Do races exist in a biological sense?

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Do races exist in a biological sense?
Do races exist in a biological sense?

As science testifies, all people living on Earth today are the descendants of a very small, only a few thousand individuals, population. True, over tens of thousands of years, people began to differ in appearance so much that, once they met, they hardly recognized their own kind in each other. If recognized at all.

People with different skin colors, with a different structure of faces, a dissimilar physique have been in contact with each other since ancient times, and even then situations arose when those who had one appearance established dominance over the owners of the other. The ramified caste system in India developed from four varnas - the ancient Indian classes of brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaisyas and sudras. "Varna" is a Sanskrit word for "color" and this is no coincidence. Invaders in the II millennium BC In Hindustan, white-skinned carriers of Indo-European dialects conquered lands inhabited by dark-skinned people, and subjugated them, turned them into the lower class. In the era of the great geographical discoveries and in the era of colonial conquests that followed, the white man's civilization, which rushed forward in technological terms, began to conquer the "natives" - the indigenous people of America, black Africans, Indians, Polynesians. The White Man’s Burden was the title of a famous poem by Rudyard Kipling, which became a concentrated expression of the attitude of an educated European towards the “dark sons of Earth”. In those days, it seemed quite natural that whites were clearly superior to blacks, yellows, and redskins.

What does ppm keep in itself?

The 20th century was not only the century of the collapse of colonial empires, the defeat of Nazism and the struggle of American blacks for civil rights, but also the time of revolutionary discoveries in biology, which finally clarified the mechanism of evolution, and at the same time raised questions about the similarities and differences between representatives different races. It is primarily about the discovery of genes and DNA. On the one hand, as a result of these discoveries, it was possible to find out that the genome of all people on Earth - pygmies, Chinese, Norwegians, Papuans - is 99.9% identical, and all differences between individuals, ethnic groups and racial groups are 0.1% … On the other hand, there was a temptation to find out whether some significant differences between individual ethnic groups and, of course, races are spelled out in one ppm of the genome. Moreover, it was not only about the diversity of the phenotype, but also about possible differences in intelligence, learning and development abilities.

It is interesting that one of the most sensational statements on this topic belonged to James Dewey Watson, an American molecular biologist and one of the discoverers of DNA. In particular, he said that he was very gloomy about the prospects for Africa, since “all our (I mean American - OM) social policy is based on the fact that their (Africans - OM) intelligence is the same as with us, while all tests show that this is not the case. " For these statements, the Nobel laureate was ostracized and forced to apologize repeatedly, but debates around the intellectual differences between representatives of different races still arise from time to time.

Dispersed and changed

But before discussing these or those racial differences, one should first ask the question: are there races in general in the biological sense? On the one hand, the answer seems obvious.Well, who can't tell the difference between a Congolese and a Norwegian? On the other hand, for all the time when science became interested in the issues of racial differences, a huge number of racial classifications were proposed with the number of races from two to fifteen or more, so that there is still no final clarity on this issue. The first to appear were the so-called typological concepts. Anthropologists have tried to identify the characteristic features of the race - the shape of the nose, the thickness of the lips, the shape of the eyes, and belonging to the race of an individual was determined by the presence or severity of certain features. These indicators included, in particular, the "cranial index" - the ratio of the maximum width of the cerebral box to its maximum length.

As early as the 19th century, scientists tried to catalog the defining characteristics of a particular race. And although the typological concepts of race, whose adherents were anthropologists of the past, gave way to population concepts, the work of these researchers was not in vain.

With the development of biological science, there was a transition from typological concepts (the legacy of which remained the cataloging of racial characteristics) to population ones. Nowadays, races are considered as a set of populations that have a common origin and, as a result, a set of common phenotypic traits.

Modern races, at least Caucasoid and Mongoloid, as well as the minor races that are part of them, have a fairly recent origin. As you know, non-African humanity comes from a small group of people who left Africa about 40-50 thousand years ago. Soon, this group settled over a vast territory, and its former parts were isolated from each other for a long time. In isolation, these new, even smaller populations were subjected to selection.

For example, in northern latitudes, where there is little sun, selection has maintained mutations that reduce melanin production and lighten skin in descendants of black Africans. In the mountains, the respiratory and circulatory systems have adapted to the lack of oxygen in the air. Moreover, according to the famous Russian anthropologist Stanislav Drobyshevsky, not all of these mutations were, like skin lightening, adaptive in nature. They changed the appearance of people, but they were consolidated not due to selection (for they did not give any evolutionary advantages), but due to the small number of the population and closely related interbreeding. To such non-adaptive Drobyshevsky includes mutations that give rise to light hair color or epicanthus - the skin fold of the eye in Mongoloid peoples. The widespread opinion that the epicanthus was allegedly supported by selection as protection of the cornea from dust storms is considered incorrect by the anthropologist, since the Mongoloids did not originate in "dusty" regions, and, on the contrary, the inhabitants of the deserts like the Bedouins completely dispensed with the epicanthus.

Subsequently, a set of phenotypic traits that arose in a small isolated population, for one reason or another, spread over vast territories, giving rise to a race. Moreover, the racial types that have arisen in this way could be much more than what is distinguished by science in our time. It's just that its carriers, as they say, were less fortunate.

Not bees or chimpanzees

Everything seems to be clear: mankind has spread throughout the world, related branches diverged further and further, racial differences appeared. However, the question of whether races exist in a biological sense remains the subject of heated debate. The fact is that the concept of "race", on the one hand, has overgrown with all sorts of socio-historical associations, and on the other, it is used in biology not only in relation to people. There are races in chimpanzees, honey bees and even plants. In this case, races are called systems of populations within the same species that have genetic and morphological differences from other similar systems. In this case, race formation is considered a stage in the emergence of new species.

IQ controversy

In the United States, which for well-known historical reasons has given special attention to the issue of race relations, there have been many discussions on IQ tests in which whites, on average, performed better than African Americans. Objections to this interpretation of IQ tests are as follows. First, on average, better whites do not negate the fact that some black test takers performed better than some whites, but no one considers these whites to be genetically flawed. Secondly, this or that intellectual difference between representatives of different races, peoples, localities, and just neighbors on the porch does not need to be necessarily reduced to genes. What we call mentality is largely shaped by national traditions, social status and other sociocultural factors. In any case, the genes responsible, say, for the inclination to abstract thinking, science has not been found. And this means that the genetic difference between races based on the level of intelligence cannot be considered a scientific fact.

It turns out that if people also have races, then there must be serious genetic and morphological differences between them (races), which determine belonging to a race. However, in modern anthropology, especially Western anthropology, the prevailing approach is that the concept of race in humans cannot be defined biologically in the sense in which it is done in relation to animals and plants. Firstly, because the genetic differences among humans (the same 0.1% of the genome) are much smaller than the racial differences in the same chimpanzees. Secondly, because the idea of ​​rasogenesis as a tree, the branches of which have diverged once and for all, is incorrect. These branches intertwined many times, which is shown by studies of Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial haplogroups inherited, respectively, in the male and female lines. For example, the Y-chromosomal haplogroup R1b is most common in Western Europe, but also occurs throughout virtually the entire Old World, including Central Africa.

Thus, supporters of this point of view believe that differences between races are differences in the frequency of alleles, that is, in the presence of one variant of the gene in more or less members of the population. Moreover, there are no sharp changes in allele frequencies - there are transitional forms between racial types, in which the allele frequency changes along a gradient, clinically. In addition, in the modern dynamic world, numerous migrations occur, interracial marriages are concluded, and a significant part of the world's population cannot classify itself as one race. In this interpretation, the race is not something once and for all separated and genetically isolated, but a kind of "freeze-frame" arbitrarily made in a continuous evolutionary process, that is, the category is not so much biological as sociohistorical.

On the other hand, there is a study carried out by an international team with the participation of the Russian researcher Professor L.A. Zhivotovsky. Scientists have selected more than a thousand representatives of various ethnic groups and races from different parts of the world. About 400 traits (microsatellite markers) of DNA from the so-called silent regions, that is, not associated with any phenotypic traits, were studied. The experiment was carried out blindly: the genetic material obtained from the participants in the experiment was sorted by races and regions solely on the basis of knowledge about the belonging of one or another mutated satellite marker. Further, data on real people - the "owners" of DNA, were superimposed on the resulting map, and it turned out that the "silent" areas very eloquently and fairly accurately indicate the race and place of origin of each individual.Thus, despite the "travel" around the world of individual haplogroups, the genome preserves the memory of the ancient branches of mankind divided into races.

The results of this study, even if they contradict the understanding of race as a pure socio-historical convention, in no way negate the fact that races genesis did not lead to the emergence of races-subtypes among people, which could ultimately push the human race to disintegration into separate species. On the contrary, we are rather moving away from such a perspective.

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