December 22, 2010

"Out of Africa, with Benefits"

Here's that big new science story I teased a couple of days ago. By Carl Zimmer in the New York Times:
An international team of scientists has identified a previously shadowy human group known as the Denisovans as cousins to Neanderthals who lived in Asia from roughly 400,000 to 50,000 years ago and interbred with the ancestors of today’s inhabitants of New Guinea. 

All the Denisovans have left behind are a broken finger bone and a wisdom tooth in a Siberian cave. But the scientists have succeeded in extracting the entire genome of the Denisovans from these scant remains. An analysis of this ancient DNA, published on Wednesday in Nature, reveals that the genomes of people from New Guinea contain 4.8 percent Denisovan DNA. 

An earlier, incomplete analysis of Denisovan DNA had placed the group as more distant from both Neanderthals and humans. On the basis of the new findings, the scientists propose that the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans emerged from Africa half a million years ago. The Neanderthals spread westward, settling in the Near East and Europe. The Denisovans headed east. Some 50,000 years ago, they interbred with humans expanding from Africa along the coast of South Asia, bequeathing some of their DNA to them.  ...

Next, the researchers looked for evidence of interbreeding. Nick Patterson, a Broad Institute geneticist, compared the Denisovan genome to the complete genomes of five people, from South Africa, Nigeria, China, France and Papua New Guinea. To his astonishment, a sizable chunk of the Denisova genome resembled parts of the New Guinea DNA.

“The correct reaction when you get a surprising result is, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ ” said Dr. Patterson. To see if the result was an error, he and his colleagues sequenced the genomes of seven more people, including another individual from New Guinea and one from the neighboring island of Bougainville. But even in the new analysis, the Denisovan DNA still turned up in the New Guinea and Bougainville genomes. ...

Dr. Bustamante also thinks that other cases of interbreeding are yet to be discovered. “There’s a lot of possibility out there,” he said. “But the only way to get at them is to sequence more of these ancient genomes.”  

If the genomes of New Guineans come almost 5% from non-modern humans, then the obvious next step is to test the genomes of Australian Aborigines, who are last in line in the original Southern, Indian Ocean shoreline route Out of Africa. However, there are a lot of regulatory barriers against testing Aborigines, perhaps out of fear that scientists will find something like this. After all, Aborigines look a little archaic, so it wouldn't be terribly surprising if their genes turn out to be a little archaic.

It was lucky that the first findings of non-modern human ancestry involved Europeans, or it would have been hard to get up the political courage to publish this.

So, the Out of Africa model of evolution of the current human race turns out to be mostly, but not wholly, correct. Greg Cochran calls the new model "Out of Africa, with Benefits:" modern humans picked up useful genes from older human types, and not all of those inheritances spread equally to the entire current human race, probably in part because they aren't equally useful in all environments.

Here's an FAQ by John Hawks. And here are comments by Dienekes.

By the way, here's an interesting 2006 article on Nick Patterson, one of the scientists involved. He's had successful three careers, first as British and American government cryptologist, then as a quant for James H. Simons' hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, and now as a genome researcher.

63 comments:

Truth said...

OOOOh, a bombshell, like discovering electricty all over again!

Polistra said...

This sort of fits with linguistic evidence. In phonology and semantics, New Guinea tribes seem to be distant from everyone else. The most alien examples of sounds or sentence structures always seem to be Papuan.

Anonymous said...

I love the sentence in the last paragraph:

"Whether studying disease or evolution, Dr. Patterson noted, genomics differs from code breaking in one key respect: no adversary is deliberately masking DNA’s meaning. "

nooffensebut said...

Thank you, Steve. One question: why was it that you were not allowed to completely scoop the New York Times? Why did you need to hold back?

Paul Mendez said...

I still think H. Sapiens was much more likely to kill & eat any Neanderthals or Devo-whatevers that they met than to have sex with them.

Baloo said...

Polistra, that's interesting — can you point to any links about Papuan linguistic oddities?

Hrabal said...

"All the Denisovans have left behind are a broken finger bone and a wisdom tooth in a Siberian cave."

Makes one wonder what other humanoids existed we have no clue about who may have mixed DNA with humans.

Anonymous said...

Bruce meets Denis, eh?

Steve Sailer said...

"Why did you need to hold back?"

Because I was asked to.

Moreover, when I first heard about it a few months ago, it was still pretty preliminary. What if it didn't pan out?

When I heard about it again a few days ago, it was on the verge, so why jump the gun? Lots of people were busy putting effort into explicating the upon Nature paper, all with an agreed upon embargo until 12/22/2010, which gives them confidence that their work won't be undermined by somebody beating them to the punch.

Anonymous said...

It's not just PNG, probably a wide swath of Melanesian or even broader areas of Eurasia.

Jamie MacMountaineer said...

@paul mendez
I still think H. Sapiens was much more likely to kill & eat any ... whatevers that they met than to have sex with them.

Speaking as a native West Virginian of Scotch-Irish descent let me assure you one dunno preclude tother.

Anonymous said...

When will the Air Force get around to cleaning out the Area 51 meat freezers? A few DNA tests on some brown oleaginous crud and, voila! The Broad Institute could confirm that humans and ET have been interbreeding for over a millennium.

What else could explain the existence of Richard Fuld?

RAH said...

This sort of fits with linguistic evidence. In phonology and semantics, New Guinea tribes seem to be distant from everyone else. The most alien examples of sounds or sentence structures always seem to be Papuan.

Wrong, there are a lot of language isolates.

adsfasdfasdf said...

If interbreeding with neanderthals and dienikins brought benefits, I expect the leftist community to uphold the last findings to justify interracism as beneficial too.

Ugh oog, me like no.

asdfasdf said...

"I still think H. Sapiens was much more likely to kill & eat any Neanderthals or Devo-whatevers that they met than to have sex with them."

I don't know. Chimps generally don't eat other chimps. Or do they?

Anonymous said...

There was in the beginning "Yali's Question". Is this finally the answer? Did it have nothing to do with guns, germs and steel after all?

I think I'll venture my own mega theory of human evolution.

Cavalli-Sforza and others said that there was an Out-Of-Africa migration about a million years ago of Homo Erectus. Then there was another about 100,000 years ago of Homo Sapiens. Now it seems there may have been a third in between.

I'm going to suggest that there have been continuous migrations out of Africa - every couple years for at least a million years. Why not?

We only know about the fossils we find. Presumably almost all the remains have vanished.

It's called preservation bias. I can remember when there were only seven T-Rex skeletons found. T-Rex was considered the biggest carnivore. T-Rex is nowadays only third and likely to fall further in the rankings as more paleontologists get into Africa and Asia.

In the last decade we had those darling "Hobbits" discovered. In the next decades other surprises must come, especially if Al Gore is wrong. The oceans will stay high if the world stays warm but when it cools again, as it must, the oceans will drop and the routes of migrating early man will be revealed.

Albertosaurus

Wes said...

Also, if you don't keep quiet about tips you get, well, you stop getting the tips! It works out good for all of us this way. Thanks again for the heads up, Steve, great story.

Wes said...

What kind of regulations are in place to keep scientists from looking at the genes of Aborigines? Surely Aborigines have the right to offer up their own DNA. Is it a prohibition about doing certain kinds of research on their DNA, even if it's obtained?

Whiskey said...

Very interesting.

I can think of one VERY good reason for inter-breeding with distant humanoids. Genetic bottleneck. It has been estimated that there exists a genetic bottleneck for homo sapiens at around 70,000 years or so ago, when there were only maybe 1,000 women of child-bearing age alive after some catastrophe.

In endangered species you see this a lot, and the genetic bottlenecks are not pretty. Europeans (and even more so, Ashkenazi but not Sephardic Jews) are prone to this, including auto-immune and other diseases (perhaps autism?)

This might very well explain the erotic fascination across races for pairings of various kinds: a way to hedge bets genetically against genetic bottlenecks and perhaps the propensity for groups particularly suffering from genetic bottlenecks to out-marry.

Simon in London said...

It looks to me that they have identified the (or one of the) archaic homo sapiens ancestral populations of PNGers, and thus almost certainly of all Australoids.

I think it will become increasingly evident that (a) these archaic Eurasian homo sapiens populations contributed very substantially to the gene pool of all non-African modern humans, but (b) Australoids, or some Australoids, have much more of this ancestry than the rest.

By archaic Eurasian homo sapiens, I refer to human populations present in Eurasia in the period roughly 1/2 million-50,000 y.a., including the Neanderthals and these guys. Currently it seems likeliest that they also left Africa, and split from the main ancestral human line, around 1/2 million ya or a bit before.

However from what I can see a descent from homo erectus in Eurasia, widespread from 2 million ya, may not be ruled out.

Anonymous said...

Off-topic:

Some people complained that Sailer was comparing American whites with all europeans.

Also, he only had reading scores.

Here is data with only native europeans, and with the average of the 3 PISA tests.

http://super-economy.blogspot.com/2010/12/amazing-truth-about-pisa-scores-usa.html

Simon in London said...

Albertosaurus:
"I'm going to suggest that there have been continuous migrations out of Africa - every couple years for at least a million years. Why not?"

I've long suspected an African population pump, posssibly since the Ice Epoch started ca 3 million years ago. Every time the climate warmed, especially in the interglacials, (proto) humans would move north.

Anonymous said...

So does this breathe new life into Milford Wolpoff's hypothesis of multi-regional evolution?

P Coderch said...

Oh, so this was the "big" science news? Another tiny tiny little advancement in understanding the origin of the Human Species. At this pace, by 3YK we will have it all figured out! And Greg Cochran's insights are retarded. Please stop bringing this man up as if he were the next Pasteur or something like that. I literally laughed out loud when I read he believes that homosexuality is caused by an infection. That is so obviously wrong that it doesen't even deserve refutation. Cochran behaves a lot like those physicists that, when reality doesen't agree with their equations, prefer to throw away reality rather than his precious equations. The fact that he used to be a physicist probably explains this. Darwin's theory of evolution simply cannot explain homosexuality and saying that it is caused by an infection is a desperate attempt to make reality fit with the theory. Reality doesen't fit with the theory
, just like the existence of the Human brain, which can decide not to pass on the selfish DNA to the next generation, also should have never come about according to Darwin's theory of evolution. The fact that natural selection gave the Human brain enough free will to make the decision not to breed, a similar mistake could have been made that resulted in homosexuality. I think homosexuality might be a strategy for men to pass on their genes in the presence of more masculine/aggressive males. It makes the man a female surrogate and thus tolerated by the dominant male instead of getting killed, and then the effeminate breeds with the women. So male sycophantry is the basis of male homosexuality. Most gay men have sex with women and enjoy it. Their attraction to men is physical, of course, but it is a lot psychological. All gay men I spoke to said they worship the image of "macho" and domination. So male sycophantry allows the man reproductive advantage in a situation where otherwise he would be killed, and he might even get physical protection from the dominant man. This is my brilliant insight. If you don't like it, too bad ok.

David Davenport said...

www.google.com/search?aq=f&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=chimpanzee+cannibalism

Anonymous said...

> I can think of one VERY good reason for inter-breeding with distant humanoids. Genetic bottleneck.

No chance.


> In endangered species you see this a lot, and the genetic bottlenecks are not pretty. Europeans (and even more so, Ashkenazi but not Sephardic Jews) are prone to this, including auto-immune and other diseases (perhaps autism?)

All false.


> This might very well explain the erotic fascination across races for pairings of various kinds: a way to hedge bets genetically against genetic bottlenecks and perhaps the propensity for groups particularly suffering from genetic bottlenecks to out-marry.

Probably not.

asdasdfasd said...

This isn't very interesting. The Neanderthal stuff was interesting because whites and blacks are very different, and the theory led some to believe that maybe whites got some valuable genes from Neanderthals that blacks in Africa didn't get.
In the case of New Guineans, it seems not to have done them any good. They are even more primitive than most Africans.

We should also keep in mind that people who mated with neanderthals were whites whereas blacks(of New Guinea)mated with Denis Evans. Maybe black New Guinea genes weren't much to begin with, so not much good came of it.

adsfasdfasdf said...

If Neanderthals were human, is European DNA closer to Neanderthal DNA or to Bantu or some other black African DNA?

And it is my understanding that OUT OF AFRICA didn't mean blacks left Africa and became white but a people who'd already become white-ish in North Africa left and became fully white. Maybe it should be called the 'OUT OF NORTH AFRICA' theory. If we say OUT OF AFRICA, people assume that someone who looks like Chris Rock left Africa and turned into other races when, in fact, non-black races already formed in Africa before they left.

Anonymous said...

asdfasdf said...

"I still think H. Sapiens was much more likely to kill & eat any Neanderthals or Devo-whatevers that they met than to have sex with them."

I don't know. Chimps generally don't eat other chimps. Or do they?\


I am lead to believe that infants from other groups are eaten.

adfafasdfa said...

Is this significant? Archaeologically yes, but genetically for modern man? I think not.

Suppose Neanderthals never existed, and Europeans never mated with them. My guess is Europeans would still be what they are today.
Environmental factors and geo-genetic isolation can make all the difference. Consider the differences between Northeast Asians and 'Native Americans'. They are significantly different though separated by only few ten thousand yrs. And this has nothing to do with Native Americans mating with a different breed of Early Man(and in fact, there were no separate breed of Early Man in Americas. Asians who crossed the Bering Strait were the first humans in the Americas). Yet, look at the difference between a Hong Konger and a Bolivian Indian.

Also, from reading parts of Jared Diamond's book, I learned that the white race or the white proto-race already developed IN Africa before venturing out of Africa. So, European and Near Eastern Man substantially became what he is IN Africa--before mating with Neanderthals, Denis Evans, and other freaks--before he set out of Africa.

Because we use 'European' for white and 'African' for black, there is a common misunderstanding that blacks left Africa and became white in Europe. The real distinction should be between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. If we look at the big picture, Europeans are essentially North Africans who moved to Europe.(In other words, they'd already substantially become 'European' in North Africa.) Of course, they became fully European in the northern climate, but it's not like black Africans arrived in Europe and turned white. Rather North African proto-whites arrived in Europe and changed further--turned whiter.

So, as important as these findings may be for scholars, I don't think they were fundamental to the rise of European man.

Anonymous said...

Suppose Neanderthals never existed, and Europeans never mated with them. My guess is Europeans would still be what they are today.
Environmental factors and geo-genetic isolation can make all the difference.


Yes, I think the big story in terms of HBD differentiation is definitely a product of Hawks, Cochran & Harpending's acceleration generating mutations and differential selection pressures between regions due to climate and different modes of agriculture. These admixture events are interesting as part of the evolutionary story, but I think you are essentially correct in their relatively marginal importance to functional behaviour. On the other hand, there is the possibility that the small shifts they did provide enabled big selective shifts upstream. (or maybe not...)

Of course, they became fully European in the northern climate, but it's not like black Africans arrived in Europe and turned white. Rather North African proto-whites arrived in Europe and changed further--turned whiter.

I'm not so sure when the Caucasoid look evolved. I'd think it pretty likely that the first Europeans were relatively closer to black Africans in appearance than today's North Africans are (and maybe closer to today's black Africans in soft tissues than they were today's North Africans), and then its likely that mutations and/or selective shifts which caused changes in a White direction occured across the entirity of Caucasoid territory and spread across the whole area (I think people moved in all directions across Europe+Middle East+Western Russia and interbred, if not freely, at higher frequencies with one another than with people outside this region). Early skulls sort of cluster with modern Europeans I believe, but on the hand the emergence of White skin (in European human rather than Neanderthal populations, who seem to have had it) seems to be very recent compared to overall habitation.

Matt said...

In the case of New Guineans, it seems not to have done them any good. They are even more primitive than most Africans.

It's possible that they got some genes from the Denisovans which would have been useful, but weren't selected in them. These may have been useful and selected in other human populations however, possibly through introgression.

Bear in mind that the large amount of excess similarity to Denisovans in the Melanesians (and Eurasians to Neandertals) is neutral stuff. If the Melanesians (or whatever ancient population that actually mixed with the Denisovans) got a good allele from the Denisovans, it might have drifted in them, due to low selective pressure, while being taken to high frequencies in other Eurasians, without the other Eurasians necessarily any excess overall Denisovan ancestry, through the mechanism of introgression from these ancient "Melanesians".

Kind of a long shot, but hey!

Anonymous said...

The most alien examples of sounds or sentence structures always seem to be Papuan.

I'd like to hear examples as well. I've heard a lot about Taa and the general phonetic weirdness of Khoi-San languages, and the generally peculiar grammatical nature of Caucasian languages and oligosynthetic Naive American languages, and other strange languages like Piraha, but never seem to have heard any particularly interesting stories about New Guinean languages (even though I know they are very diverse).

Simon in London said...

"Out of Africa" has modern man crossing into Eurasia at the southern tip of Arabia, across from Ethiopia. To my eye the terrain in Ethiopia seems to channel up from the Rift Valley.

I've seen recreations of the "first Europeans" based on bones, where they look like larger more robust Khoisan. I've also seen ancient European art of very robust-looking, beetle-browed fellows that look nothing like khoisan, but a bit like Australian aborigines - or Neanderthals?

neil craig said...

Siberia isn't technically Europe though most of its, modern, population contains Russian blood.

The question of when such people are a new species/breed/tribe/or race is largely in our minds. Since they all appear to have separated no more than 500,000 years ago it is virtually certain they could all interbreed, which is the normal definition of separate species. Though even then were are finding, as with polar & brown bears that thay is not necessarily so.

When you find a single animal species in 2 small & widely separated locations the assumption is that they used to be widespread all the way between before more recent competitors evolved.

neil craig said...

Siberia isn't technically Europe though most of its, modern, population contains Russian blood.

The question of when such people are a new species/breed/tribe/or race is largely in our minds. Since they all appear to have separated no more than 500,000 years ago it is virtually certain they could all interbreed, which is the normal definition of separate species. Though even then were are finding, as with polar & brown bears that thay is not necessarily so.

When you find a single animal species in 2 small & widely separated locations the assumption is that they used to be widespread all the way between before more recent competitors evolved.

GOD said...

"Whether studying disease or evolution, Dr. Patterson noted, genomics differs from code breaking in one key respect: no adversary is deliberately masking DNA’s meaning."

Ha, that's what he thinks!

dearieme said...

"New Guineans ...are even more primitive than most Africans". People who study these things believe that PNG was one of the rather few places where agriculture was independently invented. Unlike, for instance, Greece, Rome, Egypt or Japan.

Paul Mendez said...

I'm not so sure when the Caucasoid look evolved.

There is an argument that Caucasians did not "evolve," but actively breed themselves into existence. The thinking is that they were selecting for traits like intelligence and good behavior, and the skin/hair/eye color changes were incidental -- like the tame Russian fox experiments.

The argument is based on such facts as:

1) Many physical traits of Caucasians are recessive, like blue eyes, and would have a hard time becoming predominant simply by natural selection.

2) Caucasians evidently understood the principles of selective breeding for improving livestock since prehistory. Other groups may have domesticated some animals, but few actively improved upon them.

3) Caucasians have always taken the idea of inherited nobility, royalty, "good breeding," etc., much more seriously than other races. In most other cultures, the "royalty" is simply the family of whoever is in power at that moment. As late as 1914, some European armies would choose officers solely on their "breeding."

Anonymous said...

It sounds like this is based on a positive match between 1 Denisovan and 2 New Guineans, and a negative match between that same Denisovan and 10 Others. Is that statistically or otherwisedly significant?

If we were told that the Denisovan was near-sighted, and two non-randomly chosen New Guinean were near-sighted but 10 nonrandomly chosen Others were not, would we conclude that nobody outside of New Guinea was near-sighted?

Anonymous said...

P Coderch suggests that Cochran is wrong about homosexuality being an infection. Could be - or he could be right. The whole point is that before an explanation emerges for a phenomenon you just don't know. The answer isn't to be found in the personality or personality deficits of Mr. Cochran.

Cochran is undoubtedly a very smart guy. That doesn't mean that he's right about homosexuality or anything else. He's certainly quite naive about many aspects of electoral politics.

The smartest guy I ever knew well was Jeff Raskin - the father of the Macintosh. You would think he was a universal genius until he spouted childish liberal drivel on some political issue.

Cochran's value is that he has enough ego strength to propose unpopular notions. He reminds me of William Schockley a little - another brilliant charm school drop out.

For some reason infections seem implausible until the exact infectious agent is found. Paul Ewald has a couple books on this point. The last big breakthrough was the peptic ulcers but before that syphilis and TB were dismissed as infectious.

I have suggested in an informal way that homosexuality is caused by parasitic worms. It is well known that certain intestinal worms effect the sexual behavior of their hosts so as to promote their own wormy interests. It is also well known that many male homosexuals have what used to be called "gay bowel syndrome" - a disease of worm infestation. This isn't a real theory - it's too sketchy an idea but it should be enough to be suggestive to anyone with an open mind.

BTW the infectious theory of homosexuality leads to tolerance and compassion. Gay marriage is a sensible way to limit its spread. It's only those who associate gaymess with some mysterious moral blot who want harsh measures.

Albertosaurus

Maasai said...

Haha.

With evidence of breeding between New Guineans and non-moderns, you put forward the idea that it might help explain the "archaic" (translation: "backward") nature of the Aborigines...

But with evidence of breeding between Europeans and non-moderns, you put forward the theory that it may help explain the advanced nature of Europeans (quote: it "may have something to do with the cultural ' big bang' that happened not long after."

http://isteve.blogspot.com/2006/12/greg-cochran-john-hawks-clan-of-cave.html )

Comparable evidence, opposite conclusions.

When evidence comes along, it can lead to new conclusions, or it can be used simply to reinforce pre-existing conclusions.

Which approach sounds more like science to your readership?

Matt said...

Comparable evidence, opposite conclusions.

Although I agree that the basic confirmation bias that you are describing exists (regarding archaic mixture explaining "advanced" features in Europeans and "archaic" features in Melanesians)...

But the thing is that the evidence isn't really identical or "comparable".

No cultural "big bang" in South East Asia or Melanesia. There just wasn't. And present day Australasian populations actually are archaic in the sense of being cranially robust and of having less distance from "archaic" populations in terms of skull shape (at least on many vectors) than other present day populations - http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2010/12/relationship-between-world-craniometric.html for an example, based on a neutral algorithmic method (both Santa Cruz and Australoid are clusters into which samples from the region fall and this cluster has relatively low distance from the Neanderthal cluster), though there are more examples.

So you can't really attribute different ("opposite") conclusions purely and merely to confirmation bias - they're actually both plausible reactions to different evidence.

I certainly agree (with what I think you are saying) that I don't think that the current evidence doesn't support the "big bang" purely from hybrid vigour idea though. Since the current estimated Neanderthal mixture is ubiquitous in humans and especially now we know that Melanesians experienced more (through the "Denisovans"). I do think that "big bang" = hybrid vigour + correct selective/demographic/social conditions is still pretty plausible though (though obviously it is less simple than a purely selective/demographic/social model and so that should be a hypothesis with priority).

P Coderch said...

@Albertossaurus

That male homosexuality is caused by an infection is extremely implausible for various reasons. First of all, male homosexuals constitute 2% of the male population Worldwide. A pathogen does not consistently infect an exact percentage of people throughout the globe. Pathogens come across different immune systems that result in higher or lower rates of success. They also come across populations with higher access to antibiotics and even though there is no antiobiotic for the gay pathogen antibiotics tend to affect multiple different pathogens so where populations use more antibiotics you would expect lower rates of homosexuality, and even certain climates kill them more resulting in lower rates of infection. Then, there is the fact that infections result in symptomologies in the function of physiology that gay men don't display when compared to straight men. An infected person displays changes in body temperature, alterations in metabolic processes all of which gay men do not display when compared to straight men. And finally, how exactly would this pathogen be transmitted? Close contact doesen't seem to do it since people who live with gay men don't become gay. In the womb? But identical twins usually don't become both gay, and even if they did it would be a stronger endorsement for the genetic hypothesis rather than the germ one. But admiration for other men is directly inverse to the level of masculinity. All men admire men who are more masculine than they are, and in gay men this takes erotic proportions because they are effeminate. But straight men also have almost romantic infatuations with men who are more masculine than they are: look at the worship of sports-heroes and great leaders. The expressions also convey a homoerotic dimension such as "nut-hugger" and things like that. Gay men probably have different brains from straight men and are probably genetically prone to find the smell, voice and other indicators of masculinity attractive, and this coupled, with the normal tendency of people to submit to those who are more amsculine than they are explains male homosexuality. The worm theory is also plausible since toxiplasmosis cauuses alterations of behavior in rodents and also Humans, but no intestinal parasites have been found to any greater degree among gay men than straight.

Anonymous said...

"New Guineans ...are even more primitive than most Africans".

"People who study these things believe that PNG was one of the rather few places where agriculture was independently invented. Unlike, for instance, Greece, Rome, Egypt or Japan."

Depends on how one defines 'agriculture'. Bushmen planted and harvested mini-melons, but if that's agriculture...

adsfasdfasf said...

"There is an argument that Caucasians did not 'evolve,' but actively breed themselves into existence. The thinking is that they were selecting for traits like intelligence and good behavior, and the skin/hair/eye color changes were incidental -- like the tame Russian fox experiments.
The argument is based on such facts as:
1) Many physical traits of Caucasians are recessive, like blue eyes, and would have a hard time becoming predominant simply by natural selection."

But most caucasians are not blonde. And even recessive genes can be favored under great duress. Suppose pink skin is recessive in relation to green skin, but suppose a beast appears on the scene that loves to devour green creatures. Pinkers will be favored over time since they are less likely to be eaten by the big beasts.

As for blonde hair, maybe there was a kind of selective rejection. Maybe dark-haired people freaked out by the appearance of blonde haired people and exiled them out of the community as freaks(instead of killing them). Maybe a separate community of blondes developed as a result of such rejection. And maybe this community selectively rejected non-blondes from their community in retaliation. And so blonde haired folks came into being.

Or maybe blonde haired people had an advantage surviving in the icy cold--though, to be sure, no one beats the dark-haired eskimos. Maybe their light-colored hair was more easily camouflaged by the snow than dark hair. So, maybe it was more difficult for the abominable snowman to catch and eat blonde people than dark haired people.

gcochran said...

"He's certainly quite naive about many aspects of electoral politics. "

Oh really?

Anonymous said...

@Albertosaurus:

"BTW the infectious theory of homosexuality leads to tolerance and compassion.Gay marriage is a sensible way to limit its spread."

We are way OT at this point, but Albertosaurus, I have read enough of your posts to have been surprised by these words of yours. No matter how one feels about male same-sex marriage, I don't know too many people, gay men included, who believe that the number of sexual partners will be modified much by gay marriage.

Those gays unions which are monogamous (very small %) will likely remain so regardless of whether they may or may not marry; those unions which have been long-term but non-monogamous are likely to remain as they are.

ATBOTL said...

3) Caucasians have always taken the idea of inherited nobility, royalty, "good breeding," etc., much more seriously than other races. In most other cultures, the "royalty" is simply the family of whoever is in power at that moment. As late as 1914, some European armies would choose officers solely on their "breeding."

The "nobility" in Europe were the Germanic tribes who conquered other parts of Europe and even parts of North Africa(ie Goths, Vandals, Franks etc.). They made their tribe(or at least it's leaders) the nobility of a conquered area.

Anonymous said...

Maasai -
With evidence of breeding between New Guineans and non-moderns, you put forward the idea that it might help explain the "archaic" (translation: "backward") nature of the Aborigines...

But with evidence of breeding between Europeans and non-moderns, you put forward the theory that it may help explain the advanced nature of Europeans (quote: it "may have something to do with the cultural ' big bang' that happened not long after."


But you are using the internet, hardware and software and a European language to make your point. All developed by Europeans.

You might be more convincing were you to use a technological artifact developed in PNG and a PNG ldeveloped language and have us all do the same. But you're not are you. Not because of some conscious or unconscious vote by the rest of us but because nothing comparable originates in PNG.

Simon in London said...

Matt:
"And present day Australasian populations actually are archaic in the sense of being cranially robust and of having less distance from "archaic" populations in terms of skull shape (at least on many vectors) than other present day populations"

Some northern Europeans also have similar archaic features to aborgines - robust skeletons, beetle brows, et al - but to a significantly lesser extent.

NB: A population can be *physically* archaic yet *technologically* advanced, or vice versa.

David Davenport said...

As for blonde hair ...

Maybe the Neanderthals were the ones with blond hair and light skin.

David Davenport said...

The "nobility" in Europe were the Germanic tribes who conquered other parts of Europe and even parts of North Africa

How Germanic were the Romans or Alexander's Macedonians ?

Anonymous said...

If homosexuality or cancer are caused by infections, I'd look to yeast before worms. Candida really gets around- athlete's foot is a long way from the bowels, and once you've got a leaky gut, lots of opportunistic minicritters will get their zoon politikon on.

Anonymous said...

As to PNG being distant from everyone else? I like that as an 'Eden in the East', survivals of the now-submerged southeast Asian supercontinent. Any news on those submerged hill-terraces off Taiwan?

Matt said...

"Some northern Europeans also have similar archaic features to aborgines - robust skeletons, beetle brows, et al - but to a significantly lesser extent."

True. Actually Europeans in general supposedly retain slightly more cranial robusticity than East Asians or East or West Africans, though the aforementioned groups are all much more similar than any are to relatively extremely robust Australasians.

David said...

>First of all, male homosexuals constitute [only] 2% of the male population Worldwide.<

Check your premises.

As to Maasai's comment, does massive omission of germane information sound scientific to you? It is a fact that Europeans are advanced and PNGians aren't. To obtain an understanding of such advance and lack of advance is partly why some of us are exploring the genetic record.

Consider. Man A has a certain diet; Man B has a somewhat different diet. Man A has robust health; Man B hasn't. Is it evidence of bias if a scientist hypothesizes that Man A's diet contributed to his state and that Man B's diet contributed to his? Or should this scientist say instead, "It's all food - my interest in humanity must not bias me in favor of making discriminations among food." The answer is that it depends on what his object is. An object as long as it is based in fact is not the same as a bias.

Truth, it's only a "bombshell" (significant) among intelligent people who study that field. To the people who are salivating for cars that run on water and shoot sparkly laser beams, it's, of course, an object of mockery.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Mendez said
"Caucasians have always taken the idea of inherited nobility, royalty, "good breeding," etc., much more seriously than other races. In most other cultures, the "royalty" is simply the family of whoever is in power at that moment. As late as 1914, some European armies would choose officers solely on their "breeding."

Do you have any idea of Asian Indian or say Chinese history. Aristocratic breeding is not limited to Europe. It does not come close to the caste system of India.

Truth said...

"Truth, it's only a "bombshell" (significant) among intelligent people who study that field."

Like, for instance you and your brethren at this site? Oh, wait, you only make one of those two criteria, strike that.

aussie said...

New Guinea folk are genetically purer than Australian Aborigines who have been interbreeding with modern South Asians, among many others, for more than a a century. This is because 'Hindus' and 'Afghans' were brought to live and work into remote parts of Australia to manage camel herds which were imported and used for transport there back when no alternative existed.

Anonymous said...

"The "nobility" in Europe were the Germanic tribes who conquered other parts of Europe and even parts of North Africa

How Germanic were the Romans or Alexander's Macedonians ?"

He is referring to what happened in the centuries following the fall of the Roman Empire in the West. Saxons, Franks, Danes and other Vikings, Normans* and such.

* In England we normally say 'THE Norman Conquestt', but they conquered more than our green and pleasant land they were quite prolific.

ben tillman said...

To the last anonymous:

Have you read "A STUDY OF SOCIAL STRATIFICATION WITH REFERENCE TO SOCIAL CLASS BARRIERS AND SOCIAL CLASS RIGIDITY" by
William Cecil Headrick?

http://www.abbeyclock.com/cecil/75.html

neil craig said...

The Polynesian peoples appear, by DNA, to be descended from peoples of New Guinea & adjacent islands. By most tests they show above average on IQ as well as well above physically. Genetically this can be explained by each island being settled in turn by the most adventurous & competent section of the last island.

It does not preclude New Guineans being "archaic" but if so it does suggest that such driven evolution can be fast, ie centuries rather than 10s of millenia. This also fits the Jewish & Parsee experience