Re: There are races

Ron Kephart (
11 Jan 1997 21:42:27 GMT

"Glenn J. Conrad" <> wrote:

> According to almost all research, the three groups you mentioned are
> biologically different on average. Most of the differences are related
> to their differing geographic environments. I suggest you read my
> posting "The logical guess" on the sci.anthropology.paleo newsgroup; It
> may interest you. Glenn

There is no doubt that contemporary H. sapiens exhibits a great deal
of biological variation, and that at least some of that variation is
due to adaptations to local environments. The question is, to what
extent does that variation justify setting up "racial" categories?
And, further, to what extent would those categories conform to our
folk categories of "black, asian, white" if they were set up?

Taking "black" and "white" as an example, we know that people labeled
black and white in North America are genetically more similar to each
other than either is to the parent population; this is the result of
gene flow between these two populations in North America. We also
know that in North America, as a result of the hypodescent rule (see
M. Harris' Patterns of Race in the Americas) a "white" person can
parent either a "white" or a "black" child; a "black" person can parent
only a "black" child. This is irrational, from a biological perspective.
In other cultures, there are other ways of categorizing people that
focus on actual physical features and socioeconomic status, rather
than strict descent. Which means that "races" are ethnosemantic,
rather than biological categories.

Our Northamerican folk categories do not reflect an underlying biological
reality, and the continued insistence that they do will insure that
differences in human social and cultural behavior (such as performance
on "IQ" tests) will continue to be mistakenly attributed to biological
differences, as in The Bell Curve, etc.

And, of course, it didn't help much to have the Oakland School Board
claim that AAVE or Black English is "genetically transmitted" or
something to that effect.

I guess I'm babbling, but I'm so tired of trying to make this point
that I may give up soon and go into hibernation.

Ron Kephart
University of North Florida