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Taboo Topic

  1. Aug 27, 2004 #1

    marcus

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    some people at PF like to talk about race: either to attack and belittle the notion, and deplore others using the word, or contrariwise to defend it. So a lot of information is flying around and you can learn a lot from the conversation. I've learned things I didnt know

    somebody, Moonbear maybe, said the NIH (national inst of health) wouldnt fund medical research or some such thing unless the experimental subjects were from several races. this amazed me, but then I saw the sense to it.
    Drugs work differently and diet and nutrition depending on race, which is of course scientifically real. So you HAVE to include a diverse group in your study so the information is as useful to doctors as may be.
    I now see the NIH is simply encouraging good science since it makes people consider more factors and find out more. And indeed we get published results showing race makes a difference e.g. in follate uptake in pregnant women.

    It needs to be made clear that the fact the classification was done by the doctor or the patient (and is thus in either case "sociological") is no drawback as long as it is repeatable enough to be useful to doctors, dieticians or nurses in the future.

    so there must be thousands of scientists in US getting NIH grants and publishing scientific results where they use categories of race.
    If it makes for better science and for more useful science in treating people, then more power to them.

    Because so many scientists use it, one must conclude that scientifically speaking, race is a tremendously useful concept.
    However, for reasons I dont thoroughly understand, one might wish to deny this and give a number of reasons why it cant possibly be useful to classify people by race. I cant remember them all but here is what some of the reasons sound like to me.

    1. it isnt useful because the US is a bad country to be doing that
    2. it isnt useful because in Australia they say "ancestry" instead
    3. it isnt useful because that is just "sociological race" instead of some imagined other kind.
    4. it isnt useful because some scientists in the special field of human genetics at the present moment do not use the word. OK so they have their own words, fine. OK so in other fields scientists do. OK even geneticists might use it in the future when their tools get a little sharper.
    5. it isnt useful since the only reason those other scientists find it conveneint is because of the US Census. The fact that statisticians at the Census use it shows that the whole country is obsessed with race, which is naughty.

    ---------
    There are doubtless other arguments, you have to go looking yourself because there's too much for one person to look through and read, but the trouble with all the arguments is that it's pretty well established that classifying people by race is useful for some kinds of science and in some professions. Also it doesnt matter if the doctor or patient does it subjectively----the categories just have to be so that people can use them with reasonable consistency in that context and application.

    Now if you are not a scientist and have no practical reason to be classifying people (e.g. according to how different categories respond to a certain drug etc.) then it may be bad manners in many situations. It doesnt make for entertaining conversation either. So it wont do for people harp on it, or be inconsiderate. those are non-science issues.

    If it is SCIENCE we are talking about then you want to use any concepts that work, no holds barred. and in a multiracial society this is one very useful concept in all kinds of fields.

    if it ain't (yet) useful to human geneticists that is tough luck for them. they may find it helpful in the future

    And what about the future? In the future I expect the human genetic tree will emerge from a lot of DNA blood samples going into the computer
    and human races will have objective reality.

    the term may be "racial variety" or something else, just to fit in the taxonomy. it doesnt matter what word.

    I expect finns will be a race and maori and inuit and god knows what else, and maybe han and ashkenazi. And quite some people will be
    unclassifiable because they're so homogenized.

    Instead of only having a "sociological" or a subjective race, everybody will want to go down to the testing center and get their blood sample analyzed to find out what actual objective race they are, or if they raceless. they will be curious. and it may be a multidimensional thing too

    I dont set such a high value on the information, but I'd pay 5 dollars to know. But if it cost 10 dollars I might buy a bottle of wine or go to the movies.

    It is kind of intriguing. a lot of human history is in genes----the flow and mixing of different types of people. how much of you is Beakerfolk, how much Basque, how much Ottoman Turk. Did you realize 95 percent of your ancestors fished from rowboats and ate mostly codfish? (joke)

    One paper Iansmith gave a link for told how in the past sometimes two or more races combined to make a new race. So the tree is not exactly a tree. It should be challenging to construct. Branches can grow back together and branch out again in new ways. the dog team modified their computer program "structure" to allow for that. Well thats my view of the future----a huge load more information which essentially classifies people and untangles riddles of ancestry to some extent.

    I'm guessing there will turn out to be exactly 85 human races---or "varieties" if that word is adopted instead. Why, because 85 seems like a good number and that was how many breeds of dog those other researchers dealt with.

    Meanwhile we've got ourselves a scientifically useful concept! Let's see what we can do with it!

    BTW when a New Zealander says his friend is Maori he is talking of what we Americans'd say was the persons race. If he wants to call it "ancestry" thats his business. His Census Bureau can call the boxes "ancestry" which sounds real classy. I've never done the Census questionnaire but I'd be quite pleased to be asked my "ancestry". Let's hope they change the form. But the trouble is, sanitary synonyms dont have any lasting effect. If you can't clean up the words you have now, it wont help to use euphemism: the codeword will get just as smelly real soon.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 27, 2004 #2
    100,000 medical journal articles citing race, and counting

    In fact, there are currently almost 100,000 medical journal articles indexed on Medline that mention the word race in their abstracts or titles. Judging by the first 100 citations returned by a PubMed query for the word race, almost all of those medical journal articles are using the word in the sense of a human subpopulation identifiable by distinctive hereditary phenotypic characteristics.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2004
  4. Aug 27, 2004 #3

    Evo

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    There is a need for some sort of identification. In the US, it is common to group people by race and/or ethnicity.

    I think one of the problems in science is how do you decide what "race" a person is? How do you classify race? This is of particular importance in the pharmaceutical field. If you have a medication that will work for Asians, but not for blacks, you really need to know what criteria the pharmaceutical company that developed the drug used to determine "race". This is a major problem. There is no scientific cut and dried classification. Different pharmaceutical firms are using different criteria.

    Take for example the famous golf player Tiger Woods. Most people consider him black. He looks black, his skin and hair are those of a black person. In reality he is mostly Asian. See this post from another thread:

    Tiger Woods, his father and mother have tried to make it clear that Tiger Woods should not be considered black, but Asian. They've said this multiple times on SI and Golf Digest, but many people still insist that he is black, especially African-Americans. Tiger Wood's family, especially his mother seem to get quite annoyed when they deny his other races.

    Quote:
    According to some sources (http://members.tripod.com/~t_woods/facts.html), his father is 50% of African descent, 25% Native American, 25% Chinese, AND his mother is 50% Thai and 50% Chinese. This would logically make Tiger Woods 37.5% Chinese, 25% of African descent, 25% Thai, and 12.5% Native American, OR 62.5% Asian, 25% of African descent, and 12.5% Native American.


    So, let's say Joe Smith looks black (like Tiger), but he is 63% Asian, 25% black & 12% Native American. He is rushed to the emergency room of a hospital. There are medications which have been developed based on race which can save his life. They see he is black and administer the medication for blacks, and he dies. Ok, a bit silly, but this is why there is so much trouble with "labeling" groups of people. There is so much diversity in the population of the US.

    Also, even among people that are generally considered black, there are more genetic differences among Africans from different regions, for example, than there are between Africans and Europeans.
     
  5. Aug 27, 2004 #4

    marcus

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    Love it! here we have a great paradigm for the "raceless" category!

    Tiger Woods can be a great example of a "raceless" person that the
    computer simply cannot catalog, even as an identifiable mixture.

    ----footnote for anyone new to the discussion----
    I have this SciFi fantasy that the human geneticists will push the
    structure program to the limit, with all sorts of improvements.
    And there will turn out to be a tree-like structure
    and there will be 85 "varieties" and also identifiable mixtures of them
    and for $5 dollars you can walk up and give a blood sample and
    find out what your genetic variety is (which might be multidimensional)
    It is pretty vague, but something like this has been done with dogs.
    there are unclassifiable dogs. it is good to have it pointed out that
    unclassifiable dogs and people can achieve excellence in endeavors
    valued by society such as playing golf and remembering where they put the bone.
     
  6. Aug 27, 2004 #5

    Evo

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    Actually, some geneticists are pushing for bringing medical care down to a personal genetic level. It will be awhile before we get there, but I find it fascinating. So your scenario may not be too far off.
     
  7. Aug 27, 2004 #6

    Nereid

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    Well, if you live in the UK, you can already do something very similar ... today from the guy who brought you the Seven Daughters of Eve
     
  8. Aug 27, 2004 #7

    Moonbear

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    Whether you group people by races or not, it really depends on how you then use the information. Science and medicine really do need to rely on the individual level, just like the semi-fictitious example of someone who is mostly Asian being treated as an African-American because he "looks black." (Aside: reminds me of a Seinfeld episode.) Scientific inquiry usually starts out by looking for broad patterns, and then refining them to narrower and narrower criteria. So, if we identify that a particular drug is more efficacious in the black population than the white population, that doesn't mean it works for all blacks and no whites, it just tells us something that affects the efficacy of that drug is more commonly found in one population over the other. That gives scientists a starting place to look for what is causing that difference. Now they can start looking at what is different about these populations, what is similar about those who respond, what is different within the population between responders and non-responders.

    Let's return to the folate example, just as an example. Let's say these findings are replicated independently, African-Americans as a population have consistently lower levels of folate uptake despite being given the exact same doses of folate in their diet (there may be individuals who do not fit this profile). The next question to be asked is: why? Now, scientists delve into their bag of folate data and find there is a folate transporter protein (I don't know if there is, I'm making this up for sake of example now). Now they head back out to the clinics and compare groups included in the original study: African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, European-Americans (a.k.a., whites), and find that indeed, the African-Americans have lower levels of this transporter, and this correlates well to the levels of folate they have in their blood too. Now, this doesn't mean it's causational yet, we have to consider that it may actually be the other way around, maybe the lower folate levels cause the transporter levels to drop rather than the transporter levels controlling folate levels. Well, this is easy to test (I should note that it's not really that easy in reality...the concept is simple, it may not be that easy to actually measure this transporter depending on where it's found...it may be hard to get people to enroll for a clinical study if you need to take a biopsy of stomach tissue to measure the trasnporter, for example). Give a range of doses of folate to this cohort and measure pre-treatment and post-treatment levels of the transporter to see if they change with folate dose. If they don't, then you can narrow this down that it's likely the other way around. You can do the reverse study too. Find individuals with different levels of folate transporter (many at each level), and give them a fixed oral dose of folate to see if this affects how much of the folate gets into their blood.

    Okay, in our hypothetical example, we now have used these racial differences to narrow down our test group for examining the root biological cause of the differences at an individual level, not at a population level. This is now far more useful for application to medicine. No longer does a physician have to guess if someone is African-American or Asian with a small percentage of African ancestry. Instead, when a pregnant woman of any race arrives for her first pre-natal checkup, they take a blood sample, put a few drops into a quick diagnostic kit that either measures folate transporter or some marker of folate transporter levels, and the doctor now knows if this patient needs an additional treatment other than just taking a folate-enriched vitamin supplement during pregancy, such as a drug to help up-regulate folate transporter levels to actually get the supplemented folate to the fetus. If you just stopped at race, you wouldn't be helping anyone. Breaking down the population into any sort of subgroupings has its uses if applied correctly. Science can group populations in ways other than race as well, such as occurrence of a disease that fairly uniformly crosses racial boundaries. Instead, they may find that we need to group people geographically in the US, such as with cancer clusters, to identify the root cause, or by occupation (i.e., asbestos exposure). The important thing is these are starting points, not endpoints.
     
  9. Aug 27, 2004 #8

    marcus

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    this sounds extremely right-on (as far as I can tell from limited perspective)
    I'd say that broad categories are most useful when you havent time or cant afford better information. and sometimes the extra screening test is too expensive, or just isnt practical, so I imagine the doctor or dietician or whoever just doing the best they can with the information they've got.
     
  10. Aug 27, 2004 #9

    marcus

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    Ahah! another turn in the logic. Must be the sort of thing that makes biology interesting.

    One would imagine broader categories serving this way. If my doctor just treated me based on my age sex and race I would quickly get a new doctor
    even if I liked his tie.

    Moonbear, I've heard about this business of "lactose tolerance". Is there one of these tests for that?
    You start out with a broad group and you say hmm that person belongs to a group that often has lactose intolerance. But before you prescribe anything there is presumably a test.
    It might be as trivial as giving the person a glass of milk and seeing if he runs to the bathroom. But one should do the test, not just assume things.
    :smile:
     
  11. Aug 27, 2004 #10

    marcus

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    I am realizing how behind the times I am. It never occurred to me to wonder if I was a descendent of Genghis Khan! But here (and there is even a 5 pound stirling discount) is this service that looks at your DNA and tells.

    not sure what "Seven Daughters of Eve" is

    however this outfit does not smell quite right to me.
    the person you link to may actually be a mountebank jumping the gun, Nereid. I would be cautious about sending him any of your blood.
     
  12. Aug 27, 2004 #11

    Nereid

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    The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from one's mother; Sykes took some samples from women in England and found that he could show most likely were descendents of one of seven women (it's not that simple). another link. As C-S says in his Genes, Peoples, and Languages book, there is a lot of misunderstanding about 'African Eve'; similarly some people who read Sykes' book come away with wrong ideas too (some say Sykes is partly to blame for 'dumbing down' some of the complexities).
     
  13. Aug 27, 2004 #12

    marcus

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    there is someting a little bit like vanity press publishing houses and mailorder geneology outfits here.
    Personally I am a direct male descendent of Hansi Kepler and have a touch of Aristarchus on my mother's side. I totally reject the idea of having descended from Genghis Khan, even a little.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 27, 2004
  14. Aug 27, 2004 #13

    selfAdjoint

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    Even though your rottweiler shares genes with Romulus and Remus' mommy?
     
  15. Aug 27, 2004 #14

    Moonbear

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    If you know tons of seemingly useless trivia, try the monthly quiz at this site:
    http://www.skeptics.com.au/features/quiz/quiz.htm

    I thought this relevant because one of the questions/answers from the July quiz was this:

     
  16. Aug 27, 2004 #15

    marcus

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    my silliness aside selfA, you once said essentially that you did not begrudge the Ashkenazi their 10 percent share of the population territory even tho they take professional jobs from your own kin---you put it nicer and stronger than that. listen now. we have transcended racial resentment and bitterness for a moment. there is to be a portioning out of the demographic "land" which is acceptable, maybe arrived at democratically, maybe it is 3004

    the Ashkenazi have earned the right to be particular because all we others agree that we want to have them be (whatever it is 3 percent or 10 percent) a part of our population---because they keep doing interesting things-----and we all see it as worthwhile having a bunch of that subpopulation around even if they take some professional jobs away from our kinfolk, by being slightly better at arguing, because they are also often better at playing the violin.

    we have a constitution with some protection of minority rights and some basic limitations on jurisdiction etc etc, but basically we all vote about how to share the demographic turf, and we mutually exercise control over each other's fertility (without warfare)

    and furthermore to the extent any group has a group consciousness they will sense an obligation to act good and win approval for the group.
    If they feel no group identity that is OK too, let them be pure individuals only representing themselves. But if some feel any shred of group identity then they are going to have an extra motive to be good citizens and win approval because other people are going to be voting----it is a "popularity contest" in a couple of senses

    and it is actually not a zerosum game, there are ways that everybody can benefit-------besides removing one of the causes of genocide

    Oh, what were we talking about? I was daydreaming 3004 again :smile:
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2004
  17. Aug 27, 2004 #16

    marcus

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    I have to correct that website's joke and say that
    Mr. Genghis was working two different jobs overtime
    one was conquering the world, which his guys did impressively well,
    and the other was getting the world pregnant, which is different.

    and it looks like he did a very impressive job on that one too.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2004
  18. Aug 28, 2004 #17

    Evo

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    I'm looking at the August quiz. Question #3 How many people mentioned in the Bible were known to be ambidextrous?
    I don't know. :frown:
     
  19. Aug 28, 2004 #18

    Moonbear

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    Oh, I hardly ever know the answers to the quizzes unless I get really lucky with a google search, but they are as much entertaining as frustrating, especially when you go through and read some of the selected answers from previous quizzes and see how funny they are (not many can get the answers).
     
  20. Aug 28, 2004 #19
    The issue is not weather racial differences should not be studied and noted. For example, no one here is studying the discrepancies in regards to black poverty and unemployment rates between the races in the USA. There are likely hundreds, if not thousands, of differences that can be noted between the races. However, what is apparently obvious here is the subset of alleged or actual differences that people are focusing on.

    It stands to reason that choosing a narrow subset of differentials, namely those alleged difference that helped to promote the idea of black genetic inferiority, seems to be paramount. Regardless of what many of you like or do not like to hear, the fact is that such is racist. I am not at all trying to prevent you from talking about it. In fact, I like it when people can openly discuss issues of race. However, you have to take the good with the bad, because it is a package deal. The fact that there are some on this forum who only focus on the differences that work towards implying a genetic black inferiority…which by implication then goes to explain such things as Homicide rates and lower social status, born from testosterone levels and an inferior brain.

    You recognize, whether you accept it or not, that such conclusions is tantamount to calling a black person a nigger, but only using pseudo science or biased research to do so.

    A person with a known and documented history of thievery, whether not currently a their or not, must recognize that he or she will always be a prime suspect, when something comes up missing, especially when they are known to have been in the vicinity. I am not suggesting that I know what is truth. It is possible, that blacks could be genetically inferior, as many of you are suggesting. It is also possible that whites could be genetically inferior, which non of you are suggesting. I have no way of proving either case and none of you do either. However, what I do know is that whites credibility on racial issues is that of a known thief. Your documented racist history destroys the credibility. The fact is that we simply need more people of color doing such research, however, that does not seem to be an area of interest and need of people of color as much as it is for white people.
     
  21. Aug 28, 2004 #20

    marcus

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    I consider your post here to be spam. It is inconsiderate and off topic or diversionary in nature.
    I started this thread and thats how it looks to me.
    You seem to be full of resentment and expecting everybody
    to understand and sympathize and accept your resentment.
    You are the first person to bring up the issue of "alleged genetic inferiority" in this thread and almost the first person to introduce the concept "African-American" into the thread of discussion.
    The only previous reference here to "African-American" that I can find is where Moonbear says something about folate uptake----a nutrition matter relevant to human mothers generally IIRC.

    I have the highest respect for your intelligence but if I were a "mod" here (Mentor) I would just zap this post of yours so the thread could move on without this distraction.

    this thread is not about the alleged "African-American" classification of people or about the "alleged brain genetic hum-hum" or whatever you seem to like to talk about. Please find another thread where they are eager to talk about the various chips on their various shoulders and their alleged intellectual hum-hums.

    and testosterone and stuff, like you say here.

     
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