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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Isopoint & Adam Rutherford


I'm really enjoying geneticist Adam Rutherford's How to Argue with a Racist and I found this video of Rutherford that is relatively brief but covers some of the important items from the book. The item that I find especially interesting is "the isopoint" which is described in Wikipedia as:

...genetic isopoint is the most recent point in a given population's past such that each individual alive at this point either has no living descendants, or is the ancestor of every individual alive in the present.

 You can jump to minute 4:10 in the video to get Rutherford's explanation. One of the fun facts that comes out of the isopoint concept is that, because Viking contact with Europe comes before the European isopoint, that means that anybody with European ancestry is a descendant of Vikings.

Rutherford is very critical of commercial genetics testing companies like 23 and Me but nevertheless I found something interesting in my list of 23 and Me relatives a few years ago.

...it's clear that the human family tree is even more tangled than I realized.

The new feature "DNA Relatives" displays everybody in the 23 & Me database with DNA in common. I have a total of 1151 DNA relatives.

The closest relatives are two first cousins, one "MR" on my father's side and Sean on my mother's side.

I share 12.4% DNA with Sean and 6.36% DNA with MR. Curiously, I share more DNA with one of Sean's daughters, 8.66% than I do with my own paternal first cousin.

But what's even odder is that my maternal and paternal cousins are related to each other. In the table below there is my paternal cousin's name, MR (name redacted) in the first column, then my connection and percentage shared DNA in the second column, then Sean's connection to MR, which, true, is only "Distant Cousin" at 0.07% but still that is weird.

So 23 and Me can't be all bad, seeing as it provides evidence of the convergence that ends in the isopoint.

Rutherford is a celebrity in the UK but he's hardly known at all in the US, which is surprising. He's attractive, charismatic, funny and has a beautiful voice with a plummy British accent, which Americans can't resist. I assume he's not a science celebrity here through his own choice, I can't imagine any US science organization missing the chance to have Rutherford as a host of a science program.

In any case, I am very glad Rutherford is explicitly critical of race science, he is performing a very important service to humanity.

Another great video of Rutherford is the time he was asked by Humanists UK to deliver "The Voltaire Lecture" and was given the Voltaire medal.

In the middle of the Voltaire Lecture, Rutherford dumps on Voltaire for being "a hideous racist." 

There is much more to the video than that, but I laughed out loud at that point. The dumping begins at 26:40 in the video.

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