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Why do asian people look different from me

  1. Dec 7, 2010 #1
    hi all i just wondered why asian people have different shaped eyes from me and why do african people look so different from me also ,im from ireland ,i am white have blue eyes and a large nose , now i think my skin is white because we get very little sun light my nose might be large because it has to heat up the air as it goes in to my lungs( colder climate )i dont know why my eyes are blue though ,i know that african people have dark skin because of the sun but why are there noses wide ,,,, and if its a case that asian people are evolved as a result of their climate and latitude why do other people at the same climate and latitude look different ,please help its very strange
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 12, 2010 #2
    Because you're focussed on identifying difference instead of similarity. Basically all humans have the same features and expressions. When you focus on differences in appearance, you tend to feel more familiar with people who lack the differences you pay attention to. If you focus on seeking identifiable expressions, such as smiles, or other expressions of emotions, attitudes, moods, etc. you will be able to identify more easily. It basically comes down to whether you regard people mostly as objects/bodies or if you pay attention to their subjectivity, personalities, expressions, etc.

    This is also the case with animals. If you focus on recognizable expressions in animals that you can empathize with; e.g. happiness/sadness/love, even if these are subjective projections, you will feel more akin to those animals. If you focus on how differently their bodies are shaped and the non-humanness of their behaviors, you will tend to view them as more alien to you and fail to empathize with them.
  4. Dec 12, 2010 #3
    awesome reply
  5. Dec 12, 2010 #4


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    Awesome or not, there is no scientific content to that post. It might be acceptable in the philosophy forum, but here, the OP is looking for a response that explains the science.
  6. Dec 12, 2010 #5


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    I am afraid brainstorm answer is off - s/he answered different question. As far as I understand it, gttjohn asked what are the reasons of anatomical differences between races. And he partially answered the question - people in different parts of the world evolved to be better suited to live in the local climate and environment. White skin helps in vit D synthesis in northern world, where there is much less Sun than close to Equator. I read somewhere that slightly different shape of the head in Asians is adaptation to the cold continental climate - in general their face features are much more flat, which makes head more round in shape and makes it more difficult to get frostbite (ears, nose).

    At the same time same latitude and similar climate doesn't mean evolution has to go exactly the same way.

    This is more biological than social sciences, I am moving the thread.
  7. Dec 12, 2010 #6
    thanks Borek this backs up what i was thinking I have done a lot of googling in the last few days about this, I was just looking for some direction
  8. Dec 12, 2010 #7
    Actually, contemporary social science dealing with racial identity does study the subjectivity of perceiving group differences/similarities. There was a pretty good documentary (I can't remember the name of it now, unfortunately) which described two historical court cases for claiming whiteness for migration purposes where each applicant was rejected despite conflicting reasons. I believe one was Indian-Asian and claimed he was white on the basis of being caucasian, but he was denied on the basis of skin color. Then there was a Japanese-Asian who made a case that his skin tone was the same color as many whites but he was denied on the basis that he wouldn't pass as white according to everyday standards. Likewise, there are studies of "colorism" in which lighter-skinned people are shown to be favored more than darker-skinned individuals identified as the same race. Since there has been a great deal of "racial mixing" throughout history, it is interesting that people tend to perceive distinctions more than similarities, and I was just giving the everyday-language explanation of how I believe this process works at the social-psychological level.

    Race is supposedly no longer recognized as a biological difference, but I guess it depends on which biologist you ask. Originally the (pseudo)science of studying racial differences was called "raciology." Stuart Hall has studied the history of raciology, along with others as well I think, but his name comes to mind as a star in his field. 19th century raciology included a lot of measuring of body parts from cadavers, I think. There are also examples of people being kept as live-specimens and studied medically and in other ways. Usually, I believe the purpose was to attempt to show that a person's racial "composition" made them more suitable to some forms of work and other activities than others. I think the belief that African Americans were naturally athletically inferior to white/Europeans lost popularity after Jesse Owens performed so well in the first televised Olympics in Berlin, because it was supposedly such an embarrassment to Hitler to be wrong about the racial-superiority of "aryans." This is all pretty common historical anecdote, though, I think. I don't remember what kind of raciology was done with Asian racial identities or if they were studied as thoroughly as African/black "race."
  9. Dec 12, 2010 #8
    There are probably many reasons for the differences between appearences in various locals. One is they help with survival like skin tone. The other is probalby sexual selection. A "look" can "evolve" by way of cultural selection. People who are more attractive WILL get more resourses allocated to them and WILL have more oppertunities to breed. As long as a trait is view as sexually attractive for long enough it is inevitable that it will become dominate in a population.

  10. Dec 12, 2010 #9
    i know this is off topic but I often find I am attracted to a different race than my own ,I have also noticed my friends would also find a dark skinned brown eyed lady from say Spain or Rio more attractive ,do you think this is a way of spreading our genetics subconsciously to stop inbreeding or so to speak
  11. Dec 12, 2010 #10


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    Evolution of different appearance is an intellectual puzzle. Some of the stuff published is speculative.
    Some evolutionary divergence is RANDOM not driven by any environmental or other fitness factor.

    I respect people's efforts to solve these puzzles, just like any other scientific conundrum, for their own sake.

    I remember hearing years ago that the important thing about a big nose was that in a dry climate like a desert it would MOISTURIZE the air going in to your lungs (protecting delicate moist lung tissue) and then RECOVER moisture on the way out, which it would then recycle to the next dry air going in.

    I remember hearing that the nice thing about a little nose or a flat nose is that it wouldn't be so likely to get frostbite in a cold climate. You want a more spherical layout to minimize surface area, to reduce heat loss. Possibly shorter arms legs fingers too. In extreme cold you don't want things to stick out so much.

    Any of this might be wrong. Divergence in human appearance might be largely random.

    I heard that darker skin pigmentation evolved four times----like when lighter skin people moved down into southern India their skin became darker. There have been several north to south migrations, and I was told several cases where extra pigmentation evolved.

    Blue eyes are a puzzle. It's recessive and I can't think of any simple fitness advantage. Yet some subpopulations in northern Europe are or were blue-eyed to substantial extent. Why would a blue-eye male be interested in mating with a blue-eye female, preferentially, and contributing to support of her children? If he did act on such a preference, what advantage accrued? If there is no advantage, and no tendency to adopt that preference, why wouldn't the recessive gene have gotten scattered and the phenotype have disappeared?

    Does anybody know of one or more conjectured explanations. Am I missing an obvious one?

    Anyway, good for GttJohn for bringing up a bunch of intriguing human evo and natural selection puzzles.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2010
  12. Dec 12, 2010 #11


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    BTW there is a scholarly publication called
    American Journal of Human Genetics
    Here's a sample from Science magazine referring to something in the AJHG
    http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2008/02/01-01.html [Broken]
    I don't recommend it as correct. Just as a way to sample the professional literature.
    It would be nice to have some online sources. I am not expert in this and don't have sources for the things that I remember being told. It is just hearsay.

    Another BTW. GttJohn you mentioned being Irish. The first complete genome of an Irishman was reported here:
    Tong P, Prendergast JGD, Lohan AL, Farrington SM, Cronin S, Friel N, Bradley DG, Hardiman O, Evans A, Wilson JF and Loftus BJ (2010) Sequencing and analysis of an Irish human genome. Genome Biology. Free online here:

    I'm not sure why one would do this. Is the Irish genetic history in any significant way distinctive? Well for whatever reason, they went and sequenced the genome of an Irishman.
    It was a man, so they could get the Y chromosome. It might have some extra information.
    Good luck puzzling about all the mysteries of human genetics.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  13. Dec 13, 2010 #12
    I am not sure if I am simply saying the same thing that others have, only in a different way, but it seems important to me, gttjohn, to understand that differences in physical appearance between different ethnicities do not necessarily need an explanation that is founded on adaptation to environment. All we are really talking about is different groups of people who, at one point in history, were physically isolated from each other, and thus, more by a process of something called genetic drift than by adaptation to environment, developed distinctive features that are common among members of the group and distinguish them from those who are not members of the group. I recall seeing a documentary programme here in the UK about a group of Chinese scientists who were actively pursuing research on the premise that Chinese (and yes I mean Chinese not more generally ‘Asian’) people are descended from a completely different group of ancestors than the rest of the human population. From the start, it was a premise that seemed to me to require the most impossible coincidence that they had separately evolved into exactly the same species as the rest of us. And for a time, as I watched the programme, I was concerned about the dispassion of the scientists and whether their underlying agenda was affecting their true scientific judgement. But, to their credit, I have to tell you that the end conclusion was that they came to accept that the evidence is that all humans are descended from ancestors that originated in Africa. What is astonishing is just how recently, in evolutionary terms, our ancestors migrated around the world and in what short a period we developed into the different ethnicities we observe around the world today.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2010
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