Attempting to define a specific “race” within that turbulent past is a questionable proposition. But the racist proposition is that not only are racial genetic distinctions real, but that they
matter (****************************, making differences that are far more significant than appearance. But not only are most of these genetic differences shared among populations, their individual impact is minuscule. Even collectively, for traits ranging from height to educational achievement, the impact of known differences tends to be in the neighborhood of percent. For more dramatic impacts, you’re left with difference that affects the sorts of things that have truly dominated human survival: diet and disease. And here, key things like lactose tolerance and malarial resistance have appeared independently in multiple populations.
What if it’s real?It’s easy to understand why the idea of significant racial differences has a persistent appeal despite the lack of underlying biology. Tribalism seems to be a deeply ingrained feature of human societies, and appearance is an easy way to identify someone of your own tribe. Countless societies have been convinced of their own superiority over the centuries, and they assumed that there was something biological behind that. Saini spends some time talking with race scientists in India, who are just as committed to racist ideas as their US and European counterparts; they’re just far less interested in white superiority. None of this is to say that we couldn’t eventually find some significant biological differences among populations, even if those populations don’t line up very well with the traditional conceptions of race. Saini also talks to geneticist David Reich who warns that we need to be prepared to accept a finding of that sort should it occur. But for now, biology’s grounded in the present, where results of the sort haven’t been reported. And the cautions that drive the consensus that formed in the wake of World War II still apply. Our biases remain deep-seated and still drive our science; it was less than a decade ago that many were still convinced there was scientific support for the idea that boys were inherently better at math, before results started identifying the social influences that drove test performance. And the damage that those biases can do when supposedly backed by the finality of science is still incredibly real. Superior