Declaration on the "Jena Declaration" of the German Zoological Society (DZG) 2019:
Kunz, W. (2021): Immer wieder missverstanden - Die Unterteilung von Arten in Rassen. In: Biologie in unserer Zeit 51 (2), im Druck.
In September 2019, the "Jena Declaration" was published at the 112th annual meeting of the German Zoological Society in Jena. This public dogmatic declaration claims that there are no races in humans and does not take into account that the term “race” has always been defined differently in the philosophy of science. Instead, only one of several racial concepts is selected (genetic distance), and the other racial definitions (see this website “What is a species and what is a race?”) are ignored.
The fact that science works with several racial concepts does not justify saying: "Science has proven that there are no races in humans" (this is how the Jena message was received by the press and the public). That would then have to be proven for all race definitions. But even if one understands the race only as a group of organisms that are separated from another group by a "certain" genetic distance, it is a question of races that are then separated from one another just by a very small distance. But the “Jena Declaration” does not say that the distance between human races is very small, it says that there are no human races.
The "Jena Declaration" already claims in the title that the concept of race (in humans) is the "result of racism". In this way, the scientists who continue to adhere to the concept of race are moved into the camp of the racists, as is one of the most renowned German evolutionary researchers: Ernst Haeckel. The term “race” is a biological technical term, whereas the term “racist” is an ethical and sociological term. The two expressions are not on the same level. A “racist” is not someone who works with races, but a person who considers members of other races to be inferior. Anyone who studies races is not a racist. In this respect, the title of the publication of the “Jena Declaration” mixes things up that are not on the same platform. The title mixes scientific knowledge with ethical convictions.
The genetic basis of the supposedly non-existent racial differences:
The conclusion that there are no races in humans goes back to the American population geneticist Lewontin, who refused to distinguish races according to phenotypic characteristics because these characteristics are subjectively selected by humans. This is not true, however, because the features relevant to racial differentiation are geographical adaptations. Instead, Lewontin invoked that members of different races are genetically almost the same because the allele variance differences between two individually selected members of a race can be greater than between two members of different races, so that individually singled out individuals cannot be assigned to the races.
But here is another mistake by Lewontin, which was subsequently corrected several times by statisticians and philosophers. Lewontin compared individuals of different races only in terms of separate single isolated characteristics. You should never do that in taxonomy. Taxonomic group diversity is not based on separate single characteristics. Only the combination of several characteristics makes it. Philosophy calls this "family resemblance" (after Wittgenstein). A group assignment of organisms in the taxonomy cannot be made according to individual characteristics (essential characteristics) that are singled out.
So it depends on the combination of several characteristics in individuals when defining racial differences and assigning organisms to races. And it is important that the number of these characteristics that distinguish races is extremely small in many species, because it is essentially only the few geographical adaptations. If one were to adhere solely to the fact that group difference is based on the higher degree of allelic inter-group variance compared to intra-group variance, then one could also deny the existence of genders; because the allele variance differences between two individually selected women (or men) can also be greater than between a woman and a man. Even women and men are “genetically almost the same”, and it is still possible to assign individual organisms to the sexes.
Since the term race is an elementary scientific term in zoology (which is still being worked on in thousands of publications in zoological systematics), the “Jena Declaration” (with the intention of abolishing the term race) should have taken the zoological systematists on board rather than single-handedly abolishing the races of a single species (Homo sapiens). At least zoological practice would be seriously affected. It sounds quite paradoxical that the “Jena Declaration” was passed by the German Zoological Society.
Instead of the “Jena Declaration” having used its chance to inform the population how a race is defined in science (when the term “race” is so widely misunderstood and misused), the “Jena Declaration” simply abolishes the race This message does not reach the racists who should have been reached.