Friday, December 30, 2005


Physical anthropology is not my field at all but I have a slight interest in the genetic origins of the British population from which I personally am descended so I do occasionally note studies that attempt to enlighten us about that. I have however given up taking notice of the DNA studies as their conclusions seem to vary between saying that the English population is almost wholly Celtic and almost wholly Anglo-Saxon. My conclusion is that DNA is so complex and our understanding of it is still so slight that we will have to wait for some time before anything definitive emerges.

I was therefore rather interested to see the latest paper by Loring Brace using craniofacial measurements of ancient skulls to trace European ancestry. Such measurements do at least offer the prospect of being a lot simpler than DNA. There is an abstract of the paper here, the full paper is available here and there is a popular summary of it here. I am afraid, however, that I also find difficulties with Brace's conclusions. What Brace appears to have found is that modern Europeans are in appearance more like very ancient Europeans than the Europeans who came in between. The Europeans who came in between were the first farmers (he refers to them as "neolithic") and he says that they had heavier features than either present-day or very ancient Europeans. His explanation for his finding is that the first farmers came into Europe from the Middle East and taught the natives how to farm but then mostly died out (or at least left little genetic legacy).

That seems reasonable at first glance but if the natives soon learnt to farm from the incomers, how come most of the farmer remains are not in fact those of the natives? Surely it is absurd to claim that the natives conveniently refrained from farming until the incomers died out!

What seems a slightly more reasonable explanation to me is that the original European population evolved in two directions -- the more heavyset farmers and the more gracile hunters but, perhaps due to climatic changes, the hunters eventually took up farming too and in the process wiped out most of the original farmers -- aided in that, no doubt, by the superior fighting skills that their original hunting lifestyle had given them.

That of course leaves us with the problem of explaining how farming APPEARS to have originated in the Middle East. Time-lines that far back are however very speculative so I see no real difficulty in supposing that the first farmers in the Middle East in fact fled there from Europe.

But that still leaves the question of where the original Europeans came from. Brace believes that they gradually evolved from Neanderthals -- which conflicts with the usual view that they originated from Cro-Magnons out of Africa. Brace's data do conveniently show little affinity between Cro-Magnons and modern Europeans so that is certainly interesting. The only firm conclusion that seems to emerge from it all is that the present-day population of Europe is very ancient.



Something had to be done: "China plans to jail anyone who helps prospective parents to learn the sex of their unborn child, in an attempt to reduce the number of female fetuses being aborted. It is already illegal to scan a fetus to discover its sex. But an amendment submitted to the standing committee of the National People's Congress, or parliament, will mean up to three years in jail and heavy fines for anyone helping with gender selection. It is rare for the parliament not to pass a bill. Most couples are limited by law to one child. Many, especially in the countryside, yearn for a son to work their land, provide for the parents in their old age and carry on the family name. Many rural clinics provide unauthorised ultrasound scans to determine the sex of the fetus and parents generally abort daughters. As a result, the ratio of boys to girls stands at 119 to 100, significantly higher than the world average of 106 to 100. In southern provinces such as Hainan and Guangdong the imbalance is as high as 130 boys per 100 girls, despite the many incentives offered to farmers to stop them aborting daughters".

Good if they really were guilty: "A Kuwaiti court handed down death sentences Tuesday, to six Islamists linked to the al-Qaida terror network. The six condemned men were among a group of 37 people accused of plotting to attack Kuwaiti security forces and U.S. troops in the Gulf emirate."

Malingerers under threat in Britain? "Payment of long-term sickness benefit is to become conditional on people taking advantage of government help aimed at getting them back to work, under reforms to be announced next month. The Times has learnt that ministers are to risk the opposition of Labour MPs by introducing a "something-for-something" approach. The Government would provide more generous benefits and support to deal with illness and disabilities in return for a new obligation on people to try to work again. Incentives to stay on benefit will be removed".

French 'active' in Rwanda genocide: "One of the most controversial episodes in France's recent history is to come under legal scrutiny after a judge opened a formal inquiry into allegations that the French Army conspired in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. The move, which will renew debate over the actions of Francois Mitterrand, France's late president, is embarrassing for Paris at a time when it is struggling to maintain its influence in Africa. Despite attempts by the French Defence Ministry to block the case, Jacques Baillet, the prosecutor at the army tribunal, has begun an investigation into the role of France's troops during the massacres".

Cowardly Dutch: "Britain's plans to expand significantly its military presence in Afghanistan early next year are being disrupted by political indecision within Nato. Ministers had hoped to give the Commons details of the proposed despatch of a combat battle group to Afghanistan before Christmas. Army units have already been put on standby for Afghanistan and have been training for weeks, but without any firm guarantee that they will be sent. Military planners and ministers have been unable to make final decisions about the reinforcements, which are due to go in March and April. Nato foreign ministers agreed at a meeting in Brussels this month to increase the size of the alliance’s commitment in Afghanistan from 10,000 to 16,000 troops. The major players within Nato earmarked for sending extra troops included Britain, Canada and the Netherlands. But no decision has been made about each nation’s contributions, partly because of Dutch concerns over the risks".

There is a rather heartwarming story here that may even be true. At least Snopes do not appear to have rubbished it yet: "It started last Christmas, when Bennett and Vivian Levin were overwhelmed by sadness while listening to radio reports of injured American troops. "We have to let them know we care," Vivian told Bennett. So they organized a trip to bring soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital to the annual Army-Navy football game in Philly, on Dec. 3. The cool part is, they created their own train line to do it.... "

For more postings, see EDUCATION WATCH, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE. Mirror sites here, here, here, here and here. On Social Security see Dick McDonald and for purely Australian news see Australian Politics (mirrored here).


Practically all policies advocated by the Left create poverty. Leftists get the government to waste vast slabs of the country's labour-force on bureaucracy and paperwork and so load the burden of providing most useful goods and services onto fewer and fewer people. So fewer useful goods and services are produced to go around. That is no accident. The Left love the poor. The Left need the poor so that they can feel good by patronizing and "helping" them. So they do their best to create as many poor people as possible.

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialistisch)

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