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[OBG] Nature of Race Full

To give the editor more time to publish I updated the publication date to (edit) June 20th.


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The paper never covered Diamond 1994 very well.

"There are many different, equally valid procedures for defining races, and those different procedures yield very different classifications."

What Diamond was saying was the Ugly Duckling Theorem. Race classification like species, rocks, stars or anything - is arbitrary.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ugly_duckling_theorem
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(2015-Jul-03, 20:17:56)Krom Wrote: The paper never covered Diamond 1994 very well.

"There are many different, equally valid procedures for defining races, and those different procedures yield very different classifications."


Sure I did -- all throughout sections I and II. I distinguished between natural and artificial classifications, noted that Diamond-like ones were artificial, and pointed out that races have general been understood to represent natural classifications in the sense of ones which:

(1) cut out genealogically defined divisions (lines of descent)
(2) which index propinquity of descent (meaning overall relatedness)

Diamond's "races" are simply molecular polymorphs. They surely exist -- are real in the commonsense sense -- and the concept is valid and meaningful. But it seems dishonest to say that these are what "races" are, when races were rarely to never said to be these by anyone except Diamond. Now you could argue that there is no reason to focus on natural divisions (such as races) instead of artificial ones (such as morphs). But this is a false dichotomy -- since there is no instead of. Sure morphs are interesting -- especially e.g., sexual ones. But that doesn't entail that races, so defined, aren't.

I'm still waiting for your argument. I will post it over at HV. If you can't think of a sound one, you should grant my position. We can then write up a summary paper on the matter.
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(2015-Jul-03, 20:17:56)Krom Wrote: "There are many different, equally valid procedures for defining races, and those different procedures yield very different classifications."


See also section "V-E. Onto-epistemology Arguments", in which I discussed a variant of the argument above.
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All classifications are "artificial", so I don't get the distinction you are trying to make:

Quote: (1) cut out genealogically defined divisions (lines of descent)
(2) which index propinquity of descent (meaning overall relatedness)

(1) can only be done arbitrarily. A line of descent in evolutionary biology may be defined as an: 'ancestral-descendant sequence of populations'. Here's a quote from the zoologist G. G. Smith:

"Certainly the lineage must be chopped into segments for purposes of classification, and this must be done arbitrarily . . . because there is no non-arbitrary way to subdivide a continuous lineage.” (Principles of Animal Taxonomy, 1961, p. 165)

According to the theory of evolution, there is only one lineage (universal common descent: all organisms are related) and there is no way to objectively split this lineage because it is continuous.

Quote:(2) which index propinquity of descent (meaning overall relatedness)

(1) cannot be done, so (2) doesn't follow.

Above though has nothing to do with what Diamond (1994) was saying. I understand that if we are talking about genetics, what he wrote is now outdated because we can now show with advances in genetics that x is overall more similar to y than z etc in terms of their genome. Diamond's criticism though extends to non-genetic criteria of race: why should we choose genetics over something else? And non-genetic criteria will produce a different racial classification.
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(2015-Jul-03, 23:26:48)Krom Wrote: All classifications are "artificial", so I don't get the distinction you are trying to make:

Quote: (1) cut out genealogically defined divisions (lines of descent)
(2) which index propinquity of descent (meaning overall relatedness)

(1) can only be done arbitrarily. A line of descent in evolutionary biology may be defined as an: 'ancestral-descendant sequence of populations'. Here's a quote from the zoologist G. G. Smith:

"Certainly the lineage must be chopped into segments for purposes of classification, and this must be done arbitrarily . . . because there is no non-arbitrary way to subdivide a continuous lineage.” (Principles of Animal Taxonomy, 1961, p. 165)

According to the theory of evolution, there is only one lineage (universal common descent: all organisms are related) and there is no way to objectively split this lineage because it is continuous.


Please try to think through what I wrote. I clearly distinguished between "arbitrary" and "artificial". And I distinguished between various senses of arbitrary. Try re-reading:

I-E. Natural Biological Divisions
II-D. What the Core Biological Race Concept Does Not represent
II-F. Clarification on the Meaning of "Arbitrary" and "Objective" in Context to Natural Divisions
III-B. Biological Races and Biological Reality
IV-E. THRs and Biologically Objective Races

Yes, species were once thought of as being "non-arbitrary"/"real"/"natural" in a deep ontological sense. They were thought to represent independent creations (like the elves and dwarves of Middle Earth) and to be permanent in the sense of unchanging across generations. And, yes, post-Darwin it was realized that no biological divisions were "non-arbitrary"/"real"/"natural" in this species realist sense. Hence I noted:

Quote:This last point is important. Post-Darwin species were, in a sense, ontologically demoted. The result is that all lineage segments are now conceived of as unreal in the species realist sense and, hence, not "real natural kinds" understood thus. At the same time, though, what it is to be biologically natural was reconceptualized in a genealogical sense without the "natural kind" presumptions; hence: biological natural divisions. We see this meaning shift play out in Darwin's writing...The upshot of these considerations is that races can now be said to be as real – or unreal, meaning depending – as species. Relatively speaking, then, the ontological status of "Negroid,” “Caucasoid,” and so on has moved up quite a bit since the age of the Enlightenment! Of course, Darwin recognized this. In Descent of Man, having noted that the distinction between species and intraspecific race was fundamentally arbitrary, he pointed out that human geographical groups could be considered to be either. This is because, with his theory, the ontological gulf between specific and intraspecific variation vanished...Given the shifting nature of understandings, explicitness of meaning is necessary for coherence. If one proclaims that “races are unreal” where “unreal” is used in the archaic sense of permanent or extra-mental, one should make one's meaning clear... On the other hand, they are not biologically real in the way that species were once thought to be. To better make sense of the issue, it would be helpful if, in the future, biological race anti-realists offered examples of the types of biological things that, by their understanding, are "really" biological real.

So, yes, you could say that species, races, and all other biological divisions and entities are "unreal", "unnatural", and "arbitrary" in the way that Linnaean species were not thought to be. I said as much.

I just asked for consistency.

And for clear definitions of terms. I am very clear on how I define the terms I use. I expect the same of others. I say for example:

Quote:Since, from our contemporary perspective, species realism – and taxonomic realism in general – is false, one could say – and it sometimes is said – that all natural divisions are arbitrary. They are just points along an evolutionary continuum. This being the case, though, does not entail that natural divisions are empirically arbitrary in the sense of made willy-nilly. If some criteria are specified, if the criteria are empirical, and if we consistently group according to these, groupings are by definition empirically non-arbitrary...

Now, again, I am not inclined to waste time with word games or to struggle over terms. We can just agree that races as divisions of a species are not non-arbitrary/real/natural in the species realist senses -- and were never thought of being so -- and that they are non-arbitrary (in arrangement)/real/natural in the senses I mean. We can then discuss which senses have more currency. Agreed?

Quote:Krom: Above though has nothing to do with what Diamond (1994) was saying. I understand that if we are talking about genetics, what he wrote is now outdated because we can now show with advances in genetics that x is overall more similar to y than z etc in terms of their genome. Diamond's criticism though extends to non-genetic criteria of race: why should we choose genetics over something else? And non-genetic criteria will produce a different racial classification.

Nothing at all? Let's look at the argument:

Quote:As it turns out, this seemingly unassailable reasoning is not objective. There are many different, equally valid procedures for defining races, and those different procedures yield very different classifications. One such procedure would group Italians and Greeks with most African blacks... As a result, if you classified golden whistlers into races based on single traits, you would get entirely different classifications depending on which trait you chose... A method that could in principle overcome these problems is to base racial classification on a combination of as many geographically variable genes as possible. Within the past decade, some biologists have shown renewed interest in developing a hierarchical classification of human populations...

According to Diamond, discordant variation potentially posses a problem for racial classifications. Because there are discordances one could, in principle, make all sorts of classifications "based on single traits". (These would be, by definition, artificial ones.) Diamond notes, though, that one could overcome this problem by using combinations of variable genes. (These would happen to produce, by definition, natural classifications.) Now, we know that when one does use "a combination of as many geographically variable genes" ones gets, at a certain level of focus, the traditional "major races" which happened to be said to represent natural divisions (in the propinquity of descent/overall relatedness sense). So, what problem do you see?

It seems purely semantic. If we understand races to be natural divisions (defined by propinquity of descent), we don't have a problem with trait discordances. If we understand them to be e.g., morphs (defined in terms of singular trait similarities) we don't have races in the original sense.

I noted:

Quote:We might, of course, wonder why we should – given that nature does not hand us the concept – think of it this particular way. Why not, for example, conceptualize “race” just as we conceptualize “morph”? This line of inquiry mistakenly reifies the term “race.” “Race”, here, is the concept. To think of it differently is to think of a different concept. We might more properly ask, though: why think of this particular concept? The obvious reason is that there is something out there – not well captured by other concepts – that we would like to describe.

Now, while on the topic, I noticed that Diamond made a couple of obvious errors too:

1. "Thus all human populations, no matter how different they look, belong to the same species because they do interbreed and have interbred whenever they have encountered each other." -- Depends on the species definition. In the 90s the phylogenetic species concept was rather popular, why was he oblivious to this?

2. "Hence they are classified into two different races, or subspecies (alternative words with identical meanings), termed the myrtle and Audubon races, respectively" -- As I showed, this is clearly not the case.
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Duplicate. Deleted.
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(2015-Jul-03, 23:26:48)Krom Wrote: Here's a quote from the zoologist G. G. Smith:

"Certainly the lineage must be chopped into segments for purposes of classification, and this must be done arbitrarily . . . because there is no non-arbitrary way to subdivide a continuous lineage.” (Principles of Animal Taxonomy, 1961, p. 165)


By the way, that was G.G. Simpson. I quoted him on a related matter:

"In relation to natural divisions in general, this point was noted by Simpson (1961):

"The point will be discussed later, but even here it is advisable just to mention that such arbitrary subdivision does not necessarily produce taxa that are either 'unreal' or 'unnatural,' as has sometimes been stated. A simple but, at this point, sufficient explanatory analogy is provided by a piece of string that shades continuously from, say, blue at one end to green at the other. Cutting the string into two is an arbitrary act, but the resulting pieces are perfectly real section of the string that existed as natural parts of the whole before they were severed."
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What is "real" or "natural" can only be what is extra-mental, anything else is conceptual (mental abstraction). Arguing something is "real" because it is informative - doesn't make it exist outside your mind. And as far as I am aware we cannot demonstrate anything is "real"/"natural", this includes categories of being. Anyone claiming something is "real"/"natural" I think is mistaken because there is no way to show this. Now am I denying classifying/categorizing can be useful? No. But a useful classification (informative or what you call "meaningful" with predictive power) does not mirror reality, at least it cannot be shown to. You mention Phillip Kitcher in the paper, now he adopts philosophical pragmatism for this reason: species and races are to him not "real" or "natural kinds" but he defends them on the grounds they are useful biological categories.

So yes, this is mostly a semantics issue since you are defining "real" or "natural" as something that is biologically meaningful, when this does not make it "natural" or "real", over conceptual and artificial.

If we all just adopted pragmatism, the race debate would be a lot easier to follow: it would just come down to the question of how useful is race (as a category) in capturing human biological variation:

"Is Race Useful? Don't look for the meaning, look for the use. — Wittgenstein's Aphorism. Paul Baker (1968, 94) has argued that the case for or against race ought to be based on the concept's utility: "Among human biologists the concept of race has two functions: first as a pedagogic device for teaching human variation and second as a research tool for investigating biological variation."
- GJ Armelagos and AH Goodman. Race, Racism and Anthropology. In: AH Goodman and TL Leatherman (eds.), Building a New Biocultural Synthesis: Political-Economic Perspectives on Human Biology. U. Michigan Press, pp 359-377.

Bakers' paper was presented at the A.A.A.S. Symposium entitled “The Utility of the Construct of Race,” Washington, D. C., December 30, 1966. It was then published in 1967, and republished in 1968.

Baker, P. T. (1967). “The biological race concept as a research tool". Am. J. Phys. Anthrop. 27: 21-25.

Baker argues that race is an "informational construct" but he does not argue it is real.

Of course Baker, who defended race, was doing that in the 60s-70s. By the 80s he basically abandoned it for clines, like Joseph Birdsell. But my point was to highlight the concept of race is not one of "reality" but it being a useful research tool (which i dispute).

"Most anthropologists have abandoned the concept of race as a research tool and as a valid representation of human biological diversity." (Sauer, 1992)
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(2015-Jul-04, 01:09:26)Chuck Wrote: Nothing at all? Let's look at the argument:

Quote:As it turns out, this seemingly unassailable reasoning is not objective. There are many different, equally valid procedures for defining races, and those different procedures yield very different classifications. One such procedure would group Italians and Greeks with most African blacks... As a result, if you classified golden whistlers into races based on single traits, you would get entirely different classifications depending on which trait you chose... A method that could in principle overcome these problems is to base racial classification on a combination of as many geographically variable genes as possible. Within the past decade, some biologists have shown renewed interest in developing a hierarchical classification of human populations...


"A method that could in principle overcome these problems is to base racial classification on a combination of as many geographically variable genes as possible."

Yes, but this was not available in 1994. In the last 21 years it has been made possible e.g. the Human Genome Project. R.R. Sokal wrote also something similar to Diamond before the advances were made in genetics that could map and identify all genes, and fully sequence the genome:

"Another problem is how many characters to choose for describing phenetic similarities. Is there an asymptotic similarity among organisms that is approached as more and more characters are measured, or will each additional set of characters contribute a new dimension to similarity, making the taxonomic structure of a group inherently unstable? [...] It might be assumed that if one knew the genetic fine structure of organisms, one could then develop an overall measure of similarity among organisms based on similarity of genetic structure."

What I bolded was Diamond's concern in 1994 and the reason he wrote "different procedures yield very different classifications". This is now not a problem in genetics because overall genetic similarity can be measured. My point though above was that Diamond's "different procedures yield very different classifications" extends to non-genetics and this is why human races cannot be shown to be "real" because why should we choose genetics over non-genetic criteria? Why not define race by something else? You do no cover this in the paper.
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