Thursday, January 28, 2010

Race: A Social Destruction of a Biological Concept   posted by dkane @ 1/28/2010 02:19:00 PM

What is the single best reference for refuting the notion that "race is only a social construct" for a non-scientist? I don't know. (Suggestions welcome in the comments.) But Neven Sesardic (previously praised here) does a marvelous job in "Race: A Social Destruction of a Biological Concept," (pdf) Biology and Philosophy (2010, forthcoming).

It is nowadays a dominant opinion in a number of disciplines (anthropology, genetics, psychology, philosophy of science) that the taxonomy of human races does not make much biological sense. My aim is to challenge the arguments that are usually thought to invalidate the biological concept of race. I will try to show that the way ‘‘race’’ was defined by biologists several decades ago (by Dobzhansky and others) is in no way discredited by conceptual criticisms that are now fashionable and widely regarded as cogent. These criticisms often arbitrarily burden the biological category of race with some implausible connotations, which then opens the path for a quick eliminative move. However, when properly understood, the biological notion of race proves remarkably resistant to these deconstructive attempts. Moreover, by analyzing statements of some leading contemporary scholars who support social constructivism about race, I hope to demonstrate that their eliminativist views are actually in conflict with what the best contemporary science tells us about human genetic variation.

Nothing new for the GNXP faithful, but the presentation is clear and compelling throughout. He opens with "Those who subscribe to the opinion that there are no human races are obviously ignorant of modern biology." --- Ernst Mayr, 2002. Great quote!