Race is a word that comes with cultural, phenotypic and genotypic connotations. This mix of attributes usually leads to controversy and confusion. Sometimes at the degree that some people claim that the concept of race is meaningless, and therefore should be eradicated from language. But, if this word is so meaningless, why is it still in the center of so many discussions and studies?
Some people would argue that the motivation for keeping alive the concept of race, only comes from the desire to push certain political agendas. And although this sometimes can be true. It also can be understood as the simple human inclination to explain patterns, and give structure to our conceptions of the world. With the concept of race arising from the legitimate question of how populations relate to each other.
People tend to group elements based on shared properties between those elements. It is just how the human mind works. And the most immediate traits our ancestors could perceive about each other were properties such as height, body shape, skull morphology, skin color, facial features, etc. Being natural for them trying to classify people based on physical properties.
Now we know that physical traits are not so reliable as a way to determine biological similarity between two populations, since physical properties can be a result from adaptative changes to similar, but far away environments. For example, skin color is more related to a population’s geographic distance to the Equator, as melanin pigmentation protects against sunny weathers with high UV radiation. So, we can find some populations with similar skin color in Sub-Saharan Africa and Melanesia, but without those two populations sharing a relatively recent ancestor.
Furthermore, the advances of molecular biology have provided us with much more precise tools to establish biological similarity between populations or even individuals.
DNA molecules are composed by 4 smaller molecules, arranged one after each other in sequences that can be interpreted as strings of letters, assigning “C” for cytosine, “G” for guanine, “A” for adenine, and “T” for thymine.
The human genome is composed by approximately 3,234 million of this “letters”. Every person possess a copy inherited by her/his mother, and another by her/his father, resulting in every individual possessing approximately 6,468 million of this letters ordered in specific patterns in their cells. Encoding a great amount of information about how cells work, and the mating events that produced each one of us.
1. African (Haplogroups A and B) 60-270 kyBP
2. Mongoloid (C-M130) 53 kyBP
3. Caucasian (G-M201) 9.5-30 kyBP
Haplomap G haplomaps.com/haplogroup-g/