When the head of the Human Genome Project and a former President of the United States both assure us that we are all, regardless of race, genetically 99.9% the same, the clear implication is that racial differences among us are superficial. The concept of race, many would argue, is an inadequate map of the physical reality of human variation. In short, human races are not biologically valid categories, and the very ideas of race and racial difference are morally suspect in that they support racism. In Race , Vincent Sarich and Frank Miele argue strongly against received academic wisdom, contending that human racial differences are both real and significant. Relying on the latest findings in nuclear, mitochondrial, and Y-chromosome DNA research, Sarich and Miele demonstrate that the recent origin of racial differences among modern humans provides powerful evidence of the significance, not the triviality, of those differences. They place the "99.9% the same" figure in context by showing that racial differences in humans exceed the differences that separate subspecies or even species in such other primates as gorillas and chimpanzees. The authors conclude with the paradox that, while, scientific honesty requires forthright recognition of racial differences, public policy should not recognize racial-group membership.
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Vincent Sarichis Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.Frank Miele is senior editor with Skeptic magazine. Frank Miele'shighly regarded Skeptic interviews include conversations with evolutionists Richard Dawkins and E. O. Wilson, anthropologists Donald Johanson, Lionel Tiger, and Robin Fox, ecologist Garrett Hardin, and psychologist Robert Sternberg. His articles have appeared on many web pages, including those of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society. He lives in Sunnyvale, California, with his Great Dane, PayceFrom Publishers Weekly:
Sarich, a Berkeley emeritus anthropologist, and Miele, an editor of Skeptic magazine, cannot resist calling the current view that "race does not exist" a "PC dogma." They make cogent, if not convincing, arguments of their case in three areas. Race as a concept, they argue, considerably antedates colonial Europe, presenting such examples as an "Egyptian tomb with four races" (as one caption calls a tomb painting) that may point up "awareness" of difference, but whether that awareness correlates to concepts of "race" as currently defined remains unproven. Several chapters are heavy going on DNA-based research into the origin and differentiation of Homo sapiens, here interpreted as branching off from the other hominids recently enough to make differences among people very minor but, in the authors' view, significant. They move from the Human Genome Project into their final section, in which differences in intelligence are said to correlate to a concept of race (but are not said to be a justification for discrimination). This last argument is predicated on what will seem to many readers an excessive faith in IQ tests. Nevertheless, the book lacks vitriol, other than that needed to fuel the skeptic's attempt to debunk.
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