Re: Definition of Race

Phil Nicholls (
11 Feb 1995 01:44:31 GMT

In article <>,
Gerold Firl <> wrote:

>That depends on how the variation is distributed. If human variation is
>randomly distributed, as you say, with genetic clusters on different
>parameters failing to cluster with each other, then yes: the way a "race"
>would be defined would depend on which genetic variable was being
>considered. But if the variations do cluster together, forming distinct
>peaks in the spectrum of total human variability, (as clearly *does* occur
>with many physical characteristics, visible to the eye), then the folk
>concept of race is, as human subspecies, is valid. It all depends on the
>data. This question will be answered by lab tests, not by wishful

Almost all of the characteristics that folk racial taxonomies use are
not distributed in discrete clusters. They are distributed as genetic
clines. In other words, skin color shows a continuity of distribution.
Divisions of that continuum are arbitrary.
They certainly do not correspond to subspecies.

Philip "Chris" Nicholls Department of Anthropology
Institute for Hydrohominoid Studies SUNY Albany
University of Ediacara
"Semper Alouatta"