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Family matters and cheesy insinuations

What do you know? Richard Dawkins and I have something in common.

In a particularly slimy move, the Telegraph has posted an article that tries to tar Dawkins with the sin of slavery. Not that Richard Dawkins himself has slaves or endorses slavery, but that he had an 18th century ancestor who had a Jamaican estate with over a thousand slaves. The reporter also made the ludicrous suggestion that slave-holding was genetic.

I’d scarcely had time to re-open my lecture notes when he rang back: “Darwinian natural selection has a lot to do with genes, do you agree?” Of course I agreed. “Well, some people might suggest that you could have inherited a gene for supporting slavery from Henry Dawkins.”

So now there’s a slavery gene? That is quite possibly the dumbest assertion I’ve heard in a whole week…and I read creationist websites. As Dawkins points out, he had 512 direct ancestors in that same generation, and that he has a number of ministers in his lineage. Not only is it ridiculous to invent a slavery gene, but it’s a selective absurdity to cherry-pick members of a large population of remote relatives and claim that an individual is responsible for everything every ancestor did. That’s a rather biblical position to take, I think.

So what do we have in common? I poked around a bit in the genealogical records and found this: a piece of the 1820 US census.

It’s not easy to read, but that’s a bit of the records for St Stevens Parish, King William, Virginia. I’ve mentioned before that I’m Scandinavian on my mother’s side, but on my father’s side, I’m English/Irish/Scots and an undefined mingling of who-knows-what, including a bit of Dutch, and they’ve been skulking around North America since somewhere in the 17th or 18th century, and some of them were even Southerners. My great-great-great-great-grandfather, Garland Hurt (1764-1839) was a Virginian married to Martisha Thurston (1768-1818), who had 3 sons and 3 daughters…and also 1 female slave under 14, and 1 female slave between 14 and 25.

Oh no! Do I carry the slave-master gene?

I suppose if I were interested and extremely ambitious (sorry, I’m not), I could trace all of Garland Hurt’s descendants forward, and then we’d find not only that some of you readers might be related to me. I suspect that some of the people who utterly despise me (if they even know of me) are distant cousins. We’re different from each other and from our ancestors.

My family is a bit down-class compared to those fancy-pants Dawkinses, but as you can see, it’s easy to find slave-owners for any of us among the swarms of ancestors we all have, just by going back far enough. I also have at least one ancestor who fought on the Union side (an Iowan who fought with Grant in the Mississippi campaign) in the Civil War. I deplore the slave-owner, but I don’t own his guilt, nor do I get to take credit for the great-great-grandfather who was mustered out in New Orleans. We’re all a great gemisch of subsets of genes from a bounded population. It’s simply silly to start parsing out characteristics from individuals in a complex cloud from the ancestral gene pool and arbitrarily assigning them to single contemporaries. The writer of that article, Adam Lusher, is an idiot…and the Telegraph ought to be embarrassed at publishing such tripe.

Comments

  1. JoeBuddha says

    So, uh, has anyone checked the “reporter” to see if he has any relatives who owned or condoned slaves? Or, has his family always been weasels?

  2. says

    In doing research I have found an ancestor of mine who owned a rather large plantation in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s in Tennessee and he owned at least eight slaves that I know of and most likely more. It doesn’t make me feel particularly bad since I had nothing to do with it, but as a historian it surely fascinates me.

  3. says

    Maybe they’ve been reading their Bibles and taking it too literally again. All that stuff about the genealogy of Christ meaning something is warping their brains.

    He’s related to King David, so he’s God… no wait…

  4. says

    I remember sitting in church growing up and hearing sermons about “those godless atheists” so yeah, they are scared, and for good reason. Anyone who has an ounce of reason in their head can figure out it’s all bullshit pretty easily. Can’t having the little people doing that, now can we?

  5. Russell says

    Let us pray some public spirited Mauritanian drops in on The Creation Museum to swap a couple of triceratops saddles for its director.

    Being among the children of Ham, Ken should fetch his weight in salt at auction in Timbedra

  6. says

    I always wished I was related to Shadrach Meshach or Abednigo… they had the coolest names. Plus, anyone who can take that kind of heat must have some tough genes I could have inherited.

  7. Buccal Pump says

    I’m a distant cousin to George W. Bush.

    When my mom told me this, I asked her, “Why did all the money stay in that side of the family?”

    She replied, “Well, we got all the brains!”

  8. says

    Ah discovering your family genealogy.

    Don’t forget the thank the Mormons whilst you’re at it! ;P

    (Posssibly the only useful thing Smith and Young Inc have ever given us!)

  9. says

    This reporter has proven to have a malicious intent. He obviously came across the ministers in RD’s lineage; so even if we might be forgiven for misunderstanding the role of genetic background, it would make more sense to say that RD has a religious gene. And of course it is very easy to understand that this assumption also means that you can only study within the field of your ancestors.
    The most sickening insinuation if we follow this guy’s reasoning, is that there is also a slave gene.

  10. cag says

    Personally, I would rather have ancestors who owned slaves than ancestors who were preachers. Unfortunately the latter is the more probable.

  11. says

    I definitely have to thank the Mormons for scanning in a hard-to-find book about my 2nd Great Grandfather’s Irish family.

    mario, I agree with you completely. The reporter was just parroting a line I heard many times in bible class as a youth, usually referring to how “we” were paying the price for all the sinfulness of our ancestors.

    Funny but they never really said what price we were paying, and I’ve always lived a comfortable life myself, but it was especially comfortable back in the late 70’s early 80’s when I was growing up. You could say the same for most of the people I went to church with, too, so I never have figured out what they were talking about on that front.

    I guess it’s just the overall persecution complex that American Christians have developed over the life of this nation. It goes back to the Puritans, I would guess, those dirty bastards.

  12. raven says

    This is such a lame hatchet job that it should and probably will backfire.

    My distant ancestors ate an apple, ticked god off, and got kicked out of eden.

    Some of the other ones discovered fire.

    A few of them were Neanderthals for sure.

  13. says

    Interesting that most of the comments on the Daily Fail’s website seem to be of the “this is a pointless own goal” variety. Seems they may actually have some standards after all!

  14. SallyStrange: bottom-feeding, work-shy peasant says

    Silly indeed. Thanks to my grandparents’ research, I now know that I’m related to both slave owners and abolitionists on my mom’s side of the family. Perhaps their genes canceled each other out…? I can’t even parse how someone could be so confused about how genetic inheritance works. The author of the piece must have been making an unfortunate attempt at humor or something.

  15. says

    I think the “logic” went like this

    Richard Dawkins had ancestors who owned slaves
    Richard Dawkins thinks genes are important
    Richard Dawkins shares some genes with his ancestors who owned slaves.
    Richard Dawkins is a horrible person who wants to own slaves.

    How am I doing so far?

  16. says

    If I were a descendant of a Dawkins slave, I would have been treated fairly and humanely.

    Dawkins has clearly inherited the humane gene.

    However, if elevators had existed in those times, I dread to ponder my existence hinged upon the bubblegum behavior gene.

  17. shouldbeworking says

    I’m third generation Canuck and my father’s family owned slaves in north Carolina. My mother’s family were most likely serfs in Czarist Russia. WTF would the rag make of that?

  18. says

    PZ could enlist some mormons to necrodunk his slaveholding ancestors. Once that’s done, the mormons could also seal the dead slaves to the ancestor. That way the ancestors can carry on with slavery in the mormon Celestial Kingdom.

    Precedent:

    May 18,1894 – In Salt Lake Temple, “Jane Elizabeth Manning (a Negro woman) is sealed as a servitor for eternity to the Prophet Joseph Smith.” Joseph F. Smith acts as proxy.

    The same could be done for the ancestors and slaves of the Dawkins family.

    To be fair, the whole sealed-for-servitude thing is frowned upon by today’s mormons, so Dawkins’s ancestors would probably have to settle for sealed-in-marriage — and no worries about more than one wife in Heaven. Mormon afterlife is still polygamy-friendly.

  19. jackbauer says

    Wow PZ! You managed to show support fos this “straight white privileged man”, after days of this matter going around, and after other atheist bloggers doing so. Did it hurt much?

  20. says

    Wow PZ! You managed to show support fos this “straight white privileged man”, after days of this matter going around, and after other atheist bloggers doing so. Did it hurt much?

    Go eat cynaide

  21. says

    cynaide? it that like koolade? Can I have the sinaide instead? Or better yet, the sin aide? But yeah, Ing, Typos homage apart, sentiment agreed with. Fuck off, bauer.

    On another note, don’t you hate that weasel phrasing “Well, some people might suggest that [X]“. Oh no, honest guv, not me! Just some unnamed and unsubstantiable “some people”. Not my responsibility, nope. Well, some people might suggest that the reporter is a moron.

  22. A. R says

    Interesting, though most of my direct ancestors were fairly well-to-do, I can find only a single one who was a slaveholder. ZOMG I must automatically support slavery!

  23. says

    I WISH I came from a slave owning ancestry and enunciated in Cambridge-speak, and had a hot wife, and was really smart. We all do.

    But I’m a blue collar bloke, and if you chew bubble gum in an elevator with me, I’ll kick your ass.

  24. Pen says

    Darn it, my ancestors were forced to confine their exploitations to sheep and turnips, while calling Dawkins’ ancestors ‘Sir’. So, I just won’t talk to him any more, is that right?!

  25. wholething says

    I have several ancestors who owned slaves in the South. I also have one who was excommunicated from the Quakers for “sundry disorders”. I didn’t get to choose my ancestors but I am more proud of some than others.

    I am statistically certain that I am descended from both Roman slaves and Roman masters. I expect anyone of European descent can make the same claim.

  26. SallyStrange: bottom-feeding, work-shy peasant says

    Wow PZ! You managed to show support fos this “straight white privileged man”, after days of this matter going around, and after other atheist bloggers doing so. Did it hurt much?

    I’m sure it wasn’t quite as painful as encountering your grating stupidity and entitled smugness.

  27. theophontes, Hexanitroisowurtzitanverwendendes_Bärtierchen says

    @ Lynna 27

    To be fair, the whole sealed-for-servitude thing is frowned upon by today’s mormons

    Wait, I thought those old mormon guys where following GAWD’s Eternal Will to the letter. What changed? It is almost as if they make it up as they go along.

    The early islamists were the same. Allah forever changing it’s mind and fucking up the details. Now there are any number of contradictory fairytales that are each perfectly, uniquely true for all time and written on golden tablets in heaven.

    And why all the record keeping and genealogy … is GAWD forgetful?

  28. says

    I’m just trying to get out of this goddam elevator, won’t some hot chick please excuse my transgressions for Richard? He’s a horseman and I even met him once. That’s worth at least one grab-a-boob.

  29. csrster says

    Has anybody remarked on the sexism of the Telegraph article which privileges Dawkins’ male-line ancestry over all his other ancestors – some of whom were likely enough slaves or anti-slavery activists. Or is the slave-owning gene sex-linked?

  30. avh1 says

    So when do I get issued my porcupine? (I know, I know, not until the probationary period ends and I have shown that I know how to properly use such a fine and useful animal). It’s just journalists (with a few honourable exceptions) leave me wishing I had one now.

  31. theophontes, Hexanitroisowurtzitanverwendendes_Bärtierchen says

    @ Utakata

    Are you smoking crack, scooterskutre?

    More like an intracranial injection of krokodil.

  32. kosk11348 says

    This is the journalistic equivalent of a “Yo Mamma” joke except without the possibility of being funny.

  33. smflex says

    I’m sure there were slave owners on the Dutch side of my family. Knowing I’m a descendent of Jan van Riebeeck, founder of Cape Town, kind of makes it pointless to look into it though.

  34. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    It’s possible some ancestors did, but I have not done a huge deal of geneology (don’t want to get my ancestors necrodunked in case a cousin or somesuch of mine goes moron)

  35. mnb0 says

    “including a bit of Dutch”
    End of debate. It’s widely known that the Dutch were the worst slave traders ever ánd that the Dutch have very strong genes (me being Dutch am a fine example), so you and your descendants are genetically doomed for eternity.

  36. Louis says

    If Richard Dawkins evolved from slave owners then why are there still slave owners?* EXPLAIN THAT EVILOOSHUNISMISTS!!!!oneelevenshift111111″

    Louis

    *Ans also, PYGMIES and DWARVES!

  37. DLC says

    Hm . . . I have no idea what my ancestors did. Don’t actually care, either. Perhaps I’ve got Pirate genes, or printer genes.

  38. concernedjoe says

    Actually the ancestry thing, if you look at it rationally, provides some substantiation to Dawkins’ ideas concerning memetics.

    Mores and values seem to be ever-changing and a function of the nature of humans, the nurture of society, the environment, and what is controlling the group-think.

    This post to me illustrates memetics: that at any point in time you have essentially a good chance of doing and thinking like the group. Also #27 and #39 are illustrative.

    Of course aberrant behaviors (for good and for bad) occur. But that just gives some substantiation to the variability of the causal factors’ (nature/nurture/environment) overall influence and effect re: an individual.

    Behavior plots along some sort of bell-curve. The Mean and Medium shift. I think toward the better when secular democracy and freedom take root and begin to flourish, and to the worse when things are more theocratic (under the spell of an “-ism”).

    Given a suitable population to examine there always were and always will be some homicidal maniacs, and some people who would not hurt a fly. The rest of us are a +/- standard deviation from the mean so to speak (please don’t get all pedantic on me ;-)).

  39. Louis says

    On a vaguely serious note, admire Dawkins though I do, and like some of his writings though I do, when oh when oh when will the god-soaked religionauts get it into their heads that atheism (or science or evolutionary biology) is not a religion?

    It doesn’t matter if Dawkins misspeaks on some issue (even if it is a rhetorical own goal like forgetting the full subtitle of “On the Origin of Species” whilst on the radio), it doesn’t matter if a Dawkins ancestor owned slaves (it wouldn’t matter to atheism or science if the current Dawkins did, it would bloody well matter to anyone’s appreciation of his ethics and their support for him of course), it doesn’t matter if many/all of we atheists disagree with Dawkins about many things. Atheism isn’t a religion, Dawkins isn’t a priest or a leader in the sense of his words are binding or representative (necessarily). He can hop on one leg around Oxford for all I care, it doesn’t suddenly become binding on me to do so because we are both atheists. Like Dawkins, I view this latest attack on him as a man* to be surreal and irrelevant.

    I just wish it was unexpected.

    Louis

    *Actually, it isn’t even on HIM! It is hilariously an attack on someone who operated ~300 years prior to his birth. There were courts in the UK who wouldn’t convict on that sort of evidence, even in the 1970s, even with an Irish defendant.

  40. cunninglingus says

    So Professor Dawkins ancestors owned slaves, I’m willing to hazard a guess, given the era, that said slave owning ancestor was also a christian.

  41. raven says

    jackbauer the idiot troll:

    Wow PZ! You managed to show support fos this “straight white privileged man”, after days of this matter going around, and after other atheist bloggers doing so. Did it hurt much?

    No idiot. PZ has been offsite in Las Vegas at some sort of meeting. He has been busy. Some people do have busy lives, you know. Or you would if you weren’t very stupid.

  42. Louis says

    Raven, #56,

    Some people do have busy lives, you know.

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    Raven, Raven, Raven. You miss the key point of the Internet Critic here. If anyone is too slow about/has not covered an issue it is indicative of how hideously biased/privileged they are and means they are a scumbag. They are not permitted to have a life outside of the internet and thus cannot be busy with real life. Get on with it slacker!

    Simultaneously, if they do cover something, or even just post on the internet, then they are not busy enough in real life and must have no life outside the internet. What a loser!

    These things are both true at the same time.

    ;-)

    Louis

  43. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart: mad, but sadistic genius says

    Yeah, I’m a direct descendant of slave owners. My family lived in Florida before the Civil War and the plantation stayed in the family until the 1950s.

    So what? It’s an uncomfortable fact, but it says nothing about me. What a load of horse shit.

  44. Ogvorbis: Now With 98% Less Intellectual Curiousity! says

    I think that this reporter may be auditioning as a scriptwriter for Faux News.

    -=====-

    On Dad’s side, I have multiple ancestors who owned slaves. And fought to maintain the right to own slaves. On Mom’s side, I have some ancestors who fought to preserve the union and free the slaves. Were I Christian, which side would be the dominant gene? The abolitinionists? Most likely. I am an atheist, so I guess Taliaferro, Loman, Clark and others provide the dominant gene.

    Ah. The smell of hypocrisy in the morning.

  45. sambarge says

    All people of European descent are related to Charlemagne. Given the number of people that have ever existed and the number of ancestors we all have, it is inevitable that we are all related to one another and to both slave owners, abolitionists, murderers, rapists, victims of murderers and rapists and, even though it pains me to say it, ministers and priests.

    This reporter needs to learn something about genetics and ancestry before he uses both or either in an argument.

  46. Louis says

    Sambarge,

    HOW VERY DARE YOU!

    I refuse to believe I am related to Piers Morgan in any sense.

    Louis

  47. says

    My Italian and German ancestors came here after slavery was done with here and before fascism gripped their countries of origin so I’m safe from at least this brand of absurd blood libel. But who knows what prior centuries in any country could turn up.

  48. says

    “As Dawkins points out, he had 512 direct ancestors in that same generation”

    Small point, but shouldn’t that be “had up to 512 direct ancestors”? I mean aren’t the chances good that he is descended from some of them by more than one route? And aren’t we all?

  49. sambarge says

    Louis @ 64

    I refuse to believe I am related to Piers Morgan in any sense.

    No, no. I said people of European descent. I don’t know what Piers Morgan is but I hope we can all agree it’s not totally human.

  50. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart: mad, but sadistic genius says

    Oggie,
    Same here. It’s very likely that I had family fighting for both sides during the Civil War and I’m willing to bet that’s not too uncommon for people of European descent what have had family in the US during the 1860s.

  51. ButchKitties says

    I’m my own ancestral enemy. I’m sure that’s true for many, maybe even most, people.

  52. theophontes, Hexanitroisowurtzitanverwendendes_Bärtierchen says

    I don’t know what Piers Morgan is but I hope we can all agree it’s not totally human.

    Piers is a catholic godbot.But apparently not botty enough:

    When intelligent, well formed Catholics like Santorum give a Natural Law basis for defending truth, people like Piers Morgan dismiss them as “bigoted.

    Link: catholic.org

  53. Ogvorbis: Now With 98% Less Intellectual Curiousity! says

    I’m my own ancestral enemy. I’m sure that’s true for many, maybe even most, people.

    Well, my known ancestry includes English, Polish, German, French Huegenot, Italian, Irish, Scottish, and Abnaki, so, yeah, I’m my own ancestral enemy. No doubt.

  54. says

    #18-“It’s worse, Raven.

    Our oldest ancestor fucked his own clone.”

    And their children fucked each other.

    But, you must be ordained to teach this stuff.

  55. Esteleth, Ph.D. of Mischief, Mayhem and Hilarity says

    Hmm. By this logic, I am a Czech noblewoman, a Bavarian brewer, a Yorkshire landholder, a serf from Cornwall, a Congregationalist, Methodist AND Baptist minister, a moonshiner, a farmer of potatoes, wheat, and barley, a seamstress, weaver, slaveowner, abolitionist, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence who fought for the Tories in the Revolution. And then whatever the fuck one group of my ancestors were doing in Appalachia (that side isn’t investigated very thoroughly, the family tree is oddly shaped (*cough*) and the records are spotty).
    What utter horseshit.

  56. theophontes, Hexanitroisowurtzitanverwendendes_Bärtierchen says

    Ms Daisy Cutter

    I’ve always kind of envied the ability of others to trace their heritages back centuries.

    Not possible at all. Long isnads going back centuries to prove decent are a fucking joke in patriarchal societies. Linky:Illegitimacy rates per country

    Obviously this only serves as a rough guide (I am not sure how they accounted illegitimate children born to married women. The rates (other studies) can be very high, depending on community in question.) There are also large historical variations. General wealth and recovery from war tend to push the percentages up.

    Don’t feel envy at all. Nobody really knows.

  57. Thy Goddess says

    Hear hear. If I look down my family tree I’m sure I’ll find rapists, child molesters, homophobes, (for these I probably just have to look in my ultra-religious side of the family.) murderers, racists and maybe even slave drivers. It does not make me like them. I am an individual.

    Unlike what the nutty book says, children don’t inherit the sins of the parents.

  58. Esteleth, Ph.D. of Mischief, Mayhem and Hilarity says

    Theophontes,

    I am not sure how they accounted illegitimate children born to married women.

    I’m guessing that the “illegitimacy rate” before, say, 50 years ago, was the rate of babies born to (1) unmarried women and (2) babies born to married women whose husband’s rejected paternity. Many times, a baby born to a married woman was presumed (and accepted) as the child of her husband and thus counted as legitimate.

  59. Happiestsadist says

    peterh@ #67: What else would he be doing?

    Unless you go back very far, both sides of my family are fairly unremarkable, unless you count my paternal side’s tendency to get notably injured in wars and live a very long life thereafter. That and the (to put it mildly) incompatibility between the Catholic and Protestant sides.

  60. theophontes, Hexanitroisowurtzitanverwendendes_Bärtierchen says

    @ Esteleth

    That is the impression I got wrt earlier studies. Data collected in different times varies, so obviously it is not an easy task to get a long view.

    Here is something else I found:

    Current research indicates that roughly 2 to 3% of all children are not genetically related to the assumed father.

    Link.

    So we could do some maths assuming the “worst”: Legitimacy wrt relationship to ancestor n years ago (say generation = 25 years) we would get :
    L= (.97)^(n/25) * 100% … for Dawkins (Say 250 years)=74% that he is a legitimate descendant (looking at Dawkins high forehead I doubt he falls into that category.)

  61. theophontes, Hexanitroisowurtzitanverwendendes_Bärtierchen says

    PS: I cannot find a Danish study which I read about some years ago that would indicate the real rates are actually substantially higher.

  62. lordshipmayhem says

    Well, my ancestors included hominids who wandered the Rift Valley in Africa. Does that make me want to wander sunny plains in warm climate areas in the naturist way?

    I now have to ponder that question.

  63. truthspeaker says

    I’m a white American. That means that, even though none of my ancestors owned slaves that I know of, and several of them were abolitionists, my ancestors benefited economically from slavery.

  64. julietdefarge says

    I first started looking into genealogy after a Black researcher called me to ask if I had any documents relating to a slave-owning ancestor. I said that I didn’t know anything about any slaves, and he replied, with evident frustration, “Well, you don’t think those 7000 acres farmed themselves, do you?” I saw his point, and betook myself to the relevant courthouses for more information.

    Anyway, I’m sure Dawkins feels the same way I do: I recognize that I might not have had a comfortable life and the opportunity to go to college without that slave labor. As soon as I get a time machine, I’ll right that injustice.

  65. says

    Of course there is no personal liability on the part of slave owner descendants. But the society as a whole does have a responsibility of righting the wrongs of the past. But it’s not like they’d go through the census data of the 18th and 19th centuries and ask the descendants of slave owners to pay up.

    I also think that nobility and certain “old money” families have benefited from a system that was geared towards them. Again, they cannot be held personally responsible. What could be done, but will probably never happen, is to increase the inheritance tax rate substantially (starting say from 10m onwards).

  66. Gregory Greenwood says

    “Well, some people might suggest that you could have inherited a gene for supporting slavery from Henry Dawkins.”

    Teh stoopid, it burns!

    Not only is it ridiculous to invent a slavery gene, but it’s a selective absurdity to cherry-pick members of a large population of remote relatives and claim that an individual is responsible for everything every ancestor did. That’s a rather biblical position to take, I think.

    This is indeed a biblical mentality – the idea that a person can be born ‘evil’ or ‘sinful’, the concept that the sins of the parent should be visited upon the child, the whole toxic construct of ‘original sin’ and the supposed heritability of immorality is one of the nastier aspects of a religion full of hatred, bile and bigotry. This is simply an attempt to update original sin by ineptly seeking to co-opt genetic science to the cause of theistic character assassination of a prominent atheist. Of course, as is usual with fundies, this cretin succeeds only in demosntrating his lack of understanding of evolutionary theory and generally puts his idiocy on display for the whole world to see.

    Of course, this Telegraph hack’s target audience is as foolish as he is, so he probably is not overly concerned with the liklihood that his anti-scientific blather will trigger an intellectual gag reflex.

  67. maryb says

    What? You don’t believe in original sin? Then how can we guilt monger you and control you? If you believe in original sin, it is an easy path to tarring you with the actions of all your ancestors and thus increase your guilt by association.

    Of course, my 7 year old self in sunday school questioned the logic of original sin and set me on my path of disbelief. Ergo, this idiot is dumber than my 7 year-old self.

    I’m directly descended from one of the Puritan preachers who tortured women accusing them of witchcraft in Salem. Oh well, I can’t help who’s genes might run in my DNA but I can help who I am what I do.

  68. Gregory Greenwood says

    jackbauer @ 28;

    Wow PZ! You managed to show support fos this “straight white privileged man”, after days of this matter going around, and after other atheist bloggers doing so. Did it hurt much?

    OK, let me see…

    Incoherent ranting – check.

    A hefty does of MRA arse-hattery – check.

    A poor attempt at sarcasm – check.

    Yes, you will do nicely…

    —————————————————————-

    Jack (do you mind of I call you Jack?), I have a question that I think you are eminently qualified to answer – is ignorance really bliss?

    As someone who seems to float around all day in a cloud of their own self-righteousness, wilfull stupidity – such that you would actually click ‘submit’ on such a titanically cretinous post as that which is currently polluting the thread @ 28 – do you find the echoing void between your ears to be comforting? Does trolling unrelated threads give you warm, fuzzy feelings? Does your directionless rage against women and feminists give you the illusion of intellectual superiority and purpose, a grand destiny of being a full-time male supremicist creep? Do you fantasize that you are the online equivalent of your fictional, torture-happy gun-toting namesake, forever protecting CTU teh menz from those evil, evil terrorists ‘feminazis’?

    Enquiring minds want to know…

  69. says

    My grandfather emigrated from Munich, Germany in 1928, so we avoided the whole slavery thing. It was good that he left Germany when he did because in a few years staying there would have been problematic, especially for his Jewish wife (my grandmother). His brother remained in Germany. He was a career soldier, and although he never joined the Nazi party, he did serve in the Wehrmacht. He got both his legs blown off in the battle of El Alamein.

  70. johnlee says

    I’ve read the Daily Telegraph from time to time as my parents are regular readers.
    I’ve read some extraordiinary rubbish in it over the years, but this article really has to take the prize.
    Adam Lusher’s article really is the most embarrassing trash I have ever read in this rag, and as you can imagine, there has been some very stiff competition over the years. I notice that the Telegraph hasn’t allowed comment on the article. I’m not surprised either. What an idiot this man is.

  71. Amphiox says

    Well, I’m pretty certain there actually ARE slave-master genes on this planet.

    In ants.

    But of course, Richard Dawkins and ants share a common ancestor!

    Check and mate, people, check and mate….

  72. says

    Arrest me now. I had an ancestor executed for treason in England so clearly I must have the treason gene. Also the draft dodging and die in combat gene since I had an ancestor leave Germany to avoid the draft and another who died in the Civil War fighting for the Union. And witches, can’t forget the witches, I’m descended from the brother of two of the women executed in Salem.

    By the way, I did not dig up all that genealogy stuff. One of my cousins did all the research.

  73. grumpy1942 says

    Don’t you people realize that had there been no slavery in the U.S. Hillary Clinton would be President?

  74. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Don’t you people realize that had there been no slavery in the U.S. Hillary Clinton would be President?

    Sigh

  75. Don Quijote says

    At last, an explanation as to why I sometimes have the urge to call myself Francisco and go out to conquer the world.

  76. frog says

    One of the minor advantages of being only second-generation American is that this sort of thing is easy to avoid. My grandparents were the last of a long line of tenant farmers (didn’t even own the land!), and came here in the early 20th c. to give city life a try.

    Of course, there are famous Americans from the colonial era who share my last name. It’s entirely possible that I have many-generations-removed cousins who were slaveholders. It’s equally likely, though, that I have many-generations-removed cousins who were slaves. Is this why I’m always trying to order myself around?

  77. frog says

    grumpy1942, please tell us you’re being sarcastic. Obama’s father was born in Africa, not afaik the descendant of slaves brought to America by force.

  78. Moggie says

    maryb:

    I’m directly descended from one of the Puritan preachers who tortured women accusing them of witchcraft in Salem.

    Noadi:

    And witches, can’t forget the witches, I’m descended from the brother of two of the women executed in Salem.

    Fight!

  79. ibyea says

    @amphiox
    Okay, that definitely convinced me. The logic is obviously irrefutable. Richard Dawkins, GUILTY!!!11

  80. frog says

    Pelamun@105: whew! Some days my irony circuits aren’t firing, and the poe-ism was really, really good. I’ve heard people say that exact thing, in seriousness, trying to imply that liberals must think slavery was a good thing since it brought Obama’s ancestors here.

    Never mind that (a) didn’t happen that way, and (b) regardless, so what?

  81. says

    Two questions occur to me, which compound the absurdity of this particular ad hominem:

    1. Given that this is nine (right?) generations back, what is the probability that Richard Dawkins is not actually descended from Henry Dawkins? I don’t know how the rate of non-paternity events has changed with time, but it seems like after nine generations the odds of at least one break in the lineage should be at least 20%.

    2. Weren’t a lot of slaves in the 1800’s American South partially descended from slave owners? Again, I don’t know the demographics on this.

    I prefer to think that the reporter was being deliberately dense. The alternative is that people are seriously misunderstanding basic biology.

  82. hamburger says

    The Torygraph has gone hysterical about Dawkins. A few days ago they had a piece in which some idiot argued that Dawkins had refuted himself because he didn’t remember the long subtitle of The Origin Of Species offhand.

    It’s the Drown The New Atheists In Bullshit strategy.

    What’s dreary is that all of the attacks, like this one, have varieties of idiot’s deterministic (or, creationist) underpinning. Resulting in one example after another of genetic fallacy. It can’t be meant to be efficacious, so it must be somehow therapeutic.

  83. WhiteHatLurker says

    @csrster

    Has anybody remarked on the sexism of the Telegraph article which privileges Dawkins’ male-line ancestry over all his other ancestors

    Actually, the article refers to Henry’s wife, Elizabeth Pennant, who was from a plantation- (and presumably slave-) owning family and who jointly owned slaves with Henry. It was Richard (and PZ, mirroring that comment) who focus on Henry, being 1/512 of his Richard’s heritage. Elizabeth contributed 1/512 as well – 1/256 in total being slave owners in this generation – the female partner’s contribution being ignored by the descendant.

    I was coming to comment on the misogyny apparent in Richard Dawkins’ comment. (Not that it distracts from inanity of the linkage of any of his ancestors’ behaviour to his own – his parents could’ve owned slaves (for 2/2 of his heritage), but would that matter greatly, if he had freed those slaves?)

    The reason that the patrilineal line is used is likely that that is the easiest to trace. PZ did a more thorough job on his own ancestry than the paper did on the Dawkins line.

    @richardelguru

    had up to 512 direct ancestors

    Yes, I was also wanting to make that same comment. Thank you for doing that for me.

  84. WhiteHatLurker says

    @frog

    grumpy1942, please tell us you’re being sarcastic. Obama’s father was born in Africa, not afaik the descendant of slaves brought to America by force.

    Ah, but Michelle has ancestors that were slaves. (On both sides, according to wikipedia.) Barack likely wouldn’t be president without her. You can argue with me if you like, but I’d guess your president would agree.

  85. says

    also, they could be referring to the black vote, which was instrumental in derailing Hillary’s bid for the candidacy (South Carolina etc.), and probably also in winning the presidency.

  86. falcarius says

    I heard that one of Richard Dawkins’ DIRECT ancestors once engulfed a prokaryote…and its descendants toil making ATP for their masters TO THIS DAY.

    There you go, IRREFUTABLE PROOF that Dawkins is a genetically programmed slavery proponent!!1!11!

  87. johnjohnston says

    After months of poring over Ancestry.com records, I politely asked my wife to stop researching my family after the third war criminal.

  88. theophontes, Hexanitroisowurtzitanverwendendes_Bärtierchen says

    @ michaelbusch 110

    the odds of at least one break in the lineage should be at least 20%.

    You might want to check my #81 (Assuming 3% (married women) illegitimacy per generation for 10 generations, I got 26%. At lower end (2%) I got 18%.)

  89. lpetrich says

    As to me, I have some recent ancestors who had lived in Alabama. Some of them claim that the Confederate side was the *right* side of the US Civil War.

    Looking back further, I may have had an ancestor or a close relative of one who had fought on the Confederate side in that war, and even further, some of them may have owned slaves.

    Even further, my ancestors on that side had likely arrived in North America before the US Revolutionary War, and from the east coast, they went westward to the Appalachians, and then southwestward.

    How might they have gotten to North America? At least some of them as deported criminals. Britain had used its North American colonies as a destination for such deportations, switching to Australia after the Revolutionary War.