Final Project

We watched a webinar from May of 2014, it is a hosted discussion between Nicholas Wade and anthropologist Augustín Fuentes.  If this were indeed a debate and I were to proclaim a winner, I would say that Fuentes is the clear winner.  His thoughts were concise and he was able to back up his answers with clearly understood arguments.  Wade was unable to give answers for even the most basic of questions.  An example is when the host relays a question from the audience asking Wade to define race, his answer is as follows: “you could split out the Caucasian group in two others: the Middle Easterners and the people of the Indian subcontinent… So if you wanted you could say there are seven human races instead of five. But there’s no need to get hung up on numbers, race is a very fuzzy concept. It doesn’t matter how many there are, the fact that people may differ on a number of races is a matter of definition and not of the fact that races exist.”.  The answer to the question is not in there that I can ascertain.

Wade argues that races exist and the genome proves it.  His bases this largely on the computer program, Structure, where the number of clusters (race categories) is specified prior to data sorting.  Things get a little muddled because when you change the number to 3 or to 5 or to 7 you get varying results.

In an article in the Huffington Post by Jennifer Raff, as collected from her blog.  She argues against Wade and his arguments.  She points out the problems with Structure and that it has identified two, three, four, six and seven clusters in addition to his most emphasize five.  She argues that Wade picks five because it is easiest to pick.  It is common sense to Wade.

I have a problem with Wade’s argument right off, as seen in his own article in the Huffington Post.  He immediately starts talking about racism and the genome.  Racism isn’t even at question here.  The question is whether genetics can be used as a biological factor in determining race.  The fact he can’t define what the biological differences are or even what race is, speaks to his complete lack of credibility.  He then attempts to gain back some credibility when he is rebutting Fuentes perceived assentation that because Wade can’t actually identify the number of races that exist, that races can’t exist. Wade says that humans may disagree on the number of colors that exist but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  I can see the point he is trying to make there but the fuzziness of the total argument is stronger than the point he is attempting to make with this statement.

The simple fact that the computer program that sorts data needs to have a number (k) assigned to it prior to being able to assign people to a specific race, seems to be proof enough that there isn’t enough evidence seen in the data derived from the genome to identify race.

Leave a Reply