Monday, June 30, 2008

Unnatural Selection: Chapter 17

Only one more chapter after this! Today's chapter is about various scientists, in particular a Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza and a Georgia Dunston and their separate work with the genetics of small people groups.

  • Researched genetic characteristics of Pygmies.
  • Why? Answer: in most of the Human Genome Project, "almost every single human whose genes were under intense study was a white person of European origins, like most of the geneticists themselves." Solution: several human genome diversity projects.
  • Quote: "The idea of race in the human species serves no purpose. Every classification is equally arbitrary." Spot-on.
  • Critics of the Human Genome Project cried "discrimination." Critics of the opposite, Cavalli-Sforza's, work cried "colonialism." There's no pleasing some people.
  • Investigated "genetic differences between 'blacks' and whites'."
  • "Without a collection of genetic markers drawn from their own population, Dunston says, blacks will never benefit fully from the genetic revolution." Example: Since many of the tissue-typing markers for organ compatibility are from white people, black people have a harder time getting precise matches. The consequences: immune rejection, lower success rate, and death.
  • "...[I]t is not at all learn how blacks differ genetically from other American ethnic groups. In fact, it might be racist not to inquire into the difference, because the result would be a continuing difference between Caucasians and African-Americans in the mortality rates for organ transplants and hereditary diseases."
  • Dunston limited her project to a manageable level "by defining the populations for study based on their distinct origins in Africa." How did she trace those origins? Answer: We may be able to thank slavery (at least the careful and extensive record-keeping part) for something after all.

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