Human mental abilities, such as intelligence, are complex and profoundly important, both in a practical sense and for what they imply about the human condition. Understanding these abilities in mechanistic terms has the potential to facilitate their enhancement. There is strong evidence that the lateral prefrontal cortex, and possibly other areas, support intelligent behaviour. Variations in intelligence and brain structure are heritable, but are also influenced by factors such as education, family environment and environmental hazards. Cognitive, psychometric, genetic and neuroimaging studies are converging, and the emergence of mechanistic models of intelligence is inevitable. These exciting scientific advances encourage renewed responsiveness to the social and ethical implications of conducting such research.
It is nowadays a dominant opinion in a number of disciplines (anthropology, genetics, psychology, philosophy of science) that the taxonomy of human races does not make much biological sense. My aim is to challenge the arguments that are usually thought to invalidate the biological concept of race. I will try to show that the way ‘‘race’’ was defined by biologists several decades ago (by Dobzhansky and others) is in no way discredited by conceptual criticisms that are now fashionable and widely regarded as cogent. These criticisms often arbitrarily burden the biological category of race with some implausible connotations, which then opens the path for a quick eliminative move. However, when properly understood, the biological notion of race proves remarkably resistant to these deconstructive attempts. Moreover, by analyzing statements of some leading contemporary scholars who support social constructivism about race, I hope to demonstrate that their eliminativist views are actually in conflict with what the best contemporary science tells us about human genetic variation.
Before I start, though, a preliminary clarification is in order.Hochman kindly calls my article ‘‘one of the strongest defenses of racial naturalism in recent times’’, which might suggest to the reader that my goal was to offer a full-fledged biological explication of the concept of race. But in fact my ambition was more limited. As I explained:My aim in this paper was not to prove the biological reality ofrace. Rather, more modestly, I have tried to show that typical attempts to disconnect the concept of race from genetics have too quickly and too uncritically been accepted by many ‘‘race critics’’. (Sesardic, 2010, p. 160; italics added)I will continue defending the same position in this article.