“Race” is a social concept

From Slashdot – The Shallow Roots of the Human Family Tree

Re:Family Tree Grafting

(Score:4, Informative)

by wfberg (24378)

on Sunday July 02, @03:50PM (#15646793)

(http://huizen.dds.nl/~wfberg/)

In a couple decades somebody is going to start a great project to just check people’s DNA and plug them into a world family tree. The Y and mitochrondial dna would be great, we could probably trace anybody right to their family. Similar things are being done between species where DNA tests are providing actual relationships between animals as such.

The entirety of the population of Iceland has been DNA-sampled and indexed according to their lineage. DNA studies are already used to determine how populations moved and intermixed in the past, on a population-wide scale (where a few people from a population are sampled, rather than everyone).

There even a (if somewhat shaky) DNA test to determine racial descent [raceandhistory.com]. I saw it on a TV show once, where they had some school kids find out they had DNA from basically another race. I.e. a black guy turned out to have some asian genes, a white girl with blonde hair turned out to have some black genes etc. Possibly a bullshit test, possibly not.

Re:Family Tree Grafting

(Score:5, Insightful)

by radtea (464814)

on Sunday July 02, @05:09PM (#15647046)

The test is probably real, it’s just that there isn’t really set “race genes.”

That’s because “race” is far more of a social phenomenon than a biological phenomenon, and the obsession with defining or determining which race a person belongs to is something that does not stem from anything other than politics and sociology. It is a question that no biologist would ever think to ask, because race is not a useful or interesting biological category. There are two reasons for this.

The first is that few if any racial characteristics show any significant discontinuity in the population at large–the lightest-skinned “black” person is lighter than the darkest-skinned “white” person. Without such discontinuities the idea of race becomes entirely arbitrary, based on a line drawn for purely political purposes.

The second is that insofar as there are relatively-disconnected pools of genes in the human population, they are small and don’t last very long because of our aggressive pursuit of exogamy (breeding outside our kin-group). Most primate species practice inbreeding more than outbreeding. In humans it is rather the opposite. In simple terms, most of us are of mixed race. This is especially true of North Americans with regard to mixing of blacks and whites, for well-known reasons.

Anyone who believes that “racial purity” is either possible or desirable is merely proclaiming their ignorance of human biology.

Re:Family Tree Grafting

(Score:4, Insightful)

by Tatarize (682683)

on Monday July 03, @08:15AM (#15649322)

(http://tatarize.com/)

>>Although there is no gene/set of genes that determine “race” because it is a social concept, the term is most likely used when a certain combination of genes that is prevalent in a “race” is found in a person.

The point is that there is no gene or set of genes which determines race. Rather there are frequencies of genes which differ by region. In the tropic areas darker skin is more common, this is not to suggest there is a gene or gene set is unique to any group. Certainly there are probably a number of people commonly thought of as white who have a functional gene for skin melanin, just as the other allele is very likely present within other populations.

The point is, within the gene pool the divisions of “race” are artificial. Subsets of genes within a certain range are not a valid basis for anything. This is the reason the test cited by the above post is due to fail, because you can’t mark any gene as being restricted to any one “race”.

Genetically we are not white, black, asian, mexican, hawaiian, german, dutch, danish, irish, middle eastern, or jewish… we are human. The only time race matters is when people think that race matters.

You can however, very accurately trace lineage with genetics. Given the Y chromosomes of every man on the planet you could track down anybody’s family and how related they are to any other man. Given mitochrondrial DNA you could do the same for the maternal line. Given all the genes as a whole and all the junk DNA in them, you could track down anybody and exactly how they fit into global family tree. We could trace down each individual gene to it’s source and assemble an amazingly complete ancestor list (nameless ofcourse) in the process.

Genes are very very real, races on the other hand are pretty much nonsense.

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