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Barely a week seems to go by without some high-profile case of racism: the murder of Stephen Lawrence, Donald Trump refusing to distance himself from the vocal white supremacists who are backing his candidacy, or football hooligans throwing a black man from a train. It happens with such depressing regularity that our collective conscience is barely stirred by it.
When science moved from accepting that the Sun revolved around the Earth and that man was placed here by the fickle finger-point of a higher power, there was a flurry of new thought. The foremost of these was, and still is, Darwin's Origin of the Species. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Darwin was not a racist; he viewed mankind as one race in evolutionary terms. He was a abolitionist who was very impressed by his black taxidermy tutor at Edinburgh, freed slave John Edmondstone.
His theory of the equality of man certainly didn't hold much sway with his cousin, Francis Galton. Galton was a HUGE racist. Among his unsupportable statements, he said that the "Negroe" [sic] was "vastly inferior", "Hindoos" [sic] were "inferior in strength and business habits", and that the "Arab is little more than an eater up of other man's produce; he is a destroyer". Galton also has the dubious honour of being the creator of the word "eugenics", an idea which prompted many an early 20th century scientists' enthusiasm for the sterilisation of "enfeebled stock", including Marie Stopes, Theodore Roosevelt and even Winston Churchill.
Even today, race continues to be a blight on the face of science. James Watson, discoverer of the double helix DNA structure, has made unpalatable and unsupportable statements on the subject of race as late as 2007, saying that "while people might like to think that all races are born with equal intelligence, those who have to deal with black employees know that's not true."
So does race exist?
No. While we all know racism exists, race does not.
The Human Genome Project gathered complete genomes from all over the world. They found that, even when migration was accounted for, there was simply no genetic marker found in the genomes of the people of Africa that was absent in the genomes of European people or vice versa.
In one example, the genomes of American scientists James Watson (he of the racist remark) and Craig Venter were compared to the genome of Korean scientist Seong-Jin Kim. It was actually found that Watson and Venter's genomes had less in common with each other than they had with Kim's genome.
To further answer this question of whether race exists, scientists have set a minimal threshold for the amount of genetic differentiation necessary to recognise sub-species in any mammal, using molecular data. Though humans have the widest distribution (based on 16 populations from Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Australia-Pacific region) humans not only do not meet that threshold, we actually have among the lowest known differentiation of any large mammal.
So, now we all know we can stop pretending there's any scientific validity in racism, let's look at some of the potential damage the race myth can have.