September 18, 2008

Mark Stoneking review on Human Origins

Nothing really new in this paper, but the figure of the different models of human evolution is interesting. I have issues with the model of Assimilation shown, however, since only Europeans are shown as assimilating pre-existing populations (Neanderthals). There have been suggestions in the past that other human populations may have interacted with their own local inhabitants, e.g., erecti in Asia.

I also have issues with Stoneking's caricature of Carleton Coon's "candelabra" model. Saying that this model is not tenable today is one thing, but ascribing racist motivations behind it is another:
The candelabra model was most prominently associated with the anthropologist Carleton Coon (1904–1981), and fell out of favour when he used it to promote racist views. According to Coon, the transformation to modern humans occurred first
in Europeans, and hence they have had the most time to evolve from their ‘primitive’ ancestry, whereas Africans were the last to transform into modern humans and therefore have had the least amount of time to shed their primitive ancestry—and in case you were wondering, Carleton Coon was of European ancestry.

There is actually no good reason to ascribe racist motivations to Coon's model of human origins. It was simply an interpretation of the evidence (such as it was in his day). Coon's suggestion that different races crossed the sapiens threshold at different times did not imply superiority and inferiority. While he almost certainly believed in inherent differences between the races (as most scientists in his day did, and many still do), his views were definitely not based on an idea of Africans as having less time to evolve.

EMBO Reports 9, S1, S46–S50 (2008)

Human origins. The molecular perspective

Mark Stoneking




Crimson Guard said...

I think many today just remember his comment from "The Origin of the Races" and blow things out proportion. When he wrote about "The Alpha and the Omega of Homo Sapiens" and had the picture contrasting the Chinese holy man with a Australian Aboriginal and contrasted their brain case or something.

miz RAND BLOWTON said...

I haven't had time to evolve either and it's almost Christmas!I'd like some super changes super fast-like an evolutionary miracle!

Chinese and Aborigines don't hang out together so do they care about a brain-case contrast?

Asians do better than Caucsians in math-is that a symptom of better BrainCase or better strategy-that means planning/figuring for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about.

miz RAND BLOWTON said...

Did I say Christmas-I'm not really even a Christian;as do gooders don't get much done in my opinion/I'm sort of a Secular Humanist.Don't mean to go off the genetic subject,but I don't want to mislead anyone....but I'm still used to Christmas.....

Anne Gilbert said...

This ithe post), but, I, too, have problems with models of human evolution that suggest "assimilation", yet assume the only "assimilation" that took place was between Neandertals and "modern" humans, in Europe. Assuming such "assimilations" took place, none of the human groups involved were (probably) different enough from one another to prevent such genetic assimilations. This would include Neandertals, IMO, and they are the best known "archaic" group, but would certainly have included others. As for Coon's ideas, I think you should bear in mind that he tended to do a lot of "stereotyping" and while I don't think he was a racist in any real sense, either, I also think his model or "European sapienization first" is decidedly questionable, and some people thought it was, even then.
Anne G