Race: social construct or biological reality? Why can’t it be both? When the Left (let’s use Liberal Creationists, LC for short) says that “race is a social construct”, what do they mean? They mean, obviously, that race is not a biological reality and that most ‘racists’ assume that race is only what we can physically see—the phenotype. However, genotypic differences give rise to phenotypic differences between humans. We can then say, with 100 percent certainty, that even ‘small genotypic differences’ can make ‘big differences in phenotype’ between two almost genetically similar organisms.
The thing that LCs don’t understand is that race is a ‘social construct’, but not in the way that they believe. They believe that since what we call ‘white’ and ‘black’ are genetically different depending on which geographic location you look at, that race must be something constructed by the mind based on the ‘small genotypic differences’ which lead to the ‘large differences in phenotype’. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
See, what we call the ‘races’ are arbitrary. Instead of ‘white’ we can say ‘hulina’, instead of ‘black’ we can say ‘lorux’ (two random ‘words’ I made up on the fly). What we call these biological realities is arbitrary, replacing the common usages of ‘white’ and ‘black’ WILL NOT change biology. This is what they don’t understand. They are correct that ‘race is a social construct’, but the ‘social constructions’ that we have chosen describe genotypic differences between geographically isolated populations. What we call races, ethnies, or anything for that matter, is arbitrary as the genetic underpinnings we are describing will not change if we call them another (arbitrary) name.
Race is not biological. It is a social construct. There is no gene or cluster of genes common to all blacks or all whites. Were race “real” in the genetic sense, racialclassifications for individuals would remain constant across boundaries. Yet, a person who could be categorized as black in the United States might be considered white in Brazil or colored in South Africa.
This goes back to my point about using different ‘constructs’ for these biological realities (though mixed is a better ‘construct’ to use than ‘white’ or ‘black’. ‘Colored’ is a good term as that denotes a white/black mix). Call someone ‘black’ in America and he’ll be ‘white’ in Brazil or ‘colored’ in South Africa. OK? And? Does this change any type of underlying biology that is being described? I do admit that using the term ‘mixed’ is better than the ‘straight terms’ of ‘white’ and ‘black’, however, these ‘constructed terms’ are shockingly correct in describing the biological underpinnings of ‘race’.
I define ‘race’ as a genetically isolated breeding population. Sure, we can still conceive children between racial groups, that, however, doesn’t change any underlying biologic underpinnings. That should be obvious, though.
You have people like Richard Lewontin, of ‘Lewontin’s Fallacy’ fame who say that “because there is more variation within racial groups that the smaller variation between racial groups is insignificant, stating:
“Since such racial classification is now seen to be of virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance either, no justification can be offered for its continuance.”
There IS a genetic significance, and there IS taxonomic significance, to quote Dawkins:
It is genuinely true that, if you measure the total variation in the human species and then partition it into a between-race component and a within-race component, the between-race component is a very small fraction of the total. Most of the variation among humans can be found within races as well as between them. Only a small admixture of extra variation distinguishes races from each other. That is all correct. What is not correct is the inferene that race is therefore a meaningless concept. This point has been clearly made by the distinguished Cambridge geneticist A.W.F. Edwards in a recent paper “Human genetic diversity: Lewontin’s fallacy.” R.C. Lewontin is an equally distinguished Cambridge (Mass.) geneticist, known for the strength of his political convictions and his weakness for dragging them into science at every possibile opportunity. Lewontin’s view of race has become near-universal orthodoxy in scientific circles.
We can all happily agree that human racial classification is of no social value and is positively destructive of social and human relations. That is one reason why I object to ticking boxes on forms and why I object to positive discrimination in job selection. But that doesn’t mean that race is of “virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance.” This is Edwards’s point, and he reasons as follows. However small the racial partition of total variation may be, if such racial characteristics as there are highly correlated with other racial characteristics, they are by definition informative, and therefore of taxonomic significance.
Strike out. Lewontin, like his colleague Gould and other ideological brother in Marxism Diamond all deny race, first and foremost, for ideological reasons, not scientific ones. Though, this doesn’t mean their arguments should be discarded. On the contrary. They should be deconstructed and shown how and why they are wrong.
In 2002, Risch, et al published a paper that confirms the existence of five racial categories (not three [as is commonly though] as ‘Natives’ cluster on their own due to genetic isolation and Melanesians and Australoids are NOT NEGROID; saying so makes race a true ‘social construct’. Sorry PP), writing:
The African branch included three sub-Saharan populations, CAR pygmies, Zaire pygmies, and the Lisongo; the Caucasian branch included Northern Europeans and Northern Italians; the Pacific Islander branch included Melanesians, New Guineans and Australians; the East Asian branch included Chinese, Japanese and Cambodians; and the Native American branch included Mayans from Mexico and the Surui and Karitiana from the Amazon basin. The identical diagram has since been derived by others, using a similar or greater number of microsatellite markers and individuals [8,9]. More recently, a survey of 3,899 SNPs in 313 genes based on US populations (Caucasians, African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics) once again provided distinct and non-overlapping clustering of the Caucasian, African-American and Asian samples : “The results confirmed the integrity of the self-described ancestry of these individuals”. Hispanics, who represent a recently admixed group between Native American, Caucasian and African, did not form a distinct subgroup, but clustered variously with the other groups. A previous cluster analysis based on a much smaller number of SNPs led to a similar conclusion: “A tree relating 144 individuals from 12 human groups of Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania, inferred from an average of 75 DNA polymorphisms/individual, is remarkable in that most individuals cluster with other members of their regional group” . Effectively, these population genetic studies have recapitulated the classical definition of races based on continental ancestry – namely African, Caucasian (Europe and Middle East), Asian, Pacific Islander (for example, Australian, New Guinean and Melanesian), and Native American.
Pretty damn good for a ‘social construct’, right? Unless the computer somehow consciously knows the result we want and then allocates the clusters according to our desires, but I doubt it. These studies show, definitively, that race as we know it is a biological reality.
They then state in the conclusion:
As we enter this new millennium with an advancing arsenal of molecular genetic tools and strategies, the view of genes as immutable is too simplistic. Every race and even ethnic group within the races has its own collection of clinical priorities based on differing prevalence of diseases. It is a reflection of the diversity of our species – genetic, cultural and sociological. Taking advantage of this diversity in the scientific study of disease to gain understanding helps all of those afflicted. We need to value our diversity rather than fear it. Ignoring our differences, even if with the best of intentions, will ultimately lead to the disservice of those who are in the minority.
One of the best conclusions one can write after an article as ‘controversial’ as that one. We need to embrace our diversity, not destroy it. We need to study it and see how and why we are so diverse, not ruin the diversity making it impossible to study. This also has implications for disease acquisition as well as whether or not one responds to certain drugs (blacks and the drug Bidil, for instance). These inherent differences between races/ethnies need to be studied so we can get everyone the best care they need based on their genetic makeup, without pretending that it doesn’t exist. Pretending that these differences don’t exist does not make them go away.
If race were ‘fake’ and ‘socially constructed’, would there be a success rate of 99.86 percent between self-identified race/ethnicity and genetic structure? Tang et al (2005) write:
We have analyzed genetic data for 326 microsatellite markers that were typed uniformly in a large multiethnic population-based sample of individuals as part of a study of the genetics of hypertension (Family Blood Pressure Program). Subjects identified themselves as belonging to one of four major racial/ethnic groups (white, African American, East Asian, and Hispanic) and were recruited from 15 different geographic locales within the United States and Taiwan. Genetic cluster analysis of the microsatellite markers produced four major clusters, which showed near-perfect correspondence with the four self-reported race/ethnicity categories. Of 3,636 subjects of varying race/ethnicity, only 5 (0.14%) showed genetic cluster membership different from their self-identified race/ethnicity. On the other hand, we detected only modest genetic differentiation between different current geographic locales within each race/ethnicity group. Thus, ancient geographic ancestry, which is highly correlated with self-identified race/ethnicity—as opposed to current residence—is the major determinant of genetic structure in the U.S. population. Implications of this genetic structure for case-control association studies are discussed.
These ‘social constructs’ have some pretty damn good predictive power to guess geographic ancestry (race) 99.86 percent of the time. But isn’t it weird that this so-called ‘social construct’ fits neatly into 4 categories (‘Hispanic’ is not a race, but I assume it would cluster between ‘Natives’ and Europeans, showing that fourth cluster. There hasn’t been enough time for ‘Hispanics’ to cluster into a distinct race, so they cluster in between ‘Natives’ and Europeans)?
If race is a ‘social construct’ as LCs would want you to believe, how do we have these clusters showing this variation? Because they’re genetically similar others. We can then start to wonder about things such as genetic similarity theory and ethnic genetic interests, as they then become a direct result of these genetically similar individuals. Yes we humans are 99.9 percent identical, but what matters is not how genetically distant humans are when being compared with one another, what matters is gene expression. We share over 90 percent of the same genes with dogs, cats, mice, and other great apes. Must mean we are almost all the same and any genetic differences ‘are meaningless’, then!
Think of it this way. People in the same family differ both genotypically and phenotypically. Hereditary traits get passed down through the generations and they stay in that family. If you broaden that to ethnic and the bigger racial groups, you can then see how genetically isolated human populations (key phrase here) do differ, on average, in hereditary traits.
We see racial in sports from swimming, baseball, football, bodybuilding, sprinting, and Strongman. We (somewhat) openly discuss racial differences being the cause for this, yet discussing racial differences in intelligence is taboo.
Liberal Creationists and their denial of race in the modern genomics age is absurd. It’s like people who deny evolution because they don’t understand basic evolutionary theory. Liberal Creationists, too, don’t understand basic evolutionary theory. Race-denialism, when the facts are right in front of you showing how these so-called ‘social constructs’ exist and outright denying them, is very telling. Ideology is the name of the game, not science.
It doesn’t matter how many people believe race doesn’t exist, the underlying realities are still there. LCs can say talk all about changing definitions of race in other countries and the past few hundred years, but this doesn’t address the fact that what we call ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ have real biological underpinnings. What we call ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ is meaningless. ‘Race’ is a social construct, but a ‘social construct’ of a biological reality. Even if we changed, or even eliminated the words from use, actual genetic differences between races will not go away.