Re: What Are the Race Deniers Denying?

Philip Deitiker (
Tue, 28 Jan 1997 21:38:39 GMT wrote:

>On Mon, 20 Jan 1997 wrote:

>> <> 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?

Frank, I think you inadvertantly exposed some of your soiled laundry.
Why do you presumb without hearing the full of the argument that he is
denying anything? Humans and chimps can very well be defined by
genetics, the more loci which are sequenced/compared the better the
defintiion becomes. Is the count full? No. Is the comparison to the
point that solid statisitical arguments can be made? Many years ago.

>> 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.

>I think I'm beginning to understand. Now why it is that it has taken
>months for me to get something resembling a straight answer to my question
>and why so many loudmouths keep repeating themselves that there are no
>races in humans without addressing my question is not an unimportant
>issue. Methinks they just *feel* that denying the existence of races in
>human is (somehow) a good thing to say, so they say it.

You still don't get it, the genetic definitions of regional
populations is base on frequencies of allelic variants, in which
biologists desire is to get the # of genes(loci) ---> all loci
(complete genome).
Race = I look at these 2 guys, they look/talk/walk/etc
significantly different therefore one is X and the other is Y. The
major difference _MAY_ be the result of a single or hundreds
hundreds of trivial changes (In mendelian terms it means the
morphological difference between a short bushy bean plant and a tall
viney plant is _only_ a single gene whereas another comperable change
may require 20 gene variations).
Since ours eyes deceive us in terms of heredity, scientist are
becoming more reliant on molecular genetic comparisons. What this
reveals is that what was once presumbed to be single races are
actually all but completely (in the holo-human ancestry frame)
unrelated groups.

Again, I reimphasize the point:
If one has 2 classification systems
1. based on visual observations and social filtering
2. based on the quaternary code of inheritance, ACGT, organized
into linear quanta known as genes (more correctly loci), in which in
the population one finds a varying number of alleles, each which
presumptively linked to a 'tree' for that loci and can be related by a
thing known as divergence time (based on the average rates of mutation
and recombination). With many loci the 'trees' can be averaged and an
estimate of the human family relationships can be derived.

If after acheiving 2 one finds that 1 is a highly distroted
representation of 2. Tell me which system of classification do you
choose 1 or 2. If your a scientist and you choose 1as a model in your
studies, your colleages will have a good snicker at your expense. So
if you want to say:

"they just *feel* that denying the existence of races in
human is (somehow) a good thing to say, so they say it"

theres _some_ [very little] truth to this but, OTOH, in choosing the
alternative [in 1997] you'de be well qualified as a idiot. Not
because the 'race' model is wrong, but becuase it is antiquated. To
give a modern day example, suppose I say in 1985 that a 10 mHz-286 CPU
is a fast PC cpu.....I'de be right; however if 10 years later I make
the same statement I'de sound like a fool. Where race and genetics
diverge is that genetict predictions are a statisical argmuent based
upon everything that scientist know and this knowledge changes daily,
weekly and monthly. The genetic arguments are predesigned for constant
updating based on the idea that knowledge is never complete. Race is
based on public perception (which ebbs and flows) and politics (which
can concretize both fact and fiction alike). These lag behind
scientific understanding by years/decades/centuries. The CPU analogy
of race is where a person goes out every year and buys a 10 year old
(YO) PC then tries to make rational performance arguments with the
state of the art machine (the reality is that the antiquated = small
fraction of the leading edge). In addition if that person goes to
tim-buc-too with his 10YO machine, he might be bouyed in his
perception of performance. Similarly, with race the social perception
varies from place to place. In some lands almost no distinctions are
made, in other places the distinctions are socially concretized.
From a scientific point of view we want a model which is roughly
the same everywhere, based on criteria that all can agree and that are
unbiased. The regional perception of race would create havoc in
understanding papers written from place to place. To this issue
science does not want to waste time changing the social
customs/poltical laws of 100 countries just so it can process it's
human genome studies; therefore, the idea is to let _race_ remain the
social construct, and let the scientific catagorization systems
[regional/anscestral genetics of homo sapiens] proceed along
'unbiased' lines. If at some later time society tries to superimpose
the scientific catgories on the race structure, then let them, but
they should be forwarned, they will not be getting what you currently
When you asked this question originally it seemed to me you were
asking why do some folks feel that the race model is currently not
very scientifically useful....above is the reason. Again, yes it
makes me feel good if I can write a paper that is coherant (not
offensive) to a fellow scientest in Zaire, La paz, Ulam batar, or
wherever, that won't be laughed at or ridiculed because I completely
ignored papers produced over the last 10 to 100 years.
The final arguement is concretization. Race demands answers which
science can often only produce in serendipity. Suppose tomorrow, all
the race proporters gather together and say alas, since science has
got so much genetic data let's formalize this our race arguments based
upon what scientist have. The problem is that when science originally
went into the 'human catagorization' game, it carried with itself
certain biases (i.e. let the data show the course of future studies).
What this reveals is that certain populations, namely europeans, have
been overly examined and other populations, have been neglected. If
one decided tomorrow that there was going to be 50 races, some of
those race-bins are likely to be misappropriated because of some weak
regioanl data. In addition, race cannot define hybrids and hybrids
between at least 1/2 of any groups finally decided upon are likely to
represent new races. These groups had not been seen in the past for
becasue of regional isolation; however, in the modern age those
boundries are all but gone. Thus if one decides on 50 races, there is
the potency of binary 625 hybrid races and an infinite number of
poly-racial groups. To complicate matters more. In even the most
isolated regional populations there is variation to the extent that
simply as a result of random genetics a person born of two race W
parents could literally qualify as Z (based on genetic boundaries as
race Y). However, according to the way race qualifyers think a person
born of W x W cross must be an W (plessy vs. ferguson as an example of
this type of concretization). Genetically this is illustrated as
such: suppose population W and Z can be distinguished by phenotypes X
= aBcDe: Z= AbCdE. Any 3 of 5 phenotypes makes you X or Z, uppercase
= dominant, lower case = recessive. P=parent F=female M=male

PWF = aaBbCcDdEe x PWM = AaBbccDdEe

there is a resonable probability that
3 of 5 of these loci in the filial generation are going to present as
Z phenotypes. Thus the genetics must focus more upon individual makeup
rather than precise inheritance and regional ansestry. I wrote a
response to you a while back illustrating the best answer to this
question, which is to qualify populations according to loci vs.
allelic frequency which you never responded to (what are you denying?)
[repeating] the best solution to qualifying biologically an individual
is to document his allelic variations and if this variation fits a
'sterotypical' population then under these circunstances he/she can be
catagorized. However, if the individual does not fit into any
sterotypic population then one might want to address how many of
similar type exist and whether they can constitute a heterodispersed
subpopulation of individuals, otherwise there should be either a
no-race catagory or simX/simY/.../simN (sim = similar to). The
question is whether you race proponents can tolerate a grouping(s) of
other, misc, no-race, or open catagorization system? If you could
accept then many of the so-called race deniers might be willing to
entertain the notion.

There are numerous social argument against using genetic qulaifyers
for socio/political partitioning. First, social constructs cannot
keep pace with science, this would create an overburdening beurocracy.
Thus the genetics of inheritiance may be best handle with
'assimilated' data (i.e. the socially evolving regional race
constructs); however, there are people here asking a basic question:
In 1997, whereby in many multicultural countries one has extensive
interbreeding and many individuals of uncertain ancestral background,
is the social _race_ construct productive or counterproductive? Will
it be useful in the future, or just too damn complicated to be useful?
>From this point of view there are several regions currently where the
argument that _race is meaningless_ can be a useful social premise
(although biomedically there are some side-effects if accurate records
of anscetral inheritance are ignored).
A scientific definition of race can also be socially disruptive.
I give you such a scenario, suppose that you are of pure bavarian
ansestry, but because of rare gene sorting we find that you have more
similarity to semites than to bavarians. Thus after genetic testing we
define you as an Arab on all future political documents. In your nice
little bavarian town there's going to be alot of chatter about who
slept with who and whether your mother took any trips to the middle
east, etc. The next time theres a little pogrom, your heads going to
first on the chopping block. Alternatively, the racial purest in
your little town may ask you to take a one way trip to the 'promise
land'. Alas, the question arises for those born of a certain culture
should it matter what the intrinsic allelic variation is? Likewise if
you're born of a given race, why should any culture obsess about this?

If you wanted to literally dot the I-s and cross T-s concering the
human genetics, science could easily make a real mess of this social
construct, so-much so that even the most ardent race supporter will
raise eyebrows. We could take a population which considered itself
pure and create groups it never knew existed (or had forgot about
generations back), creating all kinds of socio/political problems.

I've said this before, I'll say it again. Race is the domain of
society and culture. Allelic variaton and population definitions are
the domain of science, medicine and population biologists and
individuals which sometimes must be informed of empending problems.
Its probably best to keep race and genetics separate. If you're
truley interested in the molecular genetics of race, then do a thesis
in a good human molecular genetics group and begin examining the
minutia of inheritance. Based upon your responses, here, you seem to
need alot more background on the complexities of human genetics than
you have for resolving why scientist take the current approach. Until
such a time as you firmly stimulated your grey matter stop insulting
people who have.