John Hawks has some interesting things to say about genetics and race based on a New York Times article about David Goldstein. The article can be found at: A Dissenting Voice as the Genome Is Sifted to Fight Disease, and the Hawks' posting is at: David Goldstein profile.
Scientists are discovering more and more genetic differences between human races and this is starting to cause some problems as described in the New York Times article ...
Another pursuit that interests him, one of high promise for reconstructing human evolutionary history, is that of discovering which genes bear the mark of recent natural selection. When a new version of a gene becomes more common, it leaves a pattern of changes that geneticists can detect with various statistical tests. Many of these selected genes reflect new diets or defenses against disease or adaptations to new climates. But they tend to differ from one race to another because each human population, after the dispersal from Africa some 50,000 years ago, has had to adapt to different circumstances.John Hawks is an expert in these kinds of studies so it's interesting to read his comments. Note that there's no disagreement over the facts; races are genetically different. I disagree with Hawks and Goldstein on the cause of some of this variation. In my opinion they are placing too much emphasis on selection as the cause of variation between species and not enough emphasis on chance. Differences in ABO blood type frequencies, for example, are probably not due to selection.
This newish finding has raised fears that other, more significant differences might emerge among races, spurring a resurrection of racist doctrines. “There is a part of the scientific community which is trying to make this work off limits, and that I think is hugely counterproductive,” Dr. Goldstein said.
At the end of his posting Hawks mentions a quotation from Theodosius Dobzhansky. This is a quotation that everyone should keep in mind as they enter the debate. You can find out more by reading a 2006 posting about Dobzhansky on continuing human evolution. Here's the actual Dobzhansky quotation from that posting ...
The chief reasons why so many people are loath to admit the genetic variability of socially and culturally significant traits are two. First, human equality is stubbornly confused with identity, and diversity with inequality, as though to be entitled to an equality of opportunity, people would have to be identical twins. Human diversity is not incompatible with equality. Secondly, it is futile to look for one-to-one correspondence between cultural forms and genetic traits. Cultural forms are not determined by genes, but their emergence and maintenance are made possible by the genetically conditioned human diversityLet me sound a note of caution to those who wish to comment. The fact that humans races might be genetically different says absolutely nothing at all about equality and racism. For this thread only, I will delete any comments where the author is confused about this distinction. This is a discussion about science and whether some scientific investigations should be censored because they might be misinterpreted.
Hawks doesn't allow comments on his blog. This is such an interesting topic that I thought I'd mention it here to get some feedback.
[Image Credit: The image is obviously the cover of Scientific American from December 2003. This is one of the most blatant examples of political correctness ever published in a prestigious journal and it's one more example of the decline of Scientific American. It doesn't take much to recognize that the faces on the cover are identical except for skin color. As if that's all there is to human populations.]