Written on: 5. 10. 2011 in the category: news

It’s quite obvious that the Pacific Islanders have genes that make them outstanding athletes

AT this point, I bid farewell to most of my female and American readers, as I turn to the subject of the Rugby World Cup. I’ll just give you all a moment to get your coats and go. Oh, and shut the door behind you, if you please. Thank you.

Right. Do you know that one fifth of all players participating in the world cup are from the Pacific Islands of Tonga, Samoa and Fiji? Pacific Islanders, who are bigger, stronger and faster than almost any other peoples, are being rebranded in the colours of the All Blacks (eight), the US (seven), Australia (seven), Japan (three), and England and Wales (one each). The population of the islands is as Munster’s — around one million.

The late and charismatic Patrick McGoohan, playing a British agent in the film ‘Ice Station Zebra’, memorably intoned to an American: “My job is to get the camera made by OUR German scientists, from the satellite made by YOUR German scientists, before it is captured by a Soviet rocket made by THEIR German scientists.” Well, that’s pretty much the way the Rugby World Cup is going. Except, of course, the issue now is not the technical brilliance of the Third Reich, but the extraordinary DNA of the Pacific Islanders, which, largely because of the opening clause of this sentence, cannot be discussed without readers gazing nervously over their shoulders, in case someone sees them reading “racist” material.

But it’s quite obvious that the Pacific Islanders and West Africans have some extraordinary testosterone-concocting genes that make them outstanding athletes. African DNA was sent in slavers to the Americas, where it is the basis of the world’s fastest and strongest sprinters, boxers, American footballers and basketball-players. Similarly, the Islanders’ DNA makes them bigger, stronger and faster, therefore ethnically the most formidable component in the world cup.

I note that one of the three Military Crosses recently won by The Royal Irish Regiment in Afghanistan went to a Fijian. The Royal Irish are not one third Fijian. Testosterone also makes you brave. Ah, and now, in addition to losing the girls and the Yanks, I’ve just lost the “race is solely a cultural construct” school of non-thinking thought, which adamantly refuses to acknowledge the fundamental role of group-genes in anything.

Even when confronted with the radically different performances of Australian Aborigines, Chinese and Jews, they offer pious environmental mumbo-jumbo as an explanation.

A leading proponent of politically correct science, the geneticist Steve Jones, declared on BBC Radio Four recently that the differences in DNA between the peoples of the world are almost boringly small.

He cited one example: almost all Scottish adults can digest raw milk without a problem, whereas few Spanish adults can.

But overall, he declared, the dissimilarities between different “races” were far less, say, than those between different groups of chimpanzees.

The point surely is that small differences in DNA can produce enormous differences in outcome, just as software changes a computer entirely. Anyway, words like “difference” lose their meaning in genetics. We share 50pc of the DNA of a banana — but a Charles Haughey cabinet aside, we are not half as yellow, or 50pc as bent as the fruit. Moreover, it only takes one tiny mutation in a gene to produce the musculature required to make a sprinter; another will produce the haemoglobin that can supply the explosive amounts of oxygen that a sprinter needs. These are tiny, tiny changes in DNA structure, but producing a massive outcome in physique and behaviour. And similarly, the distinctive Afro-Caribbean male teenage gang-culture appears to have genetic origins, via the higher levels of testosterone.

Acceptance that group-behaviour might be affected by a shared genetic legacy doesn’t mean we should try to legislate for it.

Only lunatics would wish to define a race in law, and of course they will fail, as the insane regimes of the Third Reich and apartheid proved so conclusively. But at the very least, it is useful to be aware of the differing genetic legacies that might possibly influence the behaviour of any group.

An Irish psychiatric ward is a powerful testimony to our peculiar and insular gene-pool.

The DNA of the even remoter islands of the Pacific is now much-sought after.

Now it’s one thing for little Ireland to pick up a few English soccer players, whose great great-grannies celebrated the Relief of Mafeking by having a knee-trembler with an Irish sailor in Portsmouth, circa 1900.

But it is quite another for the great rugby nations of the world to be nakedly rustling the human talent of an archipelago that has almost no other resources.

This is more than just an interesting study in human genetics: it’s simply unfair — unfair for rugby-playing countries that do not suborn islanders, unfair for excluded native players in countries that do, and most of all, unfair on the islands which might otherwise be providing both teams in the world cup final.

The question might not be asked just yet: but if Islanders playing for New Zealand or Australia prove decisive in the final, this issue cannot be avoided by the world rugby authorities for very much longer.