The question about correlation between penis size and race does not clarify what is meant by 'race'. Such vague questions need clarification, or should be closed.

It the answer doesn't clarify the question, we end in vagueness, and I don't think it is acceptable, that the answerer has to clarify what a question means. This can lead to situations, where the answerer has to bring multiple evidences, one for each possible interpretation of the question.

In a few situations, analyzing the possible interpretations of the problem will already debunk parts of it.

The race question, as it is now, encourages the view, that there are 2 races, 'white' and 'black', identified by the rough color of the skin. This precondition is already racism and should not be allowed here, imho.

review after 2 days:

The question still starts with an hint to an unlinked video from which the title isn't known - we just know it is animated and has some statistics. The statistics aren't cited, we are just told, that there are some.

The word 'race' is explained with a short citation from wikipedia, which is cut at the point, where wikipedia becomes critical, and says but ....

But without repeating the whole lot of problems, wikipedia talks about, the definition has already two serious problems. The author cites an alternative (phenotypical characteristics or geographic ancestry) and doesn't clarify, which of them is relevant, and he cites just a sentence, which describes the usage of the term (often based on factors such as) - but what was expected was a clarification, how he wants to use the term.

And you cannot answer the question how you want to interpret it with a remark about what was observed in the past.

So I conclude, that he didn't think about it before asking, and didn't make up his mind, what his question is about, and he invested nearly no work, to improve the question, to clarify what he thinks.

It is just a fun question, which no answer can satisfy. Distinct populations are history - you won't find distinct races, and distinctions you can make are simplifications, where you can't find a serious, scientific paper for.

I feel ashamed about the question, and wouldn't like to see my friends, that such a question is asked here, unquestioned. I think there is a strong smell in the question, and the amount of work, spend to heal it, isn't worth keeping it.

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    Related: using common sense and your own knowledge to understand the question: meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/414/… If you don't really understand what's asked you might not be qualified enough to answer but that's hardly a reason to close it.
    – user288
    Commented May 3, 2011 at 6:37
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    @Sejanus: I fear it is exactly the so called 'common sense', which is able to classify people by race, which is the problem here. But maybe you have a clear idea of races, which you like to explain here - or isn't it verbalizable? Can you give an rough estimate, for example, how many races of men there are on earth? Commented May 4, 2011 at 2:22
  • How many races are on Earth is irrelevant. I understand you've got some issues with the term "race" but please don't bring them to this site.
    – user288
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 6:02
  • @Sejanus: Your last sentence is just unconstructive noise. I don't have issues with the term 'race', I have issues with racist ideology, and I hope I'm not the only one. Commented May 4, 2011 at 14:24
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    Claiming races exist is not a racist ideology. Accusing other people of racism just because of different opinion on the existence of races is an insult, though. Shouldn't be allowed here.
    – user288
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 6:33
  • I didn't say, that Claiming races exist is a racist ideology. Don't twist my words. Commented May 5, 2011 at 9:51
  • I think everyone knows what people mean when they talk about 'race'. That's what the question is about: 'race' as people perceive it. Is this term scientific accurate? Doesn't matter! (for that question) Do we need that video? No! Everyone heard the idea that (you-know-which-people) have bigger penises than (you-also-know-which-people), at least once before. The question is perfectly valid for this site and not racist, even if the above idea actually is racist. I agree that questions about such topics should be phrased well and carefully, to make clear they are not biased and meant offensive. Commented Jul 1, 2011 at 15:47
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    Everyone knows, that you can't say everyone, if someone doesn't agree. I don't agree, and I'm not alone, asking what is meant with race. The answer which you suggest seems to be a raciest answer, imho. You might think that that's enough reason to ask such stupid questions, but I don't agree. I perceive it as offending. Commented Jul 1, 2011 at 16:06

5 Answers 5


Closing questions that are not clarified is not only policy on Skeptics, but across the whole tack Exchange Network. With that said, no request to clarify has been made here. The scientific validity of the term has been questioned, but very little has been said the vagueness of the term.

Ask the user to clarify and, if he doesn't comply, we'll close the question.

  • -1: I see no reason to close. The meaning(s) of race is (are) perfectly clear, I assure you the asker didn't mean cars racing and penis size of their respective drivers.
    – user288
    Commented May 3, 2011 at 6:41
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    @Sejanus: In which race one falls into is not self-evident. It needs to be defined, as there are many ways to categorize by race. Common sense isn't enough here.
    – Borror0
    Commented May 3, 2011 at 7:30
  • Does it matter for the purpose of the question?
    – user288
    Commented May 3, 2011 at 11:00

If you're of the opinion that there's no such thing as race, post that as an answer, rather than close the question because you think it's racist.

Update: I've started up a related question about whether questions about offensive claims are allowed. I'm not 100% certain that you're against all questions about race on Skeptics, but it's a topic we'll have to deal with at some stage anyway: Are questions about offensive claims allowed?

  • Would you accept a question and try to answer it, if you would think it is racist? I don't hope so. And since I don't answer the question, to put my complaint in an answer would be off topic, imho. Commented May 2, 2011 at 17:22
  • Question cannot be "racist"
    – user288
    Commented May 3, 2011 at 11:01
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    Because you say so? I say, a question can have an implication, which is wrong, and which is racist. Commented May 4, 2011 at 2:25
  • loaded questions aren't welcome here no matter if the load implies some "racist" idea or not. Questions like "is an average IQ of the Black race is lower than one of the White race" are perfectly legit.
    – user288
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 6:10
  • There is no such thing as a black race. If you take a group of native inhabitants of Mozambique* and Norway, you can find some genes which occur in every person of the one group, but not the other and vice versa. But if you take such groups in Greece and Mali, you get a similar, but not the same result. And now you take the Greeks and the Norwegians, and you are able to group them, and you can group the people from Mali and Mozambique. But you can't do it for europeans and africans, you can't build two groups - black here, white there. *Disclaimer: Mocambique, Mali, Norway and Greek are ... Commented May 4, 2011 at 14:08
  • ... just examples. There might be more than one race here and there, so that you need to take much smaller groups. Or the group might extend the borders of said nations. The keypoint stays: If you distinguish black and white, you do an arbitrary distinction which is not foundet. If you would look at the real color of the skin, you would observe much more differences. Only wishfully ignorance can lead to a concept of a handful races. Commented May 4, 2011 at 14:20
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    What you said is irrelevant. If there "really" is a black and a white race is irrelevant. What's important is that everybody knows what these term means, what "black" and "wite" race include and what not, so it's perfectly possible to answer the question about allegedly different IQ (or penis size) of these groups. The claim that it's different is either true or false, the rest is noise.
    – user288
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 6:26
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    @Sejanus “too localized.” What you say may apply in the US, and perhaps (!) some other English-speaking countries. It doesn’t apply in Europe, for instance. “Race” has a completely different meaning here, and people of different skin colour are never differentiated into races. We may speak of “ethnicities” (but even then only vaguely) and neither “Caucasians” nor “Blacks” are “races”. Commented May 17, 2011 at 11:26
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    @ Konrad: generalizing much, eh? I live in Europe and we do speak of races, you are wrong.
    – user288
    Commented May 17, 2011 at 16:57

It is just a fun question, which no answer can satisfy. Distinct populations are history - you won't find distinct races, and distinctions you can make are simplifications, where you can't find a serious, scientific paper for.

That's wrong. There are plenty of recent serious academic papers that use the term race.

  • Anecdotally. I was at a talk on Evolution, Darwin and Karl von Linné at my university where the speaker (who was a senior biologist) in reply to an audience question claimed that we stopped talking about race for political reasons, and that we don't apply the same models of classification towards humans as we do other species. Although he also thought humans were "a little special" when the audience members asked him about that, so maybe he forgot to take his medication in the morning (for all I know).
    – Kit Sunde
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 22:00
  • Can you please provide evidence? Maybe the studies define race themselve? Commented May 4, 2011 at 22:00
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    skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/399/… is a question on the normal side about the topic. It has an answer from myself that shows examples. In general it's very easy to go to Google Scholar or Sciencedirect and simply type 'race' in the search bar.
    – Christian
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 9:31
  • Having a clearly defined usage of the term in a certain study doesn't make the term clearly defined for the question at hand. Beside: I don't understand what the normal side about the topic should mean. What is the unnormal side of the topic? What makes a side of the topic, and how do we classify it as normal or not. Commented May 5, 2011 at 10:10
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    It doesn't make sense to define the term more narrowly in the OP. Any study that studies race would provide a worthwhile answer even when different studies would define the term a bit differently. - I'm sorry, typo I meant site not side. Normal as opposed to these meta discussions.
    – Christian
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 11:10
  • I still don't understand the normal site about the topic. However, I have a question: Do you think that racism is (and was) impossible at universities? Commented May 7, 2011 at 3:53

I don't have an opinion of the innate quality of the question itself (or rather I'm too lazy to formulate one worth posting). BUT, since the answer based on research appears to be that there are no statistically significant differences even if you assume such a thing as "race" exists, I'm not sure the question of "is race a valid concept" is fully relevant in this context (however, I fully support the effort to request that the original poster qualify explicitly what they mean by "race" - the more precise the claim, the more precise the answer confirming or disproving said claim can be).

Just to be clear, if the main research DID indicate that there is statistically significant racial differences, then questioning whether the grouping into races was done in a scientifically acceptable level becomes a valid vector of criticism of such a study.

Relevant reading: Bamshad, Michael; Steve E. Olson (12/2003). "Does Race Exist?". Scientific American. "If races are defined as genetically discrete groups, no. But researchers can use some genetic information to group individuals into clusters with medical relevance."


  • Let's say a question is asked "do alien abductions result in people growing 3 heads"?

  • It is answered with research that "there are no credible reports of people with 3 heads", so no alien abductions can result in people growing 3 heads.

  • My point is that arguing that there are no alien abductions in the first place is irrelevant to the answer. The objection has nothing to do with the answer, independently of whether the objection has merit on its own or not.

P.S. Totally off-topic as far as original question, but userunknown is wrong in the last paragraph. Noting that humans can be grouped based on phenotypal/genetic difference is NOT racism, according to definition on Wikipedia. Treating them differently based on that grouping is racism.

  • The problem is a little more subtile. You may find some groups of people in the amazonas region, which have been separated over thousands of years - so there you can speak about a race. But in Europe, and therefore in the US, where lot of americans come from, and in the US, people mixed themselves with other people: Celts, Goth, Frank, Hun, Romans, Greek, Vikings and so on. African slaves were brought to America and mixed themselves and all of them mixed further. The question is: Where do you get a pool of a race from? Who knows his ancestors for more than 10 generations? Commented May 2, 2011 at 16:08
  • Nobody in the civilized world knows. And therefore the whole concept of race is only meaningful for a very, very small population, if used seriously. And the other alternative is, to use it just as 'we and them', black and white and Indios, as a rough grouping of skin color, which isn't 'race'. Commented May 2, 2011 at 16:11
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    @user - You are arguing the wrong point, or in the wrong venue. All I'm saying is that whether race is defined well or not is irrelevant when the answer is "there is no differences no matter HOW you define race or if you define it at all". Your arguments belong to a skeptics question that asked about "whether race is a valid concept".
    – user5341
    Commented May 2, 2011 at 16:35
  • Does not what you are saying deeply trouble you, @DVK? "Since the answer appears to be X...I'm not sure the question of 'is race a valid concept fully relevant'" -- or in other words, "since the answer appears to be X...[I'm not sure this question need be closed]"??? What if you'd found a different answer?
    – Uticensis
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 0:24
  • @Billare - if the answer showed difference between "races", then the question of how you define "race" becomes valid - please see what I said in the second paragraph. Again, I'm not saying the question is not valid one to be asked - merely that it is irrelevant to the answer
    – user5341
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 2:35

That question was already vague. I remember a video that said that and that. OK, but where is the video? We are at Skeptic website-we base on evidence, not on memory.

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