Looks like DNA is back on the menu boys ….

 

 

 

Sarc/ As many of you are aware, I don’t have time for nonsense with the use of ones DNA ethnicity estimates. /sarc

 

In the recent dumpster fire I blogged on earlier today, one of the main players, one Christian Day, member of the Wannabe tribe of the BNP people, made a post to defend his supportive stance of the Volkish Thralls who were the ultimate cause of the conference in question being shut down.

 

Pigmy my arse

 

As you can see, he states that he is “Part Pigmy”, well ok his husband did. Point of order Christian. I know you claim to be a stable genius, with huge crowds, and more money than the rest of us. Those genetic tests DID NOT say you were part pigmy. What they would have shown is you had a percentage of your DNA ancestry, that can be correlated to the Cameroon, Congo, and Southern Bantu Peoples, which includes yes African Pygmy folk. However, the chance is its anyone from that area, not the specific ethnic group who tend to be shorter. You certainly have not been raised in their culture. So you sir just waved around a non sequitur.

 

Furthermore you apparent African heritage (not a shock in the USA based on the slave trade) is not a defence for your apparent support of Volkish (and thus racist) individuals. Do I think Mr Day is a racist? No, I feel he is a opportunistic capitalist, who is leveraging some infamy for small monetary gain. That’s as bad.

 

Oh and for the record I have some statistical noise that implies similar heritage in some tests. So Christian, in all seriousness, I can show you where to have other sites analyse that data you whip out as “proof”.

 

Ancestry

 

But back to his husbands claim about an inability to be a Nazi with apparent Pigmy ancestry. Tell me Christian and Brian, have you ever heard of Craig Cobb? I am sure you have, but to refresh your memory, as you never read the citations. Craig Cobb is best known for the “My race is my Religion” white supremacy that got scuttled on the Trisha Goddard Show, when his DNA returned that he was 14% Sub Saharan African. Tell you what boys, just watch the YouTube, since you appear to prefer to watch than read.

 

 

Those DNA tests are worthless in this debate spud.

 

Ok enough shit talking from me. Here is the point of the Blog.

 

You can indeed be a racist piece of work, with ancestry of any number of ethnic groups. There were Nazi’s who hid or had forgiven Jewish ancestry (including perhaps Hitler). See racism is cultural violence. If you identify belonging to a culture, you embrace it, no matter who your parents parents parents had sex with, you will identify as that culture. Craig Cobb still believes Race is his religion, and these people are supporting actual racists. You both have refrained from commenting about the overtly Volkish one I note. That is a clear signal, they are not trying to protect freedom of speech and religion. Nope you are attacking someone

 

Volkish thrall

Chris Undirheimr, Volkish Heathen.

Quick Count the Spoons.

 

This is an updated blog, from my older blog. As always over time I reassess things.

Honour.

 

I am reminded of Samuel Johnson’s comment on a certain dinner guest: “The more he spoke of honour, the faster I counted my spoons.”

 

That attitude (the speaking of honour) is what makes this a touchy (contentious even) subject. You cannot talk about honour and be honourable. Honour is actions, not words.

 

The dictionary definition of honour at it’s most simple is: Honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions. As always the dictionary is not really that great a help for a deeper dive into the word. I love to go into the etymology of words, so here we go.

 

Modern (and Middle) English Honor, via Anglo-Norman honur in turn via old French honor via onor which is of course via the Latin. If you look to a Proto-Indo-European root word, it would be *gʰon The word displaced in middle English the Germanic menske via old Norse menskr.

 

In the Gaelic Culture, the traditional word equated with “honour” is oineach (derived via ainech back to old Irish enech) literally means face, and we can derive the terms “saving face” and “loosing face” from this idea. That study in linguistics was probably very enlightening but not explaining why I’ve used it? Enech (as will refer to it now) implied that one’s “honour” was something that was derived from how one was seen in the community (the face you show the community).There was a second term that would also be applicable here, that is CLÙ. This term roughly translates to fame or reputation and derives from an Indo-European (IE) root word meaning “to hear.”

 

The concept of honour has become convoluted, misunderstood, and reviled on a lot of levels.During what some people would call the age of Chivalry, it became codified. This formalization led to a lot of the problems. Rules as opposed to a way of life mean there are loopholes. You could CLAIM to be honourable, while still being a dirty rotten scoundrel (sorry Mr. Martin).

 

The idea of an honour price also got perverted. Where it was SUPPOSED to be a deterrent for members of society from breaking the rules (the more important you were the more expensive it was) and not disposing of those who did the misdeed (because people are important in these cultures, they each play a role). It became an excuse for the rich and important to not follow the rules.

 

So over time you can see the word honour probably pissed people off. Add to that Duels and well yeah you get the idea.

 

How can honour be applied today?

 

Well while many people will point “sagely” at the Wiccan Rede. That is (a) For wiccans and not all pagans are that (b) a Guideline not a law and (c) Some cleaver souls have managed to amend it such that they can justify being none ‘redy”. The “amended” version that is fairly recent (sometime in the late 1980’s at the earliest) reads “Do as tho wilt, an it harm none. If it cause harm do as you must”. That last part basically says “if you see someone doing harm, act however you need to, to stop it. This version is often quoted by those involved in witch wars (another post for another day), and those who are justifying their stance. Usually it’s quoted by weak leaders who are unsure of their position, and are thus resort to unethical stances. To me (as an outsider (non-Wiccan) it is a cop out!

 

There is a trend in the modern far right, to chastise people for “virtue signalling” Original this meant “A conspicuous expression of moral values” and it related to the signalling theory in evolutionary biology. Now it is used as a pejorative, meaning a “public, empty gestures intended to convey socially approved attitudes without any associated risk or sacrifice”. To be 100% clear those who use it, generally are people who don’t like that certain behaviours are not acceptable now.

 

Recently I have noted that some ostensibly “liberal” pagan celebrities, are using the pejorative of virtue signalling, towards people who are demanding we have standards in the community. They use this rallying cry, to avoid consequences for bad behaviour. While at the same time, saying what upstanding citizens they are. So yes, count those spoons folks.

 

Of course this is still a contentious subject, because Pagans are one of the most, if not THEM most non-conformist religions out there, thus they dislike rules being put down. This is only my thought I wish to share, and I am not the honour police, or the Pagan Police.

 

There is something rotten in the state of Paganism

 

 

After my little tour of why DNA is not something that controls your spiritual path. A (for want of a better term) shit storm has hit North American Paganism.

 

There was to be a “Conference” in Montreal, billed as an international Esoteric Conference. Two of their presenters had direct links to Folkish hate groups. In particular Operation Werewolf (named after a post war plan the Nazi’s had to operate in an insurgent manner) and The Wolves of Vinland . Its been accused that one of the organizers shares a friendship with these individuals, and when “made aware” of their affiliations, dismissed concerns. Causing several presenters to withdraw. In turn causing the “conference” to be cancelled.

 

How bad could the groups these individuals belong too be?

 

Operation Werewolf:, they organize in the same manner as an outlaw motorcycle club, or more likely like they are portrayed online. They live by Otto von Bismarck’s infamous “Eisen und Blut” (aka Iron and Blood) philosophy. This philosophy was adopted by the national socialist movement. Its not a shock that they write in what is openly a third position political manner.

Blood and iron

Figure 1: Nazi propoganda using “Blut und Eisen”

 

Wolves of Vinland: This group has been marked as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre (as of 2018). The group openly espoused white nationalist, and racist ideology.

 

So let me make this abundantly clear. Membership of both Operation Werewolf and the Wolves of Vinland, means that you find that the human species, has several (between 3 to 5) races, and that the white one is superior. Science be damned.

 

The resulting dumpster fire that ensured attracted some hobos. Two members of the Wannabe tribe of the Big Nosed Pagan tribe. One of them, “Uncle Birch” (Michael Correll) even made veiled threats to one of the people who withdrew.

 

In the ensuing three or four days, its become clear that certain members of the pagan BNP clique, are perfectly fine with people holding racist, misogynistic, and violent views, presenting at “international events”, but they are not fine with people objecting. Paganism is in their eyes A-OK with this behaviour. But the moment a Christian deems it that something is not right, its war.

 

Correll

 

If you want Paganism, to appear in a good light? Make the racists pariahs. Make the abusers paraiahs. Oh and for gods sake, educate yourself. Don’t cling to myths of race, unbroken Pagan lines, and the ilk.

 

 

DNA what is it good for?

 

 

SO, after three blogs over what DNA tests are not good for, by way of how not to live your spirituality. I may as well talk about some great uses for them.

 

There are a number of diseases that give hints of being in your future in your DNA. Now anyone who has seen the movie Gattaca, knows that this is not an absolute sentence, but they are a great indication of what to worry about. Figure 1 shows a couple of my own health risks. I apparently have a lower Vitamin B6 concentration in my blood, while conversely my serum levels of vitamin B12 are normal. Lastly I am apparently born with a resistance to Prion disease (CJD aka the human form of Mad Cows)

 

Genetic traits health

Figure 1

From a pharmaceutical stand point genetic testing can help you either get more out of a treatment regime or show you what to avoid. Figure 2 shows I apparently have sensitivity tow Warfrin (a blood thinner, and Rat poison), I would respond well to Metformin (a treatment for diabetes, that does not involve insulin), and the gods forbid if I am not likely to be more addicted to heroin than your average junkie.

Drug respoinses

Figure 2

 

You can use DNA to predict a few traits a person might have, if you don’t have them in front of you (useful in archaeology, when trying to make a representation of remains you have found). No pictures this time. But I am more likely to have straight hair than curly, I am carrying the mutation for blond hair (I have ok had black hair), but I am not carrying any of the mutations for Red Hair. My eyes are more likely to be brown, and darker toned (I have hazel eyes). I am very likely to be freckled (nope), I am more likely to have light skin, and about 0.8cm taller than average (I am 185 cm tall). I have an increased likely hood of baldness (yep, and my maternal grandfather was bald as a bandicoot too). Apparently my muscle type is a mixture, and more like that of a sprinter (the only running I was good at at school). Surprisingly I am not lactose intolerant (I was told I was as a kid, and have avoided excess milk). Most shockingly to those who know me, I am slow at metabolizing caffeine (I have drunk much in my life). I am more likely to reach 100 years old and have the likely hood of increased memory performance (yeah guilty, I remember stuff I have no right too). I am more likely to have increased creativity and intelligence (I’m not going to be like some smucks and post my IQ as that is not really a measure of intelligence, but I’m more at the pointy end of the bell curve). I apparently am (*cough choke*) more empathetic, and handle stress well. I might be ok on the stress, I don’t believe you can measure how empathetic someone is.  I carry one copy of the “warrior gene” and not the worrier gene, as well as apparent avoidance of errors. Lastly apparently I am less able to smell floral fragrance.

 

Thus, it is somewhat apparent that all these mostly physical traits (there are more I could list that are subjective) could easily be coded in my DNA. Right?

 

Another thing DNA is great for is determining who your relatives are. So a little back ground of mine. Not too much, many members of my family are private people.

 

I am a bastard. I was born illegitimately and my mother had take the other half of my genome to court. He’s not my father, the fucker never showed an interest. But she won, and it cost him as I went to an expensive private school. Mostly paid by a scholarship I earned, along with family history with the school. But he had to pay the rest. I found out a few years ago, he lived with in 15 minutes’ walk of where I grew up. He went to the same doctor as me, and never once showed an interest in me. I am not looking for sympathy. I had uncles and a grandfather who showed me how to be a nontoxic male. More importantly I am an only child. Last Christmas my wife allowed me to get my Ancestry.com DNA test as my gift. It was either that or a fancy nitro cold brew coffee set up. The test was faster and cheaper. In March I got the results. You’ve seen my ethnicity stuff (Figure 3)

Ancestry

Figure 3

But curiosity killed the cat. I went and looked at the DNA matches. Perhaps something interesting would show up there. Figure 3 shows this (minus the personal info). I’ve numbered them. Person 2, is my Grand mothers cousin ( a second cousin) I went to school with his son (a third cousin). Match 3 is the daughter of my Grandmothers cousin (who was more like a sister to her) so another third cousin. Match 1, that’s a shocker. I assumed it was a first cousin, but on the male side of my genome. I reached out and we talked. She was adopted. Her father had not wanted part of her life, oh and she was 6 months younger. Something was a bit odd here.

Family matches

Figure 4

 

I looked at what 1925 cM (centiMorgans) meant. What it meant Was she was a half Sister (Figure 5). I’m not with out a biological sibling now! As we have talked, we’ve found out that we are oh so very similar.

 

Half sister

Figure 5
Right so can one use these DNA tests in ones spirituality?

When I lived in the USA a lot of people did not know where they came form. In that they had no idea about recent relatives (let alone long distance theoretical ones before Christianity took over). At Samhain rituals I heard “I’m adopted who do I honor?”. My answer of adoptive parents and grand parents, and national heroes and the like was usually not what they needed to hear. They had a deep yearning to have a blood relative. These tests let them find some of these. Its not perfect. But this coupled with an ethnicity estimate (as long as they get estimate) might help. The ethnicity estimates may also allow them to sek out a culture to investigate. They’re not useless, far from it, they are not however the ultimate nullifier for questions of who am I?

 

 

Safe Space

 

 

One of the most disheartening aspects of modern paganism, is that we are in a broad community, that allows predators to exist with very few repercussions. Unless a serious law is broken, and unless the victims of these crimes are willing to go to the police about it, then you can pretty much survive in a community, with plenty of people to victimize.

 

This has necessitated the need for safe spaces. Places where you can go, and tell your story, and receive respectful advice. This seems to be a honourable goal, right? Well sadly these safespaces when they exist on Social Media, almost always become infiltrated by the predators, or servants of them, ot increase the harassment of the victims.

 

One recent and very ambitious attempt was done by Sarah Anne Lawless. She is a vocal proponent on dealing with the victimizers in the Pagan and occult community. She created a Closed Facebook group to be a safe space. Sadly, she made some cardinal mistakes, in her good intentioned project. Which resulted in it being deleted by her after less than two weeks.

 

What were the mistakes?

 

  • A closed group is still searchable in Facebook, you can see who moderates it, but not the posts. It allowed anyone to find it. She did this to make it accessible to all. While laudable, it was the first step to allowing the victimizers in.
  • Absolutely no vetting was done on who could or could not join. This allowed sock puppets (fake accounts), and toadies of the victimizers in. Destroying all safety in speaking up.
  • No one was reminded by moderators that this was a potentially unsafe environment to make claims in. Meaning several potentially defamatory statements (no matter how true) were made. This also allowed the spies in there to screen capture what was being said, and then pass them along.

And

  • The membership grew to hundreds in days. Meaning you could not easily tell the wheat from the chaff.

 

One of the Victimizers was one Christian Day. HE had been a venomous attacker of Ms Lawless (because she dared comment about his beloved Alexandrian Tradition of Wicca being abusive), as well as one of the Moderators (Shauna Aura Knight). One of the members, Amorella Moon is currently conducting a project to expose his years of abuse. He has crowed about the people being abused, and says that (to quote) “Magic is NOT a safe Space. We’re Witches. We fuck shit up on purpose and its nearly always with a good cause.”. I feel that this translates to the fact that he will make sure you are not safe, if he does not want you to be one.

CD attacks.JPG

 

 

 

 

My DNA tells me I’m a Celt, so I’m a Druid, my blood says so…. not.

 

 

Third in my little tiki tour into the world of culture, spirituality, and genetics. That you can take a genetic test, and it shows you, with out a doubt, what your ancestral journey has been.

 

As we have seen from my last two blogs on the idea that DNA tells you, that you of a certain ancestry, and that race is a social construct, DNA tests are not absolute, no matter what a testing company tells you. We have even seen that different companies will tell you different things, based on the same data.

 

But lets quickly recap.

 

I had my DNA tested by Ancestry.com. Which said I was 51% Irish and Scottish, 48% North Western European (excluding Irish and Scottish), which they take to mean England, Cymru (Wales), and France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, though they tend to make that out to be from Northern England, the Scottish Lowlands, and Northern Ireland. IF I was to take this at face value, the best I could say I was, was British in ancestry. Ignoring the 1% statistical noise (as we saw from that blog that could be from a number of places).

 

I then took my DNA data file, and had different companies give me a free analysis, and saw that answers  varied form 90% – 98% North Western European (and some other bits) to a mixture of almost 50:50 Hunter gatherer and Anatolian Farmer, to some tests showing a real hodge podge of groups. I lean to the hodge podge. None of the tests I’ve shown have measure my Neanderthal or Denisovan admixture. This is because my data set was not looking for that. One day I will do those tests, for fun.

 

The message from that blog was, don’t see the results you get as 100% set in stone. The percentage certainty is usually 60 to 70% at best. Because its bloody complicated.

 

In the second blog, we saw, or at least I hope you did, that race is a social construct, and that there is no such thing as a genetic propensity towards a specific spiritual practice. The gods did not leave a path in our DNA to them. Not in the way some people claim they have.

 

Your language, spirituality, etc are cultural, and learned, and you can add to them, and abandon them over time. Its not hard wired.

 

So I’ve sat online since the late 1980s, and seen an increase (with the increase in DNA testing) recently of “I’m a Celt/Viking/Hellinic and my DNA has led me to my Gods). They are certain, its in their DNA.

Lets go over a few things. I will use “Celt” as the example, as that is how I identify spiritually. I will explain a little about that (See Appendix 1 for my Pagan journey).

 

Think to yourself, what physically makes a “Celt” a “Celt”. I’ve seen “red hair” and pale skin. While about 46% of the Irish (and 36% Highland Scots (who are related to the Irish) carry genes for red hair, that if they have children with another child, will give a red head), its not exclusive to them. Which is a problem as there are several mutations of the MC1R gene that cause red hair, including one in Neanderthals (not as far as we know to be seen in modern humans), Asians, First Nations Americans, Oceania, and yes Sub Saharan Africa. While Northern Europe has a higher percentage, its not unique.

 

Similarly, pale skin? No. The confusion over “red hair” might come from Greek and Roman reports of Gaul’s (who usually can be considered Celts, except when a Lazy Roman calls any barbaric group a Gaul, or Germanic or whatever). They said that the Warriors spiked their hair with lime, which would have bleached darker hair, to a reddish blonde. Before rendering the warrior bald over time.

 

People of “Celtic” ancestry are more likely to Haemochromatosis (an overload of iron in the blood stream that can cause problems). Again its not specific to the “Celts”. English, and Scandinavian folk have it too.

 

In all these examples “Celt” refers to the modern Celtic Speaking peoples of Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Cornish, Breton etc ancestry.

 

Which leads us to the modern DNA based ancestry testing. If you look at the y Chromosome haplogroup R1b-L21, it is somewhat likely to indicate that your male ancestor is descended from a group that was culturally “Celtic” (Figure 1). (1), (2) As always just because you have this marker, it does not mean you are a “Celt” (for example). More on this later.

 

R1b

Figure 1

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroups are less informative, if you are seeking to prove you are from somewhere. This is due in many ways to migrations involving men, more than women. However, the most common mtDNA haplogroup in the Celtic Nations is from th H family (H3). That is common all through Europe. While its not set in stone, it may have entered Europe during the spread of agriculture. We saw that the Hunter-Gatherer peoples died out or were breed out.

 

I will say it again. What is generally measured in these Haplogroups are measuring generally noncoding parts of DNA. Its not physical traits, but, measurable parts of the DNA that are being analysed for.

 

Ancestry companies, also analyse a range of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are more common (but not unique) in certain groups. This is how they assign your ancestry.

 

So one last time with feeling. Those tests do not prove you are something. But why?

 

Because I will say it a gain, your ancestors culture, is not genetic. Its learned by growing up in it. Their spiritual practices, their language, their culinary habits, etc, are not part of their DNA.

 

So lets for the moment agree I’m mostly a ‘Celt’ (I don’t make that claim) in ancestry. We will use the test that agrees the most, and say some where between 80 and 90% of my ancestors had ancestors who had ancestors, who were Celts. I’m not a Celt. See Appendix 2 for a definition of Celtic.

 

I do not fluently speak a Celtic language, I don’t live in a culture where the caste system of Druids, Warriors, and producers (plus the slaves) exists. I don’t take the heads of my greatest  enemies and preserve them in cedar oil to show my honoured guests. I don’t do any of that. No I live in New Zealand. With massive Maori influences, to  go with my British influences, and a growing Asian influence.

 

I

 

Am

 

Not

 

A

 

Celt

 

Nor are you. If you live in a modern Celtic nation. Then you live as a modern Celt (probably), which is not the same as a Pre-Christian Celt. Even them, which sort of Celt? The Irish kingdoms? Which one? Gaul? Pre of post Roman occupation, Pre-roman? Cis or Trans alpine?

 

Its that simple. We as modern pagans. Are not, I repeat NOT, doing as our ancestors did. We are hopefully showing that respect, though I don’t always see that either.

 

So no, I am not a Celt. I am not a Druid. Claiming to be so, is dishonest, and disrespectful. Thus any group that says you must be a person of a particular ancestral group to take part. Is full of shit. they are not doing as their ancestors did. Oh and those ancestors tended not to be that picky either. This modern racism, is well modern.

 

Appendix 1: My Pagan journey (one retelling. I have told versions of this over the years, the details remain mostly consistent, I just happen to mistakenly or wilfully not include pieces)

As a teen, I was staunchly atheist, but going to a Scottish Presbyterian school. I kept my ideas to myself, as I did not like idea of going to detention, because I was not fearing their god. At about 14 I travelled to the UK with my maternal Grandmother, and then maternal Uncle (now transitioned to Aunt). In store, I bought myself a pewter Mjolnir pendant. I liked how it looked. I also got given a copy of the Edda written by Snorri Sturluson. I had a small epiphany. I saw in England a bunch of Anglo-Saxon sites, as well as pre Celtic ones, in Scotland I saw more, Wales? Well it was mostly Castles. But I felt inspired that you could be a polytheistic individual, and still vaguely rational (after all, how the fuck did they build all those monuments?). In my senior year I had turned down the role of prefect, because I had no interest in reading from the bible in chapel, and they did not allow me to substitute other secular texts. To their sorrow, I firmly said no. I also refused to go to chapel as they had never noticed me missing in the past. I also discovered the Irish Myths. They spoke to me more than the Northern Germanic ones. So I hunted down more books. That is when I discovered a section in the University Bookstore, that held “alternative spirituality”. This was 1990, and it was quite small, varied, and sadly full of rubbish. But I spent my awards for academic excellence on Myths, legends, and in one case a book on pagan practice. They never knew what they awarded me. I am very proud of that bit of resistance on my part.

 

Over my time at university, I discovered the idea of neopagan Druidism/Druidry. I  thought I followed that path. In late 1999 I sent money to join The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD), the Henge of Keltria, and Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF). I stuck with that last one for 17 years (even though it took them 6 bloody months to get me joined). By 2006 while I was living in the USA I had discovered the idea of Celtic Reconstructionist faith. Here were are in 2019, around 33 years later, and I call myself a Senistrognata (“Ancestral Customs” in reconstructed Old Celtic), because I follow the Gods of my Irish ancestors (according to the records my family kept, not my DNA tests) and the Gaulish ones, because I feel called to them.

 

Appendix 2: Whats a Celt

The term Celt, is almost as dangerous as Race. If you talk to an archalogist they will tell you one thing, ask an ethnologist, they will tell you another. It’s a very broud term. However we shall use the following definition from the Celtic Reconstructionist FAQ. (1)

Celtic” applies to a group of related languages in the Indo-European language group and the cultures that developed in the communities that speak these languages. Celtic identity is not based on genetics or “blood” but on being part of this linguistic and cultural grouping.”

 

References

  1. Haplogroup R1b-L21. Wikipedia. [Online] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_R1b-L21.
  2. Haplogroup R1b (YDNA). Europedia. [Online] https://www.eupedia.com/europe/Haplogroup_R1b_Y-DNA.shtml#L21.
  3. What do you mean by “Celtic” . CR FAQ. [Online] http://www.paganachd.com/faq/whatiscr.html#whatisceltic.
  4. Translation (biology). Wikipedia. [Online] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Translation_(biology).
  5. RNA and Transcription. . Slide player . [Online] https://slideplayer.com/slide/7962625/.
  6. Witherspoon, D. J., et al. Genetic Similarities Within and Between Human Populations. Genetics. 2007, Vol. 176, 1, pp. 351-359.
  7. Non-coding DNA. Wikipedia. [Online] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-coding_DNA.

 

 

Why Race is a social construct, and spirituality is not reliant on race.

 

 

Before the advent of DNA sequencing, Science (and Pseudoscience) relied on the measurement of physical traits to determine differences in living things. This included Homo sapiens (the only species of hominin extant these days). Back then “race” in humans was supposed to group humans into shared physical and social qualities, that were distinct enough to be noticeably different from all the rest.

 

There is a perception (that dates from around the 17th century) that humanity could be broken down into about three races. The Caucasoid, the Negroid, and the Mongoloid. Every group of humans you see could be classified as either a pure form of one of these, or an admixture of two or three of them. All of this was based on measurements of the skeletons of supposed members of these “races”. Over time it was expanded to 4 or 5 different races. This prevails in archaeology (which is not a quantitative science, in that it does not rely on numbers to get its answers, rather on ideas that the individual researcher argues for), sadly it also has broken into some spiritual paths.

 

To keep the main part of this blog at a low level of technical terminology I’ve put the science in Appendix 1. The message from Appendix 1 is, that race, as we know it, is a social construct, not a physical reality. I have said that in the last blog, but this is the explanation. If you thus see race as a social construct, that would make it memetic (learned from others), and if you insist only people of certain “Races” can partake in certain “spiritual” practices, then that is possible. Sadly, the people who say this, are talking about measurable physical differences. Let’s look at this idea.

 

If race is physical. If Race is something that affects your spirituality, then is may be shown that there must be a gene or set of genes that make you that race, and allow you to interact with the god, or gods (for want of a better term) involved in that spiritual path. If you have read the Appendix (go ahead and read it now if you are interested) then you will have seen humans are between 99.6 and 99.9% similar (depending on how we measure things). This would mean all the differences in the races is hiding in the 0.1 to 0.4% difference. Many of these differences are seen in the non-coding portions of our DNA. This means that it likely no noticeable physical characteristic (visible, or invisible but measurable) can associated with these changes.

 

Using the faulty logic of spirituality/religion being heritable, it would have a few consequences.

  • You can’t truly convert to another religion.
  • There must be a whole catalogue of mutations for each religion that has ever existed.
  • Leading on from that point, there must have been a first religion, and all other religiosn are mutations of that.
  • We can now turn on, or off, or substitute genes with quite a bit of accuracy. Meaning we could either eliminate religion from our lives, or forcibly make people susceptible to one and only one.

That sounds like a plot for a bad science fiction novel, movie, or show right? Well first I claim that idea as mine if any of you steal it (joke), and secondly, it is a crock of shit. But why?

No other cultural phenomenon is genetically coded. You can’t learn a language with a simple bit of gene editing. OR A love of say Rugby, or anything else that is clearly learned through the passing on of knowledge (and thus memetic). I’d love to be able to have a small injection and learn a new language, or other cultural skill. IT would be an amazing thing. Again its fanciful.

 

So I hope you can see, why Race is actually a social construct, and that the idea that physical race and spirituality is bullshit. If you can’t, please read further, and respectfully discuss. Otherwise, the door is over there *points* Use it.

 

Appendix 1

Most of us understand that DNA codes for heritable traits. But it’s a process of how one goes from the “code” in DNA to the “Structure” of a protein. Figure 1 shows this process. Of the code of DNA being transcribed into a molecule of RNA, which in turn gives the instruction to the ribosome in a cell, to produce the protein in question. (1)

RNA transcription.JPG

Figure 1 The Transcription process (2)

 

So, if you take nothing else from this. DNA codes for the proteins in your body, that make you physically you.

 

Back to the idea of “race”. Before we could sequence DNA in a meaningful way (this first draft of the human genome (all the genes in a human) was published in early 2001, prior to this in the late 80s and through out the 1990s, small bits of our genome had been explored). It was assumed things like hair type, skin colour, and other factors that were assigned to “race’ were significant on the scheme of things. But in the last 15 or so years, the picture has changed.

 

So another quick sidebar. Humans are a very genetically, non-diverse. Depending on what you look atm humans are between 99.6 to 99.9% similar. Most of these differences are due to single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) or brief insertions or deletions (indels). In other words, these are remarkably small changes, in a very non diverse species. The idea of “race” are thus based on tiny percentages differences. As with the previous blog entry, go to the end of the blog to see terms explained.

 

Now that several 1000 genomes have been fully sequenced, and tens of thousands have been partly sequenced, we have seen that the ideas we placed on race, are well mistaken. First if you look at the groupings, we call race. There is much more difference inside the groups, than between them. (3), which kind of sinks the idea of physically distinct groups

Secondly it has been seen that ancestors that were assumed to have been say “white” were not. For example Cheddar man, a set of remains from ancient an British hunter gatherer, was found to be blue eyed and dark skinned.

Thirdly (and connected to this last point) physical characteristics that are assumed to be unique to a “racial grouping” have been shown not to be thus. . The group called ‘negroids” for example ranges in height from pygmies to the very tall tribes. Skin can be from the yellow brown of the San people to the almost black skins of some Wester Africans. The mongoloid peoples includes all Asians as well as Polynesians, Melanesians, and Filipino folks. So skin can vary from pale to dark. Lastly Caucasians include northern Africans, dark skinned Indian sub-continent peoples, and pale freckled Scots. The folk who classified race previously conveniently ignored these facts.

 

A wrinkle in the whole race debate has been found using DNA testing. If your ancestry comes from non-sub-Saharan sources, you will have a percentage of Neanderthal and Denisovan in you. (See the glossary at the end for explanations of these phrases). The pure “Caucasoid” race, that the white European peoples held up, is a mutt, though to be fair there was inter species admixture in the people who came out of (and stayed in) sub Saharan Africa. These admixtures are what is known as a ghost population. The species are gone, but we can see the presence in our genomes.

 

Ok enough of that. The point really is, race in the physical sense, for humans is predicated on the idea meaningful physical differences. You can look at the genetics of these differences and see that they are based on a number of small mutations in our genetic code. Thus, if you want to persist on this idea of race, you need to expand it to an ever-growing list of thousands of “races”. That is logical, but people insist otherwise. Anthropologists, and geneticists state that race is a social construct, not a physical one.

 

Glossary

Allele. An allele is a  variant for a given gene. These can, but not always exist as a change in a change in the observable phenotypic traits. Note most alleles do not result in an observable physical difference.

Haplotype: in this instance means a cluster of linked genes that are inherited together.

Haplogroup is understandably a group of haplotypes that share a common ancestor. Often this is used to denote ancestral groupings. It should NOT be associated with the idea of race.

Phenotypic trait. Simply a trait that is expressed physically. Like eye or skin colour.

Clade is a way to describe a branch on the tree of life, though it also is used to describe smaller groupings in a genetic sense.

Non-coding DNA: This is as the name implies DNA which does not code for a physical trait (gene). It may be involved in other aspects of the process of transcription. (4)

Mitochondrial DNA haplogroup: We inherit our mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) almost exclusively from our mothers. Mitochondria have DNA which is separate from our genomic DNA. This DNA mutates (changes) at a slow and mostly consistent rate. These mutations have been organized into clades (Haplogroups) which have been used in ancestral studies. It must be noted all the DNA measured does not code in any way shape or form for a physical change.

Y-Chromosome DNA haplogroup:  As with mtDNA, the Y-chromosome may only be inherited by genetic males, from their biological father. In a similar way, there are clades (haplogroups) associated with this, that are used in ancestral studies. Due to the slightly more mutatious nature of genomic DNA, there are more Y-chromosomal haplogroups than there are mtDNA ones.

Mitochondrial Eve: Using statistical analysis it was found that around 150 000 years ago, there was a common female theoretical ancestor all humans can trace themselves too. This is called Mitochondrial eve.

Y-Chromosomal Adam: As with Mitochondrial Eve, there is a single male theoretical ancestor that existed around 236,000 years ago. Note the around 100 000 years between these theoretical individuals. What has happened is the descendants of these two individuals are the surviving lineages, derived from their mtDNA and Y DNA respectively. Humanity has had a couple of bottle necks (the reason we have such a non-diverse genome) that killed great numbers of us off. One around 50 000 years ago wiped out all but probably a dozen of us in Eurasia.

Extinct: A species which has died out or evolved to a different species.

Extant Opposite of extinct, so a species that is still existing.

Hominin is a term to describe modern humans.

Homo sapiens Is the only extant species of hominin (human)

Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis) were another species of hominin (human) that went extinct about 40 thousand years ago. There is strong evidence that we breed with them to a small extent. They were not simplistic cave men either, but sophisticated peoples who had adapted to the cold climate of ice age Europe.

Denisovans. Are another extinct group of hominin. We have little in the way of physical (skeletal) evidence for them. WE do have the DNA extracted and sequenced from several bones which have been found. They inhabited eastern Europe. They interbreed with Neanderthals, but also with our Homo sapiens ancestors, and are found in our genome today (unless your ancestry comes solely from sub Saharan Africa) this is most strongly seen in the Melanesian population. One of the things that Neanderthals left us, was the ability to have our blood clot faster, presumably to survive injury. One thing the Denisovans left a group of us, is the ability of Tibetans to survive at higher altitude much better than the base line Homo sapiens.

References

  1. Translation (biology). Wikipedia. [Online] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Translation_(biology).
  2. RNA and Transcription. . Slide player . [Online] https://slideplayer.com/slide/7962625/.
  3. Witherspoon, D. J., et al. Genetic Similarities Within and Between Human Populations. Genetics. 2007, Vol. 176, 1, pp. 351-359.
  4. Non-coding DNA. Wikipedia. [Online] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-coding_DNA.

 

 

The DNA did not say that.

This is adapted from a post I made in a group in Facebook. I have adapted that significantly to contain more information

 

Full disclosure, I have anyone talking about DNA and spirituality at a disadvantage. I have a postgraduate qualification in Bioinformatics (using statistics, computer science and Biological science to understand genetics, and other complex things in nature). I am a full on geek on Genetics. Hit me with a rolled-up news paper or squirt bottle if I go too far into geeking.

 

At the end of this, are some words explained.

 

There are a number of organizations out there in the Pagan and occult world that will talk about how culture, and our Gods are coded into our DNA. This includes Steven McNallen founder of the AFA (he has a pseudo-scientific idea called Metagenetics (like metaphysics, get it?)), most forms of Folkish Heathenry (Folkish from the German Völkisch, meaning its in the blood). It also appears in Greek, and Slavic paganism. Increasingly I see talk of “Witch genes”.

 

The racial and ethnic groups we think of are actually not genetic entities. I will avoid the long argument. But basically race is not a genetic thing, and culture is a memetic. When you get a genetic test that says you are 50% Cone head, its based off non-coding parts of your DNA, thus it is not expressed in anything physical. Further what they measure are what is known as SNP (single nucleotide polymorphisms), which are single nucleic acids (the building blocks of DNA) different what is expected.

Simply put there are no genes for culture. Which is a good thing, as one could theoretically remove someone’s “celticness” by silencing some genes. Or make someone Nordic through adding a gene mutation in. That sounds like bullshit right? Because it is.

 

Any group that insists you need to be genetically part of a cultural group, is full of shit. When I see First nations talk about you need to be part of the culture, they mean they don’t want outsiders stealing more of their heritage. They do not care what your genes say. If they had adopted someone not of First nation ancestry, brought them up in it…. They would consider them of that culture. Similarly they are not going to accept someone who is 1/100th ancestry in.

 

The lesson from this is, a living culture decides who can and can not partake in cultural spiritual practices. Those who reconstruct or revive a practice (as all neo-pagan practices are, there were no survivals), can introduce a lot of stuff in. But if they decide something in your DNA is important. They are at least racialist.

 

Now let us look at an example of what genetic ancestry testing actually give you. These are all of the same data set I received from Ancestry.com. It shows that I am (according to how they interpret their data) mostly Irish and Scottish, then Northwestern European, and a vestigial bit of Bantu people. That last one could be interpreted due to some slaves of the Romans or a later admixture. At 1% its meaningless to guess. (Figure 1)

Figure 1

The same date in myHeritage is similar (though percentages different). What was Bantu is now likely Greek or Southern Italian. That implies the Legions of Rome more strongly, but no proof. (Figure 2)

Figure 2

DNA Land again with the same data is much less precise, but more descriptive. I am 90% North Western European. (Figure 3)

Figure 3

 

All right, so clear? Well don’t get excited. These companies have tailored these results to give what people expect !I use another site, that is full of various academic models for this data. The Eurogenes project only tries to tell where in Europe your ancestors may have come from (not the entire population). As you can see its a shot gun result. It does not look like the previous examples. (Figure 4)

Figure 4

Whats even more interesting, is technically the geneticists see 7 populations in the world which are different enough to differentiate. These do not really compare to races. So don’t think there are seven races. again this is from non coding data. No physical differences are being measured. The above K7 data shows I am mostly European Hunter Gatherer, then Near Eastern. This sort of agrees with the idea that agrarian culture came into Europe and pushed the hunter gatherer civilization to extinction (not the people, but the life style). But according to THIS data I should be hunting mammoth. (Figure 5)

 

Figure  5

The K8 test adds in an 8th option for population (the thoughtfully named “other”) Now however I am Still mostly Hunter gatherer (51.6%) 29.2% Llinearbandkeramik (aka the first  farmers, from the near east) and 16.6% Oceanian. Wait what? Where did that come from? Yes I live in Oceania, but all the other tests hint at European ancestry. My family history has no indication of this either. I know very little about my Fathers side, but my recently discovered half sister (thanks to Ancestry.com) has no hint of this either. What this probably is, is some poorly defined information in that K8 test. During my training in bioinformatics my DNA showed 1-2% Polynesian, which is basically impossible to have, due to the number of generations of Europeans  have been in New Zealand. Its noise. Or a SNP that is more common in Polynesians than others. Either way, I’d have no problem being Oceanian or Polynesian. (Figure 6)

 

Figure 6

Last one I promise.

The MDLPK33 test has defined 33 groups (again not races), I’ve cut the image a bit badly but that 83.4% is “Western European”, I am low in British (whatever that means, I suspect Anglo-Saxon admixture with Brythionic Celtic Britons, not a shock  The Irish and those north of Hadrian’s wall avoided mixing). there are two pages of results for me. So I’ve included the same graph showing both. (Figure 7)

Figure 7

It is a little unclear what the little rats and mice bits of that ancestry is, so to clear up what my ancestry according to the MDLPK33 test is, I’ve included the Bar graph . This test has 33 different “groups” (not races) defined.  (Figure 8)

 

Figure 8

 

What do all these pretty pictures tell us? Well firstly the idea of race is not really what we think. Secondly that DNA tests should not be trusted 100% for ancestry as you can cook the results. Lastly, I am a big nerd with this sort of thing.

 

If you’d like to read more about the ideas, I recommend the book Skin Deep: Journeys in the Divisive Science of Race by Gavin Evans (Figure 9)

 

.

Figure 9

 

Some words to be aware of.

Genetic. Is something passed on by DNA, and is heritable. Also subject to mutation (its how species evolved).

Memetic. Is something that is passed on by cultures. Dawkins invented the term meme (to mirror gene) and we are not talking cat photos here (well we could be). Your Religion, Language, and cultural identity is purely memetic. Note Memetics also mutate. Its how cultures evolve.

Revived Religion. Is a religion that has been reborn, and adheres to what people thought the past owners did, as opposed to what can be proven. An example is all the “Druid” groups who gather at stone circles on solar occasions (solstices and equinoxes) to worship. That is not Celtic, or Druid. But people still associate this as such.

Reconstructed Religion. Is likewise a religion reborn, but trys in at least part to reconstruct the socially acceptable practices of the people we are mimicking. This means, as much as I want too, I can’t head hunt my foes, and keep the best ones preserved in cedar oil to show honoured guests. That was a celtic practice. Its not socially acceptable. So we don’t do it.

Racialist. IS the idea that there are genetically different races. It may or may not included the belief any are superior or inferior if it does, it is Racism.

Racism. The idea that a race is superior to others.