The human species is very young, but in a short time it has acquired some striking, if biologically superficial, variations across the planet. As this book shows, however, none of those biological variations can be understood in terms of discrete races, which do not actually exist as definable entities. Starting with a consideration of evolution and the mechanisms of diversification in nature, Understanding Race moves to an examination of attitudes to human variation throughout history, showing that it was only with the advent of slavery that considerations of human variation became politicized. It then embarks on a consideration of how racial classifications have been applied to genomic studies, demonstrating how individualized genomics is a much more effective approach to clinical treatments. It also shows how racial stratification does nothing to help us understand the phenomenon of human variation, at either the genomic or physical levels.
1. The evolutionary background
2. Race before evolutionary theory
3. Race after Darwin
4. Race in the era of genetics and genomics
5. Variation in genomes, and how humans took over the world
6. Clustering and treeing
7. Race in medicine and complex phenotypic studies
8. Human adaptations
9. Race, science and pseudoscience
Rob DeSalle is a Curator at the Sackler Institute for Comparative Biology and the Program for Microbial Research of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA. His research focuses on molecular systematics, microbial evolution, and genomics. He is the author of over 500 scientific papers and a wide range of books, from popular science titles to textbooks on genomics.
Ian Tattersall is Curator Emeritus in the Division of Anthropology of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA. His most recent research is on the emergence of modern human cognition. He is the author of over 400 scientific papers, numerous books and is a prominent interpreter of palaeoanthropology to the public and writes regularly for Natural History.
"DeSalle and Tattersall provide a brilliant and comprehensive refutation of the folk concept of human races. Anyone who thinks that there are natural categories of people that correspond to zoological subspecies will have their worldview blown to bits!"
– Jonathan Marks, Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
"Understanding Race explains to the reader in accessible terms all the misconceptions that continue to plague both lay people and professionals concerning race. First, the authors establish for the reader the fundamental mechanisms of evolution that are responsible for the variation within all species; then they explain how people thought about variation before there was a science to correctly explain it. The book guides the reader through how racial thinking changed as our understanding of evolution, as well as the technology to understand genetic variation, improved. The authors end by drawing attention to ongoing misconceptions concerning biological variation and social definitions of race in a variety of arenas, including medicine. If you don't read my books, you should read theirs; and in the best of all worlds you should read both."
– Joseph L. Graves, Jr, Professor of Biological Sciences, North Carolina A&T State University