Abiola_Lapite's photos More of Abiola_Lapite's photos

« Hilarious | Main | Kerry 1, Bush 0 »

September 30, 2004



i have no problem with more information. i myself get concerned when i see sample sizes of say, 37 for "egypt," which is used as a proxy for all of "northern africa." i use the term "race" because i think it is a good aproximater, i don't think there are ideal "types," but if the aproximation starts to deviate too far from the reality of the fact, well, perhaps we need to dump it.

i personally think that many researchers do try to play down the role of admixing or genetic exchange to simplify their models. this is not just from proponents human biodiversity. the author of THE REAL EVE for instance writes a panaromic history of the human species and makes strenuous claims against eurocentrism and emphasizes that the 'great leap forward' didn't take place in europe (that it was a gradual affair that occurred in africa). nevertheless, he asserts that there was very litte mixture between subpopulations after the Last Glacial Maximum.

Julian Elson

Silly razib! Everyone knows that the great leap forward was quite sudden, and took place in China!

Mrs Tilton


Eurasian and Oceanian gene pools should properly be considered as subsets of African genetic diversity

Indeed, and shouldn't all human gene pools be considered subsets of African genetic diversity? We are all Africans; some of us have just wandered rather far afield.

Okay, I couldn't exist

You could, you know, if you'd only try harder.


i use the term "race" because i think it is a good aproximater

Well, it all depends on what you're trying to approximate to. For all its fuzziness, the term 'race' is handy enough for referring to large groups of humans of differing physical appearance. Another usage of 'race' -- to designate a nation or people -- is a bit outmoded these days, but was handy enough in a similar way, as long as one didn't lose sight of the fact that the 'Irish race' (for example) comprises descent from Normans, Gaels, Saxons, Vikings, Scots (themselves largely a mix of Vikings, Saxons and Gaels), Huguenots, Palatine Germans and a few pinches of other things, all of this presumably layered over the remnant of the Fir Bolg or whatever one wishes to call the indigenous peoples subjugated by the invading Celt. And we can drill down even deeper if you like. Those 'Saxons' (as we are pleased to call them) were themselves a mishmash of Britons (in the narrow sense of speakers of a brythonic Celtic tongue; what we'd call 'Welshmen' today), Romans, Angles, Jutes, Danes, Normans and, yes, a bit of Saxon too (though surprisingly little, for all that the Celts still call their newly-arrived neighbours Sassanaigh.

The thing is, some people use 'race' almost as though they really wanted to say 'species' instead. Whenever I hear somebody say 'Blacks are X' or 'Whites are Y', I am reminded of an American comedian I once heard (name forgotten; sorry). He happened to mention Australia, and one man in the vast audience responded with whoops and cheers. 'You're from Australia?', asked the comic.

'Bloody right, mate!'

'Do you know Bob?'

i don't think there are ideal "types,

Quite right, too; we are all Aristotelians now.


let me be specific about my personal interest in "race": i just have just participated in a tissue match drive for south asian americans. now, the above research might suggest that my efforts are for naught and i can rest assured that such ethnic focusing is unnecessary, but for now, i will continue to err on caution.

abiola is correct, at some point in the near future cheap personal genotyping will make this sort of thing unecessary...but for now, i don't think we are there.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Notes for Readers