Marius Redelinghuys
Marius Redelinghuys

Africans are humans too

We are not all humans, Africans are!

Thought Leader has, among many other brilliant things, provided us with a new brand of virtual stand-up comedy. The claims, rants and musings of many here are often laughable or hilarious.

It has also generated a new brand of pseudo-intellectuals who by virtue of contributing here dare to claim to be thought leaders. I don’t blame the platform for that, I blame Wikipedia and Google which have instilled in some the arrogance to think their Wiki’ed or Googled “original thought” places them on par with leading academics in their various fields.

The most recent perversion, near-rape, of paleoanthropology, evolutionary biology and population genetics is done by none other than our very own Sentletse Diakanyo. His latest rant entitled “We are not all Africans, black people are!” reads like an excerpt from an apartheid-era history textbook.

His spurious and unsourced — not to mention unsubstantiated — claims about the recently discovered oldest Homo sapiens fossil discovered in China reads a bit like a pissing contest on a pre-school playground.

Sentletse and his thinking is a relic of the past, something that can equally be branded a living fossil: simple creatures who still roam the earth with a particular strain of thinking rooted in narrow nationalism akin to those remaining after the collapse of apartheid and more recently spawned from the likes of Julius Malema and other black nationalists.

His latest pseudo-scientific commentary is hardly done in the name of true scientific inquiry and is clearly a sad attempt at politicising — and polluting — science such as the apartheid and other equally racist regimes have done.

It is equally laughable that he should speak of white revisionism after 1994 when, as outlined in Giliomee and Mbenga’s New History of South Africa, these so-called Afrophiles started in the 1980s (with Julian Cobbing). Furthermore, the “Out of Africa” hypothesis — as brilliant as South African paleoanthropologists might be — is not the brain-child of an African, and definitely not a white African and quite honestly way before 1994.

Strange how white South Africans are revising an academic hypothesis that has held sway for decades and naturally in support of some evil political motive. Had Sentletse read more than Thabo Mbeki and Marcus Garvey on the subject of human evolution he would have discovered that there is, of course, an alternative to the Out of Africa view: the multi-regional hypothesis. Had he embarked on scientific investigation he would also have discovered that the fossil evidence — and more importantly — genetic evidence in support of the former is more convincing. Especially because at the genetic level the study of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) shows that an unbroken genetic train can be traced back to a common ancestor from Africa and that there is little evidence of a genetic contribution from non-African populations.

I guess what really pisses Sentletse off is that, as the celebrated and recognised scientist Stephen Jay Gould claims, “under the skin, we really are the same”.

Before this kind of living fossil was discovered, and while he was living under a rock somewhere left to muse over the natural scientific greats of our time — including Mbeki and Garvey — humanity (“African” and otherwise) moved beyond studying bags of old bones and refined the study of more compelling, actually living, traces of human origins: human, or population, genetics.

All studies of global mtDNA divergence have shown that African populations have the biggest mtDNA divergence (followed by Asian and European populations). The fact that Africans have the greatest mtDNA sequence variations proves they have amassed the most mtDNA mutations, providing compelling evidence for the idea of African origin of humankind because the population with the most diversity is almost certainly the ancestral population and all other population groups seem to be subsets of the diversity found in Africa, further buttressing the argument for an African origin.

Unless it is your mother-in-law, a bag of old bones don’t speak, and its mere discovery certainly reveals nothing more than its age (which very few women are reluctant to do, and often even lie about).

Even on the human evolutionary timeline a mere 60 000 year difference says very little. On a timeline of epic proportions Australopithecus have been around since four million years before present (MYBP), Homo habilis made the first stone tools in Eastern Africa 2,5 MYBP and Homo ergaster (Homo erectus) spread through Africa 1,5 MYBP and left the continent 1 MYBP. It is only between 200 000 and 100 000 years before present (YBP) that Homo sapiens evolved and its presence in South Africa dates back to 115 000 YBP. Finally, the migration of our modern human species about 80 000 YBP from this dark continent of ours, when a small group left (like many do today, for Europe, Australia and New Zealand) replaced the Neanderthals in Europe and settled in Asia, and eventually (like many of them do today) in Australia and South America.

Who’s African and not then depends on which species you’re talking about, when all modern humans indisputably have a direct ancestry linked to Africa — white, Chinese and black. Sentletse casually seems to overlook that even Asian Homo sapiens had to come from Africa, and unfortunately for him, remained the same species with direct mtDNA links to Africa.

Unless of course he implies that the entire modern human race came from Asia, China in particular, in which case he as a black man is really also Chinese. A further possibility remains: that Sentletse claims that modern black people residing in Africa have no link with these modern humans from Asia (or Europe) and are therefore a different species altogether. A claim that would make most white supremacists jump for joy. Unfortunately for them, and Sentletse, we now know that modern humans are all the same species, and Africans are humans too.

The entire article is a cheap political shot and narrow African nationalist revisionism, quoting largely not from paleoanthropologists, geneticists or evolutionary biologists, but from black nationalist political figures like Garvey and Mbeki (who was not a virologist despite his revisionism of HIV/Aids and its origins). Shall we become petty and start investigating which country we came from? Or date our ancestral heritage back to the first life on earth (in which case we’re all oceanids)?

Continents, countries and race are social constructions, and underneath it all, we’re all humans: humans who came out of Africa. We are all Africans, Mr Diakanyo, whether you like it or not.

  • This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Steven Hussey, a geneticist and biotechnologist who has read up extensively on human evolution and the origin of our species. In his spare time he is also my fiancé.
    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      Sentletse and I have been debating this further on my blog:

      Defining race and ethnicity in South Africa

      Defining race and ethnicity in South Africa, part 2

      Long and short: The term African originally applied to Phoenician people, who were Semitic. But there are many different etymological roots of the word, with many different interpretations, also reflecting the diversity of Africa. Homo sapiens and the homonids before us were all nomadic. The term African means different things to different people, based on ideology and emotions, but it’s not rooted in any science. Unless of course you just stick to African meaning of and related to Africa, thereby avoiding contradiction.

    • http://ionian-enchantment.blogspot.com Michael Meadon

      Excellent post.

    • X Cepting

      “The entire article is a cheap political shot and narrow African nationalist revisionism” – Yes, this non-expert agrees.

      History has taught us (hopefully) that not squashing one portion of the human population’s notions of supremacy usually lead to suffering for the rest of humanity. A tendency I call Nazyism (nastyism). That aside, Sentletse usually come up with thought stimulating posts and does not warrant the amount of insults you levelled at him.

      Small Objection: Don’t you mean this article was partner-reviewed? I mean, your field of study being political science and Steven Hussey’s genetics and biotechnology?

    • Frantz Fanon

      I do believe however that Sentletse’s blog was intended to be controversial to stir the pot and get some debate going, without necessarily being malicious. Hence I was disturbed by the responses that attacked the author rather than engaging with the ideas. I think one of the points it proved is the importance of people showing each other respect, especially on culturally sensitive subjects.

    • Vince Rautenbach

      Spare us this trash…Just look at the number of responses compared to Sentletse…He hit the nail on the head and exposed the cauldron of black nationalism, the true reality of the post apartheid SA…The liberal dream is a fraud!!!

    • Koos Kombuis

      It doesn’t matter where we come from, but where we’re going to…

    • mazolo

      This Marius guy is hurt that he is being excluded from the future. I can understand that.

      But what’s Garvey or Mbeki got to do with Sentlese’s argument? Is the writer trying to rubbish Sentlese’s argument by hanging on to the delusion (from non-Africans) that Mbeki is a discredited man? I can tell you now, Africans hold no such delusion.

      I might as well quote one of them.

      “I don’t imagine Heads of Government would ever be able to say I’m not an economist therefore I can’t take decisions on matters of the economy; I’m not a soldier I can’t take decisions on matters of defence; I’m not an educationist so I can’t take decisions about education. I don’t’ particularly see why health should be treated as a specialist thing and the President of a country can’t take Health decision. I think it would be a dereliction of duty if we were to say as far as health issues are concerned we will leave it to doctors and scientists, or as far as education is concerned we will leave it to educationists and pedagogues. I think the argument is absurd actually.”

      Please underline ‘ABSURD’

    • Z

      Brilliant response! Thank you.

    • afrikaans african

      I am an African because I am from Africa, when I travel overseas and come back, I know I am home. Although many of my south African brothers (the rascists of all races) may disagree with me, I will consider myself thus!

    • Thandinkosi Sibisi

      Peer reviewed response to Sentletse’s blog?

      i thought Sentletse’s blog was ‘political’ rather than scientific.Indeed thecommon ancestry of all human beings was probably known even during Verwoerdan Times. (Verwoerd may or may not have known about the ‘Y Chromosomal Adam’ but he certainly knew abour the ‘Biblical Adam’)

      When Sentletse made the statement that ‘Only dark skinned people are ‘African’ I understood this to be a ‘political’ rather than a ‘scientific statement .(Why have the socalled ‘Africans’ not bothered to learn to speak isiZulu ,isiXhosa or seSotho altjough they have been in Africa for generations? Why do ‘poor whites’ not join us in the townships? They would be welcome if they learned to behave like ‘real africans’

      It is patently clear that Setlentse does not understand any science but has strong political views about certain issues. I thought we had enough intelligent (reflecting Homo Sapiens) and not so intelligent (reflecting Homo not so Sapiens) responses to Setlentse.

      If I want to read ‘peer reviewed articles I get professional journals not ‘Thought leader’. Did you want to increase Setlentse’s ‘citation index’ Marius?

    • Policat

      I was reading a book that stated that all the fossil remains of human existence can be loaded onto the back of a bakkie. If this is true then all the theories and hypotheses of the millions of years of evolution and the millions of wannebee human beings that evolved and/or became extinct during this process is currently based on this evidence.
      Genetic analysis has undoubtedly painted a more accurate picture of our recent anthropological past (i.e. as far back as it is possible to extract viable DNA) but the story is not over, not by a long shot. At the current rate of discovery and ever progressive tools being utilized by scientists I predict that one hundred years from now there will be an entirely new theory of the evolution of humans that will make the current ones look silly.
      However the ascendency of humans when looking at it in the context of the evolution of earth does not even register on the cosmic chart, and instead of spewing our displeasure over other fellow humans by means of racial and ethnic slurs, we should be thankful that we have progressed this far and now have the ability of empowerment to make a meaningful contribution to consolidate the future of our existence.
      (Notwithstanding 2012 and that 10km wide asteroid that has us lined up in its sights.)

    • Graham Johnson

      “…The fact that Africans have the greatest mtDNA sequence variations proves they have amassed the most mtDNA mutations, providing compelling evidence for the idea of African origin of humankind because the population with the most diversity is almost certainly the ancestral population and all other population groups seem to be subsets of the diversity found in Africa, further buttressing the argument for an African origin…” Sadly, Marius, the same situation can occur if native Africans have interbred with humans coming INTO Africa, which is the more likely scenario. Start here:
      http://www.rafonda.com/interbreeding_between_species.html
      and here
      http://www.rafonda.com/html/genetic_reality_of_race.html
      Interesting in that modern DNA research shows that Africans dod not populate the world. We are NOT the cradle of humankind. Read it to find out where the cradle REALLY is (and it’s not China)

    • Paul Barrett

      “A further possibility remains: that Sentletse claims that modern black people residing in Africa have no link with these modern humans from Asia (or Europe) and are therefore a different species altogether”

      Based on a reply Sentletse made in the comments, along with a statement in the main text that “we can conclude that there was no species of mankind that evolved in Africa from hominids into whites,” it seems self-evident.

      It is indeed ironic that this is the same view historically espoused by those who wish to subjugate another group of humans. First step is to identify them as fundamentally different, next step is to claim that your group is more deserving of being considered one thing or another.

      Ironic unless you take the view (as I am trying not to) that along with a certain other “thought leader” he is pursuing an anti-white agenda. I truly hope this is not what is occurring. I prefer to think that he simply didn’t think about what he was writing. He was (possibly legitimately) upset by the (alleged) appropriation by some of an identity they don’t actually feel attached to but felt was expedient to adopt, and made the fundamental mistake of extrapolating that into a diatribe against an entire group without any supporting evidence.

    • Cosmopolitan

      Your point is well-taken, but I’m sure you’d agree that pre-historic beginnings do not do justice to the question “who is an African?”. Too much history has happened since for white people to persuasively claim that they are equally entitled to the term “African” as black people. South African, yes, but African? No.

      I’m sympathetic to white claims to being African, but their relatively recent historical arrival (and their treatment of black peoples already living here) changes the way we all feel about white claims to Africanness.

      While it is true that local whites may know only this continent – which is indeed a powerful claim to Africanness – their historical and cultural roots lie elsewhere, a fact that makes their claim to the term “African” weaker than blacks whose presence on the continent pre-dates whites by millennia.

      Moreover, fighting over the term “African” is probably not the best way to achieve the kind of tolerant, non-racial society most of us seek. Resorting to pre-historic bones won’t do it either, though the fact that all humans share a single origin should temper our narrow group tendencies.

      Rather, national citizenship (“South African-ness”) needs to be distinguished from the moral, historical and cultural notion of “African-ness” a continental claim that blacks can persuasively make. This doesn’t invalidate white people’s claims to Africa, but differentiates it from others who have a different type of claims. So: Whites, claim national citizenship, not continental belonging.

    • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/mariusredelinghuys Marius Redelinghuys

      If Sentletse wished to make a pure political statement he should have left science out of it.

      Anf if you can’t read into the purpose of the use of my reference to peer-review then you too are too much Homo, not so Sapiens.

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      It is a political, ideological and emotional issue. This is precisely why my own response to the topic focused on debunking the pseudo-science (if anyone can debunk mine, or if anyone wants to peer-review me, please leave me a comment on my blog). Sentletse’s original claims were that his opinion is based on historical evidence and not on sentiment. If he doesn’t feel that white people, Indians, Semites, Arabs, Chinese or other belong in Africa, that is his fundamental right to say so. He can choose his own opinions, but unfortunately, he can’t choose his own facts and logic. Logic has certain rules that determines when things are true, false or undecided. Unfortunately, a nomadic genus that has spread across all known continents does not have “blood and soil” privileges to particular continents. What worked for our ancestors thousands of years ago, effectively worked for a completely different species – and race – than what we currently are. We are a direct result of our ‘heimat’, or homeland and cultural upbringing, and only by proxy a result of our blood, which we all share anyway. This really amounts to splitting hairs and splitting heirs.

    • X Cepting

      @MR – in that case, the genus “Homo” must have the prior and more solid claim to success than the latter version “sapiens” and I would be more secure pronouncing myself a member of the former. Apologies but this whole debate has just become absurd for me. A stunning reminder of our common, not too distant ancestor and the practice of beating once chest, whilst displaying the full splendour of fangs which leaves the other members of the tribe no option but too engage in the endearing habit of hurling poo at you.

      @Politicat – Along with Koos Kombius, you win my personal price for most rational comment of the day. A favoured writer of mine once had a character of his utter the following wisdom: “La gavta ma nata”, which roughly translated apparently means: pull out the plug.

    • http://lennymaysay.wordpress.com Lenny Appadoo

      Damn, I’ve been missing all the fun while on holiday…

      Thanks Marius, nice job – another psuedo-scientific, politician wannabe set straight.

    • http://www.landoverbaptist.org Ben Epstein

      “Peer-reviewed articles have been evaluated and critiqued by researchers and experts in the same field before the article is published.” Peer-reviewed as a political or scientific piece? I agree with Thandinkosi Sibisi’s “If I want to read ‘peer reviewed articles I get professional journals not ‘Thought leader’”

    • Gerry

      If we were to adopt the (ridiculous) notion that only “Blacks” are “African”, (Still wonder what would happen to “mixed race people – is Trevor Noa an “African”?), then how long will it be before the PC brigade condemns “African” as hate speech.

      Follow the progression of PC – “hate speech”, and you will see whenever a group is under the illusion of being oppressed, it changes the name it calls itself, and adopts another, and so thew cycle repeats. Even Martin luther King referreed to “blacks as “Negroes”. Until it becaqme un_PC, then it became black, and now its african-American…

      Search for your identity within yourself, not within a group, and you will be set free!

    • X Cepting

      Apologies Policat I just realised I mangled your name due to a serious case of scoptoma.

    • David Brown

      To be is to do –any search for idetity isa waste of time.What is an alternative Afrikaner Koos Kombuis and identity sought in a non-identity. Negative dialectic at work here. Cradle of humankind or cradle of crap. Inevitably humankind and crap go together. Koos is right where are you going to? ID books worth ziltch at last cheque of the market on the streets.

    • Gail

      Marius, you obviously read the same literature which I do so I agree with your summing up here about all the world being African until some archaeologist/palaeontologist/geneticist is able to prove otherwise. I would be interested to hear from you on the subject of what caused the move of humans. Was it something like climate change perhaps or was it due to geological shifts in the earths crust resulting in varying groups being separated by both natural disaster as well as societal and environmental pressures. My own take on things is that every species needs water to live and procreate as well as food and so migration had to have taken place through following other species along water routes etc. and by staying close to the sea and eating seafood in times of scarcity. Interspersed with all this would be natural events like Continental Drift. What do you think? Perhaps religions share common themes because of this but diverge because at the time they came into being there was an inexplicable but earth changing natural event? The puzzle here is that South America seems to have a fair bit in common with Northern Africa in terms of architecture and ancient social discoveries made to date as well as with India. Temples, pyramids navigation etc. Just curious.

    • MLH

      Thandinkosi Sibisi: oh dear, now you want us all to decide whether or not we’re ‘real Africans’?

      If you must wear a label, go for it. But labels don’t make the man (or woman).

    • Gail

      BTW. Have you read Slave Species of god based on the writings and translations and research of Jeremiah Sitchin? Opinion welcome here too as it is connected but with a different slant on Creation vs Evolution.

    • Zuki

      The tragedy of scientific enquiry/pursuits has always lay in its embedded use either as an instrument of evil or an instrument of good. What matters most aint what we know, but how we use what we know, in the interest of human/public good. Luckily for us, some truth, contested or not, force us to revisit our own inherent prejudices, what is left in interpreted truth,and to look at ourselves as in a mirror. For now, we’re only left to contend with and to pick up broken pieces….some learn to live with their scars, some die with wounds that never heal. Brilliantly written article Marius (except for the undeserved and unrelenting cheap shotting a our beloved president TM!);)

    • Mpho

      Im black and my wife is black ,if our baby was born in China ,is he then Chines? Thats rubbish Marius

    • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

      @Marius Redelinghuys
      Excellent article compared to your other knee-jerk response 😉
      “battle of identity is fundamentally about power”
      Actually deep down is really about about the dark side of human nature – human greed – a materialist vision the world only possible by that accumulating that power.

      Attempts to establish criteria for ” who is African, and who is not…” is destructive at so many levels that it cannot be ignored.
      These tribal instincts is the kind of small-minded thinking thats the genesis of some of the worst atrocities ever to befall the human race. Many examples here but the king of the atrocities is of course none other than white supremacy!

      @RationalResponse
      Pray tell us how colonialism, imperialism and white supremacy pushed us forward as a species?
      The next century has ushered in a new world order…hmmm…maybe something even better than democracy and capitalism? I wonder if the Chinese, Indians or Africans can create better societies – after all, they survived for thousands of years without annihilating each other, didn’t they?

    • tim

      Sentlentse is right. We can’t all be settlers – arabs, whites and indians are

    • mathoba

      well written response!!!!

    • Sam

      If you’re white and your wife is black and your child is born in the US they are American. If you’re black and your wife is white and they’re born in Brazil are they then Brazilian or South African Coloured born in Brazil? SOCIAL CONSTRUCTS DRIVE ME CRAZY!!!