Open Thread, 06/11/2018

A few years ago a reader sent me a copy of Edward Feser’s Five Proofs of the Existence of God. Though I haven’t read that book, I did read a substantial proportion of Feser’s Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide on a plane trip recently. I’m not a big believer in whole-hog Thomism, but I’ve read some Aquinas before and always admired his incredible intellect. Feser’s treatment seems to be a good introduction to that.

So a friend emailed me and wondered why I’m so hard on R.A. Fisher. To be honest the number one reason is that his own daughter seems to have written a rather unflattering biography when it comes to his personal temperament. That being said, let me pass on E. B. Ford’s R. A. Fisher: An Appreciation.

When it comes to any individual it’s easy to be at some remove from a situation and pass on lies because you don’t know any better. It has certainly happened to me.

Which brings me to what’s happened to someone named Wajahat Ali. He’s a Muslim American (Pakistani) public intellectual who has gotten in trouble with some Muslims because he violated some of the norms of BDS (though he never joined on with BDS as such, it’s become normative in many Muslim circles). To me, there are two curious aspects.

First, the general one that in some cultural milieus lies are very powerful, and became truth. If some people generate enough smoke, other people will assume there’s fire. It’s pretty obvious that the people accusing Ali of being an Islamophobe and Zionist-stooge are either liars or enthusiastic witch-burners. But there’s no huge penalty for making this stuff up, so only “upside” for the accusers.

It is also interesting that Ali contends that some people are finally standing up and admitting they know him, and all the accusations are lies, and they can’t listen to the lies any longer. The implication though is that these people were silent for a long while because they were afraid to stand by him when he was maligned unjustly.

A pretty honest commentary about our society today.

Second, Ali exposes the tacit racial hierarchy which is taken for granted in the Muslim American community. A few months ago a friend of mine who is a liberal (white) academic was saying some negative things about Hindu nationalism in relation to Islamophobia and wondered what Muslim students on campus would think about the tolerance that Hindu nationalist speakers are shown in the United States. My first thought: the only Muslims who care about Hindu nationalists are South Asians. Arabs probably don’t even know anything about Hindu nationalists.

The reality is there is one overwhelming concern of Muslim Americans, and that’s Palestine. To be entirely frank many Arab Muslims don’t give a shit what happens to South Asian Muslims. They’re not as callous to proactively not care. It’s just that it never really comes onto their radar. What matters to them is what is happening in the Middle East.

The converse is not true. South Asian Muslims care a great deal about Palestine. As they should: Arabs and Middle Eastern people, in general, are the center of Islam’s mental hierarchy. Not explicitly so. But implicitly, obviously. In general, Arabs will not listen to South or Southeast Asians, or black Africans tell them anything about Islam. In contrast, non-Arabs will listen to Arabs about Islam (Turks and Persians are a special case, and may not defer as much to Arabs).

Ali’s transgressions led to pretty straightforward observations he was being an uppity Pakistani who should leave Israel-Palestine to Arabs. He doesn’t seem to have been traumatized by this, but that’s because I assume he expected that that would happen. South Asians who don’t defer on these sorts of religious issues will be put back in their place. The mosque in New York I went to as a small child had an ethnic division of labor. The South Asians, mostly Pakistani and Indian doctors, provided funds when needed, and the Arabs ran the mosque and took on adult and childhood religious education.

What Really Happens in China’s ‘Re-education’ Camps. You probably know about the ethnic and religious targeting of Uighurs, and the fact that hundreds of thousands have been placed in re-education camps.

Back in the day, I used to read Tariq Ramadan’s books to get a sense of what intellectual Muslims think from a moderately conservative viewpoint. Today he stands accused of multiple rapes and admits that he had many affairs. The thing for me to reflect on is that I have no doubt that Ramadan believes in an all-powerful God. And yet he knowingly commits what he believes to be sin (extra-marital sex). And he may have raped women.

High-resolution comparative analysis of great ape genomes.

In to Asia. Lots of human evolution and paleoanthropology happened in Asia.

The Lifespan of a Lie: The most famous psychology study of all time was a sham. Why can’t we escape the Stanford Prison Experiment?

The expected time to cross extended fitness plateaus.

Remember to listen to this week’s podcast:

15 thoughts on “Open Thread, 06/11/2018

  1. I can understand Arabs thinking of Islam as Arab-centric, but why do Iran Muslims think so? For instance, why does sunni-majority Palestine matter to them more than the plight of Shias in Pakistan or India?

    BTW, a rare exception to the Arab-centeredness seems to be Dawoodi Bohras: if I remember right many Yemeni Bohra kids learn Gujarati to listen to their Da’i-al-Mutlaq.

  2. The “Stanford Prison Experiment” is really so famous? I think I never had ear about these experiment until yesterday – I imagine that the Milgram Experiment, at least betwen the layman, is more famous (specially with his “what people do by obeyence to authority” undertone, with its all political and social implications), or perhaps even the Rosenhan experiment.

  3. A couple of genetics questions, and in each case, the response that I am looking for may not be not an answer to the question but a suggestion about where to look for an answer. Please keep in mind that my knowledge of genetics is low-level minor league compared to yours. I have not read any of the texts that you have recommended due at least to lack of time: perhaps once retired, though not sure that my intellect will still be up to it then. Unfortunately, as I age, my intellectual reach more & more exceeds my intellectual grasp.

    1) Linkage disequilibrium: typically, how many generations following a mutation before it effectively disappears? I ask about generations since I imagine that this is the only measure of time that is relevant across species.

    2) What are the indications that a gene or set of genes in one species originated in another, closely related, species? I am thinking here not only of the Denisovan and Neanderthal genes identified in modern homo sapiens sapiens, but also a science headline I saw last week about a ghost ape species that has been detected in the bonobo genome. I imagine that the question is pertinent as well to ghost ancestral populations discerned in modern (or ancient) human genomes.

  4. For instance, why does sunni-majority Palestine matter to them more than the plight of Shias in Pakistan or India?

    the iranian revolutionary regime has to had to prove its bonafides to the sunni world, so it goes really crazy pro-palestinian. in the early 80s iran looked the other way when hafez assad crushed the muslim brotherhood revolt in syria, and that was a black eye in its non-sectarian revolutioanry credentials.

    as for shias in pakistan or india, there’s a fair amount of racism in iran against south asians (and arabs). khomeini got some shit because his family lived in northern india for a few generations:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruhollah_Khomeini#Early_years

    (among the shias of lucknow)

  5. BTW, a rare exception to the Arab-centeredness seems to be Dawoodi Bohras: if I remember right many Yemeni Bohra kids learn Gujarati to listen to their Da’i-al-Mutlaq.

    ismailis are exceptional in a lot of ways. arguably twelver shias are more like sunnis than like ismailis these days.

  6. 1) Linkage disequilibrium: typically, how many generations following a mutation before it effectively disappears? I ask about generations since I imagine that this is the only measure of time that is relevant across species.

    depends on the recombination rate. also, LD depends on the variation in the genome in the first places. depends on other params too if u r talking about a selective sweep.

    but LD in mixed populations, black americans, uyghurs, etc., detectable due to ancestral blocks. but starts to get hard for south asians. so it seems genome-wide our currently detection is OK 1 to 2 thousand years ago. but not so good 3-4 thousand years ago. very very evidence in the hundreds of year range (like in mixed new world pops).

    2) What are the indications that a gene or set of genes in one species originated in another, closely related, species? I am thinking here not only of the Denisovan and Neanderthal genes identified in modern homo sapiens sapiens, but also a science headline I saw last week about a ghost ape species that has been detected in the bonobo genome. I imagine that the question is pertinent as well to ghost ancestral populations discerned in modern (or ancient) human genomes.

    the simplest explanation is that there is an expected phylogenetic tree you infer from any random gene you compare across species. the branches of variation within species should be shorter than between species. so if you see a ‘long branch’/outlier, then there might be something funny going on.

  7. @RK c. 8:52AM

    Thanks for the prompt reply but too abbreviated for me to fully understand (esp. the response to the 2nd Q), though I think I get some idea. Does Reich (2018) cover any of this? I am assuming that if so, he does so at a level that I will able to understand.

  8. he alludes to #1. not sure about #2.

    re: #2. every genetic phylogenetic tree has genetic sequence/variation inputs. when you have speciation there is no gene flow and the gene-trees diverge in a consistent way. gene flow on a particular locus often deviates from the expected topology of the gene trees.

    concrete example:

    species a & b separate 5 million years ago and both go through strong bottlenecks right after. looking at the genes which vary in each other population you see that genes tend to coalescene around <5 million years. you find one gene though where 70% of the genetic lineages coalesce <5 million years ago in the normal manner, but one gene is really really different and seems to have diverged >5 million years ago. also, there is a long long haplotype of associated divergent variations. that is a good clue that it’s introgression.

  9. Thanks. But still what do they get by proving their bonafides to the sunni world? Hajj privileges? Status of shias in Sunni-majority areas? Soft power? Or they need to prove their bonafides to the sunni world to keep their own flock from being Arabized out of legitimacy quests?

  10. Robin Hanson is asking why it is that evolution seems to favor the emergence of two sexes in animals, while plants tend to hermaphroditism (Tim Tyler suggests mobility & mate choice is a big part of the answer). I know you don’t tend to focus on plants, but as someone knowledgeable about evolution I figured you’d be a good person to ask.

  11. I think Palestine is so important for Muslims in general largely because of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the third holy city in Islamic belief (the first two are Mecca and Medina), and it is a city contested between Muslims and Crusaders in the past, so there is a huge load of feelings among Muslims when it comes to Jerusalem.

  12. At ye olde College of knowledge, we of course read Summa Theologica. Dude was *the* ferocious scholasticiser. When reading him, you couldn’t come up with a thought that he hadn’t cacklingly anticipated and was about to ramify straight into dialectic infinity. As in ramming your face into the mat until you cried, “All right, all right, Free Willy!”

    So, you are “not a big believer in whole hog Thomism.”

    Which part of hog you like? Science-y ribs cooked tender, enhanced in flavor by the tangy smokes of the apocalypse, *al Paglia*? =}

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