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Statement on «Race»
proposed by the participants of the Scientific Workshop of the International
UNESCO-Conference «Against Racism, Violence, and Discrimination», June 8 and
9, 1995, Schlaining Castle, Austria. Chairman and organizer: Horst Seidler,
University of Vienna.
The revolution in our thinking about population genetics and molecular biology has
led to an explosion of knowledge about living organisms. Among the ideas that have
been profoundly altered are concepts of human variation. The concept of «race»
carried over from the past into the 20th century has become entirely obsolete. In spite
of this, the concept has been used to justify totally unacceptable violations of human
rights. An important step towards preventing such abuse of genetic arguments is to
replace the outdated concept of «race» with ideas and conclusions based upon current
understanding of genetic variation as it applies to human populations.
«Races» are traditionally believed to be genetically homogenous and different one
from the other. This definition was developed to describe human diversity associated
e.g. with various geographical locations. However, recent advances in modern
biology based on techniques of molecular genetics and on mathematical models of
population genetics have shown this definition to be totally inadequate. Current
scientific findings do not support the earlier view that human populations can be
classified into discrete «races» like «Africans», «Eurasians» (including «Native
Americans»), or any greater number of subdivisions.
Specifically, between human populations, including smaller groupings, genetic
differences may be detected. These differences tend to increase with geographic
distance, but the basic genetic variation between populations is much less prominent.
This means that human genetic diversity is only gradual and presents no major
discontinuity between populations. Findings supporting this conclusions defy
traditional classification of «races» and make any typological approach totally
inadequate. Furthermore, molecular analysis of genes occurring in different versions
(alleles), have shown that within any group the inherited variation among individuals
is large, while, in comparison, variation between groups is comparatively small.
It is easy to recognise differences in external appearance (skin colour, morphology of
body and face, pigmentation etc.) among people of various parts of the world, but the
underlying genetic variation itself is much less prominent. Though it seems
paradoxical to acknowledge the existence of conspicuous genetically-determined
morphological differences, genetic variations in underlying physiological features and
functions are very minor when population means are considered. In other words,
perception of morphological differences may erroneously lead us to infer substantial
underlying genetic differences.
Evidence indicates that during the course of evolution of modern humans there has
been relatively little change in the fundamental genetic constitution of populations.
Molecular analysis of genes also strongly suggest that modern humans have only
recently expanded into habitable world regions, adapting, in the process, to very
different and sometimes extreme environmental conditions (e g. harsh climates) in a
relatively short time span. The necessity to adapt to extreme environmental
2
differences has only generated changes in a small subset of genes affecting sensitivity
towards environmental factors. It is worth mentioning that these adaptations in
response to environmental conditions are largely historical and are not consequential
for life in modem civilisation. Nevertheless they are construed by some as reflecting
substantial differences between groups of people thereby contributing to the concept
of «races».
According to scientific understanding, therefore, categorization of humans along
distribution of genetically determined factors are artificial and encourage the
production of unending lists of arbitrary and misleading social perceptions and
images. Furthermore, there is no convincing evidence for «racial» divergences in
intelligent, emotional, motivational or other psychological and behavioural
characteristics that are independent of cultural factors. It is well known that certain
genetic traits which are beneficial for one life situation may be disadvantageous for
another one.
Racism is the belief that human populations differ in heritable traits of social values
making certain groups superior or inferior to others. There is no convincing scientific
evidence that this belief is warranted. This document asserts that there is no
scientifically reliable way to characterise human diversity using the rigid terms of
«racial» categories or the traditional «race» concept There is no scientific reason to
continue using the term «race».
The following scientists participated in the workshop and accepted the statement
CAVALLI-SFORZA, L. L., Stanford University of Medicine, California, USA
CHARLESWORTH, W., Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, USA
CHIARELLI, B., Intituto di Antropologia, Universita degli Studi die Firenze, Italien
DITTAMI, J., Institut für Zoologie, Universität Wien, Österreich
EIBEN, O., Department of Biology, Eötvös Lorand University, Budapest, Ungarn
FALK, D., Department of Anthropology, University of Albany, New York, USA
FREY, S., Laboratorium für Interaktionsforschung, Universität Duisburg, Deutschland
GABAIN, A. VON, Institut für Mikrobiologie und Genetik, Universität Wien, Österreich
GOODMAN, A. H., Department of Anthropology, Hampshire College, School of Natural
Science, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
GRAMMER, K., Institut für Stadtethologie, Wien, Österreich
JÜRGENS, H. W., Anthropologisches Institut, Neue Universität Kiel, Deutschland
KATTMANN, U., Didaktik der Biologie, Fachbereich Biologie, Universität Oldenburg,
Deutschland
MÜLLER-HILL, B., Institut für Genetik, Universität Köln, Deutschland
PREUSCHOFT, H., Abteilung für funktionelle Anatomie, Universität Bochum, Deutschland
RUDAN, P., Institute for Anthropological Research. University of Zagreb, Kroatien
SEIDLER, H., Institut für Humanbiologie, Universität Wien, Österreich
SJÖLANDER, S., Department of Biology, Linköpings Universitet, Schweden
TIGER, L., Department of Anthropology, University of New Yersey, New Yersey, USA
Addresses: Prof. Dr. U. Kattmann, Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg,
Postfach 2503, D-26111 Oldenburg
Prof. Dr. H. Seidler, Institut für Humanbiologie, Althanstr 14
A-1091 Wien
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Institut für Zoologie Laboratorium für Interaktionsforschung Department of Anthropology
  • Stanford University Of Medicine
  • Usa California
  • W Charlesworth
  • B Usa Chiarelli
  • Dittami Italien
  • J Österreich
  • O Ungarn
  • D Frey
  • S Deutschland
  • A Von
  • Institut Für Mikrobiologie Und Genetik
  • Universität Wien
  • Goodman Österreich
  • A H Grammer
  • K Deutschland
  • B Deutschland
  • H Deutschland
  • P Kroatien
CAVALLI-SFORZA, L. L., Stanford University of Medicine, California, USA CHARLESWORTH, W., Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, USA CHIARELLI, B., Intituto di Antropologia, Universita degli Studi die Firenze, Italien DITTAMI, J., Institut für Zoologie, Universität Wien, Österreich EIBEN, O., Department of Biology, Eötvös Lorand University, Budapest, Ungarn FALK, D., Department of Anthropology, University of Albany, New York, USA FREY, S., Laboratorium für Interaktionsforschung, Universität Duisburg, Deutschland GABAIN, A. VON, Institut für Mikrobiologie und Genetik, Universität Wien, Österreich GOODMAN, A. H., Department of Anthropology, Hampshire College, School of Natural Science, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA GRAMMER, K., Institut für Stadtethologie, Wien, Österreich JÜRGENS, H. W., Anthropologisches Institut, Neue Universität Kiel, Deutschland KATTMANN, U., Didaktik der Biologie, Fachbereich Biologie, Universität Oldenburg, Deutschland MÜLLER-HILL, B., Institut für Genetik, Universität Köln, Deutschland PREUSCHOFT, H., Abteilung für funktionelle Anatomie, Universität Bochum, Deutschland RUDAN, P., Institute for Anthropological Research. University of Zagreb, Kroatien SEIDLER, H., Institut für Humanbiologie, Universität Wien, Österreich SJÖLANDER, S., Department of Biology, Linköpings Universitet, Schweden TIGER, L., Department of Anthropology, University of New Yersey, New Yersey, USA Addresses: Prof. Dr. U. Kattmann, Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg, Postfach 2503, D-26111 Oldenburg Prof. Dr. H. Seidler, Institut für Humanbiologie, Althanstr 14 A-1091 Wien