Medicine, anti-realism and ideology: Variation in medical genetics does not show that race is biologically real

SATS 20 (2):117-140 (2020)
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Lee McIntyre’s Respecting Truth chronicles the contemporary challenges regarding the relationship amongst evidence, belief formation and ideology. The discussion in his book focusses on the ‘politicisation of knowledge’ and the purportedly growing public (and sometimes academic) tendency to choose to believe what is determined by prior ideological commitments rather than what is determined by evidence-based reasoning. In considering these issues, McIntyre posits that the claim “race is a myth” is founded on a political ideology rather than on support from scientific evidence. He contrasts this view with the argument that racially correlated biomedical outcomes for self-identified racial groups suggest that biological races are real. I explore how McIntyre’s framing of the claim “race is a myth” as fundamentally ideological results in him failing to engage with the arguments and evidence many constructionists and biological anti-realists put forward in support of their views. I also show how the biomedical evidence he thinks supports biological realism is unconvincing.



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Phila M. Msimang
University of Stellenbosch