April 21, 2017

Younger Dryas comet impact encoded in Göbekli Tepe?

Fascinating if true.

Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, Vol. 17, No 1, (2017), pp. 233-250


DECODING GÖBEKLI TEPE WITH ARCHAEOASTRONOMY: WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY? 

Martin B. Sweatman* and Dimitrios Tsikritsis

We have interpreted much of the symbolism of Göbekli Tepe in terms of astronomical events. By matching low-relief carvings on some of the pillars at Göbekli Tepe to star asterisms we find compelling evidence that the famous ‘Vulture Stone’ is a date stamp for 10950 BC ± 250 yrs, which corresponds closely to the proposed Younger Dryas event, estimated at 10890 BC. We also find evidence that a key function of Göbekli Tepe was to observe meteor showers and record cometary encounters. Indeed, the people of Göbekli Tepe appear to have had a special interest in the Taurid meteor stream, the same meteor stream that is proposed as responsible for the Younger-Dryas event. Is Göbekli Tepe the ‘smoking gun’ for the Younger-Dryas cometary encounter, and hence for coherent catastrophism?

Link (pdf)

March 03, 2017

Incipient Mongoloids (or elusive Denisovans) 105-125kya in China?

The authors claim that these archaic humans from China show parallels to both modern eastern Eurasians (Mongoloids) and to Neandertals. The relationship with the Neandertals makes them prime candidates for the elusive Denisovans who were a sister group to Neandertals but are morphologically unknown (since all we've got is a genome, teeth, and a pinky). The relationship with Mongoloids suggest an appearance of Mongoloid morphology pre-dating the transition to sapiens, and brings to mind past claims about incipient Caucasoid morphology in Neandertals. Did aspects of modern Eurasian morphology originate in pre-sapiens archaic Eurasians? Hopefully someone's studying DNA from these crania as we speak.

Science 03 Mar 2017: Vol. 355, Issue 6328, pp. 969-972 DOI: 10.1126/science.aal2482

Late Pleistocene archaic human crania from Xuchang, China 

Zhan-Yang Li et al.

Two early Late Pleistocene (~105,000- to 125,000-year-old) crania from Lingjing, Xuchang, China, exhibit a morphological mosaic with differences from and similarities to their western contemporaries. They share pan–Old World trends in encephalization and in supraorbital, neurocranial vault, and nuchal gracilization. They reflect eastern Eurasian ancestry in having low, sagittally flat, and inferiorly broad neurocrania. They share occipital (suprainiac and nuchal torus) and temporal labyrinthine (semicircular canal) morphology with the Neandertals. This morphological combination reflects Pleistocene human evolutionary patterns in general biology, as well as both regional continuity and interregional population dynamics.

Link

February 25, 2017

Analytical thinking does not decrease religious belief

It seems to me that psychology would benefit from taking a break from publishing new findings and clean house of all the junk that has accumulated over the years. Junk breeds junk, and if left unchecked can generate entire unwholesome disciplines (as the sad state of the social sciences proves to us daily).

Related:

PLoS ONE 12(2): e0172636. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0172636

Direct replication of Gervais & Norenzayan (2012): No evidence that analytic thinking decreases religious belief

Clinton Sanchez, Brian Sundermeier, Kenneth Gray, Robert J. Calin-Jageman

Gervais & Norenzayan (2012) reported in Science a series of 4 experiments in which manipulations intended to foster analytic thinking decreased religious belief. We conducted a precise, large, multi-site pre-registered replication of one of these experiments. We observed little to no effect of the experimental manipulation on religious belief (d = 0.07 in the wrong direction, 95% CI[-0.12, 0.25], N = 941). The original finding does not seem to provide reliable or valid evidence that analytic thinking causes a decrease in religious belief.

Link

January 18, 2017

Microagressions, debunked

A warning against taking politically-inspired gobbledygook (whose only benefit is to bureaucrats and as a means of virtue signalling by do-gooders) seriously.

Perspectives on Psychological Science Vol 12, Issue 1, 2017

Microaggressions Strong Claims, Inadequate Evidence

Scott O. Lilienfeld

The microaggression concept has recently galvanized public discussion and spread to numerous college campuses and businesses. I argue that the microaggression research program (MRP) rests on five core premises, namely, that microaggressions (1) are operationalized with sufficient clarity and consensus to afford rigorous scientific investigation; (2) are interpreted negatively by most or all minority group members; (3) reflect implicitly prejudicial and implicitly aggressive motives; (4) can be validly assessed using only respondents’ subjective reports; and (5) exert an adverse impact on recipients’ mental health. A review of the literature reveals negligible support for all five suppositions. More broadly, the MRP has been marked by an absence of connectivity to key domains of psychological science, including psychometrics, social cognition, cognitive-behavioral therapy, behavior genetics, and personality, health, and industrial-organizational psychology. Although the MRP has been fruitful in drawing the field’s attention to subtle forms of prejudice, it is far too underdeveloped on the conceptual and methodological fronts to warrant real-world application. I conclude with 18 suggestions for advancing the scientific status of the MRP, recommend abandonment of the term “microaggression,” and call for a moratorium on microaggression training programs and publicly distributed microaggression lists pending research to address the MRP’s scientific limitations.

Link

Dysgenic trend in educational attainment in Iceland

This is a very important study which (if replicated in other countries, with more complex demography, less complete genealogy, but much larger sample sizes) bodes ill for the future. It should also prompt studies of the evolution of cognitive ability at longer time scales (beyond traditional genealogy). Much has been written about genetic differences between the human races, for example, with the "cold winters" theory proposed to explain them as a product of natural selection.

But, this assumes that these differences are long-standing and date to the time that modern humans left Africa for more northern (and colder) latitudes. There is good reason to doubt this explanation: ancient writers of the Mediterranean classical world predictably identified themselves as the optimum, but remarked on the spiritedness and dullness of northerners in contrast to the lack of spirit but intelligence of southerners, which seemingly contradicts present-day cognitive ability distributions. But, it may very well be that cognitive ability has changed dramatically over this time period; certainly the fact that one of its correlates (educational attainment) can change in a small isolated population (Icelanders) over a century does not add to one's confidence that this is a trait that has been stable for millennia (let alone since the time of harsh Ice Age winters). As more markers are discovered to predict cognitive ability in human populations and it becomes easier to study ancient ones, it might be possible to track this trait convincingly.

On the positive side, the pliability of the genetic influences on cognition undercuts arguments that possible differences in this trait among human races and ethnic groups are solidly entrenched and unalterable,. Rather they may be accidents of recent evolution which could, in principle, be reversed.


PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1612113114

Selection against variants in the genome associated with educational attainment

Augustine Kong et al.

Epidemiological and genetic association studies show that genetics play an important role in the attainment of education. Here, we investigate the effect of this genetic component on the reproductive history of 109,120 Icelanders and the consequent impact on the gene pool over time. We show that an educational attainment polygenic score, POLYEDU, constructed from results of a recent study is associated with delayed reproduction (P less than 10−100) and fewer children overall. The effect is stronger for women and remains highly significant after adjusting for educational attainment. Based on 129,808 Icelanders born between 1910 and 1990, we find that the average POLYEDU has been declining at a rate of ∼0.010 standard units per decade, which is substantial on an evolutionary timescale. Most importantly, because POLYEDU only captures a fraction of the overall underlying genetic component the latter could be declining at a rate that is two to three times faster.

Link

January 01, 2017

Happy New Year 2017

Last year I wished for ancient East Asian DNA and I didn't get my wish. So, I repeat my wish for this year as well.