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Old 01-27-2006, 10:53 AM   #16
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Most of anthropology would disagree with you. It is usually argued that race lacks taxonomic validity because there is more variation within racial groups than there is between racial groups. The grouping on the basis of genetic markers you point towards is little more than saying that "people are similar to those populations geographically nearby and different from those populations far away."

Why do the children of immigrants to Western countries tend to be taller than their parents? Why has the average height of a Japanese citizen grown so dramatically since WW2? Why, now, in the US, are more Tay-Sachs babies born to non-Jewish parents (thus removing the efficacy of genetic tests for race-linked gene mutations)? Do the “the natural processes of evolution that act upon every other organism” happen in a single generation? Aren’t things like height and genetic diseases biological phenomenons? Or must it be true that such things are determined not just by inheritance but by environment as well, and nothing in the biological classification of race is deterministic?


[q]How so? Distinct and identifiable inbreeding populations with some gene flow from other populations. Identifying basal groups of human populations with genetic evidence and not arbitrary physiological evidence.[/q]

What’s your criteria for classification? How specific can you be? What are the boundaries you’re going to draw up between races? How do you arrive at such boundaries and distinctions? How will such classification help you to explain and predict individual and group behavior? Will this classify and explain all biological difference between people?

We might be better off using words such as “population” rather than “race” – I think you might be substituting one for the other. It may well be an issue of semantics, as I still use race in everyday speech, but I am really distinguishing people upon already known, often highly complex ethnic groups – which can get incredibly specific – but it already belies how predisposed we are to reinforce these distinctions.

Cultural anthropologists point to places especially in Latin and South America as places where what seemed like distinct racess have gradually faded into one another.

Basically, I take your points, but my argument rests upon the conviction that genetic variation is better described as clinal, and we're better seved by understanding the differences between far looser categories like "ethnic groups" than constructs like "race."

in light of this, "race" remains an antiquated word that speaks much more to a historical narrative for ethnic groups with certain genetic characteristics -- but then we get to the whole issue of blacks who have "passed" as white, and so on -- and who's presence is felt in the lives of those classified into different races not biologically, but socially and culturally.

However, I think it would be interesting to take into account the problem of distinguishing Black Africans as a racial group -- doesn't this require the inclusion every living person on Earth within that single African "race", due to the common ancestor? doesn't the genetic variation of the rest of the world represents essentially a single subtree within that of Africa?
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Old 01-27-2006, 11:35 AM   #17
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What does "clinal" mean?

This is a great thread BTW, way better than the original intent ! I'm afraid I don't know too much about this particular area of science myself.

Just to throw something probably useless out, I remember being told by a sociology prof in India that human genetic diversity was so great there that often, different individuals within the same generation of one family fall into different "racial" groups (that's how she put it; unfortunately, I didn't ask for her definition of race). I would say that I suppose I've seen evidence of what she meant, but that would entail presuming that what I perceived as "racial" differences had any bearing on the empirical facts of what she meant.

Also, I'm not sure that all dark-*skinned* Africans necessarily do generally get classified as "Negroid"? But perhaps that was not what you meant.

And the idea of ethnicity as an "alternative" to race flummoxes me a bit because I have a social scientist's understanding of that concept, meaning I think of it primarily in terms of self-identified groups (or, it CAN be ascribed by other groups) which are as likely to base that identity on nontangibles like language, religion or provenance in a common nation-state (by definition an arbitrary construct) as on more quantifiable factors which can be "seen."

And I have yet to meet a sociologist who can address the question of "So who are the Jews, really?" without tying themselves in rhetorical knots.
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Old 01-27-2006, 12:26 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
What does "clinal" mean?



it's the adjectival form of "cline" -- "cline" is defined as: "A gradual change in a character or feature across the distributional range of a species or population, usually correlated with an environmental or geographic transition."

what i mean by using "clinal" to describe race is to say that race doesn't exist in a biological sense ... such genetic similarities within ethnic groups are due to geography.


[q]And the idea of ethnicity as an "alternative" to race flummoxes me a bit because I have a social scientist's understanding of that concept, meaning I think of it primarily in terms of self-identified groups (or, it CAN be ascribed by other groups) which are as likely to base that identity on nontangibles like language, religion or provenance in a common nation-state (by definition an arbitrary construct) as on more quantifiable factors which can be "seen."[/q]

it's less that it's an alternative, and that it's simply more accurate. to use the word "race" is to play into colonialist narratives; there is no finite list of essential racial characteristics. thus, the use of the word "ethnic group" is a looser but ultimately more accurate way to understand how human beings (as you say) self-identify, and much self-identification is done through the noticing of biological similarities as well as the nontangibles you mention.

though it would be interesting to investigate how the noticing of genetic similarities between individuals lead to different mannerisms and speech patterns, such intangibles that might not be a part of that person's normal lexicon but they adapt themselves to certain cultural expectations when confronted with another individual who mirrors themselves and seeing said culture in that individual, and then identifying through nothing more than visual similarity, that person quickly self-identifies and then performs whatever racial/ethnic expectations exist in the culture at large.

or something.

basically, using myself as an example, i get "gayer" the more gay men there are in the room.

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And I have yet to meet a sociologist who can address the question of "So who are the Jews, really?" without tying themselves in rhetorical knots.
oy. i have no idea.
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Old 01-27-2006, 01:34 PM   #19
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Quote:
it's less that it's an alternative, and that it's simply more accurate. to use the word "race" is to play into colonialist narratives; there is no finite list of essential racial characteristics. thus, the use of the word "ethnic group" is a looser but ultimately more accurate way to understand how human beings (as you say) self-identify, and much self-identification is done through the noticing of biological similarities as well as the nontangibles you mention.
Right, however even in some areas of social science "race" is also still used as a category of analysis, if only insofar as you can't study a given social group properly without engaging the actual conceptual devices its own members use (or have used against them--this is especially true of race, since it's generally ascribed from "outside") in order to define themselves and the social world around them. Of course, you can do this in a "deconstructionist" way and thus simultaneously problematize it but then, depending on your research goals, that might not always be practical. This is one of the psychic torments of social science research actually, you come to doubt the ultimate tenability of every research tool you have, as well as of the conceptual categories your subjects inhabit the world through--yet you cannot complete your work or mission without using them, and in highly programmatic ways to boot. Literary theorists have it easy, they have the freedom to respond creatively to this dilemma through "playful" writing style evolutions to some extent. Though I never did understand how anyone can write the way Derrida or Cixous did without absolutely losing touch with reality after a few years .

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though it would be interesting to investigate how the noticing of genetic similarities between individuals lead to different mannerisms and speech patterns, such intangibles that might not be a part of that person's normal lexicon but they adapt themselves to certain cultural expectations when confronted with another individual who mirrors themselves and seeing said culture in that individual, and then identifying through nothing more than visual similarity, that person quickly self-identifies and then performs whatever racial/ethnic expectations exist in the culture at large.

basically, using myself as an example, i get "gayer" the more gay men there are in the room.
Sounds like you're describing code-switching behavor? There certainly is literature analyzing that as a kind of performance, though I'm not familiar with it really--my own research deals in much less discrete events, tracking broad trends over time etc., so thinking in terms of behavior as performance is not often helpful to me.


*sigh* this is fun. It's going to suck to have to go back to work next week!
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Old 01-27-2006, 02:12 PM   #20
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I am sorry but the thought of applying social context to understanding the way biology functions makes my skin crawl.

The term ethnic group encompasses culture. Culture is not a race dependent feature. Societies and social interactions are also not race dependent features. Marginalising the biological evidence and blurring the arguments with social issues means that we are talking past eachother. I cannot accept culture as a meaningful implication of race given that human societies have arisen all over the world and individuals are mostly wholy capable of engaging in them regardless of their lineage.

The flaws in physiological race based analysis are plain to see, those shortcomings and biases are removed when dealing with differences on a genetic level, where it is not the colour of skin or the shape of a nose but clusters of nucleotides fed in and then treated with statistical tests.

The supposition that populations are all clinal all over the world is disproved by the molecular evidence. In light of this the older papers without the more recent data are still used - the reason I assume is that in keeping the margin of scientific fact as wide as possible and misrepresenting the state of it today the political ends alluded to by BVS can be achieved. The absence of identifiable basal human groups is a testable hypothesis, one that has in recent years been challenged by evidence.

Phenotype is a combination of genotype, envirionment and variation - that is why better fed children grow into taller adults. But a trait expressed in a population such as risk of diabetes in the Pima Indians (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/...in628877.shtml). Is such a high incidence a statistical fluke, or does it indicate inherent genetic differences. Or how about studies such as this
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Recognizing that our one-size-fits-all approach to medicine has serious flaws, some doctors are urging research into the development of racially targeted drugs. In March 2001, the Food and Drug Administration allowed the testing of a drug called BiDil in about 600 black subjects who will participate in the African-American Heart Failure Trial, the largest clinical trial ever to focus exclusively on African-Americans.

In previous studies including both white and black patients, BiDil provided a selective benefit for the black subjects. White subjects did no better on average than those given a placebo. The leading explanation for this disparity revolves around the molecule nitric oxide, a chemical messenger that helps regulate the constriction of blood vessels, an important mechanical dynamic in the control of blood pressure. High blood pressure contributes to and worsens heart failure because it makes the heart pump harder to overcome peripheral resistance in the arteries. BiDil acts by dilating blood vessels and replenishing local stores of nitric oxide. For unexplained reasons, blacks are more likely than whites to have nitric oxide insufficiency.
Quote:
Not surprisingly, many human genetic variations tend to cluster by racial groups -- that is, by people whose ancestors came from a particular geographic region. Skin color itself is not what is at issue -- it's the evolutionary history indicated by skin color. In Africa, for example, the genetic variant for sickle cell anemia cropped up at some point in the gene pool and was passed on to descendants; as a result, the disease is more common among blacks than whites. Similarly, Caucasians are far more likely to carry the gene mutations that cause multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis.

Admittedly, race is a rough marker. A black American may have dark skin -- but her genes may well be a complex mix of ancestors from West Africa, Europe and Asia. No serious scientist, in fact, believes that genetically pure populations exist. Yet an imprecise clue is better than no clue at all.
http://www.sallysatelmd.com/html/a-nytimes3.html

So in the context of medical research racial groups are used and statistically significant differences are being observed. If race was merely a social construct then you should not see obsence rates of diseases with genetic risk factors among these populations, you should see random distributions across all races. All of these signs are consistent with a view of population genetics that encompasses races.

I would seriously recomend the group blog Gene Expression for some running commentary on developments in genetics including race research from a science blog. No nazi fucks, no racists, only evolutionary biology.

http://www.gnxp.com/

And an exactly on target post that cuts to the core of this argument.
Quote:
Other studies have produced comparable results. Noah A. Rosenberg and Jonathan K. Pritchard, geneticists formerly in the laboratory of Marcus W. Feldman of Stanford University, assayed approximately 375 polymorphisms called short tandem repeats in more than 1,000 people from 52 ethnic groups in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. By looking at the varying frequencies of these polymorphisms, they were able to distinguish five different groups of people whose ancestors were typically isolated by oceans, deserts or mountains: sub-Saharan Africans; Europeans and Asians west of the Himalayas; East Asians; inhabitants of New Guinea and Melanesia; and Native Americans. They were also able to identify subgroups within each region that usually corresponded with each member's self-reported ethnicity.

And relevent for Yolland about South Asians


The results of these studies indicate that genetic analyses can distinguish groups of people according to their geographic origin. But caution is warranted. The groups easiest to resolve were those that were widely separated from one another geographically. Such samples maximize the genetic variation among groups. When Bamshad and his co-workers used their 100 Alu polymorphisms to try to classify a sample of individuals from southern India into a separate group, the Indians instead had more in common with either Europeans or Asians. In other words, because India has been subject to many genetic influences from Europe and Asia, people on the subcontinent did not group into a unique cluster.[ India is a genetically heterogeneous place, but this effect is probably dependent on the loci selected. ] We concluded that many hundreds--or perhaps thousands--of polymorphisms might have to be examined to distinguish between groups whose ancestors have historically interbred with multiple populations.
http://www.gnxp.com/MT2/archives/001313.html
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Old 01-27-2006, 02:44 PM   #21
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^ OK that makes sense. I had always been a bit puzzled about why what she said would be true, because I figured myself that some kind of "cluster" effect should have eventually happened to end that, but it sounds like the European-or-Asian thing explains it.

Still, pretty amazing to think that that level of variation would extend right down to individual families.
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Old 01-27-2006, 03:27 PM   #22
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[q]I am sorry but the thought of applying social context to understanding the way biology functions makes my skin crawl.[/q]

you don’t think that culture and context have a role in the interpretation of data and the implications of any set of observations?

[q]The term ethnic group encompasses culture. Culture is not a race dependent feature. Societies and social interactions are also not race dependent features. Marginalising the biological evidence and blurring the arguments with social issues means that we are talking past eachother. I cannot accept culture as a meaningful implication of race given that human societies have arisen all over the world and individuals are mostly wholy capable of engaging in them regardless of their lineage.[/q]

i disagree with your understanding of “ethnic group.” by it’s very definition, ethnic groups are readily distinguishable based on traits that are in part genetic, as well as linguistic and perhaps religious similarities. but most importantly, we use “ethnic group” to understand a group of people that, in general, breed with one another. it is not a biological taxon, which is what race is (or was). i take race, in this context, to be a biological distinction, one that i am arguing doesn’t exist.

i’m arguing for a broader understanding of that phrase, “ethnic group,” or population if you’d prefer, that it more accurately encompasses that which is colloquially known as “race” – an amalgamation of visible traits, genetics, and self-identification.

it makes sense that groups divided by geography have a similar genetic make-up; however, the genetic difference between members of the same group is more varied than differences between members of different ethnic groups, and there are no clear dividing lines between separate groups. when in similar climates, genetic differences fade imperceptibly into one another, hence the Tay-Sachs examle.

[q]The flaws in physiological race based analysis are plain to see, those shortcomings and biases are removed when dealing with differences on a genetic level, where it is not the colour of skin or the shape of a nose but clusters of nucleotides fed in and then treated with statistical tests.[/q]

while i think we agree that the genesis of dividing people up into races to begin with is pernicious and little more than a set of justifications for enslavement, i still think it’s difficult to say that differences on a genetic level between some ethnic groups are enough to extrapolate into the creation of distinct races. could you give us a finite list of essential racial characteristics that can help us categorize human beings into these races? where’s the taxonomy?

essentially, genetic differences between populations does not the existence of “race” make, it does not appear to be an objectively real phenomenon. i am rejecting the notion of race as evidence of sub-species of human beings (even without any sort of superiority/inferiority notions).

as for clines, and I am starting to get out of my depth a bit here, but based on what I remember, these genetic traits are often distributed discordantly. we can, say, look at the distribution of melanin in relation to the equator, but other genetic differences do not appear on such easy-to-identify geographic points. basically, this discordance results in a multiplication of races that renders the concept useless -- a nod back to Yolland's India example, as well as the "one drop" rule that was used in the US to justify slavery for so long.
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Old 01-27-2006, 11:57 PM   #23
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No we do not agree, race would exist even if slavery never existed. It would exist even if Europe never rose to dominance. When defined by genetic evidence cultural factors can be removed, while cultural factors shape the genetics of the population and can explain certain observations in and of themselves they do not define race.

Here is an example of using genetic evidence to reconstruct lingeage and define basal groups
Quote:
Researchers often use short pieces of DNA called Alu polymorphisms to determine whether various populations are related to one another. Alus have no known function, yet they copy and insert themselves at random throughout a person's genome. Because previously inserted Alus do not excise themselves, Alu patterns can be used as yardsticks to estimate how close two people--and, on average, two populations--are genetically. For example, an Alu polymorphism on chromosome 1 occurs in roughly 95 percent of sub-Saharan Africans who have been sampled, 75 percent of Europeans and northern Africans, and 60 percent of Asians, whereas a different Alu polymorphism on chromosome 7 is carried by approximately 5 percent of sub-Saharan Africans, 50 percent of Europeans and northern Africans, and 50 percent of Asians. Some individuals carry both polymorphisms. No single polymorphism can, by itself, distinguish all the members of one major human group from all the members of another group, but by analyzing hundreds of these polymorphisms, scientists can group individuals sampled from different locations on the basis of their genetic profiles.
The presence and frequency of these polymorphisms can distinguish between populations, it can be done on many other genetic factors to reconstruct lineage.

The proper use of scientific method to understand evolutionary issues reflects a physical reality, one that is not shaped or altered by social constructionism. The existence of genetic markers used to identify "biogreographic ancestry" is race by any other name.
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Old 01-28-2006, 07:57 AM   #24
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Back to the other part of this thread...

Bill Scranton fired his campaign manager for governor's race in Pennsylvania for referring to Lynn Swann as "the rich white guy" in the race when the campaign managers( ) debated.
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Old 01-28-2006, 09:22 AM   #25
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Originally posted by BonosSaint
Back to the other part of this thread...

Bill Scranton fired his campaign manager for governor's race in Pennsylvania for referring to Lynn Swann as "the rich white guy" in the race when the campaign managers( ) debated.
I read about that in my local paper yesterday, good for him for firing him. I assume the implication was that Lynn Swann is "not really black" because he's rich
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Old 01-28-2006, 10:03 AM   #26
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Havnt read all of this because i am lazy and dumb! (keep it quiet reptile....dont let on)....
Was watching tele recently (i dont advise this type of behaviour, only increases the dumb factor) and caught a bit of a doco re Australian aboriginals and the european invaders/discoverers observations of said race...and it struck me that upon arriving in a foriegn place with no knowledge of locality or locals or where the hell are we and what the hell are we doing here anyway, the europeans then decided thAT THE ABOB'S where stupid and backward in there ways regarding how they lived and treated the land.....a couple of hundred years later us 'anglo's" have to admit that the 'abo's' knew exactly what they where doing and that we have so much to learn from there culture and ways, indeed if we continue with our culture and ways that we might not survive as long as the "abo's" did before we came along.....

I think my point is....erm...from whos perspective and interests and agenda do we make our observations and statements and agendas.....very tired ...will come back to this...interesting and thought provocing thread.....
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Old 01-28-2006, 06:20 PM   #27
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In light of reptile's post...

Any Aussie (or Kiwi?) posters out there care to elaborate on whether and how the politics of aboriginal issues get drawn into "race card"-type scuffles? And how this is or isn't different from political controversies regarding more recently arrived minorities?

In the US, "race card" politics almost always revolves around African-American or Hispanic/Latino issues, with Native American issues rarely amounting to much more than a fleeting blip on the average voter's radar screen. Very unfortunate really, since statistically--sensational exposes of corrupt Native casino profiteers notwithstanding--they are far and away our most impoverished and disadvantaged minority.

My impression is the above generally applies to Canada also, though I don't really know much on that topic. Then of course in certain regions of Latin America, there is a very strong presence of Native/"Indian"/indigenist issues in politics too--I would be interested in hearing insider views on that also, as here again I am personally woefully uninformed on the issue.
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Old 01-30-2006, 01:42 AM   #28
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Again different frequency of certain polymorphisms due to breeding barriers
Quote:
Gene Explains Asians' Resistance to Angina Drug

FRIDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) -- A common genetic mutation may explain why Asian heart patients are less likely than others to get relief from chest pain when they take nitroglycerin, a new Chinese study finds.

Fudan University researchers examined 111 coronary heart disease patients who were self-administering nitroglycerin under the tongue whenever they experienced an acute angina attacks. Eighty (72 percent) of the patients reported that they had pain relief within 10 minutes of taking the nitroglycerin, while the remainder of the patients experienced no pain relief.

The researchers found that many of the patients who didn't respond to nitroglycerin had an inactive mutant form of the ALDH2 gene. This mutant version is called ALDH2*2.

In order for nitroglycerin to be effective, a patient's body has to be able to convert the nitroglycerin into nitric oxide. This process requires ALDH2.

It's estimated that 30 percent to 50 percent of the Asian population has the ALDH2*2 mutation. This information needs to be considered when doctors recommend nitroglycerin for Asian patients, the study authors said.

The findings were published online Thursday in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
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Old 01-30-2006, 12:08 PM   #29
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Originally posted by A_Wanderer
No we do not agree, race would exist even if slavery never existed. It would exist even if Europe never rose to dominance. When defined by genetic evidence cultural factors can be removed, while cultural factors shape the genetics of the population and can explain certain observations in and of themselves they do not define race.



i think we're talking past each other. race was not created by slavery; race was not created by European dominance; race has been constructed through such historical events combined with the observation of genetic differences between ethnic groups and those differences used as points of self-definition.

the fact that there are genetic similarities between ethnic groups created, firstly, by geography does not translate into unambiguous, clearly defined and biologically distinct groups. how does one test for race and how does one scientifically prove the existence of race? i'm arguing that genetic differeces between, say, Jews and Asians is not enough to constitute the scientific existence of clear and distinct races.

Quote:
The existence of genetic markers used to identify "biogreographic ancestry" is race by any other name.

and this is where the lay definition of "race" is inaccurate and, indeed, a social construct.
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Old 01-30-2006, 06:19 PM   #30
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I agree that the two of you are pretty much talking past each other at this point--A_W is more interested in the (indisputably I'd say) useful medical and other applications of identifying biogeographic polymorphism clusters, Irvine is more concerned about the problematic influence the layman's version of these concepts can still have on everything from social policy to how certain history is taught.

Is there still reason to worry in this day and age about the possibility of malignant collusion between these two different ways of framing "race"? I guess that is what I'd like to know.

This is part of why the who-are-the-Jews question drives sociologists bonkers--we meet all the self-ascribed, and usually the ascribed-by-others identity criteria handily, but fail completely on many of the genetic criteria, despite claiming a common if distant ancestry. Had Himmler had the opportunity to include a few Ethiopian Falashas, or Azerbaijani "Mountain Jews," or Indian Paradesi Jews from Cochin among his subjects, he would have discovered that the profiles he was compiling based on West and Central European Ashkenazim were untenable. Of course it is easy in retrospect to say Well consider the context, he had no incentive to muddy the waters anyway--but at the time the scientific aspects of his "research," treatment of subjects aside, were widely considered valid.

A_W, are you familiar at all with the Tuskegee Syphilis Study? Another example of the kinds of collusions Irvine and I have in mind, and that ran into the 1970s. Granted, it was not an attempt to learn anything about race per se, but it did start out with, among other things, an (incorrect) assumption that blacks are more resistant to syphilis than other races, and while that particular hypothesis was early on disproved, racism (as both prejudice and systematic way of dividing up populations) kept its violations of the Hippocratic Oath going for quite some time. Yet there is very much a school of "Tuskegee revisionist" thought out there today (see e.g. http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/0000000CA34A.htm) seeking to rationalize it all as a bit of ultimately harmless paternalism.

P.S. Irvine, did you notice that deep bumped your old "Ask the..." thread over the weekend? If you noticed and simply don't want to venture back into that discussion, that's cool, but I just wanted to make sure you noticed.
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