SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Chemical Eye on the Race Factor


October 25, 2008
Saturday PM

The October surprise that everyone has been expecting has finally arrived, and it would be an understatement to say that it came out of leftfield - it actually came from biochemistry labs.

A country-wide team of scientists have discovered a new class of highly unusual proteins. The first to be discovered was named phlogiston. One of the startling properties of these new proteins is that they cannot be observed by the usual tools that chemists use to study inanimate molecules. Theoretical physicists on the team explained that animated molecules, such as phlogiston, have the quantum mechanical property of not being there when you look at them.

jpg Oxygen

Furthermore, much like DNA, phlogiston has a sequence that varies among races, which these scientists are calling the "race code". Until scientists develop new technology that enables them to perform sequencing experiments with their eyes closed, characterization of these new proteins must rely on crudely augmenting existing knowledge of inanimate proteins with observations of superficial features of humans.

Don Imessedup, a scientist in Mississippi, has identified white phlogiston as being present in Caucasian people. It is the dominant form of the protein and automatically subjugates other forms of the protein. This may be what is happening to Michael Jackson, which has so far proven inexplicable.

Black phlogiston, also referred to as snoop phlog, is present in Black people. It was discovered by a scientist named 100-percent in Detroit. While searching for animated proteins in his own specimens, he could not detect any white phlogiston at all, which he said supports the team's theory. But he also could not detect any black phlogiston, which proved that it disappeared when he looked at it.

Team members from California announced that phlogista and phlogisto have been theoretically confirmed to be complementary animated proteins that can co-exist with both white and black phlogiston, but instead of determining skin color and other superficial features, they give girls and boys, respectively, the ability to speak Spanish. According to the theory, these animated proteins lie dormant for two years or longer after birth.

Unfortunately, this chemical satire could continue on and on. Readers who are familiar with the history of chemistry know that this Faux News story is based on the phlogiston theory that was popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, when chemistry was being transformed from the black art of alchemy into a modern science. Phlogiston was believed to be an element that is released when a substance burns, but which has no mass and thus could not be detected.

Along with sulfur, selenium and tellurium, oxygen is a member of the chalcogen family of elements; so-named for their common occurrence in rock-stable ores. Oxygen has mass and its detectable presence makes the atmosphere life-sustaining. It was discovered in 1774, when American freedom was just around the corner. Dead-enders of the phlogiston theory referred to the new gaseous element as "dephlogisticated air".

Although the laboratory experiments of many historic chemists were guided by it, their belief in phlogiston didn't make it a chemical reality. Similarly, although race has long been used as a political tool, that doesn't make it a genetic reality.

Genetic study after genetic study has failed to find any molecular evidence for what history books and job application forms call "race". In fact, when the entire genome is considered (not just selected genes, such as those that control production of melanin in skin tissue), studies repeatedly show that the genetic variations among homogeneous groups, such as Swedes, are larger than the genetic variations between the averages for traditional "races".

To paraphrase the candidate who is the overwhelming choice of the smart money in the 2008 Presidential contest: There is not a Black race and a White race. There is not a Latino race and an Asian race. There is only the Human race.

In a contest between elements, phlogiston is outdated and suffocating. The choice seems clear: Choose oxygen - a chalcogen we can breathe in.


On the Web:

Chemical Eye On... Columns by Preston MacDougall

Preston MacDougall is a chemistry professor at Middle Tennessee State University. His "Chemical Eye" commentaries are featured in the Arts and Public Affairs portion of the Nashville/Murfreesboro NPR station WMOT (

Preston MacDougall ©2008

E-mail your letters & opinions to

SitNews ©2008
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska