Also as a scientist, and who did some work on early genome mapping (for drugs in my case), and someone who was partly raised by a Cultural Anthropologist (who was racist ironically, but she tried) …
Yes, the pitfalls are real. The obvious issues with lay people conflating correlation with causation (my “Ban Ice Cream” link) exist, but it is worse medically as well.
I am glad the author switched about 2/3s of the way in to using the term “populations” instead of races. As a researcher, finding common things in populations is a great way of locating a target to zero in on in research, and hopefully isolating a genetic cause. This has medical research value. I am sure I don’t need to describe that to the person who posted the article, but am stating it for clarity. But in practice it can be very medically problematic for diagnosis and in applying that knowledge.
- what about mixed race people? *
- what about people that don’t know they are mixed-race?
- what about doctor’s stereo-typing populations and assuming, good to assume and not use a drug with a bad reaction, but better to test, if available, but you could miss the right drug, or misdiagnose as well if using an assumption based in population
- it leaves off completely other genes that may cause the problem, both within the target population, and especially outside the target population
- we are now learning a few proteins encode not from single genetic elements (alleles) but from the shape of several in proximity
- this is different from some traits expressing from a confluence of multiple alleles
- having the gene is often not sufficient, many conditions require environmental factors in combination (why twin studies are important)
- “population” is a very fluid concept, it may be all descendants of a specific person who happened to be the mutation starter, and a mentioned above this does not prevent the mutation spontaneously showing up again, or already being present in a smaller percentage of some other population
I hope if a reader is either a scientist, or not, you now understand that the concept expressed by the researcher in that article just isn’t so simple … in medical practice. I find scientists are very bad about describing the real meaning of what they found in practice. There are many reasons for that including jargon, needing to inflate for funding, and wanting sales of a product based on the research. Don’t even get me started on commercial DNA tests!
So I disagree with the author that that line of thinking has any place outside preliminary research targets, and can be dangerous if the findings are not clearly communicated to doctors, and will be dangerous if murkily communicated via media blurbs only.
/* and this in some ways is an example of research that only benefits “racially pure” or mostly pure people. What is a mestizo? Defining “population” in terms of race can do harm to how you view mixed populations, and I would argue can lead to, if not bad science, at least missed research avenues. It is also why I now test any shelter rescue dog for ivermectin sensitivity … whether it “looks” like it has collie or sight hound blood or not. Looks are not indicative of full genetic background in mixed individuals. But people often do think that way with “races”, a further issue with doctors.