[Taxacom] Race and taxonomy
rjensen at saintmarys.edu
Mon Oct 6 13:29:07 CDT 2008
I have become involved in an interesting discussion on my campus. One
of our faculty proposed a new course that included, in its statement of
intent, the following clause: "...race has no biological basis." I
took exception to this on the grounds that race is a legitimate rank in
the taxonomic hierarchy and can prove useful when dealing with
variability within species, regardless of whether the species are
plants, fungi, animals, or humans.
I have always followed Ernst Mayr's lead when discussing the concept of
race from a taxonomic perspective: "The typological concept of race is
thoroughly odious; the statistically defined race of the botanist and
zoologist is a fact of nature."
So, my question to you is, Does race have any value as a taxonomic
concept? Or, should we, because of the abuse of the idea by people of
all, dare I say, races, dispense with it altogether?
Richard Jensen, Professor
Department of Biology
Saint Mary’s College
Notre Dame, IN 46556
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