Galileo Wept: A Critical Assessment of the Use of Race in Forensic Anthropology



Anthropology has been haunted by the misuse of the race concept since its beginnings. Although modern genetics has shown time and again that race is not a biological reality and cannot adequately describe human variation, many anthropologists are unable or unwilling to put aside racial typology as an explanatory tool. Here, we consider the case of forensic anthropology as an example often held up by uncritical anthropologists as evidence that the race concept "works." The logic appears to be that if forensic anthropologists are able to identify races in skeletal remains, races must be biological phenomena. We consider four general viewpoints on the subject of the validity and utility of race in forensic anthropology and offer an argument for the elimination of race as part of the "biological profile" identified by forensic anthropologists.