A simple question: did Elizabeth Warren have an Indian ancestor? Yes. Definitely. As Carl Zimmer explains, the science is good and robust on this one. Anyone who is arguing that this is fake science ought to be immediately fired from any job that involves setting science policy. Bye, Donald!
More complex question: does Elizabeth Warren have any legitimate claim to any kind of Indian affiliation? Nope, not that she claimed she did. And she played right into Trump’s racist hand.
Warren ended up providing one of the clearest examples yet of how Trumpian rhetoric shifts the political conversation. The woman who is hoping to become the most progressive Democratic nominee in generations is not merely letting herself get jerked around by a Trumpian taunt. She is also reinforcing one of the most insidious ways in which Americans talk about race: as though it were a measurable biological category, one that, in some cases, can be determined by a single drop of blood. Genetic-test evidence is circular: if everyone who claims to be X has a particular genetic marker, then everyone with the marker is likely to be X. This would be flawed reasoning in any area, but what makes it bad science is that it reinforces the belief in the existence of X—in this case, race as a biological category. Warren’s video will hardly convince a Trump voter, who will see only a woman who feels that she has to prove something. Trump himself has already walked back his promise of a million-dollar charity donation. Warren, meanwhile, has allowed herself to be dragged into a conversation based on an outdated, harmful concept of racial blood—one that promotes the pernicious idea of biological differences among people—and she has pulled her supporters right along with her.
See? You can understand that it is good science while also recognizing that she’s promoting odious ideological implications that are contrary to her political position.