When did Asians Evolve?

When did Asians evolve?

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

The history of humanity’s long sojourn across the globe has resulted in, more or less, three main super-clades, or races: Sub-Saharan Africans, Caucasians, and Asians. The words we use for these are not perfect (“Caucasian” is particularly imprecise,) but do the job well enough.

Genetic distance map of 18 human groups, by Saitou Naruya https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongoloid#/media/File:Neighbor-joining_Tree-2.png
Genetic distance map of 18 human groups, by Saitou Naruya

The Asian super-clade has three main branches: Melanesians (and Aborigines,) who traveled south into the Pacific; the Native Americans, who settled North and South America some 13-40,000 years ago; and of course the East Asians, like the Chinese, Japanese, and Polynesians.

(Amusingly, Indians, though they clearly live in Asia, are part of the Caucasian clade because they are more closely related to Middle Easterners and Europeans than Chinese people. As a result, Indians were–for a while—recorded as “white” on US censuses, though today they are recorded as “Asian.”)

People are fond of saying that the SS African race contains the greatest genetic diversity (as well it might, due to the inclusion of groups like the Pygmies and Bushmen, who may have split off from other human groups over 100,000 years ago,) but the Asian race has the greatest pre-Columbian geographic/environmental range, stretching from Australia and Polynesia to Siberia and Greenland, from Mongolia to Patagonia.

Asian, Australian, and Melanesian ethic groups (including Indian, Middle Eastern, and Chinese) from Haak et al's dataset
Locations of Asian, Australian, and Melanesian ethic groups (including Indian, Middle Eastern, and Chinese) from Haak et al’s dataset

Trying to offer a single, coherent description of the physical appearances of such a diverse range of peoples is nearly impossible. They range in skin tone from almost white to as black as most of Africa; in stature from slight, Pygmy-like Negritos to the formidable Comanches (who in the 1800s were among the world’s tallest measured people;) and in average reported IQs from >105 to >65. (Okay, IQ isn’t appearance.)

We will be able to speak much more meaningfully about appearances when we address each of the sub-races.

Here are the relevant portions from Haak et al’s lovely dataset:

nativeamerican eskimoonge eastasian

On the left, we have the Native American DNA, from the depths of the Amazonian rainforest to the tribes of upstate New York. The olive green section are the Inuit/Eskimo and related Russian groups. The Inuit (who appear to have wiped out the earlier Dorset people,) share a great deal of DNA with other Siberians, eg the Yakuts (a Turkic people) and the Nganasan, (who speak a highly divergent language of the Samoyedic branch of the Uralic family, which also includes the Finnish, Hungarian, and Sami languages–language is a very bad guide to genetics.)

The pale peach are the Onge, who live in India’s Andaman Islands; purple the people of Papua New Guinea and Australia.

The very yellow part is all of the groups normally thought of as “East Asian,” like Japanese, Chinese, and Thai. Yellow is most dominant in the aboriginal people of Taiwan (who were there before the Chinese started migrating there in the past few hundred years,) and are the ancestors of the (not pictured) Polynesian peoples of Hawaii, Easter Island, and New Zealand. (I think they picked up some Melanesian DNA on the way.)

And on the right we have the various peoples of Siberia and central Asia.

I think it an open question whether the Melanesians and Aborigines ought to be properly classed with the other Asians, or awarded their own clade.

I totally stole this from Razib Khan, didn't I?
I stole this from Razib Khan, didn’t I?

According to Masatoshi Nei, a biology professor at Pennsylvania State University,[131]  the ancestors of today’s Asians and Caucasians split into two separate groups around 41,000 years ago, (give or take 15,000 years,) and their ancestors split from the ancestors of modern Africans–the “Out of Africa Event”–around 114,000 years ago, (give or take 34,000 years.)

 

The Daily Mail reports:

BERLIN (AP) — The human populations now predominant in Eurasia and East Asia probably split between 36,200 and 45,000 years ago, according to a study released Thursday.

Researchers used new techniques to analyze genetic samples from the shin bone of a young man who died at least 36,200 years ago near Kostenki-Borshchevo in what is now western Russia. The study, published in the journal Science, concludes that Kostenki man shared genetic sequences with contemporary Europeans, but not East Asians.

A separate study published last month in the journal Nature determined that a 45,000-year old sample found in Siberia contained sequences ancestral to both modern East Asians and Europeans.

Meanwhile:

In a genetic study in 2011, researchers found evidence, in DNA samples taken from strands of Aboriginal people’s hair, that the ancestors of the Aboriginal population split off from the ancestors of the European and Asian populations between 65,000 and 75,000 years ago—roughly 24,000 years before the European and Asian populations split off from each other. These Aboriginal ancestors migrated into South Asia and then into Australia…

A different study found:

The first complete sequences of the Y chromosomes of Aboriginal Australian men have revealed a deep indigenous genetic history tracing all the way back to the initial settlement of the continent 50 thousand years ago, according to a study published in the journal Current Biology today.

The Native Americans much more conveniently split off around 25,000 years ago.

Or in other words:

Also credit Robert Lindsay
Also credit Robert Lindsay

So on the one hand, race is biological and real, and on the other, it’s a social construct. Australian Aborigines are more closely related to other Asians than to, say, Europeans or Africans, but the Chinese are more closely related to Europeans than to Aborigines.

nature-siberian-neanderthals-17.02.16-v2One reason why Australians and other Melanesians appear so divergent from other Asian populations maybe their Denisovan (or other human) DNA. Most (if not all) human groups appear to have picked up DNA from some other, non-Homo Sapiens source. Europeans, East Asians, and Native Americans all have a small percent of Neanderthal DNA. Africans, IIRC, have a small % of some local African homin. And Melanesians/Australians have a small % of Denisovan DNA (Denisovans were a less-well-known cousin of the Neanderthals.)

Haak et al’s full graph

WARNING: This post is full of speculations that I am recording for my own sake but are highly likely to be wrong!

Click for full size
From Haak et al.

Hey, did you know that this isn’t actually Haak et al’s full DNA graph? The actual full dataset looks like this:

 

Picture 1Picture 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isn’t it beautiful?

You’re going to have to click for the full size–sorry I couldn’t fit it all into one screen cap. I’m also sorry that the resolution is poor, and therefore you can’t read the labels (though you should be able to figure out which is which if you just compare with the smaller graphic at the top of the screen. (Supposedly there’s a higher resolution version of this out there, but I couldn’t find it.)

Why the reliance on a greatly cropped image? Just the obvious: the big one is unwieldy, and most of the data people are interested in is at the top.

But the data at the bottom is interesting, too.

On the lefthand side of the graph, we have a measure of granularity–how much fine detail we are getting with our genetic data. The bottom row, therefore, shows us the largest genetic splits between groups–presumably, the oldest splits.

From left to right, we have selections of different ethnic groups’ DNA. Old European skeletons constitute the first group; the mostly pink with some brown section is Native North/South American; the blue and green section is African; the big wide orange section is mostly European and Middle Eastern; then we have some kind of random groups like the Inuit (gold), Onge (pink, Indian Ocean), and Australian Aborigines; the heavily green areas are India; the mixed-up area splitting the green is Eurasian steppe; the yellow area is East Asian; and the final section is Siberian.

Level One: Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) vs. Non-Sub-Saharan Africa

The bottom row shows us, presumably, the oldest split, between the orange and the blue. All of these light blue groups, from the Ju Hoan (Bushmen/San) to the Yoruba (Nigeria,) Somalis to Hadza (Tanzania,) African Americans to Shua (Khoe speakers of Namibia/Botswana,) are from Africa–sub-Saharan Africa, I’d wager (though I’m not sure whether Ethiopia and Somalia are considered “sub-Saharan.”)

All of the other groups–including the sampled north-African groups like Saharawari (from Western Sahara,) Tunisians, Algerians, Mozabites (Algeria,) and Egyptians–show up in orange.

(Note: Light green and orange are completely arbitrary color choices used to represent the DNA in these graphs; there is nothing inherently “orange” or “green” or any other color about DNA.)

I would not actually have predicted this–other studies I have read predicted that the split between the Bushmen, Pygmies, and other groups in Africa went back further in Africa than the split between Africans and non-Africans, but perhaps the Sahara has been the most significant barrier in human history.

Interestingly, the split is not absolute–there are Sub-Saharan groups with non-SSA admixture, and non-SSA groups with SSA admixture. In fact, most of the SSA groups sampled appear to have some non-SSA admixture, which probably has something to do with back-migration over the centuries; predictably, this is highest in places like Somalia and Ethiopia, fairly high along the east coast of Africa (which has historically been linked via monsoon trade routes to other, non-African countries;) and in African Americans (whose admixture is much more recent.) (Likewise, the admixture found in some of the hunter-gatherer peoples of southern Africa could be relatively recent.)

The Non-SSA groups with the most SSA admixture, are north African groups like the aforementioned Algerians and Tunisians; Middle Eastern groups like the Druze, Syrians, Bedouins, Jordanians, etc.; “Mediterranean” groups like the Sicilians and Maltese; various Jewish groups that live in these areas; and a tiny bit that shows up in the people of the Andaman Islands, Australia, and PNG.

(Oh, and in various old European skeletons.)

Level Two: “Western” vs. “Eastern”

Moving on to level two, we have the next big split, between “Easterners” (mostly Asians) and “Westerners” (mostly Europeans and Middle-Easterners.)

Natives of North/South America, Inuits, Andaman Islanders, Australian Aborigines, Papuans, the Kharia (an Indian tribe that has historically spoken a non-Indo-European language,) some central or northern Asian steppe peoples like the Evens (Siberians,) and of course everyone from the Kusunda (Nepal) through China and Japan and up through, well, more Siberians like the Yakuts, all show up as mostly yellow.

Everyone from Europe, the Middle East, the Caucuses, and all of the sampled Indian populations except the Kharia have orange.

A bunch of little groups from the middle of Eurasia show up as about half-and-half.

Interestingly, some of the older European hunter-gatherer skeletons have small quantities of “Eastern” DNA; this may not represent admixture so much as common ancestry. It also shows up, predictably, in Turkey and the Caucuses; in Russia/Finns; tiny quantities in places like the Ukraine; and quite significantly in India.

Significant “Western” admixture shows up in various Natives North/South Americans (probably due to recent admixture,) the Andaman Islands, Aborigines, PNG, (this may represent something to do with a common ancestor rather than admixture, per se,) and Siberia.

Level Three: Native North/South Americans vs. “Easterners”

At this point, the “light pink” shows up in all of the sampled indigenous tribes of North and South America. A fair amount of it also shows up in the Inuit, and a small quantity in various Siberian tribes. A tiny quantity also show up in some of the older European skeletons (I suspect this is due to older skeletons being more similar to the common ancestors before the splits than trans-Atlantic contact in the stone age, but it could also be due to a small Siberian component having made its way into Europe.)

Even at this level, there is a big difference evident between the groups from Central and South America (almost pure pink) and those from northern North America, (significant chunk of orange.) Some (or all) of that may be due to recent admixture due to adoption of and intermarrying with whites, but some could also be due to the ancestors of the Chipewyans etc. having started out with more, due to sharing ancestors from a more recent migration across the Bering Strait. I’m speculating, of course.

Level Four: Intra-African splits

I don’t know my African ethnic groups like I ought to, but basically we have the Bushmen (aka San,) and I think some Khoe / Khoi peoples in green, with a fair amount of green also showing up in the Pygmies and other hunter-gatherers like the Hadza, plus little bits showing up in groups like the Sandawe and South African Bantus.

Level Five: Australian Aborigines, PNG, and Andamanese split off.

Some of this DNA is shared with folks in India; a tiny bit shows up in central Asia and even east Asia.

Level Six: Red shows up.

This reddish DNA is found in all “Siberian” peoples, people who might have moved recently through Siberia, and people who might be related to or had contact with them. It’s found throughout East Asia, eg, Japan and China, but only found in high quantities among the Inuit and various Siberian groups. At this resolution, oddly, no one–except almost the Itelmen and Koryak–is pure reddish, but at higher resolutions the Nganasan are, while the Itelmen and Koryak aren’t.

Level Seven: The “Indos” of the Indo-Europeans show up

Although no pure light green people have yet been found, their DNA shows up everywhere the Indo-Europeans (aka Yamnaya) went, with their highest concentration in India. Perhaps the light green people got their start in India, and later a group of them merged with the dark blue people to become the Yamnaya, a group of whom then migrated back into India, leaving India with a particularly high % of light green DNA even before the dark blue shows up.

Interestingly, some of this light green also show up in the Andamanese.

Level Eight: The “Europeans” of the Indo-Europeans show up

The dark blue color originates, in the left-hand side of the graph, with a several-thousand years old population of European hunter-gatherers which, as you can see in the slightly younger populations on the far left, nearly got wiped out by a nearly pure orange population of farmers that migrated into Europe from the Middle East. This dark blue population managed to survive out on the Eurasian Steppe, which wasn’t so suited to farming, where it merged with the light-green people. They became the Yamnaya aka the Indo-Europeans. They then spread back into Europe, the Middle East, India, central Asia, and Siberia. (The dark blue in modern Native American populations is probably due to recent admixture.)

Level Nine: The Hadza

The Hadza (a hunter-gatherer people of Tanzania) now show up as bright pink. No one else has a lot of bright pink, but the Pygmies (Mbutu and Biaka,) as well as a variety of other eastern-African groups located near them, like the Luo, Masai, and the Somalis have small amounts.

Level Ten: The Onge (Andamanese)

Not much happens here, but the Onge (from the Andaman Islands) turn peach and stay that way. It looks like a small amount of peach DNA may also be found across part of India (southern India, I’m assuming.)

Level Eleven: Chipewyans (North America)

The Chipewyans turn brown; brown is also found in small quantities in Central America, in moderate quantities in eastern North America, and in the Eskimo/Inuit.

Level Twelve: Pygmies

The Biaka and Mbuti Pygmies differentiate from their neighbors. Tiny quantities of Pygmy DNA found in probably-nearby peoples.

Level Thirteen: Inuit/Eskimo

They become distinctly differentiated from other North American or Siberian tribes (olive green.), Their olive green shade is found in small quantities in some Siberian tribes, but interestingly, appears to be totally absent from other Native American tribes.

Level Fourteen: Horn of Africa

A dusty peach tone is used for groups in the Horn of Africa like the Somalis and Ethiopians, as well as nearby groups like the Dinka. Small amounts of dusty peach are are also found along the East Africa, North Africa, and the Middle East. Smaller amounts appear to be in a variety of other groups related to the Bushmen.

Level Fifteen: The light green turns teal

All of the light green in Europe turns teal, but much of the light green in India stays light green. (Teal also shows up in India.) I have no idea why, other than my aforementioned theory that India had more light green to start with.

Level Sixteen: Amazon Rainforest tribes

The Kuritiana and Suri show up in light olive; light olive is also found in small quantities in other parts of Central and South America, and tiny bits in parts of North America, and maybe tiny amounts in the Eskimo but I don’t see any in the Chukchi, Itelmen, etc.

Level Seventeen: Bedouins

The Bedouins turn light purple; this DNA is also found through out the Middle East, Turkey, North Africa, the Mediterranean (eg Sicily), Greece, Albania, Spain, Bulgaria, Ashkenazim, and a tiny bit In India.

Level Eighteen: Some Bushmen appear to split off from some other Bushmen.

I don’t know much about these groups.

Level Nineteen: Nothing interesting appears to happen.

Please remember that all of this is me speculating. I am definitely not an educated source on these matters, but I hope you’ve had as much fun as I’ve had peering at the DNA and thinking about how people might have moved around and mixed and split to make the colors.

 

The Indigenous People of Europe

Do you know how long I've been waiting to use this?

The settlement in Cambridgeshire, which had been buried for 3,000 years, was discovered when the tops of crude protest signs were spotted above layers of mud.

Archaeologist Helen Archer said: “The signs, which include ‘Any old iron? NO THANKS,’ and ‘IRON? IR NO,’ a primitive attempt at wordplay, show that the residents were up in arms about climate-based migration patterns.

Note: The Daily Mash is a humor/satire site, similar to The Onion.

Anyway, on to the genetics!

From Haak et al, rearranged by me
From Haak et al, rearranged by me

Click for full size

Haak et al. made this graph, but I rearranged it so that the oldest samples are on the left and the newest ones are on the right. When multiple samples were about the same age, I ordered them from west to east (that is, from left to right as you look at a standard map. Unless you are in Australia.) I’ve added the dates (shown as ranges) that were in Haak’s paper. Note the asterisk under Karsdorf–those dates are still uncertain.

The first three genomes are from super old skeletons found out in, like, Russia. I don’t know why they look so crazy–maybe because the DNA is really old and so not very good, or maybe because they actually had a bunch of different DNA in them, or maybe because they’re ancestral to a bunch of different groups. I don’t know! Luckily, it doesn’t really matter for today’s post, so I’ll investigate them later.

Approximately 28,000 years later, we have the Blue People, also known as “Western European Hunter Gatherers,” or WHG. There were people in Europe in intervening 28,000 years; they just aren’t on the table, and I don’t know if anyone has successfully sequenced their genomes yet. (More research required.)

As you might guess, the WHG people hunted and gathered. They had stone tools, and were quite widespread, ranging from Spain (the La Brana1 site,) to Sweden to Samara, Russia (and probably beyond.)

And then some new guys showed up: Farmers.

Known as the Early Eurasian Farmers (EEF,) they first appear on our graph in Starcevo, Serbia, their DNA in orange. They came from the Middle East (the birthplace of agriculture,) bringing their wheat, permanent settlements, and livestock.

Why isn't it in English? Oh, well. We'll manage.
Neolithic cultures of Europe–Starcevo is i the lower right-hand corner.

These farmers quickly overran the hunter-gatherers throughout western Europe (though the northern extremes held out longer, most likely due to crops that originated in the Middle East taking a while to adapt to the harsh Scandinavian climate.)

300px-Neolithic_expansion.svg (source: Wikipedia)

The hunter gatherers disappeared (most likely slaughtered by the farmers, but perhaps merely overwhelmed numerically) but their DNA lives on in the descendants of those first farmers. Some groups may have combined willingly–others, as the spoils of war. Within the Farmers’ range, the only place the hunter-gatherers managed to live on appears to be a small island off the coast of Sweden (the second “Skoglund” sample.)

But to the east, out on the Eurasian steppes, the hunter-gatherers lived on. The steppes are known more for their rampaging hordes than their farmers, and this is exactly what they became.

The Yamnaya, as we now call them, are about half WHG and half some new population (I call them the Teal People.) As far as I know, no “pure” teal people have yet been found, but teal DNA is all over the place, from India to Spain.

Teal and blue DNA in India central Asia, and Siberia:

IndiaandSteppe

The Yamnaya are also known as the Proto-Indo-Europeans–the guys who spoke the language ancestral to all of today’s Indo-European languages. And like all conquering barbarian hordes, they expanded out of their homeland in present-day southern Russia (north of the Caucuses,) and conquered everything in their path.

Just eyeballing the graph, it looks like the resulting peoples are about half Yamnaya, and about half EEF. This tri-part inheritance is still seen in every European population (and some of their neighbors) today:

Europe

If we didn’t have the ancient DNA–or if we had less of it–it would be easy to think that the Blue component in modern Europeans had come directly from the ancient WHG population that lived in their particular area. Instead, much (if not most) of the modern “blue” component hails from the steppes of Russia–a remarkable comeback for the WHGs.

Oh, and the “indigenous” people of Europe? They’re all indigenous to the continent.

Some more helpful graphs, maps, and information:

From Haak et al.
From Haak et al.
From Haak et al.
From Haak et al.
From Haak et al.
From Haak et al.

On the Iceman, aka Otzi: found in the Alps on the Italian-Austrian border; Same age as Sweden, between 3359 and 3105 BCE. (Hailed from the vicinity of Feldthurns, Italy.)

Analysis of the mtDNA of Ötzi the Iceman, the frozen mummy from 3,300 BC found on the AustrianItalian border, has shown that Ötzi belongs to the K1 subclade. It cannot be categorized into any of the three modern branches of that subclade (K1a, K1b or K1c). The new subclade has provisionally been named K1ö for Ötzi.[14] Multiplex assay study was able to confirm that the Iceman’s mtDNA belongs to a new European mtDNA clade with a very limited distribution amongst modern data sets.[15]” (source)

Otzi ate grain but was lactose intolerant.

His Y DNA is haplogroup G, which is now rare in Europe:

Haplogrupo_G_(ADN-Y)

Various estimated dates and locations have been proposed for the origin of Haplogroup G. The National Geographic Society places haplogroup G origins in the Middle East 30,000 years ago and presumes that people carrying the haplogroup took part in the spread of the Neolithic.[2] Two scholarly papers have also suggested an origin in the Middle East, while differing on the date. …

Haplogroup G2a(SNP P15+) has been identified in neolithic human remains in Europe dating between 5000-3000BC. Furthermore, the majority of all the male skeletons from the European Neolithic period have so far yielded Y-DNA belonging to this haplogroup. The oldest skeletons confirmed by ancient DNA testing as carrying haplogroup G2a were five found in the Avellaner cave burial site for farmers in northeastern Spain and were dated by radiocarbon dating to about 7000 years ago.[5] At the Neolithic cemetery of Derenburg Meerenstieg II, north central Germany, with burial artifacts belonging to the Linear Pottery culture, known in German as Linearbandkeramik (LBK). This skeleton could not be dated by radiocarbon dating, but other skeletons there were dated to between 5,100 and 6,100 years old. The most detailed SNP mutation identified was S126 (L30), which defines G2a3.[6] G2a was found also in 20 out of 22 samples of ancient Y-DNA from Treilles, the type-site of a Late Neolithic group of farmers in the South of France, dated to about 5000 years ago.[7] The fourth site also from the same period is the Ötztal of the Italian Alps where the mummified remains of Ötzi the Iceman were discovered. Preliminary word is that the Iceman belongs to haplogroup G2a2b [8] (earlier called G2a4).

Haplogroup G2a2b is a rare group today in Europe. (source)

Back on the Otzi page:

By autosomal DNA he is most closely related to southern Europeans, especially to the geographically isolated populations of the two Mediterranean islands of Sardinia and Corsica.[41][42]

… In October 2013, it was reported that 19 modern Tyrolean men were related to Ötzi. Scientists from the Institute of Legal Medicine at Innsbruck Medical University had analysed the DNA of over 3,700 Tyrolean male blood donors and found 19 who shared a particular genetic mutation with the 5,300-year-old man, which led them to identify the link.[46]

Hungary Gamba CA= Copper age, 3,300 BC-2,700 AD

From an analysis of the Gamba site:

The Great Hungarian Plain was a crossroads of cultural transformations that have shaped European prehistory. Here we analyse a 5,000-year transect of human genomes, sampled from petrous bones giving consistently excellent endogenous DNA yields, from 13 Hungarian Neolithic, Copper, Bronze and Iron Age burials including two to high (~22 × ) and seven to ~1 × coverage, to investigate the impact of these on Europe’s genetic landscape. These data suggest genomic shifts with the advent of the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages, with interleaved periods of genome stability. The earliest Neolithic context genome shows a European hunter-gatherer genetic signature and a restricted ancestral population size, suggesting direct contact between cultures after the arrival of the first farmers into Europe. The latest, Iron Age, sample reveals an eastern genomic influence concordant with introduced Steppe burial rites. We observe transition towards lighter pigmentation and surprisingly, no Neolithic presence of lactase persistence.

Stuttgart EN:

To investigate European population history around the time of the agricultural transition, we sequenced complete genomes from a ~7,500 year old early farmer from the Linearbandkeramik (LBK) culture from Stuttgart in Germany and an ~8,000 year old hunter-gatherer from the Loschbour rock shelter in Luxembourg. We also generated data from seven ~8,000 year old hunter-gatherers from Motala in Sweden. We compared these genomes and published ancient DNA to new data from 2,196 samples from 185 diverse populations to show that at least three ancestral groups contributed to present-day Europeans. The first are Ancient North Eurasians (ANE), who are more closely related to Upper Paleolithic Siberians than to any present-day population. The second are West European Hunter-Gatherers (WHG), related to the Loschbour individual, who contributed to all Europeans but not to Near Easterners. The third are Early European Farmers (EEF), related to the Stuttgart individual, who were mainly of Near Eastern origin but also harbored WHG-related ancestry. We model the deep relationships of these populations and show that about ~44% of the ancestry of EEF derived from a basal Eurasian lineage that split prior to the separation of other non-Africans.(bold mine.)

Ancient_North_Eurasian_admixture European_hunter-gatherer_admixture Neolithic_farmer_admixture

Source for the maps.

Iosif Lazaridis et al's model of modern European genetic origins.
Iosif Lazaridis et al’s model of modern European genetic origins.
Also from Iosif Lazaridis et al.'s paper, " Ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day Europeans"
Also from Iosif Lazaridis et al.’s paper, “Ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day Europeans” h/t Dienekes:

 Analysis of ancient DNA can reveal historical events that are difficult to discern through study of present-day individuals. To investigate European population history around the time of the agricultural transition, we sequenced complete genomes from a ~7,500 year old early farmer from the Linearbandkeramik (LBK) culture from Stuttgart in Germany and an ~8,000 year old hunter-gatherer from the Loschbour rock shelter in Luxembourg. We also generated data from seven ~8,000 year old hunter-gatherers from Motala in Sweden. We compared these genomes and published ancient DNA to new data from 2,196 samples from 185 diverse populations to show that at least three ancestral groups contributed to present-day Europeans. The first are Ancient North Eurasians (ANE), who are more closely related to Upper Paleolithic Siberians than to any present-day population. The second are West European Hunter-Gatherers (WHG), related to the Loschbour individual, who contributed to all Europeans but not to Near Easterners. The third are Early European Farmers (EEF), related to the Stuttgart individual, who were mainly of Near Eastern origin but also harbored WHG-related ancestry. We model the deep relationships of these populations and show that about ~44% of the ancestry of EEF derived from a basal Eurasian lineage that split prior to the separation of other non-Africans.

I'm sorry, I forgot where this came from
I’m sorry, I forgot where this came from.

See also:

Significant genetic differentiation between Poland and Germany follows present-day political borders, as revealed by Y-chromosome analysis, by Kayser M. et al:

To test for human population substructure and to investigate human population history we have analysed Y-chromosome diversity using seven microsatellites (Y-STRs) and ten binary markers (Y-SNPs) in samples from eight regionally distributed populations from Poland (n = 913) and 11 from Germany (n = 1,215). Based on data from both Y-chromosome marker systems, which we found to be highly correlated (r = 0.96), and using spatial analysis of the molecular variance (SAMOVA), we revealed statistically significant support for two groups of populations: (1) all Polish populations and (2) all German populations. … The same population differentiation was detected using Monmonier’s algorithm, with a resulting genetic border between Poland and Germany that closely resembles the course of the political border between both countries. The observed genetic differentiation was mainly, but not exclusively, due to the frequency distribution of two Y-SNP haplogroups and their associated Y-STR haplotypes: R1a1*, most frequent in Poland, and R1*(xR1a1), most frequent in Germany. We suggest here that the pronounced population differentiation between the two geographically neighbouring countries, Poland and Germany, is the consequence of very recent events in human population history, namely the forced human resettlement of many millions of Germans and Poles during and, especially, shortly after World War II.

And Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon genomes from East England reveal British migration history by Schiffels et al., h/t Steve Sailer

British population history has been shaped by a series of immigrations, including the early Anglo-Saxon migrations after 400 CE. … Here, we present whole-genome sequences from 10 individuals excavated close to Cambridge in the East of England, ranging from the late Iron Age to the middle Anglo-Saxon period. … we estimate that on average the contemporary East English population derives 38% of its ancestry from Anglo-Saxon migrations. … Using rarecoal we find that the Anglo-Saxon samples are closely related to modern Dutch and Danish populations, while the Iron Age samples share ancestors with multiple Northern European populations including Britain.

Are “Whites” Real?

Click for full size
From Haak et al.

I may have given the impression the other day that a “race” exists if and only if it shows up as a singel color (or almost a single color) on Haak’s graph. Certainly mon-=color groups satisfy the requirements for genetic distinctiveness, but mon-chronicity is not a requirement.

Homogeneity is more important than mono-chronicity.

For starters, the number of colors in certain parts of Haak’s graph pobably hhas more to do with the number of ancient skeletons that have been analyzed htan net common ancetry–as you can see from the left side of the graph, scientists have analyzed the genomes of numerous ancient European skeletons (all of which show continuity with modern European people,) but they’ve analyzed rather few ancient sub-Saharan skeletons. This isnt’ ebcause they dislike ancient sub-Saharan skeletons or anything, but because the DNA content breaks down very quickly in the Sub-Saharan environment. Many of the groups here identified as mono-chromatic or nearly mono-chromatic may begin showing up as multi-chromatic as our powers of analysis continue to develop and we learn more about ancient human migrations.

But back to homogeneity. Let’s take a look at the Japanese. (One of the Yellow/Red groups on the right side of the graph.) The Japanese genome, like most east-Asian peoples’, composed of two distinct colors. And in this case, we even have names for these two groups, the Jomon and Yayoi people (not to be confused with the Yanomami or Yamnaya.) (Maybe we should institute a system where all cultures are given a set of coordinates based on physical location and era. EG, the Jomon would be J-35N,139E-12,000BC. Okay, maybe that’s not an improvement for ordinary conversaton, though when I’m trying to look up a group like the Evens, it would be.)

But this does not mean that the “Japanese” possess a great deal of ethnic diversity. The Japanese people are fairly homogenous–notice that the border between red and yellow is very smooth. Almost every Japanese person has the exact same % of Jomon and Yayoi ancestry as every other Japanese person.

This is because the merger of the Jomon and Yayoi cultures happened a long time ago, and the modern Japanese are descended from a single, homogenous population. The Japanese are a single people.

By contrast, take a look at the Evens, a Siberian group, (E-62°N,153°E-Today.) There is no homogeneity in the Evens’ genomes; they are a very mixed group in which different individuals have vastly different genetic heritages. The Evens may exist as a cultural, ethic, or linguistic group, but genetically they are a bunch of different things. The Turks, likewise, have a very choppy profile, though in this case the anomaly is easy to figure out: some “Turks” are Greek. The Ojibwa, Nama, and Yukagir are all jagged–these are groups with a great deal of recent mixing, in which many individuals are not closely related to other group members or share much DNA with them at all.

Zooming back out, let’s take a general look at the European cultures. From Greece through Spain, southern France through Ukraine, we see a smooth, three-color pattern. The blue is perhaps most concentrated in Lithuania, the orange in the Basque, and the teal in Greeks. There is a bit of purple in the south and red in the north east. But overall, the pattern is found, with consistency and evenness, throughout Europe, and not found outside of Europe.

Yes, the borders of Europe are fuzzy–Turkey, the Caucasus, and a variety of steppe-peoples are obviously related to some of the same guys as Europeans. But these do not show the same pattern as the Europeans, and beyond these border zones, the resemblance disappears entirely.

 

So, yes, we may speak of the Orange/Blue/Teal people, and call the “Whites” or “Europeans” if we so desire. They are a real genetic grouping, just like the “Japanese” and the “East Asians” and the Onge.

 

Digit Ratios and Mutational Load

“Mutational load” is the idea that organisms contain some number of deleterious mutations. Some mutations will kill you outright, like the one for Tay-Sachs disease; some mutations greatly reduce your fitness but aren’t immediately lethal, like the inability to sweat; and some mutations are potentially problematic but mostly just kind of annoying, like colorblindness.

Random mutations happen all the time as a result of genetic transcription. The obviously bad ones tend to get weeded out of the population pretty quickly, but the ones with only a mild effect on fitness can stick around for a pretty long time. Under harshly Malthusian conditions where organisms compete for limited resources and danger and disease lurk at every turn, deleterious mutations will tend to get weeded out pretty quickly, but increase the food and decrease the danger/diseases, and a far larger % of your population will reproduce, including people who would previously have died.

One of the areas where mutational load seems to play a significant role is in IQ. I commented on a study n the subject back in “Is Genius Fragile?” While obviously a great variety of things go into determining one’s IQ, like whether you were in a good mood when you took the test and if your parents dropped you on your head as an infant, this particular study found that the major difference between extremely-high-IQ kids and normal-to-low-IQ people was that the normal-to-low people had a higher frequency of rare, slightly deleterious mutations. The lower the IQ, the more of these mutations.

Each mutation obviously has only a small effect–you could have several and still come out pretty smart. But to be one of the super smart kids, you had to basically be one of the lucky folks who escaped almost all of them.

IQ is interesting in another way: it is more variable in men than women. People make a big deal out of the greater preponderance of men than women at the very high end of the IQ distribution (especially math ability;) this is, we are frequently told, due to the pernicious evil effects of the patriarchy’s black-magic mind-control rays convincing women that they are bad at math. Strangely, however, we are never told that the opposite effect–the fact that the ranks of the intellectually retarded are also disproportionately male–is also due to the magical effects of the patriarchy.

BTW, if you think it is a problem that the evil patriarchy is preventing girls from getting math PhDs, but have no problem with boys being over-represented among the retarded, you are a horrible person.

No, it’s not the patriarchy. It’s the Y chromosome.

You see, because random unpleasant shit happens, like snake bites and random mutations, nature has built us with a fair amount of redundancy. If something happens to one of your eyes, you’ve still got the other. If something happens to one of your hands, you’ve got an extra. Etc. This is true on the genetic level, too, which is why you can survive even with small, fitness-reducing mutations.

But men have slightly less genetic redundancy than women, because they have an X and Y chromosome instead of two Xes. If a woman has a wonky mutation on one of her Xs, the other X may have a mutation that makes up for it. If a man has a wonky mutation on his X, his Y chromosome may have nothing to counteract it (and likewise, if there’s a wonky one on his Y, his X may have nothing to counteract it.)

Some mutations are good, some are bad, and some are neutral. Height is fairly neutral. The average man is taller than the average woman, but the spread from tallest men to shortest men is bigger than the spread from tallest women to shortest women. All women tend to cluster closer to the female average than men; there are both more “short men” and “tall men” than “short women” and “tall women.”

Likewise with IQ; there are both more male geniuses and retarded than female geniuses and retarded, most likely as a result of men having lower genetic redundancy to counteract the effects of mutational load.

On to digit ratios!

SlateStarCodex recently posted the results of the SSC/Less Wrong survey, which included digit ratios.

(To measure your digit ratios:

1. Place your right hand firmly on the plate of a photocopier or scanner with fingers straight. Close cover of place a sheet of paper over your hand to prevent glare from overhead lights. Ensure that the bottom crease and finger tip can be clearly seen in the photocopy.

2. Use a ruler or calipers to measure the distance from the middle of the bottom crease to the tip of the finger to the nearest hundredth of a centimeter.

3. Once you have the measures for both your ring and index finger, then divide the length of your index finger by the length of your ring finger. The result is 2D:4D (2nd digit divided by 4th digit).

If possible, please give three digits – for example, 0.915. Some people may have digit ratios slightly greater than 1, which is okay.)

Inspired, the husband and I decided to measure ours, too. Since we didn’t have a photocopier on hand, and were lazy, we just used a common tape measure. We measured both hands and checked each other’s work, but both of our hands came out identical.

I got a ratio of 0.971, he got 0.957.

(Note that the closer the ratio is to 1, the closer your fingers are to being the same length. The further the ratio is from one, the further apart your finger lengths are.)

Scott notes that the average male digit ratio in his survey was 0.972; the average female digit ratio was 0.975.

According to Wikipedia, a study of 136 males and 137 females at the University of Alberta found:[17]

  • Males: mean 0.947, standard deviation 0.029.
  • Females: mean 0.965, standard deviation 0.026.

People have taken to calling lower digit ratios (further from one) more “masculine,” and higher digit ratios (closer to one) more “feminine.” Which leads to the question of why all of these Rationalist math-nerds, whose community is definitely majority male and whose field is regarded as a stereotypically “Male” thing, should all have such overwhelmingly girly hands.

My first thought was that math nerds are effeminate. Which they are, for certain definitions of effeminate. But mathy women tend to be kind of masculine, which isn’t what this data shows. My second thought was that femininity/masculinity may be additive rather than subtractive–that is, having an extra unit of “masculinity” doesn’t necessarily mean someone must therefore lack a unit of “femininity” in a directly linear fashion. Some people could be very low in both femininity and masculinity, or high in both.

My third thought was that maybe measuring digit ratios is too complicated by measurement error and bias and random noise due to things like “how do your fingers crease?” and “did you actually use a copy machine?” A LOT of social science research doesn’t replicate at all.

My fourth thought was that a large difference between one’s finger lengths sounds a lot like physical asymmetry–which is caused (among other things) by mutational load.

Symmetry has long been recognized as one of the things people look for in a mate. Asymmetric faces (and bodies) are deemed less attractive than symmetric ones. Symmetry is a sign of good health, good lifetime nutrition, few parasites, and low mutational load. Asymmetry is a sign of things gone wrong.

Men display more of the effects of mutational load due to their Y chromosomes, so we’d expect to see a wider range of male digit ratios than female ones–which is indeed what the Alberta study found. Really dumb men probably have very different digit lengths, while really smart men trend toward even fingers. Women, because of their two X chromosomes, are probably just less likely to have really uneven fingers (just as they are less likely to be really dumb.)

The Slate Star Codex and Less Wrong cohorts, on the other end of the spectrum, are very smart people in whom we would expect to see lower mutational load.

The latest study I read on autism found that sufferers have a higher mutational load than the background population; while such an explanation is less fun than “autistics are secret math geniuses,” it is sensible. At any rate, if so, we should find a correlation between autism and divergent digit ratios, which the SSC/LW survey did. (Why autistics tend to be male should be immediately obvious.)

Likewise, if homosexuality is caused by some kind of genetic or parasitic agent, we would expect it to correlate with digit divergence. According to the Wikipedia, lesbians have more divergent digits than heterosexual women, but the jury is still out on gay men.

Interestingly, Wikipedia reports that the Han Chinese (who score very well on IQ tests,) have very even fingers, and that the Jamaicans (who do not do so well on IQ tests,) have very divergent ratios. (However, like much of this digit ratio research, I regard this as speculative.)

Of course, like height, there my also be an androgenic effect, such that men are supposed to (for whatever reasons) have slightly different digit ratios than women. After all, even the SSC/LW sample had more divergent ratios for the men than the women, even though the whole SSC/LW population probably has about equal mutational loads (having been pre-selected for high IQ, which = low mutational load.)

 

Species of Exit: Pilgrims, Memes, and Genes (Part 2/3 ruminations on Puritans and Indians)

Part 1: Oppression is in the Eye of the Beholder; part 3: The Attempt to Convert the Indians to Memetic Puritanism

The Puritans really get a bad rap these days. “The Pilgrims” get favorable treatment in some children’s books, but “the Puritans” are lucky to get a neutral description anywhere, much less a positive one. Much of the time they described in outright hostile terms, as bad people who oppressed women and children and nature and the Indians and so on and so forth.

Much of that is basically true, but what those accounts tend to leave out is that pretty much every other group on Earth was also terrible by modern standards.

You ever wonder what happened to Roanoke colonists? Chief Powhatan told Captain John Smith that he’d killed them all. Why? The colonists had gone to live with another Indian tribe in the area, Powhatan and his soldiers attacked and slaughtered that tribe for local tribal politics reasons.

As I’ve said before, hunter-gatherers (and low-scale agriculturalists) were not peaceful paragons of gender equality.

To be clear: the Roanoke (and Jamestown) settlers were not Puritans. Totally different group. I’m just commenting here on the behavior of the Powhatans, who massacred their neighbors, including the Jamestown settlers themselves (an attack that left a quarter of them dead.)

But if you pick up a children’s book about Pocahontas, do you read how the Powhatan people massacred the Roanoke colony and later tried to wipe out Jamestown? Or do you read about how the Powhatan loved nature so much they were constantly surrounded by a chorus of singing birds and magic trees?

Do you ever read a story about the Puritans in which they are surrounded by magical choruses?

I am picking on the Powhatans because they come up in the relevant literature, even though they had nothing to do with the Puritans. I could just as easily talk about the Killing Fields of Cambodia; ISIS; or folks like King Gezo and Madam Efunroye Tinubu, who became wealthy selling people into slavery and didn’t hesitate to slaughter hundreds of slaves for religious sacrifices.

History (and the modern world) has a lot of groups in it I wouldn’t want to live in or near. The Puritans, by contrast, are downright pleasant. When everyone else kept telling them their religion was annoying, they politely moved away from everyone else so they could go about their business peacefully. They were never much involved in the slave trade, worked hard, attempted to lead virtuous lives, taught their children to read, and even established schools for the Indians so they could learn to read.

So who were the Puritans?

Puritan Genetics

These four pictures all came from Jayman’s Maps of the American Nations posts, which are all inspired by Colin Woodard’s book, American Nations, which I should probably read:

1.17136

Here we have a map showing genetic clusters in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Eastern England obviously has the most red, a product of Anglo-Saxon admixture. (Note that the A-S component isn’t a majority, even here.) Western England is more varied, showing less of the Anglo Saxon and more of the old Celtic (or perhaps pre-Celtic) bloodlines, simply because the Anglo Saxons et al landed on the south eastern shore and spread inward from there, leaving a fringe of less mixed native people on the western (and, obviously, northern) side of the Island. (Note also that “Celtic” is not a homogenous group, but more of a catch-all for everyone who just doesn’t have a lot of A-S.) Cornwall, Wales, eastern and northern England, and the English/Scottish border region all show up quite distinctly on this map.

uk-origins3

And here we see where people from each region headed. They did not move randomly, but shipped off with their friends and families, aiming for places where people like them were already established. The Jamestown settlers, as I mentioned before, were not Puritans; they were in it for the economic opportunities and hailed largely from the western side of the island.

The Puritans hailed from the east side of the island, the Anglo-Saxon zone, but obviously were not a random assortment even here, as they were members of a relatively small religious sect that wasn’t all that well tolerated by the other locals. Personality wise, they remind me a lot of the Dutch (and not just because they lived in Holland for a few years.)

wood_landing

Here we can see where the various groups landed and then spread. The Puritans arrived in Massachusetts in 1620 and spread quickly:

 

Jayman's map of the American Nations

to their fairly reliable present locations.

The Wikipedia claims that in contrast to the Jamestown colony, which was largely populated by men hoping to get rich, the Puritans consisted of a more even mix of men, women, and children who intended to raise children and build a civilization, a “Shining city upon a hill.”

 

Puritan Memes

The Puritans basically believed that god wanted them to run their lives via a joint-stock corporation with a semi-democratically elected board of directors.

Religiously, Puritanism is the kind of movement you’d expect from the Little Ice Age. They hated nice-looking churches, fancy decorations, and, one suspects, anything that smacked too much of “fun,” all of which they associated with their hated enemies, people who had insufficiently purged themselves of all vestiges of Catholicism. Their idea of a “good time” was attending church in a plain wooden building, then having a sedate meeting at home to discuss the sermons. (Anne Hutchinson got banished for hosting insufficiently sedate sermon discussions, after which the Puritans attempted to generally crack down on women enjoying church too much.)

Basically, the Puritans were trying to route religion through the logic parts of the brain. I don’t know if this is just because they had some other reason to hate Catholics, because they simply wanted to be rational about their religion, or if they just lacked the basic impulse toward irrational emotional experiences and so found ritual inherently strange and repellant.

Whatever the reasons for their attempt at striping down their religion to its barest, calmest bones, I suspect that religious belief is dependent on emotional rather than rational experiences, and thus attempts to conduct religion “rationally,” no matter how well-intentioned, quickly result in atheism. Ritual, symbolism, mysticism, and other altered, transcendent states instill an overwhelming sense of divine presence that mere logic cannot match.

By the 1660s, just 40 years after the Pilgrims had landed, the Puritan churches were undergoing a bit of a crisis due to the children and grandchildren of the original Puritans just not being as into church as their forefathers.

This is not much of a surprise; when it comes to breeding for particular traits, one must always deal with regression to the mean. The original stock of New World Puritans consisted of people who were so concerned about the English government not doing enough to root out the last few vestiges of Catholicism from the Church of England that they decided to risk death so they could start a new community on the other side of the ocean. Their children and grandchildren, having regressed a bit toward the religious mean, were not quite so devout.

This is a pattern I see among super-religious people today; they try their very hardest to pass on their religious fervor, but their children rarely turn out as religious as their parents.

Today, the Puritan church has morphed into the basically atheist Unitarian Universalist Church and the United Church of Christ, which promotes, “liberal views on social issues, such as civil rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights, and abortion rights,” and practices open communion (that is, anyone can walk in and take communion; you don’t have to be an official member of their church like you do in Catholicism.)

The Puritans haven’t quite shaken the habit of attending church, even though they stopped believing in all of this “god” business long ago.

What else made the Puritans Puritans?

One thing I have noticed about Yanks is their almost compulsive drive to create organizations. (I swear, these people cannot hang out and watch TV together without establishing a set of by-laws and a treasury to handle snack funds.)

The Puritan colonies were not just a random assortment of huts tossed up on Massachusetts’s shores. They were company towns set up by joint-stock corporations like the London Company, Plymouth Company, and most famously, the Dutch East India Corporation, which preceded the London Company by about 4 years, making the Dutch the first people to use joint-stock corporations for international trade and settlement, which is why the whole business strikes me as so very Dutch.

I wrote about the development of these joint stock corporations and their importance in the history of the United States and Europe back in Les Miserables.

The original British and Dutch colonies of Jamestown, New York, Plymouth, etc., were literally corporations whose purpose was to make money for their stock holders by harvesting timber (England had cut down pretty much all of its trees and was reduced to burning mud and rocks,) growing tobacco, and carrying on trade with the Indians. In practical terms, this was the only way the Puritans could get the funding necessary to buy the boats and supplies they needed to get from England to New England.

Wikipedia has an interesting description of how these corporations came to be:

“On April 10, 1606 King James I of England (James VI of Scotland) granted a charter forming two joint stock companies. … Under this charter the “first Colony” and the “second Colony” each were to be ruled by a “Council” composed of 13 individuals. The charter provided for an additional council of 13 persons to have overarching responsibility for the combined enterprise. Although no name was given to either the company or council governing the respective colonies, the council governing the whole was named “Council of Virginia.”

“The investors appointed to govern over any settlements in the “first Colony” were from London; the investors appointed to govern over any settlements in the “second Colony” were from the “Town of Plimouth in the County of Devon.”[citation needed] The London Company proceeded to establish Jamestown.[5] The Plymouth Company under the guidance of Sir Ferdinando Gorges covered the more northern area, including present-day New England, and established the Sagadahoc Colony in 1607 in present-day Maine.[6]”

(The Maine colony failed.)

Different colonies probably differed in how they handled the exact details of administration, but the general gist of things is that the Puritans believed that democracy was divinely ordained by John Calvin. Adult males who were formal members of the Puritan Church and had been “sponsored by an existing freeman and accepted by the General Court” (wikipedia) were allowed to vote for the colony’s governors.

Despite a deeply held religious conviction that they should work hard and build the best joint-stock corporation they could, the early Puritans had a very rough time of it in the New World and a great many of them died, which had a major negative impact on profits for the first few years. The investors in the Plymouth Colony decided to cut their losses in 1627, and sold the colony to the colonists, at which point they were technically an independent republic. The Massachusetts Bay company followed a similar path, first by relocating their annual stockholders meeting from England to Massachusetts, and then by buying out the remaining non-Massachusetts residents’ stock shares.

The British at this time were content to basically ignore the colonies (aside from the 10,000 or so who emigrated,) until after the English Civil War, when the newly restored king decided he was going to take over the colonies and rule them himself. Of course, you know how that eventually ended; the Puritans were too numerically dominant in their area and 1700s tech still too limited for Great Britain to control them for long.

 

As for daily life in the colonies, once they got the houses insulated and the crops growing, it wasn’t nearly so bad. There was plenty of land to till, child mortality was low, interpersonal violence was low, and the people seem to have been basically happy and productive.

I spent a while trying to decide whether the Puritans or the Jamestown colonists were more “liberal,” and eventually decided that “liberal” and “conservative” are meaningless, at least in this context. Virginia produced democracy-loving deists like Jefferson, whereas the Puritans were, well, Puritans. Jamestown has been block-voting with the rest of the South pretty much since George Washington retired (and probably before Washington was even born), and Plymouth Colony has voted against Jamestown in almost every election, so we should probably just chalk the political divide up to “ethnic differences dating back to the Anglo-Saxon and Norman conquests of Britain” and leave it at that.

Previously: Oppression is in the Eye of the Beholder (Part 1); next up: The Attempt to Convert the Indians to Memetic Puritanism

Christianity and the Rise of the Art Instinct

I think there’s a book by the title of “The Art Instinct.” I haven’t read it.If anyone knows of any good sources re human genetics, art, and history, I’d be grateful.

As far as I know, some kind of art exists in all human populations–even Neanderthals and other non-AM primates like homo Erectus, I think, appear to have had occasional instances of some form of art. (I am skeptical of claims that dolphins, elephants, and chimps have any real ability to do art, as they do not to my knowledge produce art on their own in their natural habitats; you can also teach a gorilla to speak in sign language, but it would be disingenuous to suggest that this is something that gorillas naturally do.)

However, artistic production is clearly not evenly distributed throughout the planet. Even when we only consider societies that had good access to other societies’ inventions and climates that didn’t destroy the majority of art within a few years of creation, there’s still a big difference in output. Europe and China are an obvious comparison; both regions have created a ton of beautiful art over the years, and we are lucky enough that much of it has been preserved. But near as I can tell, Europeans have produced more. (People in the Americas, Australia, etc., did not have historical access to Eurasian trade routes and so had no access to the pigments and paints Europeans were using, but people in the Middle East and China did.)

Europeans did not start out with a lot of talent; Medieval art is pretty shitty. European art was dominated by pictures of Jesus and Mary to an extent that whole centuries of it are boring as fuck. Even so, they produced a lot of it–far more than the arguably more advanced cultures of the Middle East, where drawing people was frowned upon, and so painting and sculpture had a difficult time getting a foothold.

I speculate that during this thousand years or so of shitty art, the Catholic Church and other buyers of religious paintings effectively created a market that otherwise wouldn’t have existed otherwise (especially via their extensive taxation scheme that meant all of Europe was paying for the Pope to have more paintings. The (apparently insatiable) demand for religious paintings meant employment for a lot of artists, which in turn meant the propagation of whatever genes make people good at art (as well as whatever cultural traits.) After 700 or a thousand years or so, we finally see the development of art that is actually good–art that suggests some extraordinary talent on the part of the artist.

I further speculate that Chinese art has been through a similar but slightly less extensive process, due to less historical demand, due to the historical absence of an enormous organization with lots of money interested in buying lots of art. Modern life may provide very different incentives, of course.

Thus the long period of tons of boring art may have been a necessary precursor to the development of actually good art.

Without ethnicity, religious identity disappears. (part 3)

Without ceremony, religion is empty.

Without children, it’s pointless.

Without a strong sense of ethnicity, religious identity disappears.

This is part 3 of a series on the Rise of Atheism. Parts 1 and 2 are here.

 

Different religions exist because different cultures exist. (Culture, of course, is just another word for ethnicity.)

There’s not a whole lot of difference between what Jews, Christians, and Muslims officially believe–we’re talking about a couple of prophets and whether or not one guy is the Messiah. Heck, some Jews think/thought Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson was the Messiah, but no one considers these folks not Jewish. Mormons are polytheistic, but they still consider themselves Christian.

There’s no particular reason–theologically speaking–to consider the three separate religions at all. We only do so because the adherents of these religions insist on it. In fact, just try suggesting to a Jew or Muslim that their religion is practically indistinguishable from the other’s and see how they react. While you are at it, try suggesting to a Pakistani that Urdu is actually just a dialect of Hindi.

The big difference between Muslims, Jews, and Christians is that they are different ethnic groups–Muslims marry Muslims, Christians marry Christians, and Jews–actually, Jews are marrying non-Jews at a tremendous rate, but I bet that’s mostly atheist Jews. Religious Jews still favor other Jews.

In short, religion is ethnicity.

This works as long as you believe your own culture/ethnicity actually exists. If you stop believing that your culture exists, well, you stop believing in the individual bits of it, too. Note that you can have a culture without being particularly aware of it–different American groups definitely have distinct cultures, but aren’t particularly aware of it.

Catholics marry other Catholics and Lutherans marry other Lutherans under the assumption that there is something that it means to be a Catholic instead of a Lutheran. If you regard Catholics and Lutherans as basically identical, then you have no particular reason to marry one or another or even identify as one or another. You just become a generalized “Christian.” And if you stop seeing much difference between Christians and other god-believing folks, then why bother with that distinction? Aren’t you all just theists?

Next thing you know, you’re attending the Unitarian Universalist church, being preached to by an explicitly atheist minister about the wonders of global harmony. Which is fine if you like that sort of thing.

Note that in the graph a posted a few weeks ago:

 

Millennials increasingly are driving growth of ‘nones’
Millennials increasingly are driving growth of ‘nones’

Protestants, Evangelicals, and Catholics have all lost a third to half their members over the generations, but Historically Black Churches have not. Blacks still see themselves as a coherent ethnic group, with strong church affiliation. Whites with some form of ethnic identity also still tend to attend church (or synagogue.) But whites who have effectively lost their ethnic identity do not.

White Americans have generally lost much of their ethnic identity because “white” is not an identity whites like to promote (“white pride” is generally regarded as offensive,) and few of them have much in the way of memories of their grandparents or great-grandparents who might have immigrated from some other country.

I myself am descended from 12 or 13 different ethnic groups, and have to go back to the early 1700s before I find an immigrant in my family tree. (And since some of my ancestors were Indians, I can take the “American” line back as far as science will let me.) Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised to find some other immigrants in the 1800s, but I haven’t yet–despite a fair amount of research, reading family histories compiled by my grandparents, etc. At this point, the most accurate thing I can say is that my ancestors came from the American South.

Without any strong ethnic identity, people stop identifying with any particular church. And the endpoint of that is atheism.

Hey, DNA: What is it good for?

So why do we still have bits of Neanderthal DNA hanging around after so many years? Of course it could just be random junk, but it’s more fun to think that it might be useful.

And the obvious useful thing for it to do is climate adaptation, since Neanderthals had been living in dark, cold, ice-age Europe for much longer than the newly-arrived h. Sapiens, and so might have had some adaptations to help deal with it.

Okay, so here is something related I was reading the other day, that I consider pretty interesting. So it looks like the people who live up on the Tibetan Plateau (like the Tibetans,) are really well-adapted to the altitude. No mean feat, considering that other populations who live at similar altitudes don’t seem to be as well-adjusted, despite living up there for similar lengths of time.

Well, now it appears that the Tibetans have actually been living in Tibet for waaaay longer than expected, because the original h. Sapiens who moved into Tibet intermarried with archaic hominids who had already lived there for hundreds of thousands of years, and so probably picked up their altitude adaptations from those guys.

BTW, “species” is a social construct and you probably shouldn’t bother with it here.

So what kind of useful stuff might we have picked up from Neanderthals?

First I’d like to interject that I still find declarations of “aha, we got this gene from Neanderthals and it does this!” to be speculative and prone to changing. All of the articles I’ve read tend to report the same list of stuff in a similar fashion, so I suspect they’re all workign off one or two sources, which makes everything doubly sketchy. So we’re going in here with a big “if” this is true…

Some of the results are fairly boring, like Neanderthal DNA affecting hair and skin. We already speculate that skin tone helps us deal with sunlight levels, so that’s sensible.

More interesting is the claim that Neanderthal DNA may predispose people to Type-2 Diabetes and depression.

Now why the hell would it do that? It’s probably not *just* random–after all, large stretches of DNA have little to no Neanderthal admixture at all, suggesting that genes in those spots just weren’t useful, so why would we have retained such apparently negative traits?

Maybe, like sickle cell anemia, these things actually have a positive function–at least in the right environments.

I read a fascinating theory a few years ago that Type 2 Diabetes and Seasonal Affective Disorder are actually just part of our bodies’ natural mechanisms for dealing with winter. Basically, you’re supposed to eat plants and get fat all summer long, while plants are available, and then by winter, your ability to absorb more glucose shuts down (there’s no point since the plants are all dead) and you switch over to burning ketones instead and eating an all-mammoth diet.

(Some groups, like the Inuit and Masai, historically [and may today still] survived on diets that included virtually no plants and so ran all of their cellular energy needs through the ketogenic instead of the glucose system.)

During this winter time, humans, like other animals, slowed down and semi-hibernated to save energy and because why the fuck not, it’s dark and no one has invented lightbulbs, yet.

By spring, you’ve lost a lot of weight, the plants come back, and so does your ability to use glucose.

This theory is laid out in the book Lights Out by T. S. Wiley, if you’re curious. I thought it was a really interesting book, but you might just think it’s all crank, I dunno.

Anyway, a big hole in Wiley’s plot is how we actually got this adaptation in the first place, since it’s a pretty complicated one and h. Sapiens hasn’t actually been living in places with winter for all that long. Wiley just claims that it’s a deep internal mechanism that animals have, which always struck me as kinda bunk because why would a species that evolved in Africa, from other animals in Africa, etc., probably going back for million upon millions of years, have some sort of complicated system like this still functional in its genome? A trait that is not undergoing positive selective pressure is probably going to become non-functional pretty quickly. But the theory was cool enough otherwise to ignore this bit, so I’ve kept it around.

Right, so here’s the (potential) answer: h. Sapiens didn’t have this adaptation hiding deep inside of them, Neanderthals had it. Neanderthals had been living in cold places for way, way longer than h. Sapiens, and by inter-breeding with them, we got to take advantage of a bunch of cold-weather adaptations they’d developed over that time frame–thus getting a jump-start on evolving to cope with the weather.

At any rate, if Wiley is correct, and SAD and Type-2 Diabetes are actually part of a dealing with winter complex that benefited our cold-weather ancestors, then that wold explain why these genes would have persisted over the years instead of being bred out.

An easy way to test this would be to compare rates of Type-2 Diabetes and SAD among African immigrants to Europe/other wintery latitudes, African Americans (who have a small amount of Euro admixture,) and Europeans. (Watching out, of course, for Vit D issues.) If the Euros have more SAD and Type-2 Diabetes than Africans living at the same latitude, then those would appear to be adaptations to the latitude. If the Africans have more, then my theory fails.