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Race Is a Social Construct of a Biological Reality

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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.

We have this article from The New York Times (which I have already responded to) which says:

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 [12]: “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” [13]. 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 swimmingbaseballfootballbodybuilding, 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.

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“Race is a Social Construct”: Part 1

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“Race is a social construct”. You may hear that a lot from uneducated people. They may say that since the definition of race is ‘ever-changing’, that race doesn’t exist and that it only exists in our minds. They obviously have no understanding of genetics and how we came to be today. If you want to get technical, everything is a social construct. The Universe is a social construct. We’re only giving definitions to what we perceive something to be, so with the logic of ‘race being a social construct’, then everything is a social construct. With that logic, the Universe doesn’t exist because it’s a social construct.

I will look at 3 articles in the first of many articles on this subject. One from Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Bill Nye and Ta-Nehisi Coates. All 3 have extremely wrong views on the biological reality of race, and I will prove that here. I will quote from each article and show how they are wrong with scientific studies as well as point out their bad logic.

I will begin with Angela Onwuachi-Willig. In her article for The New York TimesRace and Racial Identities Are Social Constructs, she says that because of the ever-changing definition of the term race, that it is a social construct and not a biological one.

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, racial classifications 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.

Race is not biological, it is a construct. There are no clusters of genes or one gene that is common in blacks or whites. That is correct, but her statement about race being social and not a biological construct is clearly ignorant as I will show below.

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You can see in the picture above that races clearly do cluster in different clusters from other races. She is right about the changing definitions, especially Brazil, but Brazil is a special case. So much mixing has gone on in Brazil that there is evidence of skin color becoming independent of ancestry. One outlier example doesn’t make race a ‘social construct’. South Africa is also another one. They classify race in South Africa with four categories: black, colored, Indian/Asian or white. Obama would have been called ‘colored’ in South Africa today. But, again, just because there are changing definitions of race throughout the globe, doesn’t mean that race doesn’t exist.

Like race, racial identity can be fluid. How one perceives her racial identity can shift with experience and time, and not simply for those who are multiracial. These shifts in racial identity can end in categories that our society, which insists on the rigidity of race, has not even yet defined.

Is she making an argument for being ‘trans-racial’? I bet Rachel Dolezal would be happy.

In a society where being white (regardless of one’s socioeconomic class background or other disadvantages) means living a life with white skin privileges — such as being presumed safe, competent and noncriminal — whites who begin to experience discrimination because of their intimate connection with someone of another race, or who regularly see their loved ones fall prey to racial discrimination, may begin to no longer feel white. After all, their lived reality does not align with the social meaning of their whiteness.

I always hear about ‘white privilege’ but never get an actual definition of what it means. People complain about ‘white privilege’ because they, of course, don’t understand the biological reality of race. Anything that may prove innate differences between individuals or races they just can’t imagine exists because of what they’ve been taught their whole lives. She is talking about those whites who are in the BLM movement. The false ideals of egalitarianism are the cause of this.

More than 50 years ago, Congress enacted the most comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation in history, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Half a century later in 2015, the same gaps in racial inequality remain or have grown deeper. Today, the unemployment rate for African-Americans remains more than double that for whites, public schools are more segregated now than they were in the 1950s and young black males are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by the police than their white male peers. Even a white fourth-grade teacher in Texas, Karen Fitzgibbons, openly advocated for the racial segregation of the 1950s and 1960s on her Facebook page.

Right. IQ is the cause of the unemployment rate of African Americans. Not any imaginary forces such as ‘white privilege’. Public schools are more segregated today due to people wanting to be with others genetically similar to themselves. Blacks cause themselves to get shot and killed by police due to their actions during altercations with police officers. Oh no, someone has not politically correct opinions!! She should lose her job and never work a good job again!

That’s what the Left does. They attempt to shout you down with buzzwords so you can’t calmly and intellectually prove your case.

She is clearly wrong. Good thing this is called an ‘opinion piece’, there were few actual facts in it.

Now to touch on Bill Nye’s views on race. It’s funny. I loved his show when I was a kid. Now, knowing the truth about racial differences, hearing him say that made me lose all respect for him. He’s a mechanical engineer with a Bs from Cornell University. People only take what he says because he is ‘The Science Guy’ when he has no training in what he is talking about.

“We obsess about whether our dog is a pug-Jack Russell terrier mix with corgi overtones and an oaky finish. ‘An approachable little dog,’ whatever. They’re all dogs, okay? And so the idea of a purebred is just a human construct. There’s no such thing – in a sense there’s no such thing as a purebred dog.”

That right there is a fallacy. As with the woman’s article above, they both use the ‘continuum fallacy‘. The continuum fallacy is when someone rejects a vague claim because it’s not as precise as they want it to be. ‘There are no pure races’ or ‘there are no pure breeds of dog’, that doesn’t mean that genes don’t cluster differently, showing genetic differentiation.

“If a Papua New Guinean hooks up with a Swedish person all you get is a human.  There’s no new thing you’re going to get. You just get a human. Japanese woman jumping the African guy, all you get is a human. They’re all humans. So this is a lesson to be learned. There really is, for humankind there’s really no such thing as race. There’s different tribes but not different races. We’re all one species.”

Right. That doesn’t mean there is no such thing as race. Grizzly bears and polar bears can mate to create a prizzly bear. Does that mean species doesn’t exist? (I will touch on speciation at the end of this article.) Once again, that statement doesn’t deny the biological reality of race, as you can see from the picture above.

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Researchers have proven, scientifically, that humans are all one people. The color of our ancestors’ skin is a consequence of ultra-violet light, of latitude and climate.

We all belong to the same genus, Homo, but again, that doesn’t disprove race. He’s correct in saying that our ancestors’ skin is a consequence of UV light of latitude and climate, and right there he proves us correct in stating that sunlight differences depending on where your ancestors evolved in the world are the cause of racial differences.

Despite our recent sad conflicts here in the U.S., there really is no such thing, scientifically, as race. We are all one species. Each one of us more alike than different.

In this statement, he is saying the first sentence because of recent racial relations in the U.S. A clear politically-motivated statement.

“Each one of us more alike than different.’ That is correct, but, yet again, doesn’t disprove the reality of race. Geneticists estimate that humans will differ, on average, at 3 million base pairs in their DNA. That’s more than enough for distinct racial classification, as well as enough to differentiate us.

Is that supposed to mean anything? Cats have 90 percent homologous genes with humans, 82% with dogs, 80% with cows, 79% with chimpanzees, 69% with rats and 67% with mice.

90% of the mouse genome could be lined up with a region on the human genome.

99% of mouse genes turn out to have analogues in humans.

As you can see from the links above, we are all extremely genetically related to animals that are clearly extremely physically different from us humans. This shows, that the differences in humans are down to not how genetically distant we are from other animals in the animal kingdom, but how the differing genes we have are expressed.

We all came from Africa. We’re all made from the same star dust. We’re all going to live and die on the same planet – a pale blue dot in the vastness of space. We have to work together!

And finally, you can see his way of saying that racial differences mean nothing because ‘we all come from Africa’ and ‘ we’re all made from star dust’. That may be true, but that doesn’t do anything to acknowledge, or even show that racial differences are meaningless.

Bill Nye has absolutely no authority to speak on this matter. Liberals then eat this up and cite Bill Nye as proof that race doesn’t exist, which is clearly untrue as I have shown.

Finally, I will get to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ ‘The Social Construction of Race‘. He cites my favorite blogger/geneticist Razib Khan, so this should be good.

Ancestry — where my great-great-great-great grandparents are from — is a fact. What you call people with that particular ancestry is not. It changes depending on where you are in the world, when you are there, and who has power.

Right with the first sentence, and with the second. It seems he’s attempting to use what the first article I cited says: that due to ever-changing racial definitions that race doesn’t exist as we believe it to be. He says that ancestry is a fact, well wouldn’t that same ancestry be your racial classification? I am not following his logic. Just because there are differing views on the definition of race throughout the globe, doesn’t mean that there is no biological reality of race.

He cites someone else who states:

“Race” as a term is very nebulous. But human subgroups with similar ancestries can have group differences in DNA — and intelligence is highly unlikely to have no genetic basis at all (although most now believe its impact is greatly qualified by cultural and developmental differences).

Cultural and developmental differences. The cultural differences are thrown out. According to the editorial ‘Mainstream Science on Intelligence’, which came out shortly after The Bell Curve was published, one of their points is that IQ tests are not culturally biased if the individual speaks English. If they are not English speakers, they will either get a test in their native language or get Raven’s Progressive Matrices, which is a ‘culture free’ IQ test as it’s based on pattern recognition and has no writing involved. Developmental differences, yes. White mothers have a better prenatal environment then do black mothers, which is biological. Developmental differences are innate within the two populations.

I do not know. Andrew is more inclined to believe that there is some group-wide genetic explanation for the IQ difference. I am more inclined to believe that the difference lies in how those groups have been treated. One thing that I am not convinced by is controlling for income and education.

Oh, the old ‘Stereotype Threat‘ canard. The paper, which was cited more than 5000 times, states that African-Americans do worse on tests in which they are told that they are being judged on their race. Well, a meta-analysis of 55 published and unpublished studies came out and what was found that the it shows clear publication bias. Either due to people not knowing how to read scientific papers or more insidious tactics. The effect varies across studies and is small. Though elite university undergrads may underperform on tests of cognitive tests due to Stereotype Threat, this effect doesn’t generalize to non-adapted standardized tests, high-stakes settings and less academically gifted test takers. Stereotype Threat cannot explain the difference in mean cognitive test performance between African Americans and European Americans. (pg 68)

In the mid-20th century, as we have been documenting, it was the policy of this country to deny African-Americans access to the same methods of wealth-building, that it was making available to whites.
African-Americans can’t build the same type of wealth due to mean genetic differences in IQ.
This is not merely a problem for your local  diversity and sensitivity workshop. It is a problem of wealth and power. When you create a situation in which a community has a disproportionate number of poor people, and then you hyper-segregate that community, you multiply the problems of poverty for the entire community–poor or not. That is to say that black individuals are not simply poorer and less wealthier than white individuals.  Because of segregation, black individuals and white individuals of the same income and same wealth, do not live in communities of equal wealth.
Wealth and power are directly related to IQ. Communities have a disproportionate amount of poor people due to them being low-IQ, blacks, whites or Asians, you can’t get away from low-IQ being the cause of poverty. People hyper-segregate themselves, see my Genetic Similarity article. Again, segregation is due to GST, not any insidious plot to hold anyone down. I’ve spoken multiple time on how oxytocin is responsible for ‘racism’ (ethnocentrism), and everything he is saying is just proving my point.
What bearing does segregation have on IQ differential? I don’t know. My skepticism of genetics is rooted in the fact that arguments for genetic inferiority among people of African ancestry are old, and generally have not fared well. My skepticism is also rooted in the belief that power generally seeks to justify itself. The prospect of actual equality among the races is frightening. If black and white people truly are equal on a bone-deep level, then the game might really be rigged, and we might actually have to do something about it. I think there’s much more evidence of that rigging, then there is evidence of cognitive deficiency .
There is no evidence for racial/ethnic equality. Any ‘evidence’ is shoddy and has NOT and NEVER WILL BE replicated because any studies that show racial equality are either badly administered or they never do a follow-up study at adulthood.  Blacks and whites are not equal ‘on a bone-deep level’. What kind of statement is that? There is WAY MORE evidence for cognitive deficiency than for ‘rigging’ of the game to hold blacks down in America.
I must add that I can not pretend to be a dispassionate, nor impartial observer. I come from a particular place. I’ve now been out in the world, and seen how other people in other places live. They don’t strike me as more intelligent. They strike me as better armed. There’s nothing scientific about that. But I think we all have core faiths. These are mine. You’ve been warned.
“My personal anecdotal experiences mean more to scientific studies on race and intelligence.” Where have we all heard that before? Too bad your ‘core faiths’ are just that Mr. Coates: FAITH.

Regardless of the method used in the analyses, all researchers reached estimated very close to that obtained by Lewontin: The differences observed by the subdivisions (populations, groups of populations, races) represented 10 to 15 percent of the total genetic variation found within the human species. Formally, these findings demonstrate, first, that the species is indeed subdivided into genetically definable groups of individuals and, second, that atleast some of these groups correspond to those defined by anthropologists as races on the basis of physical characters. They do not however, settle the arguments regarding the methods of racial classification. Unfortunately, Lewontin did not specify before initiating his analysis how large the difference has to be in order to call the groups “races”.

Consequently, the results of the studies have led population geneticists to two diametrically opposite conclusions. Lewontin called the observed differences trivial, and proclaimed that “racial classification is now seen to be of no genetic or taxonomic significance” so that “no justification can be offered for its continuance.” This view is echoed by authors of similar studies, who seem to be surprised that genetic variation within populations is greater than that between them. By contrast, Sewell Wright who can hardly be taken for a dilettante in questions of population genetics, has stated emphatically that if differences of this magnitude were observed in any other species, the groups they distinguish would be called subspecies.

One can extend Wright’s argument even further. The more than 200 species of haplochromine fishes in Lake Victoria differ from each other much less than the human races in their neural genes, although they are presumably distinguished by genes that control differences in their external appearances. The same can be said about atleast some of the currently recognized species of Darwin’s finches and other examples of recent adaptive radiations. In all these cases, reproductively isolated groups are impossible to tell apart by the methods used to measure differences in human races. Obviously, human races are not reproductively isolated (interracial marriages are common and the progenies of such marriages are fully fertile) but the external differences between them are comparable to cichlid fishes and Darwin’s finches. Under these circumstances, to claim that the genetic differences between the human races are trivial is a more political statement than a scientific argument. Trivial by what criterion? How much difference would Lewontin and those who side with him consider non-trivial?

By mixing science with politics, geneticists and anthropologists are committing the same infraction of which they are accusing other scientists, who they themselves label as racist. Even worse, by labelling the genetic differences as insignificant, they play into the hand of genuine racists who can demolish this claim and so further their own agenda. It is intellectually more honest to acknowledge and then point out that by no means imply supremacy of one race over others. This can be done by demonstrating that the differences are in genes that cannot be linked to any features that would be required for the preeminence of a particular race.

It’s clear that racial classification does exist. The creator of Fst, Sewall Wright, says that a Fst distance of .15 is more than enough for speciation (differing racial classifications). It directly refutes Lewontin, who put his political ideology of Marxism over science. Those cichlids in Lake Victoria are a perfect example that though the definition of ‘species’ does change depending on which researcher you speak to, it doesn’t discount that there are real and physical genetic differences between races and ethnicities.

In conclusion, the term “race is a social construct” is a deliberately intellectually dishonest statement, or a statement used to hide the truth for more insidious things to happen due to the non-acknowledgement of race.

Helmuth Nyborg on the Social Construction of Race

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Helmuth Nyborg published an article in Psych titled Race as Social Construct (Nyborg, 2019). In the article, he responds to a National Geographic article There’s No Scientific Basis for Race—It’s a Made-Up Label. In the article, Nyborg quotes, what apparently are quotations, from the article. Yet, for example when it comes to this:

‘There’s No Scientific Basis for Race’—‘It’s a Made-Up Label’… ‘Races do not exist because we are equals’, ‘the concept of race is not grounded in genetics’, etc.

The second quote “Races do not exist because we are equals” is not in the article. (Though this is probably a general call-out to so-called “social constructivists about race.”) Now, I won’t’ nit-pick about it, since he is apparently speaking to his critics who make these claims. In any case, Nyborg’s article is titled Race as Social Construct. Where are constructivists about race said to be anti-realists or eliminativists about race? If Nyborg is really speaking to constructivists about race, then he’s strawmanning their position. Because social constructivists about race are realists about race.

Take the new AAPA Statement on Race and Racism, where they write:

… race has become a social reality that structures societies and how we experience the world. In this regard, race is real, as is racism, and both have real biological consequences.

“race” as a social reality — as a way of structuring societies and experiencing the world — is very real.”

So, if constructivists about race claim that “Races do not exist”, then why are social constructivists about race literally saying “race is real” and “”race” as a social reality … is very real”? Weird… Almost as if Nyborg is strawmanning the constructivist position. Nyborg asks if “NG also think[s] of species as a social construct?“. See Elstein (2003) for a view that species are socially constructed. In any case, I don’t think that Nyborg is familiar with the philosophical literature on the status of species.

Here is Nyborg’s first syllogism:

Samuel Morton is a reprehensible model racist with a fixed defintion of race.

1. Samuel Morton is the father of scientific racism.

2. (We “know” that the father of scientific racism has THE correct understanding of race).

3. Morton thinks that races represent separate acts of creation.

4. Morton thinks that races are ranked in a divine hierarchy.

5. Morton did not think that races were closely related.

6. Morton thinks that races has distinct characters which:

(a) Are immutable or “fixed” across generations (i.e., no transmutation, aka evolution).

(b) Are homogenous of “fixed” (in these senses of fixation) across individuals within races.

Ergo,

Morton is wrong about 3-6, and thus represent the opposite of reality. We can then say, given 1-2 and 3-6, that races do not exist.

This is ridiculous. Where has anyone written anything like this, that since Morton was a “racist” that “races do not exist”? Did Gould make that claim in Mismeasure? I personally think that Morton’s analysis was flawed by his own biases, but I do not make the claim that “races do not exist” because of it.

In any case, when it comes to Gould’s critique of Morton’s skulls, contra Jensen (1982)Rushton (1997) , and Lewis et al (2011), Gould’s arguments about Morton were largely correct (Weisberg, 2014; Kaplan, Pigliucci, and Banta, 2015; Weisberg and Paul, 2016). Specifically, Weisberg (2014) writes that “Although Gould made some errors
and overstated his case in a number of places, he provided prima facia evidence, as yet unrefuted, that Morton did indeed mismeasure his skulls in ways that conformed to 19th century racial biases.

Now when it comes to this one, we’re getting somewhere:

Race does not Relate to Geographic Location

1. There are no fixed traits with specific geographic locations …” because …

2. “… as often as isolation has created differences among populations, migration and mixing have blurred or erased them.

Ergo,

3. “… our pictures of past ‘racial structures’ are almost always wrong” and harmful.

This is a good argument. However, it fails, in my opinion. Yes, there is no sharp delineation in traits between what are purported to be racial groupings. However, for biological racial realism to be true, there do not need to be. Take my article You Don’t Need Genes to Delineate Race. By looking at average facial and morphological features that exist in any continent, we can say that, although there is no sharp gradation and there are clines in phenotypes, that does not mean that there is no what we can say “average look” for the group. (Nyborg discusses “IQ” there, but I won’t get into it.)

Now take this one:

Races do not exist: We are Equals and Africans

1. “… all humans are closely related.”

2. In a very real sense, all people alive today are Africans.”

3. Genetic diversity in Africa is much larger than outside this continent.”

4. Because they [migrants] were just a small subset of Africa’s population, the migrants took with them only a fraction of its genetic diversity.”

5. Admittedly, “… the longer two groups are separated, the more distinctive tweaks [mutations] they will acquire”, BUT …

6. “The concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis.” (NG here refers to a Craig Venter statement at a White House meeting, June 2000; see later).

Ergo,

7. “Science tells us there is no genetic or scientific basis for race. Races do not exist because we are [all] equals.”

1-5 are true; though 6-7 are false. In any case, the existence of race is not a scientific matter. The questions “What is race?”, “Is race real?”, and “If race is real, how many races are there?” are philosophical, not scientific, matters. Nyborg brings up “Lewontin’s fallacy”, but take what Hardimon (2017: 22-23) writes about the matter:

It is worth noting that the force of the argument against the existence of racialist races from Lewontin’s data analysis is unaffected by the critique A.W.F. Edwards made in his 2003 paper “Human Genetic Diversity: Lewontin’s Fallacy.” The fallacy Edwards imputes to Lewontin consists in inferring that racial classification has no taxonomic signifigance from the finding that the between-race component of human genetic diversity is very small. The inference is fallacious because the fact that the between-race component of human genetic diversity is small does not entail that racial classification has no taxonomic signifigance. Lewontin’s locus-by-locus analysis (which does not consider the possibility of a correlation between individual loci) does not preclude the possibility that individual loci might be correlated in such a way that people could be grouped into traditional racial categories. The underlying though is that racial classification would have “taxonomic signifigance” were it possible to group people into traditonal racial categories by making use of correlations between individual loci. However, Lewontin’s argument that there are no racialist races because the component of within-race genetic variation is larger than the component of between-race genetic variation is untouched by Edwards’ objection. That conclusion rests solely on Lewontin’s statistical analysis of human variation (the validity of which Edwards grants) and does not pressupose the absence of correlational structure in the genetic data. In short, Lewontin’s data do not preclude the possibility that raciual classification might have taxonomic signifigance but they do preclude the possibility that racialist races exist.

Nyborg is, obviously, pushing the concept of racialist races, though Hardimon has shown that they do not exist. Nyborg says that “Educability and IQ are arguable [sic] physiological (Spearman, 1927)“. Nope.

Nyborg then presents his next syllogism:

Admixture and Displacement Have Erased All Race Differences

1. Race implies unadmixed groups between which there are fixed—“fix”, in the sense of fixation index—traits.

2. (From Reich (2018) race implies “primeval” groups…separated tens of thousands of years ago”.

3. Genetics shows that mixture and displacement have happened again and again”… and … as a result “Differences have been blurred or erased”.

4. Thus, “there are no fixed traits associated with specific geographic locations…”

5. And “our pictures of past ‘racial structures’ are almost always wrong” and harmful.

Ergo

Since human descent groups are mixed and do not exhibit fixed trait differences and since there are no 10-thousand-year-old primeval groups, there are no races.

This one is strong, and if an eliminativist/anti-realist about race were to use this argument (remember, Nyborg doesn’t understand that social constructivists are realists about race), then it would be strong. But that human populations are mixed and do not exhibit trait differences does not mean that race does not exist, that does not follow. That is a carry-over from the racialist concept of race, which is false.

Nyborg then presents his fifth syllogism:

Race is only Skin Color Deep

1. “When people speak about race, usually they seem to be referring to skin color and, at the same time, to something more than skin color.”

2. “This is the legacy of people such as Morton, who developed the “science” of race to suit his own prejudices and got the actual science totally wrong.”

3. “Science today tells us that the visible differences between people a re accidents of history. They reflect how our ancestors dealt with sun exposure, and not much else.”

4. There is no homogenous African race.

Ergo,

Since race is only based on skin color, it is made up by racists.

I have heard an argument similar to this, and it fails. Race isn’t ONLY BASED ON skin color, but it is a marker of race, along with ancestry and location. Of course, morphology and other phenotypic traits ground the scientific concept of “race” (minimalist/populationist race). Race, of course, does not mean only skin color, there are many other ways to delineate races, with skin color being but one tell.

Nyborg then writes:

Ducrest, Keller, and Rouling, 2008) [79] thus observed that darker color is associated with greater aggressiveness in 10 mammal species, three kinds of birds, and more Lizard forms entirely evaded them. They condemned the color analogue with respect to humans, and reacted forcefully when Rushton and Templer (2009) [80] drew data from no less than 113 countries and found that “… murder, rape, and serious assault were associated with darker skin color, lower IQ, higher birth rate, higher infant mortality, higher HIV/AIDS rate, lower life expectancy, and lower income”

Yea, Ducrest, Keller, and Rouling (2008) is one study that Rushton loved, as it, supposedly, gave a basis for darker color being associated with aggressiveness in a slew of different animals. I rebutted Rushton and Templer, in any case. Their study was ridiculous and they did not even heed what Ducrest, Keller, and Rouling (2008: 507) stated “… that human populations are therefore not expected to consistently exhibit the associations between melanin-based coloration and the physiological and behavioural traits reported in our study.” Must be hard for Rushton and Templer to read.

In sum, Nyborg is wrong that racial constructivists claim that “Races do not exist”, for if they did not exist, then what would constructivists be fighting for? Nyborg seems to be talking to anti-realists/eliminativists about race. Nyborg pushes a racialist concept about race, which was refuted by Hardimon (2017: Chapter 1). Races exist in a minimal sense (Hardimon, 2017) and U.S. sense (Spencer, 2014), but not in the racialist “HBD” sense. In this case, biological racial realism (Spencer, 2011) is true, but if we are going by Kaplan and Winther’s (2014) definitions, Rushton, Jensen, Lynn, and Nyborg would be the biological racial realists, whereas myself, Hardimon and Spencer would be biogenomic/cluster race realists. It seems that Nyborg needs to brush up on the philosophical literature, because what he claims that social constructivists about race believe are not true; he just strawmanned their position. In any case, I’ve shown that constructivists about race do not believe that race is not real. They may not believe that race is real in a biological manner, but they do in a social one, and that is enough for them to be race realists and believe that race exists.

(Also note how Kaplan and Winther (2014) note that “Social racial realism defends the existence of distinct human groups in our ordinary discourse and social interactions. Such groups are often identified and stabilized by “surface” factors such as skin color or facial features.” So, again, those who push a socialrace-type concept do not deny that race exists, on the contrary, they are realists about race. Nyborg got it wrong, and some of his critiques are good against those who deny the reality of race, but his racial ontology is false.

Social Constructivists about Race are Realists about Race

1750 words

“Race is just a social construct!” is a claim that one who ventures on this side of the internet is likely to hear. People who believe that race is a biological—and social—reality would then say that they are denying the reality of race—that they are saying that race does not exist. But think about the phrase “Race is just a social construct.” In the phrase, we should not assume that there is anything in it which states that the one who is using it is saying that “Race does not exist.” On the contrary: they ARE being realists about race, but in a social, not biological, manner.

Even those who drafted the new AAPA Statement on Race and Racism state that ““race” as a social reality — as a way of structuring societies and experiencing the world — is very real.” They further state that (my emphasis):

… race has become a social reality that structures societies and how we experience the world. In this regard, race is real, as is racism, and both have real biological consequences.

What people do not understand is that just by saying that something is “socially constructed” it does not mean that something “is not real.” For, if social constructivists about race did not believe in the reality of race, what would they have to talk about if what they were talking about did not exist?

Taking a social constructivist approach to race does not mean that one denies its reality. In fact, one of the most impactful arguments for the existence of race identifies race as a social construct of a biological reality (Spencer, 2014). We socially construct races based on what we see—what we see correlates to geographic locales. However, note the socially construct part of the previous phrase. Just that one part can denote so much when it comes to race and its reality.

Social constructivists about race deny that race exists as a biological reality but admit that it exists as a social reality. This then allows them to argue that “racial inequality becomes embodied—literally—in the biological well-being of racialized groups and individuals” (Gravlee, 2009). Gravlee (2009) explains how race becomes biologicized through people’s social expectations of certain races. So, as Gravlee argues, there are biological consequences of racializing social groups.

This is just as Kaplan (2010) argues: although the concept of folk races is false (I disagree), the fact that this concept is still deployed in American thought implies that this is part of what drives social inequalities between social groups that are racialized to be races (what Hardimon, 2017 terms “socialraces“). So, these socially/historically constructed races can and do mean big things when it comes to biology. We can biologicize social groups that we take to be racial groups (i.e., make them socialraces), and this can then drive health disparities between the now-racialized groups.

Now, when people state that “Race is a social construct without biological backing”, they are not denying that what we call “races” captures a portion of genetic diversity—it does, capturing about 4.3 percent of genetic variation between humans is accounted for by folk races (Rosenberg et al, 2002).

Spencer (2011) even identifies social constructivisits about race as realists about race in his Table 1.:

racedebate

Kaplan and Winther (2014) even identify social constructivists as racial realists, writing:

Social racial realism defends the existence of distinct human groups in our ordinary discourse and social interactions. Such groups are often identified and stabilized by “surface” factors such as skin color or facial features.

(I would be the first of their racial realists, the biogenomic cluster/race, while Jensen, Lynn, and Rushton would be what they term biological racial realists. I would then put Kaplan (2010) and Gravlee (2009) into the social racial realist category.) Kaplan and Winther (2014) are antirealists about biological race. When racialists hear people denying that race exists, that’s what they mean—they are antirealists about biological race.

So, race can exist as a social and political reality, but not exist as the biological racial realists would claim. That is because what we—as a society—impute onto racialized groups, i.e., social races, does have make a difference in regard to the type of health outcomes, for example, that constructivists about race care about. So while they are antirealist about biological races, they hold that those who uphold the existence of biological races do, in part, drive negative health disparities between racialized groups.

Social constructivists about race talk about race in a social manner. When it comes to Hardimon’s (2017) concept of socialrace, it picks out three different but related social kinds: a kind of social group, a social position, and a social system. To Hardimon (2017: 131):

The concept SOCIALRACE refers to

(1) a social group that is taken to be a racialist tace,
(2) the social position occupied by a particular social group that is a socialrace, or
(3) the system of social psoitions that are socialraces.

Socialraces are social groups because they are developed by social relations and defined by social properties. In this way, socialraces are not biological at all because they are not developed by biological relations and defined by biological properties. In this way, the concept of socialrace is distinct from all of Hardimon’s (2017) other race concepts—it, and it alone, constitutes the social dimension of race (this is the difference between Hardimon’s and Spencer’s (2014) concept of race—Hardimon separates the social and biological, Spencer combines both). And so, a socialrace is a social group that is taken to be a racialist race

Hardimon (2017: 132) writes:

Socialrace (the phenomenon) is social in something like the sense in which money and marital status are. Without the requisite social practices, there would be no money, no marriage, no socialrace. Spcoa;race differs straightforwardly social instutions, however, in that its sociality is disguised. The concept SOCIALRACE represents socialraces as social groups whose sociality is hidden—not from the critical theorist already in possession of the concept SOCIALRACE, of course, but from the ordinary individual in society. Socialraces are social groups that appear to be biological. The fact that they are social races goes unseen.

So socialraces are hierarchical in nature—some socialraces, such as whites, are dominant whereas other socialraces, such as blacks, are subordinate. So members of one dominant socialrace can oppress members of another subordinate socialrace. The fact that socialraces are taken to be racialist races—that the belief that people are members of biological races is necessary for the existence of socialraces is true.

Hardimon (2017: 132) writes

SOCIALRACE is strongly nonbiological. It is logically possible tht socialreaces could be found in a world in which the apparent differences in human skin color were actually the result of the nocturnal activity of race fairies, spray-painting hues of black, brown, yellow, red, and pink on the skin of sleeping souls in the dead of night. What makes a person a member of a socialrace are social practices (which include the local application of specific criteria for individual racial classifications), not the possession of biological features. The concept SOCIALRACE is free of any implication that there are even partially biological races. It does not represent socialrace as a “social-natural” kind, representing it instead as a social kinf that falsely purports to be a biological kind.

So we can see that, in Hardimon’s view, socialraces are groups taken to be racialist races—they are falsely thought of as being biologicized, and so, the “social” aspect of these groups is hidden, and only the “apparent” biological nature of these groups is seen. Though do note how SOCIALRACE cannot be both biological and social—it can only be one and it is, of course, social.

Further, minimalist race is a correlate of socialrace. However, just because minimalist race is a correlate of socialrace does not mean that there is a corresponding minimalist race for every socialrace. The best example is “Latinos/Hispanics.” They are a group that are racialized and can be said to be a socialrace, but they have no minimalist race correlate since they are an amalgamation of different races/ethnic groups. No minimalist race functions as the correlate of “Latinos/Hispanics.” “The Irish were a socialrace at one point bu are probably not a minimalist race. We can say that Jews have been a socialrace without committing to ourselves to the claim that they are a minimalist race” (Hardimon, 2017: 136).

So Hardimon’s socialrace concept is a distinctive race concept and satisfies a genuine representational need. Hardimon’s concept puts forth a way of thinking about social groups which are then racialized as biological racial groups, the way that these socialraces occupy social positions, and the system of social structures of which those positions are parts (of which those parts are socialraces). Hardimon’s concept, indeed, does not show that race “does not exist” or “is not real”, since he even says that “‘Constructivisim’ is often used in such a way that to say X is socially constructed is to say that X is unreal. As I use the term, ‘constructivism’ carries no such implication” (Hardimon, 2017: 136). Of course, there could carry that very implication, that whatever is socially constructed does not exist outside of what is doing the socially constructing.

In sum, social constructivists about race are realists about race. Indeed, they need to be realists about race in order for their proposed solutions to work. For if they were not realists about race, what are they fighting for? When people say “Those who say ‘race is a social construct’ deny the existence of race”, they mean to bring up antirealists about biological race, not social constructivists about race. Race, whether you take the biological or social/political view, clearly exists. And accepting one concept over the other dictates what you think about the so-called racial groups in question.

While Spencer’s (2014) race concept already has the social and biological parts inherent in them, Hardimon (2017) separates them—from racialist races, to minimalist race, to populationist race and finally socialrace. Socialraces have a minimalist race correlate—though not all of them do. In any case, socialraces have certain institutions that they are more likely to inhabit. The way that these socialraces occupy social positions, and the system of social structures of which those positions are part are what the concept of socialrace elaborates on.

Therefore, social constructivists about race are realists about race—and there can be no other way for them to be about race. They may be antirealists about biological race, but they are not antirealists about race all the way—they have to believe that race exists, or else what they are doing holds no weight in the world.

Lupus and Race/Ethnicity

1000 words

I’m watching Mystery Diagnosis right now, and I heard the narrator say that lupus is three times more common in African Americans than Caucasian Americans. (The woman was black.) So let’s look into it.

Lupus is a long-term autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks healthy tissue. It can damage any part of the body, skin cells, joints, organs. Many symptoms of lupus exist, like kidney inflammation, swelling, and damage to the blood, heart, joints, and lungs. No cure exists for lupus, though there are ways to minimize inflammation through diet and lifestyle.

Lupus is two to three times more likely to occur in women of color—blacks, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, and others—compared to white Americans. Somers et al (2014) state that lupus affects 1 in 537 black women, “with black patients experiencing earlier age at diagnosis, >2-fold increases in SLE incidence and prevalence, and increased proportions of renal disease and progression to ESRD as compared to white patients.” However, Somers et al (2016) note that medical records may be poor or missing while the reliability of diagnosis is low for non-whites and non-blacks. They also note that race and ethny data in the US is based on self-ID for the parents and child on the birth certificate, but self-ID has almost a perfect relationship with geographic ancestry (i.e., race) (Tang et al, 2005).

Guillermo et al (2017: 7) write that:

Ethnicity is a biological and social construct, including not only genetic ancestry, but also cultural characteristics (language, religion, values, social behaviors, country of origin) yet it is an arbitrary definition [120]. Race is oftentimes used interchangeable with ethnicity but it mainly refers to the biological features of groups of people. Given that there are differences in the clinical characteristics and prognosis among different populations, it is worth evaluating the impact of race/ethnicity in SLE. Genetic ancestry influences the risk for the incidence of SLE; for example, Amerindian ancestry is associated with an increased number of risk alleles for SLE [121], and also with an early age at onset [122], Amerindian and African ancestry are associated with a higher risk for kidney involvement [122,123] and European ancestry with a lower risk [124].

First, let’s look at ref [120], which is McKenzie and Crowcroft (1994), who Guillermo et al (2017) cite as saying that ethnicity is “an arbitrary definition.” They note that some researchers use Blumenbach’s terms (see Spencer, 2014). They claim that modern definitions class Asians as Caucasian or black … what? They state that modern definitions classify Asians as black because “all disadvantaged groups [are] “black populations,”
[since] the experience of racism is paramount.” This is ridiculous on so many levels.

In any case, Southern Europeans are more likely to have a higher risk of renal involvement, and antibody production but along with that a lower risk of discoid rash whereas Western Europeans while Ashkenazi Jews “seem to be protected from neurologic manifestations” (see Richman et al, 2009). Asians and Native Americans in Canada are less likely to have manifestations than Africans; a type of lupus known as cutaneous vasculitis is more common in Native Americans from Canada, while Asians from Canada had a lower rate of serotisis and arthritis compared to Caucasians, Native Americans and African descendants (Peschken et al, 2015). However, Peschken et al (2015) note that while ethnicity was not that strong a predictor of damage accrual, low income was.

Kidney involvement is a major factor in the development of lupus (Bagamant and Fu, 2009), while it is more frequent in “Hispanics”, African-descendants, and Asians. Further, “Hispanics” and blacks are more likely to have end-stage renal failure than whites (Ricardo et al, 2015). When it comes to lupus nephritis—inflammation of the kidneys caused by lupus—“Hispanics” also have a better response to mycophenolate mofetil, which is an immunosuppressive drug that prevents organ rejection (Appel et al, 2009). After the onset of the disease, the disease declines slowly in “Hispanics”, then Africans, and finally fastest in whites. There also seems to be an SES factor in the aetiology of the disease. Sule and Petri (2005) write that “Socioeconomic status can have a major impact on SLE disease manifestations and mortality, independent of ethnicity“, while saying that association with SES is all over the place, with there being no relationship with SES and lupus acquisition.

Vila et al (2003) studied “Hispanics” from Texas and Puerto Rico. They noted that those from Texas accrued more damage than those from Puerto Rico. This is not surprising. “Hispanics” are not a homogenous group (they are a socialrace with no minimalist correlate, they have differing admixture from all over; “Hispanics” can be of any race. Vila et al (2007: 362) note that:

This diversity appears to be areflection of the great variability that exists between these populations with regards to their genetic, environmental and sociodemographic backgrounds.

“Hispanics” from the southeast part of America are different ethnically than those from the southeast.

Blacks and “Hispanics” have a higher rate of mortality than whites, but these differences disappear once SES is accounted for (Ward, Pyun, and Studenski, 1995; Kasitanon, Magder, and Petri, 2006; Fernandez et al, 2007). There could be some genetic differences between races/ethnies that contribute to disease differences between them. But as Kampourakis (2017: 19) notes in his book Making Sense of Genes:

… genes do not alone produce characters or disease but contribute to their variation. This means that genes can account for variation in characters but cannot alone explain their origin.

In sum, there is a wide range of differences between races and ethnies when it comes to lupus. Is the main cause environmental or genetic? Neither, as genes and environment interact to form disease (and any other) phenotypes. So if one at-risk minority group has a low SES, that may be a risk factor. The fact that there are ethnic differences in response to autoimmune drugs when it comes to certain forms of lupus is interesting. The wide range of ethnic differences in the acquisition of the disease is interesting, with Ashkenazi Jews seemingly protected from the disease. In any case, there are racial/ethnic differences in the acquisition of this disease and to better treat those with this disease—and any other—we need to be realists about race, whether it’s biological or social, since there are very real disease and mortality outcomes between them.

Race as a Genuine Kind

1600 words

Race realism can be defined as the belief that our racial categories pick out real kinds in nature. Picking out real kinds in nature is a necessary condition for race realism to be true. I’ve extensively covered Hardimon’s (2017) and Spencer’s (2014) arguments on the existence of race. They definitively prove that, all though there is a social/cultural dimension to race, biological racial realism is true, since our racial categories truly do pick out real kinds in nature.

In the philosophy of race, questions such as “What is race?” and “Is race biological?” are asked. Philosophers of race use many tools at their disposal to attempt to answer these and other questions regarding the metaphysics of race. Four main views on race exist: racial anti-realism, the belief that race does not exist; race realism, the belief that race is real; social constructivism, the belief that race is a social construct; and biological racial realism, the belief that race is biologically real (Spencer, 2011).

Note that social constructivists about race are race realists; they believe that race is real but that it is strictly a social reality. Racial anti-realists take the belief that race does not exist at all; so those who make the claim that social constructivists about race say that race is not real, they really mean to say that racial anti-realists claim that race is not real. People hear the phrase “social construct” and automatically assume that that individual is attempting to argue that race is not real. But social constructivists about race do believe that race is real—that is, they are race realists, but only in a social, not biological, manner.

Spencer (2011: 9) argues that genuine kinds are kinds that contribute to long-term scientific progress, meaning that genuine kinds are “a valid kind in a well-ordered SRP [scientific research program].” Spencer (2011: 9) states that valid kinds in an SRP are “useful for playing an epistemic role of scientific kinds in that SRP, as well as a kind that is adequately epistemically justified in its SRP” while also stating that “ a valid kind in an SRP must be useful for playing an epistemic role of scientific kinds in its SRP.” Kinds are valid in SRPs when they can help scientists generate observations for understanding the natural world. Genuine kinds can be epistemically useful without being inductively useful.

Genuine kinds can be epistemically real or just a human (social) construct. Genuine kinds are real enough to use in scientific research—because they tell us just enough about the world to be epistemically useful in a SRP. That a kind is genuine means that it is “real enough” to be used in scientific research.

Now let’s look at Spencer’s argument that biological racial realism should mean “race is a genuine kind in biology”:

(1) The meaning of ‘biological racial realism’ in the race debate should be a metaphysically minimal interpretation of important scientific kindhood that also does the most justice to what counts as an important scientific kind.

(2) A “metaphysically minimal” interpretation of important scientific kindhood is one that does not adopt unnecessary and contentious metaphysical assumptions.

(3) The interpretation of important scientific kindhood that does the most justice to what counts as an important scientific kind is the one that best captures epistemically important scientific kinds—or ‘EIS kinds’ for short.

(4) The candidates for important scientific kindhood in the race debate are naturalo kinds, naturali kinds, naturalu kinds, naturalp kinds, realp biological kinds, reali biological kinds, and genuine kinds.

(5) No kind of kind in the race debate is both metaphysically minimal and does a better job of capturing EIS kindhood than genuine kinds.

(6) Therefore, the meaning of ‘biological racial realism’ in the race debate should be ‘race is a genuine kind in biology’.

This argument provided by Spencer establishes the fact that biological racial realism in the race debate should be ‘race is a genuine kind in biology.’ Now that I have laid out that an entity being biologically real in the race debate is not whether or not it is objective but whether it is epistemically justified in a biological research program, I will now turn to other author’s views on biological racial realism.

The topic on “Race as a Biological Kind” on PhilPapers states that:

One option is to say that one’s ancestor is a member of race X in virtue of sharing similar phenotypic, or observable, properties specific to other members of one’ s reproductively isolated breeding population.  A second option is to say that one’s ancestor is a member of race X in virtue of sharing similar genotypic, or genetic, properties specific to other members of one’s reproductively isolated breeding population.

While “… ancestral relations among reproductively isolated breeding populations and either genotypic or phenotypic properties is one way to develop a naturalistic account of race.” Note how this is almost, to the tee, Hardimon’s (2017) populationist race concept.

Andreason (2000) writes that “Most constructivists assume that biological realism and social constructivism are incompatible views about race; I argue that the two conceptions can be compatible.” Indeed, the claim that race is a social construct of a biological reality is a tempting view to take (and one I take to myself). That we socially construct groups does not mean that there is no biological reality to them, as Spencer (2014) shows with his Blumenbachian partitions. The claim that race is a social construct of a biological reality is completely at ends with the claim that race is purely social/political (as Dorothy Roberts argues) and the claim that race is purely biological. Though, we cannot separate ‘social/political’ and ‘biological’ terminology from our ontology. We must use both in conjunction in order to tease out what ‘race’ truly means. Stating that race is a social construct and only a social construct betrays the biology behind race. Stating that race is only biological betrays the social aspects of race. (Though, Hardimon (2017) has one race concept—the minimalist race concept—in which there is nothing ‘social’ about his proposed concept of race.)

Hardimon has four concepts of race: (1) the racialist concept of race—the claim that significant intellectual and moral differences exist between races (which he dispatched in his book); (2) the minimalist concept of race—the claim that groups that exhibit patterns of visible physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry satisfy the conditions of minimalist race; (3) the populationist race concept of race (the scientization of the minimalist race concept)—the claim that “race is a subdivision of Homo sapiens—a group of populations that exhibits a distinctive pattern of genetically transmitted phenotypic characters that corresponds to the group’s geographic ancestry and belongs to a biological line of descent initiated by a geographically separated and reproductively isolated founding population” (Hardimon, 2017: 99); and (4) the socialrace concept of race—the claim that race is a social, not biological, reality, and that society constructs what ‘race’ is.

Our racial categories pick out real kinds in nature, therefore race realism is true. This is established by both Hardimon (2017) and Spencer (2014), who discuss Rosenberg et al’s (2002) paper on the existence of population clusters deemed continental-level minimalist races by Hardimon (2017) and Blumenbachian partitions by Spencer (2014). Both arguments provided by Hardimon and Spencer are sound—they answer numerous objections that critics bring up to argue against Rosenberg et al’s (2002) study and other’s interpretation of what they say.

This article discusses Rosenberg et al (2002), and has this to say about the Kalash (the sixth cluster in that Rosenberg et al (2002) found):

The sixth population which is composed entirely of members of the Kalash, an isolated population in central Pakistan, is omitted by Wade on the grounds it “makes no genetic or geographic sense”. But the Kalash have a significant degree of genetic isolation from others, comparable in magnitude to that of other groups such as Native Americans. Moreover, they all live in the same place.

This is nonsense. That Structure labels a population as genetically distinct does not entail that that population is a continental-level minimalist race. That Structure picks out the Kalash as a genetically distinct group does not undercut Hardimon’s (2017) arguments on the existence of continental-level minimalist races. So, both K=6 and K=5 show that continental-level minimalist races are genetically structured (Hardimon, 2017: 88). (Further responses to critiques of Rosenberg et al can be found here and in Hardimon, 2017, chapter 5 and Spencer, 2014.)

Lastly, I’ll take some time to respond to commenter Oliver D. Smith’s objections to cranial measures and geographic ancestry.

Smith cited Sierp and Henneberg’s (2015) paper Can ancestry be consistently determined from the skeleton? in which the authors show that “no one individual was identified as belonging to only one ‘racial class’” (Sierp and Henneberg, 2015: 23). I don’t find this to be a problem. If we take Hardimon’s minimalist and populationist race concepts, the three conditions that need to be satisfied to delineate races are differences in phenotype which correspond to geographic ancestry, geographic location, and geographic ancestry. The critique from Sierp and Henneberg (2015) only counts against one parameter—if that—which are skulls. When delineating races, we don’t only look at skulls (one visible physical feature), we look at the whole suite of traits that make a “race” “racial.” Therefore, Sierp and Henneberg’s (2015) critique has no bearing on Hardimon’s (2017) or Spencer’s (2014) arguments.

Is race a genuine kind in biology? Do our racial categories pick out real kinds in nature? The answer to both questions is “yes.” Race is a genuine kind in biology since it captures EIS kindhood; our racial categories do pick out real kinds in nature, as shown by Spencer (2014) and his Blumenbachian partitions. Hardimon’s and Spencer’s arguments are definitive: biological racial realism is true.

(i) If biological racial realism is true, then our racial categories would have to pick out real kinds in nature.
(ii) Our racial categories pick out real kinds in nature.
(iii) Therefore, biological racial realism is true.

Dorothy Roberts on Race as a Political Entity

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I recently bought Dorothy Roberts’ Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century (2011) (it was $1.99 in the nook store, couldn’t pass it up), which, how the title of the book explains, discusses how race is recreated today using methods of the past as well as methods of the future. One of her main claims is that race is a political entity. Now, while I don’t disagree here (there are of course social aspects to what we call “races”), she completely rides against biological racial realism (eg Spencer, 2014; Hardimon, 2017). Her concept, though, is similar to Hardimon’s (2017) socialrace concept, and it is already a part of Spencer’s Blumenbachian partitions (since race is both biologically and socially constructed in the American view of race). While I do not believe that you need genes to delineate race, Roberts also goes on the attack on Rosenberg et al (2002), who both Hardimon and Spencer cite to buttress their arguments on the reality of biological races.

Race is not a biological category that is politcally charged. It is a political category that has been disguised as a biological one. (Roberts, 2011: 14)

Note how this is extremely similar to Hardimon’s socialrace concept. In Hardimon’s concept, socialraces have a biological correlate: minimalist races. Hardimon’s concept says, for example, that “Hispanics/Latinos” are socialraces but they are a group that do not have a corresponding minimalist race—because “Hispanics/Latinos” are a mixture of different races. Race IS a biological category that has been politically charged: Groups look different; groups that look different share geographic ancestry; groups that look different that share geographic ancestry are derived from the same geographic location; therefore race is a biological category and is therefore politically charged (one reason) since people do not like the out-group—people that look different from themselves.

This distinction is important because many people misinterpret the phrase “race is socially constructed” to mean that the biological category of race has a social meaning, so that each society interprets differently what is means to belong to a biological race. According to this view, first we are born into  a race, and then our society determines the consequences of this natural inheritance. There is, then, no contradiction between seeing race as both biological and socially constructed. (Roberts, 2011: 14)

There, actually, IS NO CONTRADICTION between seeing race as socially and biologically constructed. Racial categories pick out real kinds in nature—which is what “biological racial realism” means. Since our racial categories pick out real kinds in nature, then, when it comes to society and social construction, whatever is believed about certain races in that society will be socially constructed. You can’t, for example, call a Nigerian Caucasian (see more on this below) because it does not make any sense.

Roberts then goes on (p. 14-15) about how “human beings do not fit the zoological definition of race” since a “biological race is a population of organisms that can be distinguished from other populations in the same species based on differences in inherited traits.” And so, since no human groups have this high degree of genetic differentiation, there are no human races, but only one human race.

Though Hardimon (2017: 99) articulates the best definition of race I have come across:

A race is a subdivision of Homo sapiens—a group of populations that exhibits a distinctive pattern of genetically transmitted phenotypic characters that corresponds to the group’s geographic ancestry and belongs to a biological line of descent initiated by a geographically separated and reproductively isolated founding population.

So we know that (1) populations exhibit distinctive features; (2) these populations that exhibit these distinctive features correspond to that population’s geographic ancestry, (3) these populations that exhibit these distinctive features which correspond to geographic ancestry belong to a biological line of descent which was initiated by reproductive isolated and geographically separated founding populations; so (4) race exists.

We know race is a political grouping because it has its political roots in slavery and colonialism, it has served its political function over the four hundred years since its inceptio, and its boundary lines—how many there are and who belongs to each one—have shifted over time and across nations to suit those political purposes. Who qualifiies as white, black, and Indian has been the matter of countless rule changes and judicial decisions. These racial reclassifications did not occur in response to scientific advances in human biology, but in response to sociopolitical imperatives. They reveal that was is being defined, orgainzed, and interpreted is a political relationship and not an innate classification. (Roberts, 2011: 15)

We can take this two ways here: (1) point out that Roberts is conflating minimalist/populationist races with socialraces (which is exactly what she is describing to the tee). Yes, since race is partly social, then, based on the social attitudes of people which do change over time. Then, in that society, certain groups who were barred from being in another group may be allowed “into” the group. This does not mean that race is not biological. “Oh the Irish were considered “not white” at one point in time, therefore race doesn’t exist since groups can exit group A and become group B based on sociopolitical inclinations.” This, of course, goes over the distinctive phenotypic differences between groups with peculiar geographic ancestry. THAT is what defines race; what Roberts is discussing is important, since race is partly political, but it is not the whole story.

In addition to the grotesque lynchings that terrorized blacks throughout the South, an especially brutal form of reenslavement was the false imprisonment of thousands of black men who were then leased to white farmers, entrepreneurs, and corporations as a source of cheap labor.

It is in this accute distinction that between the political status of whites and blacks, this way of governing the power relationship between them, that we find the origins of race. Colonial landowners inherited slavery as an ancient practive, but they invented race as a modern system of power. They employed Aristotle’s concept of natural slaves and natural rulers to define permanent features of black and white people. Race separated human beings into two fundamentally distinct groups: those who were indelibly born to be lifelong servants and those who were born to be their masters. Race radically transformed not only what it meant to be enslaved, but what it meant to be free. (Roberts, 2011: 23)

Let’s accept Roberts’ argument here that the political status of whites and blacks was a way to govern the power relationship between them: so what? That group A subjugated group B and attempted to justify it with X, Y, and Z doesn’t mean that group A and group B are not biological races—it just means that group A subjugated group B and, in the future, there were social repercussions (which is also a part of the phenomenon of race as a partly social construct).

Roberts then discusses the Census (p. 31-35) and how ever-changing racial definitions undermine the claim that biological racial realism is true. In Spencer’s argument, the US meaning of “race” is just a referent, “specifically the referent of US racial discourse” (Spencer, 2014: 1027). This is because, in America, race-talk is tied to the census. We Americans are familiar with the racial groupings on the census since they are not only in use on the census but numerous other institutions. Spencer (2014) then discusses how we can use “phonetic cues alone (e.g., African American Vernacular English), surnames alone (e.g., “Chen”), first names alone (e.g., “Lakisha”), and visual cues alone (e.g., a person’s face)” (Spencer, 2014: 1027) to know someone’s race. Therefore, according to Spencer, the discourse used in the census is the discourse used nation-wide.

But the census does not set what “race” means on these forms: the OMB (Office of Management Budgeting) does. The OMB refers to race as a “set” of populations, and so this leads Spencer to believe that the “sets” of populations that the OMB is referring to are whites, blacks, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and American Indians. So race is a particular, not a kind as Hardimon argues.

Roberts then argues against the “new racial science”, most forcefully, against Rosenberg et al (2002). She brings up the usual discourse “…the number of genetic clusters is dictated by the computer user, not the computer program” (Roberts, 2011: 74). Roberts says that the clusters are “arbitrary.” Roberts says that Rosenberg et al’s (2002) study failed to verify 18th-century racial typology, but it did confirm what we have known since Lewontin’s (1972) analysis: that there is more genetic variation within races than between them. About 93-95 percent of human genetic variation was found to be within race whereas 5-7 percent of human genetic variation was found to be between groups.

Roberts says that the clusters are “arbitrary.” This is a common critique, but it is irrelevant. The five populations found by Structure are genetically structured—they are meaningfully demarcated on the basis of genetic markers (Hardimon, 2017: 88). Roberts also discusses the K = 6 run, which identified the Kalash people.

The fact that structure represents a population as genetically distinct does not entail that the population is a race. Nor is the idea that populations corresponding to the five major geographic areas are minimalist races undercut by the fact that structure picks out the Kalash as a genetically distinct group. Like the K=5 graph, the K=6 graph shows that modulo our assumption, continental-level races are genetically structured” (Hardimon, 2017: 88).

The five clusters identified by Rosenberg et al (2002) represent continental-level minimalist races so the five populations which correspond to the major geographic locations throughout the world are continental-level minimalist races. So it is, in fact, possible to place individuals into different their continental-level minimalist race without knowing anything about the race or ancestry of the individuals from which the microsatellites were drawn. Rosenberg et al (2002) studied the populations based on language, culture, and geography, not skin color or race.

It is true that Rosenberg et al (2002) found 4.3 percent of the overall human genetic variation to be between races—but this does not ride against claims from biological racial realists. The genetic variation is enough to say that we have partitions at K = 5.

“People are born with ancestry that comes from their parents but are assigned a race” is how Camara Jones, a research director at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explains it. (Roberts, 2011: 77)

People are assigned races based on the ethnicity/ancestry of the parents. A Nigerian would not be assigned to the Asian race, since the Nigerian has none of the features which make “Asians” Asian.

This is very simple: if both parents belong to race R, then the child will be race R as well. If parent 1 belongs to R1 and so does parent 2, then the child will belong to R1 as well (since the parents have distinct physical features which correspond with geographic ancestry and their ancestors derived from a distinct geographic location. So, since people are born with ancestry that comes from their parents, then they are assigned their PARENT’S race; they are not assigned A race, as if one can assign any individual to any race. But what if one parent belongs to R1 and the other belongs to R2? Hardimon’s minimalist concept is vague here; it only shows that races exist, it does not say which populations are races. If an individual’s parents belong to R1 and R2, then that individual is mixed race. The existence of mixed race people, of course, does not rail against the existence of biological races.

In sum, Roberts does make some good points (in what I have read of the book so far), but she gets it wrong on race. Hardimon and Spencer have both defended the methodology/concepts used by Rosenberg et al (2002) and in doing so, they successfully argued for the existence of biological races—though their two viewpoints differ. That race is, in part, socially (politically) constructed is irrelevant. What Roberts does not understand is that these socially constructed groups (“white”, “black”) still, very much so, capture biological differences between them. That they are socialraces does not mean that they DO NOT have different physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry. The socialrace concept (which Roberts espouses in her book) is separate from Hardimon’s other scientific race concepts. But it is already inherent in Spencer’s, since his Blumenbachian partitions are social constructs of a biological reality. You don’t need genes to delineate races and minimalist races exist and are biologically real.

(I will cover other things from her book as I get to them. I will discuss race and medicine at length.)

The Physical Reality of Race

1600 words

Rational people can just look at people of different ancestries and see that there is something to what we call “race.” We notice that others look different based on where their ancestors came from and we classify people into different races on the basis of their physical appearance. Anti-biological racial realists may point to the fact that there is more variation within races than between them (Lewontin, 1972; Rosenberg et al, 2002; Witherspoon et al, 2007; Hunley, Cabana, and Long, 2016; Hardimon, 2017). While this is true, this does not mean that race is “just a social construct” (a phrase used to deflate the meaning of “race”); it is both a social construct and a biological reality.

The definition of race is simple—a group of populations which genetically transmit heritable characteristics which correspond to that group’s geographic ancestry who also belong to a biological line of descent which was initiated by a geographically isolated and reproductively isolated founding populations (Hardimon, 2017). Note how this definition says nothing about differences in allele frequencies between populations between populations—because, for these purposes, they’re irrelevant for the argument being made. The fact of the matter is, the reality of race hinges on two things: (1) the heritable differences between population groups which were geographically/reproductively isolated and (2) our ability to discern these population groups by their phenotype.

A great book on the history of race, its meaning and how the term was used over the ages is Race: The Reality of Human Differences by Sarich and Miele (2004). For the purposes of this piece, the first two chapters are the most important, since they touch on aspects of race that I have in the past—mainly the fact that we only need phenotype to discern one’s race. People from Europe look phenotypically different from people from Africa who look phenotypically different from people from Asia etc. These differences between these groups are evidence that race exists—these racial differences in phenotype are due, in part, to the climate they evolved in while geographically and reproductively isolated (two conditions for racehood).

Sarich and Miele (2004: 29) write:

Vince [Sarich; one of the authors of the book] naively asked for the legal definition of “race” and was told there wasn’t one.

[…]

As we began working on this book, we discussed the issue of the legal definition of “race” … He informed us that there is still no legal definition of “race”; nor, as far as we know, does it appear that the legal system feels the need for one. Thus, it appears that the most adversarial part of our complex society, the legal system, not only continues to accept the existence of “race” but also relies on the ability of the average individual to sort people into races. Our legal system treats “racial identification” as self-evident …

[…]

The courts have come to accept the commonsense definition of race, and it is this commonsense view that, as we show, best conforms to reality. A look at two recent (2000) cases is illustrative. In both Rice v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs and in Hank v. Rochester School District, neither side raised any questions about the existence of human races or the ability of the average citizen to make valid judgements as to who belongs to which race (even if the racial categories are euphemistically termed “peoples” or “populations”). No special expertise was assumed or granted in defining or recognizing race other than the everyday commonsense usage, as given in the Oxford English Dictionary, that a race is “a group of persons connected by common descent” or “a tribe, nation, or people, regarded as common stock.” The courts and the contending parties, in effect, accepted the existence of race and the ability of the ordinary person to distinguish between races based on a set of physical features.

In Rice v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Rice challenged the state of Hawaii since they did not allow him to vote—on the basis that he was not a native Hawaiian, and that the electoral system of Hawaii is for the benefit of Hawaiians and Hawaiians only. Everyone agreed that Rice was a Hawaiian citizen—but he did not have Hawaiian ancestry, so he could not be recognized as “Hawaiian” under state law. However, the SCOTUS overturned the ruling (that Rice should not be allowed to vote on the basis of not having Hawaiian ancestry) 7-2, citing the 15th amendment: “The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.Sarich and Miele (2004: 31) write “The 15th amendment is explicit—race means what the average person thinks it means—and the majority of the Supreme Court read it that way.” (Also see Hong, 2008 for an overview of the case.)

On the other hand, in Haak v. Rochester School District, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a white fourth-grade student named Jessica Haak could transfer from her current district to another district (full of whites) since the transfer program was initiated with the idea of lessening the racial isolation of the adjoining districts. Jessica’s mother cited the 14th amendement, and a district court ruled in their favor but the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision. “A “minority pupil” was defined as “a pupil who is of Black or Hispanic origin or is a member of another minority group that historically has been the subject of discrimination” (Sarich and Miele, 2004: 31).

The critical points here are that in both Rice and Haak, neither side raised any questions about the existence of human races or the ability of the average citizen to make valid judgements as to who belongs to which race. No special expertise was assumed or granted in defining or recognizing race other than the everyday usage of the term. In Rice, the court, in effect, took judicial notice of the commonsense definition of race. In Haak, the court accepted physical appearance as a valid means by which the average citizen can recognize races and distinguish among them.

In short, the courts accepted the existence of race, even if the legislature was afraid to use the offending word.

Despite the fact that Sarich and Miele (2004) claim that there is no legal definition of race, Cornell Law School has one definition stating thatthe term “racial group” means a set of individuals whose identity as such is distinctive in terms of physical characteristics or biological descent.” While the Law Dictionary, citing the 15th amendment writes that race is “A tribe, people, or nation, belonging or supposed to belong to the same stock or lineage. “Race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Const U. S., Am. XV.” (Also see Hoffman, 2004 who argues that “race” should not be used in the legal system.)

Notice how Sarich and Miele’s (2004) description of “race” and what “race” is almost—word-for-word—like Spencer’s Blumenbachian partitions (Spencer, 2014). Americans defer to the US Census Bureau on matters of race; the US Census Bureau defers to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) who speak of sets of populations; these sets of populations correspond to geographic clusters who have distinct phenotypes based on their geographic ancestry, which the average American can discern; therefore race exists. Spencer states that when Americans refer to “race” that Americans refer to both a social construct and a biological reality—that is, Americans socially construct race (think of how Hardimon’s minimalist concept of race is related to the concept of socialrace) but these social constructs do have biological underpinnings which can be discerned in two ways: (1) just observation of phenotypes and (2) looking into the genomes of genetically related individuals who make up these population groups.

Even the ancients distinguished races and sorted them on the basis of hair color/type, skin color, physiognomy etc. “[The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Indians, and Chinese] sorted [broad racial groups] based upon the same set of characteristics—skin color, hair form, and head shape” while “it is evident that they relied upon a set of observable features (skin color and form, body build, facial features) quite similar to those used in the commonsense notion of race and the racial classifications of nineteenth-century anthropology to sort the many diverse groups they encountered into a smaller number of categories” (Sarcih and Miele, 2004: 42).

It is very clear that, ever since antiquity at the very least, we have been classifying racial groups on the basis of phenotype—and, come to find out, this is one of the best ways to sort people—and you don’t even need to look at genetic differences between groups. Phenotype is clearly enough to delineate racial groupings, you don’t need genes to delineate race. We only need to recognize that (1) people look different on the basis of where they (or their ancestors) came from; (2) observe that these physical differences between people who come from different places are between real and existing groups; (3) people have common ancestry with others; (4) people derive from distinct geographic locations; so (5) we can infer that race exists.

Race is very clearly a reality—both biologically and socially. At least three sound arguments exist for the existence of race (Sarich and Miele, 2004; Spencer, 2014; Hardimon, 2017; see Hardimon’s and Spencer’s arguments at length). Even those in antiquity delineated races on the basis of physical features—exactly what has been argued by Spencer and Hardimon. Race is physically real—people look different from each other individually, ethnically, and racially.

Biological racial realism is true, and if biological racial realism is true then race exists.

(1) If groups of people look different from each other depending on where their ancestors evolved, then race exists.

(2) Groups of people look different from each other depending on where their ancestors evolved.

(3) Therefore, race exists since people look different depending on where their ancestors evolved.

Three Arguments for the Existence of Race: Establishing Population Groups as Races

2000 words

At least three arguments establish the existence and reality of biological race:

Argument (1) from Michael Hardimon’s (2017) bookRethinking Race: The Case for Deflationary Realism” (The Argument for the Existence of Minimalist Races, see Chapters 2, 3, and 4):

The conditions of minimalist racehood are as follows:

(C1) a group, is distinguished from other groups of human beings by patterns of visible physical features

(C2) [the] members are linked be a common ancestry peculiar to members of that group, and

(C3) [they] originate from a distinctive geographic location (Hardimon, 2017: 31).

This is the argument to prove the existence of minimalist races:

P1) There are differences in patterns of visible physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry
P2) These patterns are exhibited between real groups, existing groups (i.e., individuals who share common ancestry)
P3) These real, existing groups that exhibit these physical patterns by geographic ancestry satisfy the conditions of minimalist race
C) Therefore race exists and is a biological reality

Argument (2) from Michael Hardimon’s (2017) book “Rethinking Race: The Case for Deflationary Realism” (The Argument for the Existence of Populationist Races, see Chapters 5 and 6):

P1) The five populations demarcated by Rosenberg et al (2002) are populationist races; K = 5 demarcates populationist races.
P2) Populationist race=minimalist race.
P3) If populationist race=minimalist race, then everything from showing that minimalist races are a biological reality carries over to populationist races.
P4) Populationist races capture differences in genetic variation between continents and this genetic variation is responsible for the distinctive patterns of visible physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry who belong to biological lines of descent which were initiated by geographically isolated founding populations.
C) Therefore, since populationist races=minmalist races, and visible physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry are genetically transmitted by populations who belong to biological lines of descent, initiated by reproductively isolated founding populations, then populationist races exist and are biologically real.

Argument (3) from Quayshawn Spencer’s (2014) paper “A Radical Solution to the Race Problem” (The argument for the Existence of Blumenbachian Populations):

P1) The term “race” in America refers to biologically real entities; when speaking of race in America, Americans defer to the US Census Bureau who defers to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
P2) The OMB refers to race as “sets of” categories, while considering “races” to have 5 members, which correspond to the five major geographic regions.
P3) Rosenberg et al show that, at K = 5, meaningful, though small (~4.3 percent) genetic variation exists between continental-populations
C) Since Americans defer to the US Census Bureau who defers to the OMB, and the OMB refers to race as “sets of” categories which then correspond to five clusters found by Rosenberg et al’s (2002) analysis, race (what Spencer, 2014 terms “Blumenbachian populations”) must exist, though “race” is both socially constructed and biologically real.

Put another way, Spencer’s (2014) argument could also be:

P1) The US meaning of “race” is a referent, which refers to the discourse used by the US Census Bureau; the US Census Bureau refers to the discourse used by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
P2) The referent of “race”, in US ontology, refers to a set of human population groups, not a biological kind (sets of human population groups as denoted by the OMB), which refer to “Africans”, “Caucasians”, “East Asians”, “Native Americans”, and Pacific Islanders/Oceanians.
P3) The US meaning of race is both biologically real and socially constructed; Americans refer to real, existing groups when they talk about race.
C) If the US meaning of race is a referent which refers to the discourse used by the US Census Bureau and they refer to the OMB who discuss “sets of” population groups, then when Americans talk about race they talk about Blumenbachian partitions, since race is both biologically real and socially constructed.

The claim “Race exists” is now established. Note how Argument (1) establishes the claim that “races” are real, existing groups who are phenotypically distinct populations with differing geographic ancestry. Note how Argument (2) establishes the claim that populationist race = minimalist race and that “races” are a group of populations that exhibit a distinctive pattern of genetically transmitted phenotypic characters which then correspond to that group’s geographic ancestry who belong to a biological line of descent which was initiated by a geographically separated and reproductively isolated founding population. (This definition of “race” a subdivision of Homo sapiens is the best I’ve come across so far.) Finally, note how Argument (3) establishes the claim that race, in the American sense, is both biologically real and socially constructed. All three arguments are sound and logically valid.

Now, which groups fall into which of the five racial categories?

Caucasians

Caucasians denote a wide-range of groups; Europeans, MENA (Middle Eastern/North African) peoples, Indians are a very diverse group, racially speaking, with “Caucasoids”, “Mongoloids” and “Australoids” (Australoids would mean Pacific Islander/Oceanian) (see Kashyap et al, 2006 for an overview of ethnic, linguistic and geographic affiliations of Indians in the study). Ashkenazi Jews are taken to be a specific race in today’s modern racial ontology, however, Ashkenazi Jews do not exhibit a distinctive pattern of genetically transmitted phenotypic characters which then correspond to their geographic ancestry; they do represent a “geographically isolated and reproductively isolated founding population”, but the fact that they do not exhibit a distinctive pattern of genetically transmitted phenotypic characters means they are not a race, according to Arguments (1) and (2). Ashkenazi Jews are Caucasian, and not their own race. Of course, skin color does not denote race, it is only one marker to use to infer which groups are races.

Africans

Africans comprise all of Sub-Saharan Africa. Africa has the most genetic diversity in the human species (see Campbell and Tishkoff, 2010). Africans, in general, have long, slim bodies with a broad nose, dark skin, kinky hair (lip size is different based on the ethny in question). There are over 3,000 different ethnic groups in Africa, who all comprise the same race. Now, since Africans have the most genetic diversity this does not necessarily mean that they are so phenotypically distinct that there are tens, hundreds, thousands of races on the continent. One only needs to refer back to Arguments (1) and (2) to see that brash claims that “all Xs are Ys” don’t make any sense—especially with the arguments laid out above.

East Asians

East Asians denote a minimalist and populationist race (Arguments (1) and (2)) and Blumenbachian partition (Argument (3)). East Asians denote, obviously, those that derive from East Asia (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese). These peoples are relatively short, on average, have a distinct yellow-ish tint to their skin (which is why they are sometimes called “yellow”), epicanthic folds and shorter limbs (more likely to have the endomorphic phenotype).

Native Americans

Native Americans are derived from a Siberian population that crossed the Bering Land Bridge about 14kya. They then spread throughout the Americas, becoming the “Natives” we know today. They are what used to be termed “red” people, due to their skin color. Native Americans are derived from Siberians, who share affinities with East Asians. (This will be discussed in further depth below.) They have black hair, and dark-ish skin. Populations that lived in the Americans pre-1492 expansion are part of the Native American racial grouping.

Pacific Islanders/Oceanians

The last racial grouping are Pacific Islanders. Spencer (2014: 1032) writes that we can define Oceanians (Pacific Islanders):

as the most inclusive human population born from East Asians in Oceania (Sahul and the Pacific Islands) and from the original human inhabitants of Oceania. Since Sahul was a single landmass composed of present-day Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania 50,000–60,000 years ago, when humans first inhabited it, and since we know that the original human inhabitants of Oceania interbred to create modern Oceanians, and since temporal parts of populations are genealogically connected, it should be the case that most Oceanians have genealogical connections to the original peoples of some Pacific island. The only Oceanians who will not will be individuals who became Oceanian from interbreeding alone and Oceanians descended from indigenous peoples of Sahul but not indigenous peoples of a Pacific island (e.g., Aboriginal Australians). The final source of evidence comes from counterfactual cases. [Pacific Islanders and Australian Aborigines share a deep ancestry, see McEvoy et al, 2010.]

A group is in race X, if and only if they share a pattern of visible physical features and common geographic ancestry. If they do not share a pattern of visible physical features which correspond to common geographic ancestry then they do not constitute a race. Keep this in mind for the next two sections.

Are Oceanians black?

One claim that gets tossed around a lot (by black nationalists) is the claim that Oceanians are black due to their skin color, certain phenotypic traits. But this could just as easily be explained by convergent evolution, not that they are, necessarily, the same racial grouping. If this were true, then Australian Aborigines would be black, by proxy, since Australian Aborigines and Oceanian are the same race. The claim, though, holds no water. Just because two groups “look similar” (which I do not see), it does not follow that they are the same race, since other conditions need to be met in order to establish the claim that two separate groups belong to the same race.

Are Native Americans Mongoloid?

Lastly is the claim that Native Americans do not denote an actual racial grouping, they are either Mongoloid or a sub-race of Mongoloids.

Many authors throughout history have presumed that Native Americans were Mongoloid. Franz Boas, for example, said that the Maya Indians were Mongoloid, and that, American populations had features the most similar to Mongoloids, so they are thusly Mongoloid. Wikipedia has a great overview of the history of the “Mongoloid” terminology, with examples from authors throughout history. But that is irrelevant. Native Americans genetically transmit heritable phenotypic characters which correspond with their geographic ancestry and are genetically and geographically isolated population groups.

Although the claim that “Native Americans are Mongoloid” has been echoed for hundreds of years, a simple argument can be erected to take care of the claim:

P1) If Native Americans were East Asian/Mongoloid, then they would look East Asian/Mongoloid.
P2) Native Americans don’t look East Asian/Mongoloid, they have a distinct phenotype which corresponds to their geographic ancestry (See Hardimon’s minimalist/populationist race concepts).
C) Therefore, Native Americans are not East Asian/Mongoloid.

Establishing the claim that Native Americans are not East Asian/Mongoloid is simple. Some authors may make the claim that since they look similar (whatever that means, they don’t look similar to me), that they, therefore according to Arguments (1) and (2) they are a separate race and not a sub-race of East Asians/Mongoloids; Argument (3) further establishes the claim that they are a separate race on the basis that they form a distinct cluster in clustering analyses (Rosenberg et al, 2002) and since, Americans defer to the US Census Beureau and the US Census Beureau defers to the OMB who discusses sets of populations, then when Americans talk about race they talk about Native Americans as separate from East Asians/Mongoloids, since, according to Arguments (1) and (2) they have a distinct phenotype.

Generally, they have distinct skin colors (of course, skin color does not equal race, but it is a big tell), they have similar black, straight hair. But they are, in my opinion, just too phenotypically distinct to call them the same race as Mongoloids/East Asians. For the claim “Native Americans and Mongoloids/East Asians” to be true, they would need to satisfy P1 in Argument (1) and P4 in Argument (2). Native Americans do not satisfy P1 in Argument (1) nor do they satisfy P4 in Argument (2). Therefore, Native Americans are not Mongoloid/East Asian.

Conclusion

The claim “Race exists and is a biological reality” is clearly established by three sound, valid arguments—two from Hardimon (2017; chapters 2-6) and one from Spencer (2014). These arguments show, using the latest of genetic clustering studies, that races, as classicly defined, do indeed, exist and that our old views of race hundreds of years ago were, largely, correct. These arguments establish the existence of the old folk-racial categories. Races have distinct phenotypes which are genetically transmitted and are correlated with geographic ancestry. Some may make certain claims that “Oceanians are black” or “Native Americans are Mongoloid”, but these claims do not hold. These two groups in question are phenotypically distinct, and they come from unique geographic locations, therefore they are not a part of the races that some purport them to be.

The Concepts of Racialist Race and Socialrace

2500 words

I have chronicled Hardimon’s minimalist and populationist race concepts in a few different articles. They show that race is a biological reality. The arguments that show that race exists are sound. Hardimon, unlike Spencer, distinguishes social from biological concepts of race. For Spencer, race is both a social and biological concept. For Hardimon, race is either a biological or social concept which is why he delineates the social concept from the biological concepts. The two concepts—racialist race and socialrace—are similar, and because they are similar they will both be discussed in the same article.

The racialist concept of race

The racialist concept of race is the first concept of race that Hardimon (2017) defines. He sets out six things that need to be true of human genetics, in his eyes, for the racialist concept of race to be true:

(a) The fraction of human genetic diversity between populations must exceed the fraction of diversity between them.

(b) The fraction of human genetic diversity within populations must be small.

(c) The fraction of diversity between populations must be large.

(d) Most genes must be highly differentiated by race.

(e) The variation in genes that underlie obvious physical differences must be typical of the genome in general.

(f) There must be several important genetic differences between races apart from the genetic differences that underlie obvious physical differences.

Note: (b) says that racialist races are genetically racially homogeneous groups; (c)-(f) say that racialist races are distinguised by major biological differences.

Call (a)-(f) the racialist concept of race’s genetic profile. (Hardimon, 2017: 21)

The racialist race concept, as opposed to the populationist and minimalist race concepts, propose to rank races on traits such as intelligence, morals, and cultural characters to different races. Though, he does strawman the racialist concept (which would be the HBD concept of race, I’d say) because he says things like “To be a member of a particular race would be to be a particular person who is disposed to behave in certain ways. Because of this, if racialist races existed, race would constitute a very significant kind.” This statement aside, though, race does not constitute a very significant kind, it constitutes a modest biological kind.

If one condition for the racialist concept of race is said to be that of an essence of different races, then the racialist concept of race is surely false. This is due to population thinking. Population thinking is a type of thinking that maintains that there is no single way in which genotypes are expressed by genotypes. Thus, there is no phenotypic or genotypic property that could play the role of racial essence. “Since there are no biological essences, there are no racialist race essences, and since there are no racialist race essences, there are no racialist races. The existence of racialist races is incompatible with a broad structural principle of biology” (Hardimon, 2017: 20).

Hardimon has many arguments against the existence of racialist races, including:

The corresponding argument against the truth of the racialist concept of race is that science has not found it to be the case that members of the groups thought to be racialist races share a very large number of important properties by virtue of which they count as members of such groups. Nor does it seem likely that science will find that members of groups thought to be racialist races share a very large number of such properties. The results of Lewontin’s 1972 study and Rosenberh and colleague’s 2002 study strongly suggest that it is extremely unlikely that there are many important genetic differences between races apart from the genetic differences that underlie the obvious physical differences. (pg 24)

Another argument he puts for is that if racialist races exist, then the races would be sharply distinguished between phenotypic and genotypic characteristics. Though, since most of the variation between human races are clinal, he argues, “human populations are not sharply distinguished from one another along a broad range of phenotypic and genotypic dimensions. It follows from this that there are no racialist races” (pg 25).

Hardimon also says that, if racialist races did indeed exist, human populations would be sharply divided by skin color, yet they aren’t. These differences between races are continuous and vary between populations, thus racialist races do not exist. He also says since genetic variation in Homo sapiens is nonconcordant “there are no racialist races” (pg 25).

The likelihood that racialist races exist is especially low relative to the available alternative hypotheses, which indlude the hypothesis that there are no races, period, and the hypothesis that, whereas racialist races do not exist, minimalist races do exist. It is safe to conclude that there are no racialist races, period. (pg 25)

The racialist race concept lacks scientific respectability, it does not represent any “facts of the matter“, and it “supports and legalizes domination” (Hardimon, 2017: 62). It is therefore, socially constructed in a pernicious sense. Racialist races are both ideological and social constructions which then purport to pick out biological kinds.

The concept of socialrace

Socialrace is simply defined as the nonracialist concept of social groups that are taken to be racialist races. Socialraces refer to:

(1) a social group that is taken to be a racialist race,
(2) the social position is occupied by a particular social group that is a socialrace, or
(3) the system of social positions that are socialraces. (Hardimon, 2017: 131)

Socialraces are social groups that are taken or thought to be racialist races. Thus, they are wrongly taken to be racialist races. The two concepts socialrace and racialist race are similar—they both are hierarchical. Since socialrace is a social reality, then it must play a role in our everyday social lives.

Hardimon discusses many things regarding socialrace that many readers—myself included, on some of the things—would disagree with. For instance, he states that “institutional racism”. Hardimon claims that institutional racism “obtains when and where socialrace obtains” (pg 133).

He argues that socialrace is “inter alia a relation of power“, and so the institution is also characterized “by the unequal distribution of social goods such as liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect. Socialrace is a system of advantages (purportedly) based on racialist race” (Hardimon, 2017: 133).

He then argues that differences in socialrace are associated with differences in life outcomes of the socialraces. Thus, “the belief that people are members of a biological race . . . is essential to the social construction of races” (Bernard Boxill, quoted in Hardimon, 2017: 133). Of course, the belief that people are members of a biological race is essential to the social construction of races, because the biological correlate of these socially constructed racial groups is the minimalist concept of race.

Socialrace, of course, has a biological correlate. That biological correlate is minimalist races. Minimalist races can be understood through the populationist race concept. Of course, saying that socialrace has a biological correlate in minimalist race does not necessarily mean that there are corresponding minimalist races for every socialrace. For example, “Hispanics/Latinos” can be said to be a socialrace, but they do not have a corresponding minimalist race because they do not genetically transmit distinct phenotypic characters which correspond to geographic ancestry. Using this terminology, the Irish were, at one point, a socialrace, whereas the Jews are treated as a socialrace today, when they are a subrace of the Caucasian race (they are not their own separate race, that’s like saying the British or Germans are a separate race). Minimalist race then appears to be a necessary condition for socialraces because they pick out real patterns of distinct physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry.

Socialraces, though, do not need to exhibit patterns of visible physical features; even if no such differences existed, groups could still be socialraces, for instance, social classes and other groups can be constructed to be socialraces. The concept of socialrace is a distinctive “race” concept (Hardimon, 2017: 139). Thus, the concept of socialrace is a distinctive concept and it is needed (because it discusses social realities). The idea of a social system based on the racialist concept of race can, therefore, said to be the idea of socialrace (Hardimon, 2017: 140).

Socialrace is clearly separate from the term ‘race’, and so, it is not a ‘race’ concept like the other three concepts, it is distinct with the “socialrace” moniker. This is how we show that, when talking about races in a social sense, there are differences between this concept and the scientific minimalist and populationist race concepts. One can think of it this way: the socialrace concept of race can be of use for sociologists and others whereas the minimalist and populationist concepts of race can be useful for biologists and population geneticists.

Whether or not a group is counted as a socialrace is contingent on whether or not the group in question is treated as a socialrace by the larger society. So, in this sense, “Hispanics/Latinos” can be said to be a socialrace, but, remember, they do not have a corresponding minimalist (populationist) race.

One is “properly” counted a member of a socialrace SR if one in fact satisfies the socially accepted criteria in the correlative putative racialist race. Thus, for example, a person belongs to the socialrace black (in the United States) if he or she has any identifiable sub-Saharan African ancestry because he or she satisfies accepted US criteria for bring a member of the racialist race black.

To “pass” (for example, for white) in a system of socialrace is to be taken to be white (to satisfy the socially accepted criteria for whiteness) despite the dact that one does not satisfy those criteria (for example, by virtue of possesion of “one drop” of “black blood”). The possibility of “passing” (in a given society) points to an important variable in the practical significance of socialrace membership. An individual counts as a member of a socialrace cimply by virtue of satisfying the socially accepted criteria for membership in the corresponding racialist race. Socialrace membership is itself a real social status with real social consequences. In the case of the socialrace black, subjection to antiblack racism is a standing possibility. But the actial practical signifigance of membership in a socialrace will vary with the degree to which the individual is subject to the norms associated with the racialist race to which the individual is taken to belong. (Hardimon, 2017: 144)

Socialraces are a real, social reality. They have a biological correlate in minimalist races and are taken to be racialist races, but racialist races do not exist therefore socialraces are social, not biological, in nature, even though the minimalist race concept can be said to be its biological correlate.

My contention is that the concept I have reflectively uncovered is aleeady in general circulation without being fully recognized as the concept that it is. I have endeavered to make it possible to get a proper hold on the concept and to secure an adequate reflective understanding of its content. If the reader thinks that my account of the concept SOCIALRACE captures a notion she or he has already been using, so much the better. I hope to have clarified that concept. As for the word ‘socialrace’, my hope is that it catches on, that its dissemenation promotes understanding of the phenomenon of socialrace, and that this in turn contribubtes to the dismantling of the latter’s existence.

Hardimon says that the concept of SOCIALRACE can help us better grasp the phenomenon of socialrace. Socialrace is real and illusory, it has “real causal powers (for example, causing people’s death) and that is illusory insofar that it appears to be racialist race” (Hardimon, 2017: 172). Socialraces exist and are a significant social reality, especially since socially determined categories can make biological realities (Kaplan, 2010).

When discussing socialraces, we can say that Jews are sometimes taken to be a socialrace (although they are a part of the Caucasian race) as are Arabs (who are also Caucasian, and thusly not a separate race from Europeans or Jews). However, the US Census Bureau categories take these groups to be “white”; that is the socialgroup “white” in the United States.

Regarding the black socialrace, they comprise numerous “Hispanic/Latino” populations (such as many Dominicans, some Puerto Ricans, Nicaraguans and other Latin American countries with high African admixture). Australian Aborigines and Pacific Islanders can be said to be part of the black socialrace in America, too. The fact of the matter is, socialrace in America just pretty much chooses features that people “think” go with race A, and if they see similar-looking people from two different continents, they will assume that they are part of the same race (as is the case with Aborigines and Pacific Islanders being black, even though they are a distinct group; McEvoy et al, 2010Spencer, 2014).

Lastly, are Asians. In America, “Asians” are taken to be just East Asians (though in the UK when they talk about “Asians” in their police statistics or in the news, they most probably mean Pakistanis. They are not wrong, they are on the Asian continent. However, that is to mislead the people into thinking that what people term Asian (East Asians) are committing the crimes or whatnot, when it’s Pakistanis. The socialrace of Asian in America comprises East and South Asians (some would include Indians, too but they are Caucasian). The socialraces closely mirror Rushton’s three main races, but they are arbitrary, putting populations into groups where they do not belong.

Conclusion

As can be seen, the concepts of socialrace and racalist race are similar. These two concepts are needed to understand each other. Most people, when talking about race, discuss the socialrace concept so it would do them some good to read up more on the concept itself. The racialist concept of race purports to pick out biological kinds and then rank them on a hierarchy in a slew of different traits (which are not physical). Racialist races also purport that racial essences exist, but since essences as a whole do not exist, then racial essences do not exist either. Further, since genetic variation in Homo sapiens is nonconcordant, racialist races do not exist.

Socialrace is simple. Most likely, however you’ve thought about race throughout your life is the socialrace concept. It has a biological correlate in minimalist races. For socialraces to exist, there must be distinctive visible patterns of visible physical features which correspond to geographic ancestry. Thus, minimalist race is a necessary condition for socialrace. Socialrace is a social reality. And if socialrace is a social reality, then it must play a role in our everyday lives.

When these two concepts are looked at together, we can see how and why both of the concepts have been around for as long as they have: they purport to pick out a biological kind, a distinct biological kind. Racialist races do not exist, but just because racialist races do not exist does not mean that socialraces do not exist, because even if, say, minimalist or populationist races did not exist, the concept of socialrace would still be important because socially determined categories can make biological realities (Kaplan, 2010).