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

Open Thread – 10/31/2020

I’m going to post about the book club late this week. Very busy and behind. Just a heads up, I haven’t forgotten.

Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy. The author is a white American convert to Islam, so this is an ‘orthodox’ treatment.

Evidence for adaptive evolution in the receptor-binding domain of seasonal coronaviruses. From Trevor Bedford’s group. So read it.

The Evolutionary History of Man’s Best Friend Revealed. A piece in Quillette where I talk about the new Bergstrom et al. paper.

The evolution of social learning as phenotypic cue integration.

Americans hate each other. But we aren’t headed for civil war. An op-ed from my friend Richard Hanania. He presents political science data that makes it clear a civil war is unlikely. I think this is broadly correct, though I think our affluence and obesity are big variables. Many of my anti-Trump friends are terrified by a coup, but I think they are judging this wrong. The true dangers are coming later.

Richard also did an episode on his opinions about this and France on my podcast.

Reclaiming, on Netflix, an Ancient Battle Beloved of Germany’s Far Right. This quote: Today’s Germans, Wemhoff noted, are descended from groups that came from other regions of Europe. “There is no continuity”, is clearly false. There was a migration of the noble and warrior classes. But it seems clear the peasants remained, left behind, and there is broad continuity in Germany from the Bronze Age. After ancient DNA Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe reads better. If you haven’t read it, do so!

Glenn Greenwald leaves for Substack. Greenwald is kind of a dick. He’s very disagreeable and often unpleasant. This is one reason I actually trust him more than other journalists. He deludes himself, he’s human, but he’s not a conformist, which is the norm among most journalists (look at the middle school level burns coming from some bluecheck reporters at places like The New York Times).

Possible changes in fidelity of DNA polymerase δ in ancestral mammals.

Is degree of sociality associated with reproductive senescence? A comparative analysis across birds and mammals.

Genetic ancestry predicts male-female affiliation in a natural baboon hybrid zone.

How Hindu Nationalism Could Shape the Election. Uh, no.

Over at Brown Pundits they asked me to create a reddit group. I did. I bit the bullet and went ahead and did the same for GNXP.

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29 thoughts on “Open Thread – 10/31/2020

  1. I am currently reading and enjoying:

    “Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia Hardcover” by Christina Thompson https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062060872/geneexpressio-20

    “For more than a millennium, Polynesians have occupied the remotest islands in the Pacific Ocean, a vast triangle stretching from Hawaii to New Zealand to Easter Island. Until the arrival of European explorers they were the only people to have ever lived there. Both the most closely related and the most widely dispersed people in the world before the era of mass migration, Polynesians can trace their roots to a group of epic voyagers who ventured out into the unknown in one of the greatest adventures in human history.

    “How did the earliest Polynesians find and colonize these far-flung islands? How did a people without writing or metal tools conquer the largest ocean in the world? This conundrum, which came to be known as the Problem of Polynesian Origins, emerged in the eighteenth century as one of the great geographical mysteries of mankind.

    “For Christina Thompson, this mystery is personal: her Maori husband and their sons descend directly from these ancient navigators. In Sea People, Thompson explores the fascinating story of these ancestors, as well as those of the many sailors, linguists, archaeologists, folklorists, biologists, and geographers who have puzzled over this history for three hundred years. A masterful mix of history, geography, anthropology, and the science of navigation, Sea People combines the thrill of exploration with the drama of discovery in a vivid tour of one of the most captivating regions in the world.”

  2. There is a threat of a civil war, but it is likely to be caused not by stupid Trumpists, but by left-wingers(sharikovs), the only hope that this will not happen is that Biden (that he will become president, I have no doubt) will listen both sides, however I am skeptical in this regard.

  3. I think you will regret it if you devote much time to reddit.

    I was a member of two of the subs that got banned this year gendercritical and gendercriticalguys. It is now the policy of reddit that any comment, group or users that disputes transgender ideology is guilty of hate speech and should be banned. If you don’t believe transwomen are women it is a toxic place to discuss trans issues. It is worse than twitter in this regard in my opinion. I think it is also true for anything else SJW types don’t like.

    There are moderators like Bardfinn and Drewiepoodle who devote their time to seeking out and banning groups and users who do not follow the SJW line. Look at r/againsthatesubreddits to see examples. Since you are not an SJW type you are likely to come into conflict with them if your subs become popular and reddit will side with the SJWs.

    I am still on reddit but only for groups that have little to do with politics.

  4. Trump will crush Biden

    Biden would be a puppet and would bring about a dark age

    Skimming the civil war article (I prefer the other Post), it seems to allude to the technological potential for a totalitarian state, well forewarned about

  5. Biden would be a puppet and would bring about a dark age

    I’m sorry, but it’s just ridiculous. A red-haired clown who doesn’t believe in science and has lost all the traditional allies in the world, that’s exactly who led the United States in the dark age.

  6. Trump and US election news seems fairly predictable boring stuff; he’s probably out? (Though boring for me perhaps as pretty academic sitting in UK and won’t affect my life too much.) That said, tentative prediction this means we’ll start to see a few more interesting post-mortems of his term come through from mainstream media sources. Their need to act as “Journalist-activists” will damp down a bit, and will want to soften the line against some policies that Biden will need to conduct but which were necessarily “monstered” during Trump’s time in office. (Though I could be wrong and the “Progessive Activist” / “Woke” / “SJW” / “Whatever we want to call it” segment in press has too much dynamics of its own now). If so expect we will see in retrospect that actual policies weren’t cut from the cloth of as much of a military-religious-upper middle class axis as under Bush II.

    One point from a recent BBC term assessment (no news to some but news to me), was one on tax changes: “For some higher earners in urbanised, mostly Democratic states, taxes went up due to a cap on state and local property and income tax deductions”.

    Sounds like effective tax rise on upper-middle class, urbanized, high wage, high education “Dream Hoarders”…? (Richard Reeves’s term – I also like “Kulaks”, semi-ironically used, tho!). A broad based tax increase on that segment seems like a somewhat positive achievement, and a clever way to refocus the tax burden on those increasingly outside the Republican coalition and not in play (by preventing them offseting high local tax preferences against federal income tax; appearing locally more generous than Red State high income earners while not actually paying a particularly high level of tax overall!). Contra “Tax the 1%; pay for urban Upper Middle Class expenses like college and housing” logic of emerging softly self identified “social democratic” urban upper middle class.

    Wonder how much the real reason for shifting allegiance among that segment? If they’re no longer getting as much of a sweet financial deal from the Republicans *and* it’s seen as the declasse voting option locally, they would likely defect to the “‘Tax the 1%’ for ‘social democracy'” segment. (“Social Democracy with American Characteristics”? American characteristics including high reliance on debt, relatively high developed country income inequality, with comparatively little broad based tax redistribution. Lots more govt subsided or run services, relatively little inter-SES redistribution, possibly some chunk of SES-correlated directly ethnic and gender based redistribution. Ultimate failure to build social solidarity a la Nordic style social democracy.).

    (E.g. from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-37982000 – assessment of how many main promises were actually met (although some questionably classified as promises).)

  7. “The true dangers are coming later.”

    Ominous and vague. Care to elaborate?

    “There is a threat of a civil war, but it is likely to be caused not by stupid Trumpists, but by left-wingers(sharikovs)”

    LOL! No developed country in the world has a left wing less prone to resort to street politics and violence. The U.S. is not France.

    Also, who are these sharikovs of which you speak?

    Surely not the Minnesota based Russian immigrant missionaries? https://sharikovministries.com/about/

    A reference to Mikhail Bulgakov’s Russian novel “Heart of a Dog”? “the story of Professor Preobrazhensky, who implants vital human organs into a dog as part of a medical experiment. He transforms a sweet stray into a nasty, pushy oaf, someone known in Russian as a kham, or boor. Named Sharikov, the ex-canine promptly begins to harass and lecture Preobrazhensky. Written in 1925, this caustic satire responded to the issues of the day, when thousands of half-educated Sharikovs were scaling the rungs of the new Soviet bureaucracy and wielded power over engineers, doctors, artists and other professionals.” https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2013/03/02/how-the-kremlin-created-a-collective-sharikov-a22008

    The American left is on the other side of that narrative, not on the Sharikov side, a term best matched in American political discourse to the “deplorables” as Hillary Clinton called them.

    “Trump will crush Biden”

    How? Even Rupert Murdock, the owner of Fox News, doesn’t believe that. There is real but small outside chance that Trump will get just barely enough electoral votes to win, while losing the popular vote. But a “crushing” victory isn’t in the cards.

    “Biden would be a puppet and would bring about a dark age”

    Biden might be a puppet. Honestly, it might be a good thing if he is one, sort of a mouth-piece for the Democratic party elite. But Trump is the one who has sent is steamrolling towards a dark age and a Biden Presidency might just bring us back from that brink.

  8. The analogy of “Sharikovs” – fundamentally bestial beings dignified with human form and treated with respect, but without any change in heart or any developing of human sensibilities or fine feelings, who then wreak terror and brutality on its creators in a truly ironic (and hilarious) justice for the fundamentally hubristic and self aggrandizing gesture of their creation…

    Does certainly seem to much better describe the “Successor Ideology” and their current relationship with the old fashioned liberal academy that birthed them (and which they to a large degree waste their time harassing on twitter and trying to deplatform). Rather than anything else.

  9. @Z tbh, I don’t have that strong a stance on whether the top 20% pay too much or too little in the US, or really that strongly on income inequality or tax distribution at all, overall (other folk who comment here have much stronger stances!). There are various reasons for that result you describe; the US has high pre-tax income inequality due to how it regulates its employment market in a way that offers enough reward to make it worthwhile to gain a high salary, combined with a relatively progressive taxation system, which will both combine to clearly trend towards fairly high tax shares (though clearly not enough to set post-tax income inequality too close to OECD country averages). Of course, there are many political-science arguments too that certain levels of income inequality are optimal, or that taxation should be broadly based vs narrow.

    I mention only as it contradicts the generalized narrative where electing politicians who don’t regard you as an important constituency gets you about the same as electing those who do. The frame where “populist” voters are just dumb dupes, exploited by the rich, who’d get nothing for it. Trump’s admin found a way to direct a tax cut to the demographics and regions that supported him at the last election (which was mostly high income people, but not high income folk in heavily Democratic, urbanised states with a higher state and property tax burden), and away from those that did not. Seemed both surprising and an example of electoral politics working more or less as they should, contra narratives. Moreover it seems pretty just – this is, stereotypically perhaps, the urbanised, high income, demographic that bleats on about “funding public services”. It seems just to put the burdens of such costs on them, and let them pay for what they argue for.

    Related: https://phys.org/news/2020-11-language-populist-leaders-mainstream-opponentsthe.html – “Populist” leaders produce and conduct more complex speeches and debates than opponents.

    Turns out that their sample of populists give rambling, complex, hard-to-follow, spontaneous, less dumbed down speeches, compared to simple, vacuous focus-group tested mainstream opponents. (Compare dumb mainstream slogans: “Hope and Change” / “No Malarkey” / “Strong and Stable” / “Magic Money Tree”, contra “Populist” slogans which contain clear intent and purpose: “Make America Great”, “Take Back Control”, etc).

    Kind of “Duh, of course” but Confirmation Bias (“Populist followers r dumb ‘deplorables'”).

  10. @mercer

    Looking at reddit, I can easily still find “gender critical” and even anti-semitic or white nationalist subs. You can argue that their continued existence is simply due to lack of attention and that they’ll go the way of the rest when they become bigger, or even that they promote a different image to randoms who don’t bother to actually read much of the content, but are you sure you’re giving people the full picture here and that nothing else happened at all with your subreddits?

    I’ve often seen nominally “free speech forums” mostly becoming circlejerks of their own where certain viewpoints are a priori accorded undue respect, whatever their actual merits, rather than there existing continued debate about the matters that interest them. And its members often becoming more and more extreme to the extent that outright spewing bile, as much of a right we might consider it under free speech considerations especially if we grew up with an older kind of WWW, or even harassing other participants seems just like “questioning things” to them. That always makes me a bit suspicious of the portrayal of these narratives from within the group as much as the SJW ones do.

    Even here, you name specific individuals whose inclusion in your particular post doesn’t seem to provide much of value compared to your general warning and would have certain implications in less civil forums. Also, checking the againsthatesubreddits subreddit you linked shows not only flimsy SJW kind of complaints but genuine ones about e.g. actual anti-semitism and Holocaust denial, which I assume you’d also criticize even if you think it’s fine for them to be posted under free speech grounds.

  11. Reddit is gay

    Andrii,
    I’m sorry, but it’s just ridiculous. A red-haired clown who doesn’t believe in science and has lost all the traditional allies in the world, that’s exactly who led the United States in the dark age.

    Let us know what field you’re in. They’ll need to double check your judgment

    Biden = wars, crime, taxes, totalitarian state under 3rd world mismanagement

    “traditional allies” we Americans don’t give a f about your opinions. This is something that is very difficult for a cucked European to grasp. The intellectual chasm.

    Remind us what exactly our allies could do for us again

    It’s the Democrats who don’t believe in science. Wake up nerd, I’m smarter than you

  12. @IReallyDontRemember

    The women who ran r/gendercritical are now with similar content at ovarit.com. People can look at it and judge whether it is hate speech.

    “you name specific individuals whose inclusion in your particular post doesn’t seem to provide much of value compared to your general warning and would have certain implications in less civil forums.”

    It was a warning to Razib of what he might encounter. Another sub that was banned at the same time was for detransitioners. It later came back because of bad publicity. I am not sure if the mods are different. Go look at the pinned tweet of someone from that sub of what she experienced:

    https://twitter.com/mentalhellcat

    There is more about the bans at kiwifarms supporting her account of how TRAs act on reddit.

  13. Difference Maker

    A typical Trump fan, I feel sorry for you, but on Wednesday you will be in a bad mood.

  14. @Aditya, on a tangent to one small note in that article found the reference to super-size eyes a bit er… eye-rolling – it’s based on estimation from orbit size, and John Hawks skewered that one almost instantly from it’s moment of publishing as the correlation of orbit size to eye size is based entirely on very small primates, where orbit size presents a large constraint to eye size (and so species evolved larger orbits) and large eye size is correlated with larger visual cortex.

    But these things don’t really matter in larger primates. See here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ajpa.22747.

    (I’m incredulous that this still receives press. Part of the reason it did seem to get through, as well, was that it allowed Pearce to claim that humans from high latitudes today to claim that humans with relatively large eyes today, like Inuit, don’t actually have larger brain sizes than humans from lower latitudes, like Africans/SE Asians etc, in any way meaningful for higher cognition, because they just have a larger visual cortex / occipital lobe, etc. But this isn’t actually anything with direct evidence behind it – “In 2012, Pearce and Dunbar showed that some modern humans living in high latitudes also have larger eyes than average. Yet the other parts of their brain are not smaller, as far as we know. “Basically, eyes don’t tell you anything useful about cognitive abilities in living people,” says Hawks.”. Without getting into whether and how much at all brain size actually matters to higher cognition, it does seem like it was proposed despite being a pretty shaky idea to make other ideas “go away”, and then the version of it as applied to Neanderthals is some mutant of this original sketchy idea.)

    Beyond that there seems no obvious problem with the idea of warfare between Neanderthals and other humans, but would note that we have found tons of recent instances of mixture hybrids in contact zones, relative to what we I might expect.

    We’ve got an F1 Denisovan-Neanderthal hybrid, and Oase2 had a “Neanderthal ancestor – about four to six generations earlier”. This out of a fairly small ancient hominin sample set.

    If competive exclusion without reproduction were extremely common, I don’t know if we’d find this. Obviously we don’t know anything about circumstances of those reproductive events, though!

  15. Re: whatever your name is

    Trump won the election. Dems are just trying to steal it

    Their numbers mean nothing. They are illegitimate.

    It is laughable for Democrat leadership to think this will be overlooked. They must be crushed

  16. Recent papers

    https://phys.org/news/2020-11-neolithic-boom-large-scale-mega-henges.html – Massive expansion of henge building at a site in England around 2500 BCE… Around time frame of entry of steppe ancestry (this is difficult to define precisely as there is a hiatus of unburnt burial and so of adna.) Why?

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165176520304067“A global decline in research productivity? Evidence from China and Germany”. Interesting as suggests maybe
    1. rich democracies whose prospects for future power driven by continued productivity growth, rather than population growth, may have trouble competing with big population powers if they catch up,
    2. but China may not be able to grow past rich democracies on per head basis? China becoming less innovative as well, not innovation shifting from developed -> China.

    https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(20)31321-0 (https://phys.org/news/2020-11-population-dynamics-empires-asia.html): A Dynamic 6,000-Year Genetic History of Eurasia’s Eastern Steppe. Jeong preprint published.

    https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0240930 – extension of argument by Dorian Fuller that grains cultivated into East Asia tended to be bred for more glutinous and waxy forms suitable to boiling and steaming, generally (https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199694013.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199694013-e-8), e.g. divergence in material technology; SW Asian farmers developed technology of querns and ovens early (grinding and baking), but not pottery; opposite in NE Asia.

    Note that wheat and barley from Western agricultural tradition were introduced early into Central China, but were not popular as staples (presumably until after much adaptation). Millet remains popular. Also North and South China remain somewhat separate food zones.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-72963-y – evidence of dairy products / consumption at the Indus Valley Civilization, Gujarat. Like in Northern Europe, possibly post-Indo-European/steppe diet, and selection for lactase (whether ultimately originated Central Europe or PC steppe or somewhere else), recapitulated pre-IE/steppe diet?

  17. I am starting to think that we won’t know who the President is going to be for at least a month, it’s Bush vs. Gore all over again. This is probably the worst scenario we could have asked for, especially if the waters are muddy enough that electors to the EC start defecting.

  18. On US Presidential election post-mortems, and emerging positions to explain unexpected results, three (slightly caricatured) positions:

    Dumb: “Trump’s appeal was *all* policies! Without Trump, economic-nationalism will be a dead-cert to win again, whatever candidate we choose.”.

    Dumbest: “Trump’s appeal was *all* celebrity status! Without Trump (and unless the Republicans can get *another* one-in-a-million candidate who has used a steelchair on the WWE, a fact re Trump of which we imagine all proletarians are aware!), economic-nationalism will fall like a lead balloon, and we can all go back to the consensus of being happily pro-trade, pro-immigration uber alles, centrist pro-globalisation economic liberals who argue only about the extent of state spending! Phew – the dream of the ’90s is alive! We can all sleep safe again.”.

    Less Dumb: “Trump’s appeal was a mix of the policies and his qualities as a celebrity candiate. However his personality and missteps alienated many more voters than it drew in. With a different face, it’s likely that economic-nationalism will not draw in as many of the same voters, but it also won’t inspire as much negative partisanship, and as much turnout among and defecting to the opposition. This could be a winning plan, and it aligns with an increasingly competitive, economically nationalistic geopolitical world. But it’s no sure thing.”

    (Dumbest, I label as the dumbest because I’m biased… no, really that aside I’ll argue it fits a pattern of liberal centrist overconfidence in electoral strength, following a “doubling down” of their positions, and over focus on media messaging. E.g. US 2020: “We’re gonna get a landslide in the senate and *then* we’ll pack the courts and redraw state boundaries, and, and, and… Oh all the things we’ll do! Trump succeeded before because he lied and was brash (and those gosh-darn Russians), and we’ve resisted it vocally in the media so now people have seen through it! Sunlit uplands await.”. UK 2019: “We’re going to get a mighty left wing-centre coalition that will decisively reject Brexit. They only won the ref before because of lies and stupidity (and those dastardly Russians), and now we’ve made the same argument more assertively in the media, we’re sure to win. Hallelujah, we will soon be delivered to the Promised Land after our long trek in the wilderness.”. Yet in hindsight none of this was gonna happen, and it was all simply chest puffery and echo-chamber and Extremely Online hype.)

  19. Razib, you wrote:

    >”The venerable chihuahua has less than five percent of its ancestry from the dogs of the Aztecs.”

    I scoff, I am contemptuous! More rigged results from the Deep Lab to further the ongoing Old World coup!

    Sure, you’re laughing now, but I assure you–the Recount is coming, and I don’t mean counting up base pairs! We know where you blog!!

  20. This looks interesting:

    https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(20)31321-0

    A Dynamic 6,000-Year Genetic History of Eurasia’s Eastern Steppe

    • Genome-wide analysis of 214 ancient individuals from Mongolia and the Baikal region
    • Three genetically distinct dairy pastoralist groups in Late Bronze Age Mongolia
    • Xiongnu nomadic empire formed through mixing of distinct local and distant groups
    • No selection on the lactase persistence alleles despite 5,000 years of dairy culture

  21. The Eurasian Eastern Steppe is quite interesting on how they integrated.

    -No selection on the lactase persistence alleles despite 5,000 years of dairy culture: Can this have any relation to particular loci/snp related to irritable bowel syndrome, not to favour/favor selection?

    -Using of fermented milk/curds/yogurt helping them to digest the milk product

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