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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 22.2 > Is Race a Useful Concept?

Is Race a Useful Concept?

WE SEEK TO ADDRESS A SINGULAR, SIMPLE QUESTION: are racial classifications (Black, White, Hispanic, etc.) a pure social construction, or are they “real” on some deeper biological level? Scientific advances continue to converge on a single, clear, conclusion: Race is a useful social construction that maps on to a biological reality.1

Our everyday understandings about race generally have to do with physical appearance.2 The reason why is obvious—it’s what we can see. But obviously that is a coarse, less trustworthy measure. The indigenous people of the New World, for instance, had brown skins and straight black hair; so early Europeans labeled them “Indians.”1 The only people known by Europeans to have brown skin and straight black hair in the Old World were Indians (as in residents of the Indian subcontinent). But the history of these two populations is very different; they just happen to have some physical characteristics in common.

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About Skeptic

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE DANGER ARTICLES: Why We Should Be Concerned About Artificial Superintelligence; Is Artificial Intelligence an Existential Threat?; Artificial Intelligence: Simulation, Not Synthesis; The Rise of the Alt-Right and the Politics of Polarization in America; Delusions of the Imagination: Debunking an Early 19th Century Medical Quack Device — The “Tractor”; Area 51: What is Really Going on There?; Is Race a Useful Concept?; The Three Shades of Atheism; COLUMNS: pH Mythology: Separating pHacts from pHiction; Are You An Unconscious Racist? REVIEWS of: Rethink: The Surprising History of New Ideas; How Men Age: What Evolution Reveals About Male Health and Mortality; Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science; Big Con: Great Hoaxes, Frauds, Grifts, and and Swindles in American History by Nate Hendley; Fraud: An American History from Barnum to Madoff; Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow JUNIOR SKEPTIC: Chemtrails