Stupid in the Eye of the Beholder: The Human Genome and Racial Difference

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The decoding of the human genome continues apace and those of us who have latched on to the ‘99% meme’ (e.g. “99% of our DNA is the same so we all live in a yellow submarine of bio-racial sameness la la la,” etc.) have to batten down the hatches for the continuing unprocessed info-glut from the science types even as the political types sharpen their anti-intellectual cultural swords.

Here’s the good news: “When scientists first decoded the human genome in 2000, they were quick to portray it as proof of humankind’s remarkable similarity. The DNA of any two people, they emphasized, is at least 99 percent identical.”

Here’s the bad: “But new research is exploring the remaining fraction to explain differences between people of different continental origins.”

Ruh roh. Bell curve, anyone, and nefarious laymen perverting neutral scientific advances to further their own group’s racial agenda?

Nonscientists are already beginning to stitch together highly speculative conclusions about the historically charged subject of race and intelligence from the new biological data. Last month, a blogger in Manhattan described a recently published study that linked several snippets of DNA to high I.Q. An online genetic database used by medical researchers, he told readers, showed that two of the snippets were found more often in Europeans and Asians than in Africans.

No matter that the link between I.Q. and those particular bits of DNA was unconfirmed, or that other high I.Q. snippets are more common in Africans, or that hundreds or thousands of others may also affect intelligence, or that their combined influence might be dwarfed by environmental factors. Just the existence of such genetic differences between races, proclaimed the author of the Half Sigma blog, a 40-year-old software developer, means “the egalitarian theory,” that all races are equal, “is proven false.”

Three guesses as to this “software developer’s” race. But check out what scientists have to say about this information still in it’s infancy:

“There are clear differences between people of different continental ancestries,” said Marcus W. Feldman, a professor of biological sciences at Stanford University. “It’s not there yet for things like I.Q., but I can see it coming. And it has the potential to spark a new era of racism if we do not start explaining it better.”

The blogosphere, of course, is leading the race to the bottom. I’ll spare you the links to all the knuckle-dragging Neanderthals but here’s this smart-ass Negro’s advice: wait.

Say nothing.

Start carefully annotated files.

Resist the impulse to try to stifle the discourse with so-far bogus cries of racism. Who knows who’ll turn out to be right and who wrong (I do, but the time is not yet right, dearies). Unless, of course, you’re actually afraid that blacks really are dumber.

Wait. Watch. Study. Amass evidence for some very specific, very well timed indictments.

Remember, Timbuktu wasn’t built in a day.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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