Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Non-Technical Review of the "10,000 Year Explosion".


Nope. I didn't write it. I'm neither a qualified nor an impartial judge for Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending's 2009 "The 10,000 Year Explosion".

That out of the way, I'll tell you what I did. I did something better: I searched the net for reviews to outsource the task. This is what I found.

Like most books, "The 10,000 Year Explosion" has had multiple reviews, some more technical, some less so, some favourable, others no so much, from the broader public and scholars.

Then I found this really thought-provoking gem. I consider it so for several reasons. Its author is one Emil O. W. Kirkegaard (unrelated to that Kierkegaard): he sounds like a normally intelligent and reasonably educated layman with a self-professed interest in science. Given that scholarly reviews commend the book for its non-technical language, appropriate to undergraduates, Kirkegaard's judgement suggests how the book could be received by its public.

Just as importantly, Kirkegaard is highly enthusiastic and his review leaves no room for doubt on that. I'll quote only the opening paragraph (do read the whole thing). Without further ado (emphasis mine):

"Review of The 10000 Year Explosion (Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending)
"November 7, 2012 by Emil O. W. Kirkegaard
"This is a nontechnical overall introduction to how human evolution has happened. it mentions a lot of stuff i didnt know. i wud have liked more references. the book is openly race realist, and i was waiting for it to mention that the reason Africa is so backwards is that africans are so dumb, but it was only hinted at. instead, the authors focused the last chapter on a higher than average group, the jews. this is probably a smart move. once it has been acknowledged that the asians and jews are smarter than whites, one cannot shrug off other racial differences as being due to white racism, white supremacy, biased IQ tests, and so on."

How much of that is only a reflection of a non-professional reviewer's previous biases? Co-author Henry Harpending's profile at the Southern Poverty Law Center suggests Kirkegaard did not distort the book's basic message much, if at all.


Social democracy has always been little more than a conclusion in search of an argument. That is not peculiar to social democracy. With social democrats, however, this became an art form.

That pre-ordained conclusion is twofold: (1) capitalism must be saved come what may, and (2) they are capitalism's saviours.

To uphold that conclusion is costly. New challenges pop up every day. In an emergency, any argument supporting The Conclusion will have to do. That explains social democrats' attraction to Keynes and to the less mainstream versions of his ideas. That also explains their often hard to disguise adoption of extreme right-wing ideas: ready-made arguments galore.

Fear not, a long and boring argument is not in this post. There is, I think, a more efficient argument. A picture is worth a thousand words:


In this particular case, however, the label "post Keynesian" involves not only a shady social democratic blogger posing as an academic while endorsing kooky thinkers with kooky ideas and links to doubtful groups, but real academics with a professional reputation to maintain who might think those endorsements aren't such a good idea. Like Caesar's wife, public intellectuals must be not only chaste, but beyond suspicion.

You see the problem there, don't you?


Tyler Cowen reviews "The 10,000 Year Explosion" (January 22, 2009).

Steven Pinker's guarded but otherwise sympathetic comment on their earlier (and to Pinker evidently flattering) 2005 paper "Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence", also reported in their book. It's interesting to observe Pinker attempting to remain impartial and detached. To his credit, he did try. Did he succeed? You be the judge.

Image Credits:
[A] "The BADGER explosion on April 18, 1953, as part of Operation Upshot-Knothole, at the Nevada Test Site". Author: National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office. Source: Wikimedia. Work in the public domain.


  1. I doubt that social democrats would appreciate being linked to the alt-left and race realism. Neither would Keynes, but he's resting in peace.

    Have you done an exposé on the alt-L ?

  2. Hi Bob,

    I doubt that social democrats would appreciate being linked to the alt-left and race realism.

    I, too, doubt they would appreciate it, Bob, particularly the rank and file, unaware as I'm sure they are, of how sausages are really made.

    But, paraphrasing that thriller Red Dragon, I'm a reporter, I'm here to report.

    Neither would Keynes, but he's resting in peace.

    I, too, believe he wouldn't. But in his case, unlike the rank and file, I have plenty reservations about his sincerity. He, after all, was an eugenicist.

    I'd add that his attitude towards Nazi-Fascism was rather unclear.

    I'm not suggesting he was an open supporter. No. Among other things, his sexual preferences would have made an open embrace of Nazi-Fascism really awkward.

    But, although he was very outspoken politically (against Marxism, against Trotsky, against Versailles, against Labour, against the Tories, you name it) he never really spoke out against Nazi-Fascism. The only written comment he ever made about Nazi-Fascism, that I'm aware of (I'm not a Keynes' expert, btw), is far from being a condemnation.

    Neither Mussolini nor Hitler seemed too interested on Keynes, but what evidence exists points that Mussolini did not see Fascism as antagonistic with Keynes' ideas, quite to the contrary.

    Keynes, too, thought that Fascist Italy was not beyond hope: Mussolini was getting his wisdom teeth, or something, he wrote.

    He famously wrote that preface to the German edition of the General Theory. He called German rulers (not Hitler personally and by name) unchained crazies or something, but Nazi Germany itself was not beyond hope, either.

    Have you done an exposé on the alt-L

    Nope. I'm not really interested on that and it is already known that there is an alt-left.

  3. The least you could do is make them aware of how sausages are made. Lord Keynes' website and alt-L worldviews deserve to be exposed to the sunshine. They bemoan the fact that the alt-R gets more attention than they do.

    I wonder if socdems, liberals and progressives are choosing to remain silent about the alt-L, but it could be that the alt-L is too obscure to have gotten on their radar.

    Nice exposé on the original Keynes, but the man is dead. No amount of evil heaped upon his corpse will dispel his nefarious influence. Just look at Marx, who is perhaps the most feared and despised man of our times.

    1. As someone who attempted sustained "debate" with LK across dozens of posts over the course of more than a year, I can attest that there's nothing to be gained from drawing attention to that little dishonest weasel and his small circle of fash-abetting lickspittles.

    2. Bob, what Hedlund says is true. There's no point debating that character. Hedlund and I discussed that.

      What I've never understood is how can Mega Keynes v.2 have that unshakeable hold on those people. It can't be just his fake online scholarship.

      I can't imagine what kind of cognitive weakness affecting his clique could explain that.

      It has to be something in "Lord Keynes".

    3. I would like to see that discussion between you and Hedlund. I have wanted to introduce the alt-L to a wider audience since first hearing about them. I haven't debated them, but I casually follow the YT channel of a Canadian blogger by the name of Ernest Everhard/agent commie. I've seen a few MMT aware folks trying to influence him in terms of economics.

      Is it worth it to draw attention to these guys? In my opinion, the left in Europe has become useless. Immigration and austerity are big issues there and the left is seemingly on the losing side. I'd rather see progressive xenophobes than the usual fascists who will use the working class as cannon fodder.

      If LK and his little band had chosen to call themselves 'classical liberals' instead of adopting the alt-L moniker, they'd have gained more traction. There is a YouTuber named Sargon of Akkad who calls himself a classical liberal and has a large following of right wing, alt-R, and anti SJW folks. Sargon has to pander to his audience of reactionaries, but there is the possibility that putting forth progressive policies on the economic front might sway some of his followers.

      I may be wrong in my thinking here, but that's how I see the political situation. That being said, I wouldn't have brought any of this up if it hadn't been for this topic. It's been a year since I've visited LKs blog or given much thought about the alt-L. The Canadian blogger I follow makes few videos. His blog is more active though. From the Canadian perspective, immigration is not as big an issue, but there are antis itching to get their voices heard.

    4. @Bob

      I would love to see that discussion [about the futility of discussing "Lord Keynes"] between you and Hedlund.

      Read the comment thread to "Forstater on MMT and Labour Theory of Value"

      Regarding the "progressive xenophobes" thing. I understand your position, Bob. I truly do. And I sympathise as well. Foreign workers are only allowed in developing countries to lower wages. I understand that.

      I think it's easy for arrogant, self-satisfied middle class buffoons who have lost nothing to demonise those who are losing big time with the whole globalisation thing.

      Having said all that, the term "progressive xenophobe" and what it implies is a contradiction in terms. It's a trick to divide the working class: it's not the capitalists who let those foreign workers in who are our enemies, no, it's the poor devils who come here driven by misery at home.

      There are plenty examples of that in Australia, but they may not tell much to overseas readers like yourself. Perhaps you have heard of the alleged "wellfare queens" in the US, much closer to you.

      Or better, let me try a well-publicised example of a few years back: the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn and illegal migrants. Their country has been plundered by the Eurozone bureaucrats on behalf of the European capitalists, and the problem those guys choose to fight is a bunch of black guys who on top don't want to stay in Greece?

      Politically, it's just a diversion. And it would be a costly diversion.

      You commented the other day about powerful people ready to fight to keep things as they are. Our strength lies on (1) being too many and (2) the fact that they need us but we don't need them: it's us who cook for them, who build their houses and make their cars, we fight their wars. Like an elephant surrounded by soldier ants, they can stomp on us and smash hundreds or thousands of us, but they can't exterminate us: (1) there's many more of us where those came from and (2) the elepahnt lives on us, without us it dies. We, on the other hand, don't need them.

      Realistically, beyond improving those people's living conditions back home and facilitating their integration within the working class in our societies, I think there's nothing one can do to reduce that flow, let alone to stop it. And if in spite of improvements they still wanted to come, I think we shouldn't try to stop them: this way our own working class ends up strengthened, united, instead of divided.

      And if Wallace-Wells' prognostications are right, we should brace ourselves for a real human tsunami. Short of genocide, there's no stopping that.

    5. Thanks for the link, Magpie. His 'charlantanry' is acceptable so long as his views are consistent. I have a rough outline of alt-L positions, with anti-immigration as a unifying issue.

      Does LK devote an inordinate amount of time writing about immigration issues? I'd expect a genuine left movement to emphasize progressive economic policies and to criticize austerity.

      RE. the diversion/deflection of anger
      When socio-economic conditions deteriorate, opportunists show up promising a new approach. Trump is a case in point, with his populist, anti-immigrant, pro neo-liberal, pro 1% agenda. How do you propose to stop the scapegoating of immigrants and the poor?

      Europe (read, the EU) has the means to control who gets to live within its borders. The question is how brutal the enforcement will be. In the face of millions of climate refugees, it wouldn't surprise me if borders were slammed shut.

      I have read stories about the treatment of unwanted immigrants and refugees to Australia. They are sent to detention camps on remote tropical islands. This policy appears to be politically acceptable to the majority of the electorate. How would you change their minds?

      Globalism was introduced to serve the interests of the 1%. The ideals inspired by globalism/open borders might appeal to about 10% of the population in the developed world, namely those who are doing well economically. That leaves around 90% of the electorate to decide where they stand on immigration.

      It won't be called a genocide for those of us within fortress Europe or fortress Australia or fortress North America. It will be called a tragedy, a humanitarian disaster, or simply not reported on the news. I expect the wringing of hands and plenty of crocodile tears.

  4. Note: I no longer follow MNE due to the poor quality of many of the articles posted there. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Tom Hickey has resumed linking to LK's blog.

    1. Now that you mention it, Bob, yes, I had noticed you are no longer commenting there. In fact, a lot of people aren't. Those who still do seem to be a fraction of what it once was.

      I suppose one could say it's an ecological change. Kind of a mass extinction :-)

      I imagine part of that is unavoidable. As the economy sort of stumbles out of recession, people lose interest on that sort of thing. Things look less dramatic. The unemployed get a job and have less time to spend on web surfing.

      But I don't think that's the whole story.

      For one, one would need to be blind to not see that the new "Lord Keynes" 10K Year posts are a reaction to the discussion Auburn Parks (and Wilson) and I had. The Red Menace scored a point, so they had to come up double quick with an argument to save capitalism. The Conclusion must be upheld!

      Me, I abstained from visiting the place some time ago, precisely because of that. Then, I started again.

      But it's not just that. I have noticed how little by little right wing stuff seems to be taking the place over. Moreover, it's generally the ring wing stuff that is received favorably and gets more commented.

      I was wondering some time ago why they still post lefty material at all. To keep up appearances? To avoid repelling the unconverted? A kind of bait and switch thing? Look, we are lefties, unconventional, virulently anti-neoliberal, while feeding people the same old right wing crap.

      Frankly, I can't blame you. And it's a shame, cause the more they are left alone, the more they will fool the unawares.

      Do you yourself have a blog? Other places you visit?

    2. MNE has become a talk shop, preaching to the choir. Many of the links would be better served if they were posted to sites like the Daily Kos. How many times do we need to read that Russiagate is being overblown?

      I don't mind the right wing stuff if it's MMT-related. But there seems to be a trend of less MMT content and more chattering class politics. The blog itself could be renamed to Tom Hickey's Smörgåsbord of Political Thought.

      I don't have a blog. There are a few sites I frequent, depending on which topics I'm interested in. For example, I used to follow the Men's Right's movement, along with anti-feminist and anti-SJW circles, and now I don't. I followed them to learn their perspective and moved on once my curiosity and interest dwindled. I'm currently following two sites focused on climate change and ecology. If these are of interest to you, they're called Ecosophia and Nature Bats Last. I follow Billy blog for MMT related topics. I visit Space.com for the latest astronomical news. I used to post at RevLeft forums for a number of years, but nowadays I just visit to get their take on current events. I'm a regular reader of WSWS which is a Trotskyist site.

      With MNE struck from the list, I have more time for reading your site :)