Sykes, as I noted, got his view of America from movies and the biases of social science academics. There's noting wrong with getting your view of America from movies, so long as you recognise that, have enough self-observation to see it. Such as, when dining in a Chicago Italian restaurant, speculations whether gangsters were here in the 30's are naive and rather a private fancy. I'm in favor of such private fancies, so long as you know them for what they are - like Zonker Harris admitting that his new British accent comes from Monty Python records. When we went to England, we were fully in the perspective of Anglophilic Americans who had read a great deal and believed in an Albion that was passing, if not already past. Because of that naivete, we announced our romanticism, did not say "Pip, pip!" and noted that the shrines which were deeply important to us - Watership Down, the Eagle and Child, James Herriot's office - were noted, but unimportant to current residents.
Perhaps Americans have had it mentioned so often that we are asses when traveling abroad that some of us are hypersensitive to it now. Visitors here might not have that filter.
Nonetheless, it is not a problem that Bryan Sykes is an ass while taking a road adventure with his son, then his wife, while visiting America. It's mildly charming, actually, and he is welcome to it. But said personal trip should not be cluttering up a book for which one pays cash money hoping to learn about American genes.
I got sucked in. His knowledge of Kennewick Man and the Hopi controversies suggested to me that Sykes would know at least general information about Americans and their genealogical studies. I admit I assume that British academics are familiar with Fischer's Albion's Seed, or at least its premise, thought there is of course no reason why they should; it's a side trip for them. (If you are a reader of this blog, however, I suggest you read it. I don't see how anyone can claim to have any understanding of colonial history without it. Not that it is flawless, but it is necessary.)
Thus, when Sykes asks for some members of the New England Genealogical Society (Newbury St, Boston) who have a traced ancestor before 1700, and is surprised when he gets over 400, I suddenly realise this is a person who has no idea whatsoever what he is talking about outside his area of expertise. He was hoping for half-a-dozen. He could have gotten half-a-dozen immediately if he had specified a boat and a year. And that year would have been between 1620 and 1642, BTW, not a vague "before 1700."
This pattern persists wherever he goes in America. Some southern whites have an African or even two in their genealogy, and African-Americans usually have more than one European. The French and Spanish descendants have more Native American genes than the English and Germans. No, really? We're shocked! Such an idea has never crossed our minds before! Does he not know the basic European colonial pattern throughout the world, of Northern Europeans tending away from intermarriage and southern Europeans accepting it? That's fine if you're not a genetics researcher, but if you are...? Isn't that, um, undergraduate obvious, whether from Anthro 101, Soc 101, or History 101?
Okay, I'll summarise that rant and then stop. There were movie stereotypes of the 40's-60's about American history. Since then, people who have been to college have been told that's not right, and given different stereotypes to believe. Those folks have embedded the new stereotypes in the highschool textbooks since, oh, 1990. Sykes notes these new stereotypes as if they are new information which Americans must be informed of right away.
This is related to the academic bias. This is perhaps less blameable, as American academics, who would be his main points of contact, would reinforce this. He thinks there is nothing very different in the Native American creation myths and the Genesis ones which the Europeans brought. That is exactly the type of incredibly stupid statement that only an academic could subscribe to. Even if one believes that Genesis is pure hogwash, with only occasional insights into actual history, a truly objective observer would note that there is no implied sex with magical animals leading to the creation of humans and the natural world. There is a passing mention of sex with gods stuck in there, but mostly important today as entertainment from watching fundamentalists try to deal with that. It's an older chunk that surfaces in the stew when it is boiling, and moderns wonder whether it's edible, nutritious, flavoring - what?
If one wants to note that the whole snake thing, plus the sex with gods, suggests that the Jewish stories were originally like the Korean, or Native American, or Papuan, or Nordic stories, I would say that's the point. 3000 years ago, the Jews had already figured out "Ya know, that snake thing? Maybe there's a better way of looking at that. Because it's creepy. Let's keep our audience really clear on the idea - mention it specifically - that Adam didn't have sex with the animals, and the whole thing is really about understanding good and evil." The difference is::: yeah, it's the same origin, but we left that behind 3000 years ago. Equating that with Native myths of always having been there, so they don't want blood tests to find out what their ancestry is, is an enormous stretch. It's taking a 1% correspondence and saying that's the whole thing.
Not very, uh, scientific, Bryan. You've been hanging around with social scientists trying to distance themselves from all this primitive god-stuff for too long. The obvious eludes.
Let me reverse field. It's clear that I would love to run into the Sykes's and share a road trip with them. I had similar experiences, observations, and feelings on my looking-at-colleges trips with my three oldest. (Those are, BTW, among the best memories of my entire 59 years.) It would be a hoot to travel with them. But it has nothing to do with American DNA, and his observations, if no worse than mine, are also no better. He makes a banal observation about Obama and healthcare, which he thinks should be telling. Okay, there are American liberals who agree with him. But that still doesn't get around the point that there are a half-dozen objections a barroom companion could raise, and he hasn't really thought this through. He hasn't stood back from himself and asked "are these ideas really defensible?"
More to the point, it's not what the book was advertised to be about.