The Columbian Explosion

Other writers have discussed the crucial role of epidemic Eurasian and African diseases in the European expansion into the Americas, but most shy away from clearly stating that this was driven by underlying biological differences differences that conferred a practical advantage, a kind of superiority, in this particular situation. But there is plenty of evidence that these biological differences existed. When Europeans launched their first ships to the New World, their diseases came along for...

Milk And The Kurgans

Improved variants of the Kurgan hypothesis fit many facts, but what they don't do is explain why the Proto-Indo-Europeans expanded at the expense of neighboring peoples with similar technology. Effective use of the horse in warfare doesn't seem to have occurred early enough to explain Proto-Indo-European expansion but even if it had, what would have stopped other peoples from rapidly acquiring horses and using them in the same way The Plains Indians certainly managed to master light cavalry...

Ashkenazi Psychometrics

As noted earlier, Ashkenazi Jews have the highest average IQof any ethnic group for which there are reliable data. Just how much higher is it Many studies have found that it is 0.75 to 1.0 standard deviations above the general European average, corresponding to an IQof 112-115.30 Another, more recent study concluded that the advantage is slightly less, only half a standard deviation.31 While the difference between the Ashkenazim and other northern Europeans in average IQ may not seem large, it...

Barriers To Gene Flow

Of course, there were a few major factors that blocked or slowed gene flow over the past few millennia. The Atlantic and Pacific oceans were important barriers. There was very little contact between the peoples of the Old and New Worlds before Columbus. Australia was much easier to reach from Indonesia or New Guinea than the Americas were. There were definitely visiting sailors from Indonesia fishing for sea cucumbers along the north coast of Australia beginning around 1720. There must have...

The Bottleneck Hypothesis

Most medical geneticists believe that these common Ashkenazi genetic diseases are a product of population bottlenecks. A population bottleneck occurs when a population goes through a period in which it is quite small. This often happens in the founding of a population. In a bottleneck, gene frequencies change almost randomly just as you can get unrepresentative results different from 50-50 when you flip a coin just a few times, or when you poll 20 people rather than 1,000, in a population...

Ashkenazi Intellectual Prominence

Jewish intellectual prominence is striking. As we have said, Ashkenazi Jews are vastly overrepresented in science. Their numbers among prominent scientists are roughly ten times greater than you'd expect from their share of the population in the United States and Europe. Over the past two generations they have won more than a quarter of all Nobel science prizes, although they make up less than one-six-hundredth of the world's population. Although they represent less than 3 percent of the U.S....

The Ashkenazi Mutations

The best-known of the genetic diseases disproportionately affecting Ashkenazi Jews are Tay-Sachs disease, Gaucher's disease, and the breast-cancer mutations BRCA1 and BRCA2, but there are a number of others, such as Niemann-Pick disease, Canavan disease, and familial dysautonomia. Some of these cause neurological problems. And they're unusually common among Ashkenazi Jews so common that they constitute an enduring puzzle in human genetics. In principle, absent some special cause, genetic...

Limone Sul Garda

In 1980, Italian researchers found that a man from Limone sul Garda a small lakeside village in northern Italy had very low levels of HDL good cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides, yet showed no sign of heart disease. Both of his parents had lived to advanced ages. Their curiosity whetted, the researchers performed blood tests on all 1,000 inhabitants of Limone and found a total of 43 people with this same unusual blood-lipid profile. The local church had birth records going back...

Examples Of Introgression

Introgression as an important evolutionary force is more than just a theory Geneticists know of many cases in which it has definitely occurred. Most of the examples that are well understood involve domesticated animals and plants, mainly because there are practical economic reasons for undertaking close genetic studies of domesticated species. Introgression is hardly rare in fact, it is ubiquitous among domesticated plants. For example, the wheat that produces our daily bread is derived from...

Under The Yoke

As Rousseau wrote, Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains.15 In the days before agriculture, governments didn't really exist. Most of the hunter-gatherers were egalitarian anarchists They didn't have chiefs or bosses, and they didn't have much use for anyone who tried to be boss. Bushmen today still laugh at wannabe big men. Perhaps we could learn from them. But farmers do have chiefs It goes with the territory. Grain farmers store food, and so they have something valuable to steal,...

The Malthusian Trap

In An Essay on the Principle of Population, Thomas Malthus in 1798 observed that population tends to outrun food supply, since population increases geometrically while food supply increases arithmetically. He wrote The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of...

Bibliography Of Human Evolution

Achilli, Alessandro, Anna Olivieri, Maria Pala, Ene Metspalu, Simona Fornarino, Vincenza Battaglia, Matteo Accetturo et al. Mitochondrial DNA Variation of Modern Tuscans Supports the Near Eastern Origin of Etruscans. American Journal of Human Genetics 80, no 4 2007 759-768. Allen, Robert C. Agriculture and the Origins of the State in Ancient Egypt. Explorations in Economic History 34, no. 2 1997 135-154. Anderson, Roy C. The Ecological Relationships of Meningeal Worm and Native Cervids in North...

The Protoindoeuropeans

What we know about the Proto-Indo-Europeans, as we call this group, is mostly derived from comparative linguistics, supplemented by archaeology.15 We know that they were stock-raisers and grain farmers, probably depending more on their animals than on grain. They raised cattle and sheep, along with goats and pigs. The cow played a paramount role, both in daily life and in religion. They had domesticated the horse, and in fact may have been the first to do so. The Proto-Indo-Europeans knew...