Blog 3: Population Biology and “Race”

I felt that the statements made by the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) regarding race were eloquently written.  I thought that the article by the American Association of Physical Anthropologists was highly effective at stating how anthropologists feel about the issue of race.  I was a fan of how they utilized the numerical system to emphasize the points made about race by the 1964 UNESCO conference.  The statement made by the American  Association of Physical Anthropologists included eleven points as to how human variation, viewed from a biological perspective, is understood by scientists and anthropologists alike.  The very first of the eleven statements made is that “all humans living today belong to a single species, Homo sapiens, and share a common descendant.   The other ten points regarding race made by the AAPA include: “the biological differences between human beings reflect both hereditary factors and the influence of natural and social environments”, the fact that there is such a huge amount of genetic diversity within populations prevents the formation of “pure races”, nutrition plays a huge part in the adaptation of certain biological traits, geographic races are unobtainable once again due to the great variety of human genetics, over time, genetics within a population shift due to mutations and processes such as natural selection, humans have a propensity for migrations, gene flow, inter-mating, and finally, cultural and social factors play a major role in the choice of mates for human beings.

The statement made by the American Association of Physical Anthropologists was very logical and concise.  I felt that it did an excellent job of formulating an argument to combat the idea that race and biology are linked.  If I were to teach someone who was unfamiliar with the idea that biological races are a mere human construct, I would use the statement by the AAPA as my teaching centerpiece.  I feel that the very clear and concise language used by the AAPA was intended to educate people who were unfamiliar with the scientific facts of biological variation.

In conclusion, the article by Norman Sauer entitled, “Forensic Anthropology and the Concept of Race: If Races Don’t Exist, Why Are Forensic Anthropologists So Good at Identifying Them?  contained a number a good educational points.  In particular, I agreed with his assessment that perhaps the term race should be replaced with a word such as ancestry.  The word race carries with it many brutal and destructive reminders of the human past.  The unscientific idea of race has been used many times in the past for evil purposes, most notably the study of ethnocentrism in the 1920’s and 30’s which ultimately resulted in the warped and monstrous policies of the Third Reich.  I sincerely hope that properly educating the populace about the unscientific nature of “race” will lead to a better and much more peaceful future.


One thought on “Blog 3: Population Biology and “Race”

  1. I agree with you that the statements we read this week were well-written and put together. The language was scientific and felt pretty objective but was also very understandable to someone who is not a professional in the field of anthropology. I agree that the AAPA might have used the easier-to-understand language to help educate people who might not have learned about how small the differences are between races. I don’t know how I feel about replacing the word “race” with “ancestry.” While I think racial differences are emphasized way too much in our society, I’m not sure replacing the word would take care of that. I also find it hard to imagine everyone switching terminology in the United States as we have a long history of racial prejudices and discrimination, to put it lightly. It is my hope that the continued education of our citizens will help to lessen the hate in our country.

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