The return of race science — the quest to fortify racism with bad biology

Posted in Articles, Audio, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2019-11-21 21:03Z by Steven

The return of race science — the quest to fortify racism with bad biology

Quirks & Quarks
CBC Radio
2019-11-15

Bob McDonald, Host and CBC’s Chief Science Correspondent


An anti-racism demonstrator holds a placard during a protest march in 2018 in London, U.K. Author Angela Saini said when she grew up as an ethnic minority in the city, there was a lot of racism in her area. (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty)

A look at the re-emergence of ‘scientific’ attempts to explain perceived racial differences

In an era of rising ethnic nationalism and white supremacy, a British science writer’s new book explores why old notions of “race science” are finding new popularity.

This revival drew Angela Saini to explore the history and new life that’s been given to the idea that science can justify old ideas of human difference based on skin colour, nationality or religion — what she called the biologization of race. The persistence of this idea in the modern era can be seen in a variety of ways, from the popularity of dubious DNA ancestry testing to shadowy online groups repackaging scientific racism for the 21st century.

In her new book Superior: The Return of Race Science, Saini traces the history of race science back to the Age of Enlightenment, when philosophers and European thinkers started to classify human beings based on colour or other superficial features, the same way they classified plants or other animals.

Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald spoke with Saini about a range of topics: how modern science shows that racial categories are social constructs, not well-defined biological categories; how notions of race science are fed by and feed into politics; and how well-intentioned scientists should think about studying questions about human difference, including marginalized groups who may share susceptibility to disease…

Read the article an listen to the interview here.

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Superior: The Return of Race Science

Posted in Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Justice on 2019-05-21 15:17Z by Steven

Superior: The Return of Race Science

Beacon Press
2019-05-21
272 pages
Size: 6 x 9 Inches
Cloth ISBN: 978-080707691-0

Angela Saini

Superior tells the disturbing story of the persistent thread of belief in biological racial differences in the world of science.

After the horrors of the Nazi regime in World War II, the mainstream scientific world turned its back on eugenics and the study of racial difference. But a worldwide network of intellectual racists and segregationists quietly founded journals and funded research, providing the kind of shoddy studies that were ultimately cited in Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s 1994 title The Bell Curve, which purported to show differences in intelligence among races.

If the vast majority of scientists and scholars disavowed these ideas and considered race a social construct, it was an idea that still managed to somehow survive in the way scientists thought about human variation and genetics. Dissecting the statements and work of contemporary scientists studying human biodiversity, most of whom claim to be just following the data, Angela Saini shows us how, again and again, even mainstream scientists cling to the idea that race is biologically real. As our understanding of complex traits like intelligence, and the effects of environmental and cultural influences on human beings, from the molecular level on up, grows, the hope of finding simple genetic differences between “races”—to explain differing rates of disease, to explain poverty or test scores, or to justify cultural assumptions—stubbornly persists.

At a time when racialized nationalisms are a resurgent threat throughout the world, Superior is a rigorous, much-needed examination of the insidious and destructive nature of race science—and a powerful reminder that, biologically, we are all far more alike than different.

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There’s No Scientific Basis for Race—It’s a Made-Up Label

Posted in Africa, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive on 2018-03-13 18:09Z by Steven

There’s No Scientific Basis for Race—It’s a Made-Up Label

National Geographic
April 2018 (The Race Issue)

By Elizabeth Kolbert
Photographs by Robin Hammond


The four letters of the genetic code —A, C, G, and T—are projected onto Ryan Lingarmillar, a Ugandan. DNA reveals what skin color obscures: We all have African ancestors.

It’s been used to define and separate people for millennia. But the concept of race is not grounded in genetics.

In the first half of the 19th century, one of America’s most prominent scientists was a doctor named Samuel Morton. Morton lived in Philadelphia, and he collected skulls.

He wasn’t choosy about his suppliers. He accepted skulls scavenged from battlefields and snatched from catacombs. One of his most famous craniums belonged to an Irishman who’d been sent as a convict to Tasmania (and ultimately hanged for killing and eating other convicts). With each skull Morton performed the same procedure: He stuffed it with pepper seeds—later he switched to lead shot—which he then decanted to ascertain the volume of the braincase.

Morton believed that people could be divided into five races and that these represented separate acts of creation. The races had distinct characters, which corresponded to their place in a divinely determined hierarchy. Morton’s “craniometry” showed, he claimed, that whites, or “Caucasians,” were the most intelligent of the races. East Asians—Morton used the term “Mongolian”—though “ingenious” and “susceptible of cultivation,” were one step down. Next came Southeast Asians, followed by Native Americans. Blacks, or “Ethiopians,” were at the bottom. In the decades before the Civil War, Morton’s ideas were quickly taken up by the defenders of slavery…


Skulls from the collection of Samuel Morton, the father of scientific racism, illustrate his classification of people into five races—which arose, he claimed, from separate acts of creation. From left to right: a black woman and a white man, both American; an indigenous man from Mexico; a Chinese woman; and a Malaysian man.
Photograph by Robert Clark
PHOTOGRAPHED AT PENN MUSEUM

…By analyzing the genes of present-day Africans, researchers have concluded that the Khoe-San, who now live in southern Africa, represent one of the oldest branches of the human family tree. The Pygmies of central Africa also have a very long history as a distinct group. What this means is that the deepest splits in the human family aren’t between what are usually thought of as different races—whites, say, or blacks or Asians or Native Americans. They’re between African populations such as the Khoe-San and the Pygmies, who spent tens of thousands of years separated from one another even before humans left Africa

Read the entire article here.

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