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Chapter 14

ANT203H5 Chapter Notes - Chapter 14: Human Genetic Variation, Probability Distribution, Allele Frequency

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Esteban Parra

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Notes From Reading
- Race is used for classification, both in everyday use as well as in medicine and forensics
- Race is used t describe biological characteristics but is also used in many cases to ascribe
aspects of human behaviour and social status
The Biological Race Concept
- Race As applied to humans, a vague term that has multiple meanings, both cultural and
biological referring to group membership
- Race has been used to refer to everything from skin color, to nationality, to religion
Biological and Cultural Definitions of Race
- Race refers to some aspect of nationality or ethnic identity that may not connect directly
to any specific biological population
- Such classification (I.e. black, Hispanic) have their use, particularly in defining social
groups that have suffered inequities, but they should not be constructed as necessarily
reflecting biological reality
- Biological Race
o Biological Race A group of populations sharing certain biological traits that
distinguishes them from other groups of populations. In practice, the biological
concept of race has been difficult to apply to human populations.
o Subspecies, a division of a species into distinct and distinguishable types
o The subspecies approach doesn’t work for humans because there are no clearly
distinct types of humanity (less genetic variation relative to chimpanzees)
o Humans are widespread geographically and are constantly moving across
population boundaries
o Although human variation exists, it does not fall neatly into biologically discrete
- Geography and Biological Race
o Identifying clusters of populations similar to each other that differ from other
clusters in terms of allele frequencies and physical characteristics
o This approach essentially equates geographic regions with different races
o Definition of biological race based on geography: “a division of a species that
differs from other divisions by the frequency with which certain hereditary traits
appear among its members
A Brief History of the Race Concept
- Early Views
o The search for races was directed in large part by the idea that we should
minimize consideration of variation and focus instead on the “type”
o When people rely on stereotypes the emphasis is on a type, and not on variation
within the group
o Aristotle ranked living organisms by different criteria, such as complexity
(having put plants at the bottom of the latter and humans at the top)
o A fixed number of different types of humans, leads to the idea that the different
types of humans (races) can be themselves ranked
- Racial Classifications
o Linnaeus organized species into a classification system with emphasis on “type”.
Linnaeus added four subdivisions of humanity referring them as “varieties”
(equivalent to “race”). The four groups were based primarily on geography and
skin color Europeans, Africans, Asians, and Americans. He attributed different
personality traits based on cultural stereotype
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