April 12, 2007

From C. Paull (cyn p aul @co mcast.net):

Re: Human evolution, radically reappraised (March 26): I don’t know if it’s the fault of the people conducting the study themselves, or your editors, but your article reeked of scientific ignorance, dishonesty, and outright idiocy. Your article made rings and rounds among far right and racist/racialist blogs and websites- do you think this is good? At all? I’ll just point them out.

“The pro­pos­al is “truly fas­ci­nat­ing,” wrote Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go ge­net­i­cist Bruce Lahn in an e­mail. He was­n’t in­volved in the work, though he did con­duct ear­li­er re­search find­ing that ev­o­lu­tion may still be on­go­ing in the brain.”

Lahn’s “research” has actually been shown to be outright wrong:


Aside from the fact that it exhibited substantial lack of knowledge- although this being little known, and I’ll detail it later- about the dynamics of the human brain, it didn’t make any sense to begin with. How could such minute alleles be involved with things like agriculture and art? What diffrentiated this from early exhibitions of abstract though? It even showed large disparities among ethnic groups where it was found in high frequencies, and some of the genes were completely absent in Vietnamese and Cambodians, yet having their highest frequencies in native americans and papuans.

This is where the outright bullsh*t comes in.

“Hawks and Cochran an­a­lyzed mea­sure­ments of skulls from Eu­rope, Jor­dan, Nu­bia, South Af­ri­ca, and Chi­na in the past 10, 000 years, a pe­ri­od known as the Hol­o­cene era. They al­so stud­ied Eu­ro­pean and West Asian skulls from the end of the Pleis­to­cene era, which lasted from two mil­lion years ago un­til the Hol­o­cene. “A con­stel­la­tion of fea­tures” changed across the board, Hawks and Cochran wrote in their pres­en­ta­tion. “Hol­o­cene changes were si­m­i­lar in pat­tern and. . . faster than those at the archaic-mod­ern tran­si­tion,” the time when so-called mod­ern hu­mans ap­peared. But these changes “them­selves were rap­id com­pared to ear­li­er hom­i­nid ev­o­lu­tion.” Ho­mi­n­ids are a fam­i­ly of pri­mates that in­cludes hu­mans and their ex­tinct, more ape-like though up­right-walk­ing an­ces­tors and rel­a­tives.”

The person who wrote this article didn’t even clarify what “features” Hawks and Cochran were reffering to- but if it’s that of skull features, so what? When one looks into the heritability of various physical and biochemical variables of the human body, you’ll realize something- there’s really few fixed physical differences that exist among human ethnic groups. How is a rapid change in cranial features an example of accelerating human evolution? All this is saying is that the genetic structures that control for these features changed quickly- which isn’t uncommon, at all, in humans.

It’s been observed among native americans, it’s been observed among australian aborigines- they’re southeast asians, the single most divergent human ethnic group on Earth, yet they carry many physical features common to archaic humans and extinct hominids. Is this just one of the many examples of Hawks and Cochran’s ignorance?

Hawks and Cochran al­so ana­lyzed past ge­net­ic stud­ies to es­ti­mate the rate of prod­uction of genes that un­der­go pos­i­tive se­lec­tion-that is, genes that spread be­cause they are ben­e­fi­cial. “The rate of gene­ration of pos­i­tively se­lected genes has in­creased as much as a hun­dred­fold dur­ing the past 40,000 years,” they wrote.

Um. So this is their big proof? This has been known for a very long time, and it says nothing of the big question which all of this vexes on- the idea that some human ethnic groups could have fixed, differing brain structure. Racial differences. This is just saying that the frequency of phenotypes and selective genes has increased in frequencies, but what does this even prove? It’s a fact, a blatant one, that major structural differences in the brains of primates- hominids especially- take the onset of 1 million years or more. Atleast from what we can interpret from the archaeological data. Then you have to take into account the exertion of phenotypic pressures upon particular traits, and well. . . . Our species has been transisting constantly for such a short period of time. The time we’ve been migrating out of africa is minute.

A “thing that should prob­a­bly wor­ry peo­ple is that brains have been get­ting smaller for 20,000 to 30,000 years,” said Coch­ran. But brain size and in­tel­li­gence aren’t tightly linked, he added. Also, growth in more ad­vanced brain ar­eas might have made up for the shrinkage, Coch­ran said; he spec­u­lated that an al­most break­neck ev­o­lu­tion of high­er fore­heads in some peo­ples may re­flect this. A study in the Jan. 14 Brit­ish Den­tal Jour­nal found such a trend vis­i­ble in Eng­land in just the past mil­len­ni­um, he noted, a mere eye­blink in ev­o­lu­tionary time.

And here’s the biggest idiocy, and while I guess Hawks and Cochran can be exscused, here it is:


Fun fact: Brain size varies substantially within ethnic groups, it correlates only by. 20 with IQ (in men), and gains in IQ would invariably result in gains in brain growth- this being well established by the effects of omega-3 and breastfeeding on brain development, along with that of malnutrition and proper nutrition, and the fact that the heritability of IQ rises with age- basically saying that environmental effects on IQ become lessened as someone’s brain matures.

So Hawks and Cochran commit insane levels of scientific ignorance with this. If the distribution of mental faculties involved with intelligence somehow changed so radically in the span of a few thousand years- which is outright impossible- wouldn’t this be blatantly apparent in some sort of correlationary study? BTW, I’ve known of these prehistoric populations- they’ve been observed all over the globe. They were found in early archaic humans, along with Homo Sapiens Idaltu, both having cranial capacities in the mid 1, 500’s. In fact, such populations have been observed at high frequencies among Papuan tribal peoples (just look at photos- some of them have strikingly large heads) and a few isolated regions of Australia. Nobody knows for sure what causes this. This stupidity also reminds me of a study that came out amidst the controversy over Lahn’s work- some people hypothesized that the APSM genes came from interbreeding with neanderthals. I’ll say it- that idea is completely retarded. Humans exceeding neanderthal brain size are very common, and neanderthals are definately a distinct species- and don’t they see anything unethical about basically saying that europeans, north africans, middle easterners, and indians aren’t fully human?

Cochran... spec­u­lated that an al­most break­neck ev­o­lu­tion of high­er fore­heads in some peo­ples may re­flect this. A study in the Jan. 14 Brit­ish Den­tal Jour­nal found such a trend vis­i­ble in Eng­land in just the past mil­len­ni­um, he noted, a mere eye­blink in ev­o­lu­tionary time. . . . .

Oh god. How can this have even been published via peer review? High foreheads aren’t anywhere near of an indicator of evolutionary status. This feature varies profoundly within ethnic groups, and orangutans have surprisingly high foreheads despite being a “lower” species of ape. The brain basically molds to fit into the way the skull grows, so no, people with lower foreheads aren’t less intelligent.

What­ever the imp­li­ca­tions of the recent findings, McKee added, they high­light a ubiq­ui­tous point about ev­o­lu­tion: “every spe­cies is a tran­si­tion­al spe­cies.”

Yes- these changes they found say nothing about rapid human evolution. And again, what does rapid physical changes prove? I’m very, very sorry if I came off as rude- but I’m just appalled at how poor this study and article were, and how it was so quickly abused by far right groups. Is there anyway to even contact Cochran and Hawks?


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