Ancient and Modern Medicine

My friend Dr Joishy is a very well respected physician (an oncologist by training, with a special interest in palliative medicine). He also comes from a family of Ayurvedic practitioners and a long time ago he wrote a small article about ancient medical systems and modern medicine. He shared it with me, I liked it, one thing led to another, and here is his note about that article (unfortunately not available in etext form, only as a scan, see link in the following note).. I hope to do a podcast with Dr Joishy one day by the way..



 By Suresh K. Joishy, M.D., F.A.C.h.P.M.

                 My good neighbor Dr. Omar Ali and myself were having a mutually interesting conversation on ancient medical systems and modern medicine.  I had published a paper on this topic titled “Towards Ideal Medicine: What Can Traditional Medicine Teach Us?”   This paper can be accessed by copying and pasting the following link onto an internet browser:

After reading it, Dr. Ali suggested I submit it to “Brown Pundits” but we did not have an electronic copy. The scan is attached above.

My paper was written in 1981, when I was practicing Hematology and Oncology  in the U.S., after a research assignment in Malaysia.    Since I am a medical graduate from India, my grandfather was a physician in Ayurveda, and as I lived in several states of India, I was able to closely observe the ancient medical systems still in practice and thriving.

I am a practitioner of modern medicine.  I believe in science and evidence-based medicine.  Then why write about ancient medical systems?  My paper addressed this very question as to why Ayurveda, Unani and Traditional Chinese Medicine were thriving despite the success of modern medicine in curing infections with antibiotics and no limits to what a surgery can accomplish to repair, replace, or transplant organs.  I have described the science of modern medicine and compared it to Ayurveda,Unani  and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Rather than dwell on the past again, here I will give my views on what has transpired since 1981,  after which I was teaching and conducting research abroad in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, England, Japan, and New Zealand.  I also observed ancient medical systems were still thriving over there. Continue reading “Ancient and Modern Medicine”


Chariots and Aryans

Readers know I do not like to watch YouTubes, but Mukunda is a member in-good-standing of the community, and a great host of the Browncast, so I did watch it.

My general reaction is “OK.” I don’t see how it changes my own views much at all. We know that the arrival of Kurgan people into Europe between 3000 and 2500 BC was not accompanied by the “light chariot.” Rather, they arrived in wagons. As it happens, the steppe people replaced 50-75% of the ancestry in Northern Europe, and 25-50% in Southern Europe. Contrary to I’ve been led to believe from Hollywood films apparently the primary utility of the chariot is as a transport vehicle, especially on flat ground. The light war chariot is presumably a major improvement on the cart, but the difference was presumably quantitative not qualitative.

Mukunda says that another foundation has been ripped from the Aryan migration/invasion theory. I don’t see it that way at all, because I don’t really know that this theory has too many detailed foundations. Mukunda’s response is pretty common, and I think some of the discordances here is that Indians have been educated in a way where many specific elements of the theory are presented as definitively and finally true. On the whole of course, real science does not work that way.

Here is what I know as a geneticist and have seen in the data.

– Genetic ancestry related to Corded Ware/Sintashta people of Eastern Europe and Central Asia contributes about 10-30% of the ancestry in Pakistan and Northern India (depending on the population)

– Y chromosomal lineage R1a1a-Z93 is ~15-25% of the subcontinental haplogroups. This lineage was discovered first in the “forest-steppe” of Europe’s southeast fringe with Central Asia and the Caucasus

– There are very few (though there are some) mtDNA haplogroups in South Asia that are found in Sintashta-Andronovo graves

The Sintashta seem to date from 2400 to 1800 BC as a culture. Additionally, the evidence from Turan and Khorasan in the ancient DNA does not indicate much steppe ancestry before 2000 BC.

To be frank, without genetic data I would not find a population admixture of 10-30% from a steppe group into the northwest subcontinent plausible on the face of it. Perhaps 1-3%. But the data are what they are, and we need to accept them. It is also plausible to me that the initial waves of migration into South Asia were not quite as male-biased as we think, as the proto-Indo-Aryans may have mixed with eastern Iranian/Indus periphery populations before arriving into Punjab. This would mean the population displacement is actually higher in demographic terms. The figures above only give percentages of “steppe”, and assumes pure admixture, which seems unlikely to me.

One hypothesis is that the IVC people already spoke Indo-Aryan languages. Perhaps the newcomers from the steppe assimilated into the local substrate, taking positions at the top of the caste hierarchy? I am skeptical of this. The Indo-European languages don’t exhibit the right structure for this model, as the European ones don’t form a natural closely related clade against the Iranian-South Asian ones. Rather, Indo-Aryan and Iranian seem closer to the Slavic clade.

As for all the rest, the details are interesting to me, but I don’t rest my inference on that. To be frank, some of the claims remind me of arguments I had with Creationists twenty years ago. It seems that they thought I had a very specific idea of what evolution is in all its details, so refuting one element refuted the theory. But that wasn’t it at all. Evolution is a broader framework, and many of the details have to be worked out.

That’s my general attitude to the Indo-Aryan migration into the subcontinent. It’s probably the right model. And we’ve pegged some details down. But a lot remains mysterious. Could the “Out of India” theory be right? The probability is definitely higher for that than that evolution is wrong. But on the whole, I am skeptical.


Iran_N/CHG Ancestry and the Genetic Origins of the Proto-Indo-Europeans

This is a post I was writing a few months back but had abandoned midway. It is in response to  what Razib had argued in one of his posts. According to Razib while an Aryan Migration model, that suggests an entry of Indo-Aryans into South Asia, might not have textual and archaeological support, when looked at in a wider context, that necessitates explaining the origin and migration of all Indo-Europeans from a PIE homeland to their respective places of present or last known (e.g. Hittites & Tocharian) inhabitation, the steppe theory makes a far more compelling case as PIE homeland than an OIT.

Admittedly, we haven’t had a major attempt being made in the academia, Western or Indian, which tries to take stock of all available evidence, linguistic and archaeological, and uses that evidence to argue for the PIE origins in South Asia and the subsequent dispersals of the daughter languages to their known destinations.

It is beyond the remit of my present subject to ponder why this has been so but we may note that an elegant and solid linguistic case (1,2) for a spread of IE languages from a locus in the region of Bactria has been already made more than two decades back by Johanna Nichols. However, the linguistic community has chosen to sideline her work without a proper rebuttal.

Continue reading “Iran_N/CHG Ancestry and the Genetic Origins of the Proto-Indo-Europeans”


Book Review: The Boats of Cherbourg

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Book Review – The Boats of Cherbourg by Abraham Rabinovich

Hamid Hussain

The Boats of Cherbourg: The Navy That Stole Its Own Boats and Revolutionized Naval Warfare by [Abraham Rabinovich]

A well respected Israeli military historian Abraham Rabinovich’ s book is a fascinating account of a little known chapter of naval history.  Israeli air force and armored corps were ruling the roost as these two services played key role in June 1967 stunning victory against three Arab armies.  Israeli navy was relegated to the back seat as no one saw any meaningful role for this service.  The lion’s share of defense budget was allocated to air force and army.  Israeli navy needed a cheaper option to fulfill its operational role. Continue reading “Book Review: The Boats of Cherbourg”


Open Thread – Brown Pundits

I did an episode on Big Brown Army a few days ago. The conversation revolved around being Christian (evangelical) and Indian, as well as what wokeness is doing to Christianity and Indians. The host of BBA, Decruz, is someone who I’ve known on and off for 15 years. We’ve both changed a lot, but stayed fundamentally similar.

Please remember to subscribe to ABCD Politics, the new podcast that I am doing with Surya Yalamanchilli.

I’m surprised how much you guys can be invested in Kashmir! That being said, the blow-up of the comments every week indicates perhaps Twitter is no longer so fun? I mean, 300+ comments on open threads are some serious discussion. Are blogs coming back?

What’s the best history of India you guys have read? I know some people will get mad, but Romilla Thapar’s stuff is some of the most accessible and well-written in English. Tell me what’s better.


Maharashtra genetics

Novel insights on demographic history of tribal and caste groups from West Maharashtra (India) using genome-wide data (OA):

The South Asian subcontinent is characterized by a complex history of human migrations and population interactions. In this study, we used genome-wide data to provide novel insights on the demographic history and population relationships of six Indo-European populations from the Indian State of West Maharashtra. The samples correspond to two castes (Deshastha Brahmins and Kunbi Marathas) and four tribal groups (Kokana, Warli, Bhil and Pawara). We show that tribal groups have had much smaller effective population sizes than castes, and that genetic drift has had a higher impact in tribal populations. We also show clear affinities between the Bhil and Pawara tribes, and to a lesser extent, between the Warli and Kokana tribes. Our comparisons with available modern and ancient DNA datasets from South Asia indicate that the Brahmin caste has higher Ancient Iranian and Steppe pastoralist contributions than the Kunbi Marathas caste. Additionally, in contrast to the two castes, tribal groups have very high Ancient Ancestral South Indian (AASI) contributions. Indo-European tribal groups tend to have higher Steppe contributions than Dravidian tribal groups, providing further support for the hypothesis that Steppe pastoralists were the source of Indo-European languages in South Asia, as well as Europe.


Resilience in the face of religious change

Recently my friend Josiah Neely mentioned offhand how in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Gibbon argued that one reason paganism couldn’t reverse the tide of Christianity is that once a society or individual became Christian and ceased pagan practice, there wasn’t a good roadmap on how to reembrace the old traditions. In contrast, Christianity’s ideological content meant that even if there was a period of apostasy or public cessation of practice, ideological continuity could be maintained.

To be more explicit and extend the argument, I think the key is that there was a class of religious professionals who were devoted in a deep way to the ideological content of Christianity. If, as occurred in Britain and the Balkans, Christianity collapsed, they would endeavor to reconvert the populace, as they did.

There are other cases of this. Han Yu was a Confucian scholar who denounced Buddhism in the year 800 A.D. during the Tang dynasty. This period, between 600 and 900 A.D. was the “high water” point of public state Buddhism in China. But there always remained an alternative tradition of Chinese scholars and officials who were expositors Confucianism. Eventually, these people “recaptured” China during the Song dynasty for Confucianism, and Buddhism became a religion of the popular people and not the state.

As I said elsewhere, this may explain the persistence of Hinduism. Hinduism, like Greco-Roman paganism, is diverse and variegated. But unlike Greco-Roman paganism, there seems to have been a dynamic and reciprocal tension between philosophy and folk religion, mediated by Brahmins. Greco-Roman paganism was fundamentally an expression of ethnicity and identity. Tradition and custom. Greco-Roman metaphysics was the purview of secular philosophers. Hinduism is arguably more fused, and this may have given it more robustness.