DNA and Scientific Racism

Yesterday, The New York Times ran a piece by Amy Harmon called “In DNA Era, New Worries about Prejudice,” that requires more discussion and analysis. To start, there is a factual error in the New York Times piece that I think it’s import to draw attention to, and that is, Harmon writes:

“The DNA of any two people, they emphasized, is at least 99 percent identical.”

When, in fact, Francis Collins, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health, has stated that the Human Genome Project:

“helped to inform us about how remarkably similar all human beings are—99.9% at the DNA level.Those who wish to draw precise racial boundaries around certain groups will not be able to use science as a legitimate justification” (Collins and Mansoura, 2001:221).

So, that the quest to “map the difference,” the mission of the misguided HapMap Project is actually the pursuit of variation of 0.1% not 1% as stated in the article.

In the “multimedia graphic” that accompanies that Times article, the headline reads “Minute Genetic Differences Can Mean A Lot,” and then the three examples Harmon charts are 1) pale skin among “Europeans” 2) tendency to sweat “less” (which begs the question, sweat less than whom?) among “Asians” and 3) “Africans” resistance to certain diseases. This kind of pseudo-science from the Times raises more questions than it answers. What do these differences “mean”? And, what is “a lot” in this context? While the focus of the article is on the “concern” (again, one wonders among whom?) about prejudice such research will inevitably promote (such as the post by the blogger Half Sigma mentioned in the article) what both the New York Times and the blogger Half Sigma miss here is a very common fallacy. As geneticists Collins and Mansoura point out in their article, quoted above, that those who wish to draw “precise boundaries” around certain racial groups will not be able to use science as a legitimate justification. Take for example, the category “Asian” which supposedl “sweats less” in the Times piece. Who exactly does this include? Chinese? Korean (North and South?) Japanese? Indian? Pakistani? These groups have long traditions and cultures that are quite distinct from one another. It is only from the armchair vantage point of the U.S. or Europe that “Asian” has any sort of coherent meaning, and even then it is contested. In the UK for example, “Asian” is category that includes those from India and Pakistan, though that is not the typical usage here in the U.S. And, if you read the genetic literature, those conducting researchers continues to use self-identification – how people identify themselves in terms of racial/ethnic identity – as the means to identify populations for genetic study, arguing that it is more economical to categorize people based on phenotypically based notions of “race” rather than to look exclusively at individual genetic composition for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease (e.g., Risch and others, 2002). Geneticists such as Risch and colleagues argue that:

“population genetic studies have recapitulated the classical definition of races based on continental ancestry—namely African, Caucasian (Europe and Middle East), Asian, Pacific Islander (for example, Australian, New Guinean, and Melanesian), and Native American” (Risch, N., Burchard, E., Ziv, E., and Tang, H. (2002). “Categorization of Humans in Biomedical Research: Genes, Race, and Disease.” Genome Biology, 2002, 3(7):3).

And, Risch and colleagues also include a figure, a line drawing, to illustrate their conceptualization of racial difference (Figure 1 from Risch et al.). This illustration, a long line with discrete, pronged lines off to one side indicating unified, distinct, and mutually exclusive racial categories, is not only incorrect in terms of the available genetic research that we are 99.9% alike, but it also flies in the face of decades of anthropological and sociological and biological research attesting to the fact that there is more variation within one of these categories than between the categories. Basically, these geneticists are using race as a heuristic device, as a “convenient short hand” for lots of other social, cultural and ancestral factors.



In a recent co-authored chapter I wrote with my colleague  Amy Jo Schulz (Daniels, J., & Schulz, A.J. (2006). Constructing whiteness in health disparities research. In A. J. Schulz & L. Mullings (Eds.), Gender, Race, Class, and Health (pp. 89-127). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishing), we examined the way that whiteness and white racial privilege are being re-written into the DNA era. Here’s what we had to say about this in our chapter:

The continued use of “race” as a heuristic device for investigation at the genomic level is paradoxical, when on its face individualized genetic therapy would mean testing and categorization on the individual level. This return to the use of classical racial categories in population genetics studies despite empirical evidence documenting the clear limits of these categories as indicative of ancestry or heritage (such as the U.S. census and birth record examples described earlier in this chapter) highlights the power of these socially constructed categories within science, as well as the role of scientific research in continuing to reproduce these categories. …attributing racial variations in patterns of disease to the genetic composition of racial or ethnic groups is based on a series of imperfect assumptions. Specifically, “self-identified race is a surrogate for ancestral geographic origin, which is a surrogate for variation across the genome, which is a surrogate for variation in disease-relevant alleles, which is a surrogate for individual disease risk” (Bonham, Warshauer-Baker, and Collins, 2005:13, citing Collins, 2004). With each imperfect assumption, the link between socially constructed racial categories and genetic sources of disease gets less clear, like a copy of a copy of a copy that continues to blur with each reproduction; yet the genetic frame, and the supposedly biological basis for Whiteness, remains unchallenged. This reliance on race as a sorting mechanism of convenience in the face of genomic research that demonstrates this is a less than completely reliable proxy simultaneously naturalizes racial disparities while it holds out the promise of eliminating racial disparities in health. And it leaves the Whiteness within those disparities unexamined. (Daniels and Schulz, 2006).

The key is here is that “race” is used as a sorting mechanism of convenience. I know this from the literature, and I know this from first-hand experience. I sat on a grant review committee recently for a national-level competition for multi-million dollar grants of an agency I won’t name. The review committee was quite large, probably 25 or more scholars from around the U.S. One of the grant applications that the other reviewers (mostly from the biological sciences) rated the highest was one that proposed to look at the “genetic racial differences among Blacks and whites” to different kinds of treatment for HIV/AIDS. I rated this grant proposal among the lowest I had reviewed because of the methodology: all of the participants in the study would be sorted into the supposedly self-evident categories “Black” and “white” based on self-identification. When I raised this objection among my colleagues in the biological and health sciences, they all blinked hard, and looked at me as if I’d committed some sort of unpleasant faux pas. The chair of the committee finally acquiesced that this was a methodological flaw in the proposal, but the grant was nevertheless awarded millions of dollars. This research, like so much else being done in this field, takes an unclear category and reifies it as “scientifically real,” and then the general public (like the blogger mentioned above) picks it up and uses it to justify the already-in-place white racial frame.

Despite the fact that whiteness is often implicated in this type of genetic research, “whiteness” as a racial category remains largely unexamined and white privilege is propped up once again. Here’s more from our chapter:

Furthermore, scholars have also pointed out the impulse to attach genetic conditions to labeled racial or ethnic groups, while those attached to “Whites” remain invisible. For example, genetically linked conditions such as Tay-Sachs or sickle cell anemia have become labeled as “Jewish” and “Black” diseases respectively because they are associated with people who are descendants of Ashkenazi Jews and African Americans. However, a disease such as cystic fibrosis, which is genetically linked to subgroups of the White population, does not get labeled as difference (Katz Rothman, 1998). The link, then, between genetic condition and Whiteness is ephemeral, while the connection between genetic condition and members of (already) labeled racial and ethnic groups is intractable (Daniels and Schulz, 2006).

The last three paragraphs of the NYTimes piece come the closest to getting at this intractable quality that we point out in our chapter, and here the Times turns to Samuel Richards, at Penn State:

Race, many sociologists and anthropologists have argued for decades, is a social invention historically used to justify prejudice and persecution. But when Samuel M. Richards gave his students at Pennsylvania State University genetic ancestry tests to establish the imprecision of socially constructed racial categories, he found the exercise reinforced them instead.

One white-skinned student, told she was 9 percent West African, went to a Kwanzaa celebration, for instance, but would not dream of going to an Asian cultural event because her DNA did not match, Dr. Richards said. Preconceived notions of race seemed all the more authentic when quantified by DNA.

“Before, it was, ‘I’m white because I have white skin and grew up in white culture,’ ” Dr. Richards said. “Now it’s, ‘I really know I’m white, so white is this big neon sign hanging over my head.’ It’s like, oh, no, come on. That wasn’t the point.”

I think what Prof. Sam Richards has been doing around the issue of DNA and race is admirable, but it seems clear from his own evaluation above that students (and the broader public) miss the point about no one being of any “one race” genetically – and indeed, that this is impossible. Instead, they use that information to shore up the white racial frame already in place. We need to do more to get people thinking more critically about the race and racism “in the DNA era” and offer frameworks that counter notions of biologically-grounded racial superiority and inferiority.

Comments

  1. I am a functionalist when it comes to science. Race is a useful concept, so I will use it. It is fuzzy, but so is species. Ernst Mayr, who came up with the commonly accepted definition of species in biology explains why race is just as valid here. You quibble over the use of self-identification, but instead if they had used DNA to classify people the result would not be different.

  2. Seattle in Texas

    I hold that racial constructs are just that—concepts created by human beings. In all reality, concepts of race refer to nominal physical characteristics between populations. Is that meaningful? In a racist society—absolutely. The DNA for human beings is nearly the same as our near kin Chimpanzees (98.4%). Skin is soft keratin and finger and toenails, as well as hair is hard keratin on all human beings. Slight differences in the angle the hair follicles sit determine hair text and levels of pigmentation in the skin results in variation in skin tones. Human beings can procreate across groups world wide, share blood, organs, etc. Yet concepts of race are “real’ to people as a biological phenomenon because they are constantly reinforced as such through social stratification (and “scientific” studies on DNA, etc.), forced into racial heuristic categories by immediate others, and being forced to identify as a racial being on the individual level from both immediate others and the larger society. For example, in university environments it suggested that Jews are white—in Northern Idaho and various parts of the Northwest (and elsewhere beyond that) they are not white (an ethnicity forced into a racial category, as all others have been done in the past). Who’s correct here? Moreover, society forces people to identify as racial beings to the extreme that I have recently filled out surveys or questionnaires and have refused to address the “racial” boxes, only to be told that “it’s state law that you fill it out”…. Not only are we forced to view society through a racialized lens; we are forced to identify as racial beings. So I would have to say that investigating both forced and self-identification with relation to racialized constructs is important and meaningful. Globally and biologically, we are more alike than those in positions of power, privilege, control, and authority wish to admit. Yet the ongoing forced social inequalities between groups result in continuous ecological and social experiences, as well as detrimental and often irreversible consequences for the victims of racism….

  3. Seattle in Texas, no matter how you alter social construction, you will not change the rate of sickle cell anemia among people of African descent or Tay-Sachs among Ashkenazi Jews (who are most certainly Caucasians). Different breeds of dog can mate with each other, as can lions and tigers but “Dalmatian” and “Tiger” are still valid categories.

    Globally and biologically, we are more alike than those in positions of power, privilege, control, and authority wish to admit.
    I guess I just imagined then that Larry Summers and Watson lost their jobs after they said certain things. I must be imagining state school chief Jack O’Connell insisting genetics must play no role in achievement because, well, that would just be awful. Care to name some of those people “in positions of power, privilege, control, and authority”?

  4. Seattle in Texas

    I would have to say the majority of whites in the United States—it’s not as if there are massive movements on behalf of the whites to end both de jure segregation (prison sentencing, blocking residential and employment opportunities due to “criminal” records, etc.) and de facto segregation (enforce Affirmative Action policies, punish covert redlining practices and white flight mobility, etc.). Let’s not forget the “No child left behind Act” etc. I would address the sickle cell anemia and so on with the book Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond—that might make for a good reading sometime. I wouldn’t reject the idea that some groups are more susceptible to certain conditions than others—but I think where I would differ from you is in terms of the notion of “race” providing a valid scientific explanation in and of itself rather historical reasons based on geographical mobility (often against the will for those who have ancestry that trace back to the African continent in relative recent times) and relative patterns of procreation within and between groups. In terms of using the term “Caucasian” it seems as though the point of my post was missed completely. I believe applying such concepts of race with biology (and confusing race with ethnicity or collapsing race and ethnicity) in the sense suggested above serves to stimulate a breeding ground for eugenic practices in a formal fashion over time—not much different from Hitler and Goddard. Yes prevention, treatments, and cures need to be found—but care needs to be taken as to the language used, the definitions behind them, etc. Intelligence and race? Suggesting a correlation between “race” and “intelligence” is obviously problematic…and inherently racist….

  5. Seattle in Texas

    TGGP, another good reading following Diamond’s with relation to ethnicity and medical issues [and how racism (including environmental) and colonialism (and post-colonialism) has championed the onset of various health related crises not previously known to be problematic among tribal groups in North America—and addresses the continuation of cultural and ethnic genocide which only serve to amplify the health issues] is Recovering the Sacred: The Power of Naming and Claiming by Winona LaDuke. Enjoy the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday now–

  6. Seattle in Texas

    And here’s another question–is there a difference between the terms “Caucasian” and “Aryan” (and what ever other terms that have been used to describe white groups both nationally and internationally)—or between “Hutu” and “Tootsie”, and other examples? Are those terms really scientific or social constructs that those who were in positions of power, control, and authority generated? Societies have acted upon those terms (and many others) as if they had scientific validity following with them being legitimized socially…resulting in detrimental consequences for many (The Saphir-Whorf hypothesis really). And how will future societies several centuries from now view what is considered to be modern science in contemporary times? It seems clear that eugenics is being revived guised in the name of science—and I don’t know what’s worse—science or religion, but I have heard people argue that science is a religion too….

  7. I’ve already read GG&S. I enjoyed it, even if there were problems with it.

    the majority of whites in the United States
    I asked about for the names of people in positions of power & authority. There are always more officers than grunts, more chiefs than Indians. Give me names rather than a majority.

    de jure segregation (prison sentencing, blocking residential and employment opportunities due to “criminal” records, etc.)
    Non-whites != felons. The two are distinct things. This would seem to belong instead in your de facto category.

    de facto segregation (enforce Affirmative Action policies,
    If the people of power & authority oppose affirmative action, why is it even on the books? And don’t tell me Affirmative Action is not enforced. Perhaps it does not go to the extent that you would like it to, but it is enforced enough to have a statistically significant impact.

    punish covert redlining practices
    They tried to correct that and the result was the recent subprime meltdown. The issue is one for economists.

    and white flight mobility, etc.)
    Do you mean something like bussing? Those with power and authority imposed it but “the people” resisted. Of course, if you are an elitist anti-populist like myself you should have no problem saying “No more power to the people. Take power from the people”. Or do you want to prohibit whites from moving to areas with more whites, blacks from moving to areas with more blacks and hispanics moving to areas with more hispanics (asians don’t arouse much political attention, so I skip over them)?

    Let’s not forget the “No child left behind Act”
    I certainly agree it’s a horrible law, but that’s because I expect children to be left behind and would prefer that the educational system give up on them. I don’t know what’s racist about the law.

    I think where I would differ from you is in terms of the notion of “race” providing a valid scientific explanation in and of itself rather historical reasons based on geographical mobility (often against the will for those who have ancestry that trace back to the African continent in relative recent times) and relative patterns of procreation within and between groups.
    Race itself is a product of those things you mention. If your ancestors evolved in an area with lots of sun, the result is generally going to be more melanin. This is merely a superficial aspect of race, disease resistance and other things result from these different evolutionary environments.

    and confusing race with ethnicity or collapsing race and ethnicity
    Ethnicity denotes things like culture and language. A newborn Korean adopted by Swedes will grow up to be an ethnic Swede, but still racially a Korean.

    I believe applying such concepts of race with biology [...] in the sense suggested above serves to stimulate a breeding ground for eugenic practices in a formal fashion over time—not much different from Hitler and Goddard.
    I don’t think Hitler knew much biology. Goddard advocated eugenics but opposed compulsory sterilization policies (let alone extermination), instead favoring colonies for the feeble-minded. As far as I know his ideas were not taken up, for the simple reason that he was a scientist, and unlike Hitler did not have power (if Watson had power or those with it sympathized with him he would still have his job). We are not in the 20s or 30s anymore and warning that Hitler is about to be resurrected marks one as a neo-conservative or fool (but I am being redundant).
    Out of curiosity, do you oppose voluntary eugenics?

    Yes prevention, treatments, and cures need to be found—but care needs to be taken as to the language used, the definitions behind them, etc.
    Care is fine, but insofar as science is disrupted and cures and delayed while people die, those responsible for things like Watson’s premature retirement have blood on their hands, which seems a more serious issue to me.

    Suggesting a correlation between “race” and “intelligence” is obviously problematic
    I think the correlation is fairly well established, what’s in dispute is why that correlation exists (a third variable correlated with both like poverty could , for example, be the causal mechanism).

    and inherently racist….
    Why give your opponents that kind of ammunition so they can somehow prove that science or reality is inherently racist? You remind me of the person who inadvertently claimed his faith in God would be shattered by the creation of general artificial intelligence. Rather than exposing your anti-racism to falsification, why not ground it in a normative (as opposed to positive) belief in equality?

    And here’s another question–is there a difference between the terms “Caucasian” and “Aryan”
    The term “Aryan” is frequently used by idiots to mean whatever they want it to, but I would restrict its use to refer to the people who invaded India, which previously spoke a Dravidian rather than Indo-Aryan/Indo-European language. The Dravidian peoples who already resided there were Caucasians (as are Semitic peoples), and that term is still useful to describe modern peoples whereas the original Aryan culture or people are a subject for historians.

    or between “Hutu” and “Tootsie”
    I believe the terms mostly denote ethnicity, assuming by “Tootsie” you meant “Tutsie”, but they can be considered sub-races of the broader sub-Saharan black African race if you wish. Northern and Southern Irish can be considered different sub-races as well despite looking the same to most, but the genetic differences are small enough in such cases that a racial lens is of limited utility.

    Are those terms really scientific
    Cluster analysis generally finds the normal big five races, though smaller ones could certainly be found (Andaman islanders have been isolated for so long they are very distinct, but a computer would likely ignore that blip). Ethnicity is a different matter (though still quite a useful concept), as I mentioned above. It is my belief that an alien zoologist studying humanity would find similar divisions, although ethnicity would be tougher to understand (as Jared Diamond notes, the hard sciences are easy sciences while the soft ones are difficult).

    social constructs that those who were in positions of power, control, and authority generated?
    Ethnicity is a social construct and simultaneously a very useful concept. The idea that such things must be generated by people with “power, control and authority” is silly. Every conscious person makes use of concepts. When I see a person dressed in unfamiliar clothes and speaking incomprehensible babble, merely being a peasant isn’t going to stop me from thinking “This person isn’t like most I know”.

    And how will future societies several centuries from now view what is considered to be modern science in contemporary times?
    I don’t expect to be around, so if it turns out scientific revelations turn everyone into a Nazi or Jain (not that I think that will occur) I don’t particularly care. I actually think it likely that they will have a terribly inaccurate view of the past, like the “Time Machine” in Idiocracy.

    I don’t know what’s worse—science or religion
    Then you probably aren’t worth talking to. Cue Asimov on wronger than wrong.

    but I have heard people argue that science is a religion too….
    Such people are idiots. There is no religion I know of that precludes one from believing in science, the two are distinct fields.

    It seems clear that eugenics is being revived guised in the name of science
    Voluntary eugenics is already being practiced. I don’t see any evidence that coercive eugenics is going to have a revival in the west (China’s one-child policy indicates they could be up for it).

  8. Oladokun, Oluwaseun. O.

    Coming from a nation where identifying one’s race is not required for official documents like education or employment, I will try to be as objective as possible. I was accustomed to ‘discrimination’ based on specific standards like village/town/city of origin, language, family history, as the list goes on but, never on color. We were all blacks, we were all Africans. Just like racial categorization based on color, the standards reflect the agenda of ideologists within the nation. Those in control of the means of production also control the ideas that circulate within the community. They possess power which is their ability to make others within the society accept their reality as a common reality. This is done with the use of a discourse- race. From pilgrims to slaves and now immigrants, the American dream requires the backs of minorities to be realized. Gone are the days when the so called whites claimed that Italians, Jews and Eastern Europeans were none white since being white implies Anglo-Saxon heritage. Hence, the whole category is not scientifically based. Jews found their way into ‘whiteness’ with the holocaust- I challenge anyone to counter my claim that no Southern white man would have gone to Germany to rescue some ‘negroes’ or minorities at least not in the 1940s, they were saving fellow whites. Those that have power within the society will continue to protect their power. The valid way of achieving this is by finding newer and more sophisticated justifications for their discourses. If we were all declared equal- 99.9% can be mathematically (scientifically) rounded up to 100%- then there will be problem. Illegal immigrants are equal to their tax-evading employers, the black suspect is equal to the all-white jury about to decide if he lives or dies, the traffic officer is equal to the driver, I think my point is clear. Hence, it is not about the scientist whose name appears on the book or his editor. It is about those that pay him to conduct researches on those narrow and shallow categories. But we are no different. We are all subject to their control. They employ us to market the bad science, pay us to buy them and enforce them. So, it is not us, it is them. We all know that emancipation came with the civil war since slave labor was becoming too expensive to maintain. Immigrant labor is cheaper than those of skilled citizens who know they can organize against or sue bad employers. They do what benefits them. If convincing us that DNA science proves the categorizations that come with inequalities, they will milk it till other ‘innovative science’ is introduced. In conclusion, the brains in the big and small institutions should not focus more on if 0.1% DNA combination is significant difference or similarity. They should see their colleagues and experiment subjects as humans. No one is perfect but when mistakes are made, they should be acknowledged when realized. And, if that is not possible then, we should try to live like Africans- I do not like you so do not cross my path- and hope another genocide (as labeled by the white media) is not on the way soon.

  9. Seattle in Texas

    TGGP–I’m sorry your panties are in a bunch…it happens to everyone at some time or other…but you gave much to respond to–so when I have time, I will be glad to respond when I have more time. But, for now–legal research, look up how the Supreme Court Justices defined white over time. And Goddard was very much in favor of sterilization my friend. And I appreciate the Goddardarian language you use: “idiot”–(he liked the terms “moron” and “imbecile” too). But I will get back to you when I have more time (you have been cyber tainted *wink*). The best scientists I know are the ones who have suggested science is a religion and are mindful of that….

    Oladokun–well said.

  10. Oladokun, the French are not Anglo-Saxons. Were they ever considered non-white?

    The Supreme Court has said all sorts of wacky things at one time or another, “emanations from penumbra” and the like. I’m not interested in what they say about race, but what genetic data does.

    Here is a link on Goddard and sterilization vs colonies.

    The term idiot is so common it cannot really be considered Goddardian anymore. It would be like saying someone who used the words here is using Shakespeareian language.

    The best scientists I know are the ones who have suggested science is a religion
    You likely know some lousy scientists. Science is data-based, falsifiable and value-free (even medicine just tells you the facts about cancer rather than whether it is good or bad). Science allows you to create a rocket that can go to the moon and back. Has any religion ever done that? They are completely different things.

  11. Seattle in Texas

    TGGP—I do not share your perspectives with just about every topic touched on here, but I do thank you for the dialogue and respect your positions as dangerous as they may be in my own humble opinion—and will continue to fight against them. In terms of the scientists I am referring to—many do consider them lousy scientists; indeed…J Sometimes it is the opinions or informed judgments who very few share whose words are most important to ponder on deeply—even if one doesn’t agree. It is people like these who refuse to see the world and provide answers as if they are constantly answering exams or willing to surrender to the status quo for feathers to stick in their hats. Rather, they go against the grain and challenge it. Furthermore, while practicing science, they are in battle with their own in that they are willing to step forward and challenge the ethics of science, etc.—whether it be with relation to human beings or our innocent fellow species undergoing reprehensible experimentation “for our benefit” in laboratories throughout the nation as we speak. But, they are also aware of the past damages science (or psuedo-science) has done to populations and wish for history to not be repeated. They are aware values impact science down to what it ethical, etc. And they are aware that science can create self-fulfilling prophecies (as can statistics, etc.)—ultimate manipulation in many ways. With that—science can be, and has been, just as dangerous as religion. Both claiming enlightenment, the truth, etc. Both science and religion can be good (all religions)—but they can all be very dangerous and deadly. And to suggest science is value free—values underlie whether or not conceptions of race are actually scientific or not. Race as a biological notion(s) were generated from values in the first place. Durkheim said that anything that is social is religious. Science rests on a social foundation. I have to close this one with the suggestion that the term “Anglo” is another great example of a white social construct—it has such an elegant ring to it compared to the other terms I’ve heard…”Anglo”…white supremacy….

  12. Rather, they go against the grain and challenge it.
    Like Summers and Watson, both of whom lost their jobs because of what they said? I don’t put social “scientists” like Summers in the same category as hard scientists, but what makes Watson not a lousy scientist is not any political activity (I suppose that could make him a great activist, though whether a cause is worthy is an irresolvable dispute) is the tangible products of his work, which is why he won a Nobel (though I would say prizes in areas other than the hard sciences are questionable). A religion does not produce those kinds of results and yacking about science being a religion won’t get you them either. The Universe does not pay attention to clever arguments about social construction, it bends only to objective understanding.

    Both science and religion can be good (all religions)
    Even esoteric Hitlerism? Some religions are so value-laden you would be hard-pressed to find anything good in them.

    With that—science can be, and has been, just as dangerous as religion.
    I would say even moreso. Science can split the atom, what in comparison can religion do? I suspect that most things attributed to it would not differ too much in its absence.

    And to suggest science is value free
    Something tells me you don’t understand what wertfrei means.

    values underlie whether or not conceptions of race are actually scientific or not.
    No matter your values, when you feed a bunch of DNA into a computer and ask it to do clustering analysis, the result is the same.

    Durkheim said that anything that is social is religious.
    Science is not inherently social (imagine a solitary immortal human in a universe like ours, it would most likely have a good deal of scientific discoveries) and not all social things are inherently religious. When a word is thrown around to mean everything, it no longer means anything.

    I have to close this one with the suggestion that the term “Anglo” is another great example of a white social construct
    It was constructed by whites, yes, there weren’t nearly as many non-whites in the area at the time. It derives from the tribe of Angles and came to describe the English-speaking peoples with roots in England. Perhaps it could be argued that Saxon is just as good a term (I don’t actually know), but it’s hardly important. What is relevant is that nobody considers the French Anglos and “wogs begin at Calais” aside, they are universally accepted as white. Your use of the term indicates severe carelessness on your part.

    t has such an elegant ring to it compared to the other terms I’ve heard
    What kinds of terms? “Hydraulic”? That’s a term. Unless you give me examples it’s impossible for me to understand your comparison.

    …”Anglo”…white supremacy….
    Usually the use of ellipses is to indicate a pause or to allow the reader to fill in the blanks, but here I really don’t know what you’re getting at.

  13. Seattle in Texas

    I love the echo..echo….echo……echo……..echo………echo of the posts. While the universe may not care about arguments about social construction—it reinforces social constructs of various sorts, necessarily resulting in social consequences (positive for some and negative for others) regardless of how “objective” the scientists may be. I have also heard “objectivity” is an impossibility too—it’s something to strive for, but impossible to fully accomplish. My guess is that your expertise in metaphysics will shoot down that suggestion—or you take the position that philosophy is not relevant to science. Dare to think outside the box or be a free thinker—that’s what Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, etc. did. And has science reached it’s ultimate potential for knowledge in current times? If so, that’s scary—I don’t have that much faith in it, that’s for sure. My home city announces every so often that it does experiments in the medical communities—experiments with treatments that are based on random assignment, which is not voluntary (I’m not so sure if Bill Gates, among others up there, were to suffer a heart attack or other health related condition they would simply be thrown in a condition randomly), plus, as you suggested (you great Metaphysicists you) “voluntary eugenics” occurs. Let’s be purely objective and ignore the potential social consequences—after all, like religion, it reduces responsibility and blame. I suppose science is superior to Voo Doo, witch doctors, Santeria, and other cultural and ethnic beliefs and practices, etc. too…. Some people have faith in science, some religion, some both Here’s something to muse over from Diesing (1991) who quotes Feyerabend: “Knowledge…is not a series of self-consistent theories that converge towards an ideal view; it is not a gradual approach to the truth. It is rather an ever increasing ocean of mutually incompatible alternatives, each a single theory…forcing the others into greater articulation and al of them contributing via this process of competition, to the development of our consciousness”—but such assertion makes Feyerabend an idiot in the language and context used above. I have to say, I am taken aback with your closed-mindedness—there’s a saying that ignorance is bliss…but I think it should be that the superiority complex is bliss. I think you need to take a trip to Holland and relax a bit….perhaps expand the mind….

  14. My guess is that your expertise in metaphysics will shoot down that suggestion—or you take the position that philosophy is not relevant to science.
    I do take that position.

    Dare to think outside the box or be a free thinker—that’s what Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, etc. did.
    I could easily turn the argument back around to you. People who use that are usually asking people who currently disagree with them to agree with them but are not willing to return the favor.

    And has science reached it’s ultimate potential for knowledge in current times?
    Of course not, I expect for things such as genes that predispose people to higher intelligence will be found, and then hopefully we will use that knowledge for genetic engineering.

    My home city announces every so often that it does experiments in the medical communities—experiments with treatments that are based on random assignment, which is not voluntary
    I have been a subject in experiments myself and they always ensured I was aware of any potential dangers or discomforts and secured my consent. It was my impression that not doing so opens one up to legal troubles. Of course, if by “voluntary” you meant not-paid rather than without consent it is an entirely different story.

    you great Metaphysicists you
    I think metaphysics is a waste of time, which does not make me a metaphysicist but a meta-metaphysicist.

    “voluntary eugenics”
    Is there a reason for the scare quotes?

    Let’s be purely objective and ignore the potential social consequences—after all, like religion, it reduces responsibility and blame.
    Perhaps if I could read minds I would know what you were getting at, but right now it strikes me as loopy.

    I suppose science is superior
    Superior would seem to imply some normative criterion, which as an emotivist I hold to be inherently subjective and lacking in truth value (neither true nor false in an objective sense).

    to Voo Doo, witch doctors, Santeria, and other cultural and ethnic beliefs and practices, etc.
    Science can do things they cannot. It is on those grounds that I say science is different. I am willing to hear out Vox Day in his claim that science is worse than religion.

    Feyerabend
    Speaking of him, while David Stove is also a fool it is great fun to read him go after the “four irrationalists” (Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos and Feyerabend).

    I have to say, I am taken aback with your closed-mindedness
    I would say I am taken aback at your close-minded reaction to what I have said, except that I don’t find it surprising.

    there’s a saying that ignorance is bliss…but I think it should be that the superiority complex is bliss.
    Is there a study you would propose to falsify one or the other (or possibly both) hypothesis?

    I think you need to take a trip to Holland and relax a bit
    I am relaxed enough already, I don’t need to go to Holland. I suppose you might be suggesting the use of consciousness-altering drugs, to which I say that I have no problem with others using them but personally I’ll pass.

    ….perhaps expand the mind….
    Again, the ellipses are unnecessary.

    Alice in Chains was much better than Mad Season. It is a shame that Layne is dead. Perhaps he should have avoided expanding his mind.

  15. Seattle in Texas

    TGGP, my friend, please let me suggest another reading to you as I am, and have been, sensing something all too familiar with relation to the Pacific Northwest. Please read, when you have time: “The Racist Mind: Portraits of American Neo-Nazis and Klansmen” by Raphael S. Ezekiel. White supremacy engulfs this nation, including the education system and I would argue, even science.

  16. all too familiar with relation to the Pacific Northwest
    If you had asked me to guess the regions of America with the least presence of such repulsive types, I would have guessed the Pacific Northwest after the Northeast. Perhaps it just goes to show what I know.

    Please read, when you have time: “The Racist Mind: Portraits of American Neo-Nazis and Klansmen” by Raphael S. Ezekiel.
    American Nazis strike me as too unimportant to waste time reading about. The historical Klan was once something of significance (Woodrow Wilson, may he burn in hell if I am wrong and the place does exist, was tight with some of them) but has become ever more pathetic as the years go on. At any rate I promised someone I would read Walter Lippman’s “Public Opinion” right after Franz Oppenheimer’s “The State”, but I might read “The Enterprise of Law” before then. Long before I get to your book I’ll probably purchase The Blank Slate, Demonic Males and (though it doesn’t come out to January 10th) Violence: A Micro-Sociological Theory. If I actually wanted to get into the mind of a modern American racist I would be more likely to read this, but as it is I don’t have any special desire and can settle for the many blogs out there for a light sprinking of insight.

    White supremacy engulfs this nation
    If White supremacy engulfed this nation then there would be no crypto-white supremacists or “cloaked” white supremacy sites. People would instead dishonestly claim to be white supremacists so that they would gain more respect among their peers (this actually was the case with the 1920s Klan). Your statement is simply laughable.

    including the education system
    So am I just imagining that Glenn Singleton is employed by the education system to root out racism, that many universities offer “[insert ethnic/racial group here] studies” courses though of course they recognize that a white studies (entirely different from “whiteness studies”) course would not be an actual worthwhile academic field but simply racial grandstanding? There have been actual white supremacist governments, and I don’t recall any of them doing anything remotely like that.

    I would argue, even science.
    Then why did Watson lose his job? If white supremacists were in charge wouldn’t they have given him a pat on the back? The things you say make it seem as if you’ve been living in an entirely different time and place with little resemblance to modern America.

  17. Seattle in Texas

    You should read the book when you have time—sometimes elements of their thoughts, patterns of communication, and even actions are reproduced with or without even realizing it (or deliberately) in private, public, and professional settings. Racism cannot be fought without knowing how the racists think—that thinking extends far beyond members of official hate groups. To fight it, you have to know it, as ugly and uninteresting as it may be. The book may cool some flames—as might the other suggested readings in this website. I would follow the Racist Mind with White Racism.

  18. Seattle in Texas

    “Organized white racism is about a mood—lonely resentment—and several ideas—white specialness, the biological significance of ‘race,’ and the primacy of power in human relations. These ideas and the feeling of being cheated (not unique to racists) are powerfully motivating in the absence of ideas that might lead to more positive action…The appeal of white racist ideologies reflects the absence of competing sets of thought, emotion and experience, competing faiths that say ‘That is how the world is constructed’ and ‘This is how you can become a person who matters and whose life matters’” (Ezekiel 321:1995). That quote extends beyond organized hate groups and is certainly applicable to various types of knowledge in mainstream social settings—continuously reinforced and internalized everyday by people of all backgrounds throughout this nation…both through private and “legitimate” institutionalized settings….

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