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Swinging both ways 
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Post Re: Swinging both ways
I'm no scientist but I DO watch Discovery Science a lot. :mrgreen: There was a program recently that involved testing various individuals of different (apparent) racial groups for gene markers that indicate the geographical origins of their ancestors. The results were surprising to say the least. Some apparent African Americans had genetic markers of Western Europeans, while some apparent Caucasians have genetic markers indicating East African origins. The point of the testing was to show that race is a social construct; that in biology and genetics it may as well not exist at all.

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Tue Sep 15, 2009 10:22 am
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Post Re: Swinging both ways
JackKelly wrote:
The point of the testing was to show that race is a social construct; that in biology and genetics it may as well not exist at all.
Then why do different racial groups have different physical characteristics that cannont be explained by social factors, rather than genetic factors (predisposition to diseases, variations in height, prevalence of hair colors, general shapes of skulls and other facial characteristics, allergies to milk or other foods, etc)?


Tue Sep 15, 2009 12:08 pm
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Post Re: Swinging both ways
BillMullins wrote:
JackKelly wrote:
The point of the testing was to show that race is a social construct; that in biology and genetics it may as well not exist at all.
Then why do different racial groups have different physical characteristics that cannont be explained by social factors, rather than genetic factors (predisposition to diseases, variations in height, prevalence of hair colors, general shapes of skulls and other facial characteristics, allergies to milk or other foods, etc)?


I don't know the answer to that, Bill. My last Biology class was in 1972, and I think I made a "C". ;) However, it could be (just a guess) that predisposition to certain types of diseases or allergies is a genetic trait that is passed down from generation to generation, and is more dependent on where your ancestors are from rather than a racial trait. Of course, skull shapes and hair texture and height and the like are purely superficial.

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Tue Sep 15, 2009 12:24 pm
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Post Re: Swinging both ways
DanHenderson wrote:
JamesGifford wrote:
Sally Hemings was at least 50% Caucasian, since Jefferson's father-in-law was her father.

But when people met her, did they think to themselves, "She's at least 50% Caucasian"? I'll bet not.

Probably not. However, her children (by one member of the Jefferson family or another - I am not convinced that TJ's nephews have been ruled out) would have been at least 3/4 Caucasian and apparently at least one "passed" successfully. I recall Sally's mother being described as "comely" and "light-skinned" which would indicate that Sally was perhaps 3/4 Caucasian herself, or more. But Americans did and do have the odd notion that any presence of African blood makes the bearer "black."

Then there's the case Twain's Roxy...


Tue Sep 15, 2009 1:24 pm
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Post Re: Swinging both ways
DanHenderson wrote:
All I'm claiming is that the only sciences that can study it are the social sciences, not biology or physiology.

Pish. It might be true to say that the consequences of racial identification are greater in a social sense than in others - and I cop here to perhaps having misunderstood your thrust in the prior message - but to say that biology and physiology have nothing therein to study is, politely, nonsense. There are most definitely biological and physiological differences, many of them visible to the unaided eye, and more found in more sophisticated study of skeletal features.

Are these features of anything but trivial significance? I don't think so. But again, you're bending over backwards to dismiss race as a fact when it patently is. It's a nice, warm, fuzzy, anti-racism stance but it gets a little silly when pushed that far.

:)


Tue Sep 15, 2009 1:30 pm
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Post Re: Swinging both ways
JamesGifford wrote:
But again, you're bending over backwards to dismiss race as a fact when it patently is. It's a nice, warm, fuzzy, anti-racism stance but it gets a little silly when pushed that far.

I think this is where I'll bow out and just agree to disagree. I don't have the scientific chops necessary to offer any more proof or justification, but the position is one advocated by a lot of people who are way smarter than me and, to me, it makes sense. It allows me to let go of the social teaching that everyone must fit neatly into some race or other, based solely on their biology and that, because we know by looking what race someone is, we know a lot of important information about them. (For example, Sickle Cell Trait is a black disease, so I can't have it, right? Except that I do.) I'm much more comfortable with a theory/worldview that easily accommodates racial (and gender, since we were originally talking about those two together) fluidity and ambiguity. And that doesn't seem at all silly to me.

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Tue Sep 15, 2009 3:46 pm
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Post Re: Swinging both ways
BillMullins wrote:
JackKelly wrote:
The point of the testing was to show that race is a social construct; that in biology and genetics it may as well not exist at all.
Then why do different racial groups have different physical characteristics that cannont be explained by social factors, rather than genetic factors (predisposition to diseases, variations in height, prevalence of hair colors, general shapes of skulls and other facial characteristics, allergies to milk or other foods, etc)?

Cladistics explains all!
In this sense, Race has the same relationship to humanity that "breed" has to dog.


Tue Sep 15, 2009 5:45 pm
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Post Re: Swinging both ways
which means most of us are mutts !

arf arf :lol: as long as i am not the poodle with an inbred belief that, in actuality, i am a great dane

back to the kennel

Nick


Wed Sep 16, 2009 6:42 am
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Post Re: Swinging both ways
This seems like something of a storm in a teacup. We know about genetics, which affects certain factors both visible (appearance) and less visible (requiring testing, e.g. high blood pressure). We know that genetic combinations sometimes result in blending of characteristics, notably skin tone. I have a child on the way whom I expect to emerge with a halfway epicanthic fold. Some genetic factors may be all or nothing. Many aspects of genetics are understood poorly (how can there possibly be a single marker for frizzy hair when mating with a straight-haired person produces something in between?)

"Race" is a term invented prior to any understanding of genetics for covering the most visible external aspects. It's conveniently labeled by geographical terms, but ever since ocean-going vessels were invented the correlation between the original geographical origins (anyone here hail from the Caucasus?) and the visible genetic aspects has been eroded vastly.

I'm not sure that the term "race" has any useful meaning any longer and certainly the head-scratching that the census question on same causes for some people is an indication of this. There's also much evidence that today's youth are much more inclined to consider visible distinctions in the race category irrelevant and find the whole racism thing faintly perplexing.

Sure there are correlations between genetic factors that produce certain appearances and other factors. The more melatonin in the skin, the stronger the fast-twitch muscles tend to be, the more likely the person is to excel at sprinting and basketball. And to have hypertension. These are scientifically established facts.

There are plenty of genetic factors that don't have associated visible differences, but we don't speak of the "predisposed to prostate cancer race," right? And plenty of genetically visible differences that don't correlate to any known "race". I've flown between the US and the UK many times, and I've amused myself at times by guessing which side a passenger belongs to before they open their mouth and lay all doubt to rest. I'm batting at least .950. I bet you I can look at a hundred pictures of male USAians and Canadians and discriminate just as accurately (harder to do for the women). But, hey, vive la difference.

So "race" seems to me to be an artificial term invented for segregating people by appearance and rendered obsolete in any melting pot country in the world today. But that doesn't invalidate genetics.


Wed Sep 16, 2009 9:15 am
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Post Re: Swinging both ways
PeterScott wrote:
So "race" seems to me to be an artificial term invented for segregating people by appearance and rendered obsolete in any melting pot country in the world today.

There's something wrong with this formulation, but I can't quite put my finger on it. I don't dispute that it's essentially correct.

It would be nice if we lived in a world where the color of one's skin was insignificant - merely an item of polite interest like hair or eye color. I think we've made huge strides in my lifetime and I hope to see no reversal of the trend in the decades I have left.


Wed Sep 16, 2009 4:11 pm
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