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 BlogRazib Khan Archive

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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
There are some topics which I have some interest in, such as prehistory illuminated by genetics, in which there is constant change and new discoveries every few months. If a new paper doesn't drop in a six month interval, I think something is wrong. There are other topics where I don't perceive much change, and... Read More
Update: In light of further comments I may have been wrong about Hong's recent admixture! See the comments below (also, further discussion with Spencer Wells offline). I don't have total clarity on what's going on, because I'm sure my friends weren't lying...but they were also early adopters, and the methods may have changed. And, I... Read More
The above visualization is from a Reddit thread, Almost all men are stronger than almost all women. It's based on grip strength, and basically reiterates my post from last year, Men Are Stronger Than Women (On Average). The same metric, grip strength, is highlighted. The plot above shows that the "great divergence" occurs on the... Read More
A new paper in Nature Genetics, Characterization of Greater Middle Eastern genetic variation for enhanced disease gene discovery, is both interesting and important. But, as with the paper on the Andaman Islander genomes it starts out with a naive and misleading utilization of model -based clustering to frame the later results. Here's a major offending... Read More
One can appreciate a work of art on two levels. When one beholds the sculpted renderings of the Classical Greeks, across the distance of more than 2,000 years we can feel viscerally that they have touched something beautiful, and made it stone. To reduce this to biology, our perception maps onto to deep grooves in... Read More
There have been some media "explainers" about how genetics can't speak to Elizabeth Warren's Native American heritage. This is a complicated issue, and not all the assertions in the media pieces I've seen are wrong, but a lot of the details are very confused or wrong. In sum, this is very bad journalism from people... Read More
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 his... Read More
At the Eurogenes blog there has been a lot of analysis of South Asian genetic history in light of ancient DNA recently. Part of this is probably due to the fact that "Euro" genes (that is, the genetic history of European peoples) are now understood to be inextricably tied to demographic pulses and shifts which... Read More
Facts are important. But they can be inconvenient. Despite the stream of "think" pieces about "hookup culture" over the past decade there is no evidence that young people today are more promiscuous than in the past. In fact, on the contrary. Young people today are by most measures less promiscuous than past post-WW2 generations, in... Read More
Selection is one of the major parameters which population geneticists investigate. The easiest way to investigate selection is to have omniscience as to the change in allele frequencies over time. If you are a Drosophila geneticist this is feasible, as you control the reproduction of your model organism in the lab. It is obviously much... Read More
My main gripe with Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, is that I don't think individualism is a sui generis invention of Western civilization (the author, Larry Siedentop, gives particular pride of place to Western Christianity as the mother and midwife of liberal individualism). It's hard to generalize about human nature and history... Read More
As longtime readers know the role of selection and drift in shaping evolutionary processes have long been at issue within the field. Even as early as Charles Darwin's time there were some, including his famous bulldog Thomas H. Huxely, who were skeptical that natural selection was a primary engine of evolutionary change (Darwin had convince... Read More
The figure above popped up on Twitter to show that even within a socialized medical system, in this case in the United Kingdom and its NHS, ethnic differences in infant mortality remain. But what jumped out at me immediately was the high rate for infants whose mothers were born in Pakistan, as opposed to India... Read More
The Washington Post has an op-ed up right now titled: What’s the difference between genetic engineering and eugenics? I will be frank and state that it's not the clearest op-ed in my opinion, though to be fair the writer is a generalist, not a science writer. As I quipped on Twitter, the issue with eugenics... Read More
According to a new paper in Nature, Ancient gene flow from early modern humans into Eastern Neanderthals, a basal population of anatomically modern humans mixed with eastern Neanderthal populations on the order of ~100,000 years ago. The figure above is from the paper, and shows (on the left) the proportions and direction of gene flow... Read More
Southern Africa is kind of a big deal. Not because it is the seat of human origins; I am beginning to think that question is "not even wrong." Nor because it contains the "oldest human population" in the world; we are all the oldest human population in the world. Rather, the genetic variation one can... Read More
The above plot I generated using the 1000 Genomes data set. BEB = Bangladeshis from Dhaka, STU are Sri Lankan Tamils, ITU are Telegus, while PJL are Punjabis from Lahore, and GIH are Gujaratis (collected in Houston). These are big categories. The South Indian population sets exhibit some structure in terms of caste; there are... Read More
In New Creationists a philosopher at Duke recounts his experience when he attempted to explore the implications of group differences in ethics. He stated: After reading some recent work on the biology of group differences last summer, it occurred to me that as an ethics professor, I should write something about the moral upshot: if... Read More
I am wont to say that the genomics of human pigmentation are solved. Arguably this has been one of the major successes of the early GWAS era. In 2005 the postscript to Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body alluded to the fact that the genetic architecture of pigmentation in humans was relatively mysterious.... Read More
Aeon Magazine has published a 11,000 word essay by Scott Atran, ISIS is a revolution. Atran is one of my favorite thinkers, and his book In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion, is one of the more influential in shaping my understanding of cultural phenomena (warning, the prose is dense, but worth it!).... 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
The human genome is littered with many genes from diverged lineages. That is, any given human has segments from lineages which are deeply diverged from the dominant demographic element in our ancestry, which diverged from an African population which flourished on ~200,000 years ago, and among non-Africans a population derived from Northeast Africa ~50,000 years... Read More
The question of Italy population genetic structure comes up rather often for various reasons. I haven't visited this topic in much detail since reading Consanguinity, Inbreeding, and Genetic Drift in Italy, a very old book using classical genetic techniques. L. L. Cavalli-Sforza did not find much structure in Italy at the time, but it turns... Read More
recently watched the above video of a Demi Lovato song. I like Michelle Rodriguez's stomach as much as the next guy (OK, perhaps more), but one thing that struck me in particular is that throughout the whole narrative arc Lovato, a 5'3 tall female, beats the crap out of many much larger men. Obviously this... 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
At this point you have heard about the controversies at Yale and Missouri. If you haven't, just Google it. Among liberals there has been some debate and soul searching about the value of free speech, and its diminishing status as inviolate among youth. Jon Chait has a pretty thorough take over at New York Magazine.... 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
The media is blowing up with a new story about the phylogeography and phylogenetics of the domestic dog.* The New York Times has a good write up, and I like its title: Central Asia Could Be Birthplace of the Modern Dog (the headline was changed to "15,000 Years Ago, Probably in Asia, the Dog Was... Read More
Remember interactive television? In the mid-1990s Microsoft was betting the farm on this new technology. As it happens they had to make a course correction. The Mosaic browser was the first "killer app" of the internet (sorry e-mail and usenet), creating the world wide web as we know it. The the rest is history. The... 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
Beauty matters a lot in our world. The entertainment and fashion industries are based on beauty. Obviously some aspect of beauty is socially constructed and contextual. Beauty standards can change. There was a time when many aspects of European physical appearance, from light hair and eyes, down to the lack of an epicanthic fold, were... 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
I got curious about pigmentation about ten years when reading the coda to Armand Leroi's Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body, where he observes curiously that after all these decades geneticists still didn't understand very well the basis of normal variation in skin color. I read that in the summer of 2005, so... Read More
If you read Nell Irvin Painter's The History of White People you will learn that the white race is a social construction of relatively recent vintage. When I read her work in 2011 I was a touch annoyed by it, because a lot of interesting empirical data was shoehorned into her thesis and preferences. In... 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
Recently had a discussion with a reporter at a major publication about genetic genealogy, and how genomics and ancient DNA has changed everything about what we know about the human. Though I did put in the caveat that it seems the New World has a mildly simpler history that aligns with what we'd somewhat expected... Read More
A little over a month ago I asserted that "The Cro-Magnons Have No Descendants in Europe Today". By "Cro-Magnon" I really meant the modern humans who spread the Aurignacian culture through the continent ~40,000 years ago (that is explicitly stated in the post). This was the first human culture across the continent associated with populations... Read More
*The past after the word* If science is hard, history is harder. Harder in that the goal is to understand what happened in ages which are fading away like evanescent ghosts of our imagination. But we must be cautious. We are a great storytelling species, seduced by narrative. The sort of empirically informed and rigorous... Read More
Human Population Curve. Credit: Wikipedia
When I was younger I was very concerned with overpopulation. Today I am not very concerned. When I was younger I read books such as Paul Ehrlich's The Population Explosion, and Garrett Harden's The Ostrich Factor: Our Population Myopia. It is because I read these books and internalized their lessons that I am not very... Read More
It's easy to point out the cultural Left's adherence to all sorts of social constructionisms. My post Men Are Stronger Than Women (On Average) has a lot of Google juice because it now gets cited online a fair amount in arguments...because people are obviously taking the converse position (not that women are stronger, but that... Read More
In the culture of science you occasionally run into the sort of person who believes as an apodictic fact that if one is religious one can not by their fact of belief be a good scientist. You encounter this sort of person at all levels of science, and they exhibit a range of variation in... Read More
What sort of a #secular country allows bloggers to be murdered in broad daylight. With such impunity #Bangladesh follows #Pakistan. — Raza Rumi (@Razarumi) May 12, 2015 By now you are aware that another blogger who happened to be an atheist was killed. The modus operandi is pretty familiar. It looks like there are now... 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
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
I do like to suggest that the genetic and archaeological record support the conjecture of Conan the Barbarian in terms of what our male ancestors thought was "good in life." Basically, to conquer your enemies and seize their women, which is a distillation of a disputed quote from Genghis Khan. Conan may be fiction, but... Read More
Every now and then there is a debate on who is more "anti-science", the Left or the Right. I'm not too interested in the details of that, but, a few years ago I expressed my skepticism to Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science, that liberals were somehow reflexively more "pro-science." I suggested... Read More
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
In relation to what happened in Paris today, Ezra Klein ends a passionate post with this: Much of the above is so wrong that it is jaw-dropping. Does Klein really believe this? Is it copy rushed out in the moment? If you read history and observe patterns in human culture it is clear that most... Read More
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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"

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