Race Unmasked: Biology and Race in the Twentieth Century
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Race, while drawn from the visual cues of human diversity, is an idea with a measurable past, an identifiable present, and an uncertain future. The concept of race has been at the center of both triumphs and tragedies in American history and has had a profound effect on the human experience. Race Unmasked revisits the origins of commonly held beliefs about the scientific nature of racial differences, examines the roots of the modern idea of race, and explains why race continues to generate controversy as a tool of classification even in our genomic age.
Surveying the work of some of the twentieth century's most notable scientists, Race Unmasked reveals how genetics and related biological disciplines formed and preserved ideas of race and, at times, racism. A gripping history of science and scientists, Race Unmasked elucidates the limitations of a racial worldview and throws the contours of our current and evolving understanding of human diversity into sharp relief.
Dobzhansky, who had in the 1930s and 1940s been largely responsible for reimagining and preserving the race concept in biology in his work on the evolutionary synthesis, came to believe by the 1960s that “the problem that now faces the science of man is how to devise better methods for further observations that will give more meaningful results.”4 And in 1972, the evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin wrote that human racial classifications have “virtually no genetic or taxonomic
Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (Wilson, E. O.), 180–83, 189–200 The Souls of Black Folk (Du Bois), 96 SSRC. See Social Science Research Council Stanton, William, 8 Station for Experimental Evolution, 62 statistics, 101 Steggerda, Morris, 39, 41, 56, 68, 89–94 sterilization laws, 14 Stern, Curt, 114, 120, 143–48, 180 Stoddard, Lothrop, 32, 41–42, 103–4 Stratton, G. M., 75–76 Strauss, William L., Jr., 172 Sturtevant, Alfred, 119 Svirsky, Leon, 145 Systema Naturae (Linnaeus), 25–26
the City University of New York Graduate Center in a class on the history of public health with David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz. David has played a unique role in my intellectual life. He guided me through too many years of graduate school, all the while remaining a patient and dedicated mentor who encouraged me every step of the way. From David I learned that not simply does history matter, but that matters of history can be the basis for living an intensely political, satisfying, and moral
from the presentation of the facts in unevasive language without exaggeration or argument, and from the inevitable conclusions to be drawn from the facts.”44 The proposed studies were organized to examine race traits as distinctly physical, intellectual, moral, and social entities. Because the studies were based on the idea that races shared bloodlines, the methodology suggests that the traits under study were hereditary (through genes) in origin. The committee’s report implies as much, stating
‘hereditary’ and so-called ‘environment’ traits there is no hard and fast line.”65 Finally, Dunn and Dobzhansky acknowledged the historical nature of the race concept, writing, “The belief that the differences between men and races are inborn and unalterable is probably older and more widespread than the other extreme view that human peculiarities result from peculiarities of the environment in which they occur.”66 The book, directed at a general audience, meant to “acquaint them with the