Re: Identifying Race

Gary Goodman (sap@TANK.RGS.UKY.EDU)
Tue, 20 Aug 1996 10:22:48 EDT

Last night Ralph L Holloway <rlh2@COLUMBIA.EDU> wrote:

RL>On Mon, 19 Aug 1996, Gary Goodman wrote:

>> A "human race" supposedly refers to a specific designation of a human
>> population or isolate within the species Homo sapiens sapiens, that is
>> distinguished by apparent phenotypic differences that are ecologically,
>> geographically, ethnically, religiously, or socially distinctive, and in
>> turn genetically correlated. Whereas in all other species, these
>> distinctions are chromosomically and physiologically distinguished into
>> clearly separated groupings of the members of the species, this is in
>> truth not so with the human species currently, and rarely, or to a very
>> limited extent in the past 30 - 100 thousand years since Homo sapiens
>> sapiens evolved as a distinct (sub) species.

RL>You've certainly confused me with this statement. Homo sapiens sapiens is
RL>a subspecies of what species and what arethe other subspecies? Are you
RL>thinking of neanderthalensis? But since when did phenotypic traits include
RL>religious, social, ethnic distinctions?

I specified what species -- Homo sapiens. Or so I thought -- didn't I? I
should point out this was pulled rapidly together from several different
chapters of an incomplete text, so maybe that got lost.

"...since when did phenotypic traits include religious, social, ethnic
distinctions"? Good question. Same question I've asked those who claim
this -- remember the "supposedly"? To racialists these are somehow
genetic! Of course they are not.

But try to explain that to WhiteAryanResistence members, David Duke
followers, Aryan Church and Odin and Wotan (and Hitler) worshippers! The
John Birchers and too many in the faux militia movement. Or, alas, too
many of the rest of the people of this planet; who DO believe that these
alleged "racial" aspects ARE "biological" somehow or means -- innate
characteristics refected in skin color and hair type. (Right Arthur?)

>> So too racial thinkers and racists have sought to blur the various
>> distinctions of meaning of the word "race," seeking to creating a
>> significant biological difference out of geographic and environmental
>> variations of trivial external characteristics of appearance and
>> biochemistry. Not only those this allow the propagation of falsehoods of
>> innate and unchangeable genetic differences between ethnic groups of the
>> one and only human race, but also nonsensical arguments that these
>> correspond and correlate to inherent psychological and behavioral
>> differences.

RL>Just who is to judge whether or not the variations which pattern
RL>geographically (environmentally in most cases) are "trivial external
RL>characteristics of appearance and biochemistry"? And were(are ) the
RL>"trivial" external and biochemical characteristics of today "trivial"
RL>"yesteryear"? I really don't know and don't expect to find out in a
RL>climate where human biology is seen as trivial.

Touchy touchy Ralph. Don't jump to conclusions on me.

Who indeed *are* to judge?

Physical anthropologists only? Those declining numbers of physical
anthropologists still clinging desperately to what is known as
"scientific racism"? Or the new Social Darwinians? The Hereditarians?
The Eugenists? The demagogues and racist rabble-rousers and nationalists
and nativists? The Census Bureau?

Whom indeed...

And who the hell said human biology is in any way "trivial" Dr.
Holloway, in the ANTHROL-L list? Damn silly thing to say for sure! Not I
certainly, nor anyone here that I am aware of (though I have been
skimming posts to try to catch up). Just that certain characteristics of
the human variety of phenotypes have been given far too much weight in
the pigeonholers' need for subdivisions of the subspecies we call us.

Perhaps also that culture has to some extent superceded strictly
biological evolutionary parameters. That cultural selective pressures
are possibly becoming paramount in evolution for humans. Any
disagreement with that possibility Ralph?

>> At best, since there is biologically but a single human race, we must
>> drop down below a variety, into terms of little generally accepted
>> meaning with regard to humans especially, to place the classifications
>> generally termed "human races." This is an infraspecial taxonomic
>> classification not quite officially recognized: the Sub-variety (or
>> perhaps a "microspecies" or Jordanon): signifying populations with minor
>> regularly recurring variations within an isolate that can be generally
>> passed along, only within selected and separate interbreeding groups of
>> that isolate due to physical (or in the case of humans -- cultural) barrier

RL>Another way of looking at this is to get rid of the notion that we are one
RL>"race". We are one "species", and we pattern into exactly the sorts of
RL>smaller units you discuss above. The point I am suggesting is that there
RL>are hundreds if not thousands of them, so why bother cataloguing them?
RL>Especially since their frequencies fluctuate with each generation.

EXACTLY my point Ralph -- why are we arguing on this? Or are we?

I think that "race" needs to be taken away as far as possible from its
"biological" aspects. Or perhaps more accurately "pseudo-biological"
aspects. But this will be a slow process; because of the common usage,
cultural reinforcement, dated texts, and the enshrinement into sociocultural
mindsets the re-definition will be resisted, as it has been here. Not to
mention mandated governmental policies to be overcome without tossing
the babies out with the bathwater (though "Welfare Reform" seems to have
done just that!).

If, somehow, we could restrict the meaning of "race" to ethnic or
cultural terms I'd have no problem with the damned word. But that seems
impossible. One reason the sentimental plea to not point out the
falsehoods and misconceptions and problems associated with the term
seemed terribly misdirected. No matter how noble the intentions.

Here is a task that Anthropologists (including us budding ones) need to
do. Make clear that inherited phenotypic characteristics do not in
and of themselves constitute in reality what most people think of as a
"race" -- a biologically different and true "breed" of humans -- as
different as the toy poodle is to the Great Dane, or Charles Darwin's

This confusion of human race and breed leads people to think that like
"personality" and temperament can be, or has been, "selected" by breeding
(or so it is claimed but has anyone REALLY tested this?) for humans as
in dogs, horses, and so forth. So too mental and even moral
characteristics are linked to the phenotype. So people will swallow the
racist whoppers about intelligence and laziness and smell and so forth.

But if people realized we are really from the same huge "litter" so to
speak. With the physical variations we pay SO much attention to are but
those our species develops rapidly in response to clime. That natural
selection is NOT the glacially slow process short-sighted evolutionists
in the early part of the century managed to get firmly fixed into our
textbooks. And as a result too many of us who really should know
betters, especially since the research of the Grants, Schuluter and
Smith, Gibbs, Gillespie, and Endler (to name but a few). But rather that
evolutionary selection can (and generally DOES) operate at the rate of
tens of thousands of "darwins" in a generation. But still not be
reflected by the fossil record. Or by failure to watch the day-to-day

My suggestion is we specify with a modifier what meaning of the word
"race" from now on, and strive to get this an accepted usage. For too
long this far too indefinite a term has been causing great harm. Either
we modify it or junk it.

I suspect we agree on most of this Ralph, but I really want to hear your
thoughts and the others here. Even you Jesse (if you get them
cockleburrs from under yer saddle). I am working upon the preliminary
basics of a website on humans races and racism, and have been asked by
several persons to spend the next several years pulling together a
cyber-text on this. Just about got me convinced.

(Now if I could just figger out how to get funding for the site...)

And it does tie in nicely with my research on Paranoid Political
Ideologies, and the cultural and psychological characteristics of those
for whom such appeals. But jeepers what a task!

Gary D. Goodman

Pentad Communications
McDaniels/Hardinsburg, KY

PS: If you want to send me privately lists of suggested books or texts or
long thoughts, please feel free. Nothing will go to waste. Just don't
get hurt if I do not IMMEDIATELY respond (I am now just TWENTY days
behind in my e-mail!).


"At heart we are still a primitive people. We evolve far more slowly
than our culture. Thus we are an old-fashioned design trying to cope
with a new-fashioned world that we have built ourselves. We are
discovering that it is easier to invent things than to know what to do
with them, or even to predict what they will do to us down the road. We
have created a technology of appalling potency, and it is beginning to
show signs that it may be out of control. It is running away from our
emotions faster than from our wits. Unfortunately we make our most
critical decisions out of passions, not out of reason, because in our
guts we are passionate stone-age people."
--Maitland A. Eddy & Donald C. Johanson, BLUEPRINTS: Solving the
Mystery of Evolution. 1989, pg. 389