Monday, January 26, 2009

The 10,000 Year Explosion   posted by p-ter @ 1/26/2009 08:51:00 PM

In lieu of a full review of Greg Cochran and Henry Harpending's new book, The 10,000 Year Explosion, I'll keep this short: this book is interesting, well-written, and probably mostly wrong.

The book reads as a series of historical narratives grounded around recent work by the authors in population genetics. In particular, they focus on claims very familiar to readers of this site: that Neandertal introgression was in fact probable, that the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews is a result of strong recent selection, and that thousands of new selected alleles are currently sweeping through human populations (along with novel theories, like that the evolution of lactose tolerance was a major force in population expansions). All of these things are, a priori, vaguely plausible, and are certainly fun to read about, but let's be honest: in a few years, most, if not all, of these are going to be in the dustbin (if any of them are true, my money is on Neandertal introgression).

In any case, this book is not intended to be "correct", so to speak--it seems to be more intended as an overarching frame of reference for viewing human history, acting as a counterpoint to that presented by authors like Jared Diamond. But if anthropology has a "Guns, Germs, and Steel problem", I just hope population genetics doesn't end up with a "10,000 Year Explosion problem".