Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes

Svante Pääbo has a book out, Neanderthal Man, in which he recounts his adventures sequencing ancient DNA.  He has had three big successes: the first successful sequencing of Neanderthal mtDNA in 1997, the first sequencing of the Neanderthal nuclear genome, and later the first Denisovan genome.

Ancient DNA is usually very degraded: short DNA sequences mixed with bacterial DNA, and often contaminated by modern human DNA.  Pääbo and his team made major contributions in sample preparation and sequencing methodology. The interpretation of that data has been performed by people like David Reich, Nick Patterson, and Monty Slatkin – and a good thing too, because Pääbo is no theorist. At each stage of his work, he had certain expectations about the results, and those expectations were nearly always wrong.  He thought any Neanderthal genetic contribution to modern humans was very unlikely – but it’s there.  To be fair, that was the case for many other people working in human genetics. I’ve never really understood why.

Or later, after a few-percent Neanderthal admixture had been shown to exist in people outside of sub-Saharan Africa, he at first thought that it probably had no functional consequences.  He believed that the correct null hypothesis was that a genetic change would have no consequences whatever: but that’s silly.  The question wasn’t whether one particular Neanderthal allele was advantageous, but whether any of them were.  In order for his null model to be correct, Neanderthals would had to be inferior indeed, not better adapted to their home territories in any way.  Although again, to be fair, there are whole branches of science in which the favorite null model is always wrong.

One interesting side point: by looking at the entrails of the online supplement to the big Neanderthal paper in May 2010, it was possible to see that there was something odd about Melanesians: they were genetically more distant from Africans than other Eurasians.  Which implied another dose of archaic ancestry. Judging from this book (which may not have the complete story)  the people working that problem didn’t notice that anomaly, but instead compared against the just-sequenced Denisovan genome and noticed that Melanesians were significantly closer to Denisovans than  other Eurasians.

A good experimentalist can (sometimes)  get to some reasonable approximation of the truth even if he’s short on theory.  Worth remembering, particularly in the human sciences, where emotions make theory gang aft a-gley.

 

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117 Responses to Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes

  1. ckp says:

    >Although again, to be fair, there are whole branches of science in which the favorite null model is always wrong.

    Other than the stock sociology “blank-slate-genes-don’t-matter”, what other fields are like this? Genuinely curious.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I think it’s changing, but not so long ago the null model in archaeology was that “all the world’s peoples had been relatively immobile since their origins, and had evolved their cultural characteristics essentially by independent and in situ processes.” Which is about as wrong as can be.

      • Toddy Cat says:

        There’s still a lot of push-back against the idea of migrations and wars altering human prehistory, which is pretty astonishing, considering what we saw happen with our own eyes during and immediately after WWII.

        • gcochran9 says:

          As far as I can tell, that push-back was partly generated by just those events during and after WWII. The problem with these guys is more than just being wrong about a particular issue: they’re crazy.

  2. BRW says:

    I don’t have anything to add. I would just like to throw out a big “thank you” to Greg and Henry for putting this information out there and making it accessible to the layman. I would really like to delve deeper into this subject. What books would you recommend reading? And are you guys writing another book anytime soon? Thanks.

    • Peter Connor says:

      Second the motion!

      • BRW says:

        C’mon guys, just a couple to get our beaks wet. You don’t want us getting caught up in some Nicolas Wade rip tide, do ya?

      • dave chamberlin says:

        Scroll down and listen to the one hour lecture by Svaante that Sandgroper was kind enough to include in this thread. He is talking to NIH scientists and he goes into more technical detail than he did in his book. He also has some fresh information not included in his book.

  3. Patrick Boyle says:

    I think you missed the point. Svante Pääbo may very well win a Nobel Prize. He certainly has turned around the thinking of millions. He is likely to become the most famous scientist in the world in the life sciences. His life and methods should be studied, not summarily dismissed as – “no theorist”. His success argues that being good at theory hardly matters at all.

    Edison supposedly tried 3,000 different filaments before he found one that worked. A record of being wrong worked for him too.

    What struck me about Pääbo was what a good manager he was. He comes across as a nice fellow with whom everyone wants to work and about whom no one has a bad word. He is modest and self effacing. He works well with others. And of course he seems to be supernaturally painstaking.

    One aspect of his work really surprised me. At one point he has to raise what he considers a lot of money to continue his work. My mind flashed – ‘Big Science’. But on rethought I realized that it was only a five million dollar grant. Almost any mid manager in any business or government activity will have to sooner or later launch a five million dollar or larger project. For many people in business a project that size is just ‘chump change’. Similarly the forces that he commands are quite tiny. He is more of a squad leader than a corps commander. His work is important but it is all so very small scale.

    • Richard Sharpe says:

      In which field do you think he will win a Nobel? Physiology and Medicine? Literature? That last one is not a real Nobel prize if I am not mistaken.

      • Peter Lund says:

        You are.

      • Richard Sharpe says:

        Yes, I was mistaken. I had placed the Literature prize in the same category as the Peace prize rather than looking it up.

        Clearly, Literature is not in the same class as Physics, Chemistry and Medicine etc, but I was still mistaken.

      • Patrick Boyle says:

        Maybe they will have to create a new category. Certainly the whole Nobel Prize area needs serious reform. The economics award is not quite the same thing as the others is it?

        Almost all Nobel laureates are acknowledged in press citings as such. For example, Feynman is always identified as a former Nobel Prize winner in physics. But no one ever refers to Barrack Obama as a Nobel Peace Prize winner. His drone campaign alone may have sunk the whole notion of the Peace Prize. Hitler I believe was also us for the Peace Prize and Rush Limbaugh too. I’ll need a Venn Diagram to plot the intersection of those two.

        The reason I mentioned it was because his book reminded me so much of Watson’s ‘Double Helix’. It was an insider’s look at real science. Pääbo would have been booked on Johnny Carson in a New York moment. I don’t know about this new guy Fallon.

      • Peter Lund says:

        The literature prize /is/ in the same category as the peace prize.

      • Anonymous says:

        You can blame the Nobel’s for the winners, but blaming them for nominees is unfair.

      • Anonymous says:

        He should get the Crafoord to get out of the way, damn, I’m hoping to begin looking rewardable in 10-20 years

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Plus, his name is fun to say out loud: “Svante Pääbo!”

  4. dearieme says:

    “Edison supposedly tried 3,000 different filaments before he found one that worked. A record of being wrong worked for him too.” Not quite: he was so slow that he was beaten to it, and consequently lost his patent case and had to buy out the other chap.

    • syon says:

      Don’t be hard on Patrick. After all, dear boy, he did give you the chance to trot out your “Joseph Swan invented the incandescent light bulb” mantra…..

      • dearieme says:

        The point is that Edison didn’t, no more than Morse invented the telegraph, or Ford mass production. I know that Americans like to indoctrinate their children with such rubbish, but it’s a mystery why – I mean, what’s wrong with the accurate boast that Ford was a magnificently successful user/exploiter/extender of mass production; why must the lie be told that he invented it? Still, claiming that the motor car was an American invention is something I’ve heard only from President O.

      • dearieme says:

        That’s ‘trot out” in the sense of ‘not actually trot out’, is it?

      • Jim says:

        The whole idea of discrete “inventions” has little to do with reality. The first use of an electric device to communicate information is I believe due to a Frenchman by the name of Le Bel about 1760. Written suggestions for such devices go back to at least 1753. However its a long way from these early toys to a practical system of telegraphy.

        Its the same with such thengs as the “invention of calculus”, attributed to Newton and Leibniz. The true story is a long and complicated one involving the contributions of many different people.

      • dearieme says:

        “However its a long way from these early toys to a practical system of telegraphy.” Indeed, but the point is that Morse, for example, plain wasn’t the first to introduce a practical system of telegraphy. It’s simply a false claim. Bogus. Untrue. A lie.

      • Patrick Boyle says:

        Right! Don’t be hard on Patrick. Always good advice.

        Many if not most of the famous inventors in history were not FTF (First to File). Some quite famous persons like Alexander Fleming were only peripherally associated with their famous discoveries. Others like John Atanasoff are overlooked – and maybe they should be.

        My citation of Edison was literary not historical. Everyone knows that Edison invented the light bulb – at some level. So citing Edison supports the point. ‘When the legend becomes fact print the legend’.

      • syon says:

        dearieme:”“However its a long way from these early toys to a practical system of telegraphy.” Indeed, but the point is that Morse, for example, plain wasn’t the first to introduce a practical system of telegraphy. It’s simply a false claim. Bogus. Untrue. A lie.”

        Oh dear. Somehow I knew that dear dearieme would not be able to resist the tangled topic of the electrical telegraph.On the other hand, British amour propre is always good for a laugh….

      • syon says:

        dearieme:”“However its a long way from these early toys to a practical system of telegraphy.” Indeed, but the point is that Morse, for example, plain wasn’t the first to introduce a practical system of telegraphy. It’s simply a false claim. Bogus. Untrue. A lie.”

        In the interest of avoiding hurting your feelings, dear boy, what references are safe? Can we credit the Wright brothers, or are you a passionate defender of John Stringfellow?

    • Peter Connor says:

      Edison bought the 1875 patent of Woodward and Evans, and used the new vacuum pump invented the same year, along with better carbon filaments, to create a commercial device.

      • syon says:

        dearieme:”That’s ‘trot out” in the sense of ‘not actually trot out’, is it?”

        No, it’s trot out, dear boy. Whenever someone refers to Edison and the incandescent light bulb, I know that dear old dearieme will be at the ready……

    • syon says:

      dearieme:”The point is that Edison didn’t, ”

      I suspect, dear boy, that the whole thing has a lot to do with the often rather fine distinction between invention and improvement.

      dearime:”no more than Morse invented the telegraph,”

      Oh, dear, dearieme, must we now plough through the whole Cooke-Wheatstone/Morse-Vail business?

      dearieme:”or Ford mass production. I know that Americans like to indoctrinate their children with such rubbish,”

      MMMM, somehow my teachers failed to dole out that one, dear boy.When I was growing up, the only American inventions and inventors that I heard about in class were Edison and the phonograph, the Wright Brothers and the aeroplane, and Goddard and the liquid-fueled rocket (my teacher was from Worcester, Ma, so local patriotism was at work on the last one).

      dearime:” but it’s a mystery why – I mean, what’s wrong with the accurate boast that Ford was a magnificently successful user/exploiter/extender of mass production; why must the lie be told that he invented it?”

      I’m afraid that very little boasting about Ford goes on in America these days, dearieme dear boy. The PC types find his anti-Semitism too distasteful.

      dearieme:”Still, claiming that the motor car was an American invention is something I’ve heard only from President O.”

      On the other hand, Obama’s inaccurate statement did bore its way into your brain…..

  5. M. M. says:

    > Pääbo … comes across as a nice fellow with whom everyone
    > wants to work and about whom no one has a bad word. He is
    > modest and self effacing. He works well with others

    Sounds not so bad at all. Greg, I think some of us here are having a grin when reading this–you should, too 🙂

    • gcochran9 says:

      If Mark Stoneking had been a bit old-fashioned, Svante would be dead.

      • Peter Connor says:

        Somehow I think there,s a story there!

        • gcochran9 says:

          No secret, it’s in his book. Paabo says that generally he was interested in heterosexual men, but sometimes in women. He had an affair with Stoneking’s wife, Linda Vigilant, who eventually split and moved in with Paabo. This while hiring Stoneking for Max Planck. Sounds like an uncomfortable situation to me, and not what I’d call great management practice. And it seems to me that repeatedly referring to Vigilant’s “boyish charm” conjures up images best left unseen.

      • Sandgroper says:

        I’ve always seen him as a kind of super lab technician. You need boring, pedantic people like him to sort out the methods, deal with contamination – you know, lacking vision but really f*cking vigilant.

      • Anonymous says:

        You make it sound so ordinary by leaving out all the details. Well, I guess you put in some of them with the word “while,” but it’s easy to miss. And: “We all moved into a small apartment building I had bought and renovated.”

      • Anonymous says:

        So…Mark Stoneking was made cuckold by a gay man? Sheesh…

      • Flinders Petrie says:

        I guess Pääbo has no shame, putting these type of details in a book for the world to see.

        It sounds like a bad movie script: a Berkeley primatologist dumps her geneticist husband from Penn State for Pääbo, a bisexual Max Planck researcher, and then they all move into the same small apartment together, whereupon the ex-lover finds a new love and they all carry-on happily together.

        This SNL skit comes to mind.

  6. dave chamberlin says:

    There are very dangerous consequences to any scientist whom is dependent on grants or has not yet gained university tenure to come right out and tell the very likely truth. That we gained intellectual advantages by hybridizing with Neanderthals. It’s a joke, it’s like the Harry Potter character “He who can’t be named.” Cochran is about the only scientist who doesn’t pussy foot around on this subject. It doesn’t make the beneficiaries of this hybridization event superior to sub Saharan Africans but it is in all likely hood an important part of the reason why there is a difference in the largely overlapping bell shape curves of populations with neanderthal ancestry and populations that lack it. I hope to live long enough to see the geniuses like the above named Nick Patterson begin to crack the code as to why there is such a sizable variation in human intelligence. That is when things will really get interesting. I want to live in interesting times when the fundamentalists are screaming “Abominations!” and somewhere in the world teams assembled by
    brilliant science team managers like Svaante Paabo are given serious money, I’m talking defense department money, to find out why genetics made some of us geniuses and some of us dummies.

    I am also hoping more nearly frozen caves are found in Asia that hold more archaic bones with well preserved bones like the Denisovan cave. It seems such a shame that so much of our past is lost.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Plan on living a long, long time. Nick Patterson hates the very idea of population differences in IQ. Only recently, with GCAT results, has he even admitted that IQ has high heritabilty.

      As for Neanderthal admixture contributing to such differences, possible, but not much of a case with current info. Other explanations are possible.

      As for the existence of such differences, certain but very Voldemortean.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        Awwwww phoey, I’m going to be pushing up flowers a long time before the code is cracked on what makes such a large variation in human intelligence. I see no huge expenditures required happening, so that equals slow progress. I can only hope that Russia or China are secretly throwing big money at this particular scientific endeavor which my over fertile imagination says will eventually have huge pay offs, but what do I know. I’m a bit of a futurist and so far they have all been full of shit, but still it is fun to guess what is coming.

    • Sandgroper says:

      It really is weird, because everyone intuitively gets heritability. It takes constant reminders and warnings from important and expensively educated people to make us all toe the party line.

      But the really tricky part is having to keep reminding people about nuance, complexity and ranges of variation, because humans are so deterministic. It’s like determinism is the human default assumption.

      • Endre Bakken Stovner says:

        Seems like a variation of reaction tests where the reaction is involuntary?

        I’ve only come across those that measure voluntary action in the psychometric literature, but if these are equally g-loaded it isn’t strange that there are a greater proportion of ‘express saccade makers’ in the chinese population.

        Original paper here: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0094424

      • Sandgroper says:

        Well, it’s strange to the cultural neuroscientists.

        Thanks for the link to the original paper.

      • Sandgroper says:

        Then there’s this: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140401/ncomms4584/full/ncomms4584.html

        Bill Clinton would fall off his photocopier with outrage.

      • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

        Many scientists believe that the eye movement patterns you develop are due to where you live – the books you read and the influence of your family, peers and community – your culture.

        Who are these scientists? Does anyone know? I would think that involuntary eye movements are firmly under the control of genes.

      • Matt says:

        Endre: Seems like a variation of reaction tests where the reaction is involuntary?

        IIRC ithis supposedly relates more to the holistic vs analytic visual processing differences in Eastern and Western people, where Asians tend to be a “darting about” the whole visual scene (holistically) while Europeans tend to be “focused” (analytic).

        http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.87.43&rep=rep1&type=pdf

        “Compared with the Chinese participants, Americans looked at the focal object sooner and fixated for longer on it. Chinese subjects made more saccades (rapid eye movements from one location to the next) both in general, and in particular to the background”.

        East Asian folks in these kind of tests tend to have more problems focusing and make more errors in visual tasks that reward focus, while Europeans seem to have more problems not focusing on an object, and be more error prone in the unfocused condition. I expect this is what made the British participants less likely to make the express saccades (higher visual focus).

        I don’t think it’s been connected to reaction times, although perhaps that would be too logical a thing to check. Impulse control might be a logical avenue as well.

        There are non-racial differences reported in this stuff as well (farmers versus herders, etc), so it’s interesting that the European vs Chinese checks out as a purely genetic difference.

        (There is a fair amount of data on saccadic differences, e.g. http://dienekes.blogspot.co.uk/2009/08/east-vs-west-differences-in-facial.html“Eastern observers use a culture-specific decoding strategy that is inadequate to reliably distinguish universal facial expressions of fear and disgust. Rather than distributing their fixations evenly across the face as Westerners do, Eastern observers persistently fixate the eye region.” which probably works out to rapidly alternating between the eyes and other parts of the face, given Eastern folks seem to make many more saccades and focus less).

    • Anonymous says:

      It is unlikely that Sub-S Africans lack Neanderthal ancestry, they just got less than us, the Super-S Humanity (unfortunately, it is unlikely we will ever have an early AMH genome to be certain); that any Neanderthal ancestry they’ve got is not the very sequences one would like to get, see “introgression”; and that differences in IQ among contemporary humans go that far back, while it is certain that at least one Sub-S race has a higher IQ than one Eurasian one.

  7. Arntor says:

    In an another world, an honest one, Hawks, Wang, Cochran, Harpending and Moyzis would’ve been awarded the Nobel in physiology and medicine for the recent accelration piece plus Ewald and Cochran for the infectious piece. Too bad Swedes are generally insane in the brain.

    • ursiform says:

      Where but the brain could someone be insane?

    • JayMan says:

      You think that if these things ever filter into the mainstream, it’ll open up a new era of honesty, or we will just move on to embrace other myths?

      • Arntor says:

        Only time will tell, I have a little funny project going on that concerns redistribution of lore. I order copies of “the 10 000 year explosion” and give them to friends of mine that I consider will get it. Already got a professor appearing in “Hjernevask” to admit via friends that Cohran’s take on Ashkenazis is plausible. He will never say that in public, but I know;)
        As a layman I have to create my own joy, and since I despise hypocrits this is a perfect match. And I try to support blogs like yours so you can do your part.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        Good question Jayman. I think educated people are moving towards honesty on this subject but the mainstream will never get the complex truth. If a sizable percentage of the public thinks the sun revolves around the earth and they can’t find the United States on an unmarked globe how are they ever going to comprehend highly overlapping bell shaped curves of different populations with multiple factors causing the discrepancy in IQ. Following up on Arntor’s comment I too gave the 10,000 year explosion to a couple of friends and suddenly I could talk to them on what before had been a forbidden subject. But still, what percentage of the public read non fiction books of any kind.

      • Jim says:

        Whatever ridiculous nonsense people may believe today they will find something crazier to believe in in the future.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        “I can’t see any evidence for this.”
        I think things are changing s-l-o-w-l-y. Like one generation has to die and be replaced by the next one slow. I was raised awash in constant propaganda that we are all completely equal, the behaviorists, back in my day, just completely dismissed inheritance as important. My now grown children weren’t fed that extreme bullshit in the school system. I have the feeling your blog would by assaulted by trolls and self righteous ranters a whole lot more just ten years ago. But that isn’t evidence, just my perception, so maybe you are right.

      • Arntor says:

        In my experience(judging from the different people I’ve spoken about it with) really old and some young(really smart internet educated freaks plus the slightly dim ones) North-Europeans understand it, Eastern Europeans Hans, Bantus, and Persians get it Well the middle aged nature science North Europeans understand it but keep their mouth shut due to non-existing courage, and the social science people bow down in one on one conversation if you look deep into their eyes and spend some time on them. North-European women start to understand a bit if they get a kid. When North-Europeans flock together, nobody suddenly gets it. By understanding or getting it I mean the principle of heritability, not the math that describes it.

        I believe we’ll still embrace myths in the future, hopefully pantheistic ones.

      • erica says:

        We have a POTUS who spends his days babbling, blathering, and blustering about “equity” of all kinds. We’re being force fed daily macro doses of the Equity Flavor of the Month–Gender Equity, and will continue to gag on them until November. Whoops, strike that. “Gender inequity in the workplace!” will be shoved down our throats through Hilary’s Run for the Roses, after which we can have a run off for which equity should be crowned the Equity of the Decade: Gender Equity or Gay Equity.

        Sadly, it’s hard to foresee “a new era of honesty” when you’ve a media whose rapt attention is focused on inanities such as these.

      • Anonymous says:

        “You think that if these things ever filter into the mainstream, it’ll open up a new era of honesty?” Nope; and how could they even filter into the mainstream? it is not just the average group differences for various psychometrics that would be challenging to some POVs, there is a reason the Right too cannot do any better than adopting THE VERY SAME PC BS the Left flaunts when abandoning crude racism of the retarded type–a “look fellas, much of the human condition(s) is innate” attitude won’t merge well with anyone’s grab at power, at least in a democracy.

      • ben tillman says:

        “I can’t see any evidence for this.”
        I think things are changing s-l-o-w-l-y. Like one generation has to die and be replaced by the next one slow. I was raised awash in constant propaganda that we are all completely equal, the behaviorists, back in my day, just completely dismissed inheritance as important.

        But that’s extremely unusual. Maybe 0.25% of people believe that.

  8. The data contradicted his expectations and he went with the data? Seems unlikely in most fields.

  9. DK says:

    He has had three big successes

    Wait, his sequencing of mummy’s DNA (which turned out to be his own) does not count? Does he write about it in his book?

    • Anonymous says:

      He devotes many pages to mummies.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        He also made fun of and admitted his many screw ups. He comes off as a great guy who earns the loyalty of his co-workers, although Mark Stoneking might have a different opinion. He doesn’t try to grab all the credit, that is why people like working for him.

  10. RS says:

    > Seems like a variation of reaction tests where the reaction is involuntary? I’ve only come across those that measure voluntary action in the psychometric literature

    Pretty sure there is stuff in Jensen’s textbook about higher-IQ brains having a briefer or less extensive response to each instance of a repeated inane stimulus, ie ‘click..click..click..click.. …’

    There may’ve been some question about replicability though. Sorry so hazy but I haven’t seen the book in years.

    As for creativity, associations seem to run more in the contrary direction — poor suppression of inane stimulus.

  11. Patrick Boyle says:

    In my review I emphasized that Pääbo struck me as a pleasant fellow and a good manager. I didn’t mean by that that was the only path to scientific success. Gregory makes the point that Pääbo was almost always wrong. That’s a telling point. It’s very significant but maybe not so important.

    Pääbo is an experimentalist. His success seems to argue that if you are honest you don’t have to have been always right or even to have completely understood all the issues. It’s the method that matters. This is the same reason why we all know about the Mickleson-Morley results. They were wrong – as wrong as could be. But their negative findings led the way forward.

    As to Pääbo’s disposition, I just finished a book by Galton and I’m halfway through a biography. Galton had none of Pääbo’s virtues. There are very clearly, different paths to scientific accomplishment.

    Someone wrote that only Greg Cochran would dare write in public about the possible positive contribution of Neanderthal genes to the outside-of-Africa genome. I must admit I read Cochran’s idea here and it seemed so reasonable that I assumed that all geneticists held much the same view. Is it true that many geneticists resist this notion? 23andme tells me I’m 2.9% Neanderthal. That never bothered me for a moment. But am I to believe that real academic geneticists have trouble with the idea that some of our genes had been acquired from Neanderthals because they had been locally beneficial in sub-artic Europe? It may not prove to be true but it certainly seems plausible.

    As to the sex issue. Frankly I was mystified by Pääbo’s sexuality. Just about at the point in the book when I had deduced that he must be gay, he then announced that he had always been gay but had decided to switch to hetero. Huh?

    I first became acquainted with these ideas when in 1962 I read Carlton Coon’s book. He was of course a multi regionalist evolution theorist after Widenreich. Later the ‘Out of Africa’ and the ‘African Eve’ advocates came into their ascendency. I kept track of this dispute – from a distance – for half a century. I assumed that I would go to my grave with this just another unresolved scientific issue. But it seems to have been largely answered by ancient DNA evidence. The whole ‘conventional wisdom’ seems to have been turned upside down in just a few years. We live in exciting times.

    • sinij says:

      Sexuality is not binary, but sexuality as defined by society is. If you view Pääbo’s sexuality through this lens then his decision isn’t that puzzling.

      • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

        Sexuality is not binary, but sexuality as defined by society is.

        Sure, some people like fucking goats, but it’s not a good idea to tell children that it’s acceptable.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sexuality is not binary? Because some gay men_want_to be hetero, and some non-gays in prison or certain cultures want to have sex with other men, yet in a strictly non-gay manner? (and these are gay-unfriendly cultures, where the gay-non-gay difference is more, not less salient for all their blurring of the homo-hetero border, and in the Palatine Anthology fun is made of cinaedi trying to pass off as pederastae, much in the same way one would today make jokes at the expense people “open-minded” and “just exploring”)

      • misdreavus says:

        Sexuality is not binary, but sexuality as defined by society is. If you view Pääbo’s sexuality through this lens then his decision isn’t that puzzling.

        I have no clue what’s wrong with Pääbo’s hypothalamus. But ideally, sexuality ought to be “unitary”. It has one main purpose, and just about everything else is facultative or a disorder.

      • Patrick Boyle says:

        I don’t think so. Sexuality is basically binary. Sex is biology not sociology. Selection removes those who do it wrong. It’s odd that you would say such a thing on the Cochran-Harpending blog.

        Another commenter said – I have no clue what’s wrong with Pääbo’s hypothalamus. I do. He probably has the right and left hand IAH1 nuclei in his hypothalamus reversed.

        I’ve known a lot of gay men in my time. Mostly because I used to be deeply involved in opera. I had my own opera company for a while and I sang a lot of roles with a lot of opera companies for lot of years. I knew a lot of gays. I also lived in San Francisco just up then hill from the Castro district. Many of my gay friends died during the AIDS period. Pääbo’s orientation and life style are not common in my experience.

        About a two years ago I read everything I could find on homosexuality with the aim of writing a book. Cochran-Harpending-Ewald and LeVay were nearly the only ones who made any sense at all. Most of books on homosexuality written by homosexuals are quite loony.

        Many gay men are not happy being gay but the conversion to being straight is almost universally unsuccessful. Pääbo’s case is unusual in that, the way he tells the story, he just casually one day decided to be heterosexual – and bingo he was.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Most books on homosexuality written by heterosexuals are also looney. I have read a lot in that literature: it’s like swimming in a lunatic asylum’s septic tank.

      • Anonymous says:

        Patrick, there is an objective test according to which male sexuality is binary, and it is plausible that most putatively bisexual men are lying, but bisexuals according to that test do exist. No, his story is not common, but maybe it’s just true. I’ve only read a few pages, but I got the impression that he had always been bisexual, in particular, always attracted to Vigilant, not that he decided to go straight. But I haven’t read the book.

      • misdreavus says:

        @Patrick Boyle

        Don’t you mean INAH3?

        I haven’t seen any interesting follow-ups to Simon LeVay’s research – ideally, it ought to be repeated with modern imaging technology, and not crude histology or microdissection. If Charles Roselli is right on the money (which I believe he is), whatever is responsible for my condition has to be similar in function to aberrations in the o-SDN among sheep.

        Many gay men are not happy being gay but the conversion to being straight is almost universally unsuccessful.

        Heh. Believe me, I’ve tried…

      • sinij says:

        Sex is biology, but it is not the same thing as sexuality. Gender and sexuality is rather complex system and it does have more than two states. I know many people here are horrified at the thought of non-reproductive sex, and are convinced that any deviation would get selected out. While it is nice theory, it is not supported by empirical evidence. Bisexual, bi-curious, homosexual, cis, obsessions with anal, and a lot of other kinds of deviations from reproductive optimal exist and are fairly common. Just visit your local adult shop if you don’t believe me.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      I know gay men who fall in love with a woman, get married and have kids. They really want to have a family just like a lot of us. How their woman works up her “boyish charm,” we don’t want to know. They hang out in gay bars and call their wives “beards.”

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s interesting… Do they really fall in love with the woman the same way straight men do, sexual desire and all, or are they just in for the family thing?

      • dave chamberlin says:

        I don’t know much about that sub culture. One of my old friends came out of the closet and I had drinks with him in a gay bar. He told me lots of guys there would be going home later to their “beards.” That is all I know and all I want to know.

      • Anonymous says:

        Some people make sacrifices to their sex life for the sake of a family, but those having a fling with a coworker’s wife are probably not in that category. I’m not saying you should trust him, but he claims to be surprised when she suggested having a child. (she had two with the first husband)

    • j3morecharacters says:

      I remember Greg writing in Gene Expression blog that he was convinced that there were living Neaderthals now and here, that is, ten years ago, and asked for guesses of who or where they were. My guess was that Inuits of Asia’s Eastern end (Beringia, Kamchatka) must have Neanderthal genes, since the Neanderthaler disappeared at the same time as the mammouths, and the last living mammouth died only ten thousand years ago in Kamchatka. No one, as far as I remember, guessed that WE are the Neanderthals.

      • gcochran9 says:

        You remember incorrectly. I said that there might be – but I was referring to the possibility of a cell-line infection that originated in a Neanderthal still existing today. Similar to the contagious cancer in Tasmanian Devils. I was apparently the only person on Earth considering that possibility.

        Separately, I said quite clearly (in a published paper in 2006, with John Hawks) that anatomically modern humans had almost certainly admixed with Neanderthals and picked up advantageous genes from them.

      • j3morecharacters says:

        Sorry if I misunderstood/misremembered.

    • ben tillman says:

      Someone wrote that only Greg Cochran would dare write in public about the possible positive contribution of Neanderthal genes to the outside-of-Africa genome.

      Why? What would discourage others from doing so?

    • dave chamberlin says:

      Very much worth listening to. Not just a review of what he covers in his book, I felt he was giving encouragement to the scientists in attendance to pursue finding out what exactly happened genetically to give us modern intelligence. He gives particular emphasis to mouse knock in studies late in the lecture as a ethical means to find out why recent mutations that influence human brain function have spread and what they do. He sees a big picture and I applaud him for it. He isn’t just interested in archaic human genomics, he knows that finding out the differences between us and out most recent ancestors is one of the keys to deciphering how genetics influences human intelligence.

  12. Gordo says:

    Maybe if Dr Paabo had his father’s surname; Bergstrom, rather than his mother’s, he would have realised his natural inclinations sooner.

    I mean no disrespect to the gentleman who I have no doubt is 1 SD higher in IQ than a humble engineer like myself.

    Gordo

  13. dearieme says:

    “… particularly in the human sciences, where emotions make theory gang aft a-gley.” Or in physics, where conceit makes theory gang aft a-gley.

    • Jim says:

      What’s wrong with physics?

      • JayMan says:

        @Ian:

        String theory isn’t a good example for a simple reason: there aren’t any workable alternatives. If and when that changes, critics might have a legitimate point.

      • Ian says:

        @JayMan: let’s assume it’s true that there are no workable alternatives. That factoid wouldn’t make string theory a serious theory. It’s a theory that predicts nothing. And there are a lot of crackpots making their livings on almost theological ruminations on the Multiverse business: Michio Kaku, Max Tegmark and the rest of the crew.

      • JayMan says:

        @Ian:

        Your criticism basically amounts to “I don’t like these propositions.” Hardly much to go on, especially since we don’t have any alternatives.

        The “multiverse” of some fashion is the only solution to the specification/fine-tuning problem. Even string theory can only describe the laws that govern our universe. It can’t tell you why the laws and physical constants are the way they are. The simplest way out of that is the idea that there’s nothing “special” about our version of the laws at all. It is just one set out of all (mathematical) possibilities.

      • Ian says:

        JM, I could accept the landscape hypothesis if string theory provided a better explanation for some facts than those provided by the Standard Model. But it doesn’t happen to be the case. Actually, ST is in conflict with the lack of supersymmetry in LHC data. Right now, ST only offers excuses instead of predictions (the phrase is not mine).

        • priceequation says:

          String theory, supergravity and supersymmetry all predict particles that no one has ever seen signs of. Someday, perhaps, we’ll have something better but yeah, right now the ST is the only game in town.

    • Anonymous says:

      Physics has theories that are well grounded in evidence, such as relativity and quantum mechanics, and speculative theories that remain unsupported by convincing evidence. Most physicists know the difference.

      Note also that, despite years of experiments verifying them, physicists still call relativity and quantum mechanics “theories”, they don’t anoint them as unquestionable truths.

  14. Jim says:

    Ian – I’m curious. Are you actually knowledgable about string theory? I know nothing about it however a couple of years ago the astronomy club I belong to had Steven Weinberg as a guest speaker and the subject of string theory came up. Weinberg seemed pretty positive and hopeful about it although he did say that he wasn’t an expert on it.

    • Ian says:

      I’m just a hobbyist, Jim. I can perform some simple calculations on quantum mechanics and field theory, just to understand some of what professionals say, but I’m not a professional. One of the problems with ST is that it requires almost a lifetime to be properly managed. Another problem is that after that specialization, you only get meager results and lots of hopes about the future. For instance, string guys have been talking about the famous M-theory for more than a decade… but the funny thing is that there’s no such a theory. They only have the hope that such a theory exists.

  15. RS says:

    On one hand I’m much attracted to those who want to eschew multiverses, strong anthropic principles, and so on, because they are poorly testable, or because at best you can write many pages of philosophy on whether they are testable. Not testable = no external evidence (via the five senses) = no part of science, or no clear part of science . . . but then, why is our best picture of the cosmos — something which seems to be more interesting than science per se — necessarily based only on science? Why not also logic or sense? ‘Science only!’ seems a naked postulation, except for the fact that science does ‘have an outstanding record’, but that doesn’t convince me. I can’t say much to justify my not being convinced, so maybe it’s just my fate.

    Should I strongly discard strong anthropic principles for their poor testability, and then strongly conclude that physical law is fine-tuned by a creator? It seems to me the answer is no. Strong anthropic principles make a lot of sense and have to be seriously considered, regardless of their weakness qua science. Making sense comes before science — even when we seek pure, ice-cold knowledge as opposed to wisdom. It seems to me that my own consciousness and qualia (or yours) cannot be externally demonstrated and have a scientific standing of near-zero, yet proceeding to solipsism or churchlandism on this basis is clearly hilarious. That is something for (some) people of British race, and many cultural assimilees of theirs, and a few others, not for me. I have radical access to my qualia, and to the fact that anthropic considerations make sense — just as radical as my access to my five physical senses.

    • RS says:

      Actually on an ice-cold level of knowledge, I largely accept solipsism. My access to your qualia is not very radical. But that’s why we all direct our lives on the basis of wisdom, not of pure knowledge. We have a grain or more of pragmatism, even if we recoil from Jamesian Pragmatism.

      • Jim says:

        Far from recoiling at Jamesian Pragmatism I probably wouldn’t know what it was if I fell over it.

      • RS says:

        Well he was a very strong pragmatist. He came awfully close to saying, whatever is beneficial or useful to believe, is therefore true. It may be that he distinguished himself from that position in some meaningful way, but I don’t think he would claim to be far distant from it. To me it’s wild.

      • RS says:

        Wild because it’s darn near denying truth exists. Nietzsche and Stirner both affirm and deny stable & objective truth : they are probably best seen as dialetheist, which means accepting that some contradictions can be true to some extent. –Like Heraclitus, or taoism or practically any Indian or far-Eastern thinker. I am dialetheist so I can understand that.

        I admit that being dialetheist is pretty weird in many ways, but the rejection of objective truth by hard-core Pragmatism seems more radical, and I can’t take it seriously.

    • melendwyr says:

      ” Strong anthropic principles make a lot of sense and have to be seriously considered, regardless of their weakness qua science.”

      No, they don’t have to be. I find it amusing how many ‘weak’ principles are tautological and ‘strong’ ones are utter nonsense.

      • RS says:

        Well, do you then consider physical law highly likely to be fine-tuned by something that intended us to exist? Because otherwise it’s very unlikely we would be here. (Or so they tell me, I myself certainly can’t follow the physics or math of things supposedly being ‘fine-tuned’.)

        Isn’t that the major impetus (besides the question of how to interpret quantum hyperpositions) for considering some kind of vast realms beyond the observable cosmos — whether it’s separate universes, extremely distant sectors of this one where physical law is different, or whatever. All of which seems highly speculative (i.e., in no way clearly observed) and likely to remain so forever, though I’m neither smart enough nor versed enough to really know. That’s all I mean by strong anthropic considerations.

        I suppose it’s possible to say, “Forget all that multiverse garbage, but don’t infer a creator either. Take the weak anthropic principle, and just ‘swallow’ the apparent fine-tunedness that permits carbon, nitrogen etc to exist. That’s just how it is. Maybe it’s highly improbable in abstracto, but anyway it’s here, and there didn’t ‘have’ to be any world at all, with any parameters, fine-tuned or badly-tuned. Maybe it could have been otherwise, maybe not, but it’s not. It just is what it is.” I can sort of grasp that position, but not really. It’s easier for me to grasp “there are either vast unobservable realms, or a creator, but there is absolutely no way to ever get any indication which one is the case”.

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