Open Thread, 5/20/2018

Warren Treadgold’s The University We Need: Reforming American Higher Education is going to come out in early July, but I’ve written my review. Don’t know when NRO will post it. In general, I’m positive. Though Treadgold has some ideological issues with Leftism in the academy, much of the book is apolitical and shines the light structural problems with contemporary academia.

It’s not a secret that I’m a fan of the author’s earlier work, A History of the Byzantine State and Society. So I checked some of the footnotes in The University We Need, and it turns out he’s a skeptic about the accolades given to Chris Wickham’s Framing the Early Middle Ages. Myself, I think both of these huge books are worth reading.

Bernard Lewis has died. He gets a lot of bad press from people like Edward Said of Orientalism fame, and over the last 20 years has become inextricably connected to neoconservatives who cheered on our nation’s foreign adventures. But a lot of his work is pretty interesting, especially the earlier stuff. I like The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years.

On The Number Of Siblings And p-th Cousins In A Large Population Sample. I can’t say I follow all the mathematical details but jump to equation 7. But this preprint heavily informs Edge & Coop’s How lucky was the genetic investigation in the Golden State Killer case?

The Coming Wave of Murders Solved by Genealogy. The horse has left the barn and the great rush is on. Ultimatley this all going to be a normal part of forensic work soon enough.

I’m not sure that there’s a single fact yet in The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War that’s surprised me. Is this because so much of this stuff has now percolated across our culture (e.g., the increased demand for horses in the late 19th century due to complementarity with railroads).

That being said there is a lot of specific detail that’s of interest. For example, the proportion of households with telephones during the Great Depression dropped, but those with radios kept increasing as a fraction of the American populace. The reason is that telephones were rented and required recurrent payments, which many families could no longer afford, while radios were purchased once, after which usage was free.

I don’t know much about Jordan Peterson. Curiously the people who talk to me about him the most are moderate liberals who are annoyed about the demonization of him by the further Left. I don’t have much to say, except it’s shocking how many patrons he has, and, the Left-media attacks on him probably are making him more popular.

Men are far more dangerous than women:

Problematic anti-Semitism bill passes in South Carolina:

The Act, which if not challenged in court and struck down as unconstitutional, will require South Carolina’s public institutions of higher education to “take into consideration the [State Department’s] definition of anti-Semitism for purposes of determining whether the alleged practice was motivated by anti-Semitic intent” when “investigating, or deciding whether there has been a violation of a college or university policy prohibiting discriminatory practices on the basis of religion.”

Heavy-handed suppression of anti-Semitism on campus is going to lead to more, not less, anti-Semitism. You know why.

Genetic analysis of Sephardic ancestry in the Iberian Peninsula.

Hybridization and postzygotic isolation promote reinforcement of male mating preferences in a diverse group of fishes with traditional sex roles.

A New Way for DTC? Nathan Pearson, Root Deep Insight.

Was Kevin Cooper Framed for Murder?

Farmers, tourists, and cattle threaten to wipe out some of the world’s last hunter-gatherers.

The new book, The Book of Why, is important.

18 thoughts on “Open Thread, 5/20/2018

  1. Peterson just seems like a conservative self-help writer who mixes that with some rather vague psychology and metaphors, and delivers it well to its intended audience (conservative young men). I don’t really get the big deal, either the outrage or the hype – but I can understand at least why conservative young men would like a writer/youtube speaker who isn’t patronizing or contemptuous towards them.

    The best reviews of Peterson I’ve read so far were Nathan Robinson and Scott Alexander. Alexander is much more positive on Peterson than Robinson, but I think they both get at something about him.

    I don’t have much to say, except it’s shocking how many patrons he has, and, the Left-media attacks on him probably are making him more popular.

    It’s the beauty of Patreon. You don’t really need a lot of people to support you, just a couple thousand who are devoted and willing to support your work.

  2. ppl i respect (galef, alexander) say robinson is an asshole. also, his magazine has taken a potshot at me of course (to attack jd vance, who cites me in his book). but a smug asshole like that is pretty well positioned to flourish on the intellectual left 😉

    also, some of the ppl who have wanted to talk to me about peterson tell me he appeals to a lot of centrist guys. not just conservatives.

    i really don’t know much about him besides that, though the screeching and hysterical aspect of lefty coverages makes me assume they’re misrepresenting him.

  3. Crime solving using genealogy: (sorry I am asking without doing homework but) how safe is it from implicating brothers of criminals etc.?

  4. Robinson is hit or miss. He’s written some good stuff (and I’m glad that he seems to feel an obligation to directly address every single criticism aimed at leftism), but also some genuinely bad essays. Scott Alexander wrote a good post making fun of his “Questions for Libertarians” essay.

  5. I have sat through many hours of Jordan Peterson’s lectures on Youtube, over a hundred. Not just out-takes, but the full lectures. What I can say is that he is a very complicated person; a very deep, well read and cerebral thinker, and almost nothing you hear or read about him is fair or accurate, regardless of whether it is positive or negative. He defies simple categorization as conservative or anything else (when pressed hard to identify himself politically he called himself an old style British liberal, but that too is probably a gross over-simplification); but on many issues he has definite old school centre-liberal tendencies). Many millions of people have watched his videos, I think because he has a lot of interesting, complex, thought provoking and revelatory things to say. He is very far from just being a conservative self help writer.

    I tried several times to read his first book Maps of Meaning, and gave up – it is impenetrable, and (to me) descends into insanity. I watched his lecture series based on the book instead – it took some real stamina to get through it all, enabled only because he is an engaging speaker with really a lot to say.

    I’m no fawning fanboy, but I think he is really very good on the subject of personality traits, and very data-driven, and he likes big samples and reproducibility; some of his scholarly papers are hard and dry to wade through but worth it. He’s a very serious psychologist, both in clinical practice and in his academic work, which a lot of people seem to keep losing sight of. I tend to be dismissive of psychologists in general, but he’s a very good one.

    He gets a lot of bad press because of the people who are attracted to him as followers, but he can’t control that.

    If he has a main message, it is that life is suffering and then we die, and we need to find honourable, worthwhile things to do with our lives to make life bearable and worth living. He’s not the go-to guy if you want some feel-good slogan or quick fix.

  6. Thanks Razib. I couldn’t make out if some of those statements about brothers getting worried were meant to be jokes or not, so I had thought that, may be, they would not do genome-wide analysis (to cut costs), hence the question.

  7. Interesting about the Sephardic ancestry. I had done testing (in addition to whole genome sequencing I had done earlier), which showed almost exclusively northwestern European ancestry, but when I uploaded the file to, they gave me about 10% Sephardic Jewish-North African ancestry. With the whole genome sequencing, and running it in ADMIXTURE with the 1000 Genomes data, I came out about 5% East African, 5% South Asian, and 2% East Asian, which I suppose is roughly consistent with the Sephardic ancestry, especially when considering that no Middle Eastern or North African populations are part of 1000 Genomes.

    Of course, I’m still trying to get a handle on how exactly this non-European ancestry got to me. Genealogy hasn’t helped a whole lot, so there may have been like a non-paternity event or adoption at some point.

  8. Crimes solved by genealogical research: who knew there was a position called “forensic genealogist.”

  9. Current Affairs has a long piece on Peterson I listened to this morning. They were unsurprisingly very negative but also probably correct. I support Peterson but I don’t really pay much attention to him, just another tool to bash SJWs with. I thought his book was unreadably stupid.

    Razib, did you read “What Hath God Wrought”? Maybe you’re the one who recommended it to me, i cant remember. I guess you might like it, I think. Seems up your alley but it’s long and you’ve probably heard a lot of it before.

    I finished “Exploring the roots of religion” “the triumph of Christianity,” “turning points in middle East history” “American character” “American amnesia” “it’s even worse than you think” “the true flag” “ratfucked” “how democracies die” and a few more recently. I tried “Genghis Khan and the making of the modern world” but got bored.

    Ratfucked was a good read on Republican gerrymandering.

  10. Chattering-geist radar shows approaching:

    There will be a laying on of hands within two weeks: Peterson upon Yeezy; The Father upon The Son.

    The Great Family replacing The Great Society.

    Agency and Privacy redefined therein.

  11. I have also listened to a lot of Peterson both his Maps of Meanings course and his Intro to Personality Theory. His Intro course was quite good and did an excellent job of explaining the Big 5 personality theory which as a statistician I like because it was discovered through factor analysis and unlike much of psychology is often replicated. I am currently working on a paper that is examining career and major choice by personality characteristics and by gender.
    The way I would describe Peterson’s big idea is that he is a evolutionary Jungian. Before I listened to him I dismissed Jung as just mystical BS. However, Peterson’s interpretation is that they reflect deep behavioral regularities that may have originated in our primate ancestors long before humans evolved. Given the widespread popularity of many themes (Campbell’s the hero’s journey or our relationship to snakes) I think there may be something to that. However, I do recognize these ideas are easy to mock.
    Peterson’s popularity is two fold. First he is pushing back against the stupid leftist blank slatism that I think is harmful. I know a number of career women in their 40’s who have successful careers but regret not having families. I think for some women the feminist idea that women are the same as men and should act the same has not made women happier. His popularity among young men though is quite easy to explain. The predominant voice one hears is that young men should STFU and step aside. I suppose if you are from an elite background that may sound reasonable but if you are from a middle class or working class background it seems ridiculous and unhelpful. Peterson’s provides guidance to these people by saying that what will give your life meaning is to find the most difficult thing you can do and try to do that. Certainly a better message than having young disaffected turning to Richard Spencer or other alt-right meatheads.

  12. Regarding JP:
    His main audience is men who are lost or who lacked a father figure (or at least one they respected). His secondary audience seems like people who like psychology and stories. All of his talks include tangents, usually stories from his clinical work, or research related to the subject. This can annoy some people, but I’ve found they tend to be gems of insight.

    His Personality class covers major psychologists and philosophers of the 20th century, how it’s all relevant to genocidal nations, and what it all means for current events. Also includes a good walkthrough on IQ, predictors of job performance, and the best walkthrough on the Big 5 Personality dimensions I’ve seen. Lots of other good tidbits, like how/why psychiatry works and how you can apply it to your relationships. IMO his best lecture series overall.

    His Maps of Meaning class covers some popular stories, their origins, why they’re compelling, and how their meaning informs how to live a better life. Also covers ways to look out for and resist political polarization. Not nearly as grounded in research and overlaps the most with the other two series.

    He’s also working on a series on certain Biblical stories, their underlying meaning, how they’ve influenced the West and the people that built it. Recommended if you don’t know much about Christianity and are curious, as it’s relatively accessible as long as you don’t mind JP’s constant tangents.

    He also does various interviews where he calls out politically extreme behavior in an eloquent way. Entertaining but once you’ve seen a few you’ve seen them all. I don’t agree with him 100%, but he’s doing good work in guiding people toward a more productive life and I think he’s genuinely trying to prevent more genocides, whether they’re from communists or fascists.

  13. Peterson does not look like a bad psychology professor if I was to judge based on the little psychology I know.

    I can’t really say how good he’s is though. A psychometrist friend of mine doesn’t really like the way he uses psychometrics.

    His intellectual life besides that though is quite annoying. He likes to criticize postmodernism (he acts a lot like what he criticizes though) and has some sort of persecution complex. I also would say he looks a bit too histrionic.

    In general, I put him on the group of annoying people with annoying followers that say interesting things sometimes.

    Rod Dreher is in this group as well.

  14. Should an organism count as GMO if it has a genome that could have arisen from sexual reproduction in the wild or through breeding, even if that is not the way that the genome of the organism actually arose?

  15. @Robert Ford, definitely worth a read and actually really specifically important to human origins. (Another article on same topic:

    Brief summa: Massive species diversity mtdna survey. Finds that human low mtdna diversity and absence of recent relatives don’t seem special. Most species look to have similar time depth to AMH! The processes that led to the isolation of AMH as the only humans are likely generic. Not sui generis from an unusual dynamic related to AMH like inter kin group competition or social cognition or endocranial expansion…

    “Our work suggests that most species of animals alive today are like humans, descendants of ancestors who emerged from small populations possibly with near-extinction events within the last few hundred thousand years…”

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