Archive for July, 2009

Red hair and rotten teeth

Genetic Variations Associated With Red Hair Color and Fear of Dental Pain, Anxiety Regarding Dental Care and Avoidance of Dental Care: Background. Red hair color is caused by variants of the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) gene. People with naturally red hair are resistant to subcutaneous local anesthetics and, therefore, may experience increased anxiety regarding dental care. […]

Bad reason vs. bad facts

One of the major issues when you discuss topics with people with whom you disagree is conflicts as to the acceptability of a particular chain of reason or line of analysis. There are usually implicit assumptions within any given analyses which need to be fleshed out, and to do so is usually time consuming. To […]

Don’t blame Canada

The paper Eight Americas: Investigating Mortality Disparities across Races, Counties, and Race-Counties in the United States, has this fascinating map (reformatted a bit): As you can see there is a great deal of variance in white male life expectancy in the United Sates. Compare to this map:“American” is probably just Scotch-Irish in this case. It […]

Genetics in The Atlantic

A reader points out that David Shenk is blogging genetics & IQ over at The Atlantic. If you have some free time to kill in comment sections, you might be interested. To get a flavor, a post titled The Truth About IQ has a footnote to Stephen Jay Gould’s Mismeasure of Man. Labels: IQ

Emotional reaction to moral issues happens in the brain

A new neuroscience take on moral psychology, Right or Wrong? The brain’s fast response to morally objectionable statements: How does the brain respond to statements that clash with a person’s value system? We recorded EEG potentials while respondents from contrasting political-ethical backgrounds completed an attitude survey on drugs, medical ethics, social conduct and other issues. […]

The Singularity Summit

The Singularity Summit is in New York this year, October 3-4th. Here’s the program. Labels: Singularity

What Darwin Said (Part 3): Heredity

This series of posts attempts to identify the key propositions of ‘Darwinism’, in the sense of what Charles Darwin himself believed, and to assess their current standing. Part 1 dealt with ‘The Pattern of Evolution’. Part 2 considered the ‘Mechanisms of Evolution’. Part 3 considers Darwin’s views and speculations on the subject of Heredity. I […]

Lactase persistence, pastoralism in Africa, don’t know in Europe

Impact of Selection and Demography on the Diffusion of Lactase Persistence: The lactase enzyme allows lactose digestion in fresh milk. Its activity strongly decreases after the weaning phase in most humans, but persists at a high frequency in Europe and some nomadic populations. Two hypotheses are usually proposed to explain the particular distribution of the […]

Jerry Fodor, Charles Darwin and Natural Selection

Over at ScienceBlog: I would like to invite discussion on my paper, On Fodor on Darwin On Evolution, which is a critique of Jerry Fodor’s Hugues Leblanc Lectures at UQAM on “What Darwin Got Wrong“…. Jerry Fodor argues that Darwin was wrong about “natural selection” because (1) it is only a tautology rather than a […]

Is virtual reality making a comeback?

In the Angry Nintendo Nerd’s video about the Virtual Boy — a short-lived video game console that claimed to offer a “virtual reality” experience — he says that back in the mid-1990s, it seemed like the coolest thing, but that now no one cares about virtual reality. This, he claims, is why even with better […]

Genetic background & medicine, HIV & differences between blacks & whites

The Duffy-null state is associated with a survival advantage in leukopenic HIV-infected persons of African ancestry: Persons of African ancestry, on average, have lower white blood cell (WBC) counts than those of European descent (ethnic leukopenia), but whether this impacts negatively on HIV-1 disease course remains unknown. Here, in a large natural history cohort of […]

How evolution happens (sometimes, perhaps)

Partial penetrance facilitates developmental evolution in bacteria: Development normally occurs similarly in all individuals within an isogenic population, but mutations often affect the fates of individual organisms differently…This phenomenon, known as partial penetrance, has been observed in diverse developmental systems. However, it remains unclear how the underlying genetic network specifies the set of possible alternative […]

How strange are atheists?

One of the “theories” I’ve had for a long time is that the smaller a proportion of a society’s population atheists are, the stranger and more deviant they are going to be. A reason I came to this position is that read an account by an atheist American scientist who had some interactions with Soviet […]

IQ & heart disease

IQ Explains Some Of The Difference In Heart Disease Between People Of High And Low Socio-economic Status: Authors of the study published in the European Heart Journal on 15 July…analysed data from a group of 4,289 former soldiers in the USA. They found that IQ explained more than 20% of the difference in mortality between […]

The shape of empires past

Aziz pointed me to this article in Forbes, The New Great Game, which highlights the imperial aspect of the contemporary Chinese regime. It is important to emphasize that there is a striking disjunction between the manner in which the present spatial expanse of the Chinese state emerged, and the fiction which the modern Chinese state […]

Toll-like receptors and human evolution

Evolutionary Dynamics of Human Toll-Like Receptors and Their Different Contributions to Host Defense. Interesting stuff on inter-population variation in the discussion: Our data show that TLR1, and more specifically the nonsynonymous T1805G variant (I602S), is the genuine target of positive selection detected in the TLR10-TLR1-TLR6 gene cluster in Europeans. First, TLR1 is ~2 times more […]

Males are more libertarian

It is a rather robust cross-cultural finding that if there is a sex difference in religiosity, males will be less religious than females. Bryan Caplan has a theory about this. In any case, likely less surprising to readers is the generalization that males are more libertarian than females. Just as any random group of atheists […]

Achievement Beyond IQ: A Genetic Story

It’s nice to see a bad idea demolished. And that’s what Greven, et al. do in “More than just IQ.” Their subtitle tells most of the story: School achievement is predicted by self-perceived abilities (SPAs)–but for genetic rather than environmental reasons. So asking kids “Are you good at math and English?” is indeed a good […]

Dog legs: the genetics of short and stubby

In recent years, the genetic mechanisms by which humans have generated massive phenotypic diversity in dogs have started to be uncovered. We now know, for example, much about the genetics of pigmentation in dogs, and a major gene controlling body size. This week, another phenotype–the short, stubby legs of some dog breeds (see right)–has been […]

Social stuff happens in the brain

Randall points me to a paper, Brain Regions for Perceiving and Reasoning About Other People in School-Aged Children: Neuroimaging studies with adults have identified cortical regions recruited when people think about other people’s thoughts (theory of mind): temporo-parietal junction, posterior cingulate, and medial prefrontal cortex. These same regions were recruited in 13 children aged 6–11 […]

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