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.



47 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?

  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.

  20. Karl Gallagher says:

    Your writings on homosexuality are fascinating. The possibility that it may be the result of a bacterial infection is intruiging, but is that testable? If it is an infection then it must strike early. Although I realised my own sexuality and came out at 27 I can remember behaviour in my early childhood that gave it away, and my Dad figured it out about me when I was ten. Most of my gay friends say they knew themselves before adolescence.

    Venereal disease nurses in Britain no longer use the term homosexual to describe any of their patients, they use the acronym MSM – Men who have Sex with Men. They do this because most of their male patients who aqcuire STDs off other men are not gay. This may seem counter-intuitive to you but it does make sense to me. I am gay because I fall in love with men, but most of the men I have ever had sex with have been straight. In more religious times they would have held back out of fear of God, now they just do it for pleasure, also knowing that they are safe from the complications of emotional attachment they experience with women. Based on my own experiences, I think about a quarter of straight men enjoy the sex for the physical sensation and will pursue it if there are no imminent social consequences, and these days there aren’t so many of those.

    To correlate an infectious agent with a symptom you need scientific tests for both. How would you scientifically test for homosexuality? Identifying genital behaviour isn’t enough (there are too many straight men who slum it on the down low), you would need a test to figure out who the subject can fall in love with. Tricky. You could always ask them how they self-identify, but we all know how silly that gets.

    I detect a definite animus in your vocabulary towards homosexuality. A scientist should be dispassionate. This isn’t a moral question, it’s a medical one. Clarify your vision and I for one will be eager to see what you can figure out about us.

  21. EmmaDora says:

    A general question: could you recommend some source that would provide a feel for the vocabulary sizes of languages spoken by primitive peoples?

    Occasionally, there is an article in the mainstream press – i.e. on the difficulty of trying to practice psychology in some African country because of a lack of a vocabulary for discussing the concepts, or even variations of emotions or states of mind, in the local language.

    This suggests that the vocabularies and hence the range of concepts available in these cultures are very small.

    Languages expand by borrowing – as a native Hungarian speaker, I’m very aware of this. But how many words do, say, Yoruba or an aboriginal Australian language have without such additions?

    Hope you’re having a nice “weekend”, as the Hungarians call Saturday and Sunday!

    (Pronounced as in English.)

  22. Hello Dr. Cochran,
    I just finished, enjoyably reading your book “The 10,000 Year Explosion”. FYI: the marriage laws for Ashkenazi Jews from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 150:7 – “Men who make a profitable living locally, her time is every night. Laborers who do their work in their cities, her time is twice a week. If they work in another city, her time is once a week. Similarly, the merchants who go out to the villages with donkeys to bring produce to sell, and similar to them, her time is once a week. Those that bring goods on camels from far off places, her time is once every thirty days. The time for Torah sages is every Shabbat night.” Also, the smartest boy in the village became the rabbi. The rabbi married his sons and daughters to the smartest girls and boys in the village or another village. The rabbis had the largest families.

  23. TheTruthisOutThere says:

    Hello, Dr. Cochran and Dr. Harpending,

    How are you both, great articles and great site! I have a request since you’re both in academia and might have more access to knowledge in the DNA research getting published. In the off chance you are privy, do you know when the IVC/harappan dna from Rakhigarhi in India is going to get published? It had been projected originally for September 2017 but there does not seem to be nary a peep about it. I’m just waiting in anticipation to find out answers to one of the greatest mysteries and controversies in the ancient history of India.

    Hope you are doing well, have a great day!

  24. I’ve read your “About” and I read your post “Jewish Mom’s” and a string of comments on your contention that in some older testing –I don’t have the date of it — on Ashkenazi Jews, they test out at 10 IQ points higher than average. What is your point about that old data on IQ score of some Jews? Does it mean something about the broad human condition? Are you certain it was not a fluke, a factoid, a matter that is neither fish nor fowl? [This idiom sounds better in Yiddish!] You live in the real world, where Jews are targeted for no good reasons, and jealousy is one, so people of good will must weigh the effects of what they say about Jews in that real-world light.

    Perhaps in your book, you mention the Holocaust as a possible factor, if the IQ scores of the European Jews are post WWR II. The Jewish population of Europe was decimated. Do you know many survivors? I’ve known some. In my experience, they were, all of them, young, strong and smart. Those qualities were what the boys needed. For some of the girls, pretty was enough for how they were used, but smart kept you alive in that environment. That is what you needed to survive in that environment, plus a daily dose of luck.

    Killing 90% of a population is the trick to drive mutation on demand. Are you familiar with those studies? Look at John Cairns 1988 paper. Cited as: Cairns, J., Overbaugh, J., & Miller, S. (1988). The origin of mutants. Nature, 335(6186), 142.

    Did you rule this out as the cause of the 10 point bump?

    I got to your blog tonight, 180304, from an article in the Guardian: “The unwelcome revival of ‘race science” by Gavin Evans. Here is the link:

    You and your book were not explicitly mentioned but a 2005 paper at U of Utah was featured. Is that your work?

    I was struck by Evan’s attack on Steven Pinker, who used your finding to claim that he and other Ashkenazi Jews were smarter. [Full disclosure: I am one, and also smart. But I am pretty sure all of us humans can learn to be smarter, and many of us have. Jews especially, because we are the people of the book, the Torah. Our culture emphasizes reading and has done for some 3000 years, I think the evidence points to a woman in King Solomon’s court in 931 BCE as the author of the 5 books of Moses. This language skill is mostly what the Verbal sub-scale on the Wechsler measures.]

    Pinker has a handsome face and is likely a charming dinner companion. I find his writing to be turgid and his ideas unconvincing. He is a follower of Noam Chomksy whose core ideas on linguistics made less and less sense the more he changed them over the years in complicated ways to meet neuroscience developments that eventually made his original theory laughingly absurd — a dedicated language organ in the brain, that no one could find? Chomsky’s new theory, “Minimalist Thesis Hierarchically Structured Expression and Merge” is incomprehensibly complicated. I give him the benefit of the doubt that it is not merely nonsense, but in its present form it no longer meets the minimum requirement of a scientific theory– that it must be expressed in a way that allows it to be falsified.

    And your work is also dated Dr. Cochran. You should consider announcing that you are withdrawing it due to new developments.

    In this regard, I quote 3 paragraphs from Evans article in the Guardian:
    “So, what about the Ashkenazis? Since the 2005 University of Utah paper was published, DNA research by other scientists has shown that Ashkenazi Jews are far less genetically isolated than the paper argued. On the claims that Ashkenazi diseases were caused by rapid natural selection, further research has shown that they were caused by a random mutation. And there is no evidence that those carrying the gene variants for these diseases are any more or less intelligent than the rest of the community.

    “But it was on IQ that the paper’s case really floundered. Tests conducted in the first two decades of the 20th century routinely showed Ashkenazi Jewish Americans scoring below average. For example, the IQ tests conducted on American soldiers during the first world war found Nordics scoring well above Jews. Carl Brigham, the Princeton professor who analysed the exam data, wrote: “Our figures … would rather tend to disprove the popular belief that the Jew is highly intelligent”. And yet, by the second world war, Jewish IQ scores were above average.

    “A similar pattern could be seen from studies of two generations of Mizrahi Jewish children in Israel: the older generation had a mean IQ of 92.8, the younger of 101.3. And it wasn’t just a Jewish thing. Chinese Americans recorded average IQ scores of 97 in 1948, and 108.6 in 1990. And the gap between African Americans and white Americans narrowed by 5.5 points between 1972 and 2002.”

    And so on.

    I wish you well in your further endeavors.

    Ken Arenson

  25. Boyd Silken says:

    Will “The 10,000 Year Explosion” ever be available as an audio book?

  26. Charlotte says:

    I’m an English major who agrees with your Quillette critique of Zimmer’s attitude toward genetics and believes intellectual honesty about the science of human behavior and genetics is important. Snarkiness can be delightful, but casual outgroup slurs, even against the likes of us English majors, can also undermine your credibility as someone motivated by science, as opposed to ingroup identity politics (in your case the “scientist” ingroup). Please consider that rigorous intellectual honesty continually seasoned with empathy for those in different ingroups from you may be more widely persuasive. You can still be charming and funny without the slurs.

  27. KPKinSunnyPhiladelphia says:


    I am writing in the hope that you might address on your blog the contention, as promulgated by Vox Day on his blog, Vox Popoli, that the theory of evolution by natural selection is not credible given the number of fixed genetic mutations required to create speciacation over a specific time period. Here’s the link:


    and particularly the CHLCA discussion.

    This post was written following an online debate Vox Day had with biologist JF Garlepy. Vox has a very large audience, many of whom believe in a creationist model.


  28. The ten thousand year explosion was an amazing book. I can’t wait to see what other books you put out in the future.

  29. Nicholas Steinhoff says:

    Hey Greg, came across your blog and couldn’t help but notice the importance of r0 in the virus dynamics. This is further proof that we’ll never escape Dave Fried.

  30. Mike-SMO says:

    stdiscussion seems to focus on intelligence, IQ, or “g” but a literature piece suggests that the African-American population may be burdened by anti-social attitudes and behaviors that got the original slave population “transferred”/sold into slavery in the first place.


    The author’s defense of her Great Grandfather implies a worthy toleration of those who might have “lost their freedom” through bad luck, bad crops, disease, etc. as opposed to those who presumably were “defective” (my term) and both failed when on their own and also after they were put under the control/stewardship of a successful family. The Nigerians who “lost their freedom” and who were eventually “transferred” to the Europeans apparently made up the majority of the “slaves” that ended up in North America. I have no idea how the “slaves” harvested from further south in Africa were selected but since most seem to have gone to South America, it doesn’t much affect the American Story.

    If the anti-social and “non-productive” behavior has a genetic component, it might provide some understanding of the maladaptive and predatory behavior that created U.S. inner city ghettos, that doesn’t involve the current “Woke” obsession with “Racism”. High “IQ” is not needed for most jobs and for a well functioning society.

    • This language, “harvesting”, is an illustration, is depraved.

      Remove me from your circulation.

      I will complain to WordPress to block your blog, because it may offend Canadian hate law.

      Kenneth Arenson J.D.

      Attorney [ret.] LSUC

  31. Vishvas Vasuki says:

    @gregory – Could you please create an automatically updated index of ALL posts? It is very simple. Just create a new post or page, put whatever title you like and paste the below line:


    That’s it. This will let people like me easily gather up all posts for offline search and reading.

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