Open Thread, 10/28/2018

An old friend from college has a new book out, Augmented Mind: AI, Superhumans, and the Next Economic Revolution. This looks to be in Jim Miller territory.

Sex in humans may not be binary, but it’s surely bimodal. Jerry Coyne is a well known evolutionary biologist who is also a vocal atheist. He’s now emeritus from the University of Chicago, and so I feel he’s kind of “out of step” with the culture. For example, within this post, which I generally agree with, he uses the term “transsexual” when most academics would use “transgender” to mean what he means. A lot of biologists don’t comment on this issue for two reasons. First, it’s politically fraught and you can’t really win. Second, the terms, norms, and frameworks are changing fast and constantly, so that people don’t even know what they’re addressing.

Speaking of fraught, the first robust SNP hits for male nonheterosexual behavior were reported at ASHG. The preprint should be out in less than four months. Antonio Regalado has already reported on it, Genes linked to being gay may help straight people get more sex. We plan to interview one of the authors on our podcast.

Recently talked to some people from Andy Kern’s lab about implications of Wright-Fisher vs. non-Wright-Fisher models in terms of spatial heterogeneity. It really makes me excited for the “forward simulation revolution.” Talking to people in evolutionary genomics that isn’t focused on getting NIH grants for human research, and it is clear why Matt Hahn has stated that there’s already enough data produced for many years to come.

A Tentative OUT OF INDIA Model To Explain The Origin & Spread Of INDO-EUROPEAN LANGUAGES. I’m skeptical of the conclusion, but this post has a lot of interesting information. Additionally, I think that AASI ancestry is going to be found in the Indus Valley between 3000 and 2000 BC…but I’m not totally sure. Johanna Nichols’ work is recommended though.

The Fifth Column podcast talks to Sarah Haider. In general, I’m a fan of the podcast.

Recently I’ve been thinking about China and Saudi Arabia. Recently we’re looking skeptically at our elite’s ties with Saudi Arabia. But what about China? Many researchers and businesspeople “have” to work with China, and unlike Saudi Arabia, it seems implausible that we can “avoid” interactions. But there are plenty of human rights issues with the Chinese state. The only conclusion I draw is that people need to be careful about getting on their high horses. Researchers who criticize working with the Saudis or in Israel should also consider them working with Chinese colleagues who are under the purview of a problematic state…but that penalize their Chinese colleagues, and would be harder and harder to maintain over the years.

Fast Hierarchical Bayesian Analysis of Population Structure.

The truth behind America’s most famous gay-hate murder. The media and the mainstream institutions basically colluded to create a narrative more politically convenient. Are we surprised?

15,000 Year Old Spearpoints Reveal Details About The Peopling Of The Americas.

When It Comes to Sleep, One Size Fits All.

Rare genetic sequences illuminate early humans’ history in Africa

The Blanning Frederick the Great book really is good. Though some of you might want to speed through the details of campaigns (and some of you may not).


26 thoughts on “Open Thread, 10/28/2018

  1. It’s a bloody pity that so many of the sites of the pre-Clovis folks are (probably) underwater now because of interglacial sea level rises. Maybe they can still find useful stuff, like the artifacts they’ve dredged up from Doggerland.

    The ice wouldn’t have been the only barrier. North America and South America (central America aside) have long west coast mountain ranges. Those would have been quite difficult to pass during a glacial epoch, even a retreating one. It would have been easier to stick to the coasts and keep heading south.

  2. The fifth column host Kmele Foster is very interesting. I would be very curious to learn his perspective about many issues across the whole stack.

  3. I’m interested in the sleep study, but I don’t have a WSJ subscription, and the little bit of the article they let me see doesn’t give enough information to find other reporting on the study. Could you give us a little more information from the WSJ article, like the names of the authors or the title of the study? (Or maybe a link we can all read?)

  4. Thoughts on Cochran’s pathogen theory as potential causation of obligate male homosexuality in humans?

    Seems we should invest in research in similar phenomenon in rams, something like 5-10% refuse to mate with ewe in heat, which is odd. Could be some virus, or perhaps immune suppression of virus accidentally zapping sexual targeting neurons in brain.

  5. I tell you: I’d be immensely wealthy if I’d gotten enough sleep from high school onward

  6. Is there a reason why China has such a large collection of surviving historical records vs, say, India or Europe. Is it just the fact that there was a more or less continuous centralized state that was capable of preserving those records? Or is there just a deep cultural desire for the making and preservation of written records?

    It is often astonishing the amount of mundane (yet very illuminating to the present) material that has survived, not just the usual texts from the academy/court/central bureaucracy. And it’s not like the heavily populated parts of China have an Egyptian climate that preserves everything for thousands of years.

  7. Is it just the fact that there was a more or less continuous centralized state that was capable of preserving those records? Or is there just a deep cultural desire for the making and preservation of written records?


    please note that we have a lot of ancient greek plays because of the byzantines. the muslims did not have a strong interest in pagan humanities. the chinese had a connection to their past and wanted to remember it. the ppl of the near east seem to have gone through multiple ruptures.

  8. About Matthew Shepard. It seems to me that Camille Paglia wrote something similar about 15 years ago. But I am traveling now and I do not have time to track it down.

  9. Thank you for promoting Jaydeepsinh Rathod’s article in Brown Pundits even though you don’t agree with it.

  10. You can’t equate China with Saudi Arabia, because KSA is spreading terrorism and some of the worst religious fanatism in all of human history, is brutal, ruthless and reckless on every level. Stupid as well.
    China on the other hand just defends a strong and independent nation, creates wealth and an alternative modernity.
    With all its faults there are still political worlds between those states.
    The world is not much worse off with a strong China, but definitely with a strong KSA.
    The Saudis caused a large portion of the Salafist frenzy worldwide and its a shame they were allowed to, just because of geopolitical considerations of the USA and Israel.

  11. Merkel is out. Her leaving will have an impact on Europe and the world. Parties like CDU/CSU will need to turn right and focus inwards. More polarisation and fragmentation of the political scene in Germany can be expected.

  12. @Tupac Chopra – In the case of earthquake records, it was because it was a large, centrally controlled state, and the emperor needed to know where to deploy resources to help the affected areas with recovery. So they invented devices from which they could triangulate to locate the epicentres, and also measure the magnitudes, and diligently kept records so they could know which areas were likely to be affected more often and how badly.

    I imagine there were lots of things like that – census, taxes, crop yields, coastal areas affected by tropical storm winds and storm surges (and tsunami, but they didn’t make the connection between large offshore earthquakes on subduction zones and the generation of tsunami waves – the Japanese did, but they were affected by them much more frequently) and lots of other things.

    Plus once the writing system was unified under the Qin emperor, I guess it got built into the culture.

  13. jim — I don’t have a Facebook account, but the WSJ used to unhide its articles for redirects from Google, so maybe they still have that policy for Facebook. With Google anyone could get past the paywall for any article, but with Facebook someone needs to post a particular article on their page, and I can see why the WSJ might want an article that someone takes the trouble to post to be available to other readers. And they may not have any way to determine if the reader is actually logged into Facebook, which would mean they have to open the article to everyone who comes from the redirect.

  14. @Tupac – There’s also the obvious thing I forgot to mention: veneration of ancestors, which requires the keeping of genealogical records. I know some eldest sons of families who, in some cases, hold records of their ancestors going back several hundred years.

  15. BTW, sometimes when I click “POST COMMENT” the comment just disappears, instead of remaining visible with the option to edit. But it still shows up eventually after being approved. This happened with the comment I just posted prior to this one (concerning redirects from Facebook to the WSJ). Looks like a bug in the comment system.

    Edit: With this comment I did get the timed “Click to Edit” option.

  16. In “Empires of the Word” it’s pointed out that climate plays a role in surviving written records. Most of our Aramaic texts are from Egypt, not because most Aramaic was written there but because the dry climate resulted in more paper surviving.


  17. BTW, sometimes when I click “POST COMMENT” the comment just disappears, instead of remaining visible with the option to edit. But it still shows up eventually after being approved. This happened with the comment I just posted prior to this one (concerning redirects from Facebook to the WSJ).

    if you post links it may go into mod-queue. also, i have turned on caching so that sometimes comments have a significant latency.

  18. Is the current Turkey-SA conflict (Kashoggi murder etc.) influenced at all by the Turks being the former political overlords of the Arabian Peninsula for centuries? Or is it too far in the past to matter?

  19. Joe Q., in the east time goes slower. 1918 was a few minutes ago. Not joking.

    Obviously I am a partisan for the Turks! Go Turkey! Turkish exceptionalism! Turkey rocks!

  20. Everyone should go check out the documentary “free solo” about Alex Honnold. The greatest athlete who has ever lived…has Asperger’s.

    I saw a rebuttal to that sleep study going around. The writer strongly disagreed.

  21. Re Coyne’s article, “Sex in humans” – quite agree with him that the problem with Fausto-Sterling’s article is that she is, and many others are, conflating sex and gender. But seems the problem there is that far too many are reluctant to define the relevant terms – primarily “sex” and “gender” – at the outset. And that the principles of taxonomy – “defining and naming groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics” – might reasonably be pressed into service on that score.

    From which we might conclude that “sex” is, by definition (related to the analytic-synthetic distinction), predicated on the ability to produce either of two gametes, ova or sperm; rather hard to ignore the fact that a rather large percentage of the population “share those two characteristics”, although that implies that some people then simply don’t have a sex since they can’t produce either gamete.

    And we can also reasonably conclude, and by the same principles (shared characteristics, and by definition), that a reasonable definition for “gender” is, as “promulgated” by Merriam-Webster, “the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex”. Which is of course not to say that those traits aren’t ultimately caused by or closely related to the criteria on which the definition for “sex” is based. Although, by that token, “gender” is hardly more than a synonym for “personality” of which there are, of course, billions and billions in a rather well populated and diverse “spectrum”.

    Seems that the naming of categories – based on “shared characteristics” – has to come first before we can talk reasonably about the reasons why those characteristics exist in the first place, why and to what extent they correlate with other characteristics, what are the sizes of the population segments which possess them, and what types of rights and responsibilities might reasonably be attached to them.

    Elaborations on those themes can be found in my Post Millennial article (A discussion on the Transgender issue), and one at Medium (The Imperative of Categories).


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