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The Tapestry of Health: Genetic Diversity, History, and Cultural Identity

1200 New York Ave, Washington, DC

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Scientific and cultural perspectives on human diversity, including concepts of “race” and ancestry, have shifted dramatically over the centuries. In recent decades, studies of genetic variation at individual and population levels have provided valuable insights for the health sciences. Human genomics, particularly the relationships between genes and expressed outcomes, shapes current and developing approaches in precision medicine. However, human diversity is not a matter of genes alone. It also encompasses a spectrum of cultural and theological concepts of identity, as well as individuals' lived experiences, that interact in complex and sometimes surprising ways - with profound impacts on health and well-being.

Join the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion program for a cross-disciplinary discussion of human diversity through scientific, cultural and theological lenses, with a focus on health and well-being. Reception to follow.



Dr. Charles Rotimi is the Director of the Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Rotimi's research focuses on the causes of complex diseases such as hypertension and diabetes with emphasis on populations of African ancestry. Rotimi is particularly proud of his efforts to bring diversity to genomics to ensure that “tomorrow’s medicine” will serve all humanity. Rotimi recently fulfilled a lifetime achievement with the launch of the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa). With over 170 million US dollars in funding from the NIH and the Wellcome Trust, the H3Africa initiative has created pan-continental networks of labs that are applying leading-edge research to the study of genetic and environmental basis of disease in African ancestry populations. His research activities have provided novel insights into human history and ancestry including the complex notions of “race.” Rotimi was recently elected to the National Academy of Medicine and he serves on the board of several international organizations, including the American Society of Human Genetics.


Dr. Lesley Jo Weaver is a medical anthropologist and an assistant professor of international studies at the University of Oregon.  Her fieldwork in the U.S., Brazil, and India has examined how everyday realities of social structure- including age, gender, wealth, ethnic identity, and caste- differentially shape people’s well-being.  Her peer-reviewed research has been published in such journals as the American Journal of Public Health, Social Science and Medicine, Annals of Human Biology, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, and Ecology of Food and Nutrition, with funding by the National Science Foundation, The Fulbright Hays Foundation, the Center for Health, Culture, and Society at Emory University, the Society for Psychological Anthropology, and the American Institute of Indian Studies. She is co-producer and co-host of the American Anthropological Association-sponsored podcast Speaking of Race, a multidisciplinary project that traces the emergence of scientific racism and its lingering impacts around the world.


Dr. Gay L. Byron is professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, D.C. Her scholarship focuses on the origins of Christianity in ancient Ethiopia, with special emphasis on the Axumite Empire and Ethiopic (Ge`ez) sources for the study of the New Testament and other early Christian writings. She is the author of Symbolic Blackness and Ethnic Difference in Early Christian Literature (Routledge Press) and co-editor of Womanist Interpretations of the Bible: Expanding the Discourse (SBL Press). She lectures and leads workshops throughout the country on topics dealing with race, ethnicity, and the Bible; African American and womanist biblical hermeneutics; Ethiopic manuscripts; and early Ethiopian Christianity. She is also an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and involved in a number of ecclesial communities to broaden the scope of her research and writing.

This free public event is hosted by the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion program.  For questions please contact

Event Contact

Dr. Rob O'Malley

Project Director

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