Researchers refute widespread racist analogy comparing human races to dog breeds

URI professor, geneticists refute widespread racist analogy comparing human races to dog breeds
Holly Dunsworth. Credit: Michael Salerno

As a researcher and teacher, Holly Dunsworth enjoys poking holes in misconceptions about human evolution her students bring into the classroom.

This time, Dunsworth is targeting a recurring popular evolutionary that compares human races with , one that may sound innocent and scientific on the surface but carries deep racist undertones.

Dunsworth, a University of Rhode Island professor of anthropology, has seen the dog-breed analogy crop up repeatedly on and even heard it during discussions on biological variation of humans in her class. She felt it needed to be refuted—and not just with a tweet or a blog post.

Dunsworth has responded with a 10,000-word, interdisciplinary study that shows "how the assumption that human races are the same as dog breeds is a racist strategy for justifying social, political, and economic inequality." The paper, "Human races are not like dog breeds: Refuting a Racist Analogy," was published last week by the online journal Evolution: Education and Outreach.

It was co-written with geneticists Heather L. Norton, associate professor of molecular anthropology at the University of Cincinnati; Ellen E. Quillen, assistant professor of molecular medicine at the Wake Forest School of Medicine; Abigail W. Bigham, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan; and Laurel N. Pearson, assistant professor of anthropology at Pennsylvania State University.

"I approached them and said, 'Have you heard this analogy before?'" said Dunsworth. "I said, 'Let's take it down.' They said, 'Absolutely.'"

The five, all of whom attended graduate school together at Penn State, decided the best way to refute it was with a peer-reviewed, that rebuked "the illegitimate appeal to science and the erroneous 'logic' of the widespread analogy." The analogy uses the perceived variation in dog breeds to support the superiority of one human over another.

"In the U.S., and likely beyond, the human race-dog breed analogy is not merely an academic question about patterns of variation; today it factors substantially into the popular debate about whether race is fundamentally biological as opposed to a social construct, and it carries forward an ugly American tradition," the papers says. "Inherent to the analogy is the transference of beliefs about pure-bred onto notions of human racial 'purity," which helped U.S. legislators pass anti-miscegenation laws in the early 20th century."

The analogy, Dunsworth said, "leads people to doubt the consensus among scientists and academics on the sociocultural significance of race, where the construction of race is emphasized over patterns of biological variation (which are not synonymous with race). This is a tough discussion for newcomers to enter, given that there is perceptible variation in human traits around the world that can be used to guess the geographic locale of some portion of someone's recent ancestors, and given that ancestry is a factor in the sociocultural construction of race. The bad analogy takes advantage of the confusion or frustration that results from this disconnect between what people see versus what they hear about race not being a biological concept.

"This dog-breed comparison does not hold up to science and to everything we know about what 'race' is and is not. What's worse, the people who are trotting out this bad analogy do not have innocent intentions. They are not objectively curious about the wonders of biology, they are not confused about the sociocultural construction of race, they are interested in justifying racism and convincing others to do the same."

The paper attacks the analogy by demonstrating the differences in patterns of genetic and biological variation between humans and dogs, contrasting them and explaining how differences between the two are unsurprising given the two species evolved very differently. Dogs are domesticated and different breeds have evolved through highly controlled breeding that has drastically reduced the variation within breeds. The paper goes on to lay out decades of interdisciplinary work beyond genetics and biology that has documented how the phenomenon of "race" in humans is vastly different from any groupings we impose on other animals.

"History tells us how people who use the dog- analogy for race are perpetuating racism," said Dunsworth. "It's bad science, bad everything. "Race' as we know it in our daily lives—and as we have known it throughout history—goes well beyond science. Race is socioculturally, politically and historically constructed, but dog breeds are … dogs."

Dunsworth and her colleagues ensured the paper would be easily accessible, making it freely readable online without subscription. For the lay reader, there is a glossary of terms to make the scientific argument easier to understand.

"We wanted it to be open access so that when you Google this, you can read a peer-reviewed, scholarly article that explains it," said Dunsworth, a widely published researcher whose interests include the evolution of humans and other primates. "There's so much in this paper. When I share it on Twitter, I'm just going to say you have to read the whole thing. That's why this exists."


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Removing race from human genetic research

More information: Heather L. Norton et al. Human races are not like dog breeds: refuting a racist analogy, Evolution: Education and Outreach (2019). DOI: 10.1186/s12052-019-0109-y
Citation: Researchers refute widespread racist analogy comparing human races to dog breeds (2019, July 18) retrieved 22 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-07-refute-widespread-racist-analogy-human.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
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Jul 18, 2019
I can't believe they would dare compare human racism with dog breeds. Dogs are one of man's greatest achievements. Comparing dogs with anything human is demeaning the dogs beyond what is socially tolerable.
Pretty much anything is called human racism from the way you brush your teeth, to how you comb your hair. Leave dogs out of it!

mqr
Jul 18, 2019
that team wasted their time. You can not argue with stupidity. Racist people are very low in abstraction, they have a very hard time understanding anything deep, they only have "theories" like the earth is flat, like obesity is good, like alcohol is holy water, like more weapons means less violence, etc. All those beliefs are not against science, but against common observations.

What the world is seeing is lots and lots of dumb people expressing their stupidity without shame, because they had not been properly educated, intentionally. Just read Edward Bernays books and you will see how the rich see the poor, as cattle that needs to be directed to its death. And the really sad aspect, is that the poor had let the rich to manipulate. Though the rich are equally retarded, I just saw a video of trump´'s son, wow, an IQ of 70.

The whole trump family reminds me that Nietzsche said that he wanted suffering for his loved ones to help them develop as human beings. No suffering = the trump

Jul 18, 2019
Linking race to discrimination & therefore denying the existence of regional variation is childish in the absolute extreme. Discrimination of that kind is far more prevalent between countries & has even been the basis of wars so if we follow this researcher's lead we would deny the existence of countries because these are discriminatory

Yet people from various countries also get along just fine & people of specific regional phenotypic variation can also get along just fine as well.That some people misuse the perceived variation is no reason to deny that the variation exists

As with dog breeds at least some of the regional variation is due to human selection, human breeders for dogs, 'sexual selection' contributes to human phenotypic variation, for instance tallness & shortness variations found in some African tribes.

This is just another variation of the religion based 'humans are not animals' argument, the idea that humans are special and can't be compared to other animals.

Jul 18, 2019
The only way they were able to refute the claim seems to have been by ignoring science and following societal terms for races and racism. Their own tests found that people were indeed able to determine where someone originated nearly 100% accurately but then shovels on this whole load about why that isn't important. Humans have been separated geographically for long enough that there are indeed genetic differences but we can all still interbreed and produce fertile offspring. The article itself says they use more than science to explain the differences which means, science couldn't be relied on to get to their predetermined answers. Doctors need to take race into account for certain medications and conditions and ignoring reality is itself being racist.

Jul 18, 2019
The ONLY person in the whole world that was NOT a racist was Helen Keller.
Being a racist is part of being a human being as much as some selfishness is part of being a human being.
Any one that points their finger at anyone else and calls them a racist is not being at all retrospective.

Jul 18, 2019
The point isn't whether you feel outgroup rejection. The point is whether you realize it and STOP.

This is called "conscience." You got it or you don't, and if you don't you're not a good person.

Jul 19, 2019
This is not science.

"What's worse, the people who are trotting out this bad analogy do not have innocent intentions. ..., they are interested in justifying racism and convincing others to do the same."

I expect that the authors of the study interviewed every single person in the world who believes in this analogy, and established somehow what their real intentions are. Otherwise that is a bad paper.

I have never met a person who talked about this analogy. Is this some kind of non-existent problem like those that the liberals like to bring and use to scold innocent people?

Jul 19, 2019
How's that attempt at realizing you are a little selfish and stopping it working out for you? Trying to eliminate your racism is the same. Can't be done. All you can do is be in denial.
Does being human make you a bad person with no conscience? Or does it just make you a human?

Jul 19, 2019
" "how the assumption that human races are the same as dog breeds is a racist strategy for justifying social, political, and economic inequality."

AND

" the people who are trotting out this bad analogy do not have innocent intentions. They are not objectively curious about the wonders of biology, they are not confused about the sociocultural construction of race, they are interested in justifying racism and convincing others to do the same."

I think it is this woman and her friends who are the true racists. The vast majority of REAL PEOPLE don't see other humans by skin colour and racial appearance, but by their 'social graces' and their self-respect and their respect for others. The American Democrat Party members are always bringing up the 'race card' in the media, with the intention of pretending that every American is 'race-conscious'. The truth is that most Americans couldn't care less what someone's race is, as long as that person is not intending to harm anyone.

Jul 19, 2019
How's that attempt at realizing you are a little selfish and stopping it working out for you? Trying to eliminate your racism is the same. Can't be done. All you can do is be in denial.
Does being human make you a bad person with no conscience? Or does it just make you a human?

Controlling yourself is part of being a human. You can't follow your every instinct and want. Even if racism is natural for you, it's still good trying to get rid of it or at least control it.

Jul 19, 2019
Back during the Sixties and Seventies, the equating of dog breed with race was initiated as a counter to the assertion of race having deep seated manifestations! The "argument" then was that dog breeds are purely physical manifestations that breed true among similar animals, but, it was claimed different dog breeds could mate with each other. They insisted that dog breeds are just matters of physical similarities and that race was exactly the same. Now, they're saying that race is not like dog breeds. Another demonstration of the fact that "science" is all politically motivated and none of it can be trusted.

Jul 19, 2019
Another demonstration of the fact that "science" is all politically motivated and none of it can be trusted.


I agree except for the word ALL and NONE. If you truly believe ALL and NONE why bother reading this site at all?

Jul 19, 2019
I know about this topic as i observed it many times on forums/comment sections but never seen the intention behind as racist - in fact, most of the time it was about canis lupis genus and the "human races" comparison was a sidenote or exaggeration.
Whatever..

Jul 19, 2019
I can't believe they would dare compare human racism with dog breeds.


That is apparently what racists do, yes, as the start of the paper notes. "In the U.S., and likely beyond, the human race-dog breed analogy is not merely an academic question about patterns of variation; today, it factors substantially into the popular debate about whether race is fundamentally biological as opposed to a social construct, and it carries forward an ugly American tradition. Inherent to the analogy is the transference of beliefs about pure-bred dogs
onto notions of human racial "purity" (e.g. Castle 1942; Harrington 2009), which helped U.S. legislators pass anti-miscegenation laws in the early twentieth century (Lombardo 1987). In 2016, Mother Jones demonstrated how mainstream and persistent the analogy is when they
published their interview with a leading white supremacist who equated human races to dog breeds (Harkinson 2016)."

Or did you not read the paper?

Jul 19, 2019
Being a racist is part of being a human being as much as some selfishness is part of being a human being.


Again, did you not read the paper? " In reaction to notions of race as a "social construct,"
non-experts may feel justifed in holding the opposing belief that race is just biology. Not an insignificant proportion of Americans refuse mainstream academic knowledge; our paper ofers a way forward for those caught up in that culture regarding race."

Apparently race is a social construct, and likely racism is as well. So no, we can have societies without. And in fact we have, isolated groups have no racism.

This is not science.

"What's worse, the people who are trotting out this bad analogy do not have innocent intentions. ..., they are interested in justifying racism and convincing others to do the same."


Usually it would have been easy to agree, except that it *is* the science of the paper (see my first comment). RTFM before posting, plz!

Jul 19, 2019
most of the time it was about canis lupis genus and the "human races" comparison was a sidenote or exaggeration


And another comment that is unnecessary if the paper had been the subject of the comment (see my first comment on the science of the use of the comparison), instead of unsupported anecdote.

To be fair, I am not sure that the paper's basis is more than anecdote, but it *is* supported and some of it is on central legal decisions.

Jul 19, 2019
Decades of IQ data reveal things that are not poltically correct in public.

Jul 19, 2019
Decades of IQ data reveal things that are not poltically correct in public.

Yes, I believe the oriental race comes out on top for average IQ. And I have NO oriental race in me. So does my saying this make me a INVERT(?) racist?

Jul 19, 2019
Poor sweet holly. Racists frighten her so. Do you know they compare brown people to DOGS??

And yet dear holly, we ARE domesticated animals, having been systematically selected over the course of 1000s of gens for the very unnatural constraints of tribal living. Natural selection among proto humans began its decline with the advent of technology, causing instant overpopulation and the congealing of the tropical human ape into tribes for protection and for securing resources. Intertribal conflict was the very thing that made us human, and it continues to husband us to this very day.

So sorry you're too easily triggered to think for yourself and accept this very uncomfortable reality. Maybe some of your students will find the courage that you lack.

Jul 19, 2019
3 minutes is just not enough time to make posts perfect. Maybe try grammarly?

Jul 19, 2019
Being a racist is part of being a human being as much as some selfishness is part of being a human being
Racism is a political construct. It's really a myth. Just consider any so-called race and look for divisions within that race. Animosity found down to the extended family level.

Humans are focused on tribalism and the tribal dynamic, which is internal altruism coupled with external animosity. The tribe you are in conflict with is always a little less human than your own.

Tribalism is an expression of speciation in the human species, the 'urge to diverge'.

Jul 19, 2019
Speciation in the form of tribalism is the source of all bigotry. Any species that has a sufficient genetic investment in adapting to a specific environment will resist attempts to compromise the gene pool and lose that investment. Conversely, interlopers may wish to take advantage of all that genetic labor for their offspring by mating with indigenes.

Humans resist this incursion on a tribal level, the same way they defend their territory and their food supply.

Over the ages priests and politicians have managed through trial and error to extend the tribal identity over ever-larger regions and populations. They exploit the tribal dynamic by artificially defining 'races', nationalities or religions as opposing tribes for the purpose of instigating conflict to produce a predetermined result.

The tribal dynamic has become perhaps the most powerful behavioral motivator among humans, and so they are very easily persuaded to accept these divides without much resistance.

Jul 19, 2019
TheGhostofOtto1923 - I have muted him but by the number of his posts one right after another, he obviously thinks VERY highly of himself, probably because no one else thinks highly of him.

Jul 19, 2019
Yes, I believe the oriental race comes out on top for average IQ.


No, Ashkenazi (German) Jews were top group, northeast Asian 2nd.

Jul 20, 2019
Yes, I believe the oriental race comes out on top for average IQ.


No, Ashkenazi (German) Jews were top group, northeast Asian 2nd.


You forgot to say if you have any Jew in you.

Jul 20, 2019
Not all dogs are good dogs. It's encouraging to see a growing number of humans acting as friendly and sociable toward each other as the good dogs. Unto the state religions and institutions that teach their children to act like bad dogs, woe...

Jul 20, 2019
Unto the state religions and institutions that teach their children to act like bad dogs, woe...


Just curious have you ever heard of the lost tribes of the Amazon? They are not sociable and will kill you. Which state religions and institutions taught their children to do that? When Cain killed Abel which state religions and institutions taught those children to do that?

Perhaps that violence is a part of who we are.(From birth)

Jul 22, 2019
Violence? See 'War Before Civilization' (L. H. Keeley)

Racism? Just SHUN ICKY, don't talk about it, talk is anile. Act. Leave the room. Ostracize. SHUN ICKY

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