Right on the coat tails of Jon’s post on discussing race comes an interview with Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, a really distinguished and now emeritus population geneticist from Stanford, in Nature News. His work has been very controversial because he has consistently resisted the notion that ‘race’ has any useful biological meaning.
His work has been outlined because of the “inappropriateness of [his use of] predefined racial categories [to sort] genetic diversity.” And his ambitious proposition to start the Human Genome Diversity Project was accused of “cultural insensitivity, neocolonialism, and biopiracy.” There are a lot more criticism of him floating out there, even Bill Poser in Language Log nailed Cavalli-Sforza’s take on linguistics.
He’s been outright labeled as a racist, and in this Nature News interview he defends himself,
“How did you feel about being accused of racism?
Well, many mistakes are made and that was a very curious one. I’d argued for decades that the concept of ‘race’ defined by external characteristics — such as skin colour, size variations or facial fat — is nonsense. These visible characteristics evolved under natural selection, mostly to cope with local environments, and have no deeper base.
I didn’t get angry or depressed, I only regretted how much time the objections cost to the project development.”
Similarly, Erika Check Hayden writes in Nature News on how similar we are on a base by base level, but we seem different in so many ways in phenotype. At the very end Erika drops a link to Pardis Sabeti, who is lead author of a new publication using HapMap project extensively to identify specific genes linked to human diversity.
Here’s the information of on the paper, “Genome-wide detection and characterization of positive selection in human populations,”
“With the advent of dense maps of human genetic variation, it is now possible to detect positive natural selection across the human genome. Here we report an analysis of over 3 million polymorphisms from the International HapMap Project Phase 2 (HapMap2). We used ‘long-range haplotype’ methods, which were developed to identify alleles segregating in a population that have undergone recent selection, and we also developed new methods that are based on cross-population comparisons to discover alleles that have swept to near-fixation within a population. The analysis reveals more than 300 strong candidate regions. Focusing on the strongest 22 regions, we develop a heuristic for scrutinizing these regions to identify candidate targets of selection. In a complementary analysis, we identify 26 non-synonymous, coding, single nucleotide polymorphisms showing regional evidence of positive selection. Examination of these candidates highlights three cases in which two genes in a common biological process have apparently undergone positive selection in the same population:LARGE and DMD, both related to infection by the Lassa virus, in West Africa;SLC24A5 and SLC45A2, both involved in skin pigmentation, in Europe; and EDAR and EDA2R, both involved in development of hair follicles, in Asia.”