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Unformatted text preview: Race and IQ Molecular Genetics as Deus ex Machina Richard S. Cooper Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine During the last hundred years, the debate over the meaning of race has retained a highly consistent core, despite evo- lution of the technical details. Non-Europeans, and in particular, Africans, are assigned the role of deviants and outcasts, whose claim on our common humanity remains in doubt. Each time the technical facade of these rat arguments is destroyed, the latest jargon and half-truths from the margins of science are used to rebuild them around the same core belief in Black inferiority. Because race is in part a genetic concept, the advent of molecular DNA technology has opened an important new chapter in this story. Unfortunately, the article by D. Rowe (2005, this issue) begins from mistaken premises and merely restates the rat view using the terminology of molecular ge- netics. No technology—even the awe-inspiring tools now available to DNA science—can overcome the handicap of fundamental conceptual errors. Race is not a concept that emerged from within modern genetics; rather, it was im- posed by history, and its meaning is inseparable from that cultural origin. By ignoring its cultural meaning the reduc- tionist narrative about race fails—both in the narrow terms of science and as a contribution to the broader social discourse. R owe (2005, this issue) has revisited the contro- versy surrounding racial differences in IQ, arguing that molecular genetics has now created an oppor- tunity to test the most basic unanswered questions. Much has been staked on the potential of DNA science to solve complex problems in biology, and the molecular revolution has without a doubt brought a sea change to many disci- plines. As one might expect with any new technology, however, there is the associated risk that the hype will outrun the reality (Cooper & Psaty, 2003). To date, how- ever, change in biology is being driven primarily by op- portunities inherent in the technology, not by fundamental insights into the nature of the world around us. Revisiting old problems with new methods can be very fruitful if the obstacle has been the inability to generate the necessary data. But not every problem is a nail, even if it looks that way to a person with a hammer, and it is unrealistic to expect that the “race problem” can be solved with data from a genotyping machine. Although a new approach to the examination of racial inequality is surely needed, Rowe asked the wrong questions of molecular genetics and in effect encouraged the continuation of a discredited research agenda by other means (Chase, 1977; Hearnshaw, 1981; Hernstein & Murray, 1994). A fresh new look at the Black– White gap in educational achievement will require a deeper understanding of its social origins and a break from the assumptions underlying the hierarchical theory of continen- tal race. In addition to its technical and scientific flaws, thetal race....
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This note was uploaded on 05/18/2011 for the course ANTHRO 600 taught by Professor Different during the Spring '08 term at Kansas.
- Spring '08