Who We Are

I’m going to review David Reich’s new book, Who We Are and How We Got Here. Extensively: in a sense I’ve already been doing this for a long time. Probably there will be a podcast. The GoFundMe link is here. You can also send money via Paypal (Use the donate button), or bitcoins to 1Jv4cu1wETM5Xs9unjKbDbCrRF2mrjWXr5. In-kind donations, such as orichalcum or mithril, are always appreciated.

This is the book about the application of ancient DNA to prehistory and history.

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88 Responses to Who We Are

  1. dearieme says:

    From the blurb on Amazon:

    “He explains how the genomic revolution and ancient DNA … reveal the deep history of inequality”: I wonder whether a few innocent souls who fret about inequality will be rather horrified by what he has to say.

    “His book gives the lie to the orthodoxy that there are no meaningful biological differences among human populations” – the swine, the cad, the bounder, the literally Hitler – “and at the same time … show[s] that the differences that do exist are unlikely to conform to familiar stereotypes”. Phew! Not all stereotypes are 100% complete and accurate: ain’t science wunnerful?

    P.S. His WKPD entry includes a remarkable remark: David Emil Reich (born in 1973 or 1974).

    • gcochran9 says:

      “unlikely to conform to familiar stereotypes”. That part of the book is confused, almost crazy.

      • dearieme says:

        Perhaps anyone trying to dance away from the potential wrecking of his career will look at least a little crazy.

        • Rosenmops says:

          I agree, dearieme, he is likely trying to cover his arse so he doesn’t become a pariah. He is on thin ice already by suggesting race is something to do with biology.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      I imagine Wikipedia’s uncertainty over the year of Reich’s birth is due to their not having a precise birthdate, but having an article that said he was X years old when the article was written, but X could be compatible with either 1973 or 1974. I’ve seen it with other Wikipedia biographies.

  2. dearieme says:

    Mind you, I have to respect the balls of someone prepared to write on this topic for the general public. How long will it be before a Left-Nazi makes a point about Reich’s surname?

  3. dearieme says:

    Aha. The blurb on Amazon UK is more right-on. It includes a statement of a sort I’ve never really understood, to wit “Gone are old ideas of any kind of racial ‘purity.’ Instead, we are finding a rich variety of mixtures …”

    What I don’t understand is this: of what components are these mixtures comprised? Were they ‘races’? Were they ‘pure’? There can be something a bit internally inconsistent in this style of argument, can’t there?

    Anyway, inconsistent or not, that blurb may be attacking a straw man. I can think of only one person in my life who has banged on to me about racial purity. He was Irish and insisted that he was “pure” Irish, 100% Irish. You may not incline to believe it but he was sober at the time. In vain did I argue that Ireland is just one island in an archipelago. Fruitlessly did I point out that parts of that archipelago are less than a day’s sail from The Continent. Nope; he wasn’t having it. 100% Irish.

    What, Irishmen are 100% descended from Irish apes? Not even that primitive sally could budge him. Pure Irish.

    • Rosenmops says:

      Maybe he meant that his recent ancestors — from the last 1000 years or so, are from Ireland.

      • dearieme says:

        He couldn’t possibly know that.

        • Rosenmops says:

          He couldn’t know it for sure. But he can probably trace things back maybe 200 years. Most people didn’t move around very much back then. And if they did, it would probably be part of the historical record, like Vikings, or the Ulster plantations of Scots into Ireland.

          • dearieme says:

            “He couldn’t know it for sure”: which is to say he couldn’t know it. Hell, he was probably one thirty-second Cherokee.

            “But he can probably trace things back maybe 200 years.” Maybe: but if so it’s odd that he made no attempt to say so. “Most people didn’t move around very much back then”: truer of Ireland than some other places, I imagine, but then we’ve no reason to believe that all his ancestors lived in Ireland two hundred years ago.

            “And if they did, it would probably be part of the historical record”: could be but it’s probably not the way to bet. Anyway much of the historical record was destroyed in the exciting Irish civil war after independence.

          • Christopher B says:

            The number of ancestors a person has increases pretty rapidly as you go back. If you’re talking 200 years and assume 25 years to a generation it’s roughly 250 individuals to account for. Each successive generation is twice as big as the prior one, and then added to all the preceding generations. Go just another 100 years to 300 years from you and you’re in the neighborhood of 4000 individual ancestors. Dearies’ friend probably doesn’t have a clue beyond his great-greats at best, and even then is assuming there weren’t any undisclosed interlopers.

            • Rosenmops says:

              I was thinking of the genealogy I had done in my own family. (I have a big tree at Ancestry and have also done DNA testing) I have traced things back to about 1800–sometimes further, sometimes not so far in some branches, I have 3 grandparents from the far north of Scotland and one from England, They lived in very small villages and rarely moved more than 50 miles from where they were born, There wasn’t a lot of diversity, In fact there only seemed to be a handful of surnames in an area, and not a wide variety of given names. When you are trying to research someone with a name like George McKay or Alexander Forbes you become convinced that almost every one alive had that name. Even if there was illegitimacy going on it wouldn’t likely have made much difference! (unlike today, where populations have been all mixed up.)

              Around 1900 one of my grandparent’s families moved from the far north down to Glasgow, Perhaps this was part of a pattern. Then by 1920 all of my grandparents were in Canada. So there are times when people move great distances quickly. It just didn’t happen much in the more distant past.

            • JMcG says:

              Pedigree collapse. Multiple slots in past generations of your family tree are almost certainly filled by the same people.

            • Philip Neal says:

              It is commonly said that all native Englishmen are descended from William the Conqueror, in the sense that if you go back that far you have more ancestors than there were Englishmen for you to be descended from. But this need not mean that all your ancestors were English, merely that the English fraction of your ancestry is of the requisite size. If, like me, you have eight great-grandparents born in England of English parents (no great distinction), statistically you almost certainly qualify, simply because there are not enough immigrant ancestors before that point to go round.

    • Ilya says:

      Reminds me of a dig as found on The Onion:

      “5700 years ago the first modern humans entered Ireland. Prior to that, only the Irish the lived there.”

    • gcochran9 says:

      Ashkenazi Jews are the product of a recent admixture. After a while that population was well-mixed, had a flavor of its own – and so it’s possible to be ‘pure’ Ashkenazi.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      “What I don’t understand is this: of what components are these mixtures comprised?”

      What Reich means is that Europeans are comprised of a mix of ancient West Hunters, Middle Eastern farmers, Indo-European steppe invaders, and other ancestral groups discussed frequently on West Hunter.

      • Garr says:

        I thought that the IndoEuropeans were a mix of WestHunter and Siberiansomethingorother?

        Anyway, I figured out something cool: say Italians are half IndoEuropean half MideastFarmer, and Ashkenaz are half MideastFarmer half Italian. So that makes Ashkenaz one-quarter IndoEuropean. So that means that a HalfjewHalfwasp like me is 1/8 + 4/8 = 5/8 IE.

        So people like me should be more comfortable hanging out with NYC Italians (4/8 IE) than with either full-Ashkenaz (2/8 IE) or full-WASPs (8/8 IE). And guess what — I AM more comfortable hanging out with NYC Italians than with either full-Ashkenaz or full-WASPS!

  4. Rosenmops says:

    Henry Louis Gates gives it a good review–so this probably means there is nothing politically incorrect in the book:

    “This breathtaking book dramatically revises our understanding of the deep history of our species in our African homeland and beyond. Beautifully written, it reads like a detective novel and demonstrates a hard truth that often makes many of us uncomfortable: not only are all human beings mixed, but our intuitive understanding of the evolution of the population structure of the world around us is not to be trusted.”
    —Henry Louis Gates Jr., University Professor, Harvard University, and Executive Producer of Finding Your Roots

  5. Ursiform says:

    He started in physics …

  6. Frank Remele says:

    Professor Cochran- We need to get you on a more public medium, like Dave Rubin’s podcast. I’m sure you’re familiar with him. You need not be too famous, as many of interviewees seem to have emerged from relative obscurity. It would make for a very interesting podcast, and more importantly, you can debunk the claim that you peddle “scientific racism” as told by your Wikipedia page.
    Which, by the way, ought to have been fixed a while ago.

    • Ghembert says:

      Based on podcasts that I’ve heard him on, he has a serious problem with getting off on esoteric tangents and never returning to the topic at hand. Although maybe Rubin is a skilled enough interviewer to keep him on track.

    • tautology5628 says:

      This is how it would go down: Rubin says something stupid. Instead of just ignoring it gcochran openly say: ” You are crazy.” On and on and on.

      • gcochran9 says:

        I don’t know anything about Rubin – have never listened to him. But a priori, your scenario is likely, since most people are crazy.

        • LemmusLemmus says:

          Rubin seems like a perfect fit. Don’t be fooled by his super-agreeable demeanour. He has asked at least two interviewees about the biological underpinnings of race differences.

        • tim hadselon says:

          I think Rubin would give Cochran a fair hearing. He’s a guy formerly from the Left, so there might even be some common ground. Although, I wonder how he would feel about the gay germ theory (he’s married to a male partner). But I’ve never seen Dave Rubin throw a fit about anything.

    • Montmorillonite says:

      Stefan Molyneux, while certainly a bit further out on the fringe than Rubin is, might be a better fit. He’s already talked to Stephen Hsu, Linda Gottfredson, Charles Murray, etc. Also, I’d like to think that the gay pathogen stuff wouldn’t scare Rubin off (he’s gay), but it might.

      Professor Cochran: Here’s Dave Rubin interviewing Stefan Molyneux on race and IQ, to give you a rough idea of what each guy is like.

      • gcochran9 says:

        Actually Molyneux was trying to set up an interview with me a while ago but I wasn’t that interested. Maybe I should check him out.

        • Montmorillonite says:

          Awesome, hope you can work something out.

          • Ben says:

            Psilojism. I’m genuinely worried about you. Hyde is too we have been trying to reach out for almost a week. This is the only other thing I could think of to get into contact with you.

            Please advise,

        • James Miller says:

          Molyneux would be a good fit for you. Although he insulted me once when Vox Day described me as a libertarian college professor and Molyneux said this meant I was a sell out.

        • Meagain says:

          Greg should definitely do the Molyneux thing. Molyneux has a big audience, so the more people gets to know Greg, the more moola for podcasts/book review, and that means more joy for all of us here.

        • deuce says:

          Molyneux’s audience is huge and his reach is wide. I see him referenced on the Net in surprising places. I think Greg would make a great fit. Stefan would have no problem with digressions. He also appears to be something of a fan of JRRT and REH. I’d wager an interview would go well and do much to raise Dr. Cochran’s profile amongst a sympathetic demographic.

        • Greying Wanderer says:

          Molyneux and people like him have been quietly winning the culture war.

    • eisenstadt0 says:

      A sentence in GCochran’s Wikipedia article reads “He is a proponent of human biodiversity,[2] a contemporary branch of scientific racism that argues that cultural innovation resulted in new and constantly shifting selection pressures for genetic change, thereby accelerating human evolution and divergence between human races.” As a Wikipedia editor, I am able to edit that sentence. But I’m not sure how. I am thinking of simply deleting “… a contemporary branch of scientific racism . . . .” When effecting an edit, the editor is required to state whether the change is major or minor and to characterize the change. A possible explanation of the change is something along the lines of “deleted an undocumented and pejorative characterization of the subject.”

      Please advise.

  7. Maldo says:

    If you’re reviewing it, then help me some trolling and confirm if the book say anything on the founding populations of the following civilizations:

    -Ancient Egypt
    -Indus Valley India to Vedic India

  8. MEH 0910 says:

    How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of ‘Race’
    By DAVID REICH MARCH 23, 2018

    H/T: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2018/03/genetics-and-group-differences-david.html

    • Calvin X Hobbes says:

      The NYT article by Reich says that, while the old lies by guys like Lewontin were good at the time, those lies are becoming increasingly indefensible and it’s time for a new system of lies in the battle against bad thoughts and the people who hold them.

      Henry Harpending is cited as an example of a person espousing bad thoughts:

      “One of Mr. Wade’s key sources, for example, is the anthropologist Henry Harpending, who has asserted that people of sub-Saharan African ancestry have no propensity to work when they don’t have to because, he claims, they did not go through the type of natural selection for hard work in the last thousands of years that some Eurasians did. There is simply no scientific evidence to support this statement. Indeed, as 139 geneticists (including myself) pointed out in a letter to The New York Times about Mr. Wade’s book, there is no genetic evidence to back up any of the racist stereotypes he promotes.”

      Yes, all the late Henry had, along with general knowledge of history and about how natural selection works, was what he saw with his lying eyes.

      48 comments so far, with all but a couple expressing support for virtue in the form of stupidity and dishonesty.

      • Smithie says:

        I found “A Troublesome Inheritance” somewhat difficult to read because there seemed to be a lot of qualifiers and tiptoeing on eggshells. More than was strictly necessary, though I do not blame Wade.

        In that light, all the negative reaction it gathered from the usual quarters is quite funny. It is also proof positive that there is no qualifier which will allow one to talk honestly about race without being called a racist.

      • Personality Traits says:

        Judging by that excerpt, it’s fairly wrong of Reich here to be claiming that “He had no genetic evidence”. While he didn’t really, could he be expected to at that stage? These are personality traits which will reasonably be linked to hundreds of variants.

        Does Reich also treat with such opprobrium hypotheses of progressive changes in human temperament as a whole, linked to “domestication syndrome” since the Holocene? Or the ideas that DRD4 variants were linked to migration?

        The reasonable alternative is that selection under agriculture created no personality differences whatsoever, and that personality does not differ under varying agricultural regimes whatsoever…

      • David Chamberlin says:

        So I guess Calvin X Hobbes thinks it’s a despicable lie to even consider that evolution has worked on humans in our recent past. It is a terrible lie to even consider that the laws of evolution that clearly and obviously work in the breeding of farm animals, dogs, or for that matter anything alive could possibly work on humans the same way.

        Sheesh. Once upon a time two human populations which were not very dissimilar because of a fairly recent bottle neck went their separate ways in terms of agricultural lifestyle and hunter gatherer lifestyle. The agriculturists. lets call them Mexicans just to keep this simple for you Calvin, you seem to be easily confused, were agriculturists who had to work especially hard because they had no work animals which they had domesticated. The hunter gatherers. lets call them North American Amerinds were wonderful hunters but they barely worked at all. Extend this trend out for thousands and thousand of years and poor Calvin here cannot fathom how the Mexicans would be harder workers than the Amerinds. Why not only is recent evolutionary changes to humans impossible, it’s a filthy lie! Not even a good lie, a vile dirty one that corrupts us and makes us racists.

        But God Damnit, why are those Mexicans so hard working and those Amerinds so lazy, why?

        • Calvin X Hobbes says:

          “So I guess Calvin X Hobbes thinks it’s a despicable lie to even consider that evolution has worked on humans in our recent past.”

          It’s a mystery to me how you could have interpreted my comment that way.

          The liars I was referring to were people like Lewontin and Gould, who told us that we should not believe our lying eyes about racial differences. Reich’s heart is clearly on the side of such “well-meaning people who deny the possibility of substantial biological differences among human populations”. My reading of Reich’s NYT article is that he does not want honesty about racial and sex differences. He just wants more defensible lies.

      • Michel Rouzic says:

        People (like Reich) who don’t like a correct claim will raise the bar for what they’d accept as evidence for it high enough to reject it. And you can always raise the bar high enough, as Flat Earthers do. Our lying eyes tell us that congoids have a much lower propensity towards devoting time for more productive work than strictly necessary, but you can always reject such a simple and obvious observation by demanding scientific proof for it, and when that propensity is proven to exist you can always demand scientific proof that it’s genetic and not culture or nurture. Meanwhile it’s pretty obvious what happened over the millenia for things to become in that state as Harpending explained, but Reich makes it clear that his primary concern isn’t to figure out the truth, it is to keep up the appearances of being more sciencey than those evil racists. We don’t want people to get the impression that racists are right and respectable people who decry racism in the New York Times are wrong, that’s essentially the gist of the article.

      • zinjanthropus says:

        What’s irritating is that Wade did not (so far as I know) cite Harpending’s claim, but he gets tarred with the claim anyway. So an author, if not the right sort, is not just responsible for whatever he says, but whatever one of his sources says, too.

  9. Ivan says:

    ” Indeed, as 139 geneticists (including myself) pointed out in a letter to The New York Times about Mr. Wade’s book”

    Uh oh, I was going to buy his book…

    A letter of concerned scientists to the “Pravda”, no less, just like in the good old Soviet Union. So, is he a true believer or a liar ? If the latter, why bother writing the book ?

    • gcochran9 says:

      That letter is an unadulterated sack of shit.

      Reich is in a very odd place. Like many people with a similar background, he was brought up to be a good liberal, which entails believing in a lot of obvious falsehoods. But he’s smart, and the current of discovery in genetics strongly undermines some of those liberal beliefs. I have said that hardly anyone, maybe only a few hundred people worldwide, are going to become convinced of the existence of genetically caused differences between races because of genetic evidence – when obvious phenotypic differences aren’t enough? But there are a few such people and I think Reich is one of them. He’s been told about current and upcoming GWAS studies of intelligence. And although the emotional charge is lower, he’s been busily demolishing fashionable, false liberal ideas about prehistory (pots not peoples, no massive migrations, no fire-and-sword population replacements). He knows that these guys are reliably wrong in his field – that has to influence his thinking.

      He also knows that he works at Harvard, knows where his funding comes from, knows what happened to Watson. He knows that calling the shots honestly would destroy his career, destroy the careers of the young people working there, etc. It’s lot like trying to a decent job under Communism: you had to make compromises. Or being a policeman working for Vichy: there are still criminals that needed to be caught, right?

      Being a collabo is not as fun as it looks. But most Frenchmen were collabos, to some extent – DeGaulle was atypical.

      • Calvin X Hobbes says:

        “I have said that hardly anyone, maybe only a few hundred people worldwide, are going to become convinced of the existence of genetically caused differences between races because of genetic evidence – when obvious phenotypic differences aren’t enough?”

        I think there were and still are quite a few people, of generally normal or even high intelligence, who were not convinced of the existence of genetically caused differences between races, because (a) certain lying “experts” told them there were no such differences (or at least that there is no evidence for such differences), and (b) they were given the message that only bad, stupid people believed in such differences. Maybe actual genetic evidence won’t have much direct effect on the beliefs of such people, but if the liars from whom they get their beliefs change their lies, then they’ll change their beliefs. So, the actual genetic evidence will have an indirect effect, by way of the liars.

      • Ivan says:

        “But most Frenchmen were collabos, to some extent “.

        Sure, likewise in the SU, but writing a letter is an act of active collaboration. No one was forcing him, right ? Or someone was ?

        One of my relatives was a relatively famous geologist, an associate member of the SU Science Academy. He was a religious person, a big no-no, not a communist, naturally, and on multiple occasions refused to sign letters denouncing this or that person. He was probably just lucky that they let him be.

        I am not sure how I’d behave in similar circumstances. In Reich’s case, however, there is no threat of gulag, this country is not even Brezhnev’s SU (yet), much less Stalin’s . I am not judging, of course, just being curious as to what motivates really smart people behave this way …

      • Yudi says:

        I’ve noticed this trend of soft hereditarians going to liberal outlets and bashing hard hereditarians (as well as strawmen) while slipping hereditarian ideas in the left-wing minds is increasing. Paige Harden and Eric Turkheimer did the same trick last year vis a vis Charles Murray.

        I actually cheer this development, Uncle Tommish though it can be.

      • catte says:

        His advisor was also none other than Richard Lewontin; I think that would have done a number on anyone.

      • LukHamilton says:

        I mean, I used to believe that racial differences were literally skin deep and, having read Guns, Germs, and Steel (as well as being exposed to JS Mill and reading The Economist for years), I thought biogeography & geography were the deep, long-run factors that ultimately determined culture, institutions, and prosperity. I also got exposed to Lewontin’s fallacy at some point and believed it. Luckily, I read Garett Jones’s book Hive Mind and later came across your review of it. Then I started reading your blog, along with Razib Khan. The genetic papers y’all talked about changed my mind. Now I think I was brainwashed in a way. I had argued for intelligent design in middle school before becoming convinced by the evidence for evolution, so changing my mind ain’t new to me. It is ironic to me that academia has such a bias against recent evolution among humans, since they mock creationists so hard. The creationists, in an intuitive way, understand the implications… I seriously doubt I am a unique snowflake, one of hundreds.

  10. dearieme says:

    Americans discussing race: it’s a pound to a penny that there are only two races they have in mind.

    • ziel says:

      True – like when the papers crow about the latest study trumpeting the rapid rise in inter-racial marriage and they inevitably feature a photo/story of a BM/WF couple, but then when you look at the actual stats it’s mostly white men with asian women.

    • catte says:

      The two races of mankind: male and female

  11. @dearieme – I think you are mostly right about those two races. It is entirely true about black people discussing race, who do not reference natives/Hispanics, nor Asians except to equate them with white people. For Caucasians, it depends where one lives. In Alaska, people are talking about natives and whites. In Texas and Florida, it’s whites, blacks and Hispanics. On the west coast people are sometimes including Asians. For the rest of the country it does tend to be black/white. Here in NH, we mean people from Massachusetts.

    An interesting example of people’s actions revealing their true beliefs.
    It’s equivalent to the idea of “voting with your feet,” except there are um, no feet involved and I’m certain any accurate metaphor would be misunderstood.

  12. Matt says:

    Please do the review in one continuous installment rather than dividing it over many posts.

  13. Alex says:

    Let me say that Bitcoin, because of high transfer costs, especially from exchanges, is not the best currency for such payments. You would be better off requesting payment in ETH, the second largest cryptocurrency and quite valuable itself.

  14. epoch2013 says:

    From an interview with Reich in FT:

    “Africa was the original cradle of humanity, where the transition from apes to hominins took place more than 2m years ago and where anatomically modern humans evolved about 300,000 years ago. But the genetic evidence leads Reich to challenge the conventional view of one-way traffic out of Africa.

    He proposes an alternative scenario: the first migration of hominins (Homo erectus) into Eurasia 1.8m years ago led to substantial evolution of archaic humans there too. Some of them then moved back into north Africa, where they became the primary founders of the population that later evolved into modern humans. While this is unproven, Reich writes, “the evidence for many lineages and admixtures should have the effect of shaking our confidence in what to many people is now an unquestioned assumption that Africa has been the epicentre of all major events in human evolution.”


    I am very interested what that genetic evidence could be.

    • Calvin X Hobbes says:

      Link does not work if you don’t subscribe to FT. But if you google

      He proposes an alternative scenario: the first migration of hominins (Homo erectus) into Eurasia 1.8m years ago

      the link from google works.

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