PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Germ-line or Somatic mutations? The pitfalls and concerns for deleting and replacing the concept of "race" in human genetics.

Across the recent history of Population Genetics, there have been a number of calls by historians of science, philosophers of science, social scientists and biologists themselves for dealing with the concept of race in Population Biology. Recently, Yudell, Roberts, DeSalle and Tishkoff claimed that an important way to proceed along this path would be to convene a panel of experts from the social sciences, humanities, and biology should be convened so that recommendations can be made so that research in human biological diversity can move past the use of race as a classificatory tool.

This paper has a number of aims: the first is to challenge the notion that anything of import will be gained from substituting different terms for race in human population genetics (e.g. “ancestry” or “population”); the second is to note that even if there was something to be gained from substituting a different term for race in human population genetics, there are deep and important concerns about which values in human population genetics are used to absolve the issues with wildly divergent uses of classificatory terms. In highlighting these concerns, the aim is to have a better handle on what needs to be addressed so that human population genetics will have a viable road map to avoid the pitfalls of its past.

Author Information:

M.A. Hunter    
The University of California, Davis/The London School of Economics and Political Science


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