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Racial Genetics

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  • Geraldine Reinhardt
    Response to: Scott Winokur s GENETICS OF ATHLETICS: THE CONTROVERSY OVER RACE When Scott Winokur wrote that I am a ...believer in biological determinism ,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2005
      Response to:
      OVER RACE"

      When Scott Winokur wrote that I am a "...believer in
      biological determinism", he may as well have said that
      the members of the Anti-Defamation League are Holocaust
      deniers. For years, I have protested biological
      determinism, particularly in its most insidious form of
      modern racial science.

      For the record, I am a biocultural anthropologist -- a
      scientist who, though grounded in human biology,
      ultimately attributes ethnic differences in
      intelligence and behavior to culture. While I share
      some of the perspectives of other pro-environmental
      researchers addressing the race-genes-IQ-and-behavior
      debate, I depart from many of them in one fundamental
      way. I think that we have an obligation to evaluate
      modern racial science on its own turf.

      In other words, we have to do more than simply
      reiterate well-known (and often well-founded)
      environmental explanations for perceived ethnic
      differences in intelligence and social behaviors --
      including provocative behaviors such as violence,
      crime, parenting, family structure, academic
      achievement, and economic success. If we are to
      deconstruct the increasingly sophisticated arguments of
      today's racialists, then we must base our
      deconstructions, partly at least, on hard-core evidence
      from human genetics, the brain sciences, and Darwinian
      evolutionary biology.

      This is the approach that I have taken in my
      forthcoming book, RACE, GENES, AND ABILITY: RETHINKING
      ETHNIC DIFFERENCES (BTI Press, 2001). Now why in the
      midst of a political climate that fosters the notion of
      inborn racial equality would I dare to take on such a
      contentious issue? Because, as I point out, "...to
      ignore racial science is only to drive it further
      underground. It deserves public attention because on
      first inspection, some individuals think that it makes
      sense (despite what they may publicly profess to
      believe). Whether we like it or not, America's national
      ethos is intimately intertwined with a legacy of
      racialism -- the notion that human races are so
      inherently different in their physical, mental, and
      behavioral capacities that they can be ranked on a
      hierarchy from inferior to superior.”

      Some blacks and some white liberals may be
      uncomfortable with such pursuit of "scientific truth".
      They may fear, and understandably so, that it will open
      a Pandora's Box. And while some progressives may think
      that bringing this discussion out in the open will
      unleash new justifications for racism, I do not. As I
      have said repeatedly, as long as experts conduct their
      studies with integrity and interpret their research
      findings with prudence, we will never lose sight of the
      potent impact of social and cultural forces on human

      Many scientists have shown that developmental biology
      and not inborn racial genetics best explains perceived
      ethnic differences in cognition and behavior. This is
      significant. Developmental biology (for example, the
      soft wiring of the brain) in turn is influenced by a
      host of environmental forces, including nutrition,
      mental stimulation in early childhood, economic well
      being, and environmental toxins.

      Regarding Jon Entine's book, Taboo, as I told Mr.
      Winokur, there are indeed sufficient research findings
      to theoretically make a case for inborn population
      (racial) differences in athletic ability. However, as I
      also mentioned, at this point in time, these links are
      still hypothetical and not yet proven.

      True, claims about innate race-based differences in
      sports success potentially could pave the way for the
      rise of 21st century scientific racialism. And yet, how
      we as a society handle the question of race-based
      abilities in athletic skills may set the stage for how
      we either embrace or eschew myriad new findings about
      race and genetics from the Human Genome Project. For
      better or worse, the racial genetics of athletic
      capacity seems to be nestled between two polarized

      On the one hand, there is population biology, an
      esteemed area of research usually considered "good"
      race-based science (the kind, for instance, that could
      yield medical breakthroughs -- cures for diseases such
      as prostate cancer). And on the other hand, there is
      racial science -- a fringe field reminiscent of Nazi
      German efforts intent on proving racial superiority and

      We cannot wish away "racial" differences in certain
      physical and disease-related genetic traits. And we
      will not abolish racism by pretending that there are no
      genetic differences between those very fuzzy sets we
      call human races. Whether we like it or not, the
      controversy over racial science is unlikely to fade in
      the foreseeable future. By deliberately and, I believe,
      responsibly opening a Pandora's Box that most liberals
      typically avoid, Jon Entine's Taboo has forced us to
      raise the standards of data-driven research that fuels
      this ongoing controversy.

      After years of weighing the evidence, I have concluded
      that the small number of genes that actually differs
      among human races does not ultimately affect the
      ever-important traits that define our common humanity,
      especially intelligence and social behavior.
      Race-realists, of course, disagree. How this debate
      unfolds in the coming years will be determined by the
      scientific valence of each side's position.

      Lay folk may care little about the distinctions between
      developmental biology and genetics. But all of us
      (well, most of us) are concerned about the consequences
      of human genetics research -- whether for improved
      health care or for a sane society in which diverse
      ethnic groups can coexist with minimal tension. How we
      think about the underlying causes of our diversity --
      are they learned, cultural differences or are they
      inborn traits? – will have a lot to do with American
      society's history-in-the-making over the next several

      "If we do not tackle racial science, then we will
      remain forever accused of never having addressed the
      empirical evidence that racialists insist supports
      their claims." Surely, for this reason, invoking the
      language of biology to argue against racial science
      does not make one a biological determinist.

      Alondra Oubré


      Los Angeles County, California

      submitted by
      Gerry Reinhart-Waller
      Independent Scholar

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "artemispub" <artemispub@...>
      To: "MWJournal" <mwjournal@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Friday, December 31, 2004 9:26 PM
      Subject: [evol-psych] Medicine: The empirical reality
      of race

      > News: California Case Highlights Rise of Racial
      > Medicine
      > A recent medical case in California illuminates the
      > importance of not merely
      > genetics, but racial genetics, in diagnosing and
      > treating disease. Two
      > Chinese-American women were being treated for Long QT
      > syndrome, a dangerous
      > hereditary heart ailment, when their doctors, Kathryn
      > Glatter and Nipavan
      > Chiamvimonvat, both of the University of California
      > at Davis, noticed that
      > their symptoms did not match those associated with
      > the type of Long QT they had
      > beenn diagnosed with, a type identified and treated
      > according to genetic studies
      > of whites. Using genetic studies of Long QT in
      > Asians, Glatter and
      > Chiamvimonvat discovered that the two women had a
      > quite different form of Long QT syndrome.
      > The doctors also found that the two sons of one of
      > the Chinese-American
      > women had been misdiagnosed: the son being treated
      > for Long QT did not have it,
      > while his brother, who had been thought free of the
      > syndrome, suffered from it.
      > Dr.Glatter is outspoken on the need for racial and
      > ethnic matches in medical
      > diagnosis and treatment: “You need to make sure you
      > are comparing apples to
      > apples and oranges to oranges,” while Dr.
      > Chiamvimonvat notes, “One cannot
      > assume that information from one group will fit all.”
      > Other medical
      > researchers, such as Dr. Denise Johnson, who studies
      > breast cancer at Stanford, are eager for studies of
      > racial genetics in their fields: “I really want to
      > compare Africans, African-Americans and mixed-race
      > and see if there is a genetic profile. We didn’t have
      > the tools before, but now we do.” Two important
      > conclusions may be derived from the Long QT case and
      > others like it (see “Race-Specific Drug…,”
      > TOH, July 7, 2004): first, American medicine is
      > increasingly recognizing and
      > acting on racial differences, and second,
      > contemporary doctors’ defiance of
      > taboos that long held sway even in the medical
      > profession is powerful
      > evidence for the empirical reality of race.
      > http://www.ajc.com/health/content/health/1204/28genetics.html
      > ---
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