David Reich submits Five Corrections to The New York Times.
As you know, in the fact-checking process I was sent more than 100 statements of which a very high proportion (more than half) were incorrect. For example, as I mentioned to you in my letter of January 7, 20 of 49 statements presented to me for review on January 2 were incorrect, and 27 of the 36 statements presented to me for review on January 5 were incorrect. The high rate of errors was concerning as it suggested that the narrative based on them might not be supported by a solid set of facts. While a substantial number of these incorrect statements were removed through your fact-checking process, some errors got through, and I am therefore now requesting formal corrections of the following 5 errors that meaningfully affect the article, so it is important to set the record straight on them. (I have also identified additional errors, but those are for the most part smaller, so I am not requesting corrections in those cases.)
One of the frustrating aspects of The New York Magazine piece is that I have read probably read most of the Reich lab’s papers over the last 5 years or so (perhaps earlier), so I knew which factual points were false or exaggerations, but I didn’t want to highlight them incessantly because people would get lost in the muddle of detail. For example, in relation to this assertion:
About 5,000 years ago, a “relatively sudden” mass migration of nomadic herders from the east — the steppes of eastern Ukraine and southern Russia — swept in and almost entirely replaced the continent’s existing communities of hunter-gatherers and early farmers.
The figure from Haak et al. 2015 immediately came to mind. It literally rejects the characterization in a quick and simple figure (the population that purportedly “entirely replaced” is green). Obviously, the figure does not show what the piece claims Reich believes, and it is not credible that he would assert something that is refuted by the papers his own lab publishes. If you had read this area you would know all this, but even population geneticists who are not immersed in the human ancient DNA literature likely would not pick up on this. The sample size objection was in a similar class.
Here’s what I’m going to leave you if you are an outsider: if the author misrepresents so many details, how much should you trust them in broad strokes?
The piece was not reportage. It was rhetoric. Sophistry.