In Living Color: The Skin Science of Dr. Nina Jablonski

living color | AGRYPNIAE

I went to the same lecture last week as fellow-blogger, AGRYPNIAE.

One of the benefits of being a Member of the museum (thanks mom & dad!) is free admission to the Pritzker Lecture series as well as discounts on other lectures. I think I’ve made up for the membership price with just lectures alone, though I’ve probably also paid double the membership rate in gas and bridge tolls to attend too! Ah, well, it’s worth it and I digress.

Dr. Jablonski’s lecture was one of the best I’ve attended, and it was also far too short. She was eloquent, convincing, and even funny. Very easy to understand, easy to listen to, and even easy on the eyes. I guess that could be considered the Trifecta for a scientist these days because so much depends upon communicating with the public – or at least with hobby scientists – in addition to peers.

In fact, despite almost being attacked during the Q&A period (questions were raised about the reason gingers still occupy a portion of the gene pool) , I was impressed enough to purchase Dr. Jablonski’s new book, Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color.


Agrypniae makes some great comments about the lecture, but the one I think is most important is the underlying message of Dr. Jablonski – We are all one people.

Skin color boils down to just a gene or two. It’s society and culture which try to find more significance to it.

The fact is that the human race (H. sapien sapiens or H. sapien, depending upon who you ask) reached a bottleneck event about 70,000 years ago (a maybe a minute in evolutionary time and only a fraction of a second in geologic time) where we almost went extinct. That’s right, the human race almost ended and, maybe if we had, H. neanderthalensis would be writing this post right now.

Cause of Great Potato Famine Found: Here is a recent news story as an example of how having little genetic diversity (which we have created in our food and livestock, by the way) can allow 1 creature to ravage the population of another, and the influence it had on an entire country.

That event reduced our gene pool down to approximately 10,000 breeding pairs of humans. That means all of the diversity you see in people today (hair color, eye color, skin color, face shape, body style) evolved from those few individuals over a very short amount of time. The adaptations we regard as so significant socially developed simply due to regional differences in climate, diet, UVR exposure, and such.

That’s it. That’s all.

Estimates actually put it that there is more genetic diversity in one colony of chimpanzees in Africa than in the entire human race. We are 99.99xxxx% similar to each other. (I know a very simple demonstration to illustrate genetic diversity, if you’re interested.)

Think of that the next time you look at someone and think they are so different from you, because they aren’t. Any significance you place to suggest otherwise is just in your head.

Interactive map tracing the migration of humans from Africa to present colonization of approx. 83% of the Earth’s surface.

FULL LECTURE AVAILABLE STREAMING: Living Color: Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color from California Academy of Sciences on

One response to “In Living Color: The Skin Science of Dr. Nina Jablonski

  1. Pingback: Looking closer by revisiting lectures | Below Zero | Above Infinity·

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