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relig 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 writing whose contents I think hold up rather well, if I recall it correctly! (when I go back and reread things I wrote 15 years ago I often wince at my naivete)

Yesterday I noticed that The Wall Street Journal had a piece up, Hard-Liners’ Show of Force Poses Thorny Challenge for Indonesia’s President, and an accompanying sidebar: Examples of Indonesia’s Turn to Conservative Islam. The details are not super important. Basically, the Christian and ethnic Chinese governor of Jakarta has gotten himself into some blasphemy trouble. Some of this critics are probably sincere, while some of his critics are probably being opportunistic. The political elite of the country must make a pretense toward neutrality, and genuflect toward religious sensibilities, since Indonesia is famously a 90% Muslim nation. Most people on some level know it’s bullshit, but at minimum you have to go through the motions. Religion aside this is a great chance to make sure that an assertive ethnic Chinese and Christian politician doesn’t get too uppity.

More interesting than what is happening is why this is occurring now. Not only is “Indonesia” famously the world’s most populous Muslim “nation,” it is also “tolerant” and “syncretic”, though recently “conservative” religious movements have become prominent, changing the nature of “Indonesian” Islam. Normally the usage of quotation marks in this manner is asinine, but I was conscious in what I was trying to “problematize.”

Indonesia is not truly a nation. Or at most it is a nation like India, a nation which encompasses a civilization with several related nationalities. Second, the tolerance of illiterate peasant cultivators for religious heterodoxy is different from the tolerance which 51T9NDF7GPL emerged (for example) in England on matters of religious belief and practice in the 18th century. And the syncretism of Indonesians is not like the syncretism you see in the development of the Sikh religion, which is a genuinely novel positive religious vision from a Dharmic base engaging questions and presuppositions derived from Islam. And Indonesian Islam which is called conservative is not conservative if conservatism harks to the customary, traditional, and organically evolved religious folkways of the populace. Rather, the “hard-line” Islam comes up from the aspirant middle classes and is connected with a broader movement of world-wide Islamic reformism and revivalism across the Ummah, and is consciously marginalizing the traditional Islamic religious establishment of rural regions.

What I’m getting at here is a general phenomenon, not limited to Islam. Eric Kaufmann alludes to it in Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth. Dianne Purkiss in The English Civil War points to it too. What is that phenomenon? The terminal state of postmaterialist modernity is not attained in a linear and unidirectional fashion. In fact, it may not be a terminal and stationary state at all!

When engaging many progressive friends and acquaintances who have little interest in international relations it is often asserted that material deprivation is the root of Islamic terrorism and Islamism writ large. This is demonstrably false empirically. Marc Sageman in Understanding Terror Networks did an extensive ethnography of the Salafist terror international of the 2000s, and there was an extreme overrepresentation of the highly educated, affluent, and technical professionals. Scott Atran has also done ethnographic research, and converged on the same result: it is not economic deprivation that fuels these violent explosions, because the participants and principles are not economically deprived.

51r6r4q8HiL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Even a superficial analysis of Islamist movements, the necessary parent movement for violent terrorism, show that they are often driven by the middle class and prosperous, just as most radical movements are. This reminds me of a particular religious movement: Reform Protestantism. In the Anglo-American case this is most starkly illustrated by the Puritans, who were attempting to complete the Reformation within the English Church (purging all “Popish” rituals and institutions, as well as removing theological diversity, such as Arminianism). The Puritans were often from the industrious and prosperous classes of London and eastern England. The New England colonies were arguably the world’s first universal literacy societies.

I have stated before that whenever I read about the Reformation and English Civil War I undergo some cognitive dissonance. My consciousness as an American was formed in a region of upstate New York which was heavily Dutch, but later became demographically dominated by the great migration out of New England. Either way, a particular Anglo-Protestant, even Puritan, vision of history was what was taught to me. And yet the Protestants in the Reformation were often the heralds of intolerance, violence, and iconoclasm. Just as they were the heralds of toleration and liberality (in addition to the Netherlands, see Reform Transylvania and to some extent Poland). Protestantism unleashed many different tendencies sublimated within the Western Christian Church up until the 16th century (the exceptions of the Hussites and John Wycliff aside). And some of those forces and tendencies were not ones which postmaterialist liberals in the broad sense would have much sympathy with. It gave rise to both the pluralism of the Pennsylvania project and the tolerance of Rhode Island, as well as the demands toward public conformity and private uniformity which were the Puritan Congregationalist colonies.

In Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State Andrew Gelman points out that ideological polarization is maximized at the upper income brackets. Values are to some extent luxuries, consumption goods for those beyond the subsistence level. What Kaufmann analyzes this on a sociocultural level, Gelman does so on an individual scale. And it explains why so little international Islamic terrorism comes out of the poorest Muslim countries in relation to their populations. The battle between the Taliban and the government in Afghanistan is between an Islamist movement and elements which are more diverse, but ultimately it recapitulates divides between country and city, and Pashtun and non-Pashtun, which give it local valence. The international aspect of Islamic terror is Afghanistan, or Yemen, or Somalia, comes from forces and threads which are international. Osama bin Laden was of Yemeni ancestry, but raised wealthy in Saudi Arabia. The influence of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State in poor Muslim countries has clear connections with migration from wealthier nations and Diasporas. Poverty may be fertile ground, but it is almost never the seed.

Going back to Indonesia, let’s bring together these strands and try and understand what’s going on. First, Indonesia is a collection of various nationalities with long histories of contact but distinction. The tolerant folk Islam that is often assumed to be the sine qua non of Indonesian Islam is really the culture of central and Borobudur_Templeeastern Java, that of the Javanese. At 40% of the Indonesian population the Javanese loom large, but they are not the totality of Indonesian culture and society. The people of Aceh came under Islamic influence centuries before Java, and they have traditionally had closer connection to the Middle East, and practice a more Middle East normative form of Islam. Second, many of the outlying islands have Muslim populations without the civilizational overhang of pre-Islamic greatness which characterizes Java. To this day a small minority of Javanese remain Hindus, while conversion to Hinduism from nominal Islam is not unheard of. This history though is truly the history of Java, and to a lesser extent the region around the Malacca strait. Hindu-Buddhist civilization’s impact on most of the Indonesian archipelago was much more diffuse and marginal (Sanksrit loan words as far as the Philippines and Madagascar are signs of this civilization’s contact with groups outside of Java and Sumatra). Outside of the areas of most intense Hindu-Buddhist domination history begins with Islam and the Dutch. They do not have much of a Hindu-Buddhist identity to synthesize with Islam in the first place.

Additionally, identity is not much of an issue in a village folk context. This is why syncretistic and tolerant Islam is common in many parts of the world characterized by subsistence farming. Individual lives are delimited by the custom and tradition of the village, which self-regulates. Rather than looking toward textual scripture, or religious professionals, long established folkways guide lives in a seamless fashion. Though these people may be tolerant when it comes to poorly understood or practiced religious orthodoxy and orthopraxy, they are also often very superstitious, and liable to murder the local “witch.” There are more tolerances than those of religious orthodoxy alone!

The major “problem” though occurs when you urbanize peasants. In an urban context village spirits are irrelevant, and the folk cultural currency which smoothes relationships no longer apply. If you are very wealthy this may not be relevant, as social networks of the elite have long had purchase in urban centers, and old connections can be leveraged at the commanding heights of industry and government. For the lower classes within slums the day to day may be a matter of survival and subsistence. A new identity is secondary to making to the next day. Where the need for identity likely comes to the fore is in the urban middle class. These the classes not connected to the levers of power in the social heights, but still have resources and leisure to ponder their place in the world, and how their nation should be ordered. In a village context these may have been prosperous farmers and gentry, already more closely connected to religious professionals than the more marginal peasant. Translated to the urban milieu their rural accumulated social capital accounts for little, with the inchoate Javanese mysticism and syncretism dissipating in the new environment for which it was never adapted in the first place.

This is where reformist and international Islam comes into play. This is a religion that is portable, and culturally neutral (ostensibly). Different local sub-elites transplanted into an urban milieu can meet and communicate with the lexicon of a religion which was defined from its beginning by urbanity. Not only does Islam allow for connections between people between different regions, but it also integrates oneself into an international network, previously only accessible to those with financial resources to travel extensively. Common belief in a transnational religion allows for immediate rapport with those from other nations, without the need for prior extensive personal interactions. Subscription to various forms of Islam allow for immediate inclusion into an international brotherhood.

The United States is perhaps the best example of what mobility and lack of solidity do to religious institutions. American religion is exceedingly confessional and decentralized. The Roman Catholic Churches attempt to create a corporate pillar on the model of the European society in the 19th century failed. Rather, operationally American Catholicism has become confessional at the level of the believers, if not the exterior institutions. Similarly, American Judaism took a very different trajectory from that of European Judaism. While European Reform Judaism was marginalized between the two poles of Orthodoxy and secularism, in the United States Reform Judaism was arguably the dominant form of Judaism for most of the nation’s history.

American religions are characterized by a wide range of levels of tension with the surrounding society, and are generally confessional, rather than communities of birth (though Judaism is arguably a hybrid, as Reform Judaism has again embraced the ethnic dimension of the religion). Some groups, which are often termed “conservative”, are at high tension with society. The reality is that they are not necessarily conservative, as much as they exhibit strong ingroup dynamics, and marginalize outgroups, and are marginalized by outgroups. Consider Mormonism, a religion which is conservative in its mores, but whose theology is highly exotic, and arguably radical. The key toward understanding Mormonism is its high internal cohesion. But this results in a side effect of tension with the surrounding society.

41cpg1ESArL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Indonesia is a nation of 250 million. The rise of “conservative” Islam is natural. As Indonesia urbanizes, its folk Islamic subculture s are dissolving. They evolved organically over thousands of years, and they are adapted to local conditions, utilizing local lexicon. Their strength was their deep local roots. They are not transplantable. It is natural that many urban dwellers would find that a culturally stripped down form of Islam based on textual sources, though extending from them, would be amenable to their needs. This form of Islam allows for strong ingroup ties that are not contingent on local histories or ethnic identities. But, it also throws up walls toward those who it considers outsiders and competitors. That is, non-Muslims. Other Indonesian urbanites are not becoming “conservative” Muslims. Rather, they are probably subscribing to what one might term “liberal international,” the transnational globalist class which is united by their affluence and postmaterialism, and a form of individualism well characterized by Jonathan Haidt.

Indonesian Muslims are arguably more “liberal” and more “conservative.” But this increased variation and solidity of large bloc social units is salient in a form which is more threatening. To readers of The Wall Street journal the transnational Muslims identifying with the Islamic Reformist international bloc are threatening, and a danger, due to their hostility toward outgroups. In contrast, the liberal globalists take a more relaxed attitude toward group identity, though they too have their own redlines and normative preferences.

The details may be local, but the dynamics are global.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy, History • Tags: Indonesia, Religion 
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Markers show populations sampled by HUGO Pan-Asian SNP Consortium


The Pith: Southeast Asia was settled by a series of distinct peoples. The pattern of settlement can be discerned in part by examination of patterns of genetic variation. It seems likely that Austro-Asiatic populations were dominant across the western half of Indonesia before the arrival of Austronesians.

About a year and a half ago I reviewed a paper in Science which did a first pass through some of the findings suggested by the HUGO Pan-Asian SNP Consortium data set, which pooled a wide range of Asian populations. You can see the locations on the map above (alas, the labels are too small to read the codes). The important issue in relation to this data set is that it has a thick coverage of Southeast Asia, which is not well represented in the HGDP. Unfortunately there are only ~50,000 markers, which is not optimal for really fine-grained intra-regional analysis in my opinion. But better than nothing, and definitely sufficient for coarser scale analysis.

A few things have changed since I first reviewed this paper. First, I pulled down a copy of the Pan-Asian SNP data set. I’m going to play with it myself soon. Second, after reading Strange Parallels, volume 1 and 2, I know a lot more about Southeast Asian history. Finally, the possibility of archaic admixture amongst Near Oceanians makes the genetics of the regions which were once Sundaland and Sahul of particular interest.


Before we hit the genetics, let’s review a little of the ethnography of Southeast Asia, as this may allow us to tease apart the meaning of some of the results. The largest ethno-linguistic group in Southeast Asia is that of Austronesians. An interesting point in relation to Austronesians is that they aren’t limited to Southeast Asia. As you can see the Austronesians range from off the coast of South America (Easter Island) to southeast Africa (Madagascar). Though there’s debate about this issue it seems to me that the most likely current point of departure of the Austronesian migration is Taiwan. Though today Taiwan is predominantly Han Chinese, that is an artifact of relatively recent migration. The indigenous population is clearly Austronesian.

A second language family which is somewhat expansive, though Southeast Asia focused, is Austro-Asiatic. There is a great deal of internal structure to this ethno-linguistic group, in that there is a well known coherent Mon-Khmer cluster, which includes some ethnic minorities in Burma and Thailand, as well as Cambodians. Additionally you have Vietnamese in the east and some tribal groups in northeast India. There has long been debate about whether these Indian tribes, the Munda, are the original Indians, to be supplanted later by Dravidian and Indo-Aryan speakers, or intrusive to the subcontinent. I believe that the most recent genetic data points to intrusion from the east into South Asia. Austro-Asiatic was likely less fragmented in mainland Southeast Asia before the historical period. Both the dominant ethnic groups in Burma and Thailand are intrusive and absorbed Mon-Khmer populations, the latter dynamic being historically attested.

Finally there are the ethno-linguistic clusters of Burma and Thailand (and Laos). The former nation is dominated by the Bamar, a Sino-Tibetan population with origins in South China ~1,500 years ago. In Burma the Mon substrate persists, while the Shan people of Thai affinity reign supreme across the northeastern fringe of the nation. In Thailand and Laos the Mon-Khmer substrate has been marginalized to isolated residual groups. But it is notable that in both these polities the Mon-Khmer populations set the tone for the civilizational orientation of the conquering ethnicities. The Thai abandoned Chinese influenced Mahayana Buddhism for the Indian influenced Theravada Buddhism of the conquered populace. Despite the notional ethnic chasm between the Thai and the Khmer of Cambodia, the broad cultural similarities due to the common roots in the society of the Khmer Empire is clear.

With the ethnographic context in place, let’s look at the two primary figures which we get from the paper. The first figure shows a phylogenetic tree of the relationships of the populations in their database, color-coded by ethnolinguistic group. Next to that tree there’s a STRUCTURE plot at K = 14, which means 14 ancestral populations. They’ve colored the bar components to match the ethno-linguistic classes (e.g., red = Austro-Asiatic, an Austro-Asiatic modal component). The second figure shows two PCA panels. PC 1 is the largest component of genetic variance in the data set, and PC 2 the second largest. I’ve added a label for the Papuan populations.

Going back to the chronology above, we know that the Thai came last. The Sino-Tibetans came before then. The issue I wonder about is the relationship of the Austronesians and Austro-Asiatic groups. Interestingly the Austronesian proportions are high not only in island Southeast Asia, but also among many South Chinese groups. In contrast, among the Mon-Khmer hill tribes of Thailand, who are presumably representative of groups which were present before the Thai migrations, it is absent. And it is notable to me that not only does Austro-Asiatic exhibit fragmentation in relation to Thai and Sino-Tibetan, but it does so to some extent with relation to Austronesian! The indigenous folk of central Malaysia seem to speak a Austro-Asiatic language. Finally, the Austro-Asiatic component rises in frequency on the southern fringes of island Southeast Asia, in densely populated Java.

Because of the thicker textual record for mainland Southeast Asia we know that the Austro-Asiatic groups predate the Thai and Sino-Tibetan ones. I believe that the Austro-Asiatic element also predates Austronesian in Southeast Asia. That is, I believe that an Austro-Asiatic substrate existed before the arrival of Austronesians from the zone between the Philippines and Taiwan. The Negritos of inner Malaysia, who are genetically and physically distinctive, speak Austro-Asiatic languages. This should not be surprising, it seems that hunter-gatherer groups often switch to the language of resident agriculturalists. Because of their isolation some of these groups have persisted in speaking the languages of the “first farmers” of Malaysia, even after those pioneers were absorbed by newcomers.

The PCA shows clearly that the Austronesians are the genetically most varied of these Southeast Asian groups. Why? I believe it is because they are late arrivals who have admixed in sequence with whoever was resident in their target zones. In the east of island Southeast Asia the admixture occurred with a Melanesian population. Both the STRUCTURE plot and the PCA show evidence of this sort of two-way admixture. The STRUCTURE is straightforward, but note the linear distribution of the Austronesians in relation to outgroups in the first panel, and implicitly on the second.

Why is the Austro-Asiatic fraction higher in Java than to the zones in the north? Java is today the most densely populated region of Indonesia because of its fertility. I hypothesize that the spread of the Austronesians was facilitated by a more effective form of agriculture which could squeeze more productivity out of marginal land. Relative to Java the Malay peninsula, Borneo, and Sumatra, are agriculturally marginal. The densities of the Austro-Asiatics was greatest in Java, while they were very thin in the regions to the north. It seems likely that the Austronesians engaged in a series of “leap-frogs” to islands and maritime fringes which were not cultivated by the Austro-Asiatic populations. Some Indonesian groups, such as the Mentawai who live on the island of the same name off the western coast of Sumatra, cluster with the Taiwanese, as if they transplanted their society in totality.

One thing that needs to be mentioned when talking about the genetics and prehistory of Southeast Asia are the “Negritos.” As indicated by their name these are a small people with African-like features. As is clear from the charts above these people are not particularly genetically close to Africans. The Philippine Negritos seem to have some relationship to the Melanesians. Interestingly they speak an Austronesian language; again following the trend where marginalized indigenes seem to pick up the language of their farming neighbors. The Negritos of Malaysia are somewhat different, but note that one of the populations exhibits Austro-Asiatic, but not Austronesian, admixture. This comports with my supposition that the Austro-Asiatic populations were the first to marginalize these tribes before themselves being assimilated by the Austronesians.

Someone with a better ethnographic understanding of Southeast Asia than I could probably decode the results above with greater power. But at this point I think we’ve got a chronology like so:

1) First you have hunter-gatherer populations of broad Melanesian affinities in Southeast Asia.

2) Then Austro-Asiatic populations move south from the fringes of southern China. Some push west to India, while others leap-frog south to zones suitable for agriculture such as Java.

3) Then Austronesian populations sweep south along water routes, and marginalize the Austro-Asiatics in island Southeast Asia, though the not on the mainland.

4) The Bamar arrive from southern China over 1,000 years ago, and marginalize the Austro-Asiatics in Burma.

5) The Thai arrive from southern China less than 1,000 years ago, take over the central zone of mainland Southeast Asia, and make inroads to the west in Burma.

I will hazard to guess that the Malagasy of Madagascar are Austronesians who have very little of the Austro-Asiatic element in their ancestry. I believe this is so because they were part of the leap-frog dynamic where societies were transplanted from suitable point to point by water (the Malagasy language seems to be a branch of dialects of southern Borneo!).

So far I’ve been talking about the north to south movement. And yet the paper observes a south or north gradient in genetic diversity, which implies to the authors migration from south to north (the northern East Asian groups being a subset of the southern). But the past may have been more complex than we give it credit for. It is entirely possible that modern humans arrived in northeast Asia via a southern route, retreated south during the glaciation, and expanded north, with some groups pushing back south again. As it is, looking at how distantly the Melanesians relate to East Eurasians I think the most plausible model is that there wasn’t a relatively recent expansion from Southeast Asia. Rather, the ancestors of most East Eurasians survived in refugia in China, and a sequence of agriculturally driven expansions have reshaped Southeast Asia more recently. These populations admixed with the indigenous substrate, more or less. This would have resulted in an uptake of genetic diversity. Finally, the massive expansion of Han from the Yellow river basin may have caused the extinction of many lineages across China within the past ~3,000 years.

Citation: ., Abdulla, M., Ahmed, I., Assawamakin, A., Bhak, J., Brahmachari, S., Calacal, G., Chaurasia, A., Chen, C., Chen, J., Chen, Y., Chu, J., Cutiongco-de la Paz, E., De Ungria, M., Delfin, F., Edo, J., Fuchareon, S., Ghang, H., Gojobori, T., Han, J., Ho, S., Hoh, B., Huang, W., Inoko, H., Jha, P., Jinam, T., Jin, L., Jung, J., Kangwanpong, D., Kampuansai, J., Kennedy, G., Khurana, P., Kim, H., Kim, K., Kim, S., Kim, W., Kimm, K., Kimura, R., Koike, T., Kulawonganunchai, S., Kumar, V., Lai, P., Lee, J., Lee, S., Liu, E., Majumder, P., Mandapati, K., Marzuki, S., Mitchell, W., Mukerji, M., Naritomi, K., Ngamphiw, C., Niikawa, N., Nishida, N., Oh, B., Oh, S., Ohashi, J., Oka, A., Ong, R., Padilla, C., Palittapongarnpim, P., Perdigon, H., Phipps, M., Png, E., Sakaki, Y., Salvador, J., Sandraling, Y., Scaria, V., Seielstad, M., Sidek, M., Sinha, A., Srikummool, M., Sudoyo, H., Sugano, S., Suryadi, H., Suzuki, Y., Tabbada, K., Tan, A., Tokunaga, K., Tongsima, S., Villamor, L., Wang, E., Wang, Y., Wang, H., Wu, J., Xiao, H., Xu, S., Yang, J., Shugart, Y., Yoo, H., Yuan, W., Zhao, G., & Zilfalil, B. (2009). Mapping Human Genetic Diversity in Asia Science, 326 (5959), 1541-1545 DOI: 10.1126/science.1177074

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
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TNR has a post up, Egypt and Indonesia. In it, the author argues that:

At times of unexpected but momentous political change in distant countries, we grasp onto political analogies to help get our bearings. Even if we know they are imperfect, we can’t resist their tempting suggestiveness. But, if we cannot resist them, we can at least choose them thoughtfully. Invoking Iran after the Shah is scary indeed, but dangerously misleading. A different analogy that provides more useful grist for our unsettled analytic mill concerning Egypt is Indonesia and Suharto in the late 1990s.

We can gauge the force of this analogy by looking at a Pew Gobal Attitudes report on Muslim public opinion from December 2010. Egypt and Indonesia are in their set of countries surveyed. Below are a selection of results, with Turkey and Pakistan included in for comparisons. I ignored most of the stuff on Muslim radical movements. Additionally, one has to be cautious about interpreting survey data, as people will interpret questions in relation to their local situation. For example, below you will see that 89 and 46 percent of Indonesians and Pakistanis think that the role of religion in politics is “large.” I think empirically we have to conclude that Indonesians and Pakistanis are using the terms somewhat differently, as Indonesia is a much more robustly pluralist regime at this point than Pakistan is. Indonesia is not an officially Islamic state. Pakistan is. Indonesia forthrightly acknowledges its pre-Islamic heritage, and continues to have prominent symbolic roles for non-Muslim cultural forms. The Hindu epics are still popular on the most populous island of Java.

Source: Pew Global Attitudes
Role of Islam in politics is….
Large Small
Indonesia 89 10
Turkey 69 19
Egypt 48 49
Pakistan 46 36
Islam’s influence in politics is….
Negative Positive
Indonesia 6 91
Turkey 31 38
Egypt 2 85
Pakistan 6 69
In struggle between modernizers and fundamentalists….
Identify with… (of those who see struggle)
See struggle Modernizers Fundamentalists
Indonesia 42 54 33
Turkey 52 74 11
Egypt 31 27 59
Pakistan 44 61 28
Make gender segregation in workplace the law….
Oppose Favor
Indonesia 59 38
Turkey 84 13
Egypt 44 54
Pakistan 11 85
Support for harsh punishments (affirm action)
Stone adulterers Whip & amputate hands of robbers Death penalty for apostates
Indonesia 42 36 30
Turkey 16 13 5
Egypt 82 77 84
Pakistan 82 82 76
Agree that democracy is always preferable to any other kind of government
Indonesia 65
Turkey 76
Egypt 59
Pakistan 42
(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Culture, Egypt, Indonesia 
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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 http://www.razib.com"