Reductionist methodology and the ambiguity of the categories of race and ethnicity in biomedical research: an exploratory study of recent evidence

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy (1):1-14 (2022)
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In this article, we analyse how researchers use the categories of race and ethnicity with reference to genetics and genomics. We show that there is still considerable conceptual “messiness” (despite the wide-ranging and popular debate on the subject) when it comes to the use of ethnoracial categories in genetics and genomics that among other things makes it difficult to properly compare and interpret research using ethnoracial categories, as well as draw conclusions from them. Finally, we briefly reconstruct some of the biases of reductionism to which geneticists (as well as other researchers referring to genetic methods and explanations) are particularly exposed to, and we analyse the problem in the context of the biologization of ethnoracial categories. Our work constitutes a novel, in-depth contribution to the debate about reporting race and ethnicity in biomedical and health research. First, we reconstruct the theoretical background assumptions about racial ontology which researchers implicitly presume in their studies with the aid of a sample of recent papers published in medical journals about COVID-19. Secondly, we use the typology of the biases of reductionism to the problem of biologization of ethnoracial categories with reference to genetics and genomics.

Author Profiles

Joanna Karolina Malinowska
Adam Mickiewicz University
Tomasz Żuradzki
Jagiellonian University


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