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From the NYT:

Harvard has testified that race, when considered in admissions, can only help, not hurt, a student’s chances of getting in.

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I was wondering whether Amy Harmon’s article in the NYT about how scientists are too reluctant to debunk “race realism” because reasons TBA was an epic troll job or sincere. Now, in the NYT Insider section, she says it was heartfelt, or headfelt. She did it For The Children:

‘Could Somebody Please Debunk This?’: Writing About Science When Even the Scientists Are Nervous

Milk has become a symbol for white supremacists who repurpose genetic research, because of a genetic trait known to be more common in white adults than others: the ability to digest lactose.

By Amy Harmon
Oct. 18, 2018

Times Insider delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how news, features and opinion come together at The New York Times.

… But the story of how he struggled last spring to find sources to refute the claims of white classmates that people of European descent had evolved to be intellectually superior to Africans is the reason I persevered in the assignment, even when I felt as if my head were going to explode.

Italics and bold mine.

… Yet all of them [scientists] agree that there is no evidence that any differences which may be found will line up with the prejudices of white supremacists.

As I struggled to write my article, I began, sort of, to feel their pain.

It was hard. It did almost make my head explode.

Women writers in the NYT lately appear to be in severe physical danger of self-combustion. Perhaps tomorrow we will read:

“Upon reading the President’s latest tweet, my head erupted into a 2000 degree magnesium fire that the FDNY could not put out,

but simply had to establish a perimeter around Park Slope for the 17 hours it took my brain to burn out.”

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From the New York Times:

Before Arguing About DNA Tests, Learn the Science Behind Them
Our genetic code cannot be treated as a matter of simple fractions.

By Carl Zimmer, Oct. 18, 2018

In other words, buy Carl’s book! I reviewed Carl’s She Has Her Mother’s Laugh earlier this year in Taki’s.

… The reception of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s DNA results is a textbook case in this confusion.

On Monday morning, Senator Warren released an analysis on her DNA showing that six to 10 generations back she had a Native American ancestor. Within hours, Michael Ahrens, an official at the Republican National Committee, dismissed the results in a tweet:

“So Elizabeth Warren is possibly 1/1024 (0.09 percent) Native American. Scientists say the average European-American is 0.18 percent Native American. That’d make Warren even less Native American than the average European-American.”

By Monday afternoon, James Freeman, an assistant editor of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, had fleshed out Mr. Ahrens’s arithmetic. The DNA analysis, he wrote, “suggests that the senator is somewhere between 1/64th and 1/1024th Native American.” He added: “Her genetic makeup is perhaps similar to that of the average white person in the U.S.”

Carl is very mad about these fractions, but will he tell us what he thinks are better estimates?

These numbers then began ricochet around social media. They carried a clear implication: that Elizabeth Warren was no different in her Native American ancestry than a great many other white Americans.

Both Mr. Ahrens and Mr. Freeman cited a 2014 New York Times article as evidence for their claims. I wrote that article. So let me just say this: They’re wrong.

They both mistakenly treat DNA as a matter of simple fractions. We each have two parents, the thinking goes, so therefore we inherit half of each parent’s DNA. From each grandparent we inherit precisely a quarter of our DNA, and so on by the powers of two back into the mists of time. This is how they came up with the 1/1024th figure — two parents, each with two parents, going back 10 generations.

This misguided way of thinking has a history that extends far beyond the discovery of DNA.

Actually, that’s a pretty reasonable way of thinking. Your biological family tree exists in some kind of Platonic realm. (Don’t ask me what.) Ten generations ago in your family tree, there are 1024 slots that somebody (not necessarily 1024 separate individuals) filled. Not 1023 slots, not 1025 slots, but 1024. That number is not socially constructed.

Your DNA today is massively influenced by who those 1024 were, but it’s not a perfect replication due to the lumpiness of the process.

For centuries, people thought of ancestry in terms of blood, and fractions of it. People were pure-blooded or half-blooded. When the United States government set up rules for deciding who could be members of Native American tribes, it called the system “blood quantum.” …

But DNA is not a liquid that can be divided down into microscopic drops. It’s a string-like molecule, arranged into 23 pairs of chromosomes, that gets passed down through the generations in a counterintuitive way.

It’s not that counterintuitive. It works a lot like people figured. But until recently, people tended to think in analog terms and didn’t have that many examples of digital-like quantum processes to draw analogies from. Darwin and Galton were stumped at working out the details of how heredity works because the model they had in mind was mixing fluids in chemistry, which can go on using fractions for quite some time before 19th Century chemists had to start to worry about the fundamental lumpiness of reality at the molecular and lower levels.

… That means we inherit about a quarter of our DNA from each grandparent — but only on average. Any one person may inherit more DNA from one grandparent and less from another.

Over generations, this randomness can lead to something remarkable. Look back far enough in your family tree, and you’ll encounter ancestors from whom you inherit no DNA at all.

The geneticist Graham Coop of the University of California, Davis, and his colleagues have studied how DNA disappears. If you pick one of your ancestors from 10 generations back, the odds are around 50 percent that you carry any DNA from him or her. The odds get even worse beyond that.

In other words, if Senator Warren had a second, wholly independent American Indian ancestor ten generations ago (say, from the other parent’s side), there’s a 50% chance Professor Bustamante might never have noticed any DNA from him or her. So, there’s a chance she’s not 1/1024th Indian but 2/1024th Indian! Or something.

Even if you get no DNA from many of your ancestors, they are still your ancestors. “Genetics,” Dr. Coop has noted, “is not genealogy.”

This is like saying that Newton was wrong because of Einstein and Einstein was wrong because of Bohr. Yeah, good point … but the Newtonian glass is still pretty full too. Genetics is the real world approximation of the Platonic reality that is your family tree, and it tends to work pretty well, kind of like Newton’s Inverse Square Law isn’t bad at describing a relativistic universe. …

As I pointed out in my review of Zimmer’s book, he, like most contemporary intellectuals, tends to have trouble with the reality that an awful lot of glasses are part full and part empty simultaneously.

How many European-Americans are like Senator Warren, with a small amount of Native American ancestry? Scientists can’t say for sure. The best clues to date come from a 2014 study carried out by researchers at 23andMe. They looked at the DNA of 160,000 customers who described themselves as being of European, African or Latino ancestry. Across all the European-Americans in the study, the average amount of Native American ancestry was 0.18 percent.

But once again, averages can be deceptive. The researchers found Native American ancestry in only 2.7 percent of their customers, while the vast majority had none at all.

So the average 23andMe customer who self identifies as white and has some Native American DNA is 6.7% American Indian, or about 1/16th on average: e.g., one American Indian great-great-grandparent four generations ago. (Quarterback Sam Bradford is said to 1/16th Cherokee.) Or maybe two independent great-great-great-grandparents, etc.

From a Bayesian perspective, the very small percentage of white Americans who have a Native American ancestor lowers the chances that Professor Bustamante’s DNA analysis missed a second Native American ancestor. Being descended from a Cherokee Princess is just rarer than American folklore suggests.

On the other hand, Senator Warren is from Oklahoma, where the Bayesian odds are somewhat higher than in, say New Jersey.

In summary, the best guess is that Senator Warren’s ancestry is 1/64th to 1/1024th American Indian, just like the WSJ writer figured.

There is a statistical chance that she might have more … or she might have less. But Prof. Bustamante’s findings suggest that 1/256th is the single likeliest figure.

Update: Razib tweets that he thinks Bustamante was overly cautious in his analysis, and Razib feels 2% American Indian would be a better reading of Senator Warren’s DNA, which would be between 1/32nd and 1/64th.

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From the New York Times opinion section, yet another essay by a woman on the joys of hate (as long as the Hated are below her in the intersectional pecking order to ensure that she is Punching Up):

I Didn’t Hate the English — Until Now

In which an Irish woman discovers how little the people who shaped her country’s fate know or care.

By Megan Nolan
Ms. Nolan is an Irish writer based in London.

Oct. 18, 2018

This is a hilariously representative Current Year op-ed in which a woman writer explains why she hates some demographic group that it is okay to hate these days due to the Theory of Intersectionality. It starts with some Twitter/Youtube inanity, the Decapitated Pigeon Incident, and goes on from there in the now predictable paths.

Last month, some video footage went viral in Ireland of a group of English men verbally abusing young women at a Dublin housing crisis protest.

… “The footage shows a man verbally abusing protesters, before the head of a decapitated pigeon is thrown,” but no explanation was forthcoming. Why did the man throw a pigeon head at the protesters? More important, why was he carrying one in his pocket, ready, seemingly, to be launched as soon as a worthy adversary appeared?

Let me guess … hmmhhmm … it involved English tourists and the city of Dublin … okay, I’ve got it! Here’s my solution to the Decapitated Pigeon mystery: Drink was taken.

But stranger still — or perhaps, upon reflection, not strange at all — was the gap between the English and the Irish when it came to interpreting the Pigeon Incident. While Irish people complained on Twitter about these brash bird-head-wielding English tourists coming to our country and performing their odd little colonial pantomime, sensitive Britons were eager to ask why it mattered that the men were English. They’re just louts, they said. Why does it matter where they’re from? After all, all that occupation business was so long ago.

But the Irish woman who “is based” in London has a reason for growing in hate of the English: they don’t pay enough attention to the Irish, such as, well, her:

… The extent to which many English people are ignorant about Ireland has become painfully clear. …

In the midst of all this, I’ve noticed a tonal shift in the way I and other Irish people speak about the English. Our anger is more sincere. We are more ready to call them out on all those centuries of excess, more likely to object to those pink-trousered, pink-faced dinosaurs who still perceive us as their inferiors. I found myself genuinely breathless with anger

Women op-ed writers seem to be competing lately for the most alarmingly physical descriptions of their anger: e.g., Minutes after Kavanaugh was confirmed, the paramedics declared me legally dead from rage-induced coronary thrombosis. I only came out of the coma this morning and immediately began typing this op-ed.

when I read the Conservative M.P. Andrew Bridgen’s recent comments assuming he would be entitled to an Irish passport post-Brexit. …

But I don’t find it funny anymore, how they think of us — or often, how they don’t bother to think of us at all.

Pay attention to me!

I’ve lived in London for three years. I hadn’t spent much time in Britain before my arrival and had no particular feelings toward the English. I expected them to react to me with similar neutrality. What I didn’t expect was the toxic mix of dismissal and casual disdain. It would have been easier, perhaps, if it was all as overt as potato jokes. But what kills you is the ignorance; what grinds you down is how much they don’t know about the past and, if they do know, how little they care.

Pay attention to me!

Well, at least they didn’t ask to touch her hair.

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From National Geographic:

Building walls may have allowed civilization to flourish

Humans have built walls to keep others out, or in, for at least 12,000 years. Why is wall building coming back into fashion now?


If it is ever built, President Donald Trump’s much-vaunted wall, which is supposed to stretch for nearly 2,000 miles along the United States’s border with Mexico, would be the largest infrastructure project since the U.S. highway system, estimated to cost $18 to $40 billion. But as David Frye reveals in his new book, Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick, the idea of constructing barriers to keep others out—or, in the case of the Berlin Wall, to keep people in—is as ancient as human civilization. Only the people being shut out have changed.

When National Geographic caught up with Frye by phone at his home in Connecticut, he explained how the ancient world was split between wallers and non-wallers, how the Berlin Wall set a precedent by being the first wall to keep people in, and why America and so many other nations are “forting up.”

Q. President Trump gave the idea of excluding outsiders with walls a contemporary twist when he vowed to build a “big, beautiful wall.” But he is latching onto something ancient, isn’t he?

A. It is an ancient idea. People have been building walls since the tenth millennium B.C. The ancient walls were built primarily for defensive purposes. Nowadays, they are built more to prevent immigration, terrorism, or the flow of illegal drugs. But there is a common connection, which is the idea of keeping outsiders out. …

The first border walls aren’t found until the late 2000s B.C., in Mesopotamia. Security is why they were built. There were two different lifestyles developing: a lifestyle of the people I call wallers, who are workers who build things and identify themselves by their civilian occupations. They sought to secure themselves by building structures that would protect them even when they were sleeping at night. Outside the walls, you have a very different sort of society, people inured to the dangers of living in an un-walled world. Non-wallers were peoples we generally refer to historically as barbarians, like the Huns, the Goths, or the Mongols. They were viewed with fear by the wall-builders. And that’s what inspired the construction of the early walls.

Q. You write, “No invention in human history played a greater role (than walls) in creating and shaping civilization.” Some people might vote for writing or gunpowder. Make your case.

A. I would make the case that there would be no writing and nothing as complex as gunpowder without first the construction of walls. The ancient human need for security is one of the fundamentals of life and has to be achieved before we can achieve other things. It was walls that gave people the security to sit and think. It’s hard to imagine a novel being written in a world in which every man is a warrior. Until a society achieves security, it can’t think about anything except the dangers all around it. As a consequence its culture will be limited. …

This is just about the only article of the last few years to not include the seemingly obligatory “I hate Trump” line.

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Baseball as a spectator sport has a problem due to sabermetrics’ emphasis on the Three True Outcomes: home run, walk, and strikeout, as opposed to old fashioned elements of the game like the one base hit, the stolen base, the sacrifice bunt, the hit and run and so forth. Amateur statistical experts demonstrated in the late 20th Century that most of those old strategies going back to the Dead Ball Era were obsolete. It made more sense to try to maximize home runs hit over the fence, because that also increased the number of walks given up by pitchers now scared of throwing one down the middle. The expense of increased strikeouts by batters was worth it because who cares.

Therefore, a lot of teams these days like the rich Dodgers and Yankees are built around the idea of putting 7 or 8 guys in the lineup who can hit 20 or more homers per season and wait around for them to do their thing. If they hit 3 or more homers in a game, their team usually wins, but if they don’t hit any, they aren’t all that likely to manufacture a win.

The Dodgers, for example, have amazed their fans by winning two straight playoff games without hitting a homer. The LA Times is now playing the current Dodgers up as suddenly being the second coming of the undertalented 1988 Dodgers who somehow stole the World Series from the homer hitting Oakland Bash Brothers (Canseco, McGwire, and other early juicers).

But the 2018 Dodgers usually don’t have that many rallies where they are getting closer and closer to pushing a run across home plate. Instead, it’s wait around for somebody to hit one out. American football is a great spectator sport because of the rising hope and tension of the drive down the field. Basketball isn’t as good because there is too much scoring of equal value goals.

Baseball has less of this kind of football-like rising tension these days.

As I explained in 2014, subtle changes in the playing area could advantage line drive hitters relative to the now dominant flyball hitters, leading to more action, more triples. For example, in most ballparks homeplate could be moved back 5 feet, leading to more long balls than bounce off the fence or are snagged by leaping outfielders.

More subtly, the playing surface could be optimized for balls to roll faster. We don’t want to go back to the rock hard artificial turf of the 1970s and 1980s that wrecked Andre Dawson’s knees. But it did make for a more fun style of baseball than at present. But groundskeepers could keep from overwatering the grass in pursuit of a deep emerald color. Golf course groundskeepers now know how to keep fairways both a beautiful green yet quick enough for tee shots to roll quite a bit further than in 1980.

One of the most exciting plays in baseball is when a live drive bounces between the outfielders and rolls all the way to the fence. Modern groundskeepers ought to be able to increase the odds of that happening.

More radically, baseball should experiment with sloping the field slightly downhill from homeplate to make rolling and bouncing hit balls go ever so slightly faster, which would give a modest advantage to line driver hitters who are being crowded out of the game by home run hitters. The Lords’ cricket ground in London has a slope of 9 feet to it, which sounds like too much, but what if a MLB field sloped down 3 feet from homeplate to the outfield fence?

One amusing effect would be on running the bases. Hitters would get down to first base slightly faster due to running downhill, increasing the number of close plays at first on seemingly routine ground balls. On the other hand, running from second to home on a single to the outfield would be slightly harder due to being slightly uphill. Today, runners on second typically score easily on singles to the outfield, but if they were slowed down by having to run uphill, there would more often be a play at the plate, which is one of the most exciting parts of the game. That’s probably my favorite play: runner on second, line drive hit falling in front of an outfielder charging in who comes up throwing to the catcher who makes a tag at home. For athletic beauty, a throw-out at home plate is way up there.

Okay, here’s a video of a whole bunch of attempted inside the park homers getting thrown out at home plate, which are more comic than the classic play at the plate off a single because they usually start with an outfielder misplaying the ball and end with the batter chugging out of breath toward home:

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There was a fun controversial play in last night’s baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros in the American League championship series involving two of the best and shortest players in baseball. The Astros’ Jose Altuve, last year’s MVP, hit a long flyball that was coming down in the stands. The Red Sox’s Mookie Betts, likely this year’s MVP, leapt above the wall, but there his glove ran into the hands of Astros fans trying to catch the homer hit right at them.

The umpire called the hitter out due to fan interference and sent the baserunner back to first. If he’d called it a homer, that would have scored two runs, which wound up being how many the Astros lost by to fall behind 1 and 3 in best of 7 series.

My view is the umpire was mistaken. The fans were not flagrantly reaching into the field of play to interfere where they did not belong, they were sticking their hands out to try to catch the ball and keep it from whomping them in the groin. I’ve only rarely have had a hardball hit near me in the stands at an MLB park, but it’s pretty terrifying, if it gets past your hands toward your body or face it will hurt. The fans in Houston were engaging in perfectly reasonable self defense against the ball that had been hit 400 feet and was coming at their bodies in the stands..

So I would not have called fan interference. But then what? Was it a homer or was it just a ball in play, probably a double? Baseball does not have a rule like in football where a touchdown is scored the moment the nose of the football touches the imaginary plane rising up from the front of the goalline stripe. If Betts had leaned into the stands and caught the homer, it would have been an out even though the ball had crossed the line between the field and the outfield bleachers and into the promised land of the homer. But it appeared that the ball struck Mookie’s glove, which had been inadvertently closed by his glove slamming into the hands of fans trying to catch the ball so it wouldn’t hurt them. The ball seemed to mostly bounce off Mookie’s glove and back down onto the field.

So I’d say: no interference, no homer, a live ball, probably a double for Altuve.

But what do baseball rules say about the plane of the wall? Baseball isn’t like football where once the nose of the ball in possession of an offensive player penetrates an imaginary plane rising straight up from the front of the goalline, it’s a touchdown.

Baseball highlight reels are full of clips of outfielders snagging balls over the wall thus turning homers into outs.

On the other hand, baseball rules might imply that the plane of the wall matters when it comes to fan interference. If the fans aren’t reaching over the wall, then no interference.

I might allow fans to reach forward toward the ball, even sticking their hands over the plane of the wall, to protect themselves from being hit by the ball on the body or head, which might have been the case here.

But fans should be penalized for reaching outward toward a ball that wouldn’t have hit them except for their reaching. For example, a hooking line drive is hit fair over 3rd base and it’s right to left spin causes it to roll toward the stands in foul territory in left. The leftfielder positions himself for the carom off the low fence, but a fan leans over the wall and touches the ball, causing it to carom in an unexpected direction, allowing the hitter to get an extra base. The ump should send the runner back to whichever base he figures the runner would have reached if the ball was fielded cleanly without fan interference.)

But, finally, what do you do when the ball crosses the plane of the wall, hits the fielder’s glove, and then the ball bounces off the glove back onto the field of play? I’d lean toward: live ball, play continues.

What if it bounces off the fielder’s glove and the fingers of a spectator back onto the field of play (which might have happened to Betts). I don’t want to encourage home fans to try to touch the ball to guarantee it being a homer, so I’d say: live ball, play continues.

The fans in Houston’s bleachers were at risk of being hit by two fast-moving objects, the hard baseball, and Betts’ glove and hand. Their reactions — stick their hands out — were natural and not strategic. So, I’d say, live ball and let the players play.

The umpire would have done best not to make a call and instead just let the players play.

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From the NYT Opinion section:

Elizabeth Warren and the Folly of Genetic Ancestry Tests

DNA can’t tell us about identity.

I realize I am a horrible extremist, unlike the folks who pronounce so confidently in the New York Times, but it would seem to me that DNA can tell us some things about human identity, which is an interestingly complex subject.

For example, Honolulu preppy Barack Obama may well have had less “lived experience” while growing up of being an African American than did Rachel Dolezal, who grew up with black (adopted) siblings. But Obama had the DNA (and a 150,000-word memoir explaining that his “Story of Race and Inheritance” was all about his “Dreams From My Father”), while Dolezal didn’t have the DNA.

By Alondra Nelson

Dr. Nelson is the author of “The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations and Reconciliation After the Genome.”

Oct. 17, 2018

… The truth is that sets of DNA markers cannot tell us who we really are because genetic data is technical and identity is social.

Or maybe identity is a little more complicated than that?

… To be Native American is to be a member of a tribal community and recognized by that community as such. DNA cannot vouchsafe tribal identity or any other community affiliation.

I’ve often made a similar argument in regard to Senator Warren’s claim, but let me flip that around and point out there are probably individuals who are clearly Native American by biological ancestry without qualifying for membership in any one tribe. Say you have one great-grandparent from each of four Indian nations that require a 1/4th “blood quantum.” Then you wouldn’t qualify for membership in any single tribe, but you’d be half American Indian. It would be quite reasonable for you to therefore self-identify as possessing a reasonable claim to genetic membership in the Indian race as a whole even though you wouldn’t qualify legally for membership in any single Indian nation.

There are probably other cases, such as adoptions and cuckoo’s eggs, where somebody couldn’t legally qualify for tribal membership but would have a decent claim for genetic relationship. For example, on Mike Judge’ sitcom King of the Hill, Bobby Hill’s friend Joseph Gribble is legally the white son of Dale and Nancy Gribble, but is obviously the natural son of their Indian friend John Redcorn, although conspiracy theorist Dale Gribble doesn’t notice.

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Pnin is calculating that if Harvard simply selected admittees randomly among the top 10% of its applicants (as measured on test scores and high school GPA) then

- the Asian share at Harvard would rise from 24.9% to 51.7%,

- the white share would drop slightly from 37.6% to 35.5%,

- the Hispanic share would plummet from 14.9% to 2.7%

- the black share would vanish from 15.8% to 0.9%.

This current black share number (15.8%) is extremely high. Is this related

These numbers come from Table 5.3R on p. 110 of

Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard
No. 14-cv-14176-ADB (D. Mass)

Professor Arcidiacono of the Duke Econ department is a hired gun expert witness for the plaintiffs in the Harvard discrimination case. He’s battling Harvard’s hired gun economics expert David Card. So keep that in mind when evaluating their statements.

This offers an interesting riposte to the ACLU’s recent tweet:

I’m surprised that Harvard has let the black share get so high because my impression is that Harvard has largely been hard-headed about not doing self-defeating things with its admissions policy. Harvard, which is now 382 years old, has been pretty competent over the centuries in admitting students who will be good for the Harvard brand. But making one-sixth of their admittees black means they are getting deep in declining marginal returns.

Perhaps Arcidiacono is playing some kind of game with the data?

Perhaps there is a ratchet effect in terms of black shares? At some point, Harvard’s endowment is doing well, so they spend a lot of money to boost their black share. But then Stanford gets a big windfall and ups the bidding war for black talent. And then Yale jumps in with massive money. Harvard should respond by letting its share of blacks fall as other vastly rich universities go hog wild about bribing blacks to attend. But any decline in blacks could lead to Bad Publicity, so it doubles down. And around and around, until blacks wind up absurdly over-represented at Harvard relative to their academic skills.

Looking at how Asians would be a majority at Harvard under a more objective system, current Harvard president Lawrence S. Bacow must now understand how Harvard president Abbott Lawrence Lowell felt in 1922 when he imposed a quota system to keep the then rising ethnicity’s share down.

The worry in both cases was that if they just let in the top students, Harvard, like Yogi Berra’s former favorite restaurant, would get so popular that nobody would want to go there anymore.

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Asians continue to pull away from the field in college admissions tests, while American Indian well-being appears to be collapsing in recent years.

Otherwise, nothing much ever changes in racial average test scores.

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From The New Yorker:

Elizabeth Warren Falls for Trump’s Trap—and Promotes Insidious Ideas About Race and DNA

By Masha Gessen October 16, 2018

The Trumpian taunt is a trap. A video released by Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, on Monday demonstrates just how it works. …

When ancestry-testing services first appeared in this country a dozen years ago, they found that Americans, at least, tended to have fairly reliable stories about their family heritage. An exception was people who had a family story, usually passed down through a number of generations, of having Native American blood—most often, the legend said that they were Cherokee. For years, geneticists had trouble finding any corroboration for this claim. It’s possible that their tests weren’t sensitive enough, or that they were looking in the wrong place; it is also possible that family stories of having descended from Native Americans were particularly unreliable. Over time, the tests learned to detect ever more subtle signs and patterns, as Warren’s case appears to have done.

First generation testing services had an amusing knack for reporting Ashkenazi Jews as part American Indian: famously, Larry David was declared to be 3/8ths Native American in 2009, which sounds like a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode, but actually happened. But they’ve gotten a lot more competent over the years.

… The senator’s video is carefully worded. Warren says that she is laying no claim to citizenship in a tribe. She frames her understanding of her ancestry in terms of experience, though this experience seems fairly well removed: the defining event in Warren’s family was her father’s family’s disapproval of his marriage to her future mother; Warren says that it was the Native American heritage that made her father’s family suspicious. Talking heads from the universities where Warren was employed assure the audience that she has never used her heritage to advance professionally.

I’d find these kind of declarations more persuasive if they included a list of Harvard Law Professors who indeed were hired for Diversity reasons. For example, I’d be impressed if a former dean said on camera: “Senator Warren was completely not a quota hire, unlike, say, Derrick Bell, who is only here because he’s black. If Derrick Bell were white, we wouldn’t have hired him in a million years even if he were the last white man on earth. But Warren was totally different that Bell.”

That’s the kind of hard-hitting inside investigation I’d pay to read.

But, in general, almost nobody in the 49 year history of affirmative action has ever been personally singled out by the Establishment as benefiting from affirmative action according to insiders who made the hire. You are allowed to be vaguely aware that affirmative action exists, but you aren’t ever supposed to think about who exactly got in because of it.

… Warren ended up providing one of the clearest examples yet of how Trumpian rhetoric shifts the political conversation.

Why is the President allowed to intrude in The Conversation? We need to have a national conversation over who is allowed into the conversation. And, more importantly, who isn’t. Why can’t Trump understand that the phrase “the conversation” means STFU, YT?

… She is also reinforcing one of the most insidious ways in which Americans talk about race: as though it were a measurable biological category, one that, in some cases, can be determined by a single drop of blood. Genetic-test evidence is circular: if everyone who claims to be X has a particular genetic marker, then everyone with the marker is likely to be X. This would be flawed reasoning in any area, but what makes it bad science is that it reinforces the belief in the existence of X—in this case, race as a biological category.

Warren’s video will hardly convince a Trump voter, who will see only a woman who feels that she has to prove something. Trump himself has already walked back his promise of a million-dollar charity donation. Warren, meanwhile, has allowed herself to be dragged into a conversation based on an outdated, harmful concept of racial blood—one that promotes the pernicious idea of biological differences among people—and she has pulled her supporters right along with her.

We need to have a conversation about not having a conversation about DNA and race.

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From the New York Times today:

Why White Supremacists Are Chugging Milk (and Why Geneticists Are Alarmed)

By Amy Harmon
Oct. 17, 2018

Amy Harmon is a national correspondent covering the intersection of science and society. She has won two Pulitzer Prizes, for her series “The DNA Age,” and as part of a team for the series “How Race Is Lived in America.” Follow her on Twitter @amy_harmon

One of the many HateGraphs published in the NYT today to show how evil white supremacists are using facts, logic, and science.

Nowhere on the agenda of the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics, being held in San Diego this week, is a topic plaguing many of its members: the recurring appropriation of the field’s research in the name of white supremacy.

“Sticking your neck out on political issues is difficult,” said Jennifer Wagner, a bioethicist and president of the group’s social issues committee, who had sought to convene a panel on the racist misuse of genetics and found little traction.

I will put in bold all words like “misconception” and “distortion” so you can know what is Goodthink. (Otherwise, you might, almost, get the impression that Ms. Harmon is trolling the Goodthinkers by dumping a lot of politically incorrect science on them in the guise of deploring what the Badthinkers are up to.)

But the specter of the field’s ignominious past, which includes support for the American eugenics movement, looms large for many geneticists in light of today’s white identity politics. They also worry about how new tools that are allowing them to home in on the genetic basis of hot-button traits like intelligence will be misconstrued to fit racist ideologies.

In recent months, some scientists have spotted distortions of their own academic papers in far-right internet forums. Others have fielded confused queries about claims of white superiority wrapped in the jargon of human genetics. Misconceptions about how genes factor into America’s stark racial disparities have surfaced in the nation’s increasingly heated arguments over school achievement gaps, immigration and policing.

Instead of long-discounted proxies like skull circumference and family pedigrees, according to experts who track the far-right, today’s proponents of racial hierarchy are making their case by misinterpreting research on the human genome itself. And in debates that have largely been limited to ivory-tower forums, the scientists whose job is to mine humanity’s genetic variations for the collective good are grappling with how to respond. …

One slide Dr. Novembre has folded into his recent talks depicts a group of white nationalists chugging milk at a 2017 gathering to draw attention to a genetic trait known to be more common in white people than others — the ability to digest lactose as adults. It also shows a social media post from an account called “Enter The Milk Zone” with a map lifted from a scientific journal article on the trait’s evolutionary history.

In most of the world, the article explains, the gene that allows for the digestion of lactose switches off after childhood. But with the arrival of the first cattle herders in Europe some 5,000 years ago, a chance mutation that left it turned on provided enough of a nutritional leg up that nearly all of those who survived eventually carried it. In the post, the link is accompanied by a snippet of hate speech urging individuals of African ancestry to leave America. “If you can’t drink milk,” it says in part, “you have to go back.”

In an inconvenient truth for white supremacists, a similar bit of evolution turns out to have occurred among cattle breeders in East Africa.

Checkmate, racists!

Scientists need to be more aware of the racial lens through which some of their basic findings are being filtered, Dr. Novembre says, and do a better job at pointing out how they can be twisted.

But the white nationalist infatuation with dairy also heightened Dr. Novembre’s concerns about how to handle new evolutionary studies that deal with behavioral traits, such as how long people stay in school.

Anticipating misinterpretations of a recent study on how genes associated with high education attainment, identified in Europeans, varied in different populations around the world, the lead author, Fernando Racimo, created his own “frequently asked questions” document for nonscientists, which he posted on Twitter.

Racimo has come up with a hypothesis somewhat similar to that of David Piffer’s that we can already guess the findings of the next decade or so of racial genomics research by looking at the genetic-driven traits already discovered to have been under different selection pressures among different populations and assume that we will discover more such DNA to have been selected for by the same selection pressures.

I find that theory interesting, but I’m also perfectly happy to wait out the decade or whatever it will take to find out for sure through ever more accurate huge sample size brute force genomic studies. For instance, we saw the first one million sample size study of the genetic correlates of educational attainment published in July.

The Racimo-Piffer theory might turn out to be a brilliant shortcut, or it might turn out to be mostly wrong because, for example, it could be that blacks are so different from whites genetically that studying how white genomes work doesn’t tell you much about how black genomes work. (That would be ironic.)

For example, if I recall correctly (and I may not), Pygmies appear to be short for genetic reasons that aren’t particularly similar to the genetic reasons why short Europeans are shorter than tall Europeans.

The genetics of height, while still complicated, appears to be much simpler than the genetics of intelligence, so height will likely provide us with possible examples of the various natures of racial differences before IQ gets wholly unraveled (if it ever does).

Anyway, time will tell.

And in a commentary that accompanied the paper in the journal Genetics, Dr. Novembre warned that such research is “wrapped in numerous caveats” that are likely to get lost in translation.

I linked to Dr. Novembre’s commentary in my iSteve blog last May.

“Great care,” his commentary concludes, “should be taken in communicating results of these studies to general audiences.”

As I blogged in response, endorsing Novembre’s caution, “This seems like a pretty reasonable way to proceed.” On the other hand, it’s important that the public keeps an eye out for explicit or tacit agreements among scientists not to investigate major questions, such as the genetics of racial differences in intelligence, for reasons of political correctness.

For example, the Cochran-Harpending theory of why Ashkenazi IQs are high on average, has, to my third hand awareness, been seriously proposed as the subject of a medical study three times, with each time the study getting called off before it began for fear that the results, whatever they might turn out to be, would be politically unpopular.

Back to the NYT:

Already, some of those audiences are flaunting DNA ancestry test results indicating exclusively European heritage as though they were racial ID cards. They are celebrating traces of Neanderthal DNA not found in people with only African ancestry. And they are trading messages with the coded term “race realism,” which takes oxygen from the claim that the liberal scientific establishment has obscured the truth about biological racial differences.

Some scientists suggest that engaging with racists would simply lend credibility to obviously specious claims. Many say that they do not study race, in any case: The racial categories used by the United States census correlate only imperfectly with the geographic ancestry groupings of interest to evolutionary geneticists. “Black,” for instance, is a socially defined term that includes many Americans who have a majority of European ancestry.

Of course, what that means is the opposite of what poor NYT subscribers assume it means: In reality, the average traits of self-identified blacks, including, for example, Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland, Ben Jealous, who looks more like a golfer than a cornerback, are going to be less distinctive in behavior from whites than if only blacks who are genetically highly black are studied.

For example, the last 64 finalists in the Olympic 100m dash going back through 1984 have all been socially identified as black. Judging from their pictures, only a small handful (such as Frankie Fredericks and Jimmy Vicaut) appear to have had much white admixture.

But as the pace of human population genetics research has accelerated, it has yielded results that, to many nonscientists, appear to challenge the idea of race as a wholly social construction. Genetic ancestry tests advertise “ethnicity estimates” (Senator Elizabeth Warren appealed to the perceived authority of DNA this week to demonstrate her Native American heritage, in response to mocking by President Trump), and some disease-risk genes have turned out to be more common among certain genetic ancestry groups. Doctors use patients’ self-identified race as a proxy for geographic ancestry, because individual readouts of DNA are costly, and though the correlation is imperfect, it exists.

As DNA databases tied to medical records and personal questionnaires have reached a critical mass for individuals of European descent, moreover, so-called polygenic scores that synthesize the hundreds or thousands of genes that contribute to many human traits into a single number are being developed to predict health risks, and in some cases, behavior.

Last summer, researchers developed a score that can roughly predict the level of formal education completed by white Americans by looking at their DNA. And while those scores cannot yet be compared among racial or population groups, the new techniques have prompted some scientists to feel it is the field’s responsibility to head off predictable misrepresentations.

“You have to make a judgment when you have powerful information that can be misused,” said David Reich, a Harvard geneticist who has publicly called on colleagues in a recent book and in a New York Times Op-Ed to more directly address the prospect of identifying genetic differences between populations in socially sensitive traits.

There is no evidence, scientists stress, that environmental and cultural differences will not turn out to be the primary driver of behavioral differences between population groups.

At the same time, the advances in genetic technology have put white supremacists into a kind of anticipatory lather.

“Science is on our side,” crowed Jared Taylor, the founder of the white nationalist group American Renaissance, in a recent video that cites Dr. Reich’s book.

Dr. Reich was among those to decline an invitation to lead a discussion on the topic at the San Diego meeting. “I really wanted to return to research,” he said.

The widespread uncertainty among Americans over what scientists know about genetic differences between racial groups, experts say, has left many flummoxed in the face of white supremacist claims that invoke genetics. …

And when a blogger at the far-right Unz Review noted that the DNA variations associated with high IQ in a 2017 study of Europeans were at the lowest frequency among Africans,

No link is given (must protect readers’ innocent eyes), so I don’t know whether that was me, Anatoly, or Dr. James.

the study’s lead author, Danielle Posthuma, wrote in a published reply that such cross-population comparisons were spurious.

Although I’ve mentioned Dr. Posthuma’s name frequently, I’ve been cautious about letting the published papers speak for themselves. We will know more about genetic racial differences and their relation to IQ and educational attainment, if any, with a higher degree of certainty soon enough, so I’m content to wait.

“This,” she wrote, “is a very deep-rooted misunderstanding.”

Update: Although the NYT would not provide a link, that was the Unz Review blog post “Comments on Piffer from Prof Posthuma” by Dr. James Thompson of University College London.

Back to the NYT:

Many geneticists at the top of their field say they do not have the ability to communicate to a general audience on such a complicated and fraught topic. Some suggest journalists might take up the task. Several declined to speak on the record for this story.

And with much still unknown, some scientists worry that rebutting basic misconceptions without being able to provide definitive answers could do more harm than good.

And so forth and so on. A most interesting article

By the way, here’s Ms. Harmon’s 2007 NYT article “In DNA Era, New Worries About Prejudice” about what’s happening now that “genetic information is slipping out of the laboratory and into everyday life, carrying with it the inescapable message that people of different races have different DNA.”

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The brilliant term “Fauxcohontas” appears to have been coined by Mark Steyn around May 4, 2012. But you’ll notice that Donald Trump didn’t use this multilingual neologism, instead reverting to the more straightforward “Pocohontas.”

Now somebody (who?) has come up with the great “Picohontas.”

My guess is that Trump will never, ever use “Picohontas.” This has a double utility to Trump. By not using it, Trump doesn’t alienate the vast percentage of voters who don’t know that “pico” means “one-trillionth.” (I personally guessed it meant one-billionth.)

But also, because Trump doesn’t use a supremely clever insult, he lures in the Establishment Media to insult him as a low brow and thus keep the controversy alive on Trump’s terms: that Senator Warren isn’t very Indian.

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NFL QB Sam Bradford when he was at Putnam City HS in Oklahoma City, along with his parents. Bradford is 1/16th Cherokee and his father, who also played football for the U. of Oklahoma, is 1/8th Cherokee.

There seems to be a lot of confusion over just how American Indian Senator Elizabeth Warren is compared to other white Americans.

Much of this seems to be that few Americans, other than genealogy enthusiasts, can do power of two arithmetic or take reciprocals in their heads. Heck, I screwed up my first tweet on Monday, announcing that Prof. Bustamante’s finding of one unadmixed Native American ancestor within a probability range of 6 to 10 generations ago, most likely 8 generations ago, meant she was most likely 1/256th Indian (which I got right), or 0.2% (which is wrong, it’s 0.4%).

Carl Zimmer of the New York Times is adamant that Senator Warren might have additional Amerindian ancestry that, through her bad luck, has been genetically lost. It’s important to keep in mind that the genetic reshuffling that happens at conception is not exquisitely random, it’s more like a child’s lumpy attempt at shuffling decks of cards.

For example, it’s likely that millions of Americans are descendants of King Edward I of England (1239-1307). On the other hand, most of his current descendents have zero DNA segments that directly descend from this king, so a DNA test would not prove they were descended from him if his bones were dug up and sequenced. On the other hand, a few of his descendants probably do have segments of his DNA.

So Zimmer’s point is true, but it’s also true that Senator Warren’s Amerindian ancestry might appear exaggerated in a DNA study through luck. That’s why Prof. Bustamante estimated a range of six to ten generations ago, with eight as the most probable.

Somebody tweeted that Warren might be less Indian than the average self-identified white American. If Warren had a single Native American ancestor ten generations ago, that would make her 1/1024 Indian, or 0.1%. A 2013 study by 23andMe of their customers who self-identified as white found they were 0.18% American Indian on average.

On the other hand, Bustamante said Warren appeared to be about 10 times more American Indian than his reference sample of self-identified American whites, who were drawn from Utah (i.e., mostly Mormons).

Utah whites have been used by geneticists going back to the HapMap about 15 years ago as a proxy for Northwestern Europeans. The Mormons tended to be recruited either from white Americans who weren’t frontiersmen or from northwestern Europe.

Screenshot 2018-10-17 02.24.13

George Romney, Self Portrait

For example, the Romney family arrived in America from England, where Miles Romney, a convert to Mormonism, was a first cousin of the superb English society painter George Romney, who was intensely English-looking.

In contrast, other ethnicities of American whites, such as East Coast ethnics like Martin Scorsese and Donald Trump aren’t very Amerindian at all.

On the other hand, the Scots-Irish might be slightly more likely to have an Amerindian ancestor because they tended more often to be frontiersmen.

For example, I have a brother-in-law who was born in West Virginia and served 20 years at the bottom of the ocean as a nuclear sub powerplant technician. Whether he has any Indian ancestry or not is uncertain (he was orphaned young), but he’s a teetotaler: whether he’s part Indian or all Scots-Irish, he thinks it’s a good idea to avoid liquor.

It’s a complicated question whether there was more stigma or glamor associated with being somewhat American Indian by ancestry in the past. Current Year people tend to assume that the stigma associated with being part black applied to other races, but that’s not at all indisputable. For example, Westerners such as Mark Twain tended to be prejudiced against part-Indians (e.g., compare the villainous half-breed Injun Joe in Tom Sawyer to the lovable slave Jim in Huckleberry Finn), but Easterners such as James Fennimore Cooper tended to be prejudiced in favor of part-Indians.

Over time, as Indians stopped being a threat, opinion shifted in their favor. For example, Herbert Hoover’s vice president Charles Curtis may have been 3/8ths Indian. As a child, he lived on an Indian reservation in Kansas and spoke Kaw before he spoke English. This seems to have added a little glamor to his resume.

Oklahomans, such as Warren, tend to be the most mixed of Old Americans. For example, consider the journeyman NFL quarterback Sam Bradford, who won the 2008 Heisman at the U. of Oklahoma. From the New York Times in 2008:

Sooners’ Bradford Is Accidental Cherokee Hero

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — … Entering Saturday’s Red River Rivalry between No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 5 Texas, Bradford is at the forefront of Heisman Trophy conversations, and at the center of attention in the Cherokee Nation, the second-largest tribe in the United States.

Bradford is believed to be the first Cherokee to start at quarterback for a Division I university since Sonny Sixkiller, a full-blooded Cherokee, who was born here and starred at Washington in the early 1970s.

But Bradford is just one-sixteenth Cherokee and until Oklahoma publicized that heritage last season, his father Kent said he had probably only talked to his son about it two or three times as he grew up in Oklahoma City. Kent Bradford said his great-grandmother, Susie Walkingstick, was a full-blooded Cherokee.

The elder Bradford, who was an offensive lineman at Oklahoma in the 1970s, said: “There’s a lot of people in Oklahoma that have Indian blood. I wasn’t brought up to really know much about it. I can’t really give him a lot of information either.

“At times, it’s somewhat awkward in that he and I are indeed portrayed as Indians,” he said. “We do have some Indian blood, but that isn’t us out there counting that.”

Warren’s home state of Oklahoma, the former Indian Territory that Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer light out for at the end of Twain’s masterpiece, is famous for its high percentage of people who are part white and part Indian. Famous Americans born in Oklahoma include:

Jim Thorpe, the great athlete who is thought of as Indian, but was part white on both of his parents’ sides.

Will Rogers, the radio comedian who might have been the most popular celebrity in America in the early 1930s. He is said to be 9/32 Cherokee.

Maria Tallchief, the most famous American ballerina of the 1950s, whose father was the chief of the oil-rich Osage Indians.

Chuck Norris, martial arts actor, claims to have some kind of Cherokee roots.

Johnny Bench, catcher for the 1970s Reds, is said to be 1/8th Choctaw.

Robert L. Owen, one of the first two Senators from Oklahoma (along with the blind Thomas Gore, Gore Vidal’s beloved grandfather). In 1906 as the lawyer for the Eastern Cherokee, he won a settlement of nearly $5 million from the federal government for Cherokee lands in the east taken in the 1830s. In the Senate, his Glass-Owen bill founded the Federal Reserve. His mother was 1/8th or 1/16th Cherokee, but skillfully emphasized her Indian roots.

Other Oklahomans claiming Indian descent include evangelist Oral Roberts. American Indians who ended up in the Oklahoma territory, include Sequoyah, inventor of the Cherokee alphabet, and Stand Watie, the Confederate general. Oklahoma-born celebrities who probably weren’t at all Indian include Mickey Mantle and Woody Guthrie.

I get the impression from looking at lists of famous Oklahomans that Oklahomans, for better or worse, tend to be more American than you or I could ever hope to be.

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In her new book Not All Dead White Men, woke classicist Donna Zuckerberg denounces Pick-Up Artists Roosh V and Roissy for reading Ovid’s Art of Love for tips. But is real target of her ire her brother Mark Zuckerberg’s obsession with the Emperor Augustus?

From my new column in Taki’s Magazine:

From Classics to Grievance Studies

One of the more curious books of 2018 is Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age by Donna Zuckerberg. She is the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is America’s leading fan of the Emperor Augustus, founder of the Roman Empire.

Dr. Donna, who has a Ph.D. in classics (the study of ancient Greece and Rome), is alarmed and angered. Exactly why is less than clear, but she’s found an amusing ostensible target: the new right’s enthusiasm for her discipline.

Read the whole thing there.

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Or maybe Don’t Believe Beckys!

Also Abolish All False Positives by ignoring potential costs (such as death, rape, and robbery) of False Negatives.

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Tariq Nasheed is right. From the Washington Post in 2011:

One of the nation’s largest American Indian tribes has sent letters to about 2,800 descendants of slaves once owned by its members, revoking their citizenship and cutting their medical care, food stipends, low-income homeowners’ assistance and other services.

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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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