Race Has a Place in Human Genetics Research, Philosopher Argues

spencer news

Some scientists have argued that bringing race into the field of medical genetics research is problematic or even damaging. But Penn philosopher Quayshawn Spencer has a different view, one based on nuanced concepts of semantics and language, which says there is a racial classification that’s medically useful to reliably sample human genetic diversity. He published his work in the journal Philosophical Studies.

As an example, Spencer brings up a random sampling of the United States population to look for links between alleles and traits within the human genome. If racial distribution were irrelevant, he argues, the resulting proportion of Pacific Islanders from pulling such a sample—less than 1 percent—wouldn’t matter. But in actuality, Pacific Islanders have extensive genetic diversity so such a sample should really include about 20 percent of this group.

“There have been arguments that suggest it’s a mistake to think about race based on genetics in any way,” Spencer says. “What I show is that you can’t account for the meanings of some of the racial terms we use if you don’t think about some races as ancestry groups in the way that population genetics tells you they are.”

Full Story

Arts & Sciences News

Michael C. Horowitz Awarded Department of Defense Grant to Lead Team on Study of Autonomous Systems and AI

Michael C. Horowitz, Professor of Political Science, will oversee the study of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence.

View Article >
Earthquakes at the Nanoscale

In collaboration with Robert Carpick and David Goldsby, Tian, who graduated from Penn in 2017 with a doctorate in physics, recently published a paper in Physical Review Letters which attempts to tackle these devastating natural phenomena by investigating the laws of friction at the smallest possible scale, the nanoscale.

View Article >
Doris Wagner Named Robert I. Williams Term Professor

A leader in the fields of plant biology, chromatin modification, and epigenetics, Wagner’s research focuses on understanding at the molecular level the complex changes that occur when an organism switches developmental programs.

View Article >
Wrongful Convictions Reported for 6 Percent of Crimes

A study from Penn criminologists results in the first general estimate for the prison population as a whole.

View Article >
Race Has a Place in Human Genetics Research, Philosopher Argues

Penn philosopher Quayshawn Spencer says there is a racial classification that’s medically useful to reliably sample human genetic diversity.

View Article >
Exploring the Sounds of the Middle Ages

Assistant Professor of Music Mary Channen Caldwell's freshman seminar course, “Hearing (in) the Middle Ages,” explores a range of sounds heard throughout the medieval period, whether produced by people, instruments, bells, or animals.

View Article >