Re: What Are the Race Deniers Denying?
Mon, 20 Jan 1997 08:31:03 -0600

<> wrote:
> Since you apparently have the book, would you please explain to us what
> Cavalli-Sforza *means* by race? Just what is he denying. Also, why he
> weights all factors equally? Furthermore, can he distinquish man from
> chimp on the basis of gene counting? Or any two species?

In _Diasporas_, the definition he's critiquing (p. 228)is "...members of
an animal or plant species sharing one or more constant features which
distinguish them from other groups within the same species, and which
can be transmitted to descendants." He's primarily critiquing 'constancy',
both in the association of traits -- why should certain traits be privileged
in determining 'races', when others cross-cut those? -- and through time --
since we have very little knowledge of the temporal stability of almost
any of these traits. Those are pretty fundamental critiques.

And how do you decide which traits to weight most highly? The ones that
would probably be of most significance in terms of selection -- intelligence
among humans, for example -- are for much the same reason among the least
likely to vary much among humans. That's why we talk about 'populations' -- we
can define them for the purpose of a particular study. And you certainly
can distinguish chimps from humans genetically, although the difference is
only a few percent. One of the main arguments against one of the most
common racist propositions -- that human races correspond to sub-species --
is that human genetic variation is significantly less than equivalent
variation among recognized sub-species of other primates.

> So you are a race denier also. Explain, please, what *you* mean by race
> and by "biological reality."

Yup. I'd critique essentially the same definition that Cavalli-Sforza critiques
-- a limited number of monolithic, well-defined human populations with a
constant set of physical/genetic characteristics stable through relatively long
periods of time. Definitely the sub-species concept as well.


Scott MacEachern
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Bowdoin College
Brunsiwck, ME 04011

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