Re: evolution and race

Date: Thu Feb 21 2002 - 19:29:28 EST

  • Next message: Keith B Miller: "Re: evolution and race"

    In response to a statement I made about the concept of "races" of humans
    being scientifically dubious, Norm Woodward wrote:

    > Could you elaborate on that statement... I understand that genetics have
    > proved that we have all come from common ancestors, and, possibly, that we
    > are of the same species (the point of contention in my original post), but
    > does it in any way cast the idea of "strains" or "subspecies" or "races" in
    > doubt. After all, for example, genetically, I believe, various groups are
    > susceptible to different illnesses. I have been told that such resistances
    > are enough to classify micro-organisms, if not higher creatures. Could this
    > be a basis of further breakdown of our species?

    I hope there are people on this list who know more about it than I do, but
    within the past couple of years, as a by-product of the Human Genome
    Project, there have been a number of scientists saying things like "Race is
    a social concept, not a scientific one." or "The concept of race is
    meaningless." The idea as I understand it being that only a tiny fraction of
    our genes relate to the characteristics we call "race" and that this is
    small in comparison to the variety of human genetic diversity. So, I as a
    "white" person could be closer (in terms of overall genetic similarity) to a
    given black person than to a given white person.

    As is usual when race is involved, there is controversy about these
    statements. That is why I used the word "dubious" in my post instead of
    something like "disproven."

    I can't point you to primary sources, but you can get the gist in a couple
    of NY Times articles I found on the Web:

    and this from the Atlantic Monthly:

    One of these articles mentions the example you gave of resistance to
    diseases, and says (this was news to me) that the gene that simultaneously
    produces sickle-cell anemia and gives resistance to malaria is found not only
    in Africans, but in many other people groups, of all "races", in parts of the
    world where malaria is a threat. That's the most interesting thing I've
    learned so far today ...

    Dr. Allan H. Harvey, Boulder, Colorado |
    "Any opinions expressed here are mine, and should not be
     attributed to my employer, my wife, or my cats"

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