“Biological Reality and the Problem of Biological Races” by Quayshawn Spencer (University of San Francisco)
Date: 10:35am - 12:00pm PDT April 4, 2014 Location: Gregg Pavilion
Since Noah Rosenberg et al.’s (2002) discovery of human population structure that looks racial, philosophers have been scrambling to understand what these results mean for the nature and reality of race. Although there have been many objections to interpreting any level of human population structure as racial, for the purposes of this talk, I will focus on one specific objection: that biological races must be objectively real. In my talk, I will debunk this view by arguing that biologically real entities can reasonably be understood as what I call ‘genuine biological entities’, which are not necessarily objectively real. After introducing the theory, I will motivate it with examples from the history of biology. Finally, I will return to the original problem and show that all human populations are biologically real despite not being objectively real. I leave it as an open question as to whether any human populations are races.