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Why is it impossible to use biological characteristics to sort people into consistent races?

Why is it impossible to use biological characteristics to sort people into consistent

races?

13 Answers

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  • 1 month ago

    It's not impossible, but it is INCREDIBLY difficult. In biology, traits can be classified as many different things when comparing two different groups together. Especially when comparing traits of groups in the same species. In animals which are closely related (look extremely similar) you'd have to do a lot of research (looking at its ancestors) and ultimately DNA sequencing to see if a specific trait is expressed either:1) on purpose or not (is this trait just a fluke? is it a recessive gene? or dominant?)

    2) because of convergent or divergent evolution

    3) because its analogous or homologous

    Additionally, some traits can be present in two different groups which haven't had contact for extremely long periods of time... so then where does that trait end up? Which group does it belong to? This is the case with the human genome... amongst other things which also influence traits in humans.

    soooo not impossible, just difficult, and not very helpful either as far as looks go. You could look into your DNA for health reasons and see if you're predisposed to certain things, but that's the extent of helpfulness when classifying 'races'. Other than that it's just a waste of resources.

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  • CRR
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    Race is a collection of physical characteristics that are typical of a group. If you stand a typical Zulu, Scandanavian, and Japanese side by side most people would have little trouble working out which is which. (Unless a Zulu had emigrated to Japan and married a Scandanavian.)

    It depends on what you mean by biological characteristics. If you count things like skin colour or bone shape then yes we can. If on the other hand you start by excluding as "biological characteristics" such things as skin colour then of course you can make it impossible to sort people into races. 

    In Kathy Reichs novels Tempe Brenan regularly identifies race from bones, so race is not just skin deep. Similarly geneticists can use DNA to identify race in many cases. 

    But what significance does it have? As far as I know race is unrelated to intelligence or moral character. 

    p.s. We all actually have the same skin colour since it is caused by different concentrations of the same pigment. We're just different shades of brown.

    • Zirp
      Lv 7
      1 month agoReport

      Some bonestructures are MAINLY found in people from certain areas, that's why *educated guesses*  are possible

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  • 1 month ago

    1.  You would need consistent definitions of the races that you want to sort people into

    2.  There's a lot of gene flow, especially these days when there's a lot of travel.

    3.  Taxonomists may disagree with each other. 

    Take the Tapanuli orangutan.  If the rules for classifying humans were applied to the orangutans, the Tapanulis would be a race of Sumatran orangutan.  Seen the other way, if the rules for classifying orangutans were applied to humans, there would be two species of humans.

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  • 1 month ago

    What we generally think of as "race" is just a loose conglomeration of superficial phenotypes that do not accurately reflect underlying genetic relatedness.

    Another answerer offered the example of deducing a person's race from a hair sample. Since hair is one of the phenoypes we use to define race, this is a circular argument. It certainly works, but it doesn't tell us anything about the genetics of the person.

    • O.M.1 month agoReport

      Agree

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  • 1 month ago

    The bone structure and DNA on all of them is still too similar to each other to distinguish.

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  • 1 month ago

    Because no single character or combination of characters consistently distinguishes one putative race from another.

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  • Zirp
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    Same reason you cannot predict who wins the lottery, and because humans weren't purposebred into races.

    There are no consistent races. Your DNA is spread over 23 pairs of chromosomes, and when you make a baby the baby RANDOMLY gets one chromosome out of every pair of yours. Sometimes two chromosomes of the same pair even exchange parts before one of them gets passed on to the next generation.

    So for human races to make sense, each race would have a list of at least 23 genetic traits. But if you did, almost nobody would have all of them

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  • 1 month ago

    Because observable characteristics are subject to change in populations due to environmental pressures. Example: Researchers suggest that human populations over the past 50,000 years have changed from dark-skinned to light-skinned and vice versa as they migrated to different UV zones, and that such major changes in pigmentation may have happened in as little as 100 generations (≈2,500 years) through selective sweeps. Other things that affect human populations are Bergmann's rule, which is an ecogeographical rule that states that within a broadly distributed taxonomic clade, populations and species of larger size are found in colder environments, and species of smaller size are found in warmer regions, and Allen's rule, which is an ecogeographical rule that states that animals adapted to cold climates have shorter limbs and body appendages than animals adapted to warm climates. More specifically, it states that the body surface area-to-volume ratio for homeothermic animals varies with the average temperature of the habitat to which they are adapted (i.e. the ratio is low in cold climates and high in hot climates).

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  • Cowboy
    Lv 6
    1 month ago

    There is only a single human race - and we all share the same characteristics.

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  • 1 month ago

    It isn't impossible, obviously.

    A forensic pathologist has to be able to identify the race of a person just from a few bits of hair. How could he do that if it's impossible, hmmmm?

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