Ancient DNA and the new science of the human past Jul 19, 2018 18:19:39 GMT
Post by Admin on Jul 19, 2018 18:19:39 GMT
Instead of a tree, a better metaphor would be a trellis, branching and remixing far back into the past, says Reich, whose work indicates that the idea of race is a very fluid, ephemeral concept. However, he is adamant that it is a very real one and takes issue with those geneticists who argue that there are no substantial differences in traits between populations.
“This is a strategy that we scientists can no longer afford and that in fact is positively harmful,” he argues. Plenty of traits show differences between populations: skin colour, susceptibility to disease, the ability to breath at high altitudes and the ability to digest starch. More to the point, uncovering these differences is only just beginning. Many more will be discovered over the decades, Reich believes. Crucially, we need to be able to debate the implications of their presence at varying levels in different populations. That is not happening at present and that has dangerous implications.
“If as scientists we wilfully abstain from laying out a rational framework for discussing human differences, we will leave a vacuum that will be filled by pseudoscience, an outcome that is far worse than anything we could achieve by talking openly,” says Reich.
The genome revolution provides us with a shared history, he adds. “If we pay proper attention, it should give us an alternative to the evils of racism and nationalism and make us realise that we are all entitled equally to our human heritage.”
• Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past by David Reich is published by Oxford University Press (£20). To order a copy for £17 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99