Open Thread – 06/25/2019

The first “Open Thread” in a month…

Tim Mackintosh-Smith ‘s Arabs: A 3,000-Year History of Peoples, Tribes, and Empires is a book I recommend without reservation. Many of these types of books about Arabs tend to be focus on two periods, that of the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, the 20th-century revival of Arab supra-national identity. Mackintosh-Smith’s small tome lacks these deficiencies.

In fact, it benefits from extensively discussing the history of the pre-Islamic Arabs. The author is a specialist in Arabic language and observes that clearly proto-Arabic names were listed as enemies by the Assyrians in 750 BC. This clearly refutes the misimpression by some that the Arabs burst onto history in the 7th-century out of the obscurity of the desert.

On a minor note, though Mackintosh-Smith presents the origins of Islam in the classical mainstream manner, the scaffolding around narrative makes it clear that he is familiar with the revisionist arguments (he does make reference to Patricia Crone). Though he does not come out and say anything supportive in an explicit sense of the revisionist historians, the totality of the work has made it more plausible to me that the Umayyads were not Muslims in a way we would recognize Muslims.

Islam in a very substantive sense was the invention of the mawali, and the victory of the ajam over the arab.

I am now reading The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World. Pretty good so far, though as with most paleo books there are the “notes from the field” passages which make it seem like something out of Field & Stream now and then.

Interesting profile in The Wall Street Journal of Ramesh Ponnuru.

While this weblog was down I posted more at Brown Pundits. While I was in grad school I really didn’t post there much at all. But about two years ago I started posting more and more, and that weblog is now almost as popular as this one. A lot of it is due to the rise of the “Indian internet”

The Browncast is doing pretty well, but it would be great if we got more reviews on Apple or Stitcher.

I phased out of being an active “producer” on Twitter right before this blog went down. I still reply here and there, “like” some tweets, and use the DM feature. But being a passive consumer suits me fine, to be honest. More and more of the stream of tweets are toxic crud anyway.

Twitter is where good faith goes to die, and the profusion of malice in intent and perception is so great that it fosters highly active and tight “circle-jerk” communities. It’s not that fun talking just to people who agree with you on everything (or at least they feign to in public), so ultimately I realized that it wasn’t worth the effort. I’ve been through middle school, and have no need to revisit it.

If you haven’t checked it out, my Pinboard is active again.

Republicans Don’t Understand Democrats—And Democrats Don’t Understand Republicans:

Perhaps because institutions of higher learning tend to be dominated by liberals, Republicans who have gone to college are not more likely to caricature their ideological adversaries than those who dropped out of high school. But among Democrats, education seems to make the problem much worse. Democrats who have a high-school degree suffer from a greater perception gap than those who don’t. Democrats who went to college harbor greater misunderstandings than those who didn’t. And those with a postgrad degree have a way more skewed view of Republicans than anybody else.

The major finding is that the less educated/informed have more reasonable perceptions of the “other party.” But the secondary finding is that the skewing effect of more education is noticeable in particular in Democrats. To be frank, the white liberal usage of terms like “inclusion” and “diversity” are straight out of 1984. A large fraction of these people are among the most conventionally intolerant and narrow-minded people you can meet, who at the same time have an image of themselves as exceedingly tolerant and open-minded. In some schools of shariah it is only permissible to interact with and develop friendships with kufars for the purposes of dawah…

Amid Racial Divisions, Mayor’s Plan to Scrap Elite School Exam Fails. I still think in the long-run these schools are going to be abolished.

Erdoğan’s party to lose rerun Istanbul election. Suggests that Erdoğan’s margins over the last 15 years were due to the bubble economy. He can hold power if he goes full authoritarian. Otherwise, he’s probably going to lose.

Genetic substructures and adaptations in Lithuanians. Not a huge surprise, but it does look like Lithuanians are the population with the greatest affinity to the Pleistocene peoples of Europe. Mostly because they have hardly any Anatolian farmer ancestry (something they share with the Finns).

When I type “Ninja” into Google Images I get images of a Twitch streamer. What?

Palladium Magazine is worth reading

The Fog of Youth: The Cornell Student Takeover, 50 Years On.

The Wild Ride at Babe.Net The Aziz Ansari controversy was just the beginning of the trouble for the website. This was a lose, lose, lose situation. The reporter didn’t benefit. The website went down. Aziz Ansari and their date didn’t come out of it well. A sad observation about the current media and cultural landscape.

A personal and population-based Egyptian genome reference.

Rugby Australia’s “Own Goal”. I doubt a Peter Singer op-ed signals a Thermidorian Reaction, but an Optimate can hope.

After Struggling to Deliver in China, Carrefour Packs Its Bags. Carrefour has been in China since 1995. This isn’t a matter of the Chinese rejecting a foreign brand, but the turn toward delivery and away from huge markets.

The genomic impact of European colonization of the Americas.

The Age of Aquarius, All Over Again!. Just relaxation of functional constraint. Without the indoctrination of organized religion people become “pagan” in a very broad sense.

Putting RFMix and ADMIXTURE to the test in a complex admixed population. Though if you are going to test 30 populations, go with the latter.

They came, they saw, and they mixed. Uralics.

Is the Impossible Burger a threat to vegetarianism? Should be titled “I don’t like the taste of meat.”

Did Big Gods Come Before or After Big Societies? Another review of the huge controversy.

Population history and genetic adaptation of the Fulani nomads: Inferences from genome-wide data and the lactase persistence trait.

The population history of northeastern Siberia since the Pleistocene.


21 thoughts on “Open Thread – 06/25/2019

  1. Should be titled “I don’t like the taste of meat.”

    Pretty much true of the vegetarians and vegans I know personally. It wasn’t a huge lift for them to commit to vegetarianism, because they didn’t like meat and rarely ate it anyways.

    I am somewhat amused that Marcotte grew up in Texas but hates all the BBQ meats.

  2. Once again Razib, you have recommended a history book to read. I would really appreciate it if you could recommend some books on the history of India.

    My wife and I have scheduled a tour of India in November. Neither of us has any connection to India or South Asia, nor have we traveled there.

    We would like recommendations for reading on Indian history and culture. In the past I have read:

    John Keay “India: A History”

    Lawrence James “Raj: The Making And Unmaking Of British India”

    Wendy Doniger “The Hindus: An Alternative History”

    I didn’t think any of them were very good.

  3. Is there more to the Ponnuru joke than just mocking those who think all brown folks look alike?

  4. WS, two suggestions:

    *the peacock throne* hansen
    *india: brief history of a civilization* trautmann

    Is there more to the Ponnuru joke than just mocking those who think all brown folks look alike?

    well, those two have literally been confused a lot :-0) reihan and i were confused multiple times at a restaurant in brooklyn in 2014. it was pretty weird since we look nothing alike (i have lots of hair!).

  5. Re: that Lithuanian paper, as we see from the outgroup f3 stats in figure S4 the Lithuanians share the most drift with Mesolithic hunter-gatherers as previous studies have shown. With Paleolithic Europeans (Kostenki14) it’s less clear cut as Estonians, Finns, Basques and Orcadians are ahead of them. Since Paleolithic European populations didn’t survive to Neolithic in pure form, and succeeding Mesolithic populations had time to develop their own drift signatures, affinity to them is of course indirectly acquired, and more widely spread out across Northern Europe (+isolate Basques).

    Basques combine high WHG/Kostenki14 and Anatolian neolithic drift too, but have lower Iran_N levels like northern Europeans. Could be Iran_N-related ancestry is the main reason for reduction of drift shared with European HG’s, Mesolithic and Paleolithic.

  6. I don’t like the taste of meat, I’ve been vegetarian for 19 years. A black bean veggie burger is wonderful, along with some new ones we started making from a base of ground toasted walnuts with chili powder and black beans. Delicious. Most veggie burgers one finds in the store are pretty horrible, a pile of mush with whole green peas in them as though that belongs on a grill.

    But related, while at a party last weekend, two carnivores, unsolicited, told me the impossible burger was GREAT. Still haven’t tried it as I have no interest, and don’t expect to.

    Really glad to see this site back up. Cheers, Razib!

  7. Yeah, as Gade notes, I’d emphasise that for Lithuanians, it’s really more about the total share of WHG they have, and that affinity really is for WHG with Pleistocene Europeans represented by Kostenki being almost equally related to Saami, Estonians, Finns, Orcadians (higher than LTU), and English and Hungarian (lower than LTU).

    Consider that the Middle Neolithic groups in Europe all have higher f3 (more sharing) with WHG than the Late Neolithic Bronze Age populations who replaced them (and brought Yamnaya ancestry), and higher statistics than the Yamnaya (although the Yamnaya share more with WHG than the Anatolians).

    Direct ancestry from the WHG in the MN farmers is powerful. The Lithuanians do clearly have greater affinity to the WHG of course – its due to a shot of extra WHG ancestry directly in the Baltic Bronze Age population, of which the Lithuanians are somewhat diluted but the closest representative population today (probably about as well as Irish today represent late Bronze Age Irish or Norwegians the same). > WHG rather than trade off between > Yamnaya and Yamnaya (a population like MN Europeans with another 5-10% WHG again, similar to the extra shot Lithuanians have, would be closer to WHG than they are).

    These Lithuanians also look to have slightly, but measurably, less WHG than the Lazaridis/Human Origins set, which is kind of marginally interesting.

    Glad to have the blog back btw.

  8. Hey Razib, this is off topic but I’m curious what you think about this:

    In Guns Germs and Steel, JD is trying to solve the ‘mystery’ of why Europe had more advanced technologies and societies compared to America, and used a bunch of geographical factors like latitudinal biome changes, available flora & fauna, etc to explain the disparities.

    But just skimming through wikipedia looking at the dates that American societies hit various milestones like writing, advanced architecture, etc, it doesn’t seem like America was developing slower than Eurasia or hindered by its geography at all. It looks like America was simply ~1000-2000 years behind and was developing tech and social innovations at a comparable (or even more advanced) rate than Eurasia.

    I like Guns Germs and Steel and think there is a lot of interesting stuff in there, but considering the main thesis it doesn’t seem like geography had any real effect on the differences in technology between American and Eurasian society circa 1500 AD, considering that the continent was settled by stone age peoples. Do you agree?

  9. First off, I am glad our host is back. It’s been too long.

    Brian : The Americas never underwent that Axial Age which the Old World underwent. The Americas were short on literacy for the commons.
    The Americas never had Phoenicianlike citystates willing to simplify their 115 IQ writing-system for 95 IQ plebs. They also did not evolve a Chinalike mandarinate sufficient to force the whole middle-class toward 115 IQ. The New World’s scribes were always subject to the New World’s royal courts. And where they had traders, like the Pochteca (Gary Jennings is good here): they too were close to the court.
    Everywhere I look in the New World, general literacy is “so close yet so far”. Without general literacy, no general technological progress.
    Maybe the coastal Maya citystates could have had it, if they’d thought to sail the Caribbean. Maybe/

  10. @Brian, possibly a little bit further ‘back’ than that (is Mesoamerica of 1500AD really exactly equivalent in sophistication to the “Axial Age”?) though that is subjective.

    But I have had the same thoughts about how a “rate” of change relative to start of agriculture doesn’t seem too obviously slower in the Americas.

    Consider that maize agriculture gets going in the Americas a good bit later than cereal agriculture in West Eurasia (see –, and that unlike East Eurasia where incipient agriculture also seems a bit later, there’s no opportunity for technological transfer from West Eurasia (slow exchanges over time, well before written history within East Asia, until eventually, combined with a good bit of domestic innovation, at the beginning of the Common Era, the leading edge of East Asia in Han/Warring States is about as sophisticated as counterparts to the west).

    (Unlike Diamond’s thesis, I think, to me it doesn’t seem like early “bilongitudal” exchange across Eurasia was too important for progress of technology or agriculture in West Eurasia until the Common Era, at which point East Asian (paper, powder) and South Asian (Hindu numerals) are obviously important, but before that it is mostly diffusion out from the core region of West Eurasia where most things are first innovated?).

    This is quite a simple take, obviously, and there’s no fixed chronology, but it doesn’t seem like the leading edge of the Americas really develops too slowly over time (even quickly) assuming that offset in “starting point” and lack of opportunity for catchup exchange with earlier starters?

    To me it seems quite tough to see where the Americas could’ve gone further than they did without developing and improving iron metallurgy quite rapidly though, and all the benefits that can provide in terms of scaling up processes that at least the Mesoamerican societies and Andean societies obviously understood and had ideas about, and all the positive social disruption (diffusing technologies wider than a central state, and writing and eventually printing wider than its scribes, as Zimriel notes?).

  11. Great to have you back b. Really hope you can help me with something tho…the paper on colonialism and the America’s also makes the assertion that majority of AA heritage is Nigerian…this just doesn’t cut it with me…when only 20% of slaves were from the nigeria/benin region…researcher bias is a helluva drug…it also doesn’t fit with other studies of repute…what do you think? I just know this is gonna start the floodgates for more heritage market bullshit already with Nigerians chattin nonsense [even on wikipedia smh lol].

    Can these studies really not see that southern-nigerians are a great proxy for the bulk of AA ancestry instead of it actually coming from said region? I dnno man…I’m willing to concede, but only if you yourself say so…i don’t trust anybody else on the subject [or genetics in general]. hope you can get back to me, i almost made a twitter one time just so i could DM you lol.

  12. “Mackintosh-Smith’s small tome = “only” 656 pages???

    if it’s less than 800 i count it as short. if it’s longer than 1000 it’s long.

  13. – Overview of work ongoing by Maanasa Raghavan (of Raghavan et al. 2014 “ANE” fame). I thought this was relevant to this blog’s interests:

    “For example, one of Raghavan’s first projects is to analyze ancient DNA samples from South Asia. This work is being done in close collaboration with Indian researchers and archaeologists. The region has been understudied because DNA generally doesn’t preserve well in tropical environments. But as sampling and genetic sequencing tools have improved, researchers are able to find more and more usable ancient biological materials.

    South Asian cultures have a history of caste systems and intermarriage between close relatives, which leads to higher rates of diseases caused by mutations in recessive genes. By studying ancient DNA from people who lived during different points in time, Raghavan and her team can compare the ancient genomic data to modern samples and infer how much intermarriage was happening in the past, and what effects it may have had on disease rates over time.”

    Effectively at some point in the future, I would guess this means a transect that would actually be able to show how caste and jati formed in real time. If all goes well. Rather than relying on inferences from IBD blocks in modern dna.

  14. Welcome back!

    Have you read the new study by M.Haber regarding Y-Chromosomal haplogroup D? ( Specifically, they have found a rare branch “D0” in men from Nigeria. Additionally, men from Saudi Arabia and Syria have additionally tested positive for this new branch of Haplogroup D ( How would this change current views on human evolution and the “Out of Africa” theory?


  15. Re: “Rugby Australia’s “Own Goal””

    Singer is either unaware or forgetting to mention that Folau posted similar comments back in early 2018, after which Rugby Australia had further discussions with him and reached an agreement (a “contract” reportedly) concerning his future behaviour if he wanted to stay in the game. His sacking isn’t the knee-jerk reaction that Singer makes out, it’s the end result of extended discussions, negotiations and promises that Folau has failed to honour (in Rugby Australia’s eyes – he’s suing for unfair dismissal so we’ll know what a judge thinks in due course).

  16. The genomes of 41 ancient Southeast Africans who were mostly early South Cushitic nomads from Kenya and Tanzania have been sequenced.

    As many have said – West Eurasian ancestry is very prehistoric in Northeast Africa.

    The ydna was very bottnecked, the nomads were overwhelmingly E-M293, but those south Cushites even had a single E-V32 sample! No Nilotic ancestry in the Elmentietans as was hypothsized, nor any significant substructure between the Pastoral Neolithic and Elmentietan. Same people, different burial styles.

    The weirdest thing was a pair of nomads dated 4-5,000 years who were a quater Mota/Chabu-like, a quarter ancient East African yet 50% West Eurasian? And the male carried the rare E2 ydna. Whatever population this pair belonged to were gentics isolates seeing as they didn’t contribute to the Pastoral Neolithic/Elmentietans south Cushites.

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