Wednesday, October 13, 2004


For decades, at the core of all the various "civil rights" movements has been the precept "we are all equal, we are all the same." That precept has carried over into all aspects of life, even in areas where it flies in the face of reality.

Unfortunately, it appears this "positive" bias has had an unintended consequence. Scientifically, genetically, we are not "equal." There are some small genetic differences amonst us which may result in some of us being susceptible to disease and others virtually immune. Yet most pharmaceutical protocols have been "color blind." This has resulted in the development of drugs which work wonderfully for most people, yet are no better than an aspirin for others.

I encountered this myself early this year when I had a medical problem. My doctor intended on prescribing a particular drug, yet told me that it would not be effective if I were Asian (as he is). He asked if I had any Asian ancestry and I said "no."

Yet some scientists steadfastly refuse to admit that there are genetic differences which must be acknowledged in order to provide everyone with the best health care available. There is ample evidence that some "wonder" drugs (e.g., the drug I took) have a high success rate for some races yet are ineffective for others.

Logic would say fine, let's have race-specific drug development. But wait, others say that investigating genetic differences amongst races will play into the hands of racists. Yet, the persistence of health problems amongst some races (e.g., African-Americans have a higher rate of hypertension than white Americans) may be the result of this attempt to be "color blind." A perfect example of a negative unintended consequence. So African-Americans continue to die from heart disease. Yet, rather than acknowledging there might be some scientific (genetic) difference, sociologists insist it's because of increased stress levels due to discrimination.

This article from the New York Times Magazine is an excellent discussion of this problem. But could you imagine John Kerry trying to make sense of it?


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