What race is evolving now

Column "What knowledge creates" : All people became what they are

There are words that you would like to touch only with a pair of pliers. One of them is "Race", as in "Human Race". At the latest with the National Socialist racial madness, the term was discredited. In the meantime, the opinion has gained acceptance among us that human races do not actually exist, that they are artificial structures with the aim of degrading others, such as people of different skin colors.

The expression still exists in Article 3 of the Basic Law, according to which no one may be discriminated against because of their race. But there are EU-wide efforts to remove the linguistic legacy from legal texts. In March, the Berlin Greens and the Pirate Party proposed that the Berlin constitution be amended accordingly. Brandenburg and Thuringia have already erased the bad word.

The British science journalist Nicholas Wade bursts into the midst of these efforts. In his book “A Troublesome Inheritance”, the former reporter for the New York Times argues that biological races do exist and that they and with them human evolution still have a significant influence on the development of cultures . Only the subject is subject to the self-censorship of scientists. Those who research it are endangering their career.

As expected, the reactions to "A Troublesome Inheritance" were mostly negative. Wade must have taken that into account; those who hand out have to take it too. The accusation that Wade was himself a racist came about as a reflex. He devotes an entire chapter to the “perversion of science”, the history of racism and eugenics. The existence of races does not justify racism, writes Wade, that is, the belief in the superiority of one race over the other. Not everyone who believes in the existence of races is a racist.

Wade argues with tribal history. 50,000 years ago, Homo sapiens moved from Africa into the world to colonize the continents. What followed were tens of thousands of years of independent development by individual groups of people, primarily Africans, Europeans and Asians. This is also reflected in the genome.

It is true that the genetic similarities of all humans predominate by far. As for the differences, roughly 85 percent are due to genetic variation within a population group. Only 15 percent of the differences are due to different groups of people, called populations. A part of this 15 percent is found between populations within a continent, another part between the continents (Wade's races). The differences between different groups of people are subtle. Different variants of a gene are common in different groups.

However, even small genetic differences between individuals can have a significant impact on the group, race, or civilization level, says Wade. And that brings us to the second part of his book, in which he explains that, for example, the rise of western civilization over the past 500 years can be traced back to recent evolutionary changes in the genome of certain peoples. The genome makes the difference whether people live together in tribal societies or highly developed states. And it explains, at least in part, why Chinese are good business people and why Africans may be more violent than Europeans, says Wade.

Here Wade leaves the mainland of facts and slides into the sea of ​​speculative things. Even scientists who are open to biological thinking refuse to obey. On Sunday an open letter appeared in the “New York Times Book Review” in which 140 researchers distanced themselves because Wade presented their work in a distorted manner.

Speculating is legitimate. However, it is more than doubtful whether the concept of the breed is still up to date or even in need of a renaissance. Research can do without it. People are not the same, not even on a biological or genetic level. But that is no reason for prejudice or for reviving a charged term.

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