Open Thread, 02/24/2019


Probably don’t watch this if you are hungry. It’s on Netflix.

The latest episode of The Insight featured a very long discussion with Jeffrey Rose. If you are curious about the relationship of southern Arabia to the cultures of northeast Africa during the Middle Paleolithic, check it out!

The Freemasons. Not the deepest book. But interesting.

The Linked Selection Signature of Rapid Adaptation in Temporal Genomic Data.

Accurate inference of tree topologies from multiple sequence alignments using deep learning.

Human genetic disease is greatly influenced by the underlying fragility of evolutionarily ancient genes.

Unbiased estimation of linkage disequilibrium from unphased data.

China’s CRISPR twins might have had their brains inadvertently enhanced. The title is just plain wrong. Unfortunately the piece “traveled” and now I’m seeing it cited at places like National Review, Eugenics-Engineered Babies’ Brains Changed by CRISPR.

Supreme Court Delivers Unanimous Victory for Asset Forfeiture Challenge.

World’s largest bee, once presumed extinct, filmed alive in the wild.

David Slone Wilson has a book out, This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution.

‘Austerity, That’s What I Know’: The Making of a U.K. Millennial Socialist.

Ancient whole genome duplications and the evolution of the gene duplication and loss rate.

Recombination and mutational robustness in neutral fitness landscapes.

We Must Defend Free Thought. This is really about Scott Alexander, who is becoming too influential for the tastes of some.

Reihan Salam new President of Manhattan Institute.

Viruses rule over adaptation in conserved human proteins.

Also, if you haven’t, you might check out my RSS, Facebook, or Twitter (or my aggregator page) if something happens to this domain temporarily.

16 thoughts on “Open Thread, 02/24/2019

  1. Middle Bronze Age Catalonians used dogs as beasts of burden, and tamed foxes.

    (the article says “domesticated”, but I’m not sure they’ve demonstrated that)

    It says these people weren’t big on horses. I assume they were replaced by Indo-European speakers who were horse users, were already dog keepers but not for transporting things, and didn’t care about foxes.

  2. @jim, pretty interesting paper. Per paper on sci hub, the site is in NW Spain during a period (2100 – 1650 BCE / 1900 and 1600 BCE) when you see overlap with entry of steppe ancestry (and IE languages?), entry of which seems to enter 2500 BCE but only present in all samples by 1500 BCE (according to the presentations Reich puts forward – excerpts: https://imgur.com/a/JoVwiED).

    Though these sites are also in areas where you see later persistence / existence of Iberian language attested by Romans, despite apparently steppe ancestry. (There’s a comment from the paper Reich is discussing in the above presentations, apparently in press, that came out to Spanish press about presence of steppe ancestry in equal amounts late Bronze Age and Iron Age without regard to later attested linguistic affiliation).

    Vast majority of burials are dogs in this case, and dog burial apparently exists in preceding period (https://phys.org/news/2019-02-dog-burial-common-ritual-neolithic.html – Middle Neolithic practice) and per paper, continues until Iron Age. So not necessarily fades out with introduction of steppe ancestry and Indo-European languages of some sort. Paper is a lot more light on whether dogs were domesticated, though really “tamed” is probably the right term for it.

    As far as I know, horses have an ambiguous status in whether they had status or importance when accompanying IE speaking people to Western Europe. Some arguments that they weren’t of any important status in IE speakers moving in British Isles for’ex and there’s little evidence for them. (At the same time, some evidence horses may have been traded into early Central and Eastern European Copper Age populations that lacked any significant steppe ancestry, before expansion of steppe component to Europe). On the other hand, Iberia is sometimes suggested as a separate source of introgression or secondary domestication of horses, and some scholars of the subject like Outram apparently take this as plausible.

  3. The interview with Jeffrey Rose was great. I’m off to Google Earth now to look at Oman.

    Somehow The Insight is the quietest podcast I listen to, and I have to crank the volume on my car stereo quite a bit to hear it clearly (I don’t experience this with other podcasts). Any ideas?

  4. I really enjoyed the last episode of the podcast too. Great to be able to put DNA in context with archaeology and palaeohydrology etc. I’d love to go to Arabia one day, my wife’s not so keen for some mysterious reason.

  5. Back in a previous millennium, I was a graduate student at a major American University in its History Department, studying American History. I was enrolled in a seminar covering the period between 1820 and 1850. The so-called Jacksonian Era. I was casting about for a research topic. One phenomenon that fascinated me, as it was a lost cause and a political dead end, was the Anti-Masonic Party. If you really must know more try: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Masonic_Party.

    Trying to get a handle on the subject, I tried to research the Freemasons. I spent a very frustrating couple of days running around the collections of a major research university trying to find out something, anything, about the Freemasons. I gave up and picked another topic.

    Twenty years pass and the era of the large natonal chain bookstore begins. I spend lots of time and lots of money at Borders (R.I.P.) and Barnes & Noble. I bought maybe 15 books about Freemasonry. Most of them were dreadful — junk less reliable than Dan Brown. Many of them recounted a legendary history that connected the Masons to the Knights Templar, which had been suppressed three centuries before the Masons were founded.

    I guess the omerta that had prevented anyone from writing about the Masons had collapsed as the movement slid into superannuation and irrelevancy at the end of the 20th Century.

    I don’t think I have read the book you linked above. Maybe one of these days I get around tuit.

  6. Per the masons, I never did any sort of in depth anything like Walter above, but having read lots of books about lots of stuff, knew that there was a ‘Freemason Scare’ in the US around 1830 or so, and that stuff about the masons was pretty thin on the ground, as in if there was some sort of nefarious masonic plot, it was a well kept secret.

    Or maybe the secret was that there was no nefarious plot.

    It seems to me that the absence of such a plot or plan to steer the course of history from the shadows, might shed light on the nature of the masons. The masons may have started as a sort of ‘ceremonial deism’ thing, but it might seem that it more like a fraternity. One of the salient points about this particular fraternity might be that it’s like joining the fancy country club in town, one joins because of who’s in the club, not because what the club is about. Getting in was also a feather in one’s cap, since not just anyone could get in.

    Such a club doesn’t work if just anyone can get in, and it seems that since masons, at least in the US, sort of turned into the Elks in the later 19th century, in the sense one doesn’t have to be all that hoity toity to get in, the reason powerful and influential people might want to join to hob nob disappeared and thus no more conspiracy theories.

    All this might be different in other countries though, a suspicion of free masons was pretty universal.

    Bad about that Alexander guy. I don’t read him that much, but I’d say the phrase ‘mild mannered’ could have been invented for him. Hope they leave him alone.

  7. Just finished “Bad Samaritans: The myth of free trade and the secret history of Capitalism” by Ha-Joon Chang. Fantastic book. If you’re a libertarian, conservative or neoliberal this guy has massive ammo that will sink your econ. Battleship.

  8. He goes in on how the UK and U.S. try to get undeveloped countries to open their markets even though they themselves were extremely protectionist in their formative years. Also expands on how central banks don’t necessarily use interest rates for the common good and how nationalizing major companies can and does work sometimes. The author is an anti-neoliberal institionalist and he explains how the neoliberal movement got started in the 1930s with Hayek, etc. and was slowly implemented over the next decades with temp workers and the lot. He’s all about balance: too much patent law is bad but so is too little and he gives the example of raising a kid – you don’t want to just throw them out into the cold world with no prep. You gotta shelter them and let them develop their skill before they can compete, right?

    That book segways really nicely into my next book “Globalists: The Birth of Neoliberalism.”
    https://areomagazine.com/2018/11/25/a-review-of-quinn-slobodians-globalists-the-end-of-empire-and-the-birth-of-neoliberalism/

    you can kinda see the thought they had at the time: set up as as many institutions in the world as we can, irrespective of what leadership is in power, to create stability and prevent WW2….3….4. Well, i think it pretty much worked….until it didn’t. they got too extreme and it became just regular ol’ “asshole capitalism” as I like to call it.

    originally, neoliberals were not libertarians who wanted to dissolve States and open up borders. neoliberalism started as something that made sense: insulating markets and institutions against the whims of the populace or whoever was leader at the time. then it devolved into “asshole capitalism” less than 100 years later. Though, there is some overlap in philosophy there.

    Also read “Alienated America” (well written but laughably incomplete premise) and skimmed through a dozen other “American ruins porn” books, none of which i can recommend because they’re all the same (the elite have won.) Finished “Antifa” – they do have a point!

  9. Eh, re: HJ Chang, I guess as I would see it, developmental protectionism *might* work if you’re like South Korea – you’ve got good solid primary education, a government inherited from the Japanese model that can do industrial policy well, low wages and a big pool of labour emerging from agricultural reform (very few countries have had these advantages) *and* very crucially, you’ve got rich allies at the world production frontier who’ll allow you to do one sided exports to them because they believe it’s strategically vital to keep you on side as a capitalist country fighting communism, lest your domino fall on the international chessboard or whatever.

    Being able to enter exports into the most sophisticated and competitive consumer markets while having a closed market at home seems entirely plausible for development, if you’ve got the other right pre-conditions.

    But outside that specific environment of the Cold War, why are those sophisticated markets going to allow you non-reciprocal access for your exports, rather than lolnope that? If you protect, why will they allow you market access? It never happened while Britain or the USA were developing.

    China another example; Cold War meant NATO allies led by USA were willing to allow asymmetrical export barriers with China in the hope that this would lead to democratisation, reform and embrace of their institutional, rights and political norms in some shape or form. At present, lots of questions on whether this engagement strategy is still or ever was justifiable.

  10. The US was certainly protectionist is its formative years. So was just about every “third world” country after WW II. The US had a good outcome. Most of the others did not.

  11. Concur on excellent discussion with Jeffrey Rose on The Insight podcast. Also that it’s overly quiet, though Spencer’s and Razib’s voices are now equal in volume, which enhances the listening experience. As an interviewing team, you two have a back and forth dynamic which I quite enjoy.

    Razib, re: your Patreon push, do you have a post or sidebar that I missed? Also, I (and perhaps others) prefer once-per-year to monthly, if that’s easy to implement.

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