Monday, April 17, 2006

Kenyan Man and Woman Win Boston Marathon

Kenyan Man and Woman Win Boston Marathon - Washington Post

We are all Africans, under the skin - but perhaps not Kenyan.

Science continues to learn that the genetic code between the races is practically identical – 99.9% the same, even while societies clearly have advanced at significantly different rates.

In fact, humans have so few genetic differences that some believe that we may have come from a single family 200,000 years ago. However, genetic differences between humans show a much greater variation within races than between races (Barbujani et al., 1997). One benefit of this is lower birth defects.

We also know that genetic mutations, rare as they are, more rarely survive, or ‘stick’. Compromising mutations like Tay-Sach’s and Sickle Cell, lead us to consider that beneficial mutations must also occur, despite racist concerns. But how might these advantages really look?

The Kenyans overall are fast, winning 50% of all the world’s distance running medals. But an isolated Kenyan tribe, the Kalenjin, is so disproportionately represented that scientist can only conclude that they have a genetically induced advantage in a key, yet discovered, physiology factor in running. Men from this one tribe earn three-fourths of all Kenyan medals, while representing .0005% of the world’s population.

The punch line? If we gain perspective on what good science claims as genetic advantage, in all its rarity, perhaps we will come to better consider and address the real, non-genetic, drivers of disparities among us.

James C. Collier


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