Thomas Eric Brunner (
1 Feb 1995 22:01:33 GMT (Phil Nicholls) wrote:

> The "guesses" are based on superfical phenotypic traits, not on
> any information about ancestry.

Only when there is no such information available. Whatever
the guesses are based on, they are *about* ancestry. If, for
example, someone were to identify me as black, and then discovered
that I was in fact a dark-pigmented Hindu, I'd expect him to
admit his error. "Black" means "African-American".

> If you want a biologically meaningful
> concept of race you need to find a pattern of descent for those
> characteristics and deal with them within the context of population
> biology.

This is another topic entirely. Ancestry is not entirely a
biological question. For example, many cultures have rituals
for the adoption of someone into a family or clan. I'd say
it is as false to claim that race is meant to be a category
"meaningful" to biological research, as it is to claim that "hot"
is meant to be a category that is meaningful to research in
statistical thermodynamics. The meaningfulness is uni-directional,
i.e., discoveries in thermodynamics can be used to draw certain
conclusions about some hot things, and biological discoveries can
be used to draw certain conclusions about some races.

> Please give me one example of someone who uses the concept of
> race in a non-typological way.

See "Hindu isn't black" example above.

> >It's not quite just to charge him with that. An albino black man
> >is still black, despite having light skin, so the word "black"
> >should not be considered a description of a superficial
> >feature.
> What is "black" describing?

It's not describing anything. It's like "club", which used to
describe one of the suits of a card deck (Spanish decks still
have actual clubs), but now simply designates it.

> How does calling someone black because
> of hair texture or nose shape rather than melanin content differ
> from using melanin content.

It doesn't. I wasn't implying that we do this.

> All are superficial, all are examples
> of typological thinking, something biology as a whole has tried
> to leave behind.

Fine. Two points. First, you're dead wrong about the nature of the
category of "blacks". I think you're taking out-of-date
"scientific" approaches to race, and projecting their errors onto
society in general. Second, whether the category of "black" is
useful to biologists is irrelevant. Society is not trying to help
biologists, but is trying to deal with day to day realities.