Before the Dawn - SRH group read
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This book is not that old! But both in genetics and in archaeology a lot has happened since he wrote this. I read New Scientist and Archaeology magazines fairly regularly, so I am aware that, for example, the dates for South America have been pushed back. He would have done better sometimes to have been less sure of his deductions.
He is also very careless in his use of words in other ways. p108 'Altogether some 87% of Europeans are descended ... only 13% are descended from ancestors who came to Europe around 10,000 years ago...' NO! I don't know about you, but I consider that I am descended through the male lines as well. These figures only refer to the pure matrilineal descent. These lines have mixed up pretty thoroughly in the past 10,000 years.
>6 MarthaJeanne: the last 2 pages seemed out of left field.
I thought it was an interesting read, and I actually am inclined to read his next book because of all the controversy.
There were occasional parts that struck me as strange—for example, he takes cannibalism as clear evidence of warfare, because no one would willingly be cannibalized, without considering whether undesirable acts can be inflicted on someone within the structure of their own society. I was also not convinced that religion developed as a defense against freeloaders. For the most part, though, I was happy to have an accessible overview of the topic.
I think it's fairly safe to begin more detailed discussion at this point, and spoiler tags are always a possibility....
I don't know, can you have spoilers in a non-fiction book? Maybe they aren't the worry that they are with fiction.
I felt as the book went on it got more and more speculative until I felt that I couldn't trust what I was reading. One thing that stood out was the conclusion that a large percentage of the population of central Asia is descended from Genghis Kahn because they have their Y chromosomes are the same in 15 position. While it may be that Genghis and his heirs spread their genes far and wide you cannot know that the Y chromosome assumed that form with Genghis, in fact it's likely that it assumed that form sometime before Genghis and it may have been shared by a large percentage of Mongolians at the time.
He also mistakes the idea that evolution acts by favoring those genes of those individuals who have the most surviving offspring with the idea that people therefore must have an explicit drive for having as many offspring as possible. In fact we aren't the slaves of evolution and we can choose to not have children and many do.