Open Thread, 2/18/2019

Peter Turchin’s Ages of Discord is now a free rental if you have Amazon Prime (otherwise you will be prompted for a Kindle Unlimited subscription). If you are interested in the kind of stuff I talk about, I highly recommend all of Peter Turchin’s work. For readers of this weblog Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall and War and Peace and War: The Life Cycles of Imperial Nations would be of most interest.

Speaking of Peter, check out his recent blog post, An Anarchist View of Human Social Evolution, which is basically a critique of the two of scholars and an essay, Are we city dwellers or hunter-gatherers? The interesting sociological aspect is that one of the scholars is a pretty unpleasant disputant with critics on social media…and that seems to redound to his fame and influence. Unfortunate incentives.

An Honest Living: What is it like to go from a tenured professorship to an hourly wage driving buses? This piece tries to make sense of an unusual transition. The author is, to be frank, kind of a dick. But there are lots of people with unpleasant and intolerable personalities in academia.

President’s Day sale and DNAGEEKS. Put in the code “PREZ” and you are good to go.

Speaking of presidents, you probably know about The Age of Jackson. A more recent book, The Age of Lincoln is worth reading. And, if you want to get more contemporary views for and against Jacksonianism, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln and What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848.

The post below, The End Of America As The World As We Know It, is gated. But the first two posts should be free. And since the gating is leaky if you want to deal with the hassle you should be able to figure out how to get access (I’m going to make them free after 30 days as well).

The biography of Maximinus Thrax is on sale as Kindle. A lot of the Roman history stuff that is discounted is kind of like a Wikipedia entry, but this biography comes from a serious scholar and has some reviews that are positive from legitimate people. Thrax is a bit of a turning point character, ushering in the period when the Roman Empire was under serious threat from without and within.

Jussie Smollett. I wish there were betting markets for this sort of stuff. Also, those guys were shredded.

More than 26 million people have taken an at-home ancestry test. A bit of an update on the piece David Mittelman and I worked on last year, Consumer genomics will change your life, whether you get tested or not.

What ancient DNA tells us about caste. David Reich was in India for a bit talking about his work. It seems that they’re ready to uncoil their work soon enough. I’ve been told that he said a draft of the paper was written, so it’s probably going through internal revisions with collaborators.

This Mediterranean diet study was hugely impactful. The science has fallen apart.

The Making of a DNA Detective CeCe Moore, an amateur genealogist turned professional, helps police crack decades-old cases.

If you are on Twitter, Thomas Chatterton Williams is worth following.

For those of you who have read this blog since the beginning, you know that Ramez Naam is a friend. How to decarbonize America — and the world.

Mitogenomic evidence of close relationships between New Zealand’s extinct giant raptors and small-sized Australian sister-taxa.

Radiocarbon dates and Bayesian modeling support maritime diffusion model for megaliths in Europe.

A ‘Denisovan’ genetic history of recent human evolution.

A journalist is tweeting out old, and likely false, information, and another journalist is pointing out how you shouldn’t trust this result. Unfortunately, the original tweet-out is getting more RTs and likes than the refutation of the source and the credibility of the result.

I don’t normally read a book such as The Souls of Yellow Folk. First, it’s too much like a memoir, and I don’t care about other peoples’ memories. Second, I am on the same wavelength about most of these sorts of issues as Wes Yang, and I didn’t think I’d encounter anything novel or that pushed me to new views. But Yang is a good writer. Reading on the strong recommendation of a friend.

This week on the BrownCast I’ll be posting a conversation about Native Americans and nationalism with a lawyer.

Noah Smith says replace listening to podcasts with audiobooks. The problem I see with this is when it comes to books I have to give singular attention…so if I wanted to pay attention I’d just read the book. Podcasts are things that are less dense and contingent and I can sample in and out.

New York Did Us All a Favor by Standing Up to Amazon: Yes, Amazon’s departure will modestly hurt the city’s economy. But it’s also a victory against bad economic policy.

The Valentine’s Day episode of The Insight was fun. This was a conversation we could have had for three hours.

Speaking of academics who are irascible, Bob Trivers is burning up Twitter. Worth a follow.

Not happening at genomic speed: diversification of GWAS panels

 
One of the things that is evident and the norm when you are interested in genetics and genomics is that things happen fast. There are some sciences which proceed at a normal and conventional pace. But, because genomics is fundamentally driven by the synergy of two technologies, modern automated sequencing, and computation, the field has been moving at faster than the speech of light. A single whole genome sequence is now cheaper than $1,000, whereas the first whole genome 20 years ago cost $3,000,000,000!

People who point to a paper in 2010…well, in genomics that’s ancient history. Take a look at the initial HapMap papers from the mid-2000s if you want to have a laugh!

But, there’s one area that it seems “genomic speed” hasn’t applied: and that’s the attempts to increase population diversification necessary in GWAS panels to maximize insight. The figure to the right is from a new preprint, Current clinical use of polygenic scores will risk exacerbating health disparities. To my surprise, over the last few years, the proportion of people of European ancestry, which mostly means Northwest European ancestry, in genome-wide association studies has actually increased. The absolute number increases are still heartening, as a a lot of the low-hanging fruit can probably be picked at sample sizes of thousands.

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The end of America as the world as we know it



Today in Variety, ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ No Match for China’s ‘Wandering Earth’ Overseas:

The Chinese New Year is bringing in huge business in the Middle Kingdom. China’s sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth” pulled in a massive $96.6 million from three territories, bringing its international tally to $606.8 million. Another movie from the Mainland, “Crazy Alien,” earned $28 million for an overseas total of $318 million, while fellow local title “Pegasus” brought in $25.7 million, taking its bounty to $238 million.

Fox’s “Alita: Battle Angel” led films on the Hollywood front, generated $56 million when it launched in 86 overseas markets this weekend. Directed by Robert Rodriguez and produced by James Cameron, the sci-fi adventure has now grossed $94 million internationally. The movie saw the best opening in Russia, where it earned $6.5 million. “Alita” also had sizable debuts in Mexico ($4.2 million), Australia ($2.9 million), and Thailand ($2.5 million).

The Wandering Earth is based on a story by Liu Cixin. It is kind of a big deal, the second highest grossing mainland Chinese film ever.

The graph at the top of this post is based on data taken from Angus Maddison’s magisterial Contours of the World Economy. No matter how you calculate it, it does look like the United States of America became the world’s largest economy at some point in the last quarter of the 19th century. The USA has maintained that position for more than one hundred years. This has undergirded the power of the United States of America in the second half of the 20th century in all dimensions. Cultural, geopolitical, and yes, moral.

Of course, the size of the economy is not the only thing that matters in relation to influence and power. The Chinese economy was very large in the 19th century, but it was not mobilized and deployed in a manner which allowed China to maintain military parity with Western nations, and later Japan. In the years between 1900 and World War I, the powers of Europe remained culturally and geopolitically at the center of the world, despite the fact that the United States of America had surpassed any specific European power economically. That is, there was a certain “cultural overhang” which was a lagging indicator in relation to economics.

The United States during this period was a debtor nation which maintained very small armed forces as it was rising to economic prominence. Culturally it looked to Europe, with homegrown American movements such as Transcendentalism of national, but not international, interest. The British retained their self-conception as the world’s hegemon after 1900 due to their colonial Empire, despite the factual reality that the USA and Germany had matched or surpassed them economically.

After World War II, the USSR achieved some level of military parity (at least roughly) through mobilization of a disproportionate fraction of its economic resources toward the armed forces. But the USSR never matched the USA in terms of overall economic output or cultural influence. The dissolution of the Communist Bloc after 1990 resulted in the unipolar moment, when the United States of America was unchallenged militarily, geopolitically, and culturally. With the recession of the Japanese economy, the Asian flu of 1998, and American vigor in the second half of the 1990s, the USA was also economically a model for the world again.

As someone who grew into manhood in the 1990s, it was an interesting and charmed time. The future was American. Liberal democratic. Market-oriented. The popular culture of the future would be the American popular culture. The specter of Chinese economic might was still something a generation down the road. Fodder for think pieces. But mostly blue-sky. Abstract.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Twenty years on from 1999 we are now facing the world we had dim glimmers of then. There is a mix of the expected and unexpected. The expected is the demographic-economic juggernaut of China is now within spitting distance of the United States in terms of nominal GDP. Parts of China are already basically a developed economy. Barring a major catastrophe, which some have predicted every few years since the 1990s, China will become the world’s largest economy by 2030, as it was in 1880. One hundred and thirty years of the USA being the largest economy in the world will end.

The period after 2030 is murky. China faces serious demographic headwinds due to the one-child policy. Much of its population will be poor, while coastal areas will be tightly integrated with the rest of the world. The USA will likely remain the wealthiest large nation on a per capita basis for the foreseeable future. China’s preeminence as the largest nation economically will be in the context of much greater parity between it and other big economies, as well as structural factors pointing to its eventual decline. We are not looking to another unipolar, even bipolar (e.g., USA vs. Chinese), world, in the second quarter of the 21st century. Probably the best analogy is the period around 1900 when a mix of cultural, economic, and military proto-superpowers jostled for their time in the sun. The first modern age of globalization of trade and travel.

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Europe had a lot of demographic turnover because there were never many humans


Now things are coming into focus. Population dynamics and socio-spatial organization of the Aurignacian: Scalable quantitative demographic data for western and central Europe:

Demographic estimates are presented for the Aurignacian techno-complex (~42,000 to 33,000 y calBP) and discussed in the context of socio-spatial organization of hunter-gatherer populations. Results of the analytical approach applied estimate a mean of 1,500 persons (upper limit: 3,300; lower limit: 800) for western and central Europe. The temporal and spatial analysis indicates an increase of the population during the Aurignacian as well as marked regional differences in population size and density. Demographic increase and patterns of socio-spatial organization continue during the subsequent early Gravettian period.

If you read The genetic history of Ice Age Europe you know the very first modern humans to arrive in Europe didn’t leave a genetic footprint in future populations. And the impact of both the later Gravettian and the Magdalenian seems to have been marginal. The primary “hunter-gatherer” contribution to modern Europeans is through a group which expanded after ~15,000 BC.

In any case, there are two things that I observe in relation to the population estimates above. First, they aren’t that unreasonable for a large mammal which isn’t much of a primary consumer of plants. Second, such a small and fragmented population indicates that extinction is always a possibility. You can take a standard conservation biological view and just assume statistically that small fragmented groups are likely to extinct over enough generations. Or, you can point out that genetically such small breeding populations (remember that the genetic breeding effective population is always smaller than the census population) are likely to build up deleterious alleles, and that’s probably going to result in a decrease of long term fitness.

In other words, I think localized mutational meltdowns would be possible in this scenario.

The small populations during this period are not surprising. Many of the Neanderthal, Denisovan, and hunter-gatherer (e.g., the first WHG sample) populations had small sizes that led to homogeneity genetically and inbreeding. You see it in the homozygosity data and the runs of homozygosity. Ultimately, it was the larger population sizes due to agriculture which changed things in a fundamental sense.

This makes me wonder what was so advantageous about these marginal modern humans which allowed them to overwhelm and absorb the older Eurasian hominins?

Salman Rushdie and me, 30 years on

Salman Rushdie with Bernie Sanders, 2004

Readers of this weblog know that I have a peculiar relationship to the Salman Rushdie controversy in the late 1980s. When I first heard the name “Salman Rushdie” and book called The Satanic Verses I was by chance not in the United States. I happened to be spending my winter vacation in Bangladesh and was in a rural area of Comilla (near the eastern border with India) traveling with family, visiting shrines dedicated to Sufi ancestors of mine and such. To be frank, I was already skeptical of religion by that point, having realized years ago that people believed in supernatural beings in a deep and intuitive way that I never had. But, my cultural identity still remained nominally Muslim.

Somehow, in rural Bangladesh, word had gotten out that a writer of Indian and Muslim origin, and British national background, had written a blasphemous novel. A group of religious students approached my uncle, who was traveling with us, to have us “translate” some leaflets that were printed in English that they had gotten their hands on. My late uncle was by training a geologist, but his primary focus in life was as a member of the Tablighi Jamaat. These students trusted my uncle immediately and knew that we, his nephews, could speak English. But the pamphlets contained material that was totally inappropriate for children. I remember specifically lines to the effect that “Salman Rushdie claims that Muhammad’s wives and daughters were whores.” To be frank, I did not know the word for “whore” in Bengali, and I did not want to talk about the sexually explicit material that was printed in the leaflet in any case.

The reason I am telling you this is that some of the anger toward Rushdie can be explained by the simple fact that many of the angry people did not read The Satanic Verses, but like me, no doubt heard graphic and false descriptions of the material.

With some hindsight, this incident in the late 1980s illustrates the viral power of propaganda and lies. By the end of the process what Rushdie had written was immaterial. The truth was less important than the cause, and the cause was defending the honor of Islam against an irtidad.

To be entirely honest, the “truth being less important than the cause” is something that is much more prominent in public life from what I can tell today than it was then. When I went back to the United States our class had a discussion about the issue, and my very liberal teacher (she was a major supporter of Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988) took a straightforward position in defense of free speech, despite the fact two of her students (myself and Egyptian boy) were from Muslim backgrounds. After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, some American and European writers temporized. That is our age.

A brain warped by reading

Stanislas Dehaene’s Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read is an excellent book because it shows how we reuse preexistent cognitive architecture to extend our capacities through cultural creativity. There is, for example, a part of the brain that is localized toward recognizing the shapes of letters to allow immediate “sight reading” of words (higher mathematics is a similar cognitive extension repurposing).

But nothing is without cost. In Reading in the Brain the author recounts evidence that adaptation to reading may have resulted in a diminishment of human ability to localize and situate ourselves on a landscape with few features (and obviously no road signs!). As we live in a world of clerks and not trackers, this is a reasonable trade-off for most. As someone who reads quite a bit, and has read quite a bit since I could read, I’m sure some of my mental peculiarities are the consequence of the warping effect of constantly reading text.

Aside from reading, over the last 15 years, I have written quite a bit. Last I checked >5 million words. That comes to ~10,000 pages. My writing style has evolved and changed. Just as with reading, I’ve reshaped my brain in various ways. Ways I have not reflected on. And perhaps will never be aware of.

The ancients understood the impact of literacy intuitively. The first great transition likely occurred with the utilization of text to record stories and ideas and freeze in place discourses that were previously free-flowing in the ancient agora (as opposed to the accounting function of Linear B and much of Bronze Age writing).

The rise of text also heralded the long and slow decline of the art of memory. The text itself changed qualitatively and quantitatively. Clay tablets and papyrus gave way to parchment, and parchment gave way to paper. The physical form of text also evolved, from scrolls to a codex. The Bible of Christians was famously one of the first major works distributed primarily as a codex. A book as we understand it (though the separate “books” of the Christian Bible hint at its past as a collection of scrolls). Each of these transitions reduced the price and increased the convenience and accessibility of text, but the printing press transformed the game fundamentally. Due to the crash of the cost of books the art of memory what persisted down into the Renaissance finally expired with early modernity.

These reflections are due to the fact that I have now been heavily involved in two major podcasts for some time. One on science and another on broader topics relevant to South Asians. Additionally, I have participated in a few YouTube live streams as well. The first thing to note is that the density of information per unit of time is lower in podcasts than writing. Part of this may just be that I read fast, and I listen with lower than typical comprehension, but part of it is also certainly objective data density because others admit the same. To “fix” this issue most people simply speed up the podcast, to 1.25 or 1.5 times the regular speed.

But there is a second issue: the very form of writing is structured in a way that is different from the necessarily more extemporaneous form of podcasting. Obviously the latter is on a spectrum. Patrick Wyman’s Tides of History podcasts feel like dramatic readings of essays. In contrast, Joe Rogan’s two to three-hour ramble-fests are winding, digressive, and chaotic. I find Rogan quite entertaining, but I suspect the “learning” portion could be condensed into 15 to 20 minutes out of the 2-3 hours.

When it comes to the science podcasts that I run with Spencer Wells I think they are often dense and tight because the topicality is one where both of us are on solid ground, and science itself is a contingent and structured set of ideas and concepts. In contrast, a podcast where several people try to tackle the definition of Hindu nationalism is naturally going to sprawl in unexpected and sometimes muddled directions.

If podcasting is the new blogging, we are in new territory here. Or are we? Perhaps the more extemporaneous and unstructured manner of dialogue that you see in this medium is a throwback to the ancient agora, and the oral cultures which were dominant even among elites more than 2,000 years ago.

Open Thread, 02/11/2019

Rereading Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, and it’s striking how different Americans today are in relation to development and economic growth. Yes, we want to be richer, but in large parts of the country, there is a strong tendency to want to bake incumbency advantages into the cake. Texas and Florida still retain relatively open development cultures, which explains much of their growth. Meanwhile, of course people are fleeing California due to the expensive (at least if you want to have children).

The Brown Pundits BrownCast is pushing along fast. We’ll probably stabilize to somewhere between 4 and 8 episodes a month. The last two have been very popular (they touch on Hindu nationalism).

Having done these podcasts now for a few months…the BrownCast is quite different than The Insight. On The Insight we’re tackling technical and scholarly topics, and the goal is clarity and density of exposition. Not dialogue as such. BrownCast is different.

This causes issues because speaking is far lower data density and less structured than writing. During every podcast, I take notes but rarely get a chance to follow up. Extemporaneous digressions are common. To be frank, it’s probably interesting, but the quality of insight is just lower on a substantive scale.

It makes me much more appreciative of the thesis in Warriors of the Cloisters that the Buddhist recursive-argument technique led to the flowering of scholarship and thought that was progressive, contingent, and cumulative. Written dialogue and disagreement is fruitful because of the external structure imposed upon it, removing the ability of individuals to temporize, dodge, and digress. It makes human stupidity just a little less stupid.

Speaking of stupid. Last week I was having beers with a member of the “mainstream media” who was coming through Austin. We were talking all things D.C., and I mentioned offhand that a key aspect of Ilhan Omar that is not spoken of enough is that she’s likely not very smart in comparison to the average member of Congress. She graduated from North Dakota State University with bachelor’s degrees in political science and international studies in 2011. Her B.A. likely indicates an ability to parrot platitudes. Not the ability to think analytically, or, to engage in verbal parsing so as to be subtle enough to maintain deniability. Her attempt to lift the ban on trans powerlifters is probably sincere.

Relative stupidity is I think an explanation for these sorts of cringe-inducing tweets:

An Anarchist View of Human Social Evolution. Peter Turchin reviews a tendentious essay. Of course he’s correct. Of course it won’t matter.

I contributed a chapter to the book, Which of us are Aryans? I didn’t think it would be available in the United States, but according to Amazon some independent booksellers are distributing it! Obviously I talk about genetics. At least what we knew in the summer of 2018. I would like to thank Priya Moorjani in particular for detailed feedback on my initial draft.

Walter Jones, congressman who worked to atone for his Iraq war vote, is dead at 76. Jones was an honest and sincere man. That’s why he never became nationally successful as a politician.

There are so few science blogs in the world now that are active. But here is a new one on quantitative evolutionary biology, After Sol.

The Dune Reboot Could Be the Next Lord of the Rings. Unlikely, but one can hope.

Cupertino Mayor: “Build the Wall”.

A Bell Beaker superhighway.

Patterns of African and Asian admixture in the Afrikaner population of South Africa. No big surprise when it comes to the issue of admixture (confirms what I found). But there are some interesting suggestions of really strong selection. I would bet not a true positive, but if I’m wrong, super notable.

If you aren’t subscribed to my total feed, The ghost of empire and the origin of all repression.

Is there adaptation in the human genome for taste perception and phase I biotransformation?

The Bonfire of the Democrats. Related:

You made your bed now lie in it.

Parag Khanna’s new book, The Future is Asian, is out. I also got a copy of Wes Yang’s The Souls of Yellow Folk. In general I seem to agree with Wes, so I didn’t see the point in reading a collection of his essays…but a friend suggested I really should because it’s that good. So there you go.

Tides of History has been on fire recently. Games of Thrones and Late Medieval Politics. Patrick Wyman’s podcast is one where when there’s a new episode I immediately listen and ignore the rest of the queue. It’s that good.

Also, this week’s In Our Time is on Aristotle’s Biology. Highly recommend a listen. Armand Leroi, author of The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science, is one of the guests.

Characterization of prevalence and health consequences of uniparental disomy in four million individuals from the general population.

Several people have asked me about my reduced frequency of posting. A major issue is that I’ve been trying to figure out how to implement the MemberPress plugin to my satisfaction (the Patreon I’ve set up for the BrownCast is easier to manage obviously). I have particular concerns and needs, and it’s not entirely easy to customize in the way I want. But at this point, I think I’ve implemented “leaky gating” for this website in a way I want. I am only gating the long-form essays. They will become free after about a month (and you get a few freebies, so it allows outside sites to link without a major issue). I’m currently set up for one tier, a $2/month membership that renews every month. The registration page is here. You can change your status (pause, cancel), on the account page. These two links are on the top right.

It seems everything works correctly except the password reset email. I’ll try and get it fixed, but if anyone has an issue you can email me until I get that working.

Open Thread, 02/04/2019

Most of you know about The Insight, my podcast with Spencer Wells. Some of you may not know about the BrownCast, associated with the Brown Pundits. I’m on about two out of every three podcasts, but it’s a group effort. We cover a diverse array of topics. The latest episode was a conversation between myself and Carl Zha, and we talked about Chinese colonialism (or lack thereof), casual racism among Asians, religion, and what American publications cover China well.

Rommie

Because editing and hosting the podcasts cost some money, we set up a Patreon page. One podcast that I recorded this weekend has already been posted there for “patrons”, involves discussion with a Hindu nationalist about their viewpoints. We didn’t resolve anything, but it was nice to get to the point of understanding the sort of questions that need to be asked in the first place!

That cast will probably drop by the end of this week.

In the near future, I will be having a chat with Zack Stentz. Though most of you might think “oh, he was involved in the screenplay for X-Men: First Class,” I’m more excited about the fact that he was involved in Andromeda!

The New York Times has an op-ed up, Why You Should Be Careful About 23andMe’s Health Test. It’s not a bad op-ed, though I think it definitely is slanted. But this sentence jumped out at me: “But doctors and geneticists say that the tests are still more parlor trick than medicine.” First, unless the M.D. works in genetics who cares? But the term “parlor trick” has too strong a connotation for me, and I think most geneticists would agree. I think this part of the op-ed is plain misleading to the general reader. Steve Salzberg probably reflects the views of most geneticists, NY Times, Why Are You So Worried About 23andMe’s Genetic Tests? He has the exact same issue that I do: ‘Who are these geneticists who call DNA testing a “parlor trick”?’

Evidence of Austronesian genetic lineages in East Africa and South Arabia: complex dispersal from Madagascar and Southeast Asia.

Ancient human genome-wide data from a 3000-year interval in the Caucasus corresponds with eco-geographic regions.

Ancient human genome-wide data from a 3000-year interval in the Caucasus corresponds with eco-geographic regions.

The influence of gender stereotype threat on mathematics test scores of Dutch high school students: a registered report.

Compound-specific radiocarbon dating and mitochondrial DNA analysis of the Pleistocene hominin from Salkhit Mongolia.

Can War Foster Cooperation?

Mysterious human relatives moved into ‘penthouse’ Siberian cave 100,000 years earlier than thought.

Neanderthal introgression reintroduced functional alleles lost in the human out of Africa bottleneck.

Many years ago I read the book The Cultural Creatives. One aspect of the book was how old people have a lot of information and knowledge that Western cultures ignored. I thought it was funny at the time. But perhaps because I’m getting older…I appreciate it more. I think part of it is the fact that so many older scientists are now dying who are taking with them a lot of knowledge.

Speaking of old scientists, Robert Trivers’ Twitter account is lit.

I predict that by next weekend it will become clear that what we were told happened to Jussie Smollett is not what happened. The press won’t care, and neither will the politicians.

Millennials turn away from Creationism

When I was younger dealing with Creationists was something I had to do as a matter of course. Like many members of “Generation X” I haunted Usenet groups in the 1990s where the “evolution-creation” debate raged, always defending the consensus science from detractors. Even in the early years of this weblog, we tackled Creationists now and then. It was something you had to do.

But over the past decade or so there has been a change in the air. American society has become more secular, and religious conservatives do not wield as much power. Acceptance of evolution has been increasing, simply due to secularization. Books like The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, seem to be artifacts of the 20th century, dealing with the concerns of a bygone age.

This is on my mind because recently I happened to read a positive review of Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. I haven’t read a piece of apologia for Intelligent design since the 2000s, and it’s rather strange because we have so much data now due to genomics. Many of the old arguments that Intelligent Design advocates deploy ring hollow and theoretical because the data refute them. People like David Klinghoffer are beneath notice.

It is true that a minority of the population rejects evolution on cultural grounds. But as with the rejection of gay marriage, the broader society has moved on to other concerns. “Darwin’s enemies on the Left” are far more vocal and powerful than those on the Right. I can’t imagine an organ of mainstream secular conservatism such as The Weekly Standard publishing something like Evolutionary Psychology and Its True Believers today. At the time it struck me as a coalitional sop to evangelicals.

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Open Thread, 01/28/2019

If I haven’t made it clear, I highly recommend The First Farmers of Europe: An Evolutionary Perspective. A very readable book. One thing I haven’t emphasized is that the early European farmers seem to have been big consumers of cheese. This is curious as it doesn’t look like they have the modern European lactase persistence allele. Cheese is different from milk because the proportion of sugar is lower, as the fermenting process exhausts some of it. But cheese-base agro-pastoralism seems to have been common in many places before the arrival of Indo-Europeans.

David Reich is on giving talks in India. He has stated that the draft of the Indian ancient DNA paper is complete. This doesn’t speak to when it will be posted on bioRxiv, but we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Also, I assume the Iberian paper showing mass male-mediated migration ~2000 BC will arrive at some point this year.

A friend pointed me to a new book by Edward Dutton on J. Phillipe Rushton. After watching clips of Dutton speak about the contents of the book, it is not a flattering portrayal. Dutton depicts Rushton as a bit of a general sociopath (though he seems to couch it as part of Rushton’s individual “life history strategy” of being a “user”). More concerning than his personal life is that Rushton was clearly willing to fudge facts in regards to his science, which was of such a controversial nature regarding race and life history that ultimately he should have been much more careful than is the norm. Dutton documents some instances apparently in his book, but I can give another specific example.

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