The New Republic
recently published an article entitled "Why genes don`t determine race: Race Against History
" by Merlin Chowkwanyun that`s a lot of the same old same old.
I`ve long felt my single biggest contribution was coming up with a definition of "racial group"
that was both rigorous and common-sensical ("a partly inbred extended family"
). Simply having a useful definition should do much to dispel the hysteria, bad-faith, status-seeking, and general air of nonsense surrounding the topic of race.
On the other hand, my definition hasn`t exactly swept like wildfire through the intellectual world as Chowkwanyun. But that`s the way it generally is. You don`t persuade famous thinkers, like, say, Richard Rorty,
you outlive them. A new generation then comes along that doesn`t have their egos invested in bad old ideas.
So, I was pleased to see in TNR a reply to the article by Justin Shubow
that demonstrates a good familiarity with state-of-the-art thinking on the subject.
(By the way, Steven Pinker was mistaken in attributing the phrase a "a race is just a very large and partly inbred family"
to my friend Vince Sarich—Sarich was the first to draw the analogy of races to fuzzy sets in math