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:

Open Thread, 5/29/2017

The above talk from David Reich is very good. Highly recommended.

Chris Wickham’s Medieval Europe is pretty good, though it is very similar to his The Inheritance of Rome and Framing the Early Middle Ages.

Rod Dreher finds out it is highly like he has some African ancestry from a slave ancestor. This seems to be detected in 1 out of 10 whites using reasonable thresholds. Probably that that means that genealogically much more than 10% of Louisiana whites have lines of descent from people who were mixed-race slaves (though in French areas it might be mediated often by mixing with “free people of color”).

Open Thread, 4/2/2017

I’m finally getting settled in to this website. Basically I’m my own sysadmin at this point, so I’ll be making changes and tweeks…but if you want to bookmark this URL, it is probably fine now. As always, my permanent RSS,, is always a good bet too. Right now https seems to be breaking formatting. I will fix that. Also, the database crashes too often. I have a 1 minute cron running but that’s not sufficient.

For a few days it looks like comments did not work because of a plugin I activated. If you have a problem like this you can contact me on Twitter or email me at contactgnxp -at- gmail -dot- com (you can find this on my own website too).

A long-time reader (as in, back to 2002) messaged me on Facebook a few days ago and asked if I’d stopped blogging, as they’d heard a rumor from another long-time reader. Instead of asking me, 15 seconds of checking on the interwebs, or, would have clarified things. Some day I may stop blogging. But I have been saying that since 2002.

Almost finished Reformations. Seems to be losing steam toward the end. This is reasonable, as no one would want to start getting into the Thirty Years War in any detail.

The New York Times has a piece up, ‘Age of Empires’: How 2 Dynasties of Art Forged China’s Identity. Reminds me of a book that is on my “essential reading” about China list, The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han. To me what is curious and notable about China is that Han dynasty mores and views are much more reflected in modern China than that of Augustan Era Rome is in modern Italy.

U.S. increasingly sees Iran’s hand in the arming of Bahraini militants. By the lights of our own values we are not the “good guys” here. Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni elite, around a Sunni royal family, which has placed the Shia majority in a position of subjugation. A relatively peaceful Shia protest movement was violently suppressed by an alliance of Gulf states during the Arab Spring, with the help of Pakistani mercenaries. The United States averted its eyes.

There are legitimate reasons to engage in realpolitik. But the press does not do us any favors when it implicitly misleads the American public on the broader context, as people abroad are quite often much more well versed in our duplicity and hypocrisy.

This is not to say that I don’t think the United States is on a balance a force for good, but over the last generation our portfolio has been decidedly mixed, but our political and journalistic elite has masked this from the public by and large unless there is a partisan angle to it. But really this is a problem of elite hubris, on both the Right and Left.

Human demographic history impacts genetic risk prediction across diverse populations is now out in AJHG. I might blog it again. It’s an important paper.

This week Alexander Kim tweeted from a conference with a lot of ancient DNA results. One datum is that pre-classical Egyptians did not have any Sub-Saharan African ancestry…at least based on the samples they had. I’m mildly skeptical of this finding. First, we know of the old presence of Nubian soldiers and slaves in Egypt. And second, it seems likely that there was some early mixing which was equally distributed throughout the population and recombined in the genetic background. We’ll see.

I assume that a bunch of ancient DNA papers will break before SMBE 2017. Speaking of which, I will be around then. Planning on meeting some friends and checking out the scene.

Finally, I have some free time in the next two weeks to read books. So I’d appreciate recommendations, though my reading stack is currently pretty high….