At the dawn of the 21st century, the biological concept of race has been widely accepted by the society. Humans of different races have their distinct physical, social and intellectual characteristics. However, during the early ages, the idea of race had been debated many times, by scientists and leaders. Race has been the core of discrimination in the past in which it has been considered an essential qualification towards social acceptance.
Now, let us learn the dynamic concept of human race and how it has developed throughout the years:
Pre-20th Century Conceptions of Race
Race was first introduced into the realm of sciences by the French naturalist Comte de Buffon in 1749. Buffon noticed clearly defined variations between the human races that were caused by different climates from certain geographical areas. His climatological theory of difference was infused of philosophies of European superiority. According to Buffon, the European race was clearly the natural state of humanity, which “produced the most handsome and beautiful men” and represented the “genuine color of mankind”
Further, Swedish botanist and naturalist Carolus Linnaeus contributed his “natural system” which became the basis for the classification of species into 4 groups: Americanus, Asiaticus, Africanus, and Europeaeus. According to him, each classification has various physical and behavioral characteristics.
Early 20th Century Ideas about Race
At the dawn of the 20th century, genetics was believed to have influenced race. These are the characteristics that are unseen which contributed to heredity. Genetics came to provide the constructive language of modern racism as ideas about racial differences became rooted in biology.
Francis Galton, a geneticist, founded the movement Eugenics in which according to him, promised to give “the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing over the less suitable.” In his concept, he believed that through selective breeding of individuals who have desirable traits, the human race could help direct its future.
Many geneticists and eugenicists believed that the human races differed hereditarily by important mental and physical traits, and that crosses between widely different races were “biologically harmful.”
21st Century Concept of Race
Through different researches and studies, most scientists agree that the concept of race was not a useful classificatory tool. In fact, they believe that race was a biological concept, thus those who believe otherwise had political agendas.
In 2000, Genome sequencers Francis Collins and Craig Venter emphasized in their work that human genetic diversity cannot be captured by the concept of race. According to them, all humans have genome sequences that are 99.9% identical. Thus, “the concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis.”
In 2005, Even Collins suggested that there is a need to study the correlation between genetic variation and risk to diseases. There should be understanding why people have disparities in health – including disparities in diseases like cancers, diabetes and heart diseases.
For now, there is still no definite concept of race. Scientists are still studying on how to define the idea of human race, thus, the knowledge about it is still expanding and growing.