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In Conversation with Maya Bahl on Edges of Research in Biology, Ethnicity, and Genetics

2022-12-09

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Personal)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/03/07

Maya Bahl is an editor and contributor to The Good Men Project with me. She has an interest and background in forensic anthropology. As it turns out, I hear the term race thrown into conversations in both conservative and progressive circles. At the same time, I wanted to know the more scientific definitions used by modern researchers including those in forensic anthropology. Then I asked Bahl about conducting an educational series. Here we are.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What are the central research questions on the edge of the field in studies of biology and ethnicity, and genetic studies?

Maya Bahl: The age-old question in biology, whether it’s with animals or humans, has been genetic variation, and how it came to be with evolution and an adaption to the environment. Generally those in warmer climates have darker skin tones in accommodating the sun and heat exposure while those in colder climates are lighter skinned and wouldn’t have a lasting exposure to sun and heat. A population adapting to their environment would also mean that members would be more at risk for a certain type of illness when taken out of their home environment. With humans migrating 100,000 years ago and since, there has been genetic mixing and adapting, where as a result we can see patterns of ailments in certain populations.

Another main question for ethnicity studies is generalizing populations, or a sense of fitting a group of people into one category. In the U.S this would relate to health disparity in the U.S. On top of a population showing a tendency in getting diabetes for instance, there might be other issues that concerns economic or language availability in receiving the best care for the ailment.

Jacobsen: Following from the previous question, how is this impacting the ways in which the field is advancing as well as providing new insights into old questions of the origins of humanity and the great similarities of all human beings?

Bahl: Climate change and global warming are significantly contributing to our understanding of genetics and human migration, just simply by the warming and cooling of the earth we have seen that over the years humans have been successfully adapting to these changes — either by varying skeletal structures or by tool making.

Genetics specifically is also advancing with the ever increased presence of DNA testing, from recounting family trees to solving crimes. The hurdle for this though is obtaining consent from families and places to further investigate!

Jacobsen: With this new knowledge of ethnicity and the evolution of humanity, what do you think this is doing to the conditions of the viability of race-based discussions from “race scientists,” “race realists,” or, more recently, “human biodiversity” advocates?

Bahl: A general takeaway for me is that the planet is seeking to get more politically correct, so older usages for populations such as “negro” and “negroid” definitely don’t work and are instead racial slurs. Also at the same time, categorizing people in the U.S based on location is used for convenience — such with “Hispanic” and “Latino”. The actuality of the term “Hispanic” combines those who are from the seven Central American countries, while “Latino” seeks to combine the twelve South American countries into one entity. To make sweeping generalizations with populations is good in some cases — like to get a glimpse into the study of Anthropology and in genetic variation studies, but falsely stereotyping for someone else’s gain is not an effective use to generalize a population.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Maya.

References

Cancer answering biology and ethnicity —

https://www.nature.com/articles/nrc3341

Genetic Animal Modeling— https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1365-2656.12597

Human Genetics Research

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1275602/

Climate effects

http://humanorigins.si.edu/research/climate-and-human-evolution/climate-effects-human-evolution

DNA Testing

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/aug/11/question-ancestry-does-dna-testing-really-understand-race

https://www.pbs.org/show/finding-your-roots/

http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2017/science-genetics-reshaping-race-debate-21st-century/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002929707610015

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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