by Paul Grubach
In recent years
a spate of books have been published which claim the concept of
"race" in the human species serves no purpose. That is to say,
there are obvious external physical differences between human populations,
but these are only skin deep. For the most part, all mankind is, in a
biological sense, virtually the same. One of the most important of these
works is the very recent GENES, PEOPLES AND LANGUAGES by L.L.
Cavalli-Sforza, a prominent population geneticist. 1 The
arguments he advances are important, as they are used by those in
positions of influence to deny that there are any significant genetic
differences between the races.
begins by admitting that, yes, human groups do vary strikingly in a few
highly visible characteristics, such as "skin color, eye shape, hair
type, body and facial form--in short, the traits that often allow us to
determine a person's origin at a single glance (p.9)." He further
admits that these traits are at least partly genetically determined, and
that they evolved in the most recent period of human evolution as a
response to the various environments that the human groups are exposed to.
In his own words: "...there are clear biological differences between
populations in the visual characteristics that we use to classify races
According to Cavalli-Sforza, these biological differences are only minor,
as the remainder of mankind's genetic makeup is supposedly almost the same
in all races. He states: "It is because they are external that these
racial differences strike us so forcibly, and we automatically assume that
differences of similar magnitude exist below the surface, in the rest of
our genetic makeup. This is simply not so: the remainder of our genetic
makeup hardly differ at all." 2
He advances the following arguments to bolster this conclusion. First,
there is much genetic variation WITHIN each race, but little BETWEEN
races. Once again, we let him speak: "The main genetic differences
are between individuals and not between populations, or so-called 'races.'
Differences of genetic origin among the lattter are not only small...but
also superficial, attributable mostly to responses to the different
climates in which we live. Moreover, there are serious difficulties in
distinguishing between genetic and cultural differences, between nature
and nurture (p.viii)."
His argument boils down to this. Small genetic differences between groups
translate into only very minor observable differences between them. This
is not necessarily so. Very small genetic differences between two racial
groups can lead to dramatic, observable results. Consider the example of
sickle-cell anemia, a severe hereditary disease that afflicts a large
percentage of Black Africans, and a significant percentage of Black
Americans, but is virtually absent among American whites. 3
According to an authoritative biology text, LIFE ON EARTH, "The
sickle-cell condition is under the control of a single gene." 4
If a person has a "double dose" of the gene, he dies in
childhood or suffers from chronic anemia. If endowed with only a
"single dose" of the gene, the person shows signs of anemia only
under conditions of stress, but also, displays significantly greater
resistance to malaria than those lacking the gene. Thus we see that a
small genetic difference--brought about by only one gene--between two
racial groups leads to significant differences between them in resistance
to malaria and susceptability to anemia.
This could very well hold true for many behavioral characters as well. Two
groups, A and B, can share 99% of the same human genes and
characteristics. They can be virtually identical. Nevertheless, if the 1%
variation occurs in a characteristic that helps determine success in a
certain endeavor, say mathematics, then group A might produce 90% of the
mathematicians, group B only 10%.
There is a egregious example of how a small genetic difference between two
different ethnic groups will have dramatic military consequences. The
respected LONDON TIMES reported that "Israel is working on a
biological weapon that would harm Arabs but not Jews, according to Israeli
military and western intelligence sources. The weapon, targetting victims
by ethnic origin, is seen as Israel's response to Iraq's threat of
chemical and biological attacks." 5
The article continues: "The intention is to use the ability of
viruses and certain bacteria to alter the DNA inside their host's living
cell. The scientists are trying to engineer deadly micro-organisms that
attack only those bearing the distinctive genes." 6
A scientist involved with the Israeli facility that is sponsoring the
project was quoted as saying the researchers "have succeeded in
pinpointing a particular characteristic in the genetic profile of certain
Arab communities, particularly the Iraqi people." 7
One wonders if Cavalli-Sforza would dare tell the Arab people who are
targeted by such a weapon that "genetic differences between you and
the Jews are of little consequence."
Furthermore, some population geneticists admit that the data
"...which indicate much more genetic variation within than among
human races, may be misleading." 8 Cavalli-Sforza may have
measured many particular gene frequencies which are similar in all races,
but failed to measure many of those gene frequencies which do vary widely
between the races.
Cavalli-Sforza puts forth another argument in an attempt to convince his
readers the genetic differences between the races are only superficial.
Because the division of humanity into separate groups had occured so
recently in human history, there was not enough time for the evolution of
significant biological differences. "It is impossible," this
population geneticist claims, "to generate much diversity in such a
short period of time, which convinces us once and for all that the
superficial racial differences we perceive between people from different
continents are just that (p.xii)."
He appears to have contradicted himself, for in another part of the book,
he writes: "We could ask if sufficient time has passed since the
settling of the continents to produce these biological adaptations [i.e.,
the biological differences between the races such as skin color, etc.].
The selection intensity has been very strong, so the answer is probably
If the selection intensity has been strong enough to produce such glaring
differences in skin color, eye shape, hair type, body and facial form in a
short amount of evolutionary time, then why couldn't the selection
intensity have also been strong enough to produce significant mental and
behavioral differences as well?
Are there racial differences?
one does not need long periods of time (in geological terms) for
significant biological differences to evolve. Biologist Richard Goldsby:
"Given the inefficiency of race formation when neither selection nor
isolation is absolute, just how many generations might be necessary for
the differentiation of a parent populatioin into clearly recognizable
racial varieties? The answer comes from studies of race formation in the
house sparrow. The founding population of sparrows was introduced into
America in 1852. From an East Coast zone of entry, succeeding generations
have spread west to California, south into Mexico, and north into Canada.
Populations of sparrows can now be found in damp coastal areas of
Louisiana and in the dry, hot deserts of Arizona. Today, one can
demonstrate that different geographical populations of sparrows show
characteristic differences in color, wing length, bill length, and body
weight. Using these differences as guides, more than a dozen racial
varieties of sparrows can be identified...Before the results of this study
were published a few years ago, evolutionary theorists assumed that more
than 1,000 generations would be necessary for racial differentiation in
birds. The discovery that all these races of sparrows evolved within one
hundred generations came as a bombshell.
IT IS CLEAR THAT IN NATURE EVOLUTION AT THE RACIAL LEVEL CAN BE EXTREMELY
RAPID. In a human population one hundred generations cover a time span of
about 2,000 years. These studies suggest that given a reasonable degree of
isolation and selection pressure, relatively short periods may be required
for the elaboration of some racial characteristics in man (emphasis
The irony of it all is that the pet evolutionary theory of leftist and a
believer in the genetic equality of all mankind, Stephen Jay Gould, may
very well explain the evolution of significant genetic differences between
the races in a relatively short amount of evolutionary time. His theory,
"Punctuated Equilibria," postulates that a species changes
rapidly as it comes into existence (i.e., diverges from the parent
species), but quite slowly thereafter. 10 Why then couldn't
human races have changed very quickly and very significantly in a short
amount of evolutionary time as they came into existence? If, in one
hundred generations, races of house sparrows evolved which have
substantial genetic differences between them, then isn't it also possible
that in hundreds of thousands or only tens of thousands of years races of
humans could evolve with substantial genetic differences between them?
Cavalli-Sforza claims the classification of humans into races is based on
arbitrary criteria, totally dependent on the whims of the classifier. As a
consequence, "Different anthropologists come to completely different
tallies of races, from 3 to over 100 (p.27)." He continues:
"...it is immediately clear that all systems lack clear and
satisfactory criteria for classifying (p.29)." Ultimately, Professor
Cavalli-Sforza concludes that it is wise "to abandon any attempt at
racial classification along the traditional lines (p.29)."
Cavalli-Sforza has also noted that "It is very useful, and I think
essential, to examine all existing information (p.20)." But he
clearly ignores significant scientific evidence which contradicts his
beliefs. The psychologist J. Philippe Rushton classified human populations
along somewhat traditional lines--people of east Asian ancestry
(Mongoloids, Orientals), people of African ancestry (Negroids, blacks) and
people of European ancestry (Caucasoids, whites)--and found that these
classifications have much predictive and explanatory power. On more than
60 variables--such as brain size, intelligence, reproductive behavior,
etc.--Mongoloids and Negroids define opposite ends of a spectrum, with
Caucasoids falling intermediately, and with much variability within each
broad grouping. 11 Let it suffice to say the evidence that
Rushton and others have amassed strongly suggests these findings are to a
significant extent due to biological differences between the races. 12
Cavalli-Sforza defines "race" as "a group of individuals
that we can recognize as biologically different from others (p.25)."
Granted, the classifications of human populations along these lines is
difficult and problematic, but that does not mean that scientists should
cease trying. The classification of all types of biological beings, from
bacteria to men, is difficult and problematic, but that does not stop
scientists from making the attempt. As knowledge progresses, better and
better classification schemes are created.
As Cavalli-Sforza rightly points out, there are no "pure races"
of humans, only populations that tend to be separated by intergrading
zones rather than by sharp lines of demarcation (pp.12-13). And here is
where we can provide Cavalli-Sforza with a practical and scientific
definition of "race" that can be used to classify human
Psychologist Rushton concludes: "In sum, race is a biological
concept. Races are recognized by a combination of geographic, ecological,
and morphological factors and gene frequencies of biochemical components.
However, races merge with each other through intermediate forms, while
members of one race can and do interbreed with members of other
In short, we must, as Cavalli-Sforza advises (but fails to heed), examine
all the existing evidence, and realize that it is the unique ensemble of
all the aforementioned characteristics--gene freqencies, and physical and
geographical characteristics--which differentiate races, not just a few
arbitrary chosen traits.