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Daniel Dvorkin's Journal: Race is a social construct, again. 2

Journal by Daniel Dvorkin

I thought it was already pretty well understood that "Celtic" is only meaningful as a linguistic grouping, but it seems the old idea of a separate "Celtic race" or "Irish race" is pretty strongly embedded, even now:

DNA shows Irish people have more complex origins than previously thought

This makes me think about wider issues. I don't know how many online discussions I've been in recently in which I've been solemnly assured that humanity is divided into three races. (Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out.) And people will go on believing this, even when genetic evidence makes it perfectly plain that there's no such thing as race, never has been and never will be. There are heritable phenotypes, some of which are clustered together as a result of geographical or historical accident, none of which are set in stone and almost all of which are continuous rather than discrete states. The weight we assign them is entirely cultural.

As always, Darwin puts it elegantly: "Man has been studied more carefully than any other animal, and yet there is the greatest possible diversity amongst capable judges whether he should be classed as a single species or race, or as two (Virey), as three (Jacquinot), as four (Kant), five (Blumenbach), six (Buffon), seven (Hunter), eight (Agassiz), eleven (Pickering), fifteen (Bory St. Vincent), sixteen (Desmoulins), twenty-two (Morton), sixty (Crawfurd), or as sixty-three, according to Burke. This diversity of judgment does not prove that the races ought not to be ranked as species, but it shews that they graduate into each other, and that it is hardly possible to discover clear distinctive characters between them."

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Race is a social construct, again.

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  • My fiancee just pointed out to me that the site where this appeared, sott.net, is borderline woo-woo. And there aren't any citations in the story AFAICT. So while an entire grain of salt might be two much, I'd say to keep a few crystals handy until a reliable citation shows up. Sorry about that.

    • by symbolset (646467) *

      Now and then we need to revisit the issue of race so we can be honest about our progress. The timing was good. The comment was good. We need to have a mature discussion about the absurdity of purity of race. Thanks for giving it a go.

      In the modern world the issue of race seems to be overtaken by religion as a reason to kill each other, but race is still up there. My guess is that until we acclimate to the world of plenty we live in we will always have these issues of race and religion to kill and expl

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