People now and then ask me why JR contributes to this weblog when I think he’s profoundly wrong on some issues. First, being wrong is no sin. Even being offensive is no sin. I am a traditionalist in regards to expression.
Second, JR presents what I believe to be the wrong position with a reasonable command of the sources and in a logical and coherent manner. He has not convinced me, but I have sharpened my own views (and to be frank, I believe that both of us have changed positions over the last four years as new data has emerged). Unfortunately, this is in contrast with the bluster, ad hominem and incoherence of many opponents of the idea of the exogenous origins of the Indo-Aryans. I used to think these people were malicious, but I think a lot of them are just stupid. So I hold it less against them.
JR presents what strikes me as an Indocentric view. He is quite clear that he sees his project as compensatory and reactive to the traditional Eurocentric view. My own position is quite naively positivistic, and I attempt to be cross-cultural. Of course in the details, I fail because to be subjective is to be human (my own view is going to be Eurocentric because my cultural orientation is American). Knowledge of the empirical world accumulates despite our shortcomings. JR has made an appeal to me as a person of subcontinental origin on occasion, but this lever is pulling on a string of emptiness. I am one of the Last Men who are weak in regards to racial self-conception.
Sometimes you really know what people are about by what they don’t talk about. Americans don’t talk directly about money, but we care about it a great deal. Indians don’t talk about caste directly in personal detail, but clearly they care about it a great deal. And the converse is also true. Much of my bluster about R1a1a-Z93 is that I find lineage to be a humorous and frivolous fixation, though I am latitudinarian is accepting that others may differ with me on this. It is a matter of disposition for me, not a deep principle. AMT or OIT has little emotional valence for me.
Finally, I have to admit that I have become disillusioned with the calm and conscious lying and obfuscation which I know to occur in sciences with which I am familiar. When Westerners have strong ideological priors and beliefs at stake, scholars abandon fidelity to the truth so as to tack to the winds and align themselves with the regnant ideologies of the age. They are servile creatures who bend to power. I do not have it within me to look down upon Indians for their bias and motivated reasoning when I know that Janus reigns supreme in Western academia. I thought “we” were better than this. I know now that that was a delusion. The courage of men fails. They will forsake friends and break bonds of fellowship. The truth is nothing next to these betrayals.
But I still vainly hold to the ideals of the old religion. Truth above all, strive for it even when it discomfits, and when you miss the mark so often. Knowledge is its own regard.
JR’s post, The Unravelling of the AMT, consists primarily of marshaling evidence from archaeology and linguistics (genetics being secondary). The contention is that the lack of archaeological disruption during the period between 2000 BC and 1000 BC, as well as no evidence in the extant literature of Indo-Aryan recollections of foreign homeless, should argue against an exogenous origin for Indo-Aryans. As I have no deep knowledge of these two fields, let us grant these assertions.
The reason that JR’s extensive argumentation does not convince me is that even granting the low probability of AMT conditional on the facts which he brings to the table, the probability of OIT is even lower conditional on the facts we know about other Indo-European societies. Alone, and isolated, if I grant the level of archaeological disruption to be minor, and if I grant that indeed Indian oral history does not record an external homeland, the model of mass migration in the period between 2000 and 1000 BC does strike me as unlikely (let’s put the genetics to the side).
But, if you reject AMT for this period, then we must explain Indo-Europeans in Europe and in the Near East. Logically the rejection of AMT entails OIT, and OIT presents far greater problems to me than AMT. From a cross-cultural perspective, a model that explains the current distribution of Indo-European languages must explain all of the different branches and their locations as parsimoniously as possible. There will be errors and loose ends in the model, but we have to iterate from a plausible starting point. AMT resolves more problems than it creates. OIT creates more problems than it resolves.
And yet to be entirely frank…I do think JR’s arguments will gain more and more traction with Indians. Indians are entirely Indocentric quite often, so arguments that operate within this framework will be persuasive. I find this personally uncongenial, but I am getting the sense as I get older that I have an abnormal interest in a disparate array of cultures and societies (some commentators, who may or may not have low IQs, express frustration that I refer to other societies and cultures since they are clearly ignorant of things beyond their shores). Here in the United States, there are “Ethnic Studies” departments that seem to exist so that people of a particular ethnicity can study their own history. They are quite popular and ideologically motivated.
The broad world out there is fading for the positivist vision. The age of science is giving way to the age of magic. The time for public discussion and calm inquisition of the facts has probably passed us by. Truth, understanding the shape of reality for its own sake, is a small cultic affair. And yet do well to remember, the lies that give you comfort are lies nevertheless!