Home Page




Other Pages:
Key Words

Home Page
Lecture Notes

Site Map
Utility Documents
Useful Links


Unscientific science

by Phil Bartle, PhD

Training Handout

Racial categories are not biological categories

Since the nineteenth century, people in Western societies (Western Europe and North America) have romanticized science and put it onto a pedestal. Science, of course contributed to major technological advancements during and after the industrial revolution; very impressive. As a result, many people try to explain various social phenomena through “scientific” explanations. Here we mean the hard sciences, biology, chemistry and physics, not the social sciences (which are not as highly respected).

The use of biology, or misuse as it turns out, applies to our categorising persons into various “races."

We must separate what is biological, and what is social in this process.

Biologically, we (Homo sapiens sapiens) are animals. As such, we inherit biological characteristics from our two parents. This includes: hair colour, hair straightness or curliness, various skin colours, shape of nose, size, weight, and so on.  If we look at a cross section of hair, we see it can be round, oval or flat. The rounder it is, the straighter the hair, and the flatter it is, the more curly.

Where we depart from biology is to invent categories, which we call ”races,” and put individuals into those categories. Negro, White, Mediterranean, East Asian, South Asian, are all terms to describe these categories.

Biology doesn’t.

In biology, the usual boundary between different species is the ability or non ability to mate and produce offspring.  All humans belong to one species; there is a single human race. There are no biological boundaries between races.

Furthermore, we are not consistent in using skin colour, nose shape or body shape and size, in putting different people into one or another category. Sometimes we use colour, then other times we use hair curliness or nose shape.

Children of marriages between people belonging to different races have biological characteristics of both.

Variations in skin colour on a single individual are greater than the variations in skin colour between the averages of any two races.

A forensic anthropologist examining a corpse, using DNA or other evidence, does not find biological evidence of categories, but degrees of various biological characteristics that are socially categorised into races.

If you copy text from this site, please acknowledge the author(s)
and link it back to www.cec.vcn.bc.ca
This site is hosted by the Vancouver Community Network (VCN)

© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle
Web Design by Lourdes Sada
Last update: 2012.02.02

 Home page