Ethnonymic Creep is the Bane of my Existence

(a minor bane, but still a bane.)

Writing well requires, at the very least, two things: clarity and cadence. Clarity is meaning: words mean something. When I write, I do it because I intend to convey some idea from my head to your head, and if I am not clear, then you won’t have any idea what I mean. Cadence is the way the words flow together. People like reading collections of words that sound nice and dislike reading words that jar against each other.

Not all writing requires both clarity and cadence. For example, if a surgeon is about to remove a tumor from your lungs, you want the medical documents describing your tumor to be very accurate about its size and location, but you don’t particularly care if the medical documents are pleasant to read. Chemistry textbooks are very exact and thus make it very clear exactly which atoms go into specific molecules, and even go into minute details like which electrons they share, but aren’t known for their artistic prose. By contrast, a romance novel about a hunky doctor who saves the life of a brilliant chemist needs to sound good, but it does not (and really should not,) need to describe exactly where in the chemist’s lungs the exact chemical formula she was working with created the dreaded cancer.

457px-Hindoostan_map_1831Most of my posts focus, in one way or another, on groups of people, and so it is vital that you actually know which group of people I am talking about. But since I am writing for a popular audience and not people who have been forced to buy a textbook, I also try to make the posts pleasant and enjoyable.

Ethnonymic creep is the process of ethnonyms–the names for groups of people (and countries)–changing over time. For example, high-class Brits used to write about people called “Hindoos” who lived in a place called “Hindoostan.” Today we call it India and the religious adherents, Hindus.

(And just to confuse things, while “-stan” comes from an Indo-European root and means “land of,” eg, “land of the Hindoos,” and is usually preceded by the name of the ethnic group that lives in the area, eg, Balochistan is the land of the Balochis; Afghanistan is the land of the Afghans; “Pakistan” does not actually refer to an ethnic group at all but instead means something like “Pure land” or “Land of the Pure,” [I’m not sure which.] Of course it is totally valid to describe the kind of land one’s country is, mountainous or forested or pleasant or whathaveyou, but this does lead to the confusion that there must be an ethnic group it refers to. Not only is there not an ethnic group, but the obvious shortened form of Pakistani is a slur, so you’d better keep it all straight.

But these are relatively mild substitutions–the average person can figure out that “Hindu” and “Hindoo” sound exactly alike and that “Hindoostan” and “India” are liable to be approximately the same places. The average person is not likely to instantly realize that “Eskimo” and “Inuit” are the same people, nor “Gypsy” and “Rom,” (plural “Roma.”) The latter is particularly problematic because “Roman” and “Romanian” already exist, to which we are now adding “Romani,” the adjectival form of “Rom.” It’s bad enough that we already have Austria and Australia, Andorra and Angola, The Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China, the people of which call themselves “Taiwanese” even though they’re mostly Han Chinese by ethnicity and the aboriginal Taiwanese are several small ethnic groups that were conquered by the Chinese.)

*breathes deeply*

I understand when people don’t want to be called by terms that are actually slurs. (I also understand that counter-signaling among friends is why people can use slurs among themselves without getting offended when they would be deeply offended if an outsider used the same slur, just as I can playfully punch my husband in the arm and he knows I am not actually punching him, but if a random stranger walked up and punched him in the arm, he might not take it the same way.)

But “Gypsy” is not a slur in English (at least not American English.) Americans don’t really know much about Gypsies, are barely aware that any Gypsies live in America, and so they don’t put much effort into insulting them. The idea that “Gypsy” is a slur and therefore has to be replaced with the linguistically unclear (and problematic, because it does not pluralize and adjectivize like an English word,) “Rom”/”Roma,” is simply untrue. Moreover, unlike Hindoo/Hindu, Rom is not an obvious variant of Gypsy. Many people, encountering “Roma” for the first time, will have no idea that this is supposed to mean “Gypsy,” nor do they deserve to be castigated as racists for using an “ethnic slur” that they have never heard anyone use as a slur.

Similarly for the switch from “Eskimo” to “Inuit.” Perhaps Eskimo–or Esquimaux, as I have also seen it–means something insulting in the local language of the Eskimo, but it certainly means nothing insulting in English. The Gypsies are actually known for a propensity toward theft, a reputation they would like to leave behind–indeed, one may cynically suspect that avoiding association with the actual Gypsy over-representation among criminals is the true motivation behind the shift–but the Eskimo are known only for building igloos, a custom the rest of the world finds delightful.

And to complicate matters even worse, while the Eskimo of Canada prefer to be called Inuit, the Eskimo of Alaska prefer to be called Eskimo, and think this whole “Inuit” thing is being imposed on them by those Canadians. If you want to be extra safe, call the ones from Alaska the “Yupik,” if you can remember that.

Oh, and now they’re Sami, not Lapps or Laplanders, even though “Lapp” was, again, never a slur in English (at least not American English,) because why on earth would we insult some random ethnic group from some other country.

And the children’s book “Polar Bears Past Bedtime” describes the Eskimo as “Arctic Peoples.” Ugh.

The Democrats have lately taken to pronouncing “Muslim” as “Mooslim.” Maybe that is closer to how Muslims pronounce the word, (given that there are countries with significant Muslim populations stretching from Nigeria to Bosnia to Indonesia, I doubt there is any standardized pronunciation anymore than “Christian” is pronounced the same in English, Russian, and Ethiopian,) but to me it just sounds like “moose,” and it doesn’t seem superior to me to call them after a large deer.

“Muslim” is itself a replacement for Mohammedan, which I encounter frequently in older scholarly works. (I don’t really read many older non-scholarly works, to be honest.) From the standpoint of utility, “Mohammedan” is a better term. “Muslim” tells me only that these people have something to do with moose, whereas “Mohammedan” tells me that they have something to do with Mohammad, a famous historical figure.

“Bantu” is supposedly a slur, but there’s no efficient replacement besides “Bantu-speaking-people,” which is too clunky, and in the midst of articles about Bantus literally eating Pygmies for dinner, we have people wondering whether it’s even acceptable to call people “Pygmies” anymore. Perhaps we should call them the Batwa or Bambuti People (redundant, since “Ba” means “people,”) but there is no singular term that encompasses all of the really short people of the world (who aren’t genetically dwarves, who prefer not to be called midgets and probably aren’t keen on “dwarf,” either–I hear they prefer “little people,” a phrase I use for small children,) besides Pygmy, so Pygmy it is. Personally, I think the Pygmies have bigger problems than whether or not we call them Pygmies, but the NY Times has recently taken to referring to them as Bambuti in an effort to disguise the fact that they are in fact talking about Pygmies, because the folks at the Times don’t want to get called “racist.”

I loved that movie
Nǃxau ǂToma, (aka Gcao Tekene Coma,) Bushman star of “The Gods Must be Crazy,” roughly 1944-2003

Meanwhile, the Bushmen actually prefer being called Bushmen, but Bushmen sounds vaguely improper so people have taken to calling the Khoi-San people (or Khoisan or whatever,) even though I think they have historically had rather violent conflicts with the Khoi people (Bushmen I believe speak the San languages,) and “San” is itself vaguely pejorative.

The indigenous peoples of the US are also linguistically problematic; last time I checked, a small majority of them preferred the term “Indian” as a collective noun, because “Native American” sounds like a label you put on artifacts at a museum, not a group of people, and they’ve been called Indians for hundreds of years, so they’re pretty used to it. Unfortunately, Indians are also the group formerly known as Hindoos or Hindoostanis, who now live in the US in large enough numbers that even if I use a somewhat clunky term like “American Indians,” it’s not entirely clear without context that I’m referring to indigenous Americans and not “Indian Americans,” ethnic people from India who now live in America.

The terms for Americans of African descent, likewise, have gone through rapid evolution. Since Americans actually care about what you call them, your choice of ethnonym is taken to indicate something about your political (or racial) stance. I do not know whether the terms used in Huck Finn were ever considered polite, but they were certainly mainstream in the 1800s. The intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois did not hesitate to refer to his people as “Negroes,” a term now seen, at best, as archaic:

“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: … How does it feel to be a problem? … One ever feels his two-ness,–an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder … He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.” — Du Bois, “Strivings of the Negro People”, 1897[19]

Du Bois also wrote The Souls of Black Folk.

We may safely assume that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People did not use “colored” as a slur, but today the use is, at best, odd; we have replaced it with “people of color,” which is so clunky that even its proponents do not actually use it, but resort to abbreviations like “POC” or “TWOC” (trans women of color.) POC remains highly politicized (despite being efficiently short,) so those who do not want to imply a particular political stance are let with clunkier alternatives like “non-whites.” “Blacks” is efficient, but is regarded as somewhat pejorative–to be safe, you need the longer “black people” or “African Americans.” (And even then, you still get the occasional person trying to argue that these terms are bad because “People aren’t really black or white, they’re just shades of brown,” or “African Americans weren’t actually born in Africa, they should just be called Americans.” These people apparently hate communicating.) The preference for writing “African Americans” instead of “black” in more formal publications has lead, I understand, to at least one newspaper accidentally referring to Nelson Mandela as “The first African American president of South Africa.”

I could go on–how the term “purple” as referent to Australian Aborigines has disappeared (when I was a kid, I really did think that people came in a rainbow of crayon colors,) how “yellow” is no longer an acceptable skin descriptor, even though people in China actually use the term for themselves; the disuse of “Mongoloid” for the third great race of man; and other varied changes in ethnonyms–but you get the gist.

Of course, if I just wanted to be clear, I could easily list all of the relevant names for a group, a map of their range, and a photograph of a typical individual when discussing anyone not immediately obvious. But this takes up my time (and yours) and makes the text clunky. “Germans” is an efficient word, and I care not a whit that “Germans” is not actually the word people in Germany use for describing themselves in speaking German. It is a literary annoyance, then, that “blacks” cannot be used in the same way, and that “Japanese,” while I may get away with using it as a noun, is really an adjective. We can speak of Spaniards, Italians and Russians, Indonesians and Pygmies, but if we want to be grammatical, we’re stuck with “Chinese people,” “Black people,” and “Japanese People.” (I’m just glad I can still use “Jews.”)

Few words seem to turn over as quickly as ethnonyms. Even euphemisms for bodily functions, such “shit,” can be traced back almost unchanged to proto-Indo-European words ( “skheid,“) and “fuck” has been around almost unchanged since the 14oos, has numerous cognates in other Germanic languages, and probably hails from the PIE “*peuk” = “to prick.” (See also here, since that website is slated to go down in September, and here for a longer discussion of the relative antiquity of many vulgarisms.) We have not seen a cascade of polite words for defecation become crass over time as the upper classes invent ever new ways to avoid admitting that they, too, make poopies. (Though I am sure that if I looked, I could find some archaic swears in the likes of Chaucer.)

shoutout to my Serb friends
Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Belgrade

Nor do regular words seem to do this; as far as I can tell, this annoying turnover is limited almost exclusively to ethnonyms and terms for other groups of people (like “cripples” becoming “handicapped,” “disabled,” or “differently-abled,) and is driven largely by the twin forces of wanting to show that you’re worldly enough to know the latest, fanciest pronunciations (“Belgrade” or “Beograd”? “Chilly” or “Chill-eh?”) and wanting to signal that you’re not racist/homophobic.

One of the effects of constant ethnymic creep (other than making people get into stupid fights on the internet with each other over terminology,) is to make information less accessible by making it harder for people to know what others are talking about and by making them more likely to dismiss sources that don’t use the newest ethnonym. In some cases, I think this is intentional.

Making information about groups of people less accessible is, of course, the opposite of my intentions.

YES Two Out of Africa Events! (Also, Aborigines)

I’ve long suspected (given the archaeological evidence, like 80,000 year old human remains in China,) that there were two Out of Africa (OOA) events–an early one that headed east, toward Australia, and a later one that headed everywhere (including Australia)–and now it looks like this has been genetically confirmed:

Graphic created by the Estonian genetics team cited in the NY Times article. Their full article: Genomic analyses inform on migration events during the peopling of Eurasia
Graphic created by the Estonian genetics team cited in the NY Times article. Their full article: Genomic analyses inform on migration events during the peopling of Eurasia

Isn’t this a great graphic? My hat’s off to the Estonians. Beautiful work.

Graphic created by the Estonian genetics team cited in the NY Times article. Their full article: Genomic analyses inform on migration events during the peopling of Eurasia

Here’s another one they made (sadly small) with less color and more detail on the Eurasian lines. (IIRC, Chinese have more Neanderthal ancestry than Europeans, so technically the schematic ought to be a wee bit more complicated than this, but it’s already complicated enough and this is a solid general overview.)

It might just be the sleep dep + lots of coffee talking, but I am so excited about this.

Some quotes from the NY Times article:

In Israel, for example, researchers found a few distinctively modern human skeletons that are between 120,000 and 90,000 years old. In Saudi Arabia and India, sophisticated tools date back as far as 100,000 years.

Last October, Chinese scientists reported finding teeth belonging to Homo sapiens that are at least 80,000 years old and perhaps as old as 120,000 years. …

Examining their data separately, all three groups came to the same conclusion: People everywhere descend from a single migration of early humans from Africa. The estimates from the studies point to an exodus somewhere between 80,000 and 50,000 years. …

n Papua New Guinea, Dr. Metspalu and his colleagues found, 98 percent of each person’s DNA can be traced to that single migration from Africa. But the other 2 percent seemed to be much older.

Dr. Metspalu concluded that all people in Papua New Guinea carry a trace of DNA from an earlier wave of Africans who left the continent as long as 140,000 years ago, and then vanished.

Obviously, in science, replication and caution are key. Don’t get too excited. These results might turn out to be wrong–sometimes samples get contaminated or data coded incorrectly and we get results that turn out to be completely wrong. And, okay, this isn’t really “huge” in the grand scheme of things–we’re only talking about 2% of Papuans’ ancestors, not, like, 40% of them. But it does explain all of those anomalously old findings.

Now someone needs to explain the Red Deer Cave People:

The Red Deer Cave People were the most recently known prehistoric Hominin population that did not look like modern humans. Fossils dated to between 14,500 and 11,500 years old were found in Red Deer Cave and Longlin Cave in China. Having a mix of archaic and modern features, they are (tentatively) thought to be a separate species of humans that persisted until recent times and became extinct without contributing to the gene pool of modern humans.[1]

On a related note, we have some awesome news about Aborigine DNA/language trees: A genomic history of Australia and Why Australia is home to one of the Largest Language Families in the World. (Well duh it’s because Aborigines spent thousands of years as tiny bands of hunter gatherers, in which each isolated band started developing its own language.) These articles have an oddly inverted structure, (burying the lead, I guess,) so let’s rearrange the abstract for coherency:

We estimate that Aboriginal Australians and Papuans diverged from Eurasians 51–72 kya, following a single out-of-Africa dispersal, and subsequently admixed with archaic populations. … Papuan and Aboriginal Australian ancestors diversified 25–40 thousand years ago (kya), suggesting pre-Holocene population structure in the ancient continent of Sahul (Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania). However, all of the studied Aboriginal Australians descend from a single founding population that differentiated ~10–32 kya. We infer a population expansion in northeast Australia during the Holocene epoch (past 10,000 years) associated with limited gene flow from this region to the rest of Australia, consistent with the spread of the Pama–Nyungan languages.

(kya = thousand years ago). So about 10-32 thousand years ago, one group of Australians conquered all of the other groups of Australians.

The science article notes:

To the researchers’ amazement, the genetic pattern mirrored the linguistic one. “It’s incredible that those two trees match. None of us expected that,” says paleoanthropologist Michael Westaway of Griffith University, Nathan, in Australia, a co-author on the Willerslev paper. “But it’s confusing: The [genetic splits] date to 30,000 years ago or more but the linguistic divisions are only maybe 6000 years old.”

Willerslev says he first thought the languages must be much older than thought. “But the linguists told me, ‘no way.'”

Both types of data also show that the population expanded from the northeast to the southwest. This migration occurred within the last 10,000 years and likely came in successive waves, Bowern says, in which existing languages were overlaid by new ones. This expansion also seems to correspond with a stone tool innovation called a backed edge blade. But the accompanying gene flow was just a trickle, suggesting that only a few people had an outsize cultural impact, Willerslev says. “It’s like you had two men entering a village, convincing everyone to speak a new language and adopt new tools, having a little sexual interaction, then disappearing,” he says. Then the new languages continued to develop, following the older patterns of population separation. “It’s really strange but it’s the best way we can interpret the data at this stage.”

Three things going on here. 1. The group from the north conquered the group from the south, raped their women, and imposed their language. They were able to do this because they had better weapons (“backed edge blades.”) But the group from the north was not very big, and so did not leave a very big genetic signature.

2. They conquered an existing population structure, at which point their language got absorbed into that structure, probably picking up some linguistic substrate from the groups’ previous languages along the way. Since most people learn language from their parents, it’s not too surprising to find cases where language and genetics line up. (Note that people do not always learn languages from their parents.)

3. Intellectuals are kind of naive.

The other really interesting thing here is that the linguistics team came to their conclusions by feeding a big database of Aboriginal words into a computer and having it run similar algorithms to the ones geneticists use for examining human ancestry (see the lovely graphics above.) I’ve been wondering for a long time why they don’t just do this, and am excited that they finally are.

Now please someone put all of the languages + reconstructed proto-langauges into the computer and find the most likely trees.

(Sorry, Nick. The regularly scheduled Anthropology Friday is going to have to wait a week. There just aren’t enough days.)

Re: Chauncey Tinker on Dysgenics

By request, I am responding to Chauncey Tinker’s posts on dysgenics:

Dysgenics and Welfare and Dysgenics and Solutions.

To summarize, our current generous welfare system is making it increasingly difficult for hard working members of society to afford to have children. Lazy and incapable people meanwhile are continuing to have children without restriction, courtesy of those hard working people. Its more than likely that average intelligence is falling as a result of these pressures.

Ever since someone proposed the idea of eguenic (ie, good) breeding, people have been concerned by the possibility of dysgenic (bad) breeding. If traits are heritable (as, indeed, they are,) then you can breed for more of that trait or less of that trait. Anyone who has ever raised livestock or puppies knows as much–the past 10,000 years of animal husbandry have been devoted to producing superior stock, long before anyone knew anything about “genes.”

Historically–that is, before 1900–the world was harsh and survival far from guaranteed. Infant and childhood mortality were high, women often died in childbirth, famines were frequent, land (in Europe) was scarce, and warfare + polygamy probably prevented the majority of men from ever reproducing. In those days, at least in Western Europe, the upper classes tended to have more (surviving) children than the lower classes, leading to a gradual replacement of the lower classes.

The situation today is, obviously, radically different. Diseases–genetic or pathogenic–kill far fewer people. We can cure Bubonic Plague with penicillin, have wiped out Smallpox, and can perform heart surgery on newborns whose hearts were improperly formed. Welfare prevents people from starving in the streets and the post-WWII prosperity led to an unprecedented percent of men marrying and raising families. (The percent of women who married and raised families probably didn’t change that much.)

All of these pleasant events raise concerns that, long-term, prosperity could result in the survival of people whose immune systems are weak, carry rare but debilitating genetic mutations, or are just plain dumb.

So how is Western fertility? Are the dumb outbreeding the smart, or should we be grateful that the  “gender studies” sorts are selecting themselves out of the population? And with negative fertility rates + unprecedented levels of immigration, how smart are our immigrants (and their children?)

Data on these questions is not the easiest to find. Jayman has data on African American fertility (dysgenic,) but white American fertility may be currently eugenic (after several decades of dysgenics.) Jayman also notes a peculiar gender difference in these trends: female fertility is strongly dysgenic, while male is eugenic (for both whites and blacks). Given that historically, about 80% of women reproduced vs. only 40% of males, I think it likely that this pattern has always been true: women only want to marry intelligent, high-performing males, while males are okay with marrying dumb women. (Note: the female ability to detect intelligence may be broken by modern society.)

Counter-Currents has a review of Lynn’s Dysgenics with some less hopeful statistics, like an estimation that Greece lost 5 IQ points during the Baby Boom, which would account for their current economic woes. (Overall, I think the Baby Boom had some definite negative effects on the gene pool that are now working their way out.)

Richwine estimates the IQ of our immigrant Hispanic-American population at 89.2, with a slight increase for second and third-generation kids raised here. Since the average American IQ is 98 and Hispanics are our fastest-growing ethnic group, this is strongly dysgenic. (The rest of our immigrants, from countries like China, are likely to be higher-IQ than Americans.) However, since Hispanic labor is typically used to avoid African American (reported 85 average IQ) labor, the replacement of African Americans with Mexicans is locally eugenic–hence the demand for Hispanic labor.

Without better data, none of this conclusively proves whether fertility in the West is currently eugenic or dysgenic, but I can propose three main factors that should be watched for their potentially negative effects:

  1. Immigration (obviously.)
  2. Welfare–I suspect the greater black reliance on welfare may be diving black dysgenics, but some other factor like crime could actually be at play.
  3. Anti-child culture.

I’m going to focus on the last one because it’s the only one that hasn’t already been explained in great detail elsewhere.

For American women, childbearing is low-class and isolating.

For all our fancy talk about maternity leave, supporting working moms, etc., America is not a child-friendly place. Society frowns on loud, rambunctious children running around in public, and don’t get me started on how public schools deal with boys. Just try to find something entertaining for both kids and grown-ups that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg for larger families–admission to the local zoo for my family costs over $50 and requires over an hour, round trip, of driving. (And it isn’t even a very good zoo.) Now try to find an activity your childless friends would also like to do with you.

Young women are constantly told that getting pregnant will ruin their lives (most vocally by their own parents,) and that if they want to stay home and raise children, they are social parasites. (Yes, literally.) We see child-rearing, like tomato picking, as a task best performed by low-wage immigrant daycare workers.

I am reminded here of a mom’s essay I read about the difference in attitudes toward children in the US and Israel, the only Western nation with a positive native fertility rate. Israel, as she put it, is a place where children are valued and “kids can be kids.” I’ve never been to Israel, so I’ll just have to trust her:

How Israelis love kids, anyone’s kids. The country is a free-for-all for the youngest set, something I truly appreciated only once I started bringing my own children there. When I was a teenager visiting Israel from the States, I noticed how people there just don’t allow a child to cry. One pout, one sob, and out comes candy, trinkets and eager smiles to turn a kid around. That would never happen back home—a stranger give a child candy?!—but in Israel, in a nation that still harbors a post-Holocaust mentality, there is no reason that a Jewish child should ever cry again, if someone can help it.

Incidentally, if you qualify under Israeli health care law, you can get a free, state-funded abortion. Abortion doesn’t appear to have destroyed Israel’s fertility.

Since male fertility is (probably) already eugenic, then the obvious place to focus is female fertility: make your country a place where children are actively valued and intelligent women are encouraged instead of insulted for wanting them, and–hopefully–things can improve.

Comments on Chauncey Tinker’s Intelligence, Concentration, and IQ Tests

A while back, Chauncey Tinker wrote a post on Intelligence, Concentration, and IQ Tests:

I do not believe that IQ tests measure intelligence. Rather I believe that they measure a combination of intelligence, learning and concentration at a particular point in time. …

You may wish to read the whole thing there.

The short response is that I basically agree with the bit quoted, and I suspect that virtually everyone who takes IQ tests seriously does as well. We all know that if you come into an IQ test hungover, sick, and desperately needing to pee, you’ll do worse than if you’re well-rested, well-fed, and feeling fine.

That time I fell asleep during finals?

Not so good.

Folks who study IQ for a living, like the famous Flynn, believe that environmental effects like the elimination of leaded gasoline and general improvements in nutrition have raised average IQ scores over the past century or two. (Which I agree seems pretty likely.)

The ability to sit still and concentrate is especially variable in small children–little boys are especially notorious for preferring to run and play instead of sit at a desk and solve problems. And while real IQ tests (as opposed to the SAT) have been designed not to hinge on whether or not a student has learned a particular word or fact, the effects of environmental “enrichment” such as better schools or high-IQ adoptive parents do show up in children’s test scores–but fade away as children grow up.

There’s a very sensible reason for this. I am reminded here of an experiment I read about some years ago: infants (probably about one year old) were divided into two groups, and one group was taught how to climb the stairs. Six months later, the special-instruction group was still better at stair-climbing than the no-instruction group. But two years later, both groups of children were equally skilled at stair-climbing.

There is only so good anyone will ever get at stair-climbing, after all, and after two years of practice, everyone is about equally talented.

The sensible conclusion is that we should never evaluate an entire person based on just one IQ test result (especially in childhood.)

The mistake some people (not Chuancey Tinker) make is to jump from “IQ tests are not 100% reliable” to “IQ tests are meaningless.” Life is complicated, and people like to sort it into neat little packages. Friend or foe, right or wrong. And while single IQ test is insufficient to judge an entire person, the results of multiple IQ tests are fairly reliable–and if we aggregate our results over multiple people, we get even better results.

As with all data, more tests + more people => random incorrect data matters less.

I think the “IQ tests are meaningless” crowd is operating under the assumption that IQ scholars are actually dumb enough to blindly judge an entire person based on a single childhood test. (Dealing with this strawman becomes endlessly annoying.)

Like all data, the more the merrier:

Thanks to Jayman
Thanks to Jayman

So this complicated looking graph shows us the effects of different factors on IQ scores over time, using several different data sets (mostly twins studies.)

At 5 years old, “genetic” factors, (the diamond and thick lines) are less important than “shared environment.” Shared environment=parenting and teachers.

That is, at the age of 5, a pair of identical twins who were adopted by two different families will have IQ scores that look more like their adoptive parents’ IQ scores than their genetic relatives’ IQ scores. Like the babies taught to climb stairs before their peers, the kids whose parents have been working hard to teach them their ABCs score better than kids whose parents haven’t.

By the age of 7, however, this parenting effect has become less important than genetics. This means that those adopted kids are now starting to have IQ scores more similar to their biological relatives than to their adoptive relatives. Like the kids from the stair-climbing experiment, their scores are now more based on their genetic abilities (some kids have better balance and coordination, resulting in better stair-climbing) than on whatever their parents are doing with them.

By the age of 12, the effects of parenting drop to around 0. At this point, it’s all up to the kid.

Of course, adoption studies are not perfect–adoptive parents are not randomly selected and have to go through various hoops to prove that they will be decent parents, and so tend not to be the kinds of people who lock their children in closets or refuse to feed them. I am sure this kind of parenting does terrible things to IQ, but there is no ethical way to design a randomized study to test them. Thankfully, the % of children subject to such abysmal parenting is very low. Within the normal range of parenting practices, parenting doesn’t appear to have much (if any) effect on adult IQ.

The point of all this is that what I think Chauncey means by “learning,” that is, advantages some students have over others because they’ve learned a particular fact or method before the others do, does appear to have an effect on childhood IQ scores, but this effect fades with age.

I think Pumpkin Person is fond of saying that life is the ultimate IQ test.

While we can probably all attest to a friend who is “smart but lazy,” or smart but interested in a field that doesn’t pay very well, like art or parenting, the correlation between IQ and life outcomes (eg, money) are amazingly solid:

Thanks to

Thanks to Pumpkin Person

Thanks to
And if this makes us feel mercenary, well, other traits also correlate:
Shamelessly stolen from Jayman's post.
Shamelessly stolen from Jayman.

The correlation even holds internationally:

Source Wikipedia
Map of IQ by country. Source: Wikipedia.

I do wonder why he made the graph so much bigger than the relevant part
Lifted gratefully from La Griffe Du Lion’s Smart Fraction II article

There’s a simple reason why this correlation holds despite lazy and non-money-oriented smart people: there are also lazy and non-money-oriented dumb people, and lazy smart people tend to make more money and make better long-term financial decisions than lazy dumb people.

Note that none of these graphs are the result of a single test. A single test would, indeed, be useless.

To be continued…

Maps, maps, maps (pt. 2/2: Australia)

Guillaume Brouscon world map, 1543
Guillaume Brouscon world map, 1543

Yes, the answer to Tuesday’s final query is that the Dieppe maps, (including Guillaume Brouscon’s,) show a great big landmass almost exactly where Australia actually is, a good 50 or 60 years before the first documented European sighting. (By Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon, in 1606.)

800px-Australia_discoveries_by_Europeans_before_1813_enThere’s this funny gap in human knowledge of Australia. 50,000 years ago, humans equipped with little more than sharp rocks and pointy sticks managed to get to Australia and make themselves home. Then, for the next 49,500 or so years, everyone else forgot that it was there. (Aside from a few lost souls from India who washed up, IIRC, abut 10,000 years ago.) (It looks like the southern coast of Australia wasn’t even explored [by sea,] until 1801.)

Even China, an organized polity with excellent record-keeping, ship-making, and map-making skills going back centuries, does not show Australia on its maps (at least not on any map I’ve found,) until 1602.

1602 is still before 1606, but we will discuss these Chinese maps in a minute.

Portugal had a policy, in the 1500s, of treating its nautical maps as official state secrets. French spies, therefore, went and bribed Portuguese map-makers into sharing their secrets, the results of which are probably the Dieppe maps, due to their many Portuguese and French labels, indicating French cartographers working off Portuguese originals.

All of which raises the question of WHO was exploring Australia in the early 1500s. Was it the Portuguese? If so, they’ve done an excellent job (a few bribed cartographers aside,) in keeping it secret. Unlike the fabled Viking settlement in Vinland, we have yet to discover any hard evidence, such as Portuguese DNA or artifacts in Australia, that would confirm an early Portuguese presence.

The “Australia” landmass on the Dieppe maps is labeled “Jave la Grande.” Wikipedia claims that this name comes from Marco Polo:

“As explained by Sir Henry Yule, the editor of an English edition of Marco Polo’s travels: “Some geographers of the 16th century, following the old editions which carried the travellers south-east of Java to the land of Boeach (or Locac), introduced in their maps a continent in that situation”.[3]”

Behaim's Erdapfel globe, 1492
Behaim’s Erdapfel globe, 1492

The problem with this explanation is that in the two and a half centuries of map-making between the publication of Marco Polo’s adventures and the drawing of the Dieppe maps, no one stuck in a giant continental blob of land south of Indonesia, labeled “Jave la Grande” nor anything else. Jave la Grand does show up on some of these maps, but as a quite ordinary island about where you’d expect it. EG, the Erdapfel globe of 1492 (too early to include Columbus’s discoveries, which weren’t known until 1493, but definitely disproving the idea that people in Columbus’s day thought the world was flat.)

I find it highly unlikely that the Dieppe cartographers suddenly decided to turn “Jave la Grande” into a great big landmass in a spot where no prior European maps had ever shown land, and happened, totally by accident, to position it where there actually is a continent.

The Erdpafel's depiction of the Pacific, including Java Major
The Erdpafel’s depiction of the Pacific, including Java Major (aka Java la Grande)

It seems far more likely that they were working off charts that happened to show a large landmass in this spot, and needing a name for it, they chose the closest thing they could find in Marco Polo’s account. (I would not worry about the location being slightly off, due to these maps predating our ability to find longitude at sea by over a hundred years.)

That leaves the question of how Australia got on the charts. Just as the French got their information from the Portuguese, the Portuguese may have gotten their information, in turn, from someone else, like the Chinese, Indonesians, or Islamic mariners.

The Wikipedia page on Islamic geography is inadequate for me to draw any conclusions from it.

Japanese copy of Matteo Ricci's Kunyu Wanguo Quantu world map
Japanese copy of Matteo Ricci’s Kunyu Wanguo Quantu world map

As I mentioned earlier, the first Chinese maps (that I know of) to show Australia are from 1602, after the Dieppe maps. The Kunyu Wanguo Quantu were created by Matteo Ricci, an Italian Jesuit missionary. The Kunyu Wanguo Quantu combines, for the first time, the geographic knowledge of Europe and China.

Sancai Tuhui World Map
Sancai Tuhui World Map, the Shanhai Yudi Quantu, of 1609

Ricci got to China by hopping aboard a Portuguese vessel, which dropped him off at their colony in Goa. From there he traveled to Macau, and then to Beijing and the Forbidden City (though he never met the Emperor.) So I think it highly likely that Ricci had access to (or knowledge of) Portuguese maps/discoveries, or the Dieppe maps themselves. I suspect that Ricci’s knowledge of Australia did not come from Chinese sources, because the Chinese world map Shanhai Yudi Quantu, (1609,) though inspired by Ricci’s work, does not show Australia.

The Indonesians are another potential source. I don’t know anything about the history of Indonesian map-making, but the Wikipedia page on the prehistory of Australia intriguingly informs us:

…the people living along the northern coastline of Australia, in the Kimberley, Arnhem Land, Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York had encounters with various visitors for many thousands of years. People and traded goods moved freely between Australia and New Guinea up to and even after the eventual flooding of the land bridge by rising sea levels …

Indonesian “Bajau” fishermen from the Spice Islands (e.g. Banda) have fished off the coast of Australia for hundreds of years. Macassan traders from Sulawesi regularly visited the coast of northern Australia to fish for trepang, an edible sea cucumber to trade with the Chinese since at least the early 18th century. Tamil sea-farers also had knowledge of Australia and Polynesia before European contact.[37] …

The myths of the people of Arnhem Land have preserved accounts of the trepang-catching, rice-growing Baijini people, who, according to the myths, were in Australia in the earliest times, before the Macassans. …

In 1944, a small number of copper coins with Arabic inscriptions were discovered on a beach in Jensen Bay on Marchinbar Island, part of the Wessel Islands of the Northern Territory. These coins were later identified as from the Kilwa Sultanate of east Africa. Only one such coin had ever previously been found outside east Africa (unearthed during an excavation in Oman).

Ruysch Map
Ruysch Map

So it is possible that the accounts of any of these folks could have made it onto local maps, and made their way from there to the Portuguese and the Dieppe maps (though I will note that if the Macassans got there in the 18th century, that is after the Dieppe maps, but I don’t know how exact that date is.)

There is, however, a potentially more mundane explanation for this odd landmass: it could just be South America. To European mapmakers of the late 14 and early 1500s, it was not at all clear that Columbus had discovered the edge of a new continent, rather than some islands off the coast of Asia–hence Ruysch’s 1507 map that show Massachusetts merging into China.

Mercator map of 1595 showing Hy-Brasil and an extra Iceland
Mercator map of 1595 showing Hy-Brasil and an extra Iceland

In the days before mariners could easily check their longitude at sea, the location of various islands could only be estimated by calculating the direction and speed the ship that had reached them had been going, eg, “Three days’ sail to the West.” This meant that islands could appear in different spots on different maps, which sometimes resulted in islands getting duplicated in maps created by compiling several earlier charts. Iceland, for example, shows up twice on this map:

I think it possible, therefore, that the Dieppe map makers had before them one map which showed the coast of Brazil as an island near Indonesia, and a second map showed it as part of a continent in between Europe and Asia, and simply recorded both on their combined map. Personally, I think the shape of Jave la Grande looks more like South America than Australia, but perhaps if I could read thee maps or examine them in more detail, I would revise that assessment.

Beatus T-O style Map showing the antipodes, 1050
Beatus T-O style Map showing the antipodes on the far right, AD 1050

This would be a case of the Dieppe map makers getting lucky, not unheard of phenomenon. Medieval Europeans believed, for example, in a mythical “fourth continent” located on the other side of the world, called fanciful names like “the antipodes” (“the backwards feet,” a reference to the amusing idea that people on the other side of the world are standing upside down relative to oneself–again, proof that Europeans well before Columbus knew the Earth is round;) or less fancifully, “terra australis,” “southern land.” Since the Bible commands Christ’s disciples to spread his Gospel to “the four corners of the Earth,” Medieval mapmakers, faced with only 3 continents, figured there had to be a fourth. But since philosophical opinions conflicted regarding this fourth continent, it was not always included on maps.

The European age of exploration pushed the borders of this fourth continent increasingly southward, as the vast expanse of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans were found not to harbor it, until it was restricted to the area south of South America. But here folks got lucky, and spotted an actual continent right where their maps said there ought to be one. Likewise, when Australia first showed up on European maps, it was supposed to be a northern promontory of this most southerly land, and so depicted. Thus the name “Terra Australis” came to be inscribed on this territory.

So we are still left with a mystery: did someone actually map Australia before the Dutch, or did the Dieppe map makers just get lucky?


Maps Maps Maps: A short history (pt 1/2)

Mercator map of 1595 showing Hy-Brasil and an extra Iceland
Mercator map of 1595 showing Hy-Brasil and an extra Iceland

Old maps are full of curiosities, like completely mythical islands (eg, Hy-Brasil,) land masses radically out of place or duplicated, and massive changes in scale from one side to the other.

Historical map-makers had three main problems: 1. They couldn’t measure longitude, 2. Their maps were often based on compilations of lots of maps from many different sources, often resulting in confusion, and 3. Some groups were more wiling to share their maps than others. (For example, there are lots of questions about what exactly the Portuguese knew in the 14 and 1500s, like rumors that Portuguese fishermen were secretly hauling in cod off the coast of Massachusetts–more on the Portuguese later.)

c5933People generally made good maps of their local areas fairly early on–the Chinese have some excellent early early maps, for example. But beyond the immediate and local, maps quickly became less detailed and more stylized, as in this “T-O” style medieval map, which obviously is not even trying to be accurate, but to express a theologic point.

Since early sailors did not usually strike out over long stretches of open water, but headed to nearby ports or islands a few days’ sail away, I suspect that most early sea charts put a great deal of effort into describing the relevant rocky shoals to avoid and safe harbors to take advantage of, and not so much effort into describing the broad curve of continental coastlines.

While latitude can be fairly easily measured by simply measuring the height of the North Star in degrees (if you are at the equator, the North Star will lie on the horizon; if you are at 45 degrees north, the North Star will be 45 degrees high in the sky;  if you are at the North Pole, the North Star will be directly above you, or 90 degrees. If you can’t find the North Star, you’re south of the equator.) (Wyrd Smythe explains in more detail if you are confused.)

But there is no easy, low-tech way to determine longitude, your east-west position on the Earth’s surface. Longitude is not a huge deal when island-hopping short distances, but it becomes a huge deal once you’re undertaking multi-week trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific voyages, where a storm can suddenly blow you days off course and you end up crashing into rocks you didn’t know were there. For example, in 1707, four British Navy warships were pushed off course by storms off the coast of England and crashed into the Isles of Scilly. 1,550 sailors drowned, prompting the British government to offer a 20,000 pound prize for anyone who could figure out a way to accurately determine longitude at sea.

recreation of Ptolemy's world map
Recreation of Ptolemy’s world map

The lack of knowledge and inability to make good measurements rendered even the best early maps of the world objectively terrible.

Here we have a reconstruction of Ptolemey’s world map, based on the geographical knowledge of AD 150, and Al Idrisi’s map drawn for Roger II of Sicily in 1154. Idrisi did a good job depicting Sicily, but nearby Italy is a complete mess, and he duplicates Ptolemy’s mistake of essentially depicting India as a big island (actually, probably confusion between the size of India vs. the size of Sri Lanka,) and Ptolemy’s complete confusion about the angle of Africa’s east coast.

Tabula Rogeriana, created by Al-Idrisi
Tabula Rogeriana, created by Al-Idrisi

Al Idrisi did know about the Pacific ocean and the east Coast of China, which Ptolemy did not, but his geography of Denmark and Britain are worse than Ptolemy’s, despite having been based in Europe while working.The lack of advancement in geographic knowledge available in the Mediterranean over 1,000 years is striking (though I would not be surprised to find out that folks were working with much better maps of local currents and shoals in their areas than their ancestors had been using in Ptolemy’s time.)

Gangnido map
Gangnido map

On the other side of the world, Chinese and Korean maps show a similar pattern. The Gangnido (aka Kangnido,) map of 1402, created in Korea, shows Korea, China, the Arabian Peninsula, and Africa. I think India is very slightly projecting from the lower-left side of the China blob, with Sri Lanka a bit more properly sized than on Ptolemy’s map.

The Gangnido map is based on an earlier Chinese map, the Da Ming Hun Yi Tu of 1398, which is very similar, but might have the Malay Peninsula.

Now, you might be thinking, as I did, that “Africa” and “Arabia” look a lot like India on this map. Wikipedia assures us that they aren’t and offers this explanation, especially since it is difficult for us non-Koreans to read the map: 300px-KangnidoPoliticalDetails

But the total lack of a Malay peninsula is really confusing, as I assume anyone traveling from China to India would be quite are of this enormous detour in their way. It’s like drawing a map of Europe and leaving off Spain.

These maps show the difficulties of trying to compile one map out of many, as your maps may use vastly different scales. The Gangnido and Da Ming Hun Yi Tu maps combine information compiled from Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Mongolian (the Mongol empire collected maps from all of its conquered nations,) and Islamic sources, eg, the voyages of Ibn Battuta.

I have noticed that no matter which explorer of south Asia we are talking about, whether Ibn Battuta, Marco Polo, Zheng He, or the Polynesians, none of them seem to have made it to Australia.

Neither do any of these early (1400s or before) maps seem to show Australia–in other words, the Chinese (and Koreans) were drawing recognizable maps of Africa and Europe before Australia.

Guillaume Brouscon world map, 1543
Guillaume Brouscon world map, 1543

European portolan charts appeared, seemingly ex nihilo, in the 13th century. The portolans used compass directions plus sailing directions to estimate distances between map points, thus producing a revolution in map accuracy. The compass roses are drawn directly onto the map for navigational convenience, as on this “Dieppe map” by Guillaume Brouscon, 1543.

It is getting late, so I am going to have to continue this on Thursday, when we will discuss the Dieppe maps in some depth. But let me know if you catch the most curious thing about them.😉



When did Whites Evolve?

Defining exactly who is white is contentious and difficult–so I shan’t. If you want to debate among yourselves whether or not the Irish or Hindus count, that’s your own business.

Picture 1 Picture 2

Here’s Haak et al’s full graph of human genomes from around the world, (see here and here for various discussions.) The genomes on the far left are ancient European skeletons; everything from the “pink” section onward is modern. The “African” genomes all have bright blue at their bottoms; Asian (and American Indian) genomes all have yellow. The European countries tend to have a triple-color profile, reflecting their recent (evolutionarily speaking) mix of European hunter-gatherers (dark blue), Middle Eastern farmers (orange), and a “teal” group that came in with the Indo-European speakers, but whose origins we have yet to uncover:


Unsurprisingly, the Basque have less of this “teal.” Middle Easterners, as you can see, are quite similar genetically, but tend to have “purple” instead of “dark blue”

1024px-PSM_V52_D323_Global_hair_texture_mapPhysically, of course, whites’ most distinctive feature is pale skin. They are also unique among human clades in their variety of hair and eye colors, ranging from dark to light, and tend to have wavy hair that is “oval” in cross-section. (Africans tend to have curly hair that is flat in cross section, and Asians tend to have straight hair that is cylindrical in cross section. See map for more hair details.)

There are other traits–the Wikipedia page on “Caucasian race” (not exactly synonymous with “whites”) notes:

According to George W. Gill and other modern forensic anthropologists, physical traits of Caucasoid crania are generally distinct from those of the Mongoloid and Negroid races. They assert that they can identify a Caucasoid skull with an accuracy of up to 95% by the following features: [20][21][22][23][24]

  • An orthognathic profile, with minimal protrusion of the lower part of the face (little or no prognathism).
  • Retreating zygomatic bones (cheekbones), making the face look more “pointed”.
  • Narrow nasal aperture, with a tear-shaped nasal cavity (nasal fossa).

Bodyhair_map_according_to_American_Journal_of_Physical_Anthropology_and_other_sourcesBut I am not going to deal with any of these, unless I hear of something like the EDAR gene coding for a bunch of traits.

Old racial classifications made use of language groups as stand-ins for racial groups. This turns out to be not very reliable, as we’ve found that in many cases, a small group of conquerors has managed to impose its language without imposing its genetics, as you’ve discovered in real life if you’ve ever met an African or Indian who speaks English.

europe-hair0223--light-hThe first known modern humans in Europe (IE, not Neanderthals nor Homo Erectuses,) popularly known as Cro-Magnons and unpopularly known as European early modern humans, (because anthropologists hate being understood dislike sounding like commoners,) lived around 43,ooo-45,000 years ago in Italy. By 41,000 years ago, Cro-Magnons had reached the southern coast of England.

Humanity's path out of Africa
Humanity’s path out of Africa

(Incidentally, Mungo Man, found in south-east Australia, is also estimated to be about 40,000 years old, suggesting that either:

A. People took a much longer route from Africa to Europe than to Australia
B. Europe was difficult to enter when folks left Africa, possibly because of glaciers or Neanderthals
C. There were multiple Out-of-Africa events, or
D. Our knowledge is incomplete.

D is obviously true, and I favor C regardless of Mungo’s true age.)

source: Wikipedia
source: Wikipedia

These Cro-Magnons appear to have been brown skinned, brown eyed, and black haired–they likely looked more like their close relatives in the Middle East (whatever they looked like,) than their distant descendants in modern Europe. (Despite all of the mixing and conquering of the centuries, I think modern Europeans are partially descended from Cro-Magnons, but I could be wrong.)

The Cro-Magnons carved the famous “Venus of Willendorf” (we don’t really know if the figurine was intended as a “goddess” or a fertility figure or just a portrait of a local lady or what, but it’s a nice name,) among many other similar figurines, some of them quite stylized.

Venus of Monruz
Venus of Monruz
Venus of Willendorf
Venus of Willendorf
Venus of Brassempouy
Venus of Brassempouy

Some people think the figurines look African, with cornrows or peppercorn hair and steatopygia. Others suggest the figurines are wearing hats or braids, and point out that not all of them are fat or have large butts.



So when did Europeans acquire their modern appearances? Here’s what I’ve found so far:

Wikipedia states:

Variations in the KITL gene have been positively associated with about 20% of melanin concentration differences between African and non-African populations. One of the alleles of the gene has an 80% occurrence rate in Eurasian populations.[52][53] The ASIP gene has a 75–80% variation rate among Eurasian populations compared to 20–25% in African populations.[54] Variations in the SLC24A5 gene account for 20–25% of the variation between dark and light skinned populations of Africa,[55]and appear to have arisen as recently as within the last 10,000 years.[56] The Ala111Thr or rs1426654 polymorphism in the coding region of the SLC24A5 gene reaches fixation in Europe, but is found across the globe, particularly among populations in Northern Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Asia, Central Asia and South Asia.[57][58][59]

maps-europelighteyesThe Guardian reports:

According to a team of researchers from Copenhagen University, a single mutation which arose as recently as 6-10,000 years ago was responsible for all the blue-eyed people alive on Earth today.

The team, whose research is published in the journal Human Genetics, identified a single mutation in a gene called OCA2, which arose by chance somewhere around the northwest coasts of the Black Sea in one single individual, about 8,000 years ago.

Haplogroups_europeWikipedia again:

The hair color gene MC1R has at least seven variants in Europe giving the continent a wide range of hair and eye shades. Based on recent genetic research carried out at three Japanese universities, the date of the genetic mutation that resulted in blond hair in Europe has been isolated to about 11,000 years ago during the last ice age.[25]

Recent archaeological and genetic study published in 2014 found that, seven “Scandinavian hunter-gatherers” found in 7700-year-old Motala archaeological site in southern Sweden had both light skin gene variants, SLC24A5 and SLC45A2, they also had a third gene, HERC2/OCA2, which causes blue eyes and also contribute to lighter skin and blond hair.[29]

Genetic research published in 2014, 2015 and 2016 found that Yamnaya Proto-Indo-Europeans, who migrated to Europe in early bronze age were overwhelmingly dark-eyed (brown), dark-haired and had a skin colour that was moderately light, though somewhat darker than that of the average modern European.[49] While light pigmentation traits had already existed in pre-Indo-European Europeans (both farmers and hunter-gatherers) and long-standing philological attempts to correlate them with the arrival of Indo-Europeans from the steppes were misguided.[50]

According to genetic studies, Yamnaya Proto-Indo-European migration to Europe lead to Corded Ware culture, where Yamnaya Proto-Indo-Europeans mixed with “Scandinavian hunter-gatherer” women who carried genetic alleles HERC2/OCA2, which causes combination of blue eyes and blond hair.[51][52][53] Descendants of this “Corded Ware admixture”, split from Corded Ware culture in every direction forming new branches of Indo-European tree, notably Proto-Greeks, Proto-Italio-Celtic, Proto-Indo-Iranians and Proto-Anatolians.[54] Proto-Indo-Iranians who split from Corded ware culture, formed Andronovo culture and are believed to have spread genetic alleles HERC2/OCA2 that causes blonde hair to parts of West Asia, Central Asia and South Asia.[52]

Genetic analysis in 2014 also found that Afanasevo culture which flourished in Altai Mountains were genetically identical to Yamnaya Proto-Indo-Europeans and that they did not carry genetic alleles for blonde hair or light eyes.[55][51][52] Afanasevo culture was later replaced by second wave of Indo-European invaders from Andronovo culture, who were product of Corded Ware admixture that took place in Europe, and carried genetic alleles that causes blond hair and light eyes.[55][51][52]

Dienekes writes:

An interesting finding [in Ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day Europeans] is that the Luxembourg hunter-gatherer probably had blue eyes (like a Mesolithic La Brana Iberian, a paper on which seems to be in the works) but darker skin than the LBK farmer who had brown eyes but lighter skin. Raghavan et al. did not find light pigmentation in Mal’ta (but that was a very old sample), so with the exception of light eyes that seem established for Western European hunter-gatherers (and may have been “darker” in European steppe populations, but “lighter” in Bronze Age South Siberians?), the origin of depigmentation of many recent Europeans remains a mystery.

Beleza et al, in The Timing of Pigmentation Lightening in Europeans, write:

… we estimate that the onset of the sweep shared by Europeans and East Asians at KITLG occurred approximately 30,000 years ago, after the out-of-Africa migration, whereas the selective sweeps for the European-specific alleles at TYRP1, SLC24A5, and SLC45A2 started much later, within the last 11,000–19,000 years, well after the first migrations of modern humans into Europe.

And finally from Wikipedia:

In a 2015 study based on 230 ancient DNA samples, researchers traced the origins of several genetic adaptations found in Europe.[46] The original mesolithic hunter-gatherers were dark skinned and blue eyed.[46] The HERC2 and OCA2 variations for blue eyes are derived from the original mesolithic hunter-gatherers, and the genes were not found in the Yamna people.[46] The HERC2 variation for blue eyes first appears around 13,000 to 14,000 years ago in Italy and the Caucasus.[38]

The migration of the neolithic farmers into Europe brought along several new adaptations.[46] The variation for light skin color was introduced to Europe by the neolithic farmers.[46] After the arrival of the neolithic farmers, a SLC22A4 mutation was selected for, a mutation which probably arose to deal with ergothioneine deficiency but increases the risk of ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, and irritable bowel disease.

The genetic variations for lactose persistence and greater height came with the Yamna people.[46]

To sum:

Skin: 10,000 years, 11-19,000 years, possibly arriving after blue eyes

Blond hair: 11,000 years

Blue eyes: 6-10,000 years ago, 13,000 to 14,000 years ago

It looks like some of these traits emerged in different populations and later combined as they spread, but they all look like they arose at approximately the same time.
Obviously I have neglected red and brown hair, green and hazel eyes, but the genetics all seem to be related.

Guest Post: Lawrence Glarus: Guest Families


Have you ever wondered if there are other market dominant minorities out there?  Blogger Lawrence Glarus has found another out there:

Most people in China are Han. In fact, the Han are 92% of the PRC. This would, in the popular imagination, imply that they culturally similar. This isn’t necessarily wrong but, like any nation, there are thinner slices you can make. Out of this mix of cultures has emerged another crab.  China has produced a market dominant minority diaspora: the Hakka. The Hakka are a subgroup of the Han. They have their own Chinese dialectic though their identity is mostly connected to patrilineal descent. What are the minimum steps to create a market dominant minority?
1. Migration
2. Economic niche formation by cultural bans or scarcity of normal work.
3. Limited integration.

In the Hakka we meet all the requirements. The Hakka originated from Northern China. This is not particularly exceptional since all Han originated from Northern China. Like many groups, there were multiple waves of migration from their homelands somewhere in the North. There seem to be a number of theories of their origin but there were plenty of wars and political events in which COULD have displaced them. Suffice to say something or someone gave them a reason to move.

“Migration and the stigma of rootlessness. Dominant Han tradition worshipped the native place, and the Min and Yue Cantonese disdain the Hakka as rootless. Four mass migrations shaped Hakka identity. In the first the Hakkas left Henan and Shandong during the chaos of the Jurchen attacks between the Tang and Song dynasties (907-959 A.D.), and settled around Changting (Tingzhou) in the underpopulated highlands of the Fujian-Jiangxi border. In the second they moved into north-eastern Guangdong during the period of the Song-Yuan dynastic transition (1127-1279), settling around Meixian and the North River highlands. In the third many Hakkas claimed untended land on the south-east Guangdong coast during the early Qing (1644-1800). Others, like Chen Yi’s kin, moved up to the Hunan-Jiangxi border. By 1800 Hakkas had also settled permanently in Guangxi, Hainan, Taiwan and famine-depopulated Sichuan.36 The fourth migration came in the mid-19th century, after nearly a million died in the Hakka-Bendi land wars, and in the aftermath of the Taiping Rebellion (1850-64). Hakkas dispersed further away from Guangdong, into Sichuan, Hong Kong and overseas.”-The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise Mary S. Erbaugh

That is a rough history, but then again China is/was a rough place.  It might actually may not be THAT exceptional.

“The name Hakka was first used by Guangfu Chinese. Hakka was originally used to refer to the third person and was gradually accepted as the ethnic name. Now, many people are proud to call themselves Hakka. The four Hakka states are Meizhou, Ganzhou, Huizhou, and Tingzhou. Meizhou is often referred to as the capital of the global population of Hakka because it has the highest population of Hakka, and many Hakka emigrated from Meizhou. Ganzhou is considered the ancestral home of Hakka, and is known as the “Hakka cradle”.
Hakka is one of the seven major Chinese dialects. Hakka dialects were formed as early as the Southern Song Dynasty through the inheritance of many language tones from the five dynasties and Song dynasties. The Hakka area is divided into “pure” and “impure” Hakka counties. There are 48 pure Hakka counties and cities in regions bordering Guangdong, Fujian, and Jiangxi. Although the total population of Hakka has not been determined, it is estimated that there are about 50 million Hakka worldwide. Although the Hakka population is an important component of Han populations, the anthropologic characteristics of Hakka have not been reported.” -Physical characteristics of Chinese Hakka ZHENG

Hakka roughly translates to “Guest Families”, which in my opinion is a perfect name for a market dominant minority. A guest family is welcome, but they never really integrate. Even after at least 1000 years of living in South China the Hakka are still distinct (or at least have a distinct identity) from the other Northern Chinese peoples who got there first.  The Hakka, for example, typically didn’t bind their daughter’s feet.

The word “Hakka” is as blatant a brand of impoverished wandering as “Gypsy” or “Okie.” It was originally a hostile outside coinage, the Cantonese pronunciation of the characters for “guest family,” “settlers” (Mandarin pronunciation is kejia). “Guest” is often pejorative in Chinese. Jia is used in derisive names for minorities, but not for other Han except the even more benighted Danjia (Tanga, Tanka) boat people..Longsettled Han call themselves “locals,” “natives” bendi (punti), literally “rooted in the soil.” -The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise Mary S. Erbaugh

It is funny for Westerners to see this sort of behavior and attitudes in foreign nations.  Unlike our history, the dirty laundry of foreign (non-Western) cultures tends to not be aired.  There is nothing wrong with a little parochialism.  It is still a little hard to imagine a group being “guests” for a thousand years.  How many American’s even know the word “Okie” anymore?  To be fair it’s still fresh in the memories of the people of Oklahoma.

Hakkas are also called “newcomers” (xin ren) or “arrivals” (lai reri). They are often called “Cantonese,” especially in Taiwan, Hunan and Sichuan. Hakka dialect is also called “dirt Cantonese” (tu Guangdonghua); “newcomer talk” (xin min hua); or “rough border talk” (ma jie hua) (see Cui Rongchang, “Sichuan fangyan de biandiao xianxiang” -The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise Mary S. Erbaugh

It is certainly interesting that these people who focused on education would have a language called “rough border talk”.  It is probable that any successful Hakka would learn and speak Madarin (or whatever was the court dialect de jour) well though.  All the famous (at least famous outside China) Hakka we know of spoke other languages very well and did not seemingly utilize Hakka language in their public persona.  In fact, the Hakka seem to do much better in other people’s areas than in their own, where they have tended to be poor farmers.

“As Hakkas tend to be very clannish, strangers who found out that the other party is a Hakka will affectionately acknowledge each other as “zi-jia-ren” (自家人) meaning “all’s in the same (Hakka) family”.” -La Wik

China was very clannish up until the Communists took over. The Communists naturally wanted to break up the clan structures which were a threat to their power. In the modern day as the PRC has relaxed their grip Clans are re-emerging as power centers in China. The fact that the Hakka are clannish shouldn’t surprise us, but it should be noted that they see each other as a larger clan 50 million rather than the typical 50-500 of a regularly organized clan.

When the Hakka found themselves in an already populated area in South China they had only marginal land to work with. Rather than displacing the natives they found themselves adopting economically niche strategies.

“Hakka culture have been largely shaped by the new environment which they had to alter many aspects their culture to adapt, which helped influence their architecture and cuisine. When the Hakka expanded into areas with pre-existing populations in the South, there was often little agricultural land left for them to farm. As a result, many Hakka men turned towards careers in the military or in public service. Consequently, the Hakka culturally emphasized education.” -La Wik


This tradition seemingly continues till today. Given the history of China, there would have been plenty of opportunities to pursue education, military or public service.  While the Hakka are quite interesting in their own country they are even more interesting in other countries. Having a long tradition of military and publics service has made them prominent and influential in the diaspora.

“There is a Chinese saying, “有阳光的地方就有华人, 有华人的地方就有客家人”, which literally means “Wherever there is sunshine, there will be Chinese. Wherever there is Chinese, there will be Hakka.””-La Wik


So if the Hakka focussed on education, military and civil service how good could they be at it?  Could there be a genetic or cultural propensity to enter the civil service that can overcome cultural barriers between cultures? Here is a short list of prominent Hakka that you may know of:

  1. Sun Yat-sen
  2. Lee Kuan Yew
  3. Deng Xiaoping

Okay, so that list wasn’t that long let’s get a list of Presidents of foreign countries who were Hakka. Years listed are years in power.

Name Years in Power Title Country/Current Flag
Liu Yongfu 1895  President of the Short Lived Republic of Formosa TaiwanTaiwan
Lee Teng-hui 1988–2000 President of the Republic of China TaiwanTaiwan
Tsai Ing-wen 2016– President of the Republic of China  TaiwanTaiwan
Lee Hsien Loong 2004- Prime Minister of Signapore  Singapore
Ne Win  1974-1981 President of Myanmar  Myanmar
San Yu  1981-1988  President of Myanmar  Myanmar
Khin Nyunt  2003–2004 President of Myanmar  Myanmar
Hendrick Chin A Sen 1980-1982 President of Suriname  Suriname
Thaksin Shinawatra  2001-2006 Prime Minister of Thailand  Thailand
Yingluck Shinawatra 2011-2014 Prime Minister of Thailand  Thailand
Gaston Tong Sang President 2006-2007, 2008-2011 French Polynesia  French Polynesia
Solomon Hochoy Last British Governor, 1960–1962; First non-white Governor in the whole of the British Empire, 1960; First Governor-General, 1962–1972, when Trinidad and Tobago obtained independence in 1962; First Chinese Head of State in a non-Asian country Trinidad and Tobago  Trinidad and Tobago

No Western country has had a Hakka Prime Minister or President but they do have a few Hakka politicians. Here are few. Firsts are noted.

Name Years in Power Title/Significance Country/Current Flag
Penny Wong  2007-2013 First Chinese and first Asian Cabinet Minister  Australia
Tsung Foo Hee  2002-2005 Mayor, Whitehorse, Victoria  Australia
Henry Tsang 1999-2009 Deputy Lord Mayor, Sydney  Australia
Nat Wei 2011  Baron Wei first British-born person of Chinese origin in the House of Lords  United Kingdom
André Thien Ah Koon  1986-2006,1983-2006,2014-2020 First and only Chinese elected to the French National Assembly and the first Chinese elected to a parliament in Europe, 1986-2006; Mayor, Tampon, Reunion Island, 1983-2006, 2014-2020; First Chinese Mayor of Reunion Island and France  France
Varina Tjon-A-Ten 2003-2006 First Chinese elected to the House of Representatives, 2003-2006  Netherlands
Roy Ho Ten Soeng 2000-2006; Mayor, Venhuizen, North Holland,  First immigrant Mayor of Netherlands; First Chinese Mayor of Netherlands and Europe  Netherlands
Yiaway Yeh 2012 First Chinese Mayor of Palo Alto, California  United States

It seems like wherever the Chinese go the Hakka are soon to find themselves in a position of power.  The Hakka have been very successful in this niche.  So we know that other market dominant minorities have a tendency to be not far behind a revolution, is that also true of the Hakka?

“The Hakkas have had a significant influence, disproportionate to their smaller total numbers, on the course of modern Chinese and overseas Chinese history, particularly as a source of revolutionary, political and military leaders.” -La Wik

Revolutionary Leader Born-Died Rebellion Ancestry
Hong Xiuquan 1812-1864 Leader, Taiping Rebellion Meixian, Guangdong
Zheng Shiliang 1863-1901  Huizhou Uprising Huiyang, Guangdong
Deng Zhiyu 1878-1925 Huizhou Uprising Boluo, Guangdong
Hsieh Liang-mu 1884-1931 Huanghuagang Uprising Meixian, Guangdong
Zeng Sheng 1910-1995 Column guerilla force, Hong Kong Huiyang, Guangdong

Check out this page on Wikipedia.  I listed revolutionary leaders but if you take a look at the page there are quite a number of plain members, military leader, and politicians coming out of the Hakka.  They are especially prevalent in the Communist Party of China and the Taiping Rebellion.  Keep in mind the size of the Hakka relative to the size of China.  Nowadays at best their total population including diaspora is 4% of the population of China.

“The Paradox of Hakka Obscurity and High Political Position The Hakka are an impoverished and stigmatized subgroup of Han Chinese whose settlements are scattered from Jiangxi to Sichuan. Socialist revolution meshed well with the Hakka tradition of militant dissent, so that their 3 per cent of the mainland population has been three times more likely than other Han to hold high position. Six of the nine Soviet guerrilla bases were in Hakka territory, while the route of the Long March moved from Hakka village to Hakka village. (Compare Maps 1, 2, 3 and 4.)1 In 1984, half the Standing Committee of the Politburo were Hakka, and the People’s Republic and Singapore both had Hakka leaders, Deng Xiaoping and Lee Kwan Yew, joined by Taiwan’s President Lee Teng-Hui in 1988.” -The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise Mary S. Erbaugh

-The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise Mary S. Erbaugh
Hakka Language Areas.PNG
-The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise Mary S. Erbaugh

There seems to be a cultural/phenotypic niche for the market dominant minority.  The Hakka are an interesting case study in how completely different genetic populations can produce similar political/cultural results.  Obviously, the Hakka are not identical to other diasporas, but the parallels are worth a thorough investigation.

If you liked Lawrence’s post, take a moment to enjoy his work on Degenerate Trucks (complex adaptive systems) or his Notes on the neural systems of sponges. If you’re looking for your regular dose of EvX, then you should also check out Lawrence’s blog, where I’m the guest.

Weight, Taste, and Politics: A Theory of Republican Over-Indulgence

So I was thinking about taste (flavor) and disgust (emotion.)

As I mentioned about a month ago, 25% of people are “supertasters,” that is, better at tasting than the other 75% of people. Supertasters experience flavors more intensely than ordinary tasters, resulting in a preference for “bland” food (food with too much flavor is “overwhelming” to them.) They also have a more difficult time getting used to new foods.

One of my work acquaintances of many years –we’ll call her Echo–is obese, constantly on a diet, and constantly eats sweets. She knows she should eat vegetables and tries to do so, but finds them bitter and unpleasant, and so the general outcome is as you expect: she doesn’t eat them.

Since I find most vegetables quite tasty, I find this attitude very strange–but I am willing to admit that I may be the one with unusual attitudes toward food.

Echo is also quite conservative.

This got me thinking about vegetarians vs. people who think vegetarians are crazy. Why (aside from novelty of the idea) should vegetarians be liberals? Why aren’t vegetarians just people who happen to really like vegetables?

What if there were something in preference for vegetables themselves that correlated with political ideology?

Certainly we can theorize that “supertaster” => “vegetables taste bitter” => “dislike of vegetables” => “thinks vegetarians are crazy.” (Some supertasters might think meat tastes bad, but anecdotal evidence doesn’t support this; see also Wikipedia, where supertasting is clearly associated with responses to plants:

Any evolutionary advantage to supertasting is unclear. In some environments, heightened taste response, particularly to bitterness, would represent an important advantage in avoiding potentially toxic plant alkaloids. In other environments, increased response to bitterness may have limited the range of palatable foods. …

Although individual food preference for supertasters cannot be typified, documented examples for either lessened preference or consumption include:

Mushrooms? Echo was just complaining about mushrooms.

Let’s talk about disgust. Disgust is an important reaction to things that might infect or poison you, triggering reactions from scrunching up your face to vomiting (ie, expelling the poison.) We process disgust in our amygdalas, and some people appear to have bigger or smaller amygdalas than others, with the result that the folks with more amygdalas feel more disgust.

Humans also route a variety of social situations through their amygdalas, resulting in the feeling of “disgust” in response to things that are not rotten food, like other people’s sexual behaviors, criminals, or particularly unattractive people. People with larger amygdalas also tend to find more human behaviors disgusting, and this disgust correlates with social conservatism.

To what extent are “taste” and “disgust” independent of each other? I don’t know; perhaps they are intimately linked into a single feedback system, where disgust and taste sensitivity cause each other, or perhaps they are relatively independent, so that a few unlucky people are both super-sensitive to taste and easily disgusted.

People who find other people’s behavior disgusting and off-putting may also be people who find flavors overwhelming, prefer bland or sweet foods over bitter ones, think vegetables are icky, vegetarians are crazy, and struggle to stay on diets.

What’s that, you say, I’ve just constructed a just-so story?

Well, this is the part where I go looking for evidence. It turns out that obesity and political orientation do correlate:

Michael Shin and William McCarthy, researchers from UCLA, have found an association between counties with higher levels of support for the 2012 Republican presidential candidate and higher levels of obesity in those counties.

Shin and McCarthy's map of obesity vs. political orientation
Shin and McCarthy’s map of obesity vs. political orientation

Looks like the Mormons and Southern blacks are outliers.

(I don’t really like maps like this for displaying data; I would much prefer a simple graph showing orientation on one axis and obesity on the other, with each county as a datapoint.)

(Unsurprisingly, the first 49 hits I got when searching for correlations between political orientation and obesity were almost all about what other people think of fat people, not what fat people think. This is probably because researchers tend to be skinny people who want to fight “fat phobia” but aren’t actually interested in the opinions of fat people.)

The 15 most caffeinated cities, from I love Coffee
The 15 most caffeinated cities, from I love Coffee–note that Phoenix is #7, not #1.

Disgust also correlates with political belief, but we already knew that.

A not entirely scientific survey also indicates that liberals seem to like vegetables better than conservatives:

  • Liberals are 28 percent more likely than conservatives to eat fresh fruit daily, and 17 percent more likely to eat toast or a bagel in the morning, while conservatives are 20 percent more likely to skip breakfast.
  • Ten percent of liberals surveyed indicated they are vegetarians, compared with 3 percent of conservatives.
  • Liberals are 28 percent more likely than conservatives to enjoy beer, with 60 percent of liberals indicating they like beer.

(See above where Wikipedia noted that supertasters dislike beer.) I will also note that coffee, which supertasters tend to dislike because it is too bitter, is very popular in the ultra-liberal cities of Portland and Seattle, whereas heavily sweetened iced tea is practically the official beverage of the South.

The only remaining question is if supertasters are conservative. That may take some research.

Update: I have not found, to my disappointment, a simple study that just looks at correlation between ideology and supertasting (or nontasting.) However, I have found a couple of useful items.

In Verbal priming and taste sensitivity make moral transgressions gross, Herz writes:

Standard tests of disgust sensitivity, a questionnaire developed for this research assessing different types of moral transgressions (nonvisceral, implied-visceral, visceral) with the terms “angry” and “grossed-out,” and a taste sensitivity test of 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) were administered to 102 participants. [PROP is commonly used to test for “supertasters.”] Results confirmed past findings that the more sensitive to PROP a participant was the more disgusted they were by visceral, but not moral, disgust elicitors. Importantly, the findings newly revealed that taste sensitivity had no bearing on evaluations of moral transgressions, regardless of their visceral nature, when “angry” was the emotion primed. However, when “grossed-out” was primed for evaluating moral violations, the more intense PROP tasted to a participant the more “grossed-out” they were by all transgressions. Women were generally more disgust sensitive and morally condemning than men, … The present findings support the proposition that moral and visceral disgust do not share a common oral origin, but show that linguistic priming can transform a moral transgression into a viscerally repulsive event and that susceptibility to this priming varies as a function of an individual’s sensitivity to the origins of visceral disgust—bitter taste. [bold mine.]

In other words, supertasters are more easily disgusted, and with verbal priming will transfer that disgust to moral transgressions. (And easily disgusted people tend to be conservatives.)

The Effect of Calorie Information on Consumers’ Food Choice: Sources of Observed Gender Heterogeneity, by Heiman and Lowengart, states:

While previous studies found that inherited taste-blindness to bitter compounds such
as PROP may be a risk factor for obesity, this literature has been hotly disputed
(Keller et al. 2010).

(Always remember, of course, that a great many social-science studies ultimately do not replicate.)

I’ll let you know if I find anything else.