The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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MIT Technology Review has an article up, Do Your Family Members Have a Right to Your Genetic Code?, which is now part of the genomics-human-interest-piece genre you see regularly. Here you have the exemplar of this sort of narrative: what do you do when one twin gets a test and the other does not, and... Read More
If you follow Y genealogy you know that the distribution of R1ba2 exhibits a peculiar pattern. R1b is the most common haplgroup in Western Eurasia, and shares a deep common ancestry with R1a. It seems to have risen to high frequencies in Europe only during the Bronze Age, though has been found in earlier periods.... Read More
A new paper in The American Journal of Humans Genetics, The Divergence of Neandertal and Modern Human Y Chromosomes, reports on possible reasons why we don't see Y chromosomes in modern humans from this archaic lineage, despite exhibiting detectable levels of autosomal admixture. As you might recall the clear lack of deep branching Y and... Read More
Eurogenes points me to this interesting conference with a book of abstracts, Human Dispersals in the Late Pleistocene - Interdisciplinary Approaches Towards Understanding the Worldwide Expansion of Homo sapiens. Below are those of interest to me.... Philipp Gunz Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Leipzig, Germany Evolution and development of the modern human face and... Read More
A friend of mine introduced me to Mr. Robot a month ago. The show was difficult for me to follow, and I don't watch much TV in the first place ("watching TV" is like making a "mix tape"; there's not television involved anymore). But, the star, Rami Malek, had an intriguing look. It was only... Read More
Many people have skin problems. Though luckily I've never had an issue with acne, most people who know me personally are aware that I suffered from extreme eczema as a child. Most of the major issues occurred when I was under five years of age, and in my first few years, so I have only... Read More
One of the most incredible journeys that the human species has undergone is the Austronesian expansion of the past 4,000 years. These maritime peoples seem to have emerged from the islands of Taiwan, and pushed forward south, west, and east, so that their expansion pushed to East Africa, and the fringes of South America. There... Read More
As you may know in Britain there is a new direct to consumer genetic testing service, Living DNA. Debbie Kennett has a post up where she talks about how it works and why it's different. For now it is British focused, and leverages haplotype-based methods with the PoBI database to give really fine-grained analysis to... Read More
The above results are from Ancestry. You can see here 4% Melanesian. This is common in South Asians. And it's not an error in the method. Rather, it is a natural outcome of the methods uses to generate admixture profiles. Basically what's going on is this: 1) You have data. In this case, the data... Read More
A new paper in Quaternary International, Western Eurasian genetic influences in the Indonesian archipelago, confirms what has long been suspected by smaller batch data: ...To locate the primary areas of Western Eurasian genetic influence in Indonesia, we have assembled published uniparental genetic data from ∼2900 Indonesian individuals. Frequency distributions show that Western Eurasian paternal lineages... Read More
For whatever reason I missed this paper which came out in July in AJHG, Human Y Chromosome Haplogroup N: A Non-trivial Time-Resolved Phylogeography that Cuts across Language Families. Basically it blows up sample size and utilizes NGS techniques (whole-genome) to resolve some questions around haplogroup N, and in particular the M46/TAT subclade which exhibits a... Read More
About thirteen years ago I expressed the opinion that an understanding of population structure will become a matter of intellectual curiosity once we have a better understanding of the genetic basis of characteristics. A friend, who was a statistical geneticist, told me that this was unlikely. We were unlikely to capture the ability to predict... Read More
In 2011 I was having dinner with an old friend who was an engineer at Intel. He also has a Ph.D. from MIT. Smart guy. But when I mentioned casually offhand that we were all a few percent Neanderthal (outside of Africa), he was surprised. I was a bit shocked, as I explained that this... Read More
Evolutionary theory famously predated the emergence of genetics by decades. Initially there was some conflict between the heirs of Charles Darwin and the first geneticists in terms of their mechanistic understanding of how evolutionary process occurs. Within a few decades though genetics and evolutionary biology were synthesized so that the former came to be integral... Read More
An excellent open access review of population genetics history from 1966 to the present in Heredity, Population genetics from 1966 to 2016. From the abstract: We describe the astonishing changes and progress that have occurred in the field of population genetics over the past 50 years, slightly longer than the time since the first Population... Read More
The Emperor Heraclius is a great man. It's a shame most people don't know more about him. His campaigns against the Persians in the early 7th century were truly audacious. But, he also lived long enough to witness the loss of Syria and Egypt. If you haven't, I would highly recommend A History of the... Read More
One of the interesting things about genetics, and population genetics even more specifically, is how the theory and analysis outran the biophysical mechanism of the phenomenon. By this, I mean that the Mendelian laws inferred from transmission of physical characteristics predate any understanding about how genes were embedded within chromosomes, let alone the structural nature... Read More
The mutation rate in human evolution and demographic inference: Even since this review came out there has been new work. Fast changing.
Deep Sequencing of 10,000 Human Genomes: The 30x means that they're hitting each base on an average of 30 times, so they can be very confident of their call. This matters a lot for rare variants, as might be useful when it comes to idiopathic diseases. The 10,000 number is obviously to take it a... 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
This isn't a good time to be into charismatic megafauna. Mostly due to habitation destruction the numbers are not going in the right direction. There has been a precipitous decline in the number of lions over the past 20 years. This is probably a good thing for rural Africans, but ideally I envisage a future... Read More
It all began in the hillocks to the north of the plains of modern Syria and Iraq. Agriculture that is. Or more precisely, the West Eurasian package which would wash all the way to the Atlantic, and deep into Eurasia, and in innumerable ways influence most human societies. The standard model until recently was that... Read More
The Monkey's Voyage is a book I've spotlighted before. Probably the main reason is that it highlights the importance of migration/dispersion on an evolutionary timescale. That is, change is the norm, and turnover is ubiquitous. The Tuatara is the exception, not the rule, when it comes to the biogeographic diversity of New Zealand. As I'm... 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
The title is my response to this article in The Washington Post, Inequality might start before we're even born. The screenshot to the left is from Twitter, and shows an alternate title. The article is written by a journalist whose work I normally am appreciate of, but when I saw that I started swearing. There's... Read More
One of the most curious things to people is that siblings can vary a great deal in their traits. Sometimes, this is not simply due to environment. Height is a predominantly genetic characteristic in terms of its heritability within the population, but the correlation between siblings is only 0.50 in terms of the trait value.... Read More
When I was 13 years old I had a deep interest in America's national parks, so I have long been familiar with the ecology and conservation genetics work associated with Isle Royale. In particular, there has been a long-term study of the predator-prey dynamics on the island dating back decades. Before the recent resurgence of... Read More
I loaded my children's pedigree into DNA.LAND to get some better imputation (so taking hundreds of thousands of markers and "filling" with millions based on known associations). Below are the new ancestry inferences for: -My son -My daughter -Me -My wife -Son/daughter's paternal grandfather -Son/daughter's paternal grandmother -Son/daughter's maternal grandfather -Son/daughter's maternal grandmother    ... Read More
The above model of the settlement of the Americas is from a new paper which utilized ancient mtDNA, Ancient mitochondrial DNA provides high-resolution time scale of the peopling of the Americas (open access): The exact timing, route, and process of the initial peopling of the Americas remains uncertain despite much research. Archaeological evidence indicates the... 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
Reading The Shape of Ancient Thought. Not a light read, but worthwhile so far. I'm not a big fan of metaphysics in general, but the empirical patterns are interesting. Surprised at the likely Mesopotamian influence on both India and Greece, though in hindsight it makes sense. More to say on this later.... Some people are... Read More
"Seek knowledge even in China" - Muhammad One out of five people in the world today are of the Han ethnicity. Colloquially known as Chinese. Like the West China has a long history, and its development can be traced, more or less, over the past 3,000 years. Because of the history of a system of... 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
For a while I've been playing around with 1000 Genomes South Asian data. It's an interesting exercise, because unlike other South Asian data set it's relatively generic with minimal ethnic/caste labels. This is important because unlike other population groups that the 1000 Genomes has sampled, such as in Africa, Europe, and East Asia, the South... Read More
Dienekes argues: I'm not sure that this is the main piece, though it was a major reason. Here are two other reasons: 1) Anatomically modern humans show up in Africa first. 2) The deepest divergences in the mtDNA, Y chromosomes, and autosomes, are all found within Africa (in particular, between hunter-gatherer African populations and everyone... Read More
Peter Visscher has an essay in Genetics, Human Complex Trait Genetics in the 21st Century. I believe it's open access, so I encourage you to read it. It strikes me that he's conflating genetics with all of biology when he states that "Genomics will become synonymous with biology." But that's my main area of skepticism.... 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
Indigenous Arabs are descendants of the earliest split from ancient Eurasian populations: An open question in the history of human migration is the identity of the earliest Eurasian populations that have left contemporary descendants. The Arabian Peninsula was the initial site of the out-of-Africa migrations that occurred between 125,000 and 60,000 yr ago, leading to... 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
Is there a difference between admixture and introgression? I think there is. Or have always assumed there is. But of late I'm wondering if a distinction is widely accepted, and what sort of distinctions people make. That is, in some cases it seems clear that admixture and introgression are used interchangeably as meaning the same... Read More
Periodically I get frankly stupid comments that seem to imply that the incredible swell of results coming out of molecuar genetics and genomics are revolutionizing our understanding of evolutionary and population genetics. Over the past generation it's been alternative splicing, then gene regulation and evo-devo, and now epigenetics is all the rage. The results are... Read More
The figure to the left is from a piece in The MIT Technology Review, A Change of Mind. It profiles Diana Bianchi, a researcher who was involved in pioneering tests to discover Down Syndrome early in utero, but now is working on curing the disease. Here is a delicate aspect: The idea that children with... Read More
Over the past few years one of the major finds of ancient DNA is that human genetic patterns as a function of time often exhibit discontinuity. In plain language, the people who live in a given location are often unlikely to have descendants at that location 10,000 years down the line. This has resulted in... Read More
Most people know that animal breeding has a long history. At least since the Neolithic revolution, and probably in some fashion earlier if you consider that dog-human interaction/co-evolution dates to the Pleistocene. In some ways this is not always a good thing, when you consider flourishing from the perspective of the animal. It is a... Read More
In 2007 a friend told me of an encounter at a seminar where L. L. Cavalli-Sforza seem to offer agriculture almost reflexively as a solution to the conundrum of signals of positive selection in the genome of humans. Basically, all paths led to agriculture. I have to say that nearly ten years later Cavalli-Sforza's deep... Read More
I haven't paid much attention to the "three-person babies" controversy, because it seems like a manufactured one. After all, we're balancing people who might develop a severe illness, against vague and inchoate concerns. Very few (though some) biologists that I know of express any concern about this issue. Mostly it seems to be the public,... Read More
The bar plot above shows the Kalash people in yellow as very distinctive group among a panoply of Eurasian populations. The figure is from a Rosenberg lab paper. There's nothing aberrant about this result, you can generate this plot pretty easily by using any motley set of markers. The Kalash are distinctive. But it is... Read More
When is a jackal a wolf? All the time apparently. At least according to a persuasive new paper, Genome-wide Evidence Reveals that African and Eurasian Golden Jackals Are Distinct Species. First, let's put this in context. Canids area big deal. They're big social mammals whose distribution and speciose character have undergone big changes across the... Read More
When I first realized of the possible utility of genetics toward anthropology and history I came up against a major problem in addressing extremely fine-grained questions: the tools did not have the power to probe very small genetic distances, constrained in time and space. After reading Norman Davies massive The Isles I was to understand... 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"