Racial Classification Without Race: Edwards’ Fallacy

In Lorusso Ludovica & Winther Rasmus (eds.), Remapping Race in a Global Context. Routledge. pp. 74–91 (2021)
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Abstract

A. W. F. Edwards famously named “Lewontin’s fallacy” after Richard Lewontin, the geneticist who showed that most human genetic diversity can be found within any given racialized group. “Lewontin’s fallacy” is the assumption that uncorrelated genetic data would be sufficient to classify genotypes into conventional “racial” groups. In this chapter, I argue that Lewontin does not commit the fallacy named after him, and that it is not a genuine fallacy. Furthermore, I argue that when Edwards assumes that stable classification is all it takes to vindicate racial naturalism, he commits a fallacy of his own: Edwards’ fallacy. The ability to create a classificatory system, and then reliably sort things within that system, is not enough to make that system scientifically respectable. I show that Edwards’ fallacy is rife in debates about the existence of human biological races.

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Adam Hochman
Macquarie University

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