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?

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