Last Tuesday's Secret Science Club lecture featured the triumphant return of Princeton University biologist Lee Silver. The topic of the lecture was tracing genotypes to specific populations through time, the combination of genetics and geography to trace one's ancestry.
After briefly discussing mitochondrial DNA, and the common female ancestor of modern humans (he preferred "MoM"- mother of mankind, or mother of millions- to "Eve", which was used by creationists to distort the scientific findings), he went on to discuss the common male ancestor of modern humans, traced through DNA on the Y-chromosome. Following this was a brief dicussion of male reproduction throughout history, and the "kill the d00dz, mate with the females" model of warfare (using Genghis Khan, er make that Genghis Khan as an example). Dr Silver then demonstrated maps of various haplogroups. As an example, the gene for blue eyes most likely originated in a single ancestor living in the Black Sea region, then spread to Europe, the Near East, and certain regions of Asia (please note, googling "blue eyes" & genes results in a lot of racist website hits, hence this link to a beautiful, though non-informative web page). Dr. Silver ended his talk with a discussion of his own background, as traced through his Y-chromosome. Of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, his assumption of having Levantine ancestors was borne out, but he discovered that, in the Middle Ages, one of his male ancestors was of East Asian extraction, perhaps a trader who traveled west on the Silk Road. The lecture was followed by a Q&A, in which some bastard asked Dr. Silver if rumors of the demise of Y-chromosome were exaggerated (his reply was that this was unlikely to occur). Another audience member brought up the topic of human speciation, and Dr. Silver indicated that, with greater incidence of interbreeding, this would be most likely to occur due to genetic manipulation).
Once again, Dr. Silver delivered an informative, entertaining talk. After the lecture, I was able to talk briefly with Dr. Silver, and I must say that his warmth and compassion are equal to his eloquence and erudition.
Postscript: Before the lecture, I prepared myself for the impending Kiwi cultural imperialism by hitting Down Under Bakery and getting a pie for dinner.