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Biologically speaking, please define race .

  1. Apr 15, 2003 #1
    Biologically speaking, please define "race".

    Biologically speaking, please define "race".
    1)How many human races (sub-species if you prefer)are there?
    2)Of these races, which traits make someone a part of such race? In otherwords, which traits make you black, etc.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 16, 2003 #2
    6.2 billion races - nearly all are different from each other.

    all of the races tend to have similar traits based on common ancestors, the further you go back the more common traits between all 6.2 billion races.

  4. Apr 16, 2003 #3

    Another God

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    Thanks to technology, leading to rapid transport means, all previously segregated potential sub-species of the Human race have been allowed to interbreed, ending the progression down that path.

    How many races? Well, 1 really, because there wasn't enough time for the isolation to kick in...
  5. Apr 16, 2003 #4


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    But to answer the question, races are defined strictly by skin color or ethnicity. Thats not a scientific definition though.

    There are a few other traits that go along with race, such as the extra flap of skin on asian eyelids, but these differences are extremely minor. There aren't any important traits that are different between the races.

    Some people have tried to prove differences in the races for the purpose of justifying their racism ("The Bell Curve"). Such attempts have had no scientific validity.
  6. Apr 16, 2003 #5


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    Re: Race

    A. I do not think there is a biological concept of race. Rather, biology recognises that populations vary intraspecifically, and some of this can be related to the geographic location they came from. There is no dividing line between races. Rather, the concept of race is generally a political or religion issue. And this is dependent on government.

    B: There are no, to my knowledge at least, internationally recognised listing of races. So, there is no set number. The definitions of these also vary.
  7. Apr 16, 2003 #6

    Hi GlamGein:
    If you would like more on this subject, an obviously controversial one, check out the following:
    http://isteve.com lots of stuff there, also plenty of links, and his definition of a race.
    also this one http://www.racearchives.com/archived/

    If you are of a mind that race is merely a social construct, with no underlying genetic basis, I would recommend that you not check out these links.
  8. Apr 16, 2003 #7
    I want to thank you for answering my questions in a sincere manner.
    But I posted this in order for us to all think about the question, because someone posted a question about race and intelligence/superiority, and many posted as to saying that they believed there was a correllation between race and intelligence. Any reputable biologist will tell you that race is merely a social construct. There is no biological basis for race.
    And thanks for adding those links, they proved useful in my research.
  9. Apr 16, 2003 #8


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    amos behavin: why would I not check out these links? We don't all want to self delude...

    But I point out the key here is "biodiversity". There are differences within species. But to imply a clearly defined line of race - ie. this person is one, this another is a naive and unscientific manner. Clustering does exist in some rather arbitary attributes by fortunes of history mostly, but there is no dividing line scientifically speaking.
  10. Apr 16, 2003 #9

    Hi FZ+:
    Thank you for the well thought out response. I agree with you that not all individuals can be, by any set of criteria, assigned to one race or the other. but I disagree that that problem means that races do not exist. If one considers Biological species, using Mayr's Biological Species Concept, or the Morphological Species Concept, both widely used by Biologists, one also finds that clear lines of distinction are not present between species. But, species do exist.
    And consider the Ecologist recognizing that a forest is covering one geographical area, and a grassland is on an adjacent tract of land. Generally there is an area between the two where one cannot logically draw a line of clear demarcation between the two. Yet, a forest and a grassland are clearly different. To borrow an example from Steve Sailer, mountains and plains are distinct, different geological features, also with no clear cut line of demarcation between.
    This is an obviously emotionally charged issue for a lot of folks. I don't want to touch on this so called superior/inferior business. My comment about "don't check it out etc." was clearly, I can see, not intended for you.
    As you surely know, a scientist must consider all evidence, and approach a problem with as much objectivity as humanly possible. One cannot ignore particular bits of evidence because one does not like the effect that said bits of evidence will have on the conclusions.
    A previous message here is from a person who claims that he/she was conducting research on this topic. For those readers who are presently students intending to pursue a career in science, that was an example for you of how NOT to conduct research. Consider all of the available evidence. Test your hypotheses fairly and objectively.
    I have been reading for some time articles in which the authors state, as one poster here did, that race is purely a social construct. I see such a great deal of irony in that the Medical community increasingly is recognizing that the race of the patient often dictates what treatment should be administered to effectively treat the malady.
    Again, thank you for the response.
  11. Apr 16, 2003 #10
    I have some issues with what you posted.
    First, you said that despite the biological species concept, et. al, showing no clear demarcation between species, there ARE species. How do you figure??? Where is the evidence?
    Second, you mentioned something to the effect that scientists are treating race related diseases. Well, are these diseases based on GENES or ENVIRONMENT? Often people of certain races belong to distinct social classes, which is a determinant in infectious disease due to sanitation, access to medicine, nutrition, etc.
    Why is it such a bad thing to believe that there is no biological race? I have faced a lot of resistance to this FACT.
  12. Apr 16, 2003 #11
    Hi Glamgein:
    A quick example that Biological species do exist, especially if one invokes Mayr's definition (being able to interbreed, they are the same species). A mouse and an elephant cannot cross and produce fertile offspring I'm sure you will agree.
    The medical community is treating various disorders with treatments tailored to a person's race in some cases. Perhaps spend a little time looking at the articles on the second website I listed in my response to your post. There is one recent article there about the differential effectiveness of a particular AIDS vaccine. It's a little late for me here tonight, but I'll find you some more tomorrow if you don't encounter some yourself in the meantime. Maybe you can try a Google search.
    As far as it being "bad" to recognize that there are or are not races, you're putting a value judgement where none need exist. One could easily ask, I suppose, "Why is it bad to recognize the existence of races?" Science, when dealing with a topic such as this that can be determined to some extent with some objectivity, should avoid these types of value judgements in my opinion.
    Stepping out of the Biological realm for a moment, and looking at this issue judgementally, I think that the research that shows that there are differences in the effects of medicines, vaccines, treatments, etc. for people of different races, is valuable. I believe that it would indeed be bad if this research was ignored or suppressed because it recognized that people can be classified as to race. People dying because of someone's insistence that race doesn't exist would be considered bad by any right thinking person, don't you agree?
  13. Apr 16, 2003 #12
    I would love some more articles that shed light on your point of view.
    I understand the concept of species, and the biological species concept. I believe that there is a human species, but I do NOT believe there are human sub-species, as proponents of biological race would claim.
    As per medical advances for races, which advances are these? Are they genetically based? What makes a black person more susceptible to certain diseases or whatnot, than a white person? Is it race? Or is it socio-economic factors?
  14. Apr 17, 2003 #13


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    Rather tahn being sub-species, race are probably group and sub-group of the human species.

    It is called evolution and adaptation.
  15. Apr 17, 2003 #14
    Hi Glamgein: To see some articles about this, go to the "Human Races, Archives, Evolution" website previously cited. Find, on the left, a column headed "Debates". Click on "Full Listing". You will find about 7-8 articles just right there. Also, check out the archives on the other site. Steve Sailer also has a category, on the top of his page, called "Race". If you click there you should also find some articles. Also, a Google search, using "'race and medicine" treatments"' will produce some articles. You are correct that the environment in which a person has developed and now lives is important. But, if you will look at some of this research, you will see that those studying this are well aware of that. You should also find, allowing for environmental conditions, that the research is indeed finding that there are important genetic differences that correlate strongly with race. Now, I say this with no malice whatsoever, but I am surprised that you had not ever encountered any of this information if you were indeed conducting research on the Biological aspects of race.
    You stated earlier that "any reputable biologist will tell you that race is merely a social construct". Anyone reading this who takes a little time to do some reading on this topic will see that your statement is clearly inaccurate.
    Also, stating that something is "FACT" using capitol letters does not add any weight to your argument. Please provide some support for why it is "FACT".
    Thank you,
    Amos Behavin
  16. Apr 17, 2003 #15


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    Actually there are two separate reasons: One is heredetary (things like sickle cell and heart disease). The other is exposure. The flu killed millions of indians not because they had a genetic predisposition to it, but simply because they had never been exposed to it before.
  17. Apr 17, 2003 #16
    Hi Russ:
    I don't think that you are looking at that correctly. But, then again perhaps I'm not understanding what you are trying to say. The Indians (I assume you are referring to Amerindians) suffered such high mortality rates from the flu, and other infectious diseases, because there was less resistance for genetic reasons. The Europeans had been subjected for generations to selection forces that eliminated most of those who had no resistance, because of the presence or lack of particular alleles that conferred resistance. Severe outbreaks of a disease like the flu would cause the formation of a genetic bottlenecks with each occurrence.
    I think maybe where you are coming from is this: During the first epidemic of something like the flu, virtually all members were infected with the virus. The survivors, mostly those who possessed in their genomes some alleles that conferred some degree of resistance to the effects of the virus, would not be nearly as severely affected by a return of the same strain of the virus at a later date. This is due to the secondary immune response. So, you are correct that one would expect that a lower percentage overall would be affected the second time around. But, the children born after the first outbreak, at least the ones who did not have some genetic based resistance, would be affected more or less at the same frequency as before.
    This example you propose is Darwin's natural selection model clearly illustrated in my opinion. Here is how it appears to have played out in your example. The first outbreak of the disease eliminates most of those in the population who have no genetic based resistance. The survivors pass on to their children their alleles for resistance. Thus, the frequencies of these adaptive alleles increase. With each introduction of the virus into the population, those members who possess in their genomes these adaptive alleles survive in higher percentages, and those that lack those alleles die, reducing the frequencies of the non-adaptive alleles. With each disease event, fewer members of the population die because more members possess in their gemomes the alleles for resistance.
    The flu, measles, and some other diseases presently have a much less severe impact on these populations today. That is because the living members of these populations are the descendants of those who survived; they possess the adaptive alleles for resistance. I suppose, although I certainly don't know for sure, that these adaptive alleles may be approaching fixation in these populations.
    I appreciate any feedback. Thanks Russ.

    Amos Behavin
  18. Apr 17, 2003 #17


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    Is that really what happened? Thats not the way I understood it. I certainly could be wrong.

    Genetics aside though, resistance to disease does depend a lot on whether or not you (or your group) have been exposed to it before. Thats what an immunization does - it gives artifical exposure to create a resistance. That works for individuals and for groups.
  19. Apr 18, 2003 #18
    The reason I posted on this forum was to get away from "academic" studies, which, as we all know, can be highly biased and innacurate. As for my statement that biological race is invalid, it is, indeed, a FACT, in capitals. The area that lacks scientific "weight" is your arguement FOR biological race. Name one characteristic, allele, whatever that says that one person is of a certain race. Its impossible. Dark skin doesn't make you black. Sickle-cell trait doesn't make you black. I said that any reputable scientist will tell you the same thing, the key word being reputable.
    If you believe in definitive race, please describe definitive racial alleles and traits. I am merely trying to understand how you came to your point of view.
    As I have stated before, of all human variation, 85% of it can be found WITHIN populations. Race is based on the few characteristics we can see and account for, which should not be weighed heavier than the other variation that is less obvious.
    For example, it was found that indonesian pygmies were more closely related to the indiginous (stereotypical) indonesian population, than they were to african pygmies, despite the fact that the layperson would have put them in the catagory of pygmy. What race are they???
  20. Apr 18, 2003 #19

    Let me clear up the "Amerindian dillema".
    The indiginous people of North America sufferred from pandemic smallpox, and other infectious diseases, that some scientists believe wiped out 90-95% of the indiginous population. While I don't believe the numbers are that high, but it was enough to irreparablly damage many cultures. It was smallpox that was most deadly. They died for both genetic AND simply because they hadn't the chance to build up a resistance to the disease.
    An interesting aspect about genetic resistance to smallpox has to do with the ABO blood group. WELL, type O provides some resistance to the smallpox disease. I don't believe it is a coincidence that over 85% of modern Native Americans have type O blood.
  21. Apr 18, 2003 #20
    Hi Glamgein:
    The part about the Indians dying because of genetic reasons and because they had not had a chance to build up resistance is exactly right. That is to what I was referring when I mentioned that the survivors of an exposure would rely on the secondary immune response, the build up of memory B lymphocytes etc. So, I really don't think there is any disagreement between us on that matter.
    As far as the other issue, I have only seen one reason that you have given thus far that race is a meaningless concept in Biology. That is that somebody might claim that one race is "superior". I think that you and I are probably basically in agreement that the terms "superior" and "inferior" could not really be logically applied to races.
    Please do this. I will be away from a computer the next few days for the most part. If you have the opportunity, please read at least the following articles:
    "The Straw Man Of Race" by Jon Entine
    "Seven Dumb Ideas About Race" by Steve Sailer
    Perhaps next week, you and I, and anybody else who cares to, can discuss these articles. Pick out particular passages and tell us why the author is mistaken, and then provide some support for your argument.
    Also, as far as reputable and not reputable Biologists, please if you can, list some of these not reputable Biologists for me and the readers to look at.
    Back to the part where you select specific loci and ask if the particular alleles at those loci confirm a person's race. Do a little homework on haplogroups, groups of genes rather than individual loci, that seem to be very good indicators of these categories we call "race". Perhaps then you can comment on the accuracy of forensic pathologists who can determine race by various quick methods, so that they are able to do so with remarkable accuracy based on a small sample of blood or semen or tissue, even looking at the gross anatomy of a skeleton.. Try going to Google and searching for "haplogroups, race". You will find plenty to look at.
    Have a nice weekend,
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