Taking Race Out of Human Genetics

The concept of race is not a scientific category
In the wake of the sequencing of the human genome in the early 2000s, genome pioneers and social scientists alike called for an end to the use of race as a variable in genetic research (1,2). Unfortunately, by some measures, the use of race as a biological category has increased in the postgenomic age (3). Although inconsistent definition and use has been a chief problem with the race concept, it has historically been used as a taxonomic categorization based on common hereditary traits (such as skin color) to elucidate the relationship between our ancestry and our genes. We believe the use of biological concepts of race in human genetic research—so disputed and so mired in confusion—is problematic at best and harmful at worst. It is time for biologists to find a better way. (...)

Scientific journals and professional societies should encourage use of terms like “ancestry” or “population” to describe human groupings in genetic studies and should require authors to clearly define how they are using such variables. It is preferable to refer to geographic ancestry, culture, socioeconomic status, and language, among other variables, depending on the questions being addressed, to untangle the complicated relationship between humans, their evolutionary history, and their health.
(Science, 4 feb 2016)

For more information, go to the Science magazine article by authors Michael Yudell, Dorothy Roberts, Rob DeSalle and Sarah Tishkoff.


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