Open Thread, 10/01/2017

Thinking about Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict. It’s a good book. I’d recommend it. But a lot of the research highlighted pre-dates the era of the “reproducibility crisis.” That is, some of the positive results just didn’t end up being replicated after this book was written (more ethical behavior if you show people false eyes is mentioned, as are priming studies).

I think this is a general issue for anything written before 2015 that deals with psychology (unless it’s a book that to some extent tries to refute the ubiquity of overly sexy ideas, like The Invisible Gorilla).

Patrick Wyman has a podcast, The Fall of Rome Podcast. He comments on this weblog now and then. Recommended.

Over at Anatoly Karlin’s some confusion because his comments, from a Russian IP, were labeled “spam.” He thought I had banned him. Unfortunately, I don’t understand the logic of some comments labeled as spam, and I have to retrieve them many weeks later, as I check the spam folder only once a week or so. The ones with lots of links make sense, but sometimes there must be some semantic similarity with comment spam (and a lot of the spambots for a while had .ru addresses, so that explains why they don’t like Russian IP addresses).

Also, since for a while they thought I banned him some of his commenters who I had probably legitimately banned at some point decided to rant about how I don’t know anything about genetics or history and I’m a poo-poo head. There are lots of things you could criticize me for…but not knowing genetics or history are weird ones to fix upon. But hey, perhaps I’m the stupid one here with the blog that they were reading, while they, the anonymous commenters, are really so genius I can’t even Grokk their incandescent brilliance (there is a strange similarity in criticisms from both frog-Nazis and SJWs directed toward me as to my ignorance of all the facts they know).

Emails Show How An Ivy League Prof Tried To Do Damage Control For His Bogus Food Science. And Why We Find And Expose Bad Science. The researcher at the center of this scientific scandal actually seems like a decent human being from what I can tell. Unfortunately, he also seems to have likely been committing very basic statistical errors in his research and enabled a culture of sloppiness. The problem with not coming down with a hammer on a prominent professor at Cornell is that leniency will give the green light to more researchers that sloppiness and statistical shoddiness will “pay.”

If you don’t follow my RSS you might know, but I’m posting more at Brown Pundits and Secular Right.

I do have one opinion on Catalonia: seems like the government in Madrid took a low flame and sprayed gasoline all over it.

People regularly confuse that Africa has the most genetic diversity with the idea that African populations have the most genetic diversity among them in terms of ‘genetic distance.’ I realized an easy way to explain why this does not follow: Bantu populations diverged over the past 3,000 years, Eurasians over the past 40,000 years. The Eurasians went through a massive bottleneck, and so are less genetically diverse than all Sub-Saharan Africans. But the genetic distance between two Eurasian populations can be greater than between two Bantu populations because there is ten times as much time to accumulate between-group differences in the case of Eurasians than Bantus (in contrast, the high between-group difference among San Bushmen indicates really deep divergences).

17 thoughts on “Open Thread, 10/01/2017

  1. Patrick Wyman has a podcast, The Fall of Rome Podcast. He comments on this weblog now and then. Recommended.

    Seconded, both for Fall of Rome and the successor podcast Tides of History. A lot of the basic broad stuff was already familiar to me, but he changed my view on the Late Roman Empire and its vitality, and especially on the barbarian groups (including the Huns). Most of what I’d read about the Late Roman Empire in the west beforehand . . . wasn’t really a decline narrative, but a narrative that argued that the changes made after the Crisis of the Third Century were setting the empire up for a fall.

    What a fiasco in how the Spanish government handled the referendum. They should have just said, “This is an illegitimate referendum that doesn’t mean anything more than an opinion survey, have it if you want at your own expense”. If they had just done that, the referendum would have come and gone just like the 2014 referendum.

  2. Usually when something pops up in the RSS I check here. Then if that fails, Brown Pundits. I generally don’t think to check SR, so good to be reminded.

  3. I cannot figure out how to comment on your post, Why Trump could murder someone and people would still support him, so hope a brief comment here is OK. One problem with the historical parallels you draw is that White Christian Americans seems to be willing to vote, not against their own interests, but for politicians who implement policies that physically harm them, increasing their own (and their children’s) morbidity and mortality. Their situation would be much better, at least with regard to the issues discussed at that link, had their political representatives voted to accept Obamacare. I don’t think this issue is unique.

  4. Please, always bring the hammer down on statistical sloppiness. I began my career in statistics in order to combat the widespread and bipartisan sloppiness and its prevalence is making turn more to pure mathematics.

    The Catalonia thing is spot on. I simply could not believe how the Spanish government screwed up on this. The “illegal” vote failed (as it appears now) and they could have let it happen, let the people most interested in it have their day, and then move on.

    The analogy would be if President Trump decided to bring the hammer down on the California secessionist movement. I hope he won’t and he probably will not. But even if a vote is scheduled it probably won’t pass. And even if it passes it probably won’t clear the courts.

    It’s never a good idea to send in police in riot gear to stop even an illegal vote.

    Update: Oops, I might have been mistaken in saying it “failed”.

  5. Update 2: Definitely mistaken. But still, there are nonviolent remedies. Remedies that will be far less successful and popular now.

  6. Our host previously made reference to how culture war has driven secularization in the United States, referencing Robert Putnam. I’d like to push back on that.

    It’s not obvious that “religion” is the most relevant category here. In that past, if a particular version of religion was thought oppressive, people might switch to some other form of religion, but they wouldn’t become areligious. It’s the abandonment of all forms of religion that needs to be explained, especially as it’s not like there were no prominent “inclusive” socially liberal versions of religion out there.

    It also leaves out the fact that much the same result came about in countries that didn’t have much of a culture war. No doubt culture war gives a certain flavour to secularization, but probably for most people not even that much. Most people who are no longer religious aren’t particularly angry or upset at religion.

    The signs right now are pointing specifically to a decrease in human-to-human infectious disease transmission as the likely cause of secularization.

    1. There is a high correlation (over 0.6) between prevalence of infectious diseases and individual right wing/conservative political views.
    2. Controlling for other factors, a likely causal link has been established between prevalence of infectious diseases and individual right wing/conservative political views. The cause is not increased prosperity, nor lower levels of violence, nor general levels of disease or health care.
    3. There are similarly high correlations between prevalence of infectious diseases and various measures of individual religiosity.
    4. Right wing/conservative political views, disgust sensitivity and religiosity all part of the same psychological complex and are highly correlated. For example, bodily metaphors for the social group are common in both conservative politics and in religion.
    4a. We have to be a bit cautious, because political views, disgust sensitivity and religiosity aren’t not identical things either.

    These correlations also hold by state/region. It’s interesting that the United States is the only major Western nation with a large semi-tropical region. (Southern Europe is can be warm, but is not semi-tropical.) Wouldn’t it be funny if delayed secularization in the U.S. was simply due to the climate in the South?

    For the record, I don’t think human-human infectious disease rates are the only thing that influences religiosity and secularization. I also think a country’s average IQ has a lot to do with it too. Higher IQ people seem more open to being secularized.

  7. “I cannot figure out how to comment on your post”

    The coding at Secular Right is messed up and has been for a long time. Pages frequently fail to load.

  8. Scott M. – No, you were not mistaken. The majority of eligible voters in Catalonia chose not to turn up and vote, apparently because it was clearly unconstitutional and had been declared to be illegal by the national government, and they did not wish to do something illegal. So, rather than voting “no” they chose not to participate in an illegal event. The numbers clearly show that they were in the majority.

    All the national government had to do was point out that the referendum was unconstitutional, and then just ignore it. Trying to physically prevent it was a major tactical blunder on their part.

    You are right – forceful suppression is never a good idea, unless there is a group who are behaving violently and criminally, which the pro-separatist Catalans were not, so far as I can see.

    Humans are bastards, they have a real aversion to being forcefully suppressed. So now, the national government might have given themselves a nasty problem that they did not have before. I hope that is not the case, but I fear it might be.

    Razib is spot on – independence for Catalonia has been a low, flickering flame ever since Spain laid claim to the region during the 18th Century. But now, the national government has just sprayed gasoline on it.

  9. Thanks, looks like I will be able to resume my commenting career on GNXP dot nofe dot me.

    Re-Catalonia (“The majority of eligible voters in Catalonia chose not to turn up and vote“). While official turnout was 42%, it rose to 56% turned up if you count the confiscated ballot boxes. Assuming the confiscated ballots were also 90% YES, that makes for a (very slim) absolute majority in favor of YES.

  10. Razib, on your recommendation, I read William B. Provine’s The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics. In the 2001 Afterward, he writes,

    “My scepticism regarding the usefulness of these one-locus, two alleles models has increased steadily since this book was published. Using these models to understand random drift, selection, fitness surfaces, and gene pools is an invitation to misunderstanding. … The persistence of the one-locus, two-allele models raises a fascinating historical issue. Why have the earliest models of theoretical population genetics managed to survive almost unscathed into modern textbooks on evolution and genetics?” (p.203)

    That surprised me because I thought you had said something to the effect that without knowing how DNA worked, the founders of the “modern synthesis” had gotten a remarkable amount of things right.

    I also didn’t understand the vehemence of the Afterword’s attack on the concept of genetic drift. Going to the Amazon page of The “Random Drift” Fallacy (2014) left me even more confused. That book is either a “Paradigm Shifter” or “It is extraordinarily muddled (and poorly edited) and one cannot help but speculate that his thought processes had deteriorated seriously by that time.”

  11. question for Razib: do you accept any or all of Rushton’s r/k selection theory as it applies to humans? becoming a popular right wing talking point and was wondering if it’s bull.

    also, i’m reading “the history of white people” now. pretty good so far, apart from the obligatory PC stuff in the intro.

  12. Thursday – I’d say your stuff about diseases and atheism might be correlate nicely, but I’d say the that what is underlying both is affluence. Atheism and decadence, or utilitarian ethics, have been correlated throughout history, but since no society had mass affluence on the scale of today in the past, the people who could be decadents if they so chose has always been a minority. Now we have mass affluence, so we can have mass decadence.

    God, or I guess more precisely the fear of God, would disturb the decadent’s repose, ergo atheism. I suppose it might be more pleasant to think of atheism as rational, so what would a decadent do?

  13. question for Razib: do you accept any or all of Rushton’s r/k selection theory as it applies to humans? becoming a popular right wing talking point and was wondering if it’s bull.

    not a big fan of r/K.

  14. Anatoly – Yes, I picked up on that after I wrote that. Opinion polls taken before the referendum indicated 41% in favour of secession, 49% against. But opinion polls are not always reliable, as we know.

    Anyway, it seems now that the % in favour of secession has increased quite a bit (if the opinion polls can be believed) as a result of the actions of the national government in trying to suppress the voting, so it looks like they have done an excellent job of shooting themselves in the foot.

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