Open Thread, 04/29/2018

One of the strange things about getting old is that your friends start to become kind of a big deal. Matthew Hahn has a new book out, Molecular Population Genetics. If there is one single reason I keep blogging, it’s to get awareness of the field of population genetics to spread beyond the small circle who are “in the know.” I joked on Twitter that buying this textbook is like spending money to talk to Matt about pop-gen, and that’s surely worth it.

Another one for the stack!

Speaking of worth it, Kyle Harper’s The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire is definitely worth a read. Not done, and I’m not sure it’s better than The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization. Perhaps my issue is that exogenous shocks are to be expected in my view of the world. Though the details in The Fate of Rome are novel, the general thesis and framework were what I’d assumed were taken for granted.

What Happens When Geneticists Talk Sloppily About Race. I don’t think that David Reich was sloppy…though the op-ed was edited in a way that was confusing. That being said I’ve heard through the grapevine that some prominent human population geneticists may write a response to David’s op-ed, which is something I want to see. Part of me still thinks that these vigorous public discussions are important (another part of me just thinks that when Sulla or Marius take over all this old-fashioned fixation on truth will be irrelevant).

One thing stated in the piece above is that regular people have a Platonic model of race. This is true. But it is also a fact that geneticists have not done a good job of explaining to the educated public what population structure is, and why it’s not trivial or arbitrary. I know this from personal experience over 15 years interacting with people about genetics online (some of the funniest interactions are on Facebook where a person of professional class background/status “genetics-splains” me about how I don’t understand the extent [lack] of human genetic variation and how arbitrary population cluster identity is).

With The Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia I obviously think we have the broad outlines of the peopling of South Asia in hand. There will be lots of detailed elaborations of how/what happened, but I think the big picture is nailed down.

That being said some of the objections remind me a lot of Creationist tendencies. Creationists often focus on weak points and hammer in on them over and over.

One of the weird things about Indian genetics is that a lot of people think new research will overturn Hindu nationalism. But I know several Hindu nationalists, and privately they tell me that most Hindu nationalists don’t care about these abstruse issues, and many of the more intellectual ones don’t have a major problem with the science.

GEDmatch, Ysearch and the Golden State Killer.

Anthropogenic habitat alteration leads to rapid loss of adaptive variation and restoration potential in wild salmon populations.

Bracketing phenotypic limits of mammalian hybridization.

A few people have asked about the podcast. We skipped a week, but we’ll be back. Taking some feedback in relation to various aspects of the show. A common issue seems to be that my voice is too quiet though Spencer’s is “just right.”

Again, if you use Stitcher or iTunes please remember to give us positive reviews and 5-stars!

If you have ideas for shows, we’re game.

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18 thoughts on “Open Thread, 04/29/2018

  1. IMO there is really only one reason why so many non-specialists care so much about the definition/model of “race,” and that is because they believe that if there is “no such thing as race” then that rules out a priori any possibility that black people might be less intelligent than whites.

    If it were widely understood that this possibility could no more be ruled out than the possibility that Sub-Saharan Africans might on average be, oh let’s say, darker skinned and curlier haired than West Eurasians, then the political relevance of the issue would evaporate, and random Facebook denizens would stop trying to ‘splain genetics to you. I really do believe that this is the sole driver of the public controversy!

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  2. Razib, I hate to say it, but elocution lessons might help if you want to be more clearly understood when talking to the public. Writing and talking are very different things.

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  3. 1. “when Sulla or Marius take over all this old-fashioned fixation on truth will be irrelevant”

    You mean they weren’t running for President in 2016?

    2. “Perhaps my issue is that exogenous shocks are to be expected in my view of the world.”

    Yes, and how institutions respond to them is what determines civilizational outcomes. The classic Roman problem was the fragility of imperial succession. No emperor was safe in possession of his imperium. Often he and the court were more worried about usurpers than they were about barbarians. Failed successions often resulted in catastrophic civil wars.

    3. Podcast voices: Your partner has a classic announcer voice. If wants to quit genomics, he could be the next Don Pardo. You sound higher pitched and somewhat nasal. Luke Lea is correct. Voice is a skill, it can be taught.

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  4. “Anthropogenic habitat alteration leads to rapid loss of adaptive variation and restoration potential in wild salmon populations.”

    And years of stocking salmon runs from hatcheries.

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  5. To Tobus

    Re: Testosterone levels

    What am I missing here? Female and male total testosterone levels by age have been known even when I was in high school in the 70s.

    Females

    6 months-9 years: <7-20 ng/dL

    10-11 years: <7-44 ng/dL

    12-16 years: or =19 years: 8-60 ng/dL

    This is lower than males

    Males

    6 months-9 years: <7-20 ng/dL

    10-11 years: <7-130 ng/dL

    12-13 years: <7-800 ng/dL

    14 years: or =19 years: 240-950 ng/dL

    1 nmol/liter = 288 ng/liter

    Even very few males have 5 nmol/liter.

    Why is this new science? This has been known for a long time; I do not know any female who has 1 nmol/liter.

    I know testosterone secretion during some games and times per day is higher, but there has been no new science.

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  6. I agree that your voice is too quiet relative to Spencer’s. Better equipment and/or mixing might fix this.

    I have a few podcast ideas:

    1. Talk about refugia in relation to, I don’t know, the Red Deer Cave people or the San bushmen. Pick your poison.

    2. Really dive into the recent results about the Sea Nomads.

    3. Interview Gregory Cochran.

    4. Talk about the Piraha. Interview Daniel Everett. Alternatively, talk about Population Y.

    5. Interview Joe Henrich.

    6. Talk about the Natufian hunter-gatherers or another population from that period.

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  7. The classic Roman problem was the fragility of imperial succession. No emperor was safe in possession of his imperium. Often he and the court were more worried about usurpers than they were about barbarians. Failed successions often resulted in catastrophic civil wars.

    I agree 100%. Rome could not conquered by a competitor state. It had no competitor state nearby once it vanquished Carthage (and even Hannibal never dreamed of exterminating Rome – he meant to detach Roman allies from it and weaken its influence as a major power). It could only be brought down by civil strife, which opened the door for the barbarians.

    Voice is a skill, it can be taught.

    Again 100% agree. Yes, some people have that beautiful baritone voice naturally. But most don’t and those who become actors, broadcasters, and politicians* learn it either by personal study OR by attending classes.

    *It’s part of candidate training to learn how to speak on TV. Both political parties training apparatus and their various affiliates offer such training.

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  8. @Vijay: Did you read the article I linked to? The “new science” is measuring the performance benefit of excess testosterone on female athlete’s performance, which was previously assumed, but not scientifically researched.

    The issue is that intersex (and presumably transgender) athletes competing in “Women’s” events, like Caster Semenya, sometimes have testosterone levels well outside the normal female range, sometimes even in the lower end of normal male range. To get around any unfair advantage that this might give over genetically female women, the IAAF had imposed a maximum of 10nmol/L for anyone competing in Women’s events (had to be below this level continuously for at least 6 months before competing). This was legally challenged in 2016 and the IAAF was unable to supply the court with any scientific evidence that higher testosterone increased athletic performance in women – they’d just picked a number based on normal female/male levels with no actual research, and so they were forced to remove the limit pending scientific enquiry. That scientific enquiry has now been completed and it turns out the original 10nmol/L was actually too high – they were able to show increased athletic performance at half that level.

    Converting your numbers, adult female range is 0.28-2.5 nmol/L and adult male range is 8.3-33 nmol/L.

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  9. And unlike some of us, Spencer is not afflicted with sinus allergies, evidently.

    He is afflicted with an accent that really irritates me (not that I’m dissing him, I like and admire his achievements) – apparently unlike most people here, his voice annoys me. (Could just be me – I’m not American, but I don’t find most American accents irritating, or even most Texas accents, assuming that’s what Spencer has.)

    Whereas I have no problems with Razib’s voice – I’m accustomed to it from past exposure. One suggestion though, Razib – you have what I had always assumed was the singularly Australian habit of raising the pitch of your voice at the ends of statements. You could maybe usefully lose that, but it’s a minor quibble.

    My 5 seconds of whining over. I don’t have any major issues with the sound of the podcasts; good enough to get the content, which is what counts, after all.

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  10. What’s also a bit funny about training to speak on TV is that, generally, slower is better. In normal person-to-person conversations, we all tend to speak fast. People who speak slowly in person come off as odd or not very bright.

    On TV, however, people who speak at a normal clip appear hyper and disorganized (even breathless), a bit desperate, even. Meanwhile those who speak at a lower speed tend to be viewed as more measured (= intelligent-sounding) and exude a greater sense of “gravitas.”

    But don’t be like Bobby Jindal. He tended to speak too quickly on TV (giving off that breathless boy wonder vibe), so he was told to slow down, and then he went full “retard”: https://www.politico.com/story/2009/03/jindals-kenneth-problem-019722

    Because he is a pretty intelligent person with impressive credentials, he thought he could wing it without professional training, and he clearly ended up swinging from one extreme to another.

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  11. You have featured Oppenheimer’s Eden in the East twice here recently (here & here.* So I have it, and because it is an interlibrary-loan book, it started off immediately at the top of the pile. It put me off almost immediately with a paragraph that seems to treat Velikovsky seriously. Are you really recommending it? The thesis is interesting, but … It’s pretty long, and my pile of other books is too big to bother with it otherwise.

    Thanks

    *I don’t have the attention span for audio or audio-visual presentations unless I am otherwise engaged in an activity where reading is out of the question: I get pretty fidgety, so I have not listened to your podcast, nor any others. If I spent more time solitary, behind the wheel, I’d have an opportunity. I imagine there’s a generational thing here as well as the difficulty in teaching an old dog new tricks.

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  12. marcel, sample *eden of the east*

    twinkie, i sound weird when i talk slow…. (actually i try hard to talk slower during the podcast)

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  13. “I imagine there’s a generational thing here as well as the difficulty in teaching an old dog new tricks.

    No, very old tricks. Imagine sitting through a recitation of the Iliad.

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  14. “A few people have asked about the podcast. We skipped a week, but we’ll be back. Taking some feedback in relation to various aspects of the show. A common issue seems to be that my voice is too quiet though Spencer’s is “just right.””

    Before I was a lawyer, I worked at a radio station (both news and music) and I helped my wife with the technical issues involved in recording and transcribing oral history interviews for her master’s thesis. I’ve intermittently done radio appearances and worked with courtroom microphones and microphones at political events since then.

    My rule of thumb is that you should start by positioning yourself a comfortable distance from the microphone. Then, you should cut your distance from the microphone in half, even though it feels like you’re almost about to eat it.

    This is often all that is necessary to resolve volume and clarity issues.

    Ideally, you reduce the background noise this can cause with the mesh circle things that you put in front of microphones whose proper name I do not know, because lazy. Foam covers are inferior for this purpose as they reduce the volume as well.

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  15. Too few genomic studies are done among Asian.
    I hope someone wll conduct studies between South East Asian, for instance genetic study between Kinh and Thai.

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