How'd that acquisition work out?

Lewis Is Said to Be Leaving Bank of America. Years ago I’d read that there was some social science which suggested that M&As were encouraged by the incentive structure of CEO careers; that is, the upside for a CEO in relation to a successful M&A are higher than for their firm. As for the downsides, the effect sizes are probably inverted. Steve Case & Gerald Levin might have their reputations in tatters, but they remain wealthy men. As for Time Warner….

Exploratory copy number variation study

Identification of Copy Number Variants Defining Genomic Differences among Major Human Groups:

Overall, our results provide a comprehensive view of relevant copy number changes that might play a role in phenotypic differences among major human populations, and generate a list of interesting candidates for future studies.

The discussion is a little heavy on how the results might have errors…caution! Here’s the PCA:

(if you’re reading this weblog, I assume you know what “CEU” refers to and such)

Posted in Uncategorized

The root of all anti-evolutionism

The Religious Landscape Survey has a lot of data various denominations. Recently I noticed something weird about Mormons; they are very anti-evolution, as well as anti-universalist in their views on salvation, according to this survey. These are notable views because Mormons don’t have well established attitudes on evolution from on high (which is why Mitt Romney expressed anti-Creationist sentiments without any blowback during the 2007-2008 campaign), and, their religious tradition actually seems to have been influenced by American Universalism, and so an exclusive attitude toward salvation is rather strange. In the case of the latter one could fudge the issue by noting Mormons believe in levels of heaven, and only Mormons themselves have access to the highest level (in particular, male Mormons who become divine). But in the soteriology of Mormonism I am to understand that only a tiny minority of human beings will spend eternity in hell (the “Outer Darkness”). So what’s up with the Mormon response to this question? I think it has to do with social identification, as Mormons are now operational adjuncts to the culture of conservative Protestantism (rejection of the theses of Charles Darwin is apparently more pervasive now than it was in the 1930s on the BYU campus according to surveys published in The Creationists).
I wanted to relate attitudes toward evolution as they depend on other parameters. I created indices by converting ordinal variables into integers, so that Conservatives = 1, Moderates = 0 and Liberals = -1. I weighted by the proportions, so that if a group was -0.5 in terms of political index that mean it was somewhat more liberal than not. You should be able to figure out the meaning of the signs simply by how the groups associate with each other, though I went left to right in the tables in the Religious Landscape Survey positive to negative (1, 0, -1, or 2, 1, 0, -1, -2, etc.). I estimated WORDSUM means by looking at the means for each educational class in the GSS and weighting appropriately (for black churches I used black WORDSUM means).

Read More

Religion & cognitive neuroscience

Neuroanatomical Variability of Religiosity:

We hypothesized that religiosity, a set of traits variably expressed in the population, is modulated by neuroanatomical variability. We tested this idea by determining whether aspects of religiosity were predicted by variability in regional cortical volume. We performed structural magnetic resonance imaging of the brain in 40 healthy adult participants who reported different degrees and patterns of religiosity on a survey. We identified four Principal Components of religiosity by Factor Analysis of the survey items and associated them with regional cortical volumes measured by voxel-based morphometry. Experiencing an intimate relationship with God and engaging in religious behavior was associated with increased volume of R middle temporal cortex, BA 21. Experiencing fear of God was associated with decreased volume of L precuneus and L orbitofrontal cortex BA 11. A cluster of traits related with pragmatism and doubting God’s existence was associated with increased volume of the R precuneus. Variability in religiosity of upbringing was not associated with variability in cortical volume of any region. Therefore, key aspects of religiosity are associated with cortical volume differences. This conclusion complements our prior functional neuroimaging findings in elucidating the proximate causes of religion in the brain.

Obviously these sorts of studies need to be viewed skeptically, the intersection of religion & fMRI seems very biased toward a high level of “sexiness.” Nevertheless, there are dozens of books on the psychology of religion, and, we know that religiosity is moderately heritable, so at some point the cognitive neuroscientists need to get in on the game of normal human variation in religious orientation (as opposed to studies of mystical brain states which seem focused on outliers). Here’s the conclusion, which takes some sides in long festering arguments about the evolutionary origins of religion:

Read More