Genetics can reach way, way back

A few years ago — in 2016? Yikes, time passes quickly when you’re miserable — Jennifer Raff gave a talk at Skepticon on The Misuse of Genetics in Pseudoscience. It was good stuff, right in my battery of interests. She debunked popular nonsense, like ancient astronauts, abuses of archaeology, ‘scientific’ racism, garbage notions about IQ, etc. It was recorded, so you can watch it now!

Dr Raff is even more famous today, and I’m sure it would be difficult to book her for a small convention anywhere, if we had them anymore, because she has just published a book, Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas, to a phenomenal reception. It’s deserved, too. The book touches lightly on the subjects in her talk — you can tell that the blatant foolishness of popular ideas about prehistory rankles — but mainly the book is about her work in the anthropology of the Americas, viewing the history of this part of the world through a genetic lens…but also from a humanist perspective. She respects indigenous culture, and it shows.

There’s a fair bit of technical information here, but it’s a pleasant read. I tore through it in two evenings of bedtime reading, and probably would have finished it in one if that obnoxious habit of sleeping when tired hadn’t interrupted me. Here I am teaching at a university with a mission to serve the American Indian community, and it ought to be required reading in these parts. In your parts, I don’t know, but I think you’d enjoy it and learn a lot.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    One thing that freaked me out about recent paleo -DNA research is how the indian population of big parts of America literally died out from the diseases Europeans brought. As in zero known descendants found in the DNA of currently living people.
    Also, the amount of pseudoscience still shaping the public’s concepts of the past is appalling (and this is not restricted to America).
    “Sleeping when tired ” -as a sufferer of insomnia, I cannot convey how much I envy you.

  2. davidc1 says

    I would like to read it,but I am thicker than a whale sandwich,and a lot of it would be like The Milky Way,far,far above my head.
    PS,but would like to make it clear that I am not so thick that I would vote for that twat faced twat johnson,or for the snatch snatcher.

  3. littlelocomotive says

    On a sort of related note, have you read “She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity” by Carl Zimmer? I’m about a quarter of the way through and so far, am very favorably impressed.

  4. says

    Much faster reader than I am. My copy arrived this weekend, just trying to finish up a couple of books I’m currently reading before starting any new ones.

  5. steve1 says

    I am going to read this. Too bad it isn’t in my library catalog. It isn’t even on their list of soon to acquired books.

  6. Normandie Kent says

    The Native Americans didn’t just die of diseases, but uneven warfare, betrayal and treachery of the colonizers. Also acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The diseases came after countless removals from their ancestral territories and massacres.