Race isn’t real, biologically

Have a question for the biological anthropologist?

post your questionread the answers

Post your questions here for Alan Goodman. We'll pick the best ones and post his answers.

Race isn’t real, biologically

On average, 85% of human variation occurs within any local population. 94% of human variation can be found on any continent. That means there’s more variation within any racial group than there is between them.

Goodman says, “[Humans are able to] go into new situations without needing to genetically adapt to them. We’re the Swiss Army knife of species: we can apply culture and ideas to conquer different environments. When we go into the cold, we don’t need to grow hair. We just need to find a buffalo skin to put on. Or better yet, we invent central heating.”

frog
Goodman is also critical of how “race” is routinely used in forensics work. He says, “Since humans are constantly changing phenotypically, and our ideas about who belongs to one race or another change so quickly, typical guesses about the race of victims are no better than random.”

“Our genes are constantly moving around the planet. We’ve had 100,000 years of genes moving and mixing and re-assorting in countless different ways. We’re always mating outside our groups. [As a result, there’s] very little variation among us.”

While the RACE: Are We So Different? exhibit was on display at the Science Museum of Minnesota, Science Buzz featured three experts to answer questions and continue the conversation started in the exhibition. Alan Goodman is the third in the series.