Friday, May 27, 2005

New Biological Evidence for Middle Easterners in the New World: The Smell Test

Jeff Lindsay and Clark Goble have brought the paper Human Lymphocyte Antigens: Apparent Afro-Asiatic, Southern Asian, & European HLAs in Indigenous American Populations to the attention of the Bloggernaccle. I am going to be lazy here and sound off without reading anything beyond a preface to the article, which I quote below.

Would that this had appeared in a peer-reviewed journal more directly related to microbiology. It doesn't sound like it was written or peer-reviewed by people with the relevant training and expertise in microbiology. Instead, it was written by someone with a "long interest" in microbiology, and published and publicized by outlets with an axe to grind on a subject (trans-oceanic cultural influence on the Americas) not directly related to microbiology. Here is the preface to the linked article:
In our pursuit of cultural and physical human diffusion around the globe, NEARA encourages research exploring "hard" scientific evidence. Over the years, Jim Guthrie has published numerous articles in the NEARA Journal on many subjects. Now, his long interest in micro-biology has culminated in a comprehensive article on human lymphocyte antigens and their dispersal into indigenous American populations, published in Pre-Columbiana, Volume 2, Number 2 & 3, December 2000 & June 2001. Pre-Columbiana, like the NEARA Journal has a limited circulation and the NEARA editorial team felt that this work is so important, that it must reach as wide an audience as possible, scientist and layman alike. In collaboration with Pre-Columbiana editor Stephen Jett and with permission, we are pleased to make this ground-breaking research available on through the internet.
This provenance smells funny to me; but of course, this alone doesn't mean it's wrong. It simply means it's hard for me to get excited about it until those with the relevant expertise weigh in. I hope to learn more about this as this occurs. But its initial impact (on me at least) would have been much stronger if the relevant microbiology had been published in a journal that peer-reviews microbiology; then the anthropological claims could follow later.

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