Playing the Indian Card

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Nature of Stings

World distribution of haplogroup X. Results for the Americas are Indians only.

CBC, The Nature of Things, and David Suzuki are suddenly in trouble for making a documentary about the “Solutrean hypothesis.” Briefly, the “Solutrean hypothesis” suggests that the Americas might have been first settled by people coming from Europe, across the ice sheet during the last ice age.

The problem, apparently, is that this theory has recently been embraced by “white supremacists.”

It is fun to see David Suzuki and the CBC being raked over the greenhouse-gas-rich coals: it is nice to see the left devouring itself. Which seems to be happening increasingly often. But something also smells funny. The National Post piece on the controversy explains the hypothesis is “so toxic, and so discredited among mainstream researchers that documentary director Robin Bicknell said she could barely find anyone willing to go on camera even just to say it was wrong.”

That does not sound right, does it? There is no problem in finding scientists who will explain why we know that the earth is not flat, that the sun does not orbit the earth, or that Nazi race theories were bunk. No problem at all. The only reason scientists might be reluctant to go on camera saying the theory is wrong is that it is very likely to be true. Only then do they face a problem—and otherwise academics love publicity. If they admit it is quite likely to be true, they will be accused of white supremacy, and their career is over. But if they say it is false, and in a couple of years it is generally accepted as correct, their career is over. Nobody wants to be the first to stick their bearded turtleneck out.

This is what you get when you politicize science.

But who is most guilty of that? A few hundred “white supremacists,” whatever that apparently infinitely malleable term currently means? Or the huge number on the left, apparently a majority of us all, and including the Canadian establishment, who maintain that there is some great political, legal, and moral significance to whose ancestors arrived in North America first?

Now it seems they risk being hoist on their own flint-knapped arrowheads, and they of course do not like it.

I am not qualified to evaluate the theory myself, but this fear factor alone makes me think it must be true.

Let’s look, though, at the arguments the article gives that it is not true:

“There is, for example, no evidence of Solutrean seafaring, and no evidence of their cave art in North America, which would be unusual for a people known for the elaborately painted Cave of Altamira in Spain.”

Absence of evidence is of course not evidence of absence. Given the vast area and low pre-Columbian populations, finding anything in particular from the period is a needle in a haystack proposition. People were searching for a century or more before they turned up the first Viking site at L’Anse-aux-Meadows. Vessels, needing to be light, would presumably be made of light wood and hides. It is unlikely any wood and hides would survive for 20 millennia. Nevertheless, this new theory comes amid a generally growing realization among archaeologists that remote human ancestors were far more able and eager seafarers than we previously believed. They made it over sea to Australia 50,000 years ago. Polynesians made it island by island all across the Pacific. Someone populated islands in the Mediterranean 80,000 years ago.

Cave art? Presumably, if the Solutreans came across on the edges of the ice sheet, they were getting their living from the sea. In Suzuki’s words, they were “lured by the neverending bounty of the sea.” Accordingly, they would probably have stayed at least at first, perhaps at last near the sea coast when they arrived. Sea levels are substantially higher now than they were 20,000 years ago; any cave art the left is likely to be underwater- perhaps 50 miles out from shore.

Accordingly, needles may well yet be found in this almost entirely unexamined haystack.

The documentary notes significant European genetic markers in Canadian Indians. Indeed, whether or not the Solutrean hypothesis is true, this large element of European genetic material in the Indians of eastern Canada must still somehow be accounted for. It is important new data—we did not know about this until we sequenced the human genome, and it seems to defy the traditional theory of arrival from Asia, and no contact before Leif Erickson.

However, the article counters,

“According to Moreno-Mayar, …, there is another more plausible way to account for the presence of the relevant genetic marker, which was found in three of forty teeth analyzed. This marker, known as haplogroup X, was picked up by the ancestors of Native Americans as they encountered Ancient North Eurasians on their migration northeast towards Siberia, and eventually North America.”

Unfortunately, this explanation is not nearly as plausible. The problem is that haplogroup X is found concentrated in the northeast section of North America. This theory makes it go all the way around the world to get there, leaving no traces anywhere else long the way. No traces of the haplogroup in modern Siberia, anywhere in East Asia, in Central Asia, in Central or South America, or in Western North America. All areas these people would have to transit, presumably mating on the way. That’s like going from Toronto to Oshawa via Edmonton. Without ever stopping for gas.

World distribution of haplogroup R, even more common in Canadian Indians than haplogroup X. (Results for the Americas are Indians only)

The National Post article does not mention it, but according to Wikipedia, the ultimate disproof of the Solutrean hypothesis is a recently discovered skeleton:

“In 2014, the autosomal DNA of a male infant from a 12,500-year-old deposit in Montana was sequenced. The DNA was taken from a skeleton referred to as Anzick-1. The skeleton was found in close association with several Clovis artifacts. Comparisons showed strong affinities with DNA from Siberian sites, and virtually ruled out any close affinity of Anzick-1 with European sources (see the "Solutrean hypothesis"). The DNA of the Anzick-1 sample showed strong affinities with sampled Native American populations, which indicated that the samples derive from an ancient population that lived in or near Siberia, the Upper Palaeolithic Mal'ta population.”

It is hard for this layman to see why this is relevant; it looks a lot like a red herring. If they are saying that this corpse matches genetically with Siberia and with modern Indians, they are also saying that it cannot account for the European haplogroup found in modern Indians. The discovery apparently shows that this particular skeleton, far away from the East Coast, far away from where the Solutrians are supposed to have lived, and far away from the modern Indian groups with the haplogroup X chromosome, and dating to a time after the Beringia land bridge, knew how to craft Clovis points. But this is nothing we did not already know, without seeing the skeleton, and does not affect the Solutrean hypothesis, formed with this background knowledge. It seems significant only if you accept what seems to be the current weird orthodoxy on the left, that culture is a genetic trait, and nobody can “appropriate” anything from another culture. So if one non-Solutrian could make such points, however much later, it cannot have come from the Solutrians.

So: if you find someone who eats pizza and is not Italian, that proves pizzas are not originally Italian and there were never Italians in contact with them? Really?

If there were a betting market in this, I would put down money that, in another ten or twenty years, the Solutrian hypothesis will be in all the school texts.

Those on the left may not really want to argue that this invalidates any special aboriginal claims to North American land. But by all means.

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