Human polytypicality

Ernst Mayr was and Jim Crow is no small figures in the field of population genetics. As it is, Mayr’s definition of race or subspecies (See: O’Brien and Mayr, 1991. Bureaucratic Mischief: Recognizing Endangered Species and Subspecies) has been widely adopted in conservation biology. To my mind, Mayr’s statement below answers the question of whether human populations can be considered subspecies: yes, at very least from the perspective of conservation biology.

Mayr, 2002. The biology of race and the concept of equality

Let me begin with race. There is a widespread feeling that the word “race” indicates something undesirable and that it should be left out of all discussions. This leads to such statements as “there are no human races.” Those who subscribe to this opinion are obviously ignorant of modern biology.

Crow, 2002. Unequal by nature: a geneticist’s perspective on human differences

Because of this mixing, many anthropologists argue, quite reasonably, that there is no scienti½c justification for applying the word “race” to populations of human beings. But the concept itself is unambiguous, and I believe that the word has a clear meaning to most people. The difficulty is not with the concept, but with the realization that major human races are not pure races. Unlike those anthropologists who deny the usefulness of the term, I believe that the word “race” can be meaningfully applied to groups that are partially mixed." Biologists think of races of animals as groups that started as one, but later split and became separated, usually by a geographical barrier. As the two groups evolve independently, they gradually diverge genetically. The divergences will occur more quickly if the separate environments differ, but they will occur in any case since different mutations will inevitably occur in the two populations, and some of them will persist. This is most apparent in island populations, where each island is separate and there is no migration between them. Each one has its own characteristic types. In much of the animal world, however, and also in the human species, complete isolation is very rare. The genetic uniformity of geographical groups is constantly being destroyed by migration between them. In particular, the major geographical groups–African, European, and Asian–are mixed, and this is especially true in the United States, which is some- thing of a melting pot.

Because of this mixing, many anthropologists argue, quite reasonably, that there is no scientific justification for applying the word “race” to populations of human beings. But the concept itself is unambiguous, and I believe that the word has a clear meaning to most people. The difficulty is not with the concept, but with the realization that major human races are not pure races. Unlike those anthropologists who deny the usefulness of the term, I believe that the word “race” can be meaningfully applied
to groups that are partially mixed.

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6 Responses to Human polytypicality

  1. B.B. says:

    I find it interesting that I only found out about these papers yesterday and did so through checking through the citations given by a paper critical of human polytypicality. Moreover, no one, across the whole HBDsphere, had uploaded Mayr’s paper. Just saying.

    John Goodrum has had Mayr’s paper on Race hosted on his website for awhile. Goodrum’s own Race FAQ is also a decent summary of the issue.

  2. Steve Sailer says:

    “The difficulty is not with the concept”

    I think there is a difficulty with the concept of race as more or less subspecies, because, among other problems, the concept of subspecies has problems. Heck, even the concept of species has problems, which is why a couple of dozen different definitions besides Mayr’s have been put forward.

    I think it’s more useful to work from the opposite direction and think of racial groups as extended families, in particular extended families that have more coherence and continuity than normal because of some degree of inbreeding.

  3. Kiwiguy says:

    Tiel & Thwoth being the main objectors.

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