Dorothy Roberts Lecture: “Fatal Invention: The New Biopolitics of Race”

Posted in Canada, Forthcoming Media, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Live Events, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2014-10-22 15:18Z by Steven

Dorothy Roberts Lecture: “Fatal Invention: The New Biopolitics of Race”

McMaster University
CIBC Hall, McMaster University Student Centre (MUSC 319)
280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario, L8S4L9, Canada
2014-10-23, 19:00-21:00 EDT (Local Time)

The Bourns Lectureship in Bioethics and the McMaster Centre for Scholarship in the Public Interest present a lecture by Dorothy Roberts, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology, Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights

Dorothy Roberts is the fourteenth Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, George A. Weiss University Professor, and the inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights at the University of Pennsylvania, where she holds appointments in the Law School and Departments of Africana Studies and Sociology. An internationally recognized scholar, public intellectual, and social justice advocate, Roberts has written and lectured extensively on the interplay of gender, race, and class in legal issues and has been a leader in transforming public thinking and policy on reproductive health, child welfare, and bioethics.

She is the author of many award-winning texts including: Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-Created Race in the Twenty-First Century (The New Press 2011), Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (Basic Civitas Books 2002), and Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (Random House 1997).

During her lecture at McMaster University, Roberts will examine how the myth of the biological concept of race – revived by purportedly cutting-edge science, race-specific drugs, genetic testing, and DNA databases – continues to undermine a just society and promote inequality in a supposedly “post-racial” era.

For more information, click here. View the poster here.

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Ebola has exposed America’s fear, and Barack Obama’s vulnerability

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2014-10-19 22:12Z by Steven

Ebola has exposed America’s fear, and Barack Obama’s vulnerability

The Guardian
2014-10-19

Gary Younge

The virus is a metaphor for all that conservatives loathe, and sees the president’s policies under renewed attack

In a column ostensibly explaining why moderates struggle in the Republican party, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen last year wrote: “People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York – a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts – but not all – of America.”

If the thought of New York’s first family’s interracial marriage makes many Republicans (and apparently Cohen) gag, imagine how many sick bags they are filling over Ebola. The arrival of the virus in America has crystallised a range of Conservative anxieties: immigration, race, terrorism, science, big government, Barack Obama – you name it. For the right, Ebola is not just a disease, it is a metaphor for some of the things they don’t understand and many of the things they loathe…

…Finally, Ebola serves as a proxy for the many long-held Conservative prejudices about Obama – that he is an African-born interloper come to destroy America. A 2010 poll showed that just under a third of Republicans believed Obama was a “racist who hates white people”. Michael Savage, another rightwing radio host, calls him “Obola”. “Obama wants equality and he wants fairness, and it’s only fair that America have a nice epidemic or two … to really feel what it’s like to be in the third world. You have to look at it from the point of view of a leftist.”…

Read the entire article here.

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When Racism Was a Science

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, United States on 2014-10-15 17:46Z by Steven

When Racism Was a Science

The New York Times
2014-10-13

Joshua A. Krisch

‘Haunted Files: The Eugenics Record Office’ Recreates a Dark Time in a Laboratory’s Past

An old stucco house stands atop a grassy hill overlooking the Long Island Sound. Less than a mile down the road, the renowned Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory bustles with more than 600 researchers and technicians, regularly producing breakthroughs in genetics, cancer and neuroscience.

But that old house, now a private residence on the outskirts of town, once held a facility whose very name evokes dark memories: the Eugenics Record Office.

In its heyday, the office was the premier scientific enterprise at Cold Spring Harbor. There, bigoted scientists applied rudimentary genetics to singling out supposedly superior races and degrading minorities. By the mid-1920s, the office had become the center of the eugenics movement in America.

Today, all that remains of it are files and photographs — reams of discredited research that once shaped anti-immigration laws, spurred forced-sterilization campaigns and barred refugees from entering Ellis Island. Now, historians and artists at New York University are bringing the eugenics office back into the public eye.

Haunted Files: The Eugenics Record Office,” a new exhibit at the university’s Asian/Pacific/American Institute, transports visitors to 1924, the height of the eugenics movement in the United States. Inside a dimly lit room, the sounds of an old typewriter click and clack, a teakettle whistles and papers shuffle. The office’s original file cabinets loom over reproduced desks and period knickknacks. Creaky cabinets slide open, and visitors are encouraged to thumb through copies of pseudoscientific papers.

“There’s a haunted quality, that’s the nature of the files,” said John Kuo Wei Tchen, a historian at N.Y.U. and co-curator of the exhibit. (This reporter is a student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, a separate branch of the university.) “We hoped we could evoke a visceral feeling of what it was like to be in a detention center, where people were presumed to be ineligible unless proven otherwise.”

When the Eugenics Record Office opened its doors in 1910, the founding scientists were considered progressives, intent on applying classic genetics to breeding better citizens. Funding poured in from the Rockefeller family and the Carnegie Institution. Charles Davenport, a prolific Harvard biologist, and his colleague, Harry H. Laughlin, led the charge…

Read the entire article here.

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Is race genetic?

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2014-10-15 15:28Z by Steven

Is race genetic?

Salon
2014-10-12

Laura Miller

Advances in genealogy and DNA analysis tell surprising and disturbing stories about the heritage we think we know

A bestselling European novelist, while on a recent American book tour, was approached by a woman clutching a manilla folder. “We’re related!” she told him, opening the folder to reveal old black and white photos, documents and a family tree. She pointed to a dour-looking 19th-century lady posing stiffly in a black dress and explained that this was her great-great-grandmother, the novelist’s great-great-great-aunt.

He was kind and patient, but clearly no more than mildly interested in the materials she treasured. Maybe he had more relatives than he knew what to do with back home. Maybe the whole thing was too reminiscent of the years when his homeland was occupied by a foreign power pathologically obsessed with establishing “pure” lineages. Or maybe he just believes in looking forward rather than back. He had, after all, books to sign, cities to visit and even more books to write once he got back, and perhaps defining himself by a future he can shape seems a lot more appealing than dwelling on the past he can’t.

Many Europeans see genealogy as a peculiarly American preoccupation — and of course billions of people in places like China view it merely as a human one, the way we make sense of our place in the world. Christine Kenneally, an Australian journalist and the author of “The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures,” has talked to adherents of both sides and has a lot of ideas about “what gets passed on,” as she puts it. Where Kenneally comes from, the “bad blood” of convicts transported from Britain to the antipodes was once regarded as a cause for shame, something best not talked about by their descendants. No longer: she recalls working on a school project in which her classmates happily dug up convict ancestors to boast about.

A good bit of “The Invisible History of the Human Race” is devoted to defending genealogy and the desire to know one’s lineage. Apparently, many historians look down on the amateur penchant for tracing family trees; it is not research but “mesearch,” too small-picture, too personal to constitute true scholarship. To the layperson, disproving this canard (which Kenneally does neatly) hardly seems a battle that demands to be fought, but when Kenneally takes up the subject of DNA and race, she enters more hotly contested territory. What does it mean to link the slippery concept of race to the scientific study of genetics and the historical facts that constitute an individual’s ancestry?…

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. himself serves as an excellent example. He’s “black,” that is, African-American (as well as a professor of African-American Studies), although the aforementioned DNA analysis revealed that 60 percent of his genetic material is of European origin. Does this make him less black? Not on that infamous evening in 2009, when Gates was arrested by a white police officer in Cambridge, Massachusetts while attempting to enter his own house.

Yet what Gates learned about his genetic ancestry did change how he understood his identity, and he would later announce on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that he and the officer who arrested him share a common ancestor in the Irish king, Niall of the Nine Hostages. That’s the gist of much of the genealogy- and genetics-based programming that Gates has hosted for the Public Broadcasting Service, shows like “African American Lives” and “Finding Your Roots”: We are all more connected than we realize…

Read the entire article here.

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Medical Racism

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, United States on 2014-10-14 00:37Z by Steven

Medical Racism

The New York Times
2014-10-13

Brent Staples

The worst racial atrocities that took place in the Jim Crow South were carried out by the medical establishment, not by night riders cloaked in sheets. Indeed, many more African-Americans were killed by racist medical policies than by all the lynch mobs that ever existed. Until the late 1960s, the American Medical Association tacitly endorsed rules that denied membership to black physicians in the South, thus depressing their numbers in specialties such as surgery and ensuring that black patients would continue to receive dangerously substandard care — or no care at all.

This subject is rarely discussed in film or on television. The director Steven Soderbergh deserves praise for taking it up in “The Knick,” an absorbing, visually lush medical drama on Cinemax set in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. The show centers on the self-obsessed, drug-addicted Dr. Thackery — compellingly played by Clive Owen — who leads a surgical team at the Knickerbocker, a hospital whose wards are awash in the immigrant poor. Known to his comrades as Thack, the junkie surgeon plans to carve his way to immortality, one bloody patient at a time, while lecturing to the rapt audience of doctors who crowd in to view his handiwork in the operating theater.

A racist, he is repulsed when a wealthy hospital patron forces him to accept the services of a talented black surgeon, Dr. Algernon Edwards — André Holland — even though Edwards has trained abroad and mastered techniques that his white betters have yet to learn…

…Critics who wonder about the real-world antecedents of the Dr. Edwards character should look to Dr. Charles Drew (1904-1950). A towering figure in medical history, Dr. Drew helped to make blood banks possible by developing efficient ways to process and store vast amounts of blood plasma. He began his career in the 1930s when surgical residencies at white hospitals in New York — even those that treated black patients — were officially closed to black physicians. Charming and urbane, Dr. Drew wrangled what a contemporary later described as a “bootleg” residency at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, thanks to a white doctor who took an interest in him. The fact that he was light-skinned enough to be mistaken for white was clearly an asset; it made it easier for him to find acceptance with white colleagues and patients…

Read the entire article here.

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11 ways race isn’t real

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2014-10-12 18:46Z by Steven

11 ways race isn’t real

Vox
2014-10-10

Jenée Desmond-Harris

It was surprising — and, to many, annoying — to learn that Raven Symoné, the brown-skinned girl who played the adorable youngest character on TV’s seminal black sitcom, The Cosby Show, doesn’t consider herself “African-American.” (In a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, she said she thought of herself as “a colorless person.”)

Symoné ultimately responded to those who’d called her comments misguided or tone deaf, clarifying in a statement to theGrio.com, “I never said I wasn’t black.” But the most fascinating thing about the whole story is that, even if she’d flat-out rejected that label, none of us could, with any authority, tell her she was wrong.

The discussion surrounding the actress’s identity is just the latest example of how there’s no consensus when it comes to who should be called what — black, white, Asian, or Latino — in the United States. It’s a reminder that race is a social and political construct.

Most people have heard that concept by now. But what does it actually mean?

It means that racial categories are not real. By “real,” I mean based on facts that people can even begin to agree on. Permanent. Scientific. Objective. Logical. Consistent. Able to stand up to scrutiny.

This, of course, does not mean that the concept of race isn’t hugely important in our lives. Although race isn’t real, racism certainly is. The racial categories to which we’re assigned, based on how we look to others or how we identify ourselves, can determine real-life experiences, inspire hate, drive political outcomes, and make the difference between life and death. But these important consequences are a result of a relatively new idea that was based on shaky reasoning and shady motivations. This makes the borders of the various categories impossible to pin down and renders today’s debates about how particular people should identify futile.

If you have any lingering belief that the racial categorizations we use make any real sense, read this and change your mind:…

Read the entire article here.

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Cramblett vs. Midwest Sperm Bank

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2014-10-07 19:07Z by Steven

Cramblett vs. Midwest Sperm Bank

Marley-Vincent Lindsey
2014-10-07

Marley-Vincent Lindsey

I. Narratives and Political Order

On September 29, Jennifer L. Cramblett filed a suit against the Midwest Sperm Bank for “Wrongful Birth and Breach of Warranty against Defendant.” Where the expecting couple had picked a “blond hair blue-eyed individual” to resemble the non-biological partner, the mix-up had led to the conception of a bi-racial child. The basic grounds for the lawsuit are described in sections eight through sixteen. To summarize, the Sperm Bank had confused two sets of donors: Donor 380 and Donor 330. The confusion is explained in Section 21: “[The Records] are kept in pen and ink. To the person who sent Jennifer vials of sperm in September, 2011, the number “380” looked like “330,” and there are no redundancies to catch errors.”

Simply put, wrongful birth cases are a form of tort in which the claim for damages is based on the cost to parents of raising an “unexpectedly defective child.” Indeed, the term “defective child” is all over the relevant cases. “Wrongful Birth” on a whole has a long history of being associated with the parent’s right to information about their child before carrying it to term. In the words of BGD [Black Girl Dangerous]: “90 percent of fetuses testing positive for Down Syndrome will be aborted in the US. Eugenics cannot be our answer to ableism; advancing disability rights and justice should be.”

I don’t think this perspective ties us to the elimination of wrongful birth entirely. As one of the cases I’ll discuss later demonstrates, there are extreme cases in which a child may never live to see their fifth birthday. On a whole, however, wrongful birth is reflective of a structural consistency within systems to normalize their subjects. One of the many objectives of colonial ontologies is creating environments in which normalcy, through a number of repetitive subjects is preserved, at the cost not only of the value of diversity, but also the ability of subjects to make educated decisions about their own value. This is why I have a very difficult time assessing the development of colonial mentality in colonized subjects, despite the fact that most activists are ready to write such subjects off…

…I further have a specific interest in this regard: as a multi-racial child living with a white mother, I no doubt have a very close experience to what Peyton may know throughout her childhood. It is too easy to dismiss this narrative as simply one in which blackness is imposed on an otherwise white family. I think this is a mistake largely stemming from the structural intent on erasing multi-racial experiences. One only need recall the vitriol a certain Cheerios advertisement met to gain sense of mainstream conception of the mixed family. Calling again, Hardt and Negri, their chapter entitled “Symptoms of Passage” focuses on the irony in the relationship between postmodernism and Empire. Namely, that the former fails by only addressing the symptoms of the problem—the lack of pluralism in contemporary discourse, as an example—and completely misses the cause, which is the passage of power. In light of this chapter, I would suggest that the transition in contemporary race issues has been one in which the liberation movements of the late twentieth century sought to replicate the same power structures without regard to how those power structures would impact others…

Read the entire article here.

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Human genetic research, race, ethnicity and the labeling of populations: recommendations based on an interdisciplinary workshop in Japan

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2014-10-06 21:35Z by Steven

Human genetic research, race, ethnicity and the labeling of populations: recommendations based on an interdisciplinary workshop in Japan

BMC Medical Ethics
Volume 15, Issue 1, December 2014
DOI: 10.1186/1472-6939-15-33

Yasuko Takezawa, Kazuto Kato, Hiroki Oota, Timothy Caulfield, Akihiro Fujimoto, Shunwa Honda, Naoyuki Kamatani, Shoji Kawamura, Kohei Kawashima, Ryosuke Kimura, Hiromi Matsumae, Ayako Saito, Patrick E Savage, Noriko Seguchi, Keiko Shimizu, Satoshi Terao, Yumi Yamaguchi-Kabata, Akira Yasukouchi, Minoru Yoneda, Katsushi Tokunaga

Background

A challenge in human genome research is how to describe the populations being studied. The use of improper and/or imprecise terms has the potential to both generate and reinforce prejudices and to diminish the clinical value of the research. The issue of population descriptors has not attracted enough academic attention outside North America and Europe. In January 2012, we held a two-day workshop, the first of its kind in Japan, to engage in interdisciplinary dialogue between scholars in the humanities, social sciences, medical sciences, and genetics to begin an ongoing discussion of the social and ethical issues associated with population descriptors.

Discussion

Through the interdisciplinary dialogue, we confirmed that the issue of race, ethnicity and genetic research has not been extensively discussed in certain Asian communities and other regions. We have found, for example, the continued use of the problematic term, “Mongoloid” or continental terms such as “European,” “African,” and “Asian,” as population descriptors in genetic studies. We, therefore, introduce guidelines for reporting human genetic studies aimed at scientists and researchers in these regions.

Conclusion

We need to anticipate the various potential social and ethical problems entailed in population descriptors. Scientists have a social responsibility to convey their research findings outside of their communities as accurately as possible, and to consider how the public may perceive and respond to the descriptors that appear in research papers and media articles.

…Another example of the challenges associated with the use of population descriptors can be found in the frequent use of the terms European, African, and Asian. These continental terms are tremendously broad in scope. At the Tokyo meeting, for example, it was noted that even among the Japanese researchers, there was no unitary understanding of what populations should be considered “Asian.”

More importantly, these terms can, in some contexts, be interpreted as referring to white, black, and Asian, the three classic, and socially constructed “races.” There continues to be a great deal of academic work that highlights the degree to which these broad “racial” categories are, in reality, social constructs. Although we should not overlook the correlation between “race” and socio-economic inequality involving factors such as health care and medical care, such discussion has usually arisen within the context of some North American and European societies. However, outside of these societies, the divergence between samples and population descriptors is also problematic. When the actual samples in the name of “European”, “African”, and “Asian” are taken from certain limited groups, without taking into account significant diversity within each region, it is unlikely that such broad terms have any scientific meaning, at least from the perspective of genetics on the global level. Moreover, the research results may be taken as supporting the classic “racial” categories, with any discovered “differences” misinterpreted as genetically determined “racial differences.”

The importance of the distinction between race and ethnicity cannot be overemphasized as the latter pays close attention to (presumably) shared cultural factors such as language, diet, and religion. When considering the contribution of environmental as well as genetic factors to diversity within each continental region, the scientific validity of the use of such broad terms to describe samples becomes even more questionable…

The above study highlights that even populations traditionally presumed to have a high degree of homogeneity may have local genetic differentiations, that make the use of broader population terms less scientifically or clinically relevant. Researchers should strive to select terms that, as much as possible, reflect the sample population and nature of each study. Since genetic subpopulation structure is still generally unknown, sampling without considering the specifics of the subject population could cause false positive results on risk alleles of diseases. In addition, differences in whole genome sequences between individuals belonging to different populations should not be overgeneralized and misinterpreted as population differences…

Read the entire article here.

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Born Champions [Full Episode]

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Videos on 2014-10-02 01:45Z by Steven

Born Champions [Full Episode]

Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
2014-09-30

Henry Louis Gates Jr., Host and Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research
Harvard University

Three of America’s greatest athletes, whose determination and love of sports were deeply shaped by their families, were all cut off from their true origins. Billie Jean King learns the story of her grandmother. Derek Jeter confronts his ancestors’ lives as slaves. Rebecca Lobo finds out that her Spanish ancestor fought side by side with a famous revolutionary.

Watch the full episode here.

Partial Transcript below:

GATES: I’M HENRY LOUIS GATES JR. WELCOME TO FINDING YOUR ROOTS.

TONIGHT, WE REVEAL THE ANCESTRY OF THREE OF AMERICA’S GREATEST ATHLETES: TENNIS LEGEND BILLIE JEAN KING, YANKEES ALL-STAR DEREK JETER, AND WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PIONEER REBECCA LOBO… ATHLETES WHOSE PURPOSE AND DRIVE WERE PROFOUNDLY SHAPED BY THEIR FAMILIES.

TO DISCOVER THEIR ANCESTORS, WE’VE USED EVERY TOOL AVAILABLE…

GENEALOGISTS HELPED STITCH TOGETHER THE PAST USING THE PAPER TRAIL THEIR FAMILIES LEFT BEHIND, WHILE GENETICISTS UTILIZED THE LATEST ADVANCES IN DNA ANALYSIS TO REVEAL SECRETS HUNDREDS OF YEARS OLD.

GATES: The answers are in this book…

GATES VO: AND WE’VE COMPILED EVERYTHING INTO A BOOK OF LIFE, A RECORD OF ALL OF OUR DISCOVERIES…

LOBO: I mean it’s just amazing to see her handwriting!

JETER: That’s unbelievable… all the way back to 1605!

BILLIE JEAN KING: This is from a bible?  Family…we have a family bible?

GATES: Mhm.

BILLIE JEAN KING: This (audio cuts off 1:01:04:12) is fantastic!

GATES: AS WE TRACE BILLIE JEAN, DEREK, AND REBECCA’S ROOTS, WE’LL EXPLORE HOW THEY BECAME CHAMPIONS, DID THEY COME TO GREATNESS THROUGH HARD WORK AND INDIVIDUAL EFFORT? IS THEIR TALENT SIMPLY ENCODED IN THEIR GENES? COULD IT BE, THESE THREE ATHLETES WERE MODELED IN WAYS THEY NEVER COULD HAVE IMAGINED? BY THE LIVES OF THEIR ANCESTORS.

ROOTS TITLE SEQUENCE…

…GATES VO: DEREK’S FATHER, CHARLES JETER, IS AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND HIS MOTHER, DOROTHY CONNORS, IS OF IRISH DESCENT. IT WASN’T EASY BEING THE CHILD OF A MIXED MARRIAGE. WHEN DEREK WAS YOUNG, HE OFTEN HAD TO FACE UNWANTED ATTENTION.

JETER: You know back in the day, yeah you’d get some second glances, people trying to figure out what the dynamic is there. And if you go somewhere with both of them, obviously you get some stares.

GATES: Mhm.

JETER: My parents tried to explain to us that it’s just people’s ignorance they’re not used to seeing it.

GATES: Did your parents take any flack?

JETER: I think when you’re a young child, I think your parents don’t necessarily tell you how difficult it was…

GATES: Yeah.

JETER: …on them. So, you know, a lot of their troubles that they went through, I’m sure they sheltered us from it.

GATES:  So when people come up to you and say, you know, “What are you?” what do you say?

JETER:  Black and Irish…

GATES: Black and Irish, that’s what you say?

JETER: Yeah, that’s, that’s what I believe I am but I don’t know much about my history…

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The Race Myth, Racial Disparities in Health, and Why There Are So Few African American Evolutionists

Posted in Anthropology, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2014-10-02 01:11Z by Steven

The Race Myth, Racial Disparities in Health, and Why There Are So Few African American Evolutionists

Evolution: This View of Life
2012-02-24

David Sloan Wilson, Host and Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology
State University of New York, Binghamton

Joseph L. Graves, Professor & Associate Dean for Research (author of The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America)
Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering
North Carolina A&T State University & University of North Carolina, Greensboro

In honor of Black History month, we are pleased to present an interview with Joseph L. Graves, a distinguished evolutionist and the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology. Prof. Graves explains why race is a myth, despite the undeniable fact of local adaptation. He also discusses his own research on aging, how an evolution-savvy diet saved his life, and the surprising reason why African-Americans are even less well represented in evolutionary biology than they are in science.

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