Open Thread – Brown Pundits

Please keep the other posts on topic. Use this for talking about whatever you want to talk about.

One thing, thanks to everyone who has donated to the Patreon. Weirdly it makes me feel a little more appreciated when I’m editing these podcasts late at night after my work and family are over 😉 Since the “patrons” have some “skin in the game” definitely going to be taking input from them in terms of what the directions are that our podcast, and to some extent the blog, will follow. I started this weblog with Zach seven years ago without any real goal or endpoint, so it’s evolving….


Constructive feedback please –

Episode 9 has generated some interesting comments and I found these two comments to be the most interesting:

Okay, some feedback on the Podcast (s). Firstly, I like it. The range of topics is wide enough and conversations informative enough as well. Secondly, you guys need to invest in better Audio recording systems. Early podcasts had an issue where Omar could barely be heard and this one has an issue with massive and unacceptable lag which leads to long moments of silence. This leads to listeners fatigue and also increases the podcast needlessly. It is irritating. Though Omar voice issue has improved in recent podcasts the volume intensity of different speakers is still not consistent, some are louder and some less so. This needs to be dealt with. Thirdly, regarding this particular Ep9. content was good listen so no qualms there but man the long “Aaaa” pauses in speech are just too irritating after a while. Razib is a more fluid speaker. Fourth. Zack also needs to go on less redundant windings. He says the same thing multiple times worded differently. It is unnecessary, esp on a platform of Podcasts. Stick to the point and be concise, respect the listening audience to have a certain level of contextual grasp. I hardly doubt you guys are making this podcast to be some sort of educational material for 10-14 year olds. Listeners already have a certain level of grasp, stick to a standard and move on rather than spending minutes on redundant things. You guys seem new to this Podcast game and hence seem to be having above issues. Podcasts is a platform which is very mature now hence the sort of feedback I listed above, these are basic stuff on this medium but I think you can improve overtime, it is just about rounding off the edges because the core(content) is solid so majority of the battle is done anyway. Best of luck. Looking forward for more from you guys.

This chap hasn’t donated to the Patron account (or if he has, hasn’t mentioned that) and spews opinions on the whole podcast. It’s discourteous because we haven’t actually asked for feedback and what gets my goat is unqualified opinions; either invest or shut up.

The amusing thing with Xir Var is that he presumes that we really care as to whether he liked the podcast or not.

This isn’t me being defensive; I dislike the lack of respect by anonymous commentators and I always will. My persona is somewhat public (though it’s rapidly paring back as I grow tired of the phone and online word) and I think it’s unfair to parry with opponents in the dark.

FWIW I had wanted to step out of the podcast with Slapstick because I thought that Razib and SS would have had a much more fruitful conversation but I stayed on simply to make the logistics work.

This was the first comment that I read that pricked my ears and I thought was out of line:

This was my first podcast, as the topic interested me. By the first 3 minutes upon hearing assertions of Vedic originating in BMAC and etymology of Atharvaveda is based on the root Athar = fire in Iranian I was extremely amused. That amusement pulled me through a few more minutes and it ended, when I heard Pashto and Persian are dervied seperately and directly from a proto language. At that point i decided to stop the cast at about 18 minutes in. To be fair to real scholars who have or may come on the podcast in future, you guys might want to seperate the streams into something like BrownPunditWannabe for amateur hobbyists and BrownPunditReal for guys who actually can back up their assertions with something concrete. Also this is nothing personal against slapstick, everyone has their personal views. Just my thoughts.

I understand there is such a thing as jealousy but to attack SS in such a manner was simply unwarranted.
My patience is growing thin and so is my libertarianism (I’m turning into an authoritarian in my old age) and I don’t see the point of such callous disrespect.
Both of these comments could have been couched in much more dignified ways (while retaining the feedback) without coming across as condescending or patronising.
The sad part is that I had wanted to write my post on Collette but instead I’m simply issuing a broader notice as to my moderation style. It’s a grey area, to be fair, but considering that this is an unpaid hobby I don’t expect gratuitous (and anonymous) condescension acceptable anymore. Especially to those of us who take the time and effort to make the blog what it is (I also notice it’s not the regular commentator handles that are falling foul of our standards).
Commentators may presume that they are doing a favour by reading BrownPundits, leaving a comment or hearing a podcast. The numbers are extraordinarily healthy and rising with or without individual commentators and BP has a life of it’s own hence why I’ve toned down the Masalification on my side.
Also finally for what it’s worth I do happily admit that I fluff a fair bit but then I’m kind of “learning on the job” and it’s going to take a few more podcasts for me to get it right and to understand the “rough knowledge” of the listener.

Browncast – Episode 9: Conversation on Indo-Aryan linguistics

The latest BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, iTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

The conversation was between Brown Pundits’ contributors Razib, Zach and Slapstik on the evolution of Sanskrit and Indo-Aryan more generally within the Indian subcontinent. The conversation started off from thoughts on the origin of Sanskrit from Proto-Indo-Aryan, the language of the feudal elite of the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (or BMAC).

We spoke of the broad swathe of time from (roughly) 1500-500 BCE wherein this elite planted themselves across the breadth of the Indo-Gangetic plains south of the Himalayas (cf. hima-vanta > himavata). The peculiarities of the obstinately oral culture led to phenomenal developments in grammar (vyAkaraNa) to preserve the fidelity of speech. We also briefly covered some peculiarities of development of prkRta-s which show influence of Dravidian speech, the Indo-Aryan nature of Dardic languages and some comments on Iranic languages.

One of the important questions raised by Zach was on the parallel development of Mitanni-Aryan. Specifically why doesn’t its existence prove an outward diffusion of Indo-Aryan dialects? While I did not want to de-rail the conversation in the podcast with a technical argument (based on the RUKI rule), I think this point does deserve some supplementary explanation here. The basic argument can be set out as follows:

  • Retroflexes in earliest Vedic were almost always phonemic (pUrNa), and it is well established within IA linguistics that retroflexion existed before the loss of voiced sibilants /z/, /ź/ and /Z/ in proto-Vedic. So, we have PIE *misdhom (salary, reward) > *mizdhom (IIr, voiced sibilant) > *miźdhom  (IIr, via satem RUKI sound law) > *miZDham (Proto-Vedic, using sibilant-dental consonant saMdhi)
  • We also know that Proto-Dravidian lacked sibilants and replaced the phonemic voiced-sibilants by their approximants /y/ or /w/, which later merged with the preceding vowel. So, the effect of Dravidian substratum on proto-Vedic *miZDham is given by: *miZDham > *mi(y)Dham > mIDham, and mIDham is attested in Rg Veda as meaning reward or prize of a contest.
  • The same word (meaning payment) is also attested in Mitanni-Aryan as miśta, which seems to be easily derivable from IIr *miźdhom via simple de-voicing of /ź/ and de-aspiration of /dh/. There’s no known rule or precedent of deriving miśta from IA mIDham. Even using the latter-day example of Romany languages, the aspirated retroflex /Dh/ should be approximated by /r/, which is clearly not the case here.

Therefore, the simplest explanation of miśta in Mitanni-Aryan and its cognate mIDha in Vedic is that both terms are derivable using known sound laws from the older Indo-Iranian version of the word, as opposed to one from the other. The same argument also shows how retroflexion existed in oldest Vedic and that the simplest explanation of lack of voiced sibilants in Vedic is the substrate effect of Proto-Dravidian.

For readers more interested in this topic, I would suggest The Horse, The Wheel and Language by David Anthony on the archaeological evidence of steppe Indo-European culture. The book is very strong on archaeology, but it gets some of the linguistics’ arguments wrong. On linguistics itself, Cardona and Jain’s Indo-Aryan Linguistics remains the go-to text. Note that this book is more technical, but very rewarding.


Brownpundits- Episode 8. The Glass Bead Game (and the decline of Western Civ)

The latest BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, iTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

This week Omar talks to poet Charles Cameron (who also runs the Zenpundit security blog and is something of a vagabond monk) and Professor Ali Minai (a professor of Electrical engineering who focuses on complex systems and artificial intelligence, but who is also a published Urdu poet, a numismatist and an all round rennaissance man)about the Glass Bead Game, poetry, Artifical intelligence and the (possible) decline of Western civilization. (My apologies for some syncing issues in the last quarter of the podcast, where my questions start before Ali or Charles have finished speaking)

Professor Minai
Charles Cameron

PS: Razib Khan does all the editing and other electronic scut work on this site. Kindly chip in with whatever you can donate to his Patreon account and we can get some professional help for the editing and posting. Thanks


The hammer of the All-Father

Unless you have been sleeping under a rock, a mildly slanderous piece in The New York Times Magazine has taken aim at David Reich and his band of paleogeneticists, Is Ancient DNA Research Revealing New Truths — or Falling Into Old Traps? I address this piece at my other weblog.

One of the major themes of the piece are the legends and myths of the people of Vanuatu:

I asked him about how the concept of Lapita migration to empty islands had been received by people whose oral traditions said they came from a stone or a coconut tree.

The reason this is relevant is that paleogeneticists have probed the history of Vanuatu. And yet this is the past. The future is that the Reich lab is collaborating with other paleogeneticists to crack the nut of the history of the Indian subcontinent with ancient DNA. They’ve been working on this for years, and they are working on it now. There are 275,000 people who live in Vanuatu. There are 1.7 billion people who live in the Indian subcontinent.

Within the next year I believe that the Reich lab will publish results which will falsify the beliefs of a substantial number of Indians about the nature of the origins of the native peoples of the region. This will shatter world-views, undermine mythologies, and rock peoples’ worlds. There will be sophists who live in denial, but the truth will be plain to those who see.

I understand that some of you reading this disagree with this assessment. Ultimately I don’t care because the data are coming, and if I’m wrong, that’s OK too. I don’t have emotional baggage invested in alternative models. But, I do wonder why the mythological traditions of “non-indigenous” people seem to warrant less attention than smaller nations or premodern tribes.


How to avoid offending people?

Please watch the last three minutes of:

How to avoid very unexpectedly offending people when we don’t want to? How to have dialogue with people, ask them questions and get feedback from others without suddenly massively angering them?

This has nothing to do with Saira Roa’s actual opinions or high resolution fully integrated philosophy of philosophies. She seems to be a sweet loving person. Her perspective is unique and I would have loved to better understand it.

I have met many people from childhood who are suddenly and very unexpectedly massively triggered and angered. Often they will start accusing others of nazism, fascism, racism, bigotry, prejudice, sectarianism or some other related charge. In many cases immediately walk away. Many junior high school, high school, undergraduate and graduate level teachers at institutions I attended were this way. Some students were also this way, but truth be told teachers were far more likely to exhibit these symptoms than students. And a lot of the time, I and many others didn’t understand why this happened. Saira Roa is very middle of the road representative of very large numbers of people I have met (teachers and non teacher adults), (in the west or in India) and I am not picking on her. Rather I am asking how to avoid causing a massive firestorm when we don’t want to create one. In this case, Sargon didn’t want to anger her, but rather was very curious to better understand what she believes and why she believes what she believes.

This particular unexpected firestorm was set off when Sargon says to Saira Roa that some blacks were complicit in the slavery of other blacks. My questions about this is two fold:

  • Is there some way Sargon could have made a similar point without massively angering Saira Roa and causing her to end the interview?
  • Why did this statement elicit this reaction in the first place?

Saira Roa has a Hindu name. When the east (and large parts of Europe for that matter) was (were) conquered by Islamists (note that most muslims are not Islamists and today’s muslims are in no way responsible for the actions of their great ancestors), almost all eastern universities, libraries, temples, spiritual centers, scientific institutions etc. were destroyed. Much of the non muslim population was converted into slaves. Because of this, many Asian nonmuslims get emotional when the subject of slavery is mentioned. Could this be where part of Saira Roa’s feelings come from?

Most Asians (Indians included) and Africans initially welcomed Europeans as a way to drive Islamists out. Europeans as a quid pro quo of sorts banned slavery across Asia and Africa. This was deeply popular among nonmuslims and seen as sectarian Islamaphobia by many Islamists. [Obviously after this initial period, Africans and Asians wanted European colonizers to let them to be independent.] Perhaps Saira Rao thinks that the people who owned slaves on the African continent and sold them to South America, Central America, Mexico, Caribbean, North America, North Africa, East Africa, Europe, Asia were not really Africans but Islamist occupiers? Perhaps her definition of “African” or “black” is only nonmuslims with substantial sub-saharan African DNA haploid admixture? Therefore, “blacks” by her definition were not complicit in the slavery of other blacks and the exporting of black slaves around the world? I am not saying this is true. But rather could this be what she believes?

[Obviously some historians might posit the hypothesis that even if the large majority or vast majority of people who owned African slaves were muslim, at least some African slaves were owned by nonmuslims with substantial sub-saharan African DNA haploid admixture too. But perhaps Saira Roa disagrees with this.]

Are there other possible reasons for why she was so offended?

Can everyone reading please explain this to me in the comment section below? What advise does everyone have for how to avoid deeply angering or offending people in general? Thanks to everyone in advance.


Admin note- be polite

I’ve been exceptionally busy these days since I’m trying to take Bubble Tap to franchise and it’s a lot of work setting it up.

I don’t want to detract from Omar (Episode 8) and Razib’s excellent podcasts (Episode 7). Of course it would nice to see more of our stakeholders support Razib’s patreon, Episode 9 is on Sanskrit.

However as an aside I found this comment by our resident Morisco to be incredible tactless:

Apologies for pinning this blog’s low standards on you Razib. I found it through your work originally and have gotten progressively more irritated that virtually none of the posts are above grade-level quality (your excellent posts excepted obviously).

The rest of the comment is unabashed Muslim propaganda about how the Arab invasions of the Middle East were actually a blessing (cue eye-roll).
Anyway I will be deleting all of his following comments on this blog until he makes an apology and rescinds his comments. If not I’ll simply ban him.

Supporting the Brown Pundits “BrownCast”

When Zach, Omar, and myself began the BrownCast I said that at some point we’d have to think about how we could make it self-supporting. Some people are already complaining about the production quality.

There’s a reason for that: I’ve been doing all the editing. I literally had never used Audacity before, and as most of you know I’m a geneticist, not a sound engineer.

For those of you who think no production is involved, listen to this clip I edited out from the most recent recording with myself, Slapstick, and Zach.

I would like to get a person who has skills and can devote time, to this project. I have someone in mind. But I’m already paying Zencastr bills out of pocket. So I’m asking listeners to chip in. Please consider giving to my Patreon. Since there is a wide range of abilities to pay I’m not stipulating a specific amount.

As a patron benefit, I have just posted links to the next two podcasts on Patreon. A podcast with Omar, Ali Minai, and Charles Cameron which focuses on Urdu literature and before shifting to artificial intelligence and the nature of Western culture is up. As well as another where Slapstick explains “generative grammar” in the context of Sanskrit.

We are unlikely to post podcasts more than once a week. But I often edit them together considerably earlier, so Patrons will get them in batches well before everyone else.

If you are not in a position to be a patron, please rate us positively on iTunes and Stitcher.


An Iyer in the Whitehouse

As most of you probably know, <<<Kamala Harris>>>’ <<<mother>>> (who raised her after she was divorced from Harris’ father) was an immigrant from India. A Tamil Brahmin physician, Dr. Shyamala Gopalan Harris instilled a sense of Indian culture in her daughter. At least according to Harris’ Indian.

The weird thing about Harris for me is she looks a lot like an Iyer friend of mine whenever she smiles.

Because of her mainstream/corporate Democrat credentials, I suspect Harris is far more likely to become President than Tulsi Gabbard.