Geneticists on Race

The following were the articles published in the prestigious journal Nature Genetics‘s 2004 issue on race and genetic (Nature Genetics 36, 2004.) To summarize: It was generally agreed that there were socially (medically) important genetic differences between ancestral populations, there was disagreement as to the degree of correspondence between socially delineated racial populations and ancestral populations and so the validity of inferences, and it was generally agreed that the taxonomic concept of race poorly characterized human biogeographic variation.

Editorial. The unexamined population

(Purposely ambiguous.)

Patrinos, 2004. ‘Race’ and the human genome

Collins, 2004. What we do and don’t know about ‘race’, ‘ethnicity’, genetics and health at the dawn of the genome era

(The relation between “Race” and genetics is hazy but deserving of more research to clarify the connection.)

Parra, Kittles, Shriver, 2004. Implications of correlations between skin color and genetic ancestry for biomedical research

(Different populations differ in the correlation between skin color and ancestry. As such, caution is warranted when inferring ancestry from color. The research on skin color and ancestry provides strong evidence that admixture mapping for other traits is doable.)

Mountain and Risch, 2004. Assessing genetic contributions to phenotypic differences among ‘racial’ and ‘ethnic’ groups

(Social delineations of race fairly accurately reflect ancestral heritage and ancestral populations differ genetically in practically significant ways. As such, racial differences have practical importance.)

Rotimi, 2004. Are medical and nonmedical uses of large-scale genomic markers conflating genetics and’race’?

(Social delineations of race poorly reflect ancestral heritage and ancestral populations can not be clearly defined. As such, though ancestral populations differ genetically in some medically significant ways, ‘racial’ differences have no practical importance.)

Tate and Goldstein, 2004. Will tomorrow’s medicines work for everyone?

(There are medically significant genetic differences between “racial” and “ethnic” populations. For the sake of social justice, more members of underrepresented populations should be included in studies so to detect if various medications are genetically optimal for these populations.)

Tishkoff and Kidd, 2004. Implications of biogeography of human populations for ‘race’ and medicine

(Knowledge of regional ancestry has important medical significance but racial taxonomic categories poorly describe human genetic variation, given the clinal nature of differences.)

Jorde and Wooding, 2004. Genetic variation, classification and ‘race’

(Traditional concepts of race imperfectly describes human genetic variation; knowledge of ancestral differences is medically important given the current level of understanding.)

Cho and Sankar, 2004. Forensic genetics and ethical, legal and social implications beyond the clinic

(While research on ancestral genetic variation is medically valuable, the research needs to be integrated with ethnical analysis, given the potential for the abuse.)

Keita et al., 2004. Conceptualizing human variation

(Human genetic variation does not structure into subspecies but this doesn’t preclude substantial genetic variation between populations. Linguistic clarity is important.)

Royal and Dunston, 2004. Changing the paradigm from ‘race’ to human genome variation

(Knowledge from the Human Genome Project challenge the concept of race and the validity of genetic inferences made in context to race.)

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6 Responses to Geneticists on Race

  1. Kiwiguy says:

    ***given the clinal nature of differences.) ***

    This 2005 Rosenberg paper is quite interesting on the cluster & cline issue.

    “How can these seemingly discordant perspectives on human genetic diversity be reconciled? Figure 6 shows a plot of genetic distance and geographic distance for pairs of populations. To illustrate the effects of moving continuously across geographical space, only pairs from within clusters or from geographically adjacent clusters are shown. That is, for the five clusters with K = 5 in Figure 2 of the present study and in Figure 1 of [3]—corresponding to Africa, Eurasia (Europe, Middle East, and Central/South Asia), East Asia, Oceania, and the Americas—an intercluster population pair is plotted only if it includes one population from Africa and one from Eurasia, one from Eurasia and one from East Asia, or one from East Asia and one from Oceania or the Americas.

    For population pairs from the same cluster, as geographic distance increases, genetic distance increases in a linear manner, consistent with a clinal population structure. However, for pairs from different clusters, genetic distance is generally larger than that between intracluster pairs that have the same geographic distance. For example, genetic distances for population pairs with one population in Eurasia and the other in East Asia are greater than those for pairs at equivalent geographic distance within Eurasia or within East Asia. Loosely speaking, it is these small discontinuous jumps in genetic distance—across oceans, the Himalayas, and the Sahara—that provide the basis for the ability of STRUCTURE to identify clusters that correspond to geographic regions.”

  2. Steve Sailer says:

    I think a simple way to get the appropriate message across to doctors is that racial background is simply another form of family background. Just as doctors like to know if your family members have good or bad reactions to a particular medicine, doctors should like to about tendencies found among members of your larger extended family.

    Secondarily, doctors should be reminded that while self-identification of race usually is pretty accurate, there are common over-simplifications. Just as Barack Obama only identified as black on his 2010 Census form, a Dominican might only identify as white who is similar in background to the President. But, these complicating factors are not terribly difficult for an intelligent person to remember.

    • Chuck says:

      I don’t know Steve. The points you make sound too obvious. Can’t you couch them in sociologist jargon?

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