Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Working my way through an article in the Scientific American on "The Evolution Of Grandparents", and kept coming back to the article's illustration. It's not a particularly engaging or ensorcelling illustration. Doesn't really catch and hold the eye in either subject matter or  execution, but I kept going back to it. What's the fascination here?  Ah. I  figured it out.  This is supposed to show a grandkid and grandpa circa, what 30,000-20,000 BCE? What's wrong with this picture?

White Cro-Magnons
Did this blonde have more fun?
White people did not exist back then. At least, according to other science articles I've been reading. Not that big of a deal? No, probably not. People will depict things in a way that is familiar to them. It is no more surprising to see depictions of white Cro-Magnons than it is to see pictures of blonde-haired blue-eyed Jesus. Or Daryl Hannah Raquel Welch as a cavewoman. But what's a little historical revisionism in the name of art? Eh?

We now have an early date for silicone implants
Recast with Halle Berry
Fact of the matter is, from the articles available, there's a pretty good chance that my Cro-Magnon ancestors were a lot more dark complected than they are depicted in popular literature. In fact, the DNA evidence suggests that all the polygenic traits that resulted in a lighter complected European peoples only goes back 12,000 - 6000 years ago. The supposition is that this tendency towards a light complexion was due to dietary changes. Once you adopt an agrarian diet, you lose a source for vitamin D from meat, and so not surprisingly, supplementing vitamin D via UV absorption at higher latitudes presents a problem if melanin blocks this mechanism. Small wonder that you see a gradation via higher latitudes in those who are not hunter/gatherers.
Are they black or white? Who fucking cares?

There can be no question that all of the genes - regardless if they be for hair, skin, or eye colors - are all African in origin. Big fucking deal. What's the problem here? Why do racists get all bent out of shape on these issues? I, for one, chalk it quite simply to a lack of imagination.  They're just stupid fuckers. Doesn't really matter how well they do in life, or what their  IQ is gauged at, they're still just stupid fuckers.

Most of them (them being primarily dumbass white supremacists) don't even realize that there isn't just one gene for being white or yellow or black, or what have you. There is no gene for blue eyes. There is no gene for blonde hair.

There is a mutation, a series of mutations, that result in a series of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) near the protein coding portion of the OCA2 gene. These SNPs functionally determine how "on" or "off" the protein coding portion will be, which in turn determines how much melanin is produced in the iris. Thus, you end up with a startling range of colors, from a disturbingly doll-like black, to my rather dull-looking blue/green/grey irises to  the  creepy ice blue Morlock  irises that some people have.

One thing for certain, anyone with blue eyes has one common ancestor from which the mutation spread. I guess you could say we blue-eyed types are some seriously fucking inbred hillbillies.

Similarly for  hair color, but in this case the functional  segment can code for  two types of melanin:  eumelanin for the brunette to blonde range, and pheomelanin - a red-brown polymer - for the redheads. Likewise for skin color. In fact, Asians have developed a completely different mutation for light complexion than Europeans.

Well, these red eyes are sexy
Given that sexual selection is probably a very strong driver for these divergences, I wonder if people with an iris color using pheomelanin ever occurred, or can occur? Well, it has been said that if blood red eyes were considered sexy, red-eyed people would be around. On second thought, if you are an albino, n-n-n-no.

This is not to say there are not genetic differences more than skin deep. There are. Africans, in general, have a greater bone and muscle density than non-Africans. Northern Europeans, in general, have larger eyes and a larger visual cortex than others. (Live in fog most the  time, and see how you do).

So what? Bottom line, no real test of live action cleverness, no really good test that looks for innovation, brilliant improvisation, shows that any supposed ethnic group - taken as a category - does even marginally better than chimps.

(And categories are rather useless. Why, take my own family history. My maternal grandfather was what they call a "black Norwegian". His whole side of the family looked like they were from Sicily, with black hair, black eyes, and olive skin. Their (and my) cousins, on the other hand, looked like they would glow in the dark. And all of them from a region the size of two or three counties.)

By Mother Earth's standards of IQ survival tests, I'd say 99% of us are going to do very, very, very poorly dumped naked on the savanna.

It's all just silliness, isn't it?

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