Ooookay, this is gonna be a bit rant-ish because it’s one of my pet peeves, filed under “Scientists expect us to respect them, while they’re pulling crap like this?!”
Vox Day graciously invited the seething mob of people calling him all sorts of derogatory names on the internet (I’m shocked, shocked that people call each other derogatory names on the internet!) to come by his blog and argue their position, i.e. that Vox is a racist. If you have a bowl of popcorn handy, you might be interested in reading what happened next. There’s the usual “You’re a racist because I said so” argument, but as we inched into the upper 300s some actual argumentation started. I think it’s currently stalled out on a difference of opinion on the working definition of “inherent,” and then somebody else came along and wanted to argue using a different definition of “racist,” so we’ll see where that goes. Especially amusing as the new definition of “racist” would literally label reality itself racist. (But then, it’s pretty obvious that a lot of people, like feminists, are really angry with the realities of biology and will call anyone who admits to the realities of biology nasty names.)
Of course, eventually somebody got around to bringing up speciation:
Any two groups, no matter what the scale of geography involved, can be divided and will have genetic variation. In your theory, we could call any of these sub-species.
The cichlids of Lake Malawi would like to point out that they quite happily and successfully hybridize across genus lines in situations of artificially imposed diversity, such as when a noob keeps red zebras in the same aquarium with electric yellows. For that matter, red zebras have been classed in three different genera since their original discovery!
So for most lifeforms on earth, you’d be lucky to only be considered a different subspecies based on minor geographical distance and subtle differences in phenotype. If scientists were consistent in their nomenclature, either there would be at least three major human species groups plus myriad subspecies groups; or there’d be a heckuva lot fewer “species” floating around in the rest of the animal kingdom.
I find the inconsistency really irritating, and it doesn’t help that we do the same thing (arbitrarily denying unique species names) to domesticated animals. Where in nature will you ever see two population groups as different as Great Danes and chihuahuas in the same species?! The whole thing is a vast bulk of ad-hoc rationalizations for scientists doing field work to stroke their egos by being the first to “describe” a “new” “species.” Oh, and the scientists who work with ancient human remains do the exact same thing – classing bone fragments with slightly different DNA as different human species entirely and yet totally refusing to see the logic of classing modern hybrid descendants of these ancient “species” of human as differing subspecies from the pure African lines. Nope, nothing to see here, moving on. Somehow, magically, natural selection started reversing itself so that we’re all the same species now. Despite what your lying eyes are telling you. Riiiiiight. Suuuuuure. Don’t wave your creepy sense of logic around here, gotcha.
I want to see somebody write a sci-fi story where aliens who’ve developed a similar scientific nomenclature arrive on earth and start happily swapping notes with their human counterparts, right up until the aliens cheerfully share their classification of humanity into at least five different genera. And then the heads of all the politically correct explode. (Maybe that last part’s just me being evil again.)
The basic problem here is that people DO take scientific classification too seriously. Who cares if a bunch of people who wear white lab coats decide to assign names to genetically different populations? That doesn’t make any of us any less human! You’d think a group of people who routinely dream up sentient aliens would realize that the value of a reasoning, self-aware mind doesn’t depend on the genetic makeup of its housing. At all. Jeez.