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Am Psychol. 2005 Jan;60(1):71-6.

Race and IQ: Molecular genetics as deus ex machina.

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  • 1Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, IL 60153, USA.


During the last hundred years, the debate over the meaning of race has retained a highly consistent core, despite evolution of the technical details. Non-Europeans, and in particular, Africans, are assigned the role of deviants and outcasts, whose claim on our common humanity remains in doubt. Each time the technical facade of these racialist arguments is destroyed, the latest jargon and half-truths from the margins of science are used to rebuild them around the same core belief in Black inferiority. Because race is in part a genetic concept, the advent of molecular DNA technology has opened an important new chapter in this story. Unfortunately, the article by D. Rowe (2005, this issue, see record 2005-00117-007) begins from mistaken premises and merely restates the racialist view using the terminology of molecular genetics. No technology--even the awe-inspiring tools now available to DNA science--can overcome the handicap of fundamental conceptual errors. Race is not a concept that emerged from within modern genetics; rather, it was imposed by history, and its meaning is inseparable from that cultural origin. By ignoring its cultural meaning the reductionist narrative about race fails--both in the narrow terms of science and as a contribution to the broader social discourse.

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