Friday, August 31, 2007

A genetics/population bleg

I don't know whether I have enough readers yet to start "blegging," but I thought I'd give it a shot in the off chance that one of the few visitors I do have knows something about this.

In our small group session today, one member of the group, a very liberal, biracial (black/white) young woman became reservedly yet visibly exercised when we broached the subject of genetic risk for disease being associated with race. She was quick to tell us that when working at the NIH (an experience she is obviously quite proud of--I'm sure a liberal half-black woman has no trouble getting a job at the NIH) she learned that racial risk factors, while they do exist, are really attributable to social factors correlated with race such as low income, education, living in a high-crime area, etc., rather than to genetics. Naturally, I don't buy that. She also said that the only diseases that are correctly attributable to genetics and correlate with race are single-gene disorders such as sickle cell anemia, and that even in those cases, since it's only one gene, it's not really racial since any person of any race can have that one mutation. She said that multifactorial disorders aren't really attributable to race at all, that there's more genetic variation within races than between races, and of course, repeated the ubiquitous leftist talking point that there's really no such thing as race anyway and it's merely a social construct. She made it sound like at the NIH this stuff is considered firmly established scientific fact.

Now, it doesn't surprise me at all that the NIH has "discovered" the scientific "fact" that racial differences don't actually exist, though obviously, I'm highly skeptical. But I was unable to rebut any of these claims, because I'm really not well-read on this topic, and I figured that this being a subject that is obviously near and dear to her, she would probably have several studies or articles she could cite off the top of her head which she at least believes establish her view, which would make her look like she had science on her side while I was merely a quack engaging in speculation.

So I'd like to ask if anyone can recommend good books, articles, or other sources that may show that what this woman was saying is wrong. Specifically, I'm interested in knowing more about where this idea that there is more genetic variation within races than between races comes from, what its significance really is, and whether it really means what liberals seem to want it to mean. More generally, I'd also love to know if there's been anything solid refuting this incessant claim that there's no such thing as race and it's merely a social construct.


Vanishing American said...

Hermes, I am no scientist but this subject interests me. Are you familiar with the Gene Expression blog?
They discuss these kinds of subjects. Also I trust you are familiar with Steve Sailer's blog? Those two blogs are good sources in the blogosphere but I don't know much about books on the subject. I am sure there are plenty of others out there who do know, however.

The claim about greater genetic differences within races than between races is, from what I understand, just PC evasion, just as with the hackneyed 'race is a social construct.' Then I guess racism is a social construct likewise.

If race is a mere social construct then why is race a factor when seeking donors for bone marrow transplants? And why are racially-mixed individuals in need of a transplant at a disadvantage in finding compatible donors? I am sure you know much more about that than I, with your medical background.
Anyway, it's an interesting subject.

American Cassandra said...

I have just the book for you; it is dedicated to proving the very proposition that race is NOT a social construct, but a biological reality, contra the PBS special that insisted it was.

Race: The Reality of Human Differences, by Vincent Sarich and Frank Miele. It is from an evolutionary perspective mostly, but also talks about Race in the law and Race in the ancient world.

The idea that there is greater variation between races than among races is 1) exaggerated 2)not particularly meaningful.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you. I think the slave masters realized that there was an inherent difference between blacks and whites. They understood that some groups were inferior and others were superior and created a system based these genetic differences that served the best interests of society. Then liberals had to challenge this system and awards to "equality" to all. Including groups that are not biblically or biologically equal. Once we started saying that women and niggers were equal to white men our society begin an irreparable downward plunge. Any way I'm glad there are still people out there who believe in this countries white male-dominated conservative tradition. Keep up the good work.

Hermes said...

Blogger does not offer blog owners the ability to edit comments, so rather than deleting anonymous's comment completely, I am leaving it here as an example of what I won't tolerate. To use a word that exists solely as a racial slur degrades the level of debate and only hurts our cause. Furthermore, I prefer to avoid the terminology of "superior" and "inferior." Such language is too strongly associated with the view that "superior" groups are somehow obligated to dominate the entire world, and also implies that we think blacks, for example, are bad people for being black, which is not what I believe.

On rereading anonymous's comment, I am wondering if it is really a liberal's attempt at parody of what he thinks conservatives believe. Still, I am letting it stand as an example of the kind of comment that will be deleted in the future.