Jena Declaration Contributes to Amendment of German Constitution

November 12, 2020

The term ‘race’ is to be removed from Article 3 of the Grundgesetz, or German constitution, but protections against racism will remain in place. The Jena Declaration, published in September 2019 by leading scientists from evolutionary research, genetics and zoology, is one of the impulses for the now imminent change in the law. A corresponding reformulation is currently being prepared in the responsible ministries.

Human races are not a biological reality

In this declaration, the four signatories Martin S. Fischer, Uwe Hoßfeld, Johannes Krause and Stefan Richter examined the question of the alleged human races from a biological point of view and explained in detail that the concept has no scientific justification. Even more: through scientific research on genetic variation among and between human populations, the concept of race has been definitively exposed as a typological construct based on arbitrarily selected physical characteristics, such as skin color or the shape of the skull. Among the 3.2 billion base pairs in the human genome, there is no fixed difference that separates, for example, Africans from non-Africans. To be explicit, not only is there no single gene that underpins ‘racial’ differences, there is not even a single base pair.

“The concept of race is the result of racism, not its prerequisite,” the authors state, going on to explain how “…zoology and anthropology have played an inglorious part in producing supposedly biological justifications” for racism.

 “Today and in the future,” the Jena Declaration concludes, “not using the term race should be part of scientific decency."

"The mere deletion of the term ‘race’ from the Grundgesetz and from our language won’t overcome the racism that still exists overnight, but it’s a step along the way and I am very pleased that we were able to contribute to this," says Prof. Dr. Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. Krause was director of the Department of Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena until mid 2020.

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