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Are There Races?
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This guy doesn't seem to think so.

So, do I think there are races in biology as well as culture? No. Nothing I have seen indicates that humans nicely group into distinct populations of less than the 54 found by Feldman's group (probably a lot more - for instance, Papua New Guinea is not represented in their sample set). And this leads us to the paper by the Human Race and Ethnicity Working Group (rare to see a paper that doesn't list all the authors). They rightly observe that while there are continental differences in genetics, there is no hard division, and genetic variation doesn't match up with cultural differences per se. There is a genetic substructure to the human population, but it isn't racial.

Uh, then what is it? He never says.

And the argument is very weak. So there is a great deal of variation within the population, which can be clustered into particular subgroups. He doesn't like doing this because he says the clustering is arbitrary, depending on the values you use to cluster. This is stupid.

He doesn't like the fact that there are no hard divisions. This is stupid as well.

Biology is filled with fuzzy concepts, and nearly all the arguments he uses against subspecies apply about as well to species. The standard requirement that if two organisms can produce a fertile offspring then they are in the same species still has fuzzy boundaries. We have things like "ring species", A can mate with B, and B can mate with C, but A can't mate with C. Biologists argue all the time about taxonomy. Does this guy think we should do away with the concept of "species"? I doubt it.

I'm guessing his objections are mostly political. It's inevitable that one's politics are going to influence one's scientific thinking, but the goal is to minimize such influence.

The bottom line is not whether such categories are hard and clean boundaries (nothing in biology has a hard and clean boundary), but whether or not they are useful. I personally prefer to group people by character and ideology, but I have to admit that categorization of physiological features often serves a useful purpose (e.g., in solving crimes...was the suspect asian, white, black, hispanic?). Lots of people fall in the space between the clusters, and aren't readily identifiable as a subgroup. That's to be expected, and the more we move around and mate between subgroups, the more this will be the case.

That doesn't mean that clustering humans into subgroups based on physiological attributes doesn't have some sociological use right now. The obvious danger is using those classifications in the wrong way, to devalue particular subgroups. But it just seems silly to look at the whole of humanity and say there are no obvious groupings to be made on the basis of physiological differences.

Are there races? Of course there are.

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