A set of researchers are asking their colleagues to step forward and discontinue the use of racial classes while researching and studying human genetics.
“It is time for biologists to find a better way,” concludes the opening section of a recently distributed paper in Science, “Taking Race Out of Human Genetics,” written by Drexel School of Public Health‘s Michael Yudell, the University of Pennsylvania’s Dorothy Roberts and Sarah Tishkoff, and the American Museum of Natural History’s Robert DeSalle.
Yudell and his co-authors point to evidence from phylogenetics and population genetics “that racial classifications do not makes sense in terms of genetics.” While making use of simple biological strategies, the co-authors contend that commonly described racial groups “lack clear-cut genetic boundaries.”
One clear hindrance with utilizing race as a differentiating element in contemporary biology and medicine is that “racial assumptions are not the biological guideposts some believe them to be,” the co-authors mentioned.
Moreover, they indicate how the ongoing utilization of race in genetic research has fueled racist ideals, so much so that leading biologists were pressured, in 2014, to refute claims about “the genetic basis of social differences between races.”
Additionally, it’s vital to not mistake ancestry for the race concept, the co-authors point out.
“Ancestry is a statement about an individual’s relationship to other individuals in their genealogical history; thus, it is a very personal understanding of one’s genomic heritage,” they said. “Race, on the other hand, is a pattern-based concept that has led scientists and laypersons alike to draw conclusions about hierarchical organization of humans.”
As such, the group of specialists believes that race has to be phased out from genetic studies and deliberate language such as “ancestry or population” used to describe the grouping for research.
Such an attempt would permit for less uncertainty over all research and additionally “send out an important message to scientists and the public alike: historical racial categories that are treated as natural and infused with notions of superiority and inferiority have no place in biology.”
Yudell, as a call to action, says that it’s “time that scientists find a way to resolve to improve the study of human diversity.”