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Fri Oct 7, 2016, 08:14 AM

Why biologists don’t put too much stock in race

Why biologists don’t put too much stock in race

by Faye Flam
Oct 4, 2016

NEW YORK – Race is perhaps the worst idea ever to come out of science. Scientists were responsible for officially dividing human beings into Europeans, Africans, Asians and Native Americans and promoting these groups as sub-species or separate species altogether. That happened back in the 18th century, but the division lends the feel of scientific legitimacy to the prejudice that haunts the 21st.

Racial tension proved a major point of contention in the first 2016 presidential debate, and yet just days before, scientists announced they’d used wide-ranging samples of DNA to add new detail to the consensus story that we all share a relatively recent common origin in Africa. While many human species and sub-species once roamed the planet, there’s abundant evidence that beyond a small genetic contribution from Neanderthals and a couple of other sub-species, only one branch of humanity survived to the present day.

Up for grabs was whether modern non-Africans stemmed from one or more migrations out of Africa. The newest data suggests there was a single journey — that sometime between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago, a single population of humans left Africa and went on to settle in Asia, Europe, the Americas, the South Pacific, and everywhere else. But this finding amounts to just dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on a scientific view that long ago rendered notion of human races obsolete.

“We never use the term ‘race,’ “said Harvard geneticist Swapan Mallick, an author on one of the papers revealing the latest DNA-based human story. “We’re all part of the tapestry of humanity, and it’s interesting to see how we got where we are.”


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Reply Why biologists don’t put too much stock in race (Original post)
Judi Lynn Oct 2016 OP
struggle4progress Oct 2016 #1

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Fri Oct 7, 2016, 05:43 PM

1. The real content of an idea is simply what that idea enables us to do

In the US, as in nazi Germany or apartheid South Africa, the concept "race" was used to justify exploitation and extermination -- which gives us some indication of the usefulness of the concept

Franz Boas was questioning the scientific usefulness of "race" a century ago. His student, Ruth Benedict, continued this criticism, as in her pamphlet, "The Races of Mankind." Benedict's student, Margaret Mead, continued this work, which became especially important as the world became aware of the WWII horrors. Today it's an entirely mainstream scientific view

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