Re: What Are the Race Deniers Denying?

Gerold Firl (
29 Oct 1996 20:45:00 GMT

In article <>, (Toby Cockcroft) writes:

|> In article <54ls56$>, (Gerold Firl) wrote:

|> >Our recent global mixing has
|> >blurred the outlines of the different branches on the family tree, but
|> >not so much that the overall structure is lost.

|> Gerold, I think that you are oversimplifying the situation. 'Mixing'
|> isn't a modern phenomenon but has been an ongoing process. These branches
|> of which you speak have been and shall remain blurred.

Gene flow has always existed, but as long as everyone was getting
around by shank's mare the transfer process was pretty deliberate.
Sailing ships and jumbo jets have changed matters considerably.

In some ways our picture of the human geneology has become clearer,
even as formerly isolated populations have mixed. Our understanding of
genetics has improved enormously in the last few decades, and future
prospects for genetic transcription promise to bring even more
clarity. At the same time, a large number of remote, specialized, low
population subspecies have become completely extinct, perhaps putting
them beyond the range of reconstructing their unique characteristics.
It's a shame, though there may be some possible techniques of "genetic
archeology" which will allow at least a statistical reconstruction.

Mixing is a matter of degree. Mixing has always occured, but not to an
extent which could eliminate geographic variability.

|> > By the normal
|> >standards of biological taxonomy, our species does have geographical
|> >subspecies. You may not like the fact, yet fact it remains.

|> This is the problem with "NORMAL STANDARDS OF BIOLOGICAL TAXONOMY" it
|> tries to create difference where none exist. What model do you propose:
|> the three strains of humans, the four, the eight, or how about the twelve
|> or the hundred or the thousand. Can you define where one species begins
|> and where the other ends? I doubt it. Classification falls back on
|> abstract and subjective archetypes that bear no relation to the 'real'
|> world.

I've explained this very recently, in this very thread: the problem is
not that it's impossible to create a biologically meaningful taxonomy
for the human races, but rather that it's possible to create *many* of
them. Depending on the level of lumping/splitting you prefer, you
could have anywhere from a few to a few hundred races; there are also
different taxonomic criteria which can be used, such as a pure
cladistic grouping, or an ecletic taxonomy which takes morphology into
account. It's a matter of taste.

|> Within all of us we contain the genetic material needed to express
|> every 'subspecies'.

I'm no expert on genetics, but this statement looks clearly erroneous.
Can you clarify what you are trying to say?

|> How this set of genetic is expressed in you or I is
|> dependant on our heredity and to a lesser extent today geography the FACT
|> remains that genetically we are the same no matter where we come from.

This statement betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of
genetics/heredity. The only people who are genetically "the same" are
identical twins. All human races are genetically *similar*; so
similar, in fact, that we can interbreed. That's why we constitute a
single species. But we are not identical. The differences might be
small; from the perspective of a mollusc, or even another vertebrate,
your position that we're "all the same" appears more valid. But from
the insider's perspective, from that of a human being, especially a
human *anthropologist*, one who studies this thing called man, saying
"we're all the same" is ludicrous.

|> The division into subspecies/race or what have you is irrelivant.

Depends on what you're interested in.

|> >Facts are funny that way.

|> We aren't talking about 'facts' here we are talking about western
|> scientific discourse and the discourse of racism.

It seems like you are involved in a "discourse" on racism. I'm trying
to discuss the facts about race, within the context of science.

|> You put a faith in the notion that scientific ideas and discourse are
|> value neutral. That the ideas that you hold and the words that come out
|> of your mouth/keyboard have no political implications or political
|> origins. It is time to drop the veil of ignorance and see where the
|> words come from and how they are being used.

Hmm. OK.

|> Linneaus, who is credited with the development of the modern taxonomic
|> model, wasn't only interested with classification for scientific reasons.
|> As Europeans encountered more and more people especially in the new world
|> that wern't accounted for by religious dogma there was a need to fix
|> everything in its place. God at the top the angels next follwed by humans
|> and so on down the great chain of being. Linneaus refined this model
|> categorising not only the animals but humans as well. White people at the
|> top followed by asians and then blacks etc etc.

Your history is totally wrong. Take an introductory biology class.
It's always better to know.

|> This sort of model,
|> arbitrary and political in origin, has passed into scientific discourse
|> where 'scientists' and I use the term sparingly helped to "refine" the
|> model. Refine what you may ask. A model which has no basis in biology
|> but ideology.

"No basis in biology"? There is no biological basis for grouping the
vertebrates into a single phylum? Is there a biological basis for
grouping the animals and plants into different kingdoms? Or is that a
mere vestigal remnant of an outdated racism which seeks to ghettoize
the photosynthetically challanged?

|> Many a person carries this Linnean model in their mind as
|> implicit knowledge, common sense if you will. You will run around talking
|> about interbreeding populations and inherited characteristics without ever
|> considering the origins of the idea and the cultural baggage that you
|> bring along. We are all the same, one species Homo sapiens: thinking man
|> (although it is evident that some do less than others).

Why was the pot so black?
Because it was so irony.

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