Were the ancestors of the white race black?

“William Blake” writes:

With regard to skin pigmentation and human origins, as I’m sure you know, the geneticist Sarah Tiskhoff released her study of geographically-correlated human genetic diversity last month. Here are articles on this in the Daily Mail, National Geographic, and BBC.

Her conclusion is that homo sapiens sapiens evolved 200,000 years ago on the Atlantic seaboard of southwestern Africa in what is today the border between Angola and Namibia (rather than in in East Africa, as you write).

This is, of course, the ancestral heartland of San hunter-gatherers, sometimes known as ‘Bushman’ people. This is pleasing both to archeologists and geneticists since their MtDNA tells us that San people are at the end of the deepest branch of all human populations.

That is: they’re the oldest people, being most closely related to the first anatomically modern human populations, and (being genetically ancient, still living in the place where they’ve always lived, climatically stable since the late Pleistocene, still surviving by hunting and gathering even today) most likely to resemble the founder population of all non-Africans.

I’m afraid to report, Lawrence, your ancestors were, indeed, black.

LA replies:

First, I did not not know about it. It may shock you to to learn that I am not on top of every new development in the field of human origins. Your phrase, “as I’m sure you know,” implies that I am aware of the real truth that refutes my position, and have been deliberately concealing it.

Second, the question of what the first humans looked like, which came up in the thread about Richard Neave’s and Alice Robert’s propagandistic lie about what the first modern human Europeans looked like, is a scientific/historical question. The issue is not about me and my feelings, it’s about what’s true.

Third, your reference to one outlier finding, involving the claim that modern humans originated 200 ,000 years ago, as though that definitively settles the issue, fails to show an understanding of the different views that other scientists have on the age of modern Homo and the evidence on which they base them, such as that the oldest modern humans come from southeastern Africa 130,000 kya, which Michael Hart presents in Understanding Human HIstory ..

But grabbing onto that one outlier from Tiskhoff, you conclusively and smugly comment, “I’m afraid to report, Lawrence, your ancestors were, indeed, black,” thus showing that your interest in this subject is not about getting at what’s true, but about getting at me, and through me, at all white people who refuse to accept obvious leftist propaganda, which, as discussed in the earlier entries, is aimed at putting down and demoralizing white people, by making them feel that they have no distinct existence as white people and no right to continue as distinct people in their historic societies.

By the way, if the best evidence pointed to the conclusion that all human beings were descended from blacks, or from Bushmen-type people, then so be it. The Bushmen standing in the photo with Alice Roberts are cool-looking guys.

However, if it is indeed the case that Bushmen-type people were the original modern humans from which all other humans are descended, then my idea there there was an earlier common ancestor of Negroids, Caucasoids and Mongoloids is still at least partly true, since Bushmen, while Negroid, are distinct from the classic Negroes of West Africa, who represent a specialized development. Bushmen are significantly lighter than Negroes, much shorter, and their facial features are different. If Bushmen are the first modern humans, then Negroes, Caucasoids, and Mongoloids are all descended from Bushmen. Caucasoids are therefore not descended from Negroes, i.e., from blacks, which is what many people today have been made to believe by leftist propaganda. It was to counteract the widespread idea that “whites are descended from blacks,” that I argued that the common human ancestor was of some other group.

In any case, your “gotcha” statement, “I’m afraid to report, Lawrence, your ancestors were, indeed, black,” is contradicted by the very evidence on which you rely, since Bushmen are not what we ordinarily call black.

To repeat, the main issue in the discussion set off by the Neave reconstruction was not what the first modern humans looked like, but what the first modern humans in Europe looked like. The appearance of the first modern humans was a secondary question, and I presented my own views on that in a reasoned fashion, saying that my view seemed more plausible, not that my view was true. And, if Bushmen rather than classic Negroes were the original modern humans, then my idea was partly true.

“William Blake” replies:
Good lord. I’m shocked that you replied. [LA replies: I guess you believed the big lie about me that I suppress and refuse to reply to criticism.]

But goodness me. Where to start.

With Tishkoff. Tishkoff’s findings aren’t “an extreme outlier” at all, or anything like it (seriously, if you’re not up on the genetics or the archeology… really, don’t get into this). [LA replies: Nuts to that. I’ve read Nicholas Wade, I’ve read Michael Hart, I’ve read various articles, and I know enough about the topic to engage in a reasoned discussion of it. If I have particular points wrong, they can be corrected. I reject your notion that a person must be an expert in this or any field to form a reasoned opinion about its general conclusions, especially as there is wide disagreement among the experts themselves. That is why I asked Mathilda why she “beat her head against a brick wall” when I asked her to explain the discrepancy between her view, that the Out of Africa date was 90 to 100 kya, and the view of Wade and Hart, that it was about 60 kya. Why should I, as a non-expert, be barred from participating in a discussion, when the experts themselves not only disagree with each other but are exasperated with each other? Furthermore, outsiders and amateurs often see things that the experts miss, because the experts are often inside a set of assumptions that they have long since ceased examining.] Tishkoff’s methods and practice are exemplary. They are ludicrously exhaustive. They were predicted, and barring a revolution in genetics, which I’ll welcome, I can’t see them being overturned.

Most importantly, her findings agree with the archeological record. We have evidence of modern ritual behaviour at 195,000 kya at Pinnacle Point and related tool production at 160,000 years ago, what seem to be projectile points. There are more; I don’t have time to list.

Paleoanthropologists. We’ve been busy.

Secondly, the skull used in this awful reconstruction was far more complete than you admit. You ought to. [LA replies: According to the original Mail article on the “first European” that set off our discussion, there was a lower jaw bone plus “fragments” of a skull. That’s the statement I was responding to. Second, even if there were a more complete skull (which, in my reading of the confused and contradictory comments on it, still has not been established), there was no basis for the Negroid features. Third, since you yourself call the reconstruction “awful,” you should be supporting me in my criticisms of it, instead of accusing me of having an anti-science, racial agenda.]

Thirdly, you are absolutely correct about San distinctiveness and age and descent, and all of that. You’re correct, also, that San people are not “Negro” (down in the Northern Cape of South Africa they were extremely fair skinned, as the photographic evidence agrees.) Anywhere outside of Africa, San people would be described as “black.”

We need better terms. I’ll give you that. I think my point is this: you have a kind of obsession with discovering the lightest skinned ancestors you can, and I find it distasteful.

LA replies:

You write:

“I think my point is this: you have a kind of obsession with discovering the lightest skinned ancestors you can, and I find it distasteful.”

Where have I ever written about this subject—let alone shown an “obsession” with finding light skinned ancestors—prior to my response to the fraudulent, grossly propagandistic Neave reconstruction and the media’s flacking for it? Do a Google search for “Richard Neave” and “first European,” and you will find hundreds of newspapers and websites parroting the dishonest statements by Neave, Roberts, and David Derbyshire of the Mail. But you haven’t said that you find any of that distasteful. You find me distasteful, for challenging it.

Bottom line: it is not I, but YOU, who have repeatedly show bias and prejudice in this discussion, in your prejudicial comments about me and my supposed motives.

Mike Berman writes:

Reading the arguments of “William Blake” and other Darwinists, what I’m hearing is: Man evolved from apes, and whites evolved from Africans. Hmm, doesn’t that place the Africans on a more primitive position on the evolutionary scale? Are they saying that Africans are a missing link?

Appearance and mean IQ scores could be used to buttress their case.

LA replies:

Yes. By insisting that whites are descended from blacks, “Blake” is also clearly suggesting that whites are more highly evolved and more intelligent than blacks, a belief that would make him a racist by his own standards. Ironically, I, the supposed white racist in this debate, am laying out a scenario that places blacks higher in the evolutionary scale than “Blake’s” idea, because I am saying that the white race and the black are both branches of a common trunk.

Hannon writes:

Your latest post addresses precisely the same conflation as is inherent in the old saw that “people evolved from monkeys.” If one takes this view, then it is correct to say that we share a common ancestor with monkeys, an entirely different proposition.

LA replies:

I don’t quite follow this. [See Hannon’s reply below.]

Mark P. writes:

I would not put too much stock in the Out of Africa theory or the theory that somehow the age of the Bushmen proves that everyone came from the Bushmen.

Here is an article that tests the Out of Africa theory, based on a discovery of 40,000 year old skeleton in China.

LA replies:

The article is not clear at all. It doesn’t make a cogent argument. If you can extract, in your own words, a cogent argument from it, I will post that.

Mark P. replies:

Well, let’s see.

The “Out of Africa” theory states the following: Modern humans came from East Africa around 70,000 years ago. It is thought that when these early modern humans spread out of Africa they replaced other early human type populations such as the Neanderthal. However it is believed that the early African humans became the prominent human species without any interbreeding with other forms of humans.

In other words, the Out of Africa theory means that everyone is essentially black. This is the primary attractiveness of the theory to liberals, the idea that the Negroid is the base template for the Caucasoid and the Mongoloid.

The discovery of the Chinese bones punches a hole in that theory. It means that the existing population was not replaced by the Negroid. After all, to be able to interbreed with [the descendants of] Mongoloid ancestors, you must first have Mongoloid ancestors. But once you admit that the population was not replaced, then it also stands to reason that there was little or no interbreeding occurred. The wandering Negroids were simply slaughtered or pushed back. That’s why Asians don’t look like blacks, because they evolved from a separate population of Asians. [LA replies: I find your explanation just as confusing as the linked article. But since the fault may be in own weak understanding rather than in the article or your explanation, I’m posting it. Maybe others will understand it.]

So, we move from the existing theory that selective environmental pressures (little steps) on wandering Negroids eventually created Caucasoids and Mongoloids, to a better theory that Mongoloids and Caucasoids exist because, well, they come from Mongoloids and Caucasoids.

Alan Levine writes:

I am a bit surprised at how the thread on “how our ancestors lived” has run on. The portrayal of ancient Europeans as looking like modern sub-Saharan Africans is surely ridiculous for many of the reasons you pointed out, but they may not have looked much like us either. [LA replies: I don’t think anyone in this discussion, including me, said that they did.] If our ancestors coming out of Africa, and in Africa, looked like anyone, it was probably Australian Aborigines, with their heavy brow ridges, prognathism, and other “primitive” characteristics. To the extent they departed from this after reaching northern Eurasia they may have looked more like the cold-adapted Mongoloids in some respects than we do.

It is also doubtful that the ancestors of modern day Africans had facial features like their descendants. [LA replies: I said the same, i.e., that African Negroes are a specialized development from an earlier type.] The question of color is not fully soluble, but it is probable that our ancestors, up to some point, were dark before losing pigmentation. But I can’t resist pointing out that if ancient Africa was much cloudier than it is today, the ancestors of humanity may have been light-skinned. Or perhaps color swung back and forth with climactic swings.[LA replies: According to a very interesting argument quoted at Mathilda’s Anthropology blog, very light skin could not have developed until after the invention of agriculture, because switching from meat, which provides lots of Vitamin D, to vegetables, which do not, would require people to get their Vitamin D from sunlight, which would require less melanin in the skin. Prior to that point in time, there would have been no selective pressures reducing subcutaneous melanin. ]

By the way EVERY reconstruction of Cro-Magnon faces I have ever seen, up to this latest one, shows them as having broad faces and rugged features, nothing whatever like African Negroes. [LA replies: However, lots of Cro-Magnon recreations show them looking like a rugged version of modern whites, so that also may be incorrect, at least as far as earlier Cro-Magnons are concerned.]

Alan Levine writes:

The notion that light skin developed only after agriculture makes no sense, since there are Caucasoids and Mongoloids, in both Eurasia and North America, who have light skins though their ancestors were hunters and gatherers until very, very recently. Lapps and Northern Siberians for instance.

LA replies:

Then you need to engage in a discussion with the self-declared experts, at Mathilda’s blog and elsewhere, who are declaring this to be true. I was just passing on what struck me as a new and very interesting argument.

Of course, if I were obsessed with proving our ancestors as light as possible, as “William Blake” says I am, I would not have mentioned that argument.

Hannon writes:

Allow me to clarify my comment about the conflation of race derivation and humans having “evolved from monkeys.”

What I got from your writing in this post is that you think it is wrong to say that Europeans (whites) came from “black” ancestors. You also note that this recent research, which I believe recapitulates earlier anthropological studies, shows that the San people are very distinct from the blacks that Americans are more familiar with from West Africa.

The living San then are a basal lineage whose direct ancestors apparently gave rise to other hominids that at some point (points?) migrated to West Africa and also East Africa and beyond, to Eurasia.

The San would then be considered to be the closest living common ancestors of all mankind. But people, as you have pointed out, confuse this idea and simplistically and incorrectly assert that “whites evolved from blacks.”

In the same way, much earlier in the family tree a “proto-primate” putatively gave rise to the primates, the collective of living groups that includes humans, great apes, monkeys, lemurs, etc., and some lineages that have died out. Hence the oft-heard oversimplification that “humans evolved from monkeys.” This view is equally and similarly wrong.

In both cases people neglect the common ancestor aspect and go straight for direct descent from a near relative. This is sloppy thinking that should have been straightened out in high school.

LA replies:

Very good. It’s an interesting point. Thank you for clarifying it.

John B. writes:

I’m glad you responded to William Blake’s smug remark: “I’m afraid to report, Lawrence, your ancestors were, indeed, black.”

If I personally were persuaded that the white race not only descended from Negroes but did so five minutes before I was born (1953), I wouldn’t think the gap between those races’ evolutionary development any less than I already think it. I would simply have to accept the surprising fact that tremendous evolutionary development can occur almost overnight.

With Mr. Blake and, similarly, the liberals who speak frequently of the historical significance of America’s first non-white President, it is different. To them, Negro inferiority is discomfiting. Consequently, they constantly attempt to ignore or deny it. That is what is bothersome about the Neave reconstruction of the first European. One wonders—or, at least, you and I and several of your other correspondents wonder—whether it is, indeed, scientific. The thought arises that liberals are deforming paleoanthropology on the hope that proof of black ancestry of whites will fortify the charade of anti-racism. It won’t affect me, as I say, though I’m sure our overlords will have gulags for the hard cases. (I’ll give in long before they bring out the thumbscrews.)

LA replies:

Thank you.

As further evidence of the political motivation of today’s paleoanthropologists, a few years ago I watched a TV show about the Neanderthals which arrived at the definite conclusion that modern humans were not descended from them, and had no genetic relationship with them. One of the main anthropologist talking heads on the show (I don’t remember his name), openly stated his deep disappointment in this outcome. He hoped that there would be a genetic tie between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, because that would be a blow for equality. In his mind, Neanderthals had become surrogates for blacks.

At least he gets credit for acknowledging the evidence that went against his preferences. But the fact that he openly and without apology stated that he had hoped for a particular outcome to advance his ideology shows a mindset that in some other paleoanthropologists does not take the relatively honest form that it did in his case.

Joe Catechissimo writes:

It is beyond comprehension how alleged scientists and smug liberals could maintain that 35,000 years after leaving Africa, early human beings would still look like Bushmen. I could not care less what my ancestors looked like 200,000, 100,000, or 50,000 years ago. The main point is that once they left Africa, my ancestors parted ways with the stay-behinds, and forged a completely different destiny from those who became Negros. My ancestors had the mettle, wit and tenacity to avoid being cleansed out of the human gene pool during the harsh Ice Age. I am proud to be the heir of that creative and resourceful legacy, and I remain grateful to God, who made them an offer they gladly did not refuse.

May 15

John B. writes:

It has been some years since I perused Carleton Coon’s The Origin of Races, a book that was criticized as racist not long after its 1962 publication. Not only do I not know how the book’s suggestions fare against scientific evidence that has accumulated since; I’m not sure how well I recall them. [LA replies: I believe that Coon’s interesting thesis—I read his book years ago—has been completely rejected by now, with the accumulating evidence for modern Homo having come out of Africa.]

Coon’s thesis—insofar as I do recall it—was that racial differences predate the emergence of Homo sapiens. He thought that differences among what were regarded in his day, at least, as varieties of Homo erectus were precursors of modern racial differences. The idea was not that each of the varieties of erectus had independently developed into Homo sapiens; rather, the idea was that one variety—one race—of erectus had made the jump to sapiens and had then had sexual contact with the other varieties. Eventually, plain old Homo erectus died off, leaving only the descendants of that original Homo sapiens—descendants who bore (and still bear) the racial markers of the erectus varieties from which they descended.

That, at any rate, is what I think the argument was. I bring it up not to argue for or against it but simply to help make clear why the Neave reconstruction of the first European troubles some persons (including you, me, and several of your other correspondents).

Here, from that book (as I recall), is a photo of an Australian aborigine:


Coon thought the erectus forebears of these Australians had arisen in Southeast Asia—even though their descendants survive only in the place to which, as he saw it, some of those forebears had migrated—Australasia. I don’t have the book at hand, but I’ll guess that he thought those forebears were the erectus type originally known as Java Man.

Coon attributed the characteristics of the Australian aborigines to their comparative genetic isolation—to the fact that, in prehistory, only intermittent ocean-level reductions, due to Ice Ages, allowed travel—sexual contact—between Australasia and Southeast Asia. He explained the significance of the Wallace Line, a trench, so to speak, that biologically separates Southeast Asia from oceanic territories to its east.

Three simple points bear on the question of the Neave reconstruction:

1—Coon thought that Australians and whites were closely related—that, in other words, the two erectus types from which they’d descended were closely related. I think he spoke of Australians as archaic Caucasians. [LA replies: But how could that be? The erectus group that supposedly gave rise to the Australians would have been very far away from the erectus group that developed into whites.]

2—Coon thought that the genetic isolation of Australia was such that many individual, present-day Australian aborigines were “close to the sapiens-erectus border” (my uncertain memory of his phrase). I don’t remember whether he offered the above photo as an example of a borderline case—but I’ll say he could have.

I have no idea how any of those suggestions hold up. I’m not sure they were ever reasonable at all; and as I’ve said, I’m not sure I’m remembering them correctly. But look at that photo.

When you see that, don’t you think, “Yes, as a white man, I can believe that my evolutionary forebears looked something like that”? I do. On the other hand, that is not what I think when I see the Neave reconstruction.

That fact is what your correspondents such as “William Blake” seem to be missing. VFR readers like me are not suspicious of the Neave reconstruction because they don’t want it to be true. On the contrary: It’s the liberals, such as Blake himself, who seem to want it to be true. The VFR readers simply think it seems “off.”

As I said in my comment in your “William Blake” thread: The evolutionary facts, whatever they turn out to be, are, to me, a matter of political inconsequence. They won’t change my view of the differences between the races. My interest in the scientific question is simply that: scientific. My concern is that for Neave and others who are supposedly pursuing the matter, the question is not scientific—not merely so. They’re the ones with a race hang-up. I personally am just an interested layman.

PS Coon thought the Bushmen had not evolved in their present location.

LA replies:

It’s a strange face.

On one hand, this Australian aborigine is so different looking, especially with the almost ape-like lower part of his face, that he almost seems like another species, not of the same modern human species that includes Caucasoids, Negroids, and Mongoloids.

On the other hand, he looks strangely “white.”

So I get your point. He looks like something part way between a pre-human species and white. So it makes sense that ancestors of white race may have looked like this.

John B. replies:

Yes—and obviously, his looking “white” is not a matter of his skin color.

LA continues:

But of course, for what I said to be true, would require that Coon’s thesis be true, that there were different races of Homo erectus that independently evolved into Homo sapiens. And it seems to me that that is made highly unlikely by the strong evidence that modern humans developed in Africa and spread out from there. So, for now, this photo is just one thought-provoking photo.

John B. writes:

To clarify: Coon was not saying that the various erectus species evolved into Homo sapiens independently. He thought that the evolution from erectus to sapiens had happened only once. Here was the idea (as I recall it):

1—There were five erectus types—five erectus races, so to speak. They may be called:

White Erectus

Chinese Erectus

Negro Erectus

Bushman Erectus

Australian Erectus.

(These terms are mine—but they match Coon’s idea.)

2—These five types of erectus were distinct from each other not only in appearance but in culture (tool groups). Most importantly, they were isolated geographically—and thus sexually. Their territories were these:

White Erectus: Western Eurasia, including the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. Separated from China by the mountains that ring China. Separated from Southeast Asia by the mountain range that divides India from Burma

Chinese Erectus: China. Separated from northern and western Eurasia and from the Indian subcontinent by mountains. Separated at its southeast border—i.e., from Southeast Asia—by a known climate barrier that makes Southeast Asia a faunal region distinct from China

Negro Erectus: Down behind the Sahara

Bushman Erectus: Can’t quite remember

Australian Erectus: Southeast Asia, which, as I’ve already said, is separated from India by mountains that form the western border of Burma and from China by a climate wall

3—One of these five erectus types evolved into Homo sapiens. Its own erectus ancestors died off—but at the same time, some members of this emergent tribe of Homo sapiens occasionally wandered into the regions occupied by the other four erectus types. These intruding Homo sapiens were not yet so different from erectus that they (the sapiens) were disinclined to mate with the erectus. The sapiens did mate with erectus, in each of those regions, and produced Homo sapiens with, let’s say, “a little bit of erectus in them.”

4—In each of those intruded-upon four regions, the “pure” erectus line—i.e., the group that was untouched sexually by the intruding Homo sapiens—died out, leaving behind only their “sapienized” kin. Eventually, the human population, worldwide, consisted solely of Homo sapiens, all from a single sapiens ancestor.

5—This process actually went in stages, a little bit of evolution—from erectus to modern sapiens—each time. The one line that was “truly evolving”—i.e., actually evolving on its own—was maintaining just enough sexual contact with the four other lines to “bring them along for the ride” evolutionarily. Those other four types, in other words, were evolving only because they were having some limited contact with the truly-evolving line. The result was that the five lines moved along in evolutionary lockstep, from erectus all the way to modern sapiens, but never completely lost their individual racial characteristics—characteristics that went all the way back to erectus (and maybe earlier, as Coon remarked).

I don’t know whether Coon said which of the five races he thought was doing the actual evolving (as opposed to simply being brought along). It definitely was not the Negro because, as I said in my original note, he thought that the African jump from erectus to sapiens had been abrupt. In other words, Rhodesian Man (“Negro Erectus”) had been stuck down behind the Sahara, without evolving, for 200,000 years before, finally, a specimen of near-modern white sapiens intruded and mated with him, to yield Negro sapiens. The theory had one glaring deficiency, which Coon acknowledged:

No fossil specimen corresponding to White Erectus

Note that, according to the theory, the four non-evolving erectus lines—the ones that were simply being brought along for the ride—could eventually have been left behind completely by Homo sapiens—i.e., if they’d been separated from the evolving line long enough that, by the time Homo sapiens intruded into their territories, they (the erectus groups) would have seemed like alien species to the intruders, as, for instance, our ape cousins seem to us. Coon went into geographic detail as to, for instance, Chinese mountain passes that would have been ice-free between Ice Ages and would thus have been routes by which White Erectus could have intruded into China intermittently—i.e., frequently enough to keep the White and Chinese races moving along in evolutionary lockstep—but not so frequently as to obliterate the racial differences that went back to erectus (and, as I’ve said, maybe even earlier).

LA replies:

Maybe when I read Coon around 20 years ago I didn’t read the whole book, because as I read your summary of his theory now, my first reaction is that the theory seems so implausible, What gave credence to his theory in my mind was his idea that the differences among the races are too large to have had time to develop since the emergence of modern man within the last 100,000 years. But that objection seems to ahve been largely overcome by the more recent genetic findings.

Also, the idea of four separate erectus races each being “interbred” into a sapiens state by mating with sapiens seems farfetched, yet, one must admit, truly ingenious and fascinating even if false.

Now, if his theory were true, how would it change our views of the races? It would mean that each of the races was descended in part from a distinct race of Homo erectus, and in part from Homo sapiens. It would put the branching off of the separate races back in time from the current 100 kya—60 kya (the period during which the group that left Africa separated from the rest of the Africans and then ultimately left Africa), to perhaps 500 kya or one million kya. It would make the differences between the races seem to be far more profound than they are normally thought of, because they would even precede modern Homo sapiens. And of course there is an ideological side to this, as Coon’s theory would tend to support those who think that race differences are unbridgeable. This was why Coon was labeled as a racist. However, as you have pointed out, even if you learned that the separation of the races had occurred five years before you were born, it wouldn’t change your view of the significance of racial differences, since those differences are what they are, no matter how old or recent they may be.

Here is another objection to Coon’s theory that just occurs to me. As Michael Hart explains, the genetic differences within the African population are vastly greater than the genetic differences within the Caucasian and Mongoloid populations, and even greater than the differences within the Amerindian population. This suggests that humans have been living in Africa far longer than in other continents and so more genetic differences have appeared there. Which points to the origin of modern man in Africa.

If Coon’s theory were correct, each of the major geographic populations or races would be equally old, and each race would have about the same amount of internal genetic differentiation. The much greater differentiation in Africa, and thus the much greater age of man in Africa, would seem to refute Coon’s theory.

John continues:

Maybe you’ve noticed an apparent contradiction between my statement of Carleton Coon’s theory and his own statement of it. I wrote:

Coon was not saying that the various erectus species evolved into Homo sapiens independently. He thought that the evolution from erectus to sapiens had happened only once.

In the article I originally linked about Coon, his Origin of Races is quoted as follows:

My thesis is, in essence, that at the beginning of our record, over half a million years ago, man was a single species, Homo Erectus, perhaps already divided into five geographic races or subspecies. Homo Erectus then evolved into Homo Sapiens not once but five times, as each subspecies, living in its own territory, passed a critical threshold from a more brutal to a more sapient state.

I think Coon’s wording there is misleading—i.e., it doesn’t quite represent what he’s saying in the book. Here’s what I mean.

Let’s say there are fossil remains of five erectus types—five erectus races. For simplicity, we’ll call them:

Erectus 1
Erectus 2
Erectus 3
Erectus 4
Erectus 5

Let’s say, additionally, that there are five living races, all Homo sapiens:

Race 1
Race 2
Race 3
Race 4
Race 5

What was the course of evolution, from those erectus types to those sapiens races? Here are three possibilities:

Scenario 1:

Erectus 1 evolved into Homo sapiens, which, eventually, branched into the five living races. The four other erectus types died out. In that case, we could say the transition to sapiens took place only once.

Scenario 2:

Each erectus type evolved, independently, into one of the five living races. Erectus 1 evolved into Race 1. Erectus 2 evolved into Race 2. Erectus 3 into 3, 4 into 4, 5 into 5. In that case, we would say that the transition to sapiens took place five separate times—and, in fact, it might not be legitimate to speak of the five resultant races as members of a single species, Homo sapiens. They wouldn’t have a common sapiens ancestor.

Scenario 3 (which I presented as Coon’s theory):

Erectus 1 evolved into Race 1, Homo sapiens. This Homo sapiens migrated to the territories of the four other erectus types and interbred with them. This produced four new sapiens strains—each containing “a bit of erectus.”

Scenario 3, I think, is what Coon was describing—or, at least, offering as a possibility—in The Origin of Races. It includes only one true evolutionary transition, on the part of Erectus 1. The four other erectus types are, as I said in my earlier message, simply “brought along for the ride.” As in Scenario 1, the worldwide sapiens population is a true species, with a single sapiens ancestor.

May 16, 2009

LA writes:

The comments at Mathilda’s blog thread on the “first European” are not easy to follow, as the commenters use telegraph-like shorthand and don’t tie their points together well at all. But here is an enlightening detail from Mathilda that helps clarify things:

mathilda37 // May 16, 2009 at 11:02 am | Reply

Yes Tod, but Non Europeans populations with no Neolithic skin lightening genes are only slightly darker than Europeans and are lighter than the San. The ‘pasty’ gene only makes the difference from tan to pink, not black to white. Take a look at native Americans at the same kinds of latitudes as Europeans. Totally isolated from Eurasian Neolithic mutations, but not black.

Even the San are a very light colour when out of the sun. My aunty went a very yellow colour when she moved to England.

In reply to Mathilda is this comment:

pconroy // May 13, 2009 at 10:24 pm | Reply

I’m a very light skinned person from Ireland—I can’t tan at all, only burn in the sun—even in April in the US….

In other words, there are white people who tan, and very light white people who are more “pinkish,” and do not tan. What this means is that the lightening of the skin that (according to one theory) occurred in northern latitudes as a result of the invention of agriculture and the switch from meat to vegetable diets, was not a lightening from nonwhite to white; it was a lightening from “tan” white to “pinkish” white. Thus the argument that the first modern humans who entered Europe could not have been white, because this was pre-agriculture and they still had a meat diet, falls down.

This point is really more relevant to the earlier thread, “Reconstruction of “first European” inadvertently reveals itself as total fraud,” where the main question was the race of the first Europeans.

May 21

John B. writes:

I would like to correct—or, at least, clarify—my statement of Carleton Coon’s theory of race differences. I’m not sure Coon said that, of the five different lines of human types (as he posited them), one in particular was necessarily the consistent leader in the development from erectus to sapiens. Late in his book, he offered that as a possibility—and maybe even a necessity, by some reasoning that I don’t recall; but in the book’s earlier sections, he seemed to be considering the supposed process as a kind of “ping pong,” in which, at any step along the way, the evolutionary advance might have taken place in any one line, from which it spread, by sexual contact, to the other four.

That, at any rate, is my recollection. I send you this because I don’t want to have misled or misinformed your readers.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 14, 2009 12:46 PM | Send

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