German American physicist Albert Einstein’s theories changed the course of human history and shaped modern physics. He, on the other hand, assumed a static universe although his own theories pointed to an expanding or a shrinking universe. Einstein, however, calibrated his by-then widely accepted theory to make it fit for his assumption. When an American astronomer Edwin Hubble proved beyond doubt that the universe was expanding, Einstein called his own wrong assumption as the biggest blunder of his life. Einstein was neither the first nor the last scientist who fell into this trap.

The Trap

Half a century before Albert Einstein, English naturalist Charles Darwin’s scientific theory of evolution by natural selection founded modern evolutionary studies. Darwin, on the topic of races, unquestioningly assumed the superiority of Europeans. Instead of letting his theory guide him in his scientific work, he attempted to calibrate his by-then widely accepted scientific theory.

Darwin predicted that intergroup competition would ultimately lead “civilized races of man” to “replace throughout the world the savage races. According to him, the reason humans had different races was due to the environmental conditions in which the groups lived, and advancement in civilization was a by-product of competition among groups. Furthermore, the harsher the environment, the more inventiveness was required for survival. Unlike Einstein, Darwin did not live long enough to recognize his blunder.

The human races of Asia.
The human faces of Asia. First published in the first edition (1876–1899) of Nordisk familjebok.

To Err Is Human

Etymologists think the use of the word “race” trended with the British colonization of America. However back then, it was used to distinguish tribes from one another. The invention of the word “race” as we know it today happened with the surge of African slaves being brought to Europe in the 1600s. Common “wisdom” of the time was that there were white Europeans and black Africans, and white Europeans inherently superior to Africans. Europeans were more than willing to shut their eyes to the fact that when Africans were building pyramids and writing their history on papyrus, Europeans were making stone grinders, and carving figurines, which resembled humans, in marble.

Human DNA Strings
Human DNA Strings

The Wrong Question

Today we have access to humans’ DNA and know that all humans were evolved in Africa from one common ancestor. Groups then left Africa and those that ended up in places with less sun lost much of their melanin and turned different shades. In other words, humans don’t have different races. Yet shamefully, we still use the vocabulary of people who lived hundreds of years ago and didn’t even know what DNA was.

Conclusion

The cosmetic differences in human beings are so little that a white woman with hereditary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer, is likely to be genetically closer to a black woman with the same hereditary diseases than to a white woman with no such hereditary diseases.

Perhaps, there use to be different human races at some point in human history but we, members of the species homo sapiens, are the only survivors.

Inquiring someone’s race is silly. It does not deserve a response back.

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