Race Typo: The Error of Racial Typology

In history, the dominating method of describing human physical variation has been typologically based. A typological view follows a system made from mutually exclusive members that represent an ideal type of human. Naturally, this produces racial categories based on ideology–rather than objective, empirical biology. These types exist as human constructs, based on perceptual and cognitive construals.  This categorization of humans, based on physical differences and distinctive types, is not founded on biology or any hermeneutical and logical reasoning. It’s only latent utility is as a culturally developed social tool of dehumanization and manipulation. A typological view of human variation–especially one that does not account for genetic admixtures that make two groups different–is often held by arrogant, pseudo-scholars with caucasoidal features and northern-latitude melanin density; minded with European aristocratic perspectives or white-supreme paradigms. For a while, this race typology was dominant in literature on the topic. [Don’t worry, this was just a typo and it’s been edited and efforts made to remove misprints from circulation.]

Into the 20th century it began that anthropologists saw cultural differences among human populations to be far greater than physical differences of the populations. Statistically, humans are more similar than dissimilar. Cognitively, humans are more biased than impartial. They are likely to extrapolate meaning based on salience, oblivious to meaning based on uniformity. The spread of humans across culture and land was sudden, vast, and differentiating, but the difference was sub-typical at best. As cognitively powerful beings, it seems instinctive for humans to want to categorize the things we observe in our daily environments. Humans, as an animal, are relatively easily categorized based on physical characteristics, especially by other members of its species.

A population-based view of human physical variation avoids the typo of ideal types. It is based upon geographic concurrence of human groups and their shared, local gene-pool. Isolation into various environments led to a variety of adaptations in the Homo sapiens species that accounts for human genetic diversity and it’s continuity into a globalized world maintained by psychological factors rather than genetic factors. This translates to gradual changes in human physical traits corresponding to continual geographical regions. This is a clinal view of variable human phenotypes.

Typological views of human variation are social categories that index people in ways that may serve a social or cultural purpose; implicitly or explicitly contrived. Population-based views are biologically-driven descriptions of human variability that note geographically localized populations and variability due to genetics. The typological view abides to those who choose to use it. The population view is objective in its explanations of human groups and it is used to understand and discover more about human physical variation.

One examplar of typological influence as German monogenist Johann Blumenbach contributed to racial categorization and even motivated Nazistic views on race. He created five human categories of race based on physical differences: Caucasoids, Asians, Africans, Aboriginal Indigenous Americans, and Malays; all of which descended from the beautiful and ideal Caucasoid race. Ideologies like this one were representative of classifiers called “splitters”. These “splitters” divided humans into multiple physical variants. This was spurred by the discoveries of new peoples all over the world and eventually led to anthropology. According to Earnest Hooton, it was an anthropologist’s job to show that races are distinct and can be distinguished statistically.

From typological thinking, many scientists, writers, and philosophers ran with the ideology of human types. In “The Races of Man” by Robert Bennet Bean, M.D., the doctor explains how the “Black Race” does not have the variety of expressions that the “White Race” possesses. Many physical anthropologists documented individuals by photographing, measuring, and weighing them to demonstrate and represent the ideal types for a racial category. Robert Bean, M.D. included these in “The Races of Man”. Many of these physically documented typological examples were of a mix of cultural and geographical populations; they had no regard to geographical juxtaposition or culture. There were many moral implications that arose from typological viewpoints. One example is the association of racial typological descriptions such as white and black. These do not represent the true pigmentation tones of skin but rather seem to imply black to be a dirty, carnal thing and white to be a pure, good thing. This related to a dichotomy of “white” and “non-white” in America. The legal example being the case of the “one drop rule”. This proof of having no “non-white” blood was very illogical from a genetic standpoint due to the complex interbreeding that has persisted since our species’ departure from Africa.

The population-based view started its application first with biology, and then it eventually overtook typological thinking in anthropology. It was a useful tool in that it could see variation in human populations from an individual point of view – how the genome of individuals varies, and from a geographical point of view – how populations vary geographically. These variations are observed to be discontinuous for some traits, such as sex, and continuous for most other physical traits. An early scientific addition to the population view was the “Hardy-Weinberg equation”. This concept of population genetics shows how alleles are inherited through time and passed on to new generations of individuals a shared gene-pool. Linus Pauling’s work in the early-mid 1900s showed that the “racial” disease of sickle cell anemia was not due to the inferiority of African “races”. It was a mutation in a gene that coded for one protein that caused the disease. The Russian-American geneticist Theodisius Dobzhansky discovered that there was more genetic variation in nature than the classical evolutionary model would predict. In collaboration with Franz Boas and Lesley Dunn, they showed that concepts of racial inferiority had no scientific founding. Not long after, Dunn and Dobzhansky deemed the “racial multiplication problem” which points out the impossible task of trying to typologize the almost infinite continuum of human physical variation. Population-based thinking and its observations began to do damage to the typologically based eugenics movement and its idealistic viewpoints.

As science has progressed in the last century, it becomes clear that the typological view is a pity of human vulnerability to misconstrual. It is an ancient idea that began as far back as the time of Plato in Greece. The population-based view shows that typological methodology and its associated ideologies are pseudoscientific at best. It is guised as a valid means of explaining and categorizing human physical variation and misattributing prejudices of mind and culture. In reality, it is a “vernacular” classification that is not scientifically founded but rather based on informal ideas and opinions. This makes the typological view very subjective and lacking in empirical justification. It reduces the continuum that is human physical variation to a list of discriminated types that does little to aid science. On the contrary of scientific contribution, it aids culturally and socially created agendas through using the beauty of human physical variation as a tool of harm and greed. Racial typologizing is based on easily seen characteristics and simple minded analysis. This leads to immense classification errors. There is no archaeological or contemporary proof that physical variation is associated with any intellectual or cultural characteristics of humans.

It is evident that the biological population-based view represents modern scientific thinking of human physical variation in anthropology, genetics, and biology. It is a recent development in science. Human variation was better understood only recently in the 20th century by the application of genetics. A quantitative, objective, and empirical approach is best to explain human physical variation across the planet. Worst to explain it is a typological view full of fallacy. Thus, race itself can be considered only real in the mind of the beholder. The reality is that individuals and populations of Homo sapiens are more alike than they are different. Our perception is deceiving. If you placed each person in the world side by side, then you’d fail to define racial boundaries and see a broad spectrum of one human kind.

2 Comments

  1. “On the contrary of scientific contribution, it aids culturally and socially created agendas through using the beauty of human physical variation as a tool of harm and greed. Racial typologizing is based on easily seen characteristics and simple minded analysis. This leads to immense classification errors. There is no archaeological or contemporary proof that physical variation is associated with any intellectual or cultural characteristics of humans.”

    It would do us well to remember these words of wisdom you have written and to challenge our own biases. This entire blog is full of truth that the world needs to assimilate.

    Like

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