Re: Does DNA prove that Jews are a race? #dna


Adam Turner
 

There is no definition of a "race" that is accepted by 21st-century biologists, so the question "Does DNA prove that Jews are a race?" makes no sense. It's a little like asking "does the fact that my spaghetti bolognese contains high levels of terpenes prove that it is delicious?" (The criteria that we all consciously use and understand for deciding whether something is "delicious" have nothing to do with its objectively measurable levels of this or that molecule; deliciousness isn't a concept that can be "proven" by biochemical analysis, but rather by our own messy and subjective senses of taste.)

While people of Ashkenazi descent tend to share particular markers in their DNA that suggest they are all likely descended from a single, small, distinct founder population that lived in Central Europe about a thousand years ago, race is a social construct, not a biological fact. The US government has never attempted to use DNA to establish who falls into what racial category, and given that the idea of race is incoherent from a scientific perspective*, it's hard to imagine why it would want to start applying such a principle now.

*For just one example of how various popular ideas (both current and past) about who belongs to what "race" don't map at all to the actual facts of genetics, populations from 21st-century Africa are more genetically different from one another than they are from other populations in Europe, South Asia, and East Asia. That is, the DNA of a Yoruba person from Nigeria tends to be more different from that of a Zulu person from South Africa than it is from the DNA of an Ashkenazi Jew or a Vietnamese person: https://www.genetics.org/content/161/1/269 

There's an interesting discussion of the history of classification of Jews as a race in this article by Emory professor Eric Goldstein: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20100947

Adam Turner

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