if we are all descendants of the same people who travelled “out of Africa,” why are there so many different skin colors?

Question description

we are now aware of the genetic basis of skin color and understand that this particular human feature is governed by multiple genes (i.e., it is a polygenic trait) and thus gives rise to a spectrum of phenotypes. Now we need to place these concepts into an evolutionary framework.

DNA analysis indicates that we are all descended from a single ancestral group of Africans (Allmann, 2002; URL provided below). That is, all modern humans are descendants of a small number of ancestors who left central Africa about 150,000 years ago and whose descendants radiated across the globe.

For this writing assignment, you will write a 4-5 page (double space paper addressing the issue of human skin pigmentation from two directions:

  • First, if we are all descendants of the same people who travelled “out of Africa,” why are there so many different skin colors?
  • Second, discuss the ethical implications that could result from the scientific work on trying to understand skin pigmentation.

To formulate your answer to this question, read the article entitled “Skin Deep” (Jablonski and Chaplin, 2002) and the short transcript from Race (both emailed to you). Using the information from these sources, discuss in your paper (in your own words) the “sunscreen“ and “vitamin” hypotheses for the evolution of different skin pigmentation.

For example, should we categorize people based on the presence or absence of a gene or a small set of genes (as opposed to the entirety of who a person is)? Are there possibly objectionable uses for genetic information as a categorization tool? Is science condoning the classification of people based on color? Is this a topic that should be off-limits based on ethical grounds?

I am looking for you to consider the questions, develop pertinent theses, and support your theses with an organized discussion of properly cited/referenced research texts as much as possible. In other words, integrate your answers to both of these questions into an overall thesis for your paper (there are several directions you could choose). It is entirely appropriate to draw from additional sources for clarification of the science described in the article. Likewise, you may also ground your thesis in other written materials presented in this course (Dennett, Dawkins, Darwin, Wallace, Moore, etc.). You will need to find at least one additional source on your own.

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This essay is to be 4-5 pages in length, typed, double-spaced with standard margins (1” or less all around), 12 pt. Time New Roman font.

You must carefully, rigorously, and completely cite all sources used in your essay, both within your paper (in-text or parenthetical citations), and within a reference page at the end of your document. Use APA formatting.

Proper sentence and essay structure and spelling will be taken into account. Given References:

Jablonski, N.G., & Chaplin, G. (2002). Skin deep. Scientific American. 287, 74-81.

PBS. (2003). Program transcript [Excerpt, Scene #8]. Race: The power of an illusion, episode one: The difference between us. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-about-01-01.htm

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