On the Concept of Biological Race and Its Applicability to Humans
Kaplan, Jonathan and Pigliucci, Massimo (2002)
Biological research on race has often been seen as motivated by or lending credence to underlying racist attitudes; in part for this reason, recently philosophers and biologists have gone through great pains to essentially deny the existence of biological human races. We argue that human races, in the biological sense of local populations adapted to particular environments, do in fact exist; such races are best understood through the common ecological concept of ecotypes. However, human ecotypic races do not in general correspond with `folk` racial categories, largely because many similar ecotypes have multiple independent origins. Consequently, while human natural races exist, they have little or nothing in common with `folk` races.
A paper from 2002 that I hadn’t read until today. Yet another nail in the coffin of ‘genetics has proved there’s no such thing as race’. I kind of skimmed it (ashamed), but these sections leapt out at me:
Lewontin and Gould have made much of the fact that there is relatively little genetic variation in Homo sapiens (compared at least to other mammals; see Templeton 1999) and that most of what genetic diversity is known to exist within Homo sapiens exists within (rather than between) local populations (see, for example, Gould 1996; Lewontin et al. 1984), and these facts are cited repeatedly in arguments concluding that there are no biologically significant human races. But the idea that this data might imply something about the existence of biologically significant human races emerges from a focus on the wrong sort of biological races.
The question is not whether there are significant levels of between-population genetic variation overall, but whether there is variation in genes associated with significant adaptive differences between populations (see our discussion in Kaplan and Pigliucci 2001).
But while skin color is not well correlated with other phenotypic traits of interest in humans, there is, despite Gould’s claims (Gould 1996) to the contrary, no guarantee that particular populations of humans will not, due to particular features of their environment, share particular distributions of adaptive behavioral (including intellectual) traits, as opposed to simple physical traits. To the best of our knowledge, there is no evidence that such populations exist, nor are there reasons to suppose that such populations must exist.
I’ve notice that on the no-race side of the fence, they constantly focus on genotypic variation, which is a bit of a red herring as it is phenotypic variation that really defines a race or sub species. Which is more or less what this essay points out.