The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 TeasersiSteve Blog
Slate: "DNA Tests Quietly Reinforce Terrible and Scientifically Inaccurate Concepts of 'Ethnicity'"
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
AgreeDisagreeLOLTroll
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

From Slate:

DNA Tests Quietly Reinforce Terrible and Scientifically Inaccurate Concepts of “Ethnicity”

It’s fine to use them to understand your immediate family. But don’t expect them to provide anything definitive once you get a few generations out.

By JOHN EDWARD TERRELL

Dr. Terrell is the Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology at the Field Museum, Chicago.

AUG 28, 20189:00 AM

… What worries me most, however, is that companies offering personal genetic testing customarily seem to report back to those sending along a sample of their spit that they are a mix of different “ethnicities.” This is more than simply statistical nonsense. I fear doing this can also be dangerous. Claiming that it is possible to map ancestry in this fashion may be giving discredited old ideas about ethnicity and race new visibility.

… We inherit roughly half our genes from our mothers and half from our fathers. If one or both of them should be unknown to you, it is a safe bet gene profiling may help you track them down. But how far back across the generations can you go and have similarly assured success? Go back, say, five more generations to your great, great, great, great grandparents. Assuming there hasn’t been a lot of inbreeding in your ancestry (the further you go back in time, by the way, the more likely it occurred),

Indeed. If you go back a mere 40 generations to roughly the time of Charlemagne, you have over a trillion slots in your family tree. But there weren’t a trillion human beings alive then, so, self-evidently, your ancestors were inbreeding genealogically: not in the sense of marrying their siblings, but of marrying people who were distant relations of them, typically through multiple pathways. Who did they marry? Generally other people in the same geographic area.

you should have 64 of them. Only about 1.56 percent of your genes may come down to you from any one of these 64 ancestors. Good luck should you go looking for them many generations back—or their living descendants.

Now go even further back in time to the 17th or 18th century. The number of folks on average living then who could have contributed to your genetic endowment is so large (more than 1,000), and their possible genetic contribution so small (about 0.098 percent for 10 generations back), it would be smoke and mirrors to assert claims about who they were in person. In fact, most of these people left no trace of themselves in your genome.

In short, while it can be hard to get your head around the statistics involved, go back more than a few thousand years and you are genealogically related to almost everyone on Earth.

Perhaps. But you are definitely more related to some people than you are to other people.

Genetically speaking, however, very few of these very distant ancestors contributed something of themselves biologically to your genome.

Conception is a little bit like a child trying to shuffle a deck of cards: the genes get reshuffled in clumps, which means you might share something striking in common with one ancestor (e.g., I know somebody who has virtually the same taste in foods as his maternal grandfather). On the other hand, over enough generations, the likelihood of you receiving any clumps of autosomal DNA from a particular ancestor drops to a pretty low percentage. (For sex specific traits, you have to be in the all male or all female lines.)

For example, Senator Elizabeth Warren is out around the periphery of where a DNA test could falsify her claim to be part American Indian. If a DNA test showed she had some American Indian-only DNA, that would prove she had an American Indian ancestor. On the other hand, if the DNA test reported that she didn’t have any AI DNA, that would probably suggest her contribution of “Native American” recipes, such as favorite seafood dish of Cole Porter’s, to the cookbook Pow Wow Chow was not genetically justified. On the other hand, being five generations out from the claimed interbreeding event, there’s a small chance that a negative result would just be bad luck for her, not due to the fault of the test, but due to how her genes got reshuffled over the generations. Beyond ten or so generations out, the odds get pretty high that you don’t have any distinct DNA from a single ancestor in particular.

What this means is that the kind of random unlikely ancestor that the Conventional Wisdom tends to obsess over probably has zero genetic influence on you. For example, say that you are a Chinese person born in China, but one of your ancestors 25 generations ago was Marco Polo, but all your other ancestors going back 1000s of years were East Asians. (I don’t know if Marco Polo fathered any children during his decades in China, but assume for the sake of illustration that he did.)

Does that mean you aren’t pure East Asian genetically but are instead an Italian-Chinese hybrid?

In the Marco Polo example, the odds are that you didn’t actually inherit any clumps of DNA from Italians. On the other hand, there’s a tiny chance that you have some specific Italian clump of DNA.

One interesting implication of this line of thought is that Marco Polo would be likely to have more genealogical descendants in China than genetic descendants. There may be quite a few people in China for whom Marco Polo is a genealogical ancestor, but likely far fewer who have any clumps of his DNA.

On the other hand, there are a remarkable number of men in East and Central Asia today who share some Y-chromosome markers that Genghis Khan shared. That’s because Genghis not only raped and pillaged across Asia, but left behind social structures that privileged his male-line descendants, who, for example, still formed some of the aristocracy in Mongolia at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Given all this, it is hard for me to understand why the results sent back to clients by commercial genetics laboratories are commonly reported as “ethnicity estimates” expressed as percentages adding up to 100 percent. For example, you might be told you are something like 48 percent West European, 27 percent Scandinavian, 9 percent Irish/Scottish/Welsh, 7 percent Finnish/Russian, 4 percent British, 3 percent East European, and 2 percent other.

These figures are derived by statistical comparison with the genetic profiles of “reference” samples of individuals thought (by those in the laboratory working on your spit or swab) to be “native” to this or that region of the world.

However, and here is the main point, you can be native to a place (in the sense that you and your relatives have lived there for a long time) without being genetically typical or “representative” of that place.

But doesn’t that contradict Dr. Terrell’s recurrent point that sexual congress tends to mix ancestries? Clearly, there are peoples today who have avoided interbreeding with their geographic neighbors over the centuries to remain somewhat genetically distinctive (e.g., Roma in Europe, many subcastes in India). But then are also many other peoples who tended to mate with their geographic neighbors (e.g., Germans, Japanese) without all that many ultra-rigid rules separating groups … other than the practical one of the tyranny of distance.

One reason is the geographic mobility of people throughout human history.

The Geographic Mobility glass is part full and part empty. For example, to take Dr. Terrell’s field of expertise, Polynesians had enough geographic mobility to spread to parts of the Pacific as far flung as New Zealand, Easter Island, and Hawaii. But this was an amazing accomplishment of which today’s Polynesians are rightfully proud (the recent Clement-Musker Disney princess movie Moana allegorizes Polynesian settlement of the Pacific to space exploration). Polynesians were the only human beings, so far as we know, to reach those places until after 1492.

Another, and perhaps less obvious, reason is the mobility of our genes. Thanks to the time-honored practice of sexual intercourse, genes can spread far and wide, even if the individuals involved don’t. Given enough (generational) time, as well as the pleasurable human motivations involved, genes can travel the globe.

At this point I suspect you may be saying to yourself something like: “But wait a minute, isn’t it true that until recently humankind was subdivided into separate tribes, populations, races, or subspecies that only began to meet and mix after Columbus found the New World in 1492?”

If that is what you are thinking, here’s my answer: No, it isn’t true, even if lots of people nowadays continue to believe that once upon a time human beings existed on Earth in different varieties generically called “races.”

People don’t live in cages. As an anthropologist who has worked in the South Pacific for more than half a century, I know firsthand that all of us are linked with one another far and wide in enduring social networks that—more often than not—pay scant attention to even seemingly insurmountable differences in language, wealth, social standing, and the like.

When it comes to having friends and making love, there has always been a will and a way, regardless of any borders or boundaries.

I look forward to seeing Dr. Terrell, an expert in Pacific anthropology, explain to a meeting of large, imposing Native Hawaiians that their legal claim that their ancestors were living in Hawaii before the white man (e.g., Captain Cook) arrived is outdated and unscientific even though it has been repeatedly vindicated by 21st century DNA testing. Then, he can go tell a Maori club in New Zealand that their claim that their ancestors were in New Zealand before the white man is anti-scientific and racist too.

This is why I worry that by reporting their laboratory results as “ethnicity estimates,” companies may be giving their clients misleading fuel for potentially harmful racial (and racist) beliefs.

How can you tell which scientific ideas are Bad Ideas? Because Bad People hold them.

 
• Tags: Science Denialism 
Hide 98 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
    []
  1. anon[338] • Disclaimer says:

    All his motivation is exposed in the last sentence.

    • Agree: Jim Don Bob
  2. anon[338] • Disclaimer says:

    His entire motivation is exposed in the last sentence.

  3. “(the recent Clement-Musker Disney princess movie Moana allegorizes Polynesian settlement of the Pacific to space exploration)

    The Polynesian landings at Oahu were faked by noted Polynesian story teller Stanloua Kawabrungaack.

    Everyone knows it’s impossible to cross the Vanawaii Allenaui belt in a canoe.

  4. Philip Neal says: • Website

    “People don’t live in cages.” Oh really? For most of the past 1500 years, most Europeans were serfs forbidden to leave the fields they cultivated. As recently as the early 19th century, an English family moving from one town to another was subjected to a ‘settlement examination’ to establish that they were self-supporting and would not require Poor Relief. Most people never went more than 30 miles from the place where they were born.

    • Replies: @Jus' Sayin'...
  5. Barnard says:

    I do have to wonder if the genetic testing companies are not producing a very good product. I have noticed on Ancestry that a number of my recent matches are showing up with highly improbable results such as 1% Southeastern Bantu or 2% Polynesian. They are otherwise 98-99% European. I assume the reason is simply that Ancestry is throwing DNA that doesn’t match one of its categories into a non-European one to make people think they are diverse.

  6. ic1000 says:

    > Dr. Terrell is the Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology at the Field Museum, Chicago.

    When I see “anthropology” in an author’s pedigree, I start reading with with the supposition that, on hard-science topics, he or she is knows little — and much less than a self assessment would indicate. That the errors and omissions always seem to run in the same direction probably means something, too.

    Dr. Terrell gives me no reason to re-assess my Bayesian priors.

    • Agree: Roderick Spode
    • Replies: @NoWeltschmerz
    , @Mr. Anon
  7. Jason Liu says:

    So all that blather just to say “boundaries are hard to define”? Sounds like somebody’s afraid of inequality.

    “Doctor” Terell’s bio shows no actual background in the sciences, only anthropology.

    https://www.researchgate.net/profile/John_Terrell2

    In a just world, his place would be manual labor.

    • Agree: YetAnotherAnon
    • Replies: @Lowe
    , @Stan d Mute
  8. This entire article is beyond ignorant.

    For example:

    In short, while it can be hard to get your head around the statistics involved, go back more than a few thousand years and you are genealogically related to almost everyone on Earth.

    No, Stupid:

    If, say, all of your known ancestors who came to the US came from Europe, then, almost certainly, if you go back 10,000 or 20,000 years (or more — don’t remember the exact timing for the separations among the races), then not a single one of your ancestors at that time (whether or not you actually got DNA from them) will be from another race.

  9. Dave Pinsen says: • Website

    However, and here is the main point, you can be native to a place (in the sense that you and your relatives have lived there for a long time) without being genetically typical or “representative” of that place.

    It would be interesting to see this assertion quantified. What percentage of Norwegians with centuries long ancestry in Norway don’t fit a Norwegian phenotype, for example? I imagine if you roll the genetic dice often enough, you’ll get some exceptions, but I would guess most ethnic Norwegians look Norwegian, etc.

  10. t says:

    OT: Cardinal Cupich claims Pope Francis lack white privilege.

    Quite frankly, they also don’t like him because he’s a Latino,

    https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/cupich-dismisses-vigano-claims-as-a-rabbit-hole-76667

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  11. I know firsthand that all of us are linked with one another far and wide in enduring social networks that—more often than not—pay scant attention to even seemingly insurmountable differences in language, wealth, social standing, and the like.

    Here’s the Bailey. The Motte is Othello and Anjin-san, or something.

  12. Bugg says:

    This is quiet, terrible and inaccurate only in the author’s PC-bound mind. These are pointless adjectives. Science simply is just the facts. Res ipsa loquitur.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  13. @t

    The Pope and Lionel Messi lack white privilege.

  14. Nathan says:

    Anthropology is a terrible pseudoscience. In the one sad anthropology course I took back in college, the professor made such absurd assertions as “alleles” are distributed randomly around the world, and therefore the concept of biological race is impossible, and Hispanic people have more rods and cones in their eyes, and therefore use vibrant color palates in decorating. I pointed out that these claims were mutually exclusive, and equally absurd but for different reasons.

    It didn’t go well.

    • LOL: ic1000
  15. J1234 says:

    I don’t go along with the ideas expressed in the article, but I do believe there are accuracy problems. I won’t get a DNA test because of this. There was that TV show that tested a few sets of identical triplets, and the results were all over the place for some siblings. My sister is thinking of getting one, though, and I’ll be interested to see the results. I know of some very white looking people whose results claimed they had a small amount of central African identity.

    I’m basically for racial integrity, generally speaking, but racial purity is usually outside of the realm of reality for too many people. Too many Huns, Mongols and Moors in Europe’s history. Besides, Meryl Streep and Stephen Colbert have pure European ancestry, and what good did it do them?

    • Replies: @Dtbb
    , @Anonymous
    , @Anonymous
  16. J.Ross says: • Website

    OT There is absolutely no effort to exaggerate the frequency of school shootings in order to trick people into emotional support of gun control. But NPR was only able to confirm 11 out of 240 claimed shootings, with well over half confirmed to be false claims. Recall Mother Jones a few years ago claiming an inflated number of mass shootings by playing with the criteria; this is far worse.

    https://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2018/08/28/npr-over-66-percent-of-claimed-shootings-never-happened/

    The Education Department claims there were “nearly 240 schools … [which] reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting.”
    But NPR contacted schools and districts and was able to substantiate that 161 of the incidents “never happened.” They verified that something did occur in four instances, “but it didn’t meet the government’s parameters for a shooting.” Moreover, they received no response regarding 25 percent of the Educated Department’s reported school shootings.

    NPR was able to confirm only 11 of the 240 reported shootings. They note: “A separate investigation by the ACLU of Southern California also was able to confirm fewer than a dozen of the incidents in the government’s report, while 59 percent were confirmed errors.”

  17. Forbes says:

    OT: Brown University, which has published an article about the Rapid Onset Transgenderism study in its news notes, caved and issued an apology.

    https://news.brown.edu/articles/2018/08/gender

    Steve wrote about it here:

    http://www.unz.com/isteve/is-transgenderism-the-new-anorexia/

  18. First thing we do, let’s kill all the anthropologists.

    • LOL: Nathan
    • Replies: @Anonymous
  19. @Barnard

    This is why the attempts to get Elizabeth Warren to take a DNA test to establish her Native ancestry or lack thereof are rather silly.

    There are two logical possibilities: either she has a small amount of Native ancestry, or she incorrectly believes she does while having none. Both of these are extremely common in Oklahoma.

    That small a percentage would be larger than the margin of error.

    Meaning, the test could either miss real ancestry, or give a false positive where none exists.

    • Replies: @bomag
  20. midtown says:

    One question I have about those DNA tests is the question of how they tie a particular ethnicity to a location. For example, if you have a strong sampling of Anglo-Saxon genes, does that mean Anglo-Saxon in 700 AD in England or 10 AD in now Germany?

    As to mixing genes, yes, there is a fair amount of extramural fraternizing that has happened, but the Peoples of the British Isles DNA study shows that there can be extremely localized genetic clusters that holds for quite a long time: https://www.peopleofthebritishisles.org/.

    • Replies: @International Jew
    , @Anon
  21. Anonymous[207] • Disclaimer says:
    @Bugg

    Science simply is just the facts.

    Dr. Terrell would like a word with you (or more of the same words):

    http://sciencedialogues.com/articles/biological/racial-migrations-and-human-genetics-the-game-changer-in-the-south-pacific-that-wasnt-part-1/

    … The apparent remoteness and isolation of these islands and their inhabitants have long fueled the notion that here, if not necessarily elsewhere on earth, “race, language, and culture” all formerly tracked one another so closely that today, for instance, language differences can still be used successfully—and scientifically—not only to circumscribe and label separate “populations” in the Pacific (e.g., as different “ethnolinguistic groups,” ‘races,” and the like), but can also tell us how to reconstruct the prehistory and ancient migrations of separate and distinct “peoples” out into Oceania (Terrell et al. 1997).

    It is generally considered impolite to say so, but the conventional word for this type of thinking is the word racism.

    … The most recent instance of this almost universal practice is possibly also the most revealing example of why otherwise informed scholars find themselves still under the spell of such an antiquated and unscientific idea.

    … The late population geneticist and mathematical ecologist Richard Levins is famous in scientific circles for once having declared in no uncertain terms that “truth is the intersection of independent lies.’’ Given that what Gibbons, Capelli, and Thomas are saying is intellectually—if not necessarily politically—racist, why are they so confident?

    • Replies: @PNWmossback
  22. @Philip Neal

    Terell has to be aware that in the New Guinea highlands, tribal peoples’ movements have been restricted to within a mile or two of their birthplace for centuries if not millenia. Hunter-gatherers guard their local turf, from whence they derive all the necessaries of life, with a fanaticism impossible to communicate to persons who aren’t familiar with it. A member of a neighboring tribe trespassing on another tribe’s turf is risking, at best, a quick death. This is a strong motivation not to roam. And this disinclination to roam has been explored over and over and over in ethnographic study after ethnographic study, with at least some of which Terrell has to have a passing familiarity. But, hey, anything goes when you’re an SJW battling racism and ethnocentrism. Besides, cultural anthropologists like Terrell publicly forsook the metaphysical straitjacket of scientific methods almost a decade ago,https://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/10/science/10anthropology.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss.

    BTW, my ancestry and that of my paternal and maternal families is extremely well-documented, back to the 15th century in France and later Quebec, back to 14th century Germany, New Amsterdam, New York and later Ontario, and back to 18th century Ireland and later New England. Results from two gene matching companies match these documented origins to a surprising degree, although they include a little unsuspected Scandinavian material, probably from our French ancestors who lived in Normandy.

    • Replies: @Lot
  23. Arclight says:

    Let’s stop asking people’s race/ethnic group on all government forms and wipe out affirmative action – all in the name of not wanting to reinforce concepts of ethnicity.

    • Agree: Dtbb
  24. Lot says:

    “For sex specific traits, you have to be in the all male or all female lines.”

    Y chromosome and mtDNA do not code much for “sex specific traits,” which are distributed throughout the genome.

  25. Lot says:
    @Jus' Sayin'...

    “little unsuspected Scandinavian material”

    My 23andme results overstate my Scandi ancestry. I think it just has trouble distinguishing it from the German and British ancestry.

    • Replies: @RVBlake
    , @YetAnotherAnon
  26. Lowe says:
    @Jason Liu

    He is an intelligent person. Perhaps you mean in a just world he’d be an accountant, engineer, or similar.

  27. I wonder if Dr. Terrell is any relation to Ernie Terrell,the Chicago boxer?

    • Replies: @liamjq
    , @anon
  28. OFWHAP says:
    @Anon

    I thought that was supposed to be JayMan…

  29. TheBoom says:

    The science is settled. Dr. Terrell has made a unassailable case against the concept of ethnicity and now we must abolish affirmative action because it is anti science.

    • Replies: @Carol
  30. Good luck to this clown trying to convince people not to be interested in their ethnic background. The DNA companies try to come up with new angles (like health info or diet compatibility) but my guess is 90%+ of the consumers are interested in their ethnic backgrounds (at least in America, where there are so many people who have different mixtures of European ethnicities). I think it was 23andme that had the commercials talking about a guy happy to find out he had 8% Scandinavian DNA or whatever.

    Most people don’t have deep thoughts about these things, but they like to be able to tell people they are X% Italian and Y% Irish. They then notice that they talk with their hands more than usual or like whiskey and like to point out why that is.

  31. probably the worst argument i’ve ever heard on this topic. some people with serious pedigree can trace their ancestors backwards hundreds of years or more. to the EXACT people in the family tree. is this guy saying such people are in fact actually totally clueless about who those documented ancestors were?

    is he suggesting that the emperor of japan has no idea who his ancestors were 200 years ago? and more than that, that it doesn’t matter who they were?

    some of those guys can actually trace things backwards ONE THOUSAND years. heck, we just traced john mccain’s ancestors back to 1600. that’s 400 years ago. for some random schlub.

    this guy is a total idiot.

    ignoring all that, we already know for example, after using modern lab equipment, that aborigines have been on australia for 60,000 years. without encountering a single other group of people.

    • Replies: @StAugustine
  32. So how does this guy propose that DNA tests should report their results? Just tell everyone they are “100% human.”

    That doesn’t sound like a successful business model.

    • Replies: @Neuday
    , @Anon87
  33. @ic1000

    Your point is a good one. Why is it that when it comes to genetics, the go-to “expert” is usually an anthropologist or sociologist? Should we have one of these folks also sound off on string theory or do we need the media and academia to seek the counsel of English Lit professors?

    • LOL: bomag
    • Replies: @lavoisier
  34. So, uh, what’s Terrell’s ethnic background?

  35. Anon[195] • Disclaimer says:

    The weird thing is, when a guy who thinks he’s black and everyone else thinks is black gets his 23 and Me results, damn, they say he has mostly African heritage. That is so bizarre. Same with Askenazi Jews being ID’d as such. What’s the deal?

    I think the companies are spying on their customers, maybe via social media. It’s another Theranos level scandal. I’m going to get the Pulitzer by scooping everyone on this. I’ll send my spit off to them using my black neighbor’s name and address. Do you think they’ll be suspicious if I pay with a postal money order? Nah, black people use those all the time.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  36. When it comes to having friends and making love, there has always been a will and a way, regardless of any borders or boundaries.

    We need a POC to ask Dr. Terrell whether he ever screwed a chicken as long as he wanted to.

  37. Dr. Terrell got in some trouble a few years back while in the field studying Maoris in New Zealand. He was called before the Chief of the tribe that were his subjects.

    “Dr. Terrell, I am very angry with you. You have been here 10 months, and recently several babies have been born to our young women that are clearly the product of a white father.”

    Dr. Terrell explained.

    “No, no, Chief Te Heu Heu, you have it all wrong. Genes are distributed randomly all around the world. There is no such thing as race.

    Take those sheep over there: Almost all of them are white, but every now and then a black sheep is born.”

    Chief Te Heu Heu thought for a moment.

    “Okay, Terrell, I won’t say anything about the babies if you don’t say anything about the sheep.”

    • LOL: Alfa158, MEH 0910
  38. Dtbb says:
    @J1234

    My sister got me to take an Ancestry dna test. 31% Ireland which includes Scotland by their map. 29% Great Britain. 25% Scandinavian. 9% Italy/Greece. 2% Iberian. 2% Finland/Russia. Less than1% each for Europe west and Europe jewish. Seems to match pretty well with a freckled redhead who has absolutey been fried by the florida sun plenty of times. My four siblings had similar results bot I was more irish and scandinavian. Two brunettes and two blonds with differing mixtures one would expect. For what it’s worth

    • Replies: @S. Anonyia
  39. Here’s what passes for logic in the mind of this man:

    “Now go even further back in time to the 17th or 18th century. The number of folks on average living then who could have contributed to your genetic endowment is so large (more than 1,000), and their possible genetic contribution so small (about 0.098 percent for 10 generations back), it would be smoke and mirrors to assert claims about who they were in person. In fact, most of these people left no trace of themselves in your genome.

    In short, while it can be hard to get your head around the statistics involved, go back more than a few thousand years and you are genealogically related to almost everyone on Earth.”

    If most of them left no trace of themselves in your genome, then some of them left all of themselves (not individually, but collectively) in your genome which means that you are not “genealogically related to almost everyone on Earth”.

  40. Anon7 says:

    Reading this post, I started wondering if doctors in India ask patients for their caste. You know, the way US doctors who deny the reality of race ask patients for their race to provide the best research-based care

    Whaddaya know…

    In South Asian Social Castes, a Living Lab for Genetic Disease

    In certain states in southern India, anesthesiologists know to ask anyone undergoing surgery whether they belong to the Vysya, a regional group traditionally associated with traders and businesspeople.

    Anecdotally, medical workers know that some people with Vysya ancestry — who live primarily in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana — have had fatal responses to common muscle relaxants, so doctors will use a different combination of drugs.

    I’m still looking for NYTimes articles about how race diversity in America is a living lab for genetic disease.

  41. anon[693] • Disclaimer says:

    sorry, this is my first bottle of wine after this round of chemo so maybe i’m not too quick on the uptake:

    is this joker saying that there’s no genetic difference between a pygmy bushman and a samoan linebacker?

    • Replies: @Alfa158
  42. By JOHN EDWARD TERRELL

    Dr. Terrell is the Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology at the Field Museum, Chicago.

    And his initials are JET. Can you get cooler than that in Chitown?

  43. @Anon

    My Ancestry.com results tell me my mother can’t be my mother. That, or I’m a clone of my father.

    But they didn’t tell me whether my male line was Alsatian or Swiss, which is the question I paid to have answered.

    • Replies: @S. Anonyia
  44. Alfa158 says:
    @anon

    If I can boil down what he is saying, I believe that if you can cut through all the squid ink, the one and only thing he is saying is: “Don’t you even dare to Crimethink about race!” The rest is just wrapping material.

  45. In short, while it can be hard to get your head around the statistics involved, go back more than a few thousand years and you are genealogically related to almost everyone on Earth.

    Sure, why if I go back only 70,000 years or so, I discover I’m related to Sub-Saharan Africans. That’s why I fit in so well in my hometown of Detroit. I’m even allowed to use the ‘N-word’!

    When it comes to having friends and making love, there has always been a will and a way, regardless of any borders or boundaries.

    I can’t help but wonder if he’s not revealing a bit too much of himself in the #MeToo era here.

  46. @Anon7

    Anecdotally, medical workers know that some people with Vysya ancestry — who live primarily in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana — have had fatal responses to common muscle relaxants, so doctors will use a different combination of drugs.

    I’m still looking for NYTimes articles about how race diversity in America is a living lab for genetic disease.

    Yes, but you know, you cannot discount implicit bias, no?

    And look on the bright side, Diversity!!

  47. @Jason Liu

    In a just world, his place would be manual labor.

    Well, anthropologists do dig ditches don’t they?

  48. @midtown

    if you have a strong sampling of Anglo-Saxon genes, does that mean Anglo-Saxon in 700 AD in England or 10 AD in now Germany?

    I’ve wondered that too. I imagine they have to go by where, today, they find a lot of people with DNA similar to yours. So an Englishman with a lot of Anglo-Saxon genes would get classified as both British and German (assuming a good chunk of the Angles and Saxons stayed put).

    If, instead, they wanted to classify people by where the human population was situated as of 1000 AD or 1 AD or whatever, that would run into lots of unresolved historical issues, besides having to pick an arbitrary year. It would also confuse the customers and thus be bad for business; 2300 years ago the Celts’ center of mass was in what’s now southern France.

    At the same time, they’ve evidently built in some exceptions: in my results, 23AndMe didn’t place any of my genetic origins in either New York or in Israel, even though today those are where you find the greatest concentration of my extended family.

  49. istevefan says:

    This is why I worry that by reporting their laboratory results as “ethnicity estimates,” companies may be giving their clients misleading fuel for potentially harmful racial (and racist) beliefs.

    Did this guy express similar thoughts in February when the Cheddar Man DNA story broke?

  50. MEH 0910 says:

    On One Pacific Island, a U.S. Soldier and Prince Philip Are Gods
    by John Donovan
    Aug 28, 2018

    However the groups are tagged, they persist, some to the point that they have become legitimized parts of society. And they’re not all relegated to the jungles of faraway islands.

    “It’s not just something that’s in Vanuatu or New Caledonia or New Guinea. It’s not just the ‘primitive’ spots,” says John Edward Terrell, the Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology at the Field Museum in Chicago. “That’s why I argue that Trumpism is a ‘cargo cult.’ It’s right here at home.”

  51. Anonymous[626] • Disclaimer says:

    Strangely enough, individuals of entirely European descent, when posting their genetic data to such sites as Gedmatch, often have a few enigmatic subcontinental Indian ‘close matches’ listed by Gedmatch.
    Of course, the particular algorithm Gedmatch uses, in these cases, massively overestimates the temporal degree of genetic relation, since the algorithm depends on the size, in centimorgans, of ‘shared chunks’ of DNA. But nevertheless, shared kinship – although it is thousands of years rather than tens of years – is being picked up.
    In this case what is being picked up is the commonality of shared Steppe ‘Sintashta’ type ancestry between Europeans and subcon Indians.

  52. Anonymous[626] • Disclaimer says:
    @J1234

    Actually, these home DNA testing companies, have, among other things, uncovered quite a few hidden secrets amongst Americans.

    Apparently it’s not uncommon for ostensibly ‘white’ Americans – usually ‘old stock’ Anglo-Celtic stock from the southern states, and their diaspora, to score a few single percent ‘west African’ in their DNA results.
    Undoubtedly this is due to clandestine ‘passing’ and mating with the slave population.

    • Replies: @Anon
  53. Anonymous[626] • Disclaimer says:
    @J1234

    Doesn’t Meryl Streep have Ashkenazi ancestry?

    • Replies: @J1234
  54. Puremania says:

    My NatGeo DNA test put me at “2% South Asian”, which is funny because I do happen to like Hindustani music and eating samosas. But the rest of the results didn’t make sense to me: 30% British Isles (OK) and 68% Dutch (?). That is, Dutch with no Scandinavian admixture, when the Dutch reference population is 15% Scandinavian.
    What did my supposed ancestors do when the Vikings came, hide in windmills and hit them with their clogs?

    • Replies: @Graham
    , @Anon
  55. Graham says:
    @Puremania

    “What did my supposed ancestors do when the Vikings came, hide in windmills and hit them with their clogs?”

    I don’t think there was much interbreeding between Norse invaders and Dutch people. They came in smaller numbers as overlords, true, but it wasn’t the same as England, where they settled, intermixed, and influenced our language to such an extent that we even borrowed pronouns (“they”), which normally doesn’t happen. I speak Swedish, which isn’t that great an accomplishment (for an Englishman) because of that shared history; but although I can puzzle my way through written Dutch a little, it’s far harder because Dutch lacks Scandinavian loan words.

  56. liamjq says:

    But if you really want a book to knock the worthy Mr Terrell into an existential crisis it’s got to be ..https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eden-East-Drowned-Continent-Southeast/dp/0753806797……and when he’s over his attack of the vapours he can read…https://www.amazon.co.uk/Origins-British-Prehistory-Britain-Detective/dp/1845294823

  57. anon[347] • Disclaimer says:
    @Father O'Hara

    I can’t see why not.

  58. Gordo says:
    @Barnard

    Yes, I think it’s done that way for political reasons.

  59. RVBlake says:
    @Barnard

    I have noted the same thing. Ancestry tells me I have <1% Jewish and 23andMe tells me the same for SubSaharan African. These companies tell one that anything less than 2% is "noise." I dunno.

  60. RVBlake says:
    @Lot

    Historians and geneticists in England are engaged in a bit of a snit. Recent DNA testing in East Anglia show negligible amounts of Danish DNA, in an area once known as the Danelaw, and conclude that the Danes constituted small numbers of inhabitants. Historians differ, stating that the Danes colonized the area to a significant degree, claiming that since the Anglo-Saxons came from the Jutland area, of course Saxons and Danes will have nearly indistinguishable DNA.

  61. @prime noticer

    Indeed. For instance, the Swiss take it pretty seriously – the Familiennamenbuch der Schweiz is the official book of family names.

    In addition, there are published genealogy books – this is how we know my family is has a relative in Switzerland, by a marriage connection 11 generations ago, but directly through a different branch 15 or so generations ago… Aka, 11 generations ago, my ancestor married his/her 5th cousin or something like that.

  62. Jack D says:
    @Barnard

    They are definitely doing this but I don’t know why. A friend of mine came up like 98% Ashkenazi, 2% Polynesian. Ain’t no Tahitians in Vilnius. I don’t know why they keep using Polynesian as their “fuzz” category – would it be better to just say “unknown” or “not matched”. There have been rumors that they use some non-white race so that racist white guys don’t get to feel smug that they are 100% white, but it really can’t be that stupid, can it? (I keep overestimating the quality of modern liberal thinking).

    I don’t know what the thinking is, but it’s clear that they are going to be under pressure from the left to be even less accurate or completely stop giving ethnic results. Throwing in 2% of false Polynesian is not going to be enough to satisfy the hard left ideologues. They also need to stop telling people if they are male or female – this is a matter of personal choice, not genetics. If race and gender doesn’t exist as an ideological matter but it does exist as a scientific matter, ideology must triumph over facts.

    • Agree: Johann Ricke
    • Replies: @Corn
  63. Anon[200] • Disclaimer says:
    @Puremania

    Maybe you’re descended from William of Orange’s invading rmy. On the other hand, maybe your dad isn’t your dad. Best to let sleeping dogs lie.

  64. Neuday says:
    @Hypnotoad666

    I think his point is that if you can easily pronounce and spell “anthropology” and you’re curious about genetics then you are a bad person.

  65. Corn says:
    @Jack D

    I too am skeptical of the professional DNA/genealogy companies. I don’t have a link but there was a piece in the news a couple months ago where a guy in Canada sent 23andMe or one of their competitors some of his dog’s hair or blood. I don’t remember if he was testing their honesty or trolling. Anyway, they didn’t catch the deception and instead told him he had significant First Nations (Indian) blood. I don’t put much stock in these outfits.

    • Agree: Jim Don Bob
    • Replies: @Anonymous
  66. Carol says:
    @TheBoom

    But then you would need a category like Historically of Color.

  67. MEH 0910 says:
    @MEH 0910

    https://www.pacificanthropology.org/publications

    Thoughts, Dreams & Delusions: Evolution’s Dangerous Legacy

    John Edward Terrell & Gabriel Stowe Terrell

    manuscript currently under review at a university press

  68. Ragno says:

    This is why I worry that by reporting their laboratory results as “ethnicity estimates,” companies may be giving their clients misleading fuel for potentially harmful racial (and racist) beliefs.

    That’s funny, because I worry that companies may be giving their clients misleading fuel in order to eradicate “harmful” beliefs.

    What I don’t – or better phrased, can no longer – do is trust the results, and the motives behind said results, from companies targeted or infiltrated by hard-left ideologues (ie, all of them).

  69. @Lot

    “My 23andme results overstate my Scandi ancestry. I think it just has trouble distinguishing it from the German and British ancestry.”

    Not surprising given all the Scandi DNA in Britain. Nearly half of England was under Danish control at one stage, and that doesn’t include the Viking and Norse settlements elsewhere in England and Scotland. The Normans also had Scandi DNA.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danelaw

    “The reasons for the waves of immigration were complex and bound to the political situation in Scandinavia at that time; moreover, they occurred when Viking settlers were also establishing their presence in the Hebrides, Orkney, the Faroe Islands, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, France (Normandy), the Balticum, Russia and Ukraine (see Kievan Rus’).”

  70. Bill says:
    @Anon

    Who is Jay? Where was he before? Where did he go? Why is he back? Why would anyone care?

  71. Bill says:

    I can’t believe the headline isn’t a parody. Maybe the editor is, like, blinking “torture” with the headline?

  72. Anon[200] • Disclaimer says:
    @Anonymous

    This may be true, but there is often the alternative explanation that any percentage given in these reports should be thought of as plus or minus 2 or 3 percent, or simply mistaken. Razib Khan’s blog has discussed this. For instance, the Neanderthal conent was way exagerated before they fixed some problems.

    When you read books like David Reich’s and Carl Zimmer’s the messy nature of the statistics become more clear. These people are really smart and clever, and it’s amazing that they have discovered extinct human ghost populations inside genomes, but there is still a lot of guestimation.

    Note that the math and algorithms used on the genome are not developed by the various consumer gene report companies. They are from various researchers who have published their techniques in the literature, or who have communicated them directly to various companies.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  73. About Marco Polo.

    The “Scottish” Haplotype for my Y-DNA begins “R1b1a2…”

    Y-DNA is inherited exclusively father to son from forever (to Adam). Through millennia of mutations there are scores or more Haplotypes. The currently recognized “fact” of a common male or small number of common male ancestors some many thousands of years ago reflects this. (The common mother/s are much further back by about twice this time as I understand.) When you get enough allele markers of the right type matching with others of the same Haplotype you are very likely descended from a common male ancestor. (There ARE false positives AND false negatives.) The more mismatched markers there are between two matched men the further back the common male ancestor. (Please forgive me if my explanations are not exact on. My end point will be the same.)

    My point is this. If Marco Polo fathered an unbroken male line in China, there is a Chinese man who is 99.999+% Chinese who will test as a genetic Italian male. Or whatever Marco’s direct male line descent was/is. I think. I’d appreciate any cogent rebuttal.

    A side note. I like to tweak DNA discussions with the following. I mentioned the Y-DNA bottleneck of about 10,000 years ago above, including the further back distance of the most recent common mother. There was a story written some three or four thousand years ago that recognizes this finding. Noah and the Flood.

  74. J1234 says:
    @Anonymous

    Quite possibly. All I know is that when Henry Gates presented her DNA results on TV several years ago, he said she was of totally European descent. As I said in my earlier post, integrity and purity are very different things. Insistence on purity is taking integrity to a radical extreme. That’s not good.

  75. On the other hand, there are a remarkable number of men in East and Central Asia today who share some Y-chromosome markers that Genghis Khan shared.

    This is because the Y-chromosome never recombines and is inherited whole, in a single chunk, except for random mutations. That’s why we can still detect it a thousand years later, while Genghis Khan’s autosomal genes were diluted into the general Mongol gene pool in a dozen generations. Also the Y-chromosome is rather small compared to the whole genome and has other peculiarities that make it easier to work with. (Same goes for maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA.) The first genetics-based investigations of human migration, a couple of decades ago, worked with these haplotypes.

    • Replies: @John Henry
  76. @Anonymous

    I expect to see many more articles like this as the current dominant school of anthropoligy collided with the growing evidence of genetics. It’s going to be quite a train wreck.

    Here’s a further link to sciencedialogs:

    http://sciencedialogues.com/?s=john+edward+terrell

    Scan a few of the articles and his biases will be obvious. Totally denies the concept of “race,” of course. Read his review of the Nicholas Wade book, for instance.

    But the icing pn the cake – and proof of his politics – was the article where he described the election of Trump as an example of a Cargo Cult.

    And here’s his CV:

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1kxCd_LWcwq4HhG2HWTUKcl4crQn6BCX97KKYD6TUOTQ/edit

  77. @Barnard

    There is a similar “less than 2%” categories on FamilyTreeDNA. They explain it as “background noise”. That is, stray markers randomly mutated that are not necessarily from an ancestor of that ethnicity, but match them just the same. This kind of random mutating can also lead to false positive and/or false negative matches between two individuals who then mistakenly believe they have a common ancestor within four or five generations, or mistakenly believe they are NOT related.

    My son-in-law is 98-99% Western European, but has <1% Australian Aborigine markers. Or to put another way, an Aborigine ancestor from fifty to one hundred generations ago. No bloody likely, mate.

  78. @Candide III

    See John Henry about Marco Polo.

  79. @Dtbb

    Yeah it varies according to siblings/parents. By paper trail I am mixture of Scandinavian, French, Irish, Scots/English & Swiss German. On ancestry DNA I show up as more “Western Euro” than my family members. I show up with virtually no British DNA (2 %) though my mom got around 15 % and my sister a little less than that.

    Not coincidentally, I am darker than them. They are brunettes too but I am asked if I’m Hispanic or Greek or part Native American and they aren’t.

  80. @Reg Cæsar

    Alsatian and Swiss are pretty much the same thing…..German/French border areas. Just regular old Central Euro.

  81. Alsatian and Swiss are pretty much the same thing…..German/French border areas. Just regular old Central Euro.

    Yes, but the Y chromosome is specific to families, and that’s what I thought we were paying for. Not some vague ethnic breakdown.

    Has anybody here used more than one such service, and compared the results? Are they identical, or close?

  82. lavoisier says: • Website
    @NoWeltschmerz

    Why is it that when it comes to genetics, the go-to “expert” is usually an anthropologist or sociologist?

    Excellent observation. Because these social “scientists” are faith based adherents of human equality. Similar to journalists, they know next to nothing about genetics and are very comfortable with lies–particularly lies in service to the egalitarian myth.

    • Replies: @NoWeltschmerz
  83. Anon[200] • Disclaimer says:
    @midtown

    The extremely localized stuff is usually not picked up on, although there is a service specializing in African ancestry that is trying to get pretty granular for sub-Saharan African genomes.

    As for what counts as local, with the exception of the popular Neanderthal “ethnicity,” they go by current residents whose family has lived there for a while. A typical rule will be four grandparents born, lived, and died within 100 kilometers of the subject. Something like that. Most people can supply information on grandparents, but before that many can’t. By getting three or more subjects you can filter out any non-local genes.

  84. bomag says:
    @Paleo Liberal

    That small a percentage would be larger than the margin of error.

    Okay.

    But if your NA ancestry is that slight, you are making a rather specious claim.

  85. @lavoisier

    Years ago I came to the conclusion that any field with the word science in it is usually not a science (e.g., social science, political science, computer science, etc.), Some such fields might be more quantitative than others or even make use of the scientific method on occasion, but real sciences don’t need to make such conspicuous use of the word. It was only recently that I discovered others had noticed this years before:

    https://quoteinvestigator.com/2015/06/26/not-science/

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @lavoisier
  86. Anonymous[313] • Disclaimer says:
    @Anon

    Well, put it this way:

    Using Davidski’s (the doyen of genetic genealogy) ‘eurogenes’ genomic calculators, northern subcon Indians often get a real and substantial ‘east European’ score, whilst east Europeans never score any ‘Indian’ ancestry.

  87. Mr. Anon says:
    @ic1000

    Anthropologists have collectively decided that they are not scientists:

    https://www.chronicle.com/article/Anthropologists-Debate-Whether/125571

    At least they were being honest.

  88. MarcB. says:

    The title of this article is an excellent display of the semantic gymnastics required to reinforce a crumbling Tabula rasa narrative.

  89. Anonymous[229] • Disclaimer says:
    @John Derbyshire

    They have to wait in line behind the economists

  90. Anonymous[229] • Disclaimer says:
    @Corn

    If you’re serious about this you have to be thorough. Send samples to several (at least 3) independent testing companies, under different pseudonyms, each with a different regional home address.

  91. Anonymous[229] • Disclaimer says:
    @NoWeltschmerz

    Materials science is the big exception to this. Otherwise, it’s a good general rule.

  92. Blubb says:

    I once went to a salt mine in the Harz, Germany. They had found the corpses of a half dozen or so people buried there in one of the caves some 4000 years ago, taken their genetics, and reconstructed their faces for display.

    Then, they put out a call in the local newspaper to find genetic descendants. They found about 150 or so, and put their photos up on a wall in the museum.

    The cave woman’s nose featured pretty prominently among them.

  93. lavoisier says: • Website
    @NoWeltschmerz

    Excellent observation that I had not noticed before.

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to All Steve Sailer Comments via RSS
PastClassics
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
The evidence is clear — but often ignored
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?
Hundreds of POWs may have been left to die in Vietnam, abandoned by their government—and our media.