The shades of the ancestors

By Razib Khan | November 1, 2010 2:20 am

Joe Pickrell of Genomes Unzipped kept digging and found something totally unexpected. Am I partly Jewish? An unexpected turn of events:

In my last post, I discussed how I used 23andMe data to test hypotheses about my ancestry. In particular, I was intrigued by Dienekes Pontikos’s result suggesting that I (and my colleague Vincent) might be partly Ashkenazi Jewish. Ultimately, however, I concluded that his algorithm was not properly modeling my southern European ancestry (inherited from one Italian grandparent), and that this was leading to a spurious result.

I was wrong.

Go to the post for the scientific blow-by-blow, but I found this part very interesting:

As I was mulling over these sorts of issues, I sent the link to my previous analysis to a family member. I didn’t really expect this person to find it that interesting, but hey, you never know. I then got a phone call. I’ll summarize a couple days worth of moderate confusion, second-hand reports of conversations with distant relatives, and family intrigue with this: as it turns out, one of my great-grandparents was indeed a Polish Ashkenazi Jew who immigrated to the United States around the turn of the century. I, obviously, was completely unaware of this.

Does this change anything? I don’t know, I haven’t asked Joe. But here’s an extreme case: Neo-Nazi Couple Find Out They’re Jewish. This is a question more of psychology: what does it change that your ancestry is not exactly what you thought it was? After all, someone has Jewish ancestors, or they don’t. Whether they know this is not relevant at all to that particular question of fact. But consider another scenario. What if you find out that your father is not your biological father? Does this change anything? Many people will assert that in the end it doesn’t change the nature of the relationship in most fundamental ways, but the reality is that it does change some things in how you perceive yourself, and the nature of your place in the world. How you came to be you.

A reader of mine, “Sandgropper”, has some Australian Aborigine ancestry through one of his grandfathers. He is a white Australian, but if current anthropological models are correct he has lines of ancestry on the continent of Australia that go back nearly 50,000 years! Does this matter? On a fundamental level, no. But if you stand in the Roman Forum you’re just among a bunch of stones arranged in some semblance of order. And yet it is so much more than that because of the history of the place. Your ancestry is the history of you before you were you.

In a conventional thin liberal moral philosophy the history of those who gave rise to you in a biological or even cultural sense shouldn’t matter. You are you, with certain fundamental rights, and universally human preferences and wants. But this thin and spare model of humanness is ahistorical. The reality is that humankind has long held dear the principle that who your ancestors are matters a great deal. Hunter-gatherer tribes and the Emperors of China both revered cults of ancestors. The Mormons baptize the ancestors of those alive today. Should it matter is going to be a very different thing from does it matter in many cases. Whether we explicitly acknowledge it in our laws, quite often we still behave as if there is an implicit contract between the generations alive today, and the generations gone by, and the generations to come.

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  • jb

    If you go back far enough — and not all that far, 2,000 years perhaps, or maybe 3,000 — almost everybody alive today is a direct descendant of almost everybody alive back then (who has any current descendants at all). All it takes is one or two traveling merchants in Roman or medieval times to connect me to all of China or Indonesia (and even Australia maybe?). All I’m left with is the fact that the people living in Europe 2,000 years ago show up far more often in the slots in my family tree than people from other parts of the world. Yet realizing this didn’t change my sense of identity much. I still feel like a white European-American.

    What did change, at least a little, was my sense of what a white European-American is. But people from different parts of the world are still different, and those differences still matter, to some greater or lesser degree, even though we are also all connected. I can see where some people might have trouble with this though.

  • Maya

    I’m an Israeli Ashkenazi Jew. We don’t have that much info on our family’s history – those who might have known anything were murdered by the Nazis – but my grandmother remembers there was talk (and jokes) about one of our ancestors being Swedish or Norwegian. She said she clearly remembers hearing about a relative – her own grandfather? I’m not sure – who was extremely tall, blond and blue-eyed, with a Scandinavian facial structure and a very non-Jewish look. Sure makes me wonder.

  • dave chamberlin

    The price tag for the basic package from 23andme is $399.00, still too expensive for most people whom are just curious about their ancestry. But drop that price to $100.00 and all kinds of people are going to pool up the cash and have one brother or sister take the test. At least that is what my siblings and I are talking about. Splitting the cost between siblings and having one of them take the test seems like a smart way to go. If in ten years the price doesn’t drop we will do it anyway, it seems as if the older you get the more facinating your lost family history becomes.

  • DK

    The price tag for the basic package from 23andme is $399.00, still too expensive for most people whom are just curious about their ancestry. But drop that price to $100.00 and all kinds of people are going to pool up the cash

    Exactly. I’d drop a couple of grands for a full genome or $100 for a bunch of SNPs which may or may not tell something interesting. On a surface of it, I am 1/8th Jewish and the rest mix of various Euros but my family name seems to be Asian so it would be mildly interesting to see if any of it is detectable.

  • http://www.genomesunzipped.org Joe Pickrell

    Does this change anything? I don’t know, I haven’t asked Joe.

    I find this more amusing than anything else. I’ve never really felt a connection to Italy despite being 1/4 Italian, so I think I’m just congenitally predisposed to general indifference about my ancestry.

    Most people in my family were unaware of our Jewish ancestry, however, so there’s been a range of reactions.

  • Sandgroper
  • martin

    Just please tell me Godless has some Nigerian in him.

  • http://3lbmonkeybrain.blogspot.com/ Mike Keesey

    @jb, I’ve seen that 2000-to-3000-year figure mentioned before–do you (or anyone else) know of a primary source for it?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan
  • Jason Malloy

    This is cool.

    Not that I know about Joe’s class background, but I wonder how common hidden Jewish ancestry is in elite lineages, if simply due to proximity. ‘High IQ guy had Jewish ancestry he didn’t know about’ sounds like something that could plausibly be a common story.

  • pconroy

    Jason,

    I agree – I expect to see many more stories like this!

  • http://ecophysio.fieldofscience.com/ EcoPhysioMichelle

    I think it would shake me to the core to find out I was anything other than ~90% European mix with a small amount of indigenous American. I don’t have a good reason why it would shake me, except for the fact that nobody likes to have their assumptions about themselves challenged.

    I would be less shaken if I found out I had Jewish ancestry, but I might find it slightly amusing. I have no reason to believe that I do, since most of my ancestors are Anglo, but I have no reason to believe that I don’t, since I do have a German or French ancestor or two in the mix.

  • http://washparkprophet.blogspot.com ohwilleke

    We have multiple kinds of ancestors.

    My linguistic ancestors are Atlantic North Coastal Americans and before them the English especially around London. They also give me most of the legal culture that I practice each day as a lawyer.

    Many Americans have religious ancestors in the Levant and before that in Mesopotamia and Egypt where some of the Genesis/Exodus traditions derive. My own are enlightenment deists in places like France (who created the intellectual stew that gave rise to modern atheism and secular humanism).

    My cultural ancestors are a hodge podge from different eras of “high civilization” across the globe: Greece, Rome, Korea, China, Japan, Arabia, and more.

    My genetic ancestors, I am led to believe anyway, are from Swedish speaking Finland, Northeast Germany, and Ireland.

    They all matter somewhat. They all make me who I am.

  • onur

    They also give me most of the legal culture that I practice each day as a lawyer.

    I am no expert in law, but weren’t Western law(s), and through it/them, modern global law(s) mostly descended from Roman law? My aim isn’t to downplay the effects of ancient/medieval Germanic and Celtic laws on modern law(s), just asking out of curiosity as a pretty ignorant (about law) person. Also what about the effects (directly or indirectly) of Biblical law and ancient Greek, West Asian and Egyptian laws on modern law(s)?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    USA is not civil law, so not as strongly influenced by roman law.

  • onur

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LegalSystemsOfTheWorldMap.png

    Explanations are below the map (scroll down a little). Fiqh = Shariah.

  • http://www.kinshipstudies.org German Dziebel

    “But here’s an extreme case: Neo-Nazi Couple Find Out They’re Jewish. This is a question more of psychology: what does it change that your ancestry is not exactly what you thought it was? After all, someone has Jewish ancestors, or they don’t. Whether they know this is not relevant at all to that particular question of fact. But consider another scenario. What if you find out that your father is not your biological father?”

    Stereochemists use the term “chirality” to describe molecules that have other molecules as their mirror images. In this case the situation of a Neo-Nazi discovering his Jewish roots (comp. The Believer, 2001) is opposed to the phenomenon of white Europeans and Americans adopting American Indian culture and choosing a “tribe” to belong. Whether exposed through a genetic test or through a certain stream of cultural imagery, this physical or spiritual “truth” has a thoroughly captivating and transforming impact on people. Also, Freud described people who imagine themselves being progeny of a different – usually noble – set of parents. Again, the mirror image of finding out that your father is not your biological father.

  • ryan

    >Not that I know about Joe’s class background, but I wonder how common hidden Jewish ancestry is in elite lineages, if simply due to proximity. ‘High IQ guy had Jewish ancestry he didn’t know about’ sounds like something that could plausibly be a common story.

    Yes, I’m quite sure. And likely “low IQ guy had Jewish ancestry’ is also a common hidden story.

    Just as an example, most Spaniards must have substantial Jewish ancestry, given the incredible numbers of conversos there. Most weren’t cast out. They didn’t all become “crypto” and then practice endogamy. No one seems to be testing for the relationship yet. No one seems to think Spaniards are statistically wiser than the rest. Seems unlikely to me that there’s any Jewish intelligence pattern that isn’t cultural/class-based.

  • Ponto

    Questions of identity occur quite commonly with immigrants who were brought by their parents to a foreign land, and who form their whole existence in that land. I am Maltese by birth and ancestry. Unlike most Australians, Americans and a lot of people who live in the Old World, I am mono ethnic, born in the same place as my ancestors going back more than 600 years. However, my ancestry, my ethnic group, my connection to the country I was born in, that has a history going back to the Neolithic period, really means nothing to me. My body comes from the ancestors whose bits of dna were passed on to me but what I think I am comes from the country I live in and all my experiences in that country.

    Questions of finding out your father or parents are not your biological parents can be devastating. I have known a few tormented Adoptees. No one wants to be rejected or made a fool of, as a man on 23andMe said, “I found out I was adopted at 47, I don’t know who I am, I have no living relatives”.

    As a Norwegian person on another forum has said about Americans that because the Americans share some dna with him, the Americans think they are the descendants of Vikings. There is also the Cherokee Princess syndrome. I know when I bothered to have RF open at 23andMe, no one ever sent me an invitation to share. Why? Because being Maltese I did not fit into their preconceived ideas of their ancestry. Now I don’t bothered with any of that anymore. I have shut that door, and those folks will never find out some tidbit about their ancestry.

  • jb

    @jb, I’ve seen that 2000-to-3000-year figure mentioned before–do you (or anyone else) know of a primary source for it?

    I just came up with it as a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but if others have come up with the same numbers I’m not surprised. The argument is basically this:

    1) If one generation is 25 years, then 250 years back you have a thousand ancestors, 500 years back you have a million, 1000 years back you have a trillion, 2000 years back a septillion, and so on. Of course there weren’t anywhere near that many people back then, so we are really talking about slots on your family tree, which are filled with the same people again and again and again, millions and millions of times.

    2) Going forward it works pretty much the same way: population increase has been pretty slow until recently, so the average person had only slightly more than two surviving children, four grandchildren, etc.

    3) So there is plenty of room on your family tree for everybody who ever lived. The only thing that could possibly stop you from being descended from everybody alive 2,000 years ago would be if people didn’t mate at random. And of course they didn’t. But it seems pretty obvious to me that they mated in a “small world” network, where most people paired off close to home, but a non-trivial minority made large moves, and that’s really almost as good as random.

    4) So basically when I say 2,000, or maybe 3,000 years, I’m just trying to be absolutely sure that I’m allowing time for the small world effect to work. An Indonesian trader in 500 AD settles in India. One of his million descendants in 1,000 AD settles in Arabia. One of his million descendants in 1,500 AD settles in Italy. I think that’s being really pessimistic, but if you think that’s overoptimistic then push it back another thousand years. People have been moving around for a long time, and there have always been long distance travelers. It only takes a few.

    So why do the Europeans of today still look European, if they are all directly descended from everyone in the world 2,000 years ago. Because the Europeans of 2,000 years ago show up in the family trees of present day Europeans trillions of times, while the Africans and Asians of 2,000 years ago only show up millions or billions. (Give or take). In fact, if you go back that far, you can easily have direct ancestors from whom you did not inherit a single gene. So that’s how we can all be connected, and yet all still be different.

  • Sandgroper

    If your ancestry means nothing to you, why would you pay money to 23andMe to find out?

    I came at this from a completely different direction. I long suspected that my maternal grandfather had some Aboriginal ancestry from his appearance, and my mother’s apperance, and I was not the only one. During my early childhood, quite a few people asked him about it, obliquely and mock-jokingly, because when I was a small kid it was regarded as something shameful, but he always evaded the question with a joking (and usually offensively racist) response, like “There must have been a n*gger in the woodpile hahaha” or else some rubbish about Black Irish – his mother was Irish, sure enough, but there was nothing dark about her except for her eyes. She was one of 11 children from a Protestant father who lived in County Kerry, his wife died in childbirth (presumably number 11) and he married another woman young enough to be his daughter and had more children, and she migrated to Australia with one sister because she had no visible means of financial support in Ireland – her father obviously wasn’t going to provide for her. Most of her brothers and sisters scattered to the four winds – USA, Canada, New Zealand, and she never saw any of them again. (That was a genealogical aside, in case Paul Conroy might find it of any passing interest – Paul, I think I can dig out the date of migration if it’s of any interest at all, and I certainly know her name and place of birth, which I’m willing to communicate.) (She’s no source of shame, BTW, I met her once when I was 4 years old and she was a very old woman well into her 90s, and she was a lovely, kindly and intelligent person.)

    So when I got certain confirmation that what he had always denied was true, and also where the female Aboriginal ancestor came from, it settled a question that I had long had in my mind. It made me happy. It was like a kind of closure. I know pretty closely where she came from geographically, but not a lot more than that. I constantly get various uninteresting and unimpressive ancestors rammed down my throat by the family historians, but the one person I wish I knew more about has been swept under the family carpet. I kind of feel like she deserved better.

    Razib is absolutely right. On a fundamental level this does not matter at all – the genetic inheritance is pretty trivial, and on getting this confirmation I didn’t undergo some miraculous transformation into being an Aborigine, culturally, spiritually or any other way, I am obviously not. I am personally very critical of “white Abos”. I am no more a Norman knight, just because my surname derives from someone who invaded England with William the Bastard in 1066, or no more Scottish because I descended from a king of Scotland through my paternal grandmother. Well, actually, the Aboriginal ancestor is a lot closer than either of those, in both time and space.

    But it is the sense of history that makes me happy, and the strangeness that I am currently living not far from where my female Aboriginal ancestor lived, and that she was descended from more than 40,000 years of people living in this area (that’s a presumption on my part, but a reasonable one, I think). And I’m here now. How weird. Some part of me, somehow, has been in this area for more than 40,000 years. Within the broader context of my interest in human evolution (for which I am educationally poorly equipped, but no less interested for that)(which is why I feel indebted to Razib, Joe Pickrell, John Hawks and others for doing such a good job of trying to help people like me understand), that bit of human history is what fascinates me and makes me happy. What it doesn’t do is in any way change who I am.

    And it makes me happy to acknowledge her. So far as I know, she led a blameless existence which has been denied within my family for so long, and I wish to honour the fact that she lived, and lives on in some small part of me, and in my beautiful and intelligent daughter, and so on down through the ages.

  • pconroy

    Sandgroper,

    Fascinating family history!

    I have a paternal Great-Grandmother from Kerry. In Ireland people from Kerry and West Corke are known to have the darkest hair and eyes in Ireland. For example:
    Roy Keane – International Soccer Star:
    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_AcBUSVxs82w/SoopouqtAFI/AAAAAAAAT-s/68fPYbGGoJU/s1600-h/Roy-Keane.jpg
    Tom Crean – Explorer of the South Pole:
    http://www.darcyskenmare.com/page4/files/tom-crean-lger.jpg

    On my mother’s side, I have a Great-Grandmother who married at 19, died in childbirth at 29, giving birth to her 13th child – no twins – a typical Irish story of the time.

    I would be happy to share DNA or Genealogical information with you – contact me through Razib if you like?

    I also have a Norman connection, supposedly my mother is a descendant of Rollo the Dane – founder of the Kingdom of Normandy. My father is supposedly a descendant of Niall of the Nine Hostages.

    What fascinates me is that both parents have matches with 100% Ashkenazi Jews from Russia. I’ve speculated that this could be from 3 admixture sources:
    1. Jews brought to Ireland by the Normans, who went native in Ireland, rather than be evicted in 1299.
    2. Scottish ancestry – which my father seems to have via Quakers – shared with Polish Jews. Afterall Scottish merchants were known to be heavily involved in trade in Poland in the 1600’s, with 30,000 Scots in the country (IIRC), and there was no extant Scottish community in Poland by the 1900 – so my guess is that they assimilated in to the Ashkenazi community.
    3. German ancestry, both parents, especially my father seem to have via Palatine Germans – where some Germans ended up in Russia, a s Volga Germans. This is not so far fetched, as I know an Irish guy in Donegal, Ireland who has a relative called Kindsvater in Russia, a Volga German.

    Additionally, my Dad and I share a relative who is Assyrian Christian. My Dad also has relatives in Crete, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece, and has 1.4% South Asian (Kannadi) per Dienekes’s admixture analysis. Don’t know what this means, but the most likely source in a European context would be Gypsy/Roma – yet there never were Gypsy/Roma communities in Ireland, till Romanian Roma came in the last 10 years or so.

    The Kerry coast is dotted with beehive huts, used by monks, which are identical to anchorite Christians hermit dwellings from the Eastern Mediterranean region – so I’m wondering if he has some distant lineage from this area, which is preserved in my father.

    Sandgroper, like you it’s more interesting to explore the exotic ancestry!

  • pconroy

    Just took a look at Leon Kull’s SNPOLOGYsite – where he has uploaded the 12 Genomes Unzipped members, and strange as it sounds, I’m “related” to 5 of the 12:

    1. Jeff Barrett – 4 segments – 3rd closest relative – after my parents 1st and 2nd
    2. Joe Pickrell – 3 segments – 8th closest relative
    3. Don Conrad – 2 segments – 20th closest relative
    4. Ilana Fisher – 2 segments
    5. Daniel MacArthur – 1 segment

    Who knew…

  • Naughtius Maximus

    pconroy
    Regarding the Ui Niall haplotype, I didn’t realise conroy was a surname derived from O’Neill or is it a bit more complicated than that?
    Regarding the Kerry coast, weren’t there some mines in that region that were very important way back when, I also read an article recently that claimed the famous christian site at Skeelig Michael may be built on an even older site, see below
    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/0810/1224276470202.html
    Another peculair religous find
    http://www.seandalaiocht.com/1/post/2010/09/papyrus-fragments-found-with-ancient-irish-bog-book.html

  • pconroy

    Naughtius,
    My closest Y-DNA matches are Dunn(s), and historically the Conroy clan in the midlands are supposed to be a branch of the Dunn(e) clan. Legend states that they are part of the Southern Ui Neill. I am R-M222 which is usually believed to be descendant of Niall – I say usually, as I am the person most derived from the modal, and actually believe I represent an older sister branch of R-M222, with the Connachta and Breifne Clans.

    Thanks for the second link – I hadn’t heard of that. But do remember that one of the glyphs by a medieval monk – I think it was in the Book of Durrow – stated that he was from Egypt. I’ve always noted myself the links between the Celtic Church/Culdees and the Eastern Church, be it Coptic or possibly Assyrian – which might also explain the Assyrian relative. Or it may be through the transmission of the Greek manuscripts and literature, and some link with Haran.

    BTW, when I check my Parents (Michael Conroy and Margaret Conroy), I see that additionally, my Dad is related to:
    Kate Morley – 2 segments
    Jan Aerts – 2 segments

    And my Mom is related to:
    Jan Aerts – 2 segments

    Also both parents are related to each other on 1 segment.

  • Naughtius Maximus

    What company do you recommend for the ancestry test? I’m thinking of doing 23 and me in the new year. As far as I know my ancestry is bog standard Irish. My mothers maiden name is Doherty which is derived from the Ui Niall and my surname Mullen is fairlybland West coast of reland as far as I can tell. But t would be intersting as you never know what may pop up, plus my father was trying to track ancestors but got nowhere and if any relations have done it then I might get lucky.

  • pconroy

    Actually each of my parents are related to:
    1. Joe Pickrell
    2. Jan Aerts
    3. Daniel MacArthur
    4. Ilana Fisher

  • pconroy

    Naughtius,
    Yes – definitely 23AndMe, as they use the same chipset (illumina?) that many of the other major population studies use – so that your data can be compared easily to many public data sets. FTDNA is also good, but they use a different chipset, and so overlap less on much of the Public Data.

  • Sandgroper

    Paul – done.

  • dave chamberlin

    Genetic testing is now in it’s infancy. Now people act suprised they are a small fraction jewish, american indian, black, australian, ect ect. But really, how long will that last? Well founded rumor has it I am part american indian, it was the shame of my ancestors so they hid it. I was trying to explain to the brother and sister this isn’t the least bit remarkable. My ancestors go back eight generations in the US so that gives me 256 direct ancestors from this continent. It seems far more improbable that I wouldn’t have some american indian blood in me just looking at the population of the US during revolutionary times. Europeans discovering they are a small fraction jewish isn’t going to remain suprising for very long. Look at the history of Spain and Germany, in times of terrible persecution vast sections of the jewish population converted for survivals’ sake.

  • http://ironrailsironweights.wordpress.com/ Peter

    A reader of mine, “Sandgropper”, has some Australian Aborigine ancestry through one of his grandfathers. He is a white Australian, but if current anthropological models are correct he has lines of ancestry on the continent of Australia that go back nearly 50,000 years! Does this matter?

    If Australia had a one-drop rule and U.S.-style affirmative action, it would matter, a lot.

  • pconroy

    Dave,

    What’s interesting to me is that certain HIR’s/IBD’s have been/are being selected in the Ashkenazi Jewish (AJ) genepool, and their origins are possibly diverse. Yes, my parents and I may have AJ ancestry, but more likely AJ’s – due to the very strong selective for intelligence – have sucked up the high IQ alleles from many populations they have admixed with. I first proposed this 3 or 4 years ago, when this broke first, and I think we are getting closer to proving this.

    Of course many other HIR/IBD segments are being selected for, like the segment around LCT, and a whole bunch of others.

    In the next few years it may be possible to predict the ultimate origin, in geographic or ethnic terms, of many highly selected HIR’s/IBD’s with much more certainty…

    These are fun times to live in!

  • http://ecophysio.fieldofscience.com/ EcoPhysioMichelle

    Unfortunately for me, the USA doesn’t have a one drop rule for Native tribe membership. They generally want 1/16th, and I only have evidence for 1/64th (great x4 grandmother was Cherokee), although I suspect it may be more.

  • Sandgroper

    Peter, thanks to a 1996 legal ruling, you don’t need to have any Aboriginal ancestry at all to be recognised legally as Aboriginal. We have a zero drop rule. How totally fucked up is that? I mean zero Aboriginal ancestry, but you can be accepted by the courts as Aboriginal, on “cultural” grounds. How totally new age fucked in the head divorced from science can that be?

    My personal rule is anyone half Aboriginal is expected to get a job and has no rights to taxpayer funded government hand-outs. Anyone full Aboriginal has one generation to get over it. Whiteys have been around a while – time to get over it and move on. In reality, a lot of the full bloods are better.

    To put this in context, this is not America – I live in a state with less than 5% unemployment and a big labour shortage problem. No able bodied person needs to be unemployed here if they wish to have a job.

    And I have to say, I have worked with a lot of Aboriginal men who have been excellent and intelligent workers.

    The problem with a mining economy in a commodities boom is that the people working in mining benefit financially, the people working in everything else suffer.

  • pconroy

    Sandgroper,
    Do you live in the Perth area, or are you from there?

    My uncle Noel Kane – http://www.tgp.ie/noel-kane.php – designed the largest bridge in Perth, and the second largest in Sydney, along with much of the early highway infrastructure in both cities – when he lived there for a while, about 40 years ago.

    The funny thing is that his design for this bridge in Perth, had won first place in a worldwide civil engineering contest, when he was a final year Civil Engineering student in Dublin, Ireland. He was flown out to Australia and was quickly scooped up by a leading Sydney based Civil Engineering firm. I spoke with him last August about the experience, and he said that the firm was Jewish controlled, and due to anti-Irish prejudice in Australia – especially in viewing Irish people as low IQ and uneducated – the firm changed his name on all business cards and company literature to Noel Kahan, and sold him to clients as being Jewish!!!

  • http://ironrailsironweights.wordpress.com/ Peter

    Peter, thanks to a 1996 legal ruling, you don’t need to have any Aboriginal ancestry at all to be recognised legally as Aboriginal. We have a zero drop rule. How totally fucked up is that? I mean zero Aboriginal ancestry, but you can be accepted by the courts as Aboriginal, on “cultural” grounds. How totally new age fucked in the head divorced from science can that be?

    Are there any tangible benefits to being recognized as Aboriginal? I’ve never heard anything about affirmative action in Australia, so even if it exists it’s probably nothing like the U.S. system.

    Unfortunately for me, the USA doesn’t have a one drop rule for Native tribe membership. They generally want 1/16th, and I only have evidence for 1/64th (great x4 grandmother was Cherokee), although I suspect it may be more.

    Tribal membership standards have become more stringent with the advent of tribal gambling casinos.

    The problem with a mining economy in a commodities boom is that the people working in mining benefit financially, the people working in everything else suffer.

    Wouldn’t the flush-with-cash miners benefit others by spending money?

  • http://ecophysio.fieldofscience.com/ EcoPhysioMichelle

    I don’t care about casino money, but scholarships, etc. would have been nice! Although I suppose that scholarship money probably comes from casino money.

  • pconroy

    My wife worked for the Indian Health Service for a few years after finishing her residency, and she said that the Cherokees had a 1/64 rule for membership. Many people in the US South can find a Cherokee ancestor if they look, and being a member of the tribe grants you free health care. So she frequently saw Blonde/Blue eyes “Cherokees” ;)

  • http://ecophysio.fieldofscience.com/ EcoPhysioMichelle

    Are you sure? I’m pretty sure my uncle tried to look into it and they all told him he was one generation removed from being able to join. I’m not sure what organizations he approached, though…

    EDIT: Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians does require 1/16th ancestry, and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians requires 1/4th! It appears that The Cherokee Nation only requires you to prove that you have a single Cherokee ancestor, but that ancestor needs to be on some kind of official list from way back in the day. Hm.

  • pconroy

    Michelle,

    The Navaho have the strictest membership rules, at 1/4 or 1/8 IIRC. They didn’t like that so many Cherokees were Native American in name only, and were actively hostile to them.

  • Sandgroper

    #36 – Paul, born in Margaret River, currently living in Perth, but hopefully not for much longer.

    I enjoyed the story about your uncle. It’s not like that now, I don’t think,.

    #37 – Peter, yes, we have affirmative action, for sure. But a lot of the affirmative action just doesn’t work, either because there are no candidates, or no providers. No point having places in medical schools reserved for indigenous people if there are no candidates. No point being eligible for free medical care if you live in a remote community that has no doctor.

    But I’m not too familiar with the American system, so I can’t say how it compares. We’re not talking the same demographics anyway, so it’s different in that way.

    Yes, high-earning miners with more disposable income help somewhat initially (but often they don’t spend the extra cash on consumables, they use the extra money to pay off their mortgages faster, and then buy more houses as investments – there are 18 year old girls driving huge off road dump trucks in open cut mines who will own their own homes outright by the time they are 26, they’ll just be totally wrecked physically and mentally), but before very long that combined with labour shortages results in spiralling inflation. To keep the lid on inflation, the Reserve Bank has to keep raising interest rates, so everyone’s mortgage keeps costing them more. The cost of everything goes up, but the wages of people working in jobs outside of mining don’t go up, they just have to work harder for the same money. It’s called the 2-speed economy, the miners get richer and everyone else gets poorer. No point trying to start up new businesses because you can’t get the staff.

    In terms of price/earnings ratio, Australia has some of the most unaffordable housing in the world.

    Ed Yong came to Perth earlier this year and stayed longer than he intended because of the volcanic eruption in Iceland, he couldn’t get a flight back to the UK. Here’s what he had to say: “didn’t get to see much of it, unfortunately, but I liked what I saw. Nice cafe culture, Kings Park is great etc. But bloody hell it’s expensive. More so than London, and that’s saying something.” He’s telling the truth. Nice cafe culture, but you can’t afford the coffee, and it takes forever to come because there’s only one girl running the cafe trying to make everything and serve everyone. And she doesn’t know how to make coffee because she only started yesterday, but she doesn’t mind, because she’ll move to a different job tomorrow.

    If she could get a mining company to recruit and train her to drive a giant truck full of iron ore, she wouldn’t even be here today.

  • Naughtius Maximus

    Maragaret River is a lovely little town. I lived in Perth for four months, it’s more of a big country town in the middle of no where. Weatern Australia is so isolated and empty it’s unbelievable. Some amazing places to see like Coral bay and Monkey mia if you don’t mind a ten hour drive.

  • Sandgroper

    #43 -NM, yes, you got it in one. Your description is perfect. Margaret River is lovely, and it has to be one of the most isolated little towns on earth, close to the far south western tip of Australia. It’s en route to nothing.. Perth is a not a city, it is a big sprawling overgrown country town of 1.7 million people. WA is huge, isolated and empty, a million square miles of nothing. I was born in Margaret River because that was the nearest hospital, which was a joke- it had two small rooms. I know, I went back there when I was 16 and stood in the room where I was born, and if I stretched my arms out I could just about touch the walls.. But we didn’t live there, we lived in a place that no longer exists on the map, 18 miles out of Margaret River. When I was born, the total population went up from 3 to 4 – my dad, my mum, my big sister and me, in amongst a lot of dense temperate rain forest.

    Imagine, I was born into this and thought it was normal.

    Then I went to work in China.

  • http://occludedsun.wordpress.com Caledonian

    No one seems to think Spaniards are statistically wiser than the rest. Seems unlikely to me that there’s any Jewish intelligence pattern that isn’t cultural/class-based.

    Or the pattern is strongly recessive, and vanishes rapidly when diluted.

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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