Many contemporary race scholars reject the biological reality of race.Elsewhere I have argued that they have been too quick to do so. Part ofthe reason is that they have overlooked the possibility that races canbe defined cladistically. Since the publication of the cladistic raceconcept, a number of questions and objections have been raised. My aimin this paper is to address these objections.
Race was once thought to be a real biological kind. Today the dominant view is that objective biological races don't exist. I challenge the trend to reject the biological reality of race by arguing that cladism (a school of classification that individuates taxa by appeal to common ancestry) provides a new way to define race biologically. I also reconcile the proposed biological conception with constructivist theories about race. Most constructivists assume that biological realism and social constructivism are incompatible views about (...) race; I argue that the two conceptions can be compatible. (shrink)
In the ongoing debate concerning the nature of human racial categories, there is a trend to reject the biological reality of race in favour of the view that races are social constructs. At work here is the assumption that biological reality and social constructivism are incompatible. I oppose the trend and the assumption by arguing that cladism, in conjunction with current work in human evolution, provides a new way to define race biologically. Defining race in this way makes sense when (...) compared to the developments in other areas of systematic biology, where shared history has largely replaced morphological similarity as the foundation of a natural biological classification. Surprisingly, it turns out that cladistic races and social constructivism are compatible. I discuss a number of lessons about the way human biological races have been conceptualized. (shrink)
Through most of the twentieth century, life scientists grew increasingly sceptical of the biological significance of folk classifications of people by race. New work on the human genome has raised the possibility of a resurgence of scientific interest in human races. This paper aims to show that the racial sceptics are right, while also granting that biological information associated with racial categories may be useful.
I argue that standard explanations of Du Bois’ theory of race (either as a biological kind or as a social construction) inappropriately characterize his view as solely attempting to provide a descriptive criteria for races. Such an interpretation makes it both susceptible to Appiah’s circularity objection and alienates it from Du Bois’ central project of solidarity—which is the central point of ‘Conservation’. I propose that we should understand his theory as providing a normative account of race: an attempt to characterize (...) what some races should be in terms of what other races are. In providing such an account I will also show how my interpretation of Du Bois’ criteria avoids the circularity objection by making the criteria central to the project of solidarity. Thus, this interpretation avoids what I take to be the two main problems with standard descriptive explanations of Du Bois’ criteria. (shrink)
Support for the biological concept of race declined slowly but steadily during the second half of the twentieth century. However, debate about the validity of the race concept has recently been reignited. Genetic-clustering studies have shown that despite the small proportion of genetic variation separating continental populations, it is possible to assign some (geographically separated and not recently admixed) individuals to their (or their ancestors’) continents of origin, based on genetic data alone. Race naturalists have interpreted these studies as empirically (...) confirming the existence of human subspecies, and by extension biological races. However, the new racial naturalism is not convincing. The continental clusters appealed to by race naturalists are arbitrary and superficial groupings, which should not be elevated to subspecies status. Moreover, the criteria applied to humans are not consistent with those used to define subspecies in nonhuman animals, and no rationale has been given for this differential treatment. (shrink)
The UNESCO Statements on Race of the early 1950s are understood to have marked a consensus amongst natural scientists and social scientists that ‘race’ is a social construct. Human biological diversity was shown to be predominantly clinal, or gradual, not discreet, and clustered, as racial naturalism implied. From the seventies social constructionists added that the vast majority of human genetic diversity resides within any given racialised group. While social constructionism about race became the majority consensus view on the topic, social (...) constructionism has always had its critics. Sesardic (2010) has compiled these criticisms into one of the strongest defences of racial naturalism in recent times. In this paper I argue that Sesardic equivocates between two versions of racial naturalism: a weak version and a strong version. As I shall argue, the strong version is not supported by the relevant science. The weak version, on the other hand, does not contrast properly with what social constructionists think about ‘race’. By leaning on this weak view Sesardic’s racial naturalism intermittently gains an appearance of plausibility, but this view is too weak to revive racial naturalism. As Sesardic demonstrates, there are new arguments for racial naturalism post-Human Genome Diversity Project. The positive message behind my critique is how to be a social constructionist about race in the post-genomic era. (shrink)
This paper distinguishes three concepts of “race”: bio-genomic cluster/race, biological race, and social race. We map out realism, antirealism, and conventionalism about each of these, in three important historical episodes: Frank Livingstone and Theodosius Dobzhansky in 1962, A.W.F. Edwards’ 2003 response to Lewontin (1972), and contemporary discourse. Semantics is especially crucial to the first episode, while normativity is central to the second. Upon inspection, each episode also reveals a variety of commitments to the metaphysics of race. We conclude by interrogating (...) the relevance of these scientific discussions for political positions and a post-racial future. (shrink)
Biological research on race has often been seen as motivated by or lending credence to underlying racist attitudes; in part for this reason, recently philosophers and biologists have gone through great pains to essentially deny the existence of biological human races. We argue that human races, in the biological sense of local populations adapted to particular environments, do in fact exist; such races are best understood through the common ecological concept of ecotypes. However, human ecotypic races do not in general (...) correspond with ‘folk’ racial categories, largely because many similar ecotypes have multiple independent origins. Consequently, while human natural races exist, they have little or nothing in common with ‘folk’ races. (shrink)
In Darwin’s Sacred Cause, Adrian Desmond and James Moore contend that ‘‘Darwin would put his utmost into sexual selection because the subject intrigued him, no doubt, but also for a deeper reason: the theory vindicated his lifelong commitment to human brotherhood’’ (2009: p. 360). Without questioning Des- mond and Moore’s evidence, I will raise some puzzles for their view. I will show that attention to the structure of Darwin’s arguments in the Descent of Man shows that they are far from (...) straightforward. As Desmond and Moore note, Darwin seems to have intended sexual selection in non-human animals to serve as evidence for sexual selection in humans. However, Darwin’s account of sexual selection in humans was different from the canonical cases that Darwin described at great length. If explaining the origin of human races was the main reason for introducing sexual selection, and if sexual selection was a key piece of Darwin’s anti-slavery arguments, then it is puzzling why Darwin would have spent so much time discussing cases that did not really support his argument for the origin of human races, and it is also puzzling that his argument for the origin of human races would be so (atypically) poor. (shrink)
Two widespread strategies of resisting racism are the following. The first one is to deny the existence of races and thus block even the possibility of racist claims. The second one is to grant that races exist but insist that racial differences do not imply value differences. The aim of this paper is to outline a strategy of resisting racism that is weaker than the first but stronger than the second strategy: even if we accept that races exist, we can (...) still deny that there are projectible racial differences. And this is enough to block the possibility of racist claims without appealing to the slippery topic of value differences. I use some considerations from philosophy of biology in order to argue for this claim. (shrink)