Synthese

, Volume 177, Issue 3, pp 363–385 | Cite as

Questions asked and unasked: how by worrying less about the ‘really real’ philosophers of science might better contribute to debates about genetics and race

Article

Abstract

Increased attention paid to inter-group genetic variability following completion of the Human Genome Project has provoked debate about race as a category of classification in biomedicine and as a biological phenomenon at the level of the genome. Philosophers of science favor a metaphysical approach relying on natural kind theorizing, the underlying assumptions of which structure the questions asked. Limitations arise the more metaphysically invested and less attuned to scientific practice these questions are. Other questions—arguably, those that matter most socially and politically—remain unasked, not merely overlooked but systematically ignored and even foreclosed. Race fails as a postulated natural kind because it fails to meet expectations that as a category of classification it furnish an authoritative taxonomy that by depicting fundamental divisions in nature is conducive to fulfilling far-ranging explanatory aims. Racial, ethnic, and other group designations may nonetheless be projectible insofar as they support inductive inferences in biomedicine, but this does not render them any less social. Indeed, the statistical, contingent, accidental, localized, and interest-relative bases of such inferences serve to undercut the dichotomizing of race as either biological reality or social construct and favor the adoption of a pragmatic approach.

Keywords

Race Genetics Natural kinds Biological realism–social constructionism debate 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Appiah K. A. (1996) Race, culture, identity: Misunderstood connections. In: Appiah K. A., Gutman A. (eds) Color conscious: The political morality of race. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, pp 30–105Google Scholar
  2. Appiah K. A. (2002) The state and the shaping of identity. In: Peterson G. B. (eds) The tanner lectures on human values. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, pp 234–299Google Scholar
  3. Appiah K. A. (2006) How to decide if races exist. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 106: 363–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Andreasen R. O. (1998) A new perspective on the race debate. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 49: 199–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Andreasen R. O. (2000) Race: Biological reality or social construct?. Philosophy of Science 67(Proceedings): S653–S666CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Andreasen R. O. (2004) The cladistic race concept: A defense. Biology and Philosophy 19: 425–442CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Andreasen R. O. (2005) The meaning of ‘race’: Folk conceptions and the new biology of race. Journal of Philosophy 102(2): 94–106Google Scholar
  8. Beatty J. (1995) The evolutionary contingency thesis. In: Wolters G., Lennox J. G. (eds) Concepts, theories, and rationality in the biological sciences. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, pp 45–81Google Scholar
  9. Blackless M., Charuvastra A., Derryck A., Fausto-Sterling A., Lauzanne K., Lee E. (2000) How sexually dimorphic are we? Review and synthesis. American Journal of Human Biology 12: 151–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Boyd R. (1989) What realism implies and what it does not. Dialectica 43(1–2): 5–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carson P., Ziesche S., Johnson G., Cohn J. N. et al (1999) Racial differences in response to therapy for heart failure: Analysis of the vasodilator-heart failure trials. Journal of Cardiac Failure 5(3): 178–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dunn L. C. (1959) Heredity and evolution in human populations. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  13. Gannett L. (2005) Group categories in pharmacogenetics research. Philosophy of Science 72: 1232–1247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gannett L., Griesemer J. R. (2004) The ABO blood groups: Mapping the history and geography of genes in Homo sapiens. In: Rheinberger H.-J., Gaudillière J.-P. (eds) Classical genetic research and its legacy: The mapping cultures of twentieth-century genetics. Routledge, London & New York, pp 119–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. García-Obregón S., Alfonso-Sánchez M. A., Pérez-Miranda A. M., de Pancorbo M. M., Peña J. A. (2007) Polymorphic Alu insertions and the genetic structure of Iberian Basques. Journal of Human Genetics 52: 317–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gilroy P. (2000) Against race: Imagining political culture beyond the color line. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  17. Glasgow J. (2003) On the new biology of race. Journal of Philosophy 100: 456–474Google Scholar
  18. Goodman N. (1978) Ways of worldmaking. Hackett, Indianapolis, INGoogle Scholar
  19. Goodman N. (1983) Fact, fiction, and forecast (4th ed.). Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  20. Griffiths P. E. (1999) Squaring the circle: Natural kinds with historical essences. In: Wilson R. A. (eds) Species: New interdisciplinary essays. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp 209–228Google Scholar
  21. Hacking I. (1995) The looping effects of human kinds. In: Sperber D., Premack D., Premack A. J. (eds) Causal cognition: A multidisciplinary debate. Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp 351–383Google Scholar
  22. Hacking I. (1999) The social construction of what?. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  23. Hacking I. (2005) Why race still matters. Daedalus 134: 102–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hacking I. (2007) Natural kinds: Rosy dawn, scholastic twilight. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 82: 203–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Häggqvist S. (2005) Kinds, projectibility and explanation. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 5(13): 71–87Google Scholar
  26. Haslanger S. (2000) Gender and race: (What) are they? (What) do we want them to be?. Nous 34: 31–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hegele R. A., Harris S. B., Brunt J. H., Young T. K., Hanley A. J. G., Zinman B., Connelly P. W. (1999) Absence of association between genetic variation in the LIPC gene promoter and plasma lipoproteins in three Canadian populations. Atherosclerosis 146: 153–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Henig, R. M. (2004, October 10). The genome in black and white (and gray). New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/10/magazine/10GENETIC.html. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  29. Hull D.L. (1965) The effect of essentialism on taxonomy: Two thousand years of stasis. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 15: 314–326 16, 1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hull D. L. (1998) Species, subspecies, and races. Social Research 65(2): 351–367Google Scholar
  31. Kahn J. (2004) How a drug becomes ‘ethnic’: Law, commerce, and the production of racial categories in medicine. Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics 4(1): 1–46Google Scholar
  32. Kitcher P. (1984) Species. Philosophy of Science 51: 308–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kitcher, P. (1999 [2003]). Race, ethnicity, biology, culture. In L. Harris (Ed.), Racism (pp. 87–120). New York: Humanity Books (Originally published). (Reprinted in In Mendel’s mirror: Philosophical reflections on biology, pp. 230–257 by P. Kitcher. Oxford: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
  34. Kitcher P. (2007) Does ‘race’ have a future?. Philosophy & Public Affairs 35: 293–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kripke S. (1980) Naming and necessity. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  36. Lewontin R. C. (1972) The apportionment of human diversity. Evolutionary Biology 6: 381–392Google Scholar
  37. Longino H. E. (2002) The fate of knowledge. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  38. Lorusso L., Boniolo G. (2008) Clustering humans: On biological boundaries. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 39: 163–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Marjanovic D., Fornarino S., Montagna S., Primorac D., Hadziselimovic R., Vidovic S., Pojskic N., Battaglia V., Achilli A., Drobnic K., Andjelinovic S., Torroni A., Santachiara-Benerecetti A. S., Semino O. (2005) The peopling of modern Bosnia-Herzegovina: Y-chromosome haplogroups in the three main ethnic groups. Annals of Human Genetics 69: 757–763CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Maugh, T. H. (2004, November 9). Drugs for only blacks stirs hope, concern. Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2004/nov/09/science/sci-blackdrug9. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  41. McOuat G. (2009) The origins of ‘natural kinds’: Keeping ‘essentialism’ at bay in the age of reform. Intellectual History Review 19: 211–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mill J. S. (1889) A system of logic, ratiocinative and inductive. Being a connected view of the principles of evidence and the methods of scientific investigation. Longmans Green, LondonGoogle Scholar
  43. Needham P. (2002) The discovery that water is H 2 O. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 16(3): 205–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pigliucci M., Kaplan J. (2003) On the concept of biological race and its applicability to humans. Philosophy of Science 70: 1161–1172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Putnam H. (1975) Mind, language, and reality: Philosophical papers. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Root M. (2003) The use of race in medicine as a proxy for genetic differences. Philosophy of Science 70: 1173–1183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sarich V., Miele F. (2004) Race: The reality of human differences. Westview Press, Boulder, COGoogle Scholar
  48. Smedley A. (2007) Race in North America: Origin and evolution of a worldview (3rd ed.). Westview Press, Boulder, COGoogle Scholar
  49. Sober E. (1980) Evolution, population thinking, and essentialism. Philosophy of Science 47: 350–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Taylor A. L., Ziesche S., Yancy C., Carson P., D’Agostino R., Ferdinand K., Taylor M., Adams K., Sabolinski M., Worcel M., Cohn J. N. et al (2004) Combination of isosorbide dinitrate and hydralazine in blacks with heart failure. New England Journal of Medicine 351: 2049–2057CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wade, N. (2004, November 14). Race-based medicine continued... New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/14/weekinreview/14nick.html. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  52. Zack N. (1993) Race and mixed race. Temple University Press, Philadelphia, PAGoogle Scholar
  53. Zerjal T., Pandya A., Thangaraj K., Ling E. Y. S., Kearley J., Bertoneri S., Paracchini S., Singh L., Tyler-Smith C. (2007) Y-chromosomal insights into the genetic impact of the caste system in India. Human Genetics 121: 137–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySaint Mary’s UniversityHalifaxCanada

Personalised recommendations