About This Blog

This is the weblog of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending. We have collaborated for several years on several projects, mostly over the internet. We have found the blogworld to be important for our work and so decided to dip our toes into the water with this blog.

Harpending is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Utah: see this homepage.

Cochran is an adjunct Professor at the University of Utah but he lives in Albuquerque, NM. His formal academic background is in optical physics but he spends as much time as possible working on evolutionary biology, especially of humans. His work with Paul Ewald on pathogens and chronic disease is well known.

Several years ago we wrote a popular book titled The Ten Thousand Year Explosion in which we discuss aspects of human evolution over the last few tens of thousands of years. If you enjoy the book, you might like further snippets that our editors cut out available on the book website.


28 Responses to About

  1. M. Möhling says:

    hi, you might want to state your full names here (I guess you don’t mind) and point to your university home pages. There you could link this blog stating that you own it, else a wordpress blog is technically anonymous.

  2. LaurenMath says:

    Yes, and what does “West Hunter” mean?

    • Anonymous says:

      The blog title West Hunter seems daring, dark and mysterious, but as someone who has known Dr. Cochran for over 50 years, let me assure you that it is none of the above. Focus on the content.

  3. John Harvey says:

    I agree with the two comments above. Your blog is very welcome and long overdue but readers like myself who stumble upon it by accident really do need a little background information in order to put it into context.
    Great posts so far by the way. It comes as a breath of fresh air to find authors who are prepared to stick with the evidence for human group variation, rather than succumbing to the shallow respectability of “we’re all the same under the skin”.

  4. Ron Pavellas says:

    Clean presentation. Very readable.

  5. Gene Berman says:

    In the U.S., witch doctors don’t require “licenses” but any effort to cause harm to another (as by sticking pins in a voodoo doll) is liable to criminal charges, including attempted murder–both against the voodoo doctor and anyone who might have engaged him with the intenrtion of causing harm. The voodoo doctor would have an easier “out” than someone who hired his service
    ( (he’d just have to explain, convincingly, that he, himself, had no belief in the efficacy of his “powers”).

    There was a case of this type in Missouri about 20 years ago in which several people (including the voodoo doctor) went to prison for attempted murder.

  6. Bruce Bowen says:

    Dr. Cochran,
    While cruising blogs, somebody attributed the following saying to you, “Dumb people believe ‘x’, smart people believe ‘y’, really smart people believe ‘x’.” I burst out laughing that’s been my experience. The poster did not provide a link. Did you say this? Do you have a link to it?


    Bruce Bowen

  7. the_alpha_male says:

    “Dumb people believe ‘x’, smart people believe ‘y’, really smart people believe ‘x’.”

    LOL. I said it recently on another blog (i’m pretty sure i said: ‘Greg Cochran said something like: “seems to me Dumb people believe ‘x’, smart people believe ‘y’, really smart people believe ‘x’.” .

    I’m pretty sure Greg said it…..maybe on gnxp.

  8. Steve says:

    This blog is very sloppy and disappointing. It’s written like you’re chatting with your colleagues about stuff you all understand but can’t be bothered to explain to anyone else, complete with sarcastic in-jokes, obscure references and a condescending attitude toward anything you disagree with. There are careless spelling and formatting errors that could easily be avoided with a preview and some proofreading. You don’t always properly cite and link to the sources you reference. You don’t use categories and tags effectively to make posts easier to find and aggregate. You had to be told by a reader to identify yourselves and you still mostly go by your handles (“gcochran9” and “harpend”) instead of your full names, often failing to log in when you reply to comments so we can’t be sure it’s really you. And still no explanation of what “West Hunter” means.

    All in all, there’s very little evidence that this place is a public forum for two respected scientists and university professors, and that’s really a shame.

    • Jerome says:

      It sounds like you are looking for “Government Science”. There’s plenty of it available. Google “NASA”.

  9. Steve, I am relatively new here, have learned a lot, and am not bothered by any of the things you mention. It sounds like you have an expectation – not necessarily well-thought-out or shared by others – that you expect others to conform to. Online discussion often takes the very form you are criticising.

  10. Discard says:

    gcochran9: What is this exotic survival kit you mentioned a dozen postings back? I’d like to see the list. Or is it a joke that I missed the opening to?

  11. Bill Gleeson says:

    Hello Greg and colleagues, I have just become aware of yr work and I am awaiting a copy of ‘10,000 years’, on order [in Australia]
    I understand you draw attention to the sudden and recent emergence of certain human genes – and I would mention similar examples in crop technology where corn [in Mexico] and wheat [in Syria?] emerged suddenly in their present form about 10,000-5,000 BC. Both apparently without intermediate ‘evolutionary’ forms. Wheat is a particularly unusual hexaploid, derived from 3 known wild parents which do not naturally cross [even difficult to induce crosses]. Yet it is serenely attributed to spontaneous natural mutation, lovingly nurtured by a noble peasant. Improbable!
    My own work ‘Before The Delusion’ provides some commentary from the historical record of ‘inconsistencies’ in this period of human ‘pre-history’. Perhaps not quite in your academic league but nevertheless a documented compilation from historical sources – of which there are many. It makes interesting reading
    Bill Gleeson

  12. Polymath says:


    Here is a topic I don’t recall seeing you write about, but which is right in your wheelhouse.

  13. Polymath says:

    Another topic for you: the mystery of haploid number.

    I have never seen a satisfactory explanation of how it can come about that a species gives rise to a daughter species with a different number of chromosomes. Yes, of course chromosomes can fuse and split, but the individual in whom that first happened will be at a severe reproductive disadvantage. Unless some unlikely inbreeding occurs immediately, how does this macro-mutation survive and wouldn’t the resulting daughter species have a very severe population bottleneck compared with new species whose reproductive isolation was geographical?

  14. Just stumbled upon this blog through Raz Kahn and the NY times kerfuffle. Commenting so as to save as a bookmark

  15. first time caller says:

    Prof. Cochran,

    In the past you’ve shared a relevant and informed analysis/rant about Iraq and its nuclear ambitions, or lack thereof. Can I solicit your opinion on Iran wrt the same issues, so that the “I told you so” position will be out there in writing? (For those who need a good telling)

  16. James Graham says:

    Professor Cochran,

    In light of your interest in WW Deuce, here’s a new book about Australian labor unions “anti-war”


    Although the blurb refers to Aussie war efforts I once read that the US Marines who invaded Guadalcanal had to load their own ships due to work stoppages by Aussie unions.

    • gcochran9 says:

      It was dock workers in New Zealand who forced the Marines going to the Canal to do a lot of the work themselves, not Australians. But there was trouble with Australian unions during the wear, sure.

  17. sabracakeboo says:

    The name works for me. You could call it The wicker basket for all I care…I’m just here for the content..As far as it having a slightly anonymous look to? it all the better. Maybe that will weed out some of The bloggers That have the IQ of jello gelatin

  18. Anon2 says:

    Re Post-formal thinking and IQ

    Hi Greg,
    There is no full and final agreement yet about Post-formal stages of cognitive development – it wasn’t that long ago that researchers hadn’t even noticed that they existed.

    Here’s one approach – from Prof Michael Commons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_of_hierarchical_complexity

    There are a number of such models, as you can see from here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piaget%27s_theory_of_cognitive_development#Post-Piagetian_and_Neo-Piagetian_Stages or here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-Piagetian_theories_of_cognitive_development – and each one has it’s own assessment tool. Some approaches/tools very closely related.

    A focus on the limited and linear rationality of IQ alone will miss off significant parts of creative and complex thinking – in particular that which is needed to grapple with the world’s ‘wicked’ issues. Black-and-white ‘Formal Operational’ thinking isn’t up to that task, we’ve learnt.

    Older people are more likely to have developed Post-formal thinking – and doing! – abilities.

    I’m not quite certain of the relationship, but there is probably a fairly strong relationship between IQ and Post-formal capacities – so correlations found of particular factors with IQ may sometimes be due to high Post-formal abilities, even if the researcher does not realise this.

    I hope this begins to clarify things… (Not that I’m in possession of total clarity on all this myself!)

  19. William Norton says:

    I just discovered your blog- wonderful ! I enjoy the mix of slang, swearing and science. I am an old school sociologist and we were taught to make interesting things boring. Fortunately we were also taught statistics and I still believe in randomness and the null hypothesis, a couple of good ideas which seem to have lost traction over time.

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