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Ethnic and cultural differences

  1. Jun 2, 2014 #1
    *This is in no way supposed to be a hate post* Nordic people are said to be physically very fit and smart. It was said be Hitler that they were the superior Aryan arce. Then Ashkenazi Jews are very good at chess. People from certain regions in Africa are great runners. There are loads of more examples. Now is it true that some cultures are better then others in certain fields, is there any scientific evidence? And can other people too emulate that gene found in people with exceptional abilities in further generations in the future by changing their DNA?
    P.S: i am still a kid who is learning, so if this question does not make sense, forgive me.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 2, 2014 #2
    I think there are some examples of this. For example, whenever I watch the olympics, I notice that most of the fastest runners have been black. Are white people or asian people not good enough? There is indeed some evidence for this: http://www.livescience.com/10716-scientists-theorize-black-athletes-run-fastest.html

    That said, this is a very sensitive topic. So I would like to ask people to provide decent sources for every statement they make.
  4. Jun 2, 2014 #3
    I don't believe that there is a significant biologically based performance difference between average members of one group or another. However, at any given time because of selection phenomena (eg. due to culture a particular activity may be more popular with one ethnic, racial or gender than another) members of one group may have a greater affinity to a particular sport or activity like chess or math than other groups and so they will have greater practice and commitment to excel in that area. You also have to take into account that these differences are exaggerated when comparing the performance of elite competitors. It is problematic to draw conclusions about the whole group based upon the performance of a select few.

    Here are important links concerning the role of culture/nurture in performance: http://www.cnbc.com/id/101684604
    "Flunking Mathematics? It's all down to culture"



    I hope this helps sort out this complicated issue.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2014
  5. Jun 3, 2014 #4
  6. Jun 3, 2014 #5


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  7. Jun 3, 2014 #6


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    No, it's a good question, and I appreciate your sensitivity.

    It's important to distinguish "race" from "ethnicity". The definition of "race" is problematic, and is not used much by scholars such as Anthropologists and Biologists, as far as I can tell.

    But "ethnicity" is a different. It refers to culture.

    When we group people by race, it gets messy because it is not a well-defined term. But we can define culture (ethnicity), and clearly we can make distinctions between cultures.

    I think the core of your question is, how to distinguish "nature" from "nurture" -- that is, the genes you're born with from the culture you grow up in. Is that correct?
  8. Jun 8, 2014 #7
    Yes. Sorry for the late reply.
  9. Jun 8, 2014 #8


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    This definition from "Straight Dope"

    For example I identify ethnically as European and culturally as American. Also agree with lisab on the issues with "race".
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2014
  10. Jun 8, 2014 #9


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    If you follow the wiki link I posted, I think this is part of Lewontin's Fallacy; I was taught the fallacy by my Anthroplogy teacher (but as truth, not a fallacy) but apparently biologists don't actually agree with Lewontin's conclusion. To most biologists, race is the same as what we call "variety" in plant species. It does present a useful taxonomic division that's relevant to health and medicine.

    Dawkin's comments on Lewontin's Fallacy:

    "However small the racial partition of the total variation may be, if such racial characteristics as there are highly correlate with other racial characteristics, they are by definition informative, and therefore of taxonomic significance." Dawkins also wrote of Lewontin that he is "known for the strength of his political convictions and his weakness for dragging them into science at every possible opportunity."
  11. Jun 8, 2014 #10


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    IMHO when it comes to races it is just one of those cases where political correctness wins over common reason.
  12. Jul 14, 2014 #11
    Genetically speaking,race does not exist,it is just a social construct based on some physical traits(facial features and skin color).
    The intercontinental gene flow among humans makes it cleat that we're all mixed somehow .
  13. Jul 16, 2014 #12
    Decades ago I had an opportunity to travel and meet and test software engineers from the US, England, Germany, and Japan. The purpose of the test was simply to ascertain whether they really were programmers - and thus met the requirements for the course I was about to present. Among those who demonstrated coding skill, there were clear ethnic differences in the ways that these programmers tackled the problem. For me it highlighted the influence that culture has in selecting and training people for tasks such as software development.

    I don't dismiss the notion that there are controversial genetic differences associated with races. But with any measurement of this sort, you need to consider the support that the ethnic group provides for its members regarding the task you are measuring.
  14. Aug 4, 2014 #13
    I will give you an example. Baseball is not a popular sport in india. Virtually non existent. Now what if an Indian born in USA is physically fit and gets engrossed in playing baseball. Now would his performance be as good as the others with the same amount of practice, or would there be a difference? We could take the same example of an american being born in India and playing cricket. I hope you get the point.
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