Against the New Racial Naturalism

Journal of Philosophy 110 (6):331–51 (2013)
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Support for the biological concept of race declined slowly but steadily during the second half of the twentieth century. However, debate about the validity of the race concept has recently been reignited. Genetic-clustering studies have shown that despite the small proportion of genetic variation separating continental populations, it is possible to assign some individuals to their continents of origin, based on genetic data alone. Race naturalists have interpreted these studies as empirically confirming the existence of human subspecies, and by extension biological races. However, the new racial naturalism is not convincing. The continental clusters appealed to by race naturalists are arbitrary and superficial groupings, which should not be elevated to subspecies status. Moreover, the criteria applied to humans are not consistent with those used to define subspecies in nonhuman animals, and no rationale has been given for this differential treatment
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