African Advantage

*Yet another warning, this web site is a dangerous place for open minds.

I have been reading the discussions of how modern human anatomy became widespread in what seems a blink of the geological eye, completely replacing older races such as Neanderthal and Denisovan and the older Homo Erectus in its regional variations.

‘Seems a blink of the eye’, the older the times, the sparser the data, and there is relatively little data for east and far-south Asia.  So the timing of the transition at different points in space, obvious travel routes, etc. are not exactly tied down, there is not yet a coherent pattern of enough data points, and especially different kinds of data points.

But what seems like a very bushy human tree grows with every new archaeologial find, and yet we have only one kind of human today, a quite inbred species by the apparent standards of our predecessors, old bones nearly all have mitochondrial genomes that do not exist today.  Yet the quite inbred species has regional variants that are identifiably different, the old races did not completely disappear, genetics definitely support that.

The extreme-alternative interpretations of the evidence are long-distance exchange of genetic information, e.g. travelers receiving a band’s hospitality, or the movement of tribes.  The long-distance exchange would have taken a longer time than migrating and inter-breeding of tribes.  Any intermediate model could be adopted, frequent visitors who are encouraged to leave children, to extra boys resulting from polygamy in their parent tribe ahead of a wave of hybrids of their new type of man.

Evolutionary biologists, anthropologists cultural and physical are stymied at what the possible mechanisms of such a dispersion would be.  ‘Polygamy push’ is a common reason cited in modern times, for example the excess Mormon boys in those multiple-wives-on-welfare schemes in S. Utah some years ago.  There were never enough girls for the boys, the boys had to leave the group.

A problem with that interpretation is that just pushing boys out of the nest doesn’t propagate your genes, you have to provide some form of wealth to make your boys desirable.  The new culture, new technology, and the things you had learned growing up would do that.

Suppose there were a corresponding ‘pull’ from the side of potential mates for the boys, perhaps even the same factors causing their mothers to choose mates, as we moderns drove our own selective breeding of our genetic lineages.

I told cultural anthropology what a large part of that factor must have been, and nobody has caught on yet.  Definitely, superior in mind, body and culture accounts for the spread of African genes and culture, the replacement of the ancestral races with hybrids.  For this, I deserve at least the IgNobel.

The very coolest thing about this theory, I think, is that there is no way to prove or disprove, only speculate.**  It will be so perfect when all competing theories are dispoven or thought unlikely for one reason or another, and our ancestral African’s advantage is recognized as full-spectrum dominance, not just new brains and culture.  The primitive racial fears that will be explained, new Freuds and literature and love cults. The culture mutates and evolves.  Love it.

I expect that everyone in the academic world has thought of this driving force of genetic and cultural history, but are too polite – inhibited to propose it.  It will be interesting to see what euphemism is used.  Will the Human Biological Diversity people pick it up?  They dare to deal with race, lets see how hot a brand they want to pick up.

The meme is in the henhouse. The out-of-Africa ‘modern toolkit’ has several different aspects. Anthropologists speculate when they assign importance to those.

*The warning, as always, is that you must be extremely careful about allowing random ideas like this one into your mind, ideas often kill people, those are not good ideas.

I keep warning everyone.  Ideas are dangerous, especially the obviously-brilliant, scintillations of a mind such as the above. I just made my theory permanently part of your brain.  Already done, you can’t stop me, and you can’t reverse it, it is a permanent memory in your mind and will henceforth come to your mental fore at odd times.

I keep warning everyone that everything affects you.  Hooks and ideas that tag along.  I did it to you.  You probably should carefully inspect the idea tagging along, don’t you think?

If I had been some Nazi bastard type of evil scientist, your mind could have been toast already.  You aren’t being careful enough, dammit.

**OTOH, someone will start re-interpreting the many rings found in graves, who knows what the uses and various sizes could mean?  Perhaps early forms of advertisements sent ahead of possible routes, with negotiations for the available men?  That would fit with the first use of technologies in later times.

And, just to critique my own theory, this would account for the conflicting evidence, or at least the interpretations of the evidence, for the spread of the modern phenotype, but not for the loss of so much mitochondrial RNA.  That is more a pattern of small bands.

So a first descendant of Africa comes through a hunter-gatherer band of the older race at the frontier.  Small band, an early inter-species hybrid clone, pushed out of the nest by the combined technology and physical prowess of the next-generation, 3/4 hybrid-Africans.  Each additional cross in the hybrid storm has spent longer with the newest, most-African hybrids, and so has learned more of the culture.  That gradual cultural adaptation would have sped the process up, culture and genetics reinforcing each other’s spread. The spread would be at a rate proportional to the excess male population in an area behind the travel front.  The depth of that would be proportional to the incremental advantage of each male cross in the hybrids at the front.  In most groups, even fairly distinctive races such as Japanese or Ethiopian, by 7/8 it is hard to tell, by 15/16th it is not, so  not more than 4 generations deep.  In that system, the 1/2 African-local hybrids would be maximally valuable in the mating sweepstakes with pure locals, which would be 4 ‘areas occupied by an excess population of hybrids of African and local’ in advance of the 4-th generation frontier.  Etc.  That leaves a frontier of mixed species a few generations wide and could shift 20 miles per generation, a normal day’s walk for important business or social reasons.  There would not be much evidence when the wave had passed that there had ever been a wave.  Mixed cultures are hard to sort out in the midst of their mixing.

That is a clean model with enough parameters to get a master’s degree.

Seems plausible to me.

So what do you think?  Is this an example of the slop of words making the insane ever-so-plausible?  Or brilliant thinking from left field?  But of course, everyone thought of this, it is completely obvious once it pops into a prepared mind, so many minds are so prepared in the modern world of entertainment and thinking about network effects, and once thought of, you couldn’t forget it if you wanted to.

Lebowski Enlightenment for you.  Why did you read it here?

Lack of proof doesn’t prevent speculation in anthropology, I observe from my reading.  This suggests they censor themselves, if anyone needs a data point for such.

I like theory myself.  Such broad implications for such little thought input.  Hell of a return on the investment.

Certainly worthy of the IgNobel, I believe.

A later thought.  The comparison to the Human Biological Diversity thinking is perhaps meaningful, but I do not wish to add to their status with this comparison. HBD people want to tie patterns of marriages with patterns of the people in the society, and attribute those correlations to an intermediate genetic something enhanced by the marriage patterns, e.g. cousin marriage.  I think that would be hard enough with measurable physical traits, much less individual multi-gene traits like IQ or social things like tendency to authoritarian governments.

My theoretical construct is quite a lot more real than that, and an honest accounting of the Neanderthal genome is required.  I recall discussion of possible fertility problems of modern human-Neanderthal matings when that data first came out, is that a euphemism for something else?

Later. Re-reading this, I realized that I invented some things.  I mean, I always knew that, but decided it was time to tell you.  Not entirely constructed, just a bit of interpretation.  Spin, it would be called in the political world.

You may well ask “which bits?”.  What a very excellent question!  I think that experts, when they get around to dealing with this version of the models, will argue about what I made up.  Which, I hasten to remind you, is not at all the same as being right.  Not for them, either.

With a bit of luck, my bit of theory could become lint in the appendix of surveys of modern-human anthropology theory, something everyone has to mention just to say they covered all the bases, but didn’t mean to add to the prestige by more than an aside such as ‘other imaginative theories’. Nothing that would lead anyone to take it seriously, like an actual refutation or attempt to do so.

Big data is going to find a lot of stuff like this, statistical relationships that you can find everywhere and can so easily find explanations for.  In fact, so easily find any number of explanations for.  Which one is true?

Is it the one by the eminent academic theorist?  That is indeed far more likely, I admit.  But the eminent academic theorist will also admit that he could not have had this theory, and that it has not been refuted, and that it uses standard human values in the explanation, so is at least plausible.  So more than what the eminent theorist can think is true can be true.

And I deserve at least an IgNobel for this.  Is there some other prize for a biological theory the very highest proportion of humans would most hate to be true?
Later, re-reading, my version has to have the last-generation women coming in a wave behind to account for the mitochondrial DNA loss.

Just read this, excellent post by John Hawkes, who I should be mad at, because he never approved my comment discussing all this. That single event is responsible for my blogging. Life is funny.  Perhaps I shall win the IgNobel.  That would show him.

A few days after the above, I wrote Thinking About Distributions, and realized that understanding improved this argument for African full-spectrum dominance.  Girls would not have to make such hard choices, they could have a good-looking guy too.

Later, I had the understanding that this insight could not have happened before the web and ease of viewing such a large variety of pornography. Then, while writing that sentence, I remembered how quickly my mother had caught onto a joke that required an intuitive grasp of racial relative dimensions and have wondered since what girls tell each other? Bet that discussion hasn’t changed in 400K years. First dick joke might not have been made by a guy.

Women, thinking later, have out-talked men forever. Strange how little that seems to explain. Must mean something.

Added much later : Sadly for my brilliant theory, this makes it more likely that clothes made the difference.

2 thoughts on “African Advantage

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