Open Thread, 07/09/2018

My review of The University We Need: Reforming American Higher Education is up at National Review Online (it’s already posted to my total content feed). The book’s publication date is tomorrow.

A  review can only pack in so many things. So if there is something missing that seems obvious, it’s probably something that I cut in the interest of space (e.g., the author is not a fan of the emphasis on football and such at many universities, but I didn’t touch on that in the review). The University We Need is a short book, but it’s very dense in ideas and suggestions. Unfortunately, comments on NRO and Twitter indicate many people haven’t really read the review, so they won’t read the book.

Surely one reason I enjoyed the book is that the author is someone with whom I’m coincidently on the same wavelength. I first encountered his work nearly twenty years ago, when I read A History of the Byzantine State and Society, a ~1,000-page survey of the topic. In many ways a scholarly “core dump”, it has stood me in good stead all these years. But at the time I was totally unaware that the author, Warren Treadgold, and I shared broadly similar politics in the grand scheme of things. That is, we were intellectually oriented people who were also not on the Left.

I don’t consider myself a conservative intellectual. I’m just an intellectual who happens to be conservative because the Left terrifies me (I have real personal reasons!). Treadgold’s work similarly is not informed by him being a conservative intellectual. Rather, he’s a scholar whose views default to the Right as opposed to the center or Left because of where the dominant tendency in academia today is.

I’m currently reading A History of Japan. I think I’m getting stale and predictable. I read John Keay’s Midnight’s Descendants: A History of South Asia since Partition really quickly a few weeks ago. Need to move out beyond my tendency of reading long histories and lots of genetics papers.

I have a stack of books on cognitive psychology and cultural evolution I need to get through, though I think papers are probably more useful in the latter area, since I’ve read a fair number of books already on this topic (e.g., Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture and Synthesize the Social Sciences).

Speaking of psychology, there are some really good podcasts in that field out. Part of it is there is so much to talk about with the replication crisis. I really enjoyed Two Psychologists Four Beers, for example. Though not surprisingly they sort of still mischaracterize the views and issues of conservatives or non-liberals in academia…there are so few who are “out” and vocal with their politically normal colleagues that people just don’t know what’s going on in their heads and it’s easy to mischaracterize.

This is the week when you follow the #SMBE2018 hashtag on Twitter. I assume a lot of papers are going to come out in the next few weeks after people present at SMBE.

Estimating recent migration and population size surfaces. This seems important. Definitely going to read.

How eliminating the ‘kill box’ turned Mosul into a meat-grinder.

Genetic analysis of social-class mobility in five longitudinal studies.

Male homosexuality and maternal immune responsivity to the Y-linked protein NLGN4Y.

Hung out with Stuart Ritchie this week. Still recommend his book, Intelligence: All That Matters.

There was some discussion on ancient DNA and archaeology on Twitter. Has ancient DNA changed everything? Or not?

First, I think it’s important to acknowledge that many of the models which have emerged out of ancient DNA are resurrections of older anthropological, archaeological, and historical frameworks, which emphasize migration. But these were long dismissed within many of these fields. Like David Reich in Who We Are and How We Got Here I believe that there was a political rationale for this. As someone who has read deeply in paleoanthropology and history for twenty years, I reject the idea that ancient DNA is actually not that revolutionary because I remember what passed as conventional wisdom 10-20 years ago.

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8 thoughts on “Open Thread, 07/09/2018

  1. I finished Treadgold’s book a few days ago. Liked many of his ideas. Alas I’m not a multi-billionaire and so can’t implement any of them. I also think the odds are against legislation passing Congress in the next year or two. I do not rule out eventual national legislation. But as demonstrated by the big time gap between the publishing of Losing Ground and Bill Clinton signing a welfare reform bill into law (1984 to 1996), building up national support for a big policy initiative takes a lot of time.

    However, on the bright side I think even a hundred millionaire could implement a couple of Treadgold’s ideas instead of waiting for Congress. Create a private National Dissertation Review Board and a private board for looking for plagiarism and fraud. Start out small with just two to four academic disciplines. A web site that publishes dissertation reviews or plagiarism findings would provide useful ammunition for state legislators who want to reform their state university systems.

    I also think some state legislatures could pass laws to change state university rules for hiring, promotion, free speech, administrative burden, and other aspects of state university governance. If a group made the effort to draft some model legislation for state legislatures and promoted the ideas they might manage to get some of their reforms enacted in several states.

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  2. His audacious proposal is that this nation needs another elite university to serve Americans who dissent from fashionable leftist politics and postmodern scholarly nihilism. An elite university where first-rate conservative, moderate, and heterodox scholars could gather to provide more traditionally inclined students a world-class education — and produce high-quality research that fosters genuine viewpoint diversity while being taken seriously by other academics. … Not only does he propose a location (the suburbs of Washington, D.C., to be near a center of power) …

    How much is George Mason University (located in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.) already that university?

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  3. Razib: I thought I posted the following to this thread last night:

    I read the review, it was very well written, but I was not impressed by Treadgold’s thesis. My theory is that if a certain institutional structure keeps giving the same social outputs after repeated iteration, the problem is the institutional structure. If Treadgold U is structured like Harvard et. al., it will produce outputs like Harvard et. al. in the long run.

    Evidence for my view: I attended the University of Chicago in the late 60s. It was not monotonically conservative by any means. But, it was the home of the Milton Friedman, Leo Strauss, and numerous other conservative intellectuals. The President, Edward Levi, became Gerry Ford’s Attorney General.

    In the 21st century there are few conservatives remaining on campus, and the University is best known for Barack Obama.

    I think the way to deal with the Universities is by forcing a restructuring of the institutions. Examples of initiatives: make their investment income other than federal and municipal bonds taxable, impose a large one time tax on excess accumulations of endowments, require administrative and financial separation of grant supported or contract research from teaching, ditto for medical centers and big dollar athletic programs (e.g. Alabama, Ohio State, Duke), wage and price controls (a maximum annual tuition of $24,000), eliminate non-germane distribution or liberal arts course requirement from undergraduate programs and cut them to three years, separate advanced degrees for teaching and research, and, my favorite, admission by lottery to all so called selective schools.

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  4. your book recs are like straight, warm gin! i’ve read many now and your book taste reminds me of Andrei Tarkovsky fans – too refined for my intellect. my book level is more on your TV/movie level i think, not quite as elitist. I did just finish that new dinosaur book, one on U.S./Saudi history, and See You Again in Pyongyang along with some others. man, NoKo is an insane country to be sure.
    i’ll do “war…what is it good for?” sometime in the next few days.

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  5. Currently reading The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs (so far good but not as good as say, The Tyrannosaur Chronicles). I read a review of it on a website I like ( https://chasmosaurs.com/2018/07/03/book-review-the-rise-and-fall-of-the-dinosaurs/ ) and while from what I read I agreed with him on a few points, he brought up this bizarre point about the book not being “inclusive” because the author’s experiences were primarily with male colleagues who like to sit down and have beers. He even linked to some ridiculous paleontologist’s complaints about male colleagues networking over beer or *gasp* thinking field experience is necessary in earth sciences. Now, I’m not a paleontologist or even a scientist but I feel some of these complaints about “representation in science” is special P.C. pleading trying to problemize men being successful in a field that (for likely biological reasons) tends to attract more men. Am I wrong here or is sexism more rampant than I thought in the sciences?

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  6. After 30 years, police say they’ve captured a child-killer who left a sickening trail of taunts
    by Kyle Swenson July 16
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/07/16/i-been-watching-you-a-child-killer-taunted-little-girls-with-terrifying-notes-police-say-after-30-years-dna-led-to-an-arrest/

    Documents show the arrest was not the result of intense media attention over the years — the case was featured twice on “America’s Most Wanted” as well as a 2016 episode of “Crime Watch Daily” — nor the repeated pleas for information that followed the 30th anniversary of April’s death last April. Once again, the new lead in the cold case is thanks to the dramatic scientific breakthrough pairing forensic DNA with genealogical research.

    The new science has led to a run of cold-case arrests, including the prosecution of alleged “Golden State Killer” Joseph James DeAngelo and an arrest in the 1992 murder of Pennsylvania schoolteacher Christy Mirack. Court records indicate the break in April’s case came thanks to Parabon NanoLabs, a company based in Reston, Va., that is at the center of many of the recent high-profile cases.

    … DNA evidence found in the girl’s underwear also did not initially point to a perpetrator. The barn message scrawled two years later in 1990 unnerved the community. But again, the taunting note produced nothing in terms of immediate concrete investigative evidence.

    In 1990, police discovered a message on a barn door apparently left by April Tinsely’s killer.

    But the alleged killer surfaced again 14 years later.

    In 2004, four notes were left at homes scattered across the Fort Wayne area. Three of the messages — written on lined yellow paper — were placed on young girls’s bicycles. An additional note was put in a mailbox. Three of the messages were inside plastic bags with used condoms and Polaroid pictures of the sender’s nude lower body. Several of the notes referred to April.

    “Hi honey,” one note read, according to a picture released by the FBI. “I been watching you I am the same person that kinapped an rape an kill Aproil Tinsely you are my next victim.” The same message demanded that the young girl report the note to the police; the writer said that if they didn’t see an article on the message in the newspaper or on the local TV station, they would blow up the child’s house.

    Again, the letter did not immediately point police toward a suspect. But the DNA material recovered from the condoms matched the evidence recovered from Tinsley’s underwear — concretely linking the deranged 2004 notes with the 1988 killing.

    Years passed. The case flickered in and out of the national spotlight. Last April, to mark the 30th anniversary of April’s murder …
    According to the recently filed court documents, by the next month, the case had taken a dramatic turn.

    In May, the Fort Wayne Police Department submitted the suspect’s DNA to Parabon NanoLabs. Using public genealogy databases, the firm’s researcher CeCe Moore was able to narrow the possible suspects down to two brothers in the Fort Wayne area.

    In 2004, April Tinsley’s killer allegedly left notes for other young girls, threatening that they would be next. (FBI)

    Police tracked one — Miller — to a trailer park in Grabill, Ind., outside Fort Wayne. Investigators pulled trash from the location, including three used condoms Miller had allegedly discarded. According to the probable-cause affidavit, the DNA from the recently obtained condoms matched the DNA from the 2004 condoms, which matched the genetic profile found on the victim.

    On Sunday, two detectives approached Miller outside his trailer and asked him to come to the police station to talk. There, after advising Miller of his rights, the detectives asked him whether he knew why they wanted to speak with him.

    “April Tinsley,” the suspect allegedly told police, according to the affidavit.

    According to the court document, Miller confessed after learning police had a DNA match linking him to the murder. …

    Miller faces felony charges of murder, child molestation and criminal confinement.

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  7. “That is, we were intellectually oriented people who were also not on the Left.

    I don’t consider myself a conservative intellectual. I’m just an intellectual who happens to be conservative because the Left terrifies me (I have real personal reasons!). Treadgold’s work similarly is not informed by him being a conservative intellectual. Rather, he’s a scholar whose views default to the Right as opposed to the center or Left because of where the dominant tendency in academia today is.”

    Progress!

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