Open Thread, 04/10/2018

About ~2/3 of the way through She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity. It’s what you’d expect from a Carl Zimmer book, threading history with rock-solid attention to science. So far he’s actually been a really good, if popular, history of science. I say popular not pejoratively, but because the thematic and chronological structure isn’t academic, but hinges on more personal stories, whether it Carl’s own family, or people, famous and not so famous, with genetic issues that passed on down through the generations.

The book isn’t out yet, but you can pre-order of course. The current plan is to get Carl on The Insight (Stitcher, Google Play and web).

Speaking of which, it’s doing really well right now.

Because I’ve been pestering you, some of you have left nice feedback for us, which is pretty important over the long-term. I’ll probably keep on this until we reach 100 reviews on iTunes.

Last week’s episode on the topic Jewish genetics is the biggest one so far in terms of single-week downloads, and this week’s conversation with Stuart Ritchie should also pull in some interest. We talk a fair amount about Stuart’s book, Intelligence: All That Matters, and depressing topics such as the decline in fluid intelligence over a lifetime.

We’ll probably be revisiting intelligence and genetics with a future guest soon, but in the short-term we’ll pivot toward paleoanthropology since the AAPA is going on this week. I don’t know anything about bones so I’m going to mostly check out the pop-gen sessions, and then ask John Hawks for a core-dump at some point near the end of the week for the rest.

Because most people are ignorant heathens the “read the supplements” t-shirt did not sell well. But I got one for myself (we don’t comp ourselves, so I paid for it fair and square!).

Many rely on Twitter and Google Scholar, but I want to remind people of Pubchase and SciReader. They’re still useful to finding things right outside of your core zone of interest.

I mentioned the book The Invention of Humanity before. I was reading it before switching to Carl’s book (I want to prep for a podcast and I’m also going to give the book to someone else), and it’s OK, but it has the same problem as Inventing the Individual: intellectual history which engages in a sequence of inferences and asserts their validity by fiat without any argument.

There’s a lot to learn from books like this, but that mostly involves facts, rather than arguments (whose premises and method I generally find unpersuasive).

Randall Parker said he liked The Fate of Rome better than The Fall of Rome. On that recommendation, I got The Fate of Rome, as  The Fall of Rome is arguably my favorite history book of all time.

We’ll see.

Ezra Klein and Sam Harris had a podcast debate. I didn’t learn much new in this debate aside from how the two view each other (lots of commentary on the comments of the other).

But one thing I have to say is that Sam Harris’ contention that America’s racial caste system was not historically rooted in a biological conception of racial hierarchy is a point I agree with. By the late 19th and early 20th century, the public rhetoric was based on such an understanding, but that understanding developed organically over time with the emergence of taxonomy and then evolutionary biology in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Its origins are far more ancient, and arguably primal.

Though Daniel Walker Howe’s magisterial What Hath God Wrought is not about race fundamentally, it is a useful work to try and get a sense of how our modern conceptions of the white supremacist republic may mislead us in terms of how it was initially conceived (as on many things, white nationalists and people on the extreme cultural Left agree on many things about early America, where I think they are being anachronistic).

I think most readers now get a sense I am rather pessimistic about concepts such as public reason and getting the populace on board with ideas through persuasion. But, self-styled intellectual elites should still try to cultivate less stupidity and ignorance than is the case today. We’re led too often in the public arena by fools who can’t do their own data analysis, haven’t read the history books they were assigned in college, and whose goal is to seem smart enough to trick the masses than actually impress themselves with what they’ve achieved. Though I guess for most people impressing oneself is about the bank account.

The Rakhigarhi publication is supposed to be here within a month or so. But that’s what I was told a month or so ago. At this point I don’t expect to be surprised. We need to think about archaeology, linguistics, and mythology.

For your amusement:

Genetic influence on social outcomes during and after the Soviet era in Estonia. Heritability increases with meritocracy. That’s what you’d expect.

Slope or correlation, not variance explained, allow estimation of heritability.

Viktor Orban: Hungary PM re-elected for third term. 70% of the vote went to right-wing nationalist parties. Europe’s mainstream elite shouldn’t blame the people, they’re the ones who are promoting the worship of democracy as the only legitimate form of government. They need to blame themselves.

Comparison of phasing strategies for whole human genomes. Not a big surprise if you’ve tried this, but if you haven’t, a must read.

It looks like modal extra-pair paternity rates in human populations are in the range of 1-2%. Sorry aspiring cuckolds!

19 thoughts on “Open Thread, 04/10/2018

  1. It looks like modal extra-pair paternity rates in human populations are in the range of 1-2%. Sorry aspiring cuckolds!

    Up to a whole whopping 5% for low SES men working away from homes in big cities where their partners would have maximum opportunity for affairs!

    It’s good news. Either people are more monogamous than we think, or they’re just better at preventing pregnancy from such liasons.

    I’m going to have re-read What God Hath Wrought. I remember being impressed, but it was a couple years ago.

  2. Yascha Mounk claimed “only about one-third of eligible voters supported [Viktor Orban]”, while the BBC says Fidesz got about half the votes. I’d like an explainer on the path to a minority of votes to a two-thirds representation in Parliament. He also didn’t mention that the next most successful party (which sees itself as the opposition) was Jobbik.

  3. Thanks for mentioning What Hath… in this context. It will move to the top of my (too large, too rapidly growing) to-read list. The Reformation is a heavy slog, which I’ve been in the middle of for months, having put it aside at least a half a dozen times for other books. I was hoping to finish it before starting something else…

    Any comment/analysis of the study that the NYT reported on about baleen whales’ sharing ~30% of their DNA across all species?

    Also, ICYMI, this may be of interest to you.

  4. I know you and some readers like pop songs in obscure, dead or nearly dead langauges, so here’s one in Cornish.

    DNA.land seems to predict my IQ at the 86th percentile or so, which would be about 117-118 (presuming the bell curve is an actual distribution of IQ, not of DNA.land customers, whom I’m guessing skew higher). My IQ always tests 10-20 points higher than that, depending upon the test, but it’s seemingly much more accurate than your own result. The height prediction is scarily on the nose however – not that surprising given height is influenced by significantly fewer genes than IQ.

  5. TGGP,
    It is true that Fidesz got both “half the votes” and “one-third of eligible voters”; because the turnout was 2/3.

    The Parliament is unicameral, but half of the seats are FPTP and half are proportional. Fidesz got half of the second and, because its support is evenly distributed, almost all of the first. Thus the discrepancy between votes and seats.

    This is all in wikipedia.

  6. Razib, do you think the fact that the Swat DNA paper got published makes it more likely that the Rakhigarhi paper will see the light of day?

  7. TGGP

    Douglas knight already commented on this, but Orban won 43 seats out of ~100 in proportional democracy/party list vote, but an incredible 91 seats out of ~100 directly elected. The second vote is bizarre, as if they got 48% of each constituency votes. This just says Hungarians are very unified or similar.

  8. Any comment/analysis of the study that the NYT reported on about baleen whales’ sharing ~30% of their DNA across all species?

    i’ll check this out. i need to talk about nonhuman now and then….

    Razib, do you think the fact that the Swat DNA paper got published makes it more likely that the Rakhigarhi paper will see the light of day?

    yes. they are telling more people that a month or two. no big surprises from what i hear.

    karl, it’s very few genes. i don’t think they updated with the 500+ of this january?

  9. Regarding Hungary, Fidesz redistricted the whole country in 2011. They very consciously modeled this redistricting on the U.S. process of gerrymandering, reducing the total number of seats from 176 to 106 and combining opposition strongholds with areas which were favorable to them. This may not explain the entirety of the result, but it certainly accounts for some of it.

  10. Vijay, Karl,
    In 2010, under the previous system, Fidesz got 52% of the vote and 68% of the seats, pretty much the same as under the new system, so why invoke gerrymandering?

    90% is not bizarre. It’s exactly what I’d expect under FPTP if the vote shares are 50-20-20-10. What seems to be going on is that the proportional seats encourage parties to fracture, but that’s a bad strategy in the presence of FPTP seats, creating fake opposition parties. Run-offs for the local seats would produce very different results, allowing the small parties to effectively unify.

    But I don’t understand the 2010 system. In fact, FPTP seems to be a new development, so the mystery to me is why there were already so dominant in 2010, not 2014/2018.

  11. Finished the most recent Oxford U.S. History volume (White, The Republic for Which It Stands (1865-1896)), and did not enjoy it as much Howe’s volume. Admittedly, I find the antebellum era more interesting and I think the author had a lot of years to cover and a lot of territory.

    One of the main frameworks was the conceit of the Yankee Leviathan emerging from the Civil War to reconstruct the South (and screw it up), develop the West (and screw it up), and support free labor ideology in the Northeast and Midwest (and screw it up). It was a bit forced, but illustrated that there wasn’t really a national storyline to follow.

    Still good for lovers of big books and a handy reference to the period.

  12. Noticed your tweet about people thinking you have kidnapped your kids. That stuff gets very old very quickly – I got some really bad, aggressive, intrusive reactions from whites when out with my daughter as a kid on our regular Dad & Daughter outings – adult male with female ‘Asian’ kid. I used to pray for them to call the cops.

    Bad news is, it never ends. My daughter is now an adult, but when she and I are out together alone we still get weird looks from whites – older male with young ‘Asian’ female. We look and behave alike enough for it not to be excusable, really, and it gets very tedious. Doesn’t happen with Chinese, never has.

    I hope you and your kids don’t get a lot of that as they get older, but my experience doesn’t make me optimistic.

  13. as a brown person i don’t think about my race in a majority white situation very much. am i weird? is it normal for nonwhites to feel like they stick out?

    As you know, we are fed an endless stream of MSM articles about the trials and tribulations of being “different”. “We” have no way of knowing which response is normal. It is obvious to me that it hinges upon the individual, not the objective circumstances.

  14. Tangentially related to your parents and kids topic. My parents recall a time driving the family from the US to Canada, sometime in the mid 80’s. As we crossed the border, Canadian agents pulled me aside and questioned me, just to make sure that they were both my real parents. My parents were told that a good number of individuals were taking their children to Canada, in order to skirt custody battles and rulings during divorce.

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