Celebrate Diversity, Science Supports You!
Updated: Sep 13, 2020
Cheetahs are the fastest land animal on earth with top speeds reaching almost 70 mph. They are agile, athletic, and deadly. However, cheetahs are vulnerable and not just because of habitat destruction, poaching, and competition from other larger predators. Every cheetah alive today shares remarkable genetic similarity. In fact, cheetahs are so similar to one another, that most individuals will accept a skin graft from any other individual. This may sound cool, but from a species survivability standpoint, it is a very bad thing.
Living species are constantly evolving to meet the demands around them. Most people do not realize that evolution is actually a passive process that is driven by our environment. The whole idea centers around surviving long enough to reproduce offspring- meaning if an individual’s genetic code allows them enough favorable characteristics to survive and reproduce, those genes will be passed on to the next generation. The favorable part is completely dependent on one’s own environment. For instance, killer whales are apex predators in the ocean. On land they die in a matter of hours. This is an extreme example to highlight the point, but the idea is that even traits which seem awesome, can quickly fall apart outside of the surroundings they were designed to be awesome. Species become well suited to a given environment over hundreds, thousands, and millions of years as their genes slowly mutate, favorable genes are passed on, and unfavorable genes lead to death prior to reproduction.
When every individual in a species are the same genetically, that species is very vulnerable to becoming extinct. One bad disease could kill them all. A small environmental change could make them unable to survive. A new predator could enter their ecosystem and eliminate all of them. When all individuals are the same, the same thing that kills one of them is more likely to kill all of them.
This is where diversity comes up big! When a species has diversity they have insurance. Even though some individuals will be killed by a disease, many will survive. When the environment changes, some individuals may have favorable characteristics which allow them to survive. Diversity makes a species strong. Not just from a cultural richness perspective, but also with regard to simple survivability.
This is why the idea of eugenics, or selecting the most favorable genes and passing them on selectively, to make a master race, falls apart entirely. Genes are never inherently favorable. They are simply well adapted or not well adapted to a given environment. People like Adolph Hitler, white supremacists, the Hutus, and numerous other groups have and will continue to be wrong. Racism or social comparisons are simply tools that make individuals with poor self-esteem feel better about themselves. Eugenics makes no sense from a species survival standpoint and thank goodness those racist ideas have (mostly) fallen out of favor.
I hear many academic physicians say things like, “Race is just a social construct.” They say it has no basis in science. This makes no sense at all. Those same physicians prescribe blood pressure medications based on race. They judge disease risk factors based on race. Every child on the planet can easily pick out different people based on race, with nearly perfect accuracy. These academics are trying to sound cool or inclusive. I think they sound like idiots. They sound like people who say, “I don’t see color.” Well I do see color and am proud to say that color is beautiful! Color exists, race exists, diversity exists, and we need to celebrate all of these wonderful things.
As humans slowly begin to step out into space, the next great frontier, we might find that some genes are more favorable than others. As we colonize other planets, the benefits of diversity may become more apparent. As we alter our planet in negative ways, surviving may become more difficult. Genetic diversity is our insurance policy for all of this.
I fear that civilization will always oppress minority groups. It is human nature to be attracted to others with similar characteristics and build systems that support such similar individuals. My hope is that with our big frontal lobes, we may someday be able to rise above this. I agree with Dr. Martin Luther King in that I would love to see a world where children of all different races and genetic makeups could live together and play in harmony. In this world, children of all genetic backgrounds would be given the tools needed to succeed. In this world, we would not isolate and oppress those who are different, but instead, celebrate them. Diversity is cool! Not just because social media is telling you it is. But because from a species survivability perspective, diversity is our best hope for survival.
William Brandenburg, MD