Open Thread, 08/13/2017

Busy with kids and life. But perhaps time to read Peter Turchin’s Ages of Discord: A Structural-Demographic Analysis of American History. I was skeptical when Peter presented this idea years ago. Less so now.

I’m on the eclipse train. The whole family will be chasing it soon.

Paul Thompson is on Twitter. If you read this blog in the early/middle 2000s it will be a familiar name. Paul had thought I had stopped blogging! Moving platforms every few years does that.

So a friend of mine was advising that I should push sign-ups to my newsletter, as he too believes that Twitter’s days in its current form are numbered. I’ve only sent out one mailing so far, but may increase the frequency to once a month or so. Mostly I’m a little worried that without Twitter people like me who produce content, but aren’t affiliated with a media distribution channel, are going to get lost in the din.

Anyway, please sign up if you don’t follow me on Twitter (or if you do).

Open Thread, 08/06/2017

I know that George R. R Martin has stated that the ending to A Song of Ice and Fire is going to be bittersweet. R. Scott Bakker’s conclusion to the Aspect Emperor tetralogy ends with a bittersour ending. Fair warning.

Also, the writing of the last third of The Unholy Consult was good in terms of packing a lot of action and plotting, but it was hard to keep track of all the obscure names.

The new episode of Game of Thrones is very good. Nice for things to actually happen.

I’ve been offline most of the weekend. Several people asked me about the Google Memo. Here’s the weird thing: huge subcultures within the organization aren’t even American. Several friends for example have been token Americans on Chinese teams. Their values and priorities are obviously very different even if they don’t inform the ‘public face’ of the company. It’s all rather strange (yes, whoever wrote that memo will surely be fired).

How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul. I think Matt Stoller’s anti-monopolist views should appeal to many people on the Right as well as the Left. Google and Facebook are arguably much more powerful than any state government when it comes to shaping our culture.

A. N. Wilson spent five years working on a biography of Charles Darwin that is coming out next year. So he published It’s Time Charles Darwin Was Exposed for the Fraud He Was. I find Darwin idolatry a bit much sometimes personally. And I’m  not deeply versed in his intellectual biography. I’ve read The Origin of Species, and have read several of Peter J. Bowler’s works.

I can only comment on what I know in more detail. At some point Wilson tries to tag Neo-Darwinians with Dawkins’ atheism. But Dawkins is an extreme case. Arguably the god-father of the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis, R. A. Fisher, was an Anglican and a Tory. No offense to Dawkins, but his substantive scientific contribution is dwarfed by Fisher. And yet Wilson is pushing Dawkins to the front as an exemplar of Neo-Darwinism.

Wilson also says that Neo-Darwinians couldn’t therefore revere Gregor Mendel because he was a monk. It’s all rather strange because it’s called “Mendelian Genetics.” Not mention that biographies I’ve read suggested that Mendel himself was not excessively pious. Rather, his monastic vocation freed him from financial worries, allowing him sufficient leisure to engage in studies. But perhaps I’m wrong in this, after all Wilson has studied Darwin for five years!

Finally, there is the utilization of Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge to attack Darwinian gradualism. I’m not a big fan of all this macroevolutionary talk, but the late Gould and Eldridge would not be happy to be drafted in this way. Charles Darwin was wrong on a lot of things. That’s because he had a lot of ideas.

The central deep insight from Darwin’s theory was the power of natural selection to shape variation and drive adaptation. One can argue about the importance of this dynamic in evolutionary process, but the fact that it is still being studied shows how fruitful Darwin’s theory was in generating a living program of science.

What the company I work for is working on.

Open Thread, 07/31/2017

Read a bit of The Unholy Consult. People who say George R R Martin’s work is too dark? They need to really read a bit of R. Scott Bakker, and Martin will seem to like someone who sees the world through rose-colored glasses.

I’m thinking of reading The Witchwood Crown later because I might need a pick-me-up after The Unholy Consult. I’ve also had The Wise Man’s Fear in my Kindle stack for over five years now, but I plan on reading it when Patrick Rothfuss finishes the series with book 3.

Speaking of fantasy, there is a lot of commentary on Game of Thrones. Always. Some of it is quite dumb. For instance, Game of Thrones and race: who are the non-white characters and where are they from in the books and show? To make a sound argument you actually need to know something about the books. The writer does not. For example, “The Targaryen monarchs, who ruled Westeros for hundreds of years but, thanks to their thing for incest, never really bred all that much with the locals.” This is false. Daenerys is only 1/8th Valyrian (at most). Half her recent ancestry is from a First Men house, the Blackwoods (though it surely has much Andal blood too). About 3/8th of her recent ancestry is Dornish, so a mix of Andal, First Men, and Rhoynish.

Second, George R. R. Martin published the first book in the series in 1996. It was on his mind for years before that. Obviously if he was writing these books today he’d tune them so they were more in sync with the cultural politics of the contemporary Left (since that is where his own personal sympathies lie). But it isn’t as if he can go back and rewrite the major characters and add some diversity which some of his fans might now want. The 1990s were a different time. I recall back on some message boards that Renly’s sexual orientation was an issue for some readers. Martin was arguably ahead of the times on that score.

There are fantasy works where the central characters are nonwhite. Both Judith Tarr’s Avaryan series and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series have been around for a while. And both these worlds have the added benefit of not being standard Tolkienesque medieval settings.

Inside Facebook’s Rapid Growth in Austin. Their presence is felt.

Kimura & Crow: Infinite alleles. Really great piece on the working relationship between Motoo Kimura and James F. Crow. About 11 years I emailed Crow 10 questions on a lark. He responded in less than a day. Also, Kimura and Crow’s An Introduction to Population Genetics Theory is worth getting (it’s cheap).

Divorce and Occupation. No surprise that there’s a correlation between income and divorce rate (negative). But some professions are outliers. Bartender and nurse anesthetists are above the trend line (more divorce than their income predicts). Clerics and actuaries are well below it.

Postdoctoral positions in human population genomics, nutrigenomics, & association studies at Cornell in Alon Keinan’s lab.

How evolution draws trade-offs.

The TakingHayekSeriously Twitter account has been passing along pieces and posts around the controversy surrounding Nancy Maclean’s Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. The book is ridiculous. So ridiculous that Vox published a piece Even the intellectual left is drawn to conspiracy theories about the right. Resist them.

I’ve been very loosely associated with libertarians because of my political sympathies for a long time. Years ago I actually visited The Center for Study of Public Choice where James Buchanan had his office because my friend Garett Jones had his office there. There’s no conspiracy here, or secret cabals under the radar. Libertarians are by and large a nerdy group of radicals fixated on stuff like the nonaggression principle. Just like you see on the internet. Kooky. Yes. But a cabal? Have you met libertarians? They don’t have the aptitude for that sort of coordination (Radicals for Capitalism is really the book to understand libertarianism, in particular because Buchanan and public choice theory have a minor role at best to play in libertarianism).

But that doesn’t matter. Democracy in Chains will validate the suspicions and beliefs of many people. And it’s a footnoted academic work. Unless it’s obvious fraud it’s going to be a success in influencing people.

Remember that Arming America won the Bancroft Prize for outstanding work of American history in 2000. Arming America was likely a work of fraud in large part. But its thesis, that America’s gun culture did not date to the colonial era, was congenial to the political ideology of many historians. Therefore even though it did not pass the smell test they gave the book rave reviews. I’d be surprised if  Democracy in Chains is a work of fraud. The author just doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but she is telling a story her audience wants to hear, with some academic credibility to boot (and so far historians have supposedly supported her).

The population genomics of archaeological transition in west Iberia: Investigation of ancient substructure using imputation and haplotype-based methods. I think these dynamics are going to be relatively common.

I must say, I don’t recommend All Things Made New: The Reformation and Its Legacy. The title suggests a broader work than it is. Far too much space is given to the English Reformation. Just thought I’d mention that.

Reading some of Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict. Broadly agree with the thesis I think…but wondering about the replication of some of the experiments cited.

Also in my stack, The Red Flag: A History of Communism.

Andrew Sullivan notices in this week’s column that Islam seems to now be untouchable on the Left. This is going to too far, but liberals who express anti-Islamic sentiments are getting rather rare, and though privately many on the Left have serious issues with Islam (I know, because they tell me privately) they’re careful not to say it out loud lest they be attacked as racist. My own view is that there are 1.6 billion Muslims, so it makes sense for the Left to align with them. Isn’t world domination worth a hijab?

Don’t blame the Empire. Alex Tabarrok takes some deserved shots at Shashi Tharoor’s An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India. The anti-colonialism tick often gets out of control among Indians, to the point where all evils are heaped upon the British. This is a major aspect of post-colonialism, which “erases” all identity-forming events before the arrival of Europeans.

Twitter lost 2 million users in the U.S. last quarter. Shit’s getting real Jack. If you use RSS, subscribe to my feed! I also have a mailing list, where I’ve sent out exactly one email so far. But if Twitter goes down….

Can 23andMe Tell Us If Jews Are A Race — And Is That A Good Thing? The author interviews scientists who know the science, but he still manages to garble and confuse everything. First, Ashkenazi Jews descend from a endogamous community which flourished in Central Europe probably no earlier than ~1000 AD. That is why a Ashkenazi Jewish cluster emerges naturally out of the population genetic data; there’s a real coherent demographic history being reflected. Whether that’s a “race” or not I’ll leave to the reader.

Second, the story states that “Sephardic Jews are not considered a distinct population by either company, or by researchers — their genetic make-up is not sufficiently different from surrounding North African, Iberian and Greek populations.” This very misleading. To a great extent Sephardic Jews are rather distinct from the surrounding populations. There is some evidence of shared ancestry in Moroccan Jews with Moroccan Berbers (I know because I’ve looked at a lot of this data), but it’s a small proportion. Similar things can be said about most Sephardic communities. But, they are not nearly as coherent a genetic cluster as Ashkenazi Jews. There has been some gene flow and assimilation with many local Jewish populations (e.g., the Syrian Sephardic Jews absorbed a local Levantine Jewish community, which had its own liturgy until the 19th century).

Neanderthal-Derived Genetic Variation Shapes Modern Human Cranium and Brain. Many people skeptical of the robustness of this result.

Open Thread, 07/23/2017

Finished The Enigma of Reason. The basic thesis that reasoning is a way to convince people after you’ve already come to a conclusion, that is, rationalization, was already one I shared. That makes sense since one of the coauthors, Dan Sperber, has been influential in the “naturalistic” school of anthropology. If you’ve read books like In Gods We Trust The Enigma of Reason goes fast. But it is important to note that the cognitive anthropology perspective is useful in things besides religion. I’m thinking in particular of politics.

I haven’t been blogging much since I was abroad on a business trip. Specifically to the Persian Gulf. I’ll say more later, though I am going to be vague on geography since I’d rather not mix these two streams of my life (also, to be clear, this is not related to my day job).

One Family, Many Revolutions: From Black Panthers, to Silicon Valley, to Trump. I had known of this connection before, between Ben Horowitz, the Silicon Valley VC guy, and David Horowitz, the right-wing provocateur. The elder Horowitz’s contention that one needs to play dirty to get anywhere is a position that I believe has more support today than it did ten years ago. The culture has come to him.

Don’t Believe in God? Maybe You’ll Try U.F.O.s. No surprise.

43 Senators Want to Make It a Federal Crime to Boycott Israeli Settlements. Here are the sponsors. I’ve never felt so sympathetic toward BDS….

My piece in India Today on South Asian genetics is hitting the printing press this week.

Open Thread, 07/16/2017

I know that Game of Thrones is premiering tonight, but just wanted to remind readers that R. Scott Bakker’s The Unholy Consult will be out in a week. The author, R. Scott Bakker, has a blog, Three Pound Brain. He has some strange ideas…much of which I can’t make heads or tails of. But that’s OK, I enjoy his fiction, I don’t worship his philosophy.

I’m traveling, so not much time to comment. But let me say that I’m sad to see that Maryam Mirzakhani has died.

If you want to get a sense of the historical background of the framework within which I write much of this blog, you might find Will Provine’s The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics of interest.

Tucker Carlson Goes to War Against the Neocons. I know that most people on the Left don’t like Tucker Carlson now because of his recent political postures, but back in the 2000s he was known as a quite heterodox (read: not partisan and boring) commentator. And I have to say that it is nice for someone to say what may of us, including former supporters of the Iraq invasion, think now and then when we recall the period before 2011.

Open Thread, 07/09/2017

I’m a sucker for the aesthetics of Norden. Why? I wonder if part of it is that the fringe of Northern Europe is a science fictional setting. The long dark nights during the cold winter, and the twilight during midsummer. The sun may be bright, it never gets too high in the sky. The 13th Warrior wasn’t the best movie, but it was evocative. One of the problems with the film depiction of the Lord of the Rings trilogy is that New Zealand seems too bright and airy (and also not decayed enough).

Because of the SMBE meeting I haven’t made much progress on The Enigma of Reason. Much of it has been reviewing the literature in cognitive psychology and reasoning which I’m familiar with (system 1 vs. system 2, Wason reasoning task, etc.). Though it is leading me up to the main thesis.

I remember years ago Matthew Yglesias mentioned he was going to do a bit more reading of books, as opposed to news, to differentiate himself from other pundits. Today he admitted he wasn’t going to make a show of having an informed opinion about the Frankfurt School. I suggested he take time out to read The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950. The modern campus Red Guards don’t know anything about Adorno, Marcuse, or Horkheimer. But the outlines of contemporary project toward cultural revolution and exaltation of the marginalized are all there. Rather than being the origin modern radical movements, I suspect that the Frankfurt School simply provides a useful tool and framework to go about its project.

I do know that some politically moderate scientists who read The Dialectical Imagination, and saw campus politics in a totally different, and more intelligible, light.

Joe Pickrell’s new company, Gencove, Improving ancestry estimates in South Asia.

I said on Twitter that “easiest way to make housing affordable for non-rich is to build more houses for the rich so they won’t buy houses built for non-rich.” What do I mean? It’s all about supply. The well-off will always be first in line for any supply of housing. If you allow for copious development, vertically and horizontally, then the rich can purchase the luxury condos and mansions that they crave, while the middle class and lower class can buy up the more normal housing stock.

The Austin skyline, then and now.

Yazidi sex slave had to choose between son and escape from Isis.

Bangladeshi students test into elite schools. This story is about the entrance examinations for the elite public high schools of New York City. In 2010 the average Bangladeshi family in New York City had a household income of $37,000. I believe in the near future the entrance exams will not be the only criterion for gaining admission. The reality is that Asian American students lack “leadership” and are not “well rounded,” and all the Asian American applicants “look the same.”

A large-scale genome-wide enrichment analysis identifies new trait-associated genes, pathways and tissues across 31 human phenotypes.

Racism Is Everywhere, So Why Not Move South? This article is written in the context of black Americans. But the insights are general. Houston has a cost of living that’s at the national average. It’s the fourth largest city in the United States, and there is a lot of good phở because of the large Vietnamese community.

Patrick Wyman, who sometimes comments on this blog, has a great Fall of Rome podcast.

The Sad, Sexist Past of Bengali Cuisine. Really upper caste Bengali Hindu cuisine.

Utilities fighting against rooftop solar are only hastening their own doom. Not surprised. I have been following Ramez Naam’s commentary on this for years. He’s been on this.

Islamophobes are attacking me because I’m their worst nightmare. Linda Sarsour.

I thought Hillary would win the election. But I told a long-time reader of this weblog who is a Democratic operative that BLM activists getting in Bernie Sanders’ face did not presage well for the direction of the party. Linda Sarsour as the face of progressivism is a massive boon for the Right and Republicans.

Sarsour has left a trail of obnoxious and offensive comments on Twitter. So have many people. For me personally the biggest issue is possible solidarity with Rasmea Odeh. The PFLP is the literal definition of a terrorist organization (though a Marxist, not Islamic, one). But the reality is that her enemies on the Right know that she and her compatriots in the “woke” movement would never exhibit charity toward their political opponents, so they are attempting to destroy her because they know she would do the same to them. That’s where we are in American politics today. You destroy your enemies, or they destroy you. Let’s have fun until the last battle though!

A combined analysis of genetically correlated traits identifies 107 loci associated with intelligence. I guess I’ll start paying attention to when they can explain ~25% of outgroup sample variance. They’re already further than the 7% in this preprint, though that will take a little longer to publish.

Procedures for enumerating and uniformly sampling transmission trees for a known phylogeny.

A reanalysis of Schaefer et al. does not indicate extensive CRISPR/Cas9 mediated off-target editing events.

Evolutionary Action of de novo missense variants across pathways prioritizes genes linked to autism and predicts patient phenotypic severity.

Open Thread, 7/3/2017

Reading The Enigma of Reason. Pretty good so far. Not incredibly surprising to me so far. To be clear, their argument is somewhat orthogonal to the whole ‘rationality’ debate you may be familiar with from Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s work (e.g., see Heuristics and Biases).

One of the major problems in analysis is that rationality, reflection and ratiocination, are slow and error prone. To get a sense of that, just read ancient Greek science. Eratosthenes may have calculated to within 1% of the true circumference of the world, but Aristotle’s speculations on the nature of reproduction were rather off.

You may be as clever as Eratosthenes, but most people are not. But you probably accept that the world is round and 24,901 miles around. If you are not American you probably are vague on miles anyway. But you know what the social consensus is, and you accept it because it seems reasonable.

One of the points in cultural evolution work is that a lot of the time rather than relying on your own intuition and or reason, it is far more effective and cognitively cheaper to follow social norms of your ingroup. I only bring this up because unfortunately many pathologies of our political and intellectual world today are not really pathologies. That is, they’re not bugs, but features.

But I do suspect that the human bias toward trusting social wisdom is less useful in a world as fast changing and protean as ours. The math is pretty clear that in a stable environment there is no gain to reinventing wheels, as opposed to learning and believing what always works. Where individual learning and cognition are useful is in a situation where parameters are changing constantly, and folk wisdom leads you astray.

The Languages of Political Islam in India c.1200–1800 is only $5.99 on Kindle. I have no idea how Amazon figures out which academic books to discount highly, and which not to, but it’s always something I keep an eye out for.

RV dwellers in Palo Alto neighborhood forced to motor on and a reflection by a Stanford post-doc how difficult it is to make ends meet. One response is “we need affordable housing.” The reality is that you don’t need anything targeted, and special-built housing for the poor inevitably is subject to shortages. What is needed is more housing. But for various reasons incumbents between San Francisco and San Jose don’t want development.

Viral NRA ad sparks controversy. People are very freaked out on my Twitter timeline (I mostly follow liberals since I mostly follow scientists). Some people are saying that this is white supremacy in action. At this point it is useful to step outside of your socio-political bubble. For the past few years the dominant Left discourse has suffused all injustice with the term “white supremacy” and “systemic racism.” At some point you desensitize people who aren’t already fully on board with you

If 2011’s Rise Of The Planet of the Apes was filmed today I wonder if CRISPR/Cas9 would play a role?

I will be filling up the #SMBE17 hashtag tomorrow.

Bringing Neanderthals to Life: The Sculptures of Elisabeth Daynès. Neanderthals are depicted as having straight hair and African hominins with wooly hair. Is this justified? Is wooly hair the ancestral state?

Since wooly hair is found in many disparate human populations it probably is ancestral. But it would be nice to have more than a hunch or phylogenetic inference based on extant distributions of the trait.

Open Thread, 6/25/2017

I’m beyond the “keto flu.” That was tough.

A few months ago I asked a Hindu nationalist friend of mine the best persons who promote the “Out of India Theory.” One name he forwarded to me was Koenraad Elst. Though Elst and I disagree on facts in relation to the issue at hand, a reader has pointed out that he’s taken a very strident and clear stand against the ad hominem attacks against me from those who would consider him a fellow traveler. This honorable stance frankly has shocked me to my core, as I’m just not used to it after engaging with SJWs and various ideologues for so long. The ad hominem is so easy that it takes some fiber and integrity to resist it.

One consequence of Elst’s clear stand is that I think I do need to revisit some of his work.

Read some of The Enigma of Reason yesterday. I would recommend it. I’ve read some of Dan Sperber’s previous stuff, like Explaining Culture: A Naturalistic Approach, and it’s familiar. Also, Sperber was a major influence on Scott Atran, so even though this book is new many of its ideas and orientation are prefigured in In Gods We Trust.

SMBE 2017 in about a week at the JW Marriott in Austin. I’m not going to be there the whole time, but when I’m there I’ll be tweeting.

Waking Up With Sam Harris #83 – The Politics of Emergency (with Fareed Zakaria). I agree with Fareed Zakaria more on Islam.

A left-wing journalist is attacking Richard Dawkins on the basis of his family having had African servants when they lived in Kenya. This person is some sort of Max Blumenthal clone from what I can see. A fringe element of far Left basically has a modus operandi: pick someone to destroy, and extract elements of their life to flog them as evil (call them racist, sexist, something -ist).

This is great on Twitter, but not optimal for movement building. I understand that there is a reasonable, moderate, liberal, Left. But this radical Left wants many of us out there on the street, our families dispossessed. When the lines are drawn, this is why some of us will keep voting Republican despite all our issues with the party: we don’t want to be personally destroyed.

Related to the chilling impact of this behavior, Liberals and Immigration, Kevin Drum says:

I have no idea what, if anything, we can do about this. But I will say this. I lurk on a number of message boards populated by liberals, and what they say privately is very often more nuanced than what they say publicly.¹ On immigration, there are probably lots of liberals willing to concede that there needs to be a limit to the flow of undocumented workers. There are cultural, economic, and nationalistic reasons for this. But there’s little benefit to saying so in public. It just invites massive, social media swarms insisting that you’re a closet racist.

White Cheese is white Supremacy

This is in response to Peter Beinart’s piece How the Democrats Lost Their Way on Immigration. I think Michael Brendan Dougherty has a pretty good response to this in National Review. Before he wrote this piece he observed on Twitter that Beinart wasn’t confronting something that had changed on the Left. I responded: “white supremacy.”

White supremacy has gone from being the KKK or Neo-Nazis, to basically all of American society. The term is used liberally and without much care. Just like the term racist or sexist. It’s both a cudgel in tactical debates, and, for many it’s a sincere belief. A Sister Souljah moment could never happen today for a white male Democratic politician because he would be accused of being a white supremacist for attacking a black woman (Obama himself was attacked for pandering to ‘respectability politics’).

On immigration, note that in the mid-2000s Republicans could have probably been able to muster the courage to ignore the base if the Democrats had agreed to a bill to flood this country with high skilled immigration (a proposal by some Republicans). But for political and policy reasons the Democrats wanted something comprehensive, which includes lower skilled workers who are both the Democrats’ future vote bank, and people who are important (often relatives) to Democratic voters.

Above Drum asks about conservatives and which views they keep quiet about in relation to policy. I think there is more variation on responses to climate change, foreign policy, and tax policy than you might think. The fear comes not from the social media mobs, but from the wealth people and interest groups funding fellowships.

About ten years ago Reiham Salam and Ross Douthat wrote Grand New Party in part to stake out a fiscally more moderate and socially conservat(ish) framework. There are obviously a lot of voters in that position, but the donor class was never a big fan. Trump seems to have taken that plank in a more populist direction and run with it, but there doesn’t seem to be the policy and personnel infrastructure to execute on this, so you see a more donor class friendly presidency (at least so far).

The Evolution meeting is happening right now in Portland. Check out the hashtag, #evol2017.

California just added four more ‘discriminatory’ states to its travel ban. This is going to impact academics in the UC system who may want to visit UT or UNC or Duke. As a friend pointed out the state of California is really punishing the blue areas of red states, since these are the places which interact the most with California. I think this is just BDS thinking spreading. It may trigger counter proposals, but as I said the people most impacted in red states are Democrats. Perhaps there won’t be any reaction? Like economic sanctions on authoritarian states this is going to hurt people you don’t want to hurt, without impacting the people you are targeting. But it makes you feel good.

Happy Eid.

In case you haven’t noticed I’ve been posting on Brown Pundits a fair amount.

The assumption of pulse admixtures is easy, but it’s often wrong. I really hope this gets more wide circulation because it might be leading us astray in many ways. Though this varies by taxa. Plants probably have less pulse admixture going on that social organisms.

In Turkey, No Teaching Of Evolution, But Banning Gays Is Fine. It’s hard to gauge Erdogan sometimes, because he made some liberal(ish) noises as late as the Arab Spring in 2011. No longer.

Translating Genesis. Alter’s translation and commentary is my favorite so far, but it’s been many years since I read Genesis. Any good recommendations? (please don’t say NIV)

New job.

Enrichment of low-frequency functional variants revealed by whole-genome sequencing of multiple isolated European populations.

Draft genome of the Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). Huge on Sami Twitter.

Savarkar’s book Hindutva needs a new cover.

A former executive is accusing Infosys of racism that favours Indians #whiteSupremacy.

Genetic loci associated with coronary artery disease harbor evidence of selection and antagonistic pleiotropy. Not a huge surprise.

Did I mention SciReader is back?

Estimates of Introgression as a Function of Pairwise Distances.

Leaderless Uber Scrambles to Prevent Employee Exodus. I think if Netflix ever stumbles they’ll have enormous issues immediately, since their hiring and firing policy puts zero emphasis on loyalty.

US court grants Elsevier millions in damages from Sci-Hub. If you don’t know about Sci-Hub, read the article.

Robots That Make 400 Burgers an Hour May Soon Take over Fast Food Restaurants. Burger meat is usually the low quality stuff. I suspect a combination of lab grown meat and/or vegan meat-substitute is going to come to dominate the market in a generation. Combined with automated burger making a whole sector will be transformed (in contrast, steaks require a lot more work to imitate, so people will probably eat real meat steaks for a while).

Natural selection shaped the rise and fall of passenger pigeon genomic diversity.

Revenge of the scaly Tyrannosaurus.

Open Thread, 06/18/2017

In the centuries around and before 1000 A.D. there was a “Viking international” of sorts. Harald Hardrada may have died in England trying to become king of that nation, but he served for a time in the Varangian Guards in Constantinople. His connections to Kievan Rus were such that priests in the Eastern Christian tradition were brought in to aid in the conversion of Norway. The book The Vikings talks about much of this.

Speaking of Kievan Rus, as I noted in the comments below the Y chromosomal lineage of the Rurikids is clearly one of Finns, not Scandinavians. But the Primary Chronicle indicates that the recent ancestors of Vladimir the Great were Scandinavian, so the cultural assimilation must have occurred earlier.

And Kievan Rus itself was more connected to other parts of Europe than Russia itself later would be. Anne of Kiev was the mother of a future king of France

An Expanded View of Complex Traits: From Polygenic to Omnigenic. Everyone is talking about this. Have not read it. A lot of the discussion is going on on Twitter. Jonathan Pritchard has been very active in the discussions.

Punctuated evolution shaped modern vertebrate diversity. This paper is about morphology, but still cool.

How genetics is settling the Aryan migration debate. The author follows me on Twitter and quotes me in the piece (from one of my blog posts in 2009). He clearly knows his stuff and seems to have read my posts, so nothing new. But he does get some scientists to put into the record that they don’t believe things they believed in the late 2000s. One problem is that Indian “Out of India” proponents keep citing papers from the late 2000s which the authors themselves likely don’t stand by anymore.

Reading a bit of A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution. I feel the field of human behavioral ecology gets short shrift, though to be fair before Joe Heinrich started writing books there really weren’t any popularizers (both David Sloan Wilson and E. O. Wilson do do some on the side in this area).

Berkeley Says It’s Standing Up to Trump, But It’s Actually Busy Arguing About Zucchini. Median home price in Berkeley is now $1,100,000.

Over the past year for various reasons I’ve gained 10 pounds. My waste has gone from 29-30 inches to 31-32. They did a measurement at the gym and my body fat is now 17%.

So I’m going on a ketogenic diet to cut some of the fat. Any advice is welcome.

Open Thread, 06/12/2017

Every now and then I check Kindle Daily Deals, and I saw the book The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise. The author is a legitimate professor so I bought it even though the title seemed a little obnoxious (I was really disappointed with the nature of the scholarship in Emmett Scott’s Mohammed & Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy). The reality is it’s a touch too polemic for my taste, and the author makes a few errors outside of his knowledge domain (e.g., asserting that North Africa was Christian in the early 4th century when it probably wasn’t majority Christian until the late 4th century at the earliest). I haven’t read much of it so this is still an initial perception.

About 20 years ago I read Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of al-Andalus, and remember it to be a good book. When I looked it up again I realized the author of the book is Hugh Kennedy, whose work I’ve enjoyed over the years. In particular, When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World: The Rise and Fall of Islam’s Greatest Dynasty and The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In. These are rather traditional narratives. If you want something which incorporates newer revisionist work, I would suggest In God’s Path: The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire.

I’m not a big fan of Cookie Monster. I was watching Sesame Street with my kids recently, and it strikes me that Cookie is really unhealthy in his lifestyle.

The weaker sex? Science that shows women are stronger than men. The title is annoying. But 42 out of 43 110+ year olds are female. Kind of a bit deal.

Bret Weinstein has a Patreon. You probably know who is he is. Luckily he’s getting support. I’m sure he would appreciate more. Since the wrong people have defended his right to a livelihood the right people (in their own self-conception) are never really going to speak up for him (in fact, they might speak against him). The reality is that when some people want to put your family on the street (literally) you’re going to have to side with the people that are working to not leave you in destitution. That’s just how the world works.

Ultimately I think our society is going the way of Dutch Pillarisation (though I think the Dutch have abandoned this). Basically our professional and personal lives are going to be mediated by our socio-political tribes (and it won’t just be Left vs. Right). Too many people are getting fired or pressured over their politics or viewpoints. At some point large corporations and institutions need to just give up on the idea that they serve the whole public, and intellectuals need to concede that public reason is probably not possible.

Related to the above, Reza Aslan fired. He seems to be a major dick on Twitter. But what did that have to do with his show? (which seems dumb, but who cares?) There aren’t well developed social norms for this.

Finished Medieval Europe. I suspect most readers would prefer The Inheritance of Rome, though some might be up to Framing the Early Middle Ages.

For Wickham it’s about taxes. He’s a materialist and a Marxist. The most interesting fact from this book is given late: the infrastructure of roads and cities which were the legacy of the Roman Empire was not made irrelevant until the 18th century. That is, parts of Western Europe which were under Roman rule had a capital advantage which redounded to them down to the 1700s!

I see referrals to this website now and people make comments about me elsewhere (on reddit, in the comments of Unz, on blogs). Some are wondering about my recent pessimism and darkness of spirit. Because people are stupid or socially unintelligent or something they think they can infer something about my personal or professional circumstances from what I put on this website, no matter how many times I caution them not to do that. I’m pretty clear about separating aspects of my life (I’m not a lifestyle blogger…hot sauce blogging excepted).

What I will say is that I’m very happy at my job and have plenty of friends. My third child and second son is a delight.

The darkness you perceive in my soul is that I suspect that the liberal order, which encompasses politics as well as the intellectual world we’ve cherished since the 19th century, is collapsing around us. Just as the Chinese in 1790 or the Romans in 460 were not aware that their world was coming to an end, we continue to carry on as if all is as it was. I’m sort of at the phase between the death of Optimus Prime in the 1980s cartoon and the emergence of Rodimus. I’m not going to turn into a bald-faced liar or ignoramus like so many of the people in the media around us just yet though (you know who I’m talking about I’m sure). Old ways are hard to give up! God has died but his shadow haunts me.

Over the years I have been on several platforms. ScienceBlogs, Discover, and Unz. They all had their pluses and negatives. Since I was at all of them for years I can’t say that they were onerous experiences. But after all that, and where we are today, I am very wary about giving up my independence in the near future. Some of my friends ask why I didn’t start posting on Medium. Well, because Medium changes on Ev Williams’ whims. As it should. He’s not running a public utility. He’s bankrolling a business, a platform. People who pay for the platform get to call the shots.

And there are obvious benefits to being under an umbrella. You get more traffic, though this has never been a major concern of mine obviously (otherwise, I would blog more about certain things and less about others). Tech support though is a major thing that is best left to others, as I know from writing cron jobs that every sysadmin probably knows by heart to check on the server and database. But having the independence to do whatever you want is pretty important to me. Also, platforms can ultimately yank their latitude in terms of allowing you to express your opinion. That did not happen to me, but it might have.

At some point in the next ten years I believe Twitter will disappear from the internet. There will be a massive tweet-storm before that happens…but it won’t matter. Twitter exists to make money, and it’s not doing enough of that now.

In the 2000s there was a vision of blogging which emphasized disaggregation. Independence. We’ve lost something with consolidation. I hope that we can get that back, but for that to happen we need a new way to distribute information into independent nodes. Something as revolutionary as blogger was in its early days.

The Brown Pundits blog is back on WordPress (and its Twitter feed is working again). If you subscribe to my total feed (link upper right) or Twitter you know.

I tweeted the map to the left. It really blew up.

People kept asking me to do data analysis to explain this. Well, I don’t have time now. If it’s so interesting, perhaps someone else should?

Also, many people angrily asked why Kashmir was left out of the map. Many people are very stupid. There has been political unrest in Kashmir, so clearly they did not collect data (one woman demanded that people who want to remove Kashmir from India should be put in jail, OK….).

For half a century, neuroscientists thought they knew how memory worked. They were wrong.

Whenever someone get accused of racism (this time against Neil Degrasse Tyson) unfairly on science Twitter I get direct messages from people. They’re too afraid to point out the ridiculousness of it all in public. That’s fine. But this is why there is no way I’m going to say I’m liberal, because being liberal means being silent in the face of what you perceive to be bullying (the brave ones will “like” my tweets when I put in a mild objection to this behavior).

The figure to the left is from a review, Human Y-chromosome variation in the genome-sequencing era. The Y chromosomal bottleneck is something I’ve talked about. One hypothesis that I present is that the population crash and expansion was caused by strong intergroup competition fostered by adoption of nomadism. But I think I have to offer up another: could it be natural selection for some Y lineages?

Excited to read The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War.

How Nationalism Can Solve the Crisis of Islam and There is no such thing as western civilisation. These are two pieces which are filled with facts that I have seen tweeted by conservatives (mostly) and liberals (mostly) respectively. To not pull any punches the arrangement of facts is such that there’s a lot of bullshit being proffered in both pieces. It’s kind of frustrating, because the theses of the pieces may or may not be correct, but the erudition that is used to buttress the cases are really halfway to sophistry. But most pundits have no idea because they don’t know much outside their knowledge domain (they’re hedgehogs), so they just pass this along to other people.

In the near future I may actually annotate these sorts of op-eds so you can see where I object.

I have a short piece in Skeptic (print) titled “Is Race a Useful Concept?” Nothing too exciting, but I got a condescending email (via Michael Shermer) from an emeritus biologist who said there were “many errors” in the article, and he then proceeded to school me on mtDNA lineages in Africa. Oh, and he also implied that I assumed race = skin color. Part of the problem is it is really really difficult to translate some of the concepts of cutting edge human population genomics into normal English prose. That is one reason this weblog can be so impenetrable to casual readers…the easier it is to understand, the vaguer and less specific it is to those “in the know” (though the letter writer in question really isn’t up to date if he’s quoting mtDNA stuff, so I think it was an attempt to impress through his credentials and intimidate Shermer).

There is another piece I’m working on for a publication outside of the United States. It should be a little controversial, though not for American readers.

Sarah Haider on Sam Harris’ show. She mentions the fact that there are people who are Muslims in public who she has seen in the media who she knows for a fact are not privately Muslim.

Also, see Sarah defend free speech. She arrived in the country when she was eight years old, but she seems to have internalized the foundational liberal values of this country better than most on that panel. I met Sarah when she was traveling for work and we had some drinks. Sarah is the same person in real life as she is on panels and podcasts. She would have succeeded at whatever she put he mind to, but the task of being a spokesperson for ex-Muslims is really one that’s a tough lift. I wish her well.

Some of you may wonder at the assertion that the United States was founded as a liberal state. I didn’t truly understand until I read Jay Winik’s The Great Upheaval. The United States was a fundamentally radical experiment…though I think this century may be its last.

Speaking of books, long-time reader Marcel highly recommends Richard Haier’s The Neuroscience of Intelligence. So there you have it. He likes it better than Stuart Ritchie’s book.

So I made a comment on Twitter this week that the middle space between science journalism and papers and Twitter in terms of blogging is disappearing. I think that is causing a bit of a pipeline problem for “science communicators.”

GREs don’t predict grad school success. What does? If a university has a very well calibrated cut-off for GREs in relation to the applicants it accepts the GRE is not going to be predictive. This is partly a range restriction problem.

Gabe Rossman says it more precisely and clearly: