Human Race: One or Many?


A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with my brother about Human diversity and it ended on the most popular topic in Human diversity–RACE. I had never expected to discuss such a topic after a couple of pitchers of beer at a bar. Although the R word is considered politically incorrect, it is probably one of the most discussed topics even today. Even without beer, it is important that we understand what race is all about.

To understand race, we need to consider the origin of the word itself. The concept of race was not coined by biologists; in fact, Darwin had mentioned that we all probably come from Africa. Biologically speaking there is one human species for, according to the Darwinian concept, as long as two fertile individuals can interbreed to produce fertile child, they cannot be considered two species. Up until now, there has been no incidence of two different looking people not producing fertile children because of intercaste/interracial marriage. If that were the case, the human population of the world would not be in billions. So, biologically all humans are one species.

But are species and race synonyms? Certainly not. Species is a biological word and race is not. Fine there is one species but can there not be subspecies? If so, can different subspecies level be considered various races? According to biologists, more than 98.9 % genes are similar in all humans. Therefore, we humans have very little differences to be even differentiated under subspecies. Besides, all our morphological differences are due to our adaptation to various environments we live in.

So, why is race so popular? The concept of race is the outcome of human history. When ancient travelers and sailors started the system of slavery, the slaves usually looked different. Based on morphology and so called ‘lack of culture’ and in the name of ‘civilization’ many peoples have suffered. Race was one way of justifying the injustice on the suppressed b the suppressor. It was never a widely accepted scientific concept.

There is no human race in science. The concept of race is unscientific so a biologist like me cannot explain the merits of race. However, even in cultural and social aspects, the concept of race can open Pandora’s Box. Already we have humans fighting with one another to prove one group is stronger and better than the other. The world has suffered enough violence to prove one culture is mightier than the other and such unnecessary violence continues even today. Why should we divide ourselves further and compartmentalize each other in this fake and hypothetical boundary of race? Will that not create more chaos more civil wars in desperation to prove one race is better than the other?

Humans are intelligent and social creatures and our strength is to accept differences among us. We now know that Neanderthals and even Homo erectus lived along with humans for thousands of years. It is probable that humans lived with them in peace but unfortunately, the other hominids were not able to keep up with technologically advanced modern humans. If our ancestors lived with various species of humans, why can we not live in harmony amongst ourselves, besides we all are global citizens…or at least moving towards being one.

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Filed under Human Evolution, My Life My Thoughts

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