Jon Entine wrote a guest post for us last week on the historical origins of Ashkenazi Jewry. He was sharply criticized by some of you and has written a blistering response to your criticisms, which I have posted after the jump in the extended post…
Who is Jon Entine and Why is He Writing about “Jewish DNA”?
Anyone who writes for a living is prepared to die by the (digital) pen, as criticism comes with the territory and is in fact welcomed by most thinkers. Constructive dialogue benefits everyone, and Jews in particular have made questioning a defining value. Perhaps that’s why I was so disappointed—and readers of this blog were short-changed—by the two posts by those going by the moniker “scientist” in response to my guest blog last week on the history of Ashkenazi Jewry.
“Another Scientist” writes that he was asked by Shmarya to read and comment on “Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People.” He chose not to read the book but instead attacked me professionally. I’m usually willing to shrug off such attacks, but in this case, I believe it does the issue of human diversity and “Jewish DNA” a disservice, so I’ve decided to reply. Hopefully this will lead to dialogue about the importance f debating issues and empirical data rather than engaging in personal attacks.
We are fast leaving the kum-ba-ya period of genetic research, dominated by factoid claims that humans are “99.9 percent the same,” and are entering the far more complex, thornier, yet infinitely more bountiful era of DNA differences and medical research. It’s here that we will discover the complex origins of diseases, but we will also have to confront the stark reality that humans profoundly differ, as individuals and as groups. Humans are a collection of tribes that have blurred mostly on the edges, and the implications of that are huge. We need to be able to discuss these sensitive issues soberly, free from personal attacks and ideological agendas. This is especially important for Jews, particularly Ashkenazim, because our DNA has become a central database for genetic research into disease.
Another Scientist’s main goal, it appears, was to challenge my credentials. I’m very transparent: I have a personal website: http://www.jonentine.com; I have a website for the book—http://www.abrahamschildren.net —in which I post reviews, positive and negative.
No, I did not major in science 35 years ago in university; I was a philosophy and religion major, and I’ve kept current on theology since then—which partly explains my interest in the subject of religion and identity, the central theme of “Abraham’s Children.” I’ve been researching and writing about genetics for more than 20 years. I wrote and produced a documentary on human biodiversity and sports that won many international awards. I’ve written two books on genetics and edited a third (on GMOs). I would wager that I’ve written three more books on genetics than the combined output of the two “scientists” who sharply criticized me or my book (which neither at the time had read).
While researching my first popular book on genetics, the bestseller “Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We’re Afraid to Talk About It,” I worked closely with ten top intellectuals, including numerous scientists, such as Michael Crawford, then editor of Human Biology, a revered academic journal, who were members of an advisory board that reviewed the manuscript and critiqued it before publication. Details of this relationship are disclosed in the book. No surprise that Taboo received overwhelmingly positive reviews from scientists. The only negative reviews in science journals came from an avowed Marxist journalist (Nature) and a post-modernist English professor (American Scientist). I’ve posted most reviews, positive and critical (the critical reviews came almost exclusively from self-identified post-modernist sociologists) on jonentine.com , and have a summary of them at jonentine.com/taboo-what-reviewers-say.html.
Here’s a sampling: The book that everyone believes but no one dare quote."-Wall Street Journal; "Well-researched, thorough and lucidly written."-Scientific American; "This is an important book for biological anthropologists." -American Journal of Physical Anthropology; "This book is a MUST READ for anyone who is interested in the topic of genetics and sport." -International Council of Sports Science and Physical Education; "An informed exploration of a fascinating phenomenon."-Washington Post; "Compelling, bold, comprehensive, informative, enlightening."-Journal of the African American Male; "Taboo is an excellent survey of a controversial topic."-Human Biology Association president Michael Crawford; "Utterly persuasive."-Commentary; "Consistently interesting, readable, provocative." -Robert Lipsyte, New York Times.
Another Scientist then tries to devalue my work by casting it in an ideological or political context. I have written about business ethics/corporate responsibility since 1994. I am well known in the field. I currently write a column for the liberal British-based magazine Ethical Corporation (http://www.ethicalcorp.com). In 1994, I wrote an article exposing the narcissism and fraud of Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop cosmetic company. She was a New Age icon; I discovered that she was a pathological liar and a fraud. My article, “Shattered Image: Is the Body Shop Too Good to be True,” in the liberal magazine Business Ethics won a National Press Club award, was featured on the front page of the NY Times, and sent the company’s stock down by $500 million.
Anita Roddick it turns out stole the name, store design, products---the entire Body Shop concept—from two very nice Jewish women who had opened three Body Shop’s in the San Francisco area beginning in 1970, six years before Roddick opened her copy cat versions. She went on to build an empire making cheap, petrochemical filled cosmetics, falsely marketed as “natural,” and did so on the backs of innocent franchisees, mostly women, who regularly lost their shirts because Roddick exploited their idealism. BSI is a dysfunctional company at every level. Please feel free to check out the research on my webpage.
My article, and my subsequent writings on how to align green operations with green marketing, are featured in most major business textbooks in the world. A few years ago, the book publishing arm of the leftist Nation magazine printed a 10,000 word article of mine on The Body Shop in a book (“Killed”) by David Wallis. Last fall when Roddick died Scott Simon, that right-winger on NPR, wrote an ode to me for exposing “green” hypocrites, like Roddick, who are undermining progressive politics and economics (Roddick's Body Shop: An Empire Built on a Ruse?).
Over the years, I’ve regularly written about corporate responsibility for The Guardian of the UK, Dollars and Sense in the US, Progressive Populist, and many other far left magazines, and am regularly quoted in the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, and on TV—tonight (January 22) I will be on FOX Business channel. Besides writing for Ethical Corporation, I consult on business ethics with companies and foundations around the world, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Another Scientist dismisses that record, sneering that I have a “neo-con’s zeal to expose the corruption he sees behind many corporations and organizations which claim an environmental or social justice motive.” He is apparently basing his entire judgment of me on the fact that in 2003,I was selected as an adjunct fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, one of the most respected think tanks in the world. AEI has close to 100 scholars of varying ideological perspectives, from left to far right. I for one was recruited to AEI after I wrote a scathing article for the Washington Post’s Outlook section on President Bush’s stem cell program, which I labeled racist.
For the record, while my politics are independent, I’m a registered Democrat and recent founder of the local Democratic club in my community, and have been a progressive my entire life.
Another Scientist also attacks “Abraham’s Children,” by misportraying my account of the Cohan Modal Haplotype—he hasn’t read the book, mind you—citing an unnamed friend of his. In AC, I discuss the CMH—what it reveals, the fact that it’s a marker found in other than Jewish populations, quite carefully. And I went to the source—the British, US and Israeli geneticists who did the research. Michael Hammer of the University of Arizona, the premier Y chromosomal scientist in the world, was the key researcher. Michael demonstrated his confidence in my book and me by introducing me and participating in a co-presentation last month in Tucson.
In writing “Abraham’s Children,” I worked very closely with dozens of scientists, many of whom read all or part of the manuscript. For example, one f the most important breast cancer geneticists in the world, Mary-Claire King, is introducing me at my speech at the University of Washington in Seattle in February.
I was also disappointed in the comment by Scientist that my posting on Failed Messiah is “nonsense.” “Abraham’s Children” looks at Jewish history through the prism of DNA. It is not a polemic. It does not advocate Jewish “superiority.” It just discusses what DNA tells us about ancestry and identity. We know that along the paternal line, the overwhelming percentage of Jews have roots in the Middle and Far East. We also know from the DNA evidence that once European Jewry formed approximately 1000 years ago, in part by absorbing non-Jewish lineages (such as my own…I’m R1a on my male side, a Khazarian lineage, which probably means I a descendant of noble Khazars), the walls barring assimilation went up and there was very little introgression into the Ashkenazi gene pool. That conclusion has been reaffirmed in numerous DNA studies. Yes, Jews from Poland married Jews from Hungary, but they shared a common ancestry for the most.
Scientist’s statement that “the rigorous halachic impediments we currently have for conversion were actually set as a reaction to the Catholic laws endangering whole towns if there was conversion, because there was so much "intermarriage" in early Europe, when the current conversion halacha was not in force (this is well documented in Israeli seforim, where there's been pressure on rethinking the current process)" is somewhat correct, but misleading in this context. All the available evidence suggests that almost all intermarriages between Jews and gentiles in early Medieval Europe resulted in Jews leaving the "Jewish gene pool" and becoming Catholic. Again, the rate of introgression into the Jewish gene pool is estimated by scientists at less than 0.5 percent.
I hope I've cleared up the misconceptions about me and "Abraham's Children." Human differences and identity are prickly issues, easy for demagogues to distort. That's even more of a reason to maintain open and careful dialogue. Jews are particularly sensitive to this issue because of unique history. I welcome those on this list who are interested in a real dialogue to post thoughtful comments, or email me directly at email@example.com. I hope Another Scientist and Scientist will take the time to read the book and judge it on its merits, and on its terms--an attempt to bring to the general public a better understanding of complex but critically important genetic issues.