Making the Melbourne Poster:
In a couple of days I would like to present for you a poster that was presented in 2003 in Melbourne Australia.  Mostly it covers some of the material we have already presented here on this web site.  It was made before I got hold of the genealogy of the barons of England under William the Conqueror, and what I thought I was going to find did not in fact prove to be what I thought it would be.  The truth proved to be more satisfying. 

I should like only to direct your attention to two points, one on the first page of the poster and one on the last, highlighted in red. 

The poster was basically a color printout of the file laminated and tacked to the spot they allowed me in the basement along with scores, nay I think hundreds, of other neglected posters.  People did, in fact, come by to take a look.  One professed an interest but then vanished over subsequent months as we discussed what kind of experiment we might be able to run.  I did have the grim satisfaction of watching the color of faces change as I would rattle through my presentation to professional geneticists.  I was expecting they would all deliver the same crushing rejoinder, and that I would return home moaning, “How could I have been so stupid as to have missed that?”  But no one had any thing to say in contradiction.

The first page is, of course, the Mesopotamian history chart also presented on this web site.  There was a time when I had not been working on this many years, and although I could smell the issue I could not quite get my teeth into it.  Then I began to remember once having wondered when and where the “good old days” really were.  There must have been a time in the past when things were good.  But somehow living in a society that is just about to be snuffed out did not strike me as “good.”  It was simply deluded.  So when I went back to look at history, this was many years ago, and found that there really had never been a society that lasted, say, a thousand years.  They had all been unstable.  I remembered my disappointment.

So back in about 2003 I was writing up my ideas just for the sake of form and got to the place when I had written “The average ancient civilization lasted only … years.”  How many?  I had an old wall chart of ancient civilizations that did not give the actual dates but graphed the duration of each successive civilization in Mesopotamia and a number of other areas that have seen a lot of history.  Then I sat down at the computer, called up the calculator and started getting the average survival.  By and by I got frustrated with trying to keep track of things on a scrap envelope and thought, “This computer has a statistics package on it.  I have never been able to get any useful statistics out of it, but maybe it can at least do an average for me.”   So I punched in the numbers and read out that the average Mesopotamian civilization had lasted about 150 years.  Then the screen printed out, “Do you want to see the data graphed as a normal curve?”  I did not and do not know exactly what that meant.  I suspected it meant the data compared with a best fit normal curve, but I am not sure.  At all events, I hit the button.

In an instant the screen was filled with the familiar shape of a normal statistical curve with my data points all sitting exactly on the line.  Since there was no noise whatever, I could only conclude that the points were on the line because they had been put there.  But there was no doubt of their symmetrical arrangement and their tendency to be most numerous near the middle of the curve.

I looked at it a long time.  I thought, “Here there can be no doubt.”  All of history has been following a single scientific law as robust as the gas laws of physics.”  Looking in other places, I later discovered that things are indeed somewhat more complex.  But the fact remains that there is a pattern, deviations from which are easily explained.  And the only possible source of that law is the genetics of a large population.  I have never been able to understand how any responsible person could look at the information and not make getting to the bottom of it a top priority.  But so it has turned out.

The other point is on the last page.  I knew about the Icelandic genealogy.  In fact a few years before the Melbourne meeting I had been in touch with someone who had access to that data.  He had emailed me that indeed the study as I described it, and as it was ultimately done, was possible.  His major concern was with the privacy of people whose personal information was being tapped.  But he said that this was not a problem.  All I needed was numbers that could never be traced back to any individual.  Then he abruptly announced he was going on vacation.  After waiting for a long vacation to be over, I attempted to email him again, but the address was no longer active.  I have had that kind of thing happen a lot.

I was disappointed, not for the loss of data I felt would support my theory (which was already amply proven by the Mesopotamian experience alone), but because I hoped that the results would also give a clue as to how to fix things.  In the event, it certainly did that.  Of course I am not in a position to give genetic counseling to couples interested in marrying.  But I think some day soon, such counseling will become not only possible but very important.

I do have a slight problem with my memory.  This should be a fair copy of the Melbourne poster.  I even have the laminated sheets in hand. However, my memory is different.  I may be thinking of an earlier version, but I remember the pages being far more colorful.  And there was a reference to a population of Anasazi living the a valley in the American Southwest.  Researches had found every house in the valley during the entire time it was occupied and had carbon dated enough charcoal in the fire places so they could say exactly which years every house was occupied.  Thus they could construct a running census.

There had been people living there since about the year 800 AD.  The population remained below 200 until about the year 900, when it grew to about 300 and remained there until about the year 1,000.  At that point it rose above 400 for the first time.  The next 300 years showed wide fluctuations in the number of occupants of the houses, with totals rising to about 1,000.  But at about the year 1300 there was an abrupt decline with numbers dropping from the maximum over a very few years.  The valley was then abandoned, never to be occupied again. 

(That is consistent with the 300 year maximum duration of a society we found so often elsewhere. 

Furthermore, my memory is that I counted the Ottoman Empire as a single event rather than breaking it up when the demography of the Janissaries changed.  I also contemplated that the mechanism may have been multiple interactions, which appears to be a good choice now, or due to changes of the fine tuning between the DNA and the histone protein component of chromosome centromeres, which would put the different components of the mechanism on different chromosomes, which is not the current model. Ammendment made September 11, 2008.)

That is my memory.  However the documents I have in hand have to be the truth. 

(I mean ought to be the truth.  HOWEVER: When I go back and look at the “Melbourne poster” I see that it has references from 2005 and 2006.  So somehow later material has contaminated my record.  But I have no doubt that in Melbourne I did present the general concept, some form of the Mesopotamian experience and called for further research.  Although there were relevant studies done, the question of whether large population size depresses fertility was not addressed to my knowledge until I presented a poster 3 years later in Brisbane.  THAT one I am sure of, because I have lifted the Brisbane material from a copy of the very CD’s I was handing out in Brisbane. Ammendment made September 11, 2008.   

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