Talk:Race (human categorization)/Archive 10

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New Introduction.

I have written a new intro, based of course primarily on pre-existing text, which I hope balances everyone's concerns. The first paragraph says that race is used in many different ways and is controversial. Then, those who promote the "literal" definition as intraspecific division have their say, with some qualifiers such as "certain fields" to deflect worries of claims of universality. The mention of humans connects this discussion to the remainder of the article. Then, the other views have their say. The reduced frequency of the word race in biology is noted, and the social science criticism is then stated, along with the support for it from genetics. Finally, the rest of the article is introduced by noting the focus will be on humans and what it will be about. I hope this can end this conflict, which was starting to descend into mad reverts and namecalling. My main worry is that by trying to make everyone happy I will make no one happy. Well, comments? -- VV 23:03, 29 Mar 2004 (UTC)

[P0M:] It looks pretty good to me. Looking ahead, the problem with race in the U.S. and in socio-politically similar areas is that humans do not form sub-species, but many people insist that they do form races. By "races" they mean something other than what scientists mean by "sub-species." These people take comfort from the ideas mentioned by Rikurzhen about "extended families." So, looking ahead, I think it would be very worthwhile to find some way of providing the two charts I mentioned above because they show how poorly these "extended families" correspond to the average person's naive idea of "races."

[Peak:] I reinstated the para about ICZN for obvious reasons, and dropped the detail from that paragraph as it has nothing to do with the ICZN. It seems to me that there is currently no need for the preamble to talk about "population" because:

  1. the preamble is about race, not about related terms
  2. the preamble is already too long
  3. the article itself talks quite a lot about population

Peak 06:36, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)

What are these "obvious reasons"? Race is not being called "intrasubspecific", so that is not relevant. The word population is being noted as an alternative way of talking about what some have called race, and the mention of this is extremely brief. And, no, the detail had nothing to do with ICZN, it had to do with the word race, and you should not just delete it. -- VV 07:20, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)


[P0M:] Rereading the new Introduction I see one problem that is a carry-over from previous version(s):

Some feel that this usage justifies the division of humans into races.

[P0M:] We need to explain that specialists in this field generally do not accept division of humans into races or subspecies (despite the differences found among the "extended families") because the variations are clinal.

SOme specialists do believe this -- as the sentence says (some). And the intro makes it very clear that most don't. Slrubenstein
The term race, however, is increasingly infrequently used in contemporary scientific classification; in zoology, for example, ...

[P0M:] It isn't clear from the way this is said whether "race" has lost favor to "sub-species" or whether both terms are now less often used for some reason. P0M 00:57, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)

POM, I don't disagree, in principle, with your two points. But I do think that VV's intro (with some minor changes I made) does make these points. I admit that it makes them in a minimal way -- but that is what an introduction is for. We shouldn't make the introduction argumentative -- it should just introduce the different issues and points of view. Develop these points in the appropriate place in the body of the article. A discussion or race and subspeicies is too comples to have in the intro -- clearly the intro raises the issue; let the body address it. Slrubenstein

[P0M:] I think it is fine now. The changes you made lessened my sense of a slightly unstable footing. P0M 01:40, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Much improved, SLR. Still some problems though. In the para quoted below, the entry contradicts itself. We just said that: "In biology, there is a usage of race to mean a division within a species ... synonym for subspecies or ... varety". But next we say:

The term race, however, is increasingly infrequently used in contemporary scientific classification; in zoology, for example, the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (4th edition, 2000) divides species into subspecies but does not attempt to codify any "infrasubspecific entities". Further details may be found at subspecies. Currently, the preferred term is population.

So we say:

  • (a) that (in zoology) race = subspecies. So far so good.
[Peak]: NO! You are missing the whole point of the ICZN reference. The ICZN does NOT say that race == subspecies. Peak 16:14, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)
  • (b) we say that the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature recognises subspecies. This too is fine
  • (c) Then we start talking about sub-divisions of subspecies! Why?
[Peak:] If race == subspecies, then there is only one human race, but some people believe that there are several human races, so the question becomes: is there some scientifically agreed basis for defining infrasubspecific groups? The ICZN says it's too hot a potato IN GENERAL in scientific classification in general. Peak 16:14, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)
[P0M] I thought this might be what was going on here. Some people want to talk about the "extended families", which seems to correspond to what you are calling infrasubspecific groups. But as I was reading the passage with the language about infrasubspecific groups I could not do other than to guess where you (?) were going with it. Can we get those two "family tree" charts that you put me on to without breaking somebody's copyright? I'm pretty sure that those groupings were what JDG and the person who insisted that //Science// magazine supported the reality of races were really talking about, or at least that such information is the only objective basis that they might draw on. If we include enough of that kind of information to let people see clearly why e.g., the medical community is interested in these groups (and calls them "races"), they we can explain why they are "fuzzy" sets, and also why they are different from subspecies. If we know how we are going to handle this issue in the body of the article then it will be easier to see what we need to say in the introduction. P0M

What earthly connection does this have to anything? The topic is race (in the biological sense, i.e., subspecies), so why do we introduce the notion that there are no recognised sub-divisions of subspecies/races here? That happens to be true, but what relevance does it have? We are not discussing "sub-sub-species", we are discussing races. All this does is confuse things.

[P0M:] I agree that talking about sub-divisions of subspecies seems irrelevant here.
[Peak:] Please see above. I hope you will retract the point.Peak 16:14, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)
[P0M:] I just went back and looked at your version. I also caught up on your explanation that ICZN does not say that race == subspecies.
The term race, however, is infrequently used in international forums devoted to scientific classification; in zoology, for example, the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (4th edition, 2000) divides species into subspecies but does not attempt to codify any "infrasubspecific entities". Further details may be found at subspecies.
[P0M:] This passage assumes that the reader will understand that you mean for "race" to be understood (by ICZM?) to mean some "infrasubspecific entity" that it thinks is unacceptable. How you are making the link between "race" and "infrasubspecific entity" is not clear enough, or at least it was not clear enough for me. (See what I wrote earlier in the passage that follows:) P0M 18:09, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)
[P0M:]I had assumed that it was there because somebody wanted to make the claim that "race" (at least as applies to humans) is a matter of "extended families" -- a grouping with less rigorous requirements than the requirements for subspecies, but still of enough interest to be given a name. I would prefer that we drop the "sub-divisions of subspecies" part here and provide the charts (cladograms) of these "extended families" later on.
  • (d) Finally, we say that the currently preffered term is population. Term for what? For race/subspecies? Or for these non-codified and in any case irrelevant "sub-sub-species" things that have suddenly been introduced into the para? In fact, population is a term with a completely different meaning to race or subspecies or "sub-sub-species". A population is any recognisable group. It is a far more general term than any of the others so far discussed. So yes, you can describe, for example, the southern race of the Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles novaehollandiae) as "the southern population" instead of "the southern race" or "the southern subspecies", but in doing so you are saying a different thing. You are making no claim about the status of a group when you say "population". It may be a race, it may be a full species, it may be three species of two different genera, it may simply be a random collection of individuals. The southern population of the Koala, to take another example, can not be described as the "southern race", as there is no such thing, the Koals being a monotypic species. (i.e., there ius only one race.) In short, population is a very vague term. You use population when race or species or subspecies are inappropriate. You often use it because you want to talk about a particular group but you don't want to get bogged down in the details of whether it is a subspecies or a full species. It's especially handy when the correct status (species/subspecies/neither) of a given group is not yet known or is controversial. Tannin 04:40, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)
[P0M:] I agree with this characterization of "population." Can't we just paraphrase what Tannin says above -- that rather than using the problematical concepts "race" or "subspecies" to talk about humans, most scientists prefer the work-around of using "population". P0M 05:18, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)
VV I agree that this paragraph was problematic, and I left it undisturbed in my earlier rewrite because I didn't know what to do with it. But, I read through this discussion and made an attempt; let me know what you think. I dropped the book reference because it didn't seem relevant or helpful. I was reluctant to do this before in case someone was attached to it, but there seems to be agreement it's not needed. -- VV 05:49, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Peak-- I strongly object to these changes. Did you read the foregoing discussion about this intrasubspecific issue? And the Templeton quote is way out of place in the intro paragraph, completely prejudicial; saying he "summed it up" is a way of making his opinion out to be the last word. And the issue is not whether there is a single "human race" or not, as there is, but this is either a different shade of meaning, a broader use, or a stock English phrase. The intro para I wrote correctly said controversy stems from political, etc., not just from some fundamental issues. It seems to me you're completely departing from the delicate compromise we reached. -- VV 06:58, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)

[P0M:] I suspect that communications are getting skewed. Is not the purpose of the sentence "The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (4th edition, 2000) divides species into subspecies but does not attempt to codify any 'infrasubspecific entities'" to head off the use of a fuzzier definition of "race" when the word is applied to human beings? (See the comment of Rikurzhen below. Perhaps he is trying to get us to look at this issue.) P0M 08:10, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)

It would not serve that purpose. Lack of codification just means that there are no fixed naming systems for groupings below the subspecies level. E.g., for the species level there are rules such as, the species name is whatever name the first person to document that species used (even if it's a terrible name). This is fleshed out a lot more, but you get the drift. Lack of fixed nomenclature just means the individual researcher is "free" to use whichever naming system they prefer, such as their own, for smaller groupings, that is all. It does not address that other issue in any way. -- VV 08:15, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)

[P0M:] I wasn't referring to the purpose of the writers of the International Code, I was referring to the original reason for including mention of it in the Race article we are discussing here. It isn't clear to me what it was mentioned for, so what I said was a guess intended to draw out comment. P0M 08:34, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Similar objections as before: The "one race" issue in the first para is not the issue. Many use the term race to refer to any extended family, regardless of scale. Thus there can be all of a human race, a Caucasian race, and a Russian race. Thus, one does not say there is no "human race" just because one believes in multiple races witin H.s. Similarly, if race is pegged at subspecies, I have seen authors who use different classifications and divide H.s. into subspecies (in fact, I think Linnaeus did). Since, as I said before, subspecies inherits all the ambiguities of species and then some, I don't think we should prejudice the contrary view in the intro. It's enough to just say that there are those who do and do not believe there are meaningful biological divisions within the species. -- VV 23:54, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)

[P0M:] V, your paragraph above is not very clear to me, especially regarding what your term "the issue" and in regard to what you call "the contrary view." And I do not agree that it is enough to say that there "there are those who do and do not believe that there are meaningful biological divisions within the species." There are undeniable heritable biological differences among humans. There are both meaningful connections and meaningful ramifications among humans. The question is not whether we are talking about a ramiform structure. The question is whether the branches are isolated or are interacting. I doubt very much that anybody believes either that [races] of humans do not derive from a common source. I also doubt very much that anybody believes that there has been no differentiation among populations that are isolated over space and time. The question that has to be faced is how to objectively reflect the level at which heritable characteristics are shared, and the determination of whether there are human subspecies (as the term is commonly understood in the present) speaks to this question.

[P0M:] You realize, I assume, that your position on the definition of the word "race" is strongly opposed to Tannin's definition. Linnaeus did indeed divide Homo sapiens into subspecies, and on Tannin's understanding of subspecies (which I believe is the correct understanding) Linnaeus was wrong. You might find it interesting to evaluate how objective he was about the characteristics he assigned to each of the subspecies. Mentioning him in this connection is not persuasive to me. Since humans display "biological divisions" but the differentiation is clinal, the task then becomes to accurately characterize the real-world differences that have led people to, rather arbitrarily, divide humans into what they call races.

[P0V:] It is not going to work to equate subspecies and race. In that I can agree with you because, as you demonstrate, people use the word "race" in many different ways. The medical community seems firmly wedded to the practice of calling "extended families" races. But it is also not going to work if we avoid mention of the fact that differences among humans are clinal and that is the reason that humans are not divided into subspecies. It is vitally important to make clear the actual levels of similarity and difference among various groups, and to make extremely clear that knowing that somebody belongs to some [race] only gives grounds for a probablistic prediction that s/he will possess any trait associated with that [race]. P0M.


[Peak:] Your persistence in reverting my attempts to keep the introduction balanced violate Wikipedia NPOV policy. You have highlighted what amounts to a "scientific racism" POV by deleting the other (largely "scientific mainstream") perspective. I have also given specific pieces of evidence which you have also omitted in their entirety (e.g. the information about ICZN and the quotation). I prefer to "frame and elaborate" but if you are going to resort to brute force reversion, then others will feel entitled to respond in kind. In my last Edit Summary, I proposed we try to avoid the problem by moving material out of the preamble so that a more comprehensive explanation of the issues can be given than is possible in the preamble. Once again, I invite you to reconsider your reversion tactics. Peak 06:18, 31 Mar 2004 (UTC)

(a) That was my first ever revert since this discussion began, and it was because you basically undid my last change entirely without explanation.
[Peak:] My explanation was in the Edit Summary, but more importantly, in the text itself.
(b) I have explained every edit thoroughly in Talk. (c) I am not deleting your view; it is still there, but it is simply not presented as the only one.
[Peak:] You have deleted sentences, quotations, citations, to emphasize one POV. I have always tried to be inclusive.
Your Templeton quote was a strong POV put in the intro paragraph and presented as the only view on the subject
[Peak:] My addition was simply that: it did not involve subtracting anything. It added a coherent statement from an expert. It did not state that it ia the only POV. When I wrote "summed it up" I meant that the quotation summed up an important perspective (POV if you like).
while the ICZN is not relevant for the reasons discussed here already.
[Peak:] I already addressed that issue above. Peak 07:09, 31 Mar 2004 (UTC)
The intro is already very abbreviated and is short, factual, and neutral as stands.
[Peak:] You may think it is neutral, but that is just your POV. I am telling you that it is not. In particular, I disagree with the following sentence (as explained in the next paragraph: "in this usage we may justifiably speak of dividing Homo sapiens into races"
There is a long way between a theoretical definition ("race means such and such in biology") and a scientific conclusion (that from a scientific point of view, there are several races). Please understand, in particular, that in

scientific classification, a high degree of "disjointness" is usually required. See the above account of an interview with an academic biologist on the subject.

Do not force your view of the subject on the intro. -- VV 06:24, 31 Mar 2004 (UTC)
[Peak:] Your POV is welcome, but you should not suppress other perspectives (especially perspectives of relevant authorities and international bodies such as ICZN) by DELETION and REVERSION tactics. Peak 07:09, 31 Mar 2004 (UTC)
In the quote above your omitted "Some feel that" ... "in this usage we may justifiably...", which states a major POV on the subject at hand. The ICZN, as I've explained here several times, is about nomenclature conventions and has no relevance to this issue. The Templeton quote was not presented as a POV but as a "summing up" of the controversy over race. If it's stated as one person's POV on the subject, that's one matter, but even so whole quotes should probably not go in the introduction because of length considerations; that's what the full text is for. And lay off on the accusations; they are not productive. -- VV 07:27, 31 Mar 2004 (UTC)

If your serious about improving this article, I would invite you to do a little outside reading. My strongest suggestion would be this recent paper from Genome Biology: [1]. If you have trouble with that site, you can find the PDF here: [2]. If you prefer something shorter, try this NEJM paper: [3]. I'm only sorry that the figures aren't in the public domain. Rikurzhen 07:56, Mar 30, 2004 (UTC)

A very interesting article! Thanks for the links. -- VV 08:16, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)
[Peak:] I would like to recommend the following short article (written as a "Letter"):
If you don't have time to read it all, then please at least take a look at the diagrams therein, especially Figure 2. Peak 04:40, 21 Apr 2004 (UTC)
[P0M:] It is clear that the way Rikurzhen is using "race" is not the way Tannin uses that word. If we were to stick to the logical consequences of equating race with subspecies, then all we could say about human races is that there is only one. If we accept the idea of "extended families" to explain what people who talk about race are really looking at, then we get into the kind of thing that is being discussed in these articles. I had a quick look at the short one, and it appears that the author uses the word "race" pretty much as it is used in vernacular English. Showing people what does and what does not correspond to the naive idea of "race" should be very useful. P0M 08:34, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)
[P0M:] There are people who have "insisted on the biological reality of race among humans as the scientific view." There are people who maintain that race is a "myth". There are people who would equate "race" with "subspecies" and say that there is only one race of Homo sapiens extant. We need to face the reality of the kinds of categorizations being made in the links that Rikurzhen posted above, and in the charts that I have mentioned a couple of times before. But it would be good to have a less problematical term for these kinds of commonalities, something to remind people that knowing somebody's extended family does not give you definite assurance of the presence or absence of traits such as, e.g., lactose intolerance. P0M 08:54, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Here's another resource. [4] A weekly workshop at Stanford, "Revisiting Race and Ethnicity in the Context of Emerging Genetic Research". They have links to papers capturing many points of view. Rikurzhen

Follow-through, section on Phylogenetic representations

Here the problem arises of distinguishing black Africans as a racial group; it doesn't work because it is a paraphyletic classification -- that is, to take black Africans as a racial group, the group by definition includes every living person on Earth because everyone is descended from this group.

[P0M:] Strictly speaking, everyone is descended from the same ancestors, but wouldn't a correct cladogram show a branching at 120000 B.C. (or whatever the approximate date really is) with the several African groups continuing to evolve away from their original genetic constitution(s) during the same time span that the groups that migrated out of Africa evolved to adapt to new environments?

[P0M:] Does anybody own the knowledge on which these cladograms are made? Why can't we just draw our own diagram? P0M 17:48, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Post Tax Day Changes

A new contributor, Arnejohs, altered the third paragraph substantially, as well as making many changes that I think are useful. I have always been a little queasy about the word "categorical" in the paragraph 3 that was there before, but I put the whole paragraph back because in my experience having that information there will head off misunderstandings and turbulence. P0M 21:11, 17 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Thank you Patrick0Moran for correcting the error I entered. I am sorry, but my intension was not at all to remove the lines of the third paragraph. Actually I wanted to delete last sentence in the second paragraph. How I managed to mess it up don?t know. My intension was also to put down some arguments at the discussion page. Therefore I appreciate your invitation to do so. I felt that parts of the introductory words of this article were an inconsistent with the content of other wiki articles. Human race redirects to Human where the last sentence in the first paragraphs says "There is only one extant subspecies, H. sapiens sapiens; that is, all humans alive today belong to this one subspecies." If the term race should be used in biological science it should (according to what is said here to) be equivalent to subspecies. It is important to note that race also is used in the more defendable interpretation as social construct, - also by biologists. If this social construct is geographically defined, the term population is mostly used. Arnejohs 00:16, 18 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Should the article be divided?

I was not fully aware of all the problems involved when I first dared to edit this article. Reading through the article once again, also the later changes, I think the best way of clarifying the understanding of the term ?race? is to define "race" into the different context where it is used. One obvious way is to differ between the biological context and the sociological (social construct) context. Also former use of the term has to be covered or even different use of the term in different part of the world (e.g. USA and Europe).

I my view the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia has a rather precise definition, including both former and current use of the term:

"Race. Term once commonly used in physical anthropology to denote a division of humankind possessing traits that are transmissible by descent and sufficient to characterize it as a distinct human type (e.g., Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid).

Today the term has little scientific standing, as older methods of differentiation, including hair form and body measurement, have given way to the comparative analysis of DNA and gene frequencies relating to such factors as blood typing, the excretion of amino acids, and inherited enzyme deficiencies. Because all human populations today are extremely similar genetically, most researchers have abandoned the concept of race for the concept of the cline, a graded series of differences occurring along a line of environmental or geographical transition. This reflects the recognition that human populations have always been in a state of flux, with genes constantly flowing from one gene pool to another, impeded only by physical or ecological boundaries. While relative isolation does preserve genetic differences and allow populations to maximally adapt to climatic and disease factors over long periods of time, all groups currently existing are thoroughly "mixed" genetically, and such differences as still exist do not lend themselves to simple typologizing. "Race" is today primarily a sociological designation, identifying a class sharing some outward physical characteristics and some commonalities of culture and history. See also climatic adaptation, ethnic group, racism."

Probably the term is more present in the U.S. of A. than in Europe, - in particular because of the special census tradition. I think large parts of the article have to be understood on this background. E.g. ?Race and intelligence? and recent addition by ElBenevolente ("In 2003, DNA analysis was used to correctly determine the race of a Louisiana serial rapist?..") use Race in the meaning as a social construct I hope. If not it is inconsistent with the biological consensus of one human race. I am not sure how, but this needs to be sorted out in one way or another. Arnejohs 08:00, 18 Apr 2004 (UTC)

While the "social construct" versus "subspecies" distinction of race may seem useful, I think it is misleading and difficult. It seems to me that even if human "races" were true subspecies, it would have little relevance to the major questions/problems surrounding the topic. Just as it is unhelpful to strictly define race as subspecies and thus eliminate the common sense notion of the word as it applies to humans. Likewise, defining race as a social construct has a pejoritive connotation. This definition would seem to support that point of view that "race" has absolutely no biological basis. Also, the distinction seems to falsely exclude the middle point of view that race is both social and biological. It strikes me that there is less of a precdedent to divide race into social and biological components than (for example) sex/gender.--Rikurzhen 06:45, Apr 19, 2004 (UTC)
Human races, even considered biologically, are not subspecies -- but I didn't think the article claimed this. Have I missed something here? Slrubenstein

§ I don't believe that anybody believes "that 'race' has absolutely no biological basis." At least nobody that I know of would state that many of the characteristics that people use as racial markers have no biological basis. White people are white for clearly biological reasons. The epicanthic folds of many Chinese people are heritable characteristics. The thick pads over the arch of the foot that characterize many people of African descent are heritable characteristics. Nobody that I know of imagines that most Chinese people have straight black hair simply because they were born in a certain geographical region or under a certain tradition of government. The question is, rather, what genetic characteristics are permanently linked with what genetic characteristics. The answer is that no allele of any gene is permanently included in or or excluded from any group of people. Genes show up wherever they flourish. It may take a while, but they will flourish in environments where they are favorable. [P0M]

§ If we had one word for one concept it would be much easier to write articles on the many concepts that now get called "race." It would also be easier to write an article on race if there were not so many points of view that are fervently held. The article on human race is correct when it asserts that there is only one subspecies, Homo sapiens sapiens, that is now extant. It is also correct that there is some statistical utility for the medical profession in knowing whether somebody has come from a population that was naturalized to, e.g., a malaria-infested area. It might help if it were clearly established for readers, perhaps in another article, what the meaningful statistical differences are among various groups. Much of the problem centering around the issue of race seems to be that some people believe that they can make assertions about socially relevant characteristics on the basis of certain "marker characteristics." It would probably be relevant and helpful for many readers, for instance, to know that a common characteristic of many Chinese people is the presence of shovel-shaped incisors, but that not all Chinese people show this trait. Another fairly common trait of the Chinese population is something called "agenisis," i.e., the inherited trait of not growing wisdom teeth. But non-Chinese people can also be naturally free of the problems occasioned by wisdom teeth. It is my understanding that those two characteristics are among the four or five main characteristics that are common enough among Chinese to be interesting. But, unless you are a dentist interested in how much and what kind of dental surgury you may perform if you move to China, I can't imagine these "prominent characteristics" being of material relevance to anybody. What people often react to, and may find problematical, are not actually genetic differences but are cultural differences. If people were clearer on what signals were actually "pushing their buttons", then we might be able to have a more peaceful world. P0M 02:53, 20 Apr 2004 (UTC)

P0M, you and I seem to be on the same wavelength, but there are public commentators on race who would disagree with us. Consider this quotation from Jacqueline Stevens, a visiting Assistant Professor at Pomona College, from an essay titled "Symbolic Matter: Deconstructing/Reconstructing DNA and Race"
"Conventional wisdom holds that race is socially constructed and not based on genetic differences. Cutting-edge genetic research threatens this view and hence also endangers the pursuit of racial equality and useful public health research."
This is an example why I'm particular sensitive about the suggestion of limiting the view points presented on defining race to only "social construct" versus "subspecies". I think that many people hold more nuanced views. --Rikurzhen 05:37, Apr 20, 2004 (UTC)