Category: science and society


This post is part of a series examining figures from population genetics papers which are modified into white nationalist memes. See here for a brief overview of the project. The figure Here is a PCA plot from Need et al., Genome Biol, 2009, examining the population structure of a sample of individuals with self-reported Jewish ancestry. As indicated in the legend, points have been colored to indicate how many of each individual’s grandparents were Jewish: The modification Now compare this to the following modified figure, where the legend has been replaced by annotations near each cluster of points, but instead of stating the number of grandparents, clusters are identified as “Gentiles,” “Quadroon-Jews,” “Half-Jews,” “Almost Jews,” and “Full Jews”: The problem Tweaking the legends of figures for clarity is commonplace among scientists when giving talks, but what’s so hard to understand about having 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 grandparents of a particular ethnicity?
Introduction I recently had to opportunity to chat with Science Magazine about a side project I’ve been working on, tracking how figures from population genetics studies get misappropriated by white nationalist groups. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting examples of these figures and discussing a bit of the science of the original paper, the specific ways in which figures are manipulated, and where the modified figures end up online.