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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Biological anthropology

One of the most fascinating parts of Erectus Walks amongst Us is Chapter 9, which deals with the differences between the races in their bone structure (mostly their skulls). Some excerpts from the chapter (with my thoughts in italics):

An Asian skull:

A Caucasian skull:

An African-American skull:

    Overall, the dome of the Asian skull is round and the face is flat. Although the Caucasian skull is a bit longer (top to bottom), it is very similar to the Asian skull, indicating that the Asians and Caucasians did not separate into two races all that long ago, or that there was interbreeding between their lineages.
    Although this [third] skull is described as being of an African-American, it has many African features….The African skull is quite different from the Asian and Caucasian skulls, indicating a much greater genetic distance between Eurasians and Africans than between Europeans and Asians. Compared to Asian and Caucasian skulls, the African skull is narrower. The bones of the skull (and the rest of the body) are denser and thicker. The eye sockets are rounder and proportionately larger and the distance between them is greater. The slight bump at the top of the head suggests a “saggital keel,” a ridge along the top of the head from the forehead to the back of the skull for attaching chewing muscles and strengthening the skull from blows received in fighting. The opening for the nose is wider, the nose bones protrude less, and the teeth more massive, with the incisors meeting at an angle.
    The most noticeable difference, however, is the protruding jaw, a condition known as “prognathism,” a trait found in apes and in ancient human fossil skulls, even those not from Africa. The considerable gap between the cheekbones (“zygomatic arches”) and the indentation on the sides behind the eye sockets (“post-orbital constriction”) indicate that the more massive jaw was serviced by powerful chewing muscles that passed through the gap.  [The following two pictures] provide a side-view comparison of the skulls of an African of the Manbettu tribe in the northern Congo basin and an Englishman. The African skull has less prominent nose bones and chin, a deeper jaw and the bone that supports the jaw (the “ascending ramus”) is wider; the shape of the skulls is also different.



[Here] is a tree showing the linkage between living human populations based on 57 measurements of male skulls. (DeAnza College, CA). The African skulls are very different from the skulls of all the other populations, even the Australian aborigines. Figure 9-9 show a Negro skull profile superimposed upon a European skull profile. The Negro skull is smaller, with less space in the forehead, but proportionately more at the back.

(The chart showing the relatedness of the various races is a little surprising. One would think that Northeast Asians would be more closely related to southeast Asians than they were to Caucasians just based on facial resemblance, but this appears not to be the case. And it's revealing that "Arctic Northeast Asians" are more closely related to Northeast Asians than they are to the rest of the Native Americans, as they look more Asians. A white friend who had grown up in Japan once told me that he had been in Anchorage briefly and was amazed at the number of drunken Japanese people he'd seen there. I once made the same mistake, but more embarrassingly. I met a family from Canada; the father was white, and the mother Inuit. I sort of nodded at their kids and told them that I was half-Asian, too. Neither my friend nor I would have made that mistake with, say, indigenous Mexicans.)

Endocranial volume varies by race: Asians average 1491 cubic centimeters, Caucasians 1441, Africans 1338, and Australian aborigines 1290. (Homo erectus checked in at somewhere between 1000 and 1200, and chimpanzees at roughly 500.)

At birth, Africans have fewer cranial bones than Eurasians. The skull bones (and other bones) in Africans and erectus are thicker and denser (higher mineral content; even in the fetus, making them more difficult to break, which is an aid in head butting and fighting as blows to the head can easily be fatal. Some anthropologists believe skulls got thicker about 1.6 to 1.8 million ya when erectus developed clubs as weapons, resulting in more cracked skulls. “Herodotus … described how easily, in comparison to an Egyptian’s skull, a Persian’s skull cracked.” Egyptians had interbred with Africans by that time.) Denser bones (and less fat) make Africans less buoyant and less capable swimmers, but reduce their susceptibility to osteoporosis. Female bones are lighter than male bones. Whites and Asians rarely have a saggital keel (crest), Africans sometimes do, and Australian aborigines and Homo erectus usually do.

(This may have something to do with why blacks seem less concussible in the boxing ring, something I've noticed as a longtime boxing fan.)

Asians have medium-sized teeth; whites smaller; and Africans have larger, more widely spaced teeth, as did Homo erectus. 

(I had no idea that this was so; the pictures of the three skulls at the top of this post make that quite apparent. The picture of the Asian skull also seems to lend credence to the stereotype of the buck-toothed Asian, by the way.)  

Anyway, these are just a few of the highlights from the chapter, which is worth taking a look at. I can pretty much guarantee that as big a connoisseur of racial differences as you might be, you'll find a few things you weren't aware of there. 


Anonymous said...

I'm dating an english mixed race Jamaican and I call her carbon fibre bones. Was and still is an excellent sprinter.


Steven said...

Does everybody have a small ridge on the top of their head? I do. I can feel it and some people noticed when I was in school so I think maybe I have more than average.

I have read most of this stuff before but its interesting.

John Craig said...

Andrew --
What was her time for the 100, or 200 meters?

Some of the half-black, half-white women, like Thandie Newton, can be really beautiful.

John Craig said...

Steven --
According to the author, D. Fuerle, the saggital keel, or crest, is "usually absent" in both Asians and Caucasians, "sometimes present" in Africans, and "present" in Australian aborigines and Homo erectus.

Steven said...

Part (half?) aboriginal woman:

John Craig said...

Steven --
thank you, yes, she's quite beautiful. I had actually seen another picture of her when I was Google-imaging pictures of Australian aborigines.

Rifleman said...

Off topic but maybe time for a post on Elon Musk:

"There’s something innately childish about trying to be the king of cars, space, and trains all at once as well. It’s like he’s picking everything preteen boys might decorate their room with."

John Craig said...

Rifleman --
Just read the article, thanks, it was interesting. If you're looking for a sociopath alert on Musk, I don't think I have quite enough material to write one. Yes, he seems to have bitten off more than anyone could possibly chew, and I did see that comment he made about Apple the other day (which was also quoted in the article you sent), and that struck me as pretty nasty. And the bit about how he uses people and discards them would tend to indicate sociopathy; but that's sort of the nature of business as well, and it's possible Musk is just a narcissistic personality. I did take a look at his Wiki entry just now too; there's often information in the "Early Life" section which can clue you in. But there, too, though there were a couple of hints that all might not be right with him, they were just that, hints. It says that his parents divorced when he was 9, and that after that he lived with his father in various places in South Africa. Back in those days (the divorce was in 1980) the mother usually got custody. What happened there -- was there some disconnect between him and his mother? Did she not want him? Or did some court decide she was an unfit mother? That's a tantalizing hint -- but nothing you can hang your hat on. It also said that he was severely bullied as a child. That could be because the other kids hated him because he had an intensely dislikable personality; but it could also be just because he was small and weak, and kids who were bullies by nature saw him as an easy target. Again, not enough to draw any conclusions from.

Steven said...

That article about Musk is a bit ill-informed.

"Making web applications is ridiculously simple compared to any one of Elon’s new ambitions: automobiles, space travel, solar energy, and public transit."

Out of those four areas, he is only working on space travel and cars. He is active in spacex and telsa as a kind of CEO/engineer/designer.

He is the largest shareholder in solarcity but does not run the company. He provided the original concept for solarcity but declined to accept the status of a founder because he felt that he didn't do enough of the leg work to justify this. Had he accepted, he would have made history as the founder of four billion dollar companies.

As for the Hyperloop, Musk once again provided the original idea (or at least popularised it) but the challenge has been taken up by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. It was founded by Jumpstarter by crowd funding and collaboration. 100 engineers are working on it in exchange for stock options and according to Wikipedia, Musk is not affiliated with the company.

Musk certainly has his hands full with both SpaceX and Tesla but he is a renowned workaholic. He has said that it wouldn't be possible to achieve his ambition of getting humans to Mars on 40 hours a week.

In his capacity as an engineer, the indications are that he actually is the real deal. A former Nasa rocket scientist said that he lent Musk textbooks on rocket science and that Musk quickly absorbed the information and seemed able to recall and quote it to an impressive extent. He described Musk as the most intelligent person he's ever met.

The stuff about SpaceX surviving due to government money is kind of disingenuous. SpaceX has been rewarded for their amazing engineering achievement by getting a government contract to take supplies- and at some point people- to the International space station. This is not a handout. His companies have received subsidies (Tesla, maybe spacex too) but arguably Musk has proven himself an adept businessman in getting them and building these companies up.

Moreover, for him it doesn't seem to be primarily about money. He is on the record saying that when he started Tesla he thought that the most likely outcome was failure and that his aim is to act as a catalyst to the mass introduction of electric vehicles and therefore he embraces other companies building electric vehicles. His SpaceX ambition was likewise to act as a catalyst to more interest and investment in human space travel and he risked his fortune to try to make it work. His ultimate ambition is to colonise/help colonise Mars.

His Tesla vehicles are quite beautiful and he has worked with google to develop and incorporate self driving technology, rather than competing against them.

Regarding his personal history vis a vis the question of sociopathy, he did have a tortured childhood as he was bullied badly in school and I think had a troubled relationship with his father. I'm not sure about his mother. His ex wife, a very intelligent and sensitive writer whom he met in college, has written about their relationship at length. Although she found the marriage unfulfilling and felt demeaned by her role, she clearly has some affection for Elon and views him sympathetically overall. His present wife, Tallulah Riley, a similar kind of positive regard and admiration for him. Both women get on well with each other. There is some suggestion he might have some aspie characteristics. He also seems to have a positive relationship with his brother...I saw them in an interview together and felt there was warmth there.

What else was there...oh, the story about him crashing his McLaren and getting out laughing is bs. The anecdote goes that he was keeled over laughing and said to his friend: "you don't know the funny part- it wasn't insured". He was told this in an interview, found it funny, confirmed he wasn't insured but said he didn't laugh, except maybe in shock.

Steven said...

oh yeah, re the bullying: He was a sci fi-comic book-science nerd type of kid. He was programming at age 9. He was probably just kind of weird. Plus he said it started when he stuck up for another kid. He also said his south African school was a brutal environment, with ruthless bullies, probably worse than would be accepted in America.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Thank you, you're far better informed on Musk than I am.

Steven said...

you're welcome. oh God that was long!

I've taken as bit of an interest in Musk since I saw the Bloomberg documentary on him. As you can see.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Long is always welcome as long as it's well-informed, which your comment was.

I just got a fairly long ill-informed comment on another post which I'm not even going to bother to respond to. (Look at the post "How dumb is it to give someone the benefit of the doubt because he's handsome?")

Steven said...

Since we are off topic, how is your swimming going John?

John Craig said...

Steven --
Poorly, but thanks for asking. I'm having right shoulder problems, plus to be honest I haven't been that focused on it recently. How is your training going? Still swimming a couple times a week?

Steven said...

I just did push ups and pull ups over the summer. I didn't bother with running. I seem to have a gained a bit of muscle, though I've been lazy for a while now. Too much larger and curry and sitting around drinking tea.

I only swim now and then but its one of my favourite forms of exercise. I can swim for two or three hours without stopping or touching the ends of the pool. I'd still like to do some outdoor swimming.

John Craig said...

Steven --
That's good, actually, Push-ups and pul-ups give you more usable muscle than isolated weight-lifting style exercises do. And tea won't put on weight, but lager and curry certainly will. You should definitely try to run sprints one a week if possible.

Steven said...

hey, did you delete the other post?

John Craig said...

Steven --
Yes, I answered your last message first, though. I had said I would (there were too many possible inaccuracies or at the least exaggerations in those diagrams, and I didn't want to spread misinformation. I'll send you an email with my reply to you.

Anonymous said...

I'm proud that you are bringing up race realism again. Human bio-diversity occurs like every other species in the animal kingdom. Some breeds are more aggressive like rottweilers or africans, and some are more intelligent and mild-mannered, like border collies and orientals.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Thank you, though I never really left race realism. The thing is, there are only so many ways you can say, the races differ, without getting boring. The author of the book quoted in this post, though, definitely had some new material.

Salt said...

I'm not quite sure that this is a very accurate view of human biological diversity. The majority of human bio-diversity is between Africans. A Nigerian is in all probability genetically closer to an Inuit man than he is to a Koisan man in Southern Africa. Furthermore, given that skin pigmentation can change radically in a population in as little as 1,000 years due to adaptation to climate, it serves very poorly as any sort of marker of genetic differentiation.

I find it very unlikely that one could even define a single unifying genetic characteristic for various sub-saharan populatiosn aside from skincolor. In one particular study by Jeffrey Long and Rick Kittles, they found that you would be able to find 85% of human genetic biodiversity in all human populations, 100% exists in all African populations, and 75% exists in the population of New Guinea. This is because, for the various waves of settlement of H. Sapiens out of Africa, the various homo sapiens outside of Africa are only descended from a single subgroup out of the larger parent group of African homo sapiens.

There is very little correlation between races and significant differences in behavior. As I stated, the overwhelming majority of human variation is within each race, and even then, when speaking of human genetic variation it would make more sense to group Europeans, Asians, and Native Americans into a single race rather than group Africans into a single race.