The Instigator
Dann
Con (against)
Losing
9 Points
The Contender
The_Chaos_Heart
Pro (for)
Winning
11 Points

Race is purely a social construct

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 6 votes the winner is...
The_Chaos_Heart
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/21/2013 Category: Society
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,338 times Debate No: 33989
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (29)
Votes (6)

 

Dann

Con

It has been said that race is purely a social construct with science seemingly supporting the notion.

This view has gained traction, but I believe that the notion that race is purely a social construct is itself purely a social construct and that race definitely and objectively exists.

As Pro, you will be arguing that it is at its most fundamental level a purely social construct.

BoP

Somewhat shared, but the greater weight of burden is placed on Pro. Pro must prove the proposition to be the case in reality.

1st round is acceptance and Pros arguments. All rebuttals thereafter. Feel free to add as many new arguments as the debate occasions.
The_Chaos_Heart

Pro

I accept. Begin your argument.
Debate Round No. 1
Dann

Con

Thanks to my opponent, though he was supposed to post his own argument first, as per the rules.

Anyway, definitions.

Race: each of the major divisions of humankind, having distinct physical characteristics.

Oxford English Dictionary

Social construct: a social mechanism, phenomenon, or category created and developed by society; a perception of an individual, group, or idea that is 'constructed' through cultural or social practice.

Dictionary.com

The argument for race as an objective reality is straightforward and self-evident hence the greater weight of the BoP is on Pro to show that it is purely a social construct, which is why he ought to have opened with his argument. Nevertheless...

We can agree with the OED definition that there are in fact major divisions of humankind, each with distinct physical characteristics. And we term these 'races'. The fact of their existence is undeniable. Mongoloid, Caucasoid, Negroid, Brown people - they clearly exist. Indisputably so. There are obvious biological differences between each race - so obvious I need not list them.

Now I am not disputing that major differences exist within each of these major types, I am merely asserting that major types do exist and are amenable to classification. Although race is a contentious issue, lets not presuppose that defining races leads to racism. Lets not muddy the waters in that regard.

Is race a purely social construct? Of course not! Don't be ludicrous. Lest all these races were purposely genetically engineered, it can never be argued that race is a purely social construct. Is it an evolutionary, environmental construct? That is, constructed through the necessity of the evolutionary process and governed according to the environmental context in which it occurred? Yes, of course it is. But it's no social construct. It's no consensus driven implicit agreement that humanity made with itself in order to delude itself into just perceiving biological differences that don't really exist. Biological differences simply do exist. And there are broad umbrella categories that humanity is divisible into. These are races.

I look forward to seeing my opponents argument. I realise that there will necessarily be a shifting of the goalposts with regards the definitions of race and that perhaps different words will be used instead of race but which will carry the exact same meaning, and I look forward to trying to grasp that slippery fish.

So lets be having you...

Respectfully,

Dann
The_Chaos_Heart

Pro

Do not be deceived by my opponent's argumentative footwork. It is nothing more than a half-baked sham. My opponent claims that the argument for race not being a social construct is not only incredibly sound, but so sound in fact that it is "self-evident". This is nothing more than a con. If it were so self-evident, there would be no point of contention, now would there? My opponent cannot justify their position by claiming such nonsense; it is meaningless frivolity.

On to the topic at hand. Now my opponent claims there are differences amongst human beings, and that these differences are biological evidence of differing "races". While it is true that some human beings may have lighter or darker skin, slightly differing skeletal structure, and so on, let us take a moment to actually grasp what it is we are discussing when we speak of "race". We are discussing genetic and biological variation amongst individuals of a given species, that give rise to their own distinct sub classification. We are not discussing cultural or linguistic histories of a group of people. There is not a "Celtic" race, nor an "English" race, nor a "Texan" race, or any other frivolous nonsense that deals with anything other than biology.


So, the question is, are there separate human races? Well according to the claims of modern biologists and geneticists, no, there are not. The variation amongst what are popularly called "races" is not sufficient or relevant to sub classification, and are, rather, simply variation. This information has been widely available for some time. In 1998, a professor of biology at Washington University published a study where he concluded that 85% of genetic variation we see in people is individual variation, and a meager 15% can be traced to any sort of lineage. This amount, he claims, is well below any threshold biologists use to determine sub classification.[1] He goes so far as to state that human beings are one of the most genetically homogeneous species we know of. Race as a term then has no significance what so ever, and the phrase "There is only one race; the human race", is patently true. Human beings are classified as being part of the species homo sapien[2]. This is the scientific consensus. The Human Genome Project had this to say on the subject[3]:


"DNA studies do not indicate that separate classifiable subspecies (races) exist within modern humans. While different genes for physical traits such as skin and hair color can be identified between individuals, no consistent patterns of genes across the human genome exist to distinguish one race from another. There also is no genetic basis for divisions of human ethnicity. People who have lived in the same geographic region for many generations may have some alleles in common, but no allele will be found in all members of one population and in no members of any other."



Now you may try to claim that the 15% variation is what defines separate races in human beings, but what you do then is you play the dangerous and ultimately frivolous game if making the term "race" absolutely meaningless. If the minor variation we see in human beings, such as differing skin colour of facial structure, is enough to classify people into different races, we might as well begin to classify people based upon their height, weight, eye colour, hair colour, chance for diseases, and other useless and meaningless genetic components of their being. Just as well, as some of these factors have more to do with genetics than whether you are black or white. Consider, for instance, our current president, Barak Obama. Genetically, he is "half black". Yet many would classify him as being a separate race, due to his skin colour. But while he may be half black, he is also, genetically, half white. What then makes him any different then any other half white/half black individual, who happens to have fairer skin? Genetically, nothing. Yet still individuals like my opponent will persist in claiming he is of a separate "race", purely because of skin tone. I ask then, when people tan, do they momentarily change between races too? This line of thinking is utter nonsense people.


So where then has our notion of race come from? As far back as humans have existed, and lived in separate populations, they have classified themselves as separate from one another. However, nothing like we think of race today. To put this into perspective, Marco Polo once described the "Persian Race", saying:

"The people are of the Mahometan religion. They are in general a handsome race, especially the women, who, in my opinion, are the most beautiful in the world"

- Polo, Marco; The Travels of Marco Polo


However, it was in the 17th century when our modern idea of race sprung into being. The concept of race as we know it originated in Europe during the scientific revolution. This was also the time period of heavy European imperialism and colonization. Various nations would invade other groups of people, and upon arriving, would speculate about the various differences they physically saw. This, combined with a notion of superiority when conquering foreign lands, gave rise to the idea of human beings divided into different "races", some of which were more adapt in certain areas of life than others. Indeed this behavior grew more and more, as Europeans began to seek to divide human beings into groups of people, categorizing them, and dehumanizing them, as a part of their subjugation of the "lesser people". Despite the time period this notion arose however, this categorization had no scientific basis what so ever. Instead what it was was a heavily biased, flawed analysis, based upon superficial features noticed by conquering powers, who sought a justification for their subjugation through their own cultural lens. Thus we can see the notion of separate human races does not, nor has it ever in it's founding, had scientific backing. It is an entirely socially constructed notion, bread only to justify the oppression an categorization of human beings by other human beings.


Sources

1. http://www.eurekalert.org...

2. http://www.virginia.edu...

3. http://www.ornl.gov...
Debate Round No. 2
Dann

Con

"My opponent claims that the argument for race not being a social construct is not only incredibly sound, but so sound in fact that it is "self-evident". This is nothing more than a con. If it were so self-evident, there would be no point of contention, now would there?"

Yes, there would. Why? Because it is obvious that contention is made not on scientific, rational grounds, but on ethical grounds. People are trying to pull the wool over our eyes with bogus, propagandist, sociological interpretations of science.

" The variation amongst what are popularly called "races" is not sufficient or relevant to sub classification"

The variation is wholly sufficient. It's true - your eyes DO NOT deceive you. Races exist.

"Now you may try to claim that the 15% variation is what defines separate races in human beings, but what you do then is you play the dangerous and ultimately frivolous game if making the term "race" absolutely meaningless. If the minor variation we see in human beings, such as differing skin colour of facial structure, is enough to classify people into different races, we might as well begin to classify people based upon their height, weight, eye colour, hair colour, chance for diseases, and other useless and meaningless genetic components of their being."

It is you who are trying to make the term race meaningless, hence this futile attempt at convincing people that race as an objective fact doesn't exist. Let me get this right, if we were to take two Caucasians from Europe and test them for genetic differences we would find that their differences were purely individual. Now, if we were to take a Caucasian from Europe and a Negroid from Africa and test them for genetic differences then we would have, AS A STARTING POINT, a 15% difference in genetic makeup prior to ascertaining their individual genetic differences. This is far from negligible. It is this foundational difference that makes the race.

Each race has a composite of genetic differences that are clearly distinguishable. It is possible to identify race from the most basic structure of humanity - the skeleton. Now no one can argue that a skeleton is a social construct. But the skeleton can be used to determine what that skeleton would look like if it was fleshed out, and which race it would be.

http://shs2.westport.k12.ct.us...

There are fundamental differences by which humans can be classified, both mechanical and biological. These are called races.

Notice my opponents appeal to your disgust at race-ISM as a means to support their notion that race does not exist. The very idea that race does not exist is founded exclusively on an anti-racist sociological ideal. This is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. But you the audience can embrace equality and diversity I'm sure. Equality IN diversity. Unfortunately my opponent can't. My opponent seeks to indirectly make the claim that we can only have equality if there exists no diversity and so would have us believe that we are all the same and that quite obvious differences are merely illusory. She would seek to deny the uniqueness of someone's race. So what is the REAL racist approach here?

But back to the topic at hand. I cite an interesting scientific paper discussing the case that humans are polytypic.

https://lesacreduprintemps19.files.wordpress.com...

Do not allow the argument against the social values of racial classification detract from the truth that there are classifiable biological and mechanical composites within humanity.
The_Chaos_Heart

Pro

Lades and gentlemen, my opponent continues to perform argumentative acrobatics with the continuing of his claim that his argument is so spectacular, it is self-evident. And therefore, there is no valid point of contention! This is a non-argument. It is a way of him trying to avoid building a case for race's existence. I again must state that if the case were so self-evident, we wouldn't be having this debate, as I would have no ability to reasonably disagree.

Now, my opponent has called my evidence a "bogus, propagandist, sociological" interpretation of science. This is utter nonsense. The project workers of the human genome project are giving us bogus and propagandist interpretations of science? Laughable. It is most amusing folks that my opponent would sooner throw away the words of geneticists who dedicated several years of their life to the deep analyzation and categorization of the human genome, so he can continue to hold onto his incorrect perception of reality, than recognize their authority on the field.

But, never let it be said that I am not up for the challenge.

Let's break apart these numbers that have been given, to gain a more accurate idea of what we're dealing with here. Of the 15% previously mentioned, less than 5% of that is attributed to local populations that we classically call "races". The remaining 10% is geographical heritage, which deals with the variation amongst groups we view as races in the every day sense, based upon skin colour or hair type, ect[1]. What this means is, the amount of genetic variation amongst human beings that is inherited is incredibly minute, and even amongst geographic groups, the genetics of a particular "race" are still highly varied within themselves. The whole point of sub classification is to divide up obviously highly varied groups into distinct categories for the sake of simplicity. However, due to human beings being so homogeneous, the usage of sub classification is not only useless, it merely makes things more complicated! Professor Lewontin goes on to say this in the above listed article:

"This imprecision in assigning the proportion of variation assigned to differences among population within ”races” as compared to variation among “races,” arises precisely because there is no objective way to assign the various human populations to clear-cut races. Into which “race” do the Hindi and Urdu speakers of the Indian sub-continent fall? Should they be grouped with Europeans or with Asians or should a separate race be assigned to them? Are the Lapps of Finland and the Hazari of Afghanistan really Europeans or Asians? What about Indonesians and Melanesians? Different biologists have made different assignments and the number of “races” assigned by anthropologists and geneticists has varied from 3 to 30."

Clearly the idea of "race" is not only impossible to accurately pin down, due to the lack of genetic variation that would give rise to sub classification, it is impractical and useless.

Now the article goes on to say a great number of may things about the lack of race, however, there is something else I want to focus on at this moment. My opponent has accused me of of trying to make the term "race" meaningless. This is, of course, preposterous. I am advocating that the term race apply to humans as it does to other living creatures, in that it has strict parameters and requirements for sub classification. It is my opponent, however, who would choose to divide humans into a series of subspecies based on a fraction of genetic material, and some outward appearances. This muddies the waters of what race even truly means, and what constitutes a race. By my opponent's own logic, fat people should be there own race. Or people born without an arm. Hell, people within racial groups would be classified as different races. My opponent seems to equate any minute amount of genetic variation with sub classification. This is utter nonsense, and completely impractical when it comes to sub classification, again, the point of which is to make identification simpler, not more complex. When you generalize what constitutes a "race", and muddy the waters, by making the most minute amounts of variation constitute sub classification, you devoid the term "race" of any practical meaning. If this loose usage of the term "Race" is what my opponent wishes to use, then so be it. However, by doing so, they fail to defend the notion of race as we currently know it in popular usage, meaning they have already surrendered this debate to begin with.


Notice how near the end, my opponent references my argument on the history of the term race. Notice, more specifically, how he never actually refutes the case put forth. This is because he cannot, for it is true, whatever emotional appeals he may spew, that the modern usage of the term "race" is based in nothing more than European imperialism and racism, and had no scientific backing in it's origins. He cannot contest this, and does not contest it. According to this loose usage of the term "Race", anyone who looks different from anyone else, is of a different race. It is ludicrous people.


No, human beings are not biologically divided into separate subspecies, or "races". We are simply a diverse species, with large amounts of variation amongst ourselves. But we are still only one race, one grouping. Homo sapien. In it's origins, race was nothing more than the socially constructed justification for European imperialism and subjugation of foreign lands, and continues to this day to have absolutely no scientific backing. It's existence has been disproved and shot down by top authorities in the fields of Biology, Anthropology, and other branches of science. It is a socially constructed con, backed only by racists, the ill-informed, and the willfully ignorant. Then, and now.




Sources

1. http://raceandgenomics.ssrc.org...
Debate Round No. 3
29 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Anarcho-Socialist 2 years ago
Anarcho-Socialist
I would like to debate this topic if anyone is interested. I would be taking the con side.
Posted by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
@TUF,

I found your RFD interesting, although I disagree with the following:

"Just because the cat has white fur, or brown fur, doesn't mean we aren't going to call that cat a cat. That cat is the same thing except with different fur. A different biological step would be calling a cat a cheetah. This is clearly a different case for humans."

What if the white fur/brown fur was specific to a house cat of a certain region? What if this fur was some sort of genetic response to its environment (example, tan panthers vs black panthers) that was inheritable and prevalent across an entire local population?

Also, the specific biological step between a house cat and a cheetah is at the "family" level, not race. Race is a sub-category of species, species is a sub-category of genus, genus is a sub-category of "family". For example, house cats and cheetahs cannot interbreed, which is probably the best way to determine different species. People of all races can interbreed, which is why we are all the same species.

So, to put it mildly (and not necessarily accurately), you're comparing apples to palm trees when you talk about cats and cheetahs.
Posted by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
We both agree it is amusing. :)
Posted by The_Chaos_Heart 4 years ago
The_Chaos_Heart
Which comments? You mean the ones in response to your unprovoked passive-aggressiveness?

Yes, that's definitely me being butthurt. *rollseyes*

I still find that proposition amusing. I'm butthurt over a debate that I won. lol indeed.
Posted by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
"I'm butthurt over a debate I won?"

Judging from your comments, yes, lol.
Posted by AnonyFeline 4 years ago
AnonyFeline
Let's examine a few existing facts. Humans are the same species because we have the same number of chromosomes throughout our species (homo sapiens) and are able to breed with one another and give birth to fertile progeny. This is very similar to dogs who are bred to accentuate and maintain certain traits, or interbred to mix traits, and very dissimilar to horses and donkeys bred to create a hybrid, or mule, most of whom cannot reproduce. Genetic studies have shown we are all of the same family whose "parents" originated somewhere in eastern Africa (genographicproject.com). In effect, we are all African decent. Some have adapted differently to the their environment over time in order to acquire adequate nutrients activated by the sun (vitamin D) and to protect other nutrients (folate) from the sun's rays. ( | | ) These three video links are very clear in illustrating the fact that we are equal and that survival due to geography is what makes us "look" different as far as skin pigmentation. The genographic project proves that we are all part of a greater extended family as does the following video )

QED?

you decide.
Posted by The_Chaos_Heart 4 years ago
The_Chaos_Heart
I'm butthurt over a debate I won?

Uhuh. Right then.
Posted by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
Actually you do, lol, which is why interaction with you is so grating.

You need to just drop it.
Posted by The_Chaos_Heart 4 years ago
The_Chaos_Heart
"lol, it doesn't take the "public" to votebomb, only one account, one that could have been made only a week ago with almost nothing to its name other than 3 completed debates."

Except that's not what happened. Several people called out your vote as a votebomb, and sought to counter it. Not just some no-name account.

You still reek of butthurt.
Posted by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
lol, it doesn't take the "public" to votebomb, only one account, one that could have been made only a week ago with almost nothing to its name other than 3 completed debates.

If that's your version of "public", you live in a very small world, TCH.

I'm certain you will "win" this debate, as certain as I know that winning or losing a debate on this website is simply meaningless under the current system.

Good day.
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by TUF 4 years ago
TUF
DannThe_Chaos_HeartTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro I feel has won this debate for the following reasons. 1. The fact that society doesn't determine bioligcal reasons for purposes of classification. 2. The "differences" Con points out aren't bilogical differences as much as they are characterists a human develops over time, and learning. That said, you take an african american child and raise him in England, his traits and biology will change to adapt to his environment. Lastly the best comparison to make is skin color. You may have a certain class of cat, that humans will call a house cat. Just because the cat has white fur, or brown fur, doesn't mean we aren't going to call that cat a cat. That cat is the same thing except with different fur. A different biological step would be calling a cat a cheetah. This is clearly a different case for humans. As Pro points out, classifications define a certain point in genetic ability, not the ability that the classification is grown to learn. Great debate, great topic, fun read. Good job :)
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
DannThe_Chaos_HeartTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro and Con ultimately agreed that there are identifiable genetic differences due to race, at around the 15% level. The resolution says race is *purely* a social construct, so granting it is not effectively concedes the debate. Pro's arguments mainly support the idea that individual variations are more important than racial variations, which is true, but not the topic. Pro argues that race is ill-defined, but "short" and "tall" are ill-defined, but nonetheless meaningful. con should have posted definitions as part of the challenge, but that never became an issue. Pro's characterization of Con's arguments were overheated, but escaped a conduct violation by mainly referencing Con's arguments rather than Con himself.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 4 years ago
Ragnar
DannThe_Chaos_HeartTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Countering HeartOfGod. The pre-believed notion in favor of con, should not be the sole basis for voting in his favor.
Vote Placed by HeartOfGod 4 years ago
HeartOfGod
DannThe_Chaos_HeartTied
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Reasons for voting decision: It is self-evident that race is not a social construct. All Con needed to do was point that out, and the debate was over.
Vote Placed by darkkermit 4 years ago
darkkermit
DannThe_Chaos_HeartTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Con makes very litle effort to make a compelling case that race isn't a social construct. Con main argument is that it is self-evident, which is just a poor argument. Con does use that different physical apperances exisit between races. Pro counter through stating that there is more individual genetic variation than race variation, which Con does not counter. Pro also states that people can be classified based on other differences, like height, which Con completely fails to counter.
Vote Placed by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
DannThe_Chaos_HeartTied
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Reasons for voting decision: see comments. Good debate. Against my better judgment I will score this debate, although I fully expect inactive alts to votebomb against my vote, which I have seen repeatedly in debates involving PRO. I will not be responding to commentary or feedback from PRO, as I have found such interaction to be an exceptionally grating experience I do not wish to repeat.