In the teeth of scientific
progress, the "Race Is Not a Biological Reality" cult
has gained impressive momentum among gullible media
PBS recently showcased "Race – The
Power of an Illusion," a three-part
Jon Entine, the science journalist who wrote
Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and
Why We`re Afraid to Talk About It.
ran his 2001
article on blacks
and the Boston Marathon that the
Boston Herald commissioned
and then reneged on.]
Jon was allowed to offer about 60
seconds of well-considered dissent pointing out that,
yes, there is a connection between race and
So whom did PBS bring on to refute
Jon and prove that blacks aren`t better athletes than
whites? None other than that noted behavioral
geneticist, Jim Brown, the legendary Cleveland Browns
running back who may have been the greatest player in
football history. (And who may have the longest domestic
police record, too).
Why do the
"Race Is Not a Biological Reality" fanatics think
they can get away with lines of reasoning so
consistently lunk-headed? Because they are on the side
of the angels (they think.) If they cut a few corners,
it`s all in a good cause.
Make that the Angel of Death. These
race flat-earthers are increasingly banging up against
medical researchers` findings that patients` racial
backgrounds matter–in both diagnosis and treatment.
This is not a fringe view. As I
pointed out, the New York Times`
genetics reporter Nicholas Wade has been documenting the
medical importance of race systematically. And on May 5,
the New York Times Magazine ran a fine
article called "What Your Genes Want You to
Eat" about the emerging field of "nutrigenomics" – the
science of finding the right diet for your genes. The
writer, Bruce Grierson, noted:
same time, chatter around this new science has been
amplified by a controversy. The idea of the biological
relevance of race — even its very existence — is hotly
debated. And the assumption of real genetic markers that
distinguish one ethnic group from another is at the
philosophical heart of nutrigenomics."
Grierson points out that lactose
intolerance is found everywhere, except where people are
descended from dairy farmers and herders. And there are
lots of similar differences in what people can safely
For example, alcoholism is less
frequent in ethnic groups like Italians and Jews whose
ancestors have been drinking wine for ten thousand years
or so. Alcoholism and binge drinking are
bigger problems in Northern European nationalities
where mead and beer were invented more recently, giving
selection less time to devise defenses. Groups that only
recently discovered liquor, such as Eskimos,
American Indians, New Zealand Maoris, and
Australian Aborigines, suffer terrible problems.
Some of the Race Has No Biological
Reality ideologues are so fanatical that, rather than be
proven wrong about the reality of race, they`d
apparently prefer to see members of their own race die.
The PBS documentary`s website links
to a March 17 2003 San Francisco Chronicle
op-ed by the African-American Berkeley
sociologist Troy Duster denouncing "racialized drugs."
Duster is specifically annoyed by two pharmaceuticals
that may help blacks more than they help whites.
The first is the heart medicine
BiDil, which is undergoing a large-scale clinical trial
to see if the early promise it showed in helping
African-Americans is valid. It has been
endorsed by the Association of Black
Cardiologists. But that doesn`t stop Duster from
showering contempt on it as just a "marketing ploy."
Maybe BiDil won`t work for blacks.
But when I recall that I`m probably alive today because
in 1997 I got into a clinical trial of Rituxan, the
then-experimental anti-lymphatic cancer drug, well, I
sure hope it`s effective.
Duster was also irate that the
maker of AIDSVAX, a vaccine intended to prevent HIV
infection, thinks it
may work among African-Americans even though
it flopped completely among whites. The sample size of
blacks was small, but the results still reached the 98
percent confidence level. That may sound more promising
than it really is, of course. Even with useless drugs,
on average two out of 100 subgroups of similar size will
qualify at the 98 percent confidence level.
But the fact is that AIDS is a
major killer of African-Americans – and among
sub-Saharan Africans, it is a plague of proportions
similar to the Black Death in 14th Century Europe.
Any lead that could prevent the spread of HIV among
people of African descent must be pursued. If this
vaccine really does work, not to follow it up due to
egalitarian dogma would be a crime against the black
race of genocidal magnitude.
Two new articles on race and
medicine from a leftist perspective that are more useful
than Duster`s are unfortunately not available on-line:
"The Misuse of Race in Medical Diagnosis" by
pediatrician Richard S. Garcia (Chronicle of Higher
May 9, 2003
[subscribers only]) and "Racial Prescriptions"
by law professor Patricia J. Williams (The Nation,
June 3, 2002).
Both articles start out as if the
authors are against noting patients` races – but then
wind up arguing (possibly inadvertently) that doctors
should actually pay more attention to race,
recording it more precisely than just checking a box for
White, Black, Hispanic, or Asian.
Williams suggests that doctors
should, when possible, "take the time talk to their
patients, to ask, [and] to develop nuanced family
Likewise, Garcia writes,
using a patient`s ancestry in medical discourse we can
narrow the range of possible diagnoses, then at least we
must be careful to describe accurately the genetic,
ethnic, cultural, or geographical variables involved;
guessing what category a person fits in is not
Agreed (of course). In fact, I`d
add: doctors should not assume that the classifications
used by the Census reflect genetic reality. For example,
South Asian businessmen petitioned the
federal government to be declared "Asians" so that
they`d be eligible for
minority business development loans. So
Indians and Pakistanis are now officially members of the
"Asian" race on the Census, where they are lumped in
with the Japanese and Koreans. But genetically, South
Asians are more like Europeans than East Asians. The
dean of population geneticists,
L.L. Cavalli-Sforza of Stanford, has
determined that Indians are 2.9 times farther
genetically from the South Chinese than they are from
Further, the entire term "Hispanic"
should be banned from medical use (and probably from
government use, too). It is an "ethnic" category, not a
racial one, and carries very little genetic information.
It causes confusion between doctors on the East Coast
(where Hispanics traditionally were more African than
Amerindian) and the Southwest (where Hispanics are much
more Amerindian than African). Doctors will need to
learn terms like
"mulatto" and "mestizo" to better serve these
Ideally, in the future doctors will
be able to sequence each patient`s specific genome,
eliminating the need to make informed guesses based on
the patient`s ancestry.
However, despite the completion of
Human Genome Project, we are still a
long ways off from understanding what those
tens of thousands of genes actually do. Determining the
answers will be a hard slog.
So for the foreseeable future,
knowledge of race will play a highly useful role in
saving lives – unless PBS and the Ford Foundation have
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and