NYT: Genetics & Race

In the New York Times today, Dr. David Reich writes a fascinating essay on the relationship between genetics and race.  The article is both wonderfully insightful on the many challenges we face with the continuing “onslaught of science.”  In this essay, Dr. Reich deals with the social issues and distinctions among us that we fumble and misuse throughout our lives—we are all different.  Each of us come with our own unique history and code, and those differences that are more readily apparent often are excuses to divide rather than unite.

The article has a some great historical notes about the views and conversations with Dr. James Watson, “the scientist who in 1953 co-discovered the structure of DNA, and who was forced to retire as head of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories in 2007 after he stated in an interview—without any scientific evidence—that research has suggested that genetic factors contribute to lower intelligence in Africans than in Europeans.” I wonder if it was all that insidious when Dr. Watson said Dr. Reich and geneticist Beth Shapiro something to the effect of “When are you guys going to figure out why it is that you Jews are so much smarter than everyone else?” I guess if anyone but Dr. Watson would have said this, it would have been laughed off as kind of a funny off-color joke or remark.

Anyways, Dr. Reich reaches an elegant conclusion when he writes that our challenge is to “treat each human being as an individual and to empower all people, regardless of what hand they are dealt from the deck of life.” When Dr. Reich says that even he has no idea what we will discover about ourselves by looking into our molecular biology in the years to come, you should take note and be forewarned of the exciting ride we are embarking upon!

Dr. Reich is a professor of genetics at Harvard and the author of the forthcoming book “Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past,” from which this article is adapted