Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Dancing around Racial Differences

Climatology isn't the only politically correct science. Nicholas Wade of The New York Times reports about race and genetics in "Articles Highlight Different Views on Genetic Basis of Race":
...In articles in the current issue of the journal Nature Genetics, scientists at Howard, a center of African-American scholarship, generally favor the view that there is no biological or genetic basis for race. "Observed patterns of geographical differences in genetic information do not correspond to our notion of social identities, including 'race' and 'ethnicity,' '' writes Dr. Charles N. Rotimi, acting director of the university's genome center.

But several other geneticists writing in the same issue of the journal say the human family tree is divided into branches that correspond to the ancestral populations of each major continent, and that these branches coincide with the popular notion of race. "The emerging picture is that populations do, generally, cluster by broad geographic regions that correspond with common racial classification (Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania, Americas)," say Dr. Sarah A. Tishkoff of the University of Maryland and Dr. Kenneth K. Kidd of Yale....
Here we have so-called scientists at Howard University trying to deny the obvious and their "peers" at other universities merely confirming it. You'd think scientists would want to do something worthwhile with their time.

Wade continues:
Two years ago Dr. Risch, a population geneticist, plunged into the long-taboo subject of race and said that these geographic patterns correlated with the popular conception of continental-based races - principally Africans, East Asians, American Indians and Caucasians (a group that includes Europeans, Middle Easterners, and people of the Indian subcontinent).

These categories were useful in understanding the genetic roots of disease, many of which follow the same geographic pattern, Dr. Risch said. His article was provoked by editorials in medical journals suggesting there was no biological basis for race.

The articles in today's issue of Nature Genetics represent a second round of the debate. The Howard scientists agree that there is a geographic pattern in human genetic variation but favor the approach of going directly to the underlying genetic causes of disease without taking into account any possible correlation with race....
Why is race off limits as a scientific topic? What are the "scientists" at Howard afraid of learning about their race? Where's the shame in truth?

I will say once again that I fully understand Bush's refusal to kow-tow to scientists (see here and here). Most Americans, unfortunately, have subscribed to a false view of science as coldly precise and unerringly accurate in its power to prescribe "wise" policies. I don't subscribe to that view, as you'll find by reading this and following the links.