The Steveosphere in The New Republic
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.)