Remark: The following is not to be seen as a condemnation of the field of genetic research. Genetic research has proven invaluable in understanding evolution, epidemiology, breeding of better food sources, etc., etc. But there is still a hold over from the era of eugenics, that racists and fascists cling to, the hope that genetics can be used to determine the differences in behavior between individuals, to the extent that we can predict individual behavior and life stories before they ever happen, and take steps to control them. This is worse than fantasy – predicated on obvious cultural biases, bad questions asked poorly, useless research, misguided interpretation of the data – in short, everything private funding groups and some government agencies are willing to throw away money for. It’s a joke; but because of the money, it’s likely to continue for some time. So keep on laughing – It’s your money getting thrown away, after all.
Note 1. Genetics and race
I believe the word “race” is as empty as the Medieval term ‘simples’ (used to indicate that non-clerics and non-aristocrats were incapable of education ‘by grace of god’). It should be expunged. (This is not censorship; a lot of archaic words get excised as we acquire greater knowledge. Or are we sending spaceships through the ether still?)
Biologically, what’s important to begin with is this: that we are all of one species, with an indefinite capacity for variant expression of genetic material; which diversity increases through inter-mating. The effort to close any of this off is suspect, since it effectively argues that science a) should be used to a purpose, and b) needs to be shut down when it reaches the limit of this purpose, and c) we need to inhibit our behavior to reside within such a limit. This is just nonsense, and dangerous nonsense at that. Using genetics to constrain human behavior is an impoverishment of human possibility.
The micro-parsing of genetic material can never get around the macro-evolutionary evidence of inter-mating.
I’m a living counter-example to all the ‘race’-specific gobbledegook metrics used to define differences between humans that don’t actually exist. I can trace my own lineage through centuries of inter-mating between different genetic families – Celtic, Jewish, Mongolian, Slav, Pole, Angles, Saxon, Norman; probably Italian (through the Roman conquest of Europe), and Gaul. Through the Jewish and probable Roman genetic inheritance, I have additional Semitic genes in me, and that means probably also some African inheritance as well.
This wonderful interplay of genetic recombination between peoples of differing evolutionary histories (all also the same evolutionary history, as we’re all the same species) continues to this day. All of my nieces and nephews have wedded those of African or African-Hispanic descent (Hispanic descent includes inheritance from Semitic, Hibernian, Gaul, and other genetic sources). I’m “white” (i.e., pale tan). My kin have brought forth brown-skin children with a rich inheritance. I believe they can achieve any good they want by making the effort. I see no genetic argument against this.
One of the fathers is Jamaican. Jamaica has a rich African/ Irish/ Scottish genetic inheritance, with large doses of additional genetic material from China, England, and Spain. The genes of the original inhabitants of Jamaica, the Arawaks, are probably all lost – the British exterminated them many centuries ago. We’ll never know what good they could have brought to the common gene pool of the modern era now.
The great moral I learned from evolution when I was young, is the importance of diversity – including the diversity of reproduction, and of opportunity for genetic expression through the unlimited possibility of human behavior. The pure do not survive drastic environmental change. The mongrels will inherit the earth: we always do. Anyone who doesn’t like that might consider moving to another planet.
Most of us are mongrels. The effort to parse genetic metrics for racist purposes rests on the hope of the purveyors that they are somehow ‘pure’ in their inheritance. They aren’t; they are genetic garbage plates *, like the rest of us, and all their arguments amount to is ‘please make my skin color special, for political purposes.’
I and my family have no interest in doing that; my ancestors would have no interest in doing that. The descendents of my family will all reject it.
The effort to deny or ignore social, political, cultural, and economic influence on human behavior, is not only close-minded, but patently cruel. Such effort is not objective science – it is social sadism. Diversion from consideration of social influence (by digression into ‘science’ prior to careful examination of the nature of the scientific research or its proper interpretation), is an obvious effort to deny the harm such influence can inflict. ‘They hurt? They were born to it, let them get used to it.’ Or – “let them eat cake” – and we all know where that led.
Hopefully, we can reason this through; but sometimes I doubt it.
I must say that I have never opposed the knowledge gained from genetics. Indeed, in other contexts I have argued for funding to further its research. I simply don’t believe it should be tied to outmoded cultural constructs that have done nothing but harm over the centuries.
No one denies that genetic groupings have certain identifiable characteristics that can be traced – the problem is that they can be traced back many centuries. I know I have Mongolian genetic material because my paternal grandfather had inheritance partly from Hungary, and the Magyar influence is evident in the phylogenetic-morphological physical manifestation. The Magyars inter-mated with Mongolians during the Western conquest of the Khans. That means I share genetic material with most Chinese living today, whose ancestors inter-mated with the Khan Mongols during their Eastern conquest.
They didn’t need any jets and a global economy for this, they only needed fast horses and mates to reproduce with.
In other words, the future some geneticists suggest, where we are all ‘interbred’ through greater social mobility, thanks to the technology of greater mobility – is the present we are living in. We are all the products of the mobility of conquering tribes from long ago. And we are all genetically complex and impossible to fix to simply defined groups. The genetic blend does not result in homogeneity – we’re not a melting pot, but a stew.
The lesson to be learned by genetic studies of trace inheritance of genes across many generations, is that we are all of a family, but we are not all the same – and we never can be. The genetics will never blend in the way that more ‘liberally’ minded genetic racialists suggest; instead, the variation and diversity will continue to multiply. That is what makes “race” an archaic, useless and (to many of us) abhorrent concept. It belongs to the infancy of science.
Look, the science of this is in – we are all one species, and we inter-mate within that species to generate greater variation and diversity. I suggest, what one can do if one doesn’t like that – they say there is the possibility of colonizing Mars in a few years. But such a colony would probably still include those of mongrel genetic descent.
* By the way, just for those who don’t know, a “garbage plate” is: a hotdog, a hamburger, 2 servings of macaroni salad, 2 servings of home-fries, all tossed together on 2 slices of bread or rolls, and covered with onions, mustard and a slightly sweet chile-based meat sauce. It was popularized in upstate New York at Nick Tahoe’s Diner, and became popular among those suffering the beginnings of a hangover at three o’clock in the morning. A perfect analogy for human genetic variation – too much material, limited time to incorporate it all, and multiple, unpredictable, physiological responses.