How did Darwin define race?

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by Medium Dave, Feb 8, 2017.

  1. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    I looked at the studies. They usually separate East Asians into at least a couple of different ancestries - the Han in one, the Malaysians and Japanese in another, and so forth. They don't reproduce the "traditional" (modern US, I presume you mean) Negroid race in their clusters, either - there's considerable separation between clusters that are all one race in the US.
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  3. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Human beings are not yet actually classified and grouped by that system. Nobody has done that yet. No genealogical racial classification of humans exists.
    Yes. And the preferred system was hypothetical - an imaginary mental exercise - for human beings.
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  5. origin Heading towards oblivion Valued Senior Member

    I just have to ask, Medium Dave, why is the definition of race so important to you?
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  7. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

    Incorrect. Common descent with modification refers to the branching tree of life. While mutation is known to be a factor today, you get much the same effect when random drift or adaptive pressures changes the allele frequencies in certain populations. This is what Darwin was referring to in his letter to T.H. Huxley for without modification there would be no purpose to classification.

    I was referring to immigrants, because they come from different geographical locations and so have different statistical distributions of alleles. There is no isolated population which is intrinsically, essentially superior in developing computer hardware and software, so free movement of talented individuals to a hot bed of innovation is a better business model than practices dictated by isolationism and racism.

    I have posted them when I fixed your deficient citation. Also, since you cut-and-pasted the October 3 Darwin letter from such a collection (in that it has an identical superscript 2 inserted by the editor), it stands to reason that
    A) you have that material already, but don't avail yourself of it
    B) you are reposting anti-scientific propaganda without intellectual rigor

    Which is it?

    Again, your citation is imperfect.
    You also neglect the beginning of that paragraph which reads: “While the term Darwinism has remained in use amongst the public when referring to modern evolutionary theory, it has increasingly been argued by science writers such as Olivia Judson and Eugenie Scott that it is an inappropriate term for modern evolutionary theory.” Interestingly, the same reference to “Don't Call it 'Darwinism'” ( ) is used a Wikipedia citation for both parts of the paragraph. But, contrary to Wikipedia practice, it doesn't support the idea that it has no negative connotations in the UK. Since the term is ambiguous, please stop using it.

    You can't study types without types existing. Chicken and egg. I think you are confused on definitions and seem uninformed in biology. Typology, generally, is a classification scheme. You create types by attempting to partition the space of traits. The unit of organization within a typology is a type. For example, we may classify men by the number of eyes they have. Zero-eye-men, One-eye-men, Two-eye-men, Three-eye-men, etc. so that most men are in just one partition. The man with one good eye and one very scarred eye might pose a problem as he was not contemplated by the original design. These are great for the antique seller, but not so great for biology as while there are plenty of zero-eye-men and one-eye-men, these traits (so far as I know) are not heritable. Typologies, since they are rooted in the realm of ideas, don't necessarily explain reality.

    But in biology, taxonomies are favored over typologies. Taxonomies are hierarchical, nested classifications of heritable traits shared by populations. They are necessarily rooted in empiricism, so need to change as our information about biology changes. Frogs aren't ever classified closer to pond scum than robin in taxonomies while a typology might put them in the same box of green things found in water. Three-eye-men exist as a type even when no examples exist while cannot exist in a taxonomy without examples. The unit of organization within a taxonomy is a taxon.
    Citation required! It sounds like you want to talk about taxa when you are chopping the tree of life into recognizable parts.

    How is that confusing? In neither case am I allowing essentialist types are compatible with empirical data.

    Darwin didn't invent human races. Building on Aristotle and essentialism, Western Europe not only assumed their nationalistic biases were rooted in reality, but such essential human races were arranged on the Great Chain of Being in some order of merit.
    Linnaeus even included unicorns and rocks in his original classification scheme. And these were essentialist types/taxons for not only did Linnaeus assume that genera and species were God-given, but the fact that the animals so neatly fit into his hierarchal system he attributed to solely human creativity and not some natural pattern.
    But the pattern was natural and classification systems changed over time to better fit the empirical data. (Even Linnaeus saw value in moving whales from fish to mammals.)
    So it's not a straw man concept, it's a antique concept with a history of quaint customs like London hotels barring dark-skinned individuals from lodging in the 1930's and statutory prohibitions versus miscegenation.

    Again you move the goal posts.
    This thread started on the narrow topic of what Darwin mean by "race" in on particular 1859 book. But that's not what you want to talk about.
    Then you wanted to argue about typological thinking, which continues to be invalid in biological classification, especially with consideration of that book.
    Now, having moved away from the biological empiricism of taxa, you want to talk about biologically insignificant types which for reasons given above are completely arbitrary and not part of the definition of subspecies.

    Subspecies are taxa. Human beings don't have subspecies. These racial types you want to talk about are your unknown criteria. Knowing ancestry doesn't help one classify an individual into your types, and just gives your racial biases airs of biological respectability.

    Going back to Chapter One of Darwin's 1859 book, he was using race to mean the exact same thing as he meant when he said variety; it's a taxon. When I qualified race as "biological race", I was speaking of a taxon.

    I did give hypothetical examples for future humans.
    In animals, you need strong geographical isolation of small populations over hundreds of generations to have a subspecies. Humans have no such geographical isolation that lasts that long. All populations shade into their neighbors. And in zoology, subspecies is the finest taxa that can be formally named. Even pet breeds like the great dane and the chihuahua (I'm old, that's the only miniature dog I can name) are not subspecies. (See also section on monotypic species)
  8. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    OK, it's time.......[click]......
    Medium Dave likes this.
  9. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

    In context, "races" could be read as "nations" or "populations" and seems to have little connection with modern concepts of "human races". Partial translation to modern English:

    I think I have found the secret sauce that will satisfy those people intent on finding the most parsimonious, hierarchal taxonomy of life on Earth which has the aesthetic benefit of "naturalness." The missing piece is a tree of common descent.

    Here's a hypothetical to think about.

    Assume, for the sake of argument, that all manner of men are descendent from an ancestral population; assume that our taxonomists have perfect information on every heritable trait as they vary between and within populations; assume that they complete histories of these populations as they descended and scattered from the original ancestral population were known. Given this, would you agree that most taxonomists would prefer as the best classification of these populations of humans a classification informed by genealogical history even if it claimed dark-skinned people in one land were closer cousins (and therefore with taxa closer in the dendrogram of the taxonomy) to light-skinned people in another land than dark-skinned people in a third land. Because of the general operation of heredity, we may assume that for the most part statistical trends in traits to flow down the trees of descent.

    This is just an hypothetical, but I would like your thoughts.​

    exchemist (n post #6) shows similar understanding of this passage from Darwin's October 3, 1857 letter. Man is being used as an example, not because human races was a topic of interest, but because human genealogies are well known. Two years before Origin of Species, Darwin is testing his arguments for universal common descent and allowing Huxley to generalize from the human thought-experiment to all animals or even Darwin's vision of this applying this to all life.

    Medium Dave is completely wrong in #8.
  10. origin Heading towards oblivion Valued Senior Member

    Since you already knew the answer plus you seem to just want to argue and you feel most of this is pseudoscience, I have asked the moderators to move this to the pseudoscience section.
  11. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    In Darwin's day (the middle 19th century), the word 'race' wasn't the crazy political obsession it is today. The word didn't even mean precisely the same thing. I think that Darwin used it to mean something like 'classification based on lineage'.

    It isn't unlike how human tribes traditionally and historically defined themselves by descent from an (often mythical) common ancestor. (That's why people in those days often used phrases like 'The Jewish race'.)

    My dear Huxley.

    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.

    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.
    Yes, I think that's accurate. Darwin seems to be arguing for something along the lines of today's phylogenetics.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2017
  12. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Actually, our classification schemes today are sort of conceptual hybrids. It isn't 'either-or'.

    People could already recognize beetles long before phylogenetics appeared on the scene. If you've ever taken introductory entomology, you will have spent lots of time classifying insects. That's still done morphologically, by looking (typically with a low-power microscope) for various definitive characteristics of each taxon. (It isn't easy.) Note that this kind of classification works equally well whether or not evolution is true. If evolution isn't true, then doing this just serves to identify 'natural kinds'. (That's how Linnaeus thought of it.)

    But today, biologists prefer phylogenetic classifications that (as Darwin suggested) are based on evolutionary descent. These are typically prepared using cladistic methods that aim at reconstructing evolutionary histories. And cladistic methods are based on comparative morphology, on the presence of shared characteristics in taxa that can already be recognized. So morphology and morphological taxonomy haven't entirely gone away and they aren't being ignored or dismissed. They are just being used differently, to reorganize the taxa in question according to hypothesized patterns on descent.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2017
  13. Bells Staff Member

    Truth be told, your whole argument belongs in pseudoscience, if not the Cesspool.

    The reason for that is simple.

    Your arguments in this thread are not scientific. At all.

    "Race" is a social construct... Not a scientific one.

    Which begs the question... Why are you attempting to discuss pseudo-rubbish in the science sub-forum?
  14. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I don't see anything evil or unscientific about extending evolutionary and phylogenetic ideas to physical variations among anatomically modern human beings. There are broad but recognizable differences in morphological appearance between East Asians, Europeans and sub-Saharan Africans. (There are many other similarity groups too, as we look closer and closer at the human population.) And I expect that the explanation for those differences is evolutionary, based on descent. The Europeans, East Asians, Southern Indians, Melanesians, Australian natives, American natives and others are all probably derived from those anatomically-modern humans who came 'out of Africa' perhaps 100,000 years ago. As they spread out into new environmental conditions, reproductive isolation led to populations in different areas developing different gene frequencies.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2017
  15. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    But none of those are significant enough to amount to a sub-species. There are genetic differences, to be sure, but human genetic variation, as I've said, is quite minimal compared to other animals. It points to a choke point in our recent history when we almost went extinct. Taxonomy based on morphology has often been proven incorrect when DNA is considered.
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The first (successful) migration of humans out of Africa occurred about 60KYA. The planet was undergoing an ice age, a phenomenon that always lowers sea level because a great amount of water is trapped as ice in the polar caps and the glaciers atop the highest mountains. This causes seas and rivers to shrink as their banks stretch further.

    With the Red Sea considerably narrower than it is today, it was considerably less daunting for an African tribe (the San or "Bushmen," who then lived in northeastern Africa but were pushed south later, along with everyone else, by the desertification of the Sahara) to imagine sailing across to Asia.

    There's no way to know if anyone had tried to do this earlier and failed, but the San left enough evidence of their walk across Asia for us to see that one group decided to settle on the shore of India, while the others kept going east. Food becomes scarce in an ice age, so they were hoping to find a warmer place to settle. Ironically, Australia's weather was much balmier than the rest of the planet, so these intrepid explorers finally ended up in what, to them, was a paradise. (And yes, DNA analysis makes it clear that the San tribe of today are indeed close relatives of Australia's aboriginal people.)

    60,000 years ago is an important date for us linguists, because it is most likely the era in which our ancestors invented the technology of spoken language. This is when the archeological record suddenly yields a cornucopia of evidence of complex, coordinated activities that simply could not have been performed by people who had to keep one hand free to communicate in sign language.

    A second band of San people made the trip across the Red Sea several thousand years later. At this point in history, the ice age was over, and there was plenty of food everywhere. And indeed, they went everywhere. They began populating the warmer regions of Asia immediately, and by roughly 40,000 years ago, the Cro-Magnon had found their way into Europe.

    The Western Hemisphere was a more difficult destination, since the only way to get here from Asia was by boat, or else walking across Beringia during an ice age. Either approach was a daunting challenge for people dependent on Paleolithic technology. Nonetheless, at various times, quite a few bands of Asians succeeded in establishing homes here.

    They apparently inherited their San ancestors' love of exploration. Once stable communities were established in what is now Alaska and northwestern Canada, parties of explorers began heading south, and their descendants reached the southern tip of South America in a mere thousand years!
  17. Medium Dave Registered Member

    Fucking hell this website is embarrassing.
  18. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

    Says the non-biologist armed with alternatives to facts, alternatives to intellectually honest discussion, alternatives to following forum rules, and one unsupportable reading of 150-year-old technical correspondence.

    [ Moderator's Comment:
    Medium Dave,
    It's readily apparent you posed your original question without the willingness to listen and without the capability to teach ideas with scientific merit.
    You have crassly dismissed answers given to you as coming from Marxists, Zionists and pseudoscientists without support for such terms.
    The rebuttable assumption in the minds of moderation staff is that you came to troll and you were put on notice fairly and formally. You have done nothing to diminish the strength of this assumption.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2017
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  19. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    That evolutionary relationship is what is investigated by the genome crunchers - and they have indeed found clusters indicating common descent. These clusters do not, however, align very well with the sociological races. The "morphological appearance" folks (essentially, typologists as mentioned above) appear to have based far too much of their classification system on skin color, for starters: skin color seems to be one of the least stable, fastest changing, and most responsive to fluctuating environments of all kinds (from weather to local sexual preference) features human beings possess. There are humans whose skin color changes seasonally, for chrissake ( I've mentioned this before, but I know at least one woman who actually changes race from winter to summer in Minnesota). It's a radically bad feature to base a classification system on, and it's no surprise it doesn't work very well biologically.
  20. Bells Staff Member

    But that does not amount to different species of Homo sapiens, which is what "race" argues. Medium Dave and others with his.. ermm.. ideological sets of beliefs, who argue that "race" exists are basically arguing that there are different species. There are bigger genetic differences or variances within a given population than there are between different groups. Which kind of blows the whole notion of "race" out of the water.
    origin likes this.
  21. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    You are embarrassed? Why?
  22. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Too effing true, squire, as we say over here.

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  23. Medium Dave Registered Member

    What disgusting hypocrisy. What a circle jerk this website is.

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