Kunstkamera: A Sample of Mental DNA Found among the Consumers of Online Science Content
The reports of ancient DNA from Mal’ta have taken the Web by the storm. Surprisingly, the usually hot-headed commentators, Razib Khan and Dienekes, have remained largely silent on the findings and haven’t delighted anybody with their insights. The most sensible conversations are being heard from this site and from the Eurogenes Blog. But today Gcochran9 from West Hunter contributed his typical mix of caustic nonsense and science fiction. For example, he attributes to the late Joseph Greenberg and to Merritt Ruhlen the idea that “Amerindian languages have a very ancient connection with Indo-European.” Neither of them thought such a thing. In reality, they connected Amerind, which is just one Amerindian family they postulated, with Eurasiatic or Nostratic, which is a hypothetical parent stock of Indo-European (and Uralic, Altaic, Dravidian, Kartvelian, among other languages). After having shown his chops in linguistics, Gcochran9 decided to share with his audience his knowledge of population genetics: “Judging from a quick and incredibly superficial look, Amerindian Y-chromosomes look closer to some European lineages than to East Asian ones.. while Amerindian mtDNA lineages (except for X) don’t look close to European mtdna lineages.” It’s sad that after more than two decades of mtDNA phylogeny research, bloggers such as Gcochran9 still don’t know that mtDNA hg B, which is frequent in the Americas, is just as much a sister clade to the principal West Eurasian hg U as the main Amerindian Y-DNA marker known as hg Q is a sister clade of hg R. Hg X is a West Asian and North African lineage that apparently made it to Europe only in Neolithic times.
West Hunter usually attracts a posse of anonymous readers who tend to generate a few dozens (most recently 130!) of meaningless, spam-like statements containing a promise to win a Spelling Bee competition. I corrected one of them called Dave Chamberlin. Gcochran9 “banned” me. I love collecting samples of the Web’s mental DNA but this one is a true gem in my kunstkamera. How can one ban someone who is not even interested in commenting but is simply correcting the spelling of his own name and some associated misinformation?
I can pardon ignorance in linguistics or genetics but not logical blunders!
Update I. I continued to monitor the West Hunter comments section. Gcochran9 “banned” me but allowed a number of psychopathic off-topic comments such as one by an Australian bird-watcher going by moniker Sandgroper who holds a superstition that Razib Khan is “intellectually superior” to me. A faithful member of the Razib-Jugend, Sandgroper is always ready to raise his arm in a gesture of support for our freshly-baked Fuhrer in his blitzkrieg against “cultural anthropology.”Let’s do a quick comparison: I have two doctorates from two top schools in the world, Razib has none. I’m a student of humanity (even when it comes in such an ugly shape as Sandgroper or Dave Chamberlin), Razib is a student of felinity. I have two books out in two languages, Razib has none. I have my own ideas, Razib can only regurgitate ideas of others. I pronounce myself a winner by a knockout! Two weeks after I broke the news about ancient DNA from the Mal’ta individual and Michael Balter published a one-pager in Science on the same matter, the intellectually superior Razib Khan is still “digesting” the information.
I also looked up Gregory Cochran (the man behind the Gcochran9 username) and he’s described by Wikipedia as “physicist and adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of Utah” but when I opened the University of Utah webpage I saw this (image on the left). An owner of a truly impressive university profile and apparently an intellectual athlete of Hellenic proportions, Gcochran9 can clearly back up his linguistic and genetic musings (see above) with impeccable credentials. Of course when he is not busy defaming fellow anthropologists and sponsoring a free online dungeon for anonymous anthropophobes who would like to engage in more libel and defamation under the aegis of Science. Maybe University of Utah did to Gcochran9 what University of Colorado – Boulder did to Ward Churchill? One would hope so.
Update II. One Dave Chamberlin continues his attack on me and defense of Razib “Cat Lady” Khan. This time around he proclaims:
“We [Dave Chamberlin and Sandgroper] are both really grateful for all the hard work Razib put into his excellent blog and we don’t appreciate you insulting him after he bent over backward to tolerate you.”
Razib Khan attracts a particular breed of consumers of online science content (should we call them “sciencumers”?). They are incapable of following facts, tend to twist the truth in every sentence and keep getting things wrong. How can we expect them to evaluate complex scientific theories if they are not capable of evaluating a simple everyday situation? They likely have a psychological need to belong to a community of “science” trumpeters because they are incapable of doing “everyday science” themselves. The fact is that it was Dr. German Dziebel who tolerated Razib (and Gcochran, for that matter) for quite a while until his/their ignorance, rudeness and narcissism under the Discover brand made his/their presence intolerable for any man of science and learning. And I was one of the few readers who was actually sharing real knowledge, information and logic on his blog. Dave Chamberlin, Sandgroper, Gcochran and Razib himself should be grateful for the free education I’ve been providing them with first on various online forums and currently on this site. And this is not even counting the bonus of hearing me talk about the out-of-America hypothesis.
On a funny note, whereas Sandgroper thinks of me as “tiresome and tedious,” Dave Chamberlin considers me “amusing.” Upon confronting something new and different from their habitual thinking, people who are steeped in in-group biases and are incapable of a rational communication tend to exhibit polar emotional responses.
“Hg X is a West Asian and North African lineage that apparently made it to Europe only in Neolithic times.”
That’s pure speculation, there is no basis to this. Haplogroup X2a in America is closest to haplogroup X2b on the evolutionary tree. X2b is the most common type of X that occurs in Europe. You can twist this a million ways but the truth remains X2a closest cousins are in Europe. And there’s archeological evidence of Solutrean presence in the east coast of U.S., the most likely candidate is quite obvious, there just no academic integrity to test the theory out.
The evolutionary tree of Haplogroup X.
Next time around I’m not going to let this kind of comment through, as I don’t know who “Rob” is and, whoever he is, he insists on a marginal theory using substandard data points. But I’d like to take an opportunity and highlight a recent observation made by Gisele Horvat of X2j sequences from an Afghani study. PhyloTree clusters Amerindian X2a with X2j into a X2aj node. According to Horvat, previously X2j was reported from Egypt. Now she found it among the Afghani further out east.
Egypt is North Africa, Afghanistan is West/Central Asia.
The Solutrean theory of Clovis origin is supported by a minority of archaeologists and is rejected by all geneticists.
Rom, the Solutrean theory is actually quite old, but the resemblances between Clovis and Solutrean lithics are functional so the theory was rejected. and the only good evidence for a Solutrean presence in the New World is the Vero carving which seems to be in the Paleolithic European style.
As far as I know even Mesolithic Europeans weren’t definitely exploiting deep water resources, as the Solutrean hypothesis requires Upper Paleolithic people to have done. I do try to keep an open mind about this and I hold out that there was maybe some trans-Atlantic contact involved regarding the Maritime Archaic, its just that there’s little reason to accept the Solutrean hypothesis.
Funny you mention Ward Churchill. I was in his class almost twenty years ago and he was teaching a version of the Out of America hypothesis. Every other professor I had would scoff at that idea.
Yes, Churchill took this idea from Alvah Hicks, the supporter of out-of-America I (http://books.google.com/books?id=6LosXk6Lu-UC&pg=PA293&lpg=PA293&dq=churchill+alvah+hicks&source=bl&ots=dy_pW_9jvb&sig=LSYdOmHSXdYA6wgKE82t0x94_HE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=L3NtUpCuENLqkAe1soGwAQ&ved=0CEIQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=churchill%20alvah%20hicks&f=false). When I showed what Churchill wrote in one of his books to Alvah, Alvah got pissed off. He felt he got robbed of it. Although Churchill technically quotes Hicks, it all sounded so foreign to him. It was after Churchill got accused of academic misconduct.
It really doesn’t matter what the idea is. It can be a mainstream one on the outside but it’s all crackpottery on the inside. It can be an exotic one on the outside, but absolutely sane on the inside. Of course, there are ideas that are sane and mainstream and there ideas that are garbage all around. Those are easy to deal with. But it’s the former two kinds that are important to tell apart.
Thank you for your response, I agree.
It’s of note that Churchill was actually part of the Ethnic Studies department as the Anthropology department would never allow someone to teach out of America (nor would they accept an obvious fraud).
Anthropology departments teach various things. Out-of-America is a mirror image of out-of-Africa and may be taught there just like the latter. It’s not Bigfoot or Aliens or Creationism. It’s a new theory and it takes time for it to take hold. The Anthropological Sciences department at Stanford used to teach Greenberg’s methodology of multilateral comparison (taught by Merritt Ruhlen) – something that no Linguistics department in the U.S. would teach because most linguists consider this method deeply flawed. In Russia, Nostratics, a theory who has very little supporters in the U.S., is considered to be cream-of-the-crop and is taught in the main universities in Moscow.
On the other hand, the Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology at Stanford in the early 2000s wouldn’t teach any “positivist science” courses (including population genetics) because they were deemed fraught with cultural biases. Out-of-Africa straight out wouldn’t fly there but the “social studies of scientists believing in Out-of-Africa” (I took a class from Joan Fujimura where we read about particle physicists and cancer researchers) would’ve been welcomed. Now the two departments of anthropology at Stanford are back together but I don’t know how they handle these issues.
In any case, the landscape of taught theories is very fragmented and varied. There’s no “party line” across academia of what can be or should be taught. Oftentimes a theory is palatable from the point of view of one discipline and is utterly unacceptable, from the point of view of another. Same with the Ethnic Studies department at UC-Boulder where Churchill and Deloria used to teach alternative stuff until the former got fired and the latter died.