80 internautes sur 89 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Jay A. Haron
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Jon Entine is the rare author who gets the science and the history correct. I am qualified to say the former because I have been involved in DNA research since the mid seventies, when my thesis work was published in the journal Biochemistry on gene expression in developing muscle. I am an amateur concerning the history of the Jewish people, but it has been a focus of much of my reading for the past decade. Therefore, I will concentrate on the author's brilliant framing of the study of race.
I have a number of colleagues that study mutations in the human genome that produce blindness, cystic fibrosis, and susceptibility to cancer. In order to receive funding from the overly political funding agencies, I would bet that the word "race" does not appear in their grant applications, even though it is clear from the pioneering work on sickle cell anemia that disease markers are powerful indicators of one's genetic legacy. Publishing articles using the term "race" in many of the leading (politically correct) journals would also meet with knee-jerk rejection.
The author explains clearly how the idea that there is no genetic basis for race corrupted the field of population genetics for the past few decades. The author shows intestinal fortitude by naming the culprits central to candy-coating the subject.
The author does not spend enough time, however, on founder effects. As a breeder of Norwegian Fjord horses, I understand what it takes to get traits stably integrated into a population. Unfortunately, this subject is only taught at agricultural colleges, and not at prestigious universities and medical schools. Founder effects, coupled with population bottlenecks, can make profound changes to a population's phenotype. The author should have spent more time on this central topic, so that readers could better understand why green-eyed Jews are not the half-breeds that antisemitic groups would claim that they are.
Last, the author's writing style is wonderful. The book reads like a well-crafted novel and mixes ancient history, modern sociology, and molecular genetics into an extremely readable book. It is well worth reading.
47 internautes sur 51 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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Format: Format Kindle
This is a racily written amalgam of a book. The hard part of it is about genetics (and this is enlivened by journalistic sketches of some of the scientists involved in the work). As an appetizer, we learn about CMH (the Cohen Modal Haplotype) - 98½% of Jews who describe themselves as Cohanim (the descendants after 3,000 years of the Jewish priesthood in biblical times) do in fact have the same haplotype, compared with only 3% of the general Jewish population.
Then the book goes into the history of the Jews, their relations to other peoples and their migrations and dispersions. The early part of this is linked to the accounts in the Bible, with the caveat that the biblical assertion that the Samaritans were not proper Jews was unjustifiable and politically motivated: the Samaritan DNA shows that the lineage of this group is even more homogeneous and over a longer time than that of the Jews who returned from the Babylonian captivity.
The fact that from Ezra's time onwards Jewish teaching prohibited marriage between Jews and non-Jews - reinforced later by Christian rulers also forbidding it - contributes mightily to Jewish genetic identity.
However, these prohibitions come relatively late in the history of Jewish genes, and are not likely to have been observed by the earliest male Jews who moved into new areas where there were no Jewish women. In any case, before the prohibitions, Jewish men did often marry non-Jewish women - there are plenty of references to this in the Bible. The male Y chromosome is pretty stable among a majority of Jews, and there is "powerful DNA evidence that Jews from around the world [i.e. whether Sephardi or Ashkenazi] share a common Near or Middle Eastern ancestry". (An exception seem to be some 50% of Ashkenazi Levites whose marker "does not even trace to the Middle East", leaving the possibility that some of these came from Khazars who converted to Judaism and took on the role of junior priests without being descendants of the biblical Levites. But all the Levites make up only 4% of the Jewish population.) Because of these early marriages between Jews and non-Jews, the mitochondrial DNA which comes from the females is more varied than the Y chromosomes which are passed down by Jewish men; and this is likely to account for the fact that some Jews look Middle-Eastern, some European, some Asian etc.
Then there is a section describing the many far-fetched myths - some of them current even in this century - of what happened to the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, locating them anywhere from Louisiana to Japan. In Africa there are tribes which claim Jewish descent. The best known are the Beta Israel (better known as Falasha) of Ethiopia. Their Judaism must be that of conversion rather than descent, since their DNA does not have any of the most common Jewish genetic markers. The Lemba in Southern Africa, on the other hand, do have such markers; 9% of them even carry the CMH; but among one of their clans, the Buba, it is as high as 53%. And the CMH is also prominent among the 4,000 or so Bene Israel group of Jews, living near Mumbai (Bombay) in India.
Certain diseases are known as "Jewish diseases" because of the high incidence of them among Jews (perhaps intensified by inbreeding) and because they are very much rarer among non-Jews. One disconcerting result is that the descendants of converts from Judaism often discover their Jewish ancestry because they develop these diseases. This is the case, for example, among many Spanish American women in the southern parts of the United States who develop particular types of breast or ovarian cancers. These denote that their ancestors were among the large number of conversos who had moved out of Mexico when the Inquisition was introduced there, into what was then called New Leon where the Inquisition was not so active.
Naturally, all this raises the still immensely controversial question of race, which is bedevilled by the way the concept has been and is being used by racists. All humans are genetically 99.9% identical, and that has led some people to the conclusion that there is no such thing as race. But if the figure of variables between different `population groups' (the word geneticists use to avoid the loaded word `race') is 0.1% (and it may actually be as high as 0.3%), that 0.1% contains some 3 million nucleotide pairs in the human genome; and these determine such things as differences in skin colour or susceptibility to certain diseases. On the basis of such significant differences, one geneticist frequently quoted by Entine has identified 491 broad population groups. Almost none of these will be "pure", since almost all of them have interbred with other population groups; but all of them are characterized by the prevalence of one or other group of genes which contribute to geneticists being able to differentiate between particular population groups.
Of course all this raises the intensely controversial question of whether the exceptionally high achievement of especially Ashkenazi Jews is due to their IQ being genetic or environmental. Entine's chapter on debates relating to this issue is extremely technical and, as far as I can tell, even-handed. Suggestions (and they are rarely claims of proof) that IQ has a strong genetic component have run into such a storm of hostility - some from scientists and some from anti-racist political correctness, some from Jews and some from non-Jews - that many geneticists have decided not to engage in this kind of research or even to give it up. It is clear that Entine sides with those who think that the research should continue. It may open (or re-open) Pandora's box; but asking and answering problematic questions "is what scientific enquiry is all about."
62 internautes sur 75 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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This weighty work encompasses genetics, history, spirituality, religion and includes travelogues to Israel and Jordan and many interviews.
In Part One: IDENTITY, Entine explains how genetics became a personal concern after tragic deaths in his family due to particular gene faults. He calls the tome a story of faith and science, contending that religious identity extends beyond belief. And in a symbolic and literal way, a blood current with its source in the ancient Hebrews runs through Western civilization.
The book addresses questions like: Did Abraham, Aaron, Moses and David really exist? What happened to the lost tribes of Israel? Can some modern Jews trace their ancestry to Aaron the High Priest? What happened to Spanish Jews who were forcibly converted during the Spanish Inquisition? What determines Jewishness? and Did people with Israelite ancestry have a hand in building Great Zimbabwe?
For those readers who would prefer more concise answers to most of the above questions in a much shorter book, I highly recommend DNA and Tradition: The Genetic Link to the Ancient Hebrews by Rabbi Yaakov Kleiman.
For those unfamiliar with genetics, Entine provides charming descriptions of the elements involved:
Genes: those portions of DNA containing the Recipe of Life
Proteins: the sentences
Amino Acids: the words
Nucleotides: the letters
At the outset he touches on the taboos of race, disease and intelligence and returns again to these in Part Three when dealing with the race theories of the 20th century, particularly in chapter 11: The End of Race, where various discredited notions, politics in genetic research, media myths, the sensitive issues of IQ and race and the DNA of identity are discussed. Understandably many people prefer to avoid the subject of racial differences, which would be unwise as DNA research promises tremendous benefits to mankind in the treatment and prevention of diseases.
Entine discusses the case of Father William Sanchez of Albuquerque, a Catholic priest whose DNA test revealed Jewish ancestry and more remarkably, the distinct marker of the Cohanim or priests. In chapter 5 he explains what the intriguing Cohen Modal Haplotype is and where it is found. The CMH is a distinct marker on the Y (male) chromosome (passed unchanged from father to son) first identified in Jewish males from both Ashkenazi and Sephardi backgrounds in a famous 1990s study and confirmed in subsequent research. "Modal" means "most common" thus the CMH is a DNA marker found in most males with the surname Cohen and its many variants or who are from families with a priestly oral tradition. Less than 10% of other Jewish males carry this marker which is guestimated to have first appeared between 3180 and 2650 years ago.
To come back to Part One (Entine is a hyperactive writer expert at interweaving different subjects in his narrative), he discusses the work of Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, author of The History and Geography of Human Genes. Chapter 4: Eve and Adam, delves into human origins and the Book of Genesis. In this regard, a serious work on encryption Cracking the Bible Code by Jeffrey Satinover provides valuable insight. Whereas the Y Chromosome is passed through the male, the genes in the mitochondria (the cell's tiny engine) are passed on through the female. Called mtDNA, it was a discovery of major importance. Further interesting and easy-to-understand information on human genes and origins is available in Who Was Adam? by Fazale Rana.
Part Two: HISTORY, begins with a brief history of the Israelites from earliest times, including a passage on the Samaritans. In chapter 8: Sephardim - The Vanishing Jews Of Spain and the next, Ashkenazim - Converts Or Abraham's Children? those histories are more thoroughly explored, including migration to the Americas and the myth of Khazaria first popularized by Arthur Koestler in his 1976 book The Thirteenth Tribe. It turns out the Ashkenazim came to Northern and Eastern Europe mainly via Italy and the Khazaria story is mostly nonsense.
Wandering Tribes deals with the lost ten tribes of Israel exiled in 722 BCE. This has proved to be a popular myth that has even exerted an influence on mostly respectable religious movements like Puritanism, Anglo-Israelism and Mormonism, and been and still is used by certain toxic cults like Armstrongism and various NeoNazi groups. Under the heading African Jews, Entine discusses the Beta Israel of Ethiopia who are not genetically close and the Lemba of Southern Africa who definitely are. Tudor Parfitt's compelling Journey To The Vanished City is a must-read on the Lemba and their connection to Southern Arabia. The CMH occurs in 9% of Lemba males and an astonishing 53% in the priestly Buba clan. The Lemba: A Lost Tribe of Israel in Southern Africa by Magdel le Roux is an authoritative ethnographic study with particular reference to their customs and traditions of Israelite origin.
In India people with Jewish genetic markers are the Bene Israel and Cochin, and those without are the Bene Menashe. As for the ten tribes, scripture indicates many of the northern Kingdom's people joined the Kingdom of Judah before and after the Assyrian exile. See Jeremiah 30:10, 31:17-20, Ezra 2:70, Zechariah 8:13, 15 & 23. In the book of Esther for example, the word "Jew" includes members of tribes other than Judah (Esth 2:5). In the New Testament, Luke 2:36 states that Anna belonged to the tribe of Asher whilst Paul refers to himself as a Benjaminite in the books of Romans and Philippians. Peter refers to his Jewish listeners as "all the house of Israel" in the book of Acts (2:36 and many more), as does John (Acts 13:24), and in Acts 26:7 Paul uses the words "the hope of our 12 tribes."
Research reveals that Middle Easterners like Lebanese, Arabs, Kurds and Armenians and in Europe Hungarians and Southern Italians have a high incidence of the CMH marker meaning they are closest to Jewish people, since the CMH could reasonably be assumed to be a signature of the historical Abraham. Fans of Leonard Cohen that find spiritual solace and comfort in his music will now understand the root of his muse.
Part Three: RACE, covers ideas of race, disease, identity, IQ, the Jewish Enlightenment, Zionism, Israel, recent Middle East history and the current situation. Appendices include Human Migration Maps, Haplotype Descriptions and information on how to trace one's ancestry using DNA with contact details of 5 genetic genealogy services, and Lists of diseases common to Ashkenazim in one and Sephardim plus other Jewish populations in the other. There are black & white maps throughout and the book concludes with 28pp of notes and an index.
8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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The author sets out to examine the physical identity of the Jews, as assessed by studies of their DNA. Do Jews have a coherent biological inheritance, i.e. are they a human race, or are they only a religious denomination? To answer these questions Jon Entine has to tell us a great deal about genetics, DNA, and how science can trace inheritance of individuals and groups. But, he also needs to examine the history of Jews. How did they originate, when and where did they migrate and who are they today.
Entine's study thus casts a very wide net, which covers many topics in a mere 420 pages. He gives us an insightful, well written book. It would be too much to expect he got every answer perfectly right. No doubt he made mistakes, and further research will question some of his conclusions. The Biblical history of the Jews alone has occupied scholars for centuries and millions of pages, and is still much in dispute
As to the major question, the answer is yes and no. Yes, there are several common biological threads uniting modern Jews, there are also many genes acquired from host population during their wanderings. Some Jewish groups have many common genes, others, though culturally Jewish, have virtually none. Hey, what else did you expect.
28 internautes sur 37 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
DJ in CA
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This is a very interesting book, but in the end contradictions and missing citations undermine its authority:
Consider, for example, p. 175-176: "One study estimates that from 1150 to 1300, Jews made up about 15% of the educated world's top scientists...Jewish scholars wrote noted poetry..." but later, p. 298, "Even in the golden age of Sephardic Jewry in Spain, except for Maimonides, and until the 1800s, except for Spinoza, Jews were almost absent from the annals of great science and art."
So, what is Entine's claim about Jewish contributions to art and science prior to the 19th century? Should the reader believe it? If Entine believes Maimonides is remembered for contributions to art and science, then its not clear his opinion should matter much-- Maimonides' science is part of the corpus of Arabic medicine, but is more derviative than original. It is his philosophical and religious work that is most noteworthy.
On page 260, we are told "Geneticists are now convinced that using such percentage claims paints a misleading picture of group differences." The text surrounding this statement makes a good case that the "percentage claims" referred to are indeed problematic. But what is accomplished describing what geneticists are "convinced" of? Was there a poll? Is Entine somehow empowered to speak for the discipline? On what basis is Entine making this claim?
More troublesome unsourced claims are not hard to find: On p. 249 "When Israel's War of Independence began, Jews controlled less than 7 percent of Palestine; after Jewish victory, at the signing of an armistice in December 1949, they occupied about 80 percent of ther land." No source for this claim is provided, nor is there an explanation for what is meant by "controlled", "occupied" or even Palestine (what are its borders?). Looking at a map, the only obvious understanding to be had is that the Negev desert is not "controlled" before the war, but is "occupied" when hostilities cease. Why does the reader have to guess?
Numerous comparable examples could be offered-- claims are made, sources are too often missing, and details are too often left to the reader's imagination.