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Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci. 2013 Sep;44(3):262-71. doi: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.04.010. Epub 2013 May 16.

Biological races in humans.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130-4899, USA. temple_a@wustl.edu

Abstract

Races may exist in humans in a cultural sense, but biological concepts of race are needed to access their reality in a non-species-specific manner and to see if cultural categories correspond to biological categories within humans. Modern biological concepts of race can be implemented objectively with molecular genetic data through hypothesis-testing. Genetic data sets are used to see if biological races exist in humans and in our closest evolutionary relative, the chimpanzee. Using the two most commonly used biological concepts of race, chimpanzees are indeed subdivided into races but humans are not. Adaptive traits, such as skin color, have frequently been used to define races in humans, but such adaptive traits reflect the underlying environmental factor to which they are adaptive and not overall genetic differentiation, and different adaptive traits define discordant groups. There are no objective criteria for choosing one adaptive trait over another to define race. As a consequence, adaptive traits do not define races in humans. Much of the recent scientific literature on human evolution portrays human populations as separate branches on an evolutionary tree. A tree-like structure among humans has been falsified whenever tested, so this practice is scientifically indefensible. It is also socially irresponsible as these pictorial representations of human evolution have more impact on the general public than nuanced phrases in the text of a scientific paper. Humans have much genetic diversity, but the vast majority of this diversity reflects individual uniqueness and not race.

KEYWORDS:

Admixture; Evolutionary lineage; Gene flow; Genetic differentiation; Human evolution; Race

PMID:
23684745
PMCID:
PMC3737365
DOI:
10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.04.010
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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