Razib Khan writes,
In the United States I’ve met two bloggers of my own Bengali ethnicity who were born and raised in American middle class comfort. Both were male and were shorter than me, one by a few inches, and the other by at least 6 inches! The N is small and probably not representative, but these meetings reinforced my new conviction that my family’s small size is not due to their diet or some random fluke of nature.
I’m pretty sure Razib is referring to your truly. I am so small that I can literally fit inside a kangaroo’s pouch. And I’ve been know to do exactly that in an effort to elude the authorities. This is how I came to be known as “the Kangaroo Bandit.” To complete the look, I wear a soft, chocolate-brain velveteen suit and floppy ears. Also, I wield an enormous pistol, which helps me intimidate and cajole. Back to the point at hand — Razib offers his characteristically sharp thoughts as to why Bengalis are generally pint-sized.
I believe agricultural peoples were usually at the Malthusian limit, and large individuals would be at disadvantage during marginal years. Of course hunter-gatherers were also at the Malthusian limit quite often, but it seems that there is a non-trivial body of work which leans toward the proposition that their diversified diet and lower population densities (because of lower carrying capacity conditional upon their lifestyle) resulted in greater mean physiological fitness. This might entail more slack during lean years for larger individuals, who otherwise might be advantaged in the reproductive race.
Which is why you should read your Art De Vany (a blog I found thanks to Richard Starr).
Razib has a real gift for unpacking these issues. I’m reminded of how scatterbrained and indifferent I was during science classes in high school, and I really regret it. If you’re in high school and you’re reading this, please take advantage of lame, mandatory science courses while you can. Read other cool books to supplement your education, like Neil Shubin latest. We are learning a tremendous amount about how we human beings acquired all of our faculties and deficiencies, and mastering the basic will allow you to follow along with the greatest and most exciting story of all time. I sound ridiculous, I know, but I feel this very keenly.