Open Thread, 05/05/2019

I don’t know what’s going on with the plugins on this website, but one of them is causing the issues with memory. Will keep looking into it.

Starting to read The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall. This book, along with Nicholas Christakis’ Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society, book and E. O. Wilson’s The Deep Origin of Societies were negatively reviewed in Nature. Knowing who the reviewer was it was predictable, just like it the review of Robert Plomin’s book was predictable when you saw who it was assigned to. I don’t think this is a coincidence.

A useful book, India: Brief History of a Civilization.

The Secular Jihadist podcast did an interview (for patrons only) with Tom Holland. Not sure I’ll read In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire because one thing that always comes through is how little we know about the first century of Islam once one applies the critical-rationalist lens that is taken for granted in Western historiography (and yes, I’ve read Robert Hoyland’s work).

You Will Never Smell My World the Way I Do.

Differential gene expression is associated with degeneration of mating-type chromosomes in the absence of sexual antagonism.

Multilevel selection in groups of groups.

Insights about variation in meiosis from 31,228 human sperm genomes.

When do individuals maximize their inclusive fitness?

Tracking Five Millennia of Horse Management with Extensive Ancient Genome Time Series.

Meta-analytic evidence that sexual selection improves population fitness.

7 thoughts on “Open Thread, 05/05/2019

  1. Nicholas Christakis is the guy who got mau-maued by the idiots* at Yale a couple of years ago. He is a brave man to stick his head up in public these days. I wonder if they have shall issue in Connecticut, and if he is packing? If I were he, I would.

    *technically, they were students, but idiots is more accurate. Yale blew its cover and any claim to authority by not expelling every one of them.

  2. Note how Nathaniel Comfort’s review starts with almost the same _credo_:

    “It’s never a good time for another bout of genetic determinism, but it’s hard to imagine a worse one than this. Social inequality gapes, exacerbated by climate change, driving hostility towards immigrants and flares of militant racism.”

    as Agustín Fuentes’ review ends with:

    “Today, with extreme inequality, and the massive, ongoing violence of nationalism, religious conflict and racism, how experts parse these systems influences how our societies think about them. Now is a crucial time for scholars to resist familiarity and push themselves to reach across paradigms to obtain the best and most accurate information and interpretation.”

  3. Razib, your comment on how little we know of the 1st century of Islam (and on applying a critical-rationalist lens, as was done in the Christian origins debate) leads me to suggest you look at Nevo & Koren, “Crossroads to Islam” (2003), if you’re not already familiar with it. Often ignored because written by two Israelis, it presents a radically revisionist view of Islam’s early history. I’m not qualified to judge the validity of their reconstruction, but you might have a better shot.

  4. About 2/3 to 3/4 of In the Shadow of the Sword is just a historical and cultural outline of the Late Antique Middle East. It’s less about early Islam than the milieu that Islam arose in.

  5. Published today:“Dated language phylogenies shed light on the ancestry of Sino-Tibetan”

    Published last week: evidence for Sino-Tibetan origin in northern China in the Late Neolithic

    Somewhat different time depths (7200 B.P vs 5900 BP), dataset and phylogenies and not sure about actually proving whether S-T from N China. However would note both roughly compatible (especially the Max Planck’s work) with Oakaie in NE Myanmar showing a more Sino-Tibetan influenced rather than Austroasiatic genetic profile at 3200 to 2700 yr B.P. (The figures in the Max Planck’s paper suggest ST should arrive in mountains on north of Myanmar by about 3600 YBP.)

    Together with entry of Austroasiatic into Vietnam about 4500 YBP ( further supports that the transition to the neolithic in SE Asia was not much like in Europe; no First Farmers followed by a protracted gap of time before separate agricultural groups entered SE Asia, rather more like almost simultaneous entry of ST farmers and AA farmers, with AA farmers stealing only a very narrow march on ST in entering India, possibly by less than 1000 years.

    Austronesian expansion is also almost simultaneous with all this at 5000-4000 YBP ( – linguistic phylogeny, and McColl et al 2018 confirms Austronesian ancestry at north coast of Borneo by 4000 YBP at least The story of Austroasiatics, at both ends of range seems more like being sandwiched between ST and Austronesian expansions happening at either edge at almost the same time as Austroasiatics were expanding, then rather later on in center of their established range dealing with Tai-Kadai speakers pushed out of Southern China by the Han Chinese Empire. Not much like First Farmers of Europe with story of being present for a long time (thousands of years) before much population replacement (at least in Northern Europe) by movements from steppe (following failures of farming, etc).

  6. True gene therapies are close to being licensed by the FDA. I know the Doc and the hospital involved in the following, and I have contributed to their research foundation.

    “A $2 Million Drug Is About to Hit the Market: Insurers, drugmakers grapple with new payment models for gene therapies that can cure diseases in one treatment By Denise Roland May 7, 2019

    A new treatment for an infant muscle-wasting disease is about to go on sale at a potential cost of $2 million, a record price tag likely to fuel the continuing scrutiny of how companies price their drugs and how insurers pay for them.

    Novartis AG has yet to set a price for the gene therapy called Zolgensma, but executives say the drug’s potential to cure spinal muscular atrophy, an inherited disease that typically kills babies before they turn two, justifies a seven-figure price.

    Gene therapies target diseases that result from a faulty gene by introducing a working version into the body. They are attracting interest, both for their ability to cure otherwise devastating illnesses in one treatment and also for their high cost.

    * * *

    Zolgensma is expected to go on sale soon, with an FDA decision due this month. The treatment tackles spinal muscular atrophy, whose sufferers lack a gene essential for muscle control. Without treatment, victims of the most severe form typically die before their second birthday, making SMA the most common genetic cause of infant death. Between 400 and 500 babies are born with SMA every year in the U.S., around 300 of whom have the most severe version.

    All 12 babies treated in Zolgensma’s first clinical trial have passed their second birthday, with most hitting key milestones like holding up their heads, eating by mouth and sitting unaided.

    “Novartis Purchase of AveXis Signals Confidence in Gene Therapies, Nationwide Children’s Research”

    The $8.7 billion purchase of AveXis by pharmaceutical giant Novartis announced last month is a significant step toward reaching several Nationwide Children’s research and commercialization goals. …

    In the acquisition announcement, Novartis reported that AVXS-101, the spinal muscular atrophy therapy developed by Dr. Jerry Mendell in the Center for Gene Therapy, was a key factor in its decision. Children with SMA-1 treated with the gene therapy are living longer and reaching developmental milestones unseen in the natural course of the disease, a study of the drug trial shows. …

    Nationwide Children’s stands to receive royalty revenue if and when AVXS-101 and other drugs currently licensed to AveXis are approved for sale by the FDA.

  7. From Noah Carl’s Medium article mentioned in your twitter feed:

    “Second, from what we can tell, the Nazis actually opposed intelligence research. To quote from Heiner Rindermann’s recent book:

    ‘Contradicting common beliefs, National Socialists were opposed to intelligence research (Becker, 1938; Jaensch, 1938): in their view, intelligence research would represent a ‘supremacy of Bourgeoisie spirit’ (Jaensch, 1938, p. 2); intelligence measurement would be an instrument ‘of Jewry’ to ‘fortify its hegemony’ (p. 3); selection in schools according to intelligence would stand for a ‘system of examination of Jewish origin’ (p. 4), especially the concept of intelligence as a ‘one-dimensional dimension’ (p. 3) and ‘one common central factor’ (Becker, 1938, p. 24). Because people differ and therefore intelligence differs (p. 4) they called for an ‘intelligence measurement according to a national and typological point of view’ (p. 15); for Germans they asked for a measurement of ‘realism’, ‘conscientiousness’ and ‘actually of the character value of intelligence’. They were opposed to a measurement solely of ‘theoretical intelligence’, of ‘intellectualism’ (Becker, 1938, p. 22); instead they favoured ‘practical intelligence’ (p. 18)'”

    It sounds like intelligence testing did not accord with the Nazi’s conception of social justice.


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