European Testing For 'Racial Purity': A Concern
    By Hank Campbell | June 14th 2012 10:27 AM | 27 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    In the giant 'Europeans are far more anti-science than Americans' file, we can now add another section on racism.

    Science can use genetic testing to understand risk factors - some groups have a greater risk than others - but that means interested groups can also do other things with the results.  Europe is terrifically racist, you will never hear a racial slur, much less a stadium-wide chant, at an American sporting event but you are guaranteed to have them at the EURO CUP 2012 tournament. Western Europe is at least trying to drive it out and all those 'end racism' banners are a puzzle to western football viewers but at least they care.

    Yet now racists have a new weapon; genetics.

    In the early part of the 20th century, benevolent progressive elites sought to use heredity to curtail promiscuity, crime and mental defects. They called it eugenics and it was wrapped in the latest science claims. In the 1930s, after a hard-left ruling party in Germany started doing very bad things in the name of science, eugenics fell out of favor.

    But genetics understanding is much stronger now.  So strong it can even be used as a political sideshow. Rather than testing for disease, a member of parliament from the Hungarian far-right Jobbik party recently used a genetic test to attempt to prove his ‘ethnic purity’. A company called Nagy Gén scanned 18 positions in the his genome for variants that it said were characteristic of Roma and Jewish ethnic groups and concluded that Roma and Jewish ancestry were ruled out.

    Das Jew?!? Photo: Shutterstock.

    A little strange, though there are segments of American science media that would love to have the ability to test for Republican genetic risk factors; they could require anyone getting a job in science media to show their genetic purity in the same way. Fortunately, scientists here ridicule people who attempt to hijack biology for their culture war, and it's only groups like the Center for American Progress that buy this stuff anyway. But it's more serious business in Europe, because a lot of people there actually believe it. 

    The European Society of Human Genetics (ESHG) had to issue a statement saying genetic testing to establish racial origins for political purposes is scientifically and ethically invalid and should be condemned.  Professor Joerg Schmidtke, President of the ESHG, wrote, “This is a gross distortion of the values of genetic testing, which is intended to be used to diagnose disease rather than to claim racial purity. In addition, the test proves nothing; it is impossible to deduce someone’s origins from testing so few places in the genome. I am sure that clinical geneticists worldwide will join me in condemning this scandalous abuse of a technology that was developed to help the sick, rather than to promote hatred.”

    Hungarian scientists are equally nonplussed that this is happening.

    Professor Béla Melegh, President of the Hungarian Society of Human Genetics wrote, “We were shocked to hear that a laboratory authorised to carry out genetic analysis for diagnostic purposes carried out such a test. Not only does it not serve a diagnostic purpose, but it has been used to create tension between people of different ethnic origins. We are asking the Hungarian government to prosecute the company concerned under the 2008 law on genetics, and to take action to ensure that similar abuse of genetic testing cannot take place in our country in future.”

    I'm not sure this can be a violation of any law - the MP could simply claim he had a test for health reasons and happened to note 18 interesting genetic characteristics. What needs to happen is not for there to be more laws, but for Europe to stop engaging in a la carte science, picking and choosing what is real science and what is nonsense based on their pet cultural beliefs.


    yep, i think you just might be on to somethin' there, hank :) i sense a developing story.

    Gerhard Adam
    Actually it doesn't surprise me, because I suspect that eugenics is still a topic that many people would willingly embrace if it were presented in a more politically palatable fashion.  After all, this is precisely the accusation that has been leveled at the transhumanist movement [and I concur].
    Mundus vult decipi
    On Telegraph Blogs, I have seen some comments claiming that Eurasians are ‘superior’ to Africans thanks to a percentage of Neanderthal DNA.
    At the time of composing this comment, the most recent article on said site is

    Elizabeth Warren’s ‘Native American’ claims: if she was a Republican, the media would call her a racist

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Typical Hank Campbell hatchet job (sigh)

    1 Hungarian MP does and says something stupid and racist, European scientists everywhere point this out and criticise it, and somehow Europe is a bastian of backwards, anti-scientific, racism? Oh yes, QED Hank. Sounds more like one crazy guy appeal to a bunch of racists and being called out by virtually everyone else.

    Oh, and i love the part how you generalize from one guy to a whole contient of people, somehow leaping over all of the scientists who disagree with him. Imagine if an actual scientist tried this trick?

    somehow Europe is a bastian of backwards, anti-scientific, racism
    Well, no, just compared to America. Obviously racism is not the only area where Europe is backward.  They are backward in science too. Dr. Anne Glover, the first European chief scientific adviser (EU-wide) has the same concerns. If it is new science, Europe hates it.
    And the part where you generalize from one racist MP to the whole of Europe? Is that a sound inference in your books?

    If you are a European scientist, simply be part of the solution - put an end to the anti-science culture that makes this behavior okay.  If you are a European citizen and hold anti-science beliefs, knock it off.  I have never seen an American politician get a genetic test so he can brag to constituents he is not a Jew.  I am thrilled you defend this behavior, that shows Europeans have more diversity than they usually show.
    "I have never seen an American politician get a genetic test so he can brag to constituents he is not a Jew..."

    And if any American politician ever tried to do so, you would've been surprised how much trailer trash he would've followed him... In the States racism is just less "media"-acceptable. On personal level, however, it is as widely-spread, as in Europe (on average). What's more, American racism is of a way more violent variety, than European one. Out of the whole Europe, only in Russia level of violent hate crimes is probably as high as in the States...

    Another Hank Campell hatchet-job reply. (sigh)

    Two problems with this comment hank:
    1. You didn't answer my question - do you think generalizing from one person to an entire continent is a good peice of inductive logic?
    2. An ad hominim attack? Really? You accuse me of being either a) a problematic European scientist or b) a problematic European citizen (FYI: I am neither). And then accuse me of defending a guy i repeated called a stupid racist (strange sort of defense).

    Please don't answer point 2, but please answer point 1.

    all silent on the campbell front....

    Racism, particularly anti-Semitism and anti-Roma sentiment, is prevalent in eastern Europe. I wrote a piece about Hungarian racism and xenophobia back in January.


    For instance, their lingering racism toward ethnic Roma - who usually live in utter poverty - is nothing new. However, the far right-wing Jobbik party recently took things to a new level when they formed a group of uniformed vigilantes to combat “gypsy crime.” They even refer to the paramilitary force as “gendarmes,” which, during World War II, referred to the people who helped deport Jews to concentration camps.

    Also, there appears to be a movement to purify the Hungarian culture of foreign influence. Leadership at Budapest’s “New Theater” insists on performing only Hungarian plays, and it has banned the performance of “foreign garbage,” a term that carries a xenophobic undertone.

    This is an amazingly trite article. You're inferring from one extremist Hungarian MP to the whole of Europe and you have the gall to call "Europeans" (there is no such thing from a geopolitical perspective, Europe is neither a state nor even a confederation) scientifically backwards?

    Tony Fleming
    A company called Nagy Gén scanned 18 positions in the his genome for variants that it said were characteristic of Roma and Jewish ethnic groups and concluded that Roma and Jewish ancestry were ruled out.
    How accurate can such a supposed test be? My understanding is that any two genetics companies can be very different with regard the risks associated with their results because the numerical algorithms in different tests are not standardized.
    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute
    Not even remotely accurate, it was an intellectual placebo.
    Gerhard Adam
    Where did you come up with that ... "intellectual placebo" ... I like it :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    Been using it for a decade. I get people who argue with me about its correctness (and gerrymandering too) but I think it has always gotten my point across. Gene testing for racial purity, organic food and 'the climate is too complex to understand' are all intellectual placebos to me; they may be correct some of the time, but not for the proper reasons.
    Gerhard Adam
    I interpreted it to be somewhat equivalent to pseudoscientific.  It satisfies the intellectual question but provides no real answers.  It only "feels" like you got some "facts".
    Mundus vult decipi
    Tony Fleming
    I remember watch Eddie Murphy playing a white guy some years ago; I found a version, not sure if this was it, really funny. And amazing, he looks just like a cousin of mine who has an Italian father!! I describe my family lineage as 'international mongrel' Australian, Brit, Jew, Italian, Scottish, maybe Eastern European, Russian, German (the Jewish bit fled to London), French, etc. 
    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute
    There is racism in Europe, no doubt about it. But I believe it's getting smaller in Western Europe, and I'm optimistic that it will further diminish in the future, in all of Europe. As of now, I believe Western Europe is no more or less racist than the US.
    Unrelated, but important enough to mention it is a disturbing (though telling) word choice in the post: the reference to the NSDAP, the National-socialist German workers party, as a "hard-left party". The NSDAP was the most anti-left political party in the Germany, openly endorsing violence toward socialists and communists. Among their first victims were the left-wing politicians and their supporters. Calling Hitler's party left-wing because it contains the trigger-word for unsubstantiated rants ("socialist") is nothing less than historical revisionism, and a slap in the face of those left wing supporters who paid their opposition to the Nazi party with their lifes.

    Well, they were left. Both Hitler and Mussolini were adored by the left in America, not the right, as were the eugenics policies.   I agree it can be more complex than that; finding a good guy in the Spanish Civil War, which was a left on left fight, was a hard thing for a right wing person to do; it was either support the fascists or the communists and no one had much desire for either outside Europe.

    Yes, the first ones attacked by social authoritarians are often 'liberals' in the classical, not the modern political, sense, because they bitch the most about freedom.  But contending we must revise history in the interests of 'everyone helped defeat Hitler' political correctness is just that - political correctness.  I will, to my dying day, ridicule the New York Times for the many puff pieces they wrote fawning over Hitler, including his science policies.  Yes, they eventually turned on him but pretending it never happened would be dishonest.

    I agree the racism situation is getting better - there would be no awareness campaigns if they did not recognize it is a cultural black eye. 
    Gerhard Adam
    A lot of people still like their ideas, just like some people still carry the nationalistic hatreds around with them [Sir Patrick Moore].

    Mundus vult decipi
    Mussolini is another case, and his rise to power started indeed in a left wing party. But he finished up on the extreme right. However, Hitler was most certainly never left wing. It's simply untruthful to claim he was. From the very beginning he despised pacifists, socialists, communists, and other left wing people (by the way, most people standing for a lasting peace with France were to be found among them). He also endorsed nationalism, antisemitism, and war-mongering rhetorics toward France. These three characteristics were much more prevalent in conservative circles than left wing ones - by the way, the same, to a lesser degree, applied to the French political landscape of that time. That is not political correctness, that's a fact. So, 'everyone helped defeat Hitler' is wrong indeed.
    It's also worth recalling that the first big industries in Germany were most certainly center/right wing, when they decided to provide the Nazis with what they needed (IG Farben, Siemens, the Flick industries, or Krupp, come to mind).

    I admit I don't know much about American media coverage during these years. I do not pretend anything concerning it, and will inform myself. However, in Europe, left wingers were among the very first to oppose Hitler, his racism, and his antisemitism. Many of them were true democrats and had no business with installing any sort of dictatorship (cf. the Weimar Republic). They were also so divided among themselves about petty issues that the reproach one could make is that they are partly responsible for Hitler's rise to power, even though they all opposed him. However, concerning the Nazi party, there was much more divide within the conservatives: many of them actually agreed with Hitler on certain points, and were not concerned about open violence against people opposing him, or discrimination, or military invasions.

    By the way, I am not passionately left wing these days. But I can see myself voting left wing in 1920's or 1930's France or Germany. From all I've read about these times, I can't help but concluding that an unambiguous opposition to Nazi politics mainly came from the left. If I may cite Klaus Mann's (Thomas Mann's son) "The Turning Point", not a historical, but a personal and in my opinion highly perceptive account of the political atmosphere of the last years before WW2.

    I can't help but concluding that an unambiguous opposition to Nazi politics mainly came from the left.
    Well, no, capitulation came from the left. They were sympathetic; in more modern parlance imagine the people who said we should remove sanctions on Iraq because they had weapons of mass destruction. The right wingers wanted to attack for one reason and the other wanted accommodation for another.  It is a mistake to map modern definitions to older terms.  Neville Chamberlain was a 'conservative' but an Old Guard conservative, nothing like what we would recognize today. Progressives, in Europe and in America, favored Hitler, forced sterilization of the mentally ill and those with chronic diseases yet progressives of today do not advocate those things.

    I guess it depends on what's your definition of progressive, maybe you should have used that word and explained what you meant by it. In any case, those who favored Hitler were not to be found anywhere on the European left. In view of mountains of authentic material available, of the presence of thousands of original documents outlining Hitler's views and actions against socialists and other left wing people, from banning their newspapers and destroying trade unions, to systematic executions and deportations to concentration camps, in Germany and occupied countries: in view of this, it becomes a truism to say that the Nazis were anything but left.

    If I have to explain basic history, there isn't much original writing that can be done. Simply do a search for progressives of the 1930s and then look at how many supported Hitler because he was, well, progressive. Re-framing him as right wing is revisionist history.

    Because you want to believe the left always loved its fellow man does not make it true.  If you examine the left wing regimes of the 20th century - Stalin, Mao, Hitler - and compare them to the right wing deaths caused, it isn't even close.
    What is the point you're trying to make? It's as if you think: "European bigots like to generalize about America. Well, I'm going to show them that an American - let's call him Hank Campbell - can out-bigot them easily. They think America is anti-science because a bunch of fools in Alabama believe in Creationism? Ha! I'm going to write about "the anti-science culture" in Europe! Ha!"

    Are you trying to show that you're a more better bigot than those "Europeans"?

    You win. Of course. I readily believe that "Americans" can out-bigote and out-generalize "Europeans". It has something to do with that "American" work ethic. And perhaps with those superior universities. I mean, if you're "American" and decide to behave like a bigot - then you go all the way. World-class bigotry is what you aim for. No-one is going to beat you, certainly not one of those snotty "Europeans" Who Always Know Better.

    I am very disappointed by such a gross depiction of European scientists and european people in general. Not to speak about the inference of one of few single cases to general behaviour. Not to mention that Europeans would be anti-science because they are more likely to oppose GMOs (which is the whole argument in the cited article). Ah! Being enslaved to Monsanto-like companies or the north-american view of life/consumption is just one of the options Europe can take, and many of us hope it won't take it. We have a different approach to food, but maybe it's too difficult to accept for you guys overseas (and it has little to do with GMOs).

    As for the Nazist/Fascist being "left" depending on the definition you want to give them, is just plain rubbish. One of the great oppositions to Nazis before they gained all their power, was from bottom-up groups of communists (like the RFKB) or coalitions of socialists/communists (like the Reichsbanner). Millions have mobilised in the streets for years and ten of thousands were killed to oppose the far right new born movements. In italy the opposition to fascist was a coalition of communist,socialist and catholics.
    I understand that some people in US are still afraid of the Red Army (brrr the red scare), but please adopt a little of intellectual honesty here. And I don't even want to quote your bible belt, your 44% citizens who believe in creation, your shooting abortion doctors as good examples against the european reluctancy on accepting GMO. It's a clash of cultures, sorry to read about this in these terms in a blog like this.