Saturday, April 29, 2017

When Is A "Conquest" Not A Conquest?

When Is A Conquest Not A Conquest?

You are a scientist living in the year 4017, specializing in the ancient civilizations that existed between 1492 and 2200 A.D.  Various cultures came and went, but alas, most written records were lost in the intervening centuries.  So you study DNA.

Your fellow scientists know that in many different regions, the DNA record shows profound change over time, both in autosomal percentages and uniparental markers (Y-Chromosome, mtDNA).

Unfortunately, arrogant bloggers still exist in 4017, and three of them, one called Davidski Futurski (who blogs at Eurogenes-ski), a fellow named Maciamo-Futuriamo, and another named Rocca Futura, are examples of "a little knowledge can be dangerous."  

They blindly state that all changes in DNA indicate evidence of conquest by some superior culture of badass men.  (Nevermind that they all believe they descend from the people they assert to be superior; that's irrelevant, we're sure).

Your boss at the university, someone who sees nuance better than the bloggers, asks you to model the record and various types of human interactions, and answer the question:

"When Might A 'Conquest' Not Really Be A Conquest?"  

So you come up with the following four models, and re-create as best as you can some historical examples for the clueless:

1.  Refugees from a war-torn area flood into a nearby land (and even some faraway lands), overwhelming the demographics.  The bloggers post that a people called the Syrians conquered the Lebanese, starting in 2011, but you're not so sure.  Your research finds the opposite: that there was a horrendous war in Syria, causing 11 million people to lose all their belongings and flee.  Therefore, you don't think these people were conquerors, but refugees.  Nevertheless, the stubborn bloggers point out how the record shows a massive DNA shift in Lebanon, where the Syrian markers went from 5% to 25% of the population in just three years.  

"It had to be conquest" they write, of powerful, rich, sophisticated men conquering the weak Lebanese.  

Alas, you tell them: it was the opposite: a beaten-down people streaming into a nearby land (and also places like Sweden), altering the gene pool.  In fact, Lebanon started with 5 million people, and absorbed an influx of 2.5 million refugees.  Thus, the autosomal genetics and uniparental frequencies were both significantly changed.  It's really as simple as that.

2. Disease.  In 1598, slaves from Africa were brought to a place called Puerto Rico.  They brought with them Yellow Fever, something the native American inhabitants did not have exposure or antibodies to.  

Although the natives were, under the caste system at the time, a couple of rungs higher than the African slaves, and although the natives had better sources of food and systems for dealing with the native landscape, they were killed off in the thousands simply because they didn't have antibodies to the new disease.  

But all the bloggers see is that Puerto Rico went from showing Native American DNA patterns to showing African (and European) DNA patterns.  And they cry, their must have been a conquest, led by the African newcomers!  You LOL, pointing out that these newcomers were slaves and vectors.

3.  Economic Opportunity.  The bloggers now discuss Los Angeles.  They point out that the DNA record shows that in the 1950s, Los Angeles was 80% inhabited by an ancient culture called, "whites."  By 2020, it was 60% Hispanic.  The record thus showed profound shifts in autosomal frequencies and Y-chromosome patterns.  

"There must have been a conquest!" the bloggers shout from the rooftops!  War!  Destruction!  A supreme powerful tribe of men, with better tools!  

No, you quietly assert.  Your research shows that poor Hispanic immigrants simply migrated to Los Angeles, looking for better economic opportunities than what existed back home.  Alas, the bloggers still don't grasp this example either.

4.  Simple Cultural Differences in Birthrates.  Palestinian women have vastly greater birthrates than their neighbors.  In the 1960s, it was 8 children per every female.  Even now, it's above 4.0 children for every woman.  The Israeli birthrate, while still relatively high at 3.0, is not as high.  By 2045, Palestinians may outnumber Israelis.  

Our future bloggers, looking at this from the perspective of the year 4017, may try to argue that there was a conquest by the Palestinians.  They must have had superior technology, they claim!  Better weapons!  

But again, your research (and history) shows this NOT to be the case.

Taking these four examples, you explain to the bloggers that many changes in DNA frequency, cannot be explained as "conquest" even though it's tempting for the simple-minded to do so.  

There are even examples of multiple of the above factors explaining demographic shifts.  For example, the Catholic Irish replacement of Anglo Saxons in many East Coast cities in the 1800s.  That was due to the Irish being refugees, seeking greater economic opportunity en masse, and having higher birthrates.  

Somewhere in the future, the intellectual heirs of Maciamo, Davidski, and many on Anthrogenica, are arguing that the Irish immigrants of the 1800s were in fact a technologically and militarily superior, overwhelming force of wealthy males who clearly conquered the British Americans of the time.

And you, and anyone with any degree of a nuances understanding of history, is still LOL'ing.