Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
The Philosopher’s Zone / – Race, biology and medicine

The Philosopher’s Zone – Race, biology and medicine

Share this summary


In this episode of “The Philosopher’s Zone,” the concept of race as biology in medicine is explored. The podcast delves into the harmful effects of racialized thinking in medical education and health. It highlights the discredited idea of racial difference rooted in biology and its persistence in various fields. The episode features discussions from the Race in the Modern World Conference at Macquarie University, where experts shed light on the structural elements of societal racism and the need for practical solutions.

Main Takeaways

Race as Biology and Societal Racism

  • The idea that racial difference is rooted in biology is a bad idea that has been discredited by science but still persists in medicine and other fields.
  • The belief in racist biology is a structural element of societal racism that justifies hierarchical ranking of humans based on biological difference.
  • The concept of racist biology harms bodies and societies and needs to be addressed practically.
  • Racism and racialization create the experience of race, not the other way around.

Race and Human Genetics

  • The idea that there are biological divisions of humanity based on race is a common misconception that doesn’t align with human genetics.
  • Human genetics show that there are no biological units or fixed biological races in humans.
  • Race is not biological, but it is a very real concept due to racism and racialization.

Racism and Medical Systems

  • Racism impedes and constrains health, creating specific health systems that deny health to people in racialized groups.
  • The use of racialized framings in medical texts and algorithms perpetuates racism in medical systems.
  • The EGFR algorithm used to assess kidney function in medical systems perpetuates racism by deducting points from black individuals, based on the belief that black bodies produce more creatinine, which is 100% false.
  • Spirometry, a measure of lung function, also categorizes individuals as black or not in the United States, which changes the outcome score and adds to the harm of racialized individuals.

Racist Biology in Medical Training

  • The concept of racist biology inserts itself into medical training and creates harm towards racialized individuals, despite doctors not intending to harm people.
  • The assumption of racist biology is present in the algorithms used to assess lung volume and kidney function.
  • Citational practice perpetuates the harmful outcomes of racist biology in medical systems.
  • The commitment by medical researchers to racist biology is evident and needs to be addressed.

Anti-Racist Approaches and Correcting Bias

  • Anti-racist approaches to health and medical training involve learning actual biology and are being taken up in the US and Australia.
  • Racist biology is structurally inserted in much of the biological training.
  • Learning actual biology is incredibly anti-racist.
  • Correcting structural bias in medical training is important.
  • Increasing diversity representation in medicine and research is crucial.
  • Community-based and community-involved care is being led by tribal communities in North America.


The Persistence of Racist Biology and Its Harmful Effects

The concept of race as biology has been discredited by science, yet it continues to persist in medicine and other fields. This belief in racist biology serves as a structural element of societal racism, justifying hierarchical ranking based on biological difference. However, this concept harms both individuals and societies, necessitating practical solutions. Racism and racialization play a significant role in creating the experience of race, rather than race being a biological reality. Human genetics clearly demonstrate that there are no fixed biological races in humans, emphasizing the social construct of race. Racism in medical systems is evident through the use of racialized framings in texts and algorithms. The EGFR algorithm and Spirometry algorithm perpetuate racism by deducting points or categorizing individuals based on race, leading to harm for racialized individuals. Racist biology has infiltrated medical training, unintentionally causing harm despite doctors’ intentions. Addressing this issue requires anti-racist approaches that focus on learning actual biology, correcting structural bias, and increasing diversity representation in medicine and research. Community-based care initiatives led by tribal communities in North America also offer promising approaches to combat racism in healthcare.


The concept of race as biology in medicine is deeply flawed and perpetuates harmful effects on individuals and societies. Recognizing the social construct of race and addressing structural racism is crucial for creating a more equitable and inclusive healthcare system. By embracing anti-racist approaches, learning actual biology, and increasing diversity representation, we can work towards dismantling the harmful legacy of racist biology in medical training and practice.

You might also like