Why the Biological Fiction of Race Persists
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
James Watson outrageously suggested that Africans were genetically inferior.
If race is a biological fiction, what are the reasons for persistent belief in this social myth? My colleague Tim Caulfield, Director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta, points to research that shows genetic differences can more accurately be called "genographic variations," and only roughly correspond to the visible characteristics we have come to identify with categories of "races" such as black, white, or asian.
In a must-read op-ed appearing at the Edmonton Journal and other papers across Canada, Caulfield describes the persistence of this biological fiction as fueled by several factors. These include imprecision in biomedical research; the terms used in the marketing of specific drugs or applications; and inaccuracies and stereotypes that are perpetuated in science and medical reporting. Given these consistent factors and powerful influences, Caulfield urges that "we need to develop strategies to help ensure that the tremendous social benefits that seem likely to flow from genetic research are not tarnished by old prejudices."
What do readers think? Is race a biological fiction? If so, what strategies can we pursue to re-frame the nature of genetic differences in news coverage and public discourse?
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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