|Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2012-10-18 18:00Z by Steven|
Christian B. Sundquist, Associate Professor of Law
Albany Law School
Professor Dorothy Roberts has recently released a vitally important book on issues of race and genetics, entitled Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-Create Race in the Twenty-First Century (2011). Professor Roberts thoughtfully engages the modern legal and scientific preoccupation with genetic theories of race. Examining the “new racial science” in a variety of contexts, including pharmacology, biomedical research, immigration screening, criminal justice, ancestry testing, and genetic surveillance, Professor Roberts deconstructs the myth of intrinsic racial difference through a lively use of historical and scientific sources. While the entire book is a massive achievement in the burgeoning field of genetics and race, a few insights stand out as particularly compelling. First, Professor Roberts makes a convincing argument that it is problematic to label the racial science of yore “pseudoscience.” It is quite tempting to ridicule both the old and new forms of racial science as ignorant and biased attempts to valorize racial hierarchy. Professor Roberts notes, however, that doing so allows modern scientists to distinguish their “objective” study of biological racial difference from the ridiculous “pseudoscience” of the past. Professor Roberts observes that “what we call racial pseudoscience today was considered the vanguard of scientific progress at the time it was practiced.” (27-28). In other words, we must be careful to briskly dismiss the “racial science” of the 19th Century as pseudoscience, lest we fall into the trap (comforting to some) of believing that current genetic examinations of racial difference are somehow distinctly free from unsound empirical assumptions and implicit bias. As Professor Roberts argues, “[t]he burning scientific questions of each period have been framed and answered in terms of race not because rational scientific inquiry compelled it, but because race was presumed to be an essential biological category.” (28)…
Read the entire review here.