Blog Three: Population Biology

Being a social science major, I will say at first these readings came off as a little “sciencey” for me (for lack of a better word.)  But after taking a step back and re-reading certain things I have to say it was enlightening to read about the AAA and AAPA’s positions on race from a scientific perspective.

Specifically, I thought the preamble from the AAPA was thought-provoking.  The preamble serves well as a general introduction because it informs the reader clearly why they are publishing this and what we as the reader can hope to get from it, but it also brings up the enemy of conventional, scientific thought in relation to race: racial prejudice.  Doing this serves a very practical purpose.  They’re crediting racism as being based in 19th century (and older) philosophical traditions that were simply misguided and already setting the reader up to come to the same conclusion after reading the essay.  Discrediting racial prejudice here works as a powerful thesis statement.  Finally, the last line of the preamble stuck out to me as well, it says that, “scientists should try to keep the results of their research from being used in a bias way that would serve discriminatory ends.”  It’s just interesting to me that how a scientist could frame their research in such a way to promote any agenda they were interested in.  I never thought partial blame for racial prejudices could be attributed to the way scientists present their research.

I also thought the AAA made a great point in regards to race.  They identified the fact that physical traits are all received independent of each other, so knowing the range of one physical trait in a person doesn’t aid you in knowing the range of any of that person’s other traits.  I think if all people really understood this fact we would have less much less racism.  This is because understanding this fact knocks out your ability to truly think one “race” is superior than the others.  Shortly after making this point the AAA went on to share, “physical variations in the human species have no meaning except the social ones that humans put on them,” which I thought was eye-opening.

I think the most important part in explaining the non-concept of race to someone unfamiliar with general biology would be first to define what race is.  We need to distinguish the word population from the word race because in many non-scientific circles those two things mean nearly the same thing and that’s a huge part of the confusion.   Race is a concept that was created to group people together based on physical variations.  What needs to be understood is that we are all from the same species and all descended from a common ancestor.  I think another way to explain it would be to realize that just as much as physical traits vary in humans personality traits vary just as much if not more.  The only reason “races” are made up of physical traits is because they are easy to discern quickly.  Yet we associate some personality traits with certain people based on their physical characteristics! That just doesn’t seem right.



One thought on “Blog Three: Population Biology

  1. Hi Dillon,

    I am also a social science major so I can relate to how this material initially looks very sciency, but in reality we can easily relate it to our own studies. In response to your paragraph about how scientists should try to prevent their research from being used in a biased way, I also found this interesting. From previous studies I have done on the topic, I have learned that it can also be the language that scientists present their research which leads to misuse of the results. For example, when a scientist says that they are “almost positive” this could lead people to believe that the research is unclear even though “almost positive” could have actually meant 99% positive. So the way scientists present their information can clearly effect the way people view and use it.

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