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Are there different Human races?


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It is becoming more common for people, even scientist to say there are no human races, that we are all of the same race. I think even scientists can be ideological. I say there most definitely are separate races.

This is an extremely controversial topic. I say the differences in the races are superficial, visual differences such as skin color, hair, eyes etc. PLEASE NO REPLIES that say there are any more differences between the races besides these superficial differences. This thread will probably be closed by one person making one remark that offends a moderator. Please think before posting.

In the past some people have said races have more than visual differences. This has produced hatred. In many examples such as Nazis, racism as also gone as far as genocide. Now I think some have gone to the opposite extreme.

The two issues I'd like to discuss are:
1. Are there different Human races?
2. Can science be diverted by the ideology of some scientists?

Here in Colorado my bird feeders are often visited by Dark Eyed Juncos. These are small grey sparrows. When winter arrives I notice some of these Juncos have very dark, almost black heads. This is the Oregon race of Dark Eyed Juncos. They come from the north-western US. Because of the color and darkness of these birds I can tell that they originally came from another geographic area from the Juncos I'm used to.
If we can use color to say these birds are of a different race of Juncos can't we say the same about humans that have different skin colors.

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I refuse to respond to any of your posts until you reread this thread. Be careful to understand my posts before you reply.  Please start with my very first post. I am tired of repeatedly posting the s

Alrighty,  I have a reasonable level of experience as a phylogeneticst and systematist.  In contemporary systematics, the word race is generally used to describe different karyotypes within

I prefer to learn from discussions. Or rather, learn more. If we all only shared our opinion about things we know for certain, a place like this would be very silent.

2 hours ago, BusaDave9 said:

This is an extremely controversial topic. I say the differences in the races are superficial, visual differences such as skin color, hair, eyes etc.

These things don't seem to correspond in any consistent way to a well-defined concept of race. It is hard enough defining the concept of species. Trying to group people by apparent similarities seems hopeless and somewhat pointless. There are many places in the world where people have dark skin but wouldn't;t be considered the same race or ethnicity. Is everyone with ginger hair or blue eyes part of the same race?

Nowadays, we can use genetic profiling to identify risk factors for lifestyle or medical treatment. So trying to use a crude approximation based on what people look like seems as dated as phrenology.

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1 hour ago, BusaDave9 said:

It is becoming more common for people, even scientist to say there are no human races, that we are all of the same race. I think even scientists can be ideological. I say there most definitely are separate races.

This is an extremely controversial topic. I say the differences in the races are superficial, visual differences such as skin color, hair, eyes etc. PLEASE NO REPLIES that say there are any more differences between the races besides these superficial differences. This thread will probably be closed by one person making one remark that offends a moderator. Please think before posting.

In the past some people have said races have more than visual differences. This has produced hatred. In many examples such as Nazis, racism as also gone as far as genocide. Now I think some have gone to the opposite extreme.

The two issues I'd like to discuss are:
1. Are there different Human races?
2. Can science be diverted by the ideology of some scientists?

Here in Colorado my bird feeders are often visited by Dark Eyed Juncos. These are small grey sparrows. When winter arrives I notice some of these Juncos have very dark, almost black heads. This is the Oregon race of Dark Eyed Juncos. They come from the north-western US. Because of the color and darkness of these birds I can tell that they originally came from another geographic area from the Juncos I'm used to.
If we can use color to say these birds are of a different race of Juncos can't we say the same about humans that have different skin colors.

 

Standing back a bit I would observe the following.

Of the Sciences, the disciplines associated with Biology and Geology in particular like classification schemes based on a few coarse grained categories, each subdivided into sub categories, each subdivided again into finer and finer sub-sub-...categores, all in a spreading tree like fashion.

None of the categories are overlapping

So the idea is to be able to place any specimen or sample in one particular box and only one box.

 

Most other scientific disciplines make far more use of overlapping categories, so in Chemistry a compound can be aromatic or aliphatic and and an aldehyde or a ketone or branched or straight chain or cyclic whatever.

Perhps there would be fewer classification wars if overlap was allowed in Biology.

 

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30 minutes ago, Strange said:

Is everyone with ginger hair or blue eyes part of the same race? 

No there are many people with similar traits that are not from the same race.

Also it is now very easy to travel the whole world. Races are mixing. It's getting harder and harder to tell the races apart. There are people of African decent that have blue eyes. By pointing out the rare exceptions does not mean there are no human races.

Genetics has advanced to the point that anyone can get their DNA analyzed. Take your example of ginger hair and blue eyes. It is extremely unlikely that DNA tests would say such a person is from central Africa. Would such testing say that no one in that person's lineage ever lived in Europe but instead all ancestors lived in Central Africa?

Here is my main point: humans should be held to the same standards of classification as other species. I am sure there are Dark Eyed Juncos with very dark heads that are not of the Oregon Race but they are rare. Should we then say that there are no bird races?

Saying the Juncos from the NW are a different race is not controversial.

Saying humans that are from a certain part of the globe are of a different race is extremely controversial.

Edited by BusaDave9
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1 hour ago, BusaDave9 said:

This thread will probably be closed by one person making one remark that offends a moderator. Please think before posting.

!

Moderator Note

Not for discussion further discussion, but that’s not how this works.

The admonishment should be to follow the rules (stay on topic, stay civil, etc)

 
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I have read that there simply isn't enough genetic variation within humans to designate separate races.
Genetic variation is definitely necessary to designate separate species but it seems to me that if a superficial trait such as color can be used to explain variations within a species at different geographical locations. These variations can be used to specify races within the animal world but if we are talking about humans it is no longer acceptable to refer to them as separate races.
With advancements in genetics we have decided that birds that previously were considered separate species are now considered to be different races within one species.
One example is Rufous Sided Towhees. Towhees are large sparrows. I have an old bird guide book that shows the Rufous Sided Towhees has an eastern race and a western race. I also have a new bird book that says the Eastern Towhee is a separate species from the Spotted Towhee which was previously called the western race of the Rufous Sided Towhee.
So if biologists want to designate a plant or animal as a separate species they need to show there is enough genetic variation for such a designation. If there isn't much genetic variation they can designate races that originate from separate geographical locations.

Sorry if I have offended anyone

I firmly believe and made it clear that human races are all the same except for superficial differences. The same is true for races of birds and other species. No one says the Oregon race of Juncos are better flyers or better adapted to cold. To make such a distinction would mean they would have to be different species. To say two specimens are so similar to be the same species but different races is to say the differences are superficial.

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This thread is mainly about physical appearance, so let me ask the question from a different angle:

Were Newton (England, became adult in 1660) and Einstein (Austria, adult in 1897) two different races?

The average life expectancy and height of people in those two periods were significantly different, and those differences were much more radical than melanin in the skin.

Edited by QuantumT
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32 minutes ago, BusaDave9 said:

Here is my main point: humans should be held to the same standards of classification as other species.

Why do you think they aren't? 

There is far less variation within H sapiens than there is in domestic dogs, for example. Dogs are considered to be a single species even though, by some definitions, some should be considered different species (a Great Dane can't interbreed with a chihuahua, for example).

One could say that dog breeds are somehow similar to the concept of human race. But there is a big difference: dogs are bred to be within a (human invented) breed specification. So the differences are contrived and carefully maintained. Humans have always mixed so someone who might think of themselves as being racially "white" could have ancestors from many parts of world and many "races". 

Also, there is now evidence that modern humans have some genetic material from Neandertals and other groups that have traditionally been considered different species so some people are suggesting that we should reconsider whether they are separate species or not. This uncertainty and ambiguity about species boundaries is common to nearly all of taxonomy. So humans are no different in that regard.

If you can come up with a rigorous definitions of race that can be unambiguously applied to all humans, then you might be able to argue that the concept exists. But it is the fact that it is obvious that no such categorisation is possible that has led to the concept being dropped.

35 minutes ago, BusaDave9 said:

I have read that there simply isn't enough genetic variation within humans to designate separate races.

I don't think it is that there is not enough variation, but that if you measure the genetic variation within, and between, two groups that might be considered different races, then there will typically be just as much variation within each groups as there is between them. So how can you choose where to draw a line, one the basis of genetics.

On the other had, there are examples of populations of apparently identical animals where genetic analysis has clearly identified multiple distinct species.

49 minutes ago, studiot said:

 

Standing back a bit I would observe the following.

Of the Sciences, the disciplines associated with Biology and Geology in particular like classification schemes based on a few coarse grained categories, each subdivided into sub categories, each subdivided again into finer and finer sub-sub-...categores, all in a spreading tree like fashion.

None of the categories are overlapping

So the idea is to be able to place any specimen or sample in one particular box and only one box.

 

Most other scientific disciplines make far more use of overlapping categories, so in Chemistry a compound can be aromatic or aliphatic and and an aldehyde or a ketone or branched or straight chain or cyclic whatever.

Perhps there would be fewer classification wars if overlap was allowed in Biology.

Interesting point.

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3 minutes ago, QuantumT said:

This thread is mainly about physical appearance, so let me ask the question from a different angle:

Were Newton (England, became adult in 1660) and Einstein (Austria, adult in 1897) two different races?

The average life expectancy and height of people in those two periods were significantly different, and much more radical than melanin in the skin.

No. Your example is trying to split hairs. When talking about races I have brought up the fact that it can be hard to distinguish between similar races. This is especially since we can so easily travel the world. I don't want to get into details about very similar people. In asking if there are human races I would rather take two extremes: two people whos ancestors were from different parts of the world and look much different.   By taking extreme differences I want to point out that there are more than one race. Anyone can confuse the issue by pointing out two people that arguably the same race.

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2 hours ago, BusaDave9 said:

Here in Colorado my bird feeders are often visited by Dark Eyed Juncos. These are small grey sparrows. When winter arrives I notice some of these Juncos have very dark, almost black heads. This is the Oregon race of Dark Eyed Juncos. They come from the north-western US. Because of the color and darkness of these birds I can tell that they originally came from another geographic area from the Juncos I'm used to.

I know nothing about Juncos, but this sounds as if these populations meet one of the basic species definitions: they don't interbreed. In this case, because they live most of the time in different locations. Even if they find themselves in the same place, they probably do not interbreed, even if they could. (They may even have different diets; I don't know.) Genetic analysis would probably show that they are distinct species as well (even if just by genetic drift, if not by selection).

2 minutes ago, QuantumT said:

IMO Sapiens is the race - Homo is the species.

Homo is the genus. And sapiens is the species (you could call that a "race" but we don't do that for any other organisms).

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2 hours ago, BusaDave9 said:

The two issues I'd like to discuss are:
1. Are there different Human races?
2. Can science be diverted by the ideology of some scientists?

1 - I think it really depends on how one chooses to define races. Whether it's the appears of skin tone alone or something greater. For example there is as much genetic diversity in Africa and between African populations as there is outside of it, Link. Despite the genetic diversity all Africans are commonly considered the same race. So the superficial differences between peoples seems take priority over genetic ones in most definitions of race.

2- This question seems to imply it already has. 

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14 minutes ago, QuantumT said:

Welcome to science :D

IMO Sapiens is the race - Homo is the species.

As I understand it you are partly correct but there are further levels of sub classification the experts are still discovering facts and arguing about.

You and I and indeed everybody on this forum are classified as H. sapiens sapiens.
There is at least one other class of H. sapiens.

 

If you do not know this look it up before you have an opinion.

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12 minutes ago, Strange said:

If you can come up with a rigorous definitions of race that can be unambiguously applied to all humans, then you might be able to argue that the concept exists. But it is the fact that it is obvious that no such categorisation is possible that has led to the concept being dropped.

Strange, You have some good points. I'd like to expand on "rigorous definitions". If an ornithologist were to say they found a new bird species. It would have to pass the rigorous definitions of a species. With modern science this would be easy to compare this bird with other birds genetically. This "new" species must be genetically different. How different? (species can interbreed between different species. As noted Neandertals have bred with Homo Sapiens.) If there isn't much genetic variation they can't be considered separate species.

Within a species there is variation. Some people have dark hair some light. Same can be said of eyes, skin etc.  So how much variation to say it's a different race? From what I see in birds and other animals (I'm no expert) is that there doesn't have to be any more variation than is already within the species. In other words although many people have dark hair. Many people have dark skin. But if you can put together traits and say this person has ancestors from that part of the globe, you can specify the race. Rigorous definitions apply to species but not to race. That is true of humans and true of birds.

Here's another example of race.

Near my home we have the Steller's Jay. They also exist on the west cost but the Steller's jay here in Colorado has white lines over the eyes and over the beaks. These birds are very genetically similar. Ornithologist don't argue "There must be more genetic variation before you call that a different race." They rightfully say that about species but not races.  It can be called a race if they can simply say that sue to the white lines this Jay probably came from the interior of North America.

xSteller-s_Jay_Interior_15.jpg.pagespeed

What I'm saying is you no longer need as rigorous definitions when it comes to race. Because of the race you can say this bird most likely came from the west coast.

44 minutes ago, Strange said:

There is far less variation within H sapiens than there is in domestic dogs

I don't care how much genetic variation there is within a race and I don't think the biologist care either. A biologist never says there is not enough genetic variation to call that a separate race UNLESS we are talking about humans.

How much genetic variation does it take to create the white line over the eyes of the Steller's Jay? Not much at all. THere is more genetic variation within the species. But that white line can tell us where the bird came from (or at least where the ancestors came from).

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40 minutes ago, studiot said:

If you do not know this look it up before you have an opinion.

I prefer to learn from discussions. Or rather, learn more.

If we all only shared our opinion about things we know for certain, a place like this would be very silent.

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1 hour ago, BusaDave9 said:

Near my home we have the Steller's Jay. They also exist on the west cost but the Steller's jay here in Colorado has white lines over the eyes and over the beaks. These birds are very genetically similar. Ornithologist don't argue "There must be more genetic variation before you call that a different race." They rightfully say that about species but not races.  It can be called a race if they can simply say that sue to the white lines this Jay probably came from the interior of North America.

I have never heard "race" applied to birds. But there are several subspecies of Steller's Jay. I don't see how this is in any way relevant to humans.

1 hour ago, BusaDave9 said:

I don't care how much genetic variation there is within a race and I don't think the biologist care either. A biologist never says there is not enough genetic variation to call that a separate race UNLESS we are talking about humans.

There is so much nonsense in these two sentences, I don't know where to start.

I don't care

It doesn't really matter whether you care or not.

how much genetic variation there is within a race

The important point is that there is no set of genes that are unique to one "race" (ie a group that people would consider to be a single race). There is variation within populations that overlaps with variations between groups.

This overlap is not true for distinct species of animals; which is why genetics can be used to define species.

A biologist never says there is not enough genetic variation to call that a separate race UNLESS we are talking about humans.

Biologists do not generally define race. And attempts to do so using genetics have not been useful.

call that a separate race UNLESS we are talking about humans.

But race as a term is only applied to humans. 

Quote

How much genetic variation does it take to create the white line over the eyes of the Steller's Jay?

Not relevant. Genetic variation is not the only thing used to define a (sub)species. In this case, they are visually distinct but, probably more important, they are reproductively isolated. 

Quote

THere is more genetic variation within the species.

Is there? Do you have data on the genomes of the two subspecies? 

 

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3 minutes ago, Strange said:

But race as a term is only applied to humans. 

This is not true. I have old and new bird guide books. These are full of species and races.  Ornithologist are constantly redefining bird races and species. With new DNA evidence they are constantly saying things like "we used to think these were separate species. Now we know they are only difference races within the species."   They freely use the term "race" for birds and other animals but not for humans any more.

Can anyone provide an example similar to this:
A race has been identified in the animal world. Based on color or other superficial traits biologist can say this race comes from a certain geographical location.
Later biologist said there was not enough genetic variation to call it a separate race. They still say individuals with certain color or darkness can be identified as coming from a certain geographical area but we won't call it a race anymore. 
 

My point is biologists never say races need at least a certain amount of genetic variation (unless we are talking about humans). Genetic variation may dictate a separate species but not a race.

Race is often used in birds and other animals. Now it is not politically correct to use the term race when talking about humans. I say political correctness has affected science.

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1 hour ago, BusaDave9 said:

How different? (species can interbreed between different species. As noted Neandertals have bred with Homo Sapiens.) If there isn't much genetic variation they can't be considered separate species.

While this is true it is worth noting that its believed that Modern Human (Homo Sapiens) females could not mate with Neanderthal males, Link.  It also isn't known if Neanderthal females had complications becoming pregnant from Modern Human males or what the mortality rate of the offspring was. So while it is true Neanderthals bred with Modern Humans it is also true that they weren't able to do so equally to the way all perceived races today are able to.  Meanwhile genetic diversity among Modern Humans and all the perceived races is known to promotes healthier offspring, Link.

1 hour ago, BusaDave9 said:

Within a species there is variation. Some people have dark hair some light. Same can be said of eyes, skin etc. Within a species there is variation. Some people have dark hair some light. Same can be said of eyes, skin etc.  So how much variation to say it's a different race?

As previously mentioned the total amount of genetic variation between groups is small than that within. Here is another link exampling the genetics. The genetic variation between people of varying skin colors isn't significant. 

You mentioned hair color and eye color yet to my knowledge there are not definitions of race which are based on hair color or eye color. Rather skin color seems to be the thing most commonly pointed out by people. For example as a race a Caucasian person can have any combination of red, blonde, black, or brown hair with brown, green, hazel or blue eyes. 

 

 

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6 minutes ago, BusaDave9 said:

This is not true. I have old and new bird guide books. These are full of species and races.  Ornithologist are constantly redefining bird races and species. With new DNA evidence they are constantly saying things like "we used to think these were separate species. Now we know they are only difference races within the species."   They freely use the term "race" for birds and other animals but not for humans any more.

You are right. I am not a biologist and was not aware of the use of this term: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_(biology)

None of those definitions seem to apply to humans, though.

Good discussion of the problems in this article: https://www.nature.com/news/2008/081022/full/4551023a.html

Quote

If biologists had a list of four-letter words to avoid, then 'race' would be higher up than anything more conventionally vulgar. It is controversial, it lacks a clear definition and the more that genetics reveals about race, the more biologically meaningless the term seems.

...

in 1972, Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin showed that the concept of race starts to dissolve under genetic scrutiny. He found that the vast majority of human genetic variation, which he measured in 16 genes, is found within, not between, what he called the 'classical racial groupings'6. Since then, studies examining hundreds or even thousands of genetic markers have confirmed Lewontin's findings7, 8.

And, not only is the concept useless, it can be positively dangerous:

Quote

But genetics is turning up ever more examples of how race obscures relevant information. A study published in April showed that a mutation found in 40% of African Americans acts like an endogenous beta blocker to protect patients with heart failure from death9. It also suggested why previous research had found conflicting evidence about the response of African Americans to beta blockers: those studies had lumped all African Americans into one group, obscuring the effects of mutations that confer protection or vulnerability.

 

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4 hours ago, BusaDave9 said:

THere is more genetic variation within the species

 

2 hours ago, Strange said:

Is there? Do you have data on the genomes of the two subspecies? 

No I do not have the data. The ornithologists collect the data for us. What my point was is that IF there was more genetic variation they would call the bird the Oregon Junco species not a race.  Species need to be different genetically. Races are so similar that you can't point to their genes and say "here's the difference that says they are different races". (races are similar. Species are different) Now this brings us back to the discussion of "rigorous definitions". There is no rigorous definition of race that biologist can point to. This is what was discussed in the web pages you had links to. Some biologists don't like the term race.

Quote

the more that genetics reveals about race, the more biologically meaningless the term seems.

If two birds have enough genetic differences they are considered to be two different species but if they don't have enough differences some ornithologists would say they are different races. As you pointed out many biologists don't like terms that don't have rigorous definitions.  But when someone goes to have thier DNA analyzed. They may be told that their ancestors were from the far east but god forbid if they say you belong to an Asian race. Genetics can be used to specify race but we are ... I'd like to say too politically correct to say that.

When talking about birds race isn't vulgar. Race identification can be helpful. For example I can look out my window and say "That bird comes from Oregon." I can look at a picture of a Stellers Jay and say "That bird lives on the Pacific coast."

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9 hours ago, BusaDave9 said:

What my point was is that IF there was more genetic variation they would call the bird the Oregon Junco species not a race.  Species need to be different genetically. Races are so similar that you can't point to their genes and say "here's the difference that says they are different races".

This is contradicted by the definitions of "race" given in the Wikipedia article. I am not a biologist so I am more persuaded by the Wikipedia article than your opinions which based on you (admitted) ignorance.

9 hours ago, BusaDave9 said:

They may be told that their ancestors were from the far east but god forbid if they say you belong to an Asian race. Genetics can be used to specify race but we are ... I'd like to say too politically correct to say that.

As you appear to have problems reading and/or understanding, here it is again more loudly:

in 1972, Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin showed that the concept of race starts to dissolve under genetic scrutiny. He found that the vast majority of human genetic variation, which he measured in 16 genes, is found within, not between, what he called the 'classical racial groupings'6. Since then, studies examining hundreds or even thousands of genetic markers have confirmed Lewontin's findings7, 8.

I don't think saying "this old way of viewing the world appears to be objectively meaningless" is political correctness. But what does it say about someone who wants to hang on to those old definitions because it suits their worldview?

9 hours ago, BusaDave9 said:

But when someone goes to have thier DNA analyzed. They may be told that their ancestors were from the far east but god forbid if they say you belong to an Asian race.

Because that is not what it means. Those results are based on the genetics of populations now, not ancestry or race. There have been many examples of mass migration in human history, from ancient times to the last few decades. That is, to a large extent, what is represented by those results.

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12 hours ago, BusaDave9 said:

But when someone goes to have thier DNA analyzed. They may be told that their ancestors were from the far east but god forbid if they say you belong to an Asian race. Genetics can be used to specify race but we are ... I'd like to say too politically correct to say that.

I think you are misrepresenting the data. When a person does DNA testing it doesn't specify their race. It specifies the origin of various genes they have. Nearly everyone has genes with origins for a variety of locations. The majority of genes might be traced back to Asia, Europe, Africa, or etc but only a small minority of individuals are 100% traceable to a singular location. At what percentage can a claim of race by made? 

Also the way genes are passed down through generations isn't linear. While half a person's genes may come from each parent beyond that is less predictable. Even from ones grandparents (2nd generation) there may already be no contribution from 1 of the 4 at all. At the 7th generation we have 128 individuals we are potentially receiving genes from yet no one individual able to contribute more than a single percent and some don't contribute at all. Here is a simply read from Ancestry.com about it

Your family tree can be more or less diverse than you are individually. 

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There is far more genetic variation between species than between races. I could not find anything on the Wikipedia page to contradict that. Actually you (Strange) an I have both posted links showing that there is very little genetic variation within races.

3 hours ago, Strange said:

the vast majority of human genetic variation, which he measured in 16 genes, is found within, not between, what he called the 'classical racial groupings'

DNA testing has shown that my ancestors have come from Ireland, France and Scandinavia. Looking at the link you posted Ten Oz, they say:

Quote

your DNA may look more similar to regions near your ancestors' homelands rather than their country or origin itself.

Although the test did mention countries those countries did not exist back then. I guess that's what they meant by "homelands rather than their country or origin itself".  I am an African American with very dark skin.

28 minutes ago, Ten oz said:

The majority of genes might be traced back to Asia, Europe, Africa, or etc but only a small minority of individuals are 100% traceable to a singular location. At what percentage can a claim of race by made? 

As stated earlier many people from around the world intermarry. This makes identifying races very difficult in most instances. But there are times that race can be easily distinguished. For example, if you placed 100 people from Southern Africa in a room with 100 native Japanese with 100 native Swedes with 100 native Australians you could sort out the members of each of these populations with 100% accuracy. However if you placed 100 Egyptians in another room with 100 Sudanese, with 100 Turkish people, with 100 Jordanians, it would be extremely difficult to sort out these people.

Some people are very different. Some are very similar.

UN_Fight_Racism.jpg

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5 minutes ago, BusaDave9 said:

As stated earlier many people from around the world intermarry. This makes identifying races very difficult in most instances. But there are times that race can be easily distinguished. For example, if you placed 100 people from Southern Africa in a room with 100 native Japanese with 100 native Swedes with 100 native Australians you could sort out the members of each of these populations with 100% accuracy. However if you placed 100 Egyptians in another room with 100 Sudanese, with 100 Turkish people, with 100 Jordanians, it would be extremely difficult to sort out these people.

Some people are very different. Some are very similar.

You could sort people by any number of differences. The average male height in the Netherlands is just over 6ft while in Serbia it's 5'5. In a room full of men from Scandinavia and Eastern Union I would be able to distinguish people with a high level of accuracy just based on height. That doesn't they are different races does it? I think you are ignoring the actual levels of genetic diversity within and between populations in favor of superficial differences in appearance. 

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