Gene Expression

The politics of Indian science

A geologist, Suvrat Kher, has a very good post on the recent paper on Indian genetics. He concludes:

The Indian Press has made a hash of the finding. For example they have only reported those parts of the study that deal with the kinship among Indians and have stressed that castes and tribes cannot be differentiated or that there is no divide between the Aryans (roughly north Indians) and Dravidians (south Indians). That is all true for average relatedness. But the study also clearly points out that there are genetic differences between north and south Indians and between upper and lower caste in terms of the degree of relatedness to Eurasians. North Indians and upper castes are more closely related to Eurasians. North Indian upper castes have even more Eurasian ancestry. This part was ignored by the press.

But I can’t blame the press entirely. The scientists who gave interviews to the press didn’t mention this. They wimped out on reporting this potential inflammatory and politically incorrect finding. This is just poor and irresponsible science outreach on part of the scientists. How can you ignore a finding that is staring out at you from the very paper you are talking about? The press may be guilty of not digging in but it was just reporting what the scientists told them.

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I’ve noticed that several Indian weblogs have linked to my previous post to prove that the Aryan-Dravidian divide is a myth! Again, look at the chart to the left. I’ve recoded so that Indo-European (“Aryan”) and Dravidian speaking groups are blue & red respectively. They overlap, but there is clearly an average between group difference.

Sometimes people will see what they want to see. It reminds me of a post I put up years ago that some Jewish groups, like non-Ashkenazi from the former Uzbekistan, don’t really fit into the “Sephardic-Ashkenazi” dichotomy. Nevertheless, the first comment on the post asked if these Jews were Sephardic or Ashkenazi!

Comments

  1. #1 megan
    September 27, 2009

    It sounds like for the sake of peace from not getting lower castes/ethic groups upset to not fueling upper caste ethnic superiority racism, there is a need to deny facts. Like in the US there is no racism cuz we got Obama.
    The research and the finds here should be used to instill understanding ofhow things can change for the better but there still is a need for reform and know the reasons for the institutional ethnic/caste residual mentality continued disparities.

  2. #2 Caledonian
    September 28, 2009

    The press may be guilty of not digging in but it was just reporting what the scientists told them.

    How is that an exculpatory detail? “Digging in” is what the press is theoretically for – granted, most people seem to feel that its purpose is entertainment and propaganda to reinforce societal stability.

  3. #3 omar
    September 28, 2009

    If you mostly interact with Indians, you could be excused for thinking that they are unusually prone to mixing science and nationalistic myth and other superstitions, but when you talk to other third world nationalities, you find that Indians are certainly not worse than the Chinese or the Koreans or the Iranians. In fact, among the University educated lot there is an impressive number of what the RSS would regard as “self-hating” Indians (i use the term sarcastically). The press and the pundits are running scared of Hindutva fanatics, but no more than Republicans are now scared of saying they believe in Evolution. By third world standards of popular discourse, India is not doing badly and maybe the first world isnt all that hot either. On the other hand, world standards are abysmally bad from a strictly scientific point of view…

  4. #4 Rafe
    September 28, 2009

    “maybe the first world isnt all that hot either”

    Just ask Cavalli-Sforza about it.

  5. #5 Swati (ex Meluhhan)
    October 3, 2009

    And then again, you read this and you almost understand why those scientists said what they did. Science, apparently, is determined by popular vote. The scientists could have put an end to the misconceptions, but they just chose to feed them.

    http://forums.sulekha.com/forums/coffeehouse/david-reich-and-lalji-singh-indians-only-trust-the-vedas-and-ramayana-and-our-good-scientists-976060.htm

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