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posted by janrinok on Saturday March 18 2023, @10:12AM   Printer-friendly

For genetics, use scientifically relevant descriptions, not outdated social ideas:

With the advent of genomic studies, it's become ever more clear that humanity's genetic history is one of churn. Populations migrated, intermingled, and fragmented wherever they went, leaving us with a tangled genetic legacy that we often struggle to understand. The environment—in the form of disease, diet, and technology—also played a critical role in shaping populations.

But this understanding is frequently at odds with the popular understanding, which often views genetics as a determinative factor and, far too often, interprets genetics in terms of race. Worse still, even though race cannot be defined or quantified scientifically, popular thinking creeps back into scientific thought, shaping the sort of research we do and how we interpret the results.

Those are some of the conclusions of a new report produced by the National Academies of Science. Done at the request of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the report calls for scientists and the agencies that fund them to stop thinking of genetics in terms of race, and instead to focus on things that can be determined scientifically.

The report is long overdue. Genetics data has revealed that the popular understanding of race, developed during a time when white supremacy was widely accepted, simply doesn't make any sense. In the popular view, for instance, "Black" represents a single, homogenous group. But genomic data makes clear that populations in Sub-Saharan Africa are the most genetically diverse on Earth.

And, like everywhere else, populations in this region haven't stayed static. While some groups remained isolated from each other, the vast Bantu expansion touched most of the continent. Along the coast of East Africa, the history of interchange with Mideastern traders can be detected in many groups. There's also a tendency to treat African Americans as being equivalent to African, when the former population carries the legacy of genetic mixing with European populations—often not by choice.

Similar things are true for every population we have looked at, no matter where on the globe they reside. Treating any of these populations as a monolithic, uniform group—as a race, in other words—makes no scientific sense.

Yet in countless ways, scientists have done just that. In some cases, the reasons for this have been well-meaning ones, as with the priority to diversify the populations involved in medical studies. In other cases, scientists have carelessly allowed social views of race to influence research that could otherwise have had a solid empirical foundation. Finally, true believers in racial essentialism have always twisted scientific results to support their views.

The NIH, as the largest funder of biomedical research on the planet, has been forced to navigate our growing understanding of genetics while trying to diversify both the researchers it funds and the participants who volunteer to be part of these studies. NIH thus commissioned the National Academies to generate this report, presumably in the hope it would provide evidence-based guidelines on how to manage the sometimes competing pressures.

The resulting report makes clear why racial thinking needs to go. A summary of the mismatch between race and science offers welcome clarity on the problem:

In humans, race is a socially constructed designation, a misleading and harmful surrogate for population genetic differences, and has a long history of being incorrectly identified as the major genetic reason for phenotypic differences between groups. Rather, human genetic variation is the result of many forces—historical, social, biological—and no single variable fully represents this complexity. The structure of genetic variation results from repeated human population mixing and movements across time, yet the misconception that human beings can be naturally divided into biologically distinguishable races has been extremely resilient and has become embedded in scientific research, medical practice and technologies, and formal education.

The results of racial thinking are problematic in a variety of ways. Historically, we've treated race as conveying some essential properties, and thinking of populations in terms of race tends to evoke that essentialist perspective—even though it's clear that any population has a complicated mixture of genetic, social, and environmental exposures. Essentialist thinking also tends to undermine recognition of the important role played by those environmental and social factors in shaping the population.

The report also notes that science's racial baggage leads to sloppy thinking. Scientists will often write in broad racial terms when they're working with far more specific populations, and they'll mention racial groups even when it's not clear that the information is even relevant to their results. These tendencies have grown increasingly untenable as we've gotten far better at directly measuring the things that race was meant to be a proxy for, such as genetic distance between individuals.


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  • (Score: 3, Troll) by turgid on Saturday March 18 2023, @11:06AM (16 children)

    by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 18 2023, @11:06AM (#1296849) Journal

    If you speak to some really old people (well into their 90s now) you can get a glimpse of some very simplistic and ignorant attitudes from the past. In fact one of my own grandmothers, who lived to be over 100, had some "interesting" attitudes to race. She and others of her generation, considered "races" of people not unlike people used to talk about breeds of dog, particularly the fact that if you cross the breeds you get mongrels. It's a pretty stupid attitude and highly insulting. My grandmother claimed not to hate people with different skin colours but she thought they shouldn't intermarry. "It's the children I feel sorry for." Presumably because they'd get looked down on by people like her.

    Scotland has a pretty shameful history when it comes to racism (and many other sorts of -isms). Scotland was heavily involved in slavery and made a lot of money out of things like tobacco and sugar produced by slave labour in the colonies. This from a country of raving puritanical Christians, too. The hypocrisy stank to high Heaven. I believe there was a Scot who made his fortune getting Chinese people addicted to opium. He was a raving puritan and made sure that things like whisky were banned at home, thus criminalising the locals.

    What a dreadful and shameful past. I'll write about the homophobia another day.

    Starting Score:    1  point
    Moderation   +2  
       Troll=3, Insightful=3, Interesting=2, Informative=1, Overrated=1, Total=10
    Extra 'Troll' Modifier   0  

    Total Score:   3  
  • (Score: 5, Funny) by turgid on Saturday March 18 2023, @12:57PM (4 children)

    by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 18 2023, @12:57PM (#1296862) Journal

    How is this a troll? Have some Alt-Wrong nerves been touched?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18 2023, @04:00PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18 2023, @04:00PM (#1296894)

      > How is this a troll?

      It is not. This system gives far too much power to one person who "has an ax to grind", is closed-minded, and gets his little incel rocks off by using his mighty downvote.

      > Have some Alt-Wrong nerves been touched?

      When haven't they?

      • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Saturday March 18 2023, @06:43PM (2 children)

        by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 18 2023, @06:43PM (#1296924) Journal

        This system gives far too much power to one person who "has an ax to grind", is closed-minded, and gets his little incel rocks off by using his mighty downvote.

        What usually happens is that, over time, others correct the perceived bad moderation with moderations of their own. No single moderation should be taken as the view of the entire community.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday March 19 2023, @03:30AM (1 child)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 19 2023, @03:30AM (#1296997) Journal
          This downmod [soylentnews.org] on September 2, 2019 totally destroyed SoylentNews. It has been wiped clean from the face of the Earth by the fury of this downmodder. We no longer even know of it. It's like it never existed in the first place!
          • (Score: 4, Informative) by janrinok on Sunday March 19 2023, @07:53AM

            by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 19 2023, @07:53AM (#1297023) Journal

            September 2, 2019 totally destroyed SoylentNews

            That comment and the moderation are still there, with the username that gave it. Yet here we are and the same people are still posting today - literally. Nothing to do with the comment that you linked to has been "wiped clean from the face of the Earth by the fury of this downmodder". Another person upmodded that comment too, so the comment score stayed exactly the same.

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by mcgrew on Saturday March 18 2023, @02:13PM (4 children)

    by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Saturday March 18 2023, @02:13PM (#1296879) Homepage Journal

    It's really hard for a young person to wrap their head around, but the legal enslavement of Black people wasn't really all that long ago. I'll be 71 next month, and I met my great grandpa Harry McGrew when I was four. He was 101 and had been alive during the Civil War. My Grandpa Bill McGrew was alive a few years after Congress outlawed Asians in 1890 (they considered all Asians "Chinese").

    --
    mcgrewbooks.com mcgrew.info nooze.org
    • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Sunday March 19 2023, @02:09AM (3 children)

      by Reziac (2489) on Sunday March 19 2023, @02:09AM (#1296987) Homepage

      The legal enslavement of whites was even more recent.
      Just not where Americans would notice it.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_slavery [wikipedia.org]

      --
      And there is no Alkibiades to come back and save us from ourselves.
      • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20 2023, @05:21AM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20 2023, @05:21AM (#1297116)

        Even more recent is the rape crisis in England - https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2016/august/easy-meat-britains-muslim-rape-gang-cover-up [cbn.com]

        As many as one million white English children may have been the victims of Muslim rape gangs, better known as grooming gangs, in towns up and down Great Britain.

        Perhaps even harder to believe is that while there have been prosecutions, the British government has still not stopped this criminal activity.

        In one local jurisdiction, it was estimated that six out of seven Muslim males either knew about, or were part of, a grooming gang.

        The thing you have to understand about this rape of children is it's not just sexual abuse. It is unspeakable levels of violence, victims being raped with knives, victims being raped with bottles, victims having their tongues nailed to tables. These are sometimes girls who are picked up from a children's home on a Friday, are being raped during the course of a weekend by hundreds of men and returned with bleeding groins back to the children's' home on a Monday morning and they don't do anything about it at all.

        If you are a young English girl, particularly between the ages of nine and 14, and you find yourself subject to the perversions of Muslim men, you effectively exist in a country where the forces of law and order don't exist at all.

        • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Monday March 20 2023, @08:28AM

          by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 20 2023, @08:28AM (#1297137) Journal

          If you think that a news report from 2016 backs up your claim then I will have to disagree with you.

          Secondly, it is not in 'England' any more than Ohio or Florida is the whole of America. The report you quoted tried to make it easier for you by saying "in towns up and down Great Britain" which includes other countries in addition to England (England, Scotland, and Wales). Even the US news site that you mis-quoted knows the difference.

          Finally, we are discussing the use of the word 'race' specifically in science. Muslim isn't a race. It is a religion. And any religion can be corrupted. Another example is the corruption of Christianity by the extreme right wing, the Catholic church, and others in the USA. I am surprised that you didn't quote that as a more recent example of the 'rape crisis in America'. You should look at the evidence that is being recorded on other sites on the internet which details the large numbers of Christian priests and pastoral staff who are currently being convicted for child abuses - including rape.

          Your comment was so bad I can fully understand why you chose to post it as an Anonymous Coward.

      • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Monday March 20 2023, @05:41PM

        by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Monday March 20 2023, @05:41PM (#1297208) Homepage Journal

        "Legal" referred to legal IN AMERICA, and the examples I saw in your link were from before 1900. Grandma McGrew wasn't even born until 1903. Hardly "recent" although one was less ancient than American slavery

        --
        mcgrewbooks.com mcgrew.info nooze.org
  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18 2023, @04:19PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18 2023, @04:19PM (#1296897)

    Learning from history is vitally important, but people shouldn't dwell on it and get all riled up in a negative and equally hateful way. We should be happy and inspired by how far we've come, especially compared to many societies who even today oppress and murder those who don't conform. Sure, there's more to do, but I think we need to be careful of the unintended consequences, like increasing racism because some whites are going to hate blacks no matter what, and the more benefits and talk of reparations we give blacks, the more the racists will hate.

    I was severely underfunded in college, to the point that my grades suffered because I had to work part-time, had to take semesters off, and the weak GPA caused a domino-effect in my lack of a career. In college I went to the "financial aid" office over and over. They knew me by face. Were always polite, but finally said (and I'll never forget these exact words): "If you were black or Hispanic, there would all kinds of money available to you." That was the last time I went there. Maybe I should have bought some skin coloring and changed my name to something black or Hispanic sounding. I don't, and have never resented blacks or Hispanics as a result, rather I strongly resent the people who put "Affirmative Action" in place, a system which discriminates against white people, and it should be obvious that it fuels the fire of racism. When we cease ALL racism, maybe it'll dissipate.

    • (Score: 2) by j-beda on Sunday March 19 2023, @05:35PM

      by j-beda (6342) on Sunday March 19 2023, @05:35PM (#1297060) Homepage

      They knew me by face. Were always polite, but finally said (and I'll never forget these exact words): "If you were black or Hispanic, there would all kinds of money available to you." That was the last time I went there. Maybe I should have bought some skin coloring and changed my name to something black or Hispanic sounding. I don't, and have never resented blacks or Hispanics as a result, rather I strongly resent the people who put "Affirmative Action" in place, a system which discriminates against white people, and it should be obvious that it fuels the fire of racism. When we cease ALL racism, maybe it'll dissipate.

      I'm sorry you struggled with paying for your tuition, and that that contributed to challenges then, and later in life.

      I'm not sure I agree with your conclusion that your experience represents evidence that "Affirmative Action" discriminates against white people. What I think your experience shows is that we need more support for more people, not that we should eliminate the support being provided to under-represented groups. Most of use fail to recognize that the tiny advantages we might get or not get because someone else of similar status does or does not get them is NOTHING as compared to the systematic barriers that favour those at the top end of the system. The vast majority of the benefits that college savings funds, tuition tax credits, financial aid, and the entire financial system go towards those who are "upper middle class" or above. "The rest of us" spend a whole lot of our emotional and political energy fighting each other over how to divide the "scraps that fall from the tables".

      Of course, figuring out how to combat racism more broadly is something I have no real idea how to do. Combating extremism in all its myriad forms seems virtually impossible.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Saturday March 18 2023, @05:33PM (1 child)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Saturday March 18 2023, @05:33PM (#1296908)

    >she thought they shouldn't intermarry.

    My grandparents were born in Tennessee in the 1910s of poor mongrel German, Scottish, English descent and that's pretty much where they landed in their racial attitudes by their later life, 1975 and beyond.

    That, and they were pretty much afraid of blacks, wouldn't often mingle with them if given a choice. Fair enough when you consider the 1960s and what was happening in the US South at that time.

    My parents made some progress, have some black and Hispanic friends, but still are racially conscious/ slightly standoffish sometimes.

    My wife and sons attended integrated schools, they slightly prefer the company of other races, the remaining white supremacists are not as much fun to be around, although there are still a significant number of black, Asian and Hispanic people around who are as racist as the whites - they aren't fun to be around either.

    --
    🌻🌻 [google.com]
    • (Score: 4, Funny) by Gaaark on Saturday March 18 2023, @07:43PM

      by Gaaark (41) on Saturday March 18 2023, @07:43PM (#1296933) Journal

      Yeah: i've known some non-white people who are/were great, and some white people who are/were scum.

      How in hell can you be prejudiced against an entire people when your own can be so fucking useless.

      --
      --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18 2023, @08:29PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18 2023, @08:29PM (#1296945)

    Scotland has a pretty shameful history when it comes to racism

    Damn Scots! [youtu.be]

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Immerman on Sunday March 19 2023, @01:49PM

    by Immerman (3985) on Sunday March 19 2023, @01:49PM (#1297041)

    I don't know - seems to me the only fucked up part is the attitude toward mongrels, and the idea that "mongrel" humans are a *bad* thing.

    Other than that it sounds like a pretty reasonable analogy. It's not like the biological rules behind animal husbandry work any different for humans.

    Consider:

    Purebred animals are pretty much by definition heavily inbred. And prone to all the mental and physical health problems that accompany that. Mongrels are the ones that tend to be dramatically healthier and more intelligent. The first generation may still get fucked up genes from both parents, but they're *different* fucked up genes, so all the recessive problem genes aren't a problem for them, and the blending problem genes are at least diluted. And subsequent generation of mongrels have a better chance of not carrying the bad genes at all.

    Now dogs and other domesticated animals were bred to have very specific traits be good tools or trophies for us - and it makes sense that someone who wants a tool or trophy rather than a healthy individual will look down on mongrel animals.

    But for a person? If someone wants a person to be a tool or a trophy, then *they* are the problem. And while human races generally aren't nearly as inbred as dog breeds, if you want healthy, intelligent people then "mongrels" are still where it's at. Among closely related wild species we call the phenomena "hybrid vigor", with the offspring often combining the best qualities of both parent populations into an individual that can out-compete those from either original population. Like the coyote-wolves that are currently re-populating a Unites States in which both coyotes and wolves have been nearly exterminated - the greater size, strength (and brain size) of wolves combined with the stealth, cleverness, and litter size control of coyotes have created a mongrel canid that's driving sheep ranchers to distraction and even thriving, mostly unseen, in the hearts of cities.

    Which I suppose for the more intelligent and self-aware racists might be the real problem...