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Genetic Residues of Ancient Migrations - An End to Biological Essentialism and the Reification of Race

Genetic Residues of Ancient Migrations - An End to Biological Essentialism and the Reification of Race

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Published by José Pedro Gomes
Recent advances in molecular genetics allow tracing of past human migrations by markers on human mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome DNA. The results show that humanity is very young compared to other species and that as a result there is very little intr-specific variation (about .1%). Further only a small portion of that .1% about 10% is distributed geographically. This means that traditional racial divisions mean almost nothing. They are confined to differences in population frequencies of certain external traits (skin color, hair texture) and susceptibility to certain diseases. Searching for racial differences on in basic human capabilities or dispositions is, therefore a fool's errand.

Working Paper Series

author: William M. Richman
source: http://ssrn.com/abstract=885965
Recent advances in molecular genetics allow tracing of past human migrations by markers on human mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome DNA. The results show that humanity is very young compared to other species and that as a result there is very little intr-specific variation (about .1%). Further only a small portion of that .1% about 10% is distributed geographically. This means that traditional racial divisions mean almost nothing. They are confined to differences in population frequencies of certain external traits (skin color, hair texture) and susceptibility to certain diseases. Searching for racial differences on in basic human capabilities or dispositions is, therefore a fool's errand.

Working Paper Series

author: William M. Richman
source: http://ssrn.com/abstract=885965

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: José Pedro Gomes on May 03, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/22/2014

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The steady diminution in human genetic diversity only accelerated during historical

times. There is space here only for the grossest of developments. Early empire building

in Mesopotamia and Egypt had a huge effect. Later conquests spread Hellenic genes

throughout the Eastern Mediterranean all the way to India, and Imperial Roman genes as

far as Northern Europe and Britain. Religious movements – principally Christianity and

Islam – spread genes as well as doctrine. Great waves of conquest from the East and

Central Asia, the Mongols especially, also added to the homogenization.121

Perhaps the

most significant development was European colonialism, which wiped out numerous

indigenous lineages in America and Australia and also mixed European genes with the

genes of Amerindians, Africans (via the slave trade)122

and Asians. It also led to the

118

WELLS JOURNEY, supra note 37, at 154.

119

WELLS JOURNEY, supra note 37, at 169ff.

120

See, infra, at III A. An interesting satellite inquiry is whether the life style of the

remaining hunter/gatherers changed after the development of agriculture by their

neighbors. Are today’s remaining foragers remnants of an earlier way of life that was

once ubiquitous, or are they occupying niches that did not even exist before their

neighbors adopted food production? See Frank W. Marlowe, Hunter-Gatherers and

Human Evolution, 14 EVOL. ANTHRO. 54 (2005).

121

Tatiana Zerjal, et al. The Genetic Legacy of the Mongols, 72 AM. J. HUM. GENET. 717

(2003) (about 8% of the region’s male population and .5% of the world’s male population

carry the Y-Chromosome of Genghis Kahn and his male-line descendants).

122

See Salas et al., The African Diaspora: Mitochondrial DNA and the Atlantic Slave

Trade, 74 Am. J. Hum. Genet. 454 (2004). Most of the transported populations (about

60%) came from western Africa with smaller portions coming from west-central Africa

(about 30%) and southeastern Africa (less than 10%). The pervasive effect of the Bantu

32

transport of African slaves to the New World, creating African/European and

African/Amerindian mixed populations.

On a less momentous scale nationalism produced consolidations in one European country

after another (first France, then, Spain and later, Italy and Germany). The result was that

a Breton no longer had to marry a “foreigner” to wed a Marseillaise because both were

“French.” Symptomatic of this development has been the steady loss of regional

languages and the rise of a relatively few “national” languages. Later the consolidation

progressed to super-nations – large amalgams like the USSR that linked peoples as

disparate as Balts, Tadjiks and Chuckchis. More recent advances in transportation and

communication, and international cooperation (the EU) as well as globalization have

accelerated the process.

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