Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ask the rhino


Linda Vigilant – Was she in on the Big Secret? Was the rhino?

The HBD blogosphere has been rife with speculation about the reconstruction of the Neanderthal genome. John Hawks, Razib Khan, and Steve Sailer felt that something big was in the offing. Above all, this something would resurrect the multiregional model of human origins.

Much of the stir centered on a
recent study by Sarah Joyce that showed a higher-than-expected amount of variability in the microsatellite DNA of modern humans. Since this DNA is unaffected by natural selection, the unexplained variability must have come from an outside source, i.e., Neanderthals and other archaic humans.

Then there was this comment:

Linda Vigilant, an anthropologist at the Planck Institute, found Joyce's talk a convincing answer to "subtle deviations" noticed in genetic variation in the Pacific region.

"This information is really helpful," says Vigilant. "And it's cool."
(Dalton, 2010)

Linda Vigilant works at the Planck Institute, where a team headed by Svante Pääbo is reconstructing the Neanderthal genome. Perhaps she was privy to something big that Pääbo had discovered but was waiting to disclose.

Now the hand-wringing is over.
This morning, it's been revealed that modern Europeans and Asians are 1-4% Neanderthal. Does this mean the multiregional model has been vindicated?

First, let’s be clear about what we mean by the multiregional model. Originally, it meant that Homo sapiens evolved out of earlier, more archaic humans at different times and at different places. Modern Europeans are thus primarily descended from Neanderthals, East Asians from Peking Man, and so on.

That version is now dead as a dodo. No one accepts it anymore. If we look at mtDNA or dental traits, the Neanderthals are no closer to modern Europeans than they are to modern Africans or modern East Asians (Krings et al., 1999; Ovchinnikov et al., 2000; Tyrrell & Chamberlain, 1998). In addition Joyce’s findings were not corroborated by Laval et al. (2010), who failed to find evidence of admixture in the noncoding DNA of modern Europeans and modern East Asians. The latest findings have backtracked a bit on this consensus, but not a lot.

So the current multiregional model is a weak version of the original. The idea now is that sporadic admixture brought potentially valuable Neanderthal alleles into our gene pool. Natural selection then caused the alleles to spread and multiply among modern humans. There could thus have been considerable Neanderthal introgression into our gene pool at certain loci, despite very low levels of admixture (Hawks & Cochran, 2006; Hawks et al., 2007). Laval et al. (2010) concede this point in their recent study:

However, it is important to emphasize that our inferences are based on non-coding neutral regions of the genome and that adaptive introgression from archaic to modern humans may have occurred to a greater extent. Indeed, in contrast to neutral alleles, adaptive variants may attain high frequencies by natural selection after minimal genetic introgression. Future studies comparing coding-sequence variation in modern humans and extinct hominids (e.g. Neanderthals) should help to answer this question. (Laval et al., 2010).

What do I think? This ‘minimal multiregionalism’ suffers from two arguments that seem to me weak:

1. Microbes do it. Why not humans?

Different strains of bacteria regularly swap genes, thus allowing new and better variants to leapfrog from one strain to another. Such ‘lateral gene transfer’ is a powerful engine of evolutionary change because it spares different species the trouble of having to reinvent the wheel.

But what works in simple organisms or for simple traits does not necessarily work elsewhere. Yes, if the gene works more or less independently, you can plug it into another genome and get the same result, like the pigment gene that aphids have somehow taken from fungi. But this kind of ‘plug and play’ is harder to pull off with complex traits in complex organisms, like humans. A particular gene might work like fresh sliced bread in one species … and like burnt toast in another.

But perhaps some adaptive solutions are still essentially the same in different complex organisms, like Neanderthals and modern humans. This point is made by Greg Cochran:

Selection often stalls out (in the medium term) because genetic variety has been exhausted, but an injection of archaic genes would have facilitated adaptive change. Moreover, some of those archaic alleles must have been useful ( i.e. had a fitness edge), since archaic humans in Eurasia had had a long time to adapt to their non-African ecology. (Khan, 2010)

Cochran and Hawks seem to be particularly interested in alleles relating to brain function, like the microcephalin allele that they had earlier attributed to gene transfer (Hawks & Cochran, 2006; Hawks et al., 2007). The Neanderthal microcephalin gene has since been reconstructed and … it does not have that allele (Hawks, 2009).

Yet Cochran and Hawks remain undeterred. One reason why they don’t see the weaknesses in their hypothesis is their unwillingness to spell it out in detail. Why won’t they? Well, ask the rhino.

As I understand it, their hypothesis is that Eurasian populations are relatively smart because their ancestors received special brain alleles from the Neanderthal gene pool. If I’m right in my understanding, they’re probably wrong in theirs. Modern humans adapted to temperate and arctic Eurasian environments in ways that were unique and unparalleled. Neanderthal brainpower had nothing to do with it. Although the Neanderthals apparently borrowed cultural and technological adaptations from modern humans, there is no evidence of any borrowing in the other direction. In fact, these archaic humans seem to have had very little to offer our ancestors:

Despite the apparent advances over their predecessors, Neanderthal technological complexity falls at the low end of the scale for recent hunter-gatherers. Both in terms of the number of types and component parts of individual implements, the complexity of Neanderthal tools and weapons is significantly lower than that of hunter-gatherers in northern latitudes (and more typical of modern groups in temperate or equatorial regions). Technological complexity in colder environments seems to reflect the need for greater foraging efficiency in settings where many resources are available only for limited periods of time. More specifically, the Neanderthals seem to have lacked untended facilities (e.g., traps and snares) and devices for food storage, which are common technological strategies for coping with resource fluctuations and high mobility requirements among hunter-gatherers in high latitudes. (Hoffecker, 2002, p. 135)


2. If Europeans were part-Neanderthal, they’d have native rights

This is an interesting argument: “If we Europeans are even a little bit Neanderthal, no one could deny our special claim to the European continent. People like Gordon Brown and Ségolène Royal would stop saying we’re no more indigenous than newly arrived immigrants.”

I have two responses. First, modern humans have inhabited Europe for some 35,000 years. If that length of residency doesn’t confer native rights, then no one anywhere has any—certainly not the Amerindians or the Inuit, who have been in the Americas for less than 15,000 years.

Which brings me to my second point. The currently dominant ideology—global capitalism—denies the very notion of native rights. It doesn’t matter whether your people have inhabited their land for 35,000 years or 35 million years. That’s just history, and we’ve come to the End of History. From now on, we’re all just individuals interacting in a global marketplace.

Eventually, this ideology will fall victim to its own contradictions. A market economy can exist with minimal state supervision only in a relatively homogeneous ‘high trust’ society. Liquidate that social environment, and you liquidate the economic environment that comes with it. At ‘best’, you’ll get a kind of totalitarian capitalism where everyone is deemed to be a potential thief or terrorist. At ‘worst’, the system will collapse, as communism did in Eastern Europe.

Of course, we shouldn’t wait passively for globalism to self-destruct. As thinking individuals with foresight, we should actively take part in the process. But such activism must start with an honest understanding of the world we live in. The lies of the current system cannot be fought with counter-lies. Europeans will not become more indigenous to their continent because they are found to have a few Neanderthal alleles here and there. They’re already indigenous, and that’s that.

Well, maybe the rhino can tell us more.

References

Dalton, R. (2010).
Neanderthals may have interbred with humans. Genetic data points to ancient liaisons between species. Naturenews, April 20.
http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100420/full/news.2010.194.html

Hawks, J. (2010).
Multiregional evolution lives! John Hawks Weblog, April 21, 2010.
http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/evolution/introgression/joyce-dalton-interbreeding-2010.html

Hawks, J. (2009). The Neandertal genome FAQ, February 2009 edition, John Hawks Weblog, February 17, 2009.
http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/neandertals/neandertal_dna/neandertal-genome-faq-2-2009.html

Hawks J., Cochran G., Harpending H.C., Lahn BT. (2007). A genetic legacy from archaic Homo. Trends Genet
doi:10.1016/j.tig.2007.10.003

Hawks J., Cochran G. (2006). Dynamics of adaptive introgression from archaic to modern humans. PaleoAnthropology, 2006, 101-115.
Open access

Hoffecker, J.F. (2002). Desolate Landscapes. Ice-Age Settlement in Eastern Europe. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Khan, R. (2010). Neandertal genomics paper coming? Discover magazine, April 27, 2010.
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/04/neandertal-genomics-paper-coming/

Krings, M., Geisert, H., Schmitz, R.W., Krainitzki, H., & Pääbo, S. (1999). DNA sequence of the mitochondrial hypervariable region II from the Neandertal type specimen. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 96, 5581-5585.

Laval, G., E. Patin, L.B. Barreiro, and L-Quintana-Murci. (2010). Formulating a historical and demographic model of recent human evolution based on resequencing data from noncoding regions, PloS ONE 5(4) : e10284

Ovchinnikov, I.V., Götherström, A., Romanova, G.P., Kharitonov, V.M., Lidén, K., & Goodwin, W. (2000). Molecular analysis of Neanderthal DNA from the Northern Caucasus. Nature, 404, 490-493.

Sailer, S. (2010).
The Neanderthal within. Steve Sailer’s iSteve Blog, May 2, 2010.
http://isteve.blogspot.com/2010/05/neanderthal-within.html

Tyrrell, A.J. & Chamberlain, A.T. (1998). Non-metric trait evidence for modern human affinities and the distinctiveness of Neanderthals. Journal of Human Evolution, 34, 549-554.

53 comments:

PJ said...

A few newspapers broke the embargo on Paabo's story, apparently Eurasians have a Neandertal admixture between 1% and 4%. Same admixture in East Asians / Melanesians as Europeans.

Peter Frost said...

P.J.

Apparently you saw the first draft of my post (where I doubted that Neanderthal admixture would exceed 1% in Eurasians). I then logged on to Razib's site and discovered that Paabo's team had, in fact, been holding back something big.

Oh well.

I'm not surprised to see the same level of admixture in East Asians and Austronesians. All of these populations seem to descend from a single population of hunter-gatherers that existed across northern Eurasia, essentially the steppe-tundra belt. This common population began to split up around 20,000 years ago at the height of the last ice age. It descendants then progressively spread southward, with the latest southward push being the Austronesian expansion into southeast Asia and the Pacific.

PJ said...

I have a hard time believing there was a lot of gene transfer between Austronesia and Europe after the initial expansion. More likely in my view is that there was a Neandertal-human admixture in the Middle East c. 100,000 BC, and after new genetic combinations became fixed, possibly with further genetic exchanges with East African populations after the adoption of boating on the Red Sea, people from the shores of the Red Sea expanded c. 50,000 BC and became the total population of Eurasia and a partial population of Africa.

Razib said...

for the record, i'm not a multiregionalist, never was. and greg thinks multiregionalism is retarded.

Anonymous said...

I don't really understand Peter Frost's counterpoint to Cochran. Yes, late neanderthals were underachievers by the standards of recent sapiens. But who is to say that late neanderthals weren't a good bit smarter than early neanderthals were, prior to 300,000 years of (perhaps-)total reproductive isolation? Therefore, dumb or not, late neanderthals could still have had some very interesting intelligence alleles not found in pure, fresh-from-Africa sapiens.

We all know Ashkenazim have significantly higher intelligence than the Icelanders. Does it follow that if the Ashkenazim were currently in contact with, but speciating from, Icelanders (with hybrids fertile but depressed in fitness), no intelligence allele could introgress from Icelanders into Ashkenazim? Of course not.

The general long-term trend of encephalization in hominids means smarter has been better for a long time, over most periods if not necessarily over all periods. This supports the possibilities that:

1. late neanderthals would've developed new IQ-increasing alleles, as compared to early neanderthals

2. such alleles could well have been fitness-enhancing if they introgressed into modern humans in Eurasia.

Anonymous said...

Possibility: I think what would be interesting would be to see if the Melanesian groups who score about the same in terms of IQ as tropical Africans have the Sapiens ancestral mutations for the mental function coding genes described in Gene Expression or if they have the Neanderthal introgressed genes, since we know Melanesians show the same introgression.

If they do, then we'll definitely know that the Neanderthal variations are neither necessary nor sufficient for the observed IQ gaps, which should recontextualize our discussions in an interesting way (though it still leaves plenty of possibilities).

Since studies on IQ and genes seem to be unimpressive, I wouldn't expect anything big (i.e. if Neanderthals did give Eurasians and other Out-of-Africans these IQ boosting mutations, then wouldn't they have been found already, whether we know their Neanderthal origin or not?).

JacobTM said...

Dr. Frost,


You said that:

"A market economy can exist with minimal state supervision only in a relatively homogeneous ‘high trust’ society. Liquidate that social environment, and you liquidate the economic environment that comes with it."

Why do you feel that racial mixing isn't compatible with a "high trust" society in the long term? Do you think it's impossible for humans to develop the capacity to trust those who look different from them?

Anonymous said...

JacobTM,
I can't speak for Peter Frost of course, but if you ask me a nation made half of Koreans and half of French would easily support high-tech modern capitalism. The Frogs would respect and admire the Dog-eaters, and vice versa, so they would trust each other pretty nicely. Both are amiable, high-achieving, and less than macho on average. When it comes to say, Sicilians, Russians -- or to a more marked extent Bangladeshis, Iraqis, Kenyans -- you have a lower-trust society where bribes and other illegal arrangements are a marked or very marked part of society.

Also, mixing Sicilians and Russians into one society would not be a good idea. Much more trust would be lost as compared to mixing French and Koreans.

Anonymous said...

While I don't want to impute political motives to scientists like Hawks and Cochran, it's clear that the news of introgression will be enthusiastically welcomed by the wider HBD & white nationalist community. In short: "Yay, we're less similar to n*****s than previously claimed!"

Why do you feel that racial mixing isn't compatible with a "high trust" society in the long term?

Looking at Brazil, it's clear, at the very least, that even extreme inter-racial breeding will not eliminate racial strife.

gcochran said...

"But perhaps some adaptive solutions are still essentially the same in different complex organisms, like Neanderthals and modern humans. This point is made by Greg Cochran:"

You've got it backward: the point is that similar selective pressures can result in similar phenotypes (in separate populations) even though the biochemical details are different.

When you mix two such populations, you can end up with the best of both. This often works in selection experiments with domesticates. I figure it if actually happens to the point of being a major tool of agricultural genetics, it might just be theoretically possible as well. If you mixed Tibetans and Bolivian Indians, you would most likely (in the long run, after selection had had its way) end up with a population that was better adapted to high altitude than either today. Certainly no worse.

As for the notion that we could only get advantageous alleles affecting cognition if Neanderthals were just as smart or smarter than us - wrong. Look, we got a useful gene from a retrovirus once upon a time (syntycin) and that doesn't imply that retroviruses are really placental mammals.

On a related note, mules are smarter than either horses or donkeys. Go figure.

I'll bet money that there are _chimp_ alleles that would confer a fitness advantage if inserting into humans today. Quite possibly a cognitive advantage.

There is not the slightest reason to believe that the ancestors of the current inhabitants of New Guinea were hunter-gatherers in the steppe-tundra belt 20k years ago. Maybe a smidgen, if you count the Lapita contribution in the coastal tribes, but the known mtDNA and Y-chromosome haplotypes in PNG split off from other Asians a long time ago, more like 50k years.


As for alleles meshing well in such a closely related species: happens often. Taurine and zebu cattle are the result of separate domestications, from stocks of wild cattle that diverged around 500k years ago - more divergent than human and Neanderthals. But zebu genes have introgressing like crazy into an originally taurine African stock - because they work better in the heat and aridity. Creeping zebuization has affected the Middle East as well over the past few thousand years.

On the other hand, they don't mesh every time, which is undoubtedly why we don't see any Neanderthal mtDNA or Y-chromsome lineages today. This indicates that Neanderthal mtDNA had a selective disadvantage of, say, half a percent. Plausible if they were energy wasters.

By the way, we see cattle populations in Egypt that are a quarter zebu (on autosomal genes) but don't show any zebu mtDNA _or_ y-chromosomes.

Anonymous said...

> You've got it backward: the point is that similar selective pressures can result in similar phenotypes (in separate populations) even though the biochemical details are different.

Right. As Cochran and Frost are both well aware, the pale skin alleles of Euros and of E-Asians are mostly or totally separate sets of alleles, which is a good example of what Cochran's saying. If we could look back to 6,000 BC we would probably find lightness of skin to be under strong selection in Germany (whatever the cause). And people in Germany at that time might well have been paler than the people in China at that time: yet, obviously, if one of the E-Asian paleness alleles had been able to reach Germany, it is likely that it would have been strongly selected.

So, just because your pop is less-XYZ than some foreign pop is, doesn't mean your pop can't still introduce alleles for XYZ into the foreign pop -- which are new to them -- thus making them even XYZ-er.

Anonymous said...

> it's clear that the news of introgression will be enthusiastically welcomed by the wider HBD & white nationalist community

What's funny is that the whole thing looks more like unselected admixture, than it does like introgression associated with positive selection. The two concepts aren't really mutually exclusive, though, and it remains to be seen whether any of the neanderthal material was fitness-enhancing.

Still, it's amusing to note that this neanderthal cross-breeding *could* have actually been fitness-reducing, intelligence-reducing, and more generally cognitively-impoverishing for the sapiens of Europe and Eurasia. Not necessarily likely, but possible.

At the end of the day, Europeans (and Eurasians more broadly) are what they are, and there is more than one line of evidence for their cognitive (and certainly physical) traits having very significant genetic components. Europeans will be worthy of preservation, even if neanderthal admixture did actually weaken them. So yes, Europeans deserve to demographically dominate Europe, and by the very same token, it would be unjust for many millions of Europeans to be brought into China or the Islamic world and radically alter those societies biologically (unless those civilizations were, in a millieu of totally free expression, univocal in desiring that this take place).

Jim said...

unless those civilizations were, in a millieu of totally free expression, univocal in desiring that this take place

"Free expression" - good one.

More like if they became extended phenotypes of others' genes.

Anonymous said...

It could be argued that Europeans have forfeited indigenous rights to Europe by colonizing every habitable continent on earth, spreading their genes, culture, and symbionts. Unlike the Ainu or even the Han. Sami and Basques still should enjoy indigenous recognition of course. (Say, MacDonaldites, maybe Jews forfeited Israel in a similar fashion. Feel better?)

Has biological anthropology become the new hotbed of white nationalism? Given some recent books, articles, and blogs I wonder.

Tod said...

If you mixed Tibetans and Bolivian Indians, you would most likely (in the long run, after selection had had its way) end up with a population that was better adapted to high altitude than either today. Certainly no worse.

Yes worse, Tibetans practiced polyandry.

WITH increasing altitude, men progressively had more hemoglobin than women in the Han, but not the Tibetan, population. Above 2,664 m, this gender-related difference in hemoglobin concentration increased from childhood to young adulthood more in Han than in Tibetans. We suggest that the Han-Tibetan ethnic difference in the effect of altitude on hemoglobin concentration depends to a large extent on gender.'



The Tibetans are much lighter than they should be for UV radiation levels, UV-B dose rates during the summer in Lhasa are higher than the maximum value in Dar-Es-Salaam, which is at the sea level in the equatorial region.
Tibetans

Tod said...

Seems we are not talking about selected alleles but ones that are just lying about in the genome of Neanderchimps not doing much of anything and on finding themselves in a human suddenly become active.

Surely it's more likely that idle native human DNA building up 'evolutionary capacitance' then becoming active or ceasing to be suppressed by canalisation was responsible for the novel genetic factors behind the increase in human cognitive abilities.

PJ said...

I'm a bit surprised at the apparent animosity toward whites and Neandertals here.

There is no reason to think that Neandertals were "Neanderchimps" and backwards compared to the Africans they mated with. Nor that they were superior. They were cousins. The fact that surviving (unselected) variations are 97% African, 3% Neandertal doesn't necessarily indicate reduced Neandertal fitness, but a disparity in population: Africans contributed more people to the founding population.

Tod said...

How Neanderthals met a grisly fate: devoured by humans

Peter Frost said...

PJ,

My argument is not that there has been gene flow between Europeans and Austronesians. I'm saying that present-day Europeans and present-day Austronesians are in large part descended from a population that once inhabited northern Eurasia and that formed a single breeding population as late as 20,000 years ago.

Razib,

Sorry, but don't you and Greg support 'weak multiregionalism'?

Anon,

Neanderthal tools and weapons show no more complexity than those of modern humans in the tropical zone. So I don't see how Neanderthal admixture could explain the technological complexity of modern humans in the arctic zone.

Anon,

This is the point I would like to learn more about. Some of these introgressed Neanderthal genes seem to be related to brain function. What do we know about them?

Jacob and Anon,

I wasn't thinking in terms of racial mixing when I wrote that paragraph. I was thinking in terms of cultural/ethnic mixing. In an ethnically mixed society, every issue becomes interpreted in terms of Who?/Whom?

But a low-trust society is not necessarily ethnically mixed. Many homogeneous societies are dominated by 'amoral familialism', i.e., favoritism toward close kin and mistrust of everyone else. This low level of trust tends to restrict markets over space and time. You thus get localized markets, but not a market economy.

Greg,

Your argument is plausible, but sounds a bit like a long shot. You seem to be saying that a mental trait that works so-so in a Neanderthal brain might work a lot better in a modern human brain.

Well, yes, it might.

Do you have a specific mental faculty in mind? For instance, is it a factor that favors the creation of mental algorithms? In a Neanderthal brain, it would be held back because the total number of algorithms soon reaches a saturation point. In a modern human brain, this constraint does not exist because algorithms are continually being recycled and modified (given the more domain-general nature of our inner mental environment).

I'm not really convinced by your zebu example. Regulator genes are more important in primate and especially hominid evolution than in any other mammalian lineage. I see a greater chance of things going wrong when you take a gene from a Neanderthal and plug it into a modern human.

As I understand it, the reference sample was from Melanesia, which has substantial Austronesian admixture. So, yes, they would have ancestry from northern Eurasia if you go far enough back.

It's been a long day. I'll get back to the other comments later on. Thanks for yout input!

Anonymous said...

I don't think Cochran is saying that such an allele must work better in sapiens than it does in neanderthals. Not at all. It just has to work, and sapiens has to not have it yet. In fact it could even work a bit less well in sapiens, but that doesn't mean it can't be fitness-enhancing in sapiens.

gcochran said...

The sample was from PNG: very little Austronesian genetic admixture, even along the coast. Essentially none in the highlands.


Read the paper.

M said...

***This is the point I would like to learn more about. Some of these introgressed Neanderthal genes seem to be related to brain function. What do we know about them?***

Microcephalin, a new allele arose about 37,000 years ago. Another was a human-like FOXP2 gene, whose function is critical for language.

"They noted that this D allele is very common in Europe, where Neanderthals lived, and more rare in Africa, where they did not. Lahn said it is not yet clear what advantage the D allele gives the human brain.

"The D alleles may not even change brain size; they may only make the brain a bit more efficient if it indeed affects brain function," Lahn said."

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15611031/

JacobTM said...

Dr. Frost,

I just don't understand where that assertion comes from about ethnic/cultural mixing. Practically everything you say in your blog is flawlessly cited and explained, and then you just lay down a sweeping statement like that with apparently no basis.

Living in New York, I've personally seen that the children of immigrants often absorb American culture VERY quickly. New York specifically has seen these arguments before. How could lazy Catholic Italians possibly integrate into the Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture of NY? What of those drunk Irish? And the Russians, who're all communists anyway?

Racial, ethnic, cultural, religious etc. integration happens differently in different places, but at least in NY I've seen that the same economic forces that draw people to economic centers like New York cause them to integrate very quickly. This integration isn't a perfect, flawless or simple prospect, but neither is it something insurmountable, merely an issue that persists even as it is also being solved.

Anonymous said...

I have come to the conclusion that a lot of thought patters have wetware support. Successful thinking techniques will eventually have genetic support.

One possible result of mixing of genes from Neandertals and Homo Sapiens could have been individuals who could think outside the boxes that both parent groups were constrained to. This is perhaps especially so with respect to the creation of soft culture, the kind that leave little trace.

However, it seems to me that the intellectual successes of some groups has more to do with selection over the last 10-20 thousand years.

Anonymous said...

J TM, for one source, see Robert Putman's research on diversity vs trust and community involvement.

Peter Frost said...

Anon,

Which takes me back to my original point. There is no evidence that the Neanderthals were mentally superior to modern humans at anything. On the contrary, their tool-making, weapon-making, and notions of time allocation/planning were distinctly inferior.

Greg,

You're right. The Papuan individual was a Hagahai from the center of PNG. No Austronesian admixture.

This would suggest that Neanderthal admixture happened in southwest Asia when modern humans first began to spread out of Africa. But why would admixture happen there but not in Europe, where the two populations co-existed for a much longer time? If there had been subsequent admixture in Europe, we would see more Neanderthal admixture in present-day Europeans, but we don’t.

The only possibility I can imagine is that Neanderthal genes entered the modern human gene pool indirectly, via an intermediate population in the Middle East that already had Neanderthal admixture (because of prolonged contact) but was essentially modern human or close to modern human. There would have been no subsequent admixture in Europe because there was no intermediate population, and the behavioral distance between the two groups would have been too great to facilitate admixture.

M,

The microcephalin variant is not present in the Neanderthal genome.

Jacob,

I could challenge the points you make. Steve Sailer, for instance, cited a study showing that Hispanic American underachievement actually worsens with increasing integration and assimilation. The same phenomenon has been noted in Europe with Muslim immigrants. Underachievement and delinquence actually worsen over time. The best achievers are generally those who are the least assimilated.

But, anyway, you're missing my point. My point was not about underachievement. It was about the conflictual nature of multi-ethnic societies. At best, people simply withdraw and become indifferent to their fellow citizens (à la Putnam). At worst, they adopt an aggressive us/them who/whom attitude.

To go back to my example of Muslim immigration, the best achievers tend to be the least assimilated, who in turn tend to adopt an us/them approach to society. Conversely, the worst achievers tend to be those who are non-religious, are willing to cohabit with non-Muslims, and adopt Western cultural norms.

Tod said...

A nearly human population mating with Neanderthals - presumably a less extreme Neanderthal type found at the fringes of the Neanderthal range - then the population of ME Neanderthal hybrids passing on the Neanderthal ancestry to humans migrating though the ME.

Wouldn't that mean the Neanderthal genes were already undergoing selection in humans long before reaching Europe? The modern humans in Europe should have shown evidence of this putative cogitative advantage at a very early stage in that case.

JacobTM said...

I've read Robert Putnam's work actually. Better Together discusses examples of modern-day community in the United States, one of the chapters focuses on the strong community within UPS, which used to be a very white company, but now is very diversified and still finds community outside of the terms of race/ethnicity/culture.

Also, various surveys on Muslim integration in Europe vs. the United States shows that in the USA, Muslims are more assimilated and more successful economically than in Europe.

Again, I feel that the example of the United States is very helpful. A hundred years ago, Italians, Russians, Irish and other new European immigrants were thought too foreign to be integratable. Now they form part of the non-descript "white" majority in the US, even though in 1910 Anglo-Saxons were none too comfortable with these newcomers.

Italians, Irish and Russians have NOT withdrawn and become indifferent to their neighbor. I don't get why one can't even look back 100 years to see the problems that were thought insurmountable and then look to modern times to see how they've been overcome.

Tod said...

Muslims in Europe are not herded into ghettos and prevented from integrating you know. If they do integrate in the US it's because they feel pressure to do so. At businesses like UPS you do things their way or you're out.

Anonymous said...

> Also, various surveys on Muslim integration in Europe vs. the United States shows that in the USA, Muslims are more assimilated and more successful economically than in Europe.

True, but beware of possible selection effects. I don't know if there actually are any such effects, but it's at least possible that the muslims in the US tend to be more elite (higher in IQ, etc). That's not to deny that social factors may also be at work as well.

> Italians, Irish and Russians have NOT withdrawn and become indifferent to their neighbor. I don't get why one can't even look back 100 years to see the problems that were thought insurmountable and then look to modern times to see how they've been overcome.

I love eastern Europe, but gentile Russians (in large numbers) would probably be at least somewhat socially problematic. If I'm not mistaken, most of the Russians who came to the US were ashkenazim - complete with sky-high IQs, etc. Yes, there was some degree of jewish gangsterism among gritty poor jews who hadn't had time to become prosperous yet, but a 112 average IQ surely made it particularly easy for them to transcend that sort of stuff in short order.

Anyway, you should question your assumptions -- do you really know for sure that the coming of Irish and Italians didn't slightly reduce the quality of life of old stock Americans? (I'm speaking of crime and redistribution of wealth and such, not just social trust and involvement.) I think it's quite possible that the US would be richer, more libertarian, and lower in crime without that immigration. Fortunately, any negative effects were fairly mild, because the IQ differences and other differences between eg Irish and old English stock are pretty small. The inherent differences in the latins now coming into the US, and the muslims coming into Europe, are a good deal larger.

Now, I like Mexico, I love Islamic civilization, and Russia. But I don't want to live there, except maybe Russia. America was just fine how it was when I was born, 90% white and 10% black. Poor whites, and most blacks, have been screwed over by latin immigration. They are going to end up much more screwed in the future.

Anonymous said...

> Which takes me back to my original point. There is no evidence that the Neanderthals were mentally superior to modern humans at anything. On the contrary, their tool-making, weapon-making, and notions of time allocation/planning were distinctly inferior.

Again, Icelandic IQ is inferior to Ashkenazi. That doesn't mean there aren't variants in Iceland, absent from Ashkenazim, that raise IQ on any genetic background. So if we were all under selection for IQ (which is obviously counterfactual), such Icelandic variants could introgress into Ashkenazim and raise their IQ from 112 to 114.

I mean, suppose you and I learn to paint (or make violins, or whatever). Suppose we are both pretty good painters but you are unmistakably better than me, having a larger and better repertoire of advanced techniques of composition, brushwork, etc. That doesn't mean you can't still learn 3 or 4 techniques from me, and thus become a better painter. Just because I am worse at it than you are, doesn't mean you know every technique that I know, and therefore have literally nothing to learn from me.

Anonymous said...

> I'm speaking of crime and redistribution of wealth and such, not just social trust and involvement.

By redistribution, I'm talking about a (possible) net flow of dough from old-stock Americans to Irish- and Italian-Americans. This could be via "welfare" (social security, medicare, obamacare, food stamps, unemployment benefits, welfare checks). But it could also take place via Old Yankees paying more per capita for the roads and the Army but not benefiting more from them them more per capita, shelling out mroe per capita for the schools but not benefiting more per capita, and so on.

This is why I suspect Americans (ie Old-stock Americans) might well have a bit more in their bank accounts, and a bit better public infrastructure, etc, if Irish and Italians had never immigrated here. Such differences would be small, but I don't see how anyone can prove they would not in fact exist. I strongly suspect they would -- and therefore, I don't consider the old-time nativism against Irish to have been some kind of totally irrational hysteria, necessarily.

I'm 25% Mick myself, just by the bye. So, you can see I'm not anti-Irish or something; I'm not anti-anybody.

Anonymous said...

So you can see the point I'm making. American blacks receive more welfare, in the literal sense, than whites. They also pay somewhat less taxes per capita (in both absolute terms and percentage-of-income terms), so they receive "welfare," a net flow of wealth, through all government activities. They benefit from publicly-funded universities, government housing inspectors who make sure their houses are built safe, and so on and so on. So yes, they are a net pecuniary "burden" to some degree on white and asian taxpayers in America - on average of course, I'm not talking about every single individual. And this will never change. I'm not saying, gosh we should all hate them, or something. I like them. Nor am I saying we should gouge them with taxes, move to a regressive tax schedule or even a flat tax. But the facts are the facts. I'm just saying "this is how it is" - I didn't make the world. It's not that big a deal for there to be these transfers of wealth - especially when the magnitude of the inequality of inherent economic capabilities in a country is not all that vast.

But when you bring in lots of latins, who are also going to be net tax recipients, and recipients of above-average welfare transfers in the narrow sense, you are really going to strain the system. The welfare state is going to become quite impossible. This will have a serious real-world impact, which you can already see the beginnings of in California. They are going to have to contract their public university system -- they're going to have to contract everything. Life there is going to become very different from what people expected. Basically, it will become Mexico, to a significant degree. Viva Mexico, I just don't happen to want to live there. If I did, I would move there.

In the extreme, those who are economically more productive rebel against being "tax slaves." In latin America, you get a large fraction of people living in lawless shanty towns. I think these will probably be seen in the US, a couple generation hence. And living in them, in conditions quite miserable compared to anything we see in the US today, will be a whole bunch of the blacks and lower-class whites whom we've so blithely screwed over.

Ben10 said...

Hi all, I have 2 questions

1) these 1 or 4%, are they the same DNA for every modern humans or is it ANY neanderthal DNA that we can get. For example John gets a piece of neanderthal DNA that was involved in neanderthal thermoregulation and Dale gets a neanderthal DNA coding for head development.

2) assuming that neanderthal and cro magnons were after all living in about the same conditions in post glacial europe, the neanderthal introgressed DNA at that time was therefore submitted to about the same kind of selective pressure, i.e a cold environment of hunter gatherer, whether it was present inside a neanderthal or inside a modern human. But now, conditions are being more and more tropicalized so Neandethal dna should now be under negative selective pressure . So my question is, are we (we europeans) loosing our neanderthal dna over time, or these 1 to 4% are stable in our genome and why are they stable ?

Ben10 said...

Sorry, but I have an additional 3rd question. Here it is: in higher species, the meiosis mechanism is supposed to be strongly dependant on the similarities between the paired male and female chromosomes. If two many sequence divergence occur, the chromosomes cannot pair correctly and cannot be segregated correctly, therefore creating chromosomal aberrations and abortions. The fact that modern and neanderthal chromosmes could pair correctly show that their dna sequence and chromosome were very similar if not identical. But still, 800 000 years of evolutionary divergence should have created significant sequence divergence between the two species, which should have translated into higher rate of chromosome aberration or rearrangement. So either the surviving hybrids are those who didn't carry these aberrations, or there had been only minor chromosome rearrangements, not lethal for the hybrids.
The question is, is there any known minor chromosomal or dna rearrangement (duplication, translocation, anything) in our genome that we can trace back to about this period as a remnant of this hybridization event?

Tod said...

If adaptive introgession is the explaination for Neanderthal alleles in modern humans why did it not work the other way? Why did Neanderthals not benefit from the concomitant adaptive introgession of human genes.

Neanderthals never hybridized with modern humans in Europe

Tod said...

Because both Bushmen and Yoruba are similarly non-Neanderthal the differences in intelligence between Bushmen and Yoruba show that adaptive introgression of Neanderthal genes is not required for evolution of greater intelligence.

There was a BBC TV program in March that gave the bread theory an airing here and here

Anonymous said...

Cochran hasn't suggested that introgression is the only way to increase IQ. We probably all know that he thinks Ashkenazim probably shot up by 15 points in something like 1000 years. But pop sizes were way, way smaller 40,000 years BP. Therefore evolution would have been a good deal more mutation-limited than it has been over the last 10 millennia. Most people here probably recall the paper by Hawks, Cochran, et al on the acceleration of human evolution due to greatly increased pop sizes since 10,000 years BP.

Tod said...

Could the differences between Europeans/Asians and Africans be down to population size? Anyway I think there has been a suggestion of adaptive introgession being mainly responsible.

Black Africans may have far more IQ points on Bushmen and Pygmies than Europeans/Asians have on them.

Anonymous said...


Black Africans may have far more IQ points on Bushmen and Pygmies than Europeans/Asians have on them.


If there are points for being second best, then I guess Black African will rule the world.

Tod said...

Well the son of a Black African already rules the US.

America is the model for the entire world.

Tod said...

Direction of gene flow (to or from Neanderthals, or …?)

'The authors observe that modern non-Africans are closer to Yoruba than to San. They argue that if Neandertals had modern non-African admixture, then they would also be closer to Yoruba than to San. But, they observe that they are about equidistant to Yoruba and San. Ergo, they couldn’t have substantial non-African admixture.
The error in this syllogism is the equation of modern non-Africans (who are closer to Yoruba than to San) with ancient non-Africans for which this was not necessarily the case.
Perhaps a case could be made that this was true for late Out-of-Africans, as these split off from other moderns after the Yoruba-San split. But, the late Out-of-Africans were not the only anatomically modern humans who left Africa,'

Tod said...

Neanderthals who were not raised by humans would be terrified of humans, like a bonobo would be terrified of a chimp in the wild.

No human could have mated with a 'wild' Neanderthal, they'd get parts of their anatomy bitten and twisted off.


It could be that infant Neanderthals were sometimes kept as a pets after their parents were hunted and occasionaly stayed alive long enough to mate with humans - < 10 years, they matured fast - and that the mating of a non-pet Neanderthal with a human never took place. That would explain why the genes flowed one way; the offspring all were born into a band of humans.

If the humans who shared Europe with Neanderthals have died out and been totally replaced since that would explain why Europeans don't have any extra Neanderthal ancestry.

Peter Frost said...

Jacob,

There used to exist many 'white ethnic' enclaves throughout the U.S. northeast. With the breakup of those enclaves, and the dispersal of their residents to the suburbs, there has been a decrease in community involvement. They and their descendants feel less interest in community life because their communities have been reduced to spatial entities.

So, yes, Irish and Italian Americans, like 'old stock' Americans, have become steadily more indifferent to their neighbors and their communities. We might disagree over the cause, but the actual trend is widely accepted by social scientists.

Muslims are more 'assimilated' in the U.S. than in Europe because they are fewer in number. As for being employed and economically successful, so what? Why would economic success make one less likely to think in terms of 'us' versus 'them'? The Times Square bomber was economically successful, as were most of the WTC bombers.

Anon,

I guess I'd be more impressed by that line of reasoning if one could point to a specific mental trait or capacity that gave Neanderthals an advantage, however slight, over modern humans. I can't think of any.

Ben10,

The figure of 1 to 4% admixture is an estimate of excess similarity between the Neanderthal genome and modern Eurasian genomes, including noncoding DNA. To date, there's not much information on functional genes of Neanderthal origin. Some of these genes might be cold climate adaptations, or maybe not. We may know more in coming months. Pääbo is hinting that we shouldn't expect to find anything major.

Tod,

There may have been introgression in the other direction, but how could one measure it? What would be your baseline? (i.e., a Neanderthal population with no introgression)

Tod said...

Whether or not adaptive introgression actually works a Neanderthal population with no introgression would likely respond to environmental challenges by evolving along distinctly 'Neanderthal' lines to a greater extent than one that had hybridized; I believe there is some evidence that the north west European Neanderthal type did develop into the most extreme version of the Neanderthal.

Neanderthals were defenceless against humans' ability to throw spears while maintaining a safe distance with their superior mobility. By my way of thinking Neanderthals would have regarded humans as a deadly dangerous predator and be panic stricken when they saw one. Is there a precedent for a animal to hybridize with a species that preys on adult members of its species?

The 'humans ' who hybridized with Neanderthals were obviously not regarded as a much of a threat but maybe they were not behaviorally modern enough to want to hunt Neanderthals. Fully behaviorally modern humans would have been killing Neanderthals for sport.

Tod said...

Neanderthals - what they really looked like

JacobTM said...

Dr. Frost,

Economic success for muslims in the U.S. does not mean that no one will want to plot terrorist attacks. A white man flew his plane into an IRS building earlier this year. Timothy Mcveigh was white, the colombine shooters were white etc.

A single white person or muslim person perpetrating a terrorist attack doesn't mean anything about the groups as a whole.

The reason economic integration is important is because if immigrants are economically incorporated into the economic system of the U.S. it's much more likely they'll be incorporated into other aspects of life. Avoiding the creation of racial/religious underclass gives racial/religious groups less reason to be discontent. "Us" becomes less about race or religion than it does about class.

And indeed, muslim communities in the USA are less disconent than those in Europe, and I can't believe one wouldn't see their economic success here as an important part of that.

glinton123 said...

Dienekes from http://dienekes.blogspot.com is skeptical like Peter Frost on the recent findings. He writes in his anthropology blog:

"...red flags to the tale of Neandertal admixture that has appeared in the media:
The uniformity of alleged Neandertal admixture outside Africa is suspect, given that Neandertals were a West Eurasian species
The observed pattern of Neandertals being closer to non-Africans than to Africans can be well explained by structure in Africa itself, a point which the authors concede (as their Scenario 4), but which has received zero play in the media which -as usual- have jumped on the more easily digestible ("caveman sex") explanation.
Now I want to address another major red flag that I hinted at before, namely the direction of gene flow, if gene flow did in fact occur between modern humans and Neandertals.


The authors reject that gene flow into the Neandertals took place; I immediately got suspicious of this claim because it is not consistent with what we know from historical cases of contact.


Whether it is Europeans meeting Native Americans, Yayoi meeting Jomon, or Bantu farmers meeting Pygmy hunters, the story is always the same: the dominant intrusive population ends up with admixture from the native one, but admixture goes both ways.


If modern humans and Neandertals interbred, then there is absolutely no reason to think that "we" got Neandertal genes, but "they" didn't get ours. To think that requires extra assumptions, e.g., that modern-Neandertal kids were shunned by Neandertal societies, i.e., that Neandertals were a sort of prehistoric Samaritans that practiced strict endogamy. I find that hard to believe.

Peter Frost said...

Jacob,

"A white man flew his plane into an IRS building earlier this year. Timothy Mcveigh was white, the colombine shooters were white etc."

Then I'm not sure where we disagree, unless you're implying that Islamic fundamentalism is a fringe phenomenon on a par with Timothy Mcveigh. In that case, you're sadly wrong.

As for the rest, you're reciting a lot of neocon happy talk. Muslim immigrants are not assimilating in Europe because they have become so numerous there and now have the critical mass to maintain their identity. There is even 'reverse assimilation' among those who had earlier assimilated.

The same process is now beginning in the U.S., particularly in areas like Michigan. Again, this resistance to assimilation is typical of many economically successful Muslims, like the Times Square bomber.

And it's silly to pretend that the Us/Them mindset is a product of economic deprivation. It's a very widespread social phenomenon. In fact, it tends to be weaker among declining populations that are no longer able to affirm their identity.

But, unfortunately, there are some lessons that you and other Americans will have to learn the hard way.

Fred Scrooby said...

"But, unfortunately, there are some lessons that you and other Americans will have to learn the hard way." ( -- Peter Frost)

Canadians have got these lessons down pat.

Peter Frost said...

Fred,

Most people, everywhere, learned a long time ago about Us/Them and Who/Whom. Unfortunately, the U.S. is now teaching the rest of the world that these realities no longer exist. And this 'learned naivete' is being most readily adopted by those nations that are linguistically and culturally similar, like Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Neanderthals had larger, but less convoluted brains (which would explain why they did not seem to benefit much from having such a large brain), while the Sapiens had smaller, more densely convoluted brains. The genes for the larger brain were selected for, while those for less convolutions were selected against, and we ended up with larger, more convoluted brains, and hence more intelligence than either Neanderthal or early Sapien.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's the spirit.

I can't comprehend how Peter Frost can't recognize that this simple scenario makes sense -- yet in his new post he presents multiple new possible interpretations of the Paabo data which as best as I can tell are both formidable, and strikingly original and clever. Go figure.

My analogy about painting and violin-making is imperfect. Better that I go back to the skin-color one. Suppose it is 5500 BC. Suppose Chinese are pale. Euros are yet paler. And both are under ongoing selection to become paler still. Now suppose Chinese come into contact with Euros, carrying with them, of course, their paleness alleles, which are different from the Euro ones. Even though these Chinese folks are not as pale as Euros, can their paleness alleles introgress into Euros, making the Euros even paler still? Of course! Obviously!

Relative to Euros, the Chinese aren't pale in some special way, on a phenotypic level. Paleness is paleness. But they *are* pale in a "special" (different) way, on the *genetic* level. That's the whole point Cochran has been making all along.

So yes, genes from the semi-pale can make the quite-pale become paler still. The semi-intelligent can make the quite-intelligent still more intelligent.