A crisis of democratic capitalism?

India Feels Pressure as Growth Rate Is Worse Than Predicted:

Many analysts have been arguing that the best way for policy makers to respond to slowing growth is further liberalization of India’s economy, large parts of which are still heavily regulated. The government could, for instance, make it easier for foreigners to invest in industries like retail, aviation and insurance that need more capital.

But the government, led by the Indian National Congress Party, has struggled to pass unpopular measures in recent months because of opposition from its coalition partners and political rivals. Last year, it indefinitely deferred a plan to allow foreign supermarkets into the country after a coalition partner threatened to pull out if the change went through.

To be frank I think the strategy of export-driven nations like China shows that state-directed capitalism is not always a failure (one could argue that the earlier East Asian “miracles” used the model). But this sort of internal state-protected capitalism doesn’t do much good over the long term. India, Europe, and the USA are all suffering dysfunctions right now because of the lack of alignment between the needs of a market economy and the demands of the populace.

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Cain, Where is Abel thy brother?

Community differentiation and kinship among Europe’s first farmers (via Dienekes):

Community differentiation is a fundamental topic of the social sciences, and its prehistoric origins in Europe are typically assumed to lie among the complex, densely populated societies that developed millennia after their Neolithic predecessors. Here we present the earliest, statistically significant evidence for such differentiation among the first farmers of Neolithic Europe. By using strontium isotopic data from more than 300 early Neolithic human skeletons, we find significantly less variance in geographic signatures among males than we find among females, and less variance among burials with ground stone adzes than burials without such adzes. From this, in context with other available evidence, we infer differential land use in early Neolithic central Europe within a patrilocal kinship system.

I have already stated on this weblog that we will probably begin to discern a rather strong pattern soon of an interleaved genetic pattern across Eurasia and Africa where we can infer that populations in an expansionary demographic phase absorbed a host of other groups (more, or less). The exact details are to be worked out, but I’m moderately confident in …

H. Allen Orr, most influential evolutionary biologist of all time?

A reader reminded me of an amusing paper, Who Likes Evolution? Dissociation Of Human Evolution Versus Evolutionary Psychology. The gist of the results are below (I added some clarification):

The propositions to gauge acceptance of evolutionary psychology revolve around sex differences. One can argue whether this is an appropriate measure, but to a first approximation I think it gets to the heart of the matter. There are deep evolutionary genetic (number and size of gametes) and anatomical reasons to assume that sex differences in behavior are not exclusively a function of cultural variation. One can argue about the details of the inferences that evolutionary psychology makes (I think it is subject to the problems rife in psychology as a whole), but I don’t think its ultimate underpinning in sociobiology is crazy.

Nevertheless, I do think there are some empirical results which are robust enough across a range of studies and observations that we move from theoretical likelihood to concrete assessment of the probability of a particular sex difference. For example, the idea that males on average all things equal tend to exhibit more aggression than females. To …

The current bias in genealogical databases

As a follow up to my post below on the thick coverage of European information in genealogical and genomic databases, here are the “Ancestry Finder” matches from 23andMe for my daughter using the default settings:

If I increase sensitivity India does come up, at 0.1%, second to last in a very long list of European nations. I’m pointing this peculiarity out because my daughter is 50 percent South Asian, but this element of her ancestry doesn’t find many matches because there aren’t many people out there in the database to match. In contrast, because she is 1/8th Norwegian (her great-great grandparents were immigrants from the Olso area; thanks Ancestry.com!) this “block” jumps out, and aligns up with many people in their database.

This isn’t just an exceptional case. Here’s the result for a friend who is 50 percent East Asian (Chinese) and 50 percent American white:

The old warning rears its ugly head: the tool is just a tool, and must be used with and understanding of what it can and can’t do. If you decrease sensitivity many South Asians actually …

Reason: the God that fails, but we keep socially promoting….

One point which I’ve made on this weblog several times is that on a whole range of issues and behaviors people simply follow the consensus of their self-identified group. This group conformity probably has deep evolutionary origins. It is often much cognitively “cheaper” to simply utilize a heuristic “do what my peers do” than reason from first principles. The “wisdom of the crowds” and “irrational herds” both arise from this dynamic, positive and negative manifestations. The interesting point is that from a proximate (game-theoretic rational actor) and ultimate (evolutionary fitness) perspective ditching reason is often quite reasonable (in fact, it may be the only feasible option if you want to “understand,” for example, celestial mechanics).

If you’re faced with a complex environment or set of issues “re-inventing the wheel” is often both laborious and impossible. Laborious because our individual general intelligence is simply not that sharp. Impossible because most of us are too stupid to do something like invent calculus. Many people can learn the rules for obtaining derivatives and integrals, but far fewer can come up with the fundamental theorem of calculus. Similarly, in the 18th century engineers who utilized Newtonian mechanics for practical purposes were not capable …

Reason: the God that fails, but we keep socially promoting….

One point which I’ve made on this weblog several times is that on a whole range of issues and behaviors people simply follow the consensus of their self-identified group. This group conformity probably has deep evolutionary origins. It is often much cognitively “cheaper” to simply utilize a heuristic “do what my peers do” than reason from first principles. The “wisdom of the crowds” and “irrational herds” both arise from this dynamic, positive and negative manifestations. The interesting point is that from a proximate (game-theoretic rational actor) and ultimate (evolutionary fitness) perspective ditching reason is often quite reasonable (in fact, it may be the only feasible option if you want to “understand,” for example, celestial mechanics).

If you’re faced with a complex environment or set of issues “re-inventing the wheel” is often both laborious and impossible. Laborious because our individual general intelligence is simply not that sharp. Impossible because most of us are too stupid to do something like invent calculus. Many people can learn the rules for obtaining derivatives and integrals, but far fewer can come up with the fundamental theorem of calculus. Similarly, in the 18th century engineers who utilized Newtonian mechanics for practical purposes were not capable …

Science, the genealogical leveler?

I follow CeCe Moore’s blog posts on scientific genealogy pretty closely. But it’s more because of my interest in personal genomics broadly, rather than scientific genealogy as such. My own knowledge of my family’s past beyond the level of grandparents is very sketchy. This despite the fact that I know I have two very well documented lines of ancestry which I could follow up on, my paternal lineage, and the paternal lineage of my mother’s maternal grandfather. I don’t have a great interest in this beyond the barest generalities, and my parents tend to have a rather disinterested stance as well. Why? I can’t help but wonder if part of the issue is that unlike many South Asians my family has a relatively diverse background, so it isn’t as if we are sustained by a coherent self-identity as members of a sub-ethnicity (Bengalis are not tribal, so lineage groups are more ad hoc and informal). Additionally, there is probably some self-selection in the type of personalities who would transplant themselves across continents and are willing to spend the majority of their lives in a nation not of their birth.

But CeCe’s post did get me to reflect on an …

The end of genealogical illusions: arise the truth!

One thing that Zack Ajmal’s readers have done enough over at Harappa is closely examine the treasure-trove of data he’s assembled. I decided to “go public” with two obvious inferences which seem to jump out from the data to me at this point:

– Syrian Christians from Kerala are not by and large descended from Nambudiri Brahmins. This never made sense demographically, since there seem to be an order of magnitude more Christians than Brahmins in Kerala.

– I believe that South Indian Brahmins derive from a particular homogeneous ancestral population, with a dominant element from one North Indian Brahmin community, and admixture from an indigenous elite Dravidian-speaking population. But the strong homogeneity across various regions indicates relatively robust endogamy since that initial period.

I assume in the next few years all the elaborate fantasies of various Indian caste groups will be disabused. On the other hand, after looking at the Jatt results I am more likely to credit the idea that they are in part derived from relatively recent migrants from the Northwest of India.

Islam as the abomination

Someone who goes by the handle “peave” seem to have left a rather interesting comment:

Mr u need a bit metal treatment okay,,we dont purposefully go and disrepair or disuse their “holy”sites…when a lady does,which she does with the Quran ,then she has done the act in order to hurt muslims…. and obviously u cannot control every one so that lady who posted that pic will have to bear the consequences as well okay.sick people like u, are trying equivocate two different acts as similar.shame on u .

There are two issues, one simple, and one complex. The simple one is that adherents to every major religion is part of a tradition which has engaged in acts of blasphemy and destruction against objects sacred to another religion. The practice is probably an ancient human norm, the statues of Marduk were torn down and dragged away by the Assyrians after their conquest of Babylon. In a more banal manner, the temples of pagans were torn down by Christians, and churches were put up their place, while the churches and temples of Christians and Hindus gave way to the mosques of Muslims. Again, the very simple point lost on the stupid is this: one person’s act of piety is another person’s act of blasphemy. This is why speaking about blasphemy or the sacred without properly admitting in a multicultural context the radical inter-subjectivity of the terms is bound to be confusing.

This gets to the second point. When Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs (and to a lesser extent Christians) complain that acts of blasphemy are meant to “hurt” individuals (.e., Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, etc.), they often don’t understand that the relationship of a religion and an individual varies. For example, people who have been subjected to physical and emotional abuse by clerics, and religious institutions, have a great deal of anger at those individuals and the institution as a whole. So, for example many feminists who attack religion approach the institution from a position of deep rage and anger, often justified rage and anger. Asserting that these individuals are out to hurt Muslims/Hindus/Sikhs/Catholics, etc., misses the point that they don’t view Islam/Hinduism/Sikhism/Catholicism in the say way that believers do. What is up for believers may be down for them, what is sacred, uplifting, the very stuff of life, might very well be a warped and abominable system of beliefs which have wrought only suffering upon the protester.

My own personal attitude is that it’s best to avoid too reductive a take on religion. We shouldn’t generalize from individual to everyone. But, we need to understand that individuals will have their own perspective. A Muslim should naturally be free to testify to the singular beauty of their religion. That is their liberty. But that Muslims should understand that that testifying does hurt some people, those who have been abused by Islam or Muslims in the past. Similarly, others should be free to post a picture of the Koran which they have taken a shit upon to show the world what they think of the Muslim religion. That viewpoint is just as real, and just as authentic.

Of course I don’t expect commenters like the one above to understand. Barbarians such as those that live in Pakistan, where non-Muslims live with the same liberty as Jews in 1930s Germany, aren’t going to understand the details of liberty as it has now come to be understood in the West. But what has been won over the past few centuries is a precious thing, and we should at least make a show of preserving it against the savages swarming at the gates. Note that the savage’s implicit warning that the blasphemer will have to bear the consequences if harm comes to her would not have been unheard of in 17th century Britain.