Open Thread, 04/15/2019

After reading Jared Rubin’s Rulers, Religion, and Riches: Why the West Got Rich and the Middle East Did Not I can say I highly recommend it. Not necessarily because I’m entirely convinced by the thesis, which is quite subtle, but can be reduced to the proposition that religious elites in the Islamic world were never marginalized to the same extent that religious elites in the Christian world were, and so there did not emerge and economic elite which dictated changes in cultural and state amenable to their interests (and therefore, economic growth).

I don’t know if I’m going to fully review Rulers, Religion, and Riches, because I’m still thinking about all the arguments. But, I can recommend it because there are so many interesting subsections. Early on figure 1.1 and 1.2 show the most populous cities in Europe and the Islamic world in 800 and 1300. These data confirm that Europe lagged the Islamic world in 800, but had caught up by 1300. You should have already known this, but Rubin’s focus on data clarifies and solidifies much.

Though I was already sympathetic to the assertion that the timing of the Protestant Reformation was causally connected to the expansion of printing, again Rubin’s quantitative analyses convince me further. As a skeptical of Max Webber’s model, I find Rubin’s argument for why Protestantism was correlated with early modern economic growth much more persuasive (read the book!).

This week on The Insight I’ll be talking to Steve Stewart-Williams, author of The Ape that Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture Evolve. Most of the conversation revolves around evolutionary psychology, a topic I haven’t thought about much recently to be honest. The Ape that Understood the Universe is an irreverent, and broad-church, take on the discipline (there is not much mention of “cognitive modules” in the book).

On my other podcast, I dropped two recently that readers of this weblog might be interested in. First, one with Phillipe Lemoine, everyone’s favorite French philosophical “edgelord.” He has a blog post which I recommend to you, Polarization and misrepresentation of the outgroup.

Second, I talked to Zaid Jilani. Along with Leighton Woodhouse, he is behind the Extremely Offline podcast. Zaid is clearly a man of the Left, but he seems to have a traditionally liberal perspective on intellectual discourse. The most recent episode of their podcast featured a discussion between Mike Cernovich and Katie Herzog.

Was Thomas Kuhn Evil? Definitely overrated and not totally coherent, no?

Silicon Valley Housing Crisis Ensnares Stanford. More “cost-of-living porn.” Now I’m reading stories of hairdressers buying houses in Arizona and flying back on Southwest to San Francisco periodically.

Loss-of-function tolerance of enhancers in the human genome.

Genomic selection for lentil breeding: empirical evidence.

John Snow Emails 23andMe About His DNA Results. Genealogically he’s 12.5%. DNA is not magic!

Iran’s Revolution Reconsidered. I always thought it was known that the Iranian Revolution had an element of Platonism? Shia Islam did not turn as definitively against Hellenic thought as the Sunnis did after al-Ghazali.

Origin of elevational replacements in a clade of nearly flightless birds – most diversity in tropical mountains accumulates via secondary contact following allopatric speciation.

Macroevolutionary integration of phenotypes within and across ant worker castes.

Defining the genetic and evolutionary architecture of alternative splicing in response to infection.

By the I, I mentioned this on Twitter. 23andMe says I’m 97% “Broadly South Asian” and my parents are 99% “Broadly South Asian.” That broadly part clearly includes people with substantial East Asian ancestry, as is the norm among most Bengalis, especially those of us from the east. That’s fine, but the method they’re using is masking this from customers. I can see why they do this, but the PCA don’t lie, and we’re off-cline…. The admixture is just “old” (~1,500 years old).

Bayesian Estimation of Population Size Changes by Sampling Tajima’s Trees.

Multiple Deeply Divergent Denisovan Ancestries in Papuans. Many seem skeptical about the recent time estimate for late admixture. But the overall finding of structure is probably right on some level.

New Tides of History on Queen Isabella and the Reconquista.

Last week we dropped a podcast about the “missing heritability” with Alexander Young. He wrote a blog post exploring the issue. I also heard that PLOS has now invited him to write a comment on the topic! In a few weeks, I’ll be talking to John Greally about epigenetics.

Interview with Paul Coates, the father of Ta-Nehisi Coates. In the battle of ideas between the “ancients” and the “moderns”, sometimes the ancients were wiser.

New species of ancient human unearthed in the Philippines.

Coupled MCMC in BEAST 2.

22 thoughts on “Open Thread, 04/15/2019

  1. > Europe lagged the Islamic world in 800, but had caught up by 1300

    Does 1300 being after the Sack of Baghdad but before the Black Death play a role here? Presumably not in the trend, but maybe in the timing of the crossover?

  2. alan, i think u r right. mongol shock + medieval climatic optimum play a role. but they aren’t the whole explanation. the ‘rollback’ in spain started before 1300, and the crusades are evidence of the logistical capabilities of western christianity….

  3. Regarding the Papua/Denisovan paper, there’s an interesting tree topology in Figure 4. It dates the main OoA to 64 kya, followed by a Papuan split at 51 kya and the European and East Asian split at 38 kya. Doesn’t this contradict our current understanding of Eurasian phylogeny? There’s supposed to be a dichotomy between West and East Eurasians (or Eastern Non-Africans), and Papuans/Australians/Onge are supposed to form a clade with other East and Southeast Asians with respect to West Eurasians. This tree would make Papuans an outgroup to all living Eurasians and would imply Europeans and East Asians actually form a clade with one another with respect to Papuans, right?

    Is the more recent divergence time noted between East Asians and Europeans simply an artifact of ANE (which contained some East Asian like ancestry) gene flow into Europeans biasing the model?

  4. Sánchez-Quinto 2019
    Megalithic tombs in western and northern Neolithic Europe were linked to a kindred society

    DNA study on Megalithic burials. Family members are buried together. All males from Scotland Megalith have same Y DNA, all males from Gotaland Megalith have same Y DNA.

    All, evidence points to the same Y DNA founder effect/patrilineal kin groups in Neolithic Europe as in Kurgan Europe.

    I2a1b1 I2a2a1a1a in Britain
    I2a2a2a, I2a1a1 in Iberia.
    I2a1b1a1 in Scandinavia
    I2a2a1b2 in Globular Amphora.

  5. Jared Rubin: I listened to Patrick Wyman’s interview. And I downloaded some of his papers from his website. “A (Not So) Short Summary of Rulers, Religion, and Riches: Why the West Got Rich and the Middle East Did Not”

    I think he is on to something, but one detail bothers me. Rubin attributes the Ulema’s opposition to printing to their desire to preserve their monopoly on legal knowledge, and their particular method of initiation into the study of sharia and ordination.

    I found this explanation unsatisfying for several reasons.

    First, Islam like Judaism is based on texts. All of the faithful had to know the law and their obligations. The Ulema was not trying to keep them secret. This is not like a priesthood, were priests could do things in secret like sacrifices and divination, and laymen did not have to know anything about it to make the rituals efficacious.

    The whole mechanism of the Ulema, Sharia, and the sacred texts, seems to me to have been taken from the Jewish model the Rabbinate, Halakha, and sacred texts. The Rabbis never objected to printing of Halakhic books including the main one, the Talmud.

    I found the following based on limited research. This is a paraphrase not a quote.

    “On the late adoption of the printing press in the Ottoman Empire”

    The first printing press in the Ottoman Empire was set up at Istanbul in 1494 by Sephardic Jews, who had been expelled from Spain in 1492. They also started printing presses at Salonika, Edirne and Izmir.

    The official Ottoman language was a mixture of Turkish, Persian and Arabic written in Arabic script. Istanbul had a large body of professional calligraphers/scribes who produced books and documents by hand. They were violently opposed the printing press to protect their business.

    Until the 18th century, only non-Muslims speaking other languages used printing presses in the Ottoman Empire. In 1726, Turks established a printing press to publish non-religious books in Arabic script. The number of books printed in the following century was tiny. The major Ottoman presses published only 142 books between 1727 and 1838, and then only in small press runs. Ottoman cultural life was not based on printed material until the middle of the nineteenth century

    In Turkey, the prevailing opinion is that the clergy were not against the printing press, and that it was the opposition of the scribes that blocked its use. However, why is it that the first Turkish printers were not allowed to print religious books?

    End of paraphrase.

    A couple more observations. The Ottoman Empire was a polyglot, multi-ethnic entity. Probably ethnic Turks were a minority. The Ottoman language was a court language, and few people out side of the court and government officials were literate in it. The limited amount of printing was probably not an inhibitor to economic progress.

    Remember that popular literacy in Europe was a result of Protestantism not a cause.

  6. Razib, your Twitter poll asks

    ideologically you are
    social and econ left
    soc left and econ right
    soc. and econ. right
    soc. right and econ. left

    I was going to put “soc left and econ right” but then I started thinking about it. If socially left means a generally liberal attitude, people should be free to live their lives as they wish without coercion by people who think they are morally superior, then I’m socially left. If it means that discrimination should generally be avoided, then I am. But if it means that discrimination against the privileged is a good thing (with privilege defined as membership in some group), and that people should be forced to be “woke”, then I’m not.

    If by economically right, you mean a generally hands off attitude toward government action, then I’m economically right. If it means high tariffs and trying to entice/punish companies by some combination of carrots and sticks, then I’m not.

    This would have been a lot easier to answer twenty years ago 🙂

  7. Razib, n00bish question for you on PCAs – is it possible to do a sort of comparative quantitative analysis of two totally different population clusters with separate PCA charts for each group?

    For example re: that Papuan paper, there’s a PCA of intra-Eurasian variation, with West Eurasians, East Asians, and Papuans/Melanesians dominating three separate poles of variation. Now let’s say we have an intra-African PCA with West Africans, San Bushmen, and East Africans each representing different poles of variation – could we quantify the distance between the West Eurasian node vs the Papuan node on the Eurasian PCA and compare that with the distance between say the West African and East African nodes on the African PCA, in order to quantify which two sets of populations are more diverged from each other? Basically trying to see if Sardinians are more distant from Bougainvilleans than Yoruba is from Anuak.

  8. This would have been a lot easier to answer twenty years ago

    It’s easier in some ways. For me, the most salient question these days is, are you for (ordinary) Americans or for foreigners (and those who profit from them)?

    An affirmative answer is why I am a Trumpist and a traitor to my class.

  9. I am sure there are lots of anti-Trumpists who think they are also “for (ordinary) Americans”. You really have to go one step further: is what some candidate is doing (or will do) better for ordinary Americans than what an opposing candidate is doing (or will do)?

    Saying, “I am for you”–even saying it often and eloquently, even meaning it–is not the same as “being better for you”.

  10. “Was Thomas Kuhn Evil?”

    Errol Morris published the material he turned into the book Horgan reviewed on in 2011. I have a friend who was a colleague of Kuhn back in the day. My friend though that Morris was full of bovine dejecta.

    I think that Kuhn’s great idea of paradigm shift is rather too schematic.

    Take astronomy as an example. Everyone loves to talk about Copernicus’ heliocentric theory. But, that theory was a geometric theory not really very different from Ptolemy. Not until Kepler two generations later is a dynamic astronomy theorized. Only with Newton does it finally achieve universal acceptance. That process took four generations.

  11. “Iran’s Revolution Reconsidered.” Plato was a sideshow. Khomeini is just another tyrant with interesting intellectual hobbies. If the people of Iran thought they were restoring some wonderful Islamic past, they were sadly mistaken. The Revolution was a success for the new masters. For the peasants, they can taste the lash. For the rest of the world it is just another example of why you should be careful of what you wish for because you might get it.

  12. Paul Coates: “I would say that most black people are conservative.”

    The Democrats think they own the black vote. If they continue to push transgenderism and open borders, they might find out that they don’t. The current generation of republican leaders has no idea of how to exploit the fault lines in the rainbow coalition. But, that is not a permanent condition.

  13. A final comment on the Rubin book. The more I think about the less sense a comparison of the Ottoman Empire with the countries of northwestern Europe makes.

    The Ottoman Empire was multi-ethnic, polyglot, and multi-confessional. Turks formed the land owning elite and the peasantry of eastern Anatolia, but they were nowhere near a majority of the empire. The ethnoi were organized in system of millets (confessional corporations) that functioned as separate societies.

    The ethnic, linguistic, and confessional unity of the states of Northwestern Europe was completely different.

    Not only that but deep time separates the stories. The Ottomans were at military parity with the Europeans until the last years of the 17th century. The 1683 siege of Vienna might have failed, but the Ottomans were the aggressors. In the years after that the Hapsburgs were able to push the Ottomans out of Hungary.

    It was only the years spent slaughtering each other in the wars of Religion that made the Europeans into military powers. their other military advantage was the prowess in naval combat achieved by learning to sail in the North Atlantic and mount cannons on those stout ships.

    I don’t see an institutional explanation for the military balance of power. The industrial and scientific revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries made European countries quite formidable, but East Asian societies could catch up quite quickly, starting with Japan in the late 19th century.

    The real puzzle is not why the Ottomans fell behind and fell apart, but why no Muslim country has been able to do what several east Asian countries have been able to do.

  14. The real puzzle is not why the Ottomans fell behind and fell apart, but why no Muslim country has been able to do what several east Asian countries have been able to do.

    Because in the modern times states build armies, not armies the states as in the pre-industrial past.

  15. I am sure there are lots of anti-Trumpists who think they are also “for (ordinary) Americans”.

    They are lying because they are pushing to accelerate the policies that has immiserated the lower middle class in the past 25 years. Now the rest of the American middle class is on the chopping block.

  16. In this article about apparent evidence for patrilineal kinship in megalithic tombs

    it says “critics of the study note … that women received identical high-status burials when interred in megalithic tombs”

    I don’t understand the criticism. Why would evidence of high-status women be evidence against patrilineal transmission of status? Women have fathers too.

    Eowyn the Lady of Rohan had high status, but it was as the niece of Theoden and the granddaughter of his father.

  17. @Mick: could we quantify the distance between the West Eurasian node vs the Papuan node on the Eurasian PCA and compare that with the distance between say the West African and East African nodes on the African PCA, in order to quantify which two sets of populations are more diverged from each other? Basically trying to see if Sardinians are more distant from Bougainvilleans than Yoruba is from Anuak.

    Speaking only for myself (a response from someone more knowledgeable about theory would be better), as far as I’m aware you could do this, though you would have to compare the full set of principal components, not just the first two.

    The (open) question I’d have though would be why you’d want to do this rather than use fst based measures? It seems to me like fst would take into account intra-population differentiation, and that looking at PCA techniques could also lose subtle population structure signals that fall beneath thresholds of the technique which would not be the case with a direct bivariate measure.

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