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Health

Human population genetics & identity politics

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanMarch 25, 2011 9:53 AM

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Joshua Lipson has a column up in the Harvard Political Review, DNA and the New Identity Politics. I'm generally very keen on spreading insights from the biological sciences into other domains; not as an imperialist, but as a intellectual entrepreneur. There are few assertions Joshua makes which I would quibble with in the details, but it's a good sign that assertions are being made in the first place. Just don't tell everyone! Right now the new human population genomics is robust and informative in phylogeny. In terms of function, not so much. But that will probably change at some point. Lipson states:

Fortunately, this discipline of science has little to say about important social or psychological differences between ethnic groups and races: as a result, access to new information about the genetic landscape of humanity has not prompted a spooky stir of neo-eugenics....

There may come a time in the very near future where we'll know more about how populations differ in terms of average psychological dispositions. I pointed to a simple reason for possible differences already this week. But perhaps in a more novel vein, how about how parents and siblings will relate to each other? With whole genome sequencing we may be able to ascertain with some level of precision and accuracy the approximate mutational load of any given individual. Somescholars have argued that variance in offspring mutational load my explain the difference you see between siblings in intelligence and beauty. My question is this: would knowing the root biological cause for differences which are already apparent to us change anything?

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