I’m not being hyperbolic with the headline, this “study” (propaganda piece) called ‘Getting Genetic Ancestry Right for Science and Society’ (giant red flag in the title alone) is literally claiming that race isn’t real because New York is full of mixed-race people.
This is known as the “continuum fallacy,” which can be debunked by a five-year-old child. It goes like this: “X and Y are two extremes on a spectrum. There is no clear point at which X becomes Y, therefore, X and Y do not exist.” Below is a color spectrum. Can you identify blue, green, and red? No, you can’t because colors do not exist. There is only one color, the rainbow color.
Here’s the paper in question, but I’ll break it down below with a few key quotes:
The study opens by repeating a few stereotypical race-denialist myths, like Southern and Eastern Europeans being classified as non-White in America, and sets up their political agenda from the outset:
there is now broad agreement that [race is] a socio-political construct […] social scientists and others have argued that the strongest case for using race is best limited to tracking the impact of racism on health outcomes, rather than as a proxy for anything biological
It gets worse:
One common proposal is to use genetic concepts — in particular genetic ancestry and population categories — as a replacement for race (5). However, this proposal risks retaining one of the most problematic aspects of race—an essentialist link to biology
They tacitly admit that the existence of race can be demonstrated via genetic testing:
Genetic ancestry and population categories are also relevant to the general public, as demonstrated by the tens of millions of individuals who have paid for ancestry reports from consumer companies such as 23andMe.
And they also admit that so-called “continental ancestries” (also known as ‘ancestral populations,’ and so on) are synonymous with race:
Within genetics research, continental ancestry categories have become the most common type of group label […] Racial classifications have often taken continents as boundaries between human groups; thus it is not surprising that racial categories and continental ancestry categories are often confounded
They aren’t happy about this, because racism:
Whenever continental ancestry categories are used, the risk is high that a misconception of race as biological will re-enter through the backdoor
For the next few paragraphs, they whine about principal component and admixture analyses being used as tools to display genetic ancestry, becaue what they actually show is “genetic similarity” (which is totally different and definitely not an alternative way to describe the same thing).
After admitting that race can be genetically quantified and that racial classifications are practically utilized throughout human society, they finally get to their core argument:
imposing any categories on genetic ancestry fails to adequately capture human genetic diversity and what we know of human demographic history.
By which they mean “putting people in boxes is racist and bigoted.”
They admit that human racial groups form clearly defined genetic clusters when displayed on a principal component analysis:
If individuals from the most commonly used reference populations are graphed [on a PCA], distinct clusters roughly representing continental categories are visible
This is 100% true. See the PCA below from an older study on Armenians (https://www.nature.com/articles/ejhg2015206).
You can also use PCAs to show ethnic clusters within racial subpopulations. The PCA below features modern West Eurasians (minus North Africans) and shows pretty well-defined clusters with minimal overlap.
Here’s where the authors introduce their genius curveball:
But if people are sampled differently, such as individuals living in New York City, it becomes clear how impoverished this view of a structure of distinct clusters is
So, their argument is that race does not exist because globalized cosmopolitan cities in the West are filled with mixed-race people, who are a tiny outlier in the grand scheme of the human species.
To give their fallacious argument an air of scientific validity, they include a principal component analysis showing 31,705 New Yorkers in gray and 4149 people from the rest of the world in color. (Just ignore the “Americas” category, it nonsensically groups every race on both continents into one population). Their strategy will undoubtedly trick many uneducated and stupid people, but the PCA clearly shows that the colorized populations form distinct racial clusters. The grayed-out population of New York — aka the tiny outlier that they’re trying to pass off as being representative of the entire human species — can only be described as “genetic chaos.”
There are a few technical problems with this PCA. Firstly, it’s two dimensional, which isn’t great for showing the diversity of the human race. Secondly, even in two dimensions, it still shows that New Yorkers exist on two clines between three racial “poles,” consisting of Africans, West Eurasians, and East Eurasians. Thirdly, by coloring all New Yorkers in gray, regardless of their ethnic heritage, they conceal any potential clustering within this population. They easily could have assigned each mixed-race population its own color on the PCA (e.g. Black-White biracial = green), which would have shown that even mixed populations form unique genetic clusters. Finally, the authors intentionally used a gratuitously huge sample size for the New York population to reduce the likelihood of any visible clustering.
Edit (04/19/22): Just in case this wasn’t clear enough, mixed-race people who share similar genetic ancestry cluster together on a PCA. White-Asian biracials cluster together, Black-Asian biracials cluster together, Black-White-Asian triracials cluster together, and so on.
On a 3D PCA, it’s much easier to see that there are basically five main genetic “poles,” which correspond to classic “major races.” Technically, there is another “pole” which separates KhoiSan (listed here as African_South) from other Africans, but this is only visible when using different principal components to those used on the below PCA.
Note: The above PCA uses these co-ordinates which you can easily test for yourself. All relevant info is contained within the link.
The authors argue that globalist, cosmopolitan race-mixing between every ethnic group on earth needs to be celebrated and that it is “the norm throughout our species past,” which simply isn’t the case. The norm for our species is divergent evolution between races and conquest and admixture between neighboring tribes and ethnic groups. Fifty years ago, New-York-ification wasn’t even the norm in New York itself.
mass migration and constant mixing across groups have been the norm throughout our species’ past. It is worth emphasizing that the impact of these histories leads to different structures of genetic variation in different parts of the world.
Here, they paraphrase “one race, human race”:
We need to be able to describe every human; the only way to do this is to adopt a fully continuous view of ancestry.
Apparently, they’re even annoyed that people can be identified as “mixed-race” because they existence of mixed-race people implies the existence of unmixed-race people (which is racist):
Recognizing the growing existence of “admixed individuals” — typically defined as those who have recent ancestry from more than one population — does not escape the notion of continental ancestry categories but rather compounds it, because an individual is considered a mixture of these broad continental groups.
By far their most insane argument is that using peoples’ current racial ancestry is invalid because it is merely a snapshot of an ongoing process of evolution. How do we define “human” anyway? One of your ancestors may have been an aquatic crustacean during the Cambrian Period! I guess “we are all Africans” wasn’t working, so now they’re running with “we are all primordial soup.”
Third, the use of continental ancestry categories oversimplifies complex human history into a snapshot. There is no one answer to “what is my ancestry?” because the answer depends on the time horizon.
Towards the end of their “study,” they make sure to get in a few digs at their fellow geneticists, accusing them of racism-through-ignorance:
An individual researcher’s use of continental ancestry categories is not in and of itself racist, but the cumulative impact of this practice has led to and sustains racism.
In their concluding paragraph, they suggest using a “multidimensional and continuous conceptualization of ancestry” instead of race, which would be “free wherever possible of population categories” and avoid “relying on continental labels that bear striking resemblance to prior racist groups.” If there are no population categories, then we can’t describe where people plot on this “multidimensional conceptulaization of ancestry.” So, what’s the point of plotting people on this scale at all? Exactly. There isn’t one, you racist bigot.