Friday, May 16, 2014

On the validity of Cochran and Harpending’s effort

In a debate some of the things I was writing about Cochran and Harpending’s book were challenged.  It was asserted that genetics ought not to be allowed to have precedence over “established historical fact.”  I responded as follows:

Wow. Genetic “facts” are falsifiable in the laboratory. “Historical facts” whether “established” or not – are not, making genetic “facts” factier than historical ones, if what you mean by “fact” has anything to do with provable “truth.” In “fact” historians don’t usually say things like “historical facts” because history is based upon records written by humans, testimony in other words, and testimony is not considered reliable enough to refer to it as a established fact. If more than one person says the same thing then it is deemed a bit more reliable than if one person says it, but still . . . groups of people have testified to seeing flying saucers and not everyone considers their testimony to be an “established fact.”

What Cochran and Harpending have done in their book is a work of consilience, applying the latest conclusions from geology, archeology, and genetics to history – or rather, applying those disciplines to each other. “History” that hasn’t agreed with archeology and geology has been modified until it does. And now the same thing must occur in regard to genetics.

Cochran and Harpending are not breaking much new ground. Cavilli Sforza (father and son) wrote The Great Human Diasporas, the History of Diversity and Evolution” back in 1993. Bryan Sykes has done something very like that in his Saxons, Vikings, and Celts. Cochran and Harpending have gone beyond Sykes in some respects but not hugely so.

And while you haven’t offered any “established historical” facts or even references in regard to what went on during Cortes conquering of the Aztecs, try reconciling the testimony of the people who were there or quoted people who were there. Bernal Diaz was there. He was one of Cortes’ conquistadors and awarded for his heroic acts by being made governor of Guatemala. What he wrote supports what Cochran and Harpending wrote about Cortes as I understand it. When Cortes first faced huge numbers in his first battle, numbers as much as 300 to 1 at certain points according to one witness, Cortes had 400 soldiers on the ground.

Being raised in Southern California I was exposed to a lot of Spanish History as I grew. I had more interest in it in college than later on, primarily because historians writing in English weren’t all that interested in Spanish history . . . apparently Spanish historians weren’t all that interested in it either from what I read. But now we have many more of the early texts available in English as well as a few more historians taking up various aspects. O’Callaghan’s Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain published in 2003 interests me.

No comments: