In his book Species with Amnesia, Robert Sepehr abuses science to manufacture support for his argument that the "races" of humanity are actually separate species. Specifically, Sepehr argues for the distinction of the white race, stating his interest in “Europeans, which were originally a separate species from African lineages” ( page 34). He cites scientific research suggesting that white people are the most genetically similar to “anatomically correct” humans like Cro-Magnons, while people of color share genes with “archaic hominins” (page 25). The implication of this theory is that white people descend from true, modern humans and everyone else is a mixture of primitive human-like species and are therefore lesser beings; this idea places Caucasian people at the pinnacle of intellectual and physiological advancement, and suggests that Aryans are biologically superior.
Unfortunately, the manipulation of science to support racist agendas is not a new phenomenon. Scientific racism has been used for centuries to justify acts such as the enslavement of Africans and the disenfranchisement of American Indians. In 1839, a man named George Morton published a book of illustrations called Crania Americana, which depicted an array of different skulls that he claimed demonstrated the physiological differences between races. In this publication, Morton proposed that differences in skull structure were indicative of differences in mental capability, where the shapes and sizes of white people’s skulls reflected the greatest intelligence. These claims gave scientific credence to racist ideas of the supremacy of the white race and informed Euro-American perspectives on "race" for decades.
While the claim that non-white races were more primitive and even non-human used to be based on crude "scientific" data such as phrenology and other physical measurements, modern day racists now utilize genetics to highlight differences between races.
Sepehr describes himself as a paleobiologist or archeogeneticist, terms that suggest his use of genetic data is expert and legitimate. Sepehr’s claim that white genes are modern while the genes of other races are archaic and of separate species is unsupported by real scientific data.
In his book, Sepehr cites scientific research that shows people today have DNA with genes shared by now-extinct human groups such as Neanderthals and Denisovans. Sepehr interprets this information to mean that separate species were capable of interbreeding, and because different races share variable amounts of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA, that different races are the products of different species intermixing. Sepehr cites a 2013 paper in Genetics by Jeff Wall et. al that shows higher levels of Neanderthal DNA in East Asians than Europeans; he uses the ideas presented in this article to support his claim that archaic genes are more prevalent in non-white races, but neglects to include the fact that people of recent African decent have little or no Neanderthal DNA, which by his own sloppy argument would suggest that they are more fully modern humans.
A large part of Sepehr’s presumption that races are different species relies on the existence of different and incompatible blood types. In chapter two of Species with Amenesia, he asserts, “if mankind evolved from the same African ancestors, their blood would be compatible, but it is not” (page 23). The basic assumption of such a statement, however, is wrong: scientists have discerned that blood types most likely evolved in reaction to the diseases that specific human populations were exposed to. The fact that certain blood types are incompatible is “an accident of evolution” that has not been accounted for through natural selection because “blood transfusion is a recent phenomenon, and therefore has nothing to do with the evolution of blood groups.” In other words, blood transfusions don’t occur in nature, so why would it matter if one person’s blood can’t be injected successfully into someone else? Apparently Sepehr hasn’t considered this, or maybe he thinks highly advanced Aryan Atlanteans were capable of performing blood transfusions during the Ice Age.
Like many fringe theorists, Sepehr is fixated on Rh-negative blood. He discusses that Rh-negative blood is more common in Aryan individuals, and that if a woman is pregnant with a baby that has the opposite Rh blood type to her, the pregnancy can be terminated by the woman’s own immune system. Sepehr suggests that this would only happen if individuals of different races/species were not meant to interbreed. However, Rh Sensitivity is a rare occurrence and is a consequence resulting from random mutations in genes that affect blood rather than the result of unsuccessful interspecies mating. Furthermore, while certain blood types are more common to certain races, blood type and race do not perfectly correlate; the O blood type occurs more in people of recent African descent, but I myself, a white individual, have O+ blood, as do both of my white parents.
Sepehr’s argument of interspecific mixing is also flawed by basic scientific illiteracy. A cornerstone of his argument is the idea of species and speciation, but it appears that he has a fundamental misunderstanding of what a species is. According to the biological species concept, species are defined as “related individuals that resemble one another, are able to breed among themselves, but are not able to breed with members of another species.” This is very important. The basis of distinguishing one species from another is their ability to interbreed; therefore, if two individuals can breed and produce viable offspring, THEY ARE NOT SEPARATE SPECIES!
In an attempt to circumvent the biological species concept, Sepehr includes various examples from the animal kingdom that demonstrate how “two separate and distinct species…can produce viable hybrid offspring” (page 25). However, Sepehr’s examples simply do not prove what he thinks they do. Some of these examples are outdated or incorrect, such as the idea that domestic dogs and gray wolves, which can interbreed, are separate species; scientists have considered dogs and wolves the same species since 1993. Sepehr mentions, but glosses over, the caveat that most offspring produced by interspecific mating, such as the blood parrotfish and the Yakow, are infertile. By the biological species concept, infertile offspring are indicative of an unsuccessful mating, which reinforces the idea that mated species cannot interbreed.
Sepehr also includes certain examples, such as the Grolar bear, which biologists acknowledge as the result of interfertility but still consider separate species due to the geographic and adaptive separation of the parent species. While grizzly and polar bears are theoretically interfertile (capable of interbreeding), they do not successfully interbreed in nature due to the great distance the two species live apart and the fact that hybrid offspring would likely die in the habitat of either parent species due to maladaptation. In other words, though organisms could reproduce if they came into contact or were artificially inseminated, nature does not “allow” them to mate, so they function as separate species. It is notable that humans do not exhibit any of the pitfalls of interspecies mating: we produce offspring that can reproduce themselves, and, due to human propensity for global travel, can interbreed with people from different environments, where we can and do live successfully.
While the field of paleoanthropology is often limited in its classification of species because fossils cannot breed, genetic evidence of interbreeding such as that presented by Sepehr himself would indicate that people of different races as well as certain “archaic” human types with which they share genes are and were capable of interbreeding and therefore are not separate species. The definition and scientific idea of a species renders Sepehr’s whole argument completely invalid. How embarrassing.
Recent genetic studies have shown that human genetic variation is a result of geography and not speciation. The differences between races are no more significant than the natural variation between individuals of the same race; phenotypic variety among humans evolved as a result of the geography in which we each lived and does not exist because we are distinct species. Species with Amnesia is a fundamentally racist publication, in which Robert Sepehr strives to assert the dominance of the Aryan race over the rest of the world on both a cultural and genetic basis. The book’s arguments are not founded in real science. The idea that people of different races all belong to the same species, which Sepehr has deemed mere “political correctness,” has been proven by modern science to be fact. So if Sepehr believes he, as a white man, is a “modern” human, perhaps he should abandon such archaic views.