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I do not spend much time thinking about politics at this point in my life. Therefore I have little to say that is very important or interesting, though I take a passing casual interest. The map above is very curious. Donald Trump did not simply ride on a wave of expected gains. He changed the... Read More
One of the first things I wrote on the internet related to Indonesian Islam, and what we could expect in the future. This was before Gene Expression, and I don't have archives of that blog. There are many issues where my views have changed over the past fifteen years, but that is a piece of... Read More
Since we're on the topic of religion, I thought I would make a book recommendation. If there is one book I would read on the Reformation if there was one book, it is Diarmaid MacCulloch's The Reformation. I read this magisterial work in 2004 over a week and it has stuck with me in a... Read More
The new Alice Roberts documentary is going viral. Or at least its spin is. E.g., Western contact with China began long before Marco Polo, experts say: Let's go with the easy part first: there were no "Western" people when the Afanasevo culture was pushing into the fringes of what is today Xinjiang. There are two... Read More
There has been lots of comment on Mormons and politics recently. I think the key aspect which is underemphasized in these pieces are the deep differences within Anglo-American cultural streams (as opposed to the short-term reasons for Mormon disaffection from the conservative coalition, such as their internationalism). If you haven't read Albion's Seed, you should.... Read More
The map to the right shows GDP per capita in the European Union in 2014 broken down by regions. I've long observed that the wealthiest regions of Europe are disproportionately those which were long under Habsburg rule. This fact transcends ethnicity and religion. Catholic northern Italy, Catholic southern Germany, as well as Protestant Netherlands, are... Read More
Several people have asked me about this article in Foreign Policy, Does Chinese Civilization Come From Ancient Egypt? It's interesting in terms of cultural commentary, and what it say about open-mindedness among the Chinese public and academy. In many ways the Chinese are much less open-minded than Westerners after decades of Marxism...but in other ways,... Read More
It is too much to assert to say that the Indian ocean is "our sea," writ large as a species. But it does certainly seem to be the case that this body of water does punch above its weight. It is likely that anatomically modern humans emerged not too far from its shores, while the... Read More
Taking a break in my work of the day I stumbled upon the fact that Bernard Cornwell's series based on King Alfred's period, which began with The Last Kingdom, is a Netflix series. To be honest I much preferred the three volume Warlord Chronicles, set more than three centuries earlier, in post-Roman and pre-Saxon Britain.... Read More
Spencer Wells, along with many others, such as Jared Diamond, argued that agriculture was a disaster in terms of what it wrought for the quality of life for the average human in his book Pandora's Seed. This is broadly plausible to me. On the other hand, I also think it is highly likely that agriculture... Read More
In my free moments I have been reading R. Scott Bakker's The Great Ordeal, as I needed to take a break from Congo: The Epic History of a People (I stopped before the Great War). As you might guess the latter is not a 'feel-good' work. And to be frank, The Great Ordeal is probably... Read More
It is a common assertion to state Christianity helped maintain the continuity of Classical civilization down to the Medieval era, through the "Dark Age" of Europe after the Fall of Rome. A more extreme position is that Christianity was a necessary condition for the maintenance of this civilizational tradition. I recall once reading an alternative... Read More
The show runners of Game of Thrones (the HBO television which will actually complete its run under its original creators) admitted that they patterned part of the battle in yesterday's episode on the Battle of Cannae. This was obvious to me, as I was actually thinking that the Boltons were exhibiting something similar to the... Read More
Several years ago there was a famous exchange between Ben Affleck and Bill Maher & Sam Harris on the nature of Islam. In response I published a post titled "ISIS' Willing Executioners". The overall point was that Affleck's comments were not informed by the nature of Islam or Muslims, but broader political currents. As for... Read More
Like you, I am waiting on the Rakhigarhi DNA results. Whatever they come back with is going to definitely impact the textbooks. But until then, I thought this paper in Scientific Reports was interesting (sort of), Oxygen isotope in archaeological bioapatites from India: Implications to climate change and decline of Bronze Age Harappan civilization. I... Read More
The origins of Islam are fascinating, because the religion is critically important in the modern world, but its genesis within history is surprisingly vague for its first decades. Muslims have their own historiagraphy, and some Western historians, such as Hugh Kennedy transmit this narrative with high fidelity, albeit shorn of sectarian presuppositions and strongly leavened... Read More
Over then years ago The Genetic Legacy of the Mongols was published. This paper illustrated the surprising genetic effects that historical demographic events might have; the authors found that one particular Y chromosomal lineage was extremely common in Central Eurasia, and, that lineage exhibited an explosive growth over the past 1,000 years. Combined with the... Read More
In light of David Reich's interview I have been thinking about how genetics will shed light on many questions in the near future, and what my particular expectations are. The interview prompts me to collect some of my thoughts into one place, and outline a tentative thesis that I've been pointing to for the past... Read More
David Reich has a interview (with video) up at Edge. If you see someone featured on Edge, it's usually because you'll hear from them in the future. There's not too much that close readers of this weblog will find surprising. But it was interesting to see David explicitly assert that West Eurasian ancestral input into... Read More
A young friend of mine was asking for recommendations on an introduction to Chinese philosophy. Xunzi: The Complete Text would be hard going for him I suspect, as he has minimal background. My inclination is to suggest A Short History of Chinese Philosophy. My personal experience (yes, I'm still slogging through the medieval section of... Read More
I'm not sure I believe the methods, but the paper is open access, Comparative phylogenetic analyses uncover the ancient roots of Indo-European folktales: Ancient population expansions and dispersals often leave enduring signatures in the cultural traditions of their descendants, as well as in their genes and languages. The international folktale record has long been regarded... Read More
It has been an open question for historians of the fall of the Roman Empire the extent to which ethno-tribal migrant caused the transformation toward the post-Roman order. In Britain, for example, there has long been debate as to whether the shift from a predominantly Celtic population with a cosmopolitan Latin-speaking patina (at least demographically... Read More
Several years ago I read a book, The Origins of the Irish, by the famed archaeologist J. P. Mallory. Unfortunately, I remember very little of this work, and recall thinking that it was published just a bit too early, as archaeogenetics was clearly going to revolutionize our understanding of the prehistory of Northern Europe, though... Read More
Over the past few years we have seen ancient DNA researchers "carve nature at its joints" when it comes to the paleohistory of Europe after the end of the last Ice Age. In relation to this historical reconstruction we aren't at the end of the road, but I do think that the terminus is within... Read More
Several weeks ago I found out that the historian Lisa Jardine had died. This saddened me, as I have appreciated Jardine's works. In particular two works stand out in my mind. Worldly Goods, which I read when I was 18, and which helped me to understand that there was a different sort of history from... Read More
- Rig Veda Five years ago I found out that my friend Daniel MacArthur and I are members of the same Y chromosomal haplogroup, R1a. Both of us thought it was rather cool, that ~5,000 years ago there lived a man who was ancestral to us both on the direct paternal line. Five years on,... Read More
About four years ago the genome blogger Dienekes Pontikos published a post, The womb of nations: how West Eurasians came to be. The argument was that the genetic variation we see around us across western Eurasia and northern Africa has its ultimate roots in the the structure that was extant in the ancient Near East,... Read More
A while back I purchased In God's Path: The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire on Tom Holland's recommendation, as this work purports to be based on a spare, but historically contemporaneous, set of sources rooted in the non-Muslim societies which Islam ultimately superseded across the Middle East. The book was a... Read More
14 - And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle. 15 - And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? 16 - Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to... Read More
The argument I made in my post below is pretty straightforward and transparent if you read even a little bit of world history. Most of the assertions of post-colonial theorists collapse under even the barest of inspection with an empirical mindset. The problem though is most people don't have much comparative historical or anthropological data... Read More
The Indo-European Controversy: Facts and Fallacies in Historical Linguistics, by Asya Pereltsvaig and Martin Lewis is a pretty one-sided monograph. The reason, as admitted by the authors, is that they believe a certain sector of academia and the middle-brow reading public are not exhibiting enough skepticism about the application of Bayesian phylogenetics in linguistics. To... Read More
William Dalrymple in The New Yorker has a reflection up on the 1947 partition of the subcontinent, The Great Divide. It is fine so far as it goes. He reminds us of the scale of the tragedy, millions of deaths, as well as the depravity of the barbarity, as "infants were found literally roasted on... Read More
In the year 2000 I watched the film The Patriot. Some British observers protested that the depiction of frankly Nazi-like behavior by the redcoats in the film was total fiction. There are scenes in the film where slaves are promised freedom in the revolutionary cause. Even those with a cursory knowledge of history during this... Read More
Like slavery war has a long history in our species, but it does have a history, a beginning, and perhaps an end. That is the sort of message you can take away from a paper such as Zefferman and Mathew's An Evolutionary Theory of Large-Scale Human Warfare: Group-Structured Cultural Selection. War is a culturally mediated... Read More
Gerard Russell's Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms is a somewhat uneven work with a surprisingly broad thematic coverage. The subhead is "Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East." But one of the groups covered, the pagan Kalash, are not Middle Eastern. A group like the Mandaeans, who have disappeared from the region due to... Read More
I am often asked by people online to give an "elevator pitch" as to the genetic history of the Indian subcontinent. At this point we've got ~90 percent of the story I think. Modern humans arrived in the Indian subcontinent ~50,000 years ago, and pushed onward to East Asia, but over the past ~10,000 years... Read More
Unlike some books I did not read Strange Parallels: Southeast Asia in Global Context, c.800-1830 (vol. 2) in one sitting, or even over a few days. Part of the reason is length, at 977 pages in the print edition. Another aspect is the frankly verbally baroque writing style of the author. Very rarely do I... Read More
One thousand and five hundred years ago innumerable Germans, Saxons, Angles and Jutes, came to the shores of Britain, and transformed it into England. One thousand and five hundred years ago the trunk of the English language was grafted upon a fundamentally British ethnic root. Post-Roman Britain was subject to a massive migration of Germans... Read More
A few thousand years ago the islands of Japan were settled by a group of rice farmers, ushering in the Yayoi period. Prior to this Japan was home of the Jomon culture, which is notable for being a pre-agricultural society which may have innovated to produce the world's earliest pottery. Because everything before ~500 A.D.... Read More
The rectification of names is a somewhat strange way to talk about something which is intuitively obvious to most: a properly functioning society needs people to know their appropriate place. This can sound patronizing and anti-egalitarian, but even in the relatively "flat" social structure of the United States this holds, as most would balk at... Read More
One of the first things that the author of 2002's Religion Explained had to address is the fact that everyone thinks they have the "explanation" for religion. Unlike quantum physics, or even population genetics, people think they "get" religion, and have a pretty good intuition and understanding of the phenomenon without any scholarly inquiry. Most... Read More
Reading Strange Parallels, Southeast Asia in a Global Context, I have begun to think about the differences between the eruption of Inner Asian nomads in the early modern period, and in prehistory. The author points out that the arrival of Mughals, and even to a greater extent the Manchu, to the ancient and dense civilizations... Read More
- Genesis The above is from a relatively widely circulated post from OKCupid. It has been argued that this post saved the dating website OKCupid, and launched the book Dataclysm. Over five years on the underlying biases have not changed, and if anything gotten more notable. I think the fact that OKCupid has become a... Read More
Fst between ancient European populations Ba_MN Be_LN Ben_LN Cor_LN EHG LBK_EN Mo_HG Sp_EN Sp_MN Sw_NHG Un_EBA WHG Baalberge_MN Bell_Beaker_LN 0.020 BenzigeroH_LN 0.021 0.004
Fst between selected populations Armenian Bas Cord Czech EHG Eng Fren Gre LBK Lez Lith Sard Sin WHG Basque 0.017 Corded_Ware_LN 0.023 0.025
Update: The preprint is out. End update Genesis, 6:4 An emanation from the one most high...uh, I mean, David Reich, has given his talk at Oxford. Thanks to Jean Manco we have a pretty good report of what he said. The core element seems to be that a paper will soon be published using ancient... Read More
At this website Steven Pinker has uploaded a PDF, Response to the Book Review Symposium: Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature. You can find what he's responding to in a journal with the title Sociology, which should update your probabilities if you are of a certain orientation. The response is basically "positivism porn,"... Read More
So I just bought the Kindle Version of The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies for $3.99. At 780 pages this is a substantial work, and from what I can tell it's an academically oriented text (not one of those Kindle "books" which are cut & paste jobs out of... Read More
I was aware that Colleen McCullough was ill, so sadly it is no surprise that she has died. To many McCullough is known for her Masters of Rome series. I particularly think that the first two books in the series, The First Man in Rome and Grass Crown were exceptional. The later novels cover the... Read More
The New York Times has a piece within the title Experts See Signs of Moderation Despite Houthis’ Harsh Slogans. It mulls over the fact that the Houthi rebels, who are rapidly becoming the establishment, brandish anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans, and are clearly getting Iranian money. The piece mentions that the Houthi rebels are Zaydi, which... Read More
Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at"