By JUSTIN E. H. SMITH
... Many who are fully prepared to acknowledge that there are no significant natural differences between races nonetheless argue that there are certain respects in which it is worth retaining the concept of race: for instance in talking about issues like social inequality or access to health care. There is, they argue, a certain pragmatic utility in retaining it, even if they acknowledge that racial categories result from social and historical legacies, rather than being dictated by nature. In this respect "race" has turned out to be a very different sort of social construction than, say, "witch" or "lunatic." While generally there is a presumption that to catch out some entity or category as socially constructed is at the same time to condemn it, many thinkers are prepared to simultaneously acknowledge both the non-naturalness of race as well as a certain pragmatic utility in retaining it.
It's like if all the most advanced thinkers agreed that witches don't exist, but that the career of witch-hunting remained lucrative and admired.
Since the mid-20th century no mainstream scientist has considered race a biologically significant category; no scientist believes any longer that "negroid," "caucasoid" and so on represent real natural kinds or categories. For several decades it has been well established that there is as much genetic variation between two members of any supposed race, as between two members of supposedly distinct races. This is not to say that there are no real differences, some of which are externally observable, between different human populations. It is only to say, as Lawrence Hirschfeld wrote in his 1996 book, "Race in the Making: Cognition, Culture, and the Child's Construction of Human Kinds," that "races as socially defined do not (even loosely) capture interesting clusters of these differences."
It's fascinating how even the people who write and edit for the New York Times on human genetics-related subjects don't actually read the New York Times's excellent reporting on human genetics.