How is Race Defined?

How is Race Defined?

A way of thinking about “race” is to define it as including all members of any human group that can successfully breed with each other. A “race” includes all the descendants of a common human ancestor. So it is like a family, a tribe, an ethnic group, a nation, or the entire world’s human population. This is the broadest biologically defensible definition.

Otherwise, “race” is a social construct rather than a biological one. It is impossible to scientifically define as distinct a human race as apart from another distinct human race on biological criteria alone. There are as many human races as there are human beings due to the genetic uniqueness of each of us. The only possible exception to this would be identical twins, where the number of members of that race would be exactly two!

There are genetic-based outcomes among populations living in specific geographical areas that can set them off from populations in other geographical areas. These outcomes may make certain populations more or less susceptible to having specific anatomical features or health conditions. There may be a survival advantage favoring a particular feature in a certain environment. For instance, more prominent eyelid folds among the Inupiak people of the Arctic may help protect them against snow blindness. Such an anatomical feature would be of no advantage in a snow-free environment.

Tay-Sachs disease, a genetic-based disease causing mental and physical deterioration and often death by age 4, is more prominent among Eastern European Jews. Sickle cell anemia, a disease affecting red blood cells that results in early death (often by age 40), is more prominent among sub- Saharan Africans.

The rate of giving birth to twins varies with geography. West Africa has the highest birth rate of twins in the world. For example, the Igbo-Ora of Nigeria have 31.6 twin births per 200 live births compared to an average of 1 twin birth per 200 live births in European nations.

The fact that all anatomical features or health conditions differ among human populations proves only that there is variation everywhere on Earth. But to define any one population as a “race” as apart from another population as another ‘race’ is to divide people on a crude and misleading basis. Such a judgment invites bias and prejudice.

“Race” has been given great prominence in Western history, particularly over the last 600 years with the advent of New World exploration, the contact of Europeans with non-Europeans, and European empire building. “Race” has often been the ill-conceived basis for the most terrible discriminatory policies, laws, social movements, ethnic cleansings and wars in the long and sorry history of man’s inhumanity to man. “Race” is today a scientifically and socially bankrupt concept.

There is a 1 in 200 chance that a male human worldwide is a direct patrilineal descendant of Genghis Khan.

The man with the oldest known individual ancestor is British professor Adrian Targett. DNA tests matched Professor Targett’s with that of a 9000-year-old skeleton found in Cheddar, England.

The oldest authenticated pair of female twins was Kim Narita and Gin Kanie of Japan. They were born on 1 August 1892. Kim died of heart failure in January 2000 at 107 years of age.

The longest living triplets were Faith, Hope and Charity, who were born in Elm Mott, Texas, on 18 May 1899. Faith was the first to die at age 95 in October 1994.

The world’s oldest quadruplets were the Ottman siblings—Adolf, Anne- Marie, Emma and Elisabeth. They were born on 5 May 1912. Adolf died first at age 79 in March 1992.

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