One of the last things Francis Collins, then director of the National Institutes of Health, did before retiring was to pressure Moderna into delaying the release of its COVID-19 vaccine because he wanted more minorities in its clinical trials.
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel was happy to oblige, saying diversity “is more important to us than speed.”
This decision was not based on science and it probably cost lives. A new study by law professor Michael Conklin and a new book by fellow law professor David Bernstein explain why.
The racial labels we all know – black, white, Asian, Hispanic, etc. – are not scientific. Quite the contrary, Bernstein traces their origins to “a combination of amateur anthropology and sociology, interest group lobbying, incompetence, inertia, lack of public scrutiny and chance”. They have no basis in biology, tell us nothing about genetics, and are therefore useless for medical research.
For this reason, when the federal government standardized our racial labels in 1977, it said they “should not be construed as scientific or anthropological in nature.” Since then, dozens of academics and researchers have warned that our arbitrary labels should never be used in medical research.
But bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health, as well as the management of at least one of our major pharmaceutical companies, ignored them.
Conklin explains that “there is no law or regulation that explicitly requires pharmaceutical trials to meet a racial quota among their study participants,” but the FDA requires companies to collect this data and “recommends” submit them when seeking approval for new drugs.
The FDA states that “[e]Ensuring that people from diverse backgrounds participate in clinical trials is essential to advancing health equity. But, as any doctor or medical researcher who is not blinded by ideology will tell you, that is not the case.
Ideology, however, trumps science for many on the left.
Take Farrah Mateen, a professor at Harvard Medical School, for example. In a 2021 article, she called for racial quotas in medical trials to advance “health equity” while admitting that “[r]Ace is a social construct, an ill-defined marker of genetic diversity, and an imprecise indicator of the relationship between genetics and ancestry.
In truth, our arbitrary racial labels are totally useless to medical science, which needs to understand how drugs will react to biological and genetic traits.
To give an example of the uselessness of racial labels for medical research, consider the category “black.” According to American law, “black” is any person descended from one of the black tribes of Africa. Race obsessives, like Collins, Bancel, or Mateen, might think that this category at least tracks biological and genetic traits fairly reliably. After all, they might say, all of these people originate from one continent and share one skin color.
But the truth is that there is more genetic diversity among Africans than among other geographically organized groups of people. In fact, there is more diversity among Africans than between Africans and Eurasians.
Genetic diversity is much more than skin color. Not that care obsessed with race.
If our medical experts, bureaucrats and drug makers cared about science, they wouldn’t use our arbitrary racial labels in medical research. And if they cared about saving lives, they wouldn’t have delayed rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine so they could increase the color diversity of clinical trials.
But they weren’t interested in science and didn’t care about saving lives. At least they didn’t care about those things as much as signaling their obedience to the ideology.
People have likely died because of Moderna’s decision to delay its vaccine. We will never know how much. But even if we did, it wouldn’t change the behavior of these people. Reality finds no purchase in the minds of the breed-obsessed.
Other arguments against using our racial labels in medicine probably wouldn’t deter them either, but there are plenty more. Conklin explains, for example, that using skin color as an indicator of actual genetic difference reinforces false and harmful stereotypes, such as “darkness” is associated with “the presence of medical defects.”
It may also reinforce the false belief among hate groups that people of one skin color are racially inferior to people of another.
These are also good arguments, but they will fall on deaf ears.
The key, then, to stopping people like Collins and Bancel from killing someone else with their unscientific nonsense is to deny them the power to do so.
Congress, the courts, and state governments must deny these people the power to divide us on the basis of race. And Congress, in particular, must stop empowering bureaucrats who are happy to sacrifice their credibility — and American lives — on the altar of their ideology.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal
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