Open Thread, 03/26/2017

Lots of tweaks and changes on regards to the blog platform recently. As they say in the start-up world we’re “iterating.” The content/substance is going to remain pretty much the same, but over time I’ll be trying to figure out different ways to deliver.

This might cause some minor issues in terms of continuity (I do have the full archives from Unz and earlier, so I’ll load them up once I’m confident we aren’t going to change platforms for a while). I did some fiddling with the permlink URLs, so if you shared anything on Facebook, I’d appreciate if you reshared again.

No matter the details, the old Gene Expression website will point to where you need to go,, but you can also keep track of me through as well. Also, Twitter and my permanent feed (this feed always hooks into wherever my blog is, so it’s the one you want).

Finally, I also have set up a newsletter with MailChimp. The primary reason is really that I’m worried that some day Twitter will disappear and I figured it is important to have another way to contact people who follow me. I have only sent out one notification, and the next one will probably be when I’m more settled in terms of platform tweaks.

Mostly done with Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650. I’m a big fan of Diarmaid MacCulloch’s The Reformation, and this is a somewhat different book. Reformations focuses more on intellectual history and theological details, while MacCulloch’s magisterial survey hits political, social, cultural, and theological angles in equal measures. If I had to pick the order in which to read it would definitely be The Reformation first, but Reformations is a good compliment.

It’s annoying to me that journalists are pretty ignorant. I understand that that’s the deal when you are a generalist and get assigned to a diverse array of topics. But the public takes journalists seriously, so the fact that so many are so bad at what they do is frustrating. At this point I assume I’m being misled in a lot of areas where I don’t have domain knowledge.

I have a little knowledge about what happened in East Pakistan in the period of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The writer above probably doesn’t have domain knowledge. So they fit the Pakistan military’s killings in the framework of intra-Muslim conflict. Obviously there is something to this. But it is critical, in my opinion, to note that the ruling elites of West Pakistan viewed East Pakistanis as racially and culturally inferior, and that the large population of Hindus who remained in East Pakistan after partition bore a disproportionate brunt of the genocide. Foregrounding attacks on Muslims by this journalist arguably “erases” and misleads many of the readers of this piece, though I assume this is inadvertent.

On many topics my knowledge comes through “book-learning.” The conflict around 1970, and the cultural context beforehand, I know through oral history. For example, older Muslim Bengalis, such as my maternal grandfather, remained pro-Pakistan, in large part because their formative years were during the British Raj, and they retained strong memories of their religious marginalization during the time when the Hindu upper classes dominated Bengal. He was born in 1896, and recalled being the only Bengali Muslim doctor in many areas.

My parents, growing up after partition, had different memories. From what they have told me if you were a Muslim Bengali it certainly wasn’t similar to the experience of blacks in the American South, but there were events that occurred which made it clear who was on top. In Bangladesh after partition there was a community of people who migrated from India termed “Biharis” (many, but not all, were from Bihar province to the west of Bengal). As Urdu-speakers they identified more strongly with West Pakistan, and perceived themselves to be superior to the native population.

After independence they have been the subject of persecution in Bangladesh. Obviously this is bad, and my family does not have any animus toward Biharis. Many of them have assimilated and become Bengali. As most are Sunni Muslims and don’t look that different from the range of physical types among Bengalis it is not that difficult. Some of my cousins for example have a Bihari grandmother, a fact I only became aware of because despite having perfect Bengali there are some words she uses which point to an Urdu-speaking background.

But, my mother does admit during the 1960s she was witness to incidents where Biharis in Bengal behaved as if they were better and had more rights. One case which will have resonance with American readers: a Bihari man got on a bus and began shouting in Urdu for someone to get off because there were no seats left on the bus. Since the bus driver did not know Urdu someone had to be found to interpret for him, at which point a poor soul at the front of the bus was ejected and room was made for the Bihari man.

The killings of hundreds of thousands to millions of Bengalis was a bad thing. But the root causes and historical context shouldn’t be misrepresented.

RNA viruses drove adaptive introgressions between Neanderthals and modern humans. Here’s the important sentence: ” Our results imply that many introgressions between Neanderthals and modern humans were adaptive.”

I got a review copy of The Neuroscience of Intelligence. We’ll see when I get to it.

So some people are still asking me about the hit piece. I think I can tell you it was mostly written before the guy ever talked to me. Second, I’m to understand the editor of Undark is a serious person by journalist friends, but there is one link in there where the implication made does not follow at all from the content at the link (I rather argue the opposite of what was implied from the title).

I’m pretty sure that the journalist and the editor assumed most people would not read it (I can check the Google Analytics, very few people clicked through). If that isn’t true, they’re incompetent. Basically, it’s been a little sad because I am now concluding that the media is fine with just lying about people by implication without even the barest pretense. Meanwhile, someone like Michael Oman-Reagan is more mainstream in science than I am.

Honestly I’ve given up on the future of classical liberalism in the West. Most people are cowards and liars when push comes to shove. I don’t want to speak of this at length, as it’s a bit like a God-is-dead moment for me, but I thought I’d come clean and be frank. The Critical Theorists are right, power trumps truth. I’m not sure they’ll enjoy what’s to come in the future when objectivity is dethroned, but I think I will probably laugh as the liars scramble to lie different lies, because that is almost certain to happen.

So I have another son. He’s healthy. That’s all you can ask for. I still think now and then about the cat who died in January though.

9 thoughts on “Open Thread, 03/26/2017

  1. “Honestly I’ve given up on the future of classical liberalism in the West.”

    Yup. The irony will be that the next regime is going to be the opposite of what the SJWs thought they were creating. We will recapitulate what the Russians went through 1917 — 1936.

    When the revolution was new, the avant garde of the pre-revolutionary era flourished. By the time ten years had gone by they were out of favor. And in 1936, they were sent to the Gulags.

  2. Congratulations on the kid! What’s the count now, 3? I guess I’ve been reading you long enough to remember being surprised when you mentioned the first one. Appreciate that you share a bit of that personal stuff while still being appropriately discreet about most detail.

  3. I have the same issue from my work computer. Oddly, it’s not happening on my home computer, or my mobile device.

  4. RE: the media … Since 11/9, I’ve been harking back a lot to this scene from Blazing Saddles (I suspect that I was reminded of it by a link in a comments thread somewhere, but at this point, who knows?). It has much greater applicability, of course, than that: for instance, to members of the media, academics, pretty much most of us humans.

    As Brad Delong has not yet tired of repeating, We are jumped-up East African Plains Apes: smarter than baboons and chimps but not as different in motivations as our vanity insists. We have to live with and make progress with the human race we have, not the human race we might want or wish to have at a later time.

    This is to suggest neither that disappointment is inappropriate nor that we (you?) should give up striving for something better, just that disillusionment and anger based on it are not useful.

    (From someone older and, largely as a consequence, either wiser or with less vitality – it’s often hard to distinguish any difference. If you like, I’ll try to eldsplain* this.)

    *like mansplaining, except by a balding greybeard.

  5. Gratz on the new kid. The difference now is that you and the missus will now have to master zone defense when you go places, man to man will not work anymore. More strategy.

  6. “So I have another son.”


    “Honestly I’ve given up on the future of classical liberalism in the West.”

    If not here, where? If not now, when?

    “RNA viruses drove adaptive introgressions between Neanderthals and modern humans.”

    What this makes me wonder is how much this is happening now, and if it is pretty rare now, why was it more common at this critical moment of first contact?

    I first learned that horizontal gene transfer via RNA viruses existed at all from the book “Darwin’s Radio” by Greg Bear. But, in the research I’ve seen on them since then, by all indications this is still happening today but accounts for a pretty small share of recent human DNA change. Neanderthals and modern humans probably didn’t overlap in any one place much longer than 1000 years.

    Could it be that humans are immune to most human RNA viruses, but weren’t immune to Neanderthal RNA viruses (and visa versa)?

Comments are closed.