Open Thread, 12/28/2018

Last open thread of the year. Been busy with life obviously. Won’t be posting this on Sunday as usual, but just making up for missing the pre-Christmas weekend.

Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World is an interesting book because it’s more about the nature of religion in the ancient world than unbelief. Much of the text is preoccupied with the transition that occurred with Christianity’s dominance in the West. Probably good to pair with The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, A.D. 200-1000.

No Invasion Or Migration, But Interaction: What This New Genetic Study Suggests About Prehistoric India. I heard the usage of the word “interaction” was being pushed by some Indian researchers as early as a year ago. It’s less provocative than the term “invasion” and perhaps even “migration.” But a word is a word. Science is not mathematics or religion, where terminology is substance.

The piece linked here puts an incorrect gloss on the research it’s reporting on in my opinion. It is highly likely that about 50% of the ancestral contribution to the population of the Indian subcontinent today was not resident within the Indian subcontinent before 10,000 years ago. We’ll see as more ancient DNA comes out.

The first Indians. An extract from a new book to be published in India. I have a review written for India Today (not online yet). To my surprise, it’s already selling on Amazon, Early Indians : The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From. As per the subhead, it is clearly geared toward a subcontinental audience.

Polygenic risk scores: a biased prediction?

Polygenic adaptation to an environmental shift: temporal dynamics of variation under Gaussian stabilizing selection and additive effects on a single trait.

Genomic Prediction of Complex Disease Risk.

Analysis of 100 high coverage genomes from a pedigreed captive baboon colony.

Most retweeted social science in 2018.

Five Amazing Things We Learned About History From Ancient DNA In 2018.

Inside Facebook’s Secret Rulebook for Global Political Speech. This has been reported before. But it’s finally entering the mainstream because I think the mainstream realizes that there is no longer any mainstream that’s controllable by the Western establishment. In the 1990s some non-Western governments, such as Saudi Arabia, made the argument for enforcing much stricter censorship on the internet. Instead, American standards generally won out, though there were attempts to create regional gardens. Ironically (or not), it is a private American corporation which is enforcing the “lowest common denominator” non-offensive speech, albeit haphazardly and capriciously.

1) Some anti-war conservatives were observing issues with how we recruit our military back in the 2000s when neocon adventures were at high tide. These are the type of people who might know the implications of the Marian reforms in recruitment in the late Republic, and how it empowered generals. Not sure Matt Yglesias is part of that set, though perhaps I’m wrong.

2) Most “centrist” types are usually anti-“identity politics” liberals or moderates who “come from the Left.” That’s why the issues in academia loom large and those in the military don’t. They don’t know many people in the military, just like much of the intelligentsia.

3) The Left dominates the academy, while the Right is the conventional orientation of the American officer corps. Social liberals are probably somewhat more intelligent and intellectual than social conservatives. Social conservatives are probably somewhat more courageous and patriotic than social liberals. But the difference is not enough to account for the disproportionate representation across the professional groups. This is probably a matter of self-selection and sorting.

If you read one Nassim Nicholas Taleb book I would suggest Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets. There was a big thing on Twitter about Taleb’s opinions on IQ. Since he blocks me I saw it through other parties. Someone close to Taleb and myself told me he seems to express himself in the most opaque and disagreeable way possible on Twitter. Sounds right.

He was probably more right than wrong in his disagreement with Mary Beard (again, he blocks me, so hard to know), but because of his online persona, few geneticists would defend him (I did after a fashion). But I knew I was going to be blocked by him because we have lots of mutual followers, and they kept asking me his opinions on GMO. When I said I thought he was wrong and didn’t really know biology as well as he thought, of course, he called me a fucking moron and blocked me. Sorry, not gonna lie!

Historical Genomes Reveal the Genomic Consequences of Recent Population Decline in Eastern Gorillas.

One of the reasons that Scholars Stage is one of the few blogs I still read, Making Sense of Chinese History: A Reading List. Will second Imperial China.

In case you missed it, Tanner was a guest on this week’s BrownCast, the Brown Pundits podcast.

As for my other podcast, The Insight, very proud that we closed 2018 with 44 episodes total now! That’s not quite one a week, but it’s not that far off.

Amy Harmon of the NYT on Race & Genetics, Women in Science. If you enjoy listening to white liberals talk about racism and science. Since all white people are “racist” I guess it makes sense to have experts weigh in. They certainly are never shy about explaining racism to me.

David Frum mentioned offhand that in 2019 he is thinking about doing YouTube commentary on books, etc. My response is simple: in terms of data density, it’s written >>> audio > video (with obvious audio). But in terms of the nominal number of people you reach in a short period of time, it’s probably flipped. I have experience with all formats for what it’s worth.

Also, reflecting on my life and how I allocate time…and if whatever I’m doing here is “worth it to me,” I do want to give readers a heads up that I’m wondering about ways I can increase remuneration from this weblog beyond the trivial (e.g., some sort of gating for readers who follow me regularly).

Finally, this current domain has been active again for about a year now. Here are the top 10 posts of 2018:

Why The Chinese Don’t Buy Deodorant
Intercourse and Intelligence
Making What Harvard Is About Transparent
The Maturation Of The South Asian Genetic Landscape
Traits of men who prefer breasts, booty, or legs
Elizabeth Warren Carries Native American DNA
The Great Genetic Map And History Of China
The Origin Of The Ashkenazi Jews In Early Medieval Europe
The Genome Of “Cheddar Man” Is About To Be Published
White People Are Not Gods, They Bleed

19 thoughts on “Open Thread, 12/28/2018

  1. I consistently enjoy your action. You antidote and supplement my reads most intriguingly. Your generally learned commentariat is curated and trained to maintain civil discourse even while wading through thorny thickets. Thus enriching all comers.

    Grateful to have a grubbage of fundage at present,so able to pitch in a little, I gladly am going to right now pay 12 months @ $10/month = $120/annum to help keep you blogging. To be credited against whatever payment schema you end up configuring.

    Now I’m heading to Patreon, to pay up!

    [Note to cynics: no I am not a shill. Just a genuine regular-guy autodidact who reflexively seeks quality fresh info flows; plus always seeking flavorful capsicum concoctions.]

  2. thanks for the comments! appreciated.

    i think perhaps more of a subscription model will allow me a sense of the point of posting here vs. pitching things to *national review* or elsewhere. to be frank when i write to a non-gnxp audience it’s assuming a less familiar audience, so the product is different.

    (fwiw, i’m considering a leaky gated model with free archives for google search’s benefit)

  3. I paid/set up per your autoparameter at Patreon but you had it set at a mere $5/mo. I didn’t see a button to pay different as pledged (the aforementioned $120 at one swoop.)

  4. What exactly do you mean when you say that “terminology is substance” in math? You can change the name of anything (e.g. “vector space” to “foobar space”), and as long as you do it everywhere all the definitions and proofs will still be valid. To me this is the opposite of “terminology is substance.”

  5. Thanks for the Taleb recommendation; I was actually wondering which one I should pick up. the IQ thread was, if anything, at least something that spawned a lot of conversation even though parts of it got heated. Always appreciate to follow and listen such back and forth.

    I found Scholar Stage couple of weeks ago and I binge read just about everything on China in there, phenomenal read.

    Liberals howling over the hats & flags at the military was pretty nutty to me. I don’t think it’s a strategically viable path to attack DJT by stoking the partisanship against military (disclosing: I’m north European and that would never happen here).

  6. Re; the military and the university, to tell you something you already know and really just to note it in comments for posterity, the university matters or at least is salient politically for pretty particular reasons.

    Members of the academy publicly intervene in politics, on the basis of ostensibly neutral expert wisdom, and virtually every member of the elite class passes through one at a point at which social identity is its closing formative stage.

    Not so the military! At least by US and Western European norms (and most likely further afield, barring perhaps states with mass conscription and frequent interventions into politics by their generals).

    It feels a little like Yglesias here is trying to play a “They get one institution without comment, so we should get one for free too” game here, which seems to use an obvious false equivalence.

  7. There’s an actual twitter poll going on about question of ‘They get one institution without comment, so we should get one for free too”: https://twitter.com/phl43/status/1079072671596466176

    “You live in a liberal democracy which is roughly divided in two politically. Your side can either be 1) a huge majority in the military and the police but a tiny minority in the media and academia or 2) the other way around. Which option would you prefer?”

    Which feels a very Moldbuggian question to me. It’s a very hard one to answer too. In a state of total collapse there won’t be even military. In a civil war it will be divided anyway. In a normal situation it is ‘merely’ a large health insurance company that occasionally fights.

    > Members of the academy publicly intervene in politics, on the basis of ostensibly neutral expert wisdom, and virtually every member of the elite class passes through one at a point at which social identity is its closing formative stage.

    I do see military entering politics through foreign policy: ie. foreign adventures of various kinds, without authorization like in Syria and the ensuing debate over the pull out (including now the Afghanistan). It is much less suspect to public partisanship though.

  8. @ccn01, you’re right re: some military involvement in politics; I do tend to see that as more circumscribed and limited to a narrow goal and mission of their institution, though that said, there is variation with the university as well on that point.

  9. “Here are the top 10 posts of 2018:”

    So I clicked through. Some of them are from 2008. One is from 2017. By what metric were they top in 2018?

  10. “The Left dominates the academy, while the Right is the conventional orientation of the American officer corps.”

    The blue state elite, that runs the universities, the media, and a lot of finance and government, and whose shibboleths are the agenda for what passes as “left” these days, rejected participation in the military and in religion early in their rise. There is a lot of path dependency in that rejection. But, not a lot of wisdom.

    Historically any elite that wanted to stay in power started as military and took over religion. Look at the British landed aristocracy. China is an interesting case. The mandarins were not military, and wound up be ruled by military barbarians.

    If I had to bet between the military and the blue staters, I would think the military is a much safer bet.

  11. The blue state elite … rejected participation in the military and in religion early in their rise.

    Not at all true as regards religion. The “blue elite” pretty firmly controls the bureaucracies and seminaries of what used to be called the “mainline” Protestant denominations. However, the United States has a pretty free market in religion and they have consistently been losing market share.

  12. Roger Sweeny: You are correct, but, it has been a rearguard and halfhearted affair. The Theological Seminaries were the centerpieces of the Ivy League universities that are the intellectual bastions of the BSE. I would be willing to bet that if you walked on to the campuses and asked the undergraduates where the Divinity School is, they would give you a blank look. At any rate, they have killed the “Mainline” denominations. Mission Accomplished.

  13. I don’t think the “mainline” denominations are dead. Attendance is down but there are still substantial numbers of people who were “born into” them and haven’t left. Many of them are fairly apolitical. Though old members dying off generally outnumber new members, there ARE new members, some of whom are attracted by the politics.

    I’m not sure about “half-hearted”. It’s been more than a century since the Social Gospel movement made a big impact on American Protestantism, the idea that a Christian’s duty was to improve social conditions.

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