Why race is not a thing, according to genetics

Breeds don’t even have significant genetic differences to say there’s not one domestic dog species. Other than the average size of pups between the smallest vs the largest of breeds they all can interbreed without producing sterile offspring. Meaning, they’re exactly one species, they don’t even have clades like some migratory birds do.

So how this shakes out for humans is the same thing. We have wide variation in appearance and sometimes even in physical ability but we’re ONE SPECIES. We don’t have any member (yet) that can’t breed into the world population. The only time this might become a possibility is when we have permanent colonies on Mars or elsewhere in the solar system. That’s when genetic drift and founder effect will take off. But even that might be overstating things since during the ice ages humans only had 2 percent gene flow and that kept us one species. It might not even take that much gene flow to keep us one species across the solar system.


This was my understanding of what’s widely agreed to be speciation, and the end result of the fruit fly speciation experiment from what I recall from my Bio friends in college.

it is now widely agreed that the critical factor behind the origin of new species is reproductive isolation.

Broadly speaking, just about any human being can breed with another, regardless of race. When genetic diversity starts making that very unlikely, then we can talk about different hominid species. Same goes for dogs. Breeds, Race, etc. are just lumping traits together and calling them something–i.e. a Social construct and not a Scientific one.


That’s more or less how I think about it.

I’ve had this argument with my grandmother a few times (she’s a full on no-apologies racist). My argument was that the morphological differences between dog breeds is far greater than the differences between races and so the analogy is weak. The best dog analogy I was able to give her was that we are all pugs. Some of us are black pugs, some are fawn pugs, some are brindle.


I do hope this thread doesn’t go too badly here - but hey, there’s places we know it’d end up worse!


A problem these days is that people just read the headlines. Neo-liberals/libertarians will use a headline like this to justify getting rid of affirmative action and social programs. After all, you can’t have racism if race doesn’t exist, right?

To combat this, is a different or more specific term needed (e.g. ethnicism?), or is it okay to keep using race as-is, acknowledging that it has no genetic correlation? Then again maybe I’m overthinking it. I ask because I’m genuinely not sure.


After all, you can’t have racism if race doesn’t exist, right?

Isn’t that like saying you can’t have Christianity if Christ wasn’t the son of God?


Seems legit, I’ve seen dogs try and eat all of those.


Oh glob, you didn’t start it, but the next one:

First, the concept of species is also a construct.
Second, “race” is not the same as “species”.
Third, if you start throwing around something even vaguely resembling arguments based on taxonomic categories, stick to The Code.
It’s Homo sapiens Linnaeus, 1758, with a capital H, and in italics.


@armozel, @anon75430791, after we kick the cladists out (they’re always putting LSD in the punchbowl) I think the current, not-entirely-satisfactory consensus is

Separate species can not or do not interbreed successfully in the wild.

Thus despite the occasional fertile offspring of lions and tigers, they are two distinct species. And also (as is understood by taxonomists, but not the general public) the taxonomy of species can, and does, change from time to time.

Or Homo sapiens sapiens (L) 1758 :wink:

Mad shoutz to my friend Earle, who wrote the article ICZN references as canonically defining the lectotype!

Edit: I seem to be name-dropping a lot today. Sorry! But Earle’s a good egg.


Notably, they don’t pass laws against it either.


Of course race is a social and political construct; a psychological tool used to perpetuate and reinforce classism.


Indeed! We often are able to have good conversations here about controversial stuff!


Yep, species is a slippery concept. I remember the teacher in my intro to bio-anthropology trying to explain how slippery it was since part of the class were talking about early hominids and how species as we apply to discussing them isn’t regarding living species but fossil species so the determination is different between the two (not like fossils have much DNA for us to make much of any determination otherwise).


As Professor KRS-ONE says,

Now comes the seventeenth century hardness
Europe, began to come out of it’s darkness
So J.F. Blumenbach, a German
Came out of nowhere and started confirming
White supremacy and men of colors
Before this time, all men were brothers
It was Johann, who went on to say
There are five different colors in the world today
That’s caucasian, malayan, and mongolian
American-indian, and ethiopian
Yes, the ignorance gets scarier
He believed whites were superior
According to his idiotic fountain
The purest whites were from the Caucas mountains
J A Blofener, and H S Chamberlain
Both supported this outrageous racism
This went on to what the master race should be
And why they killed the Jews in Germany
Here is the reason why I’m so concerned
Because you, must, learn


My understanding is this generally holds true. Though there always some exceptions.

That example that always comes to my mind is where populations at the extreme ends of the species geographic range can no longer interbreed with each other even if they meet somehow. But they can interbreed with those in the middle of the range.


Yes, race is a social construct. Yes, the physical traits we use to identify race are inherited through genes. Yes, members of one race are as different from each other in total genetic variation as they are from members of other races. I don’t think there’s any factual disagreement going on here. This is a semantic debate. “Race” and “exists” (or “is a thing”) are the undefined terms.

Go ahead, choose any precise definition for either, and then see if there is any real disagreement going on. It only feels like there is because the undefined terms are so charged.

See also: I could similarly argue that literary genres don’t exist. After all, there’s as much variation in word order and frequency, and as much commonality in sentence and paragraph structure, between two biographies as there is between a biography and a historical fiction novel. Not a lot of people would be interested in angrily arguing about a paper that said that, though.

RE: dog breeds. I wish this wasn’t part of this thread, since introducing it can only cause more problems. Still… I once did a summer program in high school where we all sequenced the control regions of our dogs’ mitochondrial DNA, and statistical analysis showed (well, confirmed, it was a well known reuslt already) all breeds were about equally closely related, and about equally far from wolves. Nevertheless, there’s something that let’s me consistently tell a chihuahua apart from a Saint Bernard, or let’s me (less reliably) look at a mutt and guess it is a pit-lab mix. That something is not learned behavior, is passed on to offspring, and is extremely stable when judged by different observers.


If I was Supreme Ruler, I’d force everyone in a race-supremacist group to have a DNA test, and publish the results. For giggles, highlight any Neanderthal legacies.


standard racial categories are not arbitrary social constructions.

Race is as real and useful as other constructs in the social sciences

So, this doesn’t seem to run counter to the prevailing idea in this thread that race is a social construct. Just a non-arbitrary one, and one that is of some use to scientists trying to describe:

real genetic differences among human populations

Nobody is saying that there aren’t genetic differences among human populations. At least, it’s not the prevailing view of the majority.

Furthermore, we believe that scientists can and should study this variation without fear of censure or obloquy.

Indeed, this discussion wouldn’t be structured like it is if scientists over the years didn’t actively invoke science to justify their prejudices. If the authors of the article take issue with the objections to racial constructs, they need only look back a few decades to see why they aren’t allowed to have nice things. Take your pick on the flavor you’d like based on the decade: 1960’s, 1930’s, 1850’s, etc.

It suggests that if there were real differences, racism would be justified.

And then it goes on to complain about straw men arguments

By all means, if Scientists want to use shorthand for clusters of traits among certain populations, and they want to do so without letting it spill out into pop culture, politics, policy or general poop flinging, they should be mindful of how they go about it.


Don’t give the alt-reich kids any ideas. I’ve already seen a few that think anyone with European ancestry that has Neanderthal markers are superior. Seriously, people will use any arbitrary metric to say “you can’t play with me, you smell…” :roll_eyes:


Huh. No wonder they back so many losing causes.