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Thomas M. Greiner, Ph.d.
04-21-1998, 06:43 AM
This note is in response to Mark Swanepoel's submission about the use of
"Race" in biomechanical studies. First, I'd like to say that he has made
many valid points, but in so doing has also missed a few.

True, the word "race" has gotten so garbled with it's cultural overtones
that is difficult to use in a way that is unlikely to be misinterpreted.
True, there is no such thing as a "pure" racial group -- each group
blends with its neighbors so that it is nearly impossible to drawn
non-arbitrary boundaries between them. Still, that does not mean that
the concept of race, geographic morphotypes, or whatever term you want
to use, has no value in biology.

Take an example without the cultural overtones. Blue -- a color in the
visible light spectrum. It has characteristics that can be measured,
certain physical associations, and conjures up the meaning of a color
that we all immediately understand. Yet, the physicist would have
trouble telling you where green ends and blue begins on the light
spectrum. Does this mean that the word "blue" and the concept of colors
has no meaning or value? I don't think so.

The essential task of a biologist is to determine what differences
within and between populations are meaningful and in what context they
have meaning,. I suspect that within most biomechanical applications the
concept of "race" has no value. However, that is a suspicion based as
much upon my understanding of human biology as upon my own particular
cultural bias.

So, does the concept of race have any value in biomechanics? The
question has never really been addressed in biomechanics. The jury is
still out.

--
Thomas M. Greiner, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anatomy
New York Chiropractic College
Seneca Falls, NY 13148-0800 USA

Phone Office: (315) 568-3183
Phone Lab: (315) 568-3239
Fax: (315) 568-3017
EMail: tgreiner@nycc.edu

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