Open Thread, 9/09/2018

DNAGeeks is now promoting some “helix” themed polos. If you click through, you’ll see a 25% discount code.

Listened to Carl Zha and Nathan Myers‘ podcasts. About China and the Silk Road.

The podcast Two for Tea with Iona Italia and Helen Pluckrose has an interview with my friend Sarah Haider.

Zha pointed me to this report, Massive Numbers of Uyghurs & Other Ethnic Minorities Forced into Re-education Programs, which is the source for the number in articles like this: U.N. Panel Confronts China Over Reports That It Holds a Million Uighurs in Camps. It’s short, but if you don’t want to read, there are major reasons to be skeptical of the 1 million figure as being credible. I think it’s likely that the Chinese government is targeting Uyghurs for re-education, partly because there’s a long history of that sort of thing. But the Kashgar region, in particular, strikes me as extremely unrepresentative, due its particular nature (far more Uyghur and Muslim than any other area of China).

Some people have asked me about books about Central Asia. Here are some I’ve found interesting, The Silk Road: A New History, Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present, and Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane.

Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Roads: A New History of the World is supposedly good, but I haven’t read it.

I don’t know the last time I linked to Salon. I subscribed to Salon premium in 2002…but I’m pretty sure I let it lapse early in my blogging. But here I go, A witch hunt or a quest for justice: An insider’s perspective on disgraced academic Avital Ronell. There’s a lot of “score settling” in this piece…the author hired Ronell, who turned on him and swallowed his department.

A certainly number of professors have, are, and will, engage in sexually inappropriate relationships with their graduate students. Ronell seems likely to be in that class, but the more interesting aspects are of the story are:

1) That prominent fashionable professors, such as Zizek and Judith Butler have defended her (Butler had a follow-up equivocation, but who knows, perhaps it’s just performative).

2) Ronell is a certain type of academic who everyone who has been in academia has heard of or experienced. The depiction in the Salon story makes her seem like a total psychopath who suborns the mission of the institution toward the service of her self-aggrandizement.  This is a certain type of professor. A certain type of business person. A certain type of middle manager. We all know of these people. It’s not surprising that they exist in the academy. But, I do wonder if the transparent fixation on style above substance in the field of scholarship, “deconstruction”, that Ronell operates within allowed her selfish and narcissistic tendencies to flourish in a manner it wouldn’t have if she was engaging in supervising laboratory work or archival research.

Alibaba’s Jack Ma, China’s Richest Man, to Retire From Company He Co-Founded.

Will Saudi Arabia Cease to Be the Center of Islam?. This piece cites The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History. I think it underestimates the cultural prestige of West Asians within Islam.

Should all babies have their genomes sequenced? Moot point.

The genetic history of the Iberian Peninsula over the last 8000 years:

The Iberian Peninsula, lying on the southwestern corner of Europe, provides an excellent opportunity to assess the final impact of population movements entering the continent from the east and to study prehistoric and historic connections with North Africa. Previous studies have addressed the population history of Iberia using ancient genomes, but the final steps leading to the formation of the modern Iberian gene pool during the last 4000 years remain largely unexplored. Here we report genome-wide data from 153 ancient individuals from Iberia, more than doubling the number of available genomes from this region and providing the most comprehensive genetic transect of any region in the world during the last 8000 years. We find that Mesolithic hunter-gatherers dated to the last centuries before the arrival of farmers showed an increased genetic affinity to central European hunter-gatherers, as compared to earlier individuals. During the third millennium BCE, Iberia received newcomers from south and north. The presence of one individual with a North African origin in central Iberia demonstrates early sporadic contacts across the strait of Gibraltar. Beginning ~2500 BCE, the arrival of individuals with steppe-related ancestry had a rapid and widespread genetic impact, with Bronze Age populations deriving ~40% of their autosomal ancestry and 100% of their Y-chromosomes from these migrants. During the later Iron Age, the first genome-wide data from ancient non-Indo-European speakers showed that they were similar to contemporaneous Indo-European speakers and derived most of their ancestry from the earlier Bronze Age substratum. With the exception of Basques, who remain broadly similar to Iron Age populations, during the last 2500 years Iberian populations were affected by additional gene-flow from the Central/Eastern Mediterranean region, probably associated to the Roman conquest, and from North Africa during the Moorish conquest but also in earlier periods, probably related to the Phoenician-Punic colonization of Southern Iberia.

The Insight will be putting up a podcast on the life and science of L. L. Cavalli-Sforza. Spencer worked with Cavalli-Sforza as a postdoc at Stanford in the late 1990s.

On simulation, and genealogies.

18 thoughts on “Open Thread, 9/09/2018

  1. I am interested in Iberian prehistory and I’m not sure to have fully understood this summary.

    “We find that Mesolithic hunter-gatherers dated to the last centuries before the arrival of farmers showed an increased genetic affinity to central European hunter-gatherers, as compared to earlier individuals.”

    Does this mean:

    First, that the previous hunter-gatherers were different from the other European hunter-gatherers?

    Second, that there was a certain degree of migration of European hunter-gatherers to Iberia shortly before the arrival of the farmers, possibly due to pressure from the latter?

  2. First, that the previous hunter-gatherers were different from the other European hunter-gatherers?

    Second, that there was a certain degree of migration of European hunter-gatherers to Iberia shortly before the arrival of the farmers, possibly due to pressure from the latter?

    i would bet more second.

  3. @Ginasius:

    Yes, it looks like Iberia / SW Europe had a somewhat distinct hunter gatherer ancestry from the rest of Europe through the Upper Paleolithic probably at least since 35000 YBP (though not without admixture over time). See this paper –

    We know that that after the Last Glacial Maximum and repopulation of Europe, the Iberian pool was involved in the repopulation of the rest of Europe (and this is evident from samples like Loschbour man), and we know that the pool of hunter gatherers from the rest of Europe, from a different source, replaced much of the pool in Iberia.

    It’s easier to get a handle on how much replacement came from Outside Iberia->Iberia, as the record is better there than in the presumptive other glacial refugiums of Europe (in that there is one late Upper Paleolithic samples LGM sample from Iberia and no samples so far in SE Europe before the end of the LGM). It looks like HG across Europe mostly from other refugiums than Iberian, but hard to be 100% sure.

    This comment from the abstract probably indicates that there was some structure within Iberia still, in terms of LGM Iberian ancestry vs post-LGM arrivals, prior to farming.

    But to me it seems hard to tell if farming in Central Europe “pushed” HG populations into Iberia. The Neolithic in Iberia dates 6000 BCE, or 8000 YBP. Their transect also dates to 8000 YBP per the abstract.

    So when they say “the last centuries before the arrival of the farmers”, it seems like not like they have some long window of samples in which the Iberian HG pool stayed the same, then sudden change. Basically to me it looks like the population genetics are changing from the instant they have any handle on it.

    (This distinct hunter gatherer ancestry of Iberia is something which is apparent in later Iberian farmers, and probably to some extent even in present day Iberian populations, but at very low levels, and population geneticists have tried to use it to distinguish these different later farmer populations from each other).

  4. (Tangential to your para on the genetic history of the Iberian peninsula, but …)

    I’m interested to see if the paper by Sanchez Quinto et al at ISBA2018 (paper O–PSM–04) uses new ancient DNA from Ireland.

  5. Regarding the Uighurs…

    Years ago when I was in Israel interfacing with Israeli counter-terrorism experts, we had a visit from the Chinese delegation. First of all, any information exchange with the Chinese was completely one-sided. We shared some experiences and lessons we learned (publicly available information-only, but it was meaty and useful). They gave us nothing in return. No surprise, of course.

    The thing was, we were all professionals there – we didn’t expect anyone to give up things he/she shouldn’t give up. We expected everyone to be patriotic to his country. But we still interacted with each other like human beings. The Chinese delegation was all – to a man or a woman – robotic. It’s almost like they were all terrified to betray any friendliness toward us, lest they were denounced later. I don’t think I saw a single one of their people smile even once. I got the distinct impression that the Chinese intel/CT people were humorless.

    What they tried to do the entire time was to convince us and the Israelis (or anyone who’d listen, really) that what little Uighur insurgency existed was “radical Islamic terrorism” rather than a (guerilla) war of national liberation.

    No one bought it. I don’t know about a million, but I don’t doubt there is mass incarceration and torture of unruly Uighurs.

  6. re: chinese. i have had friends tell me that sometimes chinese graduate students exhibit ‘robotic’ and ‘reflexive’ tendencies on political/social questions where indoctrination is strong. usually, they can be broken out of it but it takes a little while, and at first they are sometimes confused at being challenged.

    (to be fair, americans often don’t know about the details of american involvement abroad and can be quite naive when first told)

  7. chinese graduate students

    And those are normal people. Imagine their mil/intel/LE-types. I definitely got the vibe of “no mercy to the enemies of the central committee.”

    Not that Israelis are all cuddly bears, but my Israeli counterpart, who had seen a lot of action and bloodshed, was a Sabra who grew up among Arabs and often said that they were going to have to live in peace with Arabs sooner or later. He was a reluctant warrior, for sure. Great drinking companion. Very humorous and warm (of course they are not going to pair jackasses with their visiting American uncles).

    The ones who made Aliyah from America were twitchy-fingered cowboys, and I didn’t care for them much. A lot of them saw Arabs as sub-humans.

  8. What’s wrong with the Uyghur report? Do you think that the claim about Kashgar is correct?

    Sure, Kashgar isn’t representative of China, but they don’t claim that. They say that it’s representative of Southern Xinjiang. Even if it isn’t, it’s 1/3 of Southern Xinjiang, so it’s a pretty substantial claim on its own (240k detained+480k local reeducation). But aren’t Hotan, Aksu, and Kizilsu pretty similar? Certainly all of these prefectures are majority Uyghur. This report claims with citation that they are all 80% Uyghur. Whereas one page on Wikipedia claims that Kashgar is 90% and other prefectures are maybe only 60%. If all Uyghur villages are treated the same, these differences aren’t so big compared to other uncertainties. On the other hand, an area with only a 60% majority might be less rebellious and treated better.

    I’m more concerned about extrapolating from the 8 villages to all of Kashgar than from extrapolating from Kashgar to Southern Xinjiang. How did they choose these villages? They don’t say. If they are a random sample, that’s pretty good. If they are people who sought out foreigners to complain to, they’re probably not representative.

  9. Random OT Q re: demographic replacement USA.

    Hyper-reproducers such as Mormons, Quiverfuls, and particularly conservative Orthodox Jews and Amish.

    Trends are to overtake less fecunds (USA Catholics of all hues are now out of the game) in what, 3 generations?

    Is there historic precedent for ::peaceful:: star-shaped replacement? I’ll aver that it’s somewhat rhetorical Question, as I think I can generally guess what you’re probably going to say. Purely intellectual curiousity, I have no HBD/cultural superiority axe to grind.

    I recall reading that the upper classes of ancient Rome quit reproducing as the disheartening decline/debauching accelerated.

  10. Hyper-reproducers such as Mormons, Quiverfuls, and particularly conservative Orthodox Jews and Amish.

    mormon TFRs are crashing. the problem with a lot of these high fertility groups is that they don’t sustain. so we’ll see.

  11. mormon TFRs are crashing.

    I noted that too. They seem to be assimilating into the mainstream culture at a rapid clip. Their womenfolk still make great wife/mother material – every single one I have ever met was deferential to her husband, very maternal, thrifty and level-headed, and kept herself in good shape. But the younger ones increasingly seem to go to universities AND crave careers. The feminization was simply delayed, not eliminated, it seems.

  12. They found modified bones in Madagascar dating to 10,000 years ago, extending the evidence for human arrival by about 6K (recent paper in Science). More than likely people arrived on the island, then left (or died) and this happened a lot over the last 10K+ years, but as to when it was permanently colonized at a density of some significance was still probably only in the last 2-3K??

  13. I like sci-fi and among my readings have come across books that had the additional acclaim of being “hard science”. Recently came across a novel “Legend of Sumeria, Life·Blood·DNA” labeled “hard science”, but genetics being the science field in this case.

    The authors are Jay Webb and Biju Parekkadan. Jay web is the media/filmmaker part, and Biju Parekkadan is the science part, a professor of biomedical engineering who was awarded a Presidential Early Career Scientist Award by President Obama, so he supposedly applied his knowledge to make the story more realistic. Razib I don’t know if this is your cup of tea or not, but I was planning to read it when I have a bit more time, but would like to know if you or anyone else has read it or has any opinions on it, good or not, and of the quality of the “hard” genetic science.

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