Monday, June 22, 2015

Henry Louis Gates: If Clementa Pinckney Had Lived

Henry Louis Gates Jr.
New York Times Op Ed.
June 18, 2015

"I have no doubt that had the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney lived, he would have become known — and celebrated — across our country for his leadership, rather than sealed immortally in tragedy, one more black martyr in a line stretching back to the more than 800 slave voyages that ended at Charleston Harbor.
"I know this because I filmed a long interview with Mr. Pinckney — who was killed in his church in Charleston, S.C., along with eight congregants on Wednesday evening — for a PBS documentary series three years ago. It was clear that there was a reason this young man had been called to preach at 13, to minister at 18, to serve in the State Legislature at 23, and to shepherd one of America’s most historic black churches at 26, reminding us of other prodigies — and martyrs — for whom the Good Book has served as a bedrock of public service. He was 41 when he died.
"It was Oct. 26, 2012, shortly before the last presidential election, and I was talking to Mr. Pinckney and to State Representative Kenneth F. Hodges about Robert Smalls, a slave who, at the height of the Civil War, commandeered a Confederate ship to sail to freedom beyond Charleston Harbor and ended up returning home to serve in the State Legislature during Reconstruction — representing the very area these two men now served.
“I think about what it must have felt like to be a young black man in America” back then, Mr. Pinckney told me, “to see the state and the country go through tremendous change and to have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of everybody.” He added that if Smalls, an escaped slave, could make “substantial, systematic changes,” then “I have the same kind of responsibility to work to make a difference.”
"Mr. Pinckney paused to clarify his words."

"“Now, well, do I say I’m Smalls?” he said. “No, because there’s only one, there’s only been one Robert Smalls. But I think, as being a House member who served in the old Beaufort district that he used to serve in and a state senator that serves that same area, I think I ought to give it my absolute best to try to make a difference with the lives of the people I represent and the people of South Carolina, whether it be in supporting public education, supporting our troops, or wanting to see all people do well in South Carolina.”
"All of these things, this quietly impressive man did, and did nobly.

"What makes rereading the transcript of our interview so poignant for me today is the reminder that, for one still so young, Mr. Pinckney was deeply aware of the history he carried within himself, a history of the courageous and the slain, of the triumphant and the terrorized. He was fluent in the lives and careers of brave black people who had served state and church since the Civil War. He was acutely conscious of the missed opportunities of Reconstruction, of the contradictions that could have been settled, of the innocent lives that could have been spared, a century before the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, had Americans following the Civil War only been willing to put racial healing and equal economic opportunity first.
"The “unfinished work” of America — to quote Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address — didn’t prevent him from loving the South and his country, and feeling a claim to its blessings. “I think it really says that America is changing,” he said of President Obama’s election, “and I think it signals to the world that the American dream is still alive and well.”
"Today, our interview seems so long ago. I asked him that day if we were still fighting the Civil War in South Carolina. He answered: “I think South Carolina has — and across the South we have — a deep appreciation of history. We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s histories. We have, you know, many reenactments across the state and sometimes in our General Assembly I feel that we’re fighting some of the old battles.”

"To know him, even over the course of an autumn Carolina afternoon, was to know a man who cherished the values on which our republic was founded, and who held an abiding faith that the great promise of America could, one day, be fulfilled. He was a unifier who, this past spring, taught us how to mourn in communion with one another, following the police slaying of Walter L. Scott, a black man, just north of his city. I don’t believe that he had the capacity to imagine the depth of malice and anger that came down on his congregation, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, on Wednesday night.

(read more)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

PaleoChron Archaeologists update discussion on Ksar Akil Dating

June 14, 2015

[Blog note:  This is a great technical discussion on current issues in the dating of the complex Ksar Akil site by the world renowned dating lab at Oxford.]

"We have had a lot of feedback and interest about our blog post from a couple of weeks ago and the issue of the dating of early modern humans at the site of Ksar Akil, so we thought we would look a bit more at the recent modeling in the PNAS paper of Bosch et al. We should say from the outset that we are hoping to write a reply to the paper but after discovering that PNAS will allow only 500 words and no images, we are thinking that it will have to be somewhere else!! In the meantime we think that it is important to discuss our thoughts now and that if there is a problem with a paper, people should know about it sooner rather than later. Some people will say why not wait, publish a response and go through peer review? Why write up something on a blog like this? Well, our feeling is that waiting months and months to submit to go through a review process is not good enough, especially since that review process is often so poor (as in the PNAS case, where we are told that 'a radiocarbon expert' was involved in the reviewing, but clearly did not know anything about modelling). There is a very interesting discussion at the moment over the merits of publishing online responses to papers where something is seriously wrong and which undermines the conclusions of the paper."

(read more)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Spencer Wells, Wolfgang Haak and Jean-Jacques Hublin Attempt To Bypass the Open Process of Science

Krefter today uses the Eurogenes blog thread to criticize my post on Bell Beaker:

For those of you who are still reading this blog, it is not my wish to call out professionals working in the field of ancient DNA.  However, I've spoken to a number of people about the practice of promoting one's work under pseudonyms online.  Everyone I've spoken with agrees that using pseudonyms to promote ones own papers, or professional self interest, is wrong.

Jean-Jacques Hublin blogs under many pseudonyms, including Krefter and Fanty.   He's been blogging under pseudonyms for years, but in the last few months, as I've put up material critiquing the Steppe Hypothesis as promoted by Haak et al,  he has taken to personally attacking me, including calling me a bitch and telling me to go and "do the dishes".   Today, he continues, using the Eurogenes blog to put words in my mouth, criticizing me, for things I have not said.  I copy the comment he has made above.

In addition to Jean-Jacques Hublin, other prominent researchers who use pseudonyns to promote their professional ideas are Spencer Wells, of the Genographic Project, and Wolfgang Haak.

Spencer Wells is on the executive board of the personal ancestry company FTDNA.  He blogs under the name Chad Rohlfsen on the Eurogenes blog and at the Anthrogenica Forum.  Spencer stands to personally profit from promoting the predictive power of ancient DNA studies to determine personal ancestry, even if the predictive power is not as good as he frequently suggests on these public forums. 

A few months ago, when someone posted a link to my blog on the Anthrogenica Forum, Spencer took it upon himself to announce regarding my blog that "that women is crazy" and "I wouldn't read her blog."  I didn't even know the Anthrogenica Forum existed until I followed the link from an incoming blog hit.  Discovering I was being called crazy, I inquired with the Anthrogenica blog monderators.  I specifically heard from DMXX, who didn't apologize or sanction Spencer's behavior, but instead blocked me from accessing the Anthrogenica Forum.  Many genetic ancestry academic researchers use this forum. I am sure that many of them are aware that Spencer Wells is using the forum to secretly advance his agenda.  I'm not sure if they are aware that members of the public get blocked from reading the forum when they ask why Spencer Wells is libeling them.

The Eurogenes blog is authored by a colleague of Spencer Wells, Wolfgang Haak.  Wolfgang's work is primarily funded by the Genographic Project.  Wolfgang is one of the chief proponents of the Mass Migration from the Steppe theory which has recently been published in the journals Science and Nature, and highly publicized online.  On his Eurogenes blog comment thread, I've pointed out several times that promotion of one's work under pseudonyms is unethical.  For that reason, Wolfgang has added a note in his blog comment thread, threatening people that if they respond to anything I post, he will turn on comment moderation. 

Wolfgang also comments at the Anthrogenica Forum under the pseudonym Generalissimo.

I know I am not the only victim of a smear campaign perpetrated by this group.  I know of at least two other members of the public that have been smeared.

It is sad that these "researchers" are conducting themselves in this way.  It is even more unacceptable that journals such as Science and Nature, who publish the work of Haak and Hublin, professional bodies such as the AAPA, and institutions such as the University of Adelaide, Harvard, and the Max Planck Institute, have no ethics policy regarding secret promotion of ones work online under pseudonyms and no policy preventing participating researchers from bullying members of the public under pseudonyms.

All of this can't be helping the public perception of ancient DNA research.