Evolutionary Biologist to Speak about Race at UA ALLELE Lecture

Joseph Graves
Dr. Joseph Graves

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. Joseph Graves Jr., an evolutionary biologist and geneticist, will speak about race Nov. 10 as a part of the Alabama Lectures on Life’s Evolution, or ALLELE, seminar series.

The lecture, titled “Great Is Their Sin: Biological Determinism in the Age of Genomics,” begins at 7:30 p.m. in the North Lawn Hall Auditorium on The University of Alabama campus.

The event is free and open to the public.

During his lecture, Graves will address how race is not determined genetically and show that some biological differences among humans arise from social practices based on racism instead.

Dr. Chris Lynn, the lecture host and director of evolutionary studies and an associate professor of anthropology at UA, referred, as an example, to the greater risk African-American communities have for cardiovascular disease.

He said that the disease is not inherent in African-American DNA because of their race; rather it is due to the physical effects and stresses of discrimination and poverty which they have been subjected to historically.

“Our definition of race is totally cultural,” Lynn said. “Humans don’t have enough genetic variance to distinguish between populations.”

In fact, he added, the deer population in the Southeast has more racial diversity than humans do.

“The nongenetic basis of race is one of the most important things we’ve ever hosted a lecture about,” Lynn said. “The lecture should be attended by anyone who ever plans to vote for a public official in the U.S.”

Graves is a professor and associate dean of research at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, a collaborative project between North Carolina A&T State University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

His research concerns the genetics of aging and the biological concept of race in humans. He authored the books “The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium” and “The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America.”

The ALLELE series brings speakers to the UA campus to discuss aspects of evolution.

The 2016-2017 ALLELE series is supported by UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Alabama Museum of Natural History, the Office of Academic Affairs, Honors College, the Blount Scholars Program, and UA’s departments of American studies, anthropology, biological sciences, chemistry, communicative disorders, criminology and criminal justice, communication studies, education studies in psychology, journalism and creative media, mathematics, music, research methodology and counseling, English, geological sciences, history, New College, philosophy, physics and astronomy, psychology, theater and dance and religious studies.

Learn more about the series at evolution.ua.edu.

The ALLELE lecture series is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Truman, Rhodes and Goldwater scholarships.


Courtney Corbridge, courtney.a.corbridge@ua.edu, 205/348-8539


Chris Lynn, cdlynn@ua.edu