Substack cometh, and lo it is good. (Pricing)

Open Thread – May 19th, 2020

I noticed The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century is $3.49 on Kindle. So I got it. It’s 500 pages and people complain it’s too academic. So what else could I do?

Please give The Insight more 5-star ratings (or Stitcher. Unlike many podcasts, our downloads have increased during the quarantine.

Tanner Greer, China’s Plans to Win Control of the Global Order, and Francis Fukuyama, What Kind of Regime Does China Have? The real issue is that noninterventionist soft-authoritarianism was fine. Interventionist totalitarianism? That’s different. As Fukuyama and Greer both note the latter is more an aspiration than a reality. We’ll see.

Tractor: A framework allowing for improved inclusion of admixed individuals in large-scale association studies. This is a big deal.

Global cooling event 4,200 years ago spurred rice’s evolution, spread across Asia. The argument here is that Austro-Asiatic migrations were triggered by this cooling event.

The End of the Harvard Century. Again, about China. The issue here is Harvard needs to figure out what it’s about: power or scholarship? Scholarship gives one freedom to think. Power means one can’t afford to consider practicalities.

The Ghost Dogs of the Amazon Get a Bit Less Mysterious.

Insights into the genetic architecture of the human face.

The ChinaMAP analytics of deep whole genome sequences in 10,588 individuals.

Dispersal alters the nature and scope of sexually antagonistic variation.

24 thoughts on “Open Thread – May 19th, 2020


    this feed is a shocking example of what the Right is into now. i think a lot of people have no idea this is happening or how popular it is and it’s worrisome. people actually watch these shows as their news source and they really believe this stuff. Is this worse or better than the “regular” old Right when it was just The Weekly Standard wanting another war? This is getting into National Enquirer territory.
    Joe Rogan just signed a major contract….friends send me these videos as “evidence” and idk even know what to tell them. There’s a whole network of people on Right Wing Youtube, Bitchute and it’s insane…

  2. Fukuyama makes some interesting points but I don’t think there is any way that the US can compete with China anymore. The United States has lost all international credibility. The American political, cultural and economic elite on the whole have no loyalty to the United States only some transnational “liberal democratic” values. They are like the pagan Roman elite of the 4th century. They will convert to the alien ideology over time to maintain their material status. The subsequent generations will be committed believers. The funny/sad thing is that the average American continues to overestimate American power and underestimate Chinese power. He think that if the US goes on Cold War mode, the US can easily “win”. Naive peasant who will also convert in time.

  3. “The issue here is Harvard needs to figure out what it’s about: power or scholarship?”

    How about Number 3. Money. Harvard is a hedge fund that uses a university as a tax shelter. See:

    A University President Responds to Those Who Have Suggested the School Should Dip Into the Endowment by Stephen Wood | May 15, 2020

  4. Fukuyama’s article feels like a bit of pivot for him to me. I’ve seen him as a bit of a proponent or populariser recently of the idea that China has an independent, ancient tradition of governance that uniquely emphasizes moral and civil education and the civil service.

    In this view, this explains its successes over other authoritarian states in Latin America and so forth – without embracing much Rule of Law or democratic accountability! – and is out of our hands.

    (In the most extreme variants, Chinese power is portrayed a return to China’s “long” and “inevitable” destiny as the foremost civilization on Earth on so forth, and then is freighted with much symbolic importance by these folk who talk a lot about our Euro-centric world and all this, even when they’re not very sympathetic to authoritarian government in general.)

    This seems like more of more of a move towards thinking of them as actually just another Soviet influenced authoritarian state. Here, a uniquely Chinese independent form of state modernity is oversold and a bit of a nationalist myth, and mostly exists to give more of an illusion of competence to a pretty garden-variety one-party authoritarian state. (Vietnam on a big scale, but because of that scale also with a much more hubristic self image that will probably lead them to do silly and overreaching things.).

    In this telling, their success is mostly because they can do scale, and from increasing their workforce through positive demographic dividend (fertility transformation), and because the West has been very friendly to their exports, in the hope that it would build reforms in China (with mixed results).

    This puts control a bit more back into our bailiwick, as there’s no inevitable endogenous Chinese state characteristic that exists in isolation from anything we or they do. There’s more of an argument we can close to them economically and wait them out until either Xi messes up, or their state becomes generally increasingly cumbersome, or demographics catch up with them (get old before they get rich), and other catch-up economies which are younger (India, particularly) have more relative catch up and grow to be able to form a check on international Chinese meddling.

    I used to think the former was a bit plausible, but moved towards the latter, perhaps a bit out of hopefulness. Fukuyama here still seems pretty mid-way, with some more leanings and emphasis to latter than I have got from reads of his previous work (but baby steps).

    Covid19 situation has been a bit mixed for all this. On the one hand, I can see more people embracing the idea of Chinese state competence rooted in ancient characteristics, on the other, China’s actual behaviour during the crisis has probably helped the argument for “conscious decoupling” (see the latest headlines about tariffs on Australia!).

  5. @Matt – The tariffs on Australian beef and barley turned out to be just coincidental. The four beef exporters penalised have had quality compliance failures before, i.e. they are repeat offenders (the main market is in Shanghai and the import rules are notoriously stringent and difficult to meet, reportedly, but that’s a long running issue), and the barley exporters have been ‘dumping’, at the expense of Chinese growers.

  6. If Moderna and mRNA “save” the world, it will completely flip the public’s attitude toward gene editing and manipulation.

  7. “Tanner Greer, China’s Plans to Win Control of the Global Order, and Francis Fukuyama, What Kind of Regime Does China Have? ”

    Same link.

    @ Massey: “The tariffs on Australian beef and barley turned out to be just coincidental.”

    But of course … , if you believe what the CCP says.

  8. @ bossel – They didn’t impose the tariff on all of the beef suppliers, only on the four repeat offenders.

    In any case, if it is just the CCP lying, we should find out soon enough. Check back with me periodically.

  9. If Moderna and mRNA “save” the world, it will completely flip the public’s attitude toward gene editing and manipulation.

    Sure, like all American Christians believe in “macro-evolution”.

  10. “New technology leads to arrest in 1987 slaying” By Stephanie Warsmith | Akron Beacon Journal | May 20, 2020 |

    CLEVELAND – The first step was to separate 17-year-old Barbara Blatnik’s DNA from that of the man who authorities say killed her in 1987 and dumped her body in Cuyahoga Falls. …

    This, investigators say, was the process that led to the recent arrest of James E. Zastawnik, of Cleveland, in Blatnik’s rape and murder decades earlier.

    * * *

    The DNA sample in the Blatnik case came from underneath the dead teen’s fingernails. The sample was mixed — 40% was Blatnik’s DNA and 60% her killer’s, Fitzpatrick said.

    Donna Zanath, Blatnik’s older sister and only sibling, submitted a DNA sample to 23andMe, a genealogy website, to help investigators in separating the mixed sample. Once the suspect’s DNA was isolated, Fitzpatrick entered it into DNA databases to see whether she could get a Y-chromosome match that might provide her the name of a suspect. That didn’t work, but she was able to determine the male suspect was of Eastern European descent. …

    Investigators then entered the sample into GEDmatch, a genealogy database, and were able to find third cousins of the suspect. They built family trees that started with the cousins and looked for links, keeping in mind factors such as ethnicity, age and geography.

    . . . Investigators narrowed the search to Zastawnik and his three brothers. They then turned this information over to Cuyahoga Falls detectives.

    Those detectives zeroed in on James Zastawnik, now 67, who had worked at a factory near where Blatnik was last seen. Authorities got a warrant to test Zastawnik’s DNA, compared it to the sample and found it matched. They arrested Zastawnik on May 6.

    * * *

  11. @bossel May 20, 2020 at 6:29 am:

    The Tanner Greer Article is linked correctly on the right hand column under: “Pinboard”

    “China’s Plans to Win Control of the Global Order – Tablet Magazine”

    Also, FYI:

    “Countering a Corrupt China: How COVID-19 has exposed the regime’s power plays” | by Jonathan Schanzer |

    “… Beijing has run influence operations, bought votes, bribed, and cheated its way into positions of significant influence throughout the UN system.”

  12. Few thoughts:

    Y H was considered AASI but now its SW Asian connections are being highlighted. Any aDNA on the way to prove one theory right?

    So was South Asia mostly 100% AASI with the exception of the Indus Valley until the Indo-Aryans arrived?

  13. “… Beijing has run influence operations, bought votes, bribed, and cheated its way into positions of significant influence throughout the UN system.”

    Wow, almost as corrupt as FIFA.

  14. @Jatt_Scythian

    “So was South Asia mostly 100% AASI with the exception of the Indus Valley until the Indo-Aryans arrived?”

    The Munda probably arrived from SE Asia before the Indo-Aryans, although not by a lot, maybe a century or three, and mostly in Northeasternish India.

    There was also probably some Harappan admixture into the remainder of South Asia from the Indus Valley, which would probably have some West Asian component and maybe even a small amount of ancestry from the BMAC and other places that had trade with the Harappans. I would expect this to have a clinal distribution peaking in the North and in the vicinity of historic trading posts between Harappans and other populations on the subcontinent on the Southeastern fringe of Harappan territory and declining with distance from those places to almost nil by several hundred kilometers from there. I would be surprised if this was more than 15% at the highest peaks and probably more like the low to middle single digit percentages at the peaks.

    The magnitude of the IVC admixture might be hard to distinguish cleanly, however, because some of the autosomal ancestry that is arguably IVC in origins might actually be due to pre-Holocene genetic clines over distance that would have mostly been gradual and modest in magnitude within the hunter-gatherers of West Asia and South Asia, with starker gaps on either side of major geographic barriers like mountains and deserts and jungles and on islands.

    It is also possible (even probable) that some places somewhere in South Asia (e.g. isolated mountain or desert communities, islands, deep in jungles) had fairly genetically distinctive relict populations or populations specially adapted to distinctive microenvironments, ca. 3000 BCE, that are now entirely extinct and left no trace of admixture discernible in South Asia with the quality of analysis that has been done to date on South Asian DNA samples. Some of these might have gone extinct or been rendered moribund in the wake of the South Asian Neolithic expansion (ca. 2500 BCE by my reckoning although there is a lot of disagreement over that date in the literature) and the subsequent Munda migration into the region, even before the Indo-Aryans arrived (ca. 1900 BCE to 1500 BCE), and those that remained might have gone extinct at the time of Indo-Aryan expansion.

    For example, I wouldn’t be surprised if at very low percentages of ancestry, there was ancestry from a first wave of modern humans to arrive in South Asia (prior to the expansion that took place ca. 50,000 years ago) that was mostly replaced or demographically diluted beyond recognition by the main Out of Africa wave. The percentages at the time of admixture would have had to have been small enough, however, that it would leave no Y-DNA or mtDNA traces within a few generations after the generations in which admixture took place ca. 50,000 years ago (although arguably, for example, basal Y-DNA DE of which a very small number of instances have been found in South Asia might be from that wave). Populations where language isolates that aren’t part of any major language family are spoken would be fruitful places to look for that kind of ancestry.

    Similarly, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see very low percentages of ancestry from archaic hominin admixture other than the Neanderthal ancestry which is shared by all non-Africans, similar to that found in very high resolution studies recently done in Europe. Probably, this would be either a South Asian specific clade of Neanderthals or Denisovans, but maybe it would be something else (compare, for example, the couple of ghost archaic population admixtures inferred from some modern African DNA today). I doubt that this would be much more than 0.2%, if that, however.

    But, otherwise probably close to 100% AASI.

    A decade ago, I would have been deeply pessimistic about our prospects for every confirming these suspicions with ancient DNA, but the scientists in the field have done such amazing things to revive and sequence ancient DNA that I am now inclined to think that it is more likely than not that we will recover multiple samples of pre-Bronze Age ancient DNA from multiple places in South Asia.

  15. May just be algebraic onanism, but, FWIW:

    Supercomputer model simulations reveal cause of Neanderthal extinction

    “This is the first time we can quantify the drivers of Neanderthal extinction,” said Timmermann. “In the computer model I can turn on and off different processes, such as abrupt climate change, interbreeding or competition” he said. By comparing the results with existing paleo-anthropological, genetic and archeological data (Figure 1), Timmermann demonstrated that a realistic extinction in the computer model is only possible if Homo sapiens had significant advantages over Neanderthals in terms of exploiting existing food resources. Even though the model does not specify the details, possible reasons for the superiority of Homo sapiens could have been associated with better hunting techniques, stronger resistance to pathogens or higher level of fecundity.

  16. @ohwilleke

    Thanks for the well written and well thought out response.

    And those AASI populations would have been y H and mtdna M carriers? I thought y H had West Asian connections. And existed all over the Gangentic plains from Haryana to Begnal/Bangladesh/Assam.

    And all y G, J2a, J2b,L1a, L1c, Q1b, R2a and T in the Gagentic valley is very recent and none from the Mesolithic to Neolithic (and pre Munda period)?

  17. Please don’t mind this comment very much – this is just to document some of my previous slip-ups here and on Brown Pundits also:

    1. I recently said in connection with something that I thought I read on some Conservative Judaism website about the distinctiveness of relationships God has with Jewish people and non-Jewish peoples even going to the extent of asserting that this info was probably not obtained by me from an Orthodox Judaism website, but I was never sure. I just simply made this stuff up at that time. To this day, I cannot recall and I tried to do a jugAD type of quick inference of which denomination it might have been by cursorily looking at the relevant Wikipedia articles but I could not really succeed. May have been Modern Orthodox? May have been Conservative? No idea.

    2. I also so shamelessly attributed several crude and folk philosophical positions to philologists without knowing anything about the actual philosophies commonly adhered to by philologists. I said something like “like any good Indologist he believed Indo-Aryans were somehow special and superhumanly at doing something”. I of course must have very grossly misrepresented the Indologist. Needless to say, I again made stuff up so blatantly.

    3. On Brown Pundits last year, I said that the native vocabulary of NIA languages falls under the traditional-grammar category of tadbhava. While I did not explicitly remark that they all exclusively fell under tadbhava category, this was my impression all along until very recently I came to being bombarded with verbal information from some real, physical Quora answer source that actually the native vocabulary of NIA languages falls under the category of deshaja importantly. This is a piece of information anyone with a basic presence of mind should be able to infer easily and I guess I had also done it to some degree but then I had erroneously assumed that the traditional grammarians did not really have a deshya/deshaja category for Indo-Aryan languages. But of course they did and put only the more conservative Prakrit-form words into tadbhava category and all new developments private to the various Apabhramshas in the deshaja (and grAmya, I assume, cautiously) category.

    4. I also made some very shameless broadcasting of unprocessed personal feelings and instincts without any basis whatsoever in terms of things like totally ordering physicists after “mechanical and electrical engineers” (lol! how so extremely cringeworthy) in average IQs but everybody noticed this thing very quickly lol.

    I have been itching so hard to let the world know about these mistakes (not everything but things I noticed so far). Though I am sure all the applicable items in the above list have been already caught by people if they sometimes amused themselves (or agonised themselves lol) by scanning through them, I was dying internally so hard to have the opportunity of washing my dirty laundry in the open personally. Thankfully the time came sooner than I hoped for. I am at peace, for now.

  18. Okay, so once earlier here, I very brutishly began to wonder why most of the population of India did not convert to Islam and Christianity, especially wrestling to understand what this theory stating that the very entrenched caste-endogamy system was the major reason why people did not convert was trying to say. I thought of all of it from the perspective of the Muslims, Christians, and Brahmins and framed it as a type of competition between Mus.-Chris. and Brah. in which Bs ultimately succeeded because of their hardwork, but significantly after putting that comment up, I realised that they may have been talking about the extremely high conservatism of all the Indian peoples, all Hindu castes included, even though a possible set of mechanics I could not quite intuit. I laughed at myself for not thinking about this to even this extent earlier and moved on.

    Today, I have noticed that Slapstik has a twitter thread talking about this topic in which he said it would be appropriate to credit, to some extent, caste loyalties for resistance to conversion. On going through the tweets by others in the thread, I could finally grasp that apparently the idea is that the extreme communitarianism brought about by the existence of caste endogamy made people very afraid of conversion in the fear that they would be disowned by their caste. Some also talked about how this threat of excommunication from caste probably became lower as one went down the caste ladder (reasons discussed there) and presented a probable lower incidence of estrangement of African Americans who converted to Islam by their more numerous Christian relatives as an analogy. Made sense to me, the entire idea, but I still have my questions – were Hindu caste groups that exceptionally communitarian relative to the other peoples of the world at the time? I mean, I would think all this individualism, reduced communitarianism, etc. all are very modern and probably have arisen as a result of European Enlightenment. How more were Hindu castes communitarian compared to someone like Spanish Christians during the period of presence of Islam there and there was the threat of conversion to Islam? From what I know extremely meagrely about the subject, the Spanish seem to have gotten rid of most of Islam by persecution, wars, etc. but how was the situation like during the time when Islam still remained moderately powerful? Did Spanish Christians tend to not estrange Muslim relatives, etc. as much as Hindu members of a caste did M/C converts? If they did not, maybe the amount of concentration of the estrangement threat was higher for Hindu castes compared to Spanish Christians because the Hindu castes were possibly more tight-knit compared to Spanish Christians as each Hindu caste in an area possibly had lower population than the Spanish Christians spread over whole of Spain (though they might have had village-level education and enforcement of all common sovial norms similar to Hindu societies; and also, I am of course not sure if the thing about the population differences is correct though; but it’s at least easily falsifiable)?

    Slapstik himself states that he thinks poverty might explain conversion better and I don’t know if he thinks this could apply to Hindus in the pre-modern periods also, and we should also be extra-careful when reading Slapstik’s comments because he tends to be tongue-in-cheek a lot of the times, and with little notice. So often, it is difficult to tell if Slapstik holds something, or the very opposite instead haha.

  19. Well, I made several big logical blunders in the post above. For example, I seem to have quite unfortunately landed on a question of whether the Hindu caste groups were significantly more communitarian than the other peoples of the world, but why to pose this question at all? People were not suggesting that communitarianism produced the type of results that we are talking about – the resistance to religious conversion – uniquely in India; for all I know they might be believing that indeed many of the peoples of the world (and not just Hindus) for large parts of history were quite resistant to conversion and because of this feature of communitarianism common to many groups! It was my underlying assumption that India was somehow unique in avoiding large-scale conversion to other religions, but that happens because I have never satisfied basic breadth requirements of history, and I lack learning to such a ridiculous degree in most if not all fields. All that stuff about Spanish Christians during Islamic rule of Spain and all that was completely unnecessary thus haha – though it would perhaps be a fun exercise to compare how much the Spanish Christians’ communitarianism helped them resist conversion relative to the Hindus’.

    Accepting this communitarianism hypothesis then, the important question seems to be what causes large groups of people who ultimately convert, to convert. A question for which people might be having answers already. For all I know, people might be having these complex mathematical models in which several variables such as the strength of communitarianism, stability of society, etc. etc. are all taken together and weighted appropriately to determine the conversion rate, etc. But the fact that the state of knowledge in the field might be so advanced is not a new thing that has dawned on me just now though and I was of course not trying to suggest anything new with the above comment. It’s just that I get a bit of excitement in my otherwise rather bland life to write comments outlining the state of my knowledge (and consequently showcasing my stupidity to the whole of the planet haha) here occasionally lol.

    There were several further developments that took place on Slapstik’s thread also and as part of those discussions Slapstik reiterated that he meant the variable to be explained by poverty was a susceptibility to conversion and not conversion itself (I said reiterated because even in his original post he wrote “susceptibility to conversion” only, and not simple “conversion”). I thus sincerely apologise to him for mischaracterising him in the above post of mine.

    The entire thing also makes me realise yet again – I have never been good at logic; and every other subject in the world; and I have many other big problems caused by me to myself and a few people surrounding me. I should never have been born really. It makes me wonder how people who end up giving birth to criminals, unethical people, immoral people, mediocre people, unsuccessful people, infertile people, etc. deal with their predicament. It’s like a 4.54 billion years of unbroken history suddenly getting sullied just because of the mistake of giving birth to this child. Maybe people try and have more than 1 child to try and manage this problem a bit – if one child turns out to be evil or gay or infertile or mediocre or whatever, you could have the other at least who might not be so evil and gay and infertile and mediocre and stuff. Make no mistake – these days, I am always suggesting to all people I know to have at least 2 children. Another way might be by trying and preparing themselves for the possibility that their children might end up going astray in life – for example, for such a communitarian society as the Telugu one (being Indian and all, and we discussed Indians’ communitarianism above incessantly haha), even the Telugu language has a saying that superficially seems to grant the ultimate individuality of a human person – aDDAllO biDDalugAni gaDDAla nADu biDDalA?, ‘they are children in the lap but are they that during the phase of the beards?[they are not]’. This might be a way to lessen the damage a parent is threatened to experience when a child unfortunately goes astray in the world… Anyway, a short, heartfelt remembrance of all the parents of the lost – past, present, and future.

  20. Sex-biased reduction in reproductive success drives selective constraint on human genes
    “Our findings represent strong genetic evidence that Darwin’s theory of sexual selection is shaping the gene pool of contemporary human populations. Furthermore, our results suggest that sexual selection can account for about a quarter of all purifying selection acting on human genes.”

  21. The revenge of ASPM – research group led by Professor Patrick Chun Man Wong, Stanley Ho Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience of the Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, recruited more than 400 native speakers of Cantonese for a study. The results show that participants with a specific genotype of the ASPM gene are better at perceiving lexical tone in Cantonese, and those without it may improve their abilities through musical training. tone association in speakers of a tone language: Direct evidence for the genetic-biasing hypothesis of language evolution

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