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51OZQR9XHsL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ A week ago a friend was asking about my opinion on a long article that was shared on Facebook about ISIS and the nature of Islam. It came up that I don’t talk about religion too much on this blog in the same way I did before 2010 or so. The primary reason is that I don’t have too much to say. But, people who are not familiar with my oeuvre to that great an extent might not be conscious that I’ve written/thought/read a good amount on the topic. For example, someone on Twitter attempted to “educate” me on Christian theology, but I’ve read stuff as diverse as Aquinas and Plantiga. Just because I don’t talk about it all the time doesn’t mean I’m not familiar; I just happen to find theology as interesting and insightful as a Christian finds reading Sam Harris.

More critical for my understanding of religion is the cognitive anthropology of the topic.* In particular, Scott Atran’s In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion is probably the best introduction to the axioms which inform the way I look at religious phenomena. This work is useful because it is encyclopediac in the nature of its disciplinary synthesis (e.g., it engages more deeply with evolutionary explanations than most of the cognitive anthropology literature), and, Atran directly engages alternative and complementary viewpoints such as the neo-functionalism David Sloan Wilson espouses in Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society.

k10255 All this means that I am highly skeptical of a central assumption of Michael Cook’s Ancient Religions, Modern Politics: The Islamic Case in Comparative Perspective, that religions are concrete things which are constrained and defined by foundational premises and institutional structures. Cook’s work is detailed in fleshing out the thesis. But ultimately the acceptance of the chain of causality rests on prior plausibility of the assumption in your own mind. As I have read and accepted a wide range of individual level cognitive results which show that there is little logical constraint on interpretation of religious texts (see Theological Incorrectness). I do think Cook’s work is an impressive corrective to those who dismiss the importance of religious foundations and text. His scholarship makes a much better case than others, because he brings a wide range of material into contrasting relief.

And when you drill down to the specifics it is easy to problematize. One of Cook’s contentions seems to be that Muslims in particular have very strong asabiyyah in relation to non-Muslims. An illustration of this idea is that once a society becomes Muslim it never switches to another state. Cook admits there are a few cases where this did occur, and in particular highlights the instance of the Moriscos of Spain. But, this actually proves the point of Muslim asabiyyah in the end, because the Moriscos were expelled in the early 17th century due to their indigestibility into the polity of Christian Castile.

9780511496424i There are two objections to this outline of Morisco indigestibility in relation to the Christian polity which became Spain. First, a fair number of Moriscos in fact did assimilate. Some of the most enthusiastic proponents of expulsion were descendants of Moriscos whose own loyalty and standing was threatened by the existence of a large crypto-Muslim population. There is an element of irony here, because the Moriscos were expelled as a people, and some believing Christians were exiled because of their ethnic affiliation as Muslims. Obviously deciding who was, and wasn’t, a Morisco was not cut & dried, though presumably interaction and integration into the community was key. Second, the focus on Moriscos misses the fact that the vast majority of the Muslims who lived in the Iberian peninsula became Christians over the centuries of the Reconquista.

In Victors and Vanquished: Christians and Muslims of Catalonia and Aragon, 1050-1300 the author outlines the process of initial toleration, and then assimilation, of the Muslims of northern Spain during the earlier phase of the Reconquista. Before the joint monarchy of Castile and Aragon finally conquered Granada, there had been a centuries long process of conversion, and over the longest time scale, re-conversion, of Muslim populations to Christianity. Focusing on the Morisco populations descended from groups which had had an Islamic identity the longest and most totally probably is not representative. The genetic data make it clear that outside of the far north of Spain there are low levels of admixture likely from people whose ancestry traces to North Africa all across the peninsula.

I would recommend Ancient Religions, Modern Politics. But with major caveats and cautions. Though that should be true of any book…..

journal.pbio.1002224.g004 If there is a paper I read this week which blew my mind, it is The Dynamics of Incomplete Lineage Sorting across the Ancient Adaptive Radiation of Neoavian Birds. Basically, the authors seem to argue that difficulties in resolving the phylogenetic origin of most birds right after the extinction of the dinosaurs. The issue seems to be that speciation occurred so rapidly in all directions from a large founding population that it is hard to resolve the genetic signals well into clean bifurcating speciation trees (ergo, the network). As someone who is more personally focused on a microevolutionary scale I wonder about the ubiquity of admixture, introgression, and hybridization, though that is not focused on too much in the paper.

The latest Planet Money podcast is interesting, as it looks closely at Netflix’s human resources policy. Basically, they don’t have any truck with the cant that the firm is a “family.” To a great extent I assume unless you’re a total rube you understand that on a deep level this is propaganda. Most firms will fire you if you are no longer necessary and that is clear. In contrast, with family usually you can’t just get rid of them (giving out a child for adoption and such are exceptions). Netflix takes this to the logical conclusion…but I think the story shows why you need to be careful about taking things to logical conclusions with humans. Netflix can only exist in a broader labor ecosystem where most firms don’t engage in the same practices or promote the ethos so nakedly. Additionally, Netflix’s analogy to a professional sports team, rather than a family, may be telling. There are cases where teams with a lot of lot under-perform because of lack of cohesion. One might predict that in the long term Netflix is going to face a problem because there’s no capital in the bank of goodwill from its employees. At the first moment Netflix looks like it might be headed in the wrong direction or become a marginalized player I predict its employees, its “team members,” will opt for free agency en masse. But does that matter? Is the institutional persistence of a particular firm even a good we sshould aim for?

* If you are interested in this topic, books of interest/note, in no particular order: Darwin’s Cathedral, Religion Explained, Breaking the Spell, Modes of Religiosity, Why Would Anyone Believe in God?, The Belief Instinct, Mind and Gods, Religion is Not About God, Theological Incorrectness, The Faith Instinct, and Faces in Clouds. These works disagree with each other, and address different, if often overlapping, phenomena. But you kind of need to throw the kitchen sink at this sort of issue.

 
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  1. Robert Ford says: • Website

    I had a story from this week that happens to be vaguely related to religion: I work with a guy who was an Iraqi translator for Gulf War II (his family is of mixed religious background) and he says that partitioning Iraq along ethnic/religious lines is a bad idea and will never work. He also said that he’s very disappointed that we withdrew our soldiers and he wishes that we’d put our troops back in for a while.
    Obviously, he can’t go back as they were going to kidnap and rape/torture his daughter for cooperating with us so it’s good he is eligible for citizenship in 2 years. I saw in the news that about 60/600 Afghani/UK translators had been murdered partly because England is dragging their feet on giving them asylum.
    Only problem is that he’s working as a janitor because he can’t find work as a technician but at least his family is safe.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Pseudonymic Handle
    Why should anyone give those translators asylum?
    If they believed that supporting the Western forces was a good thing than they did their patriotic duty, if they did it for the money they already got paid for collaborating with the occupier.
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  2. Pat Casey says:

    I read Breaking the Spell back ago and, as I recall, Dennett struck me as an atheist who needs a Jesuit. First of all his repeated admonitions for believers to “grow up” made me want to spit on him. I would bet the readers who read his book most closely were believers. If all human thought and action could be reduced to a bio-chemical equation and a person’s future mapped to precision, I suppose the most astounding thing that would prove is that some people really are saints, and calling them freaks of nature would intuitively seem obtuse. The hitch about studying religion as a science is that the notion of the supernatural is always conceived erringly on the part of the naturalists. Miracles are not exceptions to the laws of the universe but events that wouldn’t occur if God did not exist. God is supernatural, not unnatural. Which makes me want to say to the Dennetts of the world: Grow up, and admit para-psychology does not evidence nothing, and quantum mechanics is more like numinous magic than a riddle of math.

    Regarding Islam, this asabiyyah of theirs is a function of poverty, at the end of the day, seems to me. Poverty makes you rough and loyal and filled with enmity. That the privileged amidst the poor become devout and the leaders of these impoverished hordes is not surprising by that light either; what they importantly do in a way is tell the poor bastards how poor they are. If the middle east was as rich as the West they wouldn’t be cutting off each others heads. But of course temperaments more prone to conflict are also at play. Yet nearly every single muslim in this country is assimilated sufficiently to suggest they’ll care enough about worldly stuff over tribalism if given the opportunity.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Regarding Islam, this asabiyyah of theirs is a function of poverty, at the end of the day, seems to me.

    michael cook addresses in detail the fact that islam does not valorize poverty at all. it makes recourse for charity, but also accepts the profit making aspect of commerce from the git-go. a foundational reason is simple: muhammed was by vocation a merchant. if you were to take a simple descriptive tack the islamic ethos is egalitarian but not geared toward 'the least.'

    i am publishing the comment because it is dumb. either because the commenter is not too bright, or, he chooses to take the easy path and just spout off in a seat-of-the-pants manner that's not acceptable. i'll ban people who do so in the future.

  3. @Pat Casey
    I read Breaking the Spell back ago and, as I recall, Dennett struck me as an atheist who needs a Jesuit. First of all his repeated admonitions for believers to "grow up" made me want to spit on him. I would bet the readers who read his book most closely were believers. If all human thought and action could be reduced to a bio-chemical equation and a person's future mapped to precision, I suppose the most astounding thing that would prove is that some people really are saints, and calling them freaks of nature would intuitively seem obtuse. The hitch about studying religion as a science is that the notion of the supernatural is always conceived erringly on the part of the naturalists. Miracles are not exceptions to the laws of the universe but events that wouldn't occur if God did not exist. God is supernatural, not unnatural. Which makes me want to say to the Dennetts of the world: Grow up, and admit para-psychology does not evidence nothing, and quantum mechanics is more like numinous magic than a riddle of math.

    Regarding Islam, this asabiyyah of theirs is a function of poverty, at the end of the day, seems to me. Poverty makes you rough and loyal and filled with enmity. That the privileged amidst the poor become devout and the leaders of these impoverished hordes is not surprising by that light either; what they importantly do in a way is tell the poor bastards how poor they are. If the middle east was as rich as the West they wouldn't be cutting off each others heads. But of course temperaments more prone to conflict are also at play. Yet nearly every single muslim in this country is assimilated sufficiently to suggest they'll care enough about worldly stuff over tribalism if given the opportunity.

    Regarding Islam, this asabiyyah of theirs is a function of poverty, at the end of the day, seems to me.

    michael cook addresses in detail the fact that islam does not valorize poverty at all. it makes recourse for charity, but also accepts the profit making aspect of commerce from the git-go. a foundational reason is simple: muhammed was by vocation a merchant. if you were to take a simple descriptive tack the islamic ethos is egalitarian but not geared toward ‘the least.’

    i am publishing the comment because it is dumb. either because the commenter is not too bright, or, he chooses to take the easy path and just spout off in a seat-of-the-pants manner that’s not acceptable. i’ll ban people who do so in the future.

    Read More
  4. jb says:

    Concerning the radiation of birds — I’ve occasionally wondered how many species (i.e., reproductively isolated lineages) of mammals and birds (and other tetrapods) made it through the KT extinction event to radiate into the current lineup. Was it a comfortably large number, or disturbingly small (i.e., how close were we to a world without birds)?

    I would think that modern genetic analysis might have a lot to say about this, but I haven’t haven’t seen any estimates, and I’m not sure where I should look. Do you know if any work has been done on this question, and if there are any good results?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    depends on species concept i'd think. but at minimum 3, since the ancestors of the three primary lineages seem to have diverged before the K-T boundary.
    , @Karl Zimmerman
    The situation is pretty much identical - arguably worse - when it comes to the radiation of modern mammals.

    At least for birds we have Vegavis from the Cretaceous of Antarctica, a bona-fide member of the order Anseriformes (e.g., waterfowl - geese and ducks). How basal it is in this group is subject to debate, but it means that landfowl (Galliformes) must have been around as well, along with at least two other lineages of birds (Palaeognathae and Neoaves).

    In contrast, although we have plenty of fossils of basal Eutherian mammals from the Cretaceous, we do not have one fossil which can be conclusively linked to any modern placental orders - or even something like a stem group Afrothere which could be placed basal to modern orders, but would at least be more closely related to some orders than others. There are several lineages of mammals which clearly survived the K/T extinction, but all of these seem to have gone extinct in the Paleocene and Eocene (besides Monotremes).

    Some paleontologists have used this lack of information to conclude that all modern placental mammals originated from a single species after K/T. Geneticists have tended to disagree, because the calibrated dates for the division of the Placental superorders are deep into the early Cretaceous.

  5. Beowulf says:

    Hi Razib,

    I know that Heather Norton suggested that ADAM17 and ATRN play a role in East Asians having light skin, but in the paper they note that the genes have multiple other functions, and thus seem unsure.

    Do you know if there has ever been any follow up work on these genes?

    Thanks,

    Beowulf

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    not to my knowledge. but i haven't followed the east asian loci too closely.
  6. Matt_ says:

    Re: Islamic aasabiyah as from the religion’s foundational assumptions, it seems like could be true, but also seems like the kind of question that is constrained by history, from my shallow read of it – IIUC Islam was very effective and early at penetrating into the Silk Road system, into Central Asia, where if I understand correctly, effectively all the large expansions of empires descended between Mohammed to the Gunpowder Empires, and so most of the powers under which Muslim states fell tended to be Islamic themselves or strongly tolerant towards Islam, as the major religion in their territory (e.g. as useful Muslim merchants, administrators, eunuchs, etc.). A good deal of the history within this tradition would be written within this context.

    Where you did have dominion of Muslims by non-Muslim peoples, such as the Hui minority by the Han Chinese, you do seem to get a different pattern that is probably not so different from e.g. Christian minority groups who are absorbed into another state dominated by a quite different belief system.

    So it seems hard to test whether Muslims have a particular aasabiyah, or whether it is simply that they were rarely tested in the face of a conquering dominion that was not Muslim (or a minority that was pragmatically Muslim tolerant), while a number of other civilizations / religions were conquered by Muslim invaders.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    but also seems like the kind of question that is constrained by history,

    historical contigency and path dependence are both critical issues, which to me are counter-posed to the idea of a foundational root for the nature of a religion-culture. the latter tends to emphasize variation as a product of the foundation and textual constraints.

    Where you did have dominion of Muslims by non-Muslim peoples, such as the Hui minority by the Han Chinese, you do seem to get a different pattern that is probably not so different from e.g. Christian minority groups who are absorbed into another state dominated by a quite different belief system.

    cook refers to this literature, and i have alluded to it as well. in short, muslims in this environment because rather like christians in muslim lands and jews in christian lands. their reorient their own religion a bit to accept the challenge and conditions of the majority culture/religion, and then show they are equal (or privately, superior) by the standards of the outsiders. the tatars under czarist russia had a similar tendency, but the problem with muslim minorities on the fringes of the dar-ul-islam, unlike hui or ashkenazi jews is that the centripital pull of majoritarian lands is strong.


    So it seems hard to test whether Muslims have a particular aasabiyah,

    cook claims political scientists have controlled for variables and muslim states tend to have murder rates 1/3 below that of similar non-muslim states. of course controlling for variables isn't so easy in this case, and the issue of correlation/confounds is going to loom large in these analyses.
  7. @jb
    Concerning the radiation of birds -- I've occasionally wondered how many species (i.e., reproductively isolated lineages) of mammals and birds (and other tetrapods) made it through the KT extinction event to radiate into the current lineup. Was it a comfortably large number, or disturbingly small (i.e., how close were we to a world without birds)?

    I would think that modern genetic analysis might have a lot to say about this, but I haven't haven't seen any estimates, and I'm not sure where I should look. Do you know if any work has been done on this question, and if there are any good results?

    depends on species concept i’d think. but at minimum 3, since the ancestors of the three primary lineages seem to have diverged before the K-T boundary.

    Read More
  8. @Matt_
    Re: Islamic aasabiyah as from the religion's foundational assumptions, it seems like could be true, but also seems like the kind of question that is constrained by history, from my shallow read of it - IIUC Islam was very effective and early at penetrating into the Silk Road system, into Central Asia, where if I understand correctly, effectively all the large expansions of empires descended between Mohammed to the Gunpowder Empires, and so most of the powers under which Muslim states fell tended to be Islamic themselves or strongly tolerant towards Islam, as the major religion in their territory (e.g. as useful Muslim merchants, administrators, eunuchs, etc.). A good deal of the history within this tradition would be written within this context.

    Where you did have dominion of Muslims by non-Muslim peoples, such as the Hui minority by the Han Chinese, you do seem to get a different pattern that is probably not so different from e.g. Christian minority groups who are absorbed into another state dominated by a quite different belief system.

    So it seems hard to test whether Muslims have a particular aasabiyah, or whether it is simply that they were rarely tested in the face of a conquering dominion that was not Muslim (or a minority that was pragmatically Muslim tolerant), while a number of other civilizations / religions were conquered by Muslim invaders.

    but also seems like the kind of question that is constrained by history,

    historical contigency and path dependence are both critical issues, which to me are counter-posed to the idea of a foundational root for the nature of a religion-culture. the latter tends to emphasize variation as a product of the foundation and textual constraints.

    Where you did have dominion of Muslims by non-Muslim peoples, such as the Hui minority by the Han Chinese, you do seem to get a different pattern that is probably not so different from e.g. Christian minority groups who are absorbed into another state dominated by a quite different belief system.

    cook refers to this literature, and i have alluded to it as well. in short, muslims in this environment because rather like christians in muslim lands and jews in christian lands. their reorient their own religion a bit to accept the challenge and conditions of the majority culture/religion, and then show they are equal (or privately, superior) by the standards of the outsiders. the tatars under czarist russia had a similar tendency, but the problem with muslim minorities on the fringes of the dar-ul-islam, unlike hui or ashkenazi jews is that the centripital pull of majoritarian lands is strong.

    So it seems hard to test whether Muslims have a particular aasabiyah,

    cook claims political scientists have controlled for variables and muslim states tend to have murder rates 1/3 below that of similar non-muslim states. of course controlling for variables isn’t so easy in this case, and the issue of correlation/confounds is going to loom large in these analyses.

    Read More
  9. @Beowulf
    Hi Razib,

    I know that Heather Norton suggested that ADAM17 and ATRN play a role in East Asians having light skin, but in the paper they note that the genes have multiple other functions, and thus seem unsure.

    Do you know if there has ever been any follow up work on these genes?

    Thanks,

    Beowulf

    not to my knowledge. but i haven’t followed the east asian loci too closely.

    Read More
  10. @Robert Ford
    I had a story from this week that happens to be vaguely related to religion: I work with a guy who was an Iraqi translator for Gulf War II (his family is of mixed religious background) and he says that partitioning Iraq along ethnic/religious lines is a bad idea and will never work. He also said that he's very disappointed that we withdrew our soldiers and he wishes that we'd put our troops back in for a while.
    Obviously, he can't go back as they were going to kidnap and rape/torture his daughter for cooperating with us so it's good he is eligible for citizenship in 2 years. I saw in the news that about 60/600 Afghani/UK translators had been murdered partly because England is dragging their feet on giving them asylum.
    Only problem is that he's working as a janitor because he can't find work as a technician but at least his family is safe.

    Why should anyone give those translators asylum?
    If they believed that supporting the Western forces was a good thing than they did their patriotic duty, if they did it for the money they already got paid for collaborating with the occupier.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Robert Ford
    because they're risking their lives and their family's to help us. that's why it's federal law that they are eligible for citizenship in the U.S. I'm not a fan of Islam but they're a lot more worthy than illegal immigrants who've done nothing and it's the right thing to do. He said that IS was going to kidnap and rape and torture his daughter, does that not bother you?
    , @Numinous

    Why should anyone give those translators asylum?
    If they believed that supporting the Western forces was a good thing than they did their patriotic duty, if they did it for the money they already got paid for collaborating with the occupier.
     
    You give asylum if and only if it becomes impossible for these translators to live in their own countries. If they and their families fall into mortal danger for the services they rendered to the US.

    Because they risked their lives to provide service to the US, and the US government and military were perfectly aware of that fact.

    And because if you don't, you'll never get anyone to provide translation services ever again; not for money, not as patriotic duty, not unless the US government blackmails them in some way.
  11. Pat Casey says:

    Mr. Khan, not that I care more than a little, but blocking my perfectly mannered clarification is intellectually dishonest, and shows you’re more of a tyrant than a serious moderator. I enjoy guys who don’t suffer fools gladly, but misinterpreting what I wrote and insulting me, and then blocking my riposte speaks volumes about your character I’m afraid. Plantinga doesn’t write theology he writes philosophy of religion and I highly doubt you were reading Aquinas’ theology. Nor do those two easy names span some impressive spectrum. Since manners don’t matter: “As I have read and accepted a wide range of individual level cognitive results which show that there is little logical constraint on interpretation of religious texts (see Theological Incorrectness).” First of all that’s not a sentence. Second of all that’s an embarrassing thing for a professional writer to write. Try: Religious texts are open to a wide range of logical interpretations (in my opinion.)

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    i'm aware you might not count plantiga as a theologian. but he's more intellectually hefty than someone like n.t. wright, so seemed the best counter-point to a aquinas for our time. & i'm not professional writer, if you mean someone who makes most of their income from writing (i don't) or allocates most of their income generating time to writing (i don't). you can think me a tyrant, but i still think you're kind of saying dumb things *shrug* (the comment i didn't publish for example, was rife with dumbness, so you're welcome for not showing it to people).

    a fundamental problem i've always had on this blog is that smart people are used to saying dumb things around dumber people and getting away with it. the day i tolerate that the day i stop blogging (for my non-blogging writing i don't read comments for a reason).

    thanks for the copy-editing!

  12. @Pat Casey
    Mr. Khan, not that I care more than a little, but blocking my perfectly mannered clarification is intellectually dishonest, and shows you're more of a tyrant than a serious moderator. I enjoy guys who don't suffer fools gladly, but misinterpreting what I wrote and insulting me, and then blocking my riposte speaks volumes about your character I'm afraid. Plantinga doesn't write theology he writes philosophy of religion and I highly doubt you were reading Aquinas' theology. Nor do those two easy names span some impressive spectrum. Since manners don't matter: "As I have read and accepted a wide range of individual level cognitive results which show that there is little logical constraint on interpretation of religious texts (see Theological Incorrectness)." First of all that's not a sentence. Second of all that's an embarrassing thing for a professional writer to write. Try: Religious texts are open to a wide range of logical interpretations (in my opinion.)

    i’m aware you might not count plantiga as a theologian. but he’s more intellectually hefty than someone like n.t. wright, so seemed the best counter-point to a aquinas for our time. & i’m not professional writer, if you mean someone who makes most of their income from writing (i don’t) or allocates most of their income generating time to writing (i don’t). you can think me a tyrant, but i still think you’re kind of saying dumb things *shrug* (the comment i didn’t publish for example, was rife with dumbness, so you’re welcome for not showing it to people).

    a fundamental problem i’ve always had on this blog is that smart people are used to saying dumb things around dumber people and getting away with it. the day i tolerate that the day i stop blogging (for my non-blogging writing i don’t read comments for a reason).

    thanks for the copy-editing!

    Read More
  13. Robert Ford says: • Website
    @Pseudonymic Handle
    Why should anyone give those translators asylum?
    If they believed that supporting the Western forces was a good thing than they did their patriotic duty, if they did it for the money they already got paid for collaborating with the occupier.

    because they’re risking their lives and their family’s to help us. that’s why it’s federal law that they are eligible for citizenship in the U.S. I’m not a fan of Islam but they’re a lot more worthy than illegal immigrants who’ve done nothing and it’s the right thing to do. He said that IS was going to kidnap and rape and torture his daughter, does that not bother you?

    Read More
  14. Spoons says:

    Your readers are a smart bunch. I wonder if they can help me with something that I have beeb thinking about. There is a probability distribution that I am interested in. I don’t know if it has a name, but I think that it would be useful to explain natural phenomena.

    The idea is that you sum weighted coin flips (Bernoulli trials). The binomial distribution would be a special case of this, where the weights are all equal. So in addition to the n and p parameters, you would have a third parameter r that is the ratio of the weights of flip n to flip n+1. With r=1 you have the binomial distribution, with r = 0 you have a Bernoulli trial because all flips after the first have weight 0.

    The continuous analog would be even better.

    Read More
  15. @jb
    Concerning the radiation of birds -- I've occasionally wondered how many species (i.e., reproductively isolated lineages) of mammals and birds (and other tetrapods) made it through the KT extinction event to radiate into the current lineup. Was it a comfortably large number, or disturbingly small (i.e., how close were we to a world without birds)?

    I would think that modern genetic analysis might have a lot to say about this, but I haven't haven't seen any estimates, and I'm not sure where I should look. Do you know if any work has been done on this question, and if there are any good results?

    The situation is pretty much identical – arguably worse – when it comes to the radiation of modern mammals.

    At least for birds we have Vegavis from the Cretaceous of Antarctica, a bona-fide member of the order Anseriformes (e.g., waterfowl – geese and ducks). How basal it is in this group is subject to debate, but it means that landfowl (Galliformes) must have been around as well, along with at least two other lineages of birds (Palaeognathae and Neoaves).

    In contrast, although we have plenty of fossils of basal Eutherian mammals from the Cretaceous, we do not have one fossil which can be conclusively linked to any modern placental orders – or even something like a stem group Afrothere which could be placed basal to modern orders, but would at least be more closely related to some orders than others. There are several lineages of mammals which clearly survived the K/T extinction, but all of these seem to have gone extinct in the Paleocene and Eocene (besides Monotremes).

    Some paleontologists have used this lack of information to conclude that all modern placental mammals originated from a single species after K/T. Geneticists have tended to disagree, because the calibrated dates for the division of the Placental superorders are deep into the early Cretaceous.

    Read More
  16. omarali50 says:

    I have Cook’s book but have not yet read it (because it keeps getting pushed back in the que compared to books I have to return to the library), but on the question of Muslim Asabiya, it doesnt have to be much stronger than that of any other religion to be a signficant factor in history. Sure, when Muslims face significant pressure to assimilate to some non-Muslm loyalty, most of them do so, but not without pain.

    Maybe one way of looking at it would be that Muslim asabiya is overblown, but there IS a stronger element of militant solidarity in the Muslim self-image than there is in most religions (some smaller religions exceed Muslim-level group solidarity, e.g. Sikhs, but then the religion overlaps with ethnic and linguistic identity, so maybe an apples and oranges comparison) and this self-image is well preserved in classical Islamic literature, theology and historical mythmaking. So it is always available, especially as communication and education improve.

    For example, look at Indian Muslims and their relationship with the caliphate in the early 20th century. It can be seen as an example of Muslim asabiya NOT matching the pull of other factors, but at the same time, it is an example of that asabiya being real (even if not sufficient to change loyalties during the first world war).

    The British worried (a lot) about the loyalty of their Musalman subjects. That they did not betray the crown in large numbers shows that Muslim asabiya was not enough. But that the Brits had to worry so much and take several steps to prevent such an outcome shows that the issue was not trivial. During the war, the Brits (who knew a thing or two about their subjects and about such things in general) were able to emphasize Turkey’s alliance with Germany (an infidel power) as a way to discredit Turkish claims of fighting for Islam and to soothe fears by vocally promising to defend the sanctity of Mecca and Medina and so on…though an even bigger factor may simply have been the fact that most Muslim recruits were still more anchored in traditional Punjabi honor codes than in (relatively modern) notions of transnational loyalty to Islam or any other thing.
    I remember my grandfather (approvingly) relating the story of a Punjabi Muslim VCO (Viceroy’s Commissioned Officer) of the British Indian army who, after the surrender at Kut, was offered his sword back by the Turks with the offer to join his fellow Muslims on the “right side” of the war, instead of enduring POW status on the side of the British infidels: he broke the sword on his knee and contemptously asked if the Turks thought he was such a low-life “namak haram” (traitor to his salt) that he would betray his oath and his fellow soldiers?
    A bit more education and he might have gone the other way.

    After the war, when it was not so dangerous and was more or less a theoretical issue, large numbers of Indian Muslims started a movement in favor of the Ottoman Caliphate (just when the Turks themselves were about to bury it). Maybe some of them were working out their guilt at having fought for the Brits in WWI.

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  17. Razib says something that is pretty obvious but is rarely acknowledged, “smart people are used to saying dumb things around dumb people and getting away with it.”

    I am repeating this because it has such far reaching implications in multiple directions.
    Why am I so turned off by politics?
    Why do I choose to turn off the blather emanating from the boob tube and normal conversations one encounters on the street and retreat to the written word?
    Am I an elitist to be scorned?
    Is there something wrong with me?

    hell no

    contratufucklations fellow upper 2%
    You just happen to be pretty smart, (simple and easy assumption to make, you read this blog dontcha?) but that doesn’t mean very much, not in a world of 7 billion people. Your life is probably just fine, you are very employable, but as there are the teeming masses below you there are plenty of people above you…like this guy here. :)

    I say all this because people act shocked about how things are and how they should be much better. For some reason the normal response that should be expected from how things work in a world where humanity is distributed upon a bell shape curve for their intelligence isn’t expected at all. You aren’t rewarded in the real world for talking over peoples heads, matter of fact you are hated for it. Kind of like patting midgets on the head, it backfires real quick. So get used to it. Smart people not only are used to saying dumb things and getting away with they learn real fast to zip their lips and rarely say anything smart at all. Enjoy the show and be grateful for what you were given. We live in interesting times.

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  18. Numinous says:
    @Pseudonymic Handle
    Why should anyone give those translators asylum?
    If they believed that supporting the Western forces was a good thing than they did their patriotic duty, if they did it for the money they already got paid for collaborating with the occupier.

    Why should anyone give those translators asylum?
    If they believed that supporting the Western forces was a good thing than they did their patriotic duty, if they did it for the money they already got paid for collaborating with the occupier.

    You give asylum if and only if it becomes impossible for these translators to live in their own countries. If they and their families fall into mortal danger for the services they rendered to the US.

    Because they risked their lives to provide service to the US, and the US government and military were perfectly aware of that fact.

    And because if you don’t, you’ll never get anyone to provide translation services ever again; not for money, not as patriotic duty, not unless the US government blackmails them in some way.

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  19. PD Shaw says:

    One of the things that I found useful to me in Cook’s book was his idiosyncratic view of the meaning of “fundamentalism.” He concedes his usage is not normal. It was a term developed by American Protestants about 100 years ago that includes textual literalism. Projecting that concept to other religions, some of which have loose textual canon, or an advanced traditions of interpretation is largely nonsense.

    In any event, Cook’s analogy is that a religion can be seen as a spring that emerges from the mountainside and meanders from stream to river to present. What is normative about that religion? If it involves seeking out the original source of water, then the task is fundamentalism. If it involves acknowledging and preserving the downstream water as it was passed to you by your elders, than it is conservatism. Left unsaid was the impetus to direct the water for current or future purposes, which I would describe as liberalism. All these views seek claim on present relevance.

    What I took from the book was that Islam in its original cadence resonates more with current political aspirations than other ancient religions. In the comparisons he sets up with Christians/Hindus versus Muslims, it seems that the messiness of their religious dogma provides space for either political religion or agnosticism.

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  20. 22pp22 says:

    Completely off topic, but there has been a lot of talk in NZ of bringing the moa back from extinction using genetics. Is this really viable?

    I can’t imagine anything more thrilling than seeing a herd of moa running across the Crown Ranges.

    Moa have only been extinct for around 600 years and plenty of moa bones have been found.

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    • Replies: @Karl Zimmerman
    I think there are significant issues with bringing the Moa back which don't apply to say the woolly mammoth.

    1. You cannot implant a cloned embryo in the oviduct of a bird the same way you do in for mammals in a uterus.

    2. Even if your could, there are no surviving close relatives to the moa, which further complicates the issue. Maybe you could have an emu hold the egg, but in terms of genetic divergence, it would be like having a cow give birth to a bear.
  21. @22pp22
    Completely off topic, but there has been a lot of talk in NZ of bringing the moa back from extinction using genetics. Is this really viable?

    I can't imagine anything more thrilling than seeing a herd of moa running across the Crown Ranges.

    Moa have only been extinct for around 600 years and plenty of moa bones have been found.

    I think there are significant issues with bringing the Moa back which don’t apply to say the woolly mammoth.

    1. You cannot implant a cloned embryo in the oviduct of a bird the same way you do in for mammals in a uterus.

    2. Even if your could, there are no surviving close relatives to the moa, which further complicates the issue. Maybe you could have an emu hold the egg, but in terms of genetic divergence, it would be like having a cow give birth to a bear.

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  22. 22pp22 says:
    @Karl Zimmerman
    I think there are significant issues with bringing the Moa back which don't apply to say the woolly mammoth.

    1. You cannot implant a cloned embryo in the oviduct of a bird the same way you do in for mammals in a uterus.

    2. Even if your could, there are no surviving close relatives to the moa, which further complicates the issue. Maybe you could have an emu hold the egg, but in terms of genetic divergence, it would be like having a cow give birth to a bear.

    Thanks – and thanks for the link too.

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  23. Thursday says:

    To me the common sense position is that sometimes specific religious tenets don’t matter that much, but sometimes they do matter quite a bit.

    Even if the reasons a specific group adhere to a specific holy book are pretty arbitrary, once it has established itself in a central symbolic role for the group, you can’t disrespect the symbol in too obvious a way. By for example, disregarding its teachings.

    James Kalb’s take on these issues always seemed sensible to me.

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  24. Thursday says:

    In a previous (and recent) open thread, you were quite dismissive of Plato. It’s really hard to get a handle on him because:

    1. Plato does writes in a very literary, not very straight forward manner.
    2. Books on Plato don’t seem to me very good.

    However, if you do want to hear the best possible case for Plato’s relevance, I would strongly recommend the Great Courses audio lecture series by Michael Sugrue. I would suggest Audible as the cheapest place to get it.

    ———————–

    I’d also note that there is a sort of advancement in philosophy. For example, even if ultimately Aristotle is much closer to the truth than his predecessors, Aristotle would not have been possible without the arguments of Plato, the Pre-Socratics and maybe even the Sophists.

    And thinking through how Aristotle came to reject their posititions can often be quite illuminating. Often the same errors keep popping up.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    the aversion to plato is strongly conditional on the debasement/extension of the ideas in neoplatonism and later christian thought. plato came closer than aristotle to genuine insight when he emphasized the role and power of mathematics in understanding reality.
  25. @Thursday
    In a previous (and recent) open thread, you were quite dismissive of Plato. It's really hard to get a handle on him because:

    1. Plato does writes in a very literary, not very straight forward manner.
    2. Books on Plato don't seem to me very good.

    However, if you do want to hear the best possible case for Plato's relevance, I would strongly recommend the Great Courses audio lecture series by Michael Sugrue. I would suggest Audible as the cheapest place to get it.

    -----------------------

    I'd also note that there is a sort of advancement in philosophy. For example, even if ultimately Aristotle is much closer to the truth than his predecessors, Aristotle would not have been possible without the arguments of Plato, the Pre-Socratics and maybe even the Sophists.

    And thinking through how Aristotle came to reject their posititions can often be quite illuminating. Often the same errors keep popping up.

    the aversion to plato is strongly conditional on the debasement/extension of the ideas in neoplatonism and later christian thought. plato came closer than aristotle to genuine insight when he emphasized the role and power of mathematics in understanding reality.

    Read More

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