With Warren dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination a lot of people on podcasts I listen to are making fun of her DNA test. Unfortunately, there are some falsehoods being promoted. It’s kind of scary for me because this is a field I know well, and it’s disturbing to watch falsehoods becoming accepted truths because people repeat them over and over again.
– First, the DNA test was not done through 23andMe, etc., or any standard commercial service. Rather, it was done by the Bustamante group at Stanford. This group has a lot of experience with the genetics of indigenous peoples of the Americas, so that is presumably why they were approached.
– Second, Warren surely has more than the expected amount of ancestry (for a white American) derived from people who were resident in the New World prior to 1492. The Bustamante group used relatively stringent criteria that are not comparable in an apples-to-apples manner with the inferences of 23andMe.
I am not here addressing the issue of whether she is or isn’t a Cherokee, or descended from Cherokees. The tests can’t answer those questions for both scientific and socio-political reasons. I’m also not addressing whether she used her identification with that tribe in furthering her career.
My only point in putting this post up is that it gets really disturbing to see “pundits” repeating “facts” you know are totally wrong without any malice because the information ecosystem is such that false facts rapidly transmute into conventional wisdom. Basically, when you see this happening you start to disbelieve everything…
Here is an old post, Elizabeth Warren Carries Native American DNA – She’s Running!.
Note: I have a piece about personal genomics that should be in the print edition of National Review in early April. Update, it’s up.