Race Does Not Equal Genetics

One of the courses I’m taking at my university is a sociology course. First year, basic sociology 100. I’ve never been that interested in taking these kinds of courses, hence why I’ve also never taken a political science course, philosophy, history, anthropology. I’m more of a science person. Studying people genetically, anatomically, mentally, but never really socially. One course that led me astray from the genetics of human behavior was forensic psychology. We learned about the legal side of psychology. Topics included eye-witness testimony, jury selection, the insanity plea, polygraph tests, interrogation tactics. It was fascinating to say the least. These topics really peaked an interest in my brain and guided me onto a new path. I decided to double major in psychology and criminology (I was originally specializing in psychology). Of course, one of the requirements for entering the criminology program was taking your first year, basic sociology 100.

By the time you read this post, the semester will be over and I will no longer be taking SOC100. Nevertheless, we take these courses to learn as well as to get into the program we want. We covered many topics in this course. We learned about the many theorists who contributed their ideas to understanding human behavior, we learned about the methods of socialization (integration of roles to promote a successful society), the impact of culture and religion, we learned about imposed gender roles, and much more. One of the many topics we discussed was quite a shock to not only myself, but many other class mates. A lot of students spoke out before the professor could even finish a sentence because of their outrage. With calm, the professor continued on with the lecture and by the end of it, everyone was in agreement. This topic was race.

When we think about race, we typically think about the differences (good or bad) between one skin tone and another, we may think about stereotypes that have emerged within a particular group of people, we may think about the prejudice between one group of people who believe they’re superior to another group of people (also known as racism). We often associate the word race with a genetic marker. Why wouldn’t we? All racial groups have a common genetic flag that indicates them as belonging to that particular group. We can’t help but categorize people by the way that they look and we know that the way we look is determined by our genetics. Therefore genetics leads to race, right? Here’s the thing, race is not a genetic construct.

Before you get angry with me, let me explain. Between you and family member, your genetic code, your DNA, has a 99% match. Between you and your friend, another 99% match. Between you and I there is yet another 99% genetic match. We are 99% the same to almost every other person on this planet. That 1% is what makes you different. That 1% holds the code to your hair color, eye color, hair texture, maximum height, finger lengths, brow and cheek bone protrusion, whether you nose has a bump, your skin color. So fundamentally, we are all the same. Yet, we aren’t (both superficially and socially). We know this because of the never-ending inequality that certain groups of people face every single day, an inequality that stems from our perceived race. As I mentioned, we are all practically genetically identical which means race can’t be a genetic construct. Many geneticists have advocated that exact fact. Believe it or not, race is actually a social construct. Race is an idea that we have ascribed to biology. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, asian, or hispanic. We are all fundamentally, biologically identical. We, as people, have created this notion that we are different because of superficial differences. So then why do we see more of a particular skin color health care positions? In white-collar jobs? Business positions? As professional athletes? The answer is simple. People discriminate without even knowing they’re doing it. Teachers are more likely to provide assistance and extra help to people of lighter skin tones. This means they are more likely to excel, get good grades, get into an elite school, and get into a job that pays well. Jobs are more likely to hire a person that meets their “racial” profile. These people get the job, do great in it, get promotions, get paid more, afford more luxurious items like a nicer car and a larger house. When it comes to schooling, darker skin tones are less likely to be given opportunities to express their intelligence, teachers are less likely to provide extra help, and apply less pressure to motivate them to perform better (IQ is one part genetics, two parts the surrounding environment). Because of this discrimination against darker skin tones, they are less likely to get into elite schools, less likely to get the job that pays, and are more likely to turn to professional sports.

These differing paths are not from genetic differences, these paths were imposed onto these unsuspecting victims by society. Agents of socialization, like teachers, parents, friends, peers, have imposed onto us our “race” and have treated us in a particular way because of it. Consequently, they behave towards us in a way that may allow us to excel in the world, or crumble. Our genetics are not to blame for the inequalities people experience everyday, instead it is our society who is to blame.

Ownership is an Illusion

Another incredibly ambiguous title for some sort of sociological topic I’ll be discussing. You know me, I love creating titles that not only catch your attention but also get you thinking. At the end of the day, that is my goal. To stimulate the minds of my fellow readers, who ponder the subject of this post they’re reading from their smart phones, laptops, or whatever device tickles your fancy. Fascinating. The many items in which we can display my blog for you to read. With Apple TV, you could probably even be reading this from your 75″ plasma screen TV (how exciting).

Everybody now-a-days owns the latest gadgets and gizmos. The newest IPhone X, Samsung Galaxy S8 Edge, Google Pixel, or perhaps you’re not a tech savvy person and you’re perfectly content with your Nokia. Maybe instead, you indulge in the newest Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, or Lamborghini Aventador. Don’t like cars? How about a Harley Davidson? Forget transportation, your first major priority is becoming a home owner. Will you choose a lovely three bedroom house in the suburbs or a two bedroom farm with open land out in the country? After all, these are all major purchases and I don’t mean in financial terms. Sure, all of these expenses are huge but you’re probably considering settling in your home to raise your children (which is usually 18 years depending on what you consider to be the age of maturity). That is a long time. But don’t fret, once you own this property, no one can take it from you and you’ll be free to live your life in this home for as long as you desire. After all, you own it.

Unless of course, you don’t.

Let me introduce you to famous sociologist, Karl Marx. A jack of all trades. He was a philosopher, historian, political theorist, economist. You name it, he’s done it. He’s most famously known for his theories in sociology (sociology being the study of human behavior in social contexts). His theory was known as conflict theory. His theory posited that capitalism would inevitably create tensions between classes that would ultimately lead to its own destruction. Why? Because people don’t like being unequal, specifically the lower-class. The poor despise the rich because the rich have everything the poor wish they had, and the rich despise the poor because they see the poor as not trying hard enough to be successful. Eventually, this classism will lead to a revolution in which the poor overthrow the rich (of course that never actually happened as Marx was so hoping it would, can you tell he was a communist?). Marx only identified two classes: the Bourgeoisie (the owners) and the Proletarians (the workers). The Bourgeoisie were the capitalists. They owned the companies, the properties, they even owned the workers. The Proletarians on the other hand only owned one thing: their labor.

Interesting concept. With the bourgeoisie making profit in any way they could, lowering wages, hiring fewer workers, replacing people with machines, the proletarians are struggling to make any real, long-term purchases. They also can’t save. Every penny goes straight into the bare necessities like food, water, shelter. Additionally, big purchases are risky. They spend all their hard-earned money on the snazzy new car just to have it repossessed by the bank because they couldn’t pay their mortgage.

That brand new Porsche we were talking about earlier, along with the IPhone X and gorgeous new suburban estate, isn’t really yours. The bank can take it from you just as easily as you purchased it. So answer me this, when you have nothing in your possession, what are you left with? What do you really own? What is one thing no one can take away from you? According to Marx, our ability to work.

Inhibiting the Evolution of the Human Species 

Now I can’t imagine what must be going on in your head reading this title. Am I going to discuss how evolution is regressing? Am I going to discuss how evolution has come to a complete halt? What is evolution? Is humanity doomed? You should know how this blog works by now, you read and find out throughout the post. Before we get into the main idea’s of this post, there are some things we should probably define and discuss.

If you have ever taken a basic, highschool level biology course, than you have probably heard about a particular man by the name of Charles Darwin. Darwin is a naturalist, a person who studies natural history. Darwin is most famously known for his contributions in the theories of evolution.

Evolution is extraordinary. This is how nature has its fun. Unfortunately, evolution is not something that can be described in simple terms, as it’s not a simple phenomena. Evolution is the gradual change of the genetic composition of a species, brought on by mutation, genetic drift, and natural selection. By genetic composition, I mean the genetic blueprint. The fact that we humans have two arms with hands that have five fingers, is written in our DNA. By gradual, I mean it doesn’t happen over night. Evolution is a process that takes thousands of years. Take the human appendix as an example. Many researchers say the appendix is a vestigial structure (vestigial meaning that it has lost its original function), that was once used by our ancestors to digest leaves. Since over the course of thousands of years the human diet has changed, the appendix was no longer needed and evolved into a smaller, less utilized version.

Mutation, genetic drift, and natural selection are all means by which genetic changes in a species occur. Mutation is exactly what it sounds like. Somewhere along the process of fertilization (where an egg cell and a sperm cell combine to create a zygote), something goes amiss. Perhaps a particular gene spontaneously changes composition. In a totally random event, one particular unit of the DNA double helix structure changes and in turn, a seemingly normal grizzly bear gives birth to a white cub (known as the kermode bear). As this one kermode cub grows older and bears its own offspring, it passes along the mutated gene allowing for the mutation to expand into a large population of its own. Eventually, assuming the white hide is advantageous, the population of kermode bears may equal, or even surpass, the population of brown grizzly bears. If we assume, in a hypothetical situation, that the kermode bears face a greater chance of survival than the grizzly bears, less grizzly bears will bear offspring. Perhaps because the female bears visually prefer other kermode bears, or perhaps because grizzly bears are decreasing in numbers. In this case, the genetic composition of a population is shifting due to lack of mating and a decrease in the number of grizzly bears. This is known as genetic drift. Genetic drift typically occurs in smaller populations where a lack of mating, or rapid decline of a particular genotype, is most felt.

Lastly is natural selection, what Charles Darwin is most famously known for discovering. As organisms are born generation after generation, they mutate and develop new characteristics that may allow them to be better suited to their environment. Better suited organisms survive disasters better than their counterparts and can then reproduce and pass on their genes to future generations. Without knowing it, these organisms are being shaped by natural selection. Nature is hand selecting the adaptations that allow an organism to survive its ever-changing environment allowing it to reproduce and pass on those very adaptations, eventually creating a more evolved species. You might be more familiar with natural selections younger sister: Artificial Selection. Where natural selection stresses adaptations that allow an organism to better survive and reproduce, artificial selection stresses adaptations that we as humans find more desirable. Humans cross-breed particular dog breeds that are more or less aggressive, have a long or short tail, have long or short fur that is curly or straight. The same is done with plants and crops.

The purpose of natural selection is to shape organisms into survivalists so that they may reproduce and pass on their advantageous characteristics onto their offspring. But has the human race gotten in the way of evolution? Is the human race too scared to evolve? Or is it the contrary, are we too eager to evolve? When faced with a physiological issue, we seek help from medical practitioners to heal us. Whether we get the flu and need a vaccination, break a leg and need a cast, or develop cancer and need chemotherapy, we always seek medical treatment. Of course, the first two are as easy as allowing time (or nature) do its thing, while the latter requires medical assistance beyond natures power. Perhaps diseases of this kind are natures way of ridding the world of organisms that shouldn’t survive. Perhaps, this is natural selection working before our very eyes. Those with the genes of a stronger immune system will thrive, while those without will perish. Is modern medicine getting in the way of natural selection? Is modern medicine partaking in artificial selection? (Perhaps there already is a cure for cancer, and doctors are just milking you for your money) Even then, it’s a far stretch to say they’re selecting what disease will kill us and which won’t (since their goal is to treat all of them). How can we be sure that a cure for cancer won’t evolve from within us, whether it’s from our brain or our immune system? Without nature running its course, how can we evolve as a species from within ourselves rather than from external aid? Pathogens evolve, and in turn so does the medical practices to overcome these pathogens. What happens to the middle man (or in this case, middle human)? Maybe we’re damned to live in a disease ridden loop until a catastrophe destroys our everyday medical equipment and we’re forced to evolve a stronger immune system.

Cue the terminators.