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Race: Can We See It In Our DNA?



June morning in Washington DC, and we're in the White House's East Room where a press conference is set up. There's an expectation in the air. Everyone stands and in walks President Bill Clinton. Clinton walks up to the Partium and faces a room full of photographers reporters and scientists behind him on a TV screen is some scienc- that very cheesy imagery, a double helix, and the words decoding the book of life. Good morning. We are here. To celebrate. The completion of the first survey of the entire human genome Clinton is announcing that the human genome project had hit its watershed moment and mapped out the human genome for the first time reveal nearly all three billion letters of our miraculous synthetic code and on that stage. One idea that was front and center was about race race had always been this concept that carried a ton of white socially. But did it have any scientific meaning will now this project had mapped the DNA of five people who had ancestry from across the globe, including Asia, Europe and Africa. So what did they find? Well that day in two thousand it was announced that on a genetic level. These people would basically no different ugly. One of the great truths to emerge from this triumphant expedition inside the human genome is that in genetic terms. All human beings, regardless of race or more than ninety nine point nine percent. The same one of the lead scientists on the project took the stage and drove this message home, the concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis. There's no way to tell one ethnishity from one another. So these guys might have thought they were closing the door on the idea that race was biological. But actually this announcement left the rice door ajar because ninety nine point nine percent the same that means zero point one percent different. So in the twenty years since this announcement, what has science found out about that tiny bit of difference between the soul does race live there. Because that's what some people starting to say. If you're looking at someone from China, you're looking at a man from Kenya. Yeah. There's something different about them. So your instinctive understanding is correct race is real these are biological fats. They're not sociological construct. And this idea that new science shows the races, a real it's taking hold in dot corners of the internet where white supremacists using it to make even bigger claims. The genetics proves the white people of the smarter superior rice. Okay. So what's happening here for centuries race has been a political and social idea, but where does science fit into this today? We're to answer the following questions. One. We'd new science can we see race in genetics and two if he can what those differences main like could one race be smarter than another. When it comes to race. There are lots of opinions, but then Dez science. Yet. This is actually an area science has missed up for a long time. We'll tell you about that too. Science says race is coming up just after the break. Episode of science Festus is brought to you by dropbox dropbox is more than cloud storage. It's an entire collaboration platform. Why teens can ship projects coordinator, sinement and communicate Finlay discovered? What dropbox can do for your team at dropbox dot com slash flow. That's dropbox dot com slash flood. Welcome back today. We're talking about race. And we're asking scientifically does it exist. And by that we mean that when you look at how DNA can you see consistent differences that separate people who are black or white or Asian or what have you, but understanding the science behind race is super complicated and messy poly because it has this dodgy scientific history. To tell us about it. We got professor Dorothy Roberts from the university of Pennsylvania into our office and put a microphone in front of a I have a giant puffy thing in front of my mouth fuzzy it's furry it's furry and pretty quickly. We got into the history of race and science thirty told us that really began in the seventeenth and eighteenth century in Europe. It was the age of enlightenment. Science in Europe was having a heyday and scientists were racing to understand the world around them. These typologies were classifying all of nature, they were classifying plants and animals and rocks. You know, other aspects of the natural world, and they included human beings. Colonialism was in full swing Europeans with sailing to Africa, the Americas and Asia and seeing all these people who looked really different to themselves, and so they started to categorize them too. And this was a particular pastime of this highly respected botanist, cold Khaldun, Nias kirwin may Swedish typology just had a very prominent enterprise of classification. Call slaughtered people into several categories, including European African Asian and native American. Oh, yeah. And he had some wild cod categories to like there was this one called you win lupine ass- or get this. Wolf boys for children raised by wolves really widdly that one didn't catch on. But what did catch on with some of the descriptions that he and other scientists gave? Of each race always giving Europeans the best adjectives. He's Dorothy white people are characterized as beautiful, and they're also characterized as the most rational and black people are described as prone to violence to laziness to illness to mental disorders, call also described Asians as severe and haughty while native Americans were reddish and obstinate. All through the seventeen and eighteen hundreds scientists ran with these ideas, claiming that you could see real differences in the bodies and brains of the rices and very quickly a clear scientific hierarchy was formed with white people at the top and everyone else underneath them. And all of the scientists thought they were being objective. But we can now see in hindsight that they were being woefully subjective. That's even too mild a term they were being racist. And part of the reason these ideas was so powerful was because they were very useful for justifying slavery as well as colonization more. Generally after all if science says that Africans or native Americans are less group of people, then it's okay to take them land. And enslave them it made the. Domination of white people over other people seem as if it was just following what nature had planned.

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