By looking at our genes we can link ourselves to our parents, grandparents, and ancestors long long ago. Tatiana Zerjal and Chris Tyler Smith tell the tale of discovering the genetic relation of over 16 million men in Central Asia.
RadioLab has been guilty of sensational journalism and bad science in publicizing Genghis Kahn as the single ancestor of the current millions of people carrying his genetic marker. The truth is that his great-great-great-great-something-grandfather was the “single ancestor”. In a small closed population, like the Mongols were in their early migration into the steppes, the fathers’ genetic lines reduce over time to a few or one genetic strain. This same reduction of strains exists in female mitochondrial DNA (as admirably explained the “The Seven Daughters of Eve”) and is used to trace the ancient migrations of groups. By the time of Genghis’ birth all the Mongols probably carried the same genetic marker that Genghis had. When the Mongols conquered their empire and killed the men and impregnated the women, all the male children fathered by Mongol warriors carried the genetic marker carried by Genghis Kahn. This is how so many Asian men carry it today. Yes, Genghis was probably the father of dozens or even hundreds of sons, but his soldiers were the fathers of hundreds of thousands and it is their collective genetic markers that show in current populations.
As I heard the RadioLab story, I was waiting for one of the genetic experts to explain this to their audience. No such information or disclaimer was forthcoming. Perhaps the glamor of one man being the sexual superstar of all time is more entertaining than the reality, but reality should at least have been given a footnote. Was this ignorance or sensationalist journalism on RadioLab’s part. I would hate to think that one of my favorite people, Robert Krulwich, was complicit in a deception.
First, there was the baffling use of the terms "sleeping with" and "had sex with" in relation to mass rape. How did the reporters not make the violence connection, when they themselves describe mass murder of the men in conquered societies? Second, there was the cringe-worthy tittering throughout the story.
This breezy cluelessness is why I rarely listen to NPR anymore.
How can you possibly use innocuous phrases such as "he slept with a lot of women", "Had many sexual partners" ... and "save the pretty ones for the boss" ... to describe mass rape used as a weapon of war? This is utterly inexcusable ... especially for 2014, I am absolutely stunned. You owe all your listeners an-on air apology, and should never air this story again unless you can recut it to accurately reflect the horrors of sexual violence against women. You present a sniggering, smug suggestion that Genghis Khan was some kind of "ladies man" when in fact he's a mass rapist and terrorist. I seriously couldn't even listen to anything else your story had to say after that completely offensive passage. Terribly handled. Inexcusable. I am boycotting this show - shame on you.
It's already been stated. Fascinating story presented very badly. All the suffering in that historic time with no respectful reference to the mass terrorism visited upon so many. The shock of your treatment on the subject is not because you employed humor, but that you only employed "humor" which becomes cynical and destructive here because of the constant use of snickering euphemism, chuckling, giggling "clever quips" not only regarding surely one of the hugest serial Rapist in history, but the normalization of all the brutality visited upon those people and lands. Because the use of Rape as a weapon of war IS ON THE RISE again - this production was extremely offensive and, though I have been a thrilled and giddy fan/listener of Radiolab, this could be the dealbreaker if not fully and appropriately addressed!
I echo how appalled I was at this episode and its gleeful tone regarding rape -- and genocidal rape no less! ("Save the pretty ones for the boss!", really?) I could run through the entire transcript, but I notice other commenters have identified some of the problematic areas. I want to thank the other commenters who objected, as they let me know that there are good people who will raise the necessary issues with content and tone in order to make our public radio stations safe and ethical environments for exploration.
Where's the danger? Well, the school teacher who commented that he played the piece in his 9th grade class, for one. I am disturbed that high schoolers were subjected to laughing about rape and the idea that conquerors are owed "pretty women," among other topics. Way to teach young women that they are sexual objects and to teach young men that women are for the taking -- and that someday, you may be considered aspirational for violently spreading your seed across Asia.
As a public radio presentation, you owe it to your listeners and their students to employ sensitivity and accuracy and to cut out the patriarchal boys' club routine.
Wow. Blair, you used this podcast in your 9th grade history class? NOT in the ethics unit? Fitting, perhaps, considering the juvenile, sniggering tone of The Boys modeling how to talk about rape -- it's just "sleeping with" women whose men have been disposed of. That's right, Genghis Khan "slept" his way across the continent. Snicker, snicker. He "passed on" his Y-chromosomal mutation via the prettiest and youngest (oh, yuck) girls to his current descendants (not ancestors, dummies), who, bursting with pride, hope to inherit his yummy traits. O tempora, o mores. O parents of 9th grade girls.
I was appalled by the gleeful pitch of the narrator of this otherwise fascinating piece. And appalled as well by the "boys will be boys" attitude of some of the comments. Nothing separates us from Genghis Khan's brutality except time. He was a mass murderer. He was a serial rapist. To minimize this in any way trivializes both the story and its writers; much like having Sesame Street explain nuclear reaction to the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I was also unsettled by the jolly tone of the grave-robbing and disinterment section. Again a shameful offense (against culture & tradition this time, as opposed to live people) was discounted in order to maintain the happy spirit of "Isn't science the dog's bollocks!?!" Whether it was a deliberate choice or a gross oversight, this fatal misstep ruined what could have been a brilliant piece of reporting.
Think of the number of people that need to be killed in order to supplant that many men? Not thousands. Genghis Khan and his followers killed tens of millions - maybe 40 million. Likely the largest genocide in history. Their m.o. would be to conquer a city (like Baghdad) then divide the surviving population equally among the warriors for individual slaughter to a man, except those useful to their cause. This deserves some consideration as it informs the why DNA is the way it is in the region. Not glib.
It’s very interesting information. Thank you very much.
But it must be said: unfortunately, in the official history there are many pro-Chinese and Persian falsifications about the "wild nomads", "incredible cruelty of nomadic mongol-tatar conquerors", and about "a war between the Tatars and Genghis Khan” etc. Of course, that was for some political and ideological reasons.
However, recently were published books, written by independent Tatar historian Galy Yenikeyev (Galy Rashid uly Yenikey) about the unwritten (hidden) real history of Tatars. One of his books - is published in English language: "Forgotten Heritage of Tatars". This e-book you can easily find on Smashwords company website: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/MIG17 There are a lot of previously little-known historical facts, as well as 16 maps and illustrations in this book. Also this book gives a well grounded rebuttal of the Chinese-persian myths about "incredible cruelty of nomadic mongol-tatar conquerors", and about "a war between the Tatars and Genghis Khan” etc. On the cover of this book you can see genuine appearance of Genghis Khan. It is his lifetime portrait. Notes to the portrait from the book say: \"...In the ancient Tatar historical source «About the clan of Genghis-Khan» the author gives the words of the mother of Genghis-Khan: «My son Genghis looks like this: he has a golden bushy beard, he wears a white fur coat and goes on a white horse...» [34, p. 14]".Some more information from the above-mentioned book by Galy Yenikeyev; primarily we should know the truth about the meaning of the names "Mongol" and "Tatar" (“Tartar") in the medieval Eurasia:the name "Mongol" until the 17th-18th centuries meant belonging to a political community, and was not the ethnic name. While “the name "Tatar" was “the name of the native ethnos (nation) of Genghis Khan …” , “…Genghis Khan and his people did not speak the language, which we now call the "Mongolian”…" (Russian academic-orientalist V.P.Vasiliev, 19th century). This is also confirmed by many other little known facts. So in fact Genghis Khan was a Tatar and a great leader of the all Turkic peoples. But with time many of his descendants and tribesmen became spiritually disabled and forgot him and his invaluable doctrine and covenants... Tatars of Genghis Khan -medieval Tatars - were one of the Turkic nations, whose descendants now live in many of the fraternal Turkic peoples of Eurasia - among the Tatars, Kazakhs, Bashkirs, Uighurs, and many others. About it and about many other things from the true history of Tatars and other fraternal Turkic peoples, which was hidden from us, had been written, in detail and proved, in the above-mentioned book "Forgotten Heritage of Tatars" (by Galy Yenikeyev).
Very interesting broadcast, RadioLab! I always love this show and am surprised at every moment.
There have been many comments about the broadcast's gloss over violence against women. The unmentioned barbaric treatment by Khan of the murdered men also comes to mind, although it is funny that many commenters glossed over this… And the children that grew up without knowing their father (because we cannot say that they all would have wanted to avoid him), again, the commenters have glossed over this. These are just silly examples of the pieces of history we all glossed over.
We all have to be careful (myself included!) about pointing the finger at RadioLab when we have failed ourselves to mention in all detail and with all respect to history the great atrocities that Khan committed against men, women, and children. Murdering men, young and old, who were trying to defend their homes, or who were themselves defenseless, is a terrible crime. What makes all we commenters think that this is any less note-worthy than the rape of countless women? Or the murder of countless women (maybe even a greater number than those than left alive!)? I am personally confused at the focus of the comments and hope we are all given a broader perspective before we criticize.
They 'The Boffins' at RadioLab are symptomatic of the not only American, 'New Millennial' frenzy into redefining human relevance in order of GENETIC inheritance.I need not say more: you either know what happened to The Third Reich or you deny it.
Sorry--just noticed that I misspelled Khan!
I, too, heard this on NPR. Unlike the majority of hyper-sensitive people who posted here, I got the point of the show. It was about the discovery of a genetic heritage which is, in and of itself, a completely amazing discovery. The fact that Genghis Kahn did terrible things to other human beings is a matter of historical record. The fact that his seed was spread both violently and far and wide as he raged his way through Asia was already known. The report of the genetic discovery, however, was new and exciting because it uncovered the surprising extent of his heritage, which no one had even considered before. Their focus was not to apologize to the long-dead persons he violated or destroyed a thousand years ago. They were reporting a discovery, and the facts surrounding that discovery. I, too, find the continued prevalence of violence, especially against women, to be appalling, but could people just stop looking for reasons to drag incidental details out of a report whose focus was something else entirely?
I have been disturbed since last Saturday when I heard the program on the DNA of Genghis Kahn.I am astounded that the story passed any editorial scans in relation to the remastering of the obscenities of rape, murder and pillage in war. Perhaps the decision to erase the reality of the time by cheerful descriptions of the assault of forced sex was due to the challenge of telling the truth when one wants to fabricate a packagable item like the stories Radio Lab molds for afternoon listening.I found the program deeply distrubing and it is my hope that the producers will recognize their mistake and apologize for the insult to the women and their descendents, who suffered the horrors of war.
I frequently listen to Radiolab and to NPR and typically am encouraged by the thoughtful and intelligent commentary. As a therapist who works daily to help people heal from sexual trauma, who understands the long term psychological impact of rape, and who works with people who have been raped in the context of war or who have been raped by fellow soldiers, I was deeply saddened to hear the gleeful commentary on today's show regarding Genghis Khan and his possible genetic proliferation through conquest. The idea that a conquering ruler, during the time of war, would simply be "sleeping with a lot of ladies", "the prettiest of whom were reserved for him" once the fathers, brothers, husbands of these women were killed completely denies that mass genocide and mass rape was occurring and was used as a war tactic. The commentary demonstrated no empathy for the people conquered, no empathy or understanding that women, or men for that matter(in any time in history) do not welcome rape. Is it really a choice you make, to "have sex with someone" who you just witnessed kill your loved ones, neighbors, community? No, this is the absence of choice paired with the threat of annihilation. Power and dominance define rape. If the genetic scientific evidence points toward Genghis Khan contributing his genetic material as he conquered entire populations, the story needs to address HOW he managed to do this...through death, destruction, and rape rather than portray him as the most "successful" genetic father in history.
I found the glib tone of your piece on the genetic legacy of Genghis Khan jarring and disgusting. Instead of saying Genghis Khan "had a large number of sexual partners" why not be truthful and say he raped hundreds of young women after murdering their families and neighbors? If you are not willing to report a story honestly then you shouldn't report it at all.
Let me add my voice to the 'WTF, Radiolab?!' chorus.
The tone of this story was glib, giddy, and practically congratulatory. You couldn't even bring yourselves to use the word 'rape'; instead we got saccharine euphemisms (Khan, apparently, 'slept with a lot of ladies').
Mass rape is not unknown; it is a well understood and well documented part of modern life. Would you so gleefully hold forth on present-day mass rape? Why do so on the subject of historic mass rape?
My son carries the "ghenghis khan" gene. His father was a pathological liar, sociopath and abandoned me once he got me pregnant...he is from tibet and "charms" the ladies...fathered many children, then abandoned them...far from compassionate....it must be in the genes! I hope to deprogram my son to grow up to be more enlightened than that.
This story was fascinating! I'm curious to know if there are genetic risks involved with a whole region of people with such generic similarities?
Regarding the discussion in the comments above, I appreciate that your target audience is likely not looking for a detailed discussion of rape used as a war tool so I understand why you glossed over it. Maybe next time you could gloss a bit more tactfully.
Excellent show. I am not sure that what Genghis Khan did was considered rape at his times. Maybe women were honored to give birth to a child fathered by a conqueror, a hero. We, who live in times of horrible crimes, cannot judge the deeds of people who lived almost one thousand years ago.
I caught the tail-end of this story on my car radio, just in time to hear the giggling male presenter giggling about Genghis Khan's mass rapes. Actually, rape isn't that funny. It is, however, kind of funny, in a funny sort of way, that so many men are apparently eager to prove their descent from a mass rapist. If the right-to-rape is a product of men being men and acting "unapologetically ... upon their natural, primal instincts," as "Edwardo from New Jersey, USA" explains to us, perhaps that further explains some of the problems we face in the world today.
I think, primarily it must be said: unfortunately, in the official historiography there are many pro-Chinese and Persian falsifications about the origin of Genghis Khan, his native nation and his Power.
Therefore, the first thing we should know the truth about meaning of the names "Mongol" and "Tatar" (“Tartar") in the medieval Eurasia:the name "Mongol" until the 17th-18th centuries in fact meant belonging to a political community, and was not the ethnic name. While “the name "Tatar" was the name of the native nation of Genghis Khan … he and his people did not speak the language, which we call now the "Mongolian”…" (Russian academic-orientalist V. Vasiliev, 19th century). This is confirmed by many little-known facts from ancient and medieval sources.
Also it must be said: now very few people know that the Tatars of Genghis Khan - medieval Tatars - were one of the Turkic nations, which stopped the Chinese and Persians expansion to the West of Eurasia in Medieval centuries. Descendants of the medieval Tatars now live in many of the fraternal Turkic peoples of Eurasia - among the Kazakhs, Bashkirs, Tatars, Uighurs, and many others. A well-grounded rebuttal of the chinese-persian myths about "incredible cruelty of nomadic mongol-tatar conquerors", and about "a war between the Tatars and Genghis Khan”, as well as a lot of from the real Tatar (Turkic) History, what the official historians hidden from the public, you can learn in the book "Forgotten Heritage of Tatars" (by an independent Tatar historian Galy Yenikeyev). On the site of Smashwords is an electronic version of this book in English – it’s easy to find on the Internet: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/175211
An outstanding Tatar historian-scientist D. Iskhakov wrote in 2000: “the real history of Tatars, of the people in every respect historical, is not written yet”.However, this year was published an above mentioned book by Galy Yenikeyev, about the unwritten (hidden) real history of Tatars. In this book a lot of previously little-known historical facts, as well as 16 maps and illustrations in this book.
Galy Yenikeyev presents in his works a new, or rather "well-forgotten old" information about the true history of the Tatars and other Turkic peoples. This historian wrote 5 books on History of Tatars of Eurasia, which published in Russian language in Russia (2007-2012). "Forgotten Heritage of Tatars" is the fifth book of Galy Yenikeyev, translated into English in the abridged version.
And here (on the cover of the third book of Galy Yenikeyev) you can see the true appearance of Genghis Khan. There placed his lifetime portrait: http://tartareurasia.ucoz.com/publ/knigi_enikeeva_gr/kniga_quotpo_sledam_chjornoj_legendyquot/prodolzhenie/6-1-0-36
The story was interesting, but the presentation vulgar and tasteless. - These events occurred 800 years ago, but would you make a similar "funny" story when talking about rapes in former Yugoslavia? Would Tatiana Zerjal make an equally "amusing" account when tracing the rapes of Russian women during World War II? - And it's also unnecessary to spice up the story with silly and in the long run annoying sound effects. That's what school boys do when they explore a toolkit. Hence the presentation gets more and more amateurish with giggling presentators. - Come on, I am sure you could do better than that.
Isn't it just a little bit demented of people to be bitching and whining that the show seems to trivialize the raping of thousands of women? This occurred centuries ago when men were men and they responded unapologetically for acting upon their natural, primal instincts. The human male has evolved as the aggressive, dominant gender and the female is predisposed to respond to aggressive, dominant male behavior. It's only by a very slight extension of this trait that rape is found to be so prevalent throughout human history. Rape today is a social, political, personal violation, but back then it was a genetic imperative. Reality is so much more bizarre, terrifying, wondrous that most people care to accept.
i too and impressed with your stories, which makes me all the more stunned that you so glibby glossed over hundreds if not thousands of what could only have been brutal, violent, de-humanizing, terrifying rapes?!
Hey hey, what is that nice acoustic guitar part at the start of this segment?! I need ittttttttttttt
this is interesting: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/02/28/valley-of-the-khans-experts-meet-in-dc/
I agree with Megan and eakramer. I was shocked and upset that this story was introduced as a "wonderful story." Yeah, it's a wonderful story about thousands of women being raped. Not only did the soldiers "save the pretty ones for the boss" (BARF) so he could rape them, but the soldiers must have raped the unpretty ones too. BTW, rape is still used in wars and conflicts all over the world today as a method of terrorizing the female population.
@Megan, you've given me a lot to think about.
As for the patient 0 of this Y mutation, is it likely that it was Genghis' father and Genghis and his brothers, who road in different directions I think, who spread it so thickly.
"slept with a whole lotta ladies" and "had many sexual partners" ?
The most successful biological father in human history was also the most successful rapist in human history.
Why avoid this fact?
Hello! I love love love Radiolab and this episode was definitely worth the rebroadcast. My only comment and concern is in your treatment of Genghis Khan's conquest of the women in the groups he conquered. I would say that, if he does in fact have 16 million living descendents, his conquest is a fairly clearly an example of successful genocide of numerous groups. He and his army killed the men, and he then subsequently fathered children with the women of those villages. To avoid acknowledging that many, if not most, of these sexual partnerships were through means of force or coercion is a dis-service to the mothers of his children, the people that were conquered and the legacy of that region through the present. I am definitely not asking for you to use this story as a platform about war crimes. However, the phenomenon you describe is not merely a scientific mystery, but very literally an example of how genocide and conquest play out even 1000 years later.Thank you for your work and this excellent program!Best,Megan
Hi Jad and Robert and all the Radio Lab staff!Just wanted to let you know that I've been using your podcasts all over the place in my 9th grade history class. We used the morality podcast in our ethics unit, your story on domesticated foxes when we talked about the switch from the paleolithic to the neolithic age, and now this one while we talk about the Mongols. Thanks for making school exciting for my students!!Sincerely,Blair
Can anyone tell me the name of the song/artist that plays when it's revealed that Genghis is the source of the genetic defect? It's some lo-fi drum thing. Any help is greatly appreciated!
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