The End of Race, The Beginning of True Individualism?

|

From the AP via the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Scientists have mapped patterns of tiny DNA differences that distinguish one person from another—an achievement that will help researchers find genes linked to heart disease, diabetes and other common illnesses.

The map represents "a real sea change in how we study the genetics of disease," Dr. David Altshuler, a leader of the project, said yesterday during a major conference on gene research in Salt Lake City.

Hyper-individualized disease treatments won't be available for five to 10 years, say the doctors, but they are definitely just down the pike.

The wider social implications of this sort of biomedical technology are pretty staggering, I think, and will almost certainly lead to significant shifts in how we perceive already-fluid group identities such as race and ethnicity. One way to read the broadly defined modern period–from the Enlightenment on, say–is as a large shift away from the group toward the individual: the classical liberal world was one which allowed individuals of all types to make more decisions about their lives, whether in politics, culture, or economics. One brutal irony, among many, is that Enlightenment political and economic discourses helped emancipate people from traditional tribal and group affiliations even as it attempted to codify racial differences with an appeal to science, genetics, etc.

Hyper-individualized genetics won't mean that people won't share commonalities, but it seems likely that they will cut across the traditional ways that we identify with others, especially if we all become effectively our own individual races.

Whole thing here.

NEXT: And the Winner of the First Foster Brooks Award in Jurisprudence Goes To...

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Bell Curve followers must be pissed.

  2. Does this particular invention or innovation promise that we are going to be happy sometime in the future?

  3. I’m suing for affirmative action. You’re all racist against me. And against anyone else whose racial orientation is smacky???.

  4. Individuals all look alike to me…

  5. More importantly, Individuals should all go back to where they came from.

  6. Yet another reason we should all go out and patent our DNA immediately.

  7. Complete the following
    Two Individuals walk into a bar…
    Three Individuals die and go to heaven…
    How many Individuals does it take to…

  8. If each of us is indeed his own race, is every crime racially motivated?

  9. Nick raises a good point – since DNA analysis has shown we are all of a common ancestor, the archaic stereotypes about people due to skin tone and nationality have all but fallen away.

  10. This could make any remaining miscegenation laws tricky to enforce.

  11. You folks are all cockeyed optimists if you think any of this will have any significant effect on people’s tendency to think in terms of race or other forms of group affiliation.

  12. More importantly, Individuals should all go back to where they came from.

    I don’t think my mother would appreciate that…

  13. sadly, fyodor’s right. public perception seems to only comport with scientific insight after a long, long time, and not at all in certain areas.

  14. Yes, we’re all individuals!
    Yes, we are all different!
    Yes! We’ve got to work it out for ourselves!

  15. Gaius? 😉

  16. You folks are all cockeyed optimists if you think any of this will have any significant effect on people’s tendency to think in terms of race or other forms of group affiliation.

    I think you’re right. It’s part of how our brains work to think in us/them distinctions. If not race, we’ll find other ways to form into us and them.

  17. I guess now we’ll have to start hating other people based on their clearly inferior cultural traits.

  18. Eric-

    Nope, that one was me. I loves the Monty Python!

  19. Good choice.

    Actually, I meant where’s Gaius when someone talks approvingly about moving away from group identities? 😉

  20. So what will happen when this research shows that not everyone has the same chance of dying of cancer from smoking/pollution/environmental radiation?

    Will all the laws claiming second hand smoke is dangerous disappear?

    Will the small percentage of the population who are susceptible be demand that the environment (X-rays, medical technology, etc) be kept clean enough for them at everyone?s expense?

    Will the majority quietly dismantle protection laws which were enacted with the idea that everyone has about the same risk for cancer?

    Will child protection agencies force couples to determine if they could have a child with a genetic defect? Could the parents be sued for neglect for becoming pregnant?

    What about all those KKK or Zulu nation nut jobs who discover they are made up of genes from the people they hate? Will their heads explode like the guy in that Chappelle skit?

    Brave new world!

  21. I wonder what effect, if any, this will have on the multicultural movement. The goal of a single politically-correct homogenized culture would seem ever more impossible to obtain. Granted, censuring of individuals has never been a problem. However, is political action warranted when I claim to take “offense” to something based on my hyper-individual genetics?

  22. I guess now we’ll have to start hating other people based on their clearly inferior cultural traits.

    Ah, so many reasons to hate the other!
    – political beliefs
    – region of origin
    – sports teams supported
    – dialect or accent
    – educational level
    – height
    – blogs read
    – favorite color
    … minutia ad infinitum!

    Any habit, hobby, or belief that has a group on the internet, you’d better believe could become an us/them.

    Not to sound too much like gaius, but despite our individualism, we still ARE social animals.

  23. No problem. Instead of hating blacks as a group i’ll just have to hate each one individually.

  24. Not quite sure I’m making the leap that this will result in a sea-change in common social perceptions. After all, A racist would hardly be aware that he is taking the same genetically customized drug as the minority down the street.

    Unless the drug names have some sort of racial overtones. Crackeralis anyone?

  25. David: “If each of us is indeed his own race, is every crime racially motivated?”

    This could prove my assertion that every crime is a hate crime.

  26. I think every violent crime has hatred behind it. If we had harsher penalties for violent crime, there would be no need for hate crime laws. A killing is a killing no matter what. Once you start sentencing thought, then anything is a crime.

  27. Humans are remarkably capable of subdividing themselves. I’m sure DNA will just serve as a new way to do it.

  28. Of course it’ll be hard to change people’s attitude, science or no. I mean, a lot of “enlightened” folks already know what the science tells us, but are we not engaging in group-think right here on this very blog when we attack joe or M1EK or whomever?

    Most of us are also aware, too, that there’s a good reason for why humans think as they do. When our societies were not so civil, basing who you could trust and who your couldn’t would need to be determined very quickly, and most likely by first sight. Why do you think heraldry came about? When everyone is covered head-to-toe in armour, how can you tell friend from foe? A very distinct and colourful banner or markings on your shield (plumming on your helm, etc) seemed to do the trick.

    So yes, humans are hardwired into thinking in terms of us v them – it’s a survival mechanism. And one that needs to be maintained, at least in the foreseeable future. But not to such a degree that it completely overrides our logic centre and that rational, intelligent humans can also keep an open mind.

  29. Isn’t most of what we refer to as “race” these days really just nationality? I don’t see genetics playing much of a role in altering that, unless they finally get that Oceania utopian society of the future up and running , so we can all go there (how’s that going for them, anyway?).

  30. Oh, never mind. I see they abandoned it in 1994.

  31. are we not engaging in group-think right here on this very blog when we attack joe or M1EK or whomever

    Depends on the poster. I’m engaging in my own reactions, thank you very much…

  32. Simply posing the question, Eric…I’m sure it depends on the poster, the situation, etc.

    I know you can think for yourself. 🙂

  33. If Jews, the smartest “group” on earth are still guilty of ethnic narcissism then I don’t think there’s much hope for the rest of us. The tribal thinkign will continue.

  34. are we not engaging in group-think right here on this very blog when we attack joe or M1EK or whomever?

    Hmm, gee. I dunno. What do the rest of you guys think?

  35. More wishful thinking. Neuroscience will ultimately show clusters, as it is already doing, by racial group (see Lahn et al). We can either confront this reality, or continue to delude ourselves by going to either extreme–we are all human/we are all individuals. As usual, the truth lies in the middle

  36. The fusion of genetic traits wont happen for a while.

    For now, there are obvious differences between races. Ignoring those differences is just being silly. It’s not at all suprising the we still discriminate.

    In the mean time, you better get your cracks in quick.

    SCREW YOU, ALL YOU HONKEYS!

  37. This could prove my assertion that every crime is a hate crime.

    Not if it’s a crime committed for monetary gain. Those rich fucks had it coming, anyway.

  38. You folks are all cockeyed optimists if you think any of this will have any significant effect on people’s tendency to think in terms of race or other forms of group affiliation.

    Anyone see the movie Gattica? Where, due to this kind of understanding of genetics, they had discrimination “down to a science”.

    are we not engaging in group-think right here on this very blog when we attack joe or M1EK or whomever?

    Hmm, gee. I dunno. What do the rest of you guys think?

    I for one see no particular reason to stop what we’ve been doing. Though, shamefully, I for one also tend to ignore both of them (why are they even around here, anyway?).

    But do you know how much shorter most of our threads would be, if somebody didn’t take up the little pissing matches these two are so fond of starting? It could put Reason out of business.

    Ah HA! NOW I know where those two come from….

  39. My point was, before we respond to the “groupthink” charge, we should make sure we’re all on the same page. 🙂

  40. On threads like this I must always put in a mention of the Santa Fe Institute.
    Someone there must be on top of this. In fact they are so on top, they have failed to read every post in this thread.
    I know it’s shocking to us, but they don’t mean it as an insult. I think?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.