Is Culture Determined By Race?

Is the culture of a people determined by their biology or their environment?

Erik Engheim
26 min readJun 5, 2024

The claim I have seen from a shockingly large number of right-wing Americans is that culture is determined by genetics. One of the more succinct expressions of this idea is found in this quote:

Culture is a manifestation of our biology in an environment

— Francisco J Carriedo

In other words, what these people are claiming is that if we swapped Nigerians and Japanese people at the dawn of time, then Japan would look like Nigeria today and Nigeria would look like Japan. Right in the midst of Africa there would been a Japanese style architecture, language, a history of Samurai, Kimonos, Pagodas, chopsticks, Kanji etc.

If this idea sounds profoundly idiotic to you, it is because it is. Yet, this idea is far more prevalent than I think you realize. In fact, you might even agree to it and think my example was dumbing down your belief. I can imagine the rebuttal would be: “Of course the environment also matters, but we are saying genes play the major role or significant role.”

I will do my best to rebut this idea with a more elaborate and reasoned answer, with a more profound look at human…



Erik Engheim

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.