Author Topic: What is race?  (Read 6561 times)

Scavenger

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What is race?
« on: 20 Nov 2016, 11:54 »
(This discussion was split off from here: http://www.adventuregamestudio.co.uk/forums/index.php?topic=54140.msg636548400#msg636548400 —Moderator)

What? That is literally how human genetics works. There are clear phenotypic and genetic differences between humans which we can classify as races relative to one another. If there weren't we would all be homogenous. These differences are biological, not cultural.

The concept of "whiteness" or "blackness" is a cultural and plastic phenomenon that changes depending on who gets to be the in-crowd, and generally trends towards what colour your skin is - which is something that means absolutely nothing apart from how much melanin is in your skin. You are no more likely to be anything in particular personality or temperment-wise if your skin is a particular colour.

Races don't exist biologically, it's a meaningless concept invented mostly to divide people and give an excuse to enslave them. It would be identical to classifying people by eye colour, or blood type. Yes, it differs between people but means absolutely nothing at all except by the imprinting of cultural significance onto it.
« Last Edit: 20 Nov 2016, 14:03 by Snarky »

Re: What is race?
« Reply #1 on: 20 Nov 2016, 12:10 »
I agree with this:

[race] means absolutely nothing at all except by the imprinting of cultural significance onto it.

But I do not agree with this:

Races don't exist biologically

Skin colour is determined by alleles which in turn determine how much melanin you produce. Many East Asians experience alcohol flush because of a genetic metabolic deficiency. And there are countless other phenotypic differences between large groups of people (races). You cannot deny that it is possible to classify people into groups whether physiologically or genetically. The methodology of that of course defines what we may call a race.

Edit: I think you're both falling into a trap of thinking: race doesn't 'mean' anything outside of culture; therefore scientifically race does not exist either. No, that's wrong.
« Last Edit: 20 Nov 2016, 12:14 by Atelier »

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Re: What is race?
« Reply #2 on: 20 Nov 2016, 12:37 »
Err...Atelier, scientifically, race DOESN'T mean anything. And this isn't some fancy new "SJW" "Politically correct" opinion.
I don't know how more simply I could explain this. There simply is no set of markers you could use to show "This person is of X race". Such a concept simply doesn't exist.
A bit silly, but go ahead and have a read of Race (human categorisation), and check up the references just to be sure :D.

Here are some highlights just from the beginning:
Quote
"Modern human biological variation is not structured into phylogenetic subspecies ('races'), nor are the taxa of the standard anthropological 'racial' classifications breeding populations. The 'racial taxa' do not meet the phylogenetic criteria. 'Race' denotes socially constructed units as a function of the incorrect usage of the term.""
Quote
"The genetic differences that exist among populations are characterized by gradual changes across geographic regions, not sharp, categorical distinctions. Groups of people across the globe have varying frequencies of polymorphic genes, which are genes with any of several differing nucleotide sequences. There is no such thing as a set of genes that belongs exclusively to one group and not to another. The clinal, gradually changing nature of geographic genetic difference is complicated further by the migration and mixing that human groups have engaged in since prehistory. Human beings do not fit the zoological definition of race. A mountain of evidence assembled by historians, anthropologists, and biologists proves that race is not and cannot be a natural division of human beings."
Quote
"Race is a poor empirical description of the patterns of difference that we encounter within our species. The billions of humans alive today simply do not fit into neat and tidy biological boxes called races. Science has proven this conclusively. The concept of race (...) is not scientific and goes against what is known about our ever-changing and complex biological diversity."
Quote
"For example, 'Evidence from the analysis of genetics (e.g., DNA) indicates that most physical variation, about 94%, lies within so-called racial groups. Conventional geographic 'racial' groupings differ from one another only in about 6% of their genes. This means that there is greater variation within 'racial' groups than between them.'"
« Last Edit: 20 Nov 2016, 12:38 by Babar »
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Re: What is race?
« Reply #3 on: 20 Nov 2016, 12:47 »
And this isn't some fancy new "SJW" "Politically correct" opinion.

I was going to give you a reasoned reply to what you said, as I have been doing all along, but you know what? Comments like this make it almost not worth opening your mouth on this forums these days. Say one tiny thing and people impute all sorts of meanings into what you have said.

Suppose I should take the advice and just 'fuck off', because I can't actually be bothered.

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Re: What is race?
« Reply #4 on: 20 Nov 2016, 13:32 »
I see nothing wrong or offensive in Babar's comment, but he raises some good points. Science has abandoned the term 'race' for humans decades ago, and not just for ideological reasons.

Re: What is race?
« Reply #5 on: 20 Nov 2016, 13:51 »
It's ok, spoken to Babar in PM. Just took objection to the fact that I used the term SJW multiple pages ago and it keeps cropping up as insinuating I have some kind of anti-liberal worldview.

The problem with race is that there are methodological problems in defining it. As I said in my earlier post it depends which characteristics we use to define it. From what I understand there is no biological definition of race because as we are one species, the parameters for categorisation are necessarily arbitrary. If one defined race by frequency of a certain allele for example, you make an arbitrary quantification of the frequency needed (as W Boyd says). And this leads to the logical conclusion that theoretically there can be equal races to people, if you set the parameters so.

Edit: I think the observation "that there is greater variation within 'racial' groups than between them" is somewhat pithy, considering we share 98% of our genes with chimpanzees.

I actually think the issues with defining race is parallel to that of cultures that we spoke of earlier. Again it tends to the problem of reductionism, because you will inevitably make wrong assumptions about some of the individuals you classify in order to reach a coherent treatment of the whole. Now in theory you couldn't make wrong assumptions using a genetic yardstick, allele frequency, because that is observable biologically. But then it brings us back to the problem of mathematical arbitrariness…

What I'm trying to get at is that although it may be impossible to define race biologically, you are still able to observe clear differences in human populations, differences which are genetic. One can sort white men from black men by looking at them, as you can sort red apples from green apples.
« Last Edit: 20 Nov 2016, 13:55 by Atelier »

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Re: What is race?
« Reply #6 on: 20 Nov 2016, 13:56 »
What I'm trying to get at is that it is impossible to define race biologically, you are still able to observe clear differences in human populations, differences which are genetic. One can sort white men from black men by looking at them, as you can sort red apples from green apples.
Atelier, is this a white man, or a black man?
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Re: What is race?
« Reply #7 on: 20 Nov 2016, 14:01 »
Babar you're demonstrating exactly what I mean about making assumptions in order to reach a coherent whole, so I'll happily play along: let's categorise him as black.

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Re: What is race?
« Reply #8 on: 20 Nov 2016, 14:03 »
Atelier, is this a white man, or a black man?


In South Africa, that's a "coloured" man, a mix between black and white.

Babar

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Re: What is race?
« Reply #9 on: 20 Nov 2016, 14:08 »
In South Africa, that's a "coloured" man, a mix between black and white.
Is "coloured" a separate race? Is it a scientific designation?
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Re: What is race?
« Reply #10 on: 20 Nov 2016, 14:32 »
One government that tried for a long time to classify people based on race was the Apartheid government of South Africa.

Predictably this classification ran into immediate problems as soon as people of "mixed race" had to be taken into account. If one parent is "white" and the other is "black", what should the child be called? More confusingly, if one parent is "3/8 white, 2/8 black, 3/8 mixed" and other other is "1/8 white, 4/8 black, 3/8 mixed", how on earth do you classify the children?

And then, South Africa became an interesting target for Asian investors. It took the government some time to figure this out, but eventually they put up the law that all Japanese people count as "white" whereas all Chinese count as "black". How utterly ridiculous is that?

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Re: What is race?
« Reply #11 on: 20 Nov 2016, 14:36 »
Err...Atelier, scientifically, race DOESN'T mean anything. And this isn't some fancy new "SJW" "Politically correct" opinion.
I don't know how more simply I could explain this. There simply is no set of markers you could use to show "This person is of X race". Such a concept simply doesn't exist.

I agree that it's important to understand the extent to which "race" is culturally constructed and biologically problematic, in part to recognize that there's no clear distinction between racism and "cultural discrimination".

At the same time, I think the objections overstate the case. There are genetic differences between different human populations, and specific DNA markers that are closely associated with particular ethnicities, to the point where you can run DNA analyses of individuals to figure out the composition of their ancestry (though the results are pretty rough). Just because races aren't neat boxes in reality doesn't mean they're not "real".

You could presumably run a DNA analysis on Obama and figure out that his ancestry is about half European (mix of mostly English, with some German and other British contributions) and half Luo (probably with other African ethnicities mixed in). Based on that, you could assign him a racial identity, whether that's "black" (US), "colored" (South Africa), "mulatto" (Europe and its colonies in past times) or "mixed-race" (US again), "white" (Dominican Republic, perhaps) or something else, depending on local cultural convention.

So race is a social construct built on top of real (though mostly superficial) biological differences.
« Last Edit: 20 Nov 2016, 14:43 by Snarky »

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Re: What is race?
« Reply #12 on: 20 Nov 2016, 15:12 »
Is "coloured" a separate race? Is it a scientific designation?

It depends on your definition. If you ask coloured people they would probably loudly proclaim "Yes!". There's even a distinction between first generation black/white mixed people and children of coloured parents. Admittedly I've only seen this distinction used so that they can be racist to each other.

To me, I would say yes, they are a separate race, since in aggregate some of their behaviour differs from both white and black people and other races (in aggregate). For example, they have a singular ability to come up with and say incredibly (intentionally) funny things.

This is technically racist of me to say, but I think it's exactly these differences that make races unique and valuable. I think it's a disservice to this uniqueness to suggest that race is a non-existent concept and that we all are and act the same.

Re: What is race?
« Reply #13 on: 20 Nov 2016, 15:27 »
So race is a social construct built on top of real (though mostly superficial) biological differences.

Exactly. If there were no such broad biological differences, the cultural concept of different races would not come to exist.

Now, this helps us to think more deeply about the differences between racism and cultural discrimination. The difference between them arises because race has its roots in biology whereas culture does not. Culture is counterfactual. I don't have time to expand now but I might come back to it later.

since in aggregate some of their behaviour differs from both white and black people and other races (in aggregate). For example, they have a singular ability to come up with and say incredibly (intentionally) funny things.

This is exactly what I mean about people not severing race and culture. Scientifically it is ridiculous to attribute a subjective cultural concept like humour to one race or the other. I'm glad you agree that biologically distinctions can be drawn between groups of people, but those biological differences cannot be claimed to be causing the cultural differences. As I said, historically humans have developed cultures which appear to be almost inseparable from a certain ethnic group, but this does not mean that the two are contingent.

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Re: What is race?
« Reply #14 on: 20 Nov 2016, 15:40 »
Can we all agree that a cat, a dog and a human are different races? (nod) Good! (at least I hope you agree with that (roll) )

Now, the tricky part:
Is a German Shepard, a Collie or a Labrador different races?
Is a Main Coon, a Siamese and a "common cat" different races?
How about black, white, yellow or red different races?

Or are they just a variation inside a race?
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Babar

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Re: What is race?
« Reply #15 on: 20 Nov 2016, 15:51 »
You could presumably run a DNA analysis on Obama and figure out that his ancestry is about half European (mix of mostly English, with some German and other British contributions) and half Luo (probably with other African ethnicities mixed in). Based on that, you could assign him a racial identity, whether that's "black" (US), "colored" (South Africa), "mulatto" (Europe and its colonies in past times) or "mixed-race" (US again), "white" (Dominican Republic, perhaps) or something else, depending on local cultural convention.

So race is a social construct built on top of real (though mostly superficial) biological differences.
I did one of those DNA things once! After digging up the results, I find that I'm 61.7% European, 31.5% Asian, 3.4% Middle Eastern/North African, 0.2% Sub-Saharan African, and 3.2% unassigned. What "race" does that make me? Unless they've been living on an isolated hobbit island the last ten thousand years, I'm pretty sure anyone who got that test would have similar mixed up results. So what biological markers would you use? If you do something like "skin colour", then even the child of several generations of white or black/white unions (i.e. their test would show them to be majority "European") would still be called "black", which is pretty silly, and certainly not scientific.

This is technically racist of me to say, but I think it's exactly these differences that make races unique and valuable. I think it's a disservice to this uniqueness to suggest that race is a non-existent concept and that we all are and act the same.
Oh, I absolutely wouldn't say that race is a non-existent concept. I was simply saying it wasn't a scientific one.

Cassie brings to my mind an interesting point: The concept of "race" (as in a subspecies within a species) DOES exist in biology, but is NOT applicable to the human "races".
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Re: What is race?
« Reply #16 on: 20 Nov 2016, 15:56 »
What I'm trying to get at is that it is impossible to define race biologically, you are still able to observe clear differences in human populations, differences which are genetic. One can sort white men from black men by looking at them, as you can sort red apples from green apples.
Atelier, is this a white man, or a black man?


Atelier, is this a white man, a black man, or an orange man?
« Last Edit: 20 Nov 2016, 15:59 by Adeel »

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Re: What is race?
« Reply #17 on: 20 Nov 2016, 16:01 »
Can we all agree that a cat, a dog and a human are different races? (nod) Good! (at least I hope you agree with that (roll) )

Sorry, but... no :-D Biologically they are different species, even in completely different families, so wouldn't call them races.

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Re: What is race?
« Reply #18 on: 20 Nov 2016, 16:12 »
This is exactly what I mean about people not severing race and culture. Scientifically it is ridiculous to attribute a subjective cultural concept like humour to one race or the other.

You're probably right, but I would not be so quick to assume it has to be of a cultural origin. Don't you think it's possible that genetics can predispose some people's brains to be more adept at certain things (such as humour)?

Dogs and cats are different species, not races. I'm not sure about the science, but my definition of race (a useful one) would be the difference between Dobermans and Rottweilers. They are most assuredly different, even though they share many mixed genes from wolves and wild dogs which overlap in most cases. They have different temperaments and different habits.

I would say that the scientific definition of race becomes useless once they decided that it doesn't exist. A different mix of the same basic building blocks absolutely results in a noticeably different result, with each its own unique characteristics.

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Re: What is race?
« Reply #19 on: 20 Nov 2016, 16:24 »
Oh, right sorry, forgot about the word species... :-[
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