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Topic: Genetics and Race - A dangerous topic (Read 189 times) previous topic - next topic

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Genetics and Race - A dangerous topic

I have deep sympathy for the concern that genetic discoveries could be misused to justify racism. But as a geneticist I also know that it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among "races."

Groundbreaking advances in DNA sequencing technology have been made over the last two decades. These advances enable us to measure with exquisite accuracy what fraction of an individual's genetic ancestry traces back to, say, West Africa 500 years ago -- before the mixing in the Americas of the West African and European gene pools that were almost completely isolated for the last 70,000 years. With the help of these tools, we are learning that while race may be a social construct, differences in genetic ancestry that happen to correlate to many of today's racial constructs are real.

Recent genetic studies have demonstrated differences across populations not just in the genetic determinants of simple traits such as skin color, but also in more complex traits like bodily dimensions and susceptibility to diseases. For example, we now know that genetic factors help explain why northern Europeans are taller on average than southern Europeans, why multiple sclerosis is more common in European-Americans than in African-Americans, and why the reverse is true for end-stage kidney disease.

I am worried that well-meaning people who deny the possibility of substantial biological differences among human populations are digging themselves into an indefensible position, one that will not survive the onslaught of science. I am also worried that whatever discoveries are made -- and we truly have no idea yet what they will be -- will be cited as "scientific proof" that racist prejudices and agendas have been correct all along, and that those well-meaning people will not understand the science well enough to push back against these claims.

This is why it is important, even urgent, that we develop a candid and scientifically up-to-date way of discussing any such differences, instead of sticking our heads in the sand and being caught unprepared when they are found.

  • nesb
Re: Genetics and Race - A dangerous topic
Reply #1
A week later, he replied to some questions, which affirmed he doesn't think there's genetic support for racism:

Either way, without actual evidence that supports racist stereotypes, I have no idea why you'd go on record as saying that we need to prepare for evidence that supports racist stereotypes. The racial differences he mentions, seem to be old news. And I really don't think he's hiding any cards up his sleeve. So the only thing I can think, is dude is prejudiced.
  • Last Edit: March 31, 2018, 11:03:07 PM by nesb

  • Faid
Re: Genetics and Race - A dangerous topic
Reply #2
Even after all those years since the Bell Curve was published, the justification (rationalization?) for believing in racial differences in IQ remains as weak. Essentially it boils down to "differences in IQ can be partly genetic, therefore differences in IQ between races might be must be are partly genetic".

It's quite telling that the people in favor of those claims have moved from trying to support them to pretending they are self-evident (in pure "socratic" style).
Notice the above passage: He talks about supposedly "ignor[ing] average genetic differences among 'races'"- Which no one does, of course.

Then he calls them "differences in genetic ancestry that happen to correlate to many of today's racial constructs"- A carefully vague and generalized description.
Then he  lists a few, like "bodily dimensions" and "sususceptibility to diseases". When has anyone "ignored" the genetic nature of such variants, between populations or even races?

Then he talks about "people who deny the possibility of substantial biological differences among human populations"- again, carefully phrased as to be general and non-descriptive. Also, who the fuck are these "people" who deny that?

And finally, having created his strawman (about people supposedly denying ALL biological differences between races), a strawman swiftly destroyed by "the onslaught of science" (::)), He concudes that...

Well, that's it, really. He just says that, IF  evidence is found in support of genetic predisposition between races regardiing IQ, we should be ready to discuss it. Because (supposedly) there is no "scientifically up-to-date way of discussing any such differences" (As if that discussion hasn't occured countless times already, with actual scientific arguments).
And naturally, at the very end, that "if" becomes "when".

Oh, he's prejudiced as fuck.
  • Last Edit: April 01, 2018, 12:50:06 AM by Faid
Who even made the rule that we cannot group ducks and fish together for the simple reason that they are both aquatic? If I want to group them that way and it serves my purpose then I can jolly well do it however I want to and it is still a nested hierarchy and you can't tell me that it's not.

Re: Genetics and Race - A dangerous topic
Reply #3

Oh, he's prejudiced as fuck.

I think that is harsh. I didn't get a sense that he is prejudiced. He is definitely walking on eggshells though.