Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ No Genetic Basis

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Feb 12, 1998

Posted to HotWired 13 Feb 98

So there's an American scientist who has sorted achievements by race. It should be pointed out that there is no genetic basis for distinctions among race. This caused great confusion for the South Africans - they found an adandoned child and couldn't determine what race he belonged to.

I wonder how the scientist in question obtained his categories. By looking at them? I wonder whether he classified North American Indians as Asians - they seem to be missing in his classification. And Australian Aboriginals - do they count as black? He appears to have classified Asian Indians in the same group as Chinese - I wonder how he would have done this. Not by appearance, certainly, nor by genetics or any other classification scheme I can think of (then by location? Do the Chinese and Pakastanis living in Canada count as white?)

I have long been of the opinion that studies which break down humans by race are at best pseudoscience, their conclusions suspect at best, mean spirited at worst, because there is no scientific foundation upon which such conclusions can be drawn.

And I consider people, institutions and nations which classify people by race to be pre-scientific, or coming at this from a different point of view, pre-civilized.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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