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March 02, 2003

Science vs. ideology

Dr. Spencer Wells, who worked to Cavalli-Sforza and is featured in the documentary The Journey of Man (he has a book out by the same name-it's a pretty slim volume just like Bryan Sykes' Seven Daughters of Eve) was recently interviewed by the Indian news site Rediff. He illustrates how geneticists can run into a minefield of myth & history. Here is a funny snippet:

Some people say Aryans are the original inhabitants of India. What is your view on this theory?

The Aryans came from outside India. We actually have genetic evidence for that. Very clear genetic evidence from a marker that arose on the southern steppes of Russia and the Ukraine around 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. And it subsequently spread to the east and south through Central Asia reaching India. It is on the higher frequency in the Indo-European speakers, the people who claim they are descendants of the Aryans, the Hindi speakers, the Bengalis, the other groups. Then it is at a lower frequency in the Dravidians. But there is clear evidence that there was a heavy migration from the steppes down towards India.

But some people claim that the Aryans were the original inhabitants of India. What do you have to say about this?

I don't agree with them. The Aryans came later, after the Dravidians.

I wish Wells was as direct when an Australian Aborigine told him that this Out-of-Africa stuff was crap and that his elders told him they had always been there. I watched the first half of the documentary-Dr. Wells looks like an albino, that's what I kept thinking, oh, and wondering if he had any female relatives my age....

Posted by razib at 07:18 PM

I'm sure that north-american natives would tell him the same thing,about how the great spirit just created their tribe right there where they live now.
In the case of the aborigenes it's "almost" true though :) I read that because of some cultural beliefs, an aborigene tribe may have well been living in the same area for 20 000 years, because it was unthinkable for them to migrate or to go live on someone else's land (unless forced by natural conditions). But of course that doesn't mean they they'd been there *forever* .

Posted by: ogunsiron at March 2, 2003 07:59 PM

yes, native americans say that stupid shit, and scientists just them a blank look. since indians are "civilized" in some fashion-i guess Wells felt OK with directly contradicting their idiotic myth (ok, i know there is SOME evidence that the *Aryans* might have been Indian, but their Indo-European precursors almost certainly weren't). what is it about illiterate tribal people that makes scientists humor them when they rattle off obvious fallacies? is it because scientists have a past of snatching their bodies for examination, as if they were animals? perhaps-but the pendulum has swung too far the other way i say....

Posted by: razib at March 2, 2003 08:03 PM