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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For genetics, use scientifically relevant descriptions, not outdated social ideas: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: 4, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Saturday March 18 2023, @05:21PM (10 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Saturday March 18 2023, @05:21PM (#1296906)

    Good Christians defeated the sand niggers to liberate the Holy Land, but didn't have the financing to make a lasting occupation until WWII.

    Since Jesus is more of a concept than a real person, He (1/3 of Our "One true God") can be Any Colour You Like [].

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  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Gaaark on Saturday March 18 2023, @07:32PM (5 children)

    by Gaaark (41) on Saturday March 18 2023, @07:32PM (#1296929) Journal

    Yup! NOBODY wrote about Jesus while he was alive.

    He fed the masses with, what, a few fish (I don't remember the story)
    He turned water into wine! (He'd have been invited to EVERY party, but no one writes about him even once?)
    He made the blind see.
    He made the lame walk.

    And not ONE person wrote about him until hundreds of years after he supposedly lived; wrote down an oral history (and we all know how accurate oral histories are).

    The Gospels tell us about Jesus, but the one Gospel about Jesus that to me would be the most accurate was left out of the Bible: the Infant Gospel.
    Jesus, it says, as a child was a bit of a dick at times: he killed two people (a man and a child) on a whim.

    YET who, as a child, wasn't a dick at times. Who, as a child, wouldn't have killed someone if they had a special power to: a bully; an abusive parent; ?

    To me, Jesus being a dick as a child but reforming later on and going ultra-kind to people is an accurate portrayal, but showing Jesus as a dick is not something 'THE ESTABLISHMENT' (Catholic church, etc) wants people to see (and remember, this is only if you believe Jesus actually existed).

    Oral history, written down hundreds of years after the 'fact' about a guy who did all these miraculous things that NO ONE wrote about....

    ...and Jesus would have been black, or at least brown. Something 'THE ESTABLISHMENT' also tries to hide.

    I believe in what the bible/God/religion attempts to teach ('Be a good person'), but I think organized religion should be banned: NOT RELIGION, just ORGANIZED religion. As far as I've seen, organized religion is just about power and money (I know, money IS power).

    If you believe, fine. But why would you want/need someone to tell you HOW to believe. God is right there (supposedly): ask HIM how to believe.

    --- 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, @08:19PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18 2023, @08:19PM (#1296941)

      Most of what was written about Jesus was by a guy named Josephus, a Roman propagandist, advocating Jewish pacifism during the invasion of Jerusalem

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Sunday March 19 2023, @12:20AM (1 child)

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday March 19 2023, @12:20AM (#1296980)

        Talk about backfire... Christianity didn't topple the empire, but it spread like wildfire compared with Judaism.

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        • (Score: 3, Informative) by Reziac on Sunday March 19 2023, @02:06AM

          by Reziac (2489) on Sunday March 19 2023, @02:06AM (#1296986) Homepage

          Christians recruited. Jews don't.

          And there is no Alkibiades to come back and save us from ourselves.
    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Saturday March 18 2023, @08:36PM (1 child)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Saturday March 18 2023, @08:36PM (#1296947)

      The concept of Jesus was/is massively powerful, at least in the minority of the world where Christianity has taken hold.

      It only got that way by evolving into a socially spreadable and durable concept, and it continues to evolve today. "Jesus wants you to donate so we can buy more satellite time, etc."

      🌻🌻 []
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18 2023, @09:25PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18 2023, @09:25PM (#1296958)

        Comeon, get it together man. The satellites are up in heaven, duh.

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by jman on Sunday March 19 2023, @11:29AM (3 children)

    by jman (6085) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 19 2023, @11:29AM (#1297031) Homepage
    The tone of that first sentence is offensive, and sure doesn't sound anything like satire. Sounds like you mean it. Which is mean.

    The second sentence also begins with a false statement. Historical record shows Jesus probably was an actual person, but that's beside the point.

    While many pay lip service and claim to be this thing called a "Christian", no one who actually adheres to the principals he espoused would consider violence to be acceptable.
    • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Sunday March 19 2023, @12:35PM (1 child)

      by Gaaark (41) on Sunday March 19 2023, @12:35PM (#1297034) Journal

      While many pay lip service and claim to be this thing called a "Christian", no one who actually adheres to the principals he espoused would consider violence to be acceptable.

      According to the Infant gospel, Jesus killed at least 2 people.

      --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20 2023, @05:50AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20 2023, @05:50AM (#1297120)

        it's ok

        he brought them right back to life soon after

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Sunday March 19 2023, @02:00PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday March 19 2023, @02:00PM (#1297043)

      Personally, I have known a lot of "Good Christians" who are mean to their core. Like sponsor military expeditions to the Middle East to go kill some brown people because that'll show 'em to fear our insecure unstable selves mean, and I am not only talking about the Crusades.

      If Jesus the man was son of God, He is an incredibly uncaring or impotent God, particularly with respect to what goes on in His name.

      🌻🌻 []