Debunking "How to Argue with a Racist" by Adam Rutherford, Part 2
The core “argument,” if it can be called that, of part II of Adam Rutherford’s How to Argue with a Racist, is that race is not real because everyone is related.
Ancestral belonging and genealogy are things that fascinate us all, but racists especially: genealogy is possibly the second most popular pastime in the UK (after gardening), and the first in the US. Many of the arguments put forward by racists centre around belonging to specific demographics, the othering of different groups and the displacement of people. Many nonracists are also concerned with immigration in the modern era, but few express the sense of a people being replaced or a culture somehow being weakened. It is never clear what is being threatened when, for example, white supremacists express fear of the demise of Western culture. I don’t know what Western culture is, because it’s very clear to me that my culture is not the same as the culture of other people in my street, postcode, city, country or continent.
Go back a few centuries further and we reach a mathematical certainty referred to as the genetic isopoint. This is the time in history when the entire population is the ancestor of the entire contemporary population today. For the people of Europe, the isopoint occurs in the tenth century. In other words, if you were alive in the tenth century in Europe, and you have European descendants alive today, then you are the ancestor of all Europeans alive today (we estimate that up to 80 per cent of the population of tenth-century Europe has living descendants). Another way to think of it is like this: one branch of a family tree of two first cousins crosses in a shared grandparent; one branch of all European family trees cross through one individual in 1400 CE; at the isopoint, all branches of all family trees cross through all people for that population.
I am well aware, having said these facts to students and public audiences hundreds of times, that this is a brain-scrambling concept, because it is so far from our casual assumptions and thoughts about ancestry, family trees and identity. It certainly doesn’t sound right, and is further confounded as a concept by the calculations of the global isopoint – the year in which the population of the Earth were the ancestors of everyone living today. This, astonishingly, comes out at around 3,400 years ago. Everyone alive today is descended from all of the global population in the fourteenth century BCE.
As is apparent above, Rutherford isn’t arguing as much as he’s just misrepresenting the evidence and babbling about its extreme complexity, just like in part one. By my count, the string “complex” appears about 20 times in part II alone.
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His only important claim in this chapter is his claim that everyone alive today is descended from the entire population of 1400 BC. This claim does not appear to be true. Rutherford doesn’t cite his sources, so it’s hard to fact-check. But a 2003 simulation with a liberal model where at least one mixture event occurred between groups in every generation estimated that the genetic isopoint would be 5,000 years ago. Still, it hardly matters whether the genetic isopoint was 5,000 or 15,000 years ago — Rutherford is obscuring that a living person’s degree of relatedness with any given individual alive at the genetic isopoint varies extremely.
Douglas L.T. Rohde, an original founder of the concept of the All Common Ancestors (ACA or genetic isopoint) point, who, unlike Rutherford, is not an activist and can understand college level statistics without breaking down and calling too “complex, dynamic, and vastly interweaved”, explains:
It is likely that the notion of a relatively recent ACA point may lead to some confusion. If we consider only ancestors who lived prior to the ACA point, a Japanese and a Norwegian today share the exact same set of ancestors. At first glance this seems patently ridiculous. Certainly the Japanese and Norwegian have quite different genotypes due to very different ancestry. The confusing fact is that both of these statements are true. Although the Japanese and Norwegian have the same set of ancient ancestors, they did not receive an equal hereditary contribution from each of those ancestors. The Japanese owes a small proportion of his genetic makeup to people living in northern Europe several thousand years ago, and a large proportion to people living in and around Japan, while the opposite is true of the Norwegian. Thus, their ancestry does differ considerably … We will first trace the ancestry of a randomly selected Japanese sim born in the year 2000 in one of the C2 trials. By 1500 AD, the sim owes 98.8% of his ancestry to his home country, the middle of the three Japanese territories, and much of the rest to the other two countries that form Japan. The remaining 0.4% is traceable to neighboring areas of China and Korea. By 500 AD, 98.9% of the sim’s ancestry is still attributable to Japan as a whole. This declines to 97.5% by 2000 BC, 95.7% by 5000 BC, and 88.4% by 20000 BC. The proportion of the sim’s ancestry attributable to each country in the world in 5000 BC is shown in Figure 13. The red and orange regions together account for 97.35% of the ancestry, with 2.62% from the rest of Eurasia, 0.014% from Africa, 0.00090% from Indonesia and Australia, and 0.00086% from the Americas.
Figure 14 shows the corresponding ancestry for a randomly selected Norwegian. In this case, 92.3% of the ancestry in the year 5000 BC is attributable to the country in which the sim lives, in central Norway, and 96% to Scandinavia as a whole. The Norwegian has about three times as much African ancestry as the Japanese sim, but much less American, Indonesian, and Australian. The Norwegian owes 0.00044% of his ancestry to 5000 BC Japan, while the Japanese owes 0.00049%, or about 1 part in 200,000, to ancient Norway. That would suggest that, at this rate of mixing, a typical Norwegian might be expected to have inherited about one haplotype block from 5000 BC Japan (Gabriel et al., 2002).
This meshes well with the fact we showed in Part I, which Rutherford obscured, that a computer can tell a person’s self-identified race with over 99% accuracy from spit sample. Race is statistically real, so of course a Norwegian inherited 99% of his genes from Stone Age Norwegian ancestors. If the vibe (‘tis a mere vibe) Rutherford were trying to give off were true, race probably wouldn’t be statistically real, but it is and Rutherford is wrong.
Knowing this, Rutherford’s claim that he doesn’t know what British people are seems all the more performative:
The only true indigenous Brits occupied these lands almost a million years ago, and we are not sure what species they were. So, when racists say Britain is for the British, or when they talk about indigenous people, I do not know who they mean, or more specifically, when they mean. I suspect that they don’t either.
British people are obviously the people who built the British empire, the people who have been there for thousands of years, who, even considering large admixture events like the Norman conquest of 1066, are overwhelmingly descended from Northern Europeans, not the Spanish, not the Italians, not the Chinese, and most certainly not Sub-Saharan Africans. British people can be identified with DNA test with 99% accuracy. A British person has received more than 99% of their DNA from Northern European living at the most recent human genetic isopoint, and 1% or less from other ethnic groups living at that time. A British person is not Pakistani or Indian or Arab or Black.
Rutherford seems to genuinely not understand this:
Prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer posted his 23andMe results to Twitter in 2017, which showed 99.4 per cent European and no Ashkenazi Jew. As is possible on the 23andMe website, he also allowed the full results to be seen by all, which reveals that he has North African and Mongolian ancestors as recently as the nineteenth century. Funnily enough, Spencer has yet to comment on this.
Rutherford thinks there is something to “comment on”, and is confused that Richard Spencer has not commented yet. The reality, of course, is that Richard Spencer has not commented on his Mongolian ancestor, because there is nothing to comment on. Richard Spencer is 99.4% European. All Europeans have a Mongolian ancestor at some point in their family tree. The difference between a European and a Mongolian, however, is that Europeans have inherited less than 1% of their DNA from Mongolians, while Mongolians have inherited over 99% of their DNA from past Mongolians. What does Richard Spencer need to say about his Mongolian ancestor when he has inherited 99.4% of his DNA from past Europeans? This is basically the definition of White. Richard Spencer understands this, why is Rutherford so dense?
Rutherford mentions Ashkenazi Jews, so let’s try a thought experiment. My DNA tests report that I am 2% Ashkenazi Jewish, 20% Irish, 15% Norwegian, 30% Scottish, and 33% English. Does this mean I am Jewish? Do Jews think I am Jewish? Can I get an Israeli citizenship? Would the Nazis have thought I am Jewish? 2% Jewish means something roughly like I have 31 White gentile great great great great grandparents and one Jewish great great great great grandparent. Should I join a Synagogue? Would they accept me?
We all know the answer to these questions. Hitler’s Nuremberg laws stated that someone 12.5% (1/8) Jewish or less is not Jewish. I would be laughed at if I applied for an Israeli citizenship. Jews are very proud of their existence and have there own ethnostate, and despite being relatively highly related to White gentiles (compared to Africans or Asians), they intrinsically know that whether or not someone is Jewish comes down to the proportion of Jewish ancestry, not its mere presence. All White gentiles in theory have a Jewish ancestor — that does not mean “we Jew.” Not by a longshot. Jews know this.
Part of Rutherford’s density seems to be his mixed ancestry. He’s very insistent on neoliberal citizenship norms being Literally Real:
Geological history and the history of humans pays little mind to the transience of borders and governments. In Britain, we respect the rule of law, and our colonial past means that the evolution of citizenship is complicated by a history of empire. But if you are a British citizen, you are entitled to a British passport, which legally, technically and actually makes you British. This is a non-negotiable fact. The presentation of arguments based on who are ‘real Britons’, or the ‘indigenous people of Britain’ is an ahistorical, non-scientific smokescreen to hide racism.
Rutherford is half Indian and apparently has some sort of inferiority complex involving anger at those who suggest he isn’t “really British.” What he’s saying here is that his 50% Indian ancestry doesn’t matter because all British people have Indian ancestors at some point, and besides, it is a non-negotiable fact under the neoliberal political order that any mulatto with a passport is just as “British” as any actual Brit, and nothing any racist can do (right now) can change that. This all obvious self-centered cope, which most people against “White racism” would hesitate to fully accept, given they tend to be non-White and very interested in the success of their own people, whether they be Black, Chinese, Pakistani, or other. Rutherford’s case is a critical theory developed narrowly for mixes — it is not a truth.
Rutherford goes on to childishly deny the results of DNA tests in favor of legal citizenship:
A more accurate result would say ‘despite the fact that your genome has significant genetic contribution from people who have recent geographical association with the modern nation states of Germany and Greece, though we can’t be sure which of your ancestors these were, your family tree spreads all over Europe and, to a lesser but still significant extent, indeed the world. However, you remain 100 per cent British because that is how citizenship legally is determined. Genetics won’t change that.
I thought this guy was against “social constructs?” The statistical results of an objective DNA test are fake, but legal citizenship is Literally Real, realer than race? Legal citizenship is a social construct, a real social construct, because it is whatever the Patriciate decides. Race is not a social construct, because while the Patriciate can deny it exists, it continues existing. See how that works? Neoliberal citizenship will stop existing as soon as a new ruling class says so, because it is a social construct, but race will not stop existing unless the current ruling class is successful in physical race-mixing all of the people of the world. Race is a social construct like the Sun is a social construct — moon worshipers can deny it’s there all they want, saying that sometimes there are circles of light in the sky, sometimes there isn’t, and who’s to say one particular light is the “Sun?” The lights dance and flow in a dynamic and complex way, weaving a vast tapestry of interconnected movements across the sky. There is no “Sun” — that is a social construct of bigoted “Sun worshippers.” All of this can be said, but at the end the gigantic sphere of fire remains.
Next Rutherford slides into discussions of population movement and indigenousness:
In a trivial way, it’s problematic for people such as me who have recent ancestry from abroad, or for British blacks, or South Asians descended from post-war immigration, and I suspect much of the ire of racists is directed at us. But Britain has been steadily and continuously invaded throughout its history, and has become home to migrants since it became an island around 7,500 years ago. In 1066, the French came and enacted a hostile takeover with an arrow to the king’s eye. Before that, we were invaded by Vikings, aggressively, and before that there was continuous movement of people from the continent, Angles, Saxons, Huns, Alans and dozens of other small tribes and clans. Before that, the Romans ruled, at least as far as Hadrian’s Wall to the north, but many of the Roman army’s conscripts were not from Rome, but from all over that expansive intercontinental empire and beyond, and their ranks included Gauls, Mediterranean and sub-Saharan Africans.
It is true that populations win and lose land throughout history. At one point, what is now Turkey was mostly White. Now it is filled with brown Turks — recently they had spread as far as Greece before White pushback. About 1200 years ago, Arabs invaded Spain. Hundreds of years later, Whites took back the Iberian peninsula. And as Rutherford mentions, Britain has been invaded by various White ethnicities many times. When the Romans came, the island was inhabited by Celts. Now Britain is only about 66% Celtic “blood”, on average — the other third is mainland Germanic sourced from Anglo-Saxon and Norman conquests.
But more than that, this “blood” is not static. Rutherford remarks on this:
[Meiosis] means that not the same half gets transferred each generation. Over the generations, descendants begin to shed the DNA of their actual ancestors. The amount that vanishes is cumulatively huge: you carry DNA from only half of your ancestors eleven generations back. It is therefore possible that you are genetically unrelated to people from whom you are actually descended as recently as the middle of the eighteenth century.
This is more true than Rutherford realizes, or is willing to say. As usual, Rutherford is leaving a lot out. Modern Brits are not their ancestors, not merely because of intra-White mixing. They are not merely the central tendency between ancient Celts and Normans with 2/3 and 1/3 weights respectively — British people have evolved in the last 500 years significantly. White people have evolved significantly since antiquity. Gene pool change over time, mixing aside, is not merely the result of genetic drift, it is also the result of selection, including in humans.
We now have ways to estimate person’s “genetic intelligence” from their DNA. SNPs associated with intelligence have increased in frequency in DNA samples from antiquity up to the modern period. This means that intelligence has been selected for — modern Brits have a different frequency of intelligence related genes than their ancestors from 500 or more years ago, due to differing rates of reproduction of those genes within the population. This is evolution by selection.
Rutherford addresses a straw man of White racism wherein populations are taken to be static and eternal, “blood purity” is obsessed over, having a Mongolian ancestor is shocking and impure, and it is imagined that the same exact people have lived in the same exact places forever until 1960 when the adversary started mixing people. The truth is that Rutherford would be right to reject White majoritarian arguments centering around specious concepts of indigenousness and flawed ideas of static gene pools. Rutherford is correct when he says:
The logic to arguments about who is entitled to be in a geographical region is often missing or at least ahistorical, as no people are ever static over long periods, and no power, culture or nation has ever been anything near permanent.
Asserting White majoritarianism because White people are where they are now commits the Negative ELO fallacy. The Negative ELO fallacy is the fallacy whereby the arguer looks one or less steps ahead when making a move. It often takes the form of an uncritically recursive argument, whereby the arguer has failed to trace recursions back to their ultimate beginnings. A common example of such an argument is that “Black culture” causes Black behavior. The arguer fails to perceive that Black culture is just aggregate Black behavior, and that Black culture must be explained by genes or outside environment. He is making a move while imagining no future board states beyond his move.
No, White majoritarian arguments must have inner substance, a substance which Rutherford weakly rejects and can’t argue against head-on. White majoritarian arguments must argue that White people having more land is an absolutely positive thing, because of who White people are. This is not necessarily White supremacy, which is the argument that White people are the best race and should inhabit the whole world, the other races offering nothing but opportunity cost. It could be argued that White people are simply a vital part of a human ecosystem, and that their decline from their current position would be a net negative for the ecosystem as a whole; this is the same as arguing that wolves are vital to Yellowstone. This is not a call for exterminating deer, or an assertion of wolf supremacy; it is an argument for a balanced ecosystem, springing from knowledge of all of the bad that happened when wolves were driven out from Yellowstone.
The latter is an imminently reasonable argument to make, considering White people’s track record. Without complicated ethical arguments, we can easily establish that the fruit of White people is generally valued by all, and assert that the decline of the White population would involve less generally accepted value entering into the world. Consequently, a White America, White Britain, and White Europe means more value for everyone, and a Brown America, Brown Britain, and Brown Europe means less value for everyone.
The most striking thing about White people to me is that White people produce a lot of geniuses. It’s very simple to show that if White people are replaced by anyone other than East Asians, there will be far less geniuses in the world, and this will halt or reverse economic and technical progress, things practically everyone values and benefits from across the world. If White people were replaced by East Asians, there still may be less geniuses, but this is harder to show by IQ distributions alone. White people are not being replaced by East Asians, however, so we need not consider the question of Asian genius here.
Above is from Charles Murray’s Human Achievement. Essentially 99% of achievement comes from White men, especially British, French, and German.
We can begin to see why this is by looking at average IQs. The minimum IQ of a Nobel Prize winner is probably 120. This is about 1.3 SDs, or 90th percentile.
From Piffer 2019, we can estimate the IQs of populations when left to their own devices (being around Whites seems to raise IQ somewhat, probably because Whites provide a higher standard of living to minorities than they would receive in their own countries). Africans land at about 70, and Latinos at 85. For Whites, at most 10% of their populations are eligible for Nobel prizes. For Latinos that number becomes about 1%, and for Blacks the number is less than 1 in 1,000. From these estimations, a White America will produce 10 times the achievements of a Latino America, and 100 times the achievements of a Black America. 10 is a big factor — divide our current total achievement level by 10 and you’re probably not even in the 19th century. White people have benefited the whole world by massively increasing the Pareto optimum and spread technology far and wide. Africans have iPhones now. That wouldn’t have happened with Brown America and Brown Britain.
There’s more recent data that backs this up. National intelligence really is the best predictor of economic growth:
With this in mind, let’s consider some more of Rutherford’s “arguments”:
People have moved around the world throughout history and had sex wherever and whenever they could. Sometimes these are big moves in short times. More often people are largely static over a few generations, and that can feel like a geographical and cultural anchor. Nevertheless, every Nazi has Jewish ancestors. Every white supremacist has Middle Eastern ancestors. Every racist has African, Indian, Chinese, Native American, aboriginal Australian ancestors, as well as everyone else, and not just in the sense that humankind is an African species in deep prehistory, but at a minimum from classical times, and probably much more recently. Racial purity is a pure fantasy. For humans, there are no purebloods, only mongrels enriched by the blood of multitudes.
This is a massive cope, the odds that someone who is half Indian gets is a Nobel Prize is far lower than the odds that someone who is 100% British gets a Nobel prize. Rutherford is correct that “pure blood” is an uncritical concept, but he is wrong that a nation of people with his ancestry would be the same as the actual nation of Britain which has enriched the world far more than India (it even enriched India!).
Nevertheless, the imagined end of this flabbily defined concept of Western culture is a permanent source of anxiety for white supremacists. They fantasise about a persecution of their people that will end in their extinction or an erosion of their rights in exchange for the same rights afforded to people of different heritage. When all you’ve ever known is privilege, equality feels like oppression.
Now that we have thoroughly debunked his vibe, we can clearly see his full activist colors with paragraphs like these. Rutherford pretends to not know what Western culture is — Western culture is, in part, the achievement we have discussed, and it comes from White people. Rutherford states that “equality feels like oppression” — is it equality that Blacks get a free 230 SAT points for their skin color? No, that’s White oppression, that’s crapping on Whitey for coming from a population that has way more geniuses so Harvard can be brown enough. Under a race blind system, Blacks would be less than a percent at Harvard, currently they’re at 15%.
Rutherford also asks if Greek ancestry means anything, while calling US Black genetics complex because of admixture with Whites:
Does ‘35 per cent Greek’ mean anything about your character or behaviour?
Men fathering children with enslaved women was a common occurrence, most famously in the post-revolution era in the case of President Thomas Jefferson, who is alleged to have fathered six children with Sally Hemmings, herself the daughter of a partnership between an African American and an Englishman.
The answer is yes, being “35% Greek” does offer predictions of behavior.
Not only does the paper linked above show that the more White admixture a US Black has, the higher his IQ is likely to be, it also applies some models and finds that a minimum estimate of the geneticness of the Black-White IQ Gap is 50%. It could easily be 70% or more, but almost certainly not lower than 50%. The Bell Curve is vindicated.
Rutherford has been thoroughly embarrassed here. As in Part I, he has been shown to basically leave out data he doesn’t like, presenting only a vague subset of the actual facts at hand to his readers. The book is simply bad.
Why does he do this? Rutherford ends Part II by discussing the honesty of himself and his fellow activists:
The idea that we are hiding some truth from the public for political reasons is absurd. As with equally mad antiscientific ideas such as creationism, if I could demonstrate that Darwin was wrong or that race is a scientifically valid and useful description of human variation, I would be the most famous biologist in history, and the riches that would follow would surely be magnificent.
The idea that the existence and importance of race is not one of the most taboo topics in science is absurd. It would be an easy study to do to show that race and IQ is considered highly taboo — perhaps this could be done in the future.
As for hiding truth, it’s possible that Rutherford is totally honest, or is self-deceiving. Math beyond Punnett squares may really be too much for him.
But some are almost certainly conscious activists. I point the reader to three essays on Eric Turkheimer. My favorite parts of these essays include Turkheimer’s suspiciously outlier 2003 study claiming that the Black White IQ Gap was environmental because the heritability of IQ was supposedly lower among the poor, a finding that has failed replication repeatedly.
Turkheimer also tells of his bias:
If it is ever documented conclusively, the genetic inferiority of a race on a trait as important as intelligence will rank with the atomic bomb as the most destructive scientific discovery in human history [emphasis always mine]. The correct conclusion is to withhold judgment.
He has taken to Twitter to convey two things: (1) idle speculation is only wrong if it is hereditarian, and; (2) group differences are harmful to idly talk about. Note his tacit implication: that group differences research at the time (and by association, now) was responsible for the Holocaust and Jim Crow. This is perhaps a hubristic view. As a “scientist,” Turkheimer may imagine the things he says have a great deal of influence on political machination. He may not. He may believe these things did earlier. They did not, but I welcome him to show that they did. It is a fact, however, that environmentarian beliefs (a la Lysenko et al.) have caused enormous harm. Turkheimer lobbies for enormous harm to science with no as-yet justified reason.
According to the author of the essays, this is why recently Turkheimer has committed blatant fraud attempting to debunk a 2021 meta-analysis that found similar heritabilities for IQ in all US racial groups:
Every procedural and analytic quibble levied against Pesta et al. by Giangrande & Turkheimer was tested and nothing stuck. This situation is remarkable for that reason. It is hard to imagine that a sufficiently motivated person could not find one issue to bring up that could substantially affect the results of a study, but here we have two of them and they failed to do just that. This is important because it substantially strengthens the conclusion that has to be made: Pesta et al. did a good job and Giangrande & Turkheimer wanted to do anything to besmirch it, so they committed fraud.
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