Volume 40, Issue 5 (September 1995)
But Professor, Why Teach Race Identification if Races Don't Exist?
Although the typological race concept is obsolete in present-day systematic biology and anthropology, the idea that human populations and individuals are classifiable into separate races (Blacks, Whites, Native Americans, etc.) persists in government census data and mass media sources as well as in the forensic sciences. Determination of ancestry is a critical component of the forensic anthropologist's methodology in identification of human remains. In training students in laboratory techniques of personal identification, the paradox of the scientific rejection of the race concept and its survival in medical-legal contexts needs to be addressed explicitly. Forensic anthropologists and their colleagues in other branches of biological anthropology are best able to determine the ancestral background of an individual when they are familiar with the geographical distributions and frequencies of phenotypic traits in modern populations. Their methodology does not necessitate a racial classification based upon nonconcordant characters in order to provide evidence for positive identification of individuals.