The Reality of Race

People Really Are Just Like Dogs

The family of Laocoon entwined in coils of DNA | Wellcome Collection

Image: The family of Laocoon entwined in coils of DNA | Wellcome Collection

Race is human construct. A ‘tree’ is human construct too, like everything else people have given a name. Even the idea of human construct is itself a construct. But such abstractions help support scientists like Bill Nye in their claim that race is anything but real. Comparing humans and dogs, Nye concludes, “There is no variance in species.” He means to say that differences between members of the same species, e.g. canine or human, are limited to appearances, and that underneath our skin and fur all dogs are just dogs, and people really are all equal.

That should end the debate on race and intelligence, since evolution conveniently stops short of any real within-species differences. But if Nye is right, Darwin must have been wrong. Why else would groups of organisms of the same species only begin to diverge genetically after they have magically become separate species?

According to Darwin, same-species groups of individuals that find themselves isolated from one another, geographically or otherwise, immediately begin to diverge. Eventually, members of such separated groups may no longer be able to reproduce with each other. It’s at that point we say they have become separate species. (Perhaps Bill Nye should read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.)

Avoiding the taboo on human race, Stanley Coren, a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, found that some races of dogs consistently produce brighter offspring than others. In his book, The Intelligence of Dogs, Coren ranked nearly 80 canine races into classes of bright, working and obedience dogs. The brightest dogs, such as Border Collies and German Shepherds, need fewer than five repetitions to understand new commands, which they obey over 90% of the time. By contrast, Bulldogs or Afghan Hounds require over 80 repetitions to learn new commands, which they obey less than 25% of the time. These abilities are inheritable. Border Collie pups don’t suddenly grow up to behave like Bulldogs.

While race is indeed a construct, it is nevertheless obvious that Darwin was right. Nye’s arguments are political, not scientific, and designed to suppress a debate that does not suit the current political climate. What we call race is just an intermediary step in the process of speciation. Without within-species variation, new species simply could never come into being. Although we cannot predict where human evolution will lead next, it is clear that Africans, Asians, Europeans and other groups are the outcome of prolonged periods of evolutionary isolation. We have become different genetic branches of the human tree. 

For example, wolves and dogs have a common ancestor that lived about 27,000 to 40,000 years ago. Similarly, the people who would evolve to become Nordic whites and African blacks have lived in geographic isolation from one another for over 50,000 to 100,000 years, until modern civilization reunited them. In our case, we still are part of the same species, because we can have reproductive offspring. But for how much longer? Despite modern mass migration and political multiculturalism, there is a real possibility that various human groups, or races, may ultimately evolve into separate species anyway.

Here are five reasons why the construct of human race goes deeper than the skin:

1. Race as Social Reality

Racial Dot Map of New York City. Source: Cooper Center

Shown above is a Racial Dot Map of New York City. Using 2010 United States census data, the Cooper Center for Public Service put together a map with each dot representing a US citizen, coded by race. Green dots represent black people, blue dots represent whites, red dots Asians and yellow Hispanics.

Astonishingly, at almost every geographic level — boroughs, neighborhoods and even streets —people have segregated themselves by race. Lower Manhattan hosts an isolated white community. Upper Manhattan provides living space for African American and Hispanic communities, as do Queens and Brooklyn. Manhattan’s southern tip houses a small, isolated Asian community. The same segregation can be observed in every other US city, and in the US at large. Whites dominate most of the countryside, while most minorities find refuge in urban enclaves.

The adagium e pluribus unum simply fails to capture America’s racially segregated reality. America is no melting pot, but a collection of isolated communities. That fact has an evolutionary implication: since Caucasians, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and other minorities tend to stick together, it means interracial sexual relationships are kept to a minimum.

Bluntly speaking, in America, people of various races have developed a preference to live and mate with their own kind. And it’s not just ‘racist’ white Republicans  who isolate themselves— everyone does, including Democrat-voting black liberals. Regardless of any interracial mixing that certainly takes place, by no means are Americans converging into One Race Under God.

2. Race as Genetic Reality

“Hypothesized world map of human migrations, with the North Pole at center. Africa, harboring the start of the migration, is at the top left and South America at the far right. Migration patterns are based on studies of mitochondrial (matrilinear) DNA.”—Wikipedia

We often hear there is no such thing as a gene for race. There isn’t, but that does not deny the existence of genetic differences between groups of people. Nowadays, evolutionary biologists interested in tracing back human evolution speak of ‘mitochondrial DNA haplogroups’, i.e. their evidence-based way to classify human beings into separate genetic origin groups.

People inherit this haplogroup DNA from their mothers. Because DNA inherited from a single parent shows much less variation over time, scientists can use it as a sort of signature that is easily traced throughout history. Using information stored in this DNA, it is possible to determine whether a person is of European, African, East-Asian or other geographical descent.

As shown in the graph above, according to haplogroup theory, every human being on Earth descends from dark-skinned people who lived in Africa around 130,000 to 170,000 years ago. From there, mankind ventured out to inhabit the other continents. These various, geographically isolated groups of people—or races—would continue to evolve independently from one another. Each group has thus evolved to adapt to their new environments.

For example, according to one study, Europeans evolved white skin only about 8,000 years ago. In the North, where sunlight is scarce, both Asians and Caucasians evolved pale or white skin that more easily absorbs the sunlight needed for producing vitamin D. Conversely, the added layer of black pigment that thickens African people’s skin also makes it less penetrable to insects carrying tropical diseases such as malaria.

Can one really maintain that within-species evolution magically exempted the most complex human organ — the brain —from genetic differentiation over a period of a hundred thousand years or more?

3. Race as Sexual Reality

Sexual attraction by race. Source: OkCupid

Bill Nye further argues that if an African person and an Asian person have a baby together, “the baby will be human.” Of course he is right, but his logic contains a red herring. There will only be a human baby if there is a pregnancy. The real question is: Do Africans, Asians, Caucasians and others really feel equally sexually attracted to one another to have that pregnancy? If indeed that were the case, a neighborhood with a hypothetical population consisting of 50% Africans and 50% Asians would result in a one-third African, one-third Asian and one-third mixed second generation.

But in reality, we observe otherwise. Even in highly diverse neighborhoods, people of different races do not mix randomly at all. We pick and choose. Popular dating sites such as OkCupid (see above) and eHarmony have provided data that proves race does matter. That makes sense. People of different races have evolved by mating with one’s own kind for tens of thousands of years, before modern civilization invented multiracial societies. Such evolutionary conditioning is not erased overnight. A researcher from OkCupid explains: 

“On an individual level, a person can’t really control who turns them on — and almost everyone has a ‘type,’ one way or another. But I do think the trend — that fact that race is a sexual factor for so many individuals, and in such a consistent way — says something about race’s role in our society.” 

At the very least it says that race’s role is real, not mere construct, and that sexual attraction both within and between races may very well have a genetic basis.

4. Race as Evolutionary Reality

Source: Bone Clones

Bone Clones is a company that sells ‘osteological reproductions’ of human skulls. On its product page for a set of African, Asian and European skulls, the description reads, “Although the concept of race assessment is controversial, certain features of the skull may be of use in differentiating ancestral groups for forensic purposes.”

That controversy mostly comes from political taboo, not from science. Ever since the Nazis had plunged Europe into a eugenic nightmare, science has turned a blind eye to the possibility of racial differences. Scientists have since maintained that all human beings alive today had a single genetic origin. Therefore, there shouldn’t be any meaningful genetic differences between Africans, Asians and Europeans or others, apart from differences in visual appearance, such as the color our skin.

That is, until recently, when an undeniable discovery sent a shock-wave through science labs worldwide. In his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, professor Yuval Harari explains that white Europeans carry an average 8% of Neanderthal genes. In turn, Asians carry about 4% genes of Homo Denisovan, another extinct humanoid species. Equatorial Africans carry neither of these. This shocking discovery means that different human races have different evolutionary origins. It means we are not the same, we are not all equal.

5. Race as Biological Reality

In this section, I would have liked to sum up the many differences between human races. Two reasons prevent me from doing so. The first reason is that I would be branded a ‘racist’ for the rest of my life, targeted by politically correct groups seeking to suppress such inconvenient truths. The second and more problematic reason is that scientists have for decades neglected doing any actual research in the field of human racial differentiation. Unlike professor Coren’s book on dog intelligence, we know very little about inheritable differences among groups of humans.

But if science were indeed to research and discover such genetic differences between human races, it would certainly blow up the dominant political idea of our time — multiculturalism.

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The Reality of Race by Mathijs Koenraadt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.