In his book, A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, geneticist Adam Rutherford mentions some interesting things scientists have learned through the study of genetics. Here are a few points that (if known by the general public) could help dismantle the divisions that exist among people on the basis of ancestry and race:
- All people on earth share a common ancestor from only 3,400 years ago.
- All people of even the slightest European descent share a common ancestor from only 600 years ago.
- All people of European descent are related to every European who lived 1000 years ago (except for the ones whose DNA didn’t get passed on). Nobody can brag about having “royal blood” or “Viking DNA”, because everyone does.
- The number of genes involved in what we think of as “race” is only a tiny fraction of the total genes each person has. For instance, pale skin is prompted by only a couple of genes out of 20,000 (and emerged only a few thousand years ago). People of the same race are more genetically different from each other than they are from people of a different race. Rutherford says, “there are no essential genetic elements for any particular group of people who might be identified as a race”. It’s our differences in physical appearance that cause us to think in terms of race, ie: skin color, eye shape, etc.
- The largest amount of genetic diversity exists in Africa. African’s are more genetically different from one another than they are from a European or an Asian, etc. The reason is that Homo sapiens originated in Africa and the number of people who left and populated Europe and the rest of the world long ago was a far smaller group than the number of people who remained in Africa. In other words, the pool of genes that left Africa and spread across the world was smaller than the pool of genes that remained in Africa.