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"Roger Sweeny"
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    From the NYT: Law? Property? Monogamy? Non-autocratic rule? Logic? Debate? Bread and circuses? My criticism of Gladwell's work has always been that while he's good at finding and promoting interesting ideas, he's weak at reality-testing these ideas. Letting 95% of prisoners out of prison, for example, is not an idea likely to stand up to...
  • Gladwell sounds like the Freud of Frederick Crews’ Freud: The Making of an Illusion.

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  • Here's a pretty obvious question but not one that comes up much in American discourse. In America, many ethnics group have tended to stumble into a certain number of careers in which, whether or not they have above average natural talent, they can build up some expertise and networks of connections. For example, lots of...
  • @Spotted Toad
    The version of this I think is funny is how Indian restaurants with Hindu visual themes in their decorations are often run by Muslim Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in the States, who are a)less rich than Hindu-Americans and b) less likely to be vegetarians, helpful for running an American restaurant. I’m also told that Japanese and sushi restaurants are disproportionately Korean owned, tho maybe as Korean food itself is becoming more popular that is starting to change.

    The obvious safe/advantageous black field is school administration. Lots and lots of school districts have black superintendents, often even if the district administration and student body are not mostly black. Since the superintendent doesn’t have to make all that many daily decisions and is often a figurehead, it’s a little like Steve’s running joke about having a black ceremonial King of America monarch as a solution to the problem of Representation.

    There are two additional problems for team Black America that Team PC has worsened. One of these is that there are a lot of decent jobs that used to be pretty black but now are seen as too demeaning and subservient- Steve has mentioned high level golf caddy before as an example. The other is that the educated African and West Indian immigrants and biracial kids have dominated the really choice affirmative action slots for the last couple decades, and that’s probably only getting started. There’s going to be a lot of pressure not to notice that while the number of black lawyers or whatever has started going up, very few of them are descendants of American slaves.

    My old girlfriend used to say, “When two Greeks meet, they open a pizza place.” She said it was a common saying where she grew up.

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  • A quarter of a century ago, Jared Diamond wrote a memorable magazine article, "Blitzkrieg and Thanksgiving in the New World," about how awesome it must have been for proto-Indians who had crossed the Bering Strait from Siberia to finally find a corridor through the receding icefields of the Canadian Rockies and emerge, throwing spears in...
  • @Sparkon
    There were vast herds of American bison on the Great Plains, and also on the prairies of the Midwest at the time of the arrival of the Europeans, so it wasn't stone age Indian hunters who almost wiped them out with bows and arrows, but rather Americans with long rifles who slaughtered the bison in their millions, and left the carcasses to rot.

    Bison were also rather easy game for the natives. Previously, I've posted an account of an Inoca (Illini) hunting party surrounding and wiping out a "large" herd of bison, although by that time, the Indians also had firearms, but they didn't kill the young bison.

    So why would native people take on a fierce creature like a saber-tooth cat, when there were less dangerous, more numerous, and presumably tastier prey items available, like deer, which the swift, fleet-footed Inoca were able to surround, as well? The Inoca did hunt cougar, and bear, but like deer, they survive.

    Anyway, by that time, the saber-tooth cats, the cave lion, the short-faced bear, and the dire wolf had gotten the irresistible scent of tar in their nostrils, and had set out on the long trek to La Brea.

    Seriously, the gomphothere -- an extinct elephant-like creature -- survived into the Holocene. It is conceivable that they were hunted to extinction by early arrivals to the western hemisphere, thus depriving the large predators of their food source.

    But, in general, I would argue there are just too many unknowns surrounding the circumstances of human arrival in the western hemisphere at the end of the Pleistocene, and the outset of the Holocene to be able to make cause and effect arguments about the demise of the Pleistocene megafauna in the Americas, especially when this period was marked by sharp, and severe climactic fluctuations like the so-called Younger Dryas.

    North America has had 4 Ice Ages in the last half million years, at least ten in the last 2.6 million. After only one was there a lot of magafauna die-off. That was the most recent one, the only one followed by humans in the Americas.

    Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but it’s an awfully big one.

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  • The New York Times Upshot section has a number of graphs showing various team sports leagues and the native countries of their players over time. For example, 75-80% of players in the English soccer league were from England or Wales (gray section of graph), and most of the rest from other parts of the British...
  • @Hunsdon
    My interest in college football pretty much cratered with the demise of the SWC. As the Wik says, "For most of its history, the core members of the conference were Texas-based schools plus one in Arkansas, Rice University, Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M University, Texas Christian University, the University of Arkansas, and the University of Texas."

    The great thing about it was that most of the recruiting was in Texas, with occasional raids into Oklahoma (which is, of course, right next door). There was a sense of locality, of regionalism, that mattered to me. Sure, maybe it didn't exactly make sense to have Rice playing in the same conference as UT-Austin . . . if you looked at it from a competitive standpoint, but it did from a regional standpoint.

    Bud Adams opened my eyes to the "local" nature of NFL teams when he yanked the Oilers up and moved them to Tennessee, and with the death of the SWC (also in 1996, although you could point to Arkansas leaving in '91) any sense of regionalism just died. There was no longer (pardon my dialect) any sense of "our'n versus their'n" to be had. Was that just the sense of the times, a triumph of the neoliberal borderless world that Strobe Talbot had dreamed of for so long?

    I don't know.

    But it's harder to really give a crap about "local" teams if the only thing local about them is the stadium they play in.

    But it’s harder to really give a crap about “local” teams if the only thing local about them is the stadium they play in.

    You probably paid for that stadium with your taxes. You have to root for them to get your money’s worth.

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  • Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe, who was always being mentioned in the 1980s as the Democrats' next Supreme Court nominee, has an amusingly demented Twitter account these days. Today, Tribe intuits the anti-Semitic conspiracy behind a Trump misspelling in a Tweet: Tribe once wrote a law review article entitled "The Curvature of Constitutional Space:...
  • Ann Althouse had a very good, sober, law professorish take on this yesterday:

    http://althouse.blogspot.com/2017/11/laurence-tribe-calls-trumps-misspelling.html

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  • I got a free ticket to the UCLA-Arizona St. football game at the Rose Bowl last Saturday. Both of L.A.'s college football stadiums, the Rose Bowl (UCLA) and the Coliseum (USC), are enormous 1920s piles with lots of cheap bench seats in the end zones. Nobody would build these kind of non-luxurious stadiums these days,...
  • The Rosen quote is so, so, so, so, so true.

    I wonder why you never hear such things from sports “journalists.”

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  • I've written a lot over the years about the Replication Crisis in the social sciences as academics attempt to emulate Malcolm Gladwell's success on the corporate conference circuit. The New York Times Magazine offers a long sympathetic article about the Power Posing lady at Harvard Business School who has made a lot of money off...
  • @SimpleSong
    Female academics, ugh. Random thoughts:

    I actually read the paper and this reads like something out of People Magazine and not an academic journal. The first line is, "The proud peacock fans his tail feathers in pursuit of a mate." I can just hear my 10th grade English teacher saying "pick out a topic sentence that grabs the reader!"

    This kerfuffle is a good illustration of the fact that generally women value process and men value results. When female academics teach a class, they start awarding points based on attendance, participation in discussions, the act of handing in problem sets (regardless of the accuracy of the answers) etc. So they end up with warm chairs, everyone making precisely 2 asinine comments per class and then zoning out, and papers covered in meaningless scribbles. This is great if the goal of education is babysitting/aging vat/quarantine but not so useful at actually imparting knowledge.

    Male academics tend to have a discreet thing that they want to teach and then structure the class around imparting and testing that knowledge, stripped of all the fluff. The major drawback to male academics as teachers is they often don't really want to teach as they are more into their research. However, once you get beyond teaching basic, basic material, wanting to teach is really not as important as having a deep understanding of the field. Deep enough that you can conduct meaningful research in the field.

    This is why whenever I hear a student complain 'teacher x was not a great teacher, he was more into research...' I recognize this as code for 'I was too dumb for the class' or 'I am upset with my grade.' Good students immediately recognize a very strong correlation between research and teaching prowess; I have been lucky enough to take classes from two professors who were/became Nobel laureates and they were both outstanding teachers.

    Good students immediately recognize a very strong correlation between research and teaching prowess

    Oh, bull bleep. I have attended several universities where everyone on the faculty was a well-regarded researcher with many publications. The teaching quality varied enormously.

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    • Replies: @SimpleSong
    I'm not saying that research acumen and teaching ability are the same things, I'm saying they are correlated (at the university level only, and it makes no difference until about 3000 level classes). Of course there will be individual variation. Might I ask, if everyone on your faculty was a well regarded researcher, and you had no control group, then how exactly do you know that they were no better than non-researchers/poorly regarded researchers? How do you know that non-researchers even had the ability to teach the classes at all? (As an aside, having lots of publications does not equal being a good researcher, although they are faintly correlated. You can pretty much sum up Claude Shannon's or Albert Einstein's career in less than fifteen publications.)

    Regarding teaching, if you're looking for a teacher in an intro class to spoon feed students what they could just read in a textbook, no, that doesn't correlate terribly well with research acumen, since that's mostly just a matter of teacher patience and a good textbook. In that case, the textbook is pretty much what is doing the teaching, not the teacher. The teacher is just there to organize the class, assign and grade the homework, and have a base enough level of competence to answer questions and deliver a lecture that summarizes each chapter. At some point these classes (calculus I and whatnot) will just be replaced with Khan academy, which would probably be an improvement over the non-English speaking TAs currently running the show.

    A good teacher, at the university level, is someone who can teach at the ragged edges of a discipline. That is, where things are not completely understood, there is no textbook or the existing textbooks have major flaws or omissions, the future of the field and its implications for industry/society/science are unknown. Teaching at the edge is virtually impossible to do if you aren't actively involved in research.

    Feynman and Landau spring to mind as examples of superlative teachers and researchers--however they were only superlative teachers for superlative students. Could Feynman make D'shawntavious understand trigonometry? Probably not. If that is your definition of a 'good' teacher, then he was not a 'good' teacher--I think you're looking for someone like Michelle Pfeiffer's character in Dangerous Minds. However, most people who listen to the Feynman lectures would call Feynman a good teacher.

    I guess it comes down to your definition of a 'good' teacher: one pole would be Aristotle teaching Alexander the Great, the other pole is the 'Stand and Deliver' guy. If the former is the sort of model you are looking for, then yes, they need to do research. Research is where you take your ideas into the real world and field test them.

    Last note: All of this only applies to physical sciences. Anthropology and whatnot, I have no idea, but they don't really belong in a university anyway. :)
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  • Here's something I didn't include in my Taki's Magazine review of Kathryn Bigelow's new movie Detroit about the 1967 riot in Detroit: my discovery of an alternative term for when you don't want to use the term "white flight." As we all know, all bad behavior by urban blacks is caused either by white flight...
  • When I took urban studies courses in the late 1960s, “ethnic succession” was a common term. It included a lot more than white to black, e.g., WASP to Irish in some Boston neighborhoods.

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    • Replies: @Hibernian
    "...WASP to Irish in some Boston neighborhoods."

    When we arrive, there goes the neighborhood.
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  • Are there characters with autistic/Aspergery traits in Shakespeare or Dickens or other literary greats of the past? In what dramatist or novelist do these seemingly now common traits first appear unmistakably? We tend to assume that human nature doesn’t change, but I don’t recall meeting anybody on the autism spectrum until in high school around...
  • @Steve Sailer
    Didn't Asperger's get dropped from the last version of the DSM?

    Didn’t Asperger’s get dropped from the last version of the DSM?

    Yes and no. The name Asperger’s is no longer there. Nor is the name of two other disorders that were included in the autism category. Now there is simply one disorder, labelled autism.

    However, the diagnostic criteria mean that those three old diagnoses would now be covered in the autism diagnosis.

    DSM-5 is an interesting work. Many of the diagnostic criteria are something like “3 of the following 5 presenting symptoms and is a problem to the client.” As if there is an underlying philosophy: We’re all somewhat weird, and if that weirdness makes it difficult to function or interferes with enjoyment of life, it’s a disorder that properly trained people should be compensated to treat.

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  • @Roger
    Asperger Syndrome has been dropped from the DSM-5, so yes, a lot of people do not believe that it is a real disorder.

    There is no one in real life like the Rain Man character. He had genius intelligence and some charming eccentric habits and had to be institutionalized with no contact with his brother. Pure fiction.

    Asperger Syndrome has been dropped from the DSM-5, so yes, a lot of people do not believe that it is a real disorder.

    Asperger’s hasn’t been dropped from DSM-5. It has been merged with autism, along with two other autism variants from DSM-4. You can still charge insurance for treating people with what used to be called Asperger’s Syndrome (basically, if it isn’t in DSM, insurance companies won’t pay for therapy related to it).

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  • @g2k
    I'm not so sure about de-stigmatisation. Some of those "on the spectrum" have certainly been very successful, but the fact that it's treated as a disiese/syndrone at all tells you something. We now have a medical tag to what, a generation ago, would've been seen simply as "being a bit odd". Going from "oddball" to "mental defective" is imho, certainly not a positive transition. Less explicit hostility/cruelty for sure, but any chance of a "normal" life is gone from the moment of diagnosis. In the past, society, with its formalised rules and decorum, was probably easier for them to navigate and placed less emphasis on social skills.

    People with classical autism would've just been assumed to be retarded.

    Going from “oddball” to “mental defective” is imho, certainly not a positive transition.

    But going from “oddball” to “can be made normal with therapy” is.

    And that’s how many places, e.g., schools, treat an autism diagnosis for people who a generation ago would simply be considered “oddballs.”

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  • From ScottBarryKaufman.com: The PDF can be read here. Here's
  • @candid_observer

    The data are inconsistent with substantial influences from shared environment or non-additive genetic variation.
     
    From a public policy point of view -- even from a parenting policy point of view -- the lack of substantial effects from shared environment might actually be regarded as the key finding. No matter how much or little genes contribute, it's only shared environment that's manipulable by governmental or parental intervention.

    If such interventions are doomed to failure, why pursue them?

    If such interventions are doomed to failure, why pursue them?

    For the same reason you look under the lamp post?

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  • From my new column in Taki's Magazine: Read the whole thing there. Here's a key graph from Case and Deaton's new paper: Each different colored line represents a birth year among non-Hispanic whites. For example, the red line represents people born in 1950, who turned 18 in 1968 and have or will turn 67 in...
  • @Mike Zwick

    The democratization of drug culture probably dates to the early 1970s, with 1973 as the year the counterculture had clearly won in a rout.

     

    They say that much of the "60's" actually happened in the early 70's.

    And they are so right.

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  • The ’60s were, in reality, the Smart Liberation era. Much of 1960s liberalism begins with: “Assume everyone is above average in intelligence.” This belief can make life more convenient for people who actually are above average in intelligence.

    Myron Magnet said something similar in 1993′s The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties’ Legacy to the Underclass. A good book.

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    • Replies: @Jack D
    We talked about this on another thread, when the subject of A Serious Man came up. Guys like the Coen Brothers were smart enough and self controlled enough that they could go to Hebrew school stoned and still end up as rich and famous movie directors, but the average Joe might not know where to draw the line and might end up losing his job for coming in under the influence or might end up an addict. In the old regime, we just had a hard and fast rule - marijuana is illegal, period. Nobody can have it. This was not pleasing to guys like the Coen Brothers - they said , "that's not fair to me - I can handle drugs in a way that will not ruin my life and I get a lot of pleasure from them." So for every two 140IQ guys like the Coen Brothers maybe there are 10 or 20 homeless people now who couldn't handle that much "freedom".
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  • I usually use the phrase "World War Zero" to refer to the Seven Years War (a.k.a., French & Indian War) that George Washington more or less started at Pittsburgh in 1754. But lately I've been reading up on the Late Bronze Age Collapse of 3200 years ago. From The Smithsonian: Geoarchaeologist Proposes There Was a...
  • @Rotten
    Is this the article you were thinking about?

    http://www.unz.com/article/exodus-redux-jewish-identity-and-the-shaping-of-history/

    Pointing out the Egyptian scholar Manetho's version of the events of Exodus, which is both lauded and harshly criticized by Jewish historians.

    Thanks, but that’s not what I was thinking of.

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  • Didn’t Razib Khan have something on this a while ago?

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    • Replies: @Rotten
    Is this the article you were thinking about?

    http://www.unz.com/article/exodus-redux-jewish-identity-and-the-shaping-of-history/

    Pointing out the Egyptian scholar Manetho's version of the events of Exodus, which is both lauded and harshly criticized by Jewish historians.

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  • From The Daily Mail: Here's the academic paper. More than 60 per cent of males in modern-day Europe descend from three Bronze Age leaders. Genetic researchers estimate that three families in particular, which originated around 5,000 years ago, rapidly expanded across the continent. And the study suggests that the spread of modern populations across Europe...
  • Where is Razib when we need him?

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  • I've almost never run in my life. At 6'4" I've always had the sense that my knees wouldn't take the pounding. Or I'm lazy. I do like walking, though. From the New York Times: I'm not the biggest fan of brain scan studies, but there is a lot of evidence that engaging in boring sports,...
  • 1) 11 is an awful small N. I don’t have a lot of confidence in the results.

    2) But if they are actually correct, my explanation would be the opposite of the author’s. Distance running is actually a kind of meditation, an emptying of the mind. Which, as successful meditators will tell you, leads to greater focus.

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  • It's been exactly three years since I moved on from Discover. Change is timeless. So I thought it would be a good time to announce the move to another project today. Until further notice this is my last post as a blogger at Unz Review. Just as when I left Discover, this shouldn’t impact regular...
  • You are one of the best things on the internet. I look forward to the new site.

    (BTW: I have read five books you recommended. Some I probably would have read eventually; some I only knew of because of you. They were all worth the time.)

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  • From my new Taki's Magazine column: Read the whole thing there.
  • @anonymous
    Abolishing the Dept of Ed would probably be the best thing he could do for the education system. Getting rid of this bureaucracy would free the schools up to do what they're meant to do without this dead weight laying down on them.

    Abolishing the Department of Education without changing all the laws that create all the programs now in the DoE just means that those programs go back into a reconstituted Department of Health, Education, and Human Services.

    That would accomplish nothing.

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    • Replies: @EriK
    Thank you for a dose of sanity.
    DoE needs to be unwound. But trying to wipe it out all at once is a fantasy.
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  • @Buzz Mohawk
    I'm glad to see Steve addressing the Trump-education topic. His suggestions make sense, of course.

    Trump's words about "school choice" and charter schools are worrysome, for the reasons mentioned and others.

    Regarding vouchers, I say: if you are going to reimburse parents for property taxes so they can use that money to send their kids to private schools, then I want you to reimburse me an equal share of my property taxes for not sending any kids to school. You see, I don't have any, yet I'm paying for everyone else. I don't want to pay for my neighbor to send his kid to private school, so you'd better give me back my taxes if you're going to give him back his.

    One more point: Evaluations of teacher's performance should never be based on the performance of their students, yet this is always the proposal. Some teachers get lousy kids. As programmers used to say, "garbage in, garbage out."

    Or as Robert Weissberg says, "Bad Students, Not Bad Schools."https://www.amazon.com/Bad-Students-Not-Schools/dp/141281345X

    Furthermore, any attempt to install systems of measurement, rewards, and punishments for performance of public educators will always run into the corruption and nepotism that is rampant in typical, inner city environments. School systems are a lot like the cities they inhabit. Whatever judgment the folks there put on paper will not reflect reality; it will reflect who their friends are and who they favor.

    You are absolutely right that “Evaluations of teacher’s performance should never be based on the [absolute] performance of their students.” However, no modern proposal makes that mistake. All modern pay-for-performance policies are based on “value added”: how much do students improve in the year they have a particular teacher.

    Of course, that has its own problems. Some students just learn more slowly than others. So “value added” should perhaps be deflated by the previous few years performance of the students. If you get a student to learn faster than before, you get a pay bump.

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  • @Jus' Sayin'...
    I agree that the investment strategy we've seen so far -- basically build and operate an amusement park for sexual predators, sadists, and serial murderers -- doesn't seem very sound. But if this is a gigantic experiment to develop new and useful cyborg/android types then this may be the best way to do it.

    It seems clear that the technology is so sophisticated and complex that it is has become difficult to design predictable improvements into the system. Perhaps a better way is to let the cyborgs/androids evolve through interactions among themselves and those humans admitted into the park. Perhaps the character of the park is designed to attract exactly the types of humans who will introduce the very type of random shocks into the system that the ultimate designers have calculated will optimally drive the evolution of the system in the desired direction.

    And as I read over this, I realize I have way too much spare time. Back to my cold fusion project!

    Back to my cold fusion project!

    Don’t bother. I already did it. I’m just waiting on VC funding :)

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  • Back in the 2000s I used to write a lot about "adaptive introgression." This was partly due to conversations with, and influence from, people like John Hawks and Greg Cochran. The theoretical framework can be found in papers such as A genetic legacy from archaic Homo. And planet geneticists, such as Loren Rieseberg, have been...
  • Should the paragraph before the block quote begin:

    Nearly ten years after John Hawks et al. began talking about introgression and adaptation in humans, their views are NOW commonplace, and are perhaps even orthodox.

    ?

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  • I do not spend much time thinking about politics at this point in my life. Therefore I have little to say that is very important or interesting, though I take a passing casual interest. The map above is very curious. Donald Trump did not simply ride on a wave of expected gains. He changed the...
  • @Seth Largo
    I frankly have not a clue what he will do once he is in office

    This has been the most maddening aspect of the last 24 hours. Trump is all over the map on almost every issue except his precious Wall. Looking at the full context of everything he's said on most issues, no coherent ideas or even ideology comes through. Yet I've never seen so many people so absolutely positive about a president-elect's first 100 days in office. I hope the emoting dies down soon. Maybe Netflix can expedite the new season of Stranger Things.

    Looking at the full context of everything he’s said on most issues, no coherent ideas or even ideology comes through. Yet I’ve never seen so many people so absolutely positive about a president-elect’s first 100 days in office.

    Which makes him remarkably similar to Barack Obama in 2008. Lots of people from libertarians to socialists thought he was actually sympathetic to them. Perhaps part of the requirement to being elected president is to be vague enough and empathetic enough that a majority of people think you’re “with them” whether you are or not.

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  • One of the first things I wrote on the internet related to Indonesian Islam, and what we could expect in the future. This was before Gene Expression, and I don't have archives of that blog. There are many issues where my views have changed over the past fifteen years, but that is a piece of...
  • @Razib Khan
    Debates over a word like conservative are pretty useless. It has several different, though related, meanings.



    no they're not. i made it pretty clear why they are not useless. people think it means certain things, and those things lead to false inferences. as you indicate in your follow up!

    However, if Jonathan Haidt’s way of thinking is adopted, then conservative can also mean having a moral stance that includes purity, respect for authority, and loyalty to your ingroup.

    i think jon haidt is onto something deep. but the more i think about this framework, the more skeptical i get. SJWs seem to have purity, respect for authority, and loyalty to their ingroup down.

    SJWs seem to have purity, respect for authority, and loyalty to their ingroup down.

    Amen to that.

    As the linked comic indicates, among the respectable it is zealotry to want to keep out foreign people but a good thing to keep out foreign species. Purity of Ecosystem is a real feeling.

    Biologists make a distinction between exotic and invasive species. An exotic species is any species that is not native to an ecosystem. (Though the idea of “native” is problematic: go back in time and species are always moving. Go back far enough and most present species aren’t native to anywhere because they don’t even exist. Much environmentalism is more Platonic than Darwinian.) An invasive species is an exotic that when introduced to an ecosystem, changes it in ways the biologist doesn’t like.

    Yet many environmentalists will use the word invasive for any foreign species, and they want to keep all invasives out–and, to the extent possible, to get rid of the invasives that are already here. They are the equivalent of white nationalists, but there is nothing alt- about them.

    http://rhymeswithorange.com/comics/june-15-1997/

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  • The position of punter is the dullest in American football. His job is to kick the ball back to the other team when his team has failed to advance the ball ten yards in three plays. Punters are generally specialists who aren't quite good enough to play other positions. There is only one black punter...
  • Last year, in his now terminated (or perhaps “on hiatus”) Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, Gregg Easterbrook noted how useful Australian punters are and predicted NFL teams would get more of them (and that high schools and colleges might start training their own).

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  • There are some topics which I have some interest in, such as prehistory illuminated by genetics, in which there is constant change and new discoveries every few months. If a new paper doesn't drop in a six month interval, I think something is wrong. There are other topics where I don't perceive much change, and...
  • @Fred Reed
    While I am not religious, I understand the motives of those who are. The many rationalistic explanations of faith make me think of electrical engineers expounding on poetry, or the congenitally deaf on symphonies. The religious make up their answers, but they have the questions. The all-encompassing, infinitely self-confident mechanistic materialism of today answers the questions by denying their validity.

    We die. What happens then? Do we wake up somewhere else, or are we simply gone? The answer is that we don't know. Religions make up heavens and hells. The scientific look disdainful and change the subject. In any cocktail party of the sophisticated, the questions are thought in bad taste, if not actually obscene. Yet the sophisticated also die.

    These, and all the other matters fundamental to religion—right and wrong, Good and Evil, the soul if any, where we are, why—have no scientific meaning, which modernly is the only meaning. Social control? Yes. Togetherness? Yes. But these are secondary. Believers suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth. The rest? We have it all figured out. Points of view with no overlap.

    “Good and bad, I define these terms
    Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
    Ah, but I was so much older then;
    I’m younger than that now.”

    From the newest Nobel laureate in literature

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  • @Anonymous
    Francis Collins went from atheism to believing in a Creator after watching a sunset. Some of the notable Catholic converts of the 20th century were among leading analytic philosophers and logicians. G.E.M. Anscombe of Oxford and Cambridge Univ. (Wittgenstein's student, close friend and his literary executor), Michael Dummett (Wykeham Professor of Logic, Oxford Univ.), Peter Geach, renowned mathematical logician (Oxford, Leeds,...). And, funny enough, all of them were uncompromisingly conservative Catholics (pro-life, etc.). Which seems consistent. If you're gonna believe in a religion, then you should swallow it feathers and all.

    Robert Heinlein used to say that there were respectable religions and crazy cults. Most people were born into a religion and stayed in it because it was comfortable, they knew the people, etc. They more or less accepted the theology because it was what they knew.

    But some people joined a different religion voluntarily. They actually thought about the dogma and accepted it. Since Heinlein thought all religious dogma was crazy, they were by definition joining a crazy cult.

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  • @j mct
    Per Roman Catholicism, and faith and reason in it, I think that mentioning what one might call ‘revealed truth’ and reason, might be a more exact way of putting it, and its necessary relation, and they are related, can be illustrated nicely with the ontological proof, as was mentioned. This also segues into Razib’s earlier posts about pomos in the university.

    In English the simplest way to put the ontological proof is that per absolute truth, i.e. God, is that if there were no absolute truth, then the absolute truth would be that there is no absolute truth, which is nonsense. Or if the negation of absolute truth or A~, is logically impossible, then A. One might look at all this and call it silly meaningless wordplay but mathematics works just like this, it’s more elaborate wordplay, if you think that math is more than wordplay you’re wrong, but what makes a proof a proof in math is that the negation of what is proved is logically impossible, as in the proof of the Pythagorean theorem is a proof that a Euclidean right triangle where the sum of the squares of the legs is not equal to the square of the hypotenuse is logically impossible, so all right triangles must have legs whose with sides whose lengths are such that the sum of the squares of the lengths of the legs equals the square of the hypotenuse, and the proof is useful since this isn’t obvious. The ontological proof is a simple, but perfect, demonstration of how math works.

    Per the ontological proof, can it be attacked? It can, but not the way it generally is. I remember some would be new atheist a while back who was a mathematician attacking it because it had no premises. Kant attacks it by saying it has no synthetic premises, only analytic ones, in that there is no disbelievable premise in the argument. They are both really really wrong, in that the ontological proof sits on top of a whopper of a disbelievable premise. Per Kant’s criticism the notion that all analytic premises are necessarily so needs a premise, he doesn’t think so and he’s wrong about that.

    The hinge is ‘logically impossible’. From logos, logically impossible is impossible thought, or not something on doesn’t think but something one cannot think. Another, better way of putting it, is something no man can imagine. The hinge on which math and the ontological proof works, as in it proves something about reality rather than just what men can think, is that one has to get from ‘a man cannot imagine’ to ‘cannot be’, which might be hard since even though a man cannot imagine a triangle that violates the Pythagorean theorem, a man also cannot flap his arms and fly or breathe underwater either, like birds and fishes do.

    Lots of westerners breezily associate ‘logically impossible’ with ‘cannot be so’. I read once somewhere that some Hindus think that all the monotheisms are right. Westerners would say that cannot be right since it’s logically impossible. Or saying ‘the universe might not only be queerer that we do imagine, it might be queerer that we can imagine’ and then stroke their chins profoundly. Westerners thinking that this is a thought that is weird, as in not the default setting on the dial are the weird ones, thinking that the universe is queerer than we can imagine is the default setting on the human dial. How westerners got that way is pretty clear, historically.

    There was an incident in western thought back around the year 1000 when the proposition came up about whether God can change the past. The past changing is logically impossible, if it could occur then sometime in the future the past can change, which is why movies where that’s the plot never work, logically. Per the Christian story, Moslems and Jews said, God can do that, and thinking he couldn’t was wrong. I’m not sure if the Christian story about this is right in every particular, but they’re right about Moslems and Jews saying God could change the past in this particular. Some Christians agreed with them, the noteworthy one was Peter Damian, but they were not the dominant strain of Christian thought. The dominant strain was no, God cannot change the past, since doing so was logically impossible.

    It’s generally put that what made the Christians different from Moslems and Jews was that they believed in a rational God while the others did not. That is not right, I don’t think that Moslems and Jews thought that God could not reason, as in do geometry. The also did not differ on whether God could do everything and everything, Christians thought that too. What Christians differed was the thought was that the human mind could understand anything and everything, and since that was so, God couldn’t do anything that was logically impossible, or something that a man cannot imagine, and if a man cannot imagine it, neither could God, and there is nothing that God cannot imagine, obviously.

    What do you have to believe to think that? God made man in his image, and God does not have an appendix, the spark of the Divine in man is his mind. That’s the theme of Signor Buonarotti’s painting on the Sistine chapel’s ceiling, and though that wasn’t universally thought, a good example of someone who thought otherwise would be Montaigne, it was the dominant strain. I do not think many people get Montaigne when they read him, westerners reflexively assume that logically impossible is actually impossible, while Montaigne thought that was hogwash, and while reading him one has to remember that to get him.

    Since philosophy, which until recently was just a fancy word that meant ‘thinking’ needs to assume that logically impossible is actually impossible if it’s to be more than something solipistic, Roman Catholic philosophy does indeed sit on top of revealed truth, or something taken on faith. So though Roman Catholics do do philosophy, it’s not the bottom of it.

    So the as far as the Enlightenment types versus the pomos in universities, at least within the parameters of their shared assumptions, the pomos should win, they’re right.

    I guess I should stop, this has gotten very long, not quite as long as a chapter from Brave New World, but long enough.

    thinking that the universe is queerer than we can imagine is the default setting on the human dial.

    I don’t think that is true. If anything, the opposite.

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  • @Twinkie

    an emphatic case that reason exists primarily to justify to others what our body and emotions have already decided that we want to do.
     
    That is often the case, but not necessarily so.

    Every man, but a mad one, fears death. The natural instinct in deadly combat is to flee and attempt to preserve oneself. Yet we witness acts of great courage in battle. And courage is not an absence of fear, but overcoming it.

    We don't have to be slaves to our passions, and neither does reason.

    Jonathan Haidt (The Righteous Mind) uses the metaphor of an elephant and its rider. Without guidance from the rider, the elephant will go where it wants to go. But, depending on what is being asked, some combination of rider skill and elephant training may result in the elephant following the rider’s instructions.

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    • Replies: @RaceRealist88
    That's my favorite allegory. It makes so much sense. How he says:

    "If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you. But if you think about moral reasoning as a skill we humans evolved to further our social agendas – to justify our own actions and to defend the teams we belong to – then things will make a lot more sense. Keep your eye on the intuitions, and don’t take people’s moral arguments at face value. They’re mostly post hoc constructions made up on the fly crafted to advance one or more strategic objectives (Haidt, 2012, pg XX to XXI)."

    Is so damn true. Why, when asked certain moral questions, do people not have a rational answer and only use their 'gut feelings'? Haidt's intuitionist model makes so much sense. He's an outstanding writer as well. I love that book.
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  • @Karl Zimmerman
    Obviously everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but the idea that there is an active "anti-HBD" conspiracy is ridiculous. The hostility towards HBD thinking in the modern west is not due to active and coordinated censorship, but self-internalized social norms. I honestly think even if shorn from racial implications it would be considered impolite to discuss in the general public, because it's generally considered to be gauche for anyone to not that one person is smarter than another - particularly if they are including themselves in the comparison.

    Regardless, even active suppression wouldn't make a difference, because non-western countries (particularly Asia) are going to be looking into the relationships between genetic background, ancestry, and cognitive ability. I personally think that even if differences in cognition are found, it may result in only minor shifts to the modern American worldview regarding diversity. Look to how the U.S. cultural left has embraced people with various disabilities, physical and mental, in order to see why. Essentially the accepted norm will shift from everyone has the same basic aptitudes, to aptitudes vary along a continuum, one shouldn't generalize about an individual based upon groups, no one should be unfairly penalized due to accident of birth, and those aptitudes really aren't very important in any case.

    College graduates will continue to believe that they should make more money and have more pleasant jobs than people who are not.

    This makes it difficult to honestly believe “aptitudes really aren’t very important.”

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  • @Roger Sweeny
    Thanks. I chased down the review and several things you wrote about it. I hadn't realized there was a search box in the upper right that searches your archives for words (so "secret success" got me what I wanted but "secret of our success" got me hundreds of useless posts with "of" in them).

    Is there a system for what books go in the list on the right?

    Wow. If I put “Secret of Our Success” in parenthesis, the search box also looks for that four word string and lists first those posts that have the full string. Which are the ones I was actually looking for.

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  • @David Boxenhorn
    I'm not sure that I agree with Haidt's central thesis that the difference between Left, Right, and Libertarian is captured by the degree to which various moral foundations are activated. Rather, it seems to me that these foundations are used in different ways by different moral systems. In the context of this post, I bring up the book only to, perhaps, put religion in its place as only one type of morality, and morality in its place as the substrate of groupishness.

    I think it’s both. I’ve already mentioned how non-theistic liberals who Haidt thinks don’t much use the holiness/pollution axis will nod in agreement at statements like, “National Parks are sacred places where we go to renew our souls. We must keep them inviolate.”

    It occurs to me that many biologists have the same attitude toward the natural world. The world “before humans had much effect on it” becomes sacralized. Though it is just one point in a several billion year saga, it becomes something that must be kept from changing any more, and any change becomes “deterioration.” One speaks of an ecosystem “becoming unhealthy” or “losing its integrity.” There is moral feeling here.

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  • @Razib Khan
    Speaking of “cognitive mental intuitions,” have you read Joseph Henrich’s The Secret of Our Success

    i reviewed it.

    Thanks. I chased down the review and several things you wrote about it. I hadn’t realized there was a search box in the upper right that searches your archives for words (so “secret success” got me what I wanted but “secret of our success” got me hundreds of useless posts with “of” in them).

    Is there a system for what books go in the list on the right?

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    • Replies: @Roger Sweeny
    Wow. If I put "Secret of Our Success" in parenthesis, the search box also looks for that four word string and lists first those posts that have the full string. Which are the ones I was actually looking for.
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  • At its fundamental basics religious impulses must be understood as an outcome of our cognitive mental intuitions.

    Speaking of “cognitive mental intuitions,” have you read Joseph Henrich’s The Secret of Our Success (it’s not in the book list in the right margin)? His big idea is that the evolution of our cognitive mental intuitions has (at least since the genus homo) been driven mainly by the culture that people are born into. Culture is not some modern product built on pre-cultural intuitions. Rather there has been gene-culture co-evolution. He fits an amazing amount of stuff into his brief for that thesis.

    The Hume citation is a point of departure for another book not on the list, Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind Haidt purports to have discovered six basic moral intuitions, one of which is the idea of holiness and its opposite, pollution. Haidt says that “liberals” don’t use that particular intuition much. I think he’s wrong about that. If they didn’t, and if they were rational/analytical, they would purge environmental writing of all it’s talk about sacred spaces, refreshing one’s soul etc. “National Parks are sacred spaces where we go to refresh our souls.” But they do and they aren’t.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Speaking of “cognitive mental intuitions,” have you read Joseph Henrich’s The Secret of Our Success

    i reviewed it.
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  • The new Alice Roberts documentary is going viral. Or at least its spin is. E.g., Western contact with China began long before Marco Polo, experts say: Let's go with the easy part first: there were no "Western" people when the Afanasevo culture was pushing into the fringes of what is today Xinjiang. There are two...
  • @Talha
    Great article Razib, lots to think about. Just a note - did you mean 'Bactrian' as in the famous two humped camel of the Persian/Central Asian area?

    Peace

    Bactria is a region in central Asia. Around the second century BCE, there was a Greco-Bactrian kingdom there. The Bactrian Camel is native to the area.

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  • Online Life Is Real Life, Aleph-Nought in a Series: It's a major pet peeve of mine that people deduce from what they see on this blog and Twitter to generate a full picture of whom I am. If the data you saw were representative, then that might be one thing, but they really aren't. Rather,...
  • @Talha
    I thought that, by taxonomy, a species is specifically that group in which two individuals can mate and reproduce fertile offspring. If so, then by definition, aren't these the same species since their genetic makeup is traceable in current humans (thus they mated successfully and had offspring that reproduced)?

    I'm just a layman on this subject so please go easy on me (avoid the face!) if I have exposed my massive ignorance.

    Peace.

    There is no nice definition of species that works in every situation. I remembered reading years ago of a bird that is found in the high northern latitudes. Any bird could successfully mate with another bird several hundred miles to the east or west but could not successfully mate with a bird halfway around the world. How you would divide these up into separate species or whether you call them one big species is a matter of convenience.

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    • Replies: @Talha
    Hey Roger,

    Thanks, I guess it makes sense that there has to be some allowance for flexibility on the definitions - we aren't dealing with mathematics.

    Peace.
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  • At a readers' suggestion I got Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Unlike The Dialectical Imagination this is not necessarily a detached academic book. Rather, the author has a definite perspective. About 20 years ago I read George H. Smith's Atheism: The Case Against God, and there are a lot of similarities...
  • @ohwilleke
    There are good sources, but they are pretty scattered.

    I have a science blog (Dispatches From Turtle Island) at which I have tagged 76 post in the past five years or so touching on climate, most of which contain reference to studies of paleoclimate in time periods relevant to human evolution, prehistory and history (some more directly than others). At least a third of the posts with that tag are primarily or significantly related to this topic.

    http://dispatchesfromturtleisland.blogspot.com/search/label/climate

    Paleobotanist Dorian Fuller has a frequently updated website that often has new studies on the topic.

    And some of the categories in Science Daily have myriad press releases relevant to the topic.

    Wikipedia has a good one page summary of many of the major points that is well sourced and is a good way to provide context before going deeper.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_periods_and_events_in_climate_history

    I checked out your links. Wow. Good stuff.

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  • The above talk is from Alice Dreger, author of Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar's Search for Justice. I don't know Dreger personally, but she seems like a brave and courageous person. In the broadest strokes there's very little where we disagree. Yes, our politics, and many of our specific beliefs, diverge, but...
  • @Razib Khan
    it already is partly. some of my geneticist friends are appalled that i speak openly about some things. some of them are admiring of my boldness. none of them will speak in public though, whatever they may say in private (except for the ones who will excoriate me now and then).

    if you had asked me in 2005 if we'd be here in 2016, i'd have been skeptical, and sad. but that's where we are. it's getting worse, not better :-( and it's not about tenure or money. it's about social sanction and approval. so two sad conclusions:

    1) truth can only move in hidden channels now if it conflicts with power. no one gives a shit if you appeal to truth, they know that it is not intrinsic value except in the serve of status and power. i admire heterodox academy, but part of me wonders if they'd be better served by being stealth and just creating a secret society that doesn't put the academy on notice that some people know that reality is different from the official narratives.

    2) the post-modernists are right to a first approximation, everything is power. so "we" have to capture and crush; it's only victory or defeat. the odds are irrelevant. i put we in quotes because it doesn't matter who you are, the game is on, whether you think you are a player or not.

    open data and crowd-sourcing means that a whole ecosystem of knowledge can emerge that doesn't need to be nakedly exposed and put peoples' livelihoods and reputations at risk from the kommissars.

    some of my friends have argued this for a long time and i resisted because i'm an liberal in the old sense. but reality is reality, and the fact is that no one wants the truth, and they'll destroy you to deny it.

    for every alice dreger there are 1,000 who support her. but they'll stand aside while the 100 tear her to shreds, and talk sadly amongst themselves about what happened to her career....

    for every alice dreger there are 1,000 who support her. but they’ll stand aside while the 100 tear her to shreds…

    That sounds a lot like Taleb in his, “The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dominance of the Stubborn Minority.”

    http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/minority.pdf

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  • Taking a break in my work of the day I stumbled upon the fact that Bernard Cornwell's series based on King Alfred's period, which began with The Last Kingdom, is a Netflix series. To be honest I much preferred the three volume Warlord Chronicles, set more than three centuries earlier, in post-Roman and pre-Saxon Britain....
  • The most important factor, by far, underlying European success in their early New World conquests was the enormous decline in native population brought about by disease. … The outbreak that affected Tenochtitlan in 1520 was not some lucky, one off event. The Aztecs would have been cut down by smallpox had any significant number of Europeans of any nationality arrived. The Cayapo in Venezuela, the Mandan in North Dakota: in every well studied case of white people encountering uncontacted natives, disease and major population declines follow.

    This was one of the theses of the great William H. McNeill’s Plagues and Peoples (1976 and still worth reading; an amazon link is in the sidebar).

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  • Over at The Genetic Literacy Project Jon Entine has a post up, Usain Bolt’s Olympic gold proves again why no Asian, white–or East African–will ever be crowned world’s fastest human. Fifteen years ago Jon wrote Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports And Why We're Afraid To Talk About It, so he knows something about this...
  • @RCB
    Had a similar thought re swimming vs. track, recently.

    My impression of their wiki pages was that swimming records are still being broken all the time, where as sprinting records aren't (although the men's 400m from 1999 was just broken!). Seems to me that everyone tries running at some point: if you've got the potential to be an olympic-caliber runner, you're going to know it, almost regardless of where you live. Not the case with swimming.

    The implication is that Usain Bolt probably truly is the fastest human ever (well, since we've been paying attention), but some unknown guy out there in the world probably would have been a better swimmer than Michael Phelps.

    It was only a few years ago that swimmers adopted new suits that significantly lowered drag in the water. The recent crash of world records has probably been because of that.

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  • In 2011 I was having dinner with an old friend who was an engineer at Intel. He also has a Ph.D. from MIT. Smart guy. But when I mentioned casually offhand that we were all a few percent Neanderthal (outside of Africa), he was surprised. I was a bit shocked, as I explained that this...
  • @Tim
    "Quite reasonable. Unfortunately, being quite reasonable in this day and age will often get you labeled as a racist."

    Just wondering here... Are there any people with ordinary, common, idiotic, or completely unfounded beliefs that would actually say that their own ideas are not 'quite reasonable'?

    Quite reasonable is a pretty meaningless thing to say about opinions.

    If you want to hypothesize that limiting immigration into Europe has had a negative impact on your personal interests, then I would like to see evidence that that is true.

    Science has overwhelmingly shown that human desires and opinions are easily altered. And I would wager that the society regarded as desirable by many actually arose largely through immigration or influence from outside regions.

    Science has overwhelmingly shown that human desires and opinions are easily altered.

    So true. People used to eat lots of salty, sugary, fatty foods. And they were pretty sedentary. But then they learned that this was making them fat and unhealthy. So they stopped all that. A little nagging and some diet plans and they turned it all around. You just can’t find food like that any more, and nobody is obese or even overweight.

    Can you imagine how bad things would be if human desires weren’t easily altered? People would still be eating that stuff. They wouldn’t get much exercise. Cases of type-2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease wouldn’t have stopped their rise and begun their historic decline.

    (You might find interesting Joseph Lieberman’s The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease.)

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  • Over at The Genetic Literacy Project Jon Entine has a post up, Usain Bolt’s Olympic gold proves again why no Asian, white–or East African–will ever be crowned world’s fastest human. Fifteen years ago Jon wrote Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports And Why We're Afraid To Talk About It, so he knows something about this...
  • @FKA Max
    Cleverness may carry survival costs

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4200-cleverness-may-carry-survival-costs/

    Being smart is not always a good thing in the evolutionary race, suggests a new study by Swiss researchers

    If intelligence were always a positive attribute, it would always be selected for by natural selection. But it is not – people and animals have their dolts as well as their Einsteins.

    To evolutionary biologists, that diversity means that theoretically, there must be some cost to being smart. Now for the first time, researchers have shown that in fruit flies at least, it doesn’t always pay to be clever.

    When Frederic Mery and colleagues at the University of Fribourg, pitted fast-learning fruit fly larvae against their more dimwitted cousins in scarce food conditions – the slower fruit flies came out on top.

    “This shows that just having a better ability to learn involves a cost, even when you aren’t using it,” Mery told New Scientist.
     
    Some more interesting thoughts and observations on intelligence and environment/climate adaptations and interactions, and how it affects survival:

    Swiss researchers Fredric Mer[y] and others at the University of Fribourg found that fast learning fruit fly larvae competing against more slow-witted ones in scarce food conditions did not win! More energy was devoted to making and rearranging neural connections in their brains leaving less energy to forage. Decisive action requires consideration of limited alternatives and smart people often out-smart themselves by complicating matters.
    [...]

    Rushton hypothesizes that Mongoloids are intellectually superior to Whites because they evolved in a colder climate, as evidenced by their slight builds and the epicanthic folds of the eyes. However the epicanthic folds are usually regarded as an adaptation to dusty environments. Cold climates favour larger, stronger builds such as Nordic Whites [Patterns of variation in body mass and bill surface area were consistent with Bergmann's and Allen's rules, respectively (small body size and larger bill size in warmer climates), with maximum summer temperature being a strongly weighted predictor of both variables. - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26936361]. Pale skin is an adaptation to the cold, maximising vitamin D production. The light eyes of the Nordic are more of an adaptation to cold climates than the dark eyes of the Mongoloid. Eskimos have successfully lived in very cold environments such as Greenland – but so too have Nordics. It does not follow from such an Eskimo presence that they are physiologically better adapted to the cold than Nordics. The Viking settlement in Greenland died out because of cultural factors affecting adaptation during an unusually harsh climatic period, rather than racial factors: J. Diamond “Collapse” (Allan Lane, London 2005). Interestingly enough the Eskimo, a Mongoloid, arrived in the Arctic about 10,000 years ago, probably too late for major physiological changes to occur. Their mean IQ is 91 and they have a visual-spatial score of 90 – yet in the field have superior spatial-visual abilities. It is likely that the IQ tests are flawed because they could not have survived in such a harsh environment without peak spatial-visual skills.

    It has not even been established that the challenges of a cold environment causes high intelligence to evolve. It could very well mean the reverse: that natural selection ensures that only intelligent people survive in cold environments. It may be a fact that high intelligence races are found in cold environments because they were highly intelligent to start with; Rushton commits an “after, therefore because of” fallacy in his reasoning. Nor should the challenges of desert environments be underestimated, where droughts and other challenges existed.
     
    - http://thecross-roads.org/race-culture-nation/25-the-myth-of-east-asian-intellectual-supremacy

    Do more intelligent human beings intentionally locate to more harsh and less inhabitable environments, because they would be outcompeted by their less intelligent peers in more accommodating and less harsh/less difficult-to-survive-in environments?

    Is White flight https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_flight the avoidance, by more intelligent individuals/groups, of direct competition with less intelligent humans, which they would lose?

    Is fight the more dominant survival instinct/mechanism in less intelligent human beings, and flight the more dominant survival instinct/mechanism in more intelligent human beings?

    California to Idaho Relocation- Top 5 Reasons People Make the Move

    https://www.buyidahorealestate.com/blog/california-to-idaho-relocation-top-5-reasons-people-make-the-move.html

    The crime rate in Idaho is the lowest in the West. According to USA.com, Idaho is rated as the sixth least crime-ridden state, and has nearly forty percent less crime than the national average.
     

    Decisive action requires consideration of limited alternatives and smart people often out-smart themselves by complicating matters.

    This sounds similar to things that Gerd Gigerenzer and his followers say. Gigerenzer is a psychologist who has written books with titles like Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart.

    Jason Collins (Evolving Economics) is a fan. E.g.,

    https://jasoncollins.org/2014/12/02/the-power-of-heuristics/

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    • Replies: @FKA Max
    Maybe, originally the KISS principle was (maybe, still is) predominately intended for smart people?: "Keep it simple, [Smarty]"

    The principle is best exemplified by the story of Johnson handing a team of design engineers a handful of tools, with the challenge that the jet aircraft they were designing must be repairable by an average mechanic in the field under combat conditions with only these tools. Hence, the "stupid" refers to the relationship between the way things break and the sophistication available to repair them.
     

    - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KISS_principle#Origin
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  • @Erelis
    Sprinting is selecting for a raw ability. I say something more important as a raw ability as it was more important to human survival--male upper body strength. This is a much more meaningful raw ability than sprinting. In the totality of nature, bi-pedial human speed is pathetic. Distance running yes, but not sprints. I would look to where weight lifting medalists have come from instead to find superior physical human beings.

    Razib is not talking about superiority or inferiority. He is talking about difference. This is a scientific post, not a moral one.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    appreciate this comment. you are much nicer than i am!

    to erelis, it's OK, having a small penis is not that big of an issue :-)
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  • The above visualization is from a Reddit thread, Almost all men are stronger than almost all women. It's based on grip strength, and basically reiterates my post from last year, Men Are Stronger Than Women (On Average). The same metric, grip strength, is highlighted. The plot above shows that the "great divergence" occurs on the...
  • @Yudi
    This is one of the reasons I'm thankful for the rise of China. But I wonder how much of Western civilization will be ruined before people come to their senses.

    Incidentally, as a working-class white person, I want to thank you for your willingness to speak the truth to power when it comes to discussing issues with upper-class whites/SWPLs, like in the open thread above. They would never listen to a person like me.

    I'll leave with:

    'If I wished,' O'Brien had said, 'I could float off this floor like a soap bubble.' Winston worked it out. 'If he thinks he floats off the floor, and if I simultaneously think I see him do it, then the thing happens.' Suddenly, like a lump of submerged wreckage breaking the surface of water, the thought burst into his mind: 'It doesn't really happen. We imagine it. It is hallucination.' He pushed the thought under instantly. The fallacy was obvious. It presupposed that somewhere or other, outside oneself, there was a 'real' world where 'real' things happened. But how could there be such a world? What knowledge have we of anything, save through our own minds? All happenings are in the mind. Whatever happens in all minds, truly happens.

    Wow. I’d forgotten that passage. I suppose “social constructionism” really isn’t that new.

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  • My iSteve blog at Unz.com set 4 new traffic records during the month of July 2016: 19,590 comments 1,369,992 words of comments 384,609 unique visits 993,462 pages served (I've had my eye on a goal of one million pages read in one month, but I fell just short so I can't rest on my laurels)....
  • @PV van der Byl
    I agree this is an interesting straw in the wind. Grantham is both very rich and very much an Establishment figure. He holds rigorously PC views on virtually every other subject such as climate change.

    He gives millions away annually to organizations such as the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Smithsonian, various universities in the U.S. and UK.

    There is a long tradition in environmentalism of favoring zero (or even negative) population growth. The more people there are, the more humanity’s “ecological footprint.” So people shouldn’t have more than two children, especially if they can’t provide for them. If you have 4 or 6 or 8 children, you don’t have the moral authority to say, “I can’t make it here; you have to take me in to your rich country.”

    This tradition has been pretty much covered up by the now reigning idea that one never “punches down.” One never says bad things about those you are less well-off. Rather than being less deserving because they are irresponsible, they are more deserving because they need it more–and, of course, no kid asked to be born.

    The old tradition never fully died, and has a lot of harsh logic behind it. Perhaps we will hear more of it in the next few years.

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  • Never rest on your laurels. Rest on your ischial callosities.

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  • When people ask me what they should read to understand genetics, I don't really know what to say. But An Introduction to Genetic Analysis is what I reviewed for my genetics qualifying exam. If you want to understand what PCA is, the Wikipedia page should suffice, especially if you have taken linear algebra. Perhaps ironically...
  • The whole DNC email leak and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz resignation strikes me as strange. Obviously I don’t follow politics, because everyone knew they were engaging in these shenanigans. Is it different because we know for a fact?

    Perhaps. Sanders ran saying, “The system is corrupt and stacked against you, and Hillary is part of that system.” But he’s a pragmatist, and very much wants to change his message to, “Donald Trump is absolutely awful, so vote for and work for and give money to Hillary.”

    This makes it harder to get his supporters on to the new message. Part of the story of the next three and a half months will how successful he and Hillary (and parts of the media) are in burying the old message and spreading the new one. In fact, the Hillary people will be trying to spread an even newer message, “With the changes in the platform and the welcome to Sanders, Hillary is now the anti-establishment, pro-reform candidate–but with experience and knowledge of “how to play the game.” Kind of a tight-rope walk. But a lot of people certainly want to believe that.

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  • I've been in upstate New York, working this week. So busy. Should take a break to crank out some blog posts. In particular, probably "How to read an admixture estimate", since even after so many years readers are confused.... While I've been holed away, Pokemon Go happened. What? Great Ordeal, the third book in R....
  • Razib, have you seen this Wall Street Journal article? It basically says that pungent tastes stop cramps. Since you’re a fan of pungent tastes, I thought you might find it interesting.

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-new-way-to-prevent-muscle-cramps-1468256588

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  • @AG
    Second time traveling in Greco-Roman world and first time reading Bryan Ward-Perkins The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization, a lot of thought going through my mind.

    Bryan Ward-Perkins mentioned religion/morality arguments regarding decline of the empire. But he did not endorse any specific opinion on that matter. He mainly focused on relationship between strength and material wealth as critical factor.

    It is inevitable to noticed that rising empire during Pagan religion domination and falling empire during Christianization in Greco-Roman region. Coincidence? or some cause-effect factor here?

    My argument is that change of religion contributed partially to the decline of Rome Empire. Greco-Roman pagan religions are more true to human nature than Christianity. Pagan Gods possess human like emotion, self-interest, and reaction. Following Pagan Gods is like following human biological instinct to do right thing for right circumstance. At end human is still a biological being, Darwin's rule apply here. Survival of the fittest is following the biological instinct (the voice of Pagan Gods in your head).

    Thus in biological world, Pagan Gods advices are more practical in survival. Any religion or ideology which are against human-nature are unfit in biological word. Human nature is product of million years evolution. You can not be too wrong to follow it.

    So that’s why from ~1400 on, pagan Europeans conquered Christian Americans and Africans and Asians. Oh, wait …

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    I used the word "partially" for a reason. Oh, wait....
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  • The Great Ordeal, the third book in R. Scott Bakker's Aspect Emperor series is going to come out in nine days. Bakker is apparently working on revisions to the fourth book, The Unholy Consult. So this series will complete (apparently Bakker's original vision was for three related sequential series, so this would be the second...
  • @Talha
    Hey Razib,

    Terrorist ideologues are often from privileged backgrounds.
     
    And educated - in the secular sciences. This is very important for people with Salafist/Wahhabi leanings outside of the actual trouble-spots (which have their own dynamics as to why someone leans that direction). Why? Because the appeal to "you are intelligent enough to interpret the Qur'an and hadith" comes very naturally to the educated - "Abu Hanifa was a man and I'm a man" kind of mentality. The farmer and rickshaw driver tend to recognize their place in the scheme of things and not have delusions of grandeur in this regard. My own teachers - in order to inoculate us from this kind of mentality - have taken people like me (CS & E major from UCLA) and other very highly educated peers (doctors, engineers, etc.) and thrust us into studying the classical texts (usually written by Persian and Arab polymaths) under traditional scholars. This cuts one down to size real fast - I have a friend (MS in Education from DePaul) who got a whopping 3% on his first comprehensive test on Usul ash-Shashi (basic primer for the juristic principles of the Hanafi school).

    Also, the lower strata are too busy with the day-to-day of life to have the time to ponder over such matters and develop an ideology in the first place.

    Also, you mentioned "many of the sufis in bangladesh are quite orthodox" - totally agree. A teacher of mine just completed his studies and came back from Bangladesh - very orthodox Hanafis. Though they disagree with the majority opinion on the prohibition on shrimp - ;) - Bengalis love their seafood.

    Mr. Cole (who I respect a lot), said "Many Hindus frequent shrines of Sufi saints. Radical Sunni Muslims want to destroy Sufism and to herd Muslims into the hard line ‘protestant’ Salafi trend." That's par for the course for Hindus, I can't think of a prohibition from the dharmic view of things to prevent that (in fact, some of the most stirring speeches [in Hindi/Urdu] I have heard in praise of the Prophet [pbuh] have been from Hindu pandits). He is on-spot calling Salafis 'Protestant'.

    May God preserve the people of Bangladesh from any more tragedies.

    Graduate education courses are at the level of a second or third year undergraduate course at a mid-rank state college. No one flunks out of the program is they attend most of the classes and actually do the assignments. Your friend may be brilliant and learned but possessing an “MS in Education from DePaul” doesn’t indicate that at all.

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    • Replies: @Talha
    May be true, but I can tell you that he was actually taking a serious course under serious scholars at an institution. I am only doing a part time study of the Islamic law and our group (all IT folks) studied the same text (Usul ash-Shashi); our teachers gave up on us (and had mercy on us by not flunking us) midway through the book and moved us to another text. It is not a 'boy scout' text. I may be able to come back to it when I pursue my studies more earnestly.

    Peace.
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  • Reading Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road. It's a quick read. Not because it is not scholarly, it is scholarly. But unlike The Shape of Ancient Thought is relatively economical in its prose (to be fair, The Shape of Ancient Thought covers more ground). Also you probably benefit from reading Beckwith's Warriors of the...
  • @marcel proust
    In re: recession.

    1) Depending on which statistical series you use, we've had equally low growth once or twice in the last 6 years (or whenever, coming out of the recession: too lazy to check right now) without tottering into a recession

    2) The fed did hike interest rates a few months ago for the first time in roughly a decade; a number of economists (e.g., Brad Delong), mostly on the (US) left side of the spectrum thought this unwise at the time. That certainly is not helpful for avoiding one.

    3) For the last ~6 years, fiscal policy -- fed + states -- has not been as expansionary as has been traditional at comparable points of past business cycles.

    4) Do I sound as if I am trying to whistle past the graveyard? Um, why do you ask?

    2) A number of economists on the right, e.g. Scott Sumner, also think raising interest rates is a bad idea at this time.

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  • The origins of Islam are fascinating, because the religion is critically important in the modern world, but its genesis within history is surprisingly vague for its first decades. Muslims have their own historiagraphy, and some Western historians, such as Hugh Kennedy transmit this narrative with high fidelity, albeit shorn of sectarian presuppositions and strongly leavened...
  • As I recall, Nicolas Wade said something similar in 2010′s The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures.

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  • Behold, Summer Institute in Social Science Genomics: The future is not the future anymore.
  • @Razib Khan
    but what if schizophrenia's genetic? ;-)

    in any case, i am confident that people can deny whatever empirical facts disconfirm their priors for a long time. creationism and communism illustrate that.

    i am confident that people can deny whatever empirical facts disconfirm their priors for a long time. creationism and communism illustrate that.

    Sad, but true (and very well put).

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  • I've been very busy the past month. That being said, I made time to read The Monkey's Voyage. My main interest was driven by the fact that macroevolution and biogeography aren't scientific questions which I've focused much on lately. But, ultimately the book totally convinced me that vicariance doesn't explain much in terms of geographic...
  • Scott Alexander (Slate Star Codex) criticizes a P. Z. Myers post about the impossibility of increasing human intelligence much by genetic engineering. It seemed sensible (as did the cited Stephen Hsu response) but I really don’t know enough to be sure. Any thoughts?

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/05/04/myers-race-car-versus-the-general-fitness-factor/

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  • My main gripe with Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, is that I don't think individualism is a sui generis invention of Western civilization (the author, Larry Siedentop, gives particular pride of place to Western Christianity as the mother and midwife of liberal individualism). It's hard to generalize about human nature and history...
  • @theo the kraut
    ... aggro-pastoralism :-)

    Short for aggressive pastoralism?

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  • I don't know where this recommendation occurred (on this blog, Twitter?), but The Monkey's Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life, is a very interesting book. Haven't had time to read much of it, but what I have read is fascinating. It seems to be one of those works which is taking a...
  • @Doug Jones
    I recently covered Queiroz's book on my blog (where I compress the history of the Universe into a single year using a logarithmic scale). The blog had just reached the Oligocene, and the wildly flukish dispersal of monkeys to the New World.
    https://logarithmichistory.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/the-monkeys-voyage-2/

    Cool blog. It reminds me how amazing the internet is. The Monkey’s Voyage is a fun book.

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  • When I was 13 years old I had a deep interest in America's national parks, so I have long been familiar with the ecology and conservation genetics work associated with Isle Royale. In particular, there has been a long-term study of the predator-prey dynamics on the island dating back decades. Before the recent resurgence of...
  • @Kevin O'Keeffe
    "...even though Isle Royale is clearly closer to the Canadian than to the American mainland, it’s part of the United States because Ben Franklin had heard that Indians mined copper on the island. So in the negotiations that led to the 1783 Peace of Paris ending the Revolutionary War, Franklin insisted that the breakaway Republic get Isle Royale."

    This history also helps explain why Isle Royale is part of the state of Michigan, rather than Minnesota (despite being much closer to Minnesota). Michigan consists of territory that was part of the original American nation of 1783 (and was admitted as a state in 1837), whereas all but the northeastern corner of Minnesota didn't become U.S. territory until later on (and it wasn't admitted as a state until 1858).

    The Keweenaw Peninsula juts out into Lake Superior from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, pointing vaguely toward Isle Royale. The town at the tip is named Copper Harbor. Copper was mined on the Peninsula from 1844 to about 1870.

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  • I am travelling much of this week with the family. So expect me to be "off the grid" a bit. But I will check this thread every day or so.
  • @marcel proust
    RK: This week's column by Carl Zimmer echoes you on the frequency of extra-pair paternity.
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  • @CupOfCanada
    Prohibition failed though, and for similar reasons. You'd think people would have learned by now, but apparently not.

    Actually, alcohol prohibition is making a comeback. Many Islamic states have it. Just five days ago, the Indian state of Bihar prohibited the sale AND consumption of alcoholic beverages.

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  • The above model of the settlement of the Americas is from a new paper which utilized ancient mtDNA, Ancient mitochondrial DNA provides high-resolution time scale of the peopling of the Americas (open access): The exact timing, route, and process of the initial peopling of the Americas remains uncertain despite much research. Archaeological evidence indicates the...
  • Wow. Great post.

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  • Ron Unz is running for the United States Senate. One of the major reasons is that bilingual education might be restored in California via the California Multilingual Education Act. Here is state Senator Ricardo Lara in Senator Lara Announces Bill Supporting Multilingual Education: Multiple studies have shown that supporting children’s home language in early years...
  • @AnonNJ
    In the Bible, the explanation for a multitude of languages is that it was a curse from God to prevent cooperation. Whether one believes it is literally true or simply a myth created by ancient people to explain different languages, what was obvious to those ancient people (that speaking different languages is a curse that makes cooperation difficult or impossible) is something modern leftist academics must ignore.

    My father grew up in Jersey City during The Great Depression and he anecdotally told me about patents hitting their children for speaking their family's "Old World" language instead of English, even if their parents or grandparents were speaking it at home. Why? They wanted their children to be Americans.

    The question I have is why immigrants to the United Stated no longer want their children to become Americans. I know why activist leftists don't (alienated groups are easier to manipulate) but why don't immigrant parents want assimilation?

    Over the years, people tried to get my Scottish grandfather (who first entered the US illegally from Canada) to join Scottish organizations and his response was that if he loved Scotland so much, he would have stayed there. To the more recent immigrants I ask, if you love your home country so much and don't want to be American, why did you come to America and why didn't you stay there?

    Lots of immigrants want their children to become Americans. They just don’t make a lot of noise or get on the news.

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  • Reading The Shape of Ancient Thought. Not a light read, but worthwhile so far. I'm not a big fan of metaphysics in general, but the empirical patterns are interesting. Surprised at the likely Mesopotamian influence on both India and Greece, though in hindsight it makes sense. More to say on this later.... Some people are...
  • @AnonNJ
    I haven't read Pinker's arguments Enlightenment values and violence, but I am very skeptical about Moral Rationalism, the idea that moral truths can be known through reason alone. In short, morality is underpinned by emotion (which we refer to as a "conscience"). This is not only why moral arguments become so emotionally heated and why so much of the debate over morality is dominated by emotional appeals and rhetoric rather than logic, but also why purely logical arguments so often fail to persuade anyone to change their mind on moral issues unless they reframe their perspective and change how they feel about the factors involved.

    Psychopaths illustrate the problem because they lack a conscience. I came to read about them while trying to understand evil behavior and what I found interesting was that many schools of academic philosophy would not consider psychopaths evil (because they don't truly understand their own actions are evil) while most non-philosophers and many in law enforcement quickly recognize psychopathic criminals as being the epitome of evil.

    Background reading on psychopath, moral reasoning, and decision-making that I think all fits together pretty nicely:

    Psychopaths:

    http://www.hare.org/links/saturday.html

    http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/174276/the-sociopath-next-door-by-martha-stout-phd/9780767915823/ (Read the excerpt, which is the introduction)

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/magazine/can-you-call-a-9-year-old-a-psychopath.html?_r=0

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/assessment/2004/04/the_depressive_and_the_psychopath.html

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-neuroscientist-who-discovered-he-was-a-psychopath-180947814/?no-ist

    http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/01/life-as-a-nonviolent-psychopath/282271/ (I find the bit about Buddhism, another school of thought advocating detachment, fascinating)

    Moral and non-Moral Decision-making:

    http://discovermagazine.com/2004/apr/whose-life-would-you-save

    http://www.smh.com.au/national/feeling-our-way-to-decision-20090227-8k8v.html

    Psychopaths and Moral Rationality:

    http://dingo.sbs.arizona.edu/~snichols/Papers/HowPsychopathsThreaten.pdf

    Attempts to rationally define morality inevitably seem to wind up with some sort of (small "u") utilitarian calculus whereby ends are weighed against means. Another fascinating moment I had while looking into this was reading Joshua Greene's Philosophy dissertation "The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Truth about Morality and What to Do About it" (http://scholar.harvard.edu/joshuagreene/files/3greene-dissertation.pdf) -- he's the researcher from the Discover article, above. In it, he does a great job of describing the problems of utilitarianism before... suggesting utilitarianism because it's the inevitable end of thinking about morality in rational terms:


    “Utilitarian: one who believes that the morally right action is the one with the best consequences, so far as the distribution of happiness is concerned; a creature generally believed to be endowed with the propensity to ignore their [sic] own drowning children in order to push buttons which will cause mild sexual gratification in a warehouse full of rabbits”

    To a connoisseur of normative moral theories, nothing says “outmoded and ridiculous” quite like utilitarianism. This view is so widely reviled because it has something for everyone to hate. If you love honesty, you can hate utilitarianism for telling you to lie. If you think that life is sacred, you can hate utilitarianism for telling you to kill the dying, the sick, the unborn, and even the newborn, and on top of that you can hate it for telling you in the same breath that you may not be allowed to eat meat (Singer, 1979). If you think it reasonable to provide a nice life for yourself and your family, you can hate utilitarianism for telling you to give up nearly everything you’ve got to provide for total strangers (Singer, 1972; Unger, 1996), including your own life, should a peculiar monster with a taste for human flesh have a sufficiently strong desire to eat you (Nozick, 1974). If you hate doing awful things to people, you can hate utilitarianism for telling you to kidnap people and steal their organs (Thomson, 1986). If you see the attainment of a high quality of life for all of humanity as a reasonable goal, you can hate utilitarianism for suggesting that a world full people whose lives are barely worth living may be an even better goal (Parfit, 1984). If you love equality, you can hate utilitarianism for making the downtrodden worse off in order to make the well off even better off (Rawls, 1971). If it’s important to you that your experiences be genuine, you can hate utilitarianism for telling you that no matter how good your life is, you would be better off with your brain hooked up to a machine that gives you unnaturally pleasant artificial experiences. No matter what you value most, your values will eventually conflict with the utilitarian’s principle of greatest good and, if he has his way, be crushed by it. Utilitarianism is a philosophy that only… well, only a utilitarian could love.
     

    That's a fascinating example of philosophical lampshade hanging (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LampshadeHanging).

    I'm left wondering if the intellectualizing of morality and the academic insistence on detached and emotionless thinking about issues is a movement away morality and toward psychopathic thinking. As much as the Enlightenment may have led to a reduction of ambient violence in cultures, dispassionate "greater good" thinking as also led to the killing of civilians on an industrial scale in the 20th Century, where well over 100 million (probably closer to 150 million) people were killed by their own governments in the name of atheist socialist utopias.

    Also fascinating is the research on how liberals and conservatives think, which suggests that conservatives are more emotional and liberals more rational. Liberals interpret that to mean that their perspective is more rational and conservatives are less rational. It also suggests it's more psychopathic, which might help explain the millions of dead bodies left behind by socialist utopias. It also suggests some truth in the stereotypes that liberals and conservatives have of each other.

    Anyone who has talked with a “social justice warrior” knows that, for better or worse, liberals have a very emotional morality.

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  • Readers of Education Realist won't be surprised, but Reuters has a big report on SAT cheating by Tiger Mothers and their cubs. As SAT was hit by security breaches, College Board went ahead with tests that had leaked By Renee Dudley, Steve Stecklow, Alexandra Harney and Irene Jay Liu Filed March 28, 2016, 5:54 p.m....
  • Steve, For those who don’t read the comments, how about elevating the meat of education realist’s comment (15) to the main text?

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  • Over then years ago The Genetic Legacy of the Mongols was published. This paper illustrated the surprising genetic effects that historical demographic events might have; the authors found that one particular Y chromosomal lineage was extremely common in Central Eurasia, and, that lineage exhibited an explosive growth over the past 1,000 years. Combined with the...
  • @Seth Largo
    As with "war," so with migration. I've been re-reading Peter Heather's Empires and Barbarians, and he makes it clear that any thesis smacking of a Volkwanderuung is going to face an uphill battle because historians have largely rejected migration as a major factor in history.

    Ironically, historical linguists rarely have these discussions because they adopt a "languages not people" paradigm, which is a great Get Out of Jail Free card when it comes to uncomfortable implications. I was waved off numerous times in grad school whenever I attempted to bring up such implications---though I did have one professor admit that the Na Dene languages exhibit an obvious history of migration and conflict. Frequent commenter Andrew Oh-Willeke has written about it here. I've also long thought that the large number of language isolates in the world (when counted as "isolate families," they comprise 37% of the world's language families) can be taken as evidence of a violent past in some cases.

    I am now reading Christopher I. Beckwith’s Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present (2009), on Razib’s recommendation. In it, languages seem to move because their speakers do (I haven’t been reading with that question in mind). And there is certainly a lot of people movement.

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  • The Andamanese are unique in the world in that they are a South Asian people who are known to have maintained a hunter-gatherer lifestyle down to the present day uninterrupted. Literally every other South Asian population has evidence of mixture with West Eurasian groups in the last 10,000 years, with the typical South Asian being...
  • @Anonymous
    Don't want to pontificate too much, but, if, legally speaking the Jarawa, on their isolated island are regarded as being a 'sovereign nation', yes, even if there is no formal conception of a head-of-state, legislature, judiciary, 'citizenship' , 'rule of law' even, then being internationally recognised as 'sovereign' the Jarawa on their own island nation state are fully at liberty to exercise any custom they see fit.

    Historically, such has always been the case. The whole notion of interference by 'advanced' nations for 'huminatiarian' reasons is a very very recent trend, no older than 1945.
    Even the world dominating Victorian English with all their moralizing refused to interfere in other peoples' customs. 'Do-gooding' is a purely modern conceit.
    'Suttee' was banned by the English, only because it fell in their jurisdiction.

    You contradict yourself. You say that, ” The whole notion of interference by ‘advanced’ nations for ‘huminatiarian’ reasons is a very very recent trend, no older than 1945.” But in the next paragraph, you mention that the British banned suttee (“an archaic Indian funeral custom where a widow immolated herself on her husband’s pyre, or committed suicide in another fashion shortly after her husband’s death”-wikipedia) when they ruled India. They did this in 1829.

    And there is, of course, the famous story of General Sir Charles James Napier, the Commander-in-Chief in India from 1849 to 1851. When a group of Hindu priests complained of the ban, he supposedly said,

    “Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”

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  • I haven't talked about Warriors of the Cloisters: The Central Asian Origins of Science in the Medieval World much since I read it, and haven't had time to blog it. I don't really accept the thesis in the subtitle, but it's a really good work which illustrates the importance of what some would term "cultural...
  • @Roger Sweeny
    Steve Sailer had a post recently quoting Greg Cochrane,

    … using the slow rate, the split time between Pygmies and Bantu is ~300k years ago – long before any archaeological sign of behavioral modernity (however you define it) and well before the first known fossils of AMH [anatomically modern humans] (although that shouldn’t bother anyone, considering the raggedness of the fossil record).

    Logically, this means that Pygmies aren’t really modern humans. Or, perhaps, they’re the most divergent of all modern humans.
     

    http://www.unz.com/isteve/what-if-pygmies-are-a-different-species/

    He doesn't give a cite for the quote. Any thoughts?

    Having now read the comments to Steve’s post, I see that Peter Frost (75.) has suggested that much of the genetic difference is from Homo erectus admixture ~35,000 years ago, which makes the date of divergence look much older than it is. Cochrane and he then argue (90., 97., maybe more by the time you read this).

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    yes, that might be some of it (or "archaic", as opposed to erectus, which is a vague and catchall term). but really the back date has to do with greg assuming a lower mut. rate than many of the calculations.
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  • In his 1871 book The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin considered at length whether the races of man were best thought of as separate species or as subspecies, eventually deciding upon the latter, which seems reasonable. Of course, we don't have a foolproof definition of species. Indeed, much of the incentives for biologists and paleoanthropologists...
  • @AndrewR
    Not defending militant gay supremacy but your comparison is obscene. Ameeican leftists have no power in Iran. They have much power in the US. You might as well criticize Iranians for being more concerned over what consenting adults do in private than over the blatant public degeneracy of gay pride parades in the US.

    What marwan (85.) said.

    Also, many of the same people and groups that are not making a big deal out of gay oppression abroad because it’s out of the country, we don’t have any direct power there, etc. had no problem making a big deal of apartheid in South Africa. There was a MORAL OBLIGATION to do whatever was necessary to end it.

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    • Replies: @BB753
    What kind of moral obligation to end apartheid, and why?
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  • I haven't talked about Warriors of the Cloisters: The Central Asian Origins of Science in the Medieval World much since I read it, and haven't had time to blog it. I don't really accept the thesis in the subtitle, but it's a really good work which illustrates the importance of what some would term "cultural...
  • Steve Sailer had a post recently quoting Greg Cochrane,

    … using the slow rate, the split time between Pygmies and Bantu is ~300k years ago – long before any archaeological sign of behavioral modernity (however you define it) and well before the first known fossils of AMH [anatomically modern humans] (although that shouldn’t bother anyone, considering the raggedness of the fossil record).

    Logically, this means that Pygmies aren’t really modern humans. Or, perhaps, they’re the most divergent of all modern humans.

    http://www.unz.com/isteve/what-if-pygmies-are-a-different-species/

    He doesn’t give a cite for the quote. Any thoughts?

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    • Replies: @Roger Sweeny
    Having now read the comments to Steve's post, I see that Peter Frost (75.) has suggested that much of the genetic difference is from Homo erectus admixture ~35,000 years ago, which makes the date of divergence look much older than it is. Cochrane and he then argue (90., 97., maybe more by the time you read this).
    , @Razib Khan
    the genome wide stuff pushes the date of divergence really far. i think greg is going with a slower mutation rate, in which case it's further than you see in the literature. we've talked on the phone about this scenario so i'm pretty sure that's what's going on re: dates.
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  • I'm reading 1984. Incredible how well it anticipated the behavior of the Cultural Revolution. Yes, I've read Brave New World, and have just purchased Fahrenheit 451: A Novel. The New York Times has a two part series on the decision to overthrow Gaddafi and Hillary's involvement in it: Hillary Clinton, ‘Smart Power’ and a Dictator’s...
  • @ohwilleke
    We weakened two very bad regimes. The result has been that the better option in Libya is now in charge, and that a depot who used chemical weapons, air raids and barrel bombs on his own people only controls a modest part of his territory.

    The results still aren't great, but I think it is fair to say that Libya is ruled by a better regime than it would have been had we done nothing.

    Syria is obviously a mess, but it isn't easy to imagine a scenario in which it would have been better that wouldn't have required a massive investment of American lives and wouldn't have posed a serious risk of WWIII, although it is hard to know what to make of a situation that continues to evolve daily. Certainly, U.S. efforts against ISIS have done more good than harm.

    Libya isn’t ruled by anyone right now. Different parts are ruled by different groups. Some have links to ISIS. No one knows how it will finally turn out.

    Muamar Gadaffi was a despot and a bad man but 1) as I understand it, much of the really bad stuff (chemical weapons, barrel bombs) was in the past; 2) he was not trying to destabilize any other country or cause suffering outside Libya (which is certainly not the situation today); 3) he had voluntarily given up his nuclear weapons program (with a kind of wink, wink, nod, nod from the US that we would now not try to overthrow him). A major reason to have nukes is to be able to say, “You don’t dare overthrow me; I have nukes.” By overthrowing him, we are sending a message to other dictators that developing a nuke might be a good idea.

    I don’t know if the US could have done anything better in Syria, but the situation there is certainly worse than it was when Obama became president. And when I say “worse,” I mean really bad. Obama took a chance that getting involved a little would be the best of both worlds. It would overthrow a bad regime without getting America very involved. Instead, we have become involved and it looks more and more like Assad will remain in power, ruling over a much poorer country, full of destroyed buildings and infrastructure, with millions of refugees. With hindsight, it probably would have been better to have just stayed out.

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  • @ohwilleke
    In both Libya and Syria, Obama took a middle path between involving significant numbers of U.S. ground troops in a war that would lead to many U.S. casualties and no exit strategy, and doing nothing at all.

    He used our diplomatic resources, air power and missiles and money to fund existing participants in the conflicts to attempt to tip the balance in the conflicts without becoming unduly entangled.

    The results have been messy and ugly in each case, but very little U.S. blood has been spilled in either conflict and we have effectively withdrawn entirely from the conflict in Libya, have waged the ground war in Syria through proxies, and are in a position to disengage in Syria at any time. We've also avoided outright war with Russia which is why we backed off in Syria in the first place.

    To put this in the most negative way:

    Obama has helped fuck up two countries, caused starvation and suffering, created millions of refugees who are now fucking up Europe, but almost no Americans have been hurt–so, cool.

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    • Replies: @ohwilleke
    We weakened two very bad regimes. The result has been that the better option in Libya is now in charge, and that a depot who used chemical weapons, air raids and barrel bombs on his own people only controls a modest part of his territory.

    The results still aren't great, but I think it is fair to say that Libya is ruled by a better regime than it would have been had we done nothing.

    Syria is obviously a mess, but it isn't easy to imagine a scenario in which it would have been better that wouldn't have required a massive investment of American lives and wouldn't have posed a serious risk of WWIII, although it is hard to know what to make of a situation that continues to evolve daily. Certainly, U.S. efforts against ISIS have done more good than harm.
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  • @blahblahblah
    Obama has tried to have his cake and eat it too when it comes to foreign policy. The intervention in Libya should have came sooner or not at all... the intervention in Syria is so hypocritical when you have all these gulf monarchies that are clients of the EU and US trying to topple Assad in order to build a gas pipeline(and there's the Sunni-Shia divide behind that too). And then there's the Ukraine crisis was partly an asymmetric response to Snowden+Syria.

    Overall though Obama has improved the US's strategic position... the TPP has somewhat isolated China and China is alienating it's neighbors... the effort to try to build an Eurasian Union centered on Russia that could be a serious competitor is pretty much dead... the EU is in disarray by the disarray int he middle east. The US is more than ever the indispensable nation.

    TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade and more agreement) has to be approved by the United States Congress (within 90 days of submission by the president) in order to be binding on the USA. Right now, it is looking like that approval will not happen.

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  • In light of David Reich's interview I have been thinking about how genetics will shed light on many questions in the near future, and what my particular expectations are. The interview prompts me to collect some of my thoughts into one place, and outline a tentative thesis that I've been pointing to for the past...
  • Razib,

    Horses died out in the Americas some time between 12,000 and 7,600 years ago. So I assume they didn’t have anything like “[~4,000 years ago] Because of the inevitability of the drafting of the horse as a beast of burden and transport it was inevitable that the early adopters would undergo a cultural revolution, and trigger a high stakes series of inter-group competition.” Neither would sub-saharan Africans.

    What differences would you expect based on that?

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  • The Washington Post has an op-ed up right now titled: What’s the difference between genetic engineering and eugenics? I will be frank and state that it's not the clearest op-ed in my opinion, though to be fair the writer is a generalist, not a science writer. As I quipped on Twitter, the issue with eugenics...
  • @AnonNJ
    @Razib Khan

    I am fairly consistent pro-life but I really don't want to get into an abortion debate here and I don't think it's necessary. I can, if you want, from a non-religious perspective, but I think that would derail the topic.

    I think the slippery slope argument is perfectly fair to make in this case because it's how the issue plays out historically. Slippery slopes can be a serious problem if you don't have a clear principle or principles that can be applied to stop the slide. Once people entertain the idea that some lives are better off not lived, the natural progression in thought is that anyone who disagrees and let's such people live is engaged in a moral wrong because they are making people live lives better off not lived.

    So who gets to decide which lives are better off not lived and why?

    But consider two fundamental questions lurking beneath this issue.

    1) What makes any life worth living?

    2) Why is killing someone else wrong, even if they don't feel it or suffer during their death?

    I think the slippery slope argument is perfectly fair to make in this case because it’s how the issue plays out historically.

    I do not think that is true. The Nazis early on tried to kill the “defective”–those who in the United States wound up in an institutions or in a chair in the corner. They had to stop because there was too much resistance from ordinary Germans. Such defectives were still seen as part of the German family.

    The result with Jews was different, partly because most of the Final Solution took place during wartime and partly because the Nazis were able to get people to feel that Jews were not “part of the German family.”

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  • A debate broke out in the comments as to the natures of Western and Chinese culture over the long run. There is a problem in any of these discussions because very few people are conversant in both sides of the coin, so to speak. When it comes to cross-cultural comparisons outside of a very narrow...
  • @spandrell
    Surely Nisbett counts as cognitive science too?

    You can say I'm full of shit, but you can't say I'm not conversant in both sides of the coin. I'm very much so. And I know my history very well. And I stand behind my impression of Asians not being very religious.

    Yes, they can be superstitious, but superstition isn't necessarily about intuitions of the supernatural. There is nothing religious about Fengshui, or the myriad fortune telling crap that China had traditionally. There is more kabbalistic stuff about stroke counts, names, dates, ganzhi, not to mention palm or face reading. That's fundamentally different from how religion is lived by people of the book.

    And the Chinese themselves are aware of that! I was reading an article of the Hui clans living in rural Guizhou, of all places. Apparently some Hui mercenaries fought for Zhu Yuanzhang and ended up settling in Guizhou, and they stayed there until KMT times, where they were still kicking ass. The Chinese historians point out how "their religion caused them to have very strong group cohesion". There is something to Islam that facilitates collective action in a way that is not possible for more typical Chinese. Something that is foreign to China.

    Now this indeed disproves that Asians aren't religious for genetic reasons, as the Hui are for all purposes genetically Chinese. But it is evidence that Asian cultures in general are not religious in the same way "West Eurasians" are, and that has important consequences.

    That’s fundamentally different from how religion is lived by people of the book. … Asian cultures in general are not religious in the same way “West Eurasians” are …”

    I’m not sure that you and Razib are actually disagreeing. You both seem to be saying that supernaturalism is religious and that there is supernaturalism in both east and west. It just takes different forms.

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  • According to a new paper in Nature, Ancient gene flow from early modern humans into Eastern Neanderthals, a basal population of anatomically modern humans mixed with eastern Neanderthal populations on the order of ~100,000 years ago. The figure above is from the paper, and shows (on the left) the proportions and direction of gene flow...
  • Razib, Is “pleiotropic cascade” an existing term or something you made up? Nothing returns when I google it. I assume it means in this case, “one gene changes and then interacts with other genes causing a lot of other things to change.”

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  • I went back to the gym for the first time since I got my pull-up and chin-up stand. Mostly I was just waiting until the people who show up around New Years finally dissipate. I got a sense that I was getting stronger just from how much easier it was to do a greater number...
  • Prothero is very good on fossils. But for a (relatively) beginning reader, there’s too much on fossils and not nearly enough on other things.

    I had a problem with the book’s morality play. In the one corner are creationists: liars who will never be convinced by facts. In the other corner are scientists: careful sifters of the facts who only care about truth and would love to be proved wrong if it would advance human knowledge.

    He is certainly correct about many creationist writers and the people who run creationist organizations but I was put off by his eagerness to metaphorically “consign to hell” anyone who disagreed with him. Unlike one of my favorite books: Jason Rosenhouse’s Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line (Oxford, 2012). Rosenhouse is a clear-eyed atheist who actually tries to understand the 50% or so of Americans who say they “don’t believe in evolution”. He shows how difficult it is to make a belief in a beneficent God compatible with knowledge of how evolution actually works–and how bad some of the attempts are. Many people who say they “believe in evolution” actually believe in some vague bloodless semi-magical improvement over time.

    Prothero’s portrayal of scientists is ridiculously unrealistic. Nowadays, anyone who’s been paying attention knows about the problems with replicability, the extent of p-hacking and selective publication (and unwillingness to share data and methods), the groupthink in many areas–and realizes that there is some truth to the saying, “Science advances one funeral at a time.”

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  • Cultural appropriation must be one of the stupidest concepts to come out of the critical race theory milieu. Back in the day you could just admit that a particular juxtaposition of motifs was dissonant (e.g., I think mixing Arctic and Indian ones might be) or disrespectful (e.g., putting a picture of Jesus on a toilet)....
  • The situation in education research is similar to the one in nutrition research. Long-term randomized controlled trials are difficult and expensive and almost never done. Experts know a lot less than they say they do.

    But two important differences. Education has a lot more ideology; thus foolishness like, “Full inclusion works” (because it’s democratic and inclusive and nice, unlike–yuck!–tracking). Since people buy their own food, they can decide what (if any) nutritional advice to accept. But most schools are provided “free” by governments, and they are run under the educational equivalent of the dietary guidelines. So it’s hard to get away from the experts’ notions, mistaken or otherwise.

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  • When I was younger I used to follow politics somewhat closely. Every year I would read The Almanac of American Politics. With sites like Politico and Wikipedia there's really no point. Additionally, I gave up my interest in closely following politics at around the same time (or a little later) I stopped closely following professional...
  • @Yak-15
    I apologizing for commenting off topic in this thread but perhaps you'll humor me with a response.

    I am struggling to comprehend the genetic understanding of race and simplify it into an easily understandable context that I can explain to others. This is especially true in confusion with regard to race as a social construct versus race as a biological reality.

    The best analogy I have come up with is the basic color model. Its form consists of red, blue and yellow. In a variety of ways the colors can be mixed to form other colors. Furthermore, white and black can be added to each color in order to obtain different shades of that color. Does that mean that there is no absolute red, blue or yellow? No. But what belongs to each category is both subjective and scientific. I can say that turquoise is blue and someone else can say that turquoise is actually green. However, at the end of the day, turquoise falls on the electromagnetic spectrum and exists between the spectrum of green (yellow mixed with blue and possibly white) and the spectrum of blue.

    This seems to be a good way of describing race. When one talks about no distinct races there is some truth to that statement but not much. It is also true that race is socially constructed to some extent. If I go to Egypt, I can pick someone from lower Egypt and note their skin is lighter than someone from upper Egypt. In the Egyptain view, the upper region Egyptian is black while the lower region Egyptian is white. However, compared to a wealthy Thai person, the lower Egyptian may be of a darker tone and may be considered a "black" in Thailand.

    Likewise, while the upper Egyptian may refer to both the wealthy Thai person and the lower Egyptian as "white," the genetic reality is that they are more racially different than can be supposed by skin tone. In fact, it's likely that the Lower and Upper Egyptian retain more common SNPs and phenotypic traits through a common ancestry.

    Likewise, with colors you can shade blue and make it nearly identical to a dark red. However, scientifically they are very different in terms of wavelength.

    Does this analogy make sense? Would you consider a good way to explain the different concepts of race?

    There is no “essence of Caucasian” like there actually is an “essence of red.” Races are simply descendant groups where most reproduction has been within the group.

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    • Replies: @Spoons
    > like there actually is an “essence of red.”

    No there isn't. The sRGB color model works really well, but if you look into it deeper you will see that there is nothing fundamental about it.
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  • From the Washington Post: Wow, this sounds like scary Children of Men stuff. (Note: Salvadoran public health officials may not be the most trustworthy final authorities on the scientific implications.) Are there any insecticides that could blast these particular kinds of mos
  • @bomag
    I'll make another mention of Elysium which pretty much implies Earth was ruined from too many people; thus the posh people had to go elsewhere.

    Also in this vein is Interstellar, which suggests a ruined Earth from trying to support too many people.

    And to stretch it a bit more in this direction, the Mad Max movies are in this vein; not so much dystopian from direct overpopulation, but a world destroyed from clamoring to accommodate modern life with more and more population pressure. Likewise, include all the zombie apocalypse movies, and several other apocalypse movies such as The Road

    I think, at least on the surface, Elysium, Interstellar, and the Mad Max movies are “environmental” rather than “population” movies. It’s not that there are too many of us; it’s that we’ve screwed up the environment–and now it can’t support us.

    Of course, the more people there are, the more pressure on the environment–but if that message is there, it is hidden.

    Back in the ’60s and ’70s, it was not just socially acceptable, it was cool to worry about “the population problem.” Thus the movies. It is now poor manners to talk about population; most all the people with a fertility rate above replacement are “people of color.” So there can be no cool overpopulation movies. There can be cool “screw up the environment” movies.

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  • There's a new article in Nature about what they've learned from the DNA of ten very old dead bodies dug up from around Cambridge in the east of England. So, in the east of England, about 3/8ths of the ancestry c
  • @anon
    "The historic parallels are fascinating".

    But not the demographic or civilizational ones.

    In the whole of the landmass that eventually became the lower 48 states there were probably well less then 2 million Indians. Germany about thirty times smaller has a population of 80 million. The Indians had built virtually nothing, no roads, bridges, towns, cities, just simple hunter-gatherers. Germany has a very advanced technological civilization.

    Why not compare apples to apples instead of oranges.

    There were a hell of a lot more than 2 million Indians before Columbus. Many were agriculturalists, and there were “roads, bridges, towns”–cities if you count the Aztec and Indian capitals. But European diseases literally decimated (reduced to one tenth) most of the native population. Diseases usually preceded the Europeans so they saw empty land and bedraggled survivors. Check out Charles C. Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (2005).

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    • Replies: @Jim Don Bob
    Decimate means reduce by 10%, not reduce to 10%.
    , @anon
    I am talking about Indian populations in the 48 contiguous states. The Aztecs, with their cities, where they performed human sacrifices, were in modern day south-central Mexico. Take a look at a map sometime.

    Numbers for the 'lower 48' were vastly lower as just about all the tribes (apart from the fact that they regularly fought and killed each other) were hunter-gatherers types. This type of existence is not conducive to large-scale populations.

    I also take exception, if not offense, to your term "European diseases". Nobody calls the Bubonic plague, that wiped out as much as half of all medieval Europeans an "Asian disease".

    Whatever the exact number of Indians may have been in the lower 48 it must be conceded that the population density was incomparably lower then in Germany today.
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  • @David
    I don't think so. It's analogous to drawing conclusions about the composition of the atmosphere based on a few samples.

    Incidentally, the fraction 3/8 expressed as a rounded percent uses the same two digits in the same order. For you math mavens looking for a puzzle, this is true for one other fraction.

    It seems to me that it’s more like drawing conclusions about the composition of the atmosphere based on ten samples of one molecule each. “According to a study in Nature, the atmosphere is 80% nitrogen, 10% oxygen, and 10% argon.”

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  • Aeon Magazine has published a 11,000 word essay by Scott Atran, ISIS is a revolution. Atran is one of my favorite thinkers, and his book In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion, is one of the more influential in shaping my understanding of cultural phenomena (warning, the prose is dense, but worth it!)....
  • @Brian Schmidt
    Ways to get more people into space:

    A. Space elevators

    B. Some technology we haven't thought of yet

    Normally Option B can be dismissed as meaningless for discussion purposes, but I wouldn't if we're talking about say 50 years of technological development. In addition, you'd only need to get a small percent of people into space if the goal is to divert the most violent fraction of young men to other pursuits.

    OTOH, I'd expect space travel to discourage tough young men in the same way that adventure sports and martial arts currently discourage them - they require months/years of training and discipline to master, instead of simply grabbing a gun, shooting bad guys like you see in the IS videos, and get the girls.

    NO, no “technology we haven’t thought of yet.” No technology is going to be able to get around Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation. You will always need a sh*tload of energy to get above the atmosphere and stay there. And no new technology is going to repeal the Law of Conservation of Energy. You can’t just pull usable energy out of your ass.

    B. isn’t just “meaningless for discussion purposes.” It’s as impossible as a perpetual motion machine or a technology that would allow humans to subsist on a slice of bread a day.

    Sorry to sound so harsh. It’s great to be technologically optimistic. But it’s dangerous to think we can do the impossible.

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  • So Taylor Swift looks scary to Koreans? A couple of the guys seem to have been unaware that Beyonce Knowles is black (one of them commented on being ambivalent about her dark tan, only to be surprised when told that that wasn't a tan, that she's black). I'm done with Joe Henrich's The Secret of...
  • @Razib Khan
    exception: if you have a spanish or portuguese last name. also, if you look white enough you may be able to be pan/post-racial (e.g., jennifer beals and rashida jones probably fall into this class). but to non-americans it's pretty confusing, because it really doesn't hold to any other group (someone who is 1/4 chinese or japanese and is mildly asian looking can still white identify without much controversy).

    Piri Thomas, in Down These Mean Streets, tells of how he got out of a difficult situation in the segregated South by convincing the white people that he was Spanish. He is usually described as “a dark-skinned Puerto Rican” (born 1928).

    Rashida Jones (now starring in Angie Tribeca and a lot of Verizon commercials) is described in the Internet Movie Data Base as, “the younger daughter of media mogul, producer, and musician Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton. … Her father is African-American, and also has Welsh ancestry. Her mother is Ashkenazi Jewish (a descendant of immigrants from Russia and Latvia).”

    The imdb page also quotes from a 2005 interview with Glamour magazine (she graduated from Harvard in 1997),

    Finally I was leaving for college, for Harvard. Daddy would have died if I turned Harvard down. Harvard was supposed to be the most enlightened place in America, but that’s where I encountered something I’d never found in L.A.: segregation. The way the clubs and the social life were set up, I had to choose one thing to be: black or white. I chose black. I went to black frat parties and joined the Black Student Association, a political and social group. I protested the heinous book The Bell Curve [which claims that a key determinant of intelligence is inherited], holding a sign and chanting. But at other protests-on issues I didn’t agree with- wondered: Am I doing this because I’m afraid the black students are going to hate me if I don’t? As a black person at Harvard, the lighter you were, the blacker you had to act. I tried hard to be accepted by the girls who were the gatekeepers to Harvard’s black community. One day I joined them as usual at their cafeteria table. I said, “Hey!”-real friendly. Silence. I remember chewing my food in that dead, ominous silence. Finally, one girl spoke. She accused me of hitting on one of their boyfriends over the weekend. It was untrue, but I think what was really eating her was that she thought I was trying to take away a smart, good-looking black man-and being light-skinned, I wasn’t “allowed” to do that. I was hurt, angry. I called Kidada in New York crying. She said, “Tell her what you feel!” So I called the girl and…I really ripped her a new one. But after that, I felt insidious intimidation from that group. The next year there was a black guy I really liked, but I didn’t have the courage to pursue him. Sometimes I think of him and how different my life might be if I hadn’t been so chicken. The experience was shattering. Confused and identity-less, I spent sophomore year crying at night and sleeping all day. Mom said, “Do you want to come home?” I said, “No.” Toughing it out when you don’t fit in: That was the strength my sister gave me.

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    • Replies: @syonredux
    Interesting thing about Rashida Jones and her sister, Kidada, is how they demonstrate the importance of small differences in phenotype. Kidada is slightly Blacker-looking than Rashida, and that's had a big impact on her self-image:

    KIDADA: I was kicked out of Buckley in second grade for behavior problems. I didn’t want my mother to come to my new school. If kids saw her, it would be: “your mom’s white!” I told Mom she couldn’t pick me up; she had to wait down the street in her car. Did Rashida have that problem? No! She passed for white.

    RASHIDA: “Passed”?! I had no control over how I looked. This is my natural hair, these are my natural eyes! I’ve never tried to be anything that I’m not. Today I feel guilty, knowing that because of the way our genes tumbled out, Kidada had to go through pain I didn’t have to endure. Loving her so much, I’m sad that I’ll never share that experience with her.
     

    RASHIDA: But it was different with our grandparents. Our dad’s father died before we were born. We didn’t see our dad’s mother often. I felt comfortable with Mommy’s parents, who’d come to love my dad like a son. Kidada wasn’t so comfortable with them. I felt Jewish; Kidada didn’t.

    KIDADA: I knew Mommy’s parents were upset at first when she married a black man, and though they did the best they could, I picked up on what I thought was their subtle disapproval of me. Mommy says they loved me, but I felt estranged from them.
     

    PEGGY: Kidada never wanted to be white. She spoke with a little…twist in her language. She had ‘tude. Rashida spoke more primly, and her identity touched all bases. She’d announce, “I’m going to be the first female, black, Jewish president of the U.S.!”

    KIDADA: When I was 11, a white girlfriend and I were going to meet up with these boys she knew. I’d told her, because I wanted to be accepted, “Tell them I’m tan.” When we met them, the one she was setting me up with said, “You didn’t tell me she was black.” That’s When I started defining myself as black, period. Why fight it? Everyone wanted to put me in a box. On passports, at doctor’s offices, when I changed schools, there were boxes to check: Caucasian, Black, Hispanic, Asian. I don’t mean any dishonor to my mother–who is the most wonderful mother in the world, and we are so alike–but: I am black. Rashida answers questions about “what” she is differently. She uses all the adjectives: black, white, Jewish.
     
    http://bossip.com/623483/rashida-jones-sister-kidada-agrees-she-passed-for-white-but-did-the-mean-girls-at-harvard-scare-her-away-from-dating-black-men-forever/
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  • Aeon Magazine has published a 11,000 word essay by Scott Atran, ISIS is a revolution. Atran is one of my favorite thinkers, and his book In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion, is one of the more influential in shaping my understanding of cultural phenomena (warning, the prose is dense, but worth it!)....
  • @Brian Schmidt
    1. This point about Tunisia is important - supporting its transformation into a liberal democracy provides an alternative pathway for Arab societies than the destabilized one they now have (granted though that whatever optimism remains for Tunisia domestically, something is making it a big source of fighters for IS). When Razib asks what to do, I think helping Arab democracy succeed in at least one place to serve as a model for the rest should be a high priority.

    2. Razib's suggestion of space travel as an alternative pathway for the hero's journey is an innovative one. I recall Norman Mailer saying in the 80s that tough young men should be encouraged to kayak rivers and surf waves instead of knifing each other. Not sure how much that helps, maybe some. I'm peripherally involved in some adventure sports and I think very few are channeling violence into something else, most are just seeking adrenaline (a rock-climber graffiti - "if it weren't for rocks, we'd all be surfers").

    Physical courage that doesn't involve killing people is already available to these tough young men in Muslim societies. But maybe not enough glory comes from mountain climbing at this point. Maybe space travel will be more glorious and also have the potential to transform society in a way that will be attractive.

    3. Some time ago Josh Marshall made a variant argument to the hero's journey - he said 40 years ago, violent young men with vaguely leftist beliefs became left wing terrorists, and now it's the time for violent young men with Islamic beliefs to become Islamic terrorists. It's all a matter of cultural moments.

    4. This seems very much an Arab-violence as opposed to Islamic-violence moment. Razib's point about Indonesia is well-taken on the one hand - 0.01% of Indonesia is a lot of potential fighters. OTOH, it hasn't really happened there, at least in terms of sending fighters to other countries. Another reason why Tunisia is so important.

    2. Very, very, very few people are ever going to go into space. It takes a tremendous amount of energy even to get into low earth orbit. Dealing with that energy is technologically difficult. In any case, it is very, very, very expensive.

    Getting into space simply cannot be done with less energy. Any more than a person could sustain themselves on 50 calories a day. It’s a matter of simple physics.

    Yes, Star Wars, Star Trek and all the rest are fantasies.

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    • Replies: @Brian Schmidt
    Ways to get more people into space:

    A. Space elevators

    B. Some technology we haven't thought of yet

    Normally Option B can be dismissed as meaningless for discussion purposes, but I wouldn't if we're talking about say 50 years of technological development. In addition, you'd only need to get a small percent of people into space if the goal is to divert the most violent fraction of young men to other pursuits.

    OTOH, I'd expect space travel to discourage tough young men in the same way that adventure sports and martial arts currently discourage them - they require months/years of training and discipline to master, instead of simply grabbing a gun, shooting bad guys like you see in the IS videos, and get the girls.
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  • So Taylor Swift looks scary to Koreans? A couple of the guys seem to have been unaware that Beyonce Knowles is black (one of them commented on being ambivalent about her dark tan, only to be surprised when told that that wasn't a tan, that she's black). I'm done with Joe Henrich's The Secret of...
  • @marcel proust
    RK: Been waiting for an open thread to thank you for recommending two books that I read in 2015, Harris's The Nurture Assumption and Geary's Male, Female (which I just finished in the last week of the year). I enjoyed the first and learned from both (the 2nd is too encylopedic to say that I enjoyed it, but it was otherwise an amazing book).

    1) Harris: From what I had read about the book, it sounded like a contrarian Yuppies, Iou're Doing it Wrong, like something I would expect of Megan McArdle, Virginia Postrel or Conor Friedersdorf. On your rec, I read it, and both enjoyed it and learned a great deal. It makes a lot of sense, and I was particularly sympathetic to the story she told because of her own story (not rational, but then nothing human is alien to me and all that). My kids are adults doing very well and while I enjoy taking credit for their outcome, I've also figured that that is largely vanity. This book gave me a much better handle on how much/little I can claim credit for.

    - Q1: One question I have is reconciling what I recall months later of her view of the limited impact that parents can have on children's outcomes* with what I recall of the experiment on infant rhesus monkeys, demonstrating that they need affection & physical contact so strongly that they will prefer contact with a cloth "parent" almost to the point of malnutrition. Comments or corrections?

    2) Geary: There are 3 things that I esp. like about this book.
    - How he presents statistics: Instead of presenting averages and standard deviations (for males and females), Geary presents comparisons along the lines of "17 of 20 males are more XXX than the aveage female", "5 of 6 females outperformed the average male". This is a phenomenally useful way of comparing distributions (and I recall RK doing this recently in a comparison of male and female upper body strength in a post on spousal/mate abuse).
    - The first few chapters in the book discuss sexual differences throughout much of animal kingdom, before turning to other primates and only then turning to humans. The context this gives is immensely helpful in understanding sexual differences in humans and in enabling the (this?) reader to set aside preconcpetions (this word sounds better than "prejudices") and to give a fair chance to the evidence that he presents.
    - The discussion of what is known with a reasonable amount of confidence, what seems to be likely but is less certain, what is supported by some, but not much, evidence, and what the author suspects but for which there is little or no current evidence on the basis of reliable analyses.

    - Q2: The single most interesting thing that I learned was the strong positive correlation across species in paternity certainty and paternal care of or contributions to the raising of offspring. In humans, paternal certainy typically involves a fair amount of mate guarding. The patriarchy has strong biological roots! If societies with high paternal contribution to child-rearing outperform those that do not in some environments, the likely result is limited female sexual autonomy in those environments. Two questions occurred to me in connection with this (both at least mildly prurient).

    - The first question is whether cross-cultural patterns of female sexual agency/freedom are at all correlated with genetic similarity of males within each culture. Polynesia is an example of relatively high sexual freedom and (I assume) relatively high genetic similarity of males, esp. within each group of islands. Another example of high male genetic similarity, from what little I know, is Native Americans (don't know anything about general patterns of polyandry or female sexual autonomy). Himalayan polyandry seems to be an adaptation along these lines to a resource poor environment, but is not actually pertinent to my question, which is whether it is more common where males are similar rather than whether 1 woman marries related males for other reasons.

    - The 2nd question is speculative. Clearly, females in developed economies have achieved much more sexual autonomy in the last half century with the development of much better contraceptives. What I am curious about is whether these restrictions will be further relaxed as it becomes possible to establish paternity with almost exact certainty as a consequence of the technological advances in genetics (yeh, yeh, identical twins). If the trend of fathers' becoming more involved with child rearing continues, both parents will have more nearly similar amounts of time for outside copulations. It seems that improved & ever more widely available techniques of birth control, combined with near certain establishment of paternity, should lead many (all?) of the purely biological reasons for stronger sexual restrictions on females than on males relax.

    *I can hold on to general patterns and themes for a long time, but at my age forget details fairly quickly and questions, like the one about the rhesus monkey experiment mentioned above often don't come until later. I work at a college with a good library and almost all of the ones that I read are library books: I have too many books as it is, in part due to my parents' downsizing in the early aughties, at which point I kept several hundred of their 5K-6K collection (my sisters and I use to joke that long after their house turned to dust, the book shelves, both those that were hung on the walls and those that were floor to ceiling free standing ones, would be visible. When 2 my sisters were still in their teens and early 20s, my parents rewrote their will and their lawyer suggested that the 3 of us go through the house and put figurative post-its on each item to claim it, so that could be written down and incorporated into the will. This freaked my sisters, so I told not to worry, that we would treat each other decently by, for instance each claiming every 3rd page of each book. My parents backed off and my sisters stopped freaking).

    It seems that improved & ever more widely available techniques of birth control, combined with near certain establishment of paternity, should lead many (all?) of the purely biological reasons for stronger sexual restrictions on females than on males relax.

    If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, it makes a sound. But it doesn’t make a difference. This would only be true if people routinely give paternity tests to their newborns (or yet-to-be-borns!).

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    This would only be true if people routinely give paternity tests to their newborns (or yet-to-be-borns!).

    prenatal sequencing is going to be routine in 10 years. (that's a conservative estimate)
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  • I mentioned On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen a few days ago. The section on irradiated meat was interesting to me as it exposes the reality that there are many things we can do to improve human existence, but that we don't for cognitive reasons. The authors notes that meat...
  • @Solar Plexus
    Thanks for your reply to my comment on "Chipotle" regarding the excessive number of truly flaky anti-Zionist/antisemitic articles on this platform, not to mention the insect life they attract in the Comment section. I don't wish to wage a polemic around this issue but I can assure you the site is pervaded by the rank odour of old and new-style antisemitism, quite apart from the Comments it attracts.

    I agree one cannot stop crazies invading the Comment section, but their prevalence and degree of psychopathology gives one some idea of the aromatics being disseminated by the bloggers themselves.

    You are, of course, free to make up your own mind and this will probably be my own last comment on the subject. Simply put, it pains me to see (and read) you in this company and, I should add, that also applies to some of the other contributors to this platform who are also too good to be soiled by the obsessive antisemites given undue space here.

    For myself I don't want to miss your blog but I am going to have to decide where I stand if you continue to lend your name to this site.

    Last year, the NYT announced that Razib would be writing some things for them but then took back the job (before he started) because he had published in vdare years ago. He might not be here if respectable sites were more open-minded. Unz pays him and doesn’t censor him (as far as I know).

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    • Replies: @Solar Plexus
    Thanks for that. I followed it up and then delved into a number of links...and the temperature started to rise excessively. Mine and especially the links. Here are my views for what they're worth.

    Basically we are all on this earth together (that's original btw). We are all human and thus share many common features (not excluding even non-human forms of life) which forms a foundation for a shared moral universe. I accept that human "groups" (what ever you want to call them and however you slice the pie) vary to some extent across a variety of phenotypically functionally significant genetic traits. I am not clear to what extent this influences the group's culture, behaviour and attainments but suspect that some relationship exists. I feel that this is a legitimate subject for research, for speculation and for tentative interim conclusions or hypotheses. I do not see that as "racist". Indeed it may be "racist" to flatly a priori deny the possibility that any of this is true.

    As far as my experience goes (which is limited) in reading Razib, he would broadly agree with this position. Unfortunately serious discussion on these hot topics always attracts those with huge psychological investments in the outcomes or who lack a reasonable social sensitivity and sense of decency. In no time the debate looks like WW1 trench warfare. And is just as inconclusive and destructive.

    Since the entire topic is so important and has so many ramifications for our history and future I will continue to be interested in it but steer clear of those sites and contributors whose purpose is ideological and confrontational. A plague on them. Razib does not seem to fall into that category which is why I read and recommend him.

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  • Aeon Magazine has published a 11,000 word essay by Scott Atran, ISIS is a revolution. Atran is one of my favorite thinkers, and his book In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion, is one of the more influential in shaping my understanding of cultural phenomena (warning, the prose is dense, but worth it!)....
  • @Polymath
    I agree with the other commenters, this is a very well thought out piece.

    The most important contingency, I think, is an extremely simple question: whether nuclear bombs ever get into the hands of Islamists willing to use them (not simply as a deterrent to stay in power, but aggressively). Everything else pales in importance.

    Why are there so many brilliant people named Scott A.? (Atran is at best the 4th most prominent in the blogosphere after Aaronson, Adams, and Alexander.)

    Well, Scott Alexander (Slate Star Codex) is a pen name.

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  • I was gone for a week and when I got back I found two references to you at Marginal Revolution (one was for this; the other I forget). Nice to see you getting more exposure

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  • The New York Times has a very long and detailed article titled Norway Offers Migrants a Lesson in How to Treat Women. Here's the primary issue: The statistics are pretty straightforward, and some are outlined in the article. This is a robust and replicated dynamic in Scandinavia; people of "migrant background" are over-represented in rape...
  • @Razib Khan
    Law is codified culture and it has an enormous influence on our societies, and maybe some influence on our innate character as well. It is both our reflection and our guide,

    why do you say this?

    There are elements of that in Christianity as well (OT version especially),

    what are you talking about? the OT = hebrew bible = a form of proto-judaism. it's not a version of christianity.

    The Old Testament is part of the Christian Bible. It is the Old Covenant, which is superseded by Jesus’ New Covenant–but depending on your theology, large parts of the OT remain relevant. E.g., no Christian says God stopped caring about the Ten Commandments after Jesus came along. The verses against homosexuality are in the OT and many Christians think they still are binding precedent (as the lawyers would say). Others disagree, saying Jesus’ talk about love renders them null and void; Jesus is like Justice Kennedy in Obergefell v. Hodges and Lawrence v. Texas.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    I know, I'm not a moron. My point is there is no Christianity without the NT so what the hell is bill talking about?
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  • The figure to the left is from a piece in The MIT Technology Review, A Change of Mind. It profiles Diana Bianchi, a researcher who was involved in pioneering tests to discover Down Syndrome early in utero, but now is working on curing the disease. Here is a delicate aspect: The idea that children with...
  • Razib, speaking of abortion and genetic testing, any thoughts on this? Clinical Genetics Has a Big Problem That’s Affecting People’s Lives: Unreliable research can lead families to make health decisions they might regret.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/12/why-human-genetics-research-is-full-of-costly-mistakes/420693/

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  • @Jesse
    "Or perhaps you have absorbed some powerful reasons for why they are an Other that so deserves to be hated."

    Maybe.

    Or maybe they've noticed that pro lifers tend to be some of the most unpleasant people around.

    But I understand that taking on victim language is much, much easier.

    What Razib (13) and iffen (17) said. If you believe that abortion is murder, then it is a BIG DEAL, and it is easy to get, um, over-earnest. After all, pro-life activists are just another kind of Social Justice Warrior (for all of them it could be said that many well-meaning people are “not well served by their most vocal proponents”).

    On the other hand, if unborn children are sinless, and at death sinless souls instantly go to heaven, this kind of murder may actually be a good thing. It could even be argued that “the greatest good for the greatest number” would require constantly becoming pregnant and constantly aborting, sending the maximum number of souls to heaven, there to live with God in unimaginable bliss for all eternity. That argument makes as much sense to me as Pascal’s Wager.

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  • @Ketil Tveiten
    "My own question is why pro-life organizations and individuals don’t fund Bianchi’s research to the hilt?"

    That's not exactly rocket science. "Pro-life" people don't really care that much about abortions per se, what they care about is policing women's sexuality; pregnancy is an appropriate punishment for being a slut, hence abortions should be banned (to make a cartoon of it).

    “Pro-life” people don’t really care that much about abortions per se, what they care about is policing women’s sexuality; pregnancy is an appropriate punishment for being a slut, hence abortions should be banned

    You must know different “pro-life” people than I do.

    Or perhaps you have absorbed some powerful reasons for why they are an Other that so deserves to be hated.

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    • Replies: @Jesse
    "Or perhaps you have absorbed some powerful reasons for why they are an Other that so deserves to be hated."

    Maybe.

    Or maybe they've noticed that pro lifers tend to be some of the most unpleasant people around.

    But I understand that taking on victim language is much, much easier.
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  • Early in the 21st Century, noted education experts Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush got together to push through Congress the bipartisan No Child Left Behind act mandating that 100% of American public school students be above average by last year. As luck would have it, that didn't actually happen. But now Obama has just...
  • @NOTA
    NCLB definitely affects how much time schools spend on test prep vs education.

    NCLB did not require ANY test prep. It did result in many state tests that students had to pass. Though most commenters here would find the tests fairly easy, there are many, many students who cannot pass them without lots and lots of test prep.

    The problem is that, without a lot of prep, the tests tell us something we don’t want to know: a very substantial percentage of young people are not “proficient.” It suggests something even more terrifying: many of them never will be and there’s nothing we can do about it.

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  • From Bloomberg: Which don't compete with each other, either for customers or employees. Life is go
  • For what it’s worth, the FTC just announced it was opposing the Staples/Office Depot merger.

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  • Over at Heterodox Academy there's a post, Heterodox Academy’s Guide to the Most (and Least) Politically Diverse Colleges, First Edition, geared toward those looking for "unsafe spaces." This isn't on the list, but there's another option: just be around me! Recently a friend found out I was a conservative, and he expressed total wonderment at...
  • @TGGP
    Nozick claimed he was still a libertarian, though he did reject some of his beliefs circa Anarchy State & Utopia.

    Speaking of libertarianism and titles of the form "X, Y and Z", I really like Albert O. Hirschman's "Exit, Voice and Loyalty" for providing that paradigm even while I conclude that voice is the thinnest of reeds to rely upon in comparison to exit. On a more scientific bent, I think Jared Diamond's popular works are interesting even when quite wrong.

    Hirschman actually came to appreciate exit more in later life. I’m pretty sure that particular essay is in A Propensity to Self-Subversion (Harvard UP, 1995). It really should be included in future editions of Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, which is presently a rather short book–and doesn’t quite reflect his mature views.

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  • Yesterday I was walking along and it occurred to me that some of the horrific change in death rates among 45-54 year American whites since the late 1990s relative to other groups in America and abroad may be due to changes over time in the average age of 45-54 year olds. Back in 1998, 45-54...
  • @oh its just me
    being @ the center of 'gen x' this doesn't surprise me there are a lot reasons people have alluded to- entirely right - like the demoralization by elite, the nihilism, the purposelessness...
    but one overlooked factor- the selfishness of the baby boomers- I remember always feeling the baby boomers were intentionally trying to sabotage or destroy anything they didn't need or grew out of - when i was a kid there were 'adult only ' apartments for baby boomers, children were looked down upon - then baby boomers had kids, and the entire world became a day care center.

    They did more than anyone to make sure white males did not get ahead- touting diversity - at the expense of then young whites while promoting themselves.

    and now that their kids are into career age, we are seeing a second wave of oogling over them and a second wave of hyper-pc and anti white behavior -

    I hate that generation.

    Since most baby boomers are white and have white kids …

    I think your theory needs work.

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  • @Travis
    did the baby boom start earlier for Blacks and hispanics ? wonder how they were able to achieve falling fatality rates despite having similar age demographics as white Americans.

    I think the main causes on the rising death rates is worsening economic conditions and the destruction of the family. Tighter family bonds help people get thru the tough economic times.
    The recession of 2000 was followed by a jobless recover, and then the great recession. White men had more to lose in the stock market crash of 2001 and 2008 and the housing bust which began in 2007. NAFTA and massive immigration from third world workers was much harder on working class whites than any other segment of our population.

    The Sixties cultural war on American values certainly a cause, as it left fractured families unable to cope with the economic hardships they faced as they aged. The high divorce rates are one of the results, as were the increase in the number of unwed mothers rising children alone. Losing Ground by Charles Murray certainly does a good job explaining this. After reading his book, I am not surprised to see the whites from Fishtown checking out early.

    Do you mean Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980 (1984), which was one of the causes of the welfare reform of the early Clinton years or Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (2012)? It is the latter that uses the metaphor of successful Belmont, with “middle-class morality” and unsuccessful Fishtown, without.

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  • When Genome Sequencing Tells Too Much, Doctors May Have To Keep Secrets: I've said enough that I don't want to repeat myself. But it's totally crazy talk to think that parents who are rejected by a doctor or institution when it comes to a whole genome sequence wouldn't just go elsewhere. Perhaps these doctors who...
  • But it’s totally crazy talk to think that parents who are rejected by a doctor or institution when it comes to a whole genome sequence wouldn’t just go elsewhere.

    Not if it is illegal to get genes sequenced without a doctor’s permission, just like it is illegal to get many drugs without a doctor’s prescription. That seems to be what people like Sharp want.

    As I recall, early on the FDA prohibited people from testing their blood for HIV. They had to go through a medical professional, who (it was devoutly hoped) would explain to them what it all meant and what they should do.

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  • The big thing in the near future is that I'll be at ASHG 2015. More precisely Wednesday through Friday. I'm planning on checking on the Friday evening session of Lazaridis et al. where they review their findings in regards to the ancient Anatolian genomes. Aside from that the focus is on posters (methods in particular)...
  • Should we read those books because you have read them and know they are good, or because they are–as Tyler Cowen would say–”self-recommending”?

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    haven't read them. but joe and garrett's books are at the top of my stack. i've been following joe for 10 years. he's a big deal. i know garrett somewhat personally, so i'm biased, but i think his scholarship will be something people will know in the future.
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