Friday, June 26, 2015

Leyonhjelm and anthropology

Apparently, David Leyonhjelm is up on anthropology to a much greater extent than the average person who has a fair idea that aborigines as a group who looked pretty much like the ones when the First Fleet arrived had been here for some thousands of years previously.

He's quite the woo-meister, hey Jason?

I'm interested in his views on UFOs too.


Not Trampis said...

Soony never thanked me for the Batman article I put on Around the Traps just for him.
How ungrateful

John said...

From the article ...

“Genetically, there’s very little admixture for 50,000 or more years,” he said. “There are some genetic signals indicating fleeting visits from Asia, but these are very minor in the overall genetic makeup.”

From my archives ...

Swaab, Dick, We are our Brains

ASPM gene thought to have originated only 5,800 years ago. A genetic variant o fthe microcephalin gene(D allele of MCPH1), which regulates brain size, is thought to have arisen 37,000 years ago - yet 70% carry this variant.

Klekamp et al (1994) Morphometric study on the postnatal
growth of the visual cortex of Australian Aborigines and Caucasians. J.Brain Research 35(4):541-548. This correlates very well with several
studies which have shown higher scores in visual acuity among aboriginals (see in particular, Kearins (1981) Cogn. Psychol. 13:434-460. This occurs in peoples whose brain weights are significantly smaller than those for caucasians.

The latter study could very well relate to nutrition and early life experience but the enlarged striate visual cortex contradicts that.

From the article ...
Leyonhjelm said several serious anthropologists had made the argument, but could not name them or their credentials. “I could [name them] if I checked it out,” he said. “You’ve asked me at a door stop, I can’t off the top of my head.

That would be Alan Thorne's argument based on the Kow Swamp phenotype. Unfortunately the remains have been re-buried so modern analyses cannot be conducted. Thorne claims the skull structure is very reminiscent of archaic sapiens, a claim that has been frequently made by many anthropologists. His analysis has been widely challenged.

The problem with the brain size, teeth, and morphology arguments is that environmental variables can account for this. Nonetheless there are many references in the literature, that raise the suggestion aborigines did interbreed with archaic sapiens. One clue to the smaller brain size is exemplified in this highly unusual study:

Bigger brains and bigger bodies for colder climates.
Tierra del Feugian: 1590
Peruvian women 1219
French men 1585
men from Xhosa (Mandela tribe) 1570

cf, Beals, Smith and Dodd, 1984. 'Brain size, cranial morphology, climate and time machines', Current Anthropology, 25:301-30

None of the above matters to me. By my own standards I don't think there is sufficient evidence to drive the argument in either direction. Anthropology is replete with epistemic problems, there simply isn't enough evidence and in other spheres the evidence available would be regarded as woefully inadequate.

What does matter is the David L. is raising a reasonable question that many scholars have long pondered.

Steve said...

Meh, Maoris may have only been in New Zealand for well under 1,000 years and you don't hear it argued seriously that this matters for their recognition. Whatever may have gone on in pockets of Australia going back tens of thousands of years is even less relevant.
Don't get me wrong - I am neutral on the issue of constitutional recognition - but Leyonhjelm bringing in this line of argument is silly.

John said...

Yes, it is irrelevant to the recognition issue. The paleo-anthro is fascinating. My only concern with the constitutional issue is that I believe the constitution should not reference a specific group of people. I don't think constitutional recognition will help the aborigines. I'm not sure what will help them. Their problems appear to be getting worse though the latest productivity commission showed some signs of progress. It is a terrible mess and no-one seems to have a way forward.