Open Thread, 11/12/2018

Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western Mind is an interesting book. Very much on the side of Erasmus. Like the author, I do think Erasmus turned out to be a beautiful loser. But ideas and biographies can have second acts.

How the GOP Gave Up on Porn. Basically, the war was lost. The curious thing about the pervasiveness of porn today is that arguably in many ways our modern society is more prudish than that of the 1970s and 1980s when the political activity around obscenity was very active.

Population genomics of grey wolves and wolf-like canids in North America.

The Summer’s Most Unread Book Is… From 2014. People don’t seem to finish non-fiction. Though for a lot of nonfiction books you don’t have to read every chapter, and they are very loose in a narrative sense.

Outlaw King Is a Lot Better Than You’ve Heard.

Estimates of the Heritability of Human Longevity Are Substantially Inflated due to Assortative Mating.

If you need a paper, Sci-Hub.

Linking Branch Lengths Across Loci Provides the Best Fit for Phylogenetic Inference.

Shades of complexity: New perspectives on the evolution andgenetic architecture of human skin.

A Two-Player Iterated Survival Game.

Cultural Selection Shapes Network Structure.

A new blog, Academic Parents. Two of my kids were born during graduate school. I was not the primary caregiver at all, and obviously did not give birth to them. But it was somewhat difficult still. Can’t imagine if I was the one taking care of the newborn.

It’s also nice to see people starting blogs. Both Twitter and YouTube streaming have replaced the “voice” that blogging gave random people, but both media are relatively vapid and shallow compared to having to write down your thoughts.

Bob Trivers’ Natural Selection and Social Theory is now a free PDF. Highly recommend this book. Trivers is an engaging writer.

Last week I made a bet with a friend that Republicans would gain one seat in the Senate, and Democrats would gain the House. Looks like I won that bet.


21 thoughts on “Open Thread, 11/12/2018

  1. “The Summer’s Most Unread Book Is…”

    We are still waiting for you to get around to reading Seveneves. Stephenson has published another novel since than, and has one scheduled for next year.

  2. Warning: plot spoilers ahead.

    The Outlaw King is not bad. It gets quite a few of the historical details right, while playing fast and loose with some, but I guess that’s to be expected. That review is bad, though; e.g. the climactic battle is not the Battle of Bannockburn, it’s the Battle of Loudoun Hill (they even say as much in the film), in which 600 Scots inflicted some heavy losses on 3,000 English while sustaining relatively few casualties themselves, mostly due to Bruce’s careful selection of the battle ground and defensive preparations. Contrary to the film, Edward II wasn’t there.

    I defer to Twinkie in such matters, but I think criticism of the battle scenes is unwarranted; I imagine that was pretty much what it was like, a confused bloody mess. Impressive what they got horses to do in the film without them being injured, assuming that’s true.

    It is certainly not overly long; seems like it might have been better with some of the cut scenes included. Worth watching, on balance.

  3. Outlaw king was better than most cinematic productions these days. Solid historical flick overall.
    But the depiction of the English was one sided, especially Edward II and his behaviour at the end: Unnecessary!
    Also the romantic story and behaviour of the royal couple was too modern and artificial for that setting. Rest fine.

  4. “People don’t seem to finish non-fiction.”

    Which means, if you have a Big Point to make, you should make it in a monograph of about 120 pages of 5.5″ x 8.5″. Digressions must go to the appendices.

    Historical narratives might come out better in the hands of a competent narrator.

  5. Have you ever tried Audiobooks? I have listened to all of Neal Stephenson’s books (several multiple times) and found them to be quite enjoyable when commuting or hiking. I have also listened to Tom Wolfe’s novels which I found far superior since you can ignore all the weird punctuation.
    The only books I read now are non-fiction.

  6. I defer to Twinkie in such matters, but I think criticism of the battle scenes is unwarranted

    I haven’t seen the film, so I can neither acclaim nor criticize. I will give it a try one of these days. It’s hunting season, so I am a bit busy.

    In general, military violence, including that of pre-modern times, is portrayed cartoonishly in almost all films. One of my pet peeves is both sides of a battle charging (running at full speed) into each other and then the battle quickly devolving into a giant mess of one-on-one combat between individual combatants.

    That’s stupid in the extreme. Men don’t fight well alone. Indeed they hardly fight alone at all. When an army loses cohesion like that, it breaks and fast. Fighting one-on-one in a melee, which effectively means one is blind 270 degree or so is pretty much unthinkable. Most men turn tails and flee long before that happens.

    Look up in YouTube “group MMA” to get a flavor of why this is the case. When, for example, six men fight six other men, basically the fight is over when one of the fighters beats his opposite number. Why? Because, then that winner sucker punches another fighter of the opposing team who is still engaged in one-on-one fight. Soon, it turns into a rout of several men beating on one or two remaining fighters.

    In reality, a group of six men (or even as few as three) can fend off the other six for a very long time by forming into a tight group and presenting a united front, a rudimentary shield-wall. As soon as a gap appears, though, the end is neigh.

    From an individual combatant’s point of view, pre-modern battles were probably extremely chaotic and messy. There is no doubt about that. But it’s also the case that most battles didn’t involve a whole lot of fighting – mostly skirmishing, followed by some pushing and shoving of shield-walls, and then one side losing morale/cohesion and breaking and running. Most fatalities in battles occurred in the pursuit phase, not during the actual battle itself.

    From a command perspective, medieval European battles were probably particularly confusing and chaotic. Armies usually fought in single, giant masses. They typically lacked the standardized training and indoctrination (of discipline) of the Roman legions and couldn’t operate in independent detachments nor did they possess the means of communication and battlefield control that modern armies possess (those who did such as the Mongols were exceptions). So the death of an army commander effectively ended a battle and led to defeat. And armies like that couldn’t fight, let alone maneuver in separate columns, and carry out complicated evolutions.

    That said, movies aren’t real life. Watching a real battle might be fascinating for people like me, but would probably be very boring for most people (since battles can take hours and even days at times, often involving little more than staring contests). Heroic depictions are a necessary device.

  7. Hi Razib,

    Have you seen this new paper (unfortunately behind a paywall)? If you have, do you have an opinion on it and it’s authors? Gist of it’s seems this south indian dravidian speaking tribe’s mtdna shows connections to the iranian plateau among others (from my limited understanding and reading your postings, mtdna especially in south india was usually haplogroups that had deep roots or were indigenous to subcontinent). Gives speculation this is further proof of iranian farmer connection with dravidian speaking populations? :


    October 2018, Volume 146, Issue 4–5, pp 383–389| Cite as

    Neolithic phylogenetic continuity inferred from complete mitochondrial DNA sequences in a tribal population of Southern India


    Authors and affiliations

    Charles Sylvester,
    Mysore Siddaiah KrishnaEmail author,
    Jaya Sankar Rao,
    Adimoolam Chandrasekar

    Charles Sylvester1

    View author’s OrcID profile

    Mysore Siddaiah Krishna1

    Email author

    Jaya Sankar Rao2

    Adimoolam Chandrasekar2

    1. Department of Studies in Zoology, University of Mysore, Mysore, India
    2. Anthropological Survey of India, Southern Regional Center, Mysore, India

    Original Paper
    First Online: 21 July 2018




    The subsequent human migrations that dispersed out of Africa, both prehistoric and historic and colonization of India by modern humans is unanimous, and phylogeny of major mitochondrial DNA haplogroups have played a key role in assessing the genetic origin of people of India. To address more such events, complete mitogenomes of 113 Melakudiya tribe of Southern India were sequenced and 46 individuals showed the presence of west Eurasian autochthonous haplogroups HV14 and U7. Phylogenetic analysis revealed two novel subclades HV14a1b and HV14a1b1 and sequences representing haplogroup U7 were included under previously described subclade U7a3a1a2* specific to India. Moreover, the present analysis on complete mtDNA reveals addition information of the spread and distribution of west Eurasian haplogroups in southern India, in tracing an unexplored genetic link between Melakudiya tribe with the people of Iranian Plateau, South Caucasus, and Central Asia. Coalescence ages of HV14 and U7a3a1a2* trees in the present study dates ~ 16.1 ± 4.3 and ~ 13.4 ± 5.6 kya respectively.

    Neolithic Phylogenetic Mitochondrial genome Haplogroups Tribe Southern India “

  8. Razib: Your tweet stream included a link to an article:

    Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’
    By Ann Gibbons Nov. 15, 2018

    The article quotes Kyle Harper.

    Two weeks ago we were in Venice. We went to St. Marks. The bronze horses that overlook the piazza are copies of the ones taken from Constantinople during the 4th Crusade. The originals are inside on the second floor. They are stunning. In Constantinople, they overlooked the Hippodrome during the tumultuous Century VI. Although the bloodiest scene there, the Nika Riots, was in 532.

  9. “Our Fortunetelling Genes” by Robert Plomin on Nov. 16, 2018

    “What is new in the last few years is the DNA revolution. Our ability to read the genetic blueprint of individuals and to predict, from birth, their psychological dispositions is growing by the day.”

    “Behavioral geneticists are interested in the 1% of DNA that makes us individuals. A century of research has found that these inherited DNA differences account for about 90% of the differences in people’s physical traits, such as height and eye color. What may come as a surprise is that DNA also accounts, on average, for about 50% of our differences in such psychological traits as personality, mental health and illness, and cognitive ability and disability.”

    “But knowing that traits are heritable is different from showing which actual differences in DNA are responsible for them. Only in the last decade have we found the necessary tool, a technological advance called SNP chips, which make it possible to map out hundreds of thousands of DNA differences across an individual’s genome quickly and cheaply.”

    “The answer is that summing the effects of thousands of SNPs can create powerful DNA fortunetellers. These are called polygenic (“many gene”) scores, and they are the stuff of the coming DNA revolution in psychology.”

    “his essay is adapted from Dr. Plomin’s new book, “Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are,” published by The MIT Press. He is a professor of behavioral genetics at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London.”

  10. Razib: I didn’t want save this for the next OT:

    “China’s Rules on Genes Are Too Tight” By Adam Minter on November 17, 2018

    * * *

    Late last month, in a move that’s largely been overlooked outside the scientific community, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology announced it had sanctioned six Chinese and foreign organizations for the “improper” collection, trading and export of Chinese genetic information. …

    Global collaboration has been a norm in genetic research for decades …

    The progress of scientific and medical research into genomic data is dependent on having access to lots of genomes from diverse populations. A U.S.-based researcher of gastric cancer, a condition relatively rare in the West, will naturally want genetic information from China, where it’s relatively common.

    * * *

    China first began erecting a thicket of regulations related to the trade of genetic information as early as 1998, largely to protect patient privacy. Over time, however, and especially in recent years, the rules about gene research have evolved to mirror China’s tech regulations, which require companies to store, process and analyze Chinese user data in China.

    The government is approaching the issue as if it has something to lose if foreign researchers learn from China’s genomes. … it’s treating Chinese genes as it does other forms of Chinese data — as a national security matter. Current regulations prohibit the export of genetic data without express state permission, while foreign researchers must collaborate with Chinese partners if they want to collect or access genomic data in China.

    * * *

  11. To JJ

    On HV14 a1 and U7; the connections between tribes and the fourth caste and Iranaian plateau mtDNA is well know, and has been discussed in a number of papers (

    Two autochthonous subhaplogroups–HV14a1 and U1a1a4, which are likely to have originated in the Dravidian-speaking populations approximately 10.5-17.9 thousand years ago (kya). The carriers of these maternal lineages might have settled in South India during the time of the spread of the Dravidian language. It is believed that proto-Dravidian language, most likely originated in Elam province of South Western Iran, and later spread eastwards with the movement of people to the Indus Valley and later the subcontinent India. Malekudi tribes may be more appropriately classified as Dravidian farmers (they grow arecanut, roll Beedis, and collect forest products).

    However, you see the problem with the above discussion; ELam is not in the Iranian plateau, and there is no way to proved that Malekudiya can be classified by age of coalescence. without ancient DNA, coalescence age tis not sufficient o prove an origin of haplogroup expansion in the Neolithic instead of later bottlenecks. Nevertheless, we are talking about mtDNA, it is likely that their analysis is mostly right.

    Nevertheless, I am nit satisfied; it is one thing is to prove that the origin of the Indus Valley Civilization lies (OK, at least a part of it) in peoples from the Iranian plateau, and to show with ASI ancestry that they are probably the origin of Proto-Dravidian expansion. Very difficult to prove an Elamo-Dravidian connection. You can go to, and download the paper, but the paper is a little bit short.

  12. @Vijay

    That is fascinating, yes that is a good point, Elam is not in the iranian plateu, I wonder if there was more than one language group that originated from the iranian farmers (non existent today or in one of the isolate languages i.e. burusho). Those dates are ancient, the genetic history of the ancient past is curiouser and curiouser on what people and civiliazations existed and were spread in those areas between the levant and east asia, or at least central/south asia adjacent (pre-indo-iranian). THANK YOU so much for the link for the paper, almost feel as if I just got a present for my birthday lol, feared I would have to wait awhile to get a copy. You’re gentleman and a bro Vijay! (I mean that in the complimentary use, just in case there are other negative connotations, i.e. frat bros) Thanks again!

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