Clines and Races

Often we hear people argue that that racial classifications are arbitrary, and therefore race does not exist.  Actually they say a lot of things, most of which are pretty nebulous, but this point does come up. What if they were right – about racial classifications being arbitrary?  I can conceive of a world where that was the case.

In this hypothetical world, human genetic variation is purely clinal.  At one end of a long narrow continent, there is one set of gene frequencies, while the gene frequencies at the other end of the continent are significantly different. In between, the gene frequencies vary linearly. For example, if the A and B alleles of a particular gene have frequencies of 90% and 10% at the east end of the continent and frequencies of 20% and 80% at the west end, the frequencies in the middle will be 55% and 45%. Phenotypes also vary continuously.  There is no natural divide, no seam, no non-arbitrary way to separate the population into two or more groups.  But… that says nothing about how different the east
end and west end populations are.  There are clinal species like this where the two end populations can’t even interbreed.

Red-green color blindess might exist in 8% of west-end males and 1% of east-end males. The DRD4 7-R allele might have a frequency  of 70% in west-enders and a quarter of a percent in east-enders. A number of alleles that tend to increase height might be more common at one end than the other, such that people at the high end average more than a foot taller. Those kinds of differences certainly exist in humans, although their distribution is not as simple as in this example.

When the inhabitants of this boring parallel world develop better transportation, people will move long distances from their place of origin.  We might end up with a colony of east-enders in a west-end metropolis – call it Gotham. The Gothamites think that those east-enders are different – and they’re right. Maybe they’re stiff business competition, maybe they’re dumb and dangerous. Maybe they’re curious and twitchy.  Certainly they look different. You can’t say they’re a separate race, in a scientific sense -  but what does that matter?  The important fact is that the east-enders are biologically different and that the difference has a social impact. Classification issues are irrelevant.

If we dropped a few fusion bombs on the middle of that continent, suddenly there would be a natural seam.  In the long run, that interruption of gene flow might have interesting consequences. But in the short run, it wouldn’t make any difference at all.  Back in Gotham, the existence or nonexistence of a natural seam between populations has no consequences.

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45 Responses to Clines and Races

  1. Ron Pavellas says:

    I am not a scientist so I can and have said and written this: There are no “races” among humans, there is only one human race”. Where am I wrong and how can I say it more correctly without inviting invidious comparisons from people who feel they belong to a suprerior set of humans?, Thanks in advance.

    • Bert says:

      Why do you assume belief in races means the belief that some are superior to others? Racial Equality between the races is compatible with a view that races or clines are a legitimate category into which to classify humans. The problem is not racial realism but racial supremacy (racism) and essentialism which belief that behaviour is linked to their physical identity.

      • Ron Pavellas says:

        I do not assume anything of the sort. I am perhaps not clear enough in stating that where scientists state there are “races” of humans, some other people will make invidious comparisons among these “races,” (however they may be defined) which are nowhere, even in the comments here, scientifically defined–that is, by using the scientific method. It’s all opinion and inference and analogy. I merely want clearly stated exactly what a “race” of humans is, other than homo homo sapiens. I also want to know why it is important to divide humans into “races.”

      • gcochran9 says:

        Call any group of people who have (mostly, maybe almost entirely) mated amongst themselves for some period of time a ‘population’. Assume that population A splits into populations B and C, and that B and C (originally identical) experience different environments for an extended period of time. Those environmental differences might be something like climate, but they could also be caused by cultural differences – the members of B might be grain farmers while the members of C were herding goats.

        B and C are going to experience different selective pressures. If those differences in selective pressures are large enough, and persist long enough, people from B and C will become different. You could plausibly generate 1-standard deviation differences in as little as a thousand years, if the environments were different enough, and I think it’s happened. Some groups have been been separated from others [ and exposed to different selective pressures] for a hell of a lot longer than that – Bushmen seem to have split off from the rest of the human race something like 150,000 years ago.

        Because humans have spread all over the globe, and have invented all kinds of cultural differences, they are now one of the most morphologically varied of all species – second only to dogs. Pygmies are something like six standard deviations shorter than Europeans – that’s pretty different. Populations don’t vary all that much in neutral genes, but they vary plenty in the genes that have been shaped by these different selective pressures. IQ doesn’t vary as much as height, but the average of the highest populations are something like 3 std higher than the lowest.

        If those populations never admixed after splitting, human genetic history would look like a tree diagram. And that is mostly the case. The oldest splits are inside Africa, where Bushmen and Pygmies seem to be the oldest branch. The next biggest split is that between sub-Saharan Africans and everybody else. In such old, deep splits, gene flow has been extremely low (on the order of 1 individual per generation or less) for tens of thousand of years. In many cases, that low gene flow is a consequence of geographical barriers, such as oceans or the Sahara desert.

        But not everything is tree-like. People that left Africa admixed with Neanderthals, a group that had split off something like 500,000 years ago and experienced fairly different selective pressures in a colder environment than Africa. Melanesians mixed with another group of archaic humans from eastern Asia, Denisovans.

        More recently, you see groups that are fairly recent mixes. Uighurs and Hazaras are about half East Asian and half West Asian or Caucasian, mixed about a thousand years ago. Much of the populations of Latin America are mestizos, post-Columbian mixtures of Amerindians (fairly close to East Asians), Europeans, and some Africans.

        Even if two populations haven’t mixed much for thousands of years, there may be still some existing mixed individuals. Australian Aboriginals and Bushmen have been genetically isolated for more than fifty thousand years, but there still may be some kid in New York today who’s half and half.

        But the populations still exist, and can still be different, even if there are some recent hybrids. Pygmies are short. Modern Pygmies have some Bantu admixture, and particular individuals can have more than that – intermarriage between Bantu men and Pygmy women is not rare. But Pygmies are still short – really, really short.

  2. Konkvistador says:

    @Ron Pavellas: All people are equally worthy of moral consideration?

    I admit its not as catchy, but I think it captures lots of people’s intuitions on the subject.

  3. Ron Pavellas says:

    I like the sentiment, but it still doesn’t answer the question about “race” or “races”. To take your idea further, how about this: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Source: http://www.earlyamerica.com/earlyamerica/freedom/doi/text.html

      • Ron Pavellas says:

        How many “characters” does it take to determine or name a race of humans? Name two or more races of mankind, please. Where is Kapuściński bigoted?

        Are not all humans Homo Sapiens Sapiens, or has this changed? If all Humans are of the same species, what value is there in naming differences in genetic makeup? Is there any importance in whether a person has red hair, black hair or blonde hair? Or is short or tall? Or has a flat nose, or a sharp nose? What is the value in knowing and cataloguing these differences?

      • Ron Pavellas says:

        You can determine this for yourself. I do not proselytize.
        The answer below belongs to anothr comment which I have duplicated there,

  4. LemmusLemmus says:

    Ron,

    to answer your question, it would be helpful to know what exactly you mean by the sentence.

    Perhaps you have races and species confused. Perhaps the following article, which starts out with explications of what people mean when they say that “race” is not a meaningful biological concept, is helpful in this regard:

    http://www.ln.edu.hk/philoso/staff/sesardic/getfile.php?file=Race.pdf

    • Ron Pavellas says:

      I have scanned the article to the conclusion, which is this:
      “Conclusion
      My aim in this paper was not to prove the biological reality of race. Rather, more modestly, I have tried to show that typical attempts to disconnect the concept of race from genetics have too quickly and too uncritically been accepted by many ‘‘race critics’’, including most philosophers of science who have discussed this issue. The arguments for deconstructing race are fundamentally unsound because they ignore, misinterpret or distort relevant scientific facts. Therefore, it is time to abandon the mantra about the biological meaninglessness of race. Instead of wasting our time on ‘‘refuting’’ straw-man positions dredged from a distant past or from fiction, we should deal with the strongest contemporary attempts to rehabilitate race that are scientifically respectable and genetically informed. Philosophers (and others) have too long tried to destroy the scientific notion of race in different ways; the point, however, is to understand it.”

      So the author of this article asserts that there are races of men, but I don’t see where he identifies them. I believe he says that it is valid, logically to continue to study man so that the races can be identified, If I’m correct in this statement,he is asserting something not proven. He just knows it’s true. Sort of like a belief system.

      What I am critical of is using such ideas in invidious ways; that is, asserting, or implying, or allowing the inference in certain people who look for such, that some “kinds” of people are inferior to others. I here quote a famous world traveler and journalist:

      “Three plagues, three contagions, threaten the world: the first is the plague of nationalism; the second is the plague of racism; the third is the plague of religious fundamentalism. All three share one trait, a common denominator—an aggressive, all-powerful, total irrationality. Anyone stricken with one of these plagues is beyond rationality. In his head burns a sacred pyre that awaits only its sacrificial victims. Every attempt at calm conversation will fail. He doesn’t want a conversation, but a declaration that you agree with him, admit that he is right, join the cause. Otherwise you have no significance in his eyes, you do not exist, for you count only if you are a tool, an instrument, a weapon. There are no people—there is only the cause.”
      —From Imperium by Ryszard Kapuściński

      I am looking for some leadership in that relevant portion of the scientific community to combat “racism” by employing different concepts and words to examine the differences among humans, if this must be done, in order that every person and group examined is observed with proper respect as a human being.

      • LemmusLemmus says:

        I was thinking of this bit:

        “the concept of race has three possible grades of biological involvement.
        First, the basic meaning of ‘‘race’’ seems to imply that, due to a common ancestry,
        members of a given race A will display increased genetic similarity, which will make
        them in some way genetically different from individuals belonging to another race,
        B. Second, it is frequently assumed that A-individuals will also differ systematically
        from B-individuals with respect to some genetically determined morphological
        characteristics (skin color, hair texture, facial features, etc.), with these morphological
        differences being the basis for the common-sense racial recognition and classification.
        And third, A-individuals could differ from B-individuals with respect to some
        genetically determined psychological characteristics as well. So in discussing the
        concept of race, its three grades of biological involvement are three kinds of racial
        differentiation that are rooted in biology: genetic, morphological and psychological.”

        I think this can be helpful in clarifying one’s thinking about these matters. Note that the author only talks about *increased similarity*, not that the races, whatever they are, are totally distinct.

        I think that ‘looking for some leadership in that relevant portion of the scientific community to combat “racism”’ is exactly wrong. The aim that “that every person and group examined is observed with proper respect as a human being” is a normative one, and I don’t think scientists have any special competence in that field – they’re specialists in empirical matters.

        Moreover, I think this normative position should not be held hostage to the empirical claim that there are no meaningful average differences between human groups, which may turn out to be wrong. It is only a short distance from the claim that “there are no meaningful average differences between human groups, hence members of all groups should be treated with respect” to “if there are meaningful average differences between human groups, it is o.k. to treat the members of some groups with little respect.” Hence the former view (which is the mainstream in affluent western countries today) may turn out to be quite dangerous.

  5. bob sykes says:

    Races inevitably develop if distances are long enough even if there is gene flow. This is a natural result of reaction-diffusion systems. Go over to Wikipedia for a detailed treatment:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reaction–diffusion_system

    As to new nomenclature, any euphemism for race will eventually become loaded with all the implications of the original term.

    • Ron Pavellas says:

      What is a race? What races of humans exist today?

      • ziel says:

        I’m not sure you’re seriously interested in differing points of view on this topic, but just to get an idea where your heads at, could you answer these questions:

        Do different breeds of dogs ‘exist’?

        How does the existence of mutts influence your answer?

  6. bob sykes says:

    My original comment was unclear. In ecology, a cline is a boundary between two different ecosystems. Clines are relatively short-range phenomena. Over longer distances, the mathematics of reaction-diffusion forces patterns to emerge. The classical simple example is the Belousov-Zhabotinskii reaction and the Fields-Noyes model of it.

    The point is that on a global scale there must be “races,” or whatever you want to call them. It’s simple a matter of the mathematics of gene flow and mutation.

    As to what a race is, it is defined by the correlation among many characters. One character alone does not define a race. That is the Lewontin Fallacy. In “The History and Geography of Human Genes,” Cavalli-Sforza et al identify at least 10 to 15 distinct populations in Africa alone. There may be 50 or so in the whole world. Cavalli-Sforza et al do deny the existence of races, but the denial itself is mere PC nonsense, and if true it would make a mockery of their own work. The entire RNA/DNA tree business is a working out of how many races there are.

    As far as the quote from Ryszard Kapuściński is concerned, I think it itself is an example of bigotry. The problem is not the existence of races, the problem is racism, and Kapuściński’s own bigotry.

    • Ron Pavellas says:

      How many “characters” does it take to determine or name a race of humans? Name two or more races of mankind, please. Where is Kapuściński bigoted?

      Are not all humans Homo Sapiens Sapiens, or has this changed? If all Humans are of the same species, what value is there in naming differences in genetic makeup? Is there any importance in whether a person has red hair, black hair or blonde hair? Or is short or tall? Or has a flat nose, or a sharp nose? What is the value in knowing and cataloguing these differences?

  7. Henry Harpending says:

    @Ron:

    Let us consider a related idea, “family”. Are Ron and I members of the same family? Sort of, although we have never met face to face. How many families are there in the world? We all use the word family but it has no rigorous definition. There is no sensible answer to the question about the number of families in the world.

    This varies among cultures. I have done a lot of fieldwork with a tribe of ranchers in the Kalahari called Herero. Among Herero the answer is easy: there are six families in the world. Five of them are Herero matrilineages called “Omaanda” and the sixth is everyone else, Ovatwa, literally “slaves”.

    Race has an unpleasant loading in much of the industrialized world. Could family ever have such a negative load? Perhaps it did in the early years of Israeli Kibbutzim, where ties between parents and children were frowned upon.

    Henry

    • Ron Pavellas says:

      Henry,

      Thanks for responding so thoughtfully. I’ll try to do similarly, after I’ve had a night’s sleep. It’s quarter to 8PM in stockholm right now.

      Best wishes,

      Ron

      • ziel says:

        Ron, you seem like a really nice guy and no doubt wishing the best for the human race. But the fact that, after reading Greg’s very interesting and thoughtful piece, you quoted approvingly – if not reverentially – the unhinged ravings of an unrepentant Stalinist, is surely cause to doubt your willingness to be open-minded on this question.

    • Ron Pavellas says:

      Henry,

      I apologize again for disturbing the peace. I am not offering science-based queries and comment. I am not acting as a searcher for empirical data, but rather am exercising that portion of my brain which engages in intuition: that is, putting a few data points together and speculating about correlations and causes—but open to new data and new interpretations.
      Despite that Mr Ryszard Kapuściński may or may not be a “an unreconstructed Stalinist” he has introduced in a volume of four addresses the notion of “The Other” (in a book so entitled), which can be a reason or excuse or stimulus for, in the extreme, genocide. Your example of the Herero perceiving “everyone else” as a “slave” is perhaps a good one to demonstrate what Kapuściński discusses.
      My offerings in this forum are not science, admittedly. What I have been (imperfectly) after in this discussion is to discuss the implications of scientists positing and discussing human “races”, thus inadvertently giving fodder to those who are concerned about “the other” as a bad or lesser human.
      If in fact there are lesser and greater humans, what are the descriptors of the greater human? I often see “IQ” invoked, but IQ tests are valid for certain cultures in their contribution to the survival of the species in that culture. I have a high IQ; it is useless in the jungles of Borneo. I could not, as I am, contribute to the gene pool there.
      So, the above is a thumbnail summary of what I think I’m after in this discussion. As I said, it may not be appropriate or comfortable for this forum. Nonetheless, I have learned something, for which I am grateful.
      Best wishes,
      Ron

  8. icr says:

    Does knowledge of the natural world have value?

    The latest in the controversy over the origins of the dog:
    http://retrieverman.wordpress.com/2011/12/19/twigs-versus-logs-and-the-origin-of-the-domestic-dog/

    Recall that biologists now say that *all* dogs and *all* wolves belong to the same species.

    • Ron Pavellas says:

      Yes, knowledge is a good, in the philosophical sense. I am concerned with how the non-scientist will use concepts such as race, etc., in inapprorpiate ways. I believe there needs to be some guidance in their use in the popular realm.

      • Mark says:

        This is a legitimate concern. There is also the legitimate concern that blindness as to the realities of *average* racial differences in things like intelligence and personality will fundamentally alter societies that pursue race-blind immigration policies, and cause societies like the U.S. to waste millions on efforts to close achievement gaps that may well be based in nature. The problem is the first concern is recognized as legitimate, whereas the second is not.

      • Ron Pavellas says:

        Thanks for your useful reply. I will take your use of the word “semantics” to refer to the meaning of words, or any given person’s understanding of the meaning of a given word. Yes, this is what I am concerned about: the meaning given, or attributed, to the word “race” as describing a set of human beings. This is why I am looking for precision in the way people who legitimately carry the label “scientist” publicly use the word “race” (my quick definition of “scientist”: a person who employs the scientific method in pursuing his or her profession). I did think of “breed” using, as you have, the dog as example but then I thought that some non-scientist could use this example invidiously toward humans. I am ever conscious of the use of words, especially now that I call myself a writer in my retirement from employment. Words are inadequate abstractions of reality, or perceived reality. etc. I’ll read the article after my breakfast–it’s 6.42 AM in Stockholm.

      • “I am concerned with how the non-scientist will use concepts such as race, etc., in inapprorpiate ways. I believe there needs to be some guidance in their use in the popular realm.”

        Translation: I wish to know how best to control and redirect the sympathies of other humans with white skin to their immediate and long-term disadvantage. I believe I need to further distort white people’s consciousness to avoid giving me offense as I sit at my computer all day pondering what offends me.

      • Ron Pavellas says:

        Yes, you are uppity. You don’t know me, although apparently you know “types” and you can spot one immediately. You are clearly superior.

  9. spandrell says:

    This is the last place I expected to find a moron such as Mr Pavellas.

    • Ron Pavellas says:

      Perhaps you should rethink your comment. I have been tested as being at the 99th percentile for standard measures of IQ. I may be ignorant, however, in the field in which you presumably are educated anad qualified. I am merely looking for clarity on a subject that interests me. You could do more good in educating me than in offering puerile insults, to which I am invulnerable.

    • See that, spandrell — he is INVULNERABLE!

      He wants clarity. To that end, he will dodge every explanation with evermore irrelevant hair-splitting, and as he came he shall go away satisfied that, just as he thought, “race” does not exist, the world is safe and sound, whole, of a piece, la dee fuckin’ da.

  10. harpend says:

    @spandrell:

    I think you are misreading Ron’s questions. At any rate he is certainly far from being a moron, so a lighter touch please.

    Thanks, Henry

  11. Partly, it’s a semantic problem. There are clear races of dogs and cats and horses, though each is a single species, as are humans. But their races are usually called “breeds.” Is it fair to call the human races “subspecies”? Anyhow, this is commented on further and linked here:
    http://ex-army.blogspot.com/2011/12/more-on-human-differences.html

    • Ron Pavellas says:

      Maybe I am a “moron”–I keep posting responses under the wrong comment (This is a copy of an above response):
      Thanks for your useful reply. I will take your use of the word “semantics” to refer to the meaning of words, or any given person’s understanding of the meaning of a given word. Yes, this is what I am concerned about: the meaning given, or attributed, to the word “race” as describing a set of human beings. This is why I am looking for precision in the way people who legitimately carry the label “scientist” publicly use the word “race” (my quick definition of “scientist”: a person who employs the scientific method in pursuing his or her profession). I did think of “breed” using, as you have, the dog as example but then I thought that some non-scientist could use this example invidiously toward humans. I am ever conscious of the use of words, especially now that I call myself a writer in my retirement from employment. Words are inadequate abstractions of reality, or perceived reality. etc. I’ll read the article after my breakfast–it’s 6.42 AM in Stockholm.

    • Ron Pavellas says:

      I read the article. It is not “science”. It is opinion. There seems to be tautology in all these comments about race. Human races exist because we are talking about human races. Yes, there are obvious differences in sets of people throughout the world–I certainly will not be taken as a native-born Swede in Stockholm, where I live. I would like to see commentary, based on precise measurement, on how all human “races” are similar to each other (and no one here has yet to enumerate these “races”). Now I need to think a lot on how to respond to Henry Harpending. I feel an essay coming on…

  12. Ron Pavellas says:

    In response to ZIEL “Ron, you seem like a really nice guy and no doubt wishing the best for the human race. But the fact that, after reading Greg’s very interesting and thoughtful piece, you quoted approvingly – if not reverentially – the unhinged ravings of an unrepentant Stalinist, is surely cause to doubt your willingness to be open-minded on this question”
    I wasn’t aware that Kapuściński was an unrepentant Stalinist. Perhaps you should keep an open mind and read several of his very interesting books which have nothing to do with Stainism. But, now that I have Googled his name and read extensively about him in the Wikipedia article. I see that there is much controversy regarding his service to the (then) communist state of Poland. Your point is well taken, but perhaps the words I quoted from him can stand on their own? Is not, at least, racism a pernicious thing? (forgetting about nationalism, about which I have mixed feelings, and religious fundamentalism, about which I have strong feelings).

  13. Ron Pavellas says:

    LemmusLemmus said; I think that ‘looking for some leadership in that relevant portion of the scientific community to combat “racism”’ is exactly wrong. The aim that “that every person and group examined is observed with proper respect as a human being” is a normative one, and I don’t think scientists have any special competence in that field – they’re specialists in empirical matters.”

    I appreciate this comment. I seem to have got myself into a corner as someone who is trying to “combat racism”. I can’t even define “racism” if I can’t define “race”. What am I after here? I started out merely wanting a definition of “race”. I see a lot of interesting comment on the subject but I still do not feel enlightnened. Perhaps I am asking a question not appropriate to this forum (or not asking in the right way) and, if so, I apologize for disturbing the peace. But, as an intelligent and informed observer, I caution some folks in this forum about their tautologies and their referrals to websites that are not “scientific” but merely opinion..

    Best wishes,

  14. John Harvey says:

    I once read that a species of gulls – I think they were Herring Gulls – were spread right around the world in northern temperate latitudes. Each separate population on the circle was closely related to its geographical neighbours in both directions and as such was freely able to interbreed with them. This pattern started in Alaska at the Bering Straits and continued across North America, Iceland, Northern Europe and into Northern Asia. But the critical point here is that by the time it reached the Bering Straits from the Asian direction the populations had now, through gradual changes, become so different that they were simply unable to interbreed across the Bering Straits. In other words, something like clinal differences if you go the long way round, but a species (?) break across the Straits. Any human implications?

  15. Peter Frost says:

    Ron,

    1. Map the geographic variability of each gene of the human genome.
    2. Lay all of these maps on top of each other.
    3. You will see four major races: subSaharan Africa, Europe and West Asia, East Asia and the Americas, and Australia (Aborigines).

    That was Cavalli-Sforza’s finding. Of course, Cavalli-Sforza (post-1990) has stated that these geographical groups are not important enough to be called “races.” But before the 1990s, he was saying the exact opposite. This is really a judgment call, and it’s a judgment that is highly influenced by the ambient ideological environment.

    This is not a question that people ask with sufficient sincerity. There is Lewontin’s finding that genetic variation within human populations greatly exceeds genetic variation between human populations. But the two kinds of variation are not comparable. When a gene varies between two populations the cause is probably a difference in natural selection, since the population boundary also separates different selection pressures. Conversely, when a gene varies within a population this variation is less likely to have adaptive significance. It hasn’t been flattened out by the steamroller of similar selection pressures.

    I’m not simply engaging in theory here. We see massive genetic overlap between many sibling species that are nonetheless distinct in morphology and behavior.
    If genetic variability for the human genome

    • Ron Pavellas says:

      Thank you very much. (Was your comment truncated after the word ‘genome’?). I was thinking, before I read this, that a starting point for rationally differentiating among humans would be to use the original migration patterns from the presumed origin of modern man in East Africa. That is, at different times (if I remember the map correctly), the route through southern Asia to Australia and surrounding areas; to East Asia; to Anatolia and surrounding areas; to Southern Europe and North Africa; to the rest of Africa: and to middle and northern Europe. I guess that’s approximately what you describe from Cavalli-Sforza. Not being in your discipline I have trouble understanding some of the discussion you offer, but I do understand about there being more difference within populations than there are between populations. I don’t understand the importance of this, however (although you apparently have explained it). So, when we discuss “race” outside of your discipline, would it be more accurate or at least useful to say “European”, “Asian”, Australian-something”, “West African”, “East African”, etc? I would prefer something like this other than differentiating by skin color. Different subject: when are the government officials who differentiate among residents by ethnicity stop using “Caucasian” as a description for “White” or European ethnicity?

      • Doug1 says:

        I don’t understand the importance of this, however (although you apparently have explained it). So, when we discuss “race” outside of your discipline, would it be more accurate or at least useful to say “European”, “Asian”, Australian-something”, “West African”, “East African”, etc?

        Europeans, colloquially whites, are a subset of W.Asians and Euro, aka Caucasians, Arabs and Iranians are others.

        W. Africans and E. Africans are subsets of the black sub Saharan race.

        Clines are places where the races meet without very difficult to cross barriers. The meet and mix at those places. Central Asian steppe peoples are various Caucasian NE Asian mixes. However those aren’t terribly populous places. N. Africa is a cline between Caucasians and sub Saharan Africans. They tend to be about 1/3 black, 2/3 Caucasian.

      • Ron Pavellas says:

        Is “Caucasian” still being used by scientists as a valid term to describe “Europeans”or “White” people? See here: http://pavellas.com/2010/09/06/what-is-it-to-be-%E2%80%9Ccaucasian%E2%80%9D-and%E2%80%A6/

    • Doug1 says:

      Peter Frost

      3. You will see four major races: subSaharan Africa, Europe and West Asia, East Asia and the Americas, and Australia (Aborigines).

      Luigi Cavalli-Sforza frequently teased this very large racial group “East Asia and the Americas” apart into NE Asians, SE Asians and Amerindians and most others do as well.

      Koisan/Bushmen and Pygmies have as much genetic distance from ssAfricans as Caucasians (Europe and West Asia) do I believe, but they’re small population groups.

  16. “Race” is a bit like “language,” in that sometimes boundaries are arbitrary — Is there a Skandinavian language? Or are there two — continental and insular? Or are there the usually accepted five? They can even be subdivided further. What is undeniable is that Skandinavian clearly differs from its close relatives. And still more from distant relatives. In like manner, we usually call Caucasians a race, and varieties within subraces. It’s certainly useful to think of the big four races in many instances, and useful to think of smaller subdivisions in others. Just as sometimes it’s handy to speak of Romance languages in opposition to Slavic or Germanic languages, and sometimes handy to speak of dialects of French separately. As for there being greater variation within races than between them, think again of dogs and wolves. Some variations are much more significant than others.

    And, really, hardly anybody thinks of “skin color” as the only, or even a major, factor in determining race. In Western history, White and Black have happened to be handy terms to use because European Caucasoids and African Congoids do in fact differ greatly in skin color. Kind of like some Mongoloids calling Caucasoids “round-eyes” because that characteristic seemed obvious to them, though it’s only one of many differences.

  17. Al says:

    Probably, I could re-state the post, as one rhetorical question:

    How many colors are in this picture?

    http://www.imagesplus.com/DJ_backgrounds/images/Red%20Yellow%20Green.jpg

    Thanks :)

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