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img057 - ”Mongoloids” in England where l spent 6e years...

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Unformatted text preview: ”Mongoloids”; in England, where l spent 6e years doing my Ph. D., they were _. en referred to as ”Blacks.") ln sum, the conclusion of most biolo- gists and physical anthropologists is that, while humans show an impressive range of diversity, the true units of diversity are localized populations (such as Italians, Finns, Lapps, Saudis, Bantus), numbering in the hundreds, rather than ”races,” numbering less than 10. Depending on your criteria, there are either no races (my opinion), or hundreds of races, if every genetically distinguishable popula- tion is called a race. In any case, there is no biological justification for speaking of three to seven major, distinct, coherent races. At this point, you may be thinking, ”it’s all well and good to say there are no races, but I can quickly and easily identify ie race of most people I see walking down the street toward me, and if I were suddenly dropped into a foreign city, I would easily be able to tell whether it was Stockholm or Nairobi; so race must be real." How would I respond to those points? First, as to identifying a city you were dropped into, that might well not be pri- marily a function of something such as the color of the people’s skin there, but would most likely also involve their clothing, appearance of the buildings, sound of the language and so on. You would probably just as quickly distinguish london from Stockholm, or Nairobi from lagos, as Stockholm from Nairobi. And, if you weren’t particularly familiar with a lot of flhuman ethnic groups, I could probably Jrop you into a location with dark- skinned residents, and you wouldn’t be sure whether you were in Zaire or New Guinea! That last comment leads to another important point. Humans are visually-ori- ented animals, and — if some sociobiolo- gists are correct -- we may retain as part of our evolutionary heritage a tendency to quickly notice anything about other peo- ple that would allow us to identify whether or not they are our close rela- tives or belong to our local social group. When we evolved to become the people we now are, it was primarily as hunter- gatherers living in small groups that may have been in more-or-less stringent com- petition with other neighboring groups. In As htmter-gatherers in small groups, we may have evolved great acuity to notice small differences that would distinguish kin or enemies such an environment, we may have evolved great acuity in noticing even small visual differences that would allow us to quickly tell kin and allies from non- kin and non-allies. In the modern world, when we encounter not just people from the next village who differ from us only very subtly, but people whose ances- try could be from anywhere in the world and who exhibit more obvi- . ous external differences, this ten- dency to label people on the basis of superficial traits (skin color, facial characteristics, type of hair, etc.) leads us to perceive such differences as being large and significant, when in fact they are bio- logically rather slight and insignificant. Take skin color, for example: Dark- skinned people, of quite different genetic affiliations, are found in tropical areas of Africa, southern Asia, Southeast Asia and Pacific islands —— one might label them all as ”Black,” but they are no more alike - genetically thana light-skinned western European is to a dark-skinned African. Furthermore, races defined on such traits as skin color, facial characteristics, and curliness of hair don’t coincide at all with other conceivable ”races,” based on simi- larity in other genetic traits, such as blood groups or biochemical capabilities. As pointed out by lared Diamond, evolution- ary biologist and physiologist at UCLA, if, instead of by skin color, we defined races by ability of the adult to digest lactose (milk sugar), west Europeans, west Africans and Arabians would constitute one race, while east Asians, Native Americans, south Europeans, and Australian aborigines would constitute a different race. It’s easy to label people based on their outer appearance, but their genetic similarities or differences are often not very well indicated by those superficial traits. Transplant surgeons ...
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