There are defining differences between a person’s race and biological makeup. However, the lines are often blurred when discussing the two. Biologists seem to agree that little variation exists between world populations. But, race seems to be a defining factor in how the differences are grouped. Winther writes, “Biological races exist when a stable correlational or, better yet, casual mapping can be drawn between group genetic differences and socially significant phenotypic characters such as cognitive abilities and perhaps also disease proclivities” (3). While biology is based on scientific study, a race is defined by ethno-socio-cultural practices. Biology defines the practices of humanity, but society uses racial identities defined by skin color, hair type, eye shape, or even bone structure. Historically, different groups have looked for differences among them to define their importance in the world as evident in the definition of race. Simply put, it is the differences that people look for to exclude others by promoting a sense of self-worth to define importance between the groups. By analyzing the terms race and biology, it will show that humans use physical appearances to diversify groups rather than one group that exists in the studies of biology. The practice of social grouping excludes by defining differences into subset groups while biological grouping includes these differences into one group.
Image 1: Comparison of Race and Biological Studies
A race is often defined by a person’s physical traits, cultural beliefs, and ethnicity. American Anthropological Association writes, “modern concept of “race” was modeled after an ancient theorem of the Great Chain of Being, which posited natural categories on a hierarchy established by God or nature” (5). Biology, however, studies how humans (as a whole) exist in their environment. The similarities of how each group is defined are so complex to people that they are sometimes misunderstood because people see these differences as biological. While similarities and differences exist between races, little difference exists when examining the biological studies of humanity as being one species. People with the same skin color may exist in many places in the world, and it is often these similar characteristics that define how society assigns a race to include the various groups into one race. However, little difference exists biologically since these people all share similar characteristics like genetics, molecular studies (cell theory), adaption to environment, how they survive, and how they use the environment around them for sustainability. But, humans, in their need to feel superior, confuse biological with sociological or cultural differences in using these characteristics to define race and biology as one in the same.
The study of race is inherently associated with biology and sociology by many because they define people by a specific group found within one larger group who have evolved with different characteristics and cultural practices. People use these differences to place a hierarchy on these groups so that one appears to be more important than another. By separating the two, one will see that racial differences exist, but biologically, humans practice the same patterns to exist. Some of these things include:
- Genetics (sex determination with 46 chromosomes/23 pairs/XX women XY men)
- Procreation to continue the life cycle (including race mixing that has evolved genetics)
- Survival: Use air, food, and water
- Adaption to an environment: Using natural resources or geography to promote lifestyles.
By looking at racial differences, it is easy to see how societies differ. But, one must look deeper at biological differences of humans as a whole to find any differences. While some differences can be found, the majority of humans share similar genetic and biological characteristics. Humans also have only one race assignment while they may share many biological similarities. However, race still continues to be the defining and easiest identifiable characteristic available which might explain why it is often confused as biological. Biology is determined within the studies of Science, but a race is determined by social and cultural factors defined by humanity itself. By teaching the principles of each, people can learn to feel a sense of inclusion instead of the exclusion the division of races has caused globally.
American Anthropological Association. AAA Statement on Race. World Council of Anthropological Associations. (2016).
“biology”. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 26 Jun. 2016. <Dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com/browse/biology>.
San Diego Museum of Man. Gallery and Dialogue Workshops. Image. (2016). Retrieved on June 26, 2016, from http://www.museumofman.org/exhibits/race-are-we-so-different/
NTNU. Molecular Systems Biology. Image. Department of Biology. (2016). Retrieved on June 26, 2016, from https://www.ntnu.edu/biology/about-us/what-is-biology
“race”. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 26 Jun. 2016. <Dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com/browse/race>.
Winther, Rasmus Grønfeldt. “Race and Biology.” (2015).