Open Thread, 07/17/2018

History of Japan: Revised Edition. As I said, a pretty good and short history. Recommended.

CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing scissors are less accurate than we thought, but there are fixes. I know the focus is on human genetics. And rightly so. But this isn’t going to be as much of an issue in animal and plant breeding.

Patterns of speciation and parallel genetic evolution under adaptation from standing variation.

Genome-wide analysis in UK Biobank identifies over 100 QTLs associated with muscle mass variability in middle age individuals.

Amazon told me R for Everyone: Advanced Analytics and Graphics was on sale. Great. But I already own it. That being said, I can tell you it’s a pretty good book.

Genome doubling shapes the evolution and prognosis of advanced cancers.

Against Moral Equivalence. “The talking heads trafficking in examples of U.S. interference neglect to mention that the goal of American policy has always been to prop up anti-totalitarian, pro-market leaders.” I dislike the tendency of American conservatism to conflate anti-authoritarian and pro-market. The two are distinct (I’m pro-market for what it’s worth, but capitalism is amoral, even though it leads to greater human well-being).

Large randomized controlled trial finds state pre-k program has adverse effects on academic achievement.

Archaeobotanical evidence reveals the origins of bread 14,400 years ago in northeastern Jordan.

Confronting Implicit Bias in the New York Police Department. Implicit bias stuff is sketchy science. But people want solutions for social problems.

How Social Science Might Be Misunderstanding Conservatives. I got introduced to the “authoritarian personality” in college. I didn’t think much about it, but over the years it seemed pretty clearly a bit rigged. But whatever. Then I read The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950. That’s where it comes from. Enough said, right?

Tides of History is a great podcast. Now Patrick Wyman is talking about the “Hundred Years War.”

Should I post “open threads” anymore? It seems that the number of comments keeps dropping. Really “everything” is moving to Twitter nowadays though Twitter is a wasteland.

A “carvaka” perspective historicity of myth and religion. A long post on Brown Pundits by me. Was asked once why I post there and not here, and why here and not there. 45% of the readers of that weblog are from Indian IPs. 5% here. About twice as much traffic here, but much more engagement there (bounce rate 70% vs. 40%).

47 thoughts on “Open Thread, 07/17/2018

  1. I do appreciate your open threads. Food for thought, even though there is not much to comment sometimes.

    This time I want to add that the American perception of Capitalism and Socialism is way off and distorted all to often.
    Free market is always an illusion and that a lot of Americans propagate that its better to trust private companies than the state tells a lot.
    If the state intervenes and controls for the greater good where it seems necessary, that doesnt mean less freedom for business in general, where private initiative seems superiour.
    Also a market economy and the current financial Capitalism are two different things.

  2. I find the link roundup useful and usually click through to one or two. Do you get stats on how many readers follow links from one of these posts? If enough people make use of it, it seems like a relatively low effort way of sharing some interesting thoughts and articles.

    I rarely comment because I rarely have anything I care to add, but I stay completely off social media; I need to preserve my attention budget for things that actually matter, like my own science, and for the handful of writers that I choose to follow regularly the ‘old fashioned, dawn of blogs’ way. So I hope you continue to keep one foot in the blog world, even if all the discussion is indeed moving to twitter.

  3. I don’t comment here but I always enjoy the open threads. Especially when you were reading Bakker’s as I wanted to see what your reaction would be 🙂

  4. Do keep open threads. They are interesting.

    And keep the blog. Twitter is evil. But I’m not clear on what you mean by a ‘wasteland’.

  5. «“The talking heads trafficking in examples of U.S. interference neglect to mention that the goal of American policy has always been to prop up anti-totalitarian, pro-market leaders.” I dislike the tendency of American conservatism to conflate anti-authoritarian and pro-market. »

    But note that he writes “anti-totalitarian”, not “anti-authoritarian”; attending that, in the “Cold War dialect”, “totalitarian” was almost code for “communist” (the difference between “authoritarianism” and “totalitarism” was that in the first it was supposed to exist an independent civil society – in practice, a relatively free economy), perhaps it is not too far-fetched to equate “anti-totalitarian” and “pro-market”.

    About the “authoritarian personality” – independently of the roots of the concept, I have the idea that we can find very similar conclusions developed independently: for example, look to the MBTI; afaik, has nothing to do with the Frankfurt School (its roots are Jungian, while I think that Frankfurt School were more Freud+Marx; and I think that the creators of MBTI had no specific interest in politics), however, what is the Sensing-Judging combination if not the “authoritarian personality” by another name (and, like the old “authoritarian personality”, seems to be some correlation between SJ and political and social conservatism)? And the idea that conservatism (or at least social conservatism) should be associated with “rigid thinking” could be wrong, but it seems largely intuitive (perhaps almost by definition? After all, if you trust more in prejudice than in reason, and think that the respect by established social codes of conduct is what prevents society of descending in chaos, this put you in the “rigid thinking” box almost by default – of course, this not mean that the inverse is true); but I suspect that the American habit of calling “conservative” to everything right-wing could turn this a bit more confuse (I don’t see any reason to imagine that a Chicago economist should have “rigid thinking”, for example; if anything, in economics, I suspect of this more in the average Marxist – or the average Austrian, btw).

  6. Yet again about the “authoritarian personality” and adjacent issues, and reading the article of the NYMag, I have the suspicion that in these issue both positions could easily to fall in a kind of circular reasoning, when each side could argue “I am correct”. For example, looking to this passage:

    “In a paper published in Political Psychology in 2015, they reported on the results of a clever study in which they had respondents fill out either a version of the original scale, a version modified to tap liberal sentiments, or a version modified to tap conservative sentiments. In the original scale, for example, one of the items was: “A group which tolerates too much difference of opinion among its own members cannot exist for long.” In one tweaked version, the word religious was inserted before group; in the other, the word environmental was inserted instead. As it turned out, these tweaks affected which group responded more “dogmatically” a great deal. (…) In fact, there was little difference between how conservatives scored on the original scale and the tweaked-to-be-more-explicitly-conservative version, lending credence to the claim that the original scale was biased in a direction that captured more conservative than liberal dogmatism.” But this could also be used to argue, not that the original test if biased, but in favor of the traditional view, that conservatives are more dogmatic by default, while “liberals” only are dogmatic in issues strongly connected with their political views.

  7. RE: Open threads

    1) They often contain good suggestions for what to read
    2) They are where I have asked otherwise off-topic questions about genetics, evolution and, I think though not certain, history.

    If you feel that it is too much effort taken from other tasks to collect material to post for open threads, post one without information for people to discuss and ask questions. It will keep the threads for specific posts more on topic.

    Like others above, I am not on twitter either actively or passively. This is the only science blog I regularly follow.

  8. Possibly my first post here. I also appreciate the open threads, and though I lurk unless I have something very specific to contribute, I find these interesting and hope you continue with them.

  9. Read Seymor Drescher’s “Abolition: A History of Slavery and Antislavery” this year and can recommend it as a definitive survey of the history of slavery, at least from the 15th century on, focused primarily on the Atlantic-facing regions (Africa, the Islamic Mediterranean and Western Europe). The compare and contrast btw/ the Anglo, French, and Iberian experience was particularly helpful. Also, the author frequently used the transatlantic slave trade database to test whether events are significant. If, for example, the Haitian revolution is followed by an increase in the transatlantic slave trade, then its relationship to abolition is at best indirect.

    Been thinking about this in light of recent articles condemning the Enlightenment, in part for its role in slavery (or something). People are selecting marginal people, writings or events that were insignificant, and assuming slavery, which had always existed, was being discussed or questioned seriously, rather than mostly being ignored if it was happening somewhere else.

  10. “Should I post “open threads” anymore?
    I rarely comment because I’m usually not well versed enough on the subject matter to make a salient point.
    I do enjoy learning from the links provided and other commentators though.

  11. I like the open threads, although you need a critical number of commentators for it to really take off. Otherwise it just takes too long to have a discussion (there’s a sweet spot between “too few commentators and discussion is too slow” and “too many commentators and the spammers show up”).

    I was thinking about how George RR Martin kept a lot of history and IRL stuff so that his setting would look plausibly familiar. But it got me thinking about how different a fantasy setting really could be. If you’ve got a setting where fighting at close quarters either with Bronze/Iron Age Weapons (whether on foot or mounted) is suicidal because any realm worth its salt will have multiple sorcerers who can scour the landscape with fire, then not just warfare but your entire society would be vastly different from the get-go.

    It’d be like how R Scott Bakker in the Second Apocalypse series outright tells the readers that if the chorae for sorcerers didn’t exist, they’d have long dominated civilization (and warfare – without the chorae, they’re effectively impervious to arrows and can kill en masse from a distance, only limited by exhaustion).

  12. If the state intervenes and controls for the greater good

    Aye, there’s the rub. One cannot assume that government intervention is automatically good. “Government always operate in the public interest” is obviously false. “Governments operate in the public interest when my people run them” is a dangerous delusion (one, of course, shared by our current president).

    History shows that power attracts people who want power and they often don’t use it in the best ways, from the license Raj of post-colonial India to the micro-regulation of Brussels to the military establishments and police and intelligence agencies in so many times and places.

    And though no one likes to think about it, if governments are to be given the benefit of the doubt whenever they purport to “control for the greater good,” civil liberties will drain away.

  13. Razib,
    Please keep the open threads going, sometimes it is the random small bites that end up interesting and unexpected.

    And thanks for all the good work on your podcast as well, it is quite the effort.

    Citizen AllenM

  14. Another voice chiming in to say keep the open threads.

    Razib, are you still looking for recommendations on Ancient Greek history? If so I recommend ‘The Lords of the Sea’ by John Hale. It’s focus -how the Athenian thalassocracy was created, what it did, and why it failed- may be a little narrower than what you had in mind but it is a well written and illuminating history that nicely buttresses your knowledge of what was happening in Greece c.500-300 BC.

  15. Really enjoyed the Hundred Years War episode. My only complaint is that it covered too much ground. I was would have enjoyed more episodes, looks to me like he’s going to cover the war in two.

    Only somewhat familiar with Japanese history, would love a recommendation for a book that develops or furthers the understanding of the broad systemic similarities between Japan and Western Europe as hypothesised here:

  16. I have to say I haven’t been commenting as much because when you migrated to this site, your old RSS on my feedly stopped working. I stopped checking as frequently, and often it was only days after the post (and most of the discussion) that I would see you put something new up. Your post on this got me to finally get off my lazy duff and search for the updated RSS, so I should be commenting a bit more frequently.

  17. Another voice saying please keep the open threads. I enjoy both your content and the comments.

  18. @Miguel Madeira:But this could also be used to argue, not that the original test if biased, but in favor of the traditional view, that conservatives are more dogmatic by default, while “liberals” only are dogmatic in issues strongly connected with their political views.

    That seems kind of a strange interpretation of that evidence though; it seems like it would probably make more sense to argue that both groups are equally “dogmatic” in support of groups that they identify with, but Conservatives are simply more likely to identify with and take frame of being loyal to a group, without qualifiers.

    More parsimonious and human universalist, as you’re assuming both groups exhibit similar behaviour towards a group they’re loyal to, rather than that Conservatives have a consistent dogmatism (with exceptions), while Liberals are non-dogmatic (with exceptions). (Also seems supported as Conservatives almost always seemed more group oriented and to prize loyalty higher in all J Haidt’s data.).

    Though as you say, circular reasoning is very possible in this domain.

  19. Chiming in to say I like the open threads with the book recommendations and such, even if I don’t comment on them, either.

    At this point, You’d have to pay me at least $5/month to even maintain a Twitter account, much less use it.

  20. Razib — have you read When They Severed Earth from Sky: How the Human Mind Shapes Myth by Barber and Barber? Based on your recent Brown Pundits post, I think you might find it interesting.

  21. Open threads have an advantage over twitter – everybody could participate, and not only people with a twitter account (even more relevant with the constant purges of people from twitter)

  22. Ron Unz finally went full-on blood libel. It is jawdropping.

    Strangely, it doesn’t seem like anyone outside the Unzosphere has taken notice.

  23. Any interest in discussion threads on the Insitome podcasts? (And yes btw I left a very positive Stitcher review.) Here seems as good a place as any in the meantime.

    FWIW I’ll say here that Spencer’s obviously correct (it seems) that hunter-gatherers would move to an unoccupied frontier area rather than engage in dangerous intergroup violence, but that escape is likely a rare option. Much more common would be a situation where there’s no frontier that a hunter-gatherer group would know of. For example, it likely only took 1k-2k years to populate the Americans, and for the remaining 12k-15k years, no frontier. I don’t think Spencer wrestled with the Malthusian factors that Razib brought up as a contributor to intergroup violence.

    OTOH I haven’t read Spencer’s book, maybe it fleshes out his thinking.

  24. @anonygene

    No no, he paid a young researcher quite a bit of money to make sure it was all true you see…

    Jawdropping is the correct word.
    I assume that most of his regular readers are on board with that essay but I hope I’m wrong.

  25. HG fought for territory in general and valuable food sources in particular. Migration was, as a rule, the result of losing a fight, overpopulstion or a recession of natural food sources.
    There is plenty of evidence for fights between HGS.

    As for the state issue: Someone has to take responsibility and the state is the necessary structure, ideal or not. If the primary goal of business is to make profits, of course the political administration should control and guide.

    Power is ok, if being used in an ok way. And if the political power being abused, its about the populace to control it.
    In any case, its the neglectence of the state by the general populace combined with the Capitalist ideology which makes it that bad. Because capitalists overtake everything in the state while communicating to the average dummy how bad state influence is. Thats a vicious circle.

  26. As an aside, lately I’ve been thinking about how the rise in modern U.S. political factionalism coincided with the end of the Cold War.

    I mean, for most of the U.S.’s early history, we were a deeply factional nation – in terms of partisanship if not ideology, because the parties were not particularly ideological in a modern sense. The greatest threat to each of the political parties was seen as the opposing faction, not any existential threat from outside the U.S.

    With World War 2 and the Cold War, this changed. The biggest threat to political interests was no longer seen as internal, but external. During this historic period you saw the rise of new “nonpartisan” institutions, such as a media which attempted to be objective. And you had a much greater willingness to work across the aisles on political issues. One could even argue that part of the reason that elite resistance to pushing civil rights (outside the South) finally broke was in part because the ruling class realized segregation was horrible for the PR of the U.S. as the hegemonic power promoting “freedom.”

    As the cold war unwound itself, the U.S. returned to extreme levels of partisan division. There simply are no threats to U.S. hegemony, or even stability, which are considered so salient that detente could be re-established. Where existential threats are seen by one faction (say climate change for the left, or immigration from the right) the other side simply doesn’t agree any issue exists.

    I think this status quo – with the U.S. inward-focused, with both sides concentrating on defeating their internal enemies rather than pursuing broader “American interests” will continue until such time as China (or another group of powers) laps the U.S. in terms of global power to such a degree we need to notice we are no longer top dogs.

  27. That’s a vicious circle in your logic. People in government don’t use power “in an ok way” because “capitalists overtake everything” so the people in government must be given more power to hold back the capitalists.

    Failure by government is proof that it needs to do more.

  28. Another vote for the open thread!

    Also, Controversial CRISPR ‘gene drives’ tested in mammals for the first time

    CRISPR-based gene drives use the gene-editing tool to copy a mutation on one chromosome to the second of the pair, usually during an animal’s early development. When Cooper’s team attempted this in mouse embryos, the mutation was not always copied correctly, and the process worked only in female embryos.

    The team estimated that this could lead to a mutation being transmitted to about 73% of a female mouse’s offspring, on average, instead of the usual 50% for most genes operating under the normal rules of inheritance. Cooper declined to comment on her team’s work, because it has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

    Link to the Biorvix paper:

  29. I assume that most of his regular readers are on board with that essay but I hope I’m wrong.

    It’s a strange site. Razib was there, Dr. Thompson and
    Sailer are still there. It has progressed over the last couple of years. He pushed David Irving a couple of weeks ago.

  30. “HG fought for territory in general and valuable food sources in particular. Migration was, as a rule, the result of losing a fight, overpopulation or a recession of natural food sources.”

    Yeah, I suppose some HGs would rather fight than flee to an unoccupied frontier, but plenty others would flee right away, or as you say do so after losing a fight or other Malthusian reasons.

    Malthus is a real problem. My personal suspicion is that even bonobos used to get even more violent than the only-somewhat limited amount they do now, when their population is controlled by human violence. The only effective control for HGs other than starvation and violence is infanticide, and that only works if everybody does it across a region, as opposed to a single group practicing population control and then getting overwhelmed. That seems unlikely. I doubt Hgs chose starvation over intergroup violence (except when they’re certain losers in a prospective fight), so it seems like intergroup violence has to be the primary negative feedback to Malthusian factors for HGs.

  31. Even if they used “birth control”, what most of them did not, any external pressure, any adverse natural event could turn things over.
    Actually, warfare was one, if not the driving force behind genetic and cultural evolution. We wouldnt be the same social species without and advantageous traits wouldnt have spread at the same rate.

  32. Karl Zimmerman – “As an aside, lately I’ve been thinking about how the rise in modern U.S. political factionalism coincided with the end of the Cold War.”

    My impression is that what Americans call “factionalism”, “polarization”, etc., is what in the other developed countries is considered business as usual (political parties with well-defined ideologies, with their representatives in Congress/Parliament usually voting in block, and with the party in the opposition rarely voting in the same way as the party in government).

  33. The open thread always has links I check out that I wouldn’t know about otherwise. It’s really useful!

  34. Discussion threads about the podcast episodes would be great.

    Razib — you and Spencer should do an episode about language. Talk about the major language families, what differentiates them from one another, how they complement genomic analysis of human populations, how people look at migrations based on language family distributions or variants etc. Surely there are bottleneck and founder effects in language as there are in genomes.

  35. Good and enjoyable podcast on the Han. But Spencer and Razib need some work on their Mandarin pronunciation.

  36. My conclusion on epicanthic folds and single eyelids is that they are probably just founder effects.

  37. Please do keep open threads going. I often click on the links. I think you probably get few comments because of the wide range of subjects covered briefly, but that does not mean they are not appriciated.

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