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Heredity



Nationalist: “Well, I’m glad to see some Nordic in there; true Nordic, I mean—Scandinavian, not just British. A little bit Med too, that’s a surprise…then there’s 0.something Ashkenazi but do ‘they’ put that into everyone’s results? Too small to worry about, though—although it might explain why my nose is so big. Overall, it just goes to show how stupid liberals are—race exists, it’s objective; it’s a scientific fact. You just can’t deny it.”


Liberal: OMG, I’m Spanish! Well, a little bit Spanish anyway! That explains why I like chorizo so much. I’ll have to go back to Madrid now and see the Prado again. It’s in ‘the blood’—ha! ha! that sounds a bit racist tho! And I’m a bit Jewish too—just Jew-ish you might say!!!! And even, if I drop this tab down, a bit African—a bit Ghanaian! It says it’s ‘trace’—because otherwise it would upset the white supremacists. It just goes to show, objectively, how stupid and unscientific racism is—because I’ve got a bit of all Europe in me, a bit of the Jews, and a bit of the blacks!!!”


A few months ago, I was 6.7% Italian as well—but 23andme decided I’m not anymore, so it’s no longer possible to make the case that I will inherit Mussolini’s spiritual mantle and/or now know why I always felt “like a local” in the Tuscan countryside.


What’s not represented here: the fact I know at least one great-grandparent was French, nor do we see anything about my Welsh background (my mother being Welsh); and yet if I drop down the “regional” breakdown to find out which British cities my genes are most associated with I find three Welsh towns. Yet it’s just Britain and Ireland for 23andme—perhaps to cater to that vast oi-rish diaspora that inhabits America, swells like a green Chicago tide once a year.


Behind each percentage point lies a string of alpha-numeric codes—details about haplogroups and so on that mean something to people who understand genetics but nothing to me, and nothing to the ordinary punter who plumps for a DNA test to “discover their heritage”. Those alpha-numeric strings, related to “gene migrations” and plotted on scatter graphs, are interpreted into a saleable product. Irish heritage is big business, Welsh heritage isn’t—hence no separate tab.


As for my French great-grandparent…who knows what happened there, subsumed under another category perhaps. Anyway, the point is that you can derive from the data—already interpreted in a subjective way by the company—almost any story you care for. You can derive a nationalist story about how the data above refutes any notion that the English “don’t exist”—or, if you want to rejoin the EU, the DNA test just proves what you always said “we’ve all got a bit of everything in us, we’re all mongrels”. Both sides can walk away from the test with their presumptions “validated by science”.


The case could be made that the nationalist is more correct, since he understands that what makes, say, a cocktail is a mixture of ingredients—and if you add any ingredient, even too much of one ingredient, you don’t have the cocktail (the cocktail called “English”). Then again, it’s interpretative—no nationalist has “the English cocktail recipe” in such a way that you could compare each person and say “it’s legit” from its chemical composition. You have to sip the cocktail to find out if the mixture is correct.


It’s the interpretative element that gives the liberal a voice too—because what does it mean to be “7.4% Spanish and Portuguese”? When the nations are mentioned the data is overlayed with a qualitative element that is more amenable to subjective interpretation. No two tests will give the exact same results—even identical twins don’t have the exact same DNA. Hence, if anything, the test confirms that you are an atomised individual—there is nothing like you in the world, and you come from many different places.


Overall, I think tests like these destroy notions like race and nation—it’s the reign of quantity, it’s analytical; and what is analytical breaks down. A man might go through life and say to himself “I’m English, that’s wot I am—like mum and dad, simple” and then you show him this test and he’ll think, “Well fancy! I’m 7.6% Spanish—must be why I like Marbella eh?”. He may not take it very seriously, but at some level he doesn’t see himself as “English” anymore—not like he did, anyway. So your identity has to be taken in a holistic manner—related to historical time, to national character, and to “the blood”. Tests such as these destroy nations, tribes, and a person’s sense that they belong to a wider continuity based on blood and history.

Nationalists actually have to go back and explain to the test-taker, “No, you’re a recipe—like a dog breed,” in order for the results to make sense from a national perspective; and, since each set of results is unique, the general tendency is to think “I’m a super-special person with an ‘interesting’ ancestry”. The company doesn’t link you back to Henry VIII or Napoleon, but it will hint, vaguely, that you are related to some ancient Irish king (who must, like Genghis Khan, have a very broad web of genetic relatives indeed). In short, isn’t the whole test designed to primp and preen your narcissism? Are you not unique in your composition—and “from everywhere”, a true cosmopolitan?


The interpretative framework is paramount to process the data, and yet most people will come to the data with a progressive viewpoint, since that is the normative viewpoint in our societies, and they will leave with the impression that they are a totally unique cosmopolitan mongrel.


So I wouldn’t count on the popular genetics boom to aid the right as much as many think it will. Indeed, the knowledge of heredity we need was described by Hazlitt in 1821:

“People in towns, indeed, are woefully deficient in a knowledge of character, which they see only in the bust, not as a whole-length. People in the country not only know all that has happened to a man, but trace his virtues or vices, as they do his features, in their descent through several generations, and solve some contradiction in his behaviour by a cross in the breed, half a century ago. The learned know nothing of the matter, either in town or country.”


The information provided by genetic research belongs to “the learned [who] know nothing of the matter, either in town or country.” That is the real hereditary information—as regards “a cross in the breed, half a century ago”—that constitutes actual knowledge about heredity; i.e. the knowledge you find in a practical dog-breeder. The abstractions and tables do not constitute real knowledge, and mislead us badly.

In a similar vein, Hazlitt notes that you hear more home truths spoken in ale-houses than in any learned societies or cultured homes (let alone Parliament)—and this is not least because when people are drunk they tell the truth, whereas sober scientists and intellectuals just compose very fancy lies. Hence Hazlitt observes: “You will hear more good things on the outside of a stage-coach from London to Oxford, than if you were to pass a twelvemonth with the undergraduates, or heads of college…”


And to extend the matter beyond heredity:


“An elderly country gentlewoman will often know more of character, and be able to illustrate it by more amusing anecdotes taken from the history of what has been said, done, and gossiped in a country town for the last fifty years, than the best blue-stocking of the age will be able to glean from that sort of learning which consists in an acquaintance with all the novels and satirical poems published in the same period.”


Even in the 1820s, there were women, recognisable as modern feminists (blue-stockings, as they were then called), who buried themselves in learned articles about novels and satirical poems from yesteryear and yet could tell you nothing remotely real about what happened in the very locations and to the very people they proclaimed to study—certainly much less than an elderly gossip, anyway.


Since we have an interest in reality, it is “the knowledge of ale-houses” that we wish to cultivate—that is to say, the place where men have their wits dampened, so as not to be able to keep track of their lies. The people who create genetics tests do so sober—they study what is alive, but they do not have life.

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2 kommentarer


shinglesfallingfast
13 juli 2023

reading this solidified my feeling towards the dna tests - its much more rewarding, fulfilling, insightful and meaningful to ask the elders of your family about their parents, what they were like, what they did, and then letting the living individual give you a recount that lives and breathes through story. odds are theyll outline what the family were working towards, what they excelled at and what their flaws were. after i learnt one half of mine came from wealth that dwindled to little during the world wars, eroding what was a healthy base. i noticed in a sense the unconscious sentiment of continuing bloodlines was to rebuild the family to its once much stronger roots - something ive strongly…

Gilla

berz
13 juli 2023

I will not go in the DNA catalogue.

Gilla
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