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March 29, 1991 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1991-03-29
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Controversy in the
Garden of Eden

There is No Political Solution...

by David Rheingold

The history of human
evolution has always been
surrounded by skepticism,
debate, and controversy.
It comes as no surprise, then,
that four years ago, when a group
of researchers at the University of
California at Berkeley announced
that they had discovered the
mother of the entire human race,
they ignited a flurry of debate
among scientists.
This woman, who they said
lived in Africa 200,000 years ago,
was aptly called "Eve" by the
media and the scientific
But unlike her Biblical
namesake, the first woman
created, this Eve supposedly was
the last common ancestor shared
by every person alive today. '
Naturally, the Eve theory l
posed a threat to many
anthropologists who believed 1
that fossils indicated a gradual
evolution of the human race over
millions of years.I
One such person was Milfordt
Wolpoff, a professor of1
anthropology here at thea
University of Michigan. Wolpoff'
vehemently attacked the Eve
theory in conferences and
meetings since the Berkeley
scientists' Jan. 1, 1987
announcement, becoming
perhaps the most vocal member
of the opposition.
"He's the central figure," said
David Frayer, an anthropologist
at the University of Kansas. "He's
the central figure not only from
the morphological-
paleoanthropological perspective,
but he's also well-versed in
molecular genetics. He argues on
both levels."
Wolpoff had already co-
written a 1984 paper entitled
"The Theory of Multi-Regional
Evolution," which said groups of
ancient humans, who were
spread across Europe and Asia,
remained isolated enough to
develop distinct regional
characteristics, but also
intermingled with other groups,
yielding a "gene flow" of
favorable traits to ensure
One unconventional feature of
the Berkeley group's research was
that they did not rely on fossils
uncovered from the dusty
African plains, but instead
worked with genetics within a hi-
tech laboratory.
After convincing 147 women

to donate their placentae to
science, the geneticists peered into
the cells, examining cigar-shaped
structures called mitochondria.
Mitochondria, which generate
cellular energy, contain a small
amount of DNA, the genetic
blueprint of life. Mitochondrial
DNA, however, is inherited solely
through females, since male
sperm cells do not deliver the
structures to the female's egg.
Since the mitochondrial DNA of
the father never mix with that of
the mother, every child's
mitochondrial DNA is identical
to that of his or her mother.
The only disruptions in the
ongoing inheritance of
mitochondrial DNA are random
mutations, which are the results
of any of several different
processes which make the DNA
sequence diverge from its original
The Berkeley geneticists said
these mutations occur at a steady
rate. By calculating this rate,
they attempted to work
backward to determine how long
ago the ancestors of the 147
women - who represented five
continents - diverged.
The women's mitochondrial
DNA were similar, indicating
that they had a common,
relatively recent ancestor. The
genetic branches all traced back
to the African type of
mitothondrial DNA, indicating
to the scientists that Africa was
the origin of the gene pool.
The Eve theory implied that
the older, more primitive
humans, who were thriving
throughout various parts of
Europe and Asia at the time,
must have vanished to make way
for the incoming Africans. Since
such populations as Java Man,
homo ereaus, Peking Man and
Neanderthals left no traces in the
mitochondrial DNA record, they
would have to have been totally
replaced by the Africans with
little or no interbreeding.
Wolpoff calls this a
"Pleistocene Holocaust."
"They'd have to kill them all
off. They'd have to be killer
Africans," he said.
"But their theory can mean
something else," Wolpoff
explained. "It could mean that
when these invading Africans
came and replaced people, that
the African women interbred
with the men in the populations
they were replacing. Therefore,

the women's genes got passed
down through the mitochondria.
If you think about it, that sounds
"But usually," he continued,
"when populations come and
replace other populations, or
during a war or during any kind
of a time when one population
meets another, the dominant
population kills off the men and
they take the women into their
own population."
Wolpoff dismisses this
possibility. "This is craziness.
These stories can't be true. This is
an interpretation which simply
can't be true. And besides, I have
a lot of trouble with the whole
business about women being
incorporated and men not being
incorporated. These are sexist
ideas and I don't know why they
find their way into
anthropology," he said.
Christopher Stringer, a
paleoanthropologist at the
Natural History Museum in
London, said it's possible that the
migrating Africans may have
simply been more adept at
survival than the older, more
primitive hominids.
Stringer said he's argued for 17
years that the fossil evidence
indicates that modern humans
recently diverged from a common
origin and, consequently, replaced
the existing populations.
"I see this as probably
competition for the different
groups - economic competition
- over natural resources. I see
them (Neanderthals) as fading
away rather than being killed off
instantly. The Neanderthals did
not disappear overnight,"
Stringer said.
But Wolpoff insists that if
Neanderthals and humans were
living side-by-side, they would
have interbred.
Penn State biochemist Mark
Stoneking, one of the researchers
who spawned the Eve theory,
said this kind of mating may not
have been possible.
"One possibility would be that
they (the Africans) were not
capable of interbreeding with the
resident populations. There
would have been some sort of
natural selection against those
sorts of meetings," Stoneking}
Stoneking also suggests that
the migrating Africans may have
carried diseases which they were

immune to, but to which the
natives were susceptible.
Still, Wolpoff insists that
interbreeding is the only
reasonable explanation for the
similarity between modern
humans in various parts of the
world today and the ancient
humans that previously lived in
their regions.
Alan Thorne, a prehistorian at
the Australian National

23 pairs of chromosomes,
one of each pair inherited
from each parent
. '. .
Coffee-bean-shaped structures
that generate energy by breaking
down sugar and fat. They contain
genetic material whose origin and
purpose are not yet known.
They are small, only 16,000
base pairs compared to millions in
the chromosomes of the nucleus
They are only inherited from
the mother. None enter the egg
from the sperm during fertilization,
so each cell has only one set, not
a pair. They have no opportunity
to swap pieces of themselves the
way chromosomes in the nucleus
do. Thus they can trace maternal
inheritance more clearly and
surely than nuclear genes do.
They mutate frequently,
about ten times as often as
nuclear genes wso there is a great
deal oF varietyminthe population.
Scientists can disin guish among
small groups in a way that would
be: ipossible. usingrnuclea r
genes, which often exist in only a
handful of different va rieies.

University and a colleague of
Wolpoff, points to the similarity
in facial contours between
modern Australian aborigines and
the ancient populations of Java
Man which used to inhabit
southeast Asia.
Stringer calls Australia the
greatest "explanatory problem"
in the Eve theory, but suggests
that, due to the climate and local
conditions of the arid Australian
outback, the migrating Africans
might have evolved the
characteristics of Java Man on
their own.
Wolpoff, however, argues that
facial features - particularly the
brow ridge - would not have
adapted to the environment.
"We've tried to pick features
that are not adaptive to the
environment," Wolpoff said.
"For instance, body size is
usually adaptive to the
environment. Bigger individuals,
stockier individuals, are almost
always cold-adapted. So we
haven't picked features that
involve cold adaptation, because
(Stringer's) explanation could
then be true."
Thorne also attacks the notion
that Eve's descendants reevolved
Java Man's characteristics.
"There hasn't been an evolution
of the two types because there
isn't a single example in evolution
where two groups have evolved in
exactly the same way to the same
set of circumstances," he said.
The Eve theory, he said,
doesn't acknowledge the existence
of Australian aborigines. "My
present estimate is that about
50,000 living aboriginal
Australians will not make their
definition of homo sapiens,"
Thorne said.
Another possible explanation
for Australia, Stringer said, is the
so-called "Founder Effect,"
which says the migrating
Africans may not have been
typical descendants of Eve,
resembling modern aborigines
instead. "If they were atypical of
the population they came from,
the characteristics of the new
population would have become
rapidly different from the parent
population it came from,"
Stringer said.
But Wolpoff believes the
Founder Effect would not work
in this instance. "It won't explain
why people came to Australia,
killed of all the Australians, and
then adopted the features of the

It appears that once again, we
have elected a total dweeb as
MSA president. As a sarcastic
columnist, I'm in favor of it. At
press time, I don't know exactly
which dweeb won. Doesn't
matter.I'm sure that whoever it is,
though, they will be as good to
me as Jennifer Van Valey was.
Don't get the impression that
I'm one of those cynics who hates
X' all politicians. I like plenty of
CIJ ITpoliticians. I liked Mike Dukakis.
I was enthusiastic about Mike
Dukakis. Kitty and I. I think we were the only two
Americans who could really get excited about Mike Dukakis.
Which is two more than the number of people who can
get excited about our MSA candidates. Here's a party-by-
party rundown.
Common Sense
Let me be frank: I would sooner turn my student
government over to a Nazi biker gang.
The Common Sense presidential candidate was Angie
Burks, who, in her own words, "stands for everything that's
right." (Angie does not suffer from a low self-image.) Burks is
just a sophomore, and she has only scratched the surface of
her humorous political potential. During the anti-
deputization rally, she launched into an in-depth explanation
of the history of racism in the United States, featuring the
statement, "Guns didn't stop the Civil War!" After
thoroughly perplexing the ralliers, she stated the point of her
speech: "Guns won't stop racism!" Now, I didn't think that
deputization was a very good idea, but the administration
wasn't claiming that it would stop racism. I mean, you could
use an argument like that against anything: "Hospitals won't
stop sexism!" "Education won't stop earthquakes!"
One Common Sense platform issue was opposition to the
radioactive waste dump on North Campus. You may recall
that a number of campus groups were concerned about this

dump until it came out that yes, the waste was radioactive,
but it has approximately the same radioactivity level as a
McChicken Sandwich. This did not prevent Common Sense
from making the dump a key to their platform.
Another interesting position taken by Burks was that
students should not be forced to fund MSA out of their
tuition. Instead, she explained, MSA would be paid for by
the University. Do you follow this? Instead of giving our
tuition money directly to MSA, we would give it to the"
Univerity, which would in turn hand it over to MSA. Sounds
like a step in the right direction.
Conservative Coalition
Okay. So CC's major opposition came from a party which
is practically beging to lose, right? And what did they do?
Nominate Jamie Green, a man who exudes the warmth,
integrity and personal charm of Darth Vader. But all right, he
still has a better image
than Angie Burks; all
he had to do was
convince the voters V
that he's not a right-
wing nut. So what was
his first move?
Announce that, if
elected, he willx
immediately abolish k
the Peace & Justice
Commission. Now
there's a real r y.k
confidence builder.
Maybe he should also
have promised to "
establish a War &
Injustice Commission. James Green and
Another problem his Beard from Hell
that I had with Green
as a candidate was his beard. Now you probably haven't
heard very much about the beard issue, because the
candidates conspired to keep it out of the press. As a voter, I
demand to know why James Green grew such a repulsive

beard. Maybe it's meant as
other bearded activists, a sc
damages his credibility. I w~
listen to him speak, trying 1
message, but the only thing
played in "Planet of the Ap
Emphasizing Stud
Motto: "A stupid acron
Traditionally, third part
elections. But this year, wit
with both the right (CC) an
ESP's most logical strategy
themselves as a moderate a
being MSA, ESP did not d
debate, ESP's candidate, E
moderate! That's a label th
forbid we should have an N
drooling maniac.
Scruffy the Bowii
A cabal of survivors fror
party protested the ineptiti
launching a campaign to w
Unfortunately the Scruffy
disorganization, indecisiver
got off the ground. Maybe
Anti-imperialist A
AIAC (actually the RW
Weekend columnists have
One of AIAC's planks i,
police officers and replacin
militias whose sole purpose
racist attacks." I think that
under this plan. I can see it
"Hello, police?"
"No, this is the People'
Revolutionary Defense Mi
"Yes, my house is being
squad car over!"
"Would you describe th
"Well, no, but..."

Some Free Advice on Being Wined
and Dined by Friends' Families

Being an out-of-stater myself,
I find that I often get invited to
the homes of friends for
holidays, weekends, and
dinners. This is very nice
because my friends offer me the
opportunity to experience the
family and homey type of
atmosphere that I don't get to
enjoy much anymore. Of course,
I'm only in it for the free grub.
But being a veteran "guest," I
thought it might be helpful to
share some of my insights and
perhaps offer some advice for young aspiring "guests."
First, I would suggest trying to find a German family to
adopt you. "Why?" you might ask. Because they drink like
fish. Take my roommate Schooner's house for example.
I've been over to his house for the last three
Thanksgivings. Perhaps I was just lucky to have a
roommate who happens to be German. His family really
gets into the festivities of drinking, although one couldn't
tell from the Budweiser glasses, the fully stocked bar, and
the dog named Schnapps (no lie).
A typical Thanksgiving starts with a pair of Bloody
Mary's (complete with healthy celery stalks), which are
followed by eggnog. Then the family settles in for rounds

of beers. About this time is when either Schooner's mom
or dad says, "So how about some breakfast?"
To me, Thanksgiving now means one great buzz
instead of all that being gracious and Pilgrim-Indian stuff.
Of course, I do have to study up on my drinking before I
go. I mean, these good folks don't mess around. For
example, just this past Thanksgiving, I was asked what I
would like to drink before dinner and I answered
confidently, having perused my UAC bartending course
drink list. "Well, how about a stinger?" I asked with my
head held high. I was surprised when I was met with gasps
of shock, and a heavy silence fell upon the house as if the
last word out of my mouth were: "...and EF Hutton
The silence was finally broken by the sound of a lime
garnish being dropped on the counter by Schooner's mom.
She then said, "A stinger before dinner?" I'd made the
crucial mistake of an amateur drinker. I know, you're
thinking, "What an idiot!!! Two liquor cocktails are for
after dinner!!!" I was saved, however, when Schooner's
dad said, 'There's nothing wrong with that if that's what
he wants," thus invoking the "Guest is never wrong" rule,
which states that "the guest is never wrong unless he/she
is a supreme ass." This is a very powerful rule, but it can
only be employed by tolerant hosts and not by the guests.
There are limits.
Another tip would be to choose a family where all the

kids have gone away. If tl
usually so glad to have ye
will prepare a feast so big
offensive line was coming
last invited to such a hour
me in advance if it would
dinner. I guess they figur
and ramen noodles that t
shock my system and sen
It's so nice when peop
However, there are occas
overabundance of food.'
at an Italian household. I
you eat until you're in pa
worse, as the trait increas
two theories on why they
enjoy seeing young peop
satisfaction.knowing that
personally think, there is
Italian-American Club fo
by one household." Man'
refuse the offer to gorge 1
too many movies about ti
that the hosts know peop
Weasel or Omar the Crov
So when you decide t
German family for drinks
home family if you want
have youngsters at home
Also, remember that you
never wrong" rule, but d
over that annoying family
all day.

Sources: Havard Univ. Dept.
of Anthropology; AMA Home

AP/Pat Lyons

March 29, 1991


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