Daily Data Dump – Wednesday

Psychological Research Conducted in ‘WEIRD’ Nations May Not Apply to Global Populations. This is the standard objection to psychological studies in terms of the representativeness of their samples; middle class university students. But more broadly they’re Western middle class university students.

The grandmother factor: Why do only humans and whales live long past menopause? Interestingly the data and model here imply that the importance of disproportionate maternal grandmothers (this is empirically attested in even notionally patriarchal societies) may have something to do with patrilocality.

Ghana’s unique African-Hindu temple. In some ways this seems to replicate the non-congregational model found in India, whereby locals seem to be patronizing the temple for its “services” is a non-exclusive fashion.

The Myth of the Fat Burning Zone. This is in the “news your can use” category.

Why won’t those &$*%#@ bloggers go away? Scott Sumner’s response to a criticism of the “econosphere” from a professional economist. I doubt that engineers worry about engineering bloggers talking about stuff they don’t know about. Economics is hard, but many of us who are not averse to giving due respect to professionals who have a real understanding of how the world works have shifted our assessment on the empirics of late. The econosphere would disappear in its current critical form if economists either toned down their pretensions, or actually showed us the money.

Porn and moral panic

Social conservative blogger Rod Dreher points me to this interview of a Left-wing sociologist on the malevolent influence of pornography on modern relationships. She has a book out, Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality. Her conclusion:

To turn this around there needs to be a massive public health awareness campaign. Unless people begin to understand the role pornography is playing in our culture, I can’t see any reason that this won’t get worse, because all of these men who started watching pornography young are going to want more and more. Pornographers themselves say they’re having trouble keeping up with what fans want because they want it so hardcore.

Where is this going to end? I don’t know. What will an 11-year-old boy want 10, 20, or 30 years from now? Nobody knows. The truth is we’ve never brought up a generation of males with hardcore pornography. No one can really say what’s going to happen. What we do know, from how images and media affect people, is that it’s going to increasingly shape the way men think about sex, sexuality, and relationships.

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Daily Data Dump – Tuesday

North America’s First Peoples More Genetically Diverse Than Thought, Mitochondrial Genome Analysis Reveals. The paper is free to all. Remember that this is just mtDNA, the maternal lineage. This area seems a bit confused now. The standard simple model, which is barely even a ‘stylized fact’ at this point, is that a group of Siberians arrived ~12,000 years ago and this founder population to led to all that has come after. For about twenty years geneticists have been claiming to see more time depth, but that’s confused by the possibility that they have been looking at evolutionary dynamics in Berengia, not North America.

In Ireland, a Picture of the High Cost of Austerity. So was there an alternative to austerity for Ireland alone? Can such a small nation pump growth with deficit spending if its larger neighbors are all beating the drum for austerity? Seems like they’re soldiering on and making the best of a bad situation.

In Faulty-Computer Suit, Window to Dell Decline. Dude, do not buy a Dell!

The Triumphant Decline of the WASP. Noah Feldman basically concedes that WASPs are the world’s least primitive population. Of course that does not entail fitness of genes or memes.

Can linguistic features reveal time depths as deep as 50,000 years ago? Mostly likely not.

Can linguistic features reveal time depths as deep as 50,000 years ago?

Throughout much of our history language was transitory, existing only briefly within its speech community. The invention of writing systems heralded a way of recording some of its recent history, but for the most part linguists lack the stone tools archaeologists use to explore the early history of ancient technological industries. The question of how far back we can trace the history of languages is therefore an immensely important, and highly difficult, one to answer. However, it’s not impossible. Like biologists, who use highly conserved genes to probe the deepest branches on the tree of life, some linguists argue that highly stable linguistic features hold the promise of tracing ancestral relations between the world’s languages.

Previous attempts using cognates to infer the relatedness between languages are generally limited to predictions within the last 6000-10,000 years. In the present study, Greenhill et al (2010) decided to examine more stable linguistic features than the lexicon, arguing:

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Your genes are just the odds

Morning Edition has a strange story today about the exploration of one neuroscientist of his own family’s history, specifically its psychological and neurological quirks. To not put too fine a point on it, the scientist in question finds out that he has a history of violence in his family, and, that he carries a genetic variant implicated in violent behavior under particular conditions, as well as telling neurological patterns found among psychopaths. Here’s the relevant section:

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Daily Data Dump – Monday

High Rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections Among Older Swingers. This goes into the “they had to do research!?!?!” category. Older swingers are a “high risk” group, like gay men and prostitutes.

Golly, Beav, We’re Historic. I really loved Leave It To Beaver when I was a kid.

Religious Extremists Will Inherit the Earth. John Derbyshire reviews the new book Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century. I’m looking forward to this book, though I’m generally skeptical of the error bars on any social prediction beyond the 20 year time horizon.

Born to be a slave in Niger. This a story from 2005, but from what I gather nothing has really changed in much of the Sahel since then. Slavery is particularly pernicious in Mauritania, where the racialized aspect is pretty straightforward.

New Clues Suggest Wet Era on Early Mars Was Global. This story caught my attention because I just found out that Edgar Rice Burrough’s first Barsoon novel is going to be turned into a film.

More children please: men or women?

In the post below on Bryan Caplan’s arguments for why one should have more children there was an “interesting” comment:

As if we’re harmless little creatures at one with our environment and put no toll on the balance of nature around us. Funny how we humans act like mindless rabbits and lemmings and put the sole unintelligent directive of our DNA as the mouth of god. Men most interestingly in power or self described intellectuals after sitting around picking belly lint and jerking off in praise of their penises find clever monkey justifications (patriarchal religions mostly) for more more more babies and women must be subservient to male sexual needs and demands of more babies. See a huge male god said so.

Funny how women mostly never jump on the soapbox bandwagon of wanting to pop out tons of kids, just male spermatozoa fed rants formed by the human male organism to insist his natural inclination is the word of gawd. If you can’t use holy massive penised Jehovah to instill this dreck then dream up socio-biological propaganda for the atheist hip guys needing a good shagging with their female cohorts.

Ignoring the weirdness of much the comment, is it true that men are more pro-natalist than women? I have shown that there seems to be a trend within the last 10 years of preference for larger families. What’s the sex breakdown for this?

The correlation between men and women is 0.65 year-to-year in their mean for ideal number of children. About 43% of the variance of the trend over the years can be predicted from one sex to the other. Is there is a systematic difference? Here’s a chart:

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The two cycles

I’m reading Brotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East. The book basically outlines the international state system in the ancient Near East which fostered diplomatic relationships between the monarchies of the period. It is noted that this state system and diplomatic culture did not make it through the chaos which marks the transition between what we term the Bronze Age and Iron Age; the centuries between 1200 and 600 BC. I try and read about the ancient Near East when I can, it’s a hard area to find academic books accessible to lay people (I don’t know Sumerian or Akkadian for example, which means that a lot of the philological stuff goes over my head). But thanks the usage of cuneiform tablets which are often well preserved when palaces are burned down we have a substantial amount of records, albeit not of the personable narrative form excluding some exceptions (good for economic historians, not so much for cultural historians).

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Psychometrics, epigenetics and economics

Two papers of interest. IQ in the Production Function: Evidence from Immigrant Earnings (ungated). And Human Intelligence and Polymorphisms in the DNA Methyltransferase Genes Involved in Epigenetic Marking. My impression is that the focus on epigenetics has a higher-order social motive; even the sort of humanists who are involved with N + 1 have asked me about the topic. But how many people know what methylation is?