Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

Racial Differences in Sexual Dimorphism as an Explanation for Differences in Olympic Field and Track Achievement

Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

Racial Differences in Sexual Dimorphism as an Explanation for Differences in Olympic Field and Track Achievement

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

It is widely understood that there exist considerable racial differences in success in assorted sports. These differences have been looked at in depth with regard to a variety of sports, including short and long-distance running, American football, baseball, and swimming (see 1, 2, 3, 4). These differences have been argued to be a reflection of genetic racial differences because races tend to succeed in the sports success in which requires physical characteristics which those races tend to disproportionately have. In addition the relevant racial and sporting ability differences have been shown to exist at very young ages and sporting ability has been shown to be significantly heritable (see 2 & 4).

However, the published discussions which specifically argue that racial differences in sporting achievement are genetic in origin (e.g. 2, 3, 4) only focus on male differences in sporting achievement. They note, for example, that West Africans possess about 75% fast twitch muscle fibers and highly muscular (mesomorph) bodies, meaning that they are accomplished sprinters. East Africans tend to have 75% slow twitch muscle fibers, a large lung capacity and more ectomorphic (thin, lightly muscled) bodies, explaining their achievement in long distance running, as this is a test of endurance. However, this article will show, drawing upon widely available data, that there are clear differences in the racial profile of male Olympic medalists and female Olympic medalists in the same sports.

This article will argue that racial differences in sexual dimorphism help to explain these data. This hypothesis has never previously been suggested, and indeed this aspect of racial differences in sporting ability has not previous been examined. It is an important area to explore, and the hypothesis is important, because it helps to plug a hole in the argument that genetic racial differences partly predict sporting ability. If they do, they should significantly predict them in men and women and this hypothesis explains, within an evolutionary paradigm, how anomalies in this regard can be explained.

2. The Racial Category

The first point which needs to be emphasized is that it is meaningful to distinguish between races. 'Race' is employed, in effect, to refer to what in the animal world would be a subspecies: a breeding population separated from another of the same species long enough to be noticeably evolved to a different environment but not long enough to be unable to have fertile offspring with the other group. In other words, a race is a breeding population that differs genetically from other such populations as a result of geographical isolation, cultural separation and endogamy, and which shows patterns of genotypic frequency for a number of inter-correlated characteristics compared with other breeding populations. The most obvious manifestations of these differences will be observable differences in physical appearance and physical and mental ability which correlate together, indicating that it is useful, following the scientific desire to be able to make correct predictions about the world, to divide humans into racial categories in much the same way that we might divide a particular animal species into sub-species (5). As with any taxonomy (such as 'island' and 'mainland') (6. p.35), 'race' creates groups on the borders that do not fit neatly into one of two categories. Geographical contact zones may develop many thousands of years after races have separated and lead to racial hybrids. These hybrids, depending on the degree of admixture, will have intermediate genes frequencies in relation to the two parent races and, if an inbreeding hybrid population subsequently becomes genetically separated, either geographically or culturally, from the parent races, a case may develop for terming it a separate race.

Nei and Roychoudhury (7) and Cavalli-Sforza, Menozzi, and Piazza (8) developed a novel means of classifying humans into races on the basis of a variety of genetic polymorphisms. …

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