26 June 2007


Say, Bro!

From an e-mail, admittedly not attributed and admittedly not strongly sourced, to Andrew Sullivan:
Roughly 2,000 generations ago, the entirety of humanity was reduced to as few as 2,000 or so individuals living in Africa. From that small group of survivors, who were living just 60,000 years ago, every human on earth is descended. 60,000 years is a blip on a glacial timescale. As we migrated around the globe, we left little genetic footprints along the way that can be found in all of us - but all roads lead back to Africa just 60,000 years ago.
This is all consistent with what WJC was saying in his Harvard commencement address recently:
When the human genome was sequenced, and the most interesting thing to me as a non-scientist – we finished it in my last year I was president, I really rode herd on this thing and kept throwing more money at it – the most interesting thing to me was the discovery that human beings with their three billion genomes are 99.9 percent identical genetically. So if you look around this vast crowd today, at the military caps and the baseball caps and the cowboy hats and the turbans, if you look at all the different colors of skin, all the heights, all the widths, all the everything, it’s all rooted in one-tenth of one percent of our genetic make-up. Don’t you think it’s interesting that not just people you find appalling, but all the rest of us, spend 90 percent of our lives thinking about that one-tenth of one percent? I mean, don’t we all? How much of the laugh lines in the speeches were about that? At least I didn’t go to Yale, right? [LAUGHTER] That Brown gag was hilarious. [LAUGHTER]

But it’s all the same deal, isn’t it? I mean, the intellectual premise is that the only thing that really matters about our lives are the distinctions we can draw. Indeed, one of the crassest elements of modern culture, all these sort of talk shows, and even a lot of political journalism that's sort of focused on this shallow judgmentalism. They try to define everybody down by the worst moment in their lives, and it all is about well, no matter whatever’s wrong with me, I’m not that. And yet, you ask Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Bono to come here. Nelson Mandela’s the most admired person in the world. I got tickled the other night. I wound up in a restaurant in New York with a bunch of friends of mine. And I looked over and two tables away, and there was Rush Limbaugh [LAUGHTER], who’s said a few mad things about me. So I went up and shook hands with him and said hello and met his dinner guest. And I came just that close to telling him we were 99.9 percent the same. [LAUGHTER] But I didn’t want to ruin the poor man’s dessert, so I let it go. [LAUGHTER]


When Martin Luther King was invited here in 1968, the country was still awash in racism. The next decade it was awash in sexism, and after that in homophobia. And occasionally those things rear their ugly head along the way, but by and large, nobody in this class is going to carry those chains around through life. But nobody gets out for free, and everyone has temptations. The great temptation for all of you is to believe that the one-tenth of one percent of you which is different and which brought you here and which can bring you great riches or whatever else you want, is really the sum of who you are and that you deserve your good fate, and others deserve their bad one. That is the trap into which you must not fall.

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For ~$100 you can submit your DNA to the National Geographic Genographic project and get a detailed report about where your ancestors were found over the last 100,000 years. Details can be found at https://www3.nationalgeographic.com/genographic/

Turns out my male lineage leads to the Cro Magnons who waited out the Ice Age in Spain.
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