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Race should no longer be used as a distinguishing factor in human biology and genetics research, contends a new paper in Science.

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Race Should be Removed from Genetics Research, Paper Contends

Fri, 02/05/2016 - 11:12am
Seth Augenstein, Digital Reporter
Race should no longer be used as a distinguishing factor in human biology and genetics research, contends a new paper in Science.
The discoveries in DNA science are far enough advanced that “racial classifications do not make sense in terms of genetics,” state the researchers from Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania and the American Museum of Natural History.
“It is time for biologists to find a better way,” they write. “Racial assumptions are not the biological guideposts some believe them to be.”
Since Homo sapiens can all breed with one another, and since race is based simply on physical features like skin color and facial structure that can change in a single generation, the scientific classification of race is antiquated, they conclude.
The major racial group definitions “lack clear-cut genetic boundaries,” contends the paper, entitled “Taking Race out of Human Genetics.”
The characterization can also lead to harm, beyond the popular misunderstandings of inheritance and morbidity. Misdiagnosis of cases of sickle-cell anemia in people other than “blacks” and Cystic fibrosis getting missed in people who have African ancestry can mean that peoples’ individually-unique heritage is overlooked because of the race categories.
The authors – Michael Yudell from Drexel, Dorothy Roberts and Sarah Tishkoff from Penn, and Rob DeSalle from the AMNH – concede they are not the first to make the argument. W.E.B. DuBois was arguing similar points in the early 20th century, and evolutionary geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky was also inveighing against the easy categories starting in the 1930s.
A 2013 paper in the journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences focused in on how fluid “race” definitions could be – since they are based on subjective traits, and since they are so malleable.
“Humans have much genetic diversity, but the vast majority of this diversity reflects individual uniqueness and not race,” they wrote. “Adaptive traits do not define races in humans.”
However, some of the ideas persist. Some writers believe that evolution has resulted in variations of IQ, social systems and other human development differences determined regionally. The concept was the focus of a vigorous debate in The New York Times two years ago, which kicked off with the publication of a book by the newspaper’s former science editor.
Some studies do continue to make generalizations in the genetic differences between disparate ethnic groups.







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