some people at PF like to talk about race: either to attack and belittle the notion, and deplore others using the word, or contrariwise to defend it. So a lot of information is flying around and you can learn a lot from the conversation. I've learned things I didnt know somebody, Moonbear maybe, said the NIH (national inst of health) wouldnt fund medical research or some such thing unless the experimental subjects were from several races. this amazed me, but then I saw the sense to it. Drugs work differently and diet and nutrition depending on race, which is of course scientifically real. So you HAVE to include a diverse group in your study so the information is as useful to doctors as may be. I now see the NIH is simply encouraging good science since it makes people consider more factors and find out more. And indeed we get published results showing race makes a difference e.g. in follate uptake in pregnant women. It needs to be made clear that the fact the classification was done by the doctor or the patient (and is thus in either case "sociological") is no drawback as long as it is repeatable enough to be useful to doctors, dieticians or nurses in the future. so there must be thousands of scientists in US getting NIH grants and publishing scientific results where they use categories of race. If it makes for better science and for more useful science in treating people, then more power to them. Because so many scientists use it, one must conclude that scientifically speaking, race is a tremendously useful concept. However, for reasons I dont thoroughly understand, one might wish to deny this and give a number of reasons why it cant possibly be useful to classify people by race. I cant remember them all but here is what some of the reasons sound like to me. 1. it isnt useful because the US is a bad country to be doing that 2. it isnt useful because in Australia they say "ancestry" instead 3. it isnt useful because that is just "sociological race" instead of some imagined other kind. 4. it isnt useful because some scientists in the special field of human genetics at the present moment do not use the word. OK so they have their own words, fine. OK so in other fields scientists do. OK even geneticists might use it in the future when their tools get a little sharper. 5. it isnt useful since the only reason those other scientists find it conveneint is because of the US Census. The fact that statisticians at the Census use it shows that the whole country is obsessed with race, which is naughty. --------- There are doubtless other arguments, you have to go looking yourself because there's too much for one person to look through and read, but the trouble with all the arguments is that it's pretty well established that classifying people by race is useful for some kinds of science and in some professions. Also it doesnt matter if the doctor or patient does it subjectively----the categories just have to be so that people can use them with reasonable consistency in that context and application. Now if you are not a scientist and have no practical reason to be classifying people (e.g. according to how different categories respond to a certain drug etc.) then it may be bad manners in many situations. It doesnt make for entertaining conversation either. So it wont do for people harp on it, or be inconsiderate. those are non-science issues. If it is SCIENCE we are talking about then you want to use any concepts that work, no holds barred. and in a multiracial society this is one very useful concept in all kinds of fields. if it ain't (yet) useful to human geneticists that is tough luck for them. they may find it helpful in the future And what about the future? In the future I expect the human genetic tree will emerge from a lot of DNA blood samples going into the computer and human races will have objective reality. the term may be "racial variety" or something else, just to fit in the taxonomy. it doesnt matter what word. I expect finns will be a race and maori and inuit and god knows what else, and maybe han and ashkenazi. And quite some people will be unclassifiable because they're so homogenized. Instead of only having a "sociological" or a subjective race, everybody will want to go down to the testing center and get their blood sample analyzed to find out what actual objective race they are, or if they raceless. they will be curious. and it may be a multidimensional thing too I dont set such a high value on the information, but I'd pay 5 dollars to know. But if it cost 10 dollars I might buy a bottle of wine or go to the movies. It is kind of intriguing. a lot of human history is in genes----the flow and mixing of different types of people. how much of you is Beakerfolk, how much Basque, how much Ottoman Turk. Did you realize 95 percent of your ancestors fished from rowboats and ate mostly codfish? (joke) One paper Iansmith gave a link for told how in the past sometimes two or more races combined to make a new race. So the tree is not exactly a tree. It should be challenging to construct. Branches can grow back together and branch out again in new ways. the dog team modified their computer program "structure" to allow for that. Well thats my view of the future----a huge load more information which essentially classifies people and untangles riddles of ancestry to some extent. I'm guessing there will turn out to be exactly 85 human races---or "varieties" if that word is adopted instead. Why, because 85 seems like a good number and that was how many breeds of dog those other researchers dealt with. Meanwhile we've got ourselves a scientifically useful concept! Let's see what we can do with it! BTW when a New Zealander says his friend is Maori he is talking of what we Americans'd say was the persons race. If he wants to call it "ancestry" thats his business. His Census Bureau can call the boxes "ancestry" which sounds real classy. I've never done the Census questionnaire but I'd be quite pleased to be asked my "ancestry". Let's hope they change the form. But the trouble is, sanitary synonyms dont have any lasting effect. If you can't clean up the words you have now, it wont help to use euphemism: the codeword will get just as smelly real soon.