Journal Article

The Biological Reification of Race

Lisa Gannett

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 55, issue 2, pages 323-345
Published in print June 2004 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online June 2004 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
The Biological Reification of Race

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A consensus view appears to prevail among academics from diverse disciplines that biological races do not exist, at least in humans, and that race-concepts and race-objects are socially constructed. The consensus view has been challenged recently by Robin O. Andreasen's cladistic account of biological race. This paper argues that from a scientific viewpoint there are methodological, empirical, and conceptual problems with Andreasen's position, and that from a philosophical perspective Andreasen's adherence to rigid dichotomies between science and society, facts and values, nature and culture, and the biological and the social needs to be relinquished. DNA forensics is just one field of research that reveals how race remains both idea and object for human population biologists, an indication that it is premature to accept the existence of a no-race consensus across the disciplines. DNA forensics research also demonstrates ways in which race is reified by scientists by the representation of what is cultural or social as natural or biological, and of what is dynamic, relative, and continuous as static, absolute, and discrete. The philosophical analysis of foundational concepts of human population biology such as population, race, and ethnic group is best served by foregoing traditional objectivist approaches for a critical stance that recognises the inextricability of the biological and the social.


Consensus view: biological races do not exist

Andreasen's defence of the biological reality of races as clades

Biological permutations of race


Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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