Racism not intended!

Bryan Ness bryan.ness at bbs.puc.edu
Mon Feb 28 00:01:00 EST 1994

RNS>On 25 Feb 1994, Patrick Ferris wrote:

RNS>> >From: joni.self at bbs.puc.edu (Joni Self)
RNS>> >Subject: genetest.txt
RNS>> >Organization: Pacific Union College BBS
RNS>> >  I do agree that it is good to know about inherited
RNS>> >disorders to prevent the passing on of a bad gene, such as the case of
RNS>> >the Jews.  However, I wouldn't prevent them from marrying, necessarily,
RNS>> >but just from having children.
RNS>> >People want a simple answer to complex problems such as homosexuality,
RNS>> >alcoholism, crime and vilolence, etc.
RNS>>   Allright. I can tolerate bad writing and poor argumentation in
RNS>> the name of scientific literacy, but I don't appreciate finding
RNS>> racist and homophobic remarks here. These comments don't
RNS>> belong on bionet.general, IMO.
RNS>> Patrick Ferris
RNS>    Could someone send me the original message from Joni self ? What
RNS>he wants to mean ? If his intent was not racist he must explain himself
RNS>on the other hand if it was a racist speech I ask for a blockage on his
RNS>internet access.
RNS>    Rafael Najmanovich

Let me please clear this up.  Joni Self is one of my students and
I'm not even sure whether she has read the comments that have
been made about what she said.  I know for a FACT that the
comments were in no way racial.  Joni was referring to Tay-Sachs
disease which is well known to be very common among Sephardic
Jews.  Many genetic diseases cluster in certain ethnic groups and
pointing such out is not racism, but rather a simple recognition
of population genetics and the effects of marrying only within
your own ethnic group.

The question Joni was bringing up, which I think is an important
ethical question for biologists to consider, is whether we have a
right to ask people who through genetic testing are shown to
carry the genes for a disease should be prevented from having
children.  This is a very valid question because modern molecular
biology has given us many new tests for genetic diseases.  Some
have already been faced with this dilemma.  For example, one
couple was going to have their fetus tested for Cystic Fibrosis.
Their insurance company told them that if the child tested
positive they would have to abort it, because they refused to pay
for the treatment if the child had CF.  The test is not entirely
accurate because of a number of technical reasons, so even if it
comes out positive the child may still be normal (although likely
a carrier of the disease).

The basic underlying question to all of this is now that we have
the tools to detect genetic diseases very early and to even
detect carriers of the disease, should that knowledge be used to
control the reporductive rights of our population.  I myself do
not feel very comfortable with having people tell me whether or
not I can have a child and whether or not my wife will be allowed
to carry it to term.

Joni's comment is simply suggesting that such knowledge should be
used to determine whether people should have children.  She used
Jews as an example simply because she was familiar with the
example of Tay-Sachs Disease and that there is a good test for
it.  She had no racist agenda.  Unfortunately her statement was
so brief that it could have been read wrong if a person didn't
understand it's context.

Sorry for the misunderstanding.

Bryan Ness
Asst. Professor of Biology
Pacific Union College
Angwin, CA  94508
bness at bbs.puc.edu

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