September 04, 2007

From Tom Murphy:

Re: Finding said to show “race isn’t real” scrapped (Sept. 3): According to the original estimates based on the human genome, the variability was .1%. Now it is estimated from the work done by Craig Venter and his lab, that the variability is 7 times greater. Unless I am misunderstanding that statement, this means that the actual variability within the human genome is .7%. In other words, we are 99.3% identical to one another (rather than 99.9%).

Now one can assume that some portion of that .7% is tied into a racial differences, but I am not sure that using the old and politically charged term of “race” enhances our understanding of the important genetic variability that does exist. I have not yet seen a single proponent of race who has carefully constructed the criteria by which we can definitively define race. Mostly, scientists and others fall back on skin colour and other superficial criteria which leaves us with the awkward conclusions of exactly whom fits into what race, given the extensive “racial mixing” that has occurred over the years. Better, in my view, to abandon the term, and stick with a more scientific analysis of the variability without prejudice to the differences that exist.

Tom Murphy
Department of Sociology
University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada


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