Open Thread, 12/10/2018

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Just a heads up that DNA Geeks is running a holiday sale on the microscopes with free shipping (until stocks are sold out).

Also, updating a plugin broke the site, so I had to deactivate and reactive all the plugins. For whatever reason, the ‘related posts’ plugin also no longer works. Does anyone click those links? Might have to find a replacement.

Models of archaic admixture and recent history from two-locus statistics.

Incidence of Dementia over Three Decades in the Framingham Heart Study. Decreased incidence.

China Launches First-Ever Mission to the Moon’s Farside.

Fourth Brown Pundits podcast, “the Golden Age of Islam”. Here are the iTunes and Stitcher links. Would appreciate subscriptions+reviews.

America’s New Religions. I dislike overuse of the term “religion.” And I’m generally skeptical of the idea of “political religion” as a useful term, as opposed just mass movement. But I think I”m coming around.

When it comes to religion, I take for granted that you’ve read a book like In Gods We Trust. That being said, I do wonder about the psychological research used to support some of the conclusions in the field of the cognitive anthropology of religion in the wake of the “replication crisis.” Some of the stuff, like depictions of eyes making you more ethical don’t seem to be robust findings.

On The Insight this week we talked Game of Thrones. Yes, I do think meiotic drive is the best rational explanation for the persistence of Valyrian characteristics.

More data from the Estonian Biocentre. Also, the title of a paper, “Multiple deeply divergent Denisovan ancestries in Papuans” which is clearly in review.

The presence and impact of reference bias on population genomic studies of prehistoric human populations.

Genetically Modified People Are Walking Among Us.

Contingency in the convergent evolution of a regulatory network: Dosage compensation in Drosophila.

Criticizing Islam is turned into “hate speech” on Facebook. The problem is that the “big platforms” like Twitter and Facebook are so big and diverse that it’s not that hard to “game them” and engage in speech policing. Facebook is really about family photos now. And Twitter is best done non-ironically if you have more than a trivial following.

George R.R. Martin takes time off from not writing his book to laud New York pizza.

Why We Miss the WASPs. The reactions seem to be driven by people who were not clear what the narrow connotations of “WASP” originally was.

Anti-Zionism Isn’t the Same as Anti-Semitism. I pretty much agree, though operationally the lines between ‘anti-Zionism’ and ‘anti-Semitism’ bleed over pretty easily.

36 thoughts on “Open Thread, 12/10/2018

  1. Hey Razib, trying to open the Brown Pundits feed in Pocket Casts makes the app crash (the beta version for what it’s worth)

  2. “Anti-Zionism Isn’t the Same as Anti-Semitism.” I’m and ex-Soviet Jew, so pretty biased on this topic.

    I agree that, theoretically, that this statement is true. However, for practical purposes, my presumption is that an Anti-Zionist is Anti-Semitic. This presumption, can and has been “overridden” for me depending on the consistency of their views.

  3. Re Suulivan’s piece. From a cultural evolutionary perspective, religion is an Axial age cultural construct which bound together groups at a larger scale than ever before. Making them spread and be more competitive.

    Within that framework, it’s an instrumental question of whether it’s worthwhile to call modern ideologies “religious” or “quasi-religions”. Totalitarian regimes (communist and socialist) in their day were also analyzed by some as quasi-religions. So it’s not like this is a idea.

    The reason I think it’s helpful, is the usefulness of religious terms to describe what’s going on with today’s culture wars: sin, cast out, denounce, heresy, apostasy, fundamentalist, heretic, etc.

    The term I’d use is quasi-religion, at least for now.

  4. I agree that, theoretically, that this statement is true. However, for practical purposes, my presumption is that an Anti-Zionist is Anti-Semitic. This presumption, can and has been “overridden” for me depending on the consistency of their views.

    If you are someone who is consistently opposed to any form of nationalism, or even just nation-states which have their self-conception built around an exclusionary ethnic or religious identity, then by definition you have to be anti-Zionist, even if you don’t publicly identify as such.

  5. Hey Razib, trying to open the Brown Pundits feed in Pocket Casts makes the app crash (the beta version for what it’s worth)

    problem with one of the posts. should be fixed.

  6. If you are someone who is consistently opposed to any form of nationalism, or even just nation-states which have their self-conception built around an exclusionary ethnic or religious identity, then by definition you have to be anti-Zionist, even if you don’t publicly identify as such.

    Agreed — I do think that anti-nationalism is a valid reason to be anti-zionist. As you point out, however, consistency is key.

  7. That news about much earlier arrival of Yersinia Pestis among the Early European Farmers is quite interesting. It looks like it may have been imploding their civilization even before the steppe pastoralists moved in.

    Shades of the people of Rhovannion moving into Gondor after the big plague (if peaceful), or the Easterling invasions (if not)in Tolkien’s legendarium.

  8. Part of the issue with the Zionism debate is that the definition of Zionism depends on who you ask.

    IME most Jews tend to take a more high-level view of what Zionism means (it is the idea that Israel should exist), while fervent “Israel-supporters” on the political right in the West seem to think Zionism means whatever their Israeli right-wing counterparts say it means. And fervent anti-Israel activists seem to like to ascribe their various hated socio-political ideas to it (colonialism, white-supremacy, etc.)

    My own take is that, while anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism, much of the world’s strident anti-Zionism is motivated by anti-Semitism.

    Switching topics to the USB microscope — I want to want it, but the website sample images look really fuzzy to me. Are those really representative of the quality of the images?

  9. DM with someone who tells me got into an argument with a certain viral new media website on twitter and got an anon email from that new media account that stated ‘we know who you are.’ a total rando.

  10. As far as I can tell, my entire family (up to 3rd cousins) has gone over to multi-person media-rich text messages (that now allow photos and links, etc.) for all family communication that isn’t political fighting.

    Many of these threads include >100 people.

    Facebook is only for arguing.

  11. Agreed — I do think that anti-nationalism is a valid reason to be anti-zionist. As you point out, however, consistency is key.

    Isn’t US policy toward a Greater Israel inconsistent vis-à-vis the policy toward a Greater Serbia? What is the overlap between supporters or opponents of each?

  12. What is “US policy toward a Greater Israel”? It seems to be a “two-state solution” “land for peace”. Israel gives up most of the West Bank to form a Palestine and the new Palestine recognizes “Israel’s right to exist”.

    US policy toward Serbia seemed to be you have to give up Bosnia, etc. and then we will help enforce a peace.

  13. US policy toward Serbia

    We bombed and killed Serbs (twice) until they came around to our point of view. Have we taken any action against Israel to coerce a two-state solution?

    I don’t think anybody or any group takes a two-state solution seriously.

  14. “I don’t think anybody or any group takes a two-state solution seriously.”

    That’s because big fractions of Israelis and Palestinians don’t want it. We Americans want it, because we just want this thorny issue to go away (at minimum, it poisons all our relationships in the Middle East and Islamic Asia). But the people who actually live there aren’t so obliging to our desires.

  15. We bombed and killed Serbs (twice) until they came around to our point of view. Have we taken any action against Israel to coerce a two-state solution?

    I don’t think anybody or any group takes a two-state solution seriously.

    My stance over the years involving Israel has evolved. At first I was in favor of a two state solution. Then a one state solution. Now I don’t believe there is any solution – certainly not one that I have any right to impose as an outsider. The one thing I’m 100% sure of though is the U.S. should stop giving billions of dollars in military aid to Israel.

    Basically, I’m much more concerned about what my nation does than what another nation does. As an American I (theoretically) have control over policy in here to some degree, which includes responsibility to help clean up our act when I believe we are morally culpable. We aren’t culpable for the whole mess in the Middle East – just culpable insofar as we continue interfering in things that are none of our business.

  16. I suspect that many anti-Zionists in the West are, in the first place, anti-white: they are against Israel because they see it as an “white settler colony oppressing the noble natives”, like a kind of Rhodesia-at-the-Mediterranean. Probably many can be simultaneously anti-Zionist about the Middle East and pro-Semitic (or even Jews themselves) about the Europe and USA, because, according to their hierarchy of victimization, Arabs > Jews > White Western Christians.

  17. I suspect that many anti-Zionists in the West are, in the first place, anti-white:

    Good point. The BDS and such are a bit black and brown.

  18. @Miguel Madeira:

    I suspect that many anti-Zionists in the West are, in the first place, anti-white: they are against Israel because they see it as an “white settler colony oppressing the noble natives”, like a kind of Rhodesia-at-the-Mediterranean.

    You can find this view in India too, where I’d guess most people haven’t even heard of a Jew, let alone harbor anti-Semitic stereotypes. I’d replace “anti-white” with just “anti-colonial” though, in that context’ latter doesn’t necessarily imply the former.

  19. @Miguel Madeira: “I suspect that many anti-Zionists in the West are, in the first place, anti-white: they are against Israel because they see it as an “white settler colony oppressing the noble natives”, like a kind of Rhodesia-at-the-Mediterranean.”

    Yes, for sure. Hence their focus on recent history (settlements and Palestinian uprisings in the WB and Gaza — phenomena of only the last ~ 30-35 years) and their silence on the circumstances of Israel’s founding, the Arab-Israeli wars, influx of Jewish refugees into nascent Israel, the history of Jews in Arab countries, Ethiopian Jews, etc.

    The latter few issues in particular do not jibe well with the anti-colonial narrative.

  20. New paper on hair genetics in biobank pretty interesting – https://twitter.com/MDMorgan_cam/status/1072088375765676032

    My simplified (possibly wrong) takeaway is looks like main “red hair” variant(s) on MC1R actually mostly a generic lighter hair variant (over-represented in lighter – blonde+light brown – vs darker hair)… until the homozygote has an odd epistatic interaction with some other variants, at least one of which at ASIP also overlaps with lighter hair phenotype.

    Seems like the human evolutionary question then would be, whether the red hair phenotype was selected at all, or arose as side effect of selection on MC1R / other variants for lighter hair? (Could be both, that selection for lighter hair led to red hair appearing in some population(s), then was selected independently.)

    Which also leads on to whether light hair even selected at all, or if rather it’s the case that the massively polygenic light hair trait overlaps greatly with lighter skin and was selected on. For selection on lighter skin, that would be along the lines that once low hanging fruit of independent skin pigmentation architecture is used up, selection effectively eventually has to happen on variants that hit hair and skin both to get further “gains” of skin depigmentation (or more simply losses of skin pigmentation).

    (East Asia suggests slightly against that, but not 100% on this – after all East Asians begin to have dark brownish and reddish hair (in Japan and Korea for instance) and could be that light hair becomes only eventually unavoidable side effect after selection for pushing skin below East Asian depigmentation thresholds. Northeast Asians seem to have darker hair and eyes than West Eurasians at similar depigmentation of skin (e.g. somewhere in the Northern Middle East to Southern Europe zone), but not a lot darker. Though subjective, so “your mileage may vary” on that. For Northeast Asia, may also have to consider the structural changes in hair due to EDAR. Linked paper has some discussion that structural changes in hair are not totally independent of colour, and East Asian EDAR variants lead to thick, strong hair shafts that have opposite characteristics of hair that tends to be lighter. (OTOH, EDAR variant mice weren’t much or at all darker in coat?).)

  21. @Matt – Could be wrong, but my recollection is that EDAR variant mice grew coarse black hair (and smaller breasts, fwiw), hence the joke the researchers made that they had bred ‘East Asian mice’.

  22. Out of Africa after 8 years of carpet bombing by aDNA:

    1) “Middle East” as the hub of hominid gene flow, able to vacuum up good mutations, put it into a “modern” package then push it out to most of the Earth (small portions have not yet faced total replacement).

    2) This early range might involve bits of Northern Africa, as there is no magic barrier a the Red Sea, but not Africa entire.

    3) The final form of this will be little different from the model derivable from bones only – and we aren’t even finished! I wager at least one more “surpise” hominid awaits, possibly more.

  23. ‘Anti-Zionism’ Threatens Europe’s Jews: We keep hearing it isn’t the same as anti-Semitism. Even the EU knows better.” By Daniel Schwammenthal on Dec. 11, 2018

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/anti-zionism-threatens-europes-jews-11544573627

    The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights polled some 16,500 Jews in 12 countries where 90% of the EU’s Jewish population live. Eighty-five percent say anti-Semitism is a problem in their country, and 28% report having experienced anti-Semitic harassment in the preceding 12 months …

    Respondents were asked about anti-Semitic statements they heard online, in other media and at political events. The most common one, which 51% said they hear “frequently” or “all the time,” was “Israelis behave ‘like Nazis’ towards the Palestinians”—a claim that demonizes the Jewish state while diminishing the crimes of real Nazis.

    The leftist counterargument is that anti-Zionism is a legitimate political position that has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. But anti-Zionists discriminate against the Jews alone among the peoples of the world and call for the Jewish state’s economic, cultural and academic boycott. What sense would it make to say: “I don’t think Ireland has a right to exist, but I’m not anti-Irish”?

    * * *

    Far leftists—including Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s Labour Party, pick up traditional anti-Semitic tropes, replace “Jews” with “Zionists,” and deny anti-Semitism. The European Union sees through this obvious deception.

    Mr. Schwammenthal is director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute in Brussels.

  24. @John, I only did a quick search, but I think the mice all had the same colour coats regardless of EDAR variant. That’s mice though, humans possibly different.

    Walter Sochak: What sense would it make to say: “I don’t think Ireland has a right to exist, but I’m not anti-Irish”?

    Most international opinion largely seems against Ireland (or any nation state really) existing too much in future. Arguments marshaled for the obsolescence are that anything much other than completely open borders inhibits world economic growth, that national sovereignty is untenable with globalisation and mobility of capital, that poor but determined individuals being ‘trapped’ in poor states in unjust, that nation states inevitably cause wars (and more). Those people aren’t usually construed as “anti-Irish” for better or worse.

    It’d be weird to hold those beliefs and at the same time be *for* Israel. (Particularly as a especially more recent construction with weak roots in history over the last 3000 years and I think anyone would say a more than the usual degree of violence and militarism required to form and hold together). I can’t see how you could do it without being strongly biased and inconsistent in applying those stated beliefs.

  25. The Mr. Schwammenthal argument seems much “begging the question” – much of it only makes sense if we assumene anti-Zionism=anti-Semitism at the first place; and try to replace Ireland/Irish by Scotland/Scotish in this passage (besides the point that the equivalente of Ireland/Irish is Israel/Israeli, not Israel/Jewish)

  26. “Deformities Alarm Scientists Racing to Rewrite Animal DNA: Unintended consequences have included enlarged rabbit tongues and extra pig vertebrae, as bioethicists warn of hubris” by Preetika Rana and Lucy Craymer on Dec. 14, 2018
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/deformities-alarm-scientists-racing-to-rewrite-animal-dna-11544808779

    * * *
    Scientists around the world are editing the genes of livestock to create meatier pigs, cashmere goats with longer hair and cold-weather cows that can thrive in the tropics. The goals are to improve agricultural productivity, produce hardier beasts and reduce practices that are costly or considered inhumane. But amid some successes, disturbing outcomes are surfacing.

    When Chinese researchers deleted a gene that limits muscle growth in mammals so that rabbits would grow leaner, their creations exhibited an unusual characteristic: enlarged tongues. Similar experiments on Chinese pigs led some to develop an additional vertebrae. Gene-edited calves died prematurely in Brazil and New Zealand.

    * * *

    Crispr-Cas9, the tool introduced in 2012 that was used to engineer the human babies, is cheaper than older techniques and enables scientists to add, delete and rearrange DNA with greater precision. But an article published in the journal Nature Biotechnology in July suggests that Crispr might cause greater damage than previously understood—including changes in genes other than those intended. When DNA is cut, “a lot of odd things can happen,” study leader Allan Bradleysaid in July.

    * * *

    Generally, the larger the animals, the greater the complications. New Zealand’s AgResearch Ltd. applied Crispr on cattle to reduce their heat stress, deleting a single amino acid on a gene that contributes to coat color (including hair and skin color in humans), in an effort to lighten the cows’ black-and-white coats to better reflect sunlight. Both calves died (one was sick and was euthanized). In a separate experiment using an older tool to enable cold-weather Angus cattle to thrive in the Brazilian tropics, one of two calves died prematurely.

    Scientists in both experiments blame cloning, which created the calves but still isn’t foolproof, they say, after two decades in use. Neither is their understanding of genes. “But if we don’t try, we will never learn,” said Goetz Laible, who led AgResearch’s experiment.

    * * *

    Researchers in China’s eastern Xinjiang region used Crispr to alter the ASIP gene, believed to influence coat color in Merino sheep, with the aim of creating new breeds with darker coats—all black, gray or brown—so that off-white wool wouldn’t need to be dyed.
    The results confirmed previous research suggesting that genes involved in coat color also play a role in reproduction: Only a fourth as many ewes implanted with the disrupted genes carried to term, as compared to normal circumstances. Meanwhile, for the wool itself, the results were mixed: One sheep was white, two were mostly black, and the other three had spotted fleeces akin to a panda.

    The outcome also underlined how far there is to go in understanding the forces at work among the genes of humans and animals. ….

  27. America’s New Religions

    By Andrew Sullivan

    Dec. 7, 2018
    http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/12/andrew-sullivan-americas-new-religions.html

    Everyone has a religion. It is, in fact, impossible not to have a religion if you are a human being. It’s in our genes and has expressed itself in every culture, in every age, including our own secularized husk of a society.

    By religion, I mean something quite specific: a practice not a theory; a way of life that gives meaning, a meaning that cannot really be defended without recourse to some transcendent value, undying “Truth” or God (or gods).

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