We live in a world of differences, of seemingly infinite diversity and variety. These differences are of all types, affecting both animate and inanimate matter, living and non-living things. Humanity is certainly no exception to this rule, but exhibits great -- sometimes even bewildering -- variation, both physically and mentally, of body and of mind. There are different kinds of human variation. Some differences are biological or genetic, others are cultural or environmental. There are also different levels of human variation. Some differences are at the individual level, others are at the population or racial level. The first distinguish us as separate individuals, the second distinguish a population of individuals as a separate race.
In the system of biological classification called taxonomy a race is a subdivision or branch of a species, and a species in turn is a subdivision or branch of a genus. In this system all populations which are capable of interbreeding with each other and producing fertile offspring, and which do interbreed with each other in their natural state, are considered to be members of the same species, regardless how great their differences or how distant their relationship. Those populations which do not interbreed under natural conditions, although they may be biologically capable of doing so, are classified as separate species. As all human populations are capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring, and in fact do so when brought together under conditions of extensive contact, they are classified as belonging to the same species. [Note 1] This is not to say that all individual humans necessarily interbreed with members of other races when brought into extensive contact. There is variation among individuals in the degree of racial discrimination in selecting a mate. Perhaps only a minority of individuals in any given generation interbreed with other races under conditions of extensive contact, but over the course of generations all populations do, as the cumulative effect of a minority in each generation adds up to a majority -- and eventually a total population -- over a span of generations.
A race is a population that can be distinguished from other populations within a species by genetically transmitted physical characteristics. It possesses a unique and distinct ensemble of genes, and is identified by the traits produced by this genetic ensemble. (To the extent that mental characteristics are also transmitted or determined genetically it is logical to assume that there are mental as well as physical genetic differences between races, yet it is by their physical genetic differences that races are most readily distinguished and identified.) Members of the same race share distinguishing genetic characteristics because they share a common genetic ancestry, and consequently a similar genetic ensemble. They are capable not only of producing offspring (which all members of the same species can do) but of producing offspring who also share and continue their racially unique genetic ensemble and its distinctive traits and characteristics. When members of different races interbreed they cannot produce offspring that possess the racially distinguishing characteristics of both parent stocks. The distinctive racial characteristics of one or both of the parents are either negated or diminished as their racially unique, and therefore mutually incompatible, ensembles of genes are disrupted or diluted.
The explanations for human racial diversity have been as varied as that diversity itself. Every culture and every age has had its explanation, and the more tolerant among them have had more than one, but the truth was usually unknown, and the universal rule is that the unknown is explained by legend, myth or religion, which in most cultures are one and the same. The ancient Babylonian account of Creation was adopted by Judaism, which passed it on to Christianity and Islam. As promulgated by these two expansionist, universalist and often intolerant religions this Babylonian version of Creation, and explanation of human diversity, reigned virtually unchallenged until the advent of modern science.
Science prefers natural to supernatural explanations, and has gradually expanded the former at the expense of the latter. As explained by science -- beginning with the publication of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species by Natural Selection in 1859 -- the diversity of life, human as well as non-human, is caused by a process of usually gradual change called biological evolution. Life proceeds from one form to many forms. As a life-form develops and expands different groups tend to become separated and lose contact with each other. This loss of contact, usually caused by geographic separation, creates a condition that can be referred to as reproductive isolation. This reproductive isolation or separation of the different groups prevents them from interbreeding, and by doing so acts as the great enabler of divergent evolution, the essential key to the diversification of life. Once isolated, the different populations tend to follow diverging courses of evolution resulting from different chance mutations, responses to different environments and other selective pressures.
Eventually, if reproductive isolation is maintained, the differences created by the process of divergent evolution are sufficient that the two populations will not interbreed even when they do come into contact and occupy the same geographical range. When this degree of diversity is achieved the different populations are defined as separate species. Thus the process of divergent evolution is also referred to as speciation, by which populations divide and develop into new and distinct species. The process of divergence -- or diversification of life -- does not end with the creation of new species, but is continued as each new branch of life produces new branches and sub-branches, as each race evolves into a new species which in turn diversifies into new races. In this dynamic creative process a race is a proto-species or species-in-the-making, a potential new species in the early stages of species separation and creation.
Divergent evolution is the cause of the great diversity of living things, human and non-human, that populate our planet. It has moved life from simplicity and uniformity to complexity and diversity, and in so doing has created humanity in all its complex variation and rich diversity. The divergent evolution of the human species has created different branches or races, each genetically distinct from the others. The process of human evolutionary divergence has itself been complex, with many branches and sub-branches, as each branch itself divides into separate and distinct branches.
Biologists have diligently labored to classify the diverse forms of life and their relationships with each other. In this attempt to organize the subjects of a dynamic, chaotic and constant process of evolutionary change, to bring comprehensible order to a seemingly incomprehensible variety, there has been a tendency to reduce the complex to the simple so the facts could be more easily presented and understood. Indeed, in a matter as complex as human racial diversity almost any attempt to classify it must be to some extent a simplification. Yet however simple or complex, valid classifications must give due consideration to all relevant factors.
Morphological (external physical) traits and characteristics are the primary determinant of racial identity, generally taking priority over other factors in the event of disagreement. Other determinants of racial identity -- such as biochemical and molecular genetic analysis -- are usually consistent with the morphological identification when one allows for the extent of individual variation one can expect to find for these traits within a race.
The human genome or genetic code consists of about 2.9 billion "genetic letters" or nucleotide base pairs of DNA (DioxyriboNucleicAcid). About 3%, or 87 million, of these genetic base pairs are in the 22,000 genes (2007 estimates), making them active or functional DNA, with an average of about 4,000 base pairs per gene. The remaining 97% of the genetic base pairs are outside of the genes, making them inactive, non-functional or so-called "junk" DNA.
The interaction of these genes in producing genetic traits is often complex. Some genes are "master" genes which control the functioning of many other genes, so that very small genetic differences can have very large consequences in the resulting organism and its traits. Also many different genes often act in combination to determine traits, so a change in one changes the resulting trait. (At least five different genes work together to determine skin color, and as many as 100 work together to determine skin texture.) The varied races of the human species share 99.9% of their 2.9 billion genetic base pairs in common, with genetic differences in .1% of the base pairs, a proportion which represents about 2.9 million genetic differences. (Humans share 98.6% of their DNA in common with Chimpanzees, our closest living non-human relative.) The proportions of differences between active and inactive DNA, between those genetic base pairs inside genes and those outside, is not yet certain, but one would logically expect the inactive DNA outside the genes to be subject to change only by mutation and genetic drift, whereas the active DNA inside the genes would also be subject to changes in response to the various selective pressures of evolution, e.g., adaptation, sexual selection, etc.
The rich racial diversity of modern humanity owes its existence to geographic separation and the reproductive isolation this separation has created. Humanity began in Africa. (To be more specific, the evidence points to the grasslands or savannahs of East Africa over two million years ago as the birthplace of the genus Homo.) If it had stayed there, limiting its existence only to Africa (as did the Gorillas and Chimpanzees, as well as many other genera), the degree of human racial diversity would have been much less than what it became, and the great majority of the diverse races of humanity that have existed during the last two million years, as well as the great majority of modern races, would have never existed. There would have been far fewer branches on the human family tree. But humanity did not limit its existence to sub-Saharan Africa. The ancestors of the non-African races migrated out of Africa and spread to almost every inhabitable area of the earth. [Note 2]
There were probably a succession of migrations out of sub-Saharan Africa, and some populations may have migrated back. The whole story of the immense journey of human evolution has yet to be told, or discovered, and will probably never be known in its entirety. But once the early ancestors of humanity migrated out of Africa and spread around the world the different populations became geographically separated from each other, with little or no opportunity to interbreed. Under such conditions of reproductive isolation the process of divergent evolution created the racial diversity that is a characteristic of every species or genera with a wide geographic distribution, including the human racial diversity that we know today and in history. Modern humanity is a global species, enjoying a world-wide distribution, and possesses the rich racial diversity that one would expect evolution to create from such a distribution.
In racial classification there is often a tendency to group a wide range of diverse racial types together into one race, attempting to contain all human racial variation within a few very broadly defined racial categories. It is difficult to draw an accurate racial border or dividing line, both in biological and geographic terms, when one is working with such broad classifications. As a rule, what these broad racial categories gain in simplicity they lose in accuracy. They can be regarded as useful only if they are recognized as a first level subdivision of the species -- into what is usually referred to as subspecies -- which groups together a number of diverse races that share more traits in common with each other, and are more closely related to each other, than with or to the races in the other broadly defined categories (or subspecies).
Subspecies are the broadest racial groupings or divisions into which humanity has branched in the course of its divergent evolution. The first branching was between the peoples who remained south of the Sahara and those who migrated beyond it. The first developed or evolved into the Congoid and Capoid subspecies of sub-Saharan Africa. The others subsequently branched and evolved into three other distinct subspecies: the Caucasoid of Europe, Asia west of the Himalayas and Africa north of the Sahara; the Mongoloid of Asia east of the Himalayas and the Americas (whose indigenous inhabitants branched from the Northeast Asians and migrated to the Americas probably less than 30,000 years ago); and the Australoid of Australia, Melanesia and New Guinea.
A race is a population that shares both a common biological ancestry and essentially similar, mutually compatible genetic traits which distinguish it from all other populations and are not diminished or lost by within-group reproduction. Therefore, a branch of humanity can be regarded as a race only when its different elements are sufficiently homogeneous -- or genetically compatible -- that they can freely intermix without negating or diminishing their unique genetic ensemble and racial traits. Since several of these broadest racial groupings mentioned above include distinctly different peoples who cannot interbreed without negating or diminishing the racial-genetic characteristics of one or both parent stocks (for example, the Caucasoid group includes such distinctly different and separate peoples as those of Sweden, Italy, Armenia, Egypt and Iran, and the Mongoloid group includes such diverse peoples as those of Korea, Malaysia and the Amerindians of Peru) it is clear that these groupings are too broad to be accurately defined as races, but should properly be regarded as subspecies -- or groupings of more or less related, but still distinctly separate, races within a species. [see the essay The Races of Humanity for more detailed information on this subject]
Reproductive isolation, provided by geographic separation, made divergent evolution, and the great creative achievement of human racial diversity, possible -- a process which is still continuing, and being continually refined. Divergent evolution is the cause of racial diversity. Reproductive isolation is the condition required for divergent evolution to occur. Interbreeding is the great opposing or counteracting force of divergent evolution, and invariably occurs -- and can only occur -- when different races are brought into contact and reproductive isolation is not in effect. When engaged in on a small scale interbreeding retards or slows the process of divergent evolution but does not stop or reverse it. When conducted on a large scale it prevents divergent evolution from occurring, maintaining uniformity and forestalling the creation of diversity. If divergent evolution has already occurred and diversity has already been created, interbreeding acts to reverse the process of evolutionary divergence, to undo or decreate the racial diversity and differences that have been created and return to uniformity. Thus reproductive isolation is as necessary for racial preservation as it is for racial creation. The course of evolution and the genetic composition of future generations is determined by the breeding decisions of countless individuals. Reproductive isolation assures that those individuals who do reproduce will reproduce their own racial type, as it effectively limits their choice of partners to their own racial type.
Racial interbreeding has occurred throughout the course of human evolution, retarding or reversing the creative process of evolutionary divergence. But geographic separation -- by providing the conditions of reproductive isolation required for divergent evolution to occur, and for the resulting racial diversity to be preserved -- has sufficiently limited the extent of interbreeding to permit evolutionary divergence to continue. So long as the condition of reproductive isolation of the races is continued and preserved, the racial diversity created by the process of divergent evolution will also tend to be continued and preserved. But if it is lost the reverse process of counter-evolution or devolution by interbreeding will tend to become stronger, and move the interbreeding races away from diversity and toward uniformity and the negation of unique and distinct racial characteristics. Reproductive isolation -- made possible by geographic separation -- is the condition required for both the creation and preservation of racial diversity.
Geographic separation would not be needed to prevent interbreeding if different races did not interbreed, or if some other effective means of reproductive isolation were practical, but given the fact that many individuals of different races do interbreed whenever they occupy the same territory over a period of time, geographic separation is the only effective preventative. Yet even without considering the effects of interbreeding, geographic separation would probably still be required for the continued existence of all the different races in the long term. If they occupied the same territory the resulting competition between the races in the multiracial environment would have different effects on the races involved. Some races might thrive in the multiracial environment while others would suffer a decline in population, not only in the relative terms of population share but also in absolute terms. [Note 3] Thus the racial changes that occur in a multiracial environment tend toward a decrease in overall human racial diversity. It is therefore misleading to identify a multiracial environment or society with racial diversity, as the long term effects of such a multiracial condition are actually to reduce and negate diversity.
The ideology or system of beliefs and values which favors a multiracial social condition, which can be referred to as multiracialism, often describes this condition as "racial diversity." It is a type of racial diversity, but a type which consists of mixing together in the same territory diverse races which previously were geographically separated, and whose diversity -- and existence -- was created and preserved by that condition of separation. It is a type of racial diversity which violates the conditions (e.g., reproductive isolation) that created racial diversity and are required for its continued preservation, which creates the conditions of extensive contact that promote interbreeding and the consequent destruction of racial diversity. It is really another form of social diversity, racial diversity in the social sense, but in the biological, genetic and evolutionary sense it is anti-diversity, as its effects are destructive of the racial diversity created by divergent evolution.
Clearly, there is more than one type of racial diversity. There is the social type promoted by multiracialism in which different races are mixed together in a multiracial society, placed in a condition of extensive contact where interbreeding invariably tends to replace diversity with uniformity, and there is the biological type in which the diverse races were created by the process of divergent evolution, and in which they are preserved, under conditions of separation and reproductive isolation. The two types should not be confused, as they are in fact incompatible opposites. In the long term one cannot have both, as the social type is destructive of the biological type, nor can one be for both, as the promotion of biological racial diversity requires opposition to multiracial societies. If biological racial diversity is to be preserved social racial diversity -- the mixing of the diverse races in a multiracial society -- must be avoided. Racial preservation or conservation requires the preservation of the conditions of geographical racial separation that made the creation of the different races by divergent evolution possible. [Note 4]
The racial interbreeding that is an unavoidable consequence of a multiracial society (without which the different races would have to be classified as different species) does add a new element to social racial diversity in the form of the racially-mixed or hybrid offspring of different parent racial stocks. But this hybrid element does not add to biological racial diversity, as it is created by intermixture rather than by the creation of new genetic characteristics by divergent evolution. It takes existing genetic characteristics from the different parent racial stocks and either mixes them into a new combination, blends them together into an intermediate form or, if they are recessive, diminishes or negates their occurrence. These hybridized recombinations of racial-genetic traits actually reduce, and are destructive of, biological racial diversity to the extent that they replace or deplete the parent racial stocks and genetic combinations created and refined by evolution.
The two opposing forces in the existence of races -- as in the existence of all life, for races are branches of life -- are the forces of life and death, of creation and destruction. The creative force for a race, as for all the vast variety and diversity of living things, is the process of divergent evolution or speciation, the branching of life into separate and distinct forms. While there is only one way to create a race, only one force of racial creation, there are many ways by which a race can die, many forces of racial destruction. The famous "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" represent some of the destructive forces that have been active throughout history and in our own time. But the racially destructive force that is the exact opposite or antithesis of divergent evolution is intermixture -- the force of convergence. It undoes, destroys or decreates the diversity created by divergent evolution, blending different races together in a multiracial social condition descriptively and accurately referred to as a "melting pot," where the racially distinct and unique ensembles of genes created by evolution are dissolved in the common blend and all distinctive traits and differences are destroyed and lost in a racial melt-down.
Throughout the story of life the creative force of divergent evolution has been on balance far stronger than the opposing destructive force of convergent intermixture. The vast variety and diversity of life bears eloquent witness to the triumph of divergent evolution over its opposition. If convergent intermixture had triumphed evolution would have been frustrated and prevented, and instead of being the parent of a multilinear complexity of many life-forms the earth would have been host to a unilinear development of a single life-form.
But divergent evolution -- and the biological divergence it created -- was fostered by the geographic separation of the diverging life-forms into different territories and societies where they were reproductively isolated. When geographic convergence -- the bringing together of the previously separated races into the same territorial space -- replaces geographic divergence, and a multiracial social condition replaces racial separation, the relative strength of the opposing creative and destructive forces of evolution are reversed, and the destructive force of biological convergence assumes the dominant position over the creative force of biological divergence. The creation of multiracial societies changes the historical balance of power between the opposing forces, giving convergent intermixture an ascendancy over divergent evolution.
The modern world is experiencing just such a change in favor of racial convergence over divergence. After untold thousands of years of divergent evolution and the creation of racial diversity, made possible by geographic separation, the reverse movement toward multiracialism is increasingly replacing divergence with convergence. The migration of vast numbers of people around the world, made possible by modern advances in transportation, has facilitated the development of multiracial societies and the transformation of many previously monoracial countries into multiracial ones. This pattern of migration is ending the condition of racial separation that made possible the creation of the diverse races and which many races depend upon for their continued existence. As in many other areas of technology, transportation technology has advanced much more rapidly than our understanding of its effects, or the development of philosophical and moral concepts to deal with those effects and avoid those that are harmful.
All races and nations have not been equally affected by this unprecedented change in human racial distribution. The Amerindian peoples were the first to experience the harmful effects of the end of geographic racial separation, losing a great expanse of their territory to Europeans and Africans in the migrations following the discoveries of Columbus. [Note 5] But in the last century the races and nations of Europe, and the nations created and settled by Europeans overseas, such as the United States, Canada and Australia, have been affected to a far greater degree than any other.
The implications of this vast bringing together of different races that had previously evolved, and been preserved, under conditions of geographic separation -- replacing reproductive isolation with its antithetical opposite, extensive contact -- are profound. Yet these implications have received little attention or consideration. The implications for human racial diversity, both for its continued development and for the continued existence or preservation of the diversity and variation that already exists, are especially severe. Human racial diversity or biological divergence is a product of divergent evolution, which itself is a by-product or natural result of the reproductive isolation of the different races by geographic separation. If geographic separation of the races is replaced by multiracial social conditions reproductive isolation will be lost. It can then be expected that racial divergence and diversity will be replaced by racial convergence (intermixture) and a resulting diminishment and loss in racial diversity, especially among those races whose distinct genetic traits are more recessive, or whose birthrate is lower and more adversely affected by multiracial conditions.
If those races which are most vulnerable to the effects of racial intermixture -- because of the recessiveness of their genetic characteristics or the sensitivity of their reproductive behavior -- are subjected to multiracial conditions on a sufficient scale it is likely that they will become extinct, and their distinctive traits will be lost, existing only in solution with the traits of other races, submerged in the multiracial blend or mixture of the "melting pot." If human racial diversity -- which took thousands of generations of divergent evolution to create -- is to be preserved, multiracial conditions -- which can cause its decreation in only a few generations -- must be prevented. The preservation of racial diversity requires the preservation of the conditions of geographic separation that made and makes diversity possible.
The ages-old condition of geographic separation in which the different races evolved and were preserved is breaking apart under the impetus of two factors. The first is modern transportation systems. The second is a dominant ideology, mind set or view of existence which promotes the multiracialization of previously monoracial societies, and which regards the preservation of racial diversity -- the continued existence of different races as created by evolution -- either with indifference as a matter of little or no value, importance or concern, or with outright hostility as something to oppose.
If the world is to be made safe for racial diversity -- or safe again for racial diversity -- its preservation will first have to be regarded as a matter of great value, importance and concern. As the Senegalese conservationist Baba Dioum has said, "In the end, we will conserve only what we love." [Note 6] As we have developed ethically to have a sense of reverence for life in general, and for human life in particular, so we should develop a sense of reverence for the diversity of life, and particularly the diversity of human life. As we have learned to regard that which promotes life as good, and that which destroys life as evil, so we should learn to regard that which promotes the diversity of life as good, and that which destroys that diversity as evil. A change in thinking and consciousness, in values and way of looking at the world, will be needed to create such a sense of reverence, appreciation and concern for racial diversity, and the motivation to act for its preservation.
An effective racial conservation movement would depend upon a sense of appreciation and reverence for that which it sought to conserve. It would also depend on the development of a philosophy of ethics which gives substance to that reverence by extending concepts of human rights to races. Only under the protection of the ethical concept of rights -- in this case racial rights -- can racial diversity, the existence of different races, be protected and preserved in an age when its former protector -- geographic distance -- is no longer effective in preserving the condition of geographic separation racial diversity requires for its continued existence. An ethical philosophy of racial preservationism is needed to provide the diverse races with the protected habitats -- the geographic separation which is the only effective barrier to interbreeding -- that the fallen barriers of distance can no longer provide.
1. "[E]very human population living today has interbred with every other human population with which it has had extensive contact." Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal , (HarperCollins, 1992), p. 34. If two human populations did not interbreed under conditions of extensive contact taxonomic consistency should require that they be classified as separate species. It is now recognized that many geographically separated species that had been considered discrete are actually capable of interbreeding, and many have done so when brought into extensive contact, producing hybrid individuals and populations. "Closely related biological species are often interfertile, and may or may not produce fertile offspring when they hybridize." Christopher Stringer and Clive Gamble, In Search of the Neanderthals, (Thames and Hudson, 1993), p. 193.
2. Homo erectus remains from Java have been dated to 1.8 million years ago. "How Man Began," Time (March 14, 1994), pp. 81-87.
3. Gause's Law of Exclusion states that multiple animal species with the same requirements cannot coexist for any length of time in the same habitat. All but one will eventually become extinct. This law can also be applied to human races occupying the same territory, where the more evolutionarily successful race (usually measured by rate of population growth) eventually assimilates or replaces its competitors. The fact that the Hominid family contains only one surviving genus, Homo , which replaced all the others, and that the genus Homo contains only one surviving species, sapiens , which replaced all the others, so that its closest surviving relative is the Chimpanzee of the Pongid family, would tend to indicate that this law has been active in the course of human evolution.
4. The ideology of social racial diversity -- or multiracialism -- often belittles or denies the value, importance, or even the very existence of biological racial diversity. This is consistent with the fact that the multiracial social conditions it promotes are destructive of biological racial diversity.
5. The Amerindians suffered a great loss of life from a variety of imported diseases, and lost most of their more sparsely populated territory, especially in North America. But they ultimately retained possession of their more densely inhabited regions in Mexico and Central and South America, and in the last several generations have experienced a rate of demographic increase so large that their overpopulation has itself become perhaps their greatest problem. At present, far from being demographically or biologically threatened by any other race, they are alleviating the problems caused by their excess population growth by exporting it to the territory of other races and nations, and have thereby themselves become a demographic and biological threat to those other races and nations.
6. Quoted in Edward O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life , (Harvard University Press, 1992), p. 320.
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