Open Thread, 05/13/2018

The University We Need: Reforming American Higher Education is a funny book. The author, Warren Treadgold, is someone I know from his magisterial A History of the Byzantine State and Society. One of the complaints about A History of the Byzantine State and Society is that it’s too dry and academic. The University We Need is not dry at all, unless you are referring to the mordant wit on display.

Since I’ll be reviewing The University We Need for NRO I won’t say much more than that, except that Treadgold is most definitely in a “gives no fucks” mood. Yes, he attacks administrators as you’d expect, but he also slams Hillsdale, the professoriate, and students. He also has opinions about cafeteria food!

Italy’s 5 Star, League Reach Deal to Govern Nation. This sort of Left-Right hybrid to me illustrates that we’re in a “crisis of capitalism,” or more precisely a crisis of Western civilization. Italian total fertility rate is ~1.40. The rest is commentary.

Localizing and classifying adaptive targets with trend filtered regression. In Who We Are David Reich talks about his ambition to create a sort of encyclopedia of human genomic history. But once that history is established, we’ll need to move on to understanding selection. This preprint looks like it will be important.

23andMe Hits Ancestry.com With Patent Suit Over DNA Kit. One thing they are doing is suing over notifying about identity-by-descent. The “non-obvious” reason for awarding the patent is apparently the notification.

Intellectual property is a joke. But it’s also big business.

This week on the podcast we talked about the grandmother hypothesis with Kristen Hawkes. I should have been more aggressive in jumping in to get her to clarify what “life history theory” was. Live and learn.

We are now at 20 podcasts. If you can, please subscribe with iTunes or Stitcher. Also rate us highly and leave positive views if you can! It looks like we’ll get to 100 in iTunes soon, at which point I’ll stop pestering, though we’re only at 6 reviews on Stichter.

Carl Zimmer’s podcast has been recorded already, but won’t be dropped until close to when She Has Her Mother’s Laugh is published. We’re also recording a podcast with Patrick Wyman of Tides of History this week. This should be “evergreen”, at least on the scale of a year, so expect that in June or later. It will be nice to have a historian on.

The next few weeks we’re going to go it alone, covering a few topics Spencer and I are both interested in. It’s a good change of pace. We’ve got some ideas for what we’re going to talk about in June too. I think it is most definitely important to follow-up on the Indo-Aryan podcast, which we actually recorded in July of 2017, though we didn’t drop it until 2018.

There was an interesting fiasco on Twitter recently where some semi-prominent people asserted that Andrew Sullivan was against gay marriage. This is really bizarre because Sullivan was a major proponent of the idea before it was ever mainstream, and for a period also got resistance from the more radical anti-bourgeois faction of the gay rights movement.

Anyway, the mistaken tweets occurred because Sullivan is transforming into a hate-figure on the far left, and a lot of people on Twitter are stupid and ignorant, so they just inferred facts from their theory that Sullivan is right-wing. Some of these people retracted the falsehood grudgingly. But as usual, you can see that retweets and likes are/were more evident on the original tweet.

The point is repeating all this is is how “knowledge” is created now. If you have a prominent Twitter account it’s trivial to inject falsehoods into the debate. I’ve seen people doing this pretty consciously several times (this is really common in anonymous/pseudo accounts).

At the Brown Pundits weblog, I put up a post on this strange Slate piece on how the 1990s TV show Friends is contributing to sexism and homophobia in India. Though ostensibly about India, and narrated by an immigrant from India, the piece is about a preoccupation within American culture in 2018.

A publication like Slate is going to get a lot of clicks if they post something about misogyny and homophobia in Friends, but how to make it novel? Pretend it’s actually about India! To me, this is to journalism what science fantasy is to science fiction. Even the editor of this piece must have known it was hilarious bullshit, but they were also aware that in 2018 this is what Slate readers want.

Societies and cultures in relative decline and stagnation tend to undergo a period of involution. Narcissism writ-large.

I also wrote a post on Brown Pundits on why India did not become mostly Muslim. Need to think a lot more on this. Not all the comments were dumb. I wish more people would know more things.

Reading the coalescent chapter in Molecular Population Genetics, and it’s amusing to observe that the coalscent’s big advantage over forward-simulations in terms of computational horsepower needed isn’t really that big of a deal today. Even a few years back this was a huge issue. This is like in phylogenetics where everyone runs Bayesian stuff, when 15 years ago people were having a hard time imaging max-likelihood!

While reading Molecular Population Genetics I keep hearing the author’s voice in my head. I think this has to do with the fact that I knew the author before I read his book. This didn’t happen when I read She Has Her Mother’s Laugh because I had read Carl Zimmer before I got to know Carl in person. At least that’s my theory (The 10,000 Year Explosion was all in Greg Cochran’s voice).

Reading too much about Rome. So Carthage Must Be Destroyed is in the stack.

A systematic assessment of ‘Axial Age’ proposals using global comparative historical evidence. The argument here is that the “Axial Age” wasn’t a singular time period, but a continous event that spanned thousands of years. I think this is probably right, though “ages” are conceptually useful mental bookkeeping. This is similar to the idea that age cohorts are a real thing, but generations are not.

The Infectious Enthusiasm of Breaking the Bee.

Detection of shared balancing selection in the absence of trans-species polymorphism.

Self domestication and the evolution of language.

I need to set aside a day to catch up on the South Asian Genotype Project (SAGP). Also, figure out which plugin is causing the 500 errors.

12 thoughts on “Open Thread, 05/13/2018

  1. Razib,

    I don’t do twitter or read anybody’s twitter feeds on their sidebar–except your’s. It points me to some interesting things to read, including the article on “the Axial Age” that was in your feed last week and that you mentioned above.

    Just wanted to thank you.

  2. Speaking of twitter, there’s been quite a bit of hate from some scientists directed towards James Watson, and even towards people who toasted him on his birthday at the Biology of Genomes conference.

    I understand that he’s said controversial things, and may hold views that aren’t aligned with modern progressive sensibilities, but man, you don’t need to unperson him! He helped discover the structure of DNA!

    It’s not like Crick was morally pure. He was pro-eugenics. Hell, I bet you could find something that R. Franklin believe that is now considered bad. Everything is problematic!

  3. I occasionally still get a 500 error (just got one when I clicked on these comments), but I just refresh and it immediately goes away, so it’s not a problem, and not even mildly annoying. My impression is that it’s a lot better than it was originally. For me at least, if you never manage to fix the residual problem, it won’t matter at all. Don’t know if that helps.

  4. Razib, could you (or anyone else) recommend any good historical reviews covering Bronze age Anatolia, or perhaps the ancient Near East in general? I’d like to make more sense of the all the new genomes coming out.

  5. Razib could you try to minimize the uptalk on the podcast? I like the show, but the uptalk is really a bit distracting.

  6. I occasionally still get a 500 error (just got one when I clicked on these comments), but I just refresh and it immediately goes away, so it’s not a problem, and not even mildly annoying. My impression is that it’s a lot better than it was originally. For me at least, if you never manage to fix the residual problem, it won’t matter at all. Don’t know if that helps.

    it has to be a plugin. i’ve never had this problem with wordpress before.

  7. “Italy’s 5 Star, League Reach Deal to Govern Nation. This sort of Left-Right hybrid”
    I don’t think the US definitions of left & right fit European politics very well. Both 5 Star & Lega Nord are in Europe considered right-wing populist. How far right they are is debatable, but eg. 5 Star is a member of the EFDD ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europe_of_Freedom_and_Direct_Democracy ) in the European Parliament, together with UKIP, among others.

  8. 1)
    “a crisis of Western civilization. Italian total fertility rate is ~1.40”

    Specifics of convoluted Italian whoopees aside:

    Re-frame low fertility rate as as “start of opportunity to reconfigure global economic policies toward peacefully and politely reaching global goal of ~1 billion total (and totally cossetted via ever-zooming machine productivities) human population.”

    With sufficient will, eminently doable.

    Of course, even if all systemic barriers were removed, hormonal imperatives for intraspecies competition preclude this possibility among even so few individuals as nuclear family-level. (See Cain and Abel, Romulus and Remus, *competing for access to choosy-highest-quality-female fecundity*). So, boldy we march toward our glorious ecocidal future, spewing offspring, as of yore and forevermore, toward re-cavemanation. Which is where our hormones want us to be anyhoo. Oogga-booggah-doo! Me brow-ridge take biggest hit! So sexxay!

    2)
    Supplementarily and/or contrarily to caveman-futures of 1),

    re: ‘Self domestication and the evolution of language’:

    As anticipated (putting requisite academic hedging-obfuscations aside) — alludes to and points toward sexual selection for female neoteny as major driver — cf. all female movie stars, cf. Helen of Troy, cf. what select woman-spoils the steppe-hordes let to live for to make ’em bestest babies.

    And quite an evolutionary trick to drive toward neotenous features (with attendant passive-behavioral plasticities) while at the same time increasing encephalization — (cf. militarily victorious Odysseus and his ‘many-turning mind’ defeating the [post-ecocidal?] brow-ridgers). As one of your commenters mentioned a few months ago, brain globularity in the Modern lineage is greater (despite Modern’s lowered volumetric- cc’s vs. Neanderthal). These are heady times indeed, for those curious to learn from whence we emerge(d).

  9. @Razib
    Have you seen the recent DNA companies’ controversies? I said they were shady, specially 23andMe.

  10. ” This sort of Left-Right hybrid to me illustrates that we’re in a “crisis of capitalism,” or more precisely a crisis of Western civilization.”

    It’s rather a sign of fundamental constraints within which modern developed societies exist (e.g. economic, demographic, social, cultural, technological etc.). In such a world it seems impossible to make any substantial changes in the system without activating multiple opposing forces that nullify the final outcome. So in the end it doesn’t matter who rules. Left or Right parties, nationalists, liberals, Trump, Clinton, and Sulla make no difference.

  11. “Both 5 Star & Lega Nord are in Europe considered right-wing populist. ”

    I think 5 Star is simply considered “populist”, without adjective; they are in an EP group with right-wing populist, but their program is more left-wing than right-wing, IMO.

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