John Derbyshire On Wade vs. Cochran: A Correction
Print Friendly and PDF

I have unwittingly walked into a disagreement between Nicholas Wade and Gregory Cochran.

Commenting on Wade’s book A Troublesome Inheritance, Cochran observed:

When Wade talks about adaptation to high altitude among Tibetans occurring in only 3000 years, it makes me itch.  Sure, it’s Rasmus Nielsen’s mistake, but I itch.  When he says that Ashkenazi Jews are 5% to 8% European – when the real number is at least 45%, probably higher – I know it’s Harry Ostrer’s mistake, based on an outright lie by Doron Behar, but I still itch.

[A Troublesome Inheritance, West Hunter, May 6th 2014.]

In my review of reviews of Wade’s book I mentioned Cochran’s criticisms:

Probably the best-qualified reviewer to date—the one, I mean, with the deepest knowledge of human genetics—has been Gregory Cochran at the West Hunter blog. Says he:

“The book is generally reasonable, but Wade is not a geneticist, and it shows. His errors on genetics mostly don’t make much difference, but they make me itch, not least when it’s a subject close to my heart.”

Cochran—co-author with Henry Harpending of the 2009 book The 10,000-Year Explosion, which covers some of the same ground as A Troublesome Inheritance—proceeds to chide Wade for some factual carelessness, but gives an overall endorsement of the book’s central thesis …

Wade has protested to Cochran that what Cochran calls errors by Wade are in fact only points of disagreement that Cochran happens to have with published authors whom Wade cited.  Obviously Wade does not share Cochran’s disagreement with those authors.

If I cite a respectable published academic paper which I believe to be right, and you think the paper is wrong, have I made an error?

It seems to me a fair point, but I’m going to let the two learned gents sort it out between themselves.  If Cochran has second thoughts, or wants to double down on his first thoughts, I’m sure he will post accordingly on West Hunter.

I only want to register regret at having charged Wade, at second hand, with “some factual carelessness,” when that seems not to be a fair description of the passages in question.


Print Friendly and PDF