The Steveosphere in The New Republic
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June 17, 2007, 01:36 AM
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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.)