Are Categories Like ‘Race’, ‘Tribe’, and ‘Ethnic Group’ Natural Entities?

1851 words 8 pages
Are categories like ‘race’, ‘tribe’, and ‘ethnic group’ natural entities?

In this essay I will look at the history of the concept of race, and some of the race theories that developed and were consequently challenged with the aid of scientific progress. I will answer the question ‘are ‘race’ and ‘ethnic group’ natural entities?’ As well as look at some controversial evidence that suggests that race can have a biologically meaningful and positive part to play in the in the world today.

The human race, or more specifically, the concept of ‘race’ and its meaning and validity within the human species, is an issue that has been debated by scientists for hundreds of years. Early attempts to scientifically classify and categorize people
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Furthermore, he proposed that we were actually a product of our environment rather than any ‘biological race’. In researching his theory he gave an intelligence test to many Negroes and whites, living in the countryside or the city. The results found no discernable evidence to support the theory that people are in any way determined by ‘race’. On the contrary, the results led him to conclude – ‘Ethnological evidence is all in favour of the assumption that hereditary traits are unimportant as compared to cultural conditions.’ (Boaz 1931)

Modern science too is challenging the 19th century ideas of biological racial classification. ‘The History and Geography of Human Genes’(Cavalli-Sforza, Menozzi, Piazza 1994) tells us that classification into races is impossible if not only for the reason that the criteria necessary to be attached to any one particular group is purely arbitrary. Indeed, such is the variation in what taxonomists consider a ‘race’, that there is no finite answer to the question of how many different races there are. Stanley M. Garn (1971) tells us in his book ‘human races’ that depending on which subjective theories one uses, there is any number between 3 and 60. Furthermore, Cavalli-Sforza, Menozzi and Piazza (1994) assert there are too many genetic similarities between the origin of our species and that of the relatively recent diaspora of homo-sapiens across the


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