Racial purity is 'scientifically meaningless,' say 8,000 geneticists

American geneticists take a stand against the misuse of their science by racists.

  • The largest society of geneticists decries the distortion of ideas by racists.
  • Science does not support the concept of race.
  • Race is a social construct, explain the scientists.

The science of genetics deals with the very small, but cannot escape the larger societal implications that are often catalyzed by its research. Genetics have been invoked (incorrectly) by the growing white supremacy movement in the U.S. in order to justify its ideas about race. In an attempt to disassociate genetics from such views, the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) has come out with a statement that declares the concept of "racial purity" meaningless from a scientific standpoint.

The society, which is the largest professional organization of scientists who work in human genetics, has about 8,000 members. Its statement calls the ideas of white supremacists about genetics "bogus," "discredited" and "distorted". The ASHG also makes a clear point that as far as the scientists are concerned, the age-old concept of race is wrong and humans cannot be split into subcategories that would be biologically different from each other.

"The study of human genetics challenges the traditional concept of different races of humans as biologically separate and distinct," write the scientists.

The reason there is no race purity is due to the genetic intermixing of populations that results from constant migrations which have taken place all throughout human history. The constant movement of people resulted in very blurry genetic lines between groups.

And if you're wondering whether this is something controversial in the scientific community, the statement goes on to say that the fact that there are no completely separate races is supported by decades of research, including six recent studies like the 2017 paper from the Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health, directly titled "Human ancestry correlates with language and reveals that race is not an objective genomic classifier".

Race, according to the scientists, is a "social construct" that is derived from people self-identifying with races based on physical appearance. Furthermore, there is no genetics-based support for claiming one group superior to another, expound the researchers.

Credit: Youtube/Museum of the Moving Image

White supremacists chugging milk. NYC. 2017.

The need for actual geneticists to take a stand is driven by the spread of racial purity myths that have been soundly disproven by science. Unexpectedly, one such strange idea taking hold relates to drinking milk. Some white nationalists believe that the ability to digest lactose in milk is somehow a characteristic of racial identity. They twist genetic research to conclude that it's a trait of white people to drink and digest milk. And if you're not able to do it, you might as well go back to where you came from. This tends to be especially directed at people of African ancestry, writes Amy Harmon in the New York Times.

This kind of bizarre thinking led to the phenomenon of milk chugging, whereby gathered white supremacists down gallons of milk. Of course, it bears pointing out that lactase - the enzyme that breaks down milk is not specific to white people and is found in 35% of the world's population.

Other racist misuses of genetics include the tropes of "natural" racial hierarchies - this kind of thinking was employed to justify slavery, the American eugenics movement, and the "racial hygiene" laws of the Nazis.

To continue debunking such ideas, the society of geneticists encourages its members to become more active politically and socially to "reflect their values".

You can read their statement in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Stand up against religious discrimination – even if it’s not your religion

As religious diversity increases in the United States, we must learn to channel religious identity into interfaith cooperation.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Religious diversity is the norm in American life, and that diversity is only increasing, says Eboo Patel.
  • Using the most painful moment of his life as a lesson, Eboo Patel explains why it's crucial to be positive and proactive about engaging religious identity towards interfaith cooperation.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less

Moon landing astronauts reveal they possibly infected Earth with space germs

Two Apollo 11 astronauts question NASA's planetary safety procedures.

Credit: Bettmann, Getty Images.
Surprising Science
  • Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins revealed that there were deficiencies in NASA's safety procedures following the Apollo 11 mission.
  • Moon landing astronauts were quarantined for 21 days.
  • Earth could be contaminated with lunar bacteria.
Keep reading Show less

NASA's idea for making food from thin air just became a reality — it could feed billions

Here's why you might eat greenhouse gases in the future.

Jordane Mathieu on Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • The company's protein powder, "Solein," is similar in form and taste to wheat flour.
  • Based on a concept developed by NASA, the product has wide potential as a carbon-neutral source of protein.
  • The man-made "meat" industry just got even more interesting.
Keep reading Show less

Where the evidence of fake news is really hiding

When it comes to sniffing out whether a source is credible or not, even journalists can sometimes take the wrong approach.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • We all think that we're competent consumers of news media, but the research shows that even journalists struggle with identifying fact from fiction.
  • When judging whether a piece of media is true or not, most of us focus too much on the source itself. Knowledge has a context, and it's important to look at that context when trying to validate a source.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less