March 3, 2005


A place for race in medicine?: Drugs for specific races could improve treatment - or endorse prejudice. (Gregory M. Lamb, 3/03/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Ever since the fall of the Nazis, the world has tried to keep the biology of racial disparity under wraps. It has been acceptable to link racial differences to social and cultural factors. One race might underperform another because of upbringing or poverty. But suggesting biology as the cause for those differences - like "The Bell Curve" did a decade ago when it looked at academic achievement - was strictly taboo.

Now, a new and unexpected force - medicine - is pulling back the covers. By taking a close look at minute differences in people's genetic codes, researchers and drug companies are beginning to create racially based drugs and treatments.

Given the prospect of targeting treatment, some scientists argue that the subject at least ought not to be taboo. Even if race eventually proves to be a crude and insufficient means of understanding genetic differences, it can play an important interim role, they say. Others worry that these voices fail to capture the larger picture: how past claims of "scientific" race and ethnic differences, now debunked, have been used to oppress, even kill, minorities.

"To use the rhetoric of science to sell the idea that historical inequity should be embraced as biological inevitability is an insult to those who value a common humanity," wrote researcher Richard Cooper of the Loyola University medical school in a January article in the American Psychologist. "Race is not a concept that emerged from within modern genetics; rather, it was imposed by history, and its meaning is inseparable from that cultural origin."

It's very much to biology's credit that it has ignored science and disavowed so much as the idea of race in order to try and make up for having justified genocide, eugenics, and the like. But you're sort of missing the point if you're killing people by swinging from Applied Darwinism to Political Correctness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 3, 2005 4:33 PM
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