Posts with Comments by toto

Jews and genetics

  • Epic posts attract epic trolls. PCA is difficult to interpret in quantitative terms. IBD seems more appropriate (though I'm not familiar with the method and the assumptions). A graph like Figure 3C (IBD distances projected upon a 2D plot), but including many non-Jewish populations from both Europe and the Middle East, could settle a lot of arguments.
  • Sexual orientation – in the genes?

  • significantly greater number of sexual partners for both heterosexual men with more feminine traits, and heterosexual women with more masculine traits. In short, it seems that typical patterns of sexual attraction serve to keep gender dimorphism from “going off the rails”, which means that many of the same traits which predispose someone to homosexuality are advantageous when they turn out heterosexual. Interesting. So there would be a negative feedback on sexual dimorphism, which would result in occasional overshoot and homosexuality - itself operating as a "negative feedback on the negative feedback" due to its obvious negative impact on reproduction, and thus indirectly maintaining said sexual dimorphism. That's actually pretty cool if it can be confirmed. Also, I take it that some of the previous commenters are unaware of the concept of developmental stochasticity. 50% genetic doesn't imply that the other 50% are cultural - biological factors can be non-genetic too.
  • Numbers and Amazonian Tribes

  • Henry: actually that seems extremely interesting. As in, dissociating "numeracy" from "number-words". Or perhaps simply showing that our experimental methods for assessing numeracy in non-literate societies are wrong. (Well, either that, or maybe your employees were actually performing base-3 / base-10 conversions in their heads ;) )
  • It’s complicated

  • John: apparently, economics also taught us how to make mountains disappear. As in, the mountain of hidden assumptions that are required to make most of these points true. :)
  • The temple that time forget

  • Razib: I think he meant "religiosity preceded Religion". People had to develop a "feel" for the mystery of existence, and to channel this feeling into some form of generic spirituality, before they were ready to stomach the full, detailed revelation. Of course, for us unbelievers, the final "Revelation" itself is also a product of the same inner spirituality that led those people to carve vultures on their walls. There are much older artifacts that seem to represent some form of spirituality, so the "pre-revelations" go back a long way. I understand that the nearby, later settlement at Catal Hoyuk is dominated by clearly female figures, which take precedence over co-existing male figures. The first "associators" ?...
  • What Heritability is Not

  • "Heritability is not
  • Does the family matter for adult IQ?

  • I have a very simple question, but finding the answer has been surprisingly frustrating. 
    Adoption studies express their results as correlations. Adopted kids show strong correlation with biological parents, but little correlation with adoptive parents.  
    The ridiculously obvious problem is that adoptive parents are not a random sample of the population, but are carefully selected to remove as much as possible of the "harmful" variance. If you know someone who has tried to adopt in a Western country, you will know just how crushing the selection process can be. I assume that's what people call "range restriction". 
    (Twin studies avoid this problem, but run into others - if true twins spend 70% more time with each other than false twins, even if some of that is due to common behavioural genes, that throws a serious confound into studies which assume that all additional correlation between MZ over DZ twins is genetic) 
    However, I'd like to know if adoption has any effect on the raw scores of the children. If "family environment" has no real effect, then the IQ of the children should be roughly equal to that of the biological parents. But if family environment does have an effect, then a child's IQ should lie somewhere between the two.  
    What do the numbers say?
  • On insults and religion

  • For a given country with a clear cultural-religious majority, there are two ways to assimilate a distinct religious group: 
    1- The minority just converts outright. AFAIK that's pretty much what happened to most People of the Book in Muslim lands. 
    2- The minority doesn't convert, but adopts the general customs, culture and outlook of the majority, so as to become indistinguishible from it - they become part of the "us". IIUC that's what you call "Protestantization" of Jews and Catholics in the US. It also happened to some extent to the remaining People of the Book in Muslimc countries - most prominently in Iran (though the interval of secularisation might have had something to do with it?) 
    The latter is especially striking in the case of European Jews, because the way in which it happened is historically documented. It begins in earnest with the Napoleonic decision to integrate Jews into the mainstream society, encourage them to adopt French names, etc. - and ends with the carnage of the Holocaust. after that, in much of Europe, Jews were simply assimilated into the general population - they became part of the "us", as opposed to the definite "them" they used to be. The current challenge is to do the same thing with Muslims. 
    "Greater India" has always favoured the latter solution. The very term "Dharmic faiths", which includes strains from very different origins (Jains!), is testament to the assimilating nature of Indian culture.  
    Right now, despite all the Hindutva rhetorics, the culture is basically trying to do the same thing with Muslims. Bollywood movies really emphasise the (obviously idealised) message: "we pray in different ways, we have different names for Baghwan/Khuda/Allah, but we're all really the same!".  
    Hindus who revere idols and consider themselves polytheists are insulted by Islam constantly.* The holiest books of Islam are basically hate-texts against polytheists and those who revere idolts. Among South Asian Muslims the "idolatrous" practices of Hindus are fodder for much humor in social situations. 
    Well... I know first-hand that the "Elephant God", in particular, is highly amusing to even educated Pakistani Muslims (veneration of cows is a close second in order of ridicule). 
    However, meet Dr. Zakir Naik. 
    The man is a superstar among South Asian muslims - memorised not just the quran, but also much of the Bible by heart, and can quote chapter and verse at will to support his arguments. In addition, he comes across as a really nice guy, not "boorish" at all - which doesn't prevent him from being master debater.  
    On top of that, he has also studied Hinduism in depth and came to the conclusion that it is basically a garbled Monotheistic religion. I suppose that's based on the concept of Brahman, or whatever Bollywood actors talk a
  • A shifting mode

  • What if the age distribution simply follows that of the scientist population at large? I.e. what if it is simply a result of the scientists becoming older - just like the whole US population?
  • No support for birth order effects on personality from the GSS

  • The only possible advantages I can see in birth order are that the first-born likely gets more attention, 
    Well, there is also the possibility of biological maternal effects. Why must we assume that a woman's body responds in exactly the same manner for each successive child?  
    Possibly related: Effect of birth order on sexual orientation. 
    Apparently, some people have failed to replicate the results, while (several) others have succeeded. Some say the effect is biological (adopted sibs have no effect), others disagree. Caveat lector. 
    This runs in contrast to Harris's theory that the family environment has no lasting impact on personality,  
    Not necessarily, if the effect is a maternal (i.e. biological) effect.
  • The Biggest Loser and Indian obesity

  • One word: 
  • Why whales get no bigger

  • Obligatory link to the all-time classic on the subject. For the two or three people on Earth who might not have read it yet. 
    Also, I believe "scaling laws" is the general term. Of course, square-cube laws, which point out that volume and mass necessarily grow faster than area (with all kinds of biomechanical/evolutionary consequences), are by far the most common example.
  • Prediction markets

  • The code shows straight up that they are fudging data. Full stop.  
    I'm looking for an example where  
    1- data was actually fudged... 
    2- ...for an actual publication... 
    3- a way that doesn't account for a known, documented, already-published effect (like the "weirdness" of tree ring growth when compared with actual thermometers, or indeed with itself)? 
    All the "smoking guns" I've seen so far fail condition 3. Some fail 2 as well. Of course I'm not following this very closely. 
    (And yeah, I guess I was a bit snarky on Hanson. What can I say - anything I can parse as "scrap the FDA" or "trust the markets" sends my snark on overdrive. I guess I still have biases to overcome.)
  • “I will be emailing the journal to tell them IÂ’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor.” Â… 
    Uh... If a scientific journal hires the TimeCube guy as an editor, I would stop dealing with them as well - and let them know why. Apparently the skeptics are suggesting that scientists should be forced to send their papers to a journal, even if they regard it as illegitimate?  
    In all this brouhaha I have seen only one or two emails that might, perhaps, indicate dubious behaviour. And even then, it depends very much on the meaning of terms (like "blip"), and without the larger context of the discussion it is difficult to judge. I wish I could say with confidence that my own field is as "pure" as this! 
    As for the characteristic pro-market comment from (I recognised the style before I cliked on the link), I'm not sure how he addresses the obvious incentives for industries to step in and distort these prediction markets, as soon as they begin to have some kind of political relevance.
  • Hagarism, revision, and everything we think is wrong (?)

  • There are strong limits on historical revisionism when it comes to the development of Islam post-Muhammad.  
    AFAIK all the known copies of the Coran, including the (perhaps 7th century) Sana'a manuscripts, are highly similar to what we have now. There are variations, but they are extremely minor. So the canon was settled very quickly. 
    The real story about the development of Islam is not what happened after Muhammad, but before - i.e. which sources he used. Like, for example, incorporating well-known hellenistic legends about Alexander the Great into a Surah (Al-Qaf, I think), because he heard these legends through the deforming prism of jewish and christian traditions, and thus didn't know that they described a pagan King (in addition to being factually dead wrong). 
    Razib, what is surprising in the fact that early 8th century Syria was still very un-Arabic? It still had a strong Christian presence, and the Arabs took a lot of time to simply impose their language - Christians were still given non-Arabic names at birth into the 12th century. Syriac scholarship flourished right into the 13th century. Isn't that like wondering why much of 3rd century Britain was still so un-Roman? 
    Which leads me to wonder, why don't we ever hear about the local Christians in accounts of the Crusades? Both the Western and Islamic sides are well represented, but the Syriac viewpoint is missing from much of the discussion. Is it possible that the Syriacs were assimilated with the Western invaders, and thus disappeared with them? 
    (When I say "disappear", I mean "as a major cultural influence on the population at large" - Syriacs are still around today, and I have two Syriac channels on my cable TV!)
  • The Netherlands & SDA

  • Maybe young people are just less religious/observant in general. Maybe these "secularised" youths will come back to the flock in their later years. 
    I spent a few weeks in an Irish family. The boys were trying to hide in the house (with limited success, as you can imagine) when it was time to go to Mass.  
    OTOH I think you already looked at this in a previous post (following particular cohorts over successive waves of the GSS), but I forgot what the result was. Birdbrain that I am.
  • Elite ancient Egyptians had heart disease

  • The French by and large are very healthy eating Baguettes. 
    Actually, there has been a sharp decrease in bread consumption over the century. 
    FWIW, I haven't seen people getting thinner.
  • A quantitative ecologist looks at world history (again)

  • It seems that the model presented here is that from savagery comes civilization.  
    Well, it seemed to me that every time a barbarian horde managed to conquer an established civilised nation, the result was either complete civilisational breakdown (Italy in the Dark Ages, several victims of the Mongols), or that the barbarians were culturally assimilated by the settled, literate society.  
    Romans (OK, not so barbarian, just a bit uncouth) with the Greeks. Goths with the Romano-Greeks. Arabs with the Persians. Mongols with the Chinese. Moghols in the Indo-Persian region. Vikings pretty much everywhere (except among themselves, and in England - there seems to be something to this "narcissism of small differences"). Someone who actually knows this stuff might also discuss the succession of Mesopotamian kingdoms (Akkadians with the Sumerians for example - didn't they wholly adopt their language for liturgical purposes?) 
    So, overall, it seems that civilisation really comes from civilisation. The barbarians simply take over, and either break the whole damn thing, or assimilate into it. In fact it's not easy for me to find examples of barbarians actually contributing something important (besides technical or military improvements) to an established, literate civilisation.
  • Gladwell hatin’

  • I thought the idea of "Darwinian evolution among ideas/concepts/religions/technologies/ any kind of transmissible intellectual construct" was ancient. But after a bit of googling, I come to the shocking conclusion that nobody described it expliticly before Dawkins and his "memes" - or if they did, it remained confidential. 
    Now, is that because nobody ever had the idea, or because those who did found it too ridiculously obvious to warrant publication? Especially when it comes to religions, where the whole gamut of evolutionary processes (heredity/mutation/recombination/selection) is illustrated by well-known historical examples.
  • Spengler does it again!

  • I wonder if Spengler would be ready to take his assumption to its logical conclusion, i.e. deny the status of Jew to anybody whose mtDNA is not compatible with a Middle Eastern origin?
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