Friday, March 23, 2018

Genetic Differences between Races are Trivial Compared to those between Men and Women

Geneticist David Reich has a thoughtful article in the Times today about what modern genetics is teaching us about race. He tries hard to hew a middle line between racism and "races are social constructs," and I think he does a pretty good job. But this is what I find interesting:
So how should we prepare for the likelihood that in the coming years, genetic studies will show that many traits are influenced by genetic variations, and that these traits will differ on average across human populations? It will be impossible — indeed, anti-scientific, foolish and absurd — to deny those differences.

For me, a natural response to the challenge is to learn from the example of the biological differences that exist between males and females. The differences between the sexes are far more profound than those that exist among human populations, reflecting more than 100 million years of evolution and adaptation. Males and females differ by huge tracts of genetic material — a Y chromosome that males have and that females don’t, and a second X chromosome that females have and males don’t.

Most everyone accepts that the biological differences between males and females are profound. In addition to anatomical differences, men and women exhibit average differences in size and physical strength. (There are also average differences in temperament and behavior, though there are important unresolved questions about the extent to which these differences are influenced by social expectations and upbringing.)

How do we accommodate the biological differences between men and women? I think the answer is obvious: We should both recognize that genetic differences between males and females exist and we should accord each sex the same freedoms and opportunities regardless of those differences.
Of course that is a lot easier in theory than in practice, but anyway the basic point stands: the only moral position on genetic differences between different human populations is to treat everyone equally well.

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