Archive for September, 2008

Graphs on the rise of scientific approaches to humanity

Well, with the first post and a response to criticisms out of the way, I’ll conclude with the graphs on some ideas that are gaining in popularity in the study of mankind. Where it says “social sciences,” I’ve only searched JSTOR for the following journal categories: anthropology, economics, education, political science, psychology, and sociology. The […]

Response to criticism on the death of academic -isms

My first post detailed the demise of wooly-headed theories in academia. In this post, I’ll also address some common criticisms that have come up so far. In the third post, just above this one, I will look at a rival class of theories, namely the scientific and in particular biological approaches to studying humanity. The […]

Feeling sleepy?

Nature Genetics this week has published a genome-wide association study of narcolepsy in the Japanese population. The finding in the paper is a variant that confers a modest risk of narcolepsy, but personally, I was blown away by Figure 1, reproduced above. The figure shows the strength of association of each of 500,000 SNPs with […]

R. A. Fisher and the Adaptive Landscape

In my note on Sewall Wright’s concept of the Adaptive Landscape I said that I would later discuss R. A Fisher’s views on the subject. Some commentators have claimed that Fisher held a definite view on the ‘shape’ of the landscape. For example, a book by Sergey Gavrilets includes a section on ‘Fisher’s single-peak fitness […]

10 Questions for Parag Khanna

Parag Khanna is the author of The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order. He is also Director of the Global Governance Initiative and Senior Research Fellow in the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. His website is, where one can find a repository of articles, videos and interviews. […]

Surfwise on Netflix

If you have Netflix, the Paskowitz family documentary Surfwise is now watchable online.

Brian Ferguson and Ashkenazi IQ

It’s up, How Jews Became Smart: Anti-”Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence” (big PDF). The long-awaited rebuttal to the Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence. Labels: culture, IQ

Altruism and Risk-Taking: Kinda Heritable

Economists are getting into the twin-study game more often. The latest entry is forthcoming in the Harvard-MIT run Quarterly Journal of Economics. They ran tests on a bunch of Swedish twins, tests that involved real money. The goal: See how altruistic they were (how much money did they share with a pro-homeless charity?) and see […]

Genes and facial features

Dienekes posted a bunch of abstracts from a meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics. This one jumped out at me: Seven selection-nominated candidate genes (COL11A1, LMNA, FGFR1, FGFR2, TRPS, BRAF, FLNA) known to be involved in Mendelian craniofacial dysmorphologies and to have high allele frequency differences between West African and European populations were […]

R. A. Fisher and Inclusive Fitness

W. D. Hamilton is rightly given the main credit for establishing the concept of inclusive fitness. He gave it its name, developed its mathematical theory, and examined a wide range of empirical evidence for it. There had of course been occasional anticipations of inclusive fitness, going back to Darwin’s treatment of neuter social insects in […]

College is Still the Best Pay-off

Recently Charles Murray has promoted the idea that too many people are seeking 4 year degrees: “Let’s stop this business of the B.A., this meaningless credential”. Last year he wrote in the Wall Street Journal: If you want to do well [in college], you should have an IQ of 115 or higher. Put another way, […]

Graphs on the death of Marxism, postmodernism, and other stupid academic fads

[Note: I'm rushing this out before the school week starts, as I need sleep, so if it seems unedited, that's why.] We are living in very exciting times — at long last, we’ve broken the stranglehold that a variety of silly Blank Slate theories have held on the arts, humanities, and social sciences. To some, […]

Slouching toward modernity….

Young and Arab in Land of Mosques and Bars is an article about a few young Egyptian men who moved to Dubai and how it changed them. The piece is an illustration of a very narrow slice of Dubai life; after all most young men in the city are not Arab, but South Asian (Pakistani, […]

What causes regulatory evolution between species?

It’s widely accepted that many of the differences between species are due to changes in gene regulation, rather than in protein sequences themselves. It’s plausible, however, that changes in the sequences of transcription factors could lead to large-scale changes in gene regulation in a relatively simple manner–just a single nucleotide substitution could alter transcription factor […]

Horse genetics & color

Thank god for animals and their resemblance to humans to elucidate general patterns and relationships. Missense Mutation in Exon 2 of SLC36A1 Responsible for Champagne Dilution in Horses: The purpose of this study was to uncover the molecular basis for the champagne hair color dilution phenotype in horses. Here, we report a DNA base substitution […]

Peter Turchin on rampage killings

At the Freakonomics blog. Nothing too original.

Ross Douthat talks porn

At The Atlantic. I assume regular readers will have some opinions about Ross’ opinions….

T and Financial Risk

Here is a nice follow-up to the Herbert and Coates study on London floor traders where they study the profitability of traders and testosterone levels. In this new paper, “Testosterone and Financial Risk Preferences”, available on the website on one of the authors, a Harvard-led team of researchers report that men with higher T make […]

Mice & digit ratio

Selective Breeding for a Behavioral Trait Changes Digit Ratio: The ratio of the length of the second digit (index finger) divided by the fourth digit (ring finger) tends to be lower in men than in women. This 2D:4D digit ratio is often used as a proxy for prenatal androgen exposure in studies of human health […]

R. A. Fisher on Population Size: Addendum

A while ago I posted two notes on R. A. Fisher’s views on population size: Part 1 here and Part 2 here. I assembled some evidence from The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection suggesting that Fisher believed the population size of a species was usually between a million and a million million, with the latter […]