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Goldie Hawn and daughter

It is usual to bemoan the way newspapers report science, but that criticism is amply justified when they make major errors.

You may have heard of Carl Zimmer’s “She has her mother’s laugh: The Powers, Perversions and Potential of Heredity”, and probably read some reviews. Greg Cochran did one for Quillette.

The book has now been reviewed in the Sunday Times, the largest selling quality Sunday newspaper in Britain. To assist those who may not have come across the concept of heredity, the review had a picture of Goldie Hawn and her daughter. They look very similar.

Readers are told that:

“once you get past your great-grandparents you will find some of your ancestors who share none of your DNA. They are still your ancestors but DNA gets so sliced and diced down the generations that all you are going to learn is that you are, like everybody else, a bewildering genetic salad”.

“Nazism showed the most persistent and lethal hereditary superstition is race. This because it seems to be visible; blacks, white and Asians just look different. The killer point here is that genetic diversity within populations is far greater that between populations. In other words, if you are white and meet a black man and a white man, you are quite likely to be more closely related to the black man. Race has no basis in genetics.”

Lewontin never dies! I suppose a few readers may wonder how it is “quite likely” that a white man can be more closely related to a black man than a white man, and how it is that black parents reliably have black children. The answer seems to lie in the genetic salad. Newspaper reporting of this low quality may explain the uphill struggle we encounter when discussing group differences.

• Category: Science 
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  1. hyperbola says:

    The book has now been reviewed in the Sunday Times, the largest selling quality Sunday newspaper in Britain.

    An anglo-zionist-globalist newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch can be regarded as quality in the UK??? Their track record is miserable.

    In January 2013, The Sunday Times published a Gerald Scarfe caricature depicting Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cementing a wall with blood and Palestinians trapped between the bricks. The cartoon sparked an outcry, compounded by the fact that its publication coincided with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League.[39] After Rupert Murdoch tweeted that he considered it a “grotesque, offensive cartoon” and that Scarfe had “never reflected the opinions of The Sunday Times”[40] the newspaper issued an apology.[41] Journalist Ian Burrell, writing in The Independent, described the apology as an “indication of the power of the Israel lobby in challenging critical media coverage of its politicians” and one that questions Rupert Murdoch’s assertion that he does not “interfere in the editorial content of his papers”.[42]

    In June 2015, The Sunday Times ran a lead front article titled “British spies betrayed to Russians and Chinese”. The article was controversial because it contained numerous unlikely and unsubstantiated claims. Shortly after publication parts of the online version of the article were changed quietly by the newspaper. The article appeared to be an attempt to smear the American Whistleblower Edward Snowden, thus fuelling further doubt as to its independent editorship.[43][44][45]

  2. Brian Appleyard says, “(race) seems to be visible” after having mentioned “blacks, whites and asians”. That’s big. Then he goes after Hitler.- Allright: This man is dangerous, we have to be careful.
    And he starts off with: If you want to know about others, forget about genes – it’s culture what you’re looking for: Goldy Horn and Kate Hudson share the same culture. Same as we do. And aren’t we all nice – if maybe not that nice on the surface, but culture does have a deep quality too, doesn’t it?

    What he basically says is: Don’t follow Hitler, because the concept of race is Hitler stuff.
    And it’s risky to follow Hitler, we all know that by now. – Whatever the progress might be here with all this tiny laboratory stuff of genes and alleles and so forth, it for sure doesn’t equal Hitler’s mega-capacity for desaster. So – that’s therefor an easy decision: Hands off.

    Problem solved!

    Thing is, you can’t prove, that “Hitler” is not allmighty – an entity that transcends – – – culture, genes, time and space etc.

    And that is a real obstacle. The battle will continue to be uphill since there’s no way (and no good reasons either) to get rid of Hitler. The most reasonable way to draw a line between one’s argument and Hitler is sound argumentation, but that’s exactly what makes lots of people nervous, as soon as such “touchy” (The Catcher in the Rye) subjects as heritage and genes and race and all that are discussed, because these things form sets of nested taboos (Sam Harris, ca.). I find myself a lot of times in such vicious circles in debates and I’m sure, they will last longer than I will. It might well be plausible therefor, to think of Sisyphos as a happy man (Camus).

  3. utu says:

    Lewontin never dies!

    Not so long ago I looked at how to argue with Lewontin and his 15% fixation index.

  4. jb says:

    I believe it is technically possible for a white person to be closer genetically to black person than to another white. After all, with a few exceptions, most genes do have alleles that are common among both whites and blacks, and simply by chance the white person and the black could line up on most of them.

    It is also technically possible to flip a coin 50 times and simply by chance have it come up heads every time. Both situations are extremely unlikely to ever occur in real life, but they are not actually impossible.

    • Agree: Colin Wright
    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
    , @Anon
  5. pyrrhus says:

    “once you get past your great-grandparents you will find some of your ancestors who share none of your DNA.”
    YeGods, idiocracy is here, in the pages of a “quality” newspaper…

    • Replies: @J
  6. @jb

    John Derbyshire looks at your problem in his July Diary here at, that there are cases, in which a white and a black person are genetically closer than two whites, which I too think is a – banal even – fact, from another perspective:

    “Without trying hard at all I turned up a 2005 study out of Stanford University Medical Center finding that in a sample “consisting of 3,636 people who all identified themselves as either white, African-American, East Asian or Hispanic … only five individuals had DNA that matched an ethnic group different than the box they checked at the beginning of the study. That’s an error rate of 0.14 percent.”

    Accuracy at the 99.86 percent level is pretty darn good in thehuman sciences; and I assume that now, thirteen years later, the geneticists have it up way over 99.9 percent.”

    People are confused, because they are used to the idea, that especilly the hard sciences would have to give “one clean answer” in any case, which is a well respected and very popular ideal, which is true (by and large) if you look at the foundations (the methods) of the hard sciences and especially the (aristotelian) logic, but which is not true at all if you look at actul results, which spring from such clean methods. And these re hights of reasonning, Brian Applyard from th Sunday Time most likely does’t even know they exist.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  7. Anon[378] • Disclaimer says:

    “it is technically possible for a white person to be closer genetically to black person than to another white.”

    That was not what the Sunday Times said. You both tried to weasel out the fake news.

    “”In other words, if you are white and meet a black man and a white man, you are quite likely to be more closely related to the black man.””

    The above was making a statistical statement (using quite likely). You seem to be naive and ignorant about statistics. Otherwise using your logic you are quite likely to be more idiotic, as you said that is technically possible.

  8. J says: • Website

    “share none of your DNA”…

    Only if you are a Martian. On this planet Earth, all living things use the DNA machinery and share some segments of DNA. Bacteria, worms, even the grass. Somebody should reveal this secret to the journalist.

    • Replies: @res
  9. @Dieter Kief

    Most of the confusion comes from those of mixed race, who understandably find that census type classifications don’t always fit them well.

  10. res says:

    “share none of your DNA”…

    When they say things like that they are repeating statements by geneticists about identity by descent (IBD):
    which should be compared with identity by state (IBS):

    Here is an example looking at cousins in detail (also has links to earlier posts in the series):

    This post addresses the probability of sharing (IBD) genetic blocks with ancestors:

    This way of looking at things ignores the impact on parent/child similarity of overall parent group similarity (roughly speaking, race) and assortative mating.

    The parent/child similarity question (IBS and phenotypic) is probably better answered empirically. Does anyone know of any studies which do this?

    Here is a theoretical look based on relatedness of parents:

    P.S. One other thing that is worth mentioning in the context of the original article is that genetic differences vary in how much phenotypic effect they have. Which matters more? An interesting empirical test would involve looking at half-siblings with racially different (discordant) parents and comparing them with half-siblings where all parents are of the same race. How do the IBD/IBS/phenotypic differences compare?

  11. dearieme says:

    I see the Sunday Times about once every couple of years. I’m disappointed to learn that Appleyard still writes for it. I always took him for a pretentious, rather ignorant, fool.

    We are always happy when we happen to see The Times on a Saturday, though, because Ms MacQuitty points us to delicious wines. Otherwise The Times has scarcely been worth reading since peak Bernard Levin which was, what, nearly forty years ago?

    Dare I suggest that some of the mad Jew-baiters who infest the comment threads on Unz would gain from reading some Levin? Oh I think I do.

    • Replies: @Verymuchalive
  12. @dearieme

    Levin was a Neocon before his time. The only other thing he was known for was shagging a ( fairly ) young Ariana Stassinopoulos, later Huffington. She later founded the moronic Huffington Post.
    Go back to sleep, you old Zionist fart or at least post on the American Conservative or NRO where your predilections will be fully catered for.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  13. dearieme says:

    “Zionist”: oh dearie me. Your stereotypes betray you, you pillock.

    • Replies: @Verymuchalive
  14. @dearieme

    Zionist is a perfectly descriptive adjective. If the term fits, use it.

    We are always happy when we happen to see The Times on a Saturday, though, because Ms MacQuitty points us to delicious wines.

    Old Fart. Guilty as charged.

  15. dearieme says:

    Has that chump gone away yet? I must say it’s almost refreshing to be called a Zionist. I don’t have much to say on Jews, Judaism, or Israel, but whenever I do say it I’m usually accused of being anti-semitic. I can’t be sure whether the accusers are American Jews, or Israelis, or false-flaggers trying to give the aforementioned categories a reputation as hysterical fools or crooks.

    I suppose the chump might be a false-flagger, trying to give anti-semites a bad reputation, though that would surely be otiose.

    I close with the great question of the day. If Ashkenazi Jews really are atypically intelligent, and I’ve no reason to doubt it, why on earth do they refuse to eat bacon? Maybe evolution ensures that they now bear a bacon-intolerant gene?

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