Is there such a thing as a race?

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Today people use the word ‘race’ to suggest different groups of human beings according to their appearance. However, science cannot support such a way of dividing people up. Clearly there are people from different parts of the world with different diets, climates and cultures who have developed in different ways. Genetically there is no difference between people of different skin colours.

The word ‘race’ has sometimes been applied to different ethnic groups. This way of dividing people up became popular in the 17th and 18th centuries as scientists tried to organise their knowledge of the natural world. They began to divide up plants and animals into groups.

Explorers from Europe discovered very different groups of peoples and cultures around the world. As a result of this knowledge people began to divide humans into different groups. In 1859 Charles Darwin published his important work, ‘The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’. He claimed that certain species are best able to survive.

Race theorists misused the ideas of Charles Darwin. In a movement that became known as Social Darwinism, a theory of racial differences was applied to human beings. Since Europeans devised this idea, they placed themselves at the top of what became known as the racial pyramid. These ideas were used to claim that some races were superior to others.