Op-Ed

Human genome project

Ten years ago this month, we were definitively told that race is scientifically invalid, supposedly ending centuries of debate over the social versus biological character of racial categories. At the high profile announcement that a draft sequence of the human genome had been completed, President Clinton said "one of the great truths to emerge from this triumphant expedition inside the human genome is that in genetic terms all human beings, regardless of race, are more than 99.9% the same."

While subsequent research has slightly lowered this initial estimate to around 99.5%, much of the excitement around the Human Genome Project's (HGP) June 2000 announcement focused on this seemingly conclusive finding that social categories of race, as a coherent way of understanding biological differences between human groups, are largely meaningless.

This wasn't the Project's initial goal, which was seen as a landmark scientific achievement akin to landing on the moon. By mapping the complete set of DNA containing the "blueprint" for human life, the Project's intended significance laid in what many thought would be its revolutionary implications for human health: diagnosing...