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Do Humans Have Continental Populations?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


In this article I show that population geneticists are acknowledging a kind of biological population that has hitherto been unappreciated by philosophers. The new population talk occurs when population geneticists call continent-level human genetic clusters ‘populations’ in population structure research. My theory is that the kind of population being referred to is the K population, which is, roughly, a biological population whose members are united by common genomic ancestry and in which population membership is graded. After presenting and defending the theory, I show that the K population is indeed a kind of biological population. Finally, I address likely objections.

Population Concepts and Race
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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I would like to thank Robert Brandon, Roberta Millstein, Grant Ramsey, and Jacob Stegenga for helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this paper. I would also like to thank Michael Hunter for organizing the symposium “Population Concepts and Race” at the PSA 2014 Biennial Meeting that prompted the idea for this paper. Last, I’d like to thank the faculty and students of Duke University’s philosophy department for providing valuable feedback on this paper at a colloquium talk. This research was funded by a Faculty Development Fund Travel Award from the University of San Francisco.


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