Diving into racial biology

Today the course on the history of racism continued (the course Kurt Villads Jensen at History is coordinating), and it was the day when I and Janne did our lectures and exercises on racial biology and eugenics. Much of the stuff I did was pretty standard, showing the concept of isolation by distance and going over some of the major migratory events in our prehistory. But there was a part that was sort of scary. I used an hour to go over why classic eugenics would never have worked, how it would have been impossible to get rare recessive alleles out of a population, and the problems successful eugenics could have brought in the microbial arms-race. As so many books describe eugenics as “wrong and not working anyway…”, I wanted to look closer at “not working anyway…” since there is no disagreement in that it is super un-ethical. But describing eugenics in such technical way was a weird and not entirely pleasant experience.

 

And naturally Janne did a good job as always. There is a reason why he got awarded the university’s teacher-of-the-year not too long ago. An overview on the 18th and 19th century history of racial biology, and a morphological exercise that made it very obvious why the morphometric racial biology of the 19th century must at best be regarded as a pseudoscience. I hope that the students that were with us today will know that there are differences and similarities in the genomes of different humans, that this is neither good nor bad, it just is, and also why the concepts of eugenics and racial biology are flawed.

Janne is showing the problems with morphometrical racial biology

RB

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