Stormy weather: race, gene expression, and the science of health disparities

Am J Public Health. 2005 Dec;95(12):2155-60. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2005.067108. Epub 2005 Oct 27.

Abstract

In the current US political climate, conservative foundations are seeking to frame debates over determinants of racial/ethnic health disparities as a matter of "politically correct" unscientific ideology (concerning the health impacts of discrimination) vs scientific yet "politically incorrect" expertise rooted in biological facts (concerning genes). I draw on historical and contemporary examples to place conservative polemics in context, and also highlight fundamental flaws in their arguments involving the use of spurious categories (e.g., Caucasian), logical fallacies, temporal fallacies, and an erroneous emphasis on gene frequency over gene expression. The larger goal is to strengthen development of a more critical, reflexive, and rigorous science capable of generating evidence useful for rectifying--rather than perpetuating--social disparities in health.

MeSH terms

  • Continental Population Groups / genetics*
  • Gene Expression*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Politics
  • Social Justice*
  • United States