Presentation on human races to highlight Darwin Day

The subject of race has long been at the center of political conflict and war dating back centuries. What if our concept of human race as widely understood, were only partially true?

Dr. Alan Templeton, a known geneticist and speaker on evolution, will host a presentation showing the lack of genetic divergence among different race groups Jan. 26 at Meridian Ball Room in the Morris University Center. (Photo courtesy of Washington University

Dr. Alan Templeton, a geneticist and Professor Emeritus at Washington University, will address whether biologically-defined human races exist during a presentation held in celebration of Darwin Day. Darwin Day, which is celebrated around the world on or around Charles Darwin’s birthday, February 12,th celebrates his discovery of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Templeton will host a 50-minute speech, titled “Do Biological Races Exist in Humans?” at 3 p.m. Jan. 26 in the Meridian Ball Room of the Morris University Center. He will present evidence that shows a lack of genetic divergence among human race groups and shed light on some myths and mysteries about human diversity.

“People are interested in their own history – their own ancestry,” said SIUE Biological Sciences professor David Duvernell. “Everybody is interested in their origin, where they came from — their ancestry — and I think that the concept of a cultural race is so engrained in everybody.  Everyone accepts at some level that biological races exist as well. And from a genetic standpoint, Dr. Templeton has been able to show that’s simply not supported. The data for humans does not support biological races.”

Templeton argues that the concept of race lies more from a cultural perspective than from a genetic perspective. By analyzing genetic data sets, Templeton and others have shown that there is a great lack of genetic evidence of divergence among human populations and that, for example, some chimpanzee populations have more distinct biological markers than humans in terms of race. According to Templeton, natural selection is among the factors that differentiate humans from each other and that most evidence of genetic diversity lies in individual genetic variances and not race. According to Templeton’s article titled “Biological Races in Humans,” published in the academic journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, genetic differences between races could be determined by adaptive evolutionary traits brought by environmental factors.

While the presentation’s topic is geared toward Biological Sciences and Anthropology majors, Duvernell said he hopes that students from all disciplines will attend the lecture and has invited students from all departments to attend.

“I would hope it might dispel some misconceptions and get students to think more critically about science and what science has to offer,” Duvernell said.

Templeton is Charles Rebstock Professor of Biology Emeritus at Washington University. In addition to human evolutionary studies, Templeton also uses evolutionary genetic approaches toward conservation biology, including studying the impact of forest fires on animal species in our region.

After the presentation, reception will follow with refreshments.



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