The 10,000 Year Explosion – A Book Review

I just finished reading Gregory Cochran’s and Henry Harpending’s 2010 book “The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution.”  In some senses this book seems to be a rebuttal of Jared Diamond’s book “Guns, Germs and Steel, The Fates of Human Societies.”  Diamond’s thesis was that geography was the basis for all the differences between the levels of human technological progress across the world.  The underlying message of Diamond’s book is that all humans are exactly the same biologically.  An Australian Aborigone and Albert Einstein are equally likely to discover general relativity as long as they were both living in Eurasia at the right time in the right place.  In my review of Diamond’s book I stated that the results of geographic isolation clearly had great impact on the ability of neighboring peoples to benefit from the latest technological technology discoveries.  But I also doubted that this provided any proof that there were no meaningful differences between different human population groups.

“The Ten Thousand Year Explosion” is the answer to Diamond’s assertion on equivalence of human populations.  Cochran and Harpending provide a thesis on why human populations would differ and then a litany of examples of where they do.  The book is a fascinating story of how modern humans expanded out of Africa at the end of the last Ice Age and interacted and replaced the archaic humans who preceded them in colonizing Eurasia.  It is truly amazing that in a few short years Neanderthals and other archaic humans have gone from a few bones sitting in a museum display to creatures whose DNA can be compared gene by gene with our own.  Cochran and Harpending examine the genetic evidence and put forth the case that hybridization of modern humans with Neanderthals in Europe is the most likely explanation for the explosion of genetic and cultural changes that occurred when these two human populations interacted.  Their thesis is that the introduction of new alleles (genetic options) gave these humans added flexibility to adapt to their new environment and this led to selection for physical and mental characteristics that in turn gave rise to advances in agriculture, technology, culture and language.

Another message that Cochran and Harpending stress is that human evolution has not slowed even now.  A final example to reinforce this idea is the case of the Ashkenazi Jews.  Cochran and Harpending analyze the history of the Ashkenazi people and the genetic linkage between their higher average intelligence as a group and a number of genetic diseases that are linked to brain function.  He points out that these changes occurred in a period of less than a thousand years and are the result of natural selection reinforced by reproductive isolation and selective advantage based on occupation.

The 10,000 Year Explosion is a fascinating book.  You’ll learn that there literally was a tribe that gave rise to all the Indo-European speaking tribes (Celts and Greeks and Romans and Slavs and Germans and Aryans) and that this pastoral tribe went on to conquer and mix with people over half of Eurasia because they could digest lactose in milk.  And they were epic poets in Ireland, Greece and India.  The book is full of interesting facts and thought provoking ideas.  And I think it will convince most people that Jared Diamond is only looking at half the story by neglecting the genetic and other physical evidence about human history that is now available to scientists.  It turns out nature and nurture are inextricably linked and progress breeds change and vice versa.  We continue to change and to deny this is silly and counterproductive.

17MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

Heinlein was probably exclusively thinking of religion but the relevancy to the Left’s brand of politically correct propaganda is extremely obvious to me.

It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creeds into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.

Robert A. Heinlein

Good Grief! Another Book I Have To Read! The Great Revolt by Selena Zito

The link is to an article by the author giving the fifty cent summation of her book.  Well, here’s more sleep deprivation for yours truly.  This book rightly concentrates on the people who voted Trump in and looks at the constituency instead of the man who figured out it was there.  Should be an interesting read if it is substantive.  After all if all that is needed is a simple why then I can answer that.  It’s because the Left was trying to bury us.

https://townhall.com/columnists/salenazito/2018/05/15/the-great-revolt-n2480737

Monster Hunter Siege by Larry Correia – A Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review

Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series has been a fun experience for me.  His stories feature heroic monster hunters battling the unalloyed evil of the world’s varied monster population.  The Shacklefords and their associates have turned wholesale slaughter of the undead into a lucrative enterprise but one that has taken its toll on the family.  Included in this attrition are three recent victims who have been turned respectively, into a werewolf and two master vampires.  But what makes it a pleasure is that none of the monsters and none of the hunters ever seem tempted to wax poetic on the need to increase the world quotient of social justice.  The diversity of the characters is measured in species of monsters dispatched or the variety of allied supernatural creatures such as trailer-park dwelling elves, death-metal loving orcs and gangsta gnomes who get featured in a story.  Correia never once discusses the need to ascertain the correct gender fluid pronouns of any zombies before blowing their heads off with a rocket propelled grenade.  So, the books are very much action oriented.  Shooting monsters is their forte.

But I am happy to relate that Larry’s storytelling abilities are definitely becoming more nuanced.  In Siege one of the highlights of the book is a sustained dialog between the protagonist (Owen Pitt) and his nemesis.  In this scene Correia gives the devil his due.  In fact, I think his evil character may actually seal the show.  Of course, there is still plenty of combat and monsters being blown up.  And Larry further clarifies the mythology of his universe.  So never fear, there’s plenty of explosions to warm the heart of all Monster Hunter fans.  But Larry is definitely steering the series into a more complicated plot.  Larry has shown that he is not averse to killing off some of his characters.  And some of that goes on in Siege.  But what is also clarified is that he is braiding at least five separate strands of supernatural intervention and even some of the “good guys” may not get along together.  So, we shouldn’t expect any imminent resolution of the larger threat that has been growing in the background.  If anything, the details at the end of Siege further complicate the future for Owen and his family.  But that’s alright.  Larry seems in control of his material and expanding the scope of the story to epic proportions.

So, if you are already a Monster Hunter fan then the good news is that Siege is a very worthy successor to the series.  And if you are new to the series then rest assured that your investment will pay off with an already good number of sequels to satisfy your monster killing quota and with every indication that Larry will continue to expand the Monster Hunter saga into an urban fantasy franchise comparable in size and quality to Jim Butcher’s Dresden files.  The only shortcoming to the story is that the only mention of Agent Franks is retrospective to the previous book.  We’ll have to wait for the next book to see his smiling face.

11MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

Xenophon was a practical man.  That must have frustrated his mentor Socrates.  The thought of that pleases me immensely for some reason.  I guess it’s my hate for Plato.  Here’s more of an observation than a quote.

 

When the interests of mankind are at stake, they will obey with joy the man whom they believe to be wiser than themselves. You may prove this on all sides: you may see how the sick man will beg the doctor to tell him what he ought to do, how a whole ship’s company will listen to the pilot.

 

Xenophon

10MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

Ray Bradbury turned Americana into fantasy (and sometimes horror).  But Dandelion Wine is his love song to small town America circa 1928.  And one of the lessons he tries to teach is that progress doesn’t always mean improvement.  Too bad the family is one of the things that doesn’t look like it will survive 21st Century America.

You want to see the real happiness machine? The one they patented a couple thousand years ago. It still runs; not good all the time, no! but it runs. It’s been here all along.

Hesitantly, Grandfather, Douglas and Tom peered through the large windowpane.

And there in the small warm pools of lamplight, you could see what Leo Auffman wanted you to see.  There sat Saul and Marshall, playing chess at the coffee table.  In the dining room Rebecca was laying out the silver.  Naomi was cutting out paper-doll dresses.  Ruth was painting water colors.  Joseph was running his electric train.  Through the kitchen door, Lena Auffman was sliding a pot roast from the steaming oven.  Every hand, every head, every mouth made a big or little motion.  You could hear their far away voices under glass.  You could hear someone singing in a high sweet voice.  You could smell bread baking, too, and you knew it was real bread that would soon be covered with real butter.  Everything was there and it was working.

Ray Bradbury

Dandelion Wine (1957)

08MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

I grew up on this guy’s stuff.  We don’t see eye to eye on everything but he did get a lot of stuff right.  Plus he definitely was an American original.  In his novel “Friday” he represented the balkanization of North America.  I wonder whether he would be surprised by where we are today.  My guess, probably not.

There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.

Robert A. Heinlein