Mark Stoneking’s Four Models Of Human Origins

Mark Stoneking is a population geneticist at the Max Planck anthropology powerhouse. He uses genetics to study the origin, relationships, structure and migration patterns of human populations. He’s written up a review of the origins of humans in the journal EMBO Reports under the title, “Human origins. The molecular perspective.” I’ve tried to get access to it, but my library doesn’t have a subscription and I’m not really willing to dish out $18 to buy the 4 page paper. I rather buy a book with that sort of cash.

But Dienekes seems to have read it and he’s found the illustration of the different models of human evolution interesting. I’ve decided to share the image with you. Dienekes also discusses Stoneking’s understanding of Carleton Coon, the physical anthropologist who wrote “The Origin of Races” in 1962, which was thwarted by the big boys of the time, Sherwood Washburn and Ashley Montagu and further discredited with Lewontin‘s 1972 conclusion that there’s more differences within groups than between.

We’ve come a long way since then. With DNA chips able to detect many SNPs and with the lower costs of genetic screening, we can assess the genetic diversity of more people. Datasets are growing and patterns are emerging. We’re now able to isolate distinguishable genetic differences in places like Europe. In the past, I’ve argued that with these higher resolution and more ubiqutious technologies available, we shouldn’t be falling back on Lewontin’s Fallacy anymore. Saying a biological component to race doesn’t exist just doesn’t cut it anymore.

8 thoughts on “Mark Stoneking’s Four Models Of Human Origins

  1. But did Stoneking actually say that there wasn’t a biological component to race?
    It appeared to me that Dienekes simply took issue with Stoneking pointing out Coon’s racist views. Actually Dienekes says “There is actually no good reason to ascribe racist motivations to Coon’s model of human origins.” in response to Stoneking saying “The candelabra model was most prominently associated with the anthropologist Carleton Coon (1904–1981), and fell out of favour when he used it to promote racist views”
    So, while the actual model itself might not have implied “superiority and inferiority,” it was used to do so.

    As for whether or not Coon was promoting racist ideas (as Stoneking states and Dienekes denies), there are many sources that address this question such as this paper in the journal of the history of biology:

    Click to access coon.pdf


    The abstract states “The paper examines the interactions among Coon, segregationist Carleton Putnam, geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky, and anthropologist Sherwood Washburn. The paper concludes that Coon actively aided the segregationist cause in violation of his own standards for scientific objectivity.” And this wasn’t difficult to find…it was on Coon’s wikipedia page that you linked to. From what I read in that paper, Coon was a nasty piece of work.
    I am a bit confused when Dienekes said that although Coon suggested that different races crossed the sapiens threshold at different times, that didn’t mean that he was saying African’s had less time to evolve. In the paper I link to they discuss the main thesis set forth in Coon’s book:
    “Coon maintained that these five evolutionary jumps corresponded with
    what he saw as modern racial divisions among humans, with the Caucasoid
    race evolving 200,000 years before the Congoid.” So how does that work then?
    He might not have been intentionally racist in his work but he was happy to let (and help) his work be used to promote segregation.
    Anyway, I think Dienekes’ issues with this paper were cultural constructs ;)

  2. Do you see morphological differences between “races” though, enough to justify such a classification? From what I’ve been told, you really don’t.

    I also find the candelabra=racist a piss poor argument. Undoubtedly the person who championed it originally was dodgy, but it’s time to have open & honest discussions about these things without the stink of racism around it.

  3. Unfortunately, the accusations of racism do seem to scare many people away from doing some interesting research into human genetics. I hear so often that there are more similarities between races (or populations, ethnolinguistic groups, continents, or whatever grouping you choose) than there are differences so we shouldn’t bother with those…especially since they’re politically sensitive and can support racist ideas. Hmm…anything can be taken to support anything if one is willing to quote-mine and take things out of context, or lie…just look at the creationists…

    On the flip side, however, as scientists, I do think that we have a responsibility to be as clear as possible as to the meaning of our results…we also need to be diligent in fighting people/groups who misuse or misrepresent scientific results.

    Anyway, for me, differences between populations are interesting. Whether it’s trying to understand basic phenotypic differences of hair color/shape or more interesting adaptations to living in cold climates or high altitudes.

    Recent papers showing that one can fairly accurately differentiate between european populations has provided even more evidence that it is possible to divide humans into groups…these groups will differ based on markers used and samples collected, but the more data we get, the better the resolution. Doing the same with non-European populations will be much more difficult, but they’ve typically been underrepresented in global studies. Even the new HapMap3 which includes African ancestry Luhya and Maasai populations from Kenya and African-Americans is a very pathetic sampling of African diversity. In just one of the countries (a very small one in West Africa) where I do research there are over 50 languages spoken, with many dialects, and very different population histories. However, there are currently only published sequence data for a couple of “ethnolinguistic groups.” So it’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of sampling and a lot of fighting against the PC mafia all clamoring their mantras.

    There’s been an interesting, though odd, discussion over at
    Dienekes’ blog
    about a philosophy paper “Clustering humans: on biological boundaries.” I agree and disagree with you MonkeyMan (with what you said here and on your blog). We should be able to have discussions without the stink of racism…but I do think that it’s an interesting debate. Determining how to categorize humans when studying them is difficult, but it has to be done if any meaningful information is to be obtained…and there are many different ways in which researchers divide up populations.

  4. I hadn’t really planned on taking part in this discussion, but I am in the process of reading the Jackson paper and have already found an error. That error being the alleged dichotomy between the “New Anthropology” as practiced by Washburn and others and the older typological style as practiced by Coon. This is incorrect, Coon was fully aware of the New Synthesis and quoted Mayr, Dobzhansky, Simpson, Rensch, Huxley, and Wright, among others in The Origin of Races. As a matter of fact The Origin of Races was explicitly framed around the New Synthesis. I hope the paper gets more accurate from there.

  5. “or lie…just look at the creationists…”
    I find this comment both disturbing and outrageous.

    Disturbing because you have just labeled a large proportion of the worlds population as liars with nothing to back your comment up with. Outrageous because as someone who at the very least is reading an Anthropological website the contempt for aspects of human culture contained within the remark itself is staggering.

  6. Michael…I usually wouldn’t reply to such a blatant trolling, but I will make an exception this time.
    You may find my comment disturbing, outrageous or whatever other shocking adjective (like staggering) you want to stick in there…but that has no bearing on the truth of the statement. I suppose I should have qualified it as being the leaders of the creationist movement, or so called creation scientists or intelligent design proponents or “cdesign proponentsists,” (if you’re not familiar with that term then you are not well enough informed to criticize my comment) who do most of the lying. I will admit that many of the ‘true believers’ of creationism are not intentionally lying, rather they are just ignorant…many times, in my experience, willfully so.
    As for backing up that comment, since you’re also on an anthropological website, you have no excuse for not knowing that these people lie incessantly. If you want sources on this, just look…they’re not difficult to find. From your unwarranted outrage, I have to assume that either you are a creationist, or you’re so caught up in some postmodern, hyper-culturally-relativistic crap that you won’t criticize views of anyone, anywhere. You can not tell me that you have no contempt for any aspect of human culture anywhere.
    Anyway, get off of your high horse and either contribute to this discussion, or stagger on over to some other websites and read some about the tactics of these idiots you’re defending…there are countless resources documenting decades of lies. And yes, I do have contempt for people who denigrate science, promote ignorance, and lie to promulgate their anti-science worldviews…just as I have contempt for societies that brutalize and/or repress women, kill homosexuals, or commit other atrocities…and I’m not just “reading an anthropological website,” I’m actually an anthropologist. If my last comment disturbed you, surely this one will send you into a frenzy!

    afarensis…I would be very interested to hear what else you find wrong in that paper. It has been many years since I’ve studied anthropological theory and, even then, it wasn’t my focus and I spent very little time on Coon so I don’t have much background in this. I know that his letters are at the national anthropological archives and it would be great to read those…if one could find the time. Any other suggestions of papers or overviews of his you can recommend would be great!

  7. After reading the paper, I think I have to agree that the reception of Coon’s book was conditioned more by political events than the actual content of the book. Certainly, Coon didn’t seem to help himself much. Despite protesting that he was not responsible for how people used the book, he sure did go after critics. Having said that, I have the book and read it about ten years ago. I was prepared for something shockingly racist and controversial – having heard of the fuss over it. There were a few statements here and there that caused me a few raised eyebrows but I came away thinking there was a lot of overreacting going on. So I got it out last night and am in the process of rereading it. I may do a review on my blog, though I haven’t made up my mind yet.

  8. “Michael…I usually wouldn’t reply to such a blatant trolling, but I will make an exception this time.”
    I’m not trolling, but if I have made a situation that appears to you as though I am please accept my humble apology.

    “(if you’re not familiar with that term then you are not well enough informed to criticize my comment)”
    I am very familiar with these terms, I did after all grow up within these social groups and they are very social. I have also discussed a very similar thing on christianity.com with an ID proponent who made an off th cuff comment that every person within a certain group of christians were liars because they did not agree with his assumptions about the origins of everything.

    “but that has no bearing on the truth of the statement.”
    It doesn’t matter what descriptive words I use the fact is not every person in this group is a liar when you later start to qualify your statement.

    “As for backing up that comment, since you’re also on an anthropological website, you have no excuse for not knowing that these people lie incessantly. If you want sources on this, just look…they’re not difficult to find.”
    I have already explained my knowledge of “these people”

    “From your unwarranted outrage, I have to assume that either you are a creationist, or you’re so caught up in some postmodern, hyper-culturally-relativistic crap that you won’t criticize views of anyone, anywhere. You can not tell me that you have no contempt for any aspect of human culture anywhere.”
    Assume all you want, I have been and still have much to do with either social system, Anthropological science and Christianity, as well as Islam and many Indigenous religions, not to mention Communism etc are what my interest revolve around. These things are a way of life to many people around the world and regardless of what you think most are not liars when it comes to a discussion about these things. Now you may believe they are but how can someone who has not had the chance to know anything different be a liar?

    Regarding contempt for “any aspects of human culture anywhere” I have alot, and regarding criticism what do you think I posted before, it most certainly wasn’t praises for your diplomatic methods.

    “Anyway, get off of your high horse and either contribute to this discussion, or stagger on over to some other websites and read some about the tactics of these idiots you’re defending…there are countless resources documenting decades of lies.”
    Some would say thousands of years of lies! but I don’t know anyone but you and some people on christianity.com who would call all believers liars. Who said I’m defending anyone? Wow thats a big call and one you have no idea about. Its obvious you don’t appreciate people contributing there thoughts when they collide with yours.

    Its not about belief systems, its about respect and you have shown that you have very little for people who don’t follow your ideas and beliefs.

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