Racial Medicine's Revival

It wasn't supposed to be this way. In the spring of 2000, Francis Collins and Craig Venter announced at a White House news conference the completion of "the first draft" of the mapping and sequencing of the human DNA. With President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair nodding their approval, Collins and Venter agreed that racial classifications make no sense at the molecular level; we humans are 99.9% alike in our DNA. News media around the world picked up the story, intrigued by science's definitive refutation of racial thinking.

Not so fast. While we may all be 99.9% alike, there are three billion base pairs of human DNA, which leaves at least three million points of difference (single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNP's) between any two people. Armed with the promise of powerful new computer-driven technology, scientific attention is becoming riveted to that remaining 0.1% of genetic difference.

Why has science turned - after only a few years - from repudiating the existence of racial differences between human beings to generating a near obsession with them?

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.


By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in


Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.