Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The 10,000 Year Explosion, Conclusion: A Summary

The conclusion of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending’s The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution (2009) sums up the major hypotheses of the book as follows:
(1) genetic change and evolution have been preconditions for cultural change (one clear example being the expansion of hominid brains that led to speech and advanced tool making), even though cultural change is powerful and can be an independent force;

(2) genetic evolution and cultural evolution can also be inter-dependent, and influence one another in feedback loops;

(3) about 40,000 years ago human beings experienced a creative revolution during the Upper Paleolithic period in both Europe and northern Asia, which was driven by underlying biological and cognitive changes in Homo sapiens outside of Africa through new genes acquired by interbreeding with Neanderthals and possibly other archaic humans (e.g., the Denisovans);

(4) agriculture caused a 10,000 year explosion: it resulted in the acceleration of both cultural and biological evolution from much larger populations with a higher rate of mutation, in the new environments created by agriculture. Farmers evolved to be significantly different from hunter gatherers both in metabolism and cognition.

(5) evolution has continued until the present, because our environments have generally not been stable or static;

(6) biological and evolutionary change in human beings has also been a neglected but crucial driving force of human history, e.g., the epic expansion of the Indo-Europeans owing to their mutation allowing lactose tolerance into adulthood, the European settlement of the Americas, the failure of Europeans to penetrate Africa until the 1880s, and the evolution of the Ashkenazim in Europe (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 225–227).
Cochran and Harpending (2009: 207) conclude by speculating that perhaps even the industrial revolution and the rise of science have underlying biological or evolutionary influences not yet understood.

To sum up, we can also review how genetic/genotypic and hence phenotypic change can be driven in human societies, in accordance with standard principles of Darwinian evolution:
(1) direct adaptation, in which selection acts on individuals with (i) pre-existing individual genetic variation owing to sexual reproduction or (ii) with mutations;

(2) exaptation (some prior adaptation then “re-designed” to solve a different adaptive problem);

(3) as a by-product (or spandrel);

(4) sexual selection;

(5) genetic drift;

(6) genetic change caused by Malthusianism or differential survival rates, or elite reproductive advantage;

(7) genetic change induced by the policies and practices of governments and state-societies;

(8) genetic change induced by founder effects;

(9) unique genetic change induced by extraordinary events (e.g., plague, genocide, an ethnic minority subject to persecution), which might cause bottleneck effects, founder effects, etc.

(10) higher-level group evolutionary changes might be driven by inter-group competition and differences in group fitness (e.g., an analogy from the animal kingdom is evolutionary arms races).
Cochran, Gregory and Henry Harpending. 2009. The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. Basic Books, New York.

The 10,000 Year Explosion, Chapter 7: A Summary

Chapter 7 of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending’s The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution (2009) is called “Medieval Evolution: How the Ashkenazi Jews got their Smarts,” and looks at the evolution of the Ashkenazi minority within Europe over the past 1,500 years.

The chapter is based in part on earlier work in Cochran, Hardy and Harpending (2006).

The Ashkenazim were a Diaspora Jewish community that was first based in northern France and Germany in the 8th–9th centuries AD, but were descended from a Diaspora community in southern Europe during the Roman empire in which a significant number of the men of the founder population took European wives (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 204–205; Costa et al. 2013).

The Ashkenazim were therefore, by origin, a cline (admixture) of Middle East Jews and some European women. This is still evident today in modern Ashkenazim, who have about 40% European DNA (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 204). However, after the early founder admixture, the Ashkenazim became highly endogamous (that is, marrying only within their group) and genetically isolated (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 205, 219).

From the later Middle Ages the Ashkenazim began moving into Eastern Europe and Russia, and modern Ashkenazim are present in America, Israel and Europe.

The Ashkenazim have an average IQ that lies somewhere in the 107–115 range, the highest average IQ of any ethnic group in the world. The average IQ of Europeans, by contrast, is 100.

In the modern world, the Ashkenazim are significantly overrepresented in certain higher professions requiring a high IQ, such as the natural and social sciences (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 188–190). In particular, while the Ashkenazim are less than 0.2% of the world population, they are about 22% of Nobel laureates (though most are men, as you can easily see here).

Cochran and Harpending argue that this high average IQ was driven by genetic changes in the Ashkenazim over about a thousand years while living as a persecuted minority in Europe.

In essence, their thesis is as follows:
(1) because of vicious and terrible Christian persecution, the ban on usury between Christians and their exclusion from Christian societies, the Ashkenazim were driven into certain professions, such as being merchants, bankers and financiers for much of the Middle Ages, and in Eastern Europe also tax-farmers, toll-farmers, and estate managers and other middle-men for Christian rulers. These professions or trades require a high IQ, and especially a high verbal and mathematical IQ;

(2) the most successful Ashkenazim in their trades tended to have more children who survived to adulthood, because they were affluent, and so they had a greater reproductive fitness than other, less successful members of their own community;

(3) because of the very high rates of endogamy (marrying only within the group), the differential success and higher birth rates of the most successful Ashkenazim, over time, led to a kind of elite reproductive advantage with genetic effects on the general population, which gradually raised the average IQ of the Ashkenazim as a group (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 191–220, 222–223).
The high average Ashkenazi IQ is therefore largely genetic, and the product of an unusual evolution over the past 1,000 years or so. Further evidence in favour of this is that – in Israel with its First World economic development, education and health care system – the Ashkenazim continue to have an average IQ higher than both Sephardic and Oriental Jewish groups, who have had a different evolutionary history (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 212–213).

The by-product of the evolution of high Ashkenazi IQ was probably a number of unusual genetic diseases in the Ashkenazim, such as Tay-Sachs, Gaucher’s disease, familial dysautonomia, and two forms of hereditary breast cancer (BRCA1 and BRCA2). These diseases are about 100 times more common in Ashkenazim than in European populations (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 188), and they are characterised by affecting two specific metabolic pathways, the first of which is probably related to the central nervous system and neuron development, namely, sphingolipid storage disorders (causing Tay-Sachs, Gaucher’s disease, Niemann-Pick disease, mucolipidosis, type IV) (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 214, 220).

As Cochran and Harpending (2009: 190–191) point out, the high average IQ of the Ashkenazim has greatly contributed to modern science, and – in a sense – has changed human history because Western science has been significantly advanced by high IQ Ashkenazi men: we need only think of Albert Einstein, Max Born, John von Neumann, Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger, Murray Gell-Mann and numerous others who have changed the course of Western science.

The social consequence of a higher average IQ group is that this increases the sheer numbers of the group on the right-hand side of their bell curve distribution: this means that with an average IQ of 100 for Europeans and an average IQ of 110 for Ashkenazim, there will be about 4 per 1,000 Europeans with an IQ greater than 140, but 23 per 1,000 Ashkenazim with an IQ greater than 140 (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 211). In an egalitarian society, this explains why a high-IQ minority group will be highly overrepresented in professions requiring a high IQ. And as Steven Pinker points out in the videos below, this is a straightforward, even banal, scientific explanation which can be used to combat and refute far-right anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. So truth can help counter the modern Far Right, just as biological truths can be used to counter modern SJWs and their unhinged denial of biological gender differences.

Finally, even the Liberal American cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, in an April 2008 lecture, has pointed out that this hypothesis is not unreasonable, and, above all, can be tested, and will be vindicated or falsified soon enough:

There is also a question and answer session here.

Cochran, Gregory, Hardy, Jason and Henry Harpending. 2006. “Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence,” Journal of Biosocial Science 38.5: 659–693.

Cochran, Gregory and Henry Harpending. 2009. The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. Basic Books, New York.

Costa, Marta D. et al. 2013. “A Substantial Prehistoric European Ancestry amongst Ashkenazi Maternal Lineages,” Nature Communications 4.2543

Monday, July 24, 2017

The 10,000 Year Explosion, Chapter 6: A Summary

Chapter 6 of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending’s The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution (2009) is called “Expansions,” and examines the genetic effects of large-scale migrations of human beings.

History is filled with examples of certain population groups that conquer, migrate into, or spread over large areas and replace other groups, or replace other groups with some mixing.

Cochran and Harpending (2009: 156) accept that cultural and technological advantages have played a large role in the success of such movements, but also contend that sometimes, in important cases, evolutionary genetic traits have also been a factor. In this respect, as in normal evolutionary theory, we must look at group fitness, and not just individual fitness, as factors in human history (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 158).

Three major examples are analysed in Chapter 6: (1) the success of Europeans in the New World, (2) early European attempts to colonise sub-Saharan Africa, and (3) the astonishing success of the prehistoric Indo-European-speaking peoples.

1. Europeans in the New World
The first example Cochran and Harpending point to was the European colonisation and conquest of the New World.

We know that the Native Americans faced a severe group disadvantage caused by differential evolution: namely, their inability to resist or have immunity to new diseases brought by Europeans like smallpox (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 158–159). The HLA gene alleles, in various forms, protect human beings against infectious disease by regulating the nature and strength of the immune system. But the Amerindians had an unusual distribution of HLA alleles – evolved from their distinct evolutionary history in the Americas – and a much weaker immune system, because they were simply not exposed to the same type and variety of pathogens as the farming peoples of the Old World (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 160–161, citing Cavalli-Sforza and Paolo Menozzi 1994). But the weaker immune systems of Amerindians had an advantage in their distinctive environment: they were much less subject to autoimmune diseases than other peoples with stronger immune systems (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 161).

But when Europeans brought infectious diseases such as measles, smallpox, diphtheria, whooping cough, leprosy, and bubonic plague, the consequences for Amerindians were horrific: there is some evidence that the Amerindian population of the New World suffered a stunning 90% fall in just a few centuries – and most of the deaths were caused by exposure to these diseases introduced by Europeans which Amerindians could not resist because of their different evolutionary history (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 162, citing Cook 1998). For instance, while only about 30% of Europeans might die in smallpox epidemics, a shocking 90% of Amerindians would die from the disease (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 167). This terrible series of plagues obviously aided the European conquest of the Americas, and even with superior European technology, was a factor in the success of the Conquistadors.

For example, the conquest of the Incan Empire by Francisco Pizarro was facilitated by a smallpox epidemic (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 163), as described in this video:

As an aside, it’s curious that this documentary based on Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel does not explicitly acknowledge the biological and evolutionary implications of the New World epidemics, because the truly terrible and tragic deaths of millions of Amerindians was the result of different kinds of group genotypes and phenotypes between Amerindians and Europeans, and hence different kinds of group fitness, caused by differential, regional evolution.

As late as the 20th century, isolated populations of Amerindians have suffered the same fate: in instances where first contacts occurred between Amerindians and European-descended people in the 20th century the same European diseases have killed 33–50% of the natives (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 167).

The same kinds of biological differences caused terrible epidemics and mass deaths of Australian Aborigines and Polynesians when Europeans invaded or colonised their homelands as well (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 169).

As Cochran and Harpending (2009: 169) emphasise, anybody who refuses to understand the fundamental role of biological differences between human populations as a factor in European conquest of these regions is in effect denying the reality of Darwinian evolution.

2. Europeans and sub-Saharan Africa
Early attempts to conquer or colonise Africa, even just for trading purposes, encountered a severe difficulty: Europeans discovered that the diseases of Africa had a devastating effect on them. The European people in early expeditions, trading missions and settlements suffered an extremely high death rate from Africa diseases which they had not evolved immunity to (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 171). For example, British soldiers in the Gold Coast died at a rate of 50% (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 171). Right up until the early and mid-19th century, a European conquest of Africa – despite the staggering technological and scientific superiority Europeans had – just wasn’t possible in the way that Europeans conquered the New World. The only major area where colonisation worked was South Africa, and this was because of the temperate climate and the difference in the prevalence of diseases.

Once again, the reason was biological, and was simply the lack of immunity and a different evolutionary history: whereas Africans had evolved their immunity to local diseases and pathogens over thousands of years, Europeans had no such immunity.

It was only with the discovery of drug treatment with quinine in the 1800s that Europeans had a defence against falciparum malaria, and, as scientific medicine began to deal with other tropical diseases, Europeans were able to conquer most of Africa from the 1880s (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 173).

2. The Indo-European Waves of Migration
One of the greatest successes of prehistory was the large-scale Indo-European migrations and conquests in which, over thousands of years, Indo-European people of the Yamnaya culture north of the Black Sea, spread out in all directions (Allentoft et al. 2015: 171; Balter and Gibbons 2015).

There was for many years a scholarly debate about the original homeland of the Indo-Europeans with scholars like Colin Renfrew proposing that the homeland lay in ancient Anatolia (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 178). However, it is now widely accepted that the original Indo-European homeland was in what is now southern Russia above the Black sea (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 179).

For example, from 3,000 to 2,000 BC, there was massive Indo-European migration of people from the South Russian steppe into central Europe, and then into northern and western Europe, and now virtually everybody in Europe speaks an Indo-European language. But modern Iranian and Hindi and Urdu – the major languages of the Indian subcontinent – are also Indo-European. The Indo-Europeans probably had a phenotype with brown eyes, pale skin, and taller height (but interbreeding with other population groups has changed this phenotype, especially in India).

The Indo-European language family was so successful that it now has about 3 billion native speakers, or about 50% of the human race (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 174).

We can see the spread of the Indo-European peoples through the spread of their languages, as illustrated (apart from a few minor mistakes here and there) in the video below:

So why were they so successful?

The Indo-Europeans were not only farmers but also cattle herders, and raised cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, and they may have domesticated the horse (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 176). They seem to have had wheeled carts and chariots, at least in the later stages of history.

But Cochran and Harpending argue that the crucial biological trait that the Indo-Europeans had was lactose tolerance into adulthood, caused by the 13910-T allele, which allows the continued synthesis of lactase (an enzyme that digests milk sugar) past chidlhood (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 180–181; Allentoft et al. 2015: 171). This, they argue, was why the Indo-European peoples were so successful and expanded so many times in thousands of years of history.

At the time, most Europeans (and many other peoples of that time) were lactose intolerant into adulthood:

With their lactose tolerance into adulthood, Indo-Europeans could become highly effective dairying pastoralists, as well as farmers, and could actually produce more high-quality food on a given amount of land than other pastoralists (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 181). In effect, Proto-Indo-European pastoralism had great advantages in inter-group competition, and there was a biological basis to this (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 182).

Indo-Europeans could also abandon farming and become mobile pastoralists, a style of life which has clear military advantages, in contrast to sedentary farmers (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 182). Their dairy-rich diet also gave them greater height, and they soon developed a warlike society (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 183).

So, first of all, Indo-Europeans spread all over the steppe near their homelands, and then into Europe, where they had the edge in inter-group competition and in group fitness against the early European farmers (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 184). Indo-Europeans seem to have conquered or displaced many earlier Europeans, but, perhaps more generally, ruled as an elite and imposed their languages on the native populations (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 184). Interbreeding with Indo-Europeans and gene sweeps then allowed modern Europeans to acquire the trait of lactose tolerance (Allentoft et al. 2015: 171).

Indo-Europeans also spread out eastwards into Central Asia, Iran and even into India.

Underlying this astonishing history of success was the mutation, or mutations, that produced their adult lactose tolerance.

Finally, in the years after 2009 (the year The 10,000 Year Explosion was published), much new genetic evidence has emerged from the revolution in the sequencing of ancient genomes from bones and other remains, which has vindicated Cochran and Harpending’s thesis on the Indo-Europeans:
Andrew Curry, “Archaeology: The Milk Revolution,” Nature, 31 July 2013.

Ann Gibbons, “Nomadic Herders left a Strong Genetic Mark on Europeans and Asians,” Science, 10 June 2015.

Allentoft, Morten E. et al. 2015. “Population Genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia,” Nature 522 (11 June): 167–172.
Allentoft, Morten E. et al. 2015. “Population Genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia,” Nature 522 (11 June): 167–172.

Balter, Michael and Ann Gibbons. 2015. “Indo-European Languages tied to Herders,” Science 347.6224: 814–815.

Cavalli-Sforza, L. Luca and Alberto Piazza Paolo Menozzi. 1994. The History and Geography of Human Genes. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Cochran, Gregory and Henry Harpending. 2009. The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. Basic Books, New York.

Cook, Noble David. 1998. Born to Die: Disease and New World Conquest, 1492–1650. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Diamond, Jared M. 2005. Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. Vintage, London.

The 10,000 Year Explosion, Chapter 5: A Summary

Chapter 5 of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending’s The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution (2009) is called “Gene flow,” and looks briefly at the evolutionary changes induced by mixing of genetically distinct populations.

The chapter begins with the concept of a gene allele “sweep,” or the manner in which a favourable gene variant can spread throughout a population of people where interbreeding is general, but not highly isolated and localised. While most gene mutations are harmful or neutral, some are beneficial (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 133). A particular gene can mutate into an allele that then creates a phenotypic trait in a living thing that happens to make that individual more successful and better adapted to its environment. That individual then usually has a selective advantage and survives to have more offspring, and in turn will tend to pass on the favourable allele to more offspring. Over time a small group of individuals with the new trait will survive and be more successful than others who lack it. Over time, a new trait will spread at large in a population and cause evolutionary change.

A gene “sweep” is the process by which a gene variant (an allele) can spread, over time, through a given population. A gene sweep may spread quickly over hundreds of years or, depending on population size and how well-mixed a given population is, over thousands of years. Agricultural populations often practice marriage between neighbouring villages or settlements, and even this local mixing – over enough time – can spread genes and traits over large populations (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 136).

Cochran and Harpending (2009: 137) use a model to suggest that a new allele that provides a selective advantage of 5% will – in a well-mixed population – rise to a high frequency in about 8,000 years.

However, population movements in history have also been a major vehicle by which genetic change and evolution have progressed. While geographical barriers (like oceans, deserts and mountains) and distance have certainly keep many human populations genetically isolated for long periods of time, as in the case of Native Americans and Australian Aborigines, in the Old World of Eurasia gene flow has been much more common.

As a result of trading, colonisation, conquests, the slave trade, and migrations, the Old World has seen a considerably greater degree of gene flow historically as compared with, say, the Americas before the late 15th century or Japan (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 144–145).

It follows, then, that such gene flow – given differential regional evolution – has also been an additional factor in driving genetic change in certain populations.

To take a concrete example, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius hired some 8,000 Sarmatians from what is now Southern Russia as mercenaries, and then sent them to Britain, where they appeared to have permanently settled. Cochran and Harpending (2009: 147) speculate that, if these Sarmatians introduced some favourable gene allele variants into Britain, over time many modern British people will now carry those alleles after a few thousand years of mixing. So even a small population movement can, over time, have large genetic effects.

Large-scale population movements and migrations have also been a more radical manner in which gene flow is accelerated. At the end of the Roman empire, there were large-scale migrations of northern Europeans into the Mediterranean world. One such group was the Vandals, who ended up in North Africa. Cochran and Harpending (2009: 151) speculate that the Vandals spread the allele that causes blue eyes into North Africa, so that the blue eyes now found amongst the North African Berbers and Tuaregs can be traced to gene flow between their ancestors and the ancient Vandals.

Cochran, Gregory and Henry Harpending. 2009. The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. Basic Books, New York.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The 10,000 Year Explosion, Chapter 4: A Summary

Chapter 4 of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending’s The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution (2009) is called the “Consequences of Agriculture.”

The effects of agriculture accelerated human evolution and selective pressures in the following ways:
(1) Infectious disease
Farming caused the creation of sedentary settlements, cities and overcrowding, as well as greater contact with animals, and the bacteria, viruses and parasites that animals bear. Therefore disease vectors increased. In this environment, new and more virulent infectious diseases (like measles and typhus) spread and became much more dangerous (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 86). Human farmers were therefore subject to evolutionary changes induced by selective pressures brought by new diseases. The primary outcome was the evolution of much greater immunity and defences against these diseases, the kind of biologically-evolved defences that hunter gatherers simply did not have (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 87). In different regions, different diseases from different pathogens also caused different types of evolution too. For example, in tropical regions, malaria has induced evolution amongst the people of the tropics to give them a much greater immunity to the disease. By contrast, Europeans – who evolved in a different region not subject to malaria to the same extent – are much more vulnerable to malaria. And European evolution conferred on European farmers and their modern descendants immunity and defences against a set of diseases that other human populations do not have. This differential evolution caused a catastrophe after Europeans colonised the New World and other regions: e.g., Amerindians, Australian Aborigines, and Polynesians were biologically different from Europeans, because of a separate evolutionary history, and many millions of these native peoples died because they simply did not have the same level of immunity to diseases introduced by Europeans (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 90–91).

(2) Light skin
The farmers of northern Eurasia (namely, Europeans and East Asians) have both evolved much lighter skin colour compared to people in the tropics, because of the lower levels of UV radiation in the north and the vitamin-deficient diet of early farmers. In Europeans and Caucasians generally, light skin seems partly driven by the SLC24A5 gene variant. Genetic evidence suggests that evolution of white skin in Europeans is shockingly recent: it probably happened between 10,000 and 4,000 BC, and perhaps even at the more recent end of that range (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 91–92). Cochran and Harpending (2009: 92–94) contend that the evolution of light skin provides other selective advantages not yet properly understood, but in addition to vitamin D synthesis.

(3) Skeletal structure
Certain human populations have evolved a much more gracile bone and skeletal structure in differential evolution. For example, bones have become lighter and less thick, jaws have shrunk, and prominent brow ridges largely disappeared. Cochran and Harpending (2009: 95) point to archaeological evidence that indicates that many Europeans – even as late as c. 1,000 BC – had prominent brow ridges, which means that evolution since 1,000 BC has largely removed this phenotypic trait in Europe.

Archaeology seems to show that even in England within the past 1,000 years (that is, from 1,000 AD to today) skull structure has evolved: skull size has actually noticeably increased within 1,000 years (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 95, citing Rock et al. 2006; see also Jantz and Jantz 2016 on changes in cranial shape and size in European Americans over the past 190 years).

(4) Driving genes
Driving genes are a special type of gene which arise much more frequently in large human populations than in smaller ones. The population explosion allowed by agriculture has caused driving gene alleles to be generated at a rate of about two orders of magnitude higher than in Stone Age populations (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 97). Genetic evidence shows that we now have a large number of these driving genes, which either have already reached the point of fixation, or are well on their way to fixation in gene sweeps. However, many of these gene sweeps occur in specific population groups, mainly in Europeans and East Asians. This indicates recent differential regional evolution. But such recent evolution comes with harmful side effects too: human beings have a strangely high miscarriage rate compared with other animals, and this is probably the consequence of such rapid accelerated evolution (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 98).

(5) Personality and cognition
Some of the recent gene alleles seem to regulate neurotransmitters, central nervous system structure, and even levels of serotonin. Serotonin metabolism has a powerful affect on mood and emotion – and hence on personality and behaviour. Other alleles seem to influence brain development (such as axon growth, formation of synapses, cerebral cortex structure, and general brain growth). However, these types of new genes are regional and not found in all populations (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 98–99).

A specific example of this is the set of genes that regulate muscle fibres and brain function associated with dystrophin. Genetic evidence suggests that human evolution has seen the loss of muscle strength but a compensatory increase in brain complexity and size. Changes in dystrophin regulation may have induced this.

Yet another cognitive trait that may have been selected for in farmers is the ability to defer gratification (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 114). This was an extremely important type of behaviour on which farming is based, and needed for sowing of crops or breeding of animals, when those plants or animals can be eaten in the present. Farmers with personality traits such as delayed gratification, patience, a work ethic, self-control, and long-term planning would have survived to produce more offspring (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 114). Curiously, this would also have bred more selfish people in contrast to hunter gatherers (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 115).

(6) Malthusianism and differential survival rates
Farming increased human populations, but brought with it a new Malthusian population trap. People experienced mass death from different causes, e.g., war, disease, general plagues, and famine and starvation. However, the specific general manner in which people die can have genetic and evolutionary effects. When societies had social and socio-economic stratification which gave more wealth and privileges to elites or higher status groups, these people were more likely to survive than lower status people, especially during certain types of disaster. That is to say, internal differential survival rates of children would have brought genetic change to a society. This has consequences for evolution if traits of the elite tended to propagate in the general population over long periods (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 102–105). That is, elite reproductive advantage has genetic effects.

(7) State Societies and Evolution
Farming allowed the creation of more advanced state-based societies that developed systems of law and order and punishments. Many such societies have imposed the death penalty for socially-harmful behaviour, as in crimes like murder, violence, and so on. In a stable society over time, this would likely kill off more aggressive individuals (usually men) and leave that society with a gene pool favouring less aggressive and less violent individuals (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 111–112). Some have argued that the high levels of social conformity in East Asian societies are not just a cultural phenomenon, but the result of long-run genetic changes influencing personality arising from the thousands of years of how these state-based societies in East Asia have operated. This raises the interesting possibility that highly developed state societies have “tamed” human beings in certain ways, not just culturally but also genetically (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 112–113), and that in modern agricultural societies (which have had agricultural and state systems for thousands of years), the average man today might be less aggressive and less violent than the average man 2,000 years ago, or 10,000 or 20,000 years ago. People from state-based, agricultural societies – with thousands of years of history – probably have different cognitive traits, on average, as compared with people in hunter-gatherer societies not subject to the same kind of long-term evolutionary change.
Cochran and Harpending (2009: 121) conclude their chapter by suggesting that the long-run social, economic and even scientific development of Old Agricultural societies is likely to be based – at least in part – on the biological evolutionary traits of the people which these societies have produced over thousands of years of distinctive, regional Darwinian evolution.

Cochran, Gregory and Henry Harpending. 2009. The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. Basic Books, New York.

Jantz, Richard L. and Lee Meadows Jantz. 2016. “The Remarkable Change in Euro-American Cranial Shape and Size,” Human Biology 88.1 (15 January): 56–64.

Rock, W. P. et al. 2006. “A Cephalometric Comparison of Skulls from the Fourteenth, Sixteenth and Twentieth Centuries,” British Dental Journal 200: 33–37.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The 10,000 Year Explosion, Chapter 3: A Summary

Chapter 3 of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending’s The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution (2009) is called the “Agriculture: The Big Change,” and examines the evolutionary impact of the agricultural revolution and urban life.

When human populations were low during the Stone Age, the smaller number of people entailed that new favourable traits from random sexual reproduction and mutations occurred at a low rate: that is to say, low-population Stone Age people had trouble generating sufficient genetic change in the first place (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 65).

Cochran and Harpending (2009: 65) argue that, when the human population of earth had hit about 60 million people in 1,000 BC, new, positive mutations only took about 400 years to appear, whereas previously they might have taken place every 100,000 years.

The emergence of agriculture after 10,000 BC was truly revolutionary: it allowed a population explosion. The larger populations accelerated both genetic and cultural evolution: with more people, there were increased numbers of people capable of innovation and invention.

While Jared M. Diamond’s book Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (2005) emphasised the cultural side of higher population and density in greater rates of innovation, Cochran and Harpending (2009: 66) stress that the other side of this phenomenon is greater rates of genetic innovation.

It follows directly that peoples in various parts of the world who failed to develop agriculture – and so failed to experience the accelerated genetic and cultural evolution agriculture caused – were not subject to the same evolutionary development as people in agricultural societies (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 67). It also follows that people who adopted agriculture at different times were subject to different evolutionary histories as well, on the basis of how much time they were subject to the accelerated evolution agricultural societies caused.

From c. 27,000–18,000 BC, the earth experienced the Last Glacial Maximum when the ice sheets were at their greatest extent. But from c. 18,000 to 17,000 BC deglaciation began in the Northern Hemisphere and the Ice Age ended. Rapid warming occurred down to 10,000 BC.

In the Levant, from 12,500–9,500 BC people of the Natufian culture began the harvesting of wild plants in sedentary or semi-sedentary settlements. See this video:

But when a cold period called the Younger Dryas from 10,900–9,700 BC caused a mini ice age, this induced a drought in the Near East and the Natufians were driven to invent farming and herding:

With the end of the Younger Dryas around 9,700 BC, the climate became perfect for farming. By 9,500 BC farming had become common in the Fertile Crescent and spread to Egypt and western India by 7,000 BC, and then into Europe from c. 6,500 BC–4,000 BC as Anatolian farmers from northern Greece and north-western Turkey migrated into central Europe.

In China, agriculture was invented by 7,000 BC, and it was invented in the Americas too (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 67–70).

Agriculture caused radical changes in human diet and nutrition, diseases, and social structure, and, above all, a population boom. Malthusian checks to population growth also became more severe. Since food could be produced and stored, so wealth could be accumulated. Towns and cities created specialised classes of people devoted to new trades or activities, and non-productive elites, and the ability to produce material culture radically increased.

The genetic consequences of agriculture were as follows:
(1) with the creation of permanent settlements came higher population density, and exposure to and association with domesticated animals. This significantly increased the prevalence of infectious diseases and brought new diseases as well. Although it is possible that deaths from interpersonal violence decreased, a higher percentage of the population would have died of infectious disease or starvation (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 70).

(2) agricultural communities, then, were a new environment in which human beings were subjected to selective pressures and more evolution (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 70). Adaptation, and the spread of new traits, was made easier by the higher population and greater rate of mutation, not just the selection of desirable traits from pre-existing individual genetic variation (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 74). Cochran and Harpending (2009: 74) suggest that by 3,000 BC new adaptive mutations occurred about roughly 100 times more rapidly than in the Stone Age Pleistocene era.

(3) human natural selection and evolution in the period after agriculture was invented has involved about 400 generations, and has allowed favourable alleles to increase in frequency or “sweep” across the genomes of a given population group over time, where those alleles cause advantageous phenotypic traits: Cochran and Harpending (2009: 75) argue that even amongst modern humans we see hundreds of ongoing sweeps, which were begun 1,000s of years ago, and are in the process of going to the point of “fixation” (where in a given population the frequency of the allele is at 100%).

(4) many of these sweeps are in specific population groups, and not in others. That is to say, differential human evolution has occurred in different areas within populations with recent common descent. Genetic research indicates that many of these ongoing allele “sweeps” originated after 10,000 BC and determine aspects of human traits like metabolism, digestion, immunity from infectious disease, reproduction, DNA repair, and the functioning or structure of the central nervous system (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 75–76).

(5) a concrete example of how humans experienced phenotypic change after 10,000 BC in agricultural societies is as follows: while agriculture increased the scale of food available, it actually seems to have decreased the nutritional value of food: early farmers may well have been subject to health problems because their new diet was one of low-protein, vitamin-deficiency, and high-carbohydrates from plants (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 76). This was so serious that the average height of farmers compared to earlier humans decreased: the new farmers saw their average height fall by about five inches (or 12 centimetres; Cochran and Harpending 2009: 76; see also Diamond 1987).

(6) the increased rate of diseases and nutritional problems amongst farmers selected those human beings who were better adapted to this new environment: those who were better able to process nutrients from an agricultural diet and who were able to digest lactose into adulthood were more successful and survived to pass these traits onto their children (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 77). For example, the Indo-European-speaking farmers and herders north of the Black Sea evolved lactose tolerance perhaps by c. 5,000 BC and they passed this on to modern Europeans when they invaded and settled Europe c. 3,000–2,000 BC.

(7) another evolutionary adaptation is light skin. Amongst Europeans, the Stone Age hunter-gatherers in Europe obtained sufficient Vitamin D from their meat-rich diet and probably had considerably darker skin than modern Europeans (see here). But when farming spread to Europe, the loss of a Vitamin D-rich meat diet caused selection for lighter skin: Europeans therefore evolved white skin because light-skinned people survived to reproduce more often since they could produce more Vitamin D internally through easier exposure to ultraviolet radiation through the skin (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 78).

(8) the high-carbohydrate diet of farmers also seems to have induced metabolic changes: farmers evolved greater protection from rapidly-spiking blood sugar levels in the form of new alleles involved in insulin regulation, so that they had reduced risk of diabetes (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 79).
This is by means an exhaustive list of the evolutionary changes that human farmers and their progeny experienced, but there is much evidence that modern human beings who never invented farming, or who invented it much later but lived in small communities, have not undergone this type of evolution (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 79–84).

Here is a chronology of events in history relevant to the issues in Chapter 3 of The 10,000 Year Explosion:
12,500–9,500 BC – the Natufian culture in the Levant; harvesting of wild plants allows more free time

c. 12,100–c. 11,700 – the Older Dryas, a cold period

12,000 BC
12,000 BC onwards – Europeans are Western hunter gatherers

c. 12,000 BC – beginning of possible migration from the Near East or the Balkans of the Villabruna Cluster people into Europe

12,000–8,000 BC – most mammoths die out; small population of 500–1000 woolly mammoths lived on Wrangel Island until 1,650 BC

11,000 BC
c. 11,000–8,000 BC – the Late Glacial or Tardiglacial, the beginning of the warm period when the Northern Hemisphere warmed substantially with significant accelerated deglaciation after the Last Glacial Maximum (c. 23,000–11,000 years ago). Human beings in refuge areas started to repopulate northern Europe and Eurasia. See the map here

10,900–9,700 BC – mini ice age called the Younger Dryas causes sharp decline in temperatures over much of the northern hemisphere. Younger Dryas was triggered by vast meltwater probably from Lake Agassiz flowing into the North Atlantic, which caused disruption to thermohaline circulation

c. 10,900–9,700 BC – the Younger Dryas causes severe problems in Natufian culture from drought; Natufians abandoned settlements and became nomadic; on the shores of disappearing lake Galilee, Natufians began farming; others began herding

c. 10,700 BC – extinction of the North American megafauna

10,000 BC – possible human population at 4 million

c. 10,000 BC – Jericho is a settlement, and before that a camping ground for Natufian hunter-gatherer groups

after 9,700 BC – after the end of Younger Dryas, climate in Near East perfect for farming, which then spreads with combination of farming and herding

c. 8,000 BC – wall of Jericho constructed; domestication of goats in the Near East; domestication of dogs from wolves in Asia

c. 7,200 BC – Çayönü, a Neolithic settlement in southeastern Turkey, is the site where emmer wheat is first cultivated, and where the first domestic cattle and pigs are domesticated

c. 7,000 BC – farming spreads into Elam

c. 6,500 BC–4,000 BC – Neolithic Anatolian farmers from northern Greece and north-western Turkey started migrating into central Europe through the Balkan route and then by the Mediterranean route to the Iberian Peninsula (see here)

c. 6,500–3,800 BC – Ubaid period, a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia; in North Mesopotamia, from c. 5,300 and 4,300 BC

c. 6,500 BC – first known settlement in southern Mesopotamia established at Eridu by farmers with the Hadji Muhammed culture

6,250–5,050 BC – in China, domesticated millet is farmed in northern China at Xinglonggou, Yuezhang, Dadiwan, Cishan, and several Peiligang sites

6,200 BC – Bond climatic event 5 ends Middle Eastern Neolithic B culture (see Bond event), a sudden cold period lasting 200 to 400 years causing problems to humans worldwide and migrations in search of food and water

c. 5,500 BC – agriculture spreads throughout ancient Egypt

c. 5,000 BC – speakers of pre-proto-Indo-European migrate into the regions north of the Black Sea from central Asia

3,500–2,300 BC – Yamna (or Pit Grave Culture) culture of Indo-European-speakers in the Pontic-Caspian

3,000–2,000 BC – Indo-European-speaking Yamnaya-culture people swept into Europe from the Russian steppe
The blog of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending:
West Hunter
Cochran, Gregory and Henry Harpending. 2009. The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. Basic Books, New York.

Diamond, Jared M. 1987. “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race,” Discover 8.5: 64–66.

Diamond, Jared M. 2005. Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. Vintage, London.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The 10,000 Year Explosion, Chapter 2: A Summary

Chapter 2 of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending’s The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution (2009) is called “The Neanderthal Within,” and examines the possibility that early humans outside of Africa interbred with Neanderthals, and how this affected human evolution.

Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens outside of Africa encountered one another and competed for resources – and early humans won out in about 10,000 years, perhaps because:
(1) our ancestors had projectile weapons (e.g., throwing spears, darts, bows and arrows) which they could use much more effectively with lighter, less bulky bodies (and so they required less calories to live);

(2) early humans were more intelligent;

(3) early humans had superior language abilities, and had better social organisation (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 25–26);

(4) and some suggest that early humans might have spread some bacteria or parasites which they had immunity against, but against which Neanderthals had not evolved immunity (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 28).
These are suggested explanations, though some may be wrong.

In any case, humans replaced Neanderthals and a revolution in material culture happened in the Upper Paleolithic in certain places like Europe where from 30,000 to 40,000 years ago humans invented all sorts of new tools and weapons, textiles, cave paintings, sculpture, and jewellery, as well as engaging in more long-distance trade (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 30). In Europe, this was called the Aurignacian culture (from c. 41,000–c. 26,000 BC), as well as the earlier Châtelperronian culture in central and south-western France and northern Spain (c. 43,000–c. 38,000 BC).

Such a revolution in material culture required a new propensity for invention, innovation and intelligence that was mysteriously absent in earlier periods of human evolution. Why did this happen?

Cochran and Harpending propose that this came about by the interbreeding of humans with Neanderthals in Europe and parts of Asia (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 36), though it did not happen in Africa. They propose that Neanderthals gave to early humans certain alleles (gene variants) which became common and conferred not only the ability to tolerate the cold or resist local diseases (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 54), but also new and advantageous cognitive abilities (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 56–57). They suggest that the gene microcephalin (MCPH1) that regulates brain size and the FOXP2 allele that has a role in speech and language abilities might have been acquired from Neanderthals (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 62–63).

Neanderthals had evolved bigger brains, and this may well have meant a greater level of cognitive ability and intelligence in certain ways, which were useful in hunting big game and in the colder, harsher environment of Europe (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 55).

So Cochran and Harpending argue that after c. 50,000 years ago early humans outside Africa – especially in Europe – acquired new, useful and greater cognitive abilities from admixture with Neanderthals, which was a genetic precondition for the cultural revolution of the Upper Paleolithic peoples (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 64).

This thesis is one of the more controversial aspects of The 10,000 Year Explosion, and other scientists argue that, while interbreeding did occur, it was rare and biologically and genetically unimportant (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 40).

It appears that, while early humans in Eurasia did interbred with the Neanderthals (and Neanderthals had in turn evolved from Homo erectus populations) (see here), the Neanderthal genetic contribution to modern Europeans is low: some put it as low as 1.5–2.1% (Prüfer et al. 2014). (For a useful family tree, see here). By contrast, Lohse and Frantz (2014) found that Neanderthal admixture occurring in ancient Eurasia was at a higher rate of 3.4−7.3%.

This remains a controversial issue, and here is some recent evidence in the videos below:

Also, some speculation on Neanderthal intelligence:

At any rate, because early humans developed better hunting techniques, required less food than Neanderthals, and had a more varied diet – that is, because they were more successful in evolutionary terms and better adapted to their environment – this led to greater population density than in previous human societies (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 33), and greater population density in turn allowed more mutations and more random creation of better traits by sexual reproduction in early human populations on which selection and evolution could work.

Finally, here is a chronology of events in prehistory relevant to the issues in Chapter 2 of The 10,000 Year Explosion:
300,000–250,000 – Homo heidelbergensis evolves into Neanderthals outside Africa

c. 158,000–38,000 BC – the Mousterian (or Mode III) culture or archaeological industry, of flint tools mainly associated with the Neanderthals, and some early humans, in Eurasia

125,000 years ago – Homo sapiens reached the Near East, but evidence suggests they retreated back to Africa, as their settlements were replaced by Neanderthals

108,000–9,700 BC – last Ice Age

c. 73,000 BC (± 900 years) – Lake Toba supervolcanic eruption (in Sumatra, Indonesia). This is the largest known explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, it had global consequences for human populations: it killed most humans living at that time and is believed to have created a population bottleneck in central east Africa and India, which affects the genetic make-up of the human world-wide population to the present

75,000 years ago – Homo sapiens left Africa again about across the Bab el Mandib, connecting Ethiopia and Yemen into Middle East

60,000–50,000 BC – outside Africa, Homo sapiens lives in Near East, Greece, south Asia, New Guinea and Australia

c. 58,000 BC – most areas north of the tropics not inhabited by Homo sapiens because of the cold and difficulty of food supply

c. 50,000–40,000 years ago – southeast Asians reach Australia; in Australia by 46,000 years ago at the latest

c. 43,000–41,000 BC – Cro-Magnon Homo sapiens reached Europe from the Near East, eventually replacing the Neanderthal population by 40,000 years ago

c. 43,000–c. 38,000 BC – the Châtelperronian culture in central and south-western France and northern Spain

c. 41,000–c. 26,000 BC – the Aurignacian culture is found in Europe (probably associated with GoyetQ116 type people), the archaeological culture of the Upper Palaeolithic; this first appears in Eastern Europe around c. 41,000 BC, and spread into Western Europe c. 38,000 and 34,000 BC, but replaced by the Gravettian culture c. 26,000 to 24,000 BC

39,000–37,000 BC – Neanderthals die out in Europe

35,000–12,000 BC – European hunter-gatherers descend from a single ancestral population with no significant genetic inflow from other regions

c. 29,000–c. 22,000 BC – the Gravettian tool-making culture of the European Upper Paleolithic of Vestonice cluster type people; ice age glaciation seems to have wiped out Gravettian culture people c. 22,000 BC

28,000 BC – East Asia was reached by Homo sapiens

28,000–13,000 BC – last cool phase of the Ice age; humans withdraw from north Eurasia to more southerly areas

c. 27,000–18,000 BC – Last Glacial Maximum (when the ice sheets were at their greatest extension) c. 24,500 BC; deglaciation began in the Northern Hemisphere gradually from c. 18,000 to 17,000 BC

26,000 BC – last group of Neanderthals disappear from southern Spain
The blog of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending:
West Hunter
Cochran, Gregory and Henry Harpending. 2009. The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. Basic Books, New York.

Lohse, Konrad and Laurent A. F. Frantz. 2014. “Neandertal Admixture in Eurasia Confirmed by Maximum-Likelihood Analysis of Three Genomes,” Genetics 196.4: 1241–1251.

Prüfer, K. et al. 2014. “The Complete Genome Sequence of a Neanderthal from the Altai Mountains,” Nature 505.7481: 43–49.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The 10,000 Year Explosion, Chapter 1: A Summary

Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending’s The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution (2009) is a truly extraordinary book that every person on the Left should read. Critical reviews of the book can be found in Wills (2009), Arden (2009) and Gorelik and Shackelford (2010).

In essence, Cochran and Harpending challenge the notion that human evolution stopped around 50,000 years ago.

In Chapter 1 of The 10,000 Year Explosion, Cochran and Harpending (2009: 1) argue that
(1) human evolution has actually been accelerated by various pressures and historical developments over the past 10,000 years, as the environments and niches occupied by human beings radically changed, and

(2) that evolution in human beings has been about 100 times faster in the past 10,000 years than the long-run, average rate during all 6 million years of human and hominid evolution (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 23, citing Hawks et al. 2007).
The view that Cochran and Harpending oppose is as follows: the idea that the last stage of significant human evolution occurred between about 50,000 to 40,000 years ago and then ceased. That is to say, from 50,000 to 40,000 years ago during the Upper Palaeolithic humans went through a flowering of culture and material culture (such as weapons, tools, art and clothing), but then human evolution of the mind and body, in significant ways, ended around this time, and modern humans are essentially the same as humans of about c. 40,000 years ago (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 2).

The assumption lying behind this is that the environment occupied by humans became basically static about 50,000–40,000 years ago, and so no great new selective pressures caused by new environments continued to modify the human genome and phenotypes (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 2). Such a scenario is not impossible if a species occupies an environment that is stable: e.g., horseshoe crabs today are probably genetically and phenotypically much the same as horseshoe crabs 100 million years ago, because these organisms have occupied the same stable, static environment.

But Cochran and Harpending (2009: 3) contend that this assumption about the environments occupied by humans within the past 40,000 years – and especially the last 10,000 years – cannot possibly be taken seriously.

Instead, the evidence suggests that, while many species may well exist for long periods in stasis in stable environments, they can then easily be subject to rapid evolution in response to rapid environmental and selective pressures from natural selection (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 5, 19). For example, modern breeds of dogs have been created very recently in the space of about 15,000 years by human beings through artificial selection and breeding: to take one example, we have been able to change wolves into chihuahuas.

Changes can also happen rapidly in cognition or behaviour, e.g., domesticated dogs are significantly different in their cognitive and behavioural characteristics from wolves. And the Russian scientist Dmitri Belyaev was able to breed domesticated foxes from wild foxes in about 10 years of selective breeding (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 7), as described in this video:

Cochran and Harpending point to the following reasons for rejecting the stable environment hypothesis with respect to humans over the past 40,000 years:
(1) even after 40,000 years ago, humans continued to migrate around the surface of the planet, into southeast Asia, Australia, Europe, and also into northern Eurasia, Japan, and the Americas, where they experienced different environments and different evolutionary pressures for the following 10,000s of years, and, above all, some experienced the extremely harsh environment of the last Ice Age in the area of northern Eurasia (the last phase of which was the Last Glacial Maximum when the ice sheets were at their greatest extension from 27,000–18,000 BC).

(2) humans outside of Africa encountered and competed with other archaic humans such as the Neanderthals and Denisovans, as well as new animals and pathogens in these environments. Humans outside of Africa also interbred with Neanderthals and acquired a small amount of Neanderthal DNA.

(3) differential cultural and technological development occurred in these different regions, which in turn caused new selective pressures on the people in various areas, e.g., spears and arrows drove selection for faster, lighter humans who could hunt more successfully with these weapons (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 3).

(4) the agricultural revolution from c. 10,000 BC and the emergence of cities also created radically new environments from those inhabited by hunter gatherers before this time.

(5) as human populations rose with farming, mutations and beneficial individual traits caused by genetic mixing in sexual reproduction were more likely to occur (and then spread in these populations) than in much smaller populations of hunter-gatherers. And, importantly, even comparatively minor genotypic changes in alleles or gene variants, but occurring more frequently, can cause very profound and deep phenotypic changes quite rapidly in a species.
In short, Cochran and Harpending contend that these different environments have continued to shape human beings and even accelerate human evolution well after 50,000 years ago, and that even minor changes in allele frequencies in different human populations driven by selective pressures have caused phenotypic differences in external appearance, morphology, metabolism, defence against infectious diseases, and even cognitive and behavioural traits (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 19, 22).

This of course means not only that human beings of around 100,000 years ago were different from human beings c. 40,000 years ago, but also that humans c. 40,000 years ago or even 10,000 years ago were phenotypically different – in significant ways – from human beings alive today (Cochran and Harpending 2009: 18–19).

Cochran and Harpending (2009: 18–19) also contend that accelerated human evolution means that even humans in historical times from around 1,000 BC should be regarded as different – both genotypically and phenotypically – from us today. This has profound implications for our understanding of human history, and our understanding of why and how humans historically developed in terms of their cultures, technologies, economies, and social organisation.

To end with some concrete examples: most Europeans today are lactose-tolerant into adulthood. Europeans are generally lactose-tolerant because they have a mutation that allows the synthesis of lactase – an enzyme that digests milk sugar. But this evolutionary trait is quite recent: it only spread amongst Europeans from 3,000 to 2,000 BC as Indo-European-speaking Yamnaya-culture people from what is now southern Russia migrated into Europe and spread this mutation that they had evolved (Allentoft et al. 2015: 171). Before about 3,000 BC, Europeans were not lactose-tolerant into adulthood.

And if we went back in time to Europe of about 40,000 BC, we’d discover that Europeans of that era looked quite different from their modern descendants: e.g., they would have had heavy brow ridges, prognathism from the much larger teeth that humans had before the Neolithic farming revolution, and probably much darker skin.

Allentoft, Morten E. et al. 2015. “Population Genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia,” Nature 522 (11 June): 167–172.

Arden, Rosalind. 2009. Review of The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, Twin Research and Human Genetics 12.4: 409–410.

Cochran, Gregory and Henry Harpending. 2009. The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. Basic Books, New York.

Gorelik, G. and T. K. Shackelford. 2010. Review of The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, Evolutionary Psychology 1: 113–118.

Hawks, John, Wang, Eric T., Cochran, Gregory M., Harpending, Henry C. and Robert K. Moyzis. 2007. “Recent Acceleration of Human Adaptive Evolution,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104.52 (December 26): 20753–20758.

Wills, Christopher. 2009. Review of The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, New Scientist 201.2695: 46–47.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Cultural Left’s War on Straight, White Male Science

Behold the continuing saga of insanity from the Cultural Left:
Kristine Phillips, “Why these Professors are warning against Promoting the Work of Straight, White Men,”, July 16, 2017.
What’s next from these utter psychopaths?

For example, it is well known that Jewish people – and above all Jewish men – are greatly overrepresented amongst Nobel laureates in the sciences and other fields: Jewish people are just 0.2% of the world population but (mostly) Jewish men are about 22% of Nobel laureates (you can easily see that they are virtually all men here). So are male scientists who happen to be Jewish included in this SJW rant about white male science?

Science needs the best, most intelligent people in order to advance human knowledge. And we know why – with respect to the hard natural sciences – this is likely to be mostly men, as I have explained here. The reason is a biological one, grounded in differences in the distribution of male and female IQs, average gender differences in specific cognitive abilities like mathematics and visual-spatial ability, and gender differences in behavioural and psychological traits. In addition, the reason why Jewish men are so overrepresented amongst Nobel laureates in the sciences, and hard sciences generally (Cochran 2010: 189–190), is because of these reasons, as well as the remarkable fact that Ashkenazi Jews probably have an average IQ that lies somewhere in the 107–115 range, the highest average IQ of any ethnic group in the world.

So, when Cultural Leftist lunatics scream abuse at straight, white male scientists, are they also including male Jewish scientists in this? And, if so, wouldn’t this make SJWs anti-Semitic?

But – wait a minute, people! – doesn’t this remind you of a certain fascist movement from the 1930s??:
“ … the entire idea of ‘white male science’ reminds me, I’m afraid, of ‘Jewish physics.’ Perhaps it is another inadequacy of mine, but when I read a scientific paper, I can’t tell whether the author is white or is male. The same is true of discussion of work in class, the office, or somewhere else. I rather doubt that the non-white, non-male students, friends, and colleagues with whom I work would be much impressed with the doctrine that their thinking and understanding differ from ‘white male science’ because of their ‘culture or gender and race.’ I suspect that ‘surprise’ would not be quite the proper word for their reaction.”
Noam Chomsky, 1995. “Rationality/Science,” Z Papers Special Issue
If you have any doubt about the utter evil and depravity of the Cultural Left, then just think rationally about this perfectly reasonable comparison made by Chomsky.

Anybody who rants about “straight, white male science” is on the same level as a person who rants about “Jewish physics,” plain and simple. They are likely given over to vicious racial hatred and racial prejudice, even if that hatred is only implicit. The only difference is that this racial hatred and prejudice is directed at white people.

Such people deserve zero tolerance. They deserve total ridicule and contempt.

Cochran, Gregory and Henry Harpendin. 2010. 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. BasicBooks, New York.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Leftist/Liberal Hypocrisy on IQ

In 2016, Germany was horrified by this sickening crime in a subway:

Now Svetoslav Stoykov, the perpetrator of the crime, has been sentenced to 2 years and 11 months in jail after being convicted of causing grievous bodily in a German court (see here and here).

The perpetrator was reportedly a Roma Gypsy from Bulgaria, who was in Germany only because of the EU open borders policy, but this an issue for another post and time.

In his defence, it was claimed that Stoykov was under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and crystal meth when he committed this attack.

But, importantly for our purposes, a psychiatric expert testified for him and claimed that Svetoslav Stoykov has an IQ of about 63 (see here).

An IQ of 63 is very low, and even 70 is considered border-line mentally retarded.

Presumably, Svetoslav Stoykov’s lawyers invoked his low IQ as a defence and as evidence that he was not fully responsible for his actions, and so therefore in support of the view that he deserved a more lenient sentence.

Now leftists and liberals quite often do invoke low IQ as a defence against law and order Conservatives who push for the death penalty for violent criminals.

But, at the same time, leftists and liberals have a schizophrenic hostility to the very idea of IQ as a meaningful concept, or as a reliable measure of the general intelligence of human beings.

But you can’t have it both ways.

(1) culturally-fair IQ tests are a meaningful and accurate measure of the human trait of general intelligence (also called Spearman’s g), which is also a meaningful and real phenomenon, or

(2) IQ is meaningless and does not constitute a meaningful measure of general intelligence, since the latter concept is also not a coherent, meaningful nor real phenomenon.
So which is it? You can’t have it both ways.

Either (1) is true and (2) false, or (2) is true and (1) is false.

If you think (2) is true, then you cannot invoke IQ as a defence for low-IQ criminals, because you actually think IQ is meaningless.

By contrast, if (1) is asserted as true, then you can in fact defend low IQ criminals as not being cognitively normal, and not necessarily having the same level of agency nor control as human beings with a higher IQ.

But, once you have acknowledged that IQ is meaningful and an accurate measure of the human trait of general intelligence, this opens up a whole world of issues that are normally ignored by the Left and Liberal Left, e.g., the issue of differences in the distribution of IQs of men and women, as described here.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Philip Pilkington’s New Book The Reformation in Economics

Check out the full details here:
Philip Pilkington, “Book Launch in Parliament Earlier this Year,” Fixing the Economists, July 13, 2017.
Philip Pilkington has a new book called The Reformation in Economics: A Deconstruction and Reconstruction of Economic Theory (2016).

You can buy it here and here.

There was a book launch on 16 March 2017 in the Clement Attlee room in the UK House of Lords.

See more details here.

Robert Skidelsky gave some introductory remarks here:

And Philip Pilkington gave a short speech here:

Get your copy now!

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tucker Carlson versus Crazed Neocon Max Boot


Tucker even called him out on the Iraq war and disastrous interventions in the Middle East.

You know a big shift has taken place within America politics and on the Right, when – on Fox News itself – its most popular interview program “Tucker Carlson Tonight” can launch what is basically an attack on Neoconservatism, even though nobody explicitly mentioned the word “Neoconservative” or “Neocon.”

The Neoconservative worldview is an unhinged and grotesque one of perpetual war. Apart from the fact that the Neocons were the driving force behind the criminal and illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 – and the descent of America into a state using torture, kidnapping, black prisons, and assassinations – let’s take the Neocons’ (and the US Liberal elite’s) current obsession: Putin’s Russia.

Regarding Putin, let’s take the primary charge of the Neocons: Putin is an evil human right abuser. Well, no doubt Putin’s regime has some ugly human rights abuses and other troubling issues.

But, curiously, the authoritarian Communist government of China is undoubtedly a far more brutal and repressive human rights abuser than Putin, but American Conservatives – including the Neocons – have no problem with the free trade policies that destroy US manufacturing and ship it to China, even while they impose new economic sanctions on Russia. China is a far more dangerous global and economic competitor to the US than Russia, but Neocons and even the US Liberal elite are more than happy to give their industry and technology away to the Communist Chinese. This is clown world. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

The Neocons were hysterical opponents of Trump from the very beginning, because Trump in 2016 refused (apart, admittedly, from attacking the Iran deal) to follow their policies on Russia, Syria and on regime change in the wider Middle East.

And notice the insane insults from these Neocons: everybody who disagrees with them is a fascist or Nazi. This is the same rhetoric that you get on the Left.

Curiously, the earliest Neoconservatives were Liberal leftists before they migrated to the Right: they came out of the Democratic party in the 1970s and joined the Republicans when they got disillusioned with the anti-war movements on the Liberal left.

Many of the first generation Neocons were actually Trotskyists and socialists associated with the City College of New York and the 1930s/1940s New York Intellectuals.

These ideologues have always wanted war, war, and more war, and the highly amusing meme pushed by in the 2000s that the Neocons had become the new Liberal Trotskyists (here and here) has a great deal in its favour.

If the Neocon ideology is slowing dying on the American Right, this is a very good thing indeed.

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Friday, July 7, 2017

What is the Case against Marxism in a Nutshell?

That is, what is the case against the actual theory presented by Karl Marx in volume 1 of Capital? This was the only volume of Capital that Marx published in his lifetime, and volume 3 contradicts volume 1 in important respects.

First, we need to know what Marx actually argued in volume 1 of Capital.

The essence of Marx’s theory and his conception of the historical tendency of capitalism is as follows:
(1) Marx had an elaborate labour theory of value on which he founded volume 1 of Capital (see here). Marx understood “value” in the following terms:
(1) the substance of value is abstract socially necessary labour time, which must be defined as a homogeneous unit capable of aggregating and measuring all heterogeneous types of human labour-power (Marx 1906: 45–46);

(2) so therefore value is abstract, socially necessary labour time embodied, crystallised, or materialised in commodities, and

(3) the magnitude of value or quantitative measure of value is the amount of abstract socially necessary labour time, counted in homogeneous units (Marx 1906: 45–46).
Marx also thought that market prices move around and are determined by labour values, since the latter are the equilibrium price anchors for a capitalist system.

(2) capitalism tends to increase the (1) accumulation, (2) concentration (accumulation over time) and (3) centralisation of capital. Capitalism will therefore have a tremendous tendency towards monopoly.

(3) capitalism will tend to destroy more and more capitalists and result in huge centralisation of capital (or monopoly) and reduce even capitalists to the proletarian class;

(4) capitalism will tend to use more and more machines and automation in production resulting in a huge body of unemployed people.

(5) the industrial reserve army of labour (the unemployed) grows and grows, and helps to hold real wages in check (see Chapter 25 of Capital). Even more, Marx thought that a large and growing industrial reserve army is a necessary condition of capitalism: it was a “condition of existence of the capitalist mode of production” (Marx 1906: 646).

(6) the tendency of capitalism is to keep the real wage at a subsistence level, which is the value of the maintenance and reproduction of labour-power (on this, see Chapter 25 of Capital and here). Wages rise and fall around this subsistence level as an equilibrium process;

(7) machines will only increase the intensity, speed and arduousness of work for the proletarians and their misery (see Chapter 15 of volume 1), and also increase the employment of women and children who are paid a lower wage than adult men (although government laws might counter this latter trend to some extent). The adult men are then increasing thrown out of work by machines and women and children replace them with lower wages;

(8) volume 3 of Capital adds to this the tendency of the profit rate to fall, but this mechanism is not invoked in volume 1 as one of the causes of the collapse, and some modern Marxists now dispute just how important the tendency of the falling rate of profit was for the final collapse of capitalism in Marx’s theory, as the emphasis given to this may be more the result of Engels’ tendentious editing of volume 3 of Capital.

(9) eventually almost the whole of society is reduced to the proletarian class with only a tiny handful of monopoly capitalists, who according to Marx “usurp and monopolise all advantages of this process of transformation” (Marx 1906: 836).

(10) the huge and constantly growing class of proletarians, who are kept in poverty with a subsistence wage, are subject to an increasing “mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, [and] exploitation” (Marx 1906: 836). As in the passage of Engels quoted by Marx, the “other classes perish and disappear in the face of Modern Industry” (Marx 1906: 837, n. 1).

(11) finally, the proletarians eventually organise and rebel against capitalism, overthrowing the system.
Now these theories and predictions judged in their totality were not the long-run tendency of capitalism.

Even if a few elements are true (e.g., the increasing use of machines), nevertheless Marx’s vision is a Marxist caricature of capitalism which has been falsified by history.

We can run through the problems and failed predictions of Marxism as follows:
(1) Marx’s labour theory of value is false. The a priori argument for the labour theory of value in volume 1 of Marx’s Capital is a non sequitur and later contradicts itself, as detailed here and here. There are devastating problems with the very concept of a homogeneous unit of abstract, socially necessary labour time and serious empirical problems with the theory, as I show here. The very concept, as Marx defines it, cannot be accepted or defended as coherent or meaningful, and is contrary to the empirical evidence. The labour theory does not explain price determination (for how most prices are actually determined, see here), and the theory of price determination in volume 3 of Capital is inconsistent with that in volume 1. See here.

(2) the tendency to monopoly has its limits even in capitalism, and the extreme and increasing degree of monopoly as predicted by Marx goes well beyond anything observed in real world capitalism;

(3) the size of the working class eventually stabilised and society was swelled by a growing and prosperous middle class and social mobility. Unemployment rates in capitalism are simply a cyclical result of the business cycle: even in the 19th century, unemployment rates did not grow and grow in the long run, as Marx’s theory predicts, but normally simply moved around a point somewhat above full employment, as John Maynard Keynes pointed out:
“our actual experience … [sc. is] that we oscillate, avoiding the gravest extremes of fluctuation in employment and in prices in both directions, round an intermediate position appreciably below full employment and appreciably above the minimum employment a decline below which would endanger life.”
Keynes, J. M. 1936. General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money , Chapter 18.
(4) Marx thought that the large industrial reserve army is a necessary consequence and necessary condition of capitalism, but this is incorrect. In the Keynesian era of full employment, where there was very low unemployment and indeed labour scarcity in the advanced capitalist world, but capitalism continued and thrived – indeed we now call it the “Golden Age” of capitalism.

(5) the long-run tendency of capitalism, even in the 19th century, was to massively increase the real wage, which has soared above subsistence level, even for workers (see here and here).

(6) the growing real wage and rising disposable income even of workers in capitalism also allowed a massive capacity for production of new commodities and new opportunities for employment (e.g., especially in services and middle class employment), which in turn has helped to overcome technological unemployment.

(7) Marx’s claim that machines, generally speaking, are an unmitigated evil in capitalism whose primary effect is to increase the intensity and speed of work by labourers is an outrageous falsehood – a perversion of history and reality. In reality, machines have, generally speaking, tended to decrease the intensity, difficulty and monotony of human labour and often reduced to human labour to lighter work of visual inspection and overseeing of machine work, not physical labour. On this, see here and here. Advanced capitalist nations have also virtually eliminated child labour as well, and in our time have tended to pay women the same hourly wage for the same type of work as men.

(8) highly developed and advanced Western capitalist states like Britain and the US proved the most resistant to communism and Marxism (contrary to Marx’s theory), and when communist revolutions broke out it was in backward Russia and China. Even the communist outbreaks in Germany and Italy at the end of the First World War were more the result of the collapse of those nations under the strain of war, and not in line with the vision Marx had predicted (as I noted here).
In the Keynesian era of full employment from 1946 to 1973, mixed economy capitalism produced a golden age.

Of course, since the 1970s we have entered a a disastrous and regressive era of Neoliberal economics, but, even so, the consequences of that Neoliberalism are not in line with all of the predictions of Marxism as listed above.

The end of the Keynesian period and the return to revived neoclassical theories from the 1970s brought with it a return to lower growth, higher unemployment, stagnating real wages, and higher income inequality, but, above all, a transnational globalised neoliberal capitalism which has shipped a great deal of Western manufacturing and jobs to the Third World, and allowed legal and illegal Third World mass immigration into the West to lower wage costs, displace native workers and even replace populations.

To the extent that early Marxists dealt with issues of immigration and open borders, many welcomed it.

Engels in The Principles of Communism (written in 1847) welcomed the destruction and erasure of ethnic and national groups:
“What will be the attitude of communism to existing nationalities?

The nationalities of the peoples associating themselves in accordance with the principle of community will be compelled to mingle with each other as a result of this association and thereby to dissolve themselves, just as the various estate and class distinctions must disappear through the abolition of their basis, private property.”
Lenin saw open borders as “progressive”:
“There can be no doubt that dire poverty alone compels people to abandon their native land, and that the capitalists exploit the immigrant workers in the most shameless manner. But only reactionaries can shut their eyes to the progressive significance of this modern migration of nations. Emancipation from the yoke of capital is impossible without the further development of capitalism, and without the class struggle that is based on it. And it is into this struggle that capitalism is drawing the masses of the working people of the whole world, breaking down the musty, fusty habits of local life, breaking down national barriers and prejudices, uniting workers from all countries in huge factories and mines in America, Germany, and so forth.

America heads the list of countries which import workers. …. The bourgeoisie incites the workers of one nation against those of another in the endeavour to keep them disunited. Class-conscious workers, realising that the break-down of all the national barriers by capitalism is inevitable and progressive, are trying to help to enlighten and organise their fellow-workers from the backward countries.”
V. I. Lenin, “Capitalism and Workers’ Immigration,” Za Pravdu No. 22, October 29, 1913.
So early Marxists saw mass immigration and the destruction of national differences as “progressive” and thought that once people were been mixed up into multicultural or multi-ethnic states, this will create a huge class-conscious proletarian movement, which would then overthrow capitalism. This was yet another Marxist delusion.

Instead, unending Third World mass immigration means the dispossession of the people of the Western world, the Islamisation of our societies, the transformation of our nations into dysfunctional, Balkanised areas with rent-seeking nepotistic and mutually hostile ethnic and religious groups fighting for control of the state.

The deteriorating plight of Western workers and even segments of the middle class by Neoliberalism, the Islamisation of our societies, and Third World immigration has not produced any renewed Marxist or Communist movements of any political importance in the First World.

Rather, more and more people have reacted with increased support for nationalist and protectionist conservatives, and Marxists and Communists – where they still exist – militantly support the disastrous mass immigration policies that more and more people hate and reject.

In particular, modern Marxists are mired in irrational regressive left and Cultural Leftist delusions, such as Third Wave feminism, the idea that all cultures are equal and the nonsense that mass immigration is always a positive force.

That is why Marxism is destined for the dustbin of history.

Marx, Karl. 1906. Capital. A Critique of Political Economy (vol. 1; rev. trans. by Ernest Untermann from 4th German edn.). The Modern Library, New York.

Marx, Karl. 1990. Capital. A Critique of Political Economy. Volume One (trans. Ben Fowkes). Penguin Books, London.