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How did Darwin define race?

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In On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life?

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IIRC Darwin did not provide a rigorous definition. Mostly, he used it loosely to refer to any variety within a species. Also note that the Darwin also somewhat changed how he viewed species from his earlier to his later writings.

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But I must explain my meaning more fully. I believe that the arrangement of the groups within each class, in due subordination and relation to the other groups, must be strictly genealogical in order to be natural; but that the amount of difference in the several branches or groups, though allied in the same degree in blood to their common progenitor, may differ greatly, being due to the different degrees of modification which they have undergone; and this is expressed by the forms being ranked under different genera, families, sections, or orders. The reader will best understand what is meant, if he will take the trouble to refer to the diagram in the fourth chapter. We will suppose the letters A to L to represent allied genera, which lived during the Silurian epoch, and these have descended from a species which existed at an unknown anterior period. Species of three of these genera (A, F, and I) have transmitted modified descendants to the present day, represented by the fifteen genera ( a 14 to z 14 ) on the uppermost horizontal line. Now all these modified descendants from a single species, are represented as related in blood or descent to the same degree; they may metaphorically be called cousins to the same millionth degree; yet they differ widely and in different degrees from each other. The forms descended from A, now broken up into two or three families, constitute a distinct order from those descended from I, also broken up into two families. Nor can the existing species, descended from A, be ranked in the same genus with the parent A; or those from I, with the parent I. But the existing genus F 14 may be supposed to have been but slightly modified; and it will then rank with the parent-genus F; just as some few still living organic beings belong to Silurian genera. So that the amount or value of the differences between organic beings all related to each other in the same degree in blood, has come to be widely different. Nevertheless their genealogical arrangement remains strictly true, not only at the present time, but at each successive period of descent. All the modified descendants from A will have inherited something in common from their common parent, as will all the descendants from I; so will it be with each subordinate branch of descendants, at each successive period. If, however, we choose to suppose that any of the descendants of A or of I have been so much modified as to have more or less completely lost traces of their parentage, in this case, their places in a natural classification will have been more or less completely lost,— as sometimes seems to have occurred with existing organisms. All the descendants of the genus F, along its whole line of descent, are supposed to have been but little modified, and they yet form a single genus. ↑ But this genus, though much isolated, will still occupy its proper intermediate position; for F originally was intermediate in character between A and I, and the several genera descended from these two genera will have inherited to a certain extent their characters. This natural arrangement is shown, as far as is possible on paper, in the diagram, but in much too simple a manner. If a branching diagram had not been used, and only the names of the groups had been written in a linear series, it would have been still less possible to have given a natural arrangement; and it is notoriously not possible to represent in a series, on a flat surface, the affinities which we discover in nature amongst the beings of the same group. Thus, on the view which I hold, the natural system is genealogical in its arrange- ment, like a pedigree; but the degrees of modification which the different groups have undergone, have to be expressed by ranking them under different so-called genera, sub-families, families, sections, orders, and classes.
It may be worth while to illustrate this view of classification, by taking the case of languages. If we possessed a perfect pedigree of mankind, a genealogical arrangement of the races of man would afford the best classification of the various languages now spoken throughout the world; and if all extinct languages, and all intermediate and slowly changing dialects, had to be included, such an arrangement would .. be the only possible one. Yet it might be that some very ancient language had altered little, and had given rise to few new languages, whilst others (owing to the spreading and subsequent isolation and states of civilisation of the several races, descended from a common stock) had altered much, and had given rise to many new languages and dialects. The various degrees of difference in the languages from the same stock, would have to be expressed by groups subordinate to groups; but the proper or even only possible arrangement would still be genealogical; and this would be strictly natural, as it would connect together all languages, extinct and modern, by the closest affinities, and would give the filiation and origin of each tongue.
In confirmation of this view, let us glance at the classification of varieties, which are believed or known to have descended from one species. These are grouped under species, with sub-varieties under varieties; and with our domestic productions, several other grades of difference are requisite, as we have seen with pigeons. The origin of the existence of groups subordinate to groups is the same with varieties as with species,

http://darwin-online.org.uk/Variorum/1866/1866-496-c-1861.html

In regard to Classification, & all the endless disputes about the “Natural System which no two authors define in same way, I believe it ought, in accordance to my heteredox notions, to be simply genealogical.—12 But as we have no written pedigrees, you will, perhaps, say this will not help much; but I think it ultimately will, whenever heteredoxy becomes orthodoxy, for it will clear away an immense amount of rubbish about the value of characters &—will make the difference between analogy & homology, clear.—13 The time will come I believe, though I shall not live to see it, when we shall have very fairly true genealogical trees of each great kingdom of nature.—

https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-2143.xml

My dear Huxley.

I know you have no time for speculative correspondence; & I did not in the least expect an answer to my last.2 But I am very glad to have had it, for in my eclectic work, the opinions of the few good men are of great value to me.—

I knew, of course, of the Cuvierian view of Classification, but I think that most naturalists look for something further, & search for “the natural system”,—“for the plan on which the Creator has worked” &c &c.— It is this further element which I believe to be simply genealogical.

But I shd. be very glad to have your answer (either when we meet or by note) to the following case, taken by itself & not allowing yourself to look any further than to the point in question.

Grant all races of man descended from one race; grant that all structure of each race of man were perfectly known—grant that a perfect table of descent of each race was perfectly known.— grant all this, & then do you not think that most would prefer as the best classification, a genealogical one, even if it did occasionally put one race not quite so near to another, as it would have stood, if allocated by structure alone. Generally, we may safely presume, that the resemblance of races & their pedigrees would go together.

I shd. like to hear what you wd. say on this purely theoretical case.

Ever your’s very truly | C. Darwin

It might be asked why is development so all-potent in classification, as I fully admit it is: I believe it is, because it depends on, & best betrays, genealogical descent; but this is too large a point to enter on.3

https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-2150.xml


IIRC Darwin did not provide a rigorous definition. Mostly, he used it loosely to refer to any variety within a species. Also note that the Darwin also somewhat changed how he viewed species from his earlier to his later writings.

 

He defined it genealogically and used race and variety synonymously. Race is simply the common term for varieties in man.


Relevant chapter from Descent of Man.

http://www.online-literature.com/darwin/descent_man/7/

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He defined it genealogically and used race and variety synonymously. Race is simply the common term for varieties in man.

Relevant chapter from Descent of Man.

 

http://www.online-literature.com/darwin/descent_man/7/

 

 

Yes, the biological definition. Which often gets confused with non-scientific cultural definitions of human races. Is that the point you're making??

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Yes, the biological definition. Which often gets confused with non-scientific cultural definitions of human races. Is that the point you're making??

There are some who would claim race has no validity in biology. I am attempting to show that race as conceived by Darwin is defined in the same way as other taxa in biology, and in fact still is.

 

The concept is often dismissed by loading it with additional ad hoc constraints, eg. a threshold Fst value, and creating a strawman concept which is not defined by genealogical similarity.

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I'm not sure harking back to Darwin is particularly useful, given the lack of information they had back then.

Edited by delboy

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I'm not sure harking back to Darwin is particularly useful, given the lack of information they had back then.

What new information do you think was missing?

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What new information do you think was missing?

 

The whole area of genetics for starters. Also it is crucial to view his work in the context of the views held by his contemporaries. Much of his arguments is to challenge the view of a strict distinction between races, which is the more prevalent assumption at that time. In fact, many of the assumptions people had regarding races are more what one would later to attribute to species-level distinctions.

 

Take a look at that part from the same chapter you quoted from Descent of man:

 

 

With respect to the figures in the famous Egyptian caves of Abou-Simbel, M. Pouchet says (The Plurality of the Human Races, Eng. translat., 1864, p. 50), that he was far from finding recognisable representations of the dozen or more nations which some authors believe that they can recognise. Even some of the most strongly-marked races cannot be identified with that degree of unanimity which might have been expected from what has been written on the subject. Thus Messrs. Nott and Gliddon (Types of Mankind, p. 148), state that Rameses II, or the Great, has features superbly European; whereas Knox, another firm believer in the specific distinctness of the races of man (Races of Man, 1850, p. 201), speaking of young Memnon (the same as Rameses II, as I am informed by Mr. Birch), insists in the strongest manner that he is identical in character with the Jews of Antwerp. Again, when I looked at the statue of Amunoph III, I agreed with two officers of the establishment, both competent judges, that he had a strongly-marked negro type of features; but Messrs. Nott and Gliddon (ibid., p. 146, fig. 53), describe him as a hybrid, but not of "negro intermixture." *(2) As quoted by Nott and Gliddon, Types of Mankind, 1854, p. 439. They give also corroborative evidence; but C. Vogt thinks that the subject requires further investigation.

 

He brings forth a stronger challenge on what was believed regarding interfertility of races:

 

 

enquire whether the races of men, when crossed, were in any degree sterile. He might consult the work* of Professor Broca, a cautious and philosophical observer, and in this he would find good evidence that some races were quite fertile together, but evidence of an opposite nature in regard to other races. Thus it has been asserted that the native women of Australia and Tasmania rarely produce children to European men; the evidence, however, on this head has now been shewn to be almost valueless.

 

The next quote highlights how he and his contemporaries view, or struggle with the concept of fertility and species:

 

 

Even if it should hereafter be proved that all the races of men were perfectly fertile together, he who was inclined from other reasons to rank them as distinct species, might with justice argue that fertility and sterility are not safe criterions of specific distinctness. We know that these qualities are easily affected by changed conditions of life, or by close interbreeding, and that they are governed by highly complex laws, for instance, that of the unequal fertility of converse crosses between the same two species. With forms which must be ranked as undoubted species, a perfect series exists from those which are absolutely sterile when crossed, to those which are almost or completely fertile. The degrees of sterility do not coincide strictly with the degrees of difference between the parents in external structures or habits of life. Man in many respects may be compared with those animals which have long been domesticated, and a large body of evidence can be advanced in favour of the Pallasian doctrine,* that domestication tends to eliminate the sterility which is so general a result of the crossing of species in a state of nature. From these several considerations, it may be justly urged that the perfect fertility of the intercrossed races of man, if established, would not absolutely preclude us from ranking them as distinct species.

 

Ultimately his argument is less about the need for the distinction of humans into races, but he uses it as a counterpoint to classify humans as species. Note that some contemporaries authors who did not view humans as distinct species could still held a view of distinct races that originated independent of each other.

 

 

Those naturalists, on the other hand, who admit the principle of evolution, and this is now admitted by the majority of rising men, will feel no doubt that all the races of man are descended from a single primitive stock; whether or not they may think fit to designate the races as distinct species, for the sake of expressing their amount of difference.* With our domestic animals the question whether the various races have arisen from one or more species is somewhat different. Although it may be admitted that all the races, as well as all the natural species within the same genus, have sprung from the same primitive stock, yet it is a fit subject for discussion, whether all the domestic races of the dog, for instance, have acquired their present amount of difference since some one species was first domesticated by man; or whether they owe some of their characters to inheritance from distinct species, which had already been differentiated in a state of nature. With man no such question can arise, for he cannot be said to have been domesticated at any particular period.

 

I think ultimately the issue is interpreting his writings from a modern viewpoint, whereas Darwin addressed and challenged contemporary beliefs. At that time it was assumed that humans had distinct species or races and Darwin argued that all were derived from the same stock.

Modern population genetics not only verified that, but also highlights the degree of genetic flow between populations. Indeed the only subspecies that can be clearly isolated (potentially) will be highly isolated groups.

Edited by CharonY

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!

Moderator Note

 

Thread-locked pending investigation into OP. There is strong prima facie evidence that the OP is the serial troll MikeMikeV.

 

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