Race and biology

January 20, 2006

Kunal Basu's thesis on race and science is based on a sociological argument that scientific knowledge may not be truth but is produced for, and serves the interests of, dominant social groups ("Searching blindly for the truth in black and white", January 6). However, this should not deter him from going to the dentist next time he has a toothache.

It is perverse to deny that there are biological differences between groups of people. The notion of discrete racial categories rightly no longer forms part of scientific thinking, but medical research today points to other more subtle and complex possibilities in relation to shared genetic heritage. Would Basu deny, for example, that sickle-cell anaemia occurs more often among people of West African and Afro-Caribbean descent than it does among those of other groups? Would he wish to put a halt to more research on the possible differential efficacy of certain drugs?

Scientific theories and knowledge about biological differences in humans need not inevitably determine ethical judgments. We choose our basic moral premises, and they do not have to be contingent on biological sameness.

Yanina Sheeran George Sheeran
Shipley, West Yorkshire

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