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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For genetics, use scientifically relevant descriptions, not outdated social ideas: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, Insightful) by mcgrew on Saturday March 18 2023, @02:07PM (6 children)

    by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Saturday March 18 2023, @02:07PM (#1296877) Homepage Journal

    As I am a Christian, seeing a "Jesus" that doesn't look Jewish saddens me.

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  • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Saturday March 18 2023, @07:34PM (3 children)

    by Gaaark (41) on Saturday March 18 2023, @07:34PM (#1296930) Journal

    Seeing Jesus as he actually would have been (if he existed) saddens you?

    Have you read the Infant Gospels?

    --
    --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
    • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Monday March 20 2023, @05:45PM

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Monday March 20 2023, @05:45PM (#1297210) Homepage Journal

      He would have looked no less like a modern Jew than an ancient Roman era European would have looked like me. As to skin pigments, if I get a lot of sun I'm darker than a lot of people with African ancestry, and I have hazel eyes.

      Jesus was Middle Eastern, not African.

      --
      mcgrewbooks.com mcgrew.info nooze.org
    • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Monday March 20 2023, @05:53PM (1 child)

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Monday March 20 2023, @05:53PM (#1297212) Homepage Journal

      What are the infancy Gospels?
      The so-called Infancy Gospel of Thomas (IGT) or Paidika is an apocryphal document that narrates episodes from Jesus' youth from the age of five up until his twelfth year. With the exception of the Temple narrative based on Luke 2:41–52, the episodes are not found in the New Testament.

      No, I haven't, and wikipedia says "The texts are of various and uncertain origin." [wikipedia.org]

      Two centuries after Jesus was executed, anybody could have written them. They could not possibly have been eyewitness accounts.

      --
      mcgrewbooks.com mcgrew.info nooze.org
      • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Monday March 20 2023, @10:37PM

        by Gaaark (41) on Monday March 20 2023, @10:37PM (#1297292) Journal

        What are the infancy Gospels?
                The so-called Infancy Gospel of Thomas (IGT) or Paidika is an apocryphal document that narrates episodes from Jesus' youth from the age of five up until his twelfth year. With the exception of the Temple narrative based on Luke 2:41–52, the episodes are not found in the New Testament.

        No, I haven't, and wikipedia says "The texts are of various and uncertain origin." [wikipedia.org]

        Two centuries after Jesus was executed, anybody could have written them. They could not possibly have been eyewitness accounts.

          In later manuscripts dating from the Middle Ages, the Gospel opens with a prologue where "Thomas the Israelite" introduces himself, but with no further explanation. It is possible that this was meant to hint that the author was Judas Thomas, better known as Thomas the Apostle, thought by some Christians to be a brother of Jesus and thus familiar with young Jesus's activities.[5]

        ************************************************************

        but as eyewitnesses began to die, and as the missionary needs of the church grew, there was an increasing demand and need for written versions of the founder's life and teachings.[44] The stages of this process can be summarised as follows:[45]

                Oral traditions – stories and sayings passed on largely as separate self-contained units, not in any order;
                Written collections of miracle stories, parables, sayings, etc., with oral tradition continuing alongside these;
                Written proto-gospels preceding and serving as sources for the gospels;
                Canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John composed from these sources.

        The four canonical gospels were first mentioned between 120 and 150 by Justin Martyr, who lived c.100-185.[51] Justin had no titles for them and simply called them the "memoirs of the Apostles", but around 185 Iraneus, a bishop of Lyon who lived c.130–c.202, attributed them to: 1) Matthew, an apostle who followed Jesus in his earthly career; 2) Mark, who while himself not a disciple was the companion of Peter, who was; 3) Luke, the companion of Paul, the author of the Pauline epistles; and 4) John, who like Matthew was an apostle who had known Jesus.[51] The scholarly consensus is that they are the work of

        • unknown Christians

        and were composed c.68-110 AD.[52][51] The majority of New Testament scholars agree that the Gospels do not contain eyewitness accounts;[53] but that they present the theologies of their communities rather than the testimony of eyewitnesses.[54][55]

        Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the synoptic gospels because they share many stories (the technical term is pericopes), sometimes even identical wording; finding an explanation for their similarities, and also their differences, is known as the synoptic problem,[56] and most scholars believe that the best solution to the problem is that Mark was the first gospel to be written and served as the source for the other two[57] - alternative theories exist, but create more problems than they solve.[58]

        [Emphasis mine]

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

        Seems like the four gospels were picked and chosen, the infancy gospels rejected. Why?

        And, it's all oral history: why should ANY of it be believed?

        --
        --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18 2023, @09:32PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18 2023, @09:32PM (#1296960)

    I'm not sure if you're being literal or tongue-in-cheek. I'm not sure what Jewish would look like, especially 2,000 years ago. I've known many and been around many many, and they vary wildly, including some with very red hair and blue eyes. Maybe even some blondes, but very few "blondes" are actually blonde.

    I like the depiction in this article a lot: https://www.gbnews.com/news/what-jesus-really-looked-like-finally-revealed-after-2000-years/413335 [gbnews.com]

    This image: https://www.gbnews.com/media-library/the-real-jesus-the-ai-generated-image-of-the-son-of-god.jpg?id=32937807&width=861&height=1079&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C4&quality=80 [gbnews.com]

    • (Score: 1) by Runaway1956 on Sunday March 19 2023, @12:24AM

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 19 2023, @12:24AM (#1296981) Journal

      That image is very passable. Years ago, I participated in a discussion, in which several modern look-alikes were discussed. We settled on the late Colonel Omar Khadaffi as one of the most likely candidate. Basically the same as your link, but with a more oval head.

      --
      ‘Never trust a man whose uncle was eaten by cannibals’