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The use of 'race' as a variable in biomedical research

  • Author(s): Efstathiou, Sophia
  • et al.
Abstract

The use of 'ace' as a variable in biomedical research is facilitated by embedding ordinary concepts of race in particular scientific domains. The dissertation articulates a process for how this can happen. The process has two parts: 1. Finding and 2. Founding a concept in a scientific context. The results of this process are called "found science" by analogy to found art. Chapter 1 TOOLS draws distinctions between different race concepts following those of Michael Hardimon and Sally Haslanger. These distinctions are used to analyze a selection of the critical discourse on the use of race variables in biomedicine. Chapter 2 SYMPTOMS asks a 'dummy' question: "Should race be used to approximate medically interesting human genetic variation?" Answers to this question offered by Michael Root, Abdallah Daar and Peter Singer and Ian Hacking are analyzed. The analysis demonstrates that a. understandings of "race" vary, b. responses to normative questions vary in relation to these understandings and c. there is a pattern regarding what type of race concept is used in what context to argue for what normative claims. This suggests an underlying process at work. How can context-specific normative demands be met by one and the same race concept? They cannot. Rather there is a process whereby an ordinary concept -even one as tainted as 'race' - may come to fit a context of science. This process is defined by analogy to how common objects get to be art in Chapter 3 DIAGNOSIS. The case of "race"-usage in biomedical genetics is then analyzed as a case of "found science". I apply the frame in two genetics studies (Rosenberg et al 2002 and Tang et al 2005) to show that 'race' as used in the context of these studies is a founded concept: it is an ordinary race concept founded in a genetics context and found to behave as a concept of ̀genetic ancestry' would. Appendices to the dissertation include A1 Background genetics knowledge, A2 Analysis of discussion articles in the biomedical literature, A3 OMB race/ethnicity categories as founded concepts in the context of demography and A4 a RECIPE for Found Science.

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