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Why racism is not backed by science

A foreword from Listen To The World

[Jakarta, LttW] We are today, as a globalized humanity, plagued by hate among fellow men, hate upon each other. One form of this manifest hate is fueled by a fear and loathing of those who are of different ‘races’ to us.

But what exactly is racism? For example, sometimes Indonesians in Jakarta refer affectionately to white-skinned foreigners as the ‘bule’. Truth be told the term can be considered derogatory when we trace the term’s original meaning which can be translated more or less as “sickly pale”. But Indonesians may argue that ‘bule’ is a ‘term of endearment’. We do not mean ill when we use the term ‘bule’, in fact we love our ‘bule’ neighbors and we call him/her ‘bule’ because we are so close to each other. ‘Bule’, the argument goes, does not contain any  negative/pejorative meaning.

And yet many scientific research efforts into human genetics have basically concluded that all humans of different “races” are basically genetically identical; that there are, in essence and scientifically, only one single human genetic race. Here in this article by columnist Adam Rutherford, it is argued once again that there are no scientific basis for racism. With links to contemporary genetic research and opinions from evolutionary research pioneers Charles Darwin and others.

When we think about it, racism is not the only issue where human behavior runs contradictory to scientific facts. For example in the case of environmental damage caused by how humans throw away their waste without care. And still we regularly throw trash into our rivers, causing flooding in our own neighborhoods.

So what do you think? Why are humans racist? Is there any such thing as “different human races”? And also, why do we keep failing to apply scientific learning in our daily lives? Feel free to publish a comment below if you feel otherwise.


Why racism is not backed by science

by Adam Rutherford
from The Observer blog at The Guardian Online

As we harvest ever more human genomes one fact remains unshakable: race does not exist.

Barely a week goes by without some dispiriting tale of racism seeping into the public consciousness: the endless stream of Ukip supporters expressing some ill-conceived and unimaginative hate; football hooligans pushing a black man from a train. I am partly of Indian descent, a bit swarthy, and my first experience of racism was more baffling than upsetting. In 1982, my dad, sister and I were at the Co-op in a small village in Suffolk where we lived, when some boys shouted “Coco and Leroy” at us. Fame was the big hit on telly at the time, and they were the lead characters. My sister and I thought this was excellent: both amazing dancers and supremely attractive: we did bad splits all the way home.

As someone who writes about evolution and genetics – both of which involve the study of inheritance, and both of which rely on making quantitative comparisons between living things – I often receive letters from people associating Darwin with racism, usually citing the use of the words “favoured races” in the lengthy subtitle to his masterpiece, On the Origin of Species. Of course, Darwin doesn’t discuss humans in that great book, and “races” was used to describe groups within non-human species. Contemporary use of language must be taken into account.

Darwin was not a racist. He did not, unlike many of his contemporaries, think human “races” might be separate creations or subspecies. He was a staunch abolitionist, impressed and influenced by his friend and taxidermy tutor John Edmonstone at Edinburgh, who was a freed black slave. However, Darwin’s half-cousin Francis Galton, most certainly was a racist. He wrote that the Chinese were a race of geniuses, that “Negroes” were vastly inferior, that “Hindoos” were inferior in “strength and business habits” and that the “Arab is little more than an eater up of other men’s produce; he is a destroyer”.

Obviously, these views are as absurd as they are unacceptable today, as bewildering as calling two half-Indian kids the stage names of two African-American actors.

Read more at The Guardian:

Author: Adam Rutherford

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3 Comments on "Why racism is not backed by science"

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Aussie Bob
CHARLES R. DARWIN ON RACE We see the value set on animals even by the barbarians of Tierra del Fuego, by their killing and devouring their old women, in times of dearth, as of less value than their dogs. If the country were open on its borders, new forms would certainly immigrate, and this would also seriously disturb the relations of some of the former inhabitants. Let it be remembered how powerful the influence of a single introduced tree or mammal has been shown to be. He who believes in the struggle for existence and in the principle of natural… Read more »
Ferdi Zebua

Hi Heikki! Thank you very much for dropping by 🙂

You’ve raised a good point there that there might be evolutionary/biological/scientific basis for racism as a (human) behavior, in that this behavior might be ingrained in our biology as a survival mechanism. I also must confess that I’ve never read Hirschfeld, and I feel that I must.

Further, your comment brings to my mind that popular sociological concept of “the other”, and also past theories I think I’ve learned in grade school regarding “In-Groups” and “Out-Groups”.


It might be that even if there’s no scientific basis for race, there might be some scientific basis for racism.

Lawrence Hirschfeld has argued (“Race in the making”, 1998) that we might have an inherent (i.e. not learned) tendency to categorize people into different “kinds”, even if cultural factors decide whether those tendencies actually develop into humanism or racism or whatever ideology.

Just a quick thought.