Open Thread, 09/10/2017

Read The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith this weekend. It’s a quick read, and a pretty good concise survey of the religion and its history. Recommended.

Next up I think I’ll tackle Martin Meredith’s The Fortunes of Africa.

Genomic evidence for population specific selection in Nilo-Saharan and Niger-Congo linguistic groups in Africa. The title gets at the interesting parts (though unsurprising). Not sure about the phylogenomic/population history aspect…for example, contends that Sub-Saharan ancestry mostly derives from Nuba mountains. I don’t think that’s true.

“Open Threads” seem to have a huge variance in number of comments. Perhaps what I prime has a big impact?

Why I am not blogging anymore. I am one of a dying breed.

In relation to why Twitter is getting dumber, there are five times as many users as in 2010. Can the platform really keep quality up? What I like to think of as “dumb Twitter” is getting to be a bigger and bigger proportion, and the bigger it gets the more people go silent who are of high quality.

Posting on the Rohingya controversy the last few days has convinced me that most people who express opinions are mostly interested in posturing. People of conscience can agree that killing of civilians is wrong. But the details of action from that premise vary wildly. Also, my attempt to get at the facts of contextual elements apparently make me suspicious to many people!

In relation to foreign policy, I think that distrusting “elites” is probably for the best. The primary thing they know is their own interests.

The Last Days of ISIS’ Capital: Airstrikes if You Stay, Land Mines if You Flee.

PETA versus the postdoc: Animal rights group targets young researcher for first time. I think this sort of behavior is more acceptable in the world of ‘social media shaming.’

Americans Losing Faith in College Degrees, Poll Finds. Not all Americans:

Today, Democrats, urban residents and Americans who consider themselves middle- and upper-class generally believe college is worth it; Republicans, rural residents and people who identify themselves as poor or working-class Americans don’t.

Also, colleges don’t get it:

Schools such as Michigan State, the University of Wisconsin system and the University of Florida are trying to improve their public standing with marketing efforts. In Wisconsin, the university system has taken out billboards across the state highlighting the impact alumni have had on the local economy.

The problem isn’t in marketing, it’s in the product.

On a related vein, over at Oberlin, Enrollment Drop Creates Financial Shortfall. In the Pacific Northwest, After a turbulent spring, Evergreen faces enrollment decline, budget woes. Finally, Long After Protests, Students Shun the University of Missouri. Hyper-politicization does not seem good for the product.

Finally, interested readers should consider getting a copy of Introduction to Quantitative Genetics. The next five years or so will be saturated with results coming out of massive genomic studies which will make much more sense if one has a theoretical framework with which to interpret the them.

10 thoughts on “Open Thread, 09/10/2017

  1. i work at a lib arts college so i can add that there really is no business model for these schools anymore. right now it’s: give everyone a discount and add more students, then pay your workers and faculty less. rinse and repeat. all but the very rich schools face this issue as parents become more discerning about the value of a degree and diversity initiatives bring in fewer tuition dollars and cause increasing dropout rates. perhaps they will eventually learn that lib arts is for rich people and go back to that model:)

  2. How in the world did you end up happening across an Oberlin Review article (the campus newspaper)?

    FWIW, the quality of the Oberlin Review’s reporting is probably better than it was when I was there in the early 1990s (and most of the senior Oberlin Review staff from that time period ended up in positions at top national newspapers after college).

  3. That PETA link concerns me. I work with an animal model, though mice don’t elicit as much simpathy as birds. IIRC, there was a period in the 90’s where animals rights and environmental activists really focused on universities.

    Personal attacks, in particular, appear to be on the rise. The report looks at 220 reported illegal incidents within the United States between 1990 and 2012. It finds that from 1990 to 1999, 61% involved universities, while just 9% involved individuals. From 2000 to 2012, however, only 13% of incidents involved universities, while 46% involved individuals. Actions against businesses are also on the rise, with 17% of incidents from 2000 to 2012 involving investors and business partners, two groups not even mentioned in the previous decade’s numbers. These latter incidents included activists threatening to protest businesses that supply animal feed to research labs and airlines that transport research animals

    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/03/animal-rights-extremists-increasingly-targeting-individuals

    “‘Open Threads’ seem to have a huge variance in number of comments. Perhaps what I prime has a big impact?”

    Well, I have been walking down hallways more slowly after I read your OTs.

  4. In relation to foreign policy, I think that distrusting “elites” is probably for the best.

    Over the last couple of years I have developed an appreciation for your opinion on many subjects. It is a double-plus good feeling when you write something that I have believed for many years. I also feel the same, only more so, about the elites with respect to domestic policies.

  5. “Not sure about the phylogenomic/population history aspect…for example, contends that Sub-Saharan ancestry mostly derives from Nuba mountains. I don’t think that’s true.”

    I reviewed both the articles in the two citations that follow that assertion are limited to Bantu expansion, and there is no citation specific to that assertion in the new pre-print.

    We know something about the genetics of Kordofani people from Dobson et al., “The genetics of East African populations: a Nilo-Saharan component in the African genetic landscape”, Scientific Reports (2015). The population that contains some speakers the Kordofani language (called “Nuba” in the referenced link) clusters with linguistically Nilo-Saharan populations rather than Niger-Congo populations in a PCA analysis (Figure 2), which is suggestive of language shift by elite dominance, rather than of a founding population for Niger Congo speakers. ADMIXTURE (Figure 3) shows the same thing at K=3 already. A discussion section of the referenced link says: “It is interesting to note that Nuba populations constitute an homogeneous group, even if some speak Kordofanian (of the Niger-Kordofanian family) and others different languages of two branches of the Nilo-Saharan family. Their genetic composition denotes their Nilo-Saharan origin, with linguistic replacements in some groups. Population displacement, whether it is followed with cultural or genetic exchange with local populations, would explain why not every Nilo-Saharan speaking group has this genetic component (as is the case of Nubians) and not every population that has it is mainly formed by Nilo-Saharan speakers (as is the case of Niger-Kordofanian speaking Nuba).” In contrast the Fulani of the Sahel who speak a Niger-Congo language have West African ancestry admixed with other sources. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep09996#t1

    A more plausible path is from West Africa to Fulani to a remote Nuba outpost. Bantu expansion complicates the quest, however, as the character of pre-Bantu languages is often unknown. The urheimat of Niger-Congo languages is usually believed to be right in the center of West Africa at a major fork in the Niger River based on linguistic evidence.

  6. Razib,

    A little over a year ago I was recommending this book to you regarding the disappearance of Indian Buddhism due to your long standing interest in South Asian history:

    https://www.amazon.com/Hardships-Downfall-Buddhism-Giovanni-Verardi/dp/8173049289/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1505194163&sr=8-2&keywords=giovanni+verardi

    Unfortunately the official summary doesn’t really do it justice nor was it beginner friendly. However, since then a book review has came out that has set the context and significance of the book much more clearly and cogently:

    http://jocbs.org/index.php/jocbs/article/view/138/161

    Besides the area of South Asia, I understood you have great interest in the history of socio-religious interactions, in addition to exploring historical evidence that are often incompatible with contemporary nostrums and assumptions on the past. If that’s the case, the above book review should be a good starter on how “Hardships and Downfall of Buddhism in India” may (or may not) be a good potential book for you to read.

  7. The twitter development sounds like what happened to old Usenet as more users found it, what became known as “Endless September”.

    We don’t discount elites’ opinions because we think they’re stupid; they’re clearly smart. We discount them because we think they’re engaging in motivated reasoning, something smart people are as prone to as stupid people. If anything, to the extent that they’re better at reasoning, smart people can engage in more and better motivated reasoning.

  8. This may be common knowledge for most of you, but was news to me.

    This is from Facebook’s White Paper from April:

    • Sowing distrust in political institutions: In this case, fake account operators may not have a topical focus, but rather seek to undermine the status quo of political or civil society institutions on a more strategic level.

    Is it Facebook’s job to squelch dissent questioning the political status quo?

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