subspecies status, this does not necessarily mean that major and minor human races do not exist, as discussed below.

The term race has sometimes been used as a synonym for subspecies with the term subspecies typically being applied to non-human species and the term race typically being applied to humans.[19] However, race has often not been equated with the modern subspecies concept. For example, race has been seen as a more general concept than the more strict subspecies concept, which only includes those races which pass certain strict criteria required for subspecies status. Another difference is that the term race has been used to describe both major races and the minor races a major race may be divided into, and so on, while the term subspecies is only used for the taxonomic rank immediately below the species level.[1]

Thus, even if the major human races should not qualify to subspecies status, then the major races may still be genetically and practically relevant and useful groups. This also applies to the subgroups a major race can be divided into as well as to further subdivisions.[1]

Comparison difficulties

One problem for the debate regarding whether the major human races qualify to subspecies status is that there is disagreement regarding exactly how to define subspecies and this in particular after the introduction and further development of methods for measuring and analyzing genetic data.[17][18] Also when using a particular measurement method there may be different results depending on factors such as what genetic data is examined (such as autosomal DNA vs. mitochondrial DNA or noncoding DNA vs. coding DNA).

That the human species is a young species may make certain comparisons with other species misleading. This since the genetic differences within older species whose subspecies have lived in geographically very similar areas may to a large part be due to random genetic drift/new mutations. This may over time cause large genetic differences but these may often be less practically important (neutral genetic variation). On the other hand, the differences between human groups who have lived in very different geographic areas may to a larger degree be due to different natural selection which may often cause more practically important differences (adaptive genetic variation). Genetic measures which do not take this into account could give misleadingly low results for human races compared to the recognized subspecies of other species.

The different breeds of the domestic dog have very different morphological and mental characteristics. For example, the amount of skull shape variation (which includes neurocranium variation) of dog breeds is comparable to and sometimes exceeds the amount of skull shape variation of the entire order Carnivora which consists of almost 300 animal species.[38] This despite in comparison modest genetic differences according to commonly used genetic measures. These differences have been caused by very strong selection pressures (due to selective breeding) over a short time period and demonstrate that such genetic measures may not work well under such conditions.

Comparisons with other primates and hominids

Studies making comparisons with other primates and hominids such as chimpanzees and Neanderthals have found varying results which may be due to be above mentioned problems. Both sides have been accused of incorrect methodology.[19][27][21][39][40]

One argument against human races is that human genetic variation in comparison to that of other species has been argued to be small. For example, the genetic diversity in some chimpanzee subspecies has been argued to be higher than that of the whole human species which has been seen as evidence against the existence of human subspecies. This may simply reflect that older groups have had more time to accumulate unimportant neutral genetic variation. Another objection is that such results vary depending on the methodology used.[41]

The results may be different in the same study when using different measurements. A 2013 study which found relatively low genetic variation for humans at the same time found that when using a more detailed analysis of the distribution of genetic variation there were results for different human groups similar to those seen in the subspecies in the other studied primates.[42]

Comparisons with other species in general

Before the introduction of genetic measurements, zoologists often used a morphological criterion stating that two or more groups in a species are subspecies if 75% or more of the individuals in the species can be definitely classified as belonging to one of the groups based on visual inspection. Researchers have argued that this is possible for much more than 75% of humans.[20][27][1]

It has even been argued that "The differences in morphology (cranial and facial features) between human races are typically around ten times the corresponding differences between the sexes within a given race, larger even than the comparable differences taxonomists use to distinguish the two chimpanzee species from each other. To the best of our knowledge, human racial differences exceed those for any other non-domesticated species".[43]

A more recent method is the genetic measure "fixation index" (FST) that is often described as being a measure of the average "genetic distance" between the subgroups of a larger group. The FST value for humans divided into major races has been stated to be similar to that of species with recognized subspecies. The creator of the measure, Sewell Wright, has stated that "if racial differences this large were seen in another species, they would be called subspecies."[19][27][44]

Another kind of comparison is regarding the degree of genetic variation in a species. Human genetic variation has been argued to be equal or higher than that of many other large mammals (including many with recognized subspecies).[19][27]

A commonly used list of criteria for recognizing subspecies are the phylogeographic recognition criteria. Humans races have been argued to fulfill these criteria.[27]

A 1998 article by Templeton that denied the existence of human races has been influential within anthropology and the social sciences. It argued that the human FST value is too small for justifying human subspecies. The article has been criticized for incorrectly stating that the above mentioned 75% value regarding morphological classifications would apply to FST values as well as for other reasons.[45][1]

The book The Nature of Race: the Genealogy of the Concept and the Biological Construct’s Contemporaneous Utility argued that based on loose interpretations of subspecies criteria the major human races would qualify but not based on strict interpretations.[1]

"Out of Africa", African genetic variation, and related arguments

It is sometimes stated that "We are all Africans". Even if completely accepting the recent African origin of modern humans theory, this still does not prove the nonexistence of human races anymore than statements such as "We are all primates" or "We are all mammals" proving the nonexistence of different species.

The most strict version of the recent African origin of modern humans theory (that the modern human evolved at one point in Africa and completely replaced all other pre-existing archaic human groups) is now disproven after it has been shown that different human groups have interbred with different archaic groups such as Neanderthals, Denisovans, and archaic human groups in Africa.[46][47][48] This has caused effects such as certain non-African populations having unique gene variants inherited from such archaic groups and which have contributed to their adaptations to local environments.[49][50] This makes the ancestry and genetics of different human groups much more complicated, heterogeneous, and older than previously thought. See recent African origin of modern humans.

Recently, there have been demands to only accept monophyletic taxonomic groups (groups that contain all the descendants of a single common ancestor). This has among other effects caused the group dinosaurs to often be redefined to include birds since birds descend from dinosaurs. Sub-Saharan Africans ("Blacks") are argued to not form a monophyletic group (by excluding the groups who left Sub-Saharan Africa such as the Europeans and the East Asians) which would mean that the group is not a proper taxonomic group. However, non-monophyletic groups are often very practically useful (such as the group non-bird dinosaurs) and continue to be studied and used practically. If insisting on monophyly, then this can be solved by dividing the Sub-Saharan Africans into several different races who all then can be monophyletic. Regardless, this discussion does not affect whether races in general exist or not.

Related to the above, it may be argued that groups such as the Khoisan and the Pygmies should be classified as separate major race(s). Regardless, this discussion does not affect whether races in general exist or not.

Another argument is that non-African genetic variation is small compared to African genetic variation. However, this likely to some degree reflects that many groups in Africa are older than non-African groups which has caused more random genetic drift/new mutations. This does not necessarily mean that the more practically important phenotypic variation is larger in Africa than in the rest of the world. Such more practically important phenotypic variation is likely relatively more dependent on the different natural selection in different geographic regions. This is again an example of differences regarding adaptive vs. neutral genetic variation.

Furthermore, when considering overall genetic similarity and not just individual genetic markers (see the sections below), then the genetic "clusters" of non-Sub-Saharan African races are not located inside but outside of the Sub-Saharan African genetic cluster.[1]

Large or small races?

As demonstrated by hierarchical genetic population trees, it is possible to look at both small and large populations, with a large population consisting of several smaller populations. A race denialist argument related to this is by claiming that "races" must be very large ("continental") populations and that it is better to look at smaller populations, which would mean that races do not exist.

However, even if it is in some cases better to look at smaller populations than "continental", claiming that this disproves "races" is arguably just word play, since such smaller genetic populations can have all the properties of races. See the Race article on defining race.

Furthermore, there is usually no need to select only one "level" in a population hierarchy and ignore all other levels. Instead, it is possibly to look at several different levels simultaneously. If one level must be selected, then the "best" level may vary depending on the studied variable.

A justification for looking at smaller groups instead of larger groups could be that the smaller groups are very different from one another. However, neighboring groups are often similar. When neighboring groups are not similar, this usually reflects a long distance migration by one or both groups and such two smaller groups are not classified as belonging to the same larger group.

Furthermore, in the case of Europeans, they are genetically very similar to one another compared to the worldwide genetic differences.[51][52] Thus, even if it would be better to divide groups such as Sub-Saharan Africans into smaller groups in some cases (see the section "Out of Africa" and related arguments"), this does not necessarily mean that the same applies to Europeans in the same circumstances.

Continuous change of genetics and characteristics?

If demanding that hill and mountains must have sharply discontinuous altitude changes, then it could be argued that there are no hills and mountains in this picture since the altitude changes are relatively slowly continuous and not sharply discontinuous. Regardless, it is possible to objectively identify and categorize different areas based on altitude and on altitude changes. Thus, the paths water (permanently or during rains) follows at the bottom of the valleys between the different hills and the different mountains form objective borders between the hills and between the mountains.
Diagram illustrating the electromagnetic spectrum and various associated characteristics. This spectrum is perfectly continuous but some divisions are despite this more useful and internally similar than others. For example, the group of wavelengths constituting the X-rays is (despite somewhat fuzzy borders) a more useful and internally similar group than a group consisting of randomly selected wavelengths from all over the spectrum. Furthermore, large differences in wavelengths are associated with markedly different properties and effects despite the spectrum being continuous. Another point is that if picking out some wavelengths and placing them next to one another (such as the wavelengths corresponding to the colors green, yellow, and red in a traffic light), then there is no longer a continuous change but discrete changes. This also applies to human such as when groups from different areas with different skin color migrate to the same area.
See also: Cline

It has been argued that human genetics and associated characteristics before the relatively recent mass migrations (such as by Europeans and Sub-Saharan Africans to the Americas) did not abruptly change at borders between different groups but that there instead were relatively slow continuous changes. This has been argued to be an important argument against races.[53]

Arguments against this include:

  • That there are some individuals who are difficult to classify and the existence of continuous change has not prevented the recognition of subspecies in non-human species. Thus, in the border zone between recognized subspecies there may be individuals who may not easily be classified as belonging to either subspecies.
  • The existence of such a change between different groups has traditionally been seen as evidence for the groups beings subspecies rather than separate species.[27]
  • However, it has been argued that if the area where such continuous change occur is not limited to border areas between different groups but instead occurs over the whole geographic range of the species, then the species should not be divided into subspecies since the division will arbitrary. Other have argued that even if arbitrary such a division may be very useful for practical purposes. In less politically sensitive situations it is very common to divide humans into different groups for various practical purposes despite the divisions not corresponding to discontinuous changes. For example, it is very common to divide people into groups or classes based on their income for various practical or research purposes.
  • Furthermore, slowly continuous change does not necessarily mean arbitrary divisions. See the image to right showing hills and mountains which can be objectively identified despite the altitude changes being slowly continuous.
  • Studies have found discontinuous changes at certain geographic barriers that have made admixture more difficult such as Oceans, the Sahara, and the Himalayas (and the deserts and the mountain ranges bordering on the Himalayas).[54][55]
  • In addition to geographic barriers there may also be cultural barriers that have made admixture more difficult. Examples includes several migratory peoples (such as Jews) who have primarily married within their own group. Also tribes, clans, castes and religions may have rules or customs causing marriages to primarily occur within the group itself.
  • Human genetic variation have been described as continuous but at the same time as "statistically lumpy"/"statistically clustered" due to such geographic and cultural barriers. This is argued to make it possible to make completely objective divisions that are not arbitrary.[56][1]
  • If only using a few genetic markers (such as only using Y chromosome or mitochondrial haplogroups) or if only sampling a few subgroups in a larger group consisting of many subgroups (such as only sampling a few ethnic groups instead of using a sample representative of the global population), then the results will be more varied and arbitrary and may not resemble the results found when using many genetic markers from a representative sample. However, this is not different from any statistical survey/study becoming problematic if using a very small and/or biased sample.
  • There may be differences between different characteristics regarding the degree of continuity/discontinuity. For example, morphological characteristics have been argued to be more discontinuous than blood-factor frequencies.[57] This may reflect that the differences regarding some characteristics may have been shaped by natural selection (and are usually more practically important) while the differences regarding other characteristics may have been shaped by random genetic drift (and are usually less practically important since otherwise they would have been affected by natural selection). Thus, the random and less important genetic drift may overall obscure more important discontinuities between different groups caused by different natural selection. (Another example of differences regarding adaptive vs. neutral genetic variation.)
  • Continuous or gradual changes may add up to very large differences between groups as the geographic distance increases. An extreme example is ring species where some groups within the species no longer even have the ability to interbreed. This means that even if all human genetic change is continuous, then this is perfectly compatible with there being large genetic differences between different human populations regarding characteristics such as average IQ.
Diagram from a 2006 study demonstrating that different populations can be identified and separated genetically. The diagram shows the result of a factor analysis of genetic data from Maya Amerindians, Italians, Spaniards, Swedes, and three different groups of European Americans (of Western, Central, and Eastern European descent) according to a 2006 study. The Maya Amerindians are clearly distinct from the Europeans.[58] The Maya Amerindians have been stated to have some European admixture.[59] This likely means that the difference between Europeans and Amerindians was even larger before this admixture.

The large discontinuity is in part due to the Amerindians and the Europeans for a long time being geographically separated from another. However, today they often live in the same areas, causing sharp genetic discontinuity between different groups living in the same area.

A diagram of a principal components analysis of global genetic data according to a 2009 study can be found here: External Link.
  • The discussion regarding continuity applies to the world that existed before recent mass migrations (such as the recent mass migrations by Europeans and Africans to the Americas). The situation has changed after this. Thus, while there previously may have been no discontinuity regarding for example skin color between the different groups inhabiting the geographic areas corresponding to the US and South Africa (and possibly not anywhere in the world), today there is such discontinuity between different groups inhabiting the US and South Africa (and other areas) due to mass migrations.

Genetic clusters

Graph showing increasing accuracy of classification when using many genetic markers.[60] Race denialists may cite (old) studies using only a few genetic markers in order to misleadingly claim that genetic classifications are unreliable. When using many genetic markers, as described in the section "Lewontin's fallacy", the accuracy may approach 100%.

As stated in the section "Continuous change of genetics and characteristics?" human genetic variation have been described as continuous but at the same time as "statistically lumpy"/"statistically clustered" due to geographic and cultural barriers. This is argued to make it possible to make completely objective divisions that are not arbitrary. Such completely objective divisions have also been made with statistical computer programs which analyze the genetics of many anonymized individuals and with no prior instructions or assumptions regarding which groups should be found. Critics of this have sometimes argued that in cluster analysis the number of clusters (K) is chosen before starting the program. However, a researcher can objectively evaluate the different K numbers with statistical methods. Also, rather than comprising competing classifications, genetic clusters identified at different Ks are hierarchically related to each other similarly to how different populations are related to one another in taxonomic trees.[61][1]

In addition, methods such as principal components analysis do not require such choice.[62]

If only using a few genetic markers (such as only using Y chromosome or mitochondrial haplogroups) or if only sampling a few subgroups in a larger group consisting of many subgroups (such as only sampling a few ethnic groups instead of using a sample representative of the global population), then the results will be more varied and arbitrary and may not resemble the results found when using many genetic markers from a representative sample. However, this is not different from any statistical survey/study becoming problematic if using a very small and/or biased sample.

Early genetic research using more primitive technical methods could only study very limited amounts of genetic markers. This sometimes caused results different from those found when using more recent methods using many genetic markers. However, race denialists sometimes still cite such early research as evidence against the existence of races.

As stated in the section "Comparisons with recognized subspecies" and accompanying images many genetic cluster studies performed with different clustering methods and with data are argued to fairly consistently have found genetic clusters corresponding to the major races (again, when not using very few and/or biased genetic markers).[1]

See also the section "Lewontin's fallacy" on studies finding that the genetic cluster individuals belong to when using many genetic markers for classification corresponding extremely well with the self-reported race of the individuals.

Genetic variation between populations compared to the genetic variation in populations

Diagram illustrating Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale IV full-scale IQ score distributions for US racial and ethnic groups. Many measured average racial IQ differences are smaller than the amount of IQ variation found within the racial groups. However, average racial IQ differences are despite this argued to be highly significant. See Race and intelligence: Significance of IQ differences. It should be noted that this is not the comparison made by Lewontin (who compared general genetic variation within groups with general genetic variation between groups) but it is one illustration of that skepticism should be applied to claims that large variations within groups make group differences meaningless.

A very influential argument was published in 1972 by the Jewish biologist Richard Lewontin. Using a particular measurement method for measuring the distribution of genetic markers, he argued that the genetic variation between populations is small compared to the genetic variation in populations (between individuals). The result (using related measurement methods) has been verified by many other researchers. This has been argued to show that race is of little practical importance. Some have gone further and argued that the result supports statements such that it is not possible to identify the race of an individual from the genetics of the individual.[63][64][65][66][64]

Arguments against this include:

  • The result is an average result. Individual genetic markers may differ greatly from this average. One example is the gene variants determining skin color which differ greatly between different populations.[44] A counter-argument that such large population differences regarding the population frequency of a gene variant are relatively rare. A counter-counter argument is that many characteristics are affected by many gene variants and as such there can be large populations differences regarding total genetic effects on a characteristic if the population frequencies of gene variants correlate with one another. See the "Lewontin's fallacy" section below.
  • Even if the differences between groups are very small compared to the differences between individuals, this may still be very important in some situations. For example, in athletics the differences between the results of the top competitors are usually very small. Even a small group difference could mean that a particular group dominates the top results and the world records.
  • Even small genetic group differences could potentially be more important for societies than for individuals and cause cumulative societal effects which eventually cause large differences between different societies.[1]
  • See also the section "Average vs. extreme groups differences".
  • Lewontin's argument could be applied to numerous other group differences. For example, it could be applied to the income difference between Blacks and Whites in the United States which is smaller than the income variation found among Blacks and among Whites. Therefore, using Lewontin's reasoning, the income difference between Blacks and Whites could be argued to be insignificant and not to be discussed.
  • Lewontin's argument as applied to genetic groups differences has been argued to actually be a more formalized version of the argument regarding continuous change of genetics and characteristics.[19] This would mean that counter-arguments applying to one of these arguments could also apply to the to other argument.
  • The measurement value is equivalent to the previously mentioned FST value. The human FST value is argued to in effect mean that two average individuals of the same race in comparison to the global population have an effective kinship corresponding to the kinship of two relatively close relatives of the same race in comparison to their own race. A 2002 study therefore stated that "The widespread assertion that this is small and insignificant should be reexamined."[67] See also Racial genetic interests: Examples of genetic interests of ethnic groups.
  • Another related example is from looking at mixed race children. Thus, the FST values between different human races is argued to imply that a White English parent will in relative terms be almost as twice as closely related to a child with a White English co-parent as to a mixed race child with a Black Bantu co-parent. In terms of the genetic interests of a parent this is argued to imply that having a non mixed child is almost the equivalent to having twice the number of such mixed race children. Another stated example is that a parent will be genetically closer to an average (and in some cases to every) individual of the parent's own race than to the parent's own mixed race child with a co-parent from a genetically distant race.[68][69][70]
  • Still another comparison is with the genetic difference between the two sexes (due to the sex chromosomes). The estimated FST value for this difference is much smaller than the values for the differences between races such as Europeans and Sub-Saharan Africans.[71]
  • The FST value can be converted into metrics used in the social sciences to compare the size of group differences. Doing this shows that genetic race differences are not small.[1]
  • It is possible to give a number of examples showing that there must be something fundamentally wrong with the argument. Again, the measurement value is equivalent to the previously mentioned FST value. This implies that Lewontin's argument could be applied to numerous non-human species with FST values similar to the human FST value and "prove" that these non-human species do not have any subspecies despite all biologists agreeing on the existence of subspecies in these non-human species. Another is that can be applied to a combined group of humans and chimpanzees and give similar results, thus "proving" that humans and chimpanzees are actually not different species. There are many other examples given in the sources. This shows that the measurement method used must be incorrect or too simple and does not measure key aspects of genetic or phenotypic differences. One problem is that of the measured genetic differences between individuals in a race often may have little actual phenotypic significance (different gene variants that do not differ in actual functioning, etc) while the measured genetic differences between races instead often may have much actual phenotypic significance. (Another example of differences regarding adaptive vs. neutral genetic variation.)[72][73][74]
  • Some of the genetic variation in a population is not between the individuals in the population but is between the two different sets of genes within an individual (inherited from the two different parents). Taking this into account reduces the relative size of the genetic variation occurring between individuals and increases the relative size of the genetic variation occurring between populations. A 2015 study on major human races (Africans, East Asians, and Europeans) found that most of the genetic variance occurred within individuals (87.67-89.83%), some occurred between races (10.34-14.81%), and very little occurred between individuals within the races (0.06--017.%). Thus, genetic variance was much greater between races than between individuals within the races.[1][75] This would seem to invalidate the likely most influential argument against the existence of races and if anything turn it into its opposite.

Lewontin's fallacy

Theoretical example showing how two groups (a red group and a blue group) cannot be cleanly separated from one another when looking at either of two characteristics (height or weight for different individuals). This is illustrated by the overlapping dots (each dot representing an individual) at the two axes of the diagram. When looking at the two characteristics simultaneously it is possible to cleanly separate the two groups as illustrated by the two-dimensional diagram. A similar argument applies to correlated genetic markers. ("vbl(s)" in the diagram = variable(s))
Diagram illustrating the magnitude of global sex differences in personality, estimated with different methods from the same dataset, according to a 2012 study. It shows that the magnitude of personality differences increases and the overlap between the groups decreases if considering several personality characteristics simultaneously instead of if considering personality characteristics one at a time separately from one another.[76] A similar argument applies to race differences.

One criticism against Lewontin's argument is that the measurement used does not take into account that the distribution of individual genetic markers may correlate with one another. In fact, most of the information genetically distinguishing different populations from one another is argued to be "hidden" in these correlations. This mistake has sometimes been described as "Lewontin's fallacy".[66]

One effect of this is that using a single genetic marker to distinguish different populations often gives unreliable results. However, if many genetic markers are studied simultaneously, then the results can become extremely reliable and detailed.

Thus, a 2005 US study found "near-perfect correspondence" (99.9% correspondence) between self-reported race/ethnicity (White, Black, East Asian, and Hispanic) and genetic clusters when many genetic markers were studied simultaneously. The difference of 0.1% was smaller than the difference between self-reported sex and genetic markers for sex.[77][78]

A 2010 study found "essentially perfect" correspondence between self-reported populations of origin and genetics for 51 studied populations when many genetic markers were studied simultaneously.[79]

The same applies when forensic anthropologists determine a person's race by looking at skeletal remains. If only looking at single skeletal characteristic, then the results are very uncertain. However, if looking at many skeletal characteristics, then the race can be determined with a certainty that may approach 100%. Such results have been confusing for those who have accepted Lewontin's argument. Thus, one bewildered scientist wrote a paper called "If Races Do Not Exist, Why Are Forensic Anthropologists So Good at Identifying Them?"[80]

It is even possible to identify a person's race with an accuracy significantly better than chance by analyzing the DNA of the bacteria living in the mouth according to a 2013 study. This was argued to not be caused by environmental differences but by different genetics in different human groups.[81]

A measure of how much two populations differ genetically is to ask how often it happens that a pair of individuals randomly chosen from different populations is genetically more similar than an independent random pair chosen from any single population. One 2007 study by Witherspoon and colleagues found that when using thousands of genetic markers simultaneously and when looking at geographically separated populations, then the answer was "Never".[80][82] This is a more demanding requirement than only being able to classify into groups. In effect, it requires not only the genetic separability of the groups but also that they are genetically separated by large "gaps". That it took thousands of genetic markers to achieve this is not much considering that there are millions of genetic differences between humans. This study is frequently misrepresented by race denialists who selectively cite only more uncertain results if using fewer genetic markers.

If comparing groups such as Swedes and Norwegians, then the accuracy of genetic classification will be lower. However, race realists have never argued that such groups are genetically very different.

Many characteristics (such as IQ) are likely affected by a large number of genes. One effect of correlations is that even if the population differences regarding the population frequencies of individual gene variants affecting such a characteristic are all small, then the total effect of many such small but correlated differences may still be that the population differences regarding genetic effects on the characteristic are very large.

Lewontin had before he published his paper participated in a congress where it was demonstrated that the genetic correlations do are important. But Lewontin did not mention this in his very influential study. It has also been argued that Lewontin made an unjustified attack on the existence of races which he deplored for social reasons and more specifically for the results found in race and Intelligence research.[66]

Views of scientists

History and overview

Before the middle years of the twentieth century almost all anthropologists, biologists, and social scientists accepted the existence of races. After this, the concept has become increasingly politically incorrect. Two polish anthropologists wrote in 2001 that "Americans have become very sensitive to race, and the term has acquired strongly sensitive connotations. Many American scientists have opted for the non-existence of human races. Furthermore, the growing demands of "political correctness" militate against the use of the term in and outside science. [...] Few scientists dare to study racial origins, lest they be branded racists simply for being interested in the problem."[83]

Notably, Charles Darwin is now frequently misrepresented as a politically correct race denialist since he argued that the different human races are not different species. Darwin stated that "There is, however, no doubt that the various races, when carefully compared and measured, differ much from each other,—as in the texture of the hair, the relative proportions of all parts of the body, the capacity of the lungs, the form and capacity of the skull, and even in the convolutions of the brain. But it would be an endless task to specify the numerous points of structural difference. The races differ also in constitution, in acclimatisation, and in liability to certain diseases. Their mental characteristics are likewise very distinct; chiefly as it would appear in their emotional, but partly in their intellectual, faculties."[84]

The Jewish anthropologist Franz Boas and Boasian anthropology had an influential role in changing the opinion of American anthropologists. In a very famous and influential study he claimed extensive changes in cranial morphology for second-generation US immigrants. Recent studies have re-examined the data used by Boas and stated that Boas' claims are not supported his data.[85][86] More generally, Kevin MacDonald has argued in, for example, The Culture of Critique that many Jewish researchers and Jewish influenced intellectual movements have opposed the existence of genetic race differences (and in particular the existence of genetic race and intelligence differences) due to concern for perceived Jewish interests (such as possibly contributing to antisemitism).[87] Regardless, Jews are not a monolithic group and some Jews or persons with partial Jewish ancestry have supported genetic racial differences (for example, Arthur Jensen, Michael Levin, and Richard Herrnstein).

Recently Jewish organizations and Israel have argued for large scale testing of Jewish ancestry for purposes such as determining which individuals genetically have the right to become Israeli citizens and in order to increase genetically based support for Jews and Israel, thus arguably at least implicitly acknowledging the existence of a Jewish race. See Jews: A Jewish race.

Acceptance of the existence of races have often been much higher for non-American anthropologists and for non-anthropologists such as biologists. Even among American anthropologists there are groups with a high acceptance such as forensic anthropologists. Forensic anthropologists are a group of American anthropologists who themselves still have experience of studying and practically using race unlike many other groups of current American anthropologists. (See more detailed sections below for sources.)

That the views of anthropologists (and in particular American anthropologists) should be more important than the views of other groups of scientists is highly questionable. Historically much of the research regarding race was done within the field of anthropology. One explanation for this is that it was anthropologists who traveled to and made detailed ethnographic studies of different peoples. However, today racial differences are also studied by groups such as psychologists, epidemiologists and criminologists. More fundamentally, during recent decades taxonomy in general has been revolutionized by the appearance of increasingly detailed genetic studies. The same has occurred for human taxonomy. This genetic research is today usually not done by anthropologists.

See the article on the American Anthropological Association on (American cultural) anthropologists argued to have abandoned science in favor of political activism. See the section 2013 AAA survey on widespread lack of basic knowledge of race and genetic population research by American anthropologists.

United States anthropologists

The American Anthropological Association ("AAA") in 1998 (during The Bell Curve debate) issued a "Statement on "Race"" that rejected the existence of human biological races. However, this was not based on any voting by the members but decided by the Executive Board based on a text submitted by a committee.[53] See also the article on the Statement on "Race".

In a 1985 survey 41% of physical anthropologists and 53% of cultural anthropologists disagreed with the statement "There are biological races in the species Homo sapiens".[88] In 1999 these numbers had increased to 69% and 80%.[89]

Studies of American introductory physical anthropology college textbooks have found that they increasingly started to reject human biological races in the 1970s. In the 90s no such textbooks explicitly supported human biological races.[88][89] However according to a college textbook from 2000, forensic anthropologists overwhelmingly support the existence of human biological races. These anthropologists can identify a person's race only by examining parts of a skeleton. Professor of anthropology George W. Gill, whose research had been in this area, argued in 2000 that race denial is largely politically motivated and not based on science. He wrote that despite many anthropologists supporting human biological races, "not one introductory textbook of physical anthropology even presents that perspective as a possibility. In a case as flagrant as this, we are not dealing with science but rather with blatant, politically motivated censorship."[57]

Studies on the use of human biological races in anthropological journals have been mixed. One has argued that the use had decreased while another has argued that situation has not changed. This difference may be due to the first study examining articles by American biological anthropologists in general while the second examined articles by biological anthropologists that were actually interested in human variation. It also included non-US anthropologists who had published in the influential US journal studied. The author concluded that "Research shows that there is as yet no consensus on the status of the concept among biological anthropologists. It also suggests that the reasons (which we are only beginning to understand more fully) for differences in biological anthropologists’ attitudes towards race are to be sought in a variety of scientific, social and professional factors as well as “the vagaries of chance.""[90][1]

2013 AAA survey

A survey of American Anthropological Association ("AAA") members, conducted in 2013 but published in 2016, found that 86% disagreed with the statement "The human population may be subdivided into biological races" and that 88% disagreed with the statement "Racial categories are determined by biology". However, only 65% agreed with the statement "Race has no genetic basis."[91]

The survey also revealed widespread lack of basic knowledge of race and genetic population research by AAA members:[91]

  • 73% disagreed with "Continental population categories—Africans, Asians, Europeans—are the same as standard anthropological racial classifications." (those not disagreeing did not know that, for example, Asians have traditionally been divided by anthropologists into Caucasoids and Mongoloids.)
  • 67% agreed with "So-called racial characteristics are not transmitted as complexes." (see the section "Lewontin's fallacy" in this article on correlations.)
  • 73% disagreed with "Race—as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (i.e., census categories)—is a useful proxy for ancestry." (see the section "Lewontin's fallacy" in this article on studies showing high correspondence between self-identified and genetically identified race.)
  • 29% agreed with "Genetic variation data may be used to cluster racially ascribed people into groups of continental origin." (see the section "Lewontin's fallacy" in this article and the Race article on many studies finding genetic clusters corresponding to traditional anthropological races.)
  • 69% agreed with "Boundaries between what have been called races are completely arbitrary, depending primarily upon the wishes of the classifier." (see the section "Continuous change of genetics and characteristics?" in this article.)
  • 71% disagreed with "Genetic differences between races explain health disparities." (see the article Race and health.)
  • 49% agreed with "Genetic ancestry testing should not be used in U.S. criminal investigations." (despite such testing being highly accurate if using many genetic markers. See the section "Genetic clusters" in this article.)

The survey questions seem to indicate that those creating the survey believed that races are "discrete packages labeled races" (see the Race articles on definitions and straw men definition of race) and that this is disproven by the common race denialist arguments described in the sections "Continuous change of genetics and characteristics?" and "Genetic variation between populations compared to the genetic variation in populations" in this article.

The study itself stated various problems with its methodology and representativeness. For example, it stated that "there are many reasons to expect significant self-selection bias in sampling the AAA membership or meeting attendees to assess views of biological anthropologists on any issue and, specifically, race. For example, the 2010 AAA Executive Board decision to remove references to the word “science” from its long-range plan statement and the perceived marginalization of anthropologists in subfields rooted in science undoubtedly influenced whether—in 2012 when this survey was administered—anthropologists aligned themselves with or distanced themselves from the AAA".[91] Commentators have criticized the AAA for having became increasingly dominated by cultural anthropologists with a tendency to reject both biological approaches and science itself.[92][93] The study stated nothing regarding how (and if) anonymity was protected despite the respondents possibly being affected by the fact that expressing politically incorrect views on race may have various negative consequences.

Non-US anthropologists

A study from 2004 with the title "The race concept in six regions: variation without consensus" stated that "Rejection of race ranges from high to low with the highest rejection occurring among anthropologists in the United States (and Canada). Rejection of race is moderate in Europe, sizeable in Poland and Cuba, and lowest in Russia and China."[94]

Despite the above argued "sizeable" rejection in Poland, another study found that race was rejected by only 25 percent of anthropologists, although the study author claimed that "Unlike the U.S. anthropologists, Polish anthropologists tend to regard race as a term without taxonomic value, often as a substitute for population."[95]

Another study examined European anthropologists' views on human biological races in 2002-2003. "Respondents educated in Western Europe, physical anthropologists, and middle-aged persons reject race more frequently than respondents educated in Eastern Europe, people in other branches of science, and those from both younger and older generations. The survey shows that the views of anthropologists on race are sociopolitically (ideologically) influenced and highly dependent on education." The study found that a majority of European anthropologists agreed that there were races either in the sense of subspecies or in some other sense.[96][1]

A 2003 study titled "On the Concept of Race in Chinese Biological Anthropology: Alive and Well" examined papers published in China's leading journal in biological anthropology during the 1982-2002 period. Every single one of the 324 articles dealing with human variation used traditional race concepts.[90][97]

Other scientists

In the above mentioned survey from 1985 only 16% of biologists and 36% of educational psychologists disagreed with the statement "There are biological races in the species Homo sapiens".[88]

The same survey that examined American introductory physical anthropology college textbooks also examined biological textbooks. These textbooks did not start claiming that human biological races do not exist but just stopped discussing the issue.[88]

Another study looked at high school biology textbooks during the 1952-2002 period and initially found a similar pattern with only 35% directly discussing race in the 1983–92 period from initially 92% doing so. However, this has increased somewhat after this to 43%. More indirect and brief discussions of race in the context of medical disorders have increased from none to 93% of textbooks. In general, the material on race has moved from surface traits to genetics and evolutionary history. The study argues that the textbooks’ fundamental message about the existence of races has changed little.[98]

A 1994 study examination of 32 English sport/exercise science textbooks found that 7 (21.9%) argued that there are biophysical differences due to race that explain differences in sports performance, 24 (75%) did not mention nor refute the concept, and 1 (3.12%) expressed caution with the idea.[99]

33 health services researchers from differing geographic regions were interviewed in a 2008 study. The researchers "recognized the problems with racial and ethnic variables but the majority still believed these variables were necessary and useful."[100]

A 2010 examination of 18 widely used English anatomy textbooks found that every one relied on the existence of races. The study gives examples of how the textbooks state that anatomical features vary between races.[101]

A 2008 study examined several important American and British journals in genetics, epidemiology and medicine for their content during the 1946-2003 period. It stated "Based upon my findings I argue that the category of race only 'seemingly' disappeared from scientific discourse after World War II and has had a 'fluctuating yet continuous use' during the time span from 1946 to 2003, and has even 'become more pronounced from the early 1970s on".[102](italics in original text)

Declarations by UNESCO

The United Nations agency UNESCO has published several declarations regarding race. UNESCO was after WWII officially requested to create a propaganda campaign which should be "disseminating scientific facts designed to remove what is generally known as racial prejudice". UNESCO decided to create a declaration as a foundation for the campaign. In 1950 the declaration "The Race Question" was published. A majority of the authors were sociologists and the main author was the Jewish anthropologist Ashley Montagu. The declaration recognized the existence of races but at the same time made many controversial claims and demands. The publication was followed by widespread criticisms by critics who saw it as an attempt to politically decide what should be the scientific truth. In 1951 a somewhat less controversial revised version was published. None of the declarations cited any sources as support for the statements.[103][104][105]

UNESCO has after this published several new declarations. The latest which was published in 1978 completely dismissed the role of genetics regarding any controversial race difference. The declaration was authored by "specialists in human rights" (instead of by experts on race) and was "adopted by the meeting of government representatives by consensus, without opposition or vote" and without citing any supporting sources.[106][107]

See also

External links


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