Recently, I posted about how we are much more alike than we are different, especially in terms of shared values. But now, science is confirming that even across racial lines, there are more similarities among us than differences.

A new exhibition, RACE: Are We So Different, which opened last week at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, explores the origins of race. Humans, as explained in the exhibition, are all basically the same, once the layers of skin are pulled back. Skin color variants in humans evolved only as protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

If race really is just skin deep then why does the subject stir such heated debates and cause tempers to flare?

Consider the current US presidential election, in which Barack Obama is the first African American candidate from a major political party. There have been huge debates about whether his skin color will be a determining factor to vote for or against him in November. While most people insist that it will not affect their vote, NPR (National Public Radio) hosts Steve Inskeep and Michele Norris recently conducted a series of deeper interviews that suggested otherwise.

Technically, Obama is bi-racial with a Caucasian mother and an African father. Although he was largely raised by his mother’s culturally white family, his skin color is brown.

So with advancements in science proclaiming both that humans are more genetically similar than previously believed and that skin color is an external differential coupled with an increase in individuals with multiracial backgrounds, will it be possible to shed our cultural beliefs about racial attributes or are they too ingrained in society that even science won’t be able to shake them?

To test your knowledge of the biology of race take this quiz designed by the American Anthropological Association.

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