Racial Purity, Ethnic Genetic Interests,
& the Cobb Case
Spanish translation here
The following essay is one of the most important pieces published at Counter-Currents so far. I heartily endorse its analysis and invite discussion.
The concept of (absolute) racial purity was originally a racialist meme, one which had particular relevance in the New World environment of the intermingling of highly distinct racial groups (European, Amerindian, and Negro), Negro slavery, and fears of miscegenation. However, today, in the age of genetics, racial purity has become an “anti-racist” concept, a meme of the anti-White Left, a weapon to be wielded against the concept of racial preservation. The leftist argument goes like this:
Premise 1: The reality of race and the legitimacy of racial preservation depends upon absolute racial purity.
Premise 2: Absolute racial purity does not exist (as scientific studies tell us).
Conclusion: Therefore, there is no such thing as race, and racial preservation is illegitimate and irrelevant.
So, this is a logical argument that comes to a false conclusion because of a faulty premise: Premise 1. Premise 2 is however correct. Genetic studies tell us that groups heretofore thought “pure” are likely the result of ancient mixes of other groups. The overall European gene pool is predominantly a mix of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers and Neolithic farmers, and each of those ancient groups in turn were derived from other populations. A reasonable computational analysis asserts that going back several thousand years, everyone has ancestors from all racial groups, although the relative numbers of each type of ancestor is drastically different for various ethnies; an excerpt follows:
The point was made earlier that the existence of an ACA date, or a time at which everyone alive today shares the same set of ancestors, does not necessarily imply that we owe the same degree of ancestry to each of those people. Otherwise, it is unlikely that even the most superficial physical differences could have arisen since then. But the question is, to what extent does the ancestral inheritance of various peoples in the world today differ? Are the differences subtle or dramatic? We can begin to answer these questions by tracing the ancestry of individual present-day sims. But in this case, we are not just interested in the identity of the ancestors, but in the percentage of the sim’s genes attributable to each ancestor. We will assume that a sim owes exactly 1/2 of his genes to each of his parents, and thus 1/4 to each grandparent, and so on. Of course, if an ancestor appears more than once on the family tree, she will contribute the sum of the individual proportions. After many generations, the proportion of genes contributed by each ancestor becomes vanishingly small, until some ancestors may contribute no actual genes. But we can sum the proportions over each continent or country to get a picture of the percentage of genes the modern sim owes to ancestors living in various parts of the world at a given time. We will first trace the ancestry of a randomly selected Japanese sim born in the year 2000 in one of the C2 trials. By 1500 AD, the sim owes 98.8% of his ancestry to his home country, the middle of the three Japanese territories, and much of the rest to the other two countries that form Japan. The remaining 0.4% is traceable to neighboring areas of China and Korea. By 500 AD, 98.9% of the sim’s ancestry is still attributable to Japan as a whole. This declines to 97.5% by 2000 BC, 95.7% by 5000 BC, and 88.4% by 20000 BC. The proportion of the sim’s ancestry attributable to each country in the world in 5000 BC is shown in Figure 13. The red and orange regions together account for 97.35% of the ancestry, with 2.62% from the rest of Eurasia, 0.014% from Africa, 0.00090% from Indonesia and Australia, and 0.00086% from the Americas. Figure 14 shows the corresponding ancestry for a randomly selected Norwegian. In this case, 92.3% of the ancestry in the year 5000 BC is attributable to the country in which the sim lives, in central Norway, and 96% to Scandinavia as a whole. The Norwegian has about three times as much African ancestry as the Japanese sim, but much less American, Indonesian, and Australian. The Norwegian owes 0.00044% of his ancestry to 5000 BC Japan, while the Japanese owes 0.00049%, or about 1 part in 200,000, to ancient Norway. That would suggest that, at this rate of mixing, a typical Norwegian might be expected to have inherited about one haplotype block from 5000 BC Japan (Gabriel et al., 2002).
It is important to distinguish between genealogical vs. genetic ancestors. Genealogical ancestors are all those who are your ancestors, whether or not they contributed to your genome; genetic ancestors are that fraction of your genealogical ancestors who actually ended up contributing gene sequences to your genome. In theory, one can assert that only genetic ancestors are relevant – if you don’t have any DNA from a particular ancestor, does that ancestor matter? On the other hand, the traditional racial purity paradigm was essentially genealogical, being formulated in the pre-genetics age. Thus, in the American South, for example, a person with a single known Negro ancestor generations ago was considered “Black,” regardless of whether the person had any DNA from that ancestor (of course the genetics were not known back then), and regardless of their racial phenotype. So, the purity paradigm is, at least in its strictest form, genealogical. However, if one goes back far enough, anyone will have genealogical ancestors from other racial groups (genetic ancestors of similar kind may or may not exist). Premise 2 is correct: there is no such thing as an absolute racial purity (differences in the relative degrees of admixture is another thing, of course).
Thus, obsessing over an absolute purity, going back down through the mists of time, is a futile exercise, that in the end contributes to the arguments of anti-racists, with their “but everyone is admixed” assertions. However, regardless of how modern gene pools came to be, people are not genetically identical – there are differences in genetic kinship and hence in genetic interests, and it is there that we need to focus our attention.
Premise 1 is false. Race does not depend on “purity.” Race can be defined different ways, but is essentially a genetically distinct subpopulation that is characterized by a suite of heritable (i.e., genetic) phenotypic traits distinguished from other such groups. There’s nothing in any reasonable definition of race that includes the idea that a race has to be a hermetically sealed group, absolutely isolated from all other groups from the beginning of time. Thus, racial preservation deals with races and their gene pools as they actually exist today, “warts” and all. The possible existence of past admixture does not in any way suggest that future admixture is inevitable, necessary, or desirable. The ethnic and genetic interests of any group are forward-looking, based on the present and looking toward the future. How the group came into existence – including via admixture – does not change the interests that group has in its continuity and preservation today.
Of course, the concept of ethnic genetic interests (EGI) represents an argument against future admixture, particularly against admixture across wide racial lines; i.e., across a large genetic differentiation. EGI is forward-looking. Genetic interests are considered in the present, to influence decisions that affect the future. Admixture in the past affected the genetic interests of the people at that time. We cannot go back in time and alter decisions made by past peoples that created the ethnies and individuals that exist today. Today’s peoples are what they are, with genomes that are what they are. We cannot change that. We can only change what future generations will be like, what their genomes, and consequent phenotypes, will be. Genetic interests always look forward. So, again, any individual or ethny today, with whatever ancestral mix, has genetic interests, regardless of how their genomes came to be.
For biopolitics, genetic kinship needs to replace racial “purity.” As per Frank Salter, ultimate interests are genetic interests, and genetic interests are based upon genetic kinship. Only genetic kinship is relevant for biopolitics. This contrasts to the strawman argument of racial “purity,” which is usually derived from some a priori comparison to a picked parental population (see below). Since all genetic differences, regardless of their derivation (e.g., “admixture” [real or an artifact], selective pressures, genetic drift, etc.) influence genetic kinship, measurement of such kinship is the most inclusive and definitive approach for understanding our ultimate interests. We accept the European gene pool for what it is now and strive to improve it in the future. To use Yockey’s terminology in a new way, we replace outdated and unscientific “vertical” concerns with “purity/admixture” with “horizontal” concerns with genetic kinship and genetic interests.
What I wrote in my essay on the Pareto Principle is relevant here:
If genetic interests are, as Salter argues, ultimate interests (I believe they are), and if genetic interests are based upon genetic kinship (which they are), then the only metric of biological race that is of true relevance to ultimate interests is genetic kinship.
General population genetics studies, admixture, ancestral proportions, NRY and mitochondrial DNA haplotypes, racial history — all of that may be interesting from scientific, historical, and anthropological perspectives. But from the fundamental perspective of ultimate interests, from the perspective of practical biopolitics, all or most of that is at best marginal and at worst irrelevant. A properly measured evaluation of genetic kinship, which must include genetic structure, will by its nature take into account the various mechanisms and types of (autosomal) genetic variation. An accurate accounting of genetic kinship will yield a quantitative metric that constitutes the basic essence of genetic interests and can be used to evaluate the relative merits of different ethnoracial possibilities. Consistent with the Pareto Principle, measures of genetic kinship require a minority of effort compared to more broad analyses on biological race, but yield the majority of the biopolitical relevance.
The Cobb genetic test fiasco is relevant to this discussion, and puts into focus how genetic tests should be considered. First, I do not believe that Cobb is really 14% Negro, any more than Watson is 16%. I also do not personally believe that a high quality genetic test, performed in a “blinded” fashion (i.e., the identity of the person tested being unknown), would yield a 14% result for Mr. Cobb; I’m confident it would be much lower. The whole episode, to me, fails the “smell test” of legitimacy. Indeed, one can say that Cobb was Watsoned – a term that describes the irresponsible use of genetic data to publicly humiliate a well-known alleged “racist” by “discovering” high levels of hidden minority admixture. However, not knowing the details of the type of test Cobb took, how the samples were handled, and what his exact genealogical ancestry is, all I can definitively say at this point is that the whole thing seems suspicious, and that I am skeptical of the results. It is of course theoretically possible that the 14% result is legitimate, and reflective of real, significant amounts of admixture. But extreme skepticism is warranted at this point.
These genetic tests have a problem with “statistical noise” that is not really fully explained or quantitated by testing companies. I know folks will agonize over things like some Finn getting a “2% Asian” result or some such thing, but at those low levels, the results may not really be statistically different from 0%. When asked directly, sometimes companies make some admissions (emphasis added):
Here’s the response from our scientist who developed the algorithm underlying ancestry painting: “There’s no case that I’ve seen where 9% Asian ancestry does not indicate genuine East Asian or Native American ancestry. I’ve looked at order thousands of individuals of known ancestry, that approximately cover the gamut of human diversity. Thus I would regard 9% as a reliable indication of East Asian or Native American ancestry. That said, 9% is close to the threshold above which the following statement can be made, so it is still theoretically possible, albeit very unlikely, that the prediction is not true.
Note that explanation was for Blacks exhibiting Asian/Native American “admixture” – 9% is “close to the threshold” of reliability; therefore, lower percentages cannot be definitively distinguished from statistical noise. Does a Black with, say, “2% Native American” really have an American Indian ancestor? Maybe they do, but it’s not much more likely than some other Black who has a “0% Native American” result. The precise numbers for Whites were not given, but presumably would be in the same general range. Thus, when considering numbers of less than, say, ~5%, it’s not, in my opinion, strongly distinguishable from “noise.” A 14% result is likely above the “noise” threshold for Whites, but I doubt that an accurate measurement of Cobb is really going to yield 14%. If it’s instead something in the range of 1-5%, that’s likely meaningless.
There’s an even more subtle problem with many of these DNA tests. For ethnies somewhat genetically distant from the “reference populations” used, some low amount of artifactual pseudo-“admixture” will be detected. In other words, “admixture” is detected not necessarily because actual (historical) admixture exists, but because a population is less genetically differentiated than the reference population, and is hence slightly genetically closer to other populations. Consider two populations, A and B, which are very genetically distinct and are used as reference populations. Now consider a third population, X, that belongs to the same overall racial group as A, but is less genetically/racially differentiated. In other words, X is slightly more similar to B than A is – but not because X is a mixture of A and B. For example, perhaps, over time, the more isolated A population has undergone genetic drift which, when combined with selective pressures, has differentiated that population away from population B to a greater extent than population X is differentiated from B. If A and B are the reference populations used, and if X is evaluated through comparison to A vs. B, then X will appear as if it is a mixture of mostly A with a bit of B. Of course, one possibility is that X is indeed such a mixture, but it’s also possible it is not.
On the old Decodeme site (login was required, so no URL available), the following was admitted (emphasis added):
The reference population samples were obtained from the HapMap project – they are:
1) European Americans from Utah – who most likely have a majority of north European ancestry
2) Yoruban Nigerians
3) Chinese from Beijing and Japanese from Tokyo.
The characteristics of these reference population samples and the clinal nature of human genetic variation (i.e. the fact that people typically become gradually more different as you travel further from your country) have several minor implications for the interpretation of the results. For example, a deCODEme user with a majority of ancestors (during the past >2 generations) from south-east Europe, will typically see higher percentages of African and Asian ancestry than a deCODEme user whose ancestry is mainly from north-west Europe. The difference will be small, but present.
That’s a general problem for ethnies not genetically very close to (or identical to) the reference populations. Now, Cobb presumably (?) derives ancestry from sources similar to the Utah samples, so this problem likely doesn’t apply to his case, but it nonetheless is an important caveat to keep in mind. This problem, coupled to the problem of statistical noise, must be considered for the proper interpretation of genetic test results. However, the sort of (leftist) people involved in the “gotcha” genetic attacks on Cobb and Watson are not going to be honest enough to point out these issues.
Genetic testing can be used to get an approximate estimate of ancestral proportions, which may be of some limited utility and, certainly, can be of personal interest. But it’s a mistake to believe that such testing – at least in the foreseeable future – can provide a definitively accurate measurement, down to the exact percentage, of ancestry and “purity.” To the extent that I may have contributed to that misconception in the past, that was an error on my part. But, that’s a minor error compared to the major error of continuing the outdated obsession with some sort of absolute purity going back to the dawn of time. One may talk about relative levels of “admixture” (or the lack thereof), but the point made in my Pareto Principle essay was that for the biological component of identity, genetic kinship is paramount. And therein lies the real value of genetic tests: the accumulation of data that can be used to measure relative genetic kinship, and relative genetic distance, which can be utilized to evaluate genetic interests. And since admixture will alter gene frequencies and increase genetic distance, a calculation of genetic kinship will by necessity take into account the presence of, and levels of, genetically detectable admixture.
There’s more to identity than genes, although I believe that genetic interests are fundamental. To the extent that we wish to consider genetics, let’s concentrate primarily on genetic kinship and the consequent genetic interests – an emphasis which will bolster the case for racial preservation. Going back to the idea of an absolute racial purity, and trying to fit that paradigm into the genetics age, will only play into the hands of the anti-White forces – as Cobb discovered – and will encourage “Watsoning.” We need to pursue strategies and tactics that play to our strengths and support our interests, not those that help the Left delegitimize the case for our racial survival.
In summary: genetic kinship and genetic interests should be our focus with respect to biological considerations, not the Holy Grail of a mythical absolute racial purity. Further, to the extent that genetic testing is useful, the data generated should primarily be used for determining genetic kinship, not to feed fuel to the fire of anti-White leftist arguments and “Watsoning.”
The Vices of The Virtue of Nationalism
Hazony on Ethnic vs. Civic Nationalism
The Intelligent Person’s Guide to Race & Racial Differences
Yiannopoulos vs. Fuentes
Remembering J. Philippe Rushton:
December 3, 1943–October 2, 2012
The Very Idea of White Privilege
Conversation with a Philosopher:
Greg Johnson Interviewed About the New Right
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