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Ancient DNA Revises Prehistory

Posted by $ jlc 7 years ago to Science
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Matt Ridley is a British rationalist who is economically conservative and socially liberal and who has a telling sense of humor. He has written a number of books - Genome was best selling, I believe - on science, history, and optimism. His blog (Rational Optimist) is one that I follow.

The linked article has a great discussion of how analyzing the DNA from ancient bones has revised how we think world history actually happened. The short version: There are no natives (except African Bushmen - info from a separate source).

Jan
SOURCE URL: http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/ancient-dna-makes-pre-history-an-open-book.aspx


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  • Posted by $ puzzlelady 7 years ago
    Bravo, fascinating breakthroughs in understanding more of our development. So many emergent capabilities appear to be recent, a few thousand years. Progress looks to be galloping forward asymptotically. Matt Ridley explores those ideas in his TED talk, "When Ideas Have Sex." http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_ridley_whe... -- Our brains are the main engine of progress. Perhaps not too far into the future, I'm optimistic, most humanity will be rational. Thank you, Jan, for posting this. Mind candy to the max.
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    • Posted by $ 7 years ago
      I do not know if most people will ever become rational. I am optimistic in general...but that is pretty darn far outside of what I think is plausible. Hmmm - perhaps if there were further planets to colonize, we could subset the more rational folks a few additional times and end up with a subculture where rationality was the default.

      I am quite fond of that TED talk - mind candy, as you say, puzzlelady.

      Jan
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      • Posted by $ puzzlelady 7 years ago
        Take heart, Jan -- the brain is the final frontier. It is our next stage of evolution, I feel certain. Look: you exist, I exist, the Gulch pulls in a bunch more, and Ayn Rand has left us a blueprint. The template is ready. We have poets and painters and writers and anthropological biologists. The bad stuff is only a temporary aberration.
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  • Posted by philosophercat 7 years ago
    Thanks for the link. It is also interesting to see how recent the dates are in his piece. Humans as a species, Homo sapiens, were established some 200,00-300,000 years ago. Yet what we consider as "human" traits are recent, cave painting, metal working, farming, domestication of dogs, animal husbandry, language etc. are all recent. Why were humans genetically intact at least 150,000 years ago but only become "human" in behavior recently. Maybe it not in our genes but in learned volitional behavior, one innovative person at a time.
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    • Posted by $ 7 years ago
      That is certainly possible - the 'technology of civilization'. We forget how SLOWLY things changed for thousands and thousands of years. It may have taken a few hundred thou to accrete enough habits to become civilized. (It is also possible that the signs of civilization were just very labile early on, and did not survive. These answers are not mutually incompatible, note.)

      Jan
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      • Posted by philosophercat 7 years ago
        Jan not only slowly but, and this is my point, we did it ourselves. Humans learning to form words from grunts and build homes from stuff is the incredible tale of human achievement and all our minds at work. Ayn Rand was right, we should be proud.
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        • Posted by $ 7 years ago
          It has only been in the last few generations where a man could not teach his son (and a woman her daughter) 'all the skills he needed to know for his work and his life'. How you plow, wash, cook, communicate...now it is the sons and daughters who have to teach their parents.

          Jan
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        • Posted by $ 7 years ago
          And you are right, pcat. We Should be proud. Are you as tired of self-depreciation of ourselves and our species as I am?

          Jan, rereading
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          • Posted by philosophercat 7 years ago
            Yes and I need the sense of optimism in the world. Thanks for being a part of it.
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            • Posted by $ 7 years ago
              We have overcome so many obstacles in the course of our evolution to become the apex predator of the world (on land, by ourselves; to beat orcas we have to use tech). We have had to invent challenges that our Paleolithic minds could not have imagined: space, for example. Or this: http://www.xkcd.com/1520/

              I have not despaired of defeating socialism. It will be difficult; it will take time. It can be done. It is fun to be here, is it not?

              Jan
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  • Posted by Owlsrayne 7 years ago
    This author has it right! Even though civilization is much older. Because of various catastrophes that have changed our world homo sapien civilization could go back 100k years. It will take other accidental archeological discoveries to really discover who we are. I really hope this happens soon so the Ancient Alien Theorist can go back in the closet.
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  • Posted by $ jdg 7 years ago
    Everyone who calls for more enforcement of immigration laws should be referred to this post.
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    • Posted by $ 7 years ago
      This is why the American Indians do not want this information to be generally known. Part of their intellectual scaffolding is that they were the actual natives of this continent and we Europeans were the invaders. Realizing that they were just another invader, eventually succeeded by European invaders removes their sense of righteousness.

      This does not mean that the American Indians did not own the land, any less than it means that our Anglo Saxon ancestors did not own their lands, but it does change the topic from one of innate purity ("we were the first") to one of ownership ("we owned it at the moment you came here").

      Jan
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    • Posted by johnpe1 7 years ago
      I contend that immigration is NOT about migration,
      but instead about welcoming guests to MY home. -- j
      .
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      • Posted by $ 7 years ago
        I generally agree with you - but see my reply to jdg for a slight slant on the issue. In some way, the realization that we have all taken land from someone else over the millennia removes some elements of righteousness and makes the conversation about ownership.

        Jan (any Bushmen on this list are excepted from the above remark)
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        • Posted by johnpe1 7 years ago
          Janet, my wife and I built this house -- with the help
          of hundreds of others -- in 2003, 4 and 5, moving in
          for our first night's sleep in Feb of 5. . we are in a
          physical gulch. . we have adt and other things. . the
          outside world is held at bay intentionally, since we
          actually think that we are charged with the requirement
          to sustain and guard this place as a haven for our
          little family and precious friends. . it seems to us
          that, for our little chunk of time, the family is the
          foundation for our social world, and that the nation
          would benefit from others thinking this way.

          we branch out from here in action and thought,
          but the foundation is here. . we are u.s. defenders
          and protagonists for reason. . for example, one of
          our best friends is currently asleep in the guest
          bedroom. . voting with our bucks. . extending our
          little family. . loving life selectively.

          while we have this situation, isn't this the way to
          look at building the future? . selective love for those
          admitted to the close-in space? -- j, maybe a bushman
          .
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  • Posted by $ Thoritsu 7 years ago
    We need a reservation for these ancient peoples to preserve their ways, like bingo and blackjack!

    Kidding of course. Thanks for the interesting information.
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  • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 7 years ago
    As the Seminole said to the Aleut. Why don't you newcomers go back to where ever you came from.
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    • Posted by $ jdg 7 years ago
      That would be ironic as well as hypocritical. The Seminole were not an original native tribe, they were formed by runaway slaves after the Spanish settled Florida.
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      • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 7 years ago
        whoops on choosing Seminole. However the tribal wars in North America were much like those on every other continent at every period in time. For a while there was some moral high ground for the first time in recorded history reference Monroe Doctrine - but it didn't last. United Fruit Company and others like them bought the votes in Congress and the votes to select members of congress. The idea that one very powerful nation recently risen to a two ocean two navy status could keep out further colonial encroachment, without, taking over has it's day, was passed, and then interpreted by those who purchased results.

        I have the sole right without explanation to take all of your rights without exception.

        The Declaration of Independence and Constitution were the first time in history when citizens were placed above government. the idea was new and ignited a storm which swept around the world then fizzled and died as the immediate corruption took hold faster than the idea of citizens controlling government could take root. the citizens soon abdicated, were talked out of, or bought out of such foolishness as a freely elected without interference representative democracy or Republic. About the only thing that can be said is the government will never be a Democracy and will be a Republic in so far and no further as their Massa's allow. The best part of being bought and paid for is there is little evidence payment has ever been made. Higher taxes, inflation and flat out debt repudiation take care of that silly notion. Ethanol a good example. The dumb ass citizens in the Midwest did get more jobs in the new distillaries it's true. Cost of food went up for animals and humans not only in the US but world wide and every one in the corn belt paid. All for a hoax.

        Somewhere along the line education failed to teach citizens basic civics and citizenship - they got what they willingly or by being conned voted for - if they voted.

        Good idea. Not enough brain power, too many willing to remain in servitude.

        That effort has been developing from the days two arms picked up a club and except for a more efficient club has failed to develop beyond the ideas of citizens controlling government or a government keeping it's neighbors free without becoming their new masters.

        Spanish American War is an exact example. One of many.
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        • Posted by $ 7 years ago
          MichaelAerethun -

          Things are getting a lot better. You might be interested in Steven Pinker's "The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence is Declining". I have taken the liberty of copying the promo blurb for the book below:

          "We’ve all asked, “What is the world coming to?” But we seldom ask, “How bad was the world in the past?” In this startling new book, the bestselling cognitive scientist Steven Pinker shows that the world of the past was much worse. In fact, we may be living in the most peaceable era yet.

          Evidence of a bloody history has always been around us: the genocides in the Old Testament and crucifixions in the New; the gory mutilations in Shakespeare and Grimm; the British monarchs who beheaded their relatives and the American founders who dueled with their rivals.

          Now the decline in these brutal practices can be quantified. Tribal warfare was nine times as deadly as war and genocide in the 20th century. The murder rate in medieval Europe was more than thirty times what it is today. Slavery, sadistic punishments, and frivolous executions were unexceptionable features of life for millennia, then were suddenly abolished. Wars between developed countries have vanished, and even in the developing world, wars kill a fraction of the numbers they did a few decades ago. Rape, hate crimes, deadly riots, child abuse―all substantially down.

          How could this have happened, if human nature has not changed?

          Pinker argues that the key to explaining the decline of violence is to understand the inner demons that incline us toward violence and the better angels that steer us away. Thanks to the spread of government, literacy, trade, and cosmopolitanism, we increasingly control our impulses, empathize with others, debunk toxic ideologies, and deploy our powers of reason to reduce the temptations of violence."

          Jan, helping
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  • Posted by DrZarkov99 7 years ago
    Fantasy and imagination often become part of a legend that supports a cause. In the imagination of some supporters of "Native" Americans, these noble aboriginals were inherently peaceful lovers of nature, preyed upon by evil European invaders. The reality was that the American Indian tribes were colonists, settlers, and invaders long before the arrival of the "whites". The tribe we call the Seminoles in Florida today were actually Creek invaders from the lower Mississippian culture, who committed genocide against the older settlers in Florida, as one example. We know this because the arrival of the Spanish in Florida interfered with the final slaughter of these older tribes, who told their story to the Spanish clergy. Further West, the tribe we call Comanche actually inherited that name from their victims, the Hopi, who gave them that label, which means "invader". Always question the assertions of the very passionate, as their passions may be purely fiction.
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    • Posted by $ 7 years ago
      An interesting chapter or so in Steven Pinker's "The Better Angels of our Nature" deals with the statistics of slaughter. Paleolithic tribes who have been observed in modern times show about a 50% death rate due to violence (warfare, homicide, ambush) of their males between 15-55. This statistic has decreased as time and civilization permitted: from records from the 14thC onward, Pinker draws a chart of the decline of deaths by violence.

      No bucolic noble savages, Alas!

      Jan
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  • Posted by $ blarman 7 years ago
    One thing I haven't seen explained is skin color. If we all descended from common ancestors, how did we end up with a plethora of skin colorations which haven't really shown any change in thousands of years?
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    • Posted by $ 7 years ago
      The last two or three paragraphs of the linked article do deal with this question, blarman, and include another link pointing here for further details: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/mace-lab/publicati...

      The 'short story' is that we have evidence that skin color change is very recent - 5 or 6K years old. What is not dealt with in these sources is that there seems to have been 2 separate evolutionary paths towards lighter skin: The eumelanin reduction pathway (leaving the pheomelanin stronger and producing a yellowish skin - Eastern Asia) and the pheomelanin reduction pathway (leaving traces of brownish eumelanin behind - European).

      Jan
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      • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 7 years ago
        Interesting read and resource. It reminded me of something else which proclaimed all redheads will be gone in 20,000 years.
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        • Posted by $ 7 years ago
          Huh. If you find that article, please send me a link.

          Jan
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          • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 7 years ago
            I read it first in a National Geo article. However this time when I googled up jumped this article. It seems that the death of the Red Head Gene by mixed marriages to really stir the pot boiling is like thin waistlines and only hair after 70 - greatly exaggerated. It's a generation skipping device mother nature has thrown at us.

            Extinction hoax
            See also: Disappearing blonde gene
            A 2007 report in The Courier-Mail, which cited the National Geographic magazine and unnamed "geneticists", said that red hair is likely to die out in the near future.[33] Other blogs and news sources ran similar stories that attributed the research to the magazine or the "Oxford Hair Foundation". However, a HowStuffWorks article says that the foundation was funded by hair-dye maker Procter & Gamble, and that other experts had dismissed the research as either lacking in evidence or simply bogus. The National Geographic article in fact states "while redheads may decline, the potential for red isn't going away".[34]

            Red hair is caused by a relatively rare recessive gene, the expression of which can skip generations. It is not likely to disappear at any time in the foreseeable future.[34]
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            • Posted by $ 7 years ago
              AH! That makes more sense. I was wondering what was filtering the gene out - certainly it is not spousal choice! (But allergies were a possibility.)

              Jan, likes red-haired guy eye candy
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              • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 7 years ago
                Mine which was red only one time in my life is growing back on top! Started out being brown but as the grey phased in my beard turned a red gold sort of near Viking shade.Then went to ashes. Now it's coiming along withe some topside foliage as black???
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