Thursday, January 31, 2002

MEANINGLESSNESS OF RACE UPDATE: There's a good article and another about the scientific community's internal debates on the objective biological existence of race or the lack thereof. It's on BioMedNet which requires registration, so if you don't feel like doing that, I'll try and blog the gist of it here. Here's a clip:

Far beyond defining races as "people who do not fit," opponents in the London debate this week spent much of their time arguing whether races even exist at all. Kealy, who is a clinical biochemist, was unequivocal that they do, speaking genetically. Strong evidence exists for the selection of certain genes during human evolution, he argued, such as those for skin and eye color.

Not so, riposted David Goldstein, professor of population genetics at University College London. From the point of view of population genetics, he asserted, "race doesn't exist in the human species."

Goldstein is interested in how the evolutionary histories of populations can be used to increase our knowledge of genetic diseases. From his studies of the statistical associations between candidate genes in natural populations (linkage disequilibrium), he said he cannot draw sharp genetic boundaries between groups. "Over 90% of the genetic differences among humans are due to differences between individuals" and not differences between groups, he said, however you classify them.

There are differences in people from different countries, he conceded. For example, African-Americans respond differently to heart failure drugs than do Americans of European extraction. But these are not racial differences, he said, and are modest in comparison with differences between individuals.

They don't give Kealy a lot of space compared to Goldstein in either article, so I don't know if that reflects the strengths of his arguments or the biases of the author or neither. Just sign up and read the whole thing if you're interested, otherwise I'll end up blogging the whole thing up here. Via Yahoo Evolutionary Psychology, as usual.

No comments: