Open Thread, 05/14/2017

I’ve been working on some issues related to the website. Of most relevance for readers, https:// formatting should now no longer be broken. Also, please mention it if you get a 503 in the comments. Some people probably still get them, but they should be rare (I can track hourly hits, and there hasn’t been a systemwide drop in traffic since April 22nd; basically I have a script running which pings the site for 503s and reboots Varnish if it gets them).

I also know that the MySQL database locks up sometimes. There is a script to restart it but looks like it can take at least one minute. I had one that ran more consistently but it doesn’t seem to be working.

There has only been one update on my newsletter, but if the site goes down it’s probably best just to sign up for that if you care (when it goes down for a while people email me, which is fine, but responding to emails can get tedious).

When people ask me about textbooks on population genetics, I can rattle off many because I own many and have a sense of all of them. In contrast, for evolution the only text I have is Futumya’s. Does anyone have experience with the Ridley or Bergstrom and Dugatkin texts?

Science is by its nature subject to silos. That’s unfortunate, but it’s true. Evolutionary geneticists don’t really know too much more about paleontology than the average person. I have a pretty good grasp of what’s going on human population genomics, and perhaps mammalian population genomics, but outside of that not so much.

Speaking of Lee Dugatkin, his new book, How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) is out. I don’t have time to read it now, but as I have said he’s a good writer.

As some of you may know I’m taking a one week sabbatical from social media (I’ll be back on Thursday), which consists of Twitter and Facebook.(also, I’m not missing it to be honest). That means that there are things that need to be said which need an outlet. So I put up a post on Henry Wallace over at Secular Right. An op-ed in The New York Times by Wallace’s grandson hailing is grandfather’s prophetic prediction of American fascism doesn’t mention that he was notorious for not understanding the threat of Communism in his time (and literally being deceived by Potemkin villages in 1944). Also, Brown Pundits might make a comeback as a group blog soon.

If you subscribe to my total content RSS feed I do try and push stuff on other blogs/publications into that.

I may start writing again outside of the purviews of this weblog. But, I think more and more it is critical to control your own means of production. Much of the web-only content at high profile sites like The New Republic from the 2000s is not accessible because of reconstitutions of their archives.

And of course, relying on Twitter or YouTube as sole distribution channels has problems. Twitter as a solo-play is I think probably not going to work. I think it could work if they kept their ambitions and aims in check, but the combination of the public stock markets and the egos of their executives means that they’ll swing for the fences. Probably they will get acquired in the next 5 years, after which who knows what the new owners will do? Just because the name Twitter will be around in 2030 doesn’t mean you’ll recognize it (go check out MySpace some time).

As far YouTube is concerned, I think for now YouTube’s content is safe, but people who are trying to make a living off it have been whipsawed by changes in policies in advertising revenues. Diversification is key.

Over at Secular Right Dain has a post up, Anti-SJW Sentiment in China. The full article is fascinating, The curious rise of the ‘white left’ as a Chinese internet insult. I will say that amoral atomization often gives way to moral revivals, so don’t expect China’s John Galt moment to last too long.

A note on comments. I notice that some people say things like “I don’t want to presume….” That’s good. One of the most annoying things about having a blog with a reasonable amount of content is that socially deficient individuals think they can start drawing conclusions about your life or situation from what you make visible. For most of this blog’s history I actually hid much of my non-blog life. When my daughter was born and I wanted to talk about her genetics obviously I had to put a bit more into the public. But it’s always good not to infer too much about people who you read. They tell you on a need-to-know basis unless their lives are their brand (here’s an example, an anonymous regular commenter once left comments talking about aspects of my personal life I’d rather not have in comments; this person remains carefully anonymous themselves. This is the kind of shit I never forget and why I have some contempt for many, though not all, commenters).

A problem as a person who is not liberal on the internet that I encounter is “lib-splaining.” Basically, since I am not liberal and they are liberal (or to the Left of center for Europeans), the prior assumption is that they can explain to me how evolution, genetics, Islam, or many aspects of history work. If they are not stupid, they immediately realize the error of their ways, though the Dunning-Kruger effect is something I confront in that the duller the person the more difficult it is to explain to them that I’m not as ignorant as they might think (this is one of the things that annoys me about Twitter).

A major dynamic that many people of any ideology seem to have is a narrowness of view that occludes many major patterns for me. One problem is that few people know much history beyond a narrow subset of regions or periods. For the stereotypical conservative one might encounter assertions such as “America is the greatest nation in the history of the world” (what does that even mean?). The reasons offered for this tend to be…well, problematic. E.g., America is always on the side of freedom. Arguably, even if tendentiously, this was not even true of the Founding! (the revolutionary side was diverse, I would suggest that the New England partisans were people who we moderns would easily identify with, but the grandees of the Tidewater less so).

For liberals the problem tends to crop up when they are speaking cross-culturally. It usually turns out that these people only know a shallow sketch of even Western history, and no non-Western history, so they don’t have any basis to make any comparisons. Part of this is the abomination which is post-colonial theory, which has replaced the need for facts with a broad-overarching Manichean vision of the world.

One place I wish everyone would start out with is to study the history of China. There are several reasons why this is important. First, much of the human past is a history of China. One can not understand the history of the world without the history of China. One can not understand Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, without understanding China. Second, one can not understanding today’s China without understanding the China of the past, and one can not understand the 21st century without understanding China.

I will make some concrete recommendations. In sequence of order chronologically, The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han, China between Empires: The Northern and Southern Dynasties, China’s Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty, The Age of Confucian Rule: The Song Transformation of China, The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, and China’s Last Empire: The Great Qing. I think all these books are both scholarly, and accessible to the lay audience. The Han dynasty surveys usually distill what you need to know from the earlier periods (and the Shang dynasty is really the purview of archeology and not history).

Some of you may want a gentler introduction. John Keay’s China: A History would fit the bill. But please don’t stop at Keay. It is more a primer, and won’t give you much depth. John King Fairbanks’ China: A New History is good for depth, but it focuses way too much on recent events. I have a soft spot for A History of Chinese Civilization by Jaques Gernet, but it’s not that easy to always find a copy that is not priced outrageously (I read it as an undergrad via a library copy).

It is hard to ignore when one reads Chinese history that there are both clear similarities and obvious differences in relation to the West. For example, the analogy between the Kangxi Emperor and Marcus Aurelius jumps out at you, despite 1,500 years of space and the geographical-cultural chasm (one could argue that Marcus Aurelius is a bit idealized, while we know a great deal about the Kangxi Emperor from documents). A contrast is the role of religion in Chinese history. Though religion is important, the dominant recurring theme of subjugation of religious passions and concerns to that of public order and life was a revelation to Enlightenment intellectuals, who saw in China a “better way.”

Which brings me to a thought, would readers be interested in a “book club” format? I’ve had friends do this before on their blogs, and it’s worked out. But we’d need enough buy in. I’d put up a post once a week, perhaps every Sunday, and others would jump in.

Accumulation And Functional Architecture Of Deleterious Genetic Variants During The Extinction Of Wrangel Island Mammoths. If this was going to happen, it was going to happen to this population.

Blatant hypocrisy: Milo Yiannopouos now part of demonstration to cancel a graduation speaker. The fundamental issue, which I alluded to earlier this week, is that it may not be that the center can hold. Once the far Left began utilizing tools of speech suppression, which has been the norm throughout human history, it wasn’t going to be limited to them. Old fashioned liberals, generally older white men, are exactly correct about what will happen. It doesn’t matter, because norm-based group are so segregated the campus Left won’t back down and put away the ticking time bombs it’s been blackmailing the administration of universities with. Perhaps they know that everyone is going to jump off the cliff together, but it doesn’t matter.

Inferring Genetic Interactions From Comparative Fitness Data. There were some. Interactions that is.

One may have noticed that I’ve switched over to linking to biorxiv more and more. I also am forgetting to say “preprint” instead of “paper.” I think this presages a shift toward post-publication review. The future is finally almost here.

Phenotypic heterogeneity promotes adaptive evolution.

Also, Scireader seems back up.

This is the week you should be reading the Bell Beaker blog.

Coalescent theory. Do you know what it is? If not, you probably should if you are interested in population genetics.

A friend asked about the politics of people who read me. It’s pretty diverse. With a sample size of 426 you see the breakdown. I assumed that most of the “neither Left nor Right” would be libertarian. But that’s not true at all; only 1/3 of those are libertarian.  The rest are all over the place. On social issues the readers tilt more toward the moderate Left, while on economic issues toward the moderate Right (though less strongly on economic issues).

No big surprises.

One of the worst things about Austin is that people talk about how they love goat cheese in public. Not cool.

Anyone want to guess how many “sessions” on Google Analytics I’ve had over the past 15 years? I have a good idea from some of the sites I’ve contributed too (blog only, I don’t count The New York Times).

‘Will & Grace’ Revival Could Be Extended. They called it the “end of creativity.”

The whole culture of “playdates” is really weird. Does it exist outside of the middle to upper middle class? Why do kids need adult supervision when playing?

Am I the only one who thinks that the Engineers in the Alien series are very similar to Pak Protectors?

34 thoughts on “Open Thread, 05/14/2017

  1. For the benefit of my own amour propre, I will assume that you are carefully distinguishing between regular commenters who are anonymous and those who are pseudonymous. I don’t recall most of my comments over the years and prefer not to (have to) think of myself as a doofus.

  2. naw, no problem with you. normal people are not a major issue. it’s the socially obtuse types who often leave comments.

    basically the sort of people who have weak theory of mind. e.g., one commenter decided to psychoanalyze me and suggest it must have been hard to not get the gig at the new york times as an explanation why i was irritable. as a point of fact

    1) the $ was not great, the majority of my income at the time (and now) is through genomic consulting/work.

    2) i don’t respect the new york times as some authoritative font of wisdom. i decided to become a contributor in part because i know a lot of stuff that most times contributors don’t.

    i don’t blog to make big bucks. i have a career that is totally separate from this. i blog because i know a combination of stuff that is very rare, and it has *some* influence and *someone* should put stuff out there beyond paywalled journals. a lot of conservative journalists in particular follow me (reality based community, not so much 🙂 also, i interact with reasonably intelligent people in the comments, though unfortunately most people are not that smart or well informed, so this is a limited audience.

    to make money doing blog related stuff you need to jack off your readers’ biases. i’m more likely to tell them to shut up 😉

    i decided to go my own way and become independent partly because it aligned my interests better, even if the audience was smaller.

    none of this is interesting, and so i don’t state these things too much. but that doesn’t prevent commenters from connecting between the dots.

  3. “One of the worst things about Austin is that people talk about how love about goat cheese in public. Not cool.”

    Razib: Are there some words missing from that sentence?

  4. This is hardly new, but seems to be becoming pervasive. Perversely, the ‘single eyelid’ is one of the facial features that I find most endearing in East Asian females. When my wife was very young, she resorted to the use of ‘eyelid tape’ (see referenced near the end of the article). It took me a long time to convince her that part of the reason I loved her was precisely because she looked classical Han, not despite it, and that she should dispense with the wretched tape. At least it was an easily reversible process. (I’m thinking of trying to start a subversive rumour that it is regarded as unpatriotic to have the eyelid surgery.) (In passing, it is clear from a close examination of the before and after photos that Sharon Lu has had a lot more done to her face than just eyelid surgery.)

  5. I’d be strongly in favor of the “Book Club”.

    Any good economic histories of China besides the general histories you mentioned?

    They called the “end of creativity.”

    Entertainment has certainly changed a lot now in the age of streaming, easy storage, and the Content Hunger in the film and TV industry. Stuff that can draw an audience of valuable size just doesn’t go away, and old stuff that did go away gets revived to varying degrees. For example, I’m half-surprised it’s taking this long to get a Star Trek TV series off the ground because of it (although only half-surprised, because the third New-Star-Trek movie performed tepidly at the box office).

  6. Id participate in a book club that read things available as audiobooks;
    between two small children and ~12 hours a day of bench science I don’t often have time to read a physical book these days, but I just listened to Albion’s Seed and very much enjoyed it in that format.

  7. Minor suggestion is that you set up a favicon for gnxp blog. This is the little icon that shows up in the browser when you have a tab open, or when you bookmark the site. Not a big deal, but I often have 20 tabs open, so like sites better when they do this. I also think it’s a sign of profressionalism.

    You need a 512×512 image, but it shows mostly as a 16×16 icon. Here’s how to do it.

    “A favicon is typically a graphic 16 x 16 pixels square and is saved as favicon.ico in the root directory of your server. You can use a favicon with any WordPress site on a web server that allows access to the root directories.”

  8. btw, i don’t know if i have mentioned it before. but i’ll say, i really hate milo. that asshole putting me in a piece along with fucking net-nazis, most of whom i didn’t know about, was total bullshit and has caused me a lot of problems. fuck him. i’m very happy he’s probably done with his self-promotional bullshit. that being said, i’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of ‘respectable’ media isn’t that different from milo in their standards… always the story first, facts second.

  9. That article confirms what I’ve expected (and feared) ever since I first read your blog posts about the genetic origins of Europeans at Unz review: These results will shamelessly be used as propaganda for mass immigration, no matter how obviously detrimental it is. The sentimental nation of immigrants kitsch about Syrians singing “O Tannenbaum” disgusts me given the reality of the situation in Germany (rise in violent crime connected to immigration, as even official statistics for 2016 indicate, increased terror threat etc.). Too bad, the research itself is quite interesting after all.

  10. the arrival of LBK didn’t work out well for HG, and arrival of corded ware did not work out for post-LBK neolithics. bye-bye german R1bs and R1as, your fraus are now going to be someone else’s? 🙂

  11. lol. But yes, it’s funny how they don’t mention what the coming of the Indo-Europeans probably meant for the first farmers. I’m sorry, but that politicization of research findings in the service of mainstream liberal pieties strikes me as not that different from the myth-making of the more deranged kind of nationalists. Just a question of power and controlling the discourse I guess.

  12. right, but let’s be clear that david reich has been making relatively modest claims for years in this regard. this interpretation was a journalistic flourish, not the research community pushing….

  13. “this interpretation was a journalistic flourish, not the research community pushing….”

    Of course, I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

  14. China has a 40 million person forensic DNA database available to police.

    Presumably, this ought to allow not just matches of DNA evidence to perps in the database, but also partial matches of DNA evidence to relatives of the persons in the database from which a list of suspects far beyond those 40 million people could be triangulated, especially after screening based upon a suspect’s sex, age and place of residency at the time of the crime.

  15. Razib, would you consider moving the search bar higher up the page? I use it frequently to search keywords and currently you have to scroll halfway down the page to get there.

  16. i added a google custom search (had been meaning to). is there a point to having WP search? (it is more of a compute hit and security vulnerability)

  17. nevmind. the google search has some issues cuz i haven’t fixed the tags on the old archives. i’ll do that in the next few days and reactivate.

    also i assume u aren’t using the search function to do research for a hit piece, right? 😉

  18. Haha, no. I just enjoy reading at the intersection of history and, recently, population genetics (the latter of which I know relatively little). I frequently find that when I am reading something elsewhere that might be served by your brand of illumination that I want to check your archives to see if you’ve written anything on the topic. Often, you have, so I use the search frequently.

    Anyway, with hope this isn’t a special use-case for me and others (who like a bit of optimization) will get a lot of value from the search; thanks for the fix.

  19. “The curious rise of the ‘white left’ as a Chinese internet insult.”

    The click through article was written by somebody who has spent too much time on an American university campus, and who believes that the academic left in the US has a worldview that is more or less sensible.

    I can understand how a Chinese person who lived through the Mao years and the cultural revolution (or whose parents did) might think that American academic leftists are delusional and intoxicated by their own fumes.

    Some portion of my own opposition to leftism comes from my mother having grown up in Soviet Union and fleeing it at the height of Stalin’s terror.

  20. Razib,

    Those interested in a basic intro to coalescent theory might want to take a look at Hein et alia, Gene Genealogies, Variation and Evolution (A Primer in Coalescent Theory).


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