Daniel J. Fairbanks
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Daniel Justin Fairbanks (born 1956) is an American biologist, geneticist, and university professor from the U.S. state of Utah. He is also a writer and a sculptor.
The Arts, the Sciences, and the Light of the Gospel (2000)
- Some students at BYU perceive general education as an unfortunate burden that does little for them professionally. I was rudely awakened to this perception the first time that I taught Biology 100. Having loved biology my entire life, I assumed that all 250 students in my class would be as enthusiastic as I was to study biology. I quickly learned that most of my students dreaded having to take the course and had little interest in the sciences. My challenge was to help them learn to reverently admire the intricate wonders of God's creation that are evident when we study life. General education is especially important at BYU, for here a thoughtful study of the arts and sciences can be, in President Kimball's words, "bathed in the light and color of the restored gospel". Let me share with you a few of my own experiences.
- The quoted line is taken from "Education for Eternity" (12 Septemebr 1967), by Spencer W. Kimball, p. 11, preschool address to BYU faculty and staff.
- I have always felt a deep reverence for the intricacy and beauty of nature. While I was an undergraduate student at BYU, I fell in love with biology, especially with genetics. As I studied the biological and physical sciences, I came to view the creation of life in a much broader sense than before. I now view creation not as something that occurred long ago but as a process that continues today in which we are given the sacred privilege to participate. Through the study of biology we are able to gain a glimpse of how the earth and all of life was, and still is, created. Several scientists have shared this sense of wonder as they have spoken of the forest canopy as a great cathedral or of microbes, plants, and animals as God's creations with whom we share the earth. For example, Francis Collins, who is the director of the human genome project, one of the greatest scientific undertakings in history, said:
Everyone is African: How Science Explodes the Myth of Race (2015)
- Everyone is African: How Science Explodes the Myth of Race (2015), by Daniel J. Fairbanks
- Vibrant human diversity is now commonplace in major cities throughout the world. Some celebrate such a mix of human diversity. Others deplore it, preferring that so-called races be separated both geographically and reproductively. Even today, some people retain the once-popular belief that the 'white' race is superior in intellect, health, and other attributes. Although far more people reject the notion of white supremacy today than in the past, its legacy remains, as evidenced by economic stratification, ongoing segregation, and classification by racial categories. Even among those who reject the supposed superiority of a particular ethnicity over any other, the perception of distinct, genetically determined human races often persists.
- pp. 9–10.
- Classification is real, but it is based much more on a set of social definitions than on genetic distinctions. Legally defined categories for race differ from one country to another, and they change over time depending largely on the social and political realities of a particular society or nation. The notion of discrete racial categories arose mostly as an artifact of centuries-long immigration history coupled with overriding worldviews that white superiority was inherent, a purported genetic destiny that has no basis in modern science.
- p. 11.
- A better understanding of what science tells us about human genetic diversity is of immense importance, particualrly because it dispels false notions of what race is.
- p. 12.
- Few features of humanity are as obvious as the wide array of inherited diversity visible in our outward features. It's also evident that people whose ancestry traces to a particular geographic region typically appear similar to one another and different from other geographic regions. Moreover, we as humans have an almost innate propensity to compartmentalize nearly everything into discrete categories, even when lines that distinguish those categories are complex, blurred, or nonexistent. As an inevitable consequence, people have been subjected to categorization into what we call human races throughout much of the past several centuries.
- p. 14.
- Throughout the past several centuries, people have used the term race to describe groups of people in much the same way it was used in past centuries to describe groups of animals. People with ancestry from a particular region of tend to share certain inherited similar features, resembling their parents. However, the children of parents with substantially different ancestral backgrounds often have an appearance that is intermediate between that of their two parents, and in subsequent generations, the offspring may vary. In part because of the obvious similarities between animals and humans for how traits are inherited, and in part because of cultural, political, and religious traditions, notinos of racial purity and superiority have surged and ebbed yet persisted, crossing the boundaries of culture, geography, politics , and time. They are still with us today, and some of the most insidious actions based on notions of racial supremacy happened not long ago.
- pp. 16–17.
- Under the guise of eugenic improvement and racial purity, and what the implementation of eugenic measures could supposedly do to improve human society, notions of racial superiority continued in popularity, but with a purported scientific foundation.
- p. 18.
- There are those who still believe that notions of racial purity are biologically and theologically sound, and therefore desirable, in spite of the fact that current genetic evidence has obliterated all justification for such notions.
- p. 152.
- The world's most prominent human population geneticists have publicly criticized the people who claim genetic research supports the notion of biological races, and the unfounded inferences derived from that notion.
- So-called racial differences in IQ scores are more a consequence of disparities in socioeconomic status and the quality of education than of any genetic differences between ethnic groups. Efforts to improve educational quality and opportunity can increase the economic benefits associated with increased educational achievement.
- pp. 154–155.
- Unfortunately, many people find it difficult to accept what current science tells us about the myth of race. It runs counter to what seem to be obvious racial distinctions, mostly in parts of the world where immigration history has juxtaposed people with discontinuous ancestral backgrounds in the same place. The racial categorizations that many of us have experienced throughout our lives have likewise inculcated a sense of racial division that is not easy to abandon. Regardless of what the science shows, the perception of race and the associated racial discrimination are unlikely to disappear soon. Furthermore, a scientific understanding of human evolutionary history challenges commonly-held religious beliefs that are based on literal interpretations of biblical history.
- p. 155.
- A significant minority of people fully reject human evolution, opting instead for the belief that humans were specially created with no prior evolutionary ancestry less than ten thousand years ago. Such beliefs are often infused with a non-scientific perception of different races and how the supposedly originated. And, in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence and changing social norms, a relatively large proportion of people still cling to past traditions of white supremacy and racism.
- p. 155.
- To understand who we are as a species, and why we vary as we do, we must examine our genetic diversity in the context of a common African origin, followed by intra- and intercontinental diasporas that transpired over a period of tens of thousands of years, culminating in an era of major migrations that reshuffled the worldwide human genetic construction over the past several thousand years and is still underway. Last, we must recognize that today’s human population is far larger, more diverse, and more complex than it ever has been. We are all related, more than seven billion of us, recent cousins to one another, and, ultimately, everyone is African.
- p. 156.