Book Review: The Ten Thousand Year Explosion (2009) by Greg Cochran and Henry Harpending

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I have a feeling most people don’t read reviews, but with some books I still think it’s worth making a little noise. Books like The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker, The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris, and The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. And now this one, so yes, it’s kind of a big deal. Many readers of this blog are no doubt already familiar with it, but since some probably aren’t, and it has been ignored by most of the media, I feel I should throw my two cents in.

The Persistence of Blank Slatism

The authors, physicist Greg Cochran and anthropologist Henry Harpending, challenge a common view among both the public and in Academia that evolution ended some 50 thousand years ago after the exodus out of Africa, or that it’s too slow to have any meaningful impact on humans within that time period. For that reason we must, they claim, be the same biological creatures as we were back then. As a consequence of this view, the cultural diversity that we see today and throughout history must also be unrelated to biology. They quote the late biologist and popular science writer Stephen Jay Gould who sums up (and embraces) this opinion,

“Everything we call culture and civilization we’ve built with the same body and brain.”

Most of his readers gladly accept this as the truth. It is after all the Blank Slate that has dominated Western thought on human nature for the last 400 years or so that claims we are all built of the same stuff, we all share an incredible ability to change, improve, and evolve. Steven Pinker did some damage to this idea but most people who have read him seem to have landed in a half slatism, admitting they were wrong but only half wrong. In psychology, this is known as anchoring: people don’t change opinion to fit the evidence but meet the evidence half way. And ironically you can be as anchored in thinking you’re a free spirit as in any other point of view.

But “the same body”? Are there Japanese people who can be mistaken for Scandinavians? Are there Peruvians who could pass themselves off as Nigerians?

More likely, as the authors argue, is that when leaving Africa humanity spread to various different environments, each with its own unique selective pressures. East Asians (to be) who passed through the extremely cold climate of central and northern Asia got shorter extremities. They and northern Europeans became paler as they were less exposed to the sun and they lost the ability to retain salt while sweating as they sweated less in their new environments. The people of the Andes and Himalayas became adapted to high altitude, and so on.

In short, our bodies are not the same. There are plenty of differences that are obvious adaptations to new environments giving rise to slightly different variants of Homo sapiens. And there are no supernatural elves guarding the blood-brain barrier either; the brain, for all its sophistication and complexity, is still part of our body, so anyone seeking the truth about human nature must at least entertain the possibility that evolution may have produced mental, biologically based group differences.

The Upper Paleolithic Revolution

There is little doubt that something big happened around 45 thousand years ago. At this time all sorts of innovations pop up – bow and arrow, fishnet and fishhook, cooking, rope, basket, textiles. Other novelties such as art, music, trade, and ritual burials indicate that there was a sudden and fundamental shift in human thinking, away from the day-by-day living of roaming bands, towards a more reflective, planned and organized way of life.

This abrupt change is hard to understand in terms of natural selection as there is very little time and no signs of strong selective pressures. In fact it seems so hard to understand it that many scholars deny it altogether. Instead, they argue for a gradual development by showing cultural artifacts that predates that of the Great Leap Forward, as it’s sometimes referred to. But I think it’s clear that they make their case more with words than with actual evidence. The extent to which they ascribe ingenuity and artistic qualities into the artifacts predating the Great Leap is similar to how some mothers will praise the scribblings of their children. As geographer and science writer Jared Diamond pointed out in another interesting book, gradualists have a tendency to give fancy names to early primitive tools as a way of creating an appearance of continuity,

Early stone tools vary in size and shape, and archaeologists have used those differences to give the tools different names, such as ‘hand-axe’, ‘chopper’, and ‘cleaver’. These names conceal the fact that none of those early tools had a sufficiently consistent or distinctive shape to suggest any specific function, as do the obvious needles and spear-points left by the much later Cro-Magnons. Wear-marks on the tools show that they were variously used to cut meat, bone, hides, wood, and non-woody parts of plants, but any size or shape of tool seems to have been used to cut any of those things, and the tool names applied by archaeologists may be little more than arbitrary divisions of a continuum of stone forms.

So most likely there was a Big Leap, and a corresponding biological leap that enabled it. But what kind of biological change could have such a dramatic effect?

The Neanderthal Within

As I said earlier, natural selection is not a likely candidate. The change is just too large and rapid, even if the new environments presented strong selective pressures and humans had lots of pre-existing genetic variation to work with. And clearly the new environment did not set the Neanderthals already living there on a highway to any kind of cultural revolution.

Instead the authors suggest that the change was caused by interbreeding between the Homo sapiens leaving Africa and the Neanderthals who lived in Europe and Asia. These two species split up some half a million years ago and Cochran & Harpending point out that no primate species have split completely in such a short time. And as human population genetics shows, people who live next to each other will inevitably mix to some extent. So common sense dictates that interbreeding was very likely.

This way Homo sapiens could have picked up a number of advantageous gene variants almost instantly. Most likely some of these variants relate to language skills (it’s very hard to think of something like trade without some kind of language). One such candidate gene is the FOXP2 that involved in speech, another suggested by the authors is MCPH1 that regulates brain size, as these both have new versions that roughly fit the time when Homo sapiens met Neanderthals and the cultural explosion that followed.

Since this book was written in 2009, you may wonder how well the theory holds up in view of current evidence. Well, recently gradualists have seized on a piece of depictive cave painting in Sulawesi, Indonesia, estimated to be around 35 thousand years old. They argue that this find somehow makes their case, but I honestly can’t see how it would do that. It leaves plenty of time for Homo sapiens to leave Africa, pick up the crucial Neanderthal gene variants in the Middle East or Europe and then migrate to Southeast Asia. And fact remains that advanced artifacts, such as depictive paintings, are still only found in times and places where people are likely to have Neanderthal admixture.

Meanwhile the evidence for interbreeding, doubted by gradualists like anthropologist Sally McBrearty, is now pretty solid. Recent studies also indicate that the authors were slightly off regarding the time line as it appears that interbreeding happened just before the window of opportunity would have closed. The FOXP2 is also ruled out as a Neanderthal contribution to contemporary humans. But the main point is that it did happen and that and non-Africans (Neanderthals were never in Africa) worldwide now have a few percent Neanderthal DNA as a consequence. So thus far, their theory is holding up pretty well.

Hyperevolution

This, however, isn’t even the main point of the book. The Upper Paleolithic Revolution is just the starting point of a new chapter in human evolution. Cochran & Harpending argue that the cultural innovations that emerged around 50 thousand years ago created selective pressures that were much stronger than those already in place so that we evolved faster than before. Sure, innovations had no patents back then so they were accessible for all. But not everyone was equally skilled at using them. If you’re good with a bow and arrow you’ll shoot the game from a safe distance, if you’re less skilled you’ll have to get closer and take the higher risk. But that would still be preferable to getting up close and bludgeoning it to death with a club, which seems to have been the Neanderthal way.

Language, as the authors point out, may well be the most important cultural innovation of them all, and no doubt one creating an enormous selective pressure. With good language skill you can excel at trade, you can convince, seduce, and deceive as well as detect deception. You can make detailed plans together with others. All of this confers obvious fitness – in proportion to your skill level. And thus far we don’t know of any skills that aren’t highly heritable. So if you agree that language and other cultural innovations have been of great importance to our success and survival in our recent past, then you must also agree that the genes behind the corresponding skills would have been selected for in proportion to that success. These skills then changed how we think which must have led to further innovations, “Men made better tools and then, in turn, were reshaped by those tools over many generations.” This of course must have been going on since the dawn of humanity. But with the Upper Paleolithic explosion the process shifted gears.

Genetic Evidence

As plausible and common sense as this sounds, the authors also offer more direct evidence of recent selection. For instance that which is based on a phenomenon called recombination. Thing is, we don’t inherit single genes, instead chromosomes from our parents are cut into 2-4 pieces and half of these pieces from each parent are then put together – recombined – to make our own chromosomes. As the cuts are few and the chromosomes contain enormous stretches of DNA, it’s unlikely that a cut will be anywhere near a single gene. So when a favorable mutation starts spreading through a population its closest neighbors usually tag along, like the entourage of a rising star. Together they make up a characteristic pattern called a haplotype. The more advantageous the mutation is the more common the haplotype will become. But with every generation that passes the cuts in the chromosomes will reduce the length of the haplotype so that fewer and fewer genes around the mutation will be shared in the population. So while fitness is indicated by how common the haplotype is, age is indicated by its length (the longer, the younger).

This means that common and long haplotypes can only exist if there is still strong and recent selection. This is for instance the case with lactose tolerance among people of European ancestry, which is only a few thousand years old. But according to the authors, recent studies show plenty of long and young haplotypes, some of which have reached 100 percent frequency in their populations. This can only mean that there is both strong and recent selection on a large scale. So evolution is still going strong

They offer other types of evidence too, supporting the idea that the rate of evolution is accelerating, but this is the part I found most convincing.

Agriculture

Unlike the Upper Paleolithic Revolution, agriculture was a single innovation that emerged some 12 thousand years ago. But its impact on the course of evolution was probably at least as big. It increased the world population from ca 6 million to 600 million by the time of Christ. As mutations are proportional to the size of the population this means a hundred fold increase of new mutations to speed up evolution even more. But like any innovation promoting fitness it also created a selective pressure benefitting the most skilled farmers.

But it also meant a new diet, based heavily on grain. While more people could be fed this way, the diet itself was low on protein and other nutrients. Average height dropped almost five inches with the introduction of agriculture. This meant that any mutations that would somehow increase access to protein would be selected for as was the case with those rendering owners lactose tolerance. The mutations that enabled adults to consume dairy food spread like wildfire among early farmers. This is a very compelling piece of evidence of the process of gene-culture coevolution that the authors mean is the force that has created our human nature. Culture (in this case agriculture) created a selective pressure for lactose tolerance which then in turn affected our culture as our diet and food production changed. And all this in just a few thousand years. Do we have any particular reason to assume that this process wouldn’t affect our culture and our behavior in other aspects?

Personality: The Rise of the Nerds

I ask this because just like the Upper Paleolithic innovations made certain skills important so did agriculture. The former most likely brought complex speech and the ability to deceive. Before that life was probably no picnic, but there wasn’t much room for Dark Triad personality traits. Language, however, must have created a huge selective pressure for such traits. And with agriculture came new traits, since traits tend to correspond to skills. The hunter-gatherers didn’t need to make plans; they roamed, and they may have memorized certain places and routes where food was plentiful or where they could find shelter. As the authors point out, instant gratification would not be a problematic trait under those circumstances. But the farmer who ate just a little of the grain needed for next year’s sowing may well have sealed his and his family’s fate that way, especially a northern farmer.

Farming changed the whole way of life. It required making plans, collecting and evaluating information, and thinking ahead – sometimes years ahead. It required intelligence, true, but also a kind of personality captured by Big Five Conscientiousness, MBTI Thinking and Judgment, or the Cerebral factor of interests isolated by psychologist Peter Rentfrow and colleagues. These all refer to being rational, deliberate and careful. While this sounds like being intelligent none of these measures correlate with actual intelligence. It’s more similar to being nerdy. This cerebral/nerdy trait is most likely an even newer aspect of human personality than the Dark Triad.

What about the Pastoralists?

This begs the question of why people in the Middle East, who the authors argue should be the most adapted to agriculture, can be so unnerdy? They mention resistance to type 2 diabetes as an example of an adaptation to agriculture (a larger intake of carbs), but people in the Middle East have the highest prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the world. There is a possible explanation for this in the form of nomadic pastoralism. This culture emerged around 3000 years ago in the Middle East and remains strong right up to the modern era. So their experience of agriculture is interrupted and mixed with this other culture and corresponding diet, richer in meat. And since agriculture has been an accelerating process, cutting off 3000 years at the end means a whole lot more than at the beginning.

But pastoralism is more than an end of agriculture. It’s a cultural innovation with its own pressures, taking people in that culture down a different evolutionary path. This path leads to inbreeding, clannishness, honor culture and a warrior-like lifestyle. This is where I feel this book is lacking a conspicuous piece of the puzzle. It focuses too much on agriculture and gives the reader the impression that differences between populations are mainly about how long they’ve been farmers. They do mention it but mainly in the discussion of how early Indo-Europeans conquered the steppe with the edge of lactose tolerance. But if human nature has been shaped varying selective pressures of agriculture then the same should hold for pastoralists. (This type of human is described in some detail by blogger HBD Chick.)

Ashkenazi Intelligence

As a final example of just how fast the wheels of evolution are spinning, the authors present the rise of Ashkenazi intelligence. This would be a significant change in less than a millennia, which may be hard to believe in. But although speculative, it’s not a matter of belief, but of evidence and plausibility.

The Ashkenazi has existed as a distinct group of Jews since medieval times, but according to the authors their intellectual prominence is as late as the 1800s. Today their average IQ is estimated at 112-115. They have won more than 25 percent of all Nobel prices but make up only 0.17 percent of the world’s population. That is pretty mind-blowing. So how did it happen?

The cause, Cochran & Harpending suggest, is a well-known historical fact that most people simply don’t think of as relating to the theory of evolution,

“When persecution became a serious problem and the security required for long-distance travel no longer existed, the Ashkenazim increasingly specialized in one occupation, finance,

left open to them because of the Christian prohibition of usury. The majority of the Ashkenazim seem to have been moneylenders by 1100, and this pattern continued for several centuries. Such occupations (trade and finance) had high IQ demands, and we know of no other population that had such a large fraction of cognitively demanding jobs for an extended period.”

So they were effectively forced into high IQ professions and as success translated to more children this constituted a very strong and unique selective pressure that increased their intelligence. This sounds plausible, but while we know of their later achievements we don’t have any way to estimate their intelligence at the beginning of this period. The fact that they were sought after in the finance sector must mean that they had some smarts right from the start. As blogger Jewamongyou points out, in his overall positive review, religion may be an overlooked selective pressure, “It was specifically religious scholarship that made a man coveted as a husband.”

I have no idea of just how sexy Talmudic analysis was back then and to what extent those who excelled at it could extract resources to afford more children than others. But if this was the case then it certainly changes things a bit. It would weaken the case for superfast evolution, but the authors would still have a case for very fast ditto. How so?

Well, Ashkenazi Jews are a genetically distinct group with a number of serious genetic diseases. The popular explanation for this is that they at some point passed a bottleneck, a point when the population was so small that single individuals would leave their genetic mark on future generations. This has happened before but in this case the gene variants behind these diseases cluster together in regard to very specific functions of the brain and nervous system, DNA repair etc. A bottleneck would be random – no clusters.

Instead these clusters suggest that selection for something having to do with the brain – something that improves fitness – has taken place. And it would be recent selection as the genetic diseases are caused by homozygosity in these genes. Because in the long run adaptive genes with harmful side effects will be replaced by less harmful ones. So like haplotypes, harmfulness is another way of dating adaptations. And these diseases like for instance Tay-Sachs are among the worst imaginable.

So be it finance skills or perhaps religious fervor (that would surely give Richard Dawkins a stroke), there is still a case for some recent selection relating to intelligence.

Summary

Like I said in the beginning of this review, I think this book is among the top science books of recent years. It replaces the highly popular nonsense idea of halted evolution with a plausible theory of accelerating evolution. It provides a theory of how human nature has been shaped and differentiated into genetically distinct groups, not just by the physical environment, but increasingly by the social environment that various cultures represent, the most important factor being agriculture (or lack thereof). I still miss the pastoralist/clannish branch but maybe that will be in the next edition.

It would be easy to dismiss it had it not been so plausible and backed up by hard evidence. So the natural reaction from science journalists, pundits etc, the majority of whom still feel Stephen Jay Gould view is valid, is to ignore this book. Economist Tyler Cowen (who also doubted Homo sapiens interbreeding with Neanderthals despite of the common sense appeal of the idea) wrote a sweeping 14-line review, snubbing it without addressing anything specific, hardly more than a hit-and-run. One professor of biochemistry by the name of Larry Moran even tried to question the veracity of the Gould quote above, presumably hoping that fact checking is now a thing of the past. (Anthropologist John Hawks set him straight on that one).

I think this silence and these inferior attempts at dismissal speak volumes by themselves. If critics really had a good argument against Cochran & Harpending then surely they would use it. Given how the academic community tends to react to theories about heritability of intelligence and personality trait, innate group differences etc, I think they would use it much like a Neanderthal would use a club to bludgeon someone from an enemy tribe to death with. But don’t take my or anyone else’s word for it. It’s a short book, an easy read, and it only costs 10 dollars. If you’re a truly intellectually curious person, chances are you’ll get a good buzz from it. I certainly did.

 

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39 Responses to Book Review: The Ten Thousand Year Explosion (2009) by Greg Cochran and Henry Harpending

  1. JayMan says:

    Good summary. My comments:

    Recent studies also indicate that the authors were slightly off regarding the time line as it appears that interbreeding happened just before the window of opportunity would have closed.

    It appears the Neanderthal admixture event took place about 50-60,000 years ago.

    Unlike the Upper Paleolithic Revolution, agriculture was a single innovation that emerged some 12 thousand years ago.

    Agriculture did appear to develop independently in a few places (Africa, Mesoamerica).

    The hunter-gatherers didn’t need to make plans; they roamed, and they may have memorized certain places and routes where food was plentiful or where they could find shelter.

    Some hunter-gatherers, particularly, those that moved into cold habitats, likely developed certain traits like perhaps planning independently from any history of agriculture. Of course, it doesn’t appear that any of them are very ancestral to modern farming peoples.

    This begs the question of why people in the Middle East, who the authors argue should be the most adapted to agriculture, can be so unnerdy? They mention resistance to type 2 diabetes as an example of an adaptation to agriculture (a larger intake of carbs), but people in the Middle East have the highest prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the world. There is a possible explanation for this in the form of nomadic pastoralism.

    Cochran and Harpending do gloss over pastoralists, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the difference between certain warmer weather farmers and cold-weather farmers. Warm-weather farming is qualitatively quite different, and presents quite a different set of selective pressures (e.g., extreme Southern Europe vs. Northern Europe).

    But pastoralism is more than an end of agriculture. It’s a cultural innovation with its own pressures, taking people in that culture down a different evolutionary path. This path leads to inbreeding, clannishness, honor culture and a warrior-like lifestyle. This is where I feel this book is lacking a conspicuous piece of the puzzle. It focuses too much on agriculture and gives the reader the impression that differences between populations are mainly about how long they’ve been farmers. They do mention it but mainly in the discussion of how early Indo-Europeans conquered the steppe with the edge of lactose tolerance. But if human nature has been shaped varying selective pressures of agriculture then the same should hold for pastoralists. (This type of human is described in some detail by blogger HBD Chick.)

    Excellently put.

    This sounds plausible, but while we know of their later achievements we don’t have any way to estimate their intelligence at the beginning of this period. The fact that they were sought after in the finance sector must mean that they had some smarts right from the start.

    Cochran does make a point to point out that there’s no evidence Jews were smarter in classical times.

    Likely it was largely a chance element that pushed Jews into money-lending and such.

    It would weaken the case for superfast evolution, but the authors would still have a case for very fast ditto.

    Well, the book details a case for such evolution – which isn’t actually particularly fast – using the breeder’s equation. Quite likely, general Northern European intelligence rose in a similar fashion during the same time – if perhaps at a somewhat slower pace.

    Great review! A pretty good summary for people who haven’t yet read the book, but let me say to potential readers that there’s much more in the book, so I still strongly suggest reading it yourself.

  2. Staffan says:

    Thanks,

    They weren’t far off on the timeline, and overall it’s interesting to note how well their ideas have been confirmed by recent research.

    Agriculture did emerge independently, true, and it emphasizes the difference between this innovation and those of the Big Leap.

    We can’t tell if Jews were smarter in Antiquity but as I said, they were sought after in the finance sector so that implies they must have started out at a fairly high level by early middle ages. Still, there is pretty clear evidence suggesting selection as well.

    Good point. It may seem like I’ve summarized everything worth knowing, given that it’s a short book. But they’ve really packed it with interesting facts so this is just me scratching at the surface.

  3. Whyvert says:

    “The hunter-gatherers didn’t need to make plans”

    In the tropics. But in northern areas of seasonal variation, surely more foresight was needed to cope with cold winters among foragers. Moreso perhaps than tropical horticulturalists.

    • Staffan says:

      It seems likely but it’s hard to tell how big a difference it was. Even if they can preserve food in the winter they would still have to carry it with them. Still, in winter you have a high energy loss so the success rate needs to be higher. I guess that would select for competence.

  4. Craig Nelsen says:

    There is a better explanation for why Jews got into money-lending, (and long before any of those mean old Christians were even around to force them to). Obedience to God.

    –The way to take over a country is to be a moneylender and charge everyone interest except other Jews. Deut. 23:20

    –Lend money to countries and you will control them. Deut. 28:13

    –The ultimate goal: Jews control the world. Deut. 20:15

    –Better the Jews than Africans or Asians? Under Jewish control, the best the rest of us can hope for is enslavement, and, if we resist, God demands wholesale slaughter (of us men). Deut. 20:11 (See Steve’s Sailer’s observations on the difference in Jewish treatment of blond men and blond women in Hollywood).

    But money-lending doesn’t really explain the rapid growth in intelligence anyway. A better explanation for that is also simpler: Jews have stigmatized marriage to non-Jews unless the non-Jew is very intelligent. At least that’s my observation.

    • Craig Nelsen says:

      Money-lending seems to be a goal in itself, like world domination:

      “For the LORD your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you.” (Deut 15:6)

      On the particulars of HOW to lend money, “God” doesn’t say much beyond the racist command to treat non-Jews unfairly and give special treatment to Jews:

      “You may charge a foreigner interest, but not a fellow Israelite, ”

      with the goal of Jewish control of a country:

      “so that the LORD your God may bless you in everything you put your hand to in the land you are entering to possess.” New International Version (Deut 23:20)

  5. Staffan says:

    The thing with the Bible is that it contains so many statements you can pick whatever you need as support for your theory and disregard the rest. In this case God doesn’t tell them to be money-lenders, only how it should be done. And the idea that your tribe is somehow superior to others appears to be a human universal (with the possible exception of Northwest Euros).

    Then you have their increasing secularization and tendency to marry outside their religion. Marrying smart people is in line with married couples correlating in IQ and personality noted in all sorts of populations.

    Don’t get me wrong. Jews can be tricky; that’s my distinct impression. But so can any people with a clannish background. And most people are clannish to some extent. The smarter ones will simply be better at it.

    Also, as I mentioned in the commonet to my previous post, the Ashkenazi have also mixed with Northwest Europeans and picked up very different traits. Steven Pinker, Henry Spira and others are very into improving life for others, even animals. That seems like a detour on the road to world domination.

    • Craig Nelsen says:

      You are an intelligent observer and original thinker whom I enjoy reading, but you go off the rails on this one. I’m not some fundamentalist picking and choosing biblical passages to support my personal belief system. I am referencing the founding documents of Jewish culture as a way to explain Jewish behavior.

      I doubt there is a Jew anywhere in the world who would behead a virgin heifer in the wake of an unsolved murder (Deut. 21:4), but that doesn’t mean Mosaic law doesn’t have an impact today. And if Jews are the money-lenders of Shakespeare’s Europe, wouldn’t a foundational directive from “God” many centuries previous be a more likely explanation of why than contemporaneous Christian proscriptions on usury? To the extent such proscriptions existed, my guess is they were, if anything, a response to, rather than a cause of, Jewish money-lending.

      Whether money-lending leads to smarter descendents is a question problematic in its own right.

      • Staffan says:

        Yes, I see where you’re going with this, but as history shows imperialistic dreams are not exclusive to Jews. If they had some smarts even before the Middle Ages then they may have seen this as a means to realize such a dream. That’s method, not goal. Like I said before, ethnocentrism is found in all populations.

        The Japanese would probably have expanded their empire worldwide too if they had the chance. Now they have given up on that. So are the Jews still persisting? They still have their traditions and their smarts so they will be successful in finance. They still have a lot of clannishness so a certain amount of caution is recommended (and in no way racist). But secularization, marrying outside their religion, and increasing civic-mindedness doesn’t seem like the road to world domination. They are also weakened in many countries in Europe by the presence of (low IQ) Muslims and many are emigrating. You claim not to be cherry-picking but you fail to address the facts contradicting your theory.

      • Craig Nelsen says:

        I’m not sure what you think my theory is. I was simply disputing your assertion that Jewish money-lending was a result of Christian law-making. It wasn’t.

        Money-lending is a Jewish cultural imperative with the clearly defined goal of world domination. This isn’t my theory. This is derived directly (as I have referenced) from the founding documents of Jewish culture (the very documents millions of Christians still cart back and forth to church every Sunday even while claiming to worship a man who was executed by the Jews for preaching that those documents were null and void–go figure).

        Whether there is currently a Jewish effort to attain (or maintain) world domination is a question I leave on the table. But just as the Japanese you mention didn’t give up their quest for world domination so much as their quest was thwarted by us, the success of any Jewish quest would depend on our answer to the question on the table.

      • Staffan says:

        Whether it’s a cultural imperative or simply a tradition (not sure what the difference would be) it seems inevitable that this practice was also a consequence of Christian law as there were various restrictions in place.

        Clearly Jews are influenced by their religion and by their traditions, and as any people these have elements of ethnocentrism. But their actions point in other directions too, although you don’t care to discuss that. To me, it makes more sense to weigh in all the facts and not just those pointing to a certain answer.

  6. anon2 says:

    NWE – a tribe?

    • Staffan says:

      Well, not a tribe per se, but definitely a type of human distinct from others, including other white people.

      • anon2 says:

        Where are you placing your timeline for NWE as a distinct group? I assume that the English would qualify and they don’t seem to have much trouble thinking of themselves as superior, for example.

      • Staffan says:

        I’m not sure about the timeline, it’s a popular topic of discussion in the HBD sphere. It may not be older than a millennia or so.

        The English sense of superiority is probably the weakest in the world. You only need to compare them with others to see this. You think if India declared itself independent from China there would have been negotiations?

      • anon2 says:

        Yes, I certainly see that it is a popular topic. I can also see that no one can(or wants to) give the NWE tribe a precise definition.

        I do not equate the voluntary relinquishment of parts of the Empire as loss of tribal feeling. I think we can take the defense of Northern Ireland and the Falklands as proof that the English still think of themselves as a separate superior group.

        If you extend NWE to 20th century Germans, then I think we could say that they did not have any trouble with feeling superior.

        Even by Cochran & Harpending standards; 1000 years is not a lot of time for evolution.

      • Staffan says:

        It’s not the sort of thing you can give a precise definition of but it’s still a meaningful concept.

        To understand the NWE lack of tribalism you need to compare them with others. The majority in Northern Ireland and the Falklands want to be part of the UK so that’s not very tribal – especially if you compare with what is happening in the rest of the world.

        Germany was driven to desperation. Regular middle class people ending up on the street. That will make any nation snap. Japan and Italy teamed up with them without any particular need to feel desperate. That’s tribal.

        Like I said, it’s not a settled issue, but the authors argue that there was significant change in Ashkenazis in less than a millennia.

      • JayMan says:

        @anon2:

        Yes, I certainly see that it is a popular topic. I can also see that no one can(or wants to) give the NWE tribe a precise definition.

        If you extend NWE to 20th century Germans, then I think we could say that they did not have any trouble with feeling superior.

        See here:

        How Inbred are Europeans? | JayMan’s Blog

        The “NW Europeans” we discuss consists of everyone inside the blue or lighter zones (the Celts are generally excluded by this definition).

        As for the Germans, Germany sits on a transition zone between non-clannish and clannish. See:

        Germania’s Seed? | JayMan’s Blog

        The people inside the blue zone have various similarities to each other and are quite unlike people anywhere else in the world.

        Even by Cochran & Harpending standards; 1000 years is not a lot of time for evolution.

        That’s plenty of time, depending on the strength of selection involved. The traits we describe of NW Euros started to appear about 1,200 or so years ago. That’s 40 generations. For the mean of a trait to move 1 standard deviation during that time, you need a selection differential of only 1/20σ per generation (assuming an additive heritability of about 0.5).

        There’s plenty of evidence of gradual change during that time, compatible with this process.

      • anon2 says:

        I think that the fact that the Protestants in Northern Ireland and the Falkland Islanders want to be a part of GB and the English/Scots are willing to die to allow them to remain so is indicative of tribal behavior. The fact that some Irish are willing to die to remove Northern Ireland from GB is indicative of tribal behavior.

        My main trouble with the NWE tribe concept is that there never has been a “white” tribe, only white tribes. 1000 years is not enought time for gene/culture evolution to produce a “tribe”. You have to have genetic and cultural identity. If one has to stop and ask, “Is this my tribe?” ; there is no tribe. Or if there is/was, it is in a hell of a mess.

      • Staffan says:

        It’s not that tribal at all given that everyone involved see themselves as part of UK. Anything less than defending your territory and you’re history. That’s the minimum for existence. Look around the world and compare this with what Russia, China, India and a whole bunch of countries in Africa. This is nothing.

        Keep in mind that I said not tribe per se but a type of human. It’s a higher order of categorization. It’s a category of certain white peoples. (For details see Jayman’s comment.)

      • anon2(Recovering Libtard) says:

        “but a type of human. It’s a higher order of categorization”

        Now this is just where you and the HBD sphere lose me.

        There is nothing that the Danes can accomplish that the Irish or the Germans cannot.

        Thanks for the comments. I read both of your blogs and think well of both. I still have to read some more of your(Stafan’s) archives, especially on personality.

      • Staffan says:

        Glad to hear it. For good overview of what HBD is, it’s really Jayman’s blog you should have a closer look at.

  7. There is a possible explanation for this in the form of nomadic pastoralism. This culture emerged around 3000 years ago in the Middle East and remains strong right up to the modern era.

    My impression (from reading authors such as V. Gordon Childe and Georges Roux) is that nomadic pastoralism is much older than this — in fact as old as civilization itself. I still think there might be something to Thorsten Veblen’s hypothesis that the earliest civilizations began with (and as a defensive response to) the conquest of early horticultural societies by pastoralist tribes.

    • Staffan says:

      I had the feeling it could be older too, but evidence on domestication of horses and camels suggest it can’t be much older than 5000-6000 years old, so still long after the first cities.

  8. Oh, I was thinking sheep and goats. The conquest of man was but an extension of the idea of the domestication of animals. There is no reason to suppose that early pastorialists would not come into conflict with settled agriculturalists for whatever the reason (starvation, trade, women, etc.).

    • Staffan says:

      Right, I can’t say I know much about that kind of pastoralists. Is there any archaeological evidence of this lifestyle as opposed to mixed farming? It’s easier to see how you could attack farmers with cavalry, but on foot the hit-and-run tactics that for instance Scythians applied become a lot less efficient.

      • It is a matter of one group of men overpowering another and seizing their food supply. The thing about pastoralists is that they are strangers from afar. They come by surprise. No cavalry required. We are talking relatively small groups in the beginning.

      • Staffan says:

        It’s possible. I haven’t read much about this type of pastoralists. This sounds like Vikings to me, and they were agriculturalists. So I guess if they could do it, it would have been even easier for those who weren’t sedentary.

        At any rate, if a few thousand years can create substantial change in mental characteristics then pastoralists nature is likely a product of evolution. Even more time to work with if your theory is correct.

  9. […] Keep reading… I especially recommend some of the other books he mentions, as I have noticed that Blank Slatism is still firmly entrenched (briefly, the idea that a young child is a blank slate upon which the parents can write whatever they want). […]

  10. In recently reported study http://www.pnas.org/content/111/38/13790 scientists were using a two-stage association to find SNPs correlating with educational attainment and cognitive performance. However, the three variants found to significantly associate with intelligence can only explain a tiny portion of variation in IQ test results, some 0.3 points. Intelligence does not seem to be associated with simple genetic factors, therefore some liberal minds argue that investigation in race and intelligence should be dropped all together for its potential to exacerbate racism. However, according to Minnesota twin study and others IQ is 70-85% heritable and should be treated that way. The book only mentions the “brighter side” of the higher average IQ among Ashkenazi, dropping seemingly politically incorrect comments on the lower end of the spectrum. Here Jared Taylor explains racial IQ differences in the most graceful manner possible to treat this controversial subject https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SJNVb0GnPI. The book “Erectus Walks Amongst Us” by Richard D. Fuerle http://erectuswalksamongst.us/ helps to understand subject in more details, supporting multiregional hypothesis of human evolution.

  11. santoculto says:

    Stress during pregnancy may increase the testosterone in the womb and alter brain configuration. The anomalous lateralization seems to explain much of the physiological, behavioral, cognitive and mental characteristics of the Ashkenazim.
    The Jews seem to have a lot of kinds of geniuses (with some rarity for super geniuses, most commonly found in Europeans) among other kinds of smart. They are more neurotic and psychotic than other populations.

    The Jewish problem is that along with this extreme profile of collective intelligence, you have a multitude of types of super intelligent lunatics that Lombroso called as matoide.

    This large number of matoides among the Jews, the result for its eugenics to high intelligence, explains why the Jewish domination tends to result in collective psychosis. And unfortunately, psychopaths have a big advantage over the virtuous types. They have no fear, there’s nothing stopping them from doing what they want.

    • Staffan says:

      I have thought about this too, that even though their IQ is more widely distributed than East Asians, giving them a larger “smart set”, it just seems to be something more to it than that, other traits, possibly Dark Triad. But I’m leaning more towards Machiavellism than the other two. It might also be that which Jung calls irrationality, a more empirical than judgmental orientation, more dynamic but also more unstable and perhaps prone to psychosis. And also not a dark trait per se, more a capacity than an inclination.

      • santoculto says:

        Yes, I think that psychosis is related to the ability to understand reality, but viscerally in a unusual linear way. This is, I think about when something is’ out of place ” on you, you tend to think more about it.

        I’ve met some people that can be characterized as ” more psychotic ” than average, and in fact, they can see better what is actually happening around them, while the majority of my university colleagues, all of them very technically intelligent, they are not very impressive in this regard.

        Psychosis is the potential to reality and survival. However, it is necessary mental capacity to take advantage of this gift or as some may know, defect.

        I think when more time you stay thinking, more problems and solutions you will can see.

        But, for the majority, i believe, in a hipothetic experiment, if they remain thinking ”excessively”, they will change to psychotic mind AND not adapted to this condition.

        If ”normal” people thinking deeper, they turn depressive. ”Normal” brain think for them while to psychotic people, they thinking for themselves. Cognitive global capacity is very important in this case.

  12. […] Book Review: The Ten Thousand Year Explosion (2009) by Greg Cochran and Henry Harpending – from staffan. […]

  13. Panda@Play says:

    All in all Staffen writes some original pieces. Great Work!

    One thing about this book makes Panda not to take Cochran and Harpending seriously though as scholars but novelists, despite of some of the great points they’re making in other chapters of the book, namly : Ashkenazis – the highest avg IQ in the world.

    The type of “clear evidences” they offer, alongwith the sheer number of their supporters worldwide, make me do worry about world’s average IQ which is possbiel way below 90, because bluntly speaking, these “evidences” – almost entirely in the line of “They have won more than 25 percent of all Nobel prices but make up only 0.17 percent of the world’s population” and so on – are at border line retardation level – IQ of friggin 85!

    Cochran and Harpending can not answer the following several simple questions Panda casually raises up with a straight face and without dodging them by getting around 10,000 miles and back and forth with their genius way of `arguing`:

    1. XYZ tribe of Kenyan population in Africa, just to casually give 1 example, is merely a tiny percentage of humanity, yet it won far more Nobel Peace Prizes than its population’s due share and has therefore likely the highest ratio of prizes won/ tribal population. It must be due to the “clear fact” that this Kenyan tribe are the most peaceful human sub race who has ever walked on the surface of the Earth, in Cochran and Harpending’s logic? If not, why not? Similar examples are endless, Panda can continue here…

    2. Please give Panda at least 2 large-scale internationally-recognised IQ samples ( or the equivalent SAT scores, or TIMASS scores / there should be a piece of cake in the dossiers of Israel) conducted on population of Ashkenazi Jew directly , as they have been done on any other major or minor races, showing that their avg IQ is 112-115. Simple enough? instead of getting into Cochran and Harpending- style space-age warp logic that “because Soviet avg IQ is assumed to be X, Ashkenazi Jew are about Y% of Soviet population, and won Z% of Soviet´s national chess champs, assuming K% of all Ashkenazi Jews were interested in chess and U% within them actually had chances to learn the game and E% among them were not sick at a time to be able to participate in the Chess national competitions, so according to mathematical law of J, the Ashkenazi Jews´s avg IQ must be L% higher than the Russian average IQ of roughly X, hence 112-115…”. I think you must be crytal clear about the process, right? Now obviously Panda is quite slow to follow this deep thought, please just give Panda 2 straight forward Ashkenazi jew IQ score smaples, or 2 SAT or TIMASS sample, please?

    3. being the experts, it must be a piece of cake for Cochran and Harpending to show us Ashkenazi Jews´ average cranial capacities (brain size), alongwith the East Asians and Europeans? So that we can all have a deeper understandng and appreaciation of Rushton´s 3-way theory? Don´t tell that, obviously, will be another unknow X factor? Is their average brain size is smaller than that of the East Asians, will Cochran and Harpending denunce Rushton´s entire theory, else why smaller brain sizes can have higher avg IQ? An evolutionary `miracle` must be?

    4. According to Cochran and Harpending, and most other IQ experts for that matter, Askenazi Jews have the highest verbal IQ and higher overall IQ, even though their spatial IQ is only so-so. So this request is even simpler than the previous: will Cochran and Harpending show Panda the mathematical formula that 1 spatial IQ = 1 verbal IQ? If they by chance can not, why they have guts to simplely add verbal and spatial together to get the so-called `highest overall avg IQ scores`??? Even a decent junior high school drop-out knows that one just can not get a banana for sure by just adding 1 orange on top of 1 apple.

    Panda can go on, and on…

    But Panda believes above 4 simple questions are very, but very, difficult enough for Cochran and Harpending pair to think hard about it for the rest of their careers. Are they low IQ themselves or just liars, or both, judging by the way they are muddling through this chapter treatiing the worldwide readers with sheer comtempt, Panda wonders? Or simple because poeple like Panda is just way too smart to swollow their low IQ crap?

    (Pls kindly excuse Panda´s language, Staffen. Panda is deeply offended by Cochran and Harpending because they obviously have zero intellectual respect and/or honesty whatsoever in the very first place towards world´s high IQers – the ones like Panda that is to say – when publish their book on this issue with their half and coarsely cooked fairytale dressed as `a sure thing`. In light of aforementioned very simple questions, how the heck it´s a sure thing for god´s sake?! ).

  14. santoculto says:

    Off topic,

    Staffan, you twitt this

    ”Evolution is a competition you can’t win. At some point all your alleles will be extinct. Perhaps it’s God’s sense of humor.”

    Sorry, but i think that doesn’t exist ”our genes” as ”unique genes”. Human genes are mutations of primates and of plants and trees. ”Our” genes are not our. Body and genes, sometimes, for me, seems as ”lending” to our dynamic existences. We are more than ”genes”. It is part of our existence, but the reason to live or there, is probably much higher than ”compete to spread genes”.
    Humans have the same genes, but with different expressions and different personal and familiar combinations. The difference is in level, not in greatness.
    While there humanity, our genes will continue to exist.

    • Staffan says:

      I may misunderstand you due to the language barrier, but our alleles – versions of genes – make us unique, not just the combinations. So whatever alleles give the best fitness will become frequent and others will become extinct. It is a form of competition, although not necessarily the meaning of life – especially as we all lose.

      • santoculto says:

        Yes and no. Sorry by language barrier again. But greater majority of humankind are unconscious about it, they compete without know why.

      • Staffan says:

        Yes, that’s what I meant. I just thought it was funny that all those alleles that we unconsciously try to pass on will perish at some point in the future. It’s almost like it wasn’t a competition, but a machine of some sort, a refinery perhaps.

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