Jibble

Author Topic: What is race?  (Read 6778 times)

Babar

  • Creator, Mutator and Defecator
    • I can help with proof reading
    • I can help with scripting
    • I can help with story design
    • I can help with translating
    • Babar worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Babar worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: What is race?
« Reply #20 on: 20 Nov 2016, 16:30 »
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.
Dog breeds are an interesting analogy, because most of the "direction" these breeds have taken are man-made (less so in the case of crossbreeding between wild dogs or dogs who escaped their owners) and specifically engineered as such. With dog breeds, I think the number is 30% genetic diversity between breeds: enough to correctly assign a breed just by looking at the DNA.
If we take geographic groupings (which seems to have been established in this thread as how we want to define "race" scientifically), for humans, the differences account for only 6% between the different groupings, and nowhere near as certain an applied label (and you'd still get mishmashes like my result).
The ultimate Professional Amateur

Now, with his very own game: Alien Time Zone

Jack

  • Think deviant
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    • I can help with scripting
    • I can help with story design
    • Jack worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: What is race?
« Reply #21 on: 20 Nov 2016, 17:26 »
If it's a matter of percentage, then aren't we the same race as chimpanzees (or some great apes)?

Babar

  • Creator, Mutator and Defecator
    • I can help with proof reading
    • I can help with scripting
    • I can help with story design
    • I can help with translating
    • Babar worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Babar worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: What is race?
« Reply #22 on: 20 Nov 2016, 17:32 »
If it's a matter of percentage, then aren't we the same race as chimpanzees (or some great apes)?
It is a matter that any percentages we decide to apply would be totally arbitrary.
But in the case of chimpanzees and great apes, we aren't the same race, or even the same species, because we cannot reproduce with them.
The ultimate Professional Amateur

Now, with his very own game: Alien Time Zone

Snarky

  • Global Moderator
  • Global Moderator
  • Mittens Lord
  • Private Insultant
    • Best Innovation Award Winner 2018, for his numerous additions to the AGS open source ecosystem including the new Awards Ceremony client and modules
    • Snarky worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Snarky worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: What is race?
« Reply #23 on: 20 Nov 2016, 18:02 »
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?

There's not really enough detail to say (most of these DNA tests are pretty sloppy and have high margins of error; I'm sure with a better analysis you could get better accuracy). 2/3 European, 1/3 Asian could have a number of explanations: you could be European ("white") and the Asian reading could be a test error, you could be "mixed-race", or you could be from a population at the intersection of "European" and "Asian" genetic influences (perhaps somewhere between the Caucasus and Central Asia, or Iran). And as mentioned, assigning a racial label is something that depends on local convention, anyway. But clearly you're not black, for example.

Quote
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.

I don't think that's true, if the test is accurate. When you're looking at population genetics, it seems like e.g. the bulk of the "English" genome, something like 80-90%, is either prehistoric, various Celtic, or Germanic. So if you're a white Englishman whose grandparents were all English, your DNA should, most likely, show up as overwhelmingly European. The same (mutatis mutandis) is probably true if you're Han Chinese, or belong to one of the other major, long-established ethnic groups of the world.

Of course, there's increasing mixing between people from various parts of the world, so assuming that continues, there will be more and more people for whom it's not so simple.

Quote
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.

That depends on what skin shades you consider "black", doesn't it? Nor is it contrary to science to proclaim that even with just – let's say – 1/4 Native American blood you are Native American.

If it's a matter of percentage, then aren't we the same race as chimpanzees (or some great apes)?

Though I freely admit that I don't grasp the technical details, I'm pretty sure that the measures for genetic similarity between humans and apes are not the same as between different people, or groups of people.

Re: What is race?
« Reply #24 on: 20 Nov 2016, 18:17 »
Quote from: Adeel
Atelier, is this a white man, a black man, or an orange man?

(laugh)(laugh)

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)?

Correct, it is certainly possible, but an absolute scientific nightmare to prove. In fact, showing a discrete biological, evolutionary component for cultural behaviour is almost certainly impossible. For example, some chimpanzees 'dance' just before or during rain. These behaviours are non-adaptive and do not appear to have any functional relevance, so for all intents and purposes it is likely a learnt behaviour. A cultural behaviour even. As good scientists we cannot rule out that there is a genetic component behind these behaviours, but to prove this we would need a full pedigree of all chimpanzees over many many generations to get anything close to something scientifically rigorous. Even in mice we have not been able to study such non-adaptive behaviours.

Edit: basically there is a crucial distinction to be drawn between assuming post-hoc that cultural evolution has taken place (ie, a species has evolved the capacity for cultural behaviour), which is what we can do, but cannot prove; and attributing specific behaviours to a certain genetic component.

I think that the example of humour is not a good example to use in any case, because there is no objective reality of 'most funny', ' moderately funny', 'least funny'; so judging whether one race has more of this attribute over another is a non-starter.

Quote from: Snarky
Though I freely admit that I don't grasp the technical details, I'm pretty sure that the measures for genetic similarity between humans and apes are not the same as between different people, or groups of people.

Yes, the most common method is to extract the DNA from the nucleus of a cell; fragment it with enzymes; the fragments organise themselves; and you can read off the order of the bases to get the genetic sequence of the individual. You then compare certain loci to determine how similar the two things are. I am not certain either but I see no reason why this cannot also be done to compare two human individuals.
« Last Edit: 20 Nov 2016, 18:33 by Atelier »

Babar

  • Creator, Mutator and Defecator
    • I can help with proof reading
    • I can help with scripting
    • I can help with story design
    • I can help with translating
    • Babar worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Babar worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: What is race?
« Reply #25 on: 20 Nov 2016, 18:42 »
The test does go into more detail, which honestly just makes things vaguer and more confusing. I just skipped that stuff. I mean it has subcategories within the categories I mentioned, and categories further than that too (Northwestern European, Broadly Northwestern European, British & Irish, Scandinavian, Southern European, Broadly Southern European, Iberian, East Asian, Broadly East Asian & Native American, Yakut, etc. etc.). I get the feeling that they have it like that because it isn't all that easy to assign a race from DNA evidence, even if you have- simply having that information isn't really enough to assign a "race".
I would be pretty curious about other people who have taken similar tests, though. Somehow, barring some odd circumstances, I doubt anyone would be more than 80% on specific category. People think geographic intermingling is a recent thing, but it's probably gone back tens or hundreds of thousands of years.
The ultimate Professional Amateur

Now, with his very own game: Alien Time Zone

Monsieur OUXX

  • Mittens Vassal
  • Cavefish
  • Mittens Half Initiate
    • I can help with proof reading
    • I can help with translating
    • I can help with voice acting
    • Monsieur OUXX worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Monsieur OUXX worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: What is race?
« Reply #26 on: 21 Nov 2016, 11:40 »
The problem is that English speakers use the word "race" for pretty much anything (including humans!) whereas in every other languages this word is only for pets or farm animals.
Race is not used in other languages because it doesn't mean anything scientifically.

Race is not a thing. Seriously.

Race. Is. Not. A. Thing.

the closest thing to a "race" in the scientific world is a species. And all human are the same species because genetic differences are tiny, tiny, tiny.
Therefore, this debate "what is a race" is doomed from the beginning. Stahp it. Stahp.
« Last Edit: 21 Nov 2016, 11:43 by Monsieur OUXX »
 

Danvzare

  • The Man with No Name
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    • I can help with proof reading
    • I can help with scripting
    • I can help with voice acting
    • Danvzare worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: What is race?
« Reply #27 on: 21 Nov 2016, 11:49 »
The problem is that English speakers use the word "race" for pretty much anything
Therefore, this debate "what is a race" is doomed from the beginning.
So this thread is basically the equivalent of a thread titled "What is love?"
Only with a lot less singing in it. (laugh)

Re: What is race?
« Reply #28 on: 21 Nov 2016, 12:47 »
The problem is that English speakers use the word "race" for pretty much anything (including humans!) whereas in every other languages this word is only for pets or farm animals.

Wat?
In Russian language, at least informal one, "race" is only applied to humans and never to animals.
Are there translation issues too? :confused:

« Last Edit: 21 Nov 2016, 13:45 by Crimson Wizard »

Re: What is race?
« Reply #29 on: 21 Nov 2016, 12:49 »
The problem is that English speakers use the word "race" for pretty much anything (including humans!) whereas in every other languages this word is only for pets or farm animals. Race is not used in other languages because it doesn't mean anything scientifically.

The non-existence of a word in another language is not proof that something doesn't exist; this argument is fallacious. Secondly, I'd like to see a full index of all languages, past and present, to back up the claim that it doesn't exist in any other.

Quote
the closest thing to a "race" in the scientific world is a species.

Nope, the closest thing is a subspecies. These are at least two organisms within a species that can produce fertile offspring, but in reality do not. For example the Asian lion and African lion would not mate because they are allopatric (do not meet naturally in the same habitat), although they can produce fertile offspring when introduced by a candle-lit dinner. Now granted there are clearly no subspecies of humans by this definition.

Quote
And all human are the same species because genetic differences are tiny, tiny, tiny.

It is not the genetic difference that defines a species. Species are defined by how they propagate their genes, in a closed manner between generations, whether that be replicating, swapping, or fusing genetic material sexually. I would not put too much weight on the fact that genetic differences are statistically very small. Genetically there's only 4% difference between you and a chimpanzee, and given that the genome length of both animals is very substantial, this is not a lot at all, even when we compare different species.

Quote
Therefore, this debate "what is a race" is doomed from the beginning. Stahp it. Stahp.

No, I think it's an interesting and important one to have. As has been said, you cannot define a race scientifically because any method would use arbitrary quantifications. However, this doesn't mean that the cultural notion of race is not based on biological, phenotypic principles.

Danvzare

  • The Man with No Name
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    • I can help with proof reading
    • I can help with scripting
    • I can help with voice acting
    • Danvzare worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: What is race?
« Reply #30 on: 21 Nov 2016, 13:43 »
Now granted there are clearly no subspecies of humans by this definition.
What about Aboriginals?
I remember hearing in a documentary once, that they were apparently a little more different than any other humans on Earth.

Which reminds me, I remember hearing that the skulls of people around the world, are all slightly different in shape. And I don't mean in the racist bigger brain way. I mean that there are apparently actual subtle differences.

I never really got people's fascination with bigger brains being smarter anyway. If that was true, elephants would be ruling the earth. (laugh)

Babar

  • Creator, Mutator and Defecator
    • I can help with proof reading
    • I can help with scripting
    • I can help with story design
    • I can help with translating
    • Babar worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Babar worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: What is race?
« Reply #31 on: 21 Nov 2016, 16:10 »
No, I think it's an interesting and important one to have. As has been said, you cannot define a race scientifically because any method would use arbitrary quantifications. However, this doesn't mean that the cultural notion of race is not based on biological, phenotypic principles.
Well, yes. That is what initially started this discussion on my end- I wanted to point out that there was no scientific basis for races. And yeah, sure, the cultural notion of race is based off phenotypic principles, like "This person's skin is darker than mine, so they are black". I don't think that is very meaningful, outside a purely cultural context.

Also, Danvzare, Aborigines are not a human subspecies. There is no living homo sapiens subspecies except us.
The ultimate Professional Amateur

Now, with his very own game: Alien Time Zone

Danvzare

  • The Man with No Name
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    • I can help with proof reading
    • I can help with scripting
    • I can help with voice acting
    • Danvzare worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: What is race?
« Reply #32 on: 21 Nov 2016, 17:17 »
Also, Danvzare, Aborigines are not a human subspecies. There is no living homo sapiens subspecies except us.
Ok, thanks for correcting me. :-D

I really have nothing to add to this thread now that I think about it.

WHAM

  • WHAMGAMES
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    • I can help with play testing
    • I can help with scripting
    • I can help with story design
    • I can help with translating
    • I can help with voice acting
    • WHAM worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • WHAM worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: What is race?
« Reply #33 on: 22 Nov 2016, 07:57 »
The problem is that English speakers use the word "race" for pretty much anything (including humans!) whereas in every other languages this word is only for pets or farm animals. Race is not used in other languages because it doesn't mean anything scientifically.

The "every other language" -part is false.

Finnish has the word "Rotu" which is used both ways. In some context we refer to "mankind" as the "ihmisrotu" ie. "human race" as a whole. However, in many textbooks and in the common parlance we use the same word to denote different subraces such as whites, african blacks, asians etc. or just as readily some more narrow ethnic groupings such as scandinavians, russians, romanians etc. In practice, mixing nationality with race in our language.

Just as elsewhere, the word is used loosely and mostly on cultural basis, not so much scientific.

The Finnish wikipedia page notes that the use of the word "race" in categorizing the origins and cultures of different groups of people has diminished greatly due to the fact that the term is seen as "politically incorrect", so (in my opinion) it would seem this is yet another case where useful terminology is being self-censored in order to avoid hurting someone's feelings out there, and thus trying to avoid causing a scene that would lead attention and resources away from doing actual science.

Also on Wikipedia (curiously the wording in the english wiki, unlike the finnish one, constantly brings up the American cultural viewpoint):
"In clinical settings, race has sometimes been considered in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. Doctors have noted that some medical conditions are more prevalent in certain racial or ethnic groups than in others, without being sure of the cause of those differences."

The finnish version is more direct in stating that race, in the context of different subraces of human, is used to identify trends in the spread of diseases as well as in evaluating methods of care. However it also notes that many scientists have raised the issue that the term "race" should be avoided whenever possible due to it's nebulous nature and culturally questionable uses, though there is no word on what term might be used in its stead.
Wrongthinker and anticitizen one. Pending removal to memory hole. | WHAMGAMES proudly presents: One More Fathom!

Snarky

  • Global Moderator
  • Global Moderator
  • Mittens Lord
  • Private Insultant
    • Best Innovation Award Winner 2018, for his numerous additions to the AGS open source ecosystem including the new Awards Ceremony client and modules
    • Snarky worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Snarky worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: What is race?
« Reply #34 on: 22 Nov 2016, 08:20 »
The problem is that English speakers use the word "race" for pretty much anything (including humans!) whereas in every other languages this word is only for pets or farm animals. Race is not used in other languages because it doesn't mean anything scientifically.

The "every other language" -part is false.

It's not even true of Monsieur OUXX's own French.

Re: What is race?
« Reply #35 on: 22 Nov 2016, 08:21 »
The problem is that English speakers use the word "race" for pretty much anything (including humans!) whereas in every other languages this word is only for pets or farm animals.
In Swedish language there is a word for race, and it has been used to describe humans, but it stopped some time after WWII.
The word race in association in humans were too closely associated with the ideas of eugenics and the abuse of Sami and Romani people in Sweden, as well as the crimes committed by Nazi-Germany. Today, using the word race in Sweden is considered, well, racist, and most people instead differentiate groups of people by country of origin, culture or ethnicity in these contexts instead. Race is pretty much only used to describe different breeds of domesticated animals.
So the word race have different connotations in Swedish than in English I'd say.


Monsieur OUXX

  • Mittens Vassal
  • Cavefish
  • Mittens Half Initiate
    • I can help with proof reading
    • I can help with translating
    • I can help with voice acting
    • Monsieur OUXX worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Monsieur OUXX worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: What is race?
« Reply #36 on: 22 Nov 2016, 14:16 »
The non-existence of a word in another language is not proof that something doesn't exist;
No, but the fact that the scientists also say it is evidence.
Let it go, man. Races are not a thing.

Quote
Races exist in my language, in every language, therefore you're wrong
No, people, that's not true. Yes, the word exists, but in 95% of languages, this word is used only by racists, and cannot be used to describe humans (except by loonies) since the end of WWII.
Only in English (and maybe a tiny minority of languages) is it used for everyday use, as a generic word for "ethnic group".
« Last Edit: 22 Nov 2016, 14:19 by Monsieur OUXX »
 

Re: What is race?
« Reply #37 on: 22 Nov 2016, 23:40 »
Monsieur, why do you think races are not a thing? Do you mean scientifically? Culturally?

So far you've just said that races don't exist, because only in English it's used as a generic word for ethnic group. This is a nonsense argument.

WHAM

  • WHAMGAMES
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    • I can help with play testing
    • I can help with scripting
    • I can help with story design
    • I can help with translating
    • I can help with voice acting
    • WHAM worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • WHAM worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: What is race?
« Reply #38 on: 24 Nov 2016, 13:48 »
Sort of backing up Atelier's last comment here:

I believe the conversation on "what is a race" is mostly pointless anyway, since it focuses on the word "race". Yes, as Monsieur OUXX says, nearly all cultures have moved away from using the term "race" to divide people into categories, so instead we have moved on to using other terms for the same purpose, since the old term is now considered "racist". As time goes on, any and all such new terms will come to be used by racists, and thus those terms, too, will become tainted by culture, eroding any scientific merit they may hold. Whether an individual thinks that human beings can or cannot be divided into "races" or "ethnic groups" or whatever is irrelevant, as there is proven scientific credit to the fact that different types of humans have different physiological, biological and psychological and cultural traits.

We can look into other areas for examples of this happening. Take, for instance, the word "retard", a term describing simply a person who's mental development could be measured as, quite literally and in the true meaning of the word; retarded. When it was coined, it was an accepted scientific term. Later on it spread into popular culture, became a slur and it's scientific usage declined until it was replaced by a new term, which merely began the cycle anew. Scientists have already noticed this and are making the terminology they use increasingly complex and unwieldly in an attempt to establish more permanent and credible terminology that is more difficult to co-opt into slurs and insults by us common folk.

(Small remotely related side note: symbols, just like words, also have a habit of being associated with the negative, forgetting any and all other uses. Take the ol' classic: swastika. The symbol has a rich history and has been used all over the world, including in Finland as a military insignia with long (considering Finland is less than 100 years old as an independent country, #ThanksRussia, #ThanksSweden) traditions from times well before the Germans used it. Then came the Reich, they adopted the symbol and now nobody can use the symbol for fear of being considered a neo-nazi.)

The word used is pointless and meaningless, it is the idea that word represents in the mind of the speaker that needs to be understood and considered. In order to understand what someone means by the word "race", you must engage that individual and learn what they actually believe and what that belief is based on and only then can you judge if their use of the term is warranted or not. Establish context before judging someone as racist and afford everyone the benefit of a doubt no matter which side of the argument they stand on.
Wrongthinker and anticitizen one. Pending removal to memory hole. | WHAMGAMES proudly presents: One More Fathom!