Re: What Are the Race Deniers Denying?

Gerold Firl (
25 Jan 1997 00:01:51 GMT

In article <>, writes:

|> <> 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.

Fundamental, yes, though perhaps a little disengenious. Cavalli-sforza
uses blood type as an example of a trait which cuts across the more
visible physical traits typically used for racial classification, but
blood type is a very poor basis for cladistic analysis. It has no
effect on fitness, so unless a population has gone through a genetic
bottleneck, there is no reason to expect correlation between blood
type and evolutionary history.

|> 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.

I don't believe it is "racist" to equate race and subspecies; in
evolutionary biology, the terms are synonomous.

|> 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.

What is it that you object to, regarding the "subspecies concept"? The
concept of race/subspecies in itself, or the application to humans? If
we look at other animals, and their subspecies, it isn't clear to me
at all that the genetic variation between human races is less. On what
basis do you make this claim?

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf