Monthly Archives: December 2014

Out of Africa thesis for modern Man growing ever more dubious

Robert Henderson

A 400,000 year old  fossil shell with geometric-style  marks thought to have been deliberately made  on it by Homo erectus  has been discovered in  in Java.  If this is true, and the marks do indeed look  deliberate,  then it is strong pointer to a form of Homo  considered  decidedly primitive compared with modern Man  having an ability to think abstractly and to translate that thought into physical representation. The discovery is impressive because it pushes  back the possession of such an ability hugely beyond  the advent of  Homo sapiens  150,000-200,00 years ago.

If this is a correct interpretation of  the marks on the shell it has a profound  implication: the closer the shape of intelligence in older forms of Homo to those of younger  forms,  the stronger the likelihood of interbreeding because general behaviour  in  the older and younger forms would have had considerable similarities.

This is important both in itself and because it undermines the Out of Africa theory, which has been in the ascendency arguably since Darwin fingered Africa as the birthplace of Homo.   The latter reason has great political resonance in the West because it can be fitted neatly into the predominant liberal internationalist credo of the First World. It allows the liberal internationalist to place their claim that humanity is just one big family  without any meaningful difference on the supposed rock of a common ancestry. Even better for the liberal, the common ancestor happens to be found in the part of the world whose populations are  of particular interest to  the white liberal, namely, those of  black Africa.

When interbreeding of different species of Homo is introduced into the picture it shows  human populations living today  as being more genetically  diverse than the Out of Africa theory allows and removes the claim, overt or by implication, that ultimately all human behaviour  and achievement derives from  the descendants of Africans.  Most devastatingly for the liberal  it raises  the possibility  that the  widely differing cultures humans have created  are at least in part,   a consequence of   genetic differences between varieties of Homo.  Moreover, because Man is differentiated profoundly by culture, the widely accepted definition  of a species – a population of freely interbreeding organisms sharing a common gene pool –   is  unsatisfactory,  for  clearly Man is  more  than  an  animal  responding   to   simple  biological   triggers.  When   behavioural differences  are perceived as belonging to a particular group  by  that group  as differentiating  members of the group from other  men,    they perform the same role as  organic differences for  they divide Man  into cultural species.

It is true that so far the amount of genetic difference attributed to interbreeding is small, perhaps 1-3% of Neanderthal genes in  modern Man outside of Africa .  There are two points to bear in mind. First, a small difference in genetic profile could have a profound effect on ability and behaviour.  The most crippling and dangerous diseases can be the result of a single gene differing from the norm.

If it is accepted that genes have  a fundamental role in shaping behaviour and  general personality, then differences in genetic makeup, even if they only affect a small number of genes,  could be marked.  Do genes have such as  role? It is difficult to see how they could not,  because  to maintain that they do not  would in effect be to argue  that all parts of the body are subject to genetic control but those responsible for the functioning of the mind.  There is also the evidence from animal breeding  that  behavioural and temperamental traits can be successfully enhanced  through selection directed by humans, dogs being the prime example.  It would be very odd if the human template was so  completely different from that of  animals  that  in this one respect it was utterly  different.

But interbreeding could also  create important external physical changes which had the potential to alter behaviour both of those who acquired the changes and those  who did not. For example, analysis of Neanderthal DNA suggests that breeding between  Neanderthals and Homo sapiens in Europe and Asia  was at least partially responsible for modern  Europeans and Asians  having  lighter skins and possibly straight  hair.

The second consideration is that humans have been distinctly rare for most of human history.  Estimates are obviously very  difficult to  make for the distant past but, for example, the US census department gives an estimate of between 1-10 million for 10,000 BC.    A small population would be more susceptible to both a valuable mutation spreading  rapidly through it and to maintaining the mutation.  That would enhance diversity  within  a sizeable population in a specific area such as Europe..

The evidence for interbreeding  between different varieties of Homo  has been growing in recent years through the  vast technological improvements in DNA retrieval and reading.  From this comes  objective evidence that modern Man outside of Africa has Neanderthal ancestry.  The gene sequencing of a third species or subspecies of Homo, the Siberian Denisovans also shows evidence crossbreeding with Asians.  There is also a another  candidate for interbreeding  as  yet  unnamed.

This may just be the tip the  interbreeding  story because discovered  human fossils , though  much more plentiful now than they were even fifty years ago, are still very meagre.  Fossils are placed in  general type classifications such as  homo erectus and Homo habilis which may have substantial differences in form or are classified as this or that from very incomplete fossils.  Interbreeding could have been much more varied  than the present evidence shows.   If  so,  the amount of genetic mixing could be far greater than is presently imagined, because  it would not simply be a case of two distinct species or varieties of Homo mating,  but the descendants of  differing varieties of Homo who have mated then  mating with other hybrids whose hybridity is  of a different type.  For example, suppose there were four different types of Homo in the same geographical  area. Types 1 and 2 mate. Their children are hybrids. Types 3 and 4 mate. Their children are hybrids. The children of 1 and 2 then mate with the children of  3 and 4 producing further hybrids.  Of course, this type of interbreeding would apply to sub-Saharan Africa as well as the rest of the world, so that any emigrants from Africa into Eurasia would almost certainly be carrying a mixture of genes from various forms of Homo.

Another  interesting  trait  is that  members of a  species  will  have different  breeding  propensities  across its  distribution,  that  is, members of the supposedly single species will breed differentially with different parts of the total species population.  For example,  take an animal  which is common to Europe and bring individuals from  different geographical parts of the continent together and it may be that those found in the  East of  the distribution  will be less likely or refuse altogether to  mate with the those in the West.  These barriers to breeding are clearly not purely due to major differences in physical biology. Probably there is a strong component of behavioural difference which reduces the propensity to breed.

It  is worth adding that the traditional concept of a species is far from secure. It is a man-made classification which is often found wanting. For example,  the North American Ruddy Duck and the  European  White-Headed Duck are classified as separate species.  The introduction of the Ruddy Duck  to  Europe has resulted in widespread interbreeding  between  the supposedly  separate  species to the extent that  conservationists  now fear for the survival of the White Headed Duck.  It is also true that a growing  amount  of   traditional  taxonomic  classification  is  being overturned by DNA analysis.

There is nothing surprising about varieties of  Homo interbreeding.   Many animals of  closely related species could produce offspring if they were willing to mate as can be seen from the successful human instigated  inter-breeding  by artificial insemination of, for example, lions and tigers and inter-species mating in the wild.  The offspring  of such intra-species breeding , whether artificial or in the wild,  are  often sterile, but not invariably.

Animals use various triggers to breed: aural, chemical, condition of feathers  and so on. These are seemingly automatic processes whereby one individual responds to another without conscious thought. Even behavioural triggers such as mating rituals can be viewed in the same light, although in such cases the process of acceptance and rejection may include an element of  higher understanding  as such a ritual is often complex and it is not easy to see exactly how it could be a simple programmed response.

Man, although not divorced entirely from  such triggers, adds conscious thought to the process of mate selection. Does that  put Man in an entirely separate category to all other organisms, namely,  the one organism who can potentially breed freely across the entire species population?  Potentially yes but in practice no,  for Man’s capacity for conscious thought and decision making does not mean  his breeding is not constrained by the triggers which control other organisms, especially behavioural. For example, most people choose mates who are of the same race as themselves even when they have ample opportunity  to do otherwise.

Nonetheless,  any organism with a degree of self-consciousness and,  perhaps even more importantly,  language  could and almost certainly would go far beyond  the triggers to separation of animal species which  have neither significant consciousness nor,  most importantly, language.   The possession of language in particular would provide a means to overcome any reluctance to breed with those of a different variety of Homo, for it would not only allow a means to share and discuss ideas with their own tribe or band, but also to communicate with mates  of a different  variety.

Even if some or much of the interbreeding took place by force,  language would still be a facilitator because it would make the females seem to be similar to females from their own tribe.  There may even have been the practice of swapping females between tribes or bands of different varieties of human, a practice evident  amongst tribal peoples even today.

The cranial capacity of extinct t varieties of Homo is often used as the starting point for assessing their mental capacity. But size of brain is not everything. Oliver Cromwell had a cranial capacity of 2,000 cc; the novelist  Anatole France one of less than 1,000 cc.   Neanderthals had an average brain size larger than that of modern  humans.   The shape of a brain with differing emphases on its various functions is also taken as a pointer to mental capacity,  for example, Neanderthals  are routinely   said to have  more of the brain devoted to sight and body control, which  implies less  capacity for social interaction skills and abstract thought.  However,  this  supposed difference from Homo sapiens is still a matter of debate amongst academics and there is growing evidence  of Neanderthal cultural sophistication.  Indeed, research published in early 2014 concluded:

Modern humans are usually seen as superior in a wide range of domains, including weaponry and subsistence strategies, which would have led to the demise of Neanderthals.”

“We have found no data in support of the supposed technological, social and cognitive inferiority of Neanderthals compared to their contemporaries…their demise was clearly more complex than many archaeology-based scenarios of ‘cognitive inferiority’.”

If the mental capacity  and behavioural sophistication of older forms of Homo was much greater  than  has  often been conjectured,  the willingness and ability to mate  with them by more advanced forms would have been more frequent.  The evidence of the fossil  shell  mentioned at the beginning  points to behaviour which we would consider very human a very long time ago.  Another impressive  ancient example of ability in older forms of Homo has recently been found  at a 350,000 year-old  site in Israel  where there is evidence  of regular and controlled use of fire.   It may be that the likes of Homo erectus and  Homo habilis were far more like Homo sapiens than they are given credit for and  later forms ever more so the nearer they come to the present.

The times they are a-changing

Robert Henderson

What has changed over the past year?

I sense that political correctness has passed its high point. Like all totalitarian creeds,  it is in reality  failing when it is  seemingly at its most dominant. That is because  all totalitarian creeds become ever more obviously  detached from reality  as they invariably become ever more extreme as the practitioners and enforcers of the ideology compete to show who is the purest ideologue.  It is also catching more and more people who may have thought themselves safe from suffering any penalty from being non-pc in its clutches, for example, the Wigan FC chairman Dave Whelan, not least because of the  growing ubiquity of digital devices available to record  both the spoken and written word, so that even private utterances or writings are vulnerable to hacking, deliberate surreptitious  recording or  in the case of that which is written , the discovery of thoughts by third parties.

There has also  been a considerable change in the past twelve months   in the rhetoric on three vital matters: immigration, withdrawal from the EU and the political representation of England within a  devolved UK.   All have become much more in line with reality, both social and political.  The change in the case of immigration is especially striking.  None of this  has as yet been translated into practical action,  but honest talk about subjects for long treated as beyond the Pale by mainstream politicians and media  is encouraging and is an essential prelude to meaningful action.  The more the rhetoric moves towards reality, the harder will it be for the political elite to control matters.  There is a genuine  possibility of  both an IN/Out EU referendum in 2017 and  English Votes for English Laws after the 2015 General Election.

An EU referendum

Many of those  supposedly in favour of the UJK leaving the EU are fearful  or say they are that a referendum in the near future would be lost and talk of years of preparation of the electorate before a referendum is held. Richard North is a prime proponent of this argument.   It holds no water for two reasons. First,  if Britain remains within the EU we shall become ever more entwined in its coils to the extent that  Britain would l find it very difficult to legally leave the EU.  This process is  already well in hand  as the recent signing up to 35 Justice measures,  including opting in again  to the European Arrest Warrant, demonstrates.  This has happened despite  the profound implications of the  handing of such power to the EU. Why was there no referendum? Because  the European Union 2011  Act, only  makes the holding of a referendum  necessary  on  the granting of entirely   new powers to the EU and/ or extending existing powers if the powers are part of an EU treaty concluded after the Act passing into law in 2011.

This failure to refer very important  transfers of power to a referendum is no accident. There are no new treaties on the horizon for the very simple reason that the Eurofanatics fear they would l lose  any referenda on another treaty and they cannot avoid such referenda because some countries such as France, the Republic of Ireland  and now the UK  require a referendum on a treaty to transfer further powers to Brussels. (The UK  law could be repealed or amended  to restrict the opportunities for a referendum,  but that  is unlikely  because Ed Miliband has committed himself to it).

The second reason not to shy away from a referendum in the near future is simple. Suppose the worst happens and the  referendum is lost . That is not the end of the matter. Rather it is the beginning as the Scottish referendum aftermath has demonstrated.    A referendum would provide opportunities  to put forward the case for coming out  in depth  in the mainstream media over a sustained period and  to energise the electorate. That would provide the platform for future IN/OUT referenda. By its nature nothing is ever permanently settled in a democracy.

English votes for English laws

Even in its  purist form with only English seat MPs voting on English laws this is not a permanent solution, but it is a staging post to an English Parliament.   Once established it will quickly become clear that there will be perpetual dissent over what are English-only laws, squabbles over the continuing existence of the Barnett Formula and the practical difficulty of having a House of Commons where the majorities for UK business and English business might be different, for example, a  UK wide  majority for Labour  or Labour led coalition, either relying for MPs from seats outside of England for their majority and a Tory majority in England.

The Tory and LibDem proposals put forward by William Hague today in publication The Implications of Devolution for England  are messy with two of the  three Tory options  fudging  matters by not restricting the proposal and the voting on of English-only legislation to English-seat MP and  the  LibDem proposal   being a blatant attempt to smuggle in proportional representation by the back door by suggesting that an English Grand Committee be set up with its members selected to represent the proportion of votes each party . They also have a superb recipe for balkanising England by allowing different levels of  representation on demand with differing  powers  if a city,  council or region seek them. Labour have not put any proposals formally forward because they refused to join discussions on fitting England into the devolution mix.  I will deal with the subject in greater depth in a separate essay.

The most dangerous general global threats are plausibly  these in this order

  1. Mass immigration.
  2. Islam – It is a simple fact that serious unrest is found wherever there are large numbers of Muslims.   When I hear Muslims and their liberal supporters proclaiming that Islam is the religion of peace I am reminded irresistibly of the film  Independence Day in which the aliens emerge from their spaceship proclaiming “we come in peace”  before blasting everyone in sight to smithereens.

3 Uncontrolled technology, which leaves the developed world in particular  but increasingly the  world generally,  very vulnerable  to suddenly being left without vital services if computer systems fail naturally or through cyber attacks.  The glitch over the UK air traffic control gives a hint of  how vulnerable we are.

The most dangerous specific  threats to global peace and stability are:

–              The heightened tension between China and the rest of the far East (especially Japan) as a consequence of China’s flexing of territorial ambitions.

–              China’s extraordinary expanding  shadow world empire which consists of both huge investment in the first world and de facto colonial control in the developing world.

–              The growing power of India which threatens Pakistan.

–              The increasing authoritarianism of the EU due to both the natural impetus towards central control and the gross mistake of the Euro.  The Eurofanatics are playing with fire in their attempts to lure border states of Russia into the EU whilst applying seriously damaging sanctions to Russia. It is not in the West’s interest to have a Russia which feels threatened or denied its natural sphere of influence.

–              The ever more successful (at least in the short run)  attempt of post-Soviet Russia to re-establish their suzerainty over the old Soviet Empire.

 

Antibiotic resistance has the potential to be another man-made warming mania

Robert Henderson

A team led by the  economist Jim O’Neill has just published their findings  into a review of   the resistance to antibiotics by bacteria.  The review was ordered by David Cameron.

The research concluded that as things stand the growing inefficacy of antibiotics would result in as many as  ten million extra deaths a year  throughout the world by  2050 and an economic loss  from these deaths of  £64 trillion over the period  (or as much as £128 trillion if additional healthcare costs are added in).

Ominously O’Neill has consulted with Lord Stern, the global warming religionist, and likens the situation with antibiotic resistance to  that of  the manmade  global warming  mania:

“Mr O’Neill said he had consulted closely with Lord Stern, the President of the Royal Academy who carried out a landmark investigation into the threat from climate change for Tony Blair, about parallels between the two threats and possible responses.

“But he added that, despite the vastly higher public profile of climate change in comparison with drug resistance, there is greater consensus about the danger to humanity from the latter.

“It feels to me, from the scientific knowledge, that there is more certainty about this being a problem,” he said.

“Now I’m somebody that is very sympathetic to the climate change case … but, with the kind of debate that goes on and data, it feels to me that there is more certainty about this becoming a problem over a reasonably short time period.

“He added: “In some ways to try and solve is a little bit like climate change, because we are talking about the problem getting a lot bigger in the future than it is today and what we are presuming … that the cost of stopping the problem is significantly lower than the cost of not stopping it.”

He goes on to say that recommendations will be made next year as to what might be done to save us from this doomsday through international agreement on action, action which you can bet will be to reduce the use of antibiotics. It is also likely to result in yet more demands for Aid to the developing world because “  The inquiry’s initial estimates suggest that while the crisis will affect rich and poor countries alike the developing world will bear the brunt.”

O’Neill is correct in likening this threat to the man-made global warming circus, but not for the reason he believes.  Both are problems which are inherently unsolvable through the means of restricting  the use of the agents which produce the  supposed or real damaging effects.

The rule of Occam’s Razor (don’t multiply entities unnecessarily or keep things simple)  is in operation here in it most potent form.  In the cases of both global warming and antibiotic resistance the entities can be reduced to one: the size of the population outside of the First World  in the first case and the fact that bacteria know no geographical boundaries  in the second case.

For the man-made warming  problem the reducing emissions solution  fails because of the  size of the population in the world outside of the First World. There are approximately 7 billion humans alive today. At the most generous estimate only a billion of those live in the First World.  If the six billion people who do not live there raised their  carbon emissions to only half that of the average of  the First World,  the amount of carbon in the atmosphere  would greatly exceed the levels  judged to be dangerous by climate scientists.  Moreover, it is most unlikely that the carbon emission levels of the developing world  would  remain at only half the First World average. Indeed, they may well  end up exceeding the first world average as the developing world  generally uses dirty fossil fuels without regard to emissions.  Nor is there anything the First World can do to prevent  them continuing to behave like this.   Consequently, the only sensible course of action is to watch and see how things develop and devote resources  to ameliorating whatever ill effects may arise if  climate change,  whether natural or man-made,  produces  circumstances which threaten human environments.

The idea that bacterial immunity to antibiotics can be meaningfully prevented by restricting their use is  different from man-made global warming  in that it is an unequivocal fact that it exists.   But  like man-made global warming the remedy of  restricting its use  is a pipe dream  because all countries would have to agree to such a regime and enforce it.

In many countries, including a good number in Europe,  antibiotics do not require a prescription and they can be purchased as easily as a pack of aspirin in Britain. If one country or even a group of first world countries – say, the EU states –  were to restrict antibiotic use  it would make no difference in anything other than the short run  because bacteria know no boundaries.  Eventually, bacteria with immunity would take as hosts those whose countries had restricted the use of antibiotics.

The other fly in the ointment is the widespread use of antibiotics in animal husbandry.  When animal products from such animals  are eaten they will pass on small but significant   amounts of antibiotics. That will over time will build antibiotic resistance.

In both the case of restricting direct antibiotics to humans and in their indirect transmission through animal products , there is zero chance of getting global agreement to restrict their use and to take  serious action to enforce the restriction. Therefore, it is  pointless  to try to restrict their use. Therefore, it is  at best pointless to  discuss such measures and at worst a distraction from what needs to be done.

What should be done? Governments need to initiate a large and perpetual publicly funded  programme of research to firstly constantly search for new antibiotics and secondly to examine new approaches to attacking infections, for example, by discovering ways to destroy bacteria by  irradiation.   If it is left  to Big Pharma  the research they will undertake will be both insufficient in terms of unearthing new antibiotics and in investigating new approaches, viz:

“Drug-resistant bacteria, viruses and other pathogens are on the rise as the discovery of new medicines has failed to keep pace with the evolution of the bugs.

This is partly because the pharmaceutical industry moved out of antibiotic research en masse over the last decade and a half due to tough regulations and poor returns on investment, though the pattern has started to reverse.”

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