One of the stranger call-ins on my interview with Kathleen Dunn last month was when a woman who proudly declared that she was a math major in college asserted that 23andMe had told her she wasn’t at risk for many diseases which now in her 60s she had developed. I didn’t want to be too pointed about it, but if you are in your 60s you are at risk for developing many illnesses no matter what your “genetic risk.” This is clear from 23andMe’s statistics, which display high baseline risks for many common diseases. From reading comments on 23andMe discussion forums it seems that perceived false negatives are going to be a much bigger issue than false positives over the long run. If the tests are “wrong” in a direction which leaves you in a better state than predicted you might feel like you’ve dodged a bullet. On other hand if the tests are “wrong” in a direction which gave you false comfort, or add insult to injury when you’ve developed a debilitating disease, then you feel much more burned.
After reading Ancestral Journeys, I decided to get J. P. Mallory’s The Origins of the Irish. A bit on the academic side for some, but definitely a good dive into the literature. Mallory is well aware of the latest genetic research, so this is as up-to-date as it gets. It’s a good case study in how multidisciplinary prehistoric studies should be done.
As I’ve suggested earlier prehistory looks to be a good deal more complex than we had previous thought, so expanding beyond single methodological perspectives is probably essential if we really care about truth.
In other news, a short piece in The New York Times refers to Salafis as ‘ultraconservative.’ I think this misleads most people about the nature of Salafism: it is a radical utopian system which recently arose out of Islam’s confrontation with Western derived modernity. It isn’t conserving anything. This aspect of Salafism explains why Saudi Arabia condones the bulldozing of Muhammed’s tomb and celebrates modern monumental architecture in Islam’s holy city.
Six months back there was a lot of discussion of Y haplogroup A00, An African American Paternal Lineage Adds an Extremely Ancient Root to the Human Y Chromosome Phylogenetic Tree. Now there’s an attempt by some of the researchers on that paper to raise money to collect more samples. Which of Cameroon’s peoples have members of haplogroup A00?:
This is Round Two of our fundraising for our groundbreaking research on the world’s earliest-branching Y-chromosome lineage, A00. Its origins lie in the earliest days of humanity’s emergence, the exact time very much in debate, but almost surely over 200,000 years ago. We first discovered it in early 2012, when the results of the Perrys’ Y-DNA tests were unlike anything seen before. We learned that they have matches among some of the diverse peoples of Southwest Cameroon. The new samples to be collected by Matthew in his homeland will allow us to learn much more about A00.
I found this broadside against intellectual ignorance by Christoper Beckwith rather amazing and enjoyable. Long time readers will be aware that I am a fan of his Empires of the Silk Road. In any case, I have noticed that many of my friends and acquaintances use the term ‘ignorance’ to connote a set of views which they find normatively offensive. That is not my preferred usage of the term. Rather, I take it rather at its face value as denoting those who are lacking in the basic facts from which to even attempt audacious inference. The latter I appreciate. The former I detest.
I hope we don’t bomb Syria. El Yucateco XXXtra Hot Kutbil-ik Mayan Style Habanero Hot Sauce is delicious.
This is probably the longest stretch of time with me not posting much since May/June of 2010. But I’ll be back to offering my opinions and analyses soon enough. Also, I should probably mention that I’ll be presenting at the 7th International Conference on Advances in Canine and Feline Genomics and Inherited Diseases (a.k.a. the cat & dog conference) at the end of the month (I’ll be in Cambridge/Boston 23rd to 29th). I’ll be rather busy the whole week, but I thought I would mention it in case some readers see someone who looks like me around the Broad Institute and are curious. Higher chance than normal that it is me.
I thought it might be useful for new readers to understand a bit about my comments policy and how I’ve come this stance. Let me give you an example of one individual who occasionally left comments on my blog, often combative, though just on the legitimate side of the trolling boundary. One of the major tactics of argument of this individual was to impute upon me particular life experiences which he thought I must have had, and so shaped my opinions. Though I do not share much about my personal life online, I do go by my “real name,” and over 11+ years of writing on the internet one can construct a rough narrative from stray anecdotes. The key is though that this picture is rough. After one exchange where my interlocutor made an inference based on his own perception of various likelihoods about me, I tired of the one sided game (he was anonymous), and looked him upon on Facebook. I left a quick comment to that effect, and asserted now the scales were somewhat balanced. He never left a comment after that incident.