Monday, October 15, 2018

Elizabeth Warren's DNA

I recommend the geneticist Razhib Khan as someone conservatives usually trust.  He states he is convinced she is something between 1/64th and 1/1024th Native American. That may not sound like a lot, and it certainly shouldn't qualify her as an affirmative action hire nor make her tales of her mother being discriminated against, but it is legit. Many of the criticisms from the right have been leaping to conclusions and getting the science wrong.

Let me re-emphasize that.  A lot of conservative sites are getting the science wrong, in their eagerness to discredit the finding. Make sure you know what you are talking about before you pass on any debunkings of Warren.

No tests can identify tribe at present, but this would be consistent with what the New England Genealogical Society* found, of a partial Cherokee ancestor five generations ago.  How partial is unknown. If you are interested if this means that Trump is obligated to pay her a million dollars, retired law prof Ann Althouse discusses this and concludes "probably not," though she thinks it would all be very entertaining if EW sued for it.

*This was subsequent to Warren's public claim.


james said...

Back in the late 60's and into the 70's, I heard stories of black Americans who, believing what they'd been told about pan-Africanism and black solidarity, traveled to Africa to join up with their relatives. I never heard that this turned out as planned.

Blood may be thicker than water, but sometimes you need a livelier connection than history. Someone described Sicily as a place where if a 4'th cousin you've never met turns up at your back door and says he killed a policeman and needs to hide out with you, you have to take him in. You could probably find enough live connections to feel obligated.

But, Roots to the contrary, when there's been that much separation, nobody cares.

Laura said...

Another Democrat politician trotting out the "one drop rule"? And "scientific race theory"?

Just joking.


You know that 1/1024 is less Native American ancestry than the average European-descended American, right? That virtually everyone whose family emigrated here more than 150 years ago has more than that amount of Native ancestry?

Unknown said...

When I first learned of this DNA test result from a BoingBoing article headlined "Trump denies promising $1M to Elizabeth Warren's charity pick if DNA test proved Native American ancestry" I had to find the video and transcript of the promise.

I was happy to see Althouse come to the same conclusion as me, that the promise was conditional on Warren using a DNA test "kit" provided by Trump, provided at a presidential debate between the two of them.

Not that such a test would have a different result than the present one.

And Trump spoke of "those $2 DNA tests advertised on TV", so I think he was confusing 23&Me and type tests with the promised $2 "paper" dna diagnistic tests using loop-mediated isothermal amplification to detect specific nucleic acid sequences pointing to certain diseases. It makes an interesting question if he could be legally held to the verbal contract if a $2 dna sequencing test advertised on TV does not actually exist. People have successfully defended similar cases by claiming reasonable persons would understand the "offer" as hyperbole.


Grim said...

The Cherokee Nation wasn’t too impressed with the scientific claims either, for what it’s worth.

Donna B. said...

The Cherokee nation bases its membership on a genealogical link to someone listed on the Dawes Rolls. They don't deny the science.

The media (both conservative and liberal) are conflating genealogy and genetics. As far back as that 'proven' genealogical grandmother is, Warren took a political risk having her DNA tested. I suspect one or more of her siblings were tested first, but that would not have been a guarantee.

At least she never claimed that her grandmother was a Cherokee Princess.

Grim said...

They don’t “deny the science,” but their statement is pretty clear on its inapplicability to the relevant question. They say that attempting to use DNA here is wrong, harmful to them, and out of order. They do have some kind words for “the science” in its proper role.

Roy Lofquist said...

Historically, 99% of everything called "science" has proven to be wrong.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Great bumpersticker, Roy.

For average, we have to remember mean, median, and mode. The arithmetic mean of Europeans' Native ancestry is higher than Warren's but the mode is zero. Most of us have no Native ancestry. Those who do, have 25%, or 3%, or 12%, or 1% or some other number much larger that EW's amount, bringing up the average. Her small amount is still more than most people's.

Christopher B said...

Yes, you are right about the science but this attempt to salvage her credibility after the inital claims she made about the prejudice her parents supposedly suffered and to support her fraudulent self-identification as a minority deserves to be mocked mercilessly for it's equally shameless overextension.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Oh, I agree. There's plenty to go at without exaggerating it. But when we get the criticism wrong, her defenders focus on that. Logically, shooting down a bad criticism does not affect the truth of the original premise. Yet emotionally and politically, it does.

Hillary Clinton's supporters lie in wait looking for a bad criticism (or one that can be made to look bad or seem to say something else), then change the subject to that. It's effective.

Sam L. said...

My dad's sister-in-law did a geological study. The female line went back to about 900 A.D. The male line to 1815, so I'm likely one of of those less than .01%ers. Big whoop.

Donna B. said...

Grim, that's what I meant by saying they don't deny the science. You said it much better, though!

Laura said...

For average, we have to remember mean, median, and mode. The arithmetic mean of Europeans' Native ancestry is higher than Warren's but the mode is zero. Most of us have no Native ancestry. Those who do, have 25%, or 3%, or 12%, or 1% or some other number much larger that EW's amount, bringing up the average. Her small amount is still more than most people's.

Yes, but she never claimed "my heritage is above the median (or mode) amount of American Indian". She claimed she was Cherokee, was the first "woman of color" hired onto the Harvard Law School faculty, in fact.

Now, consider what would have happened if, say, Mitt Romney, had claimed half of what she's claimed, and then published a DNA test like this. Do you really think people would be thoughtfully rubbing their chins and saying, "Well, I guess he is right after all, because SCIENCE!!!!"

Consider another case: if Rachael Dolezal were to publish results showing that she might have had one African ancestor 6-10 generations ago, would you say that she was right all along about "being" black? That she's above the mode, or median, amount of African ancestry among white people, so she must "be" black, and deserves the affirmative action benefits she's claimed?

Or again: suppose some person in some foreign country-- say, Japan, or Eritrea, or Peru-- said that a result like this validates the family stories about a Swedish sailor jumped ship in the 1700s and married into the family... or maybe it was Swiss, or Swabian, or something like that, but European, you know?... anyway, married into the family back then. Would you say that they "are" European, even though they have had no contact with European civilization since then?

Of course not. Don't be silly. Warren's an affirmative action grifter, and she deserves every bit of mockery she gets.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Certainly. The plain story, unadorned, is risible. She's got an amount of Native Ancestry that might or might not show up on an test, but if you dig deeper does look legit. There is no support for her claim that her mother was persecuted in any way, and she has no cultural continuity with any North American tribe. Harvard can call anything it likes a minority candidate, but we can equally jeer at it.

Aggie said...

My queries:

1. What is the blood quantum required to petition for inclusion of the various recognized tribes? In my experience in NE, it was 1/16 or 0.0625.

2. More importantly, why is nobody reviewing the case of why we are here in the first place? We're here because EW herself checked the box indicating an averred racial heritage. It has become rather painfully obvious that she did this, not based upon documented family genology (and certainly not upon DNA testing), but to seek competitive advantage in a challenging field. She's still doing it, in my opinion. If one wants to make the case otherwise, then they can start by detailing which tribe she is claiming membership to, and follow it up by detailing what she has done for them since becoming elected for the first time. Yeah, thought so.

3. I have read elsewhere, but not seen it expanded, that the DNA aspects that have been used to show Native American history are in fact from South America. Not from documented North American Aboriginal tribes, in other words.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

North american tribes have varying rules. Most of them are versions of "we recognise one of your specific ancestors as a member." If you had a grandmother who was accepted, you would at least be eligible for consideration. They don't ask at that point if the grandmother was 100% or a captured bride. Therefore, showing up later, after no one in the tribe has known about you or your daddy, is regarded with suspicion. There is no universal rule.

The Cherokee require that that you prove descent from someone on the Dawes Rolls. Without that, no amount of DNA and stomping your little foot will get you in.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

As to pointing back that her original claim was as an affirmative action hire and that her mother was oppressed, the conservative press is making a lot of noise about that.

The South American tribes are related to the North American. While there could be many genetic bits that were actually Portuguese or Spanish or African in those populations, the bits being examined are specifically chosen because they are not found in those other populations.

Donna B. said...

Will Rogers:

"I have Indian blood in me. I have just enough white blood for you to question my honesty!"

Aggie said...

What I read was that actual Native American genetic data is too scarce to be used, so the Stanford geneticist Bustamante filled in with samples from Peru, Columbia, and Mexico. Does that pass the scientific red face test? A geneticist with a mission to prove Native American genetic evidence is hard pressed to find any subject reference data, in the whole USA, Indian reservations included? It doesn't seem to me to be a bridge too far to collect some local data.

Donna B. said...


Maybe these articles will answer some of your questions:

Tom Bridgeland said...

There are two issues. First, her claim that family legend included an Indian ancestor. That seems to be verified.
The second issue is her cashing in on an infinitesimal degree of Indian ancestry in order to to claim benefits. She's a grifter.