Re: Mitochondrial "Eve"

Vincent DeLuca (
2 May 1995 03:25:01 GMT

In <> (J. Moore)
>Vi> >>Even in the "out of Africa" scenerio proposed by Cann and
>Vi> >>Homo sapiens evolves from Homo erectus. It is therefore
>Vi> >>to argue that no Homo erectus genes have been passed on to Homo
>Vi> >>sapiens.
>Vi> >>
>Vi> >>The mtDNA analysis is one piece of a very important debate
>Vi> >>place in anthropology today and the question is by no means
>Vi> >>As to the issue of genocide the problem with this hypothesis is
>Vi> >>that there is no evidence to support it, either for Homo erectus
>Vi> >>or for Australopithecines.
>Vi> >>Phil Nicholls
>Vi> > Please excuse the error. I did not mean that there were
>Vi> no identical , or nearly identical genes, in H. Erectus
>Vi> H. Sapiens. I was misunderstood. As H. Sapiens came
>Vi> of Africa and replaced H. Erectus there was NO
>Vi> INTERBREEDING and hence no gene exchange. This
>Vi> from the work on Mitochondrial DNA by Wilson
>Vi> and Rebecca Caan.
>Vi> Vincent1.
>This is not a consequence of what the MtDNA data showed. First, it
>shows a lineage back a certain (and somewhat arbitrary) distance.
>Second, it's only one side of the lineage. The initial claims WERE
>more like what you said here, as Allan Wilson (who generally did the
>presentations) put forth the idea of one population replacing another
>by killing it off. This wasn't, however (as I mentioned above) a
>consequence that followed from the data.
>I think the problem arose as it often does in paleoanthropology, from
>people who work with certain primary data (such as fossils, or
>molecular studies of various kinds) making conclusions without doing
>other sorts of study that the field requires. In one sense I don't
>blame them -- it's a hell of a lot of work. But if they don't want to
>do the work, they should either present their data without sweeping
>conclusions or team up with someone who knows the other parts of the
>field. In the case of Wilson and Cann they didn't do that; they
>that knowing the molecular data somehow imbued them with knowledge
>allowed them to simply bypass any more than cursory additional study
>the rest of the field.
>This is, sadly, a not uncommon problem. Partly it's because few
>have a very extensively varied educational background in the field. I
>mean that if you wanted to have a great background for studying human
>evolution, you might want someone with, for instance, a pre-med
>followed by graduate anthro experience with maybe RA (research
>assistant) work in physical anthro with Sherwood Washburn, RA in
>cultural anthro with Cliff Geertz, maybe some work as an RA in
>linguistic anthro with Dell Hymes, and perhaps throw in an MA in
>education. But anthropologists like that are hard to find.
>The most likely way to get around this is to study the other stuff on
>your own, or extensively consult with others before making claims
>outside your own field of expertise. The early MtDNA "Eve" articles
>were an example of how not to come up with a conclusion. (Good,
>innovative work; bad conclusion.)
>A couple of sidenotes about all this: I saw Wilson at the AAA meetings
>once where he gave a plenary address on this (a couple years after it
>first broke) and he claimed to be surprised at creationists and the
>using his work as "support" for their views. He protested that he was
>perplexed at how they could do that, just because he used the word
>and repeatedly spoke of "the mother of us all" etc. The moral of that
>is: watch out for catchy metaphors; they can and usually will come
>to haunt you (S. J. Gould has had the same thing happen to him, and I
>contend that only a fool could really be surprised).
>The other sidenote is that Wilson did change his "they killed them
>tune and I may have been there when he did. Nancy Tanner and I were
>the first row for a talk by Wilson at a conference in Southhampton.
>were sitting there, very interested in the subject, and he certainly
>noticed us. (Nancy had an extremely expressive face, and even people
>didn't know often mentioned after they'd given a talk that they
>on Nancy's face as they talked, because they could tell exactly how
>were doing.) Well, in this case, Nancy and I were nodding in unison
>Wilson made his points, and I thought afterward it must have looked
>rather comical as we nodded together as he made each point. This went
>on for 10 or 15 minutes, until Wilson got to his point about "they
>killed them off". At that point, without looking at each other, nancy
>and I, still in unison, firmly shook our heads "no!". Wilson peered
>over the lectern directly at us, and paused for a moment before
>gathering his thoughts and finishing his talk. The next time we heard
>him, that part of the MtDNA "Eve" hypothesis was gone.
>Jim Moore (
> * Q-Blue 1.0 *

Dear Jim,
Very delighted and enlightened with your post.