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Abstract

Information about social issues is underemphasized in college science education. This article takes the race concept as an example of this neglect. We review the history of the race concept and report the current status of the concept in textbooks and among professors. Responses to surveys of faculty at Ph.D.-granting departments indicate that 67% of biologists accept the concept of biological races in the species Homo sapiens, while only 50% of physical anthropologists do so. Content analysis of college textbooks indicates a significant degree of change over time (1936–1984) in physical anthropology but a lesser degree in biology. We suggest several reasons for the dissimilarity in the two disciplines. We propose continued use of the concept for some infrahuman species, while abandoning its application to Homo sapiens. For those biologists and anthropologists who continue to use the concept, scientific accuracy can be achieved by the presentation in lecture and text of the following ideas: first, consensus among scientists on the race concept's utility and accuracy does not exist; second, there is more variation within than between so-called races; third, discordant gradations due to natural selection, drift, and interbreeding make consistent racial boundary lines impossible to identify; fourth, past use of the race concept has had harmful consequences; fifth, the most precise study of human hereditary variation maps one trait at a time; and sixth, racial labels are misleading, especially as most populations have a cultural designation.