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Lecturer separates race and biology

| Thursday, October 2, 2014

20141001, Kathryne Robinson, Race Inequality and Reality Lecture 127 Hayes HealeyKatherine Robinson

Wednesday evening, professor of anthropology Agustín Fuentes delivered the first annual Sorin Scholars Lecture at Hayes-Healy Center. Each year, the Sorin Scholars organization picks a theme to encourage discussion and reflection on an intellectual problem. In light of this year’s theme, inequality, Fuentes discussed the relationship between race and inequality in his lecture “Race, Inequality, and Reality: What We Know and Why It Matters.”

Fuentes said one of the biggest problems the United States has had and still has today is the inability to talk effectively about race.

“Race and inequality have a particular relationship in our present and in our history,” Fuentes said.  “…This is one [issue] that has a very high potential for change in the future. This is not a fixed reality, but it is an important one.

“If we don’t understand it, think about it, talk about it, [and] engage with it; it is not going to change. Because right now, it is not sustainable, and it is not right.”

Fuentes said in our society, almost everyone believes that Black, White, Latino, Asian, and others are distinct biological entities.

“I want to demonstrate what we know from rigorous scientific studies, that races as we use now are not biological entities,” Fuentes said. “We all have 100 percent of the same genes. What varies is that each gene comes in multiple forms – two, 17, 140 – and it’s the variation in the presence of those different forms in a population that is human genetic variation.”

Fuentes said that most racial definitions perceived by society, such as gene types, body forms, skin colors and genetic diseases, are not backed by biology.

“All of our racial definitions are socially constructed,” he said. “We made them up, and we use them, but they have real effects. Race is not biological, but race is distributed and impacted in unequal ways by the structures – the political, historical and social structures.”

Social contexts and the expectations of individuals in a society can have a massive impact on health, he said.

“Race is not biological, but it can become biology,” Fuentes said. “Racial inequality creates biological differences in people.”

Fuentes stated that we are not in a post-racial society, and that race matters in our society.

“So when you are with a cluster of your friends, or your family, or in a classroom – if someone said something that is wrong, that is not true, that is not based on the biological and social historical facts that we have available, it is your response to act,” he said.

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  • Confused
  • Single-molecule correlated chemical probing of RNA
    http://www.pnas.org/content/111/38/13858.abstract

    Excerpt: “RNA molecules function as the central conduit of information transfer in biology.”

    My comment: If DNA was central to information transfer, mutations could
    lead to biologically-based natural selection and the evolution of racial differences.

    The fact that DNA is not central to information transfer explains why
    no biologically-based evolutionary events link anything except
    RNA-mediated information from the epigenetic landscape to the physical
    landscape of DNA in organized genomes.

    The fact that RNA-directed DNA methylation and RNA-mediated cell type differentiation
    via amino acid substitutions links conserved molecular mechanisms from
    ecological variation to ecological adaptations in species from microbes
    to man should already have eliminated the assumptions and definitions
    used to invent neo-Darwinism, and how it has altered the perceptions of serious scientists about ecological adaptations manifested in morphological and behavioral phenotypes.

    What further clarification is required to eliminate the pseudoscientific nonsense of evolutionary theory and its extension to anthropology?

    • A

      I think you missed the point.

      Skin color is correlated with distance from the equator, due to UV light and adaptations for lighter skin the further you get from the equator (to get adequate vitamin D). Yes, it is a biological difference in the distribution in melanin in the skin which allows the skin to reflect different wavelengths in order to get vitamin D for the body, but it is an EFFECT of latitude differences and not the CAUSE of any other differences. There have NEVER been any studies demonstrating any biological differences that break down on racial lines (blood type, height, weight, you name it and it’s not based on race).

      Also, skin color does NOT in any way correlate with culture or continent (ie African, Asian, “White”). This is true on all levels, from DNA to RNA to protein frequencies. There are native groups in South America and Africa with the same skin color, for example. We may think we know someone’s background based on their skin color, but we don’t. While many people with black skin may be from Africa, this is simply because Africa is a huge place (seriously, look it up). Again, only latitude matters when it comes to skin color.

      These same groups in Africa and South America may have other morphological differences related to their population, such as hemoglobin changes due to altitude, height and weight differences due to environmental differences, or whatever else. The point is that skin color is no different than any of these other differences. Skin color is related to latitude only, and not to culture or continent.

      But, while skin color is not biology, it can become biology. For example, there are now differences in racial groups within a culture due to perceived race and the social differences that come along with it, and this is a huge problem. For example, upper class “black” men (whether from Africa or South America) in the US have higher rates of hypertension, a result not seen in the Caribbean and likely the result of different treatment in society (the same can be said for lower class white men, the trend is simply reversed, again the result of social pressures). These are huge problems, backed by data. These are the problems we must solve, and a lot can be done by educating people.

      Tl;dr Skin color is the result of latitude differences, not culture or continent. Race is a social construct based around false ideas of skin color, but which can have harmful effects in society.

      • Difference in hemoglobin variants are due to RNA-directed DNA methylation and RNA-mediated events that link amino acid substitutions to cell type differentiation in all cells of all individuals of all species.

        That was my point.

        Your point seems to be “There have NEVER been any studies demonstrating any biological
        differences that break down on racial lines (blood type, height, weight,
        you name it and it’s not based on race).”

        Blood Groups and Red Cell Antigens
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2271/

        • A

          “Frequency of Duffy antigens

          Fya: 66% Caucasians, 10% Blacks, 99% Asians

          Fyb: 83% Caucasians, 23% Blacks, 18.5% Asians

          Fy3: 100% Caucasians, 32% Blacks, 99.9% Asians (1).”

          Sure, particular antigens are more common in each racial group,but race is not driving this. In short, correlation is not causation. As stated: “The racial variation in the distribution of Duffy antigens is a result of a positive selection pressure—the absence of Duffy antigens on RBCs makes the RBCs more resistant to invasion by a malarial parasite.”

          When it goes on “This may be because the pre-existence of a high frequency of the Fy(a-b-) phenotype prevented P. vivax malaria from becoming endemic in West Africa (4, 5)” this is not a statement that race determines phenotype, but rather that a particular West African population (that happens to be black because of the amount of UV light received by the region) MAY have had a pre-existing high frequency of a particular phenotype by random genetic drift or other unknown reasons. It’s also possible that P. vivax malaria wiped out most of the population without this phenotype, with those left behind being shielded by the fact that the rest of the population is immune (much the same way that children allergic to vaccines for measles rely on the fact that most other children have been vaccinated and won’t SPEAD this disease). In short, the cause of the high frequency isn’t known, but it isn’t race, which is a RESULT of UV expose rather than a SELECTIVE PRESSURE/CAUSE.

          To clarify, I’m not denying that there is variation between racial groups, but rather that it is the color of a population’s skin that causes any of these variations.

          • “The molecular mechanism that gives rise to the null Duffy phenotype [Fy(a-b-)] has been classically associated with a point mutation in the GATA box of the DARC promoter which silences the gene encoding the Duffy system antigens in the RBCs of these individuals resulting in a FYB allele [9].” http://www.malariajournal.com/content/6/1/167

            That’s a correlation.

            Nutrient-dependent RNA-directed DNA methylation and cell type differentiation via amino acid substitutions is linked from ecological variation to the pheromone-controlled physiology of reproduction and ecological adaptations via conserved molecular mechanisms in species from microbes to man. The conserved molecular mechanisms make the practice of race-based medicine essential to health in different human populations with different ecological adaptations.

          • “There is a racial difference in the vaginal environment and the microbial [community] in parallel,” says Buck.

            The Body’s Ecosystem http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/40600/title/The-Body-s-Ecosystem/

            Having put themselves in the untenable position of claims associated with no racial differences, pseudoscientists who have ignored the atoms to ecosystems approach, which is common to the molecular mechanisms of biologically based structure and biological function, continue to be backed into the corner of race-deniers.

            When cornered, however, we often see the change

            from:
            “There have NEVER been any studies demonstrating any biological
            differences that break down on racial lines (blood type, height, weight,
            you name it and it’s not based on race).”

            to:

            “I’m not denying that there is variation between racial groups, but
            rather that it is the color of a population’s skin that causes any of
            these variations.”

            Anonymous discussants thereby present a moving target that serious scientists must continue to try to hit with more facts, as the target moves faster and further away from the reality of racial differences in cell types based on ecological variation that leads to ecological adaptations at the level of molecular mechanisms (e.g., RNA-directed DNA-methylation and RNA-mediated amino acid substitutions).

          • A is right

            Correlation does not equal causation. It’s that simple.

          • I wrote: “Nutrient-dependent RNA-directed DNA methylation and cell type
            differentiation via amino acid substitutions is linked from ecological
            variation to the pheromone-controlled physiology of reproduction and
            ecological adaptations via conserved molecular mechanisms in species
            from microbes to man.”

            That’s cause, not correlation. Your response is simple-minded.

          • A is right