Re: In which I change my mind again.

Ronald Kephart (rkephart@OSPREY.UNF.EDU)
Wed, 9 Oct 1996 11:11:54 -0400

In message <v01540b00ae80783b4a3c@[]> "Matthew D. Joanis" writes:

> I have come to the
> conclusion that I was originally wrong, "IQ" really is a joke and
> attempting to measure whatever intelligence is, is futile in every and all
> cases. Phooey! and I was so proud of my scores too!

Agreed. And by the way, I never did find out my score, but I do remember that I
wrote "human" in the place where you were supposed to put your race (this was
early 1960s). The guidance counselor called me to his office to find out just
what kind of "human" I was.

> Anyway, as for "race" I agree with Ralph Holloway human biological
> difference exists, there are "groups" that have certain characteristics
> that they share with no others.

I am troubled a little by this, and maybe Ralph will be gracious enough to help
me (us?) out. My impression was that the various traits typically used for
"racial" classification, which certainly do exhibit variation, some of which is
non-random, do not cluster reliably with each other. I thought that a "race",
to be meaningful at all, would have to exhibit a cluster of traits which were
absent, as a cluster, from other "races". If you take just two traits that are
typically used by our racial folk model, skin color and hair form, you find that
they do NOT travel together and that all possible combinations do in fact occur.
Then if you take blood type, which is "invisible" and therefore wasn't available
for the initial setting up of folk racial categories, blood types don't co-occur
with either of these other "racial" traits.

This, I repeat, is not to deny that there are traits, including skin color,
sickle-cell, blood types, etc., that vary non-randomly and that are definitely
explainable in evolutionary terms. I just think (and my impression is that
Ralph agrees, but apologies if I'm wrong) that the more interesting question for
us now is to discover how and why these different traits evolved and what they
tell us about human history, not how can we use them to place people into what
were, to begin with, folk taxonomic categories designed to support a eurocentric

> "Race" as it is colloquially used IS a
> social construction. I would say that it is legitimate, only in that the
> concept can affect how society interacts, but lets leave that one for the
> sociologists.

Oh god(s) no, Matt, let's NOT leave it to the sociologists, or the
psychologists, or the lawyers, or anybody else. WE are the folks uniquely
qualified to research and speak out on this topic. As long as we leave the
field to these people, the assumption that the folk model of race has the same
scientific status as the analytic model of race will continue to impede popular
understanding of the issue.

> I would also like to note that the study of human difference
> and variation is not in and of itself "racist." Again, as with anything in
> science its the questions we ask.

Agreed; see above.

Ron Kephart
University of North Florida