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Yudell: "Should Human Genetics Focus on Ancestry Rather Than Race?"

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Speaking of the Repetition Crisis, from MedicalResearch.com:

Should Human Genetics Focus on Ancestry Rather Than Race?
Posted on February 15, 2016

Michael Yudell, PhD, MPH Chair & Associate Professor Drexel University School of Public Health

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Yudell: We came together as a group of scholars from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities to address what we believe is a long-standing challenge: how to improve the study of human genetic diversity without recapitulating the controversial and problematic concept of race.

“Problematic” …

We believe that the cross-disciplinary focus of our work—an examination of the historical, biological, and sociological aspects of the race concept—can shed new light on the long-standing debate about the use of the race concept in genetics research. We believe modern genetics remains stuck in a paradox: that on the one hand race is a tool to elucidate human genetic diversity, and on the other hand race is believed three main concerns to be a poorly defined marker of that diversity and an imprecise proxy for the relationship between ancestry and genetics. …

Can the race concept in genetics elucidate the relationship between humans and their evolutionary history, between humans and their health? In the wake of the human genome project the answer seemed to be a pretty resounding “no.” In 2004, for example, Francis Collins, then head of the National Human Genome Research Institute and now Director of the National Institutes of Health called race a “flawed” and “weak” concept and argued that science needed to move beyond race. Yet, as our paper highlights, the use of race persist in genetics, despite voices like Collins, like Craig Venter—leaders in the field of genomics-who have called on the field to move beyond it. They, of course, were not the first to do, but we hope they are among the last. …

A lot of genome data has been collected since then.

Medical Research: What are the main concerns about using race as a factor in medical research?

Dr. Yudell: We have three main concerns about using race as a factor in biomedical research.

1) First, phylogenetic and population genetic methods do not support the classification of humans into discrete races;

2) Racial assumptions are not good biological guideposts. This is true for two reasons: first, races are genetically heterogeneous and they lack clear-cut genetic boundaries. And, two, because of this, using race as a proxy to make clinical predictions is about probability. Of course medicine can be about best guesses. But are we serving patients well if medical decisions are made because a patient identifies him or herself as part of a certain racial group OR is identified by a healthcare practitioner as belonging to a specific race? What if, for example, the probability is that if you are white you are 90% likely to have a beneficial or at least non-harmful reaction to a particular drug? That sounds pretty good. But what if you are that 1 in 10 that is likely to have a harmful reaction. That doesn’t sound so good, and that is the problem with most race-based predictions. They are best guesses for an individual. We are much better off looking directly at an individual’s genes; and

3) We do not believe that a variable that is so mired in both historical and contemporary controversy has a place in modern genetics. Race has both scientific and social meanings that are impossible to tease apart, and we worry that using such a concept in modern genetics does not serve the field well. An example of this is the concern many had in the wake of Nicolas Wade’s book A Troublesome Inheritance, which made wrongheaded claims about the genetic basis of social differences between races. Wade’s book forced a large group of leading geneticists to publicly refute the idea that genetics (and their work) supported such ideas.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Yudell: It is time to find a better way to study human genetic diversity. The use of racial assumptions are problematic at best and harmful at worst as we seek to improve our understanding of the relationship between our genes and our health with the goal of determining the best course of medical treatments. Sickle-cell anemia’s identification as a Black or African disease is a good example of this. Sickle-cell is not, of course, an African-American or African disease, but a disease that runs in higher frequencies in a number of populations globally, including in African-American and African populations. But these are not racial differences. Sickle-cell is a disease that is an evolutionary adaptation to exposure to the disease malaria. You find the sickle cell trait in higher frequencies in regions of Africa because populations there, as they did in other parts of the world, adapted to resist malaria. Sickle-cell appears in other regions of the globe, in other human populations, including populations in the Mediterranean basin, on the Arabian Peninsula, and on the Indian subcontinent where these populations also adapted to resist malaria. So sickle-cell disease is not an African disease and thinking of it in this way can wrongfully associate a particular disease with a particular race and may lead us to ignore sickle-cell symptoms in patients who are not believed to be at risk for it.

Sure, but, as Damon Runyon said, that’s the way to bet, or to structure your checklist priorities when confronted with a mysteriously sick child. Here are the CDC’s bullet points on Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) and Sickle Cell Trait (SCT):

SCD affects 90,000 to 100,000 Americans.
SCD occurs among about 1 out of every 500 Black or African-American births.
SCD occurs among about 1 out of every 36,000 Hispanic-American births.
SCT occurs among about 1 in 12 Blacks or African Americans.

The CDC doesn’t bother giving a fraction for SCD for non-Hispanic white births because it’s so rare. It could happen, but it’s very rare.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Yudell: We make two proposals in our paper. The first: we call upon journals who publish in areas of research related to human genetics to encourage the use of alternative variables to study human genetic diversity and to rationalize their use. Journals should require scientists publishing in their pages to clearly define how they are using such variables in order to allow scientists to understand and interpret data across studies and would help avoid confusing, inconsistent, and contradictory usage of such terms. This has been tried before, but only in piecemeal fashion. We also recognize that the use of terms changes nothing if the underlying racial thinking remains the same. But we believe that language matters and that the scientific language of race has a considerable influence on how the public understands human diversity.

We prefer concepts like ancestry instead of race in human studies and it is important to distinguish the two. Ancestry is a process-based concept that helps us understand the admixing events that lead to one’s existence. Ancestry is also a statement about an individual’s relationship to other individuals in their genealogical history, thus is a very personal understanding of one’s genomic heritage. Race, on the other hand, is a pattern-based concept that has led scientists and laypersons alike to draw conclusions about hierarchical organization of humans, connecting an individual to a larger preconceived geographically circumscribed or socially constructed group.

Or maybe people should be told that race is actually about ancestry? Visual clues are used to guess ancestry. Physical anthropologists got very good by the second half of the 20th Century at using phenotype to guess genotype, which is why the genome analyses of the 21st Century have done so little to rewrite our understanding of the racial distributions of humanity.

Second, we are calling upon the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to convene an interdisciplinary panel of experts to help the field improve the study of human genetic diversity. As an honest broker in science policy, the Academies can play a constructive role in bringing together natural scientists, social scientists, and scholars from the humanities to find ways to study human genetic diversity that does not recapitulate the confusion and potential harm that comes with using the race concept.

Sorry, but racial categories used in American medical research follow racial categories used by the U.S. government. They are not some ancient pre-scientific infliction of White Privilege, they are categories currently under the control of the Obama Administration.

The Race, History, Evolution Notes blog points out this earlier contribution by Yudell:

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE RACE CONCEPT
By Michael Yudell

At the dawn of the 21st century, the idea of race – the belief that the peoples of the world can be organized into biologically distinctive groups, each with their own physical, social, and intellectual characteristics – is understood by most natural and social scientists to be an unsound concept. … By the 1970s, many prominent biologists, including Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould, came to see the race concept as a deeply flawed way to organize human genetic diversity that is inseparable from the social prejudices about human difference that spawned the concept in the 18th century and have accompanied its meaning since.1 Historians and social scientists believe that race is socially constructed, meaning that the biological meaning of race has been constrained by the social context in which racial research has taken place.

On the other hand, because studying genetic differences can improve our understanding of human evolution, disease, and development, the relationship between genetics and human diversity remains an ongoing area of scientific inquiry. The challenge has been to develop a new scientific terminology and methodology that finds meaning in the study of human difference without recapitulating outmoded and racist notions often associated with the concept of race itself. Some scientists have developed novel ways to measure difference between various human populations, including using ancestry, ethnicity, and population as replacements or surrogates for race.

… Most scholars now accept the viewpoint that in the ancient world “no concept truly equivalent to that of ‘race’ can be detected in the thought of the Greeks, Romans, and early Christians.”5

That’s not true. Vince Sarich and Frank Miele wrote in 2004:

“The art of the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, and China, and the Islamic civilization from AD 700 to 1400 shows that these societies classified the various peoples they encountered into broad racial groups. They sorted them based upon the same set of characteristics—skin color, hair form, and head shape—allegedly constructed by Europeans when they invented ‘race’ to justify colonialism and white supremacy.”

Yudell goes on:

Rooting human variation in blood or in kinship was a relatively new way to categorize humans. The idea gained strength towards the end of the Middle Ages as anti-Jewish feelings, which were rooted in an antagonism towards Jewish religious beliefs, began to evolve into anti-Semitism. These blood kinship beliefs rationalized anti-Jewish hatred instead as the hatred of a people. For example, Marranos, Spanish Jews who had been baptized, were considered a threat to Christendom by virtue of their ancestry because they could not prove purity of blood to the Inquisition.

Uhhhhhmmmm … The notion that “Rooting human variation in blood or in kinship was a relatively new way to categorize humans … rooted in … anti-Semitism” is a pretty self-evidently self-defeating assertion, since the word “anti-Semitism” itself is rooted in the Book of Genesis’s descriptions of the three sons of Noah, including Shem, progenitor of the Semites:

Chapter 10

1 Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood. …

31 These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations.

32 These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.

The Old Testament is obsessed with this kind of stuff.

Yudell goes on:

At the core of this work, known as the American School of Anthropology, was the theory of polygeny, the belief that a hierarchy of human races had separate creations. Samuel Morton’s experiments on cranial capacity and intelligence sought to demonstrate this theory. Morton collected hundreds of skulls from around the globe, measured their volume, and concluded that the Caucasian and Mongolian races had the highest cranial capacity and thus the highest levels of intelligence, while Africans had the lowest cranial capacity and thus the lowest levels of intelligence.

More than a century after Morton’s death, the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, using Morton’s same experimental material and methods, could not replicate the earlier findings. Gould concluded that Morton’s subjective ideas about race difference influenced his methods and conclusions, leading to the omission of contradictory data and to the conscious or unconscious stuffing or under-filling of certain skulls to match his pre-ordained conclusions.6 Indeed, the case of Samuel Morton illustrates how social conceptions of human difference shape the science of race.

Gould didn’t try to replicate Morton’s findings. He just asserted that Morton had been biased. Recently, actual scientists did replicate Morton’s findings, and thus failed to replicate Gould’s famous fantasy.

… At a June 2000 Rose Garden ceremony, President Bill Clinton, flanked by genome sequencers Francis Collins and Craig Venter, announced the completion of a draft sequence of the human genome. Collins, head of the National Human Genome Research Institute, and Venter, then President of Celera Genomics, offered their genomic data to the world – enhancing our understanding of human biology and holding the promise of to helping public health and medical professionals prevent, treat, and cure disease. On that day Venter and Collins emphasized that their work confirmed that human genetic diversity cannot be captured by the concept of race and demonstrated that all humans have genome sequences that are 99.9% identical. At the White House celebration Venter said “the concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis.”9 A year later, Collins wrote: “those who wish to draw precise racial boundaries around certain groups will not be able to use science as a legitimate justification.”10 Yet, since the White House announcement, there has been an increase in claims that race is a biologically meaningful classification.

That’s my understanding, too: today’s half-witted Race Does Not Exist conventional wisdom stems from the speeches by Clinton and the others in the Rose Garden in 2000.

Of course, since then, there has been a flood of genome data, which has largely upheld the pre-existing views of race attained by physical anthropologists before the new technology arrived, although offering new details and new complexities.

The upsurge of claims that race is a useful taxonomic concept for humans seems to be driven by several factors. First, genomic technology has enhanced our ability to examine the 0.1% of nucleic acids in the human genome that, on average, vary between individuals. Some scientists are relying on the race concept to make sense of the genetic variation in this small sliver of our genomes. Second, the history of the biological race concept suggests that race is deeply embedded in scientific thought and that racialized thinking shaped genetics in the 20th century.

In other words, Bill Clinton doesn’t know anything about genetics and we should charitably ignore his 2000 Rose Garden speech instead of enshrining Clinton as the Wizard of Genes.

 

78 Comments to "Yudell: "Should Human Genetics Focus on Ancestry Rather Than Race?""

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  1. Okay.

    European ancestry.

    I’m an ancestrist and no longer a race-ist.

    I’m for an ancestric understanding of humanity.

    Because race has nothing to do with ancestry.

    How about the term ‘ances’ for short?

    White ances.

    Black ances.

    Red ances.

    Yellow ances.

    Brown ances.

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  2. Gotta love how they selectively quote Collins. He did express some skepticism, but here’s what else Collins said about race in 2004:

    Increasing scientific evidence, however, indicates that genetic variation can be used to make a reasonably accurate prediction of geographic origins of an individual, at least if that individual’s grandparents all came from the same part of the world. As those ancestral origins in many cases have a correlation, albeit often imprecise, with self-identified race or ethnicity, it is not strictly true that race or ethnicity has no biological connection.

    http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v36/n11s/full/ng1436.html

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  3. The problem with the race concept is not that it’s inaccurate, but that it’s simplistic. There are hundreds of genetically distinct human groups, for which the mongoloid-caucazoid-negroid taxonomy fails.

    Even a seven group European, American native, Arab, subsaharan African, East Asian, south Asian, Australian (throw in Polynesians somewhere) taxonomy is simplistic.

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  4. …instead of enshrining Clinton as the Wizard of Genes.

    He’s more the Whizzer– or Creamer– of Jeans.

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  5. Yeah. The current use of race is a huge, huge problem because doctors are obviously too stupid to remember that some other people besides Africans occassionally get sickle cell.

    Also, if we don’t stop using race, doctors will never learn to order lab tests instead of just looking at a patient and ordering up a bunch pf treatments based on skin color, which, as everyone knows, is whst they do now…

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  6. I sure hope Obama reads all this before he nominates someone for the SC. I would hate for him to use an unscientific concept in his decision-making.

    Hey Obama! Nominate Steve Sailer for the SC. He’s 99.9% the same as Kamala whoever.

    • Agree: International Jew
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  7. Deal: I’ll agree that race doesn’t exist when I never again hear such phrases as “white privilege” and “black lives matter”.

    • Agree: dc.sunsets
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  8. White ances.

    Black ances.

    Red ances.

    Yellow ances.

    Brown ances.

    Bubba, caw de ‘sterminator. We got de white ances, we got de black ances, we got aw de color ances

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  9. This is important. A major shift is occurring. Sanity is winning.

    It is time to find a better way to study human genetic diversity.

    HBD has won! Serious scientists are admitting what Steve has been arguing for years, that HBD is important. “Human genetic diversity” is a synonym for “human biodiversity”.

    But, these are serious scientists, not suicidal scientists. So, how are they going to make the transition safely? Simple. Accept HBD, but change the wording!

    Because this is not racism at all, oh no! This is a new way of looking at things because racism was … errrr … flawed. Notice how tepid the rejection of racism is — racism isn’t wrong, it’s “unsound” and “flawed” and “outmoded”. The challenge is to admit the truth and do research based on the truth, but to come up with a different “terminology.”

    … race [is] an unsound concept … the race concept [is] deeply flawed … On the other hand, the relationship between genetics and human diversity remains an ongoing area of scientific inquiry. The challenge has been to develop a new scientific terminology and methodology that finds meaning in the study of human difference without recapitulating outmoded and racist notions often associated with the concept of race itself.

    You see, the concept of “race” is “racist,” but we aren’t “racists,” because we are studying “human genetic diversity,” which looks a lot like “race” but isn’t the same as race, so we are “diversityists,” not “racists.”

    This is just like the Scientific American article Steve blogged about a few days ago.

    To be fair to the scientists, most of them have known this for a long time, and they are just looking for a handful of dust to hide behind so they can work in peace.

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  10. Simplistic isn’t the same as wrong, or not useful. A Linnaean taxonomy of six kingdoms for the biological world is simplistic, not entirely correct, and very useful.

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  11. Doesn’t this strike you as a slow dancing away from a position that is shortly to be exposed as ludicrous?

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  12. A couple things:

    1. Racial categories = ancestry at least 90% but not 100% of the time.
    2. Racial categories are legitimately under-performing models for evolutionary and population biologists, but that’s that what’s being discussed in the opinion piece.
    3. Racial categories are good enough for biomedical and government work for the most part.

    On (3) there are practical ways to make biomedical research more transparent about reporting on the use of race. However, the degree of vigor in which the authors make their case appears to be more politically motivated than motivated by doing good science. It would be fine if we started doing the reasonable thing and offer a greater number of checkboxes on forms that ask for race and to ask for “ancestry (race)” instead of just “race”. But the program of eliminating racial labels is unlikely to benefit minorities and would in all likelihood just cause a lot of confusion among research participants and patients.

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  13. Right. For example, an obvious example would be the President of the United States, who should inform his doctor that his ancestry is both half black and half white. But he chose to list only black on his 2010 Census.

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  14. If race denialists think a pedantic non-essentialist metaphysics get them out of the overwhelming biological evidence supporting race realism then they’ve practically killed the coherency of knowing anything under an evolutionary paradigm. Under any taxonomic system where common ancestry is involved, there will have to be simplifications and generalizations. Heck, think how silly it’d be to argue there is nothing different between the category of “car” and the category of “truck” because of the existence of Honda CR-Vs.

    Of course we all know “race” really just is one’s ancestry. Etymologically, older words for race (nations, ethnos, þeod) essentially meant one’s tribe, people, etc. which is of course tied directly to ancestry.

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  15. 1) First, phylogenetic and population genetic methods do not support the classification of humans into discrete races;

    An analysis of the spectrum does not support the classification of the spectrum into discrete colors. Therefore there is no such thing as the color yellow because no matter how you define yellow what does one call the “color” which is one angstrom higher or lower than the discrete boundary that humans have arbitrarily assigned to the human construct of yellow.

    So stop referring to the color yellow because it doesn’t exist as a discrete category and no one has ever dreamt of conceptualizing entities with fuzzy boundaries. While we’re at it stop referring to your aunt and uncle as family because other people use the term family to refer to only parents and children.

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  16. anonymous
    says:
         Show CommentNext New Comment

    “Even a seven group …. taxonomy is simplistic.”

    Well, that clears it all up. Up and down, that’s really simplistic. There are so many directions out there. It’s clear that almost nothing is really up or down. We must get beyond up-down-ism.

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  17. >>And, two, because of this, using race as a proxy to make clinical predictions is about probability.

    Real science is a lot about probability. If you cannot master probability, and to a fairly deep level, find another job.

    All these psychologists, sociologists, etc, who flounder on the shoals with un-replicable, discredited research, I’ll bet everyone of them have an 8th graders grasp of probability and statistics.

    Anybody who gets a Ph.D in the social or hard sciences should have a grasp of probability and statistics to at least the M.S. level. Should be required for the degree.

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  18. The Old Testament is obsessed with this kind of stuff.

    As were the Roman Patricians and pretty much everyone else in the Ancient World.

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  19. Yup!

    The original article from which this interview was motivated appeared as a piece in the journal Science. This is a prestigious academic journal. That the editors gave this much page space to this argument speaks to the underlying dynamics happening now in genetics and biomedicine around race.

    http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6273/564.full

    The focus of the article is on the use of race in research, particularly genetics. Some of the things they call for are entirely reasonable. Others fall into the attempting to exclude causal explanations or decrease the transparency of research on human genetic diversity.

    There is no indication that the article was peer reviewed and several claims that are cited/repeated and factually inaccurate or presented in a way as to obfuscate.

    An example of the replication crisis is their tacit call to:

    shift to “focus on racism (i.e., social relations) rather than race (i.e., supposed innate biologic predisposition) in the interpretation of racial/ethnic ‘effects’”

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  20. 0.1% of nucleic acids vary between individuals? that’s quite a bit when you consider only 1% vary between chimps and humans.

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  21. I would support moving beyond the pre-scientific notion of “race” to a more firmly grounded idea based on ancestry. I think this concept should be termed “Relatedness Abstracted at Continental Extent” or, for short, RACE. See, now it’s all scientific like.

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  22. If my child is at someone’s house and they have a pit bull looking dog, I don’t need to be able to rule out other obscure dog types to know it’s not a good idea to have the child play unsupervised in the yard with the pit. Likewise, if it is 2AM and I roll through what looks like a derelict black neighborhood I know I shouldn’t stop the car and get out, and preferably it would be best to go somewhere else, even if they might be dot Indians or Australian Aborigines.

    Just because a rule ignores some exceptions for the sake of simplicity, does not make it useless.

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  23. Why don’t these scientists go do some science, rather than go around telling other scientists what they should be doing?

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  24. The question I ask myself is how many taxonomic phenotypes would be needed to recreate the whole variety of features that exist in the world – I make it 5 – negroid, mongoloid, caucasian 1, caucasian 2, and indo-european/indo-american.

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  25. That’s too funny.

    • Agree: Vendetta
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  26. “And, two, because of this, using race as a proxy to make clinical predictions is about probability”
    as far I understand there is not one diagnosis or therapy in modern Evidence based medicine which is not based on probality. Actually my laymen interpretation of modern physics (thermodynamics, statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics) is that the universe is built up by probabilities.

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  27. It obviously never occurred to all those misguided people in the past that ancestry had anything to do with the physical differences between people. I’m so glad it’s the current year and we know so much more now.

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  28. This whole opposing the process-based concept of ancestry with the pattern-based concept of race is quite disingenuous.
    This distinction is not an ontological one but an epistemological one. Through our common sense inductive reasoning we discern patterns among different human populations and simply make guesses about the causes of these differences based on the like begets like principle. Ancestry proceeds from a more deductive method of knowing. We know certain breeding and selection processes in human populations have occurred in the past that have produced patterns we can discern even today.
    The processes of ancestry produce the patterns of race.
    Science works through both induction and deduction. To eliminate induction as a part of scientific thought as basically Mr. Yuddell wants is to leave science limping around on one leg.

    • Agree: ben tillman
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  29. I wonder if this attempt to establish PC orthodoxy in genetics has to do with ‘troubling’ results on the horizon regarding intelligence heritability and genomic associations. Get rid of racial categorization before unflattering news arrives? Razib Khan has mentioned some groundbreaking work to be published in the next few years.

    And what of newly-discovered Homo Naledi, whose brain case is small enough to appear australopithocean (see the National Geographic article, a bizarrely pop science way to publish)? Could this hominid be the missing “number four” which was postulated to explain the ~10% unassigned genome in SSA groups? ‘Problematic’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

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  30. Black is to African-American as race is to ancestry. Same shit, different day.

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  31. Marranos weren’t suspect because of their “impure blood”. They were subject to church discipline because many had voluntarily accepted baptism for personal gain and were covertly practicing anti-Christian religion. This isn’t some crazy conspiracy theory, it’s a point of pride among Jewish historiographers.

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  32. Interestingly, those sickle cell disease numbers you posted (1 in 500 African American births vs 1 in 36,000 Hispanic American) are consistent with ~3% African admixture in self-reporting Hispanics. Not too far from the 5-10% estimated for the Mexican population. SCD is probably not the best way to muddy the waters on race-associated traits.

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  33. The problem with the race concept is not that it’s inaccurate, but that it’s simplistic.

    Actually, as a meta concept, it works just fine. At the meta level, it serves as a foundation for the most broad understanding of the concept for the most people. For further investigation or analysis by those inclined to it, one can develop more detailed taxonomies based on a greater understanding of group differences across geographic regions (i.e. ethnic groups within races, etc.)

    By way of analogy, the simplest from of algorithm is input-function-output. From there you can add on ever greater levels of complexity as your understanding of a particular algorithmic process evolves.

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  34. He’s more the Whizzer– or Creamer– of Jeans.

    Is this thing on? –taps microphone– Is this thing on?

    He’s here all week, folks…

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  35. “To eliminate induction as a part of scientific thought as basically Mr. Yuddell wants is to leave science limping around on one leg.”

    Nicely put. Erasmus’ well-known aphorism also applies, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

    As yet unmentioned in this thread is scientific anti-racism’s precedent, Lysenkoism.

    Lysenkoism was a political campaign against genetics and science-based agriculture conducted by Trofim Lysenko, his followers, and Soviet authorities… Lysenkoism began in the late 1920s and formally ended in 1964… More than 3,000 mainstream biologists were sent to prison or fired or executed as a part of this campaign instigated by Lysenko to suppress his scientific opponents.

    It’s unclear to me if Professor Yuddell understands the current debased state of mainstream thinking on race and heredity, and seeks to bring the debate up to the level of the one-eyed. Alternatively, as a beneficiary of the status quo, he may be seeking to strengthen the grip of orthodoxy on biomedical fields, which allows limited insights while punishing exploration of their implications.

    That Prof. Yuddell approvingly cites Gould and Lewontin for their dishonest and disingenuous (respectively) work makes me incline towards the latter.

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  36. No, Chimps differ to us by around 4-6% which include entire genes and another chromosome. They also differ in about 80% of their proteins which are many times more important than nucleic acids.

    The difference between individual humans and between groups compared to Chimps is not any where near comparable. They are literally in another dimension of genetics.

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  37. I don’t see the problem with imprecise boundaries. The math dealing with this is pretty well developed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuzzy_set

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  38. And chimps share 50 per cent of their genes with bananas, as do humans.

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  39. Likewise, if it is 2AM and I roll through what looks like a derelict black neighborhood I know I shouldn’t stop the car and get out…

    You can bet your life Dr Yudell wouldn’t either.

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  40. The academic doctors I know all use race to profile their patients, because it’s so useful in figuring out the likelihood of certain problems. But if you ask them about it, they’ll all go politically correct on the subject of race, namely, it’s a social construct (see doublethink).

    But now, after decades, they have an “out”. They’ll tell you that eventually, everyone in America will have their DNA tested to at least the level that 23andme.com offers – and then no one will care about the simplistic seven groups, or the somewhat more detailed hundreds of groups, because we’ll all be individuals.

    Race profiling by doctors will go the way of the physical exam – obviated by superior technology.

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  41. They’re moving away from the term “race” to “ancestry” or “population group”, or whatever substitute is safe until the plebs figure out what they’re really saying. Yesterday’s scientists were racists, tomorrow’s will be semanticists.

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  42. Hmm…science takes it’s cues from social propriety. That will go well.

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  43. I guess you could argue that until at least the 18th century Europeans didn’t conceptualise themselves as superior to other races. Europeans had just spent more than a thousand years under siege from the Muslims, and tended to see Europe as weak and threatened. There was categorisation, but there wasn’t any ranking. The ancient Romans saw themselves as physically inferior but culturally superior to the Germanics; the Germanics tended to share that view. Then medieval Europeans saw the world in Christ vs Satan terms, not Race vs Race. ‘Master Race’ type thinking developed in the 19th century.

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  44. “Gould concluded that Morton’s subjective ideas about race difference influenced his methods and conclusions, leading to the omission of contradictory data and to the conscious or unconscious stuffing or under-filling of certain skulls to match his pre-ordained conclusions.6 Indeed, the case of Samuel Morton illustrates how social conceptions of human difference shape the science of race.”

    Gould, I take it, did not suffer the same myopia that Morton did “to match his pre-ordained conclusions”.

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  45. Can someone explain this me:

    How can people be 99.9% genetically the same, yet some humans can have up to 5% Neanderthal DNA an others have 0%?

    There must be an obvious answer I’m missing here, but I know little of how this kind of thing works.

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  46. Google finds this 2011 Nicholas Wade article on the Stephen Jay Gould’s “Mismeasure of Man” claims about Samuel Morton. It has a link to the Lewis et al. PLOS Biology paper.

    Lewis et al.:

    Samuel George Morton, in the hands of Stephen Jay Gould, has served for 30 years as a textbook example of scientific misconduct. The Morton case was used by Gould as the main support for his contention that “unconscious or dimly perceived finagling is probably endemic in science, since scientists are human beings rooted in cultural contexts, not automatons directed toward external truth”…. But our results falsify Gould’s hypothesis that Morton manipulated his data to conform with his a priori views. The data on cranial capacity gathered by Morton are generally reliable, and he reported them fully.

    In 1981, Gould crafted a dishonest and untrue narrative about Morton. In support of his own views, Prof. Yudell has presented Gould’s conclusions as if they were true, without mention of the 2011 paper. I guess he had his reasons.

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  47. I think it’s a Protestant thing, through and through. That doesn’t explain the Spaniards, though…

    The concept of “savage” is clearly very old (Humanism, Protestantism, Enlightenment, in short – progressivism, may have given it a boost, though), as is the tendency to dehumanize the enemy.

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  48. Who’s to say the folks at “23andMe” are to be trusted.
    They may have a political/social agenda to promote.
    Just like the experts at Wiki/Snopes/FactCheck are portrayed as the “final word”.
    Just a thought.

    Oh, I forgot, scientists never embellish/slant their conclusions. Even for the “greater good”.

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  49. When critiquing Gould’s reanalysis of Morton’s data it is worth calling out the mistake he acknowledged in the 1996 version of The Mismeasure of Man. Here is his footnote from page 98. Nice of him to at least acknowledge his bias.

    t My original report (Gould, 1978) incorrectly listed the modern Caucasian mean as 85.3. The reason for this error is embarrassing, but instructive, for it illustrates, at my expense, the cardinal principle of this book: the social embeddedness of science and the frequent grafting of expectation upon supposed objectivity. Line 7 in Table 2.3 lists the range of Semitic skulls as 84 to 98 cubic inches for Morton’s sample of
    3. However, my original paper cited a mean of 80—an obvious impossibility if the smallest skull measures 84. I was working from a Xerox of Morton’s original chart, and his correct value of 89 is smudged to look like an 80 on my copy. Nonetheless, the range of 84 to 98 is clearly indicated right alongside, and I never saw the inconsistency—presumably because a low value of 80 fit my hopes for a depressed Caucasian mean. The 80 therefore “felt” right and I never checked it. I am grateful to Dr. Irving Klotz of Northwestern University for pointing out this error to me.

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  50. I’ve never seen a serious claim that the genetic difference between Europeans and Arabs is as great as the genetic difference between any of the other groups you listed. The idea is laughable on its face.

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  51. The day I read about Obama listing only black on the census was the day I realized that Obama was anti-white.

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  52. …. and on the other hand race is believed three main concerns to be a poorly defined marker of that diversity and an imprecise proxy for the relationship between ancestry and genetics. …

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  53. An MS level? I’d settle for Stats 102.

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  54. Yudell: “Should Human Genetics Focus on Ancestry Rather Than Race?” – VDARE.com
    says:
    • Website     Show CommentNext New Comment

    […] [Comment at Unz.com] […]

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  55. …. and on the other hand race is believed three main concerns to be a poorly defined marker of that diversity and an imprecise proxy for the relationship between ancestry and genetics. …

    will someone please show me the typo in this phrase?

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  56. Fuchsia exists; therefore, red does not. Seems legit.

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  57. Chill out, bro. Dey’s jes ances, not ratcists.

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  58. I’m thinking of other domestic animals, same species but different phenotypes, and I’m digging the use of the word ‘breed’. I’m thinking of same species with similar phenotypes and finding the word ‘color’ very useful. I’m also thinking that someone who says ‘we’ so many times is unsure of himself and seeking to blame-spread.

    But what do I know, I’m a Pennsylvania farm boy.

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  59. Race is a too BROAD concept, IMHO.

    Just let them talk about 15 ancestry groups.

    It’s a step forward to truth.

    (Why too broad? Because we know that there are differences inside what is called races. Grouping Khoi-San, Bantu, Pigmies, Igbo, Ethiopians, Jamaicans, etc. into the black category is too generalizing.)

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  60. Rooting human variation in blood or in kinship was a relatively new way to categorize humans. The idea gained strength towards the end of the Middle Ages as anti-Jewish feelings, which were rooted in an antagonism towards Jewish religious beliefs, began to evolve into anti-Semitism. These blood kinship beliefs rationalized anti-Jewish hatred instead as the hatred of a people. For example, Marranos, Spanish Jews who had been baptized, were considered a threat to Christendom by virtue of their ancestry because they could not prove purity of blood to the Inquisition.

    Amazing. Just take in that first sentence in all its abject stupidity. I’ve written plenty of stupid\wrong stuff over the years, but i’ve always been trying to beaver away at some aspect of the truth based on observed facts at hand. I’d be embarrassed to be putting my name to this nonsense. Literally a lie in every sentence.

    –> Shared kinship has been the critical organizing principle for human groups … forever. It has always been the most fundamental way to organize human beings. Yeah, we weren’t always rubbing shoulders with distinctly different looking groups, but when we did that these differences were rooted in different ancestry–different tribes!–was just a given.

    –> Jews *not* Christians are a religion organized around ancestry. In fact, in the period he’s talking about for the Christian elites nobility was of interest, but intra-European ethnic exogamy wasn’t a concern, and in fact frequently sought for political advantage. (The King of Aragon is marrying off his daughter to the King of England’s son. Later the King of France is marrying a rich Italian noble woman. They marry their son to the Queen of Scotland … )

    Christians didn’t need to convert a religious animus into some ethnic animus against the Jews, the Jews were directly providing an ethnic animus from the beginning by holding themselves ethnically-racially separate from the local populations. Furthermore Christians didn’t need an ethnic animus to animate a religious animus. They spent more than a century bashing each other–no ethnic variation at all–on the head, over Christian doctrinal disputes. (Religion is all about being “on the same” page, having the same “rules” being part of the same community and ergo the most basic question of “loyalty”.)

    –> Marranos were not targeted by the inquisition over “purity of blood”, there is no “purity of blood” issue in Christianity. After all, the Jews has specifically been order to convert or leave Spain. There wasn’t any question about “purity of blood”, the ones who stayed were by definition of Jewish “blood”–i.e. ancestry. (If you wanted “purity of blood”–which is a Jewish thing not a Christian thing–than the edit should simple have told all the Jews to leave no conversion possible.) The question was whether various Marranos had actually converted–i.e. given up Judaism and their loyalty to Jewish ancestry\community and joined the local community–or whether they were actually crypto-Jews still practicing Judaism, marrying other crypto-Jews, and still their own separate Jewish community rather than part of the normal local community.

    If there was some sort of increased “racialization” of white people during this period it had precisely *nothing* to do with his “it’s all about me!” Jewish obsession. It would be–as less ethnocentric, more level-headed observers have pointed out–that Europeans started exploring the world and coming into direct contact with disparate peoples, and … *noticing* that they not only didn’t all look the same, but had different patterns of behavior, different temperaments, different IQs, etc. etc. And that most of these different peoples were “inferior”–i.e. less desirable from the perspective of building maintaining something akin to European civilization.

    ~~~

    I read this sort of drivel and i can’t help but think what a world of good it would do for our politics and culture if Jews could simple look in the mirror and say:

    “Yes, we–not the Christians–have a racial religion. Yes, we–not the Christians–kept ourselves separate, a separate people, down through the ages. Yes we … were racist! Not that there’s anything wrong with that … we’re the chosen people!”

    And yeah, there isn’t anything wrong with that. It’s okay to be “racist” and maintain your own separate community. Just don’t expect other people to not react negatively to it–much less to love you for it. And for god’s sake stop projecting and blaming your racism\tribalism on everyone else.

    • Agree: ben tillman
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  61. . . . all humans have genome sequences that are 99.9% identical

    What does that even mean?

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  62. I’ve never seen a serious claim that the genetic difference between Europeans and Arabs is as great as the genetic difference between any of the other groups you listed. The idea is laughable on its face.

    If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, can you say it’s a duck? Examining Europeans and Arabs, both physically and behaviorally, seems to suggest clear differences. Admittedly, Arabs have historically been considered whiteish due to lack of a good separate category, but look at Italy for a clear spectrum of admixture from the swarthy and tardy Sicilians to the nearly Teutonic and punctual Milanese.

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  63. Marranos were not targeted by the inquisition over “purity of blood”, there is no “purity of blood” issue in Christianity.

    Right, but there were secular concerns and limpieza de sangre laws designed (later) to address the Conversos’ dominance of cultural institutions resulting from their official Christian status and their continuation of Jewish associational patterns (i.e., ethnic networking). The Church, in fact, opposed these laws in at least some instances, but the perception that Conversos were continuing to engage in an exclusionary group strategy prompted an ethnic reaction reflected in the limpieza de sangre laws.

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  64. “–> Jews *not* Christians are a religion organized around ancestry.”

    Once maybe, not counting the Egyptian ‘mothers’ of three of the tribes. Nowadays it would make more sense to use the term Jewish for people who attend synagogue and Semitic for people with Semitic ancestry. A few years ago there was a case in which a Jewish school in London refused to admit the children of a Rabbi because their mother was a convert. Clearly not all people who attend synagogue are Semitic and clearly lots of people with Semitic ancestry do not attend synagogue. Naturally, the British Government ruled that the school could not discriminate and the school admitted the children. Muslims are approaching this same dilemma by making mosques community centres. Anglicans on the other hand register a ‘Communion’ of 1million but provide tea and biscuits, not to mention an overarching set of ‘British’ values, to a whole lot more.

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  65. There has been so much migration and admixture among West Eurasians that the differences of which you speak are merely of degree all throughout West Eurasia. A Yemeni shares far more genes with a Scot than with a Bantu, Korean or Dravidian.

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  66. I don’t know whether that’s true with Dravidians, but regardless, it doesn’t matter. A Scot and a Yemeni are sufficiently different to be different.

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  67. HBD has won! Serious scientists are admitting what Steve has been arguing for years, that HBD is important.

    “Serious” scientists have always understood this. I think you mean we’re finally getting some concessions from the obscurantists.

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  68. Something is going on here with this recent emphasis on “ancestry”.

    Bryan Caplan has a series of posts about economic papers that attribute economic development to “ancestry”. It sounds like the “ancestry” terminology is giving Bryan room to express ideas that used to be ungoodthink.

    http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2016/01/econlog_reading.html

    Spolaore and Wacziarg, write that:

    A growing body of new empirical work focuses on the measurement and estimation of the effects of historical variables on contemporary income by explicitly taking into account the ancestral composition of current populations. The evidence suggests that economic development is affected by traits that have been transmitted across generations over the very long run. This article surveys this new literature and provides a framework to discuss different channels through which intergenerationally transmitted characteristics may impact economic development, biologically (via genetic or epigenetic transmission) and culturally (via behavioral or symbolic transmission).

    http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty_pages/romain.wacziarg/downloads/roots.pdf

    And when allowed to do honest economic analysis, “ancestry” demolishes Acemoglu’s silly notion that “institutions” explain economic development. Caplan writes that:

    Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson (AJR) famously argued that the world’s former colonies have seen a great “reversal of fortune.” On average, the more advanced such countries were in 1500, the poorer they are today. In this week’s paper, Chanda, Cook, and Putterman (CCP) argue that AJR omitted a mighty confounding variable: ancestry. While nations’ fortunes reversed to some extent, peoples’ fortunes persisted. Countries inhabited by the descendants of relatively successful tribes in 1500 remain relatively successful today.

    http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2016/02/ancestry_and_lo_3.html

    I repeat. Something is going on here.

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  69. I’ve never seen a serious claim that the genetic difference between Europeans and Arabs is as great as the genetic difference between any of the other groups you listed. The idea is laughable on its face.

    Arabs themselves are laughable on their face, if you take the word of the late Col. Gaddafi. He called his tribe “the joke of the world”.

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  70. Amazing. Just take in that first sentence in all its abject stupidity.

    Lol

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  71. Sometimes 0.1% is a big difference and sometimes not. I would not drink water that is a mixture of 999 gallons of pure water mixed with 1 gallon of sewage.

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  72. Anybody who gets a Ph.D in the social or hard sciences should have a grasp of probability and statistics to at least the M.S. level. Should be required for the degree.

    Shame on you. Think of all the poor, starving Ph.D.’s you’d put out of business due to lack of qualified grad students! And—of all things— You racist! An MS-level of stats? Think of the disparate impact!

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  73. If my fellow paranoiacs think Facebook is a CIA/NSA database collection system, imagine how they view 23andMe’s collection of DNA fingerprints for those who voluntarily submit specimens.

    All kidding aside, if one gives even a tiny bit of thought to the level of knowledge (and with knowledge comes control) being collected on people today, it’s not difficult to imagine that Orwell underestimated things by several orders of magnitude.

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  74. What’s your source? I’m just going based off having heard the 1% figure quoted time and again, but I’ll admit that the two figures might be measuring different things. This seems to back me up though:

    http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/genetics

    “While the genetic difference between individual humans today is minuscule – about 0.1%, on average – study of the same aspects of the chimpanzee genome indicates a difference of about 1.2%. The bonobo (Pan paniscus), which is the close cousin of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), differs from humans to the same degree. The DNA difference with gorillas, another of the African apes, is about 1.6%. Most importantly, chimpanzees, bonobos, and humans all show this same amount of difference from gorillas. A difference of 3.1% distinguishes us and the African apes from the Asian great ape, the orangutan. How do the monkeys stack up? All of the great apes and humans differ from rhesus monkeys, for example, by about 7% in their DNA.”

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  75. Oh but then it does go on to mention your 5% figure including deletions and what not.

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  76. How to study human difference while maintaining belief that human difference doesn’t exist? This certainly does sound as challenging as the authors say it is.

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  77. The CDC doesn’t bother giving a fraction for SCD for non-Hispanic white births because it’s so rare. It could happen, but it’s very rare.

    Actually, given the CDC numbers you reference, the Hispanic rate of SCD (1/36k) is far below the rate of non-black Americans as a whole (~1/12k). I obtained that rate by subtracting the number of black cases, given the rate of 1/500 and our 12.9% black population, from the total and applying the difference to the non-black population. Unless the Asian rate is absurdly high, that necessarily means that the non-Hispanic white rate is higher that the Hispanic rate.

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  78. I hope you are being sarcastic. TYour description is not how medicine is practiced. Docs perform primary testing based on most likely scenarios, backed by science and statistics, not political PC. Non Africans (not necessarily the same as “Black Americans”) are much less likely to have SSDs but may still have it. Thus you lookf or common things first, then start to look at less likely etiologies as the common ones are ruled out. If you looked for everything in every body, you would break the economy and waste people’s blood.

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