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

Open Thread – 1/25/2021

Taking a break from catching up with Not Born Yesterday: The Science of Who We Trust and What We Believe to read Accounts of China and India. It’s a short book that compiles the experiences and recollections of Muslim merchants from the Persian Gulf who traveled to Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and China. There’s a lot of interesting stuff, but, many of the observations hold up.

There are some hilarious sections about how Indians won’t eat off each other’s plates. This is, in fact, a tendency of modern people from the subcontinent (of all religions).

I’ve written two long essays for Substack now:

Stark Truth About Aryans: a story of India
Stark Truth About Humans: a story of India

Both are for paid subscribers, sorry not sorry. Nearly 10,000 words between the two of them.

I talked to Ramesh Ponnuru about the pro-life movement in America. I will ungate it to everyone in two weeks. My conversation with Alina Chan is now live on the free site.

Scott Alexander is back. I heard through a friend that last summer an academic got a call about Alexander, and it was clear that the reporter was a hostile (the academic refused to cooperate).

Finally in 3-D: A Dinosaur’s All-Purpose Orifice.

A Bitter Archaeological Feud Over an Ancient Vision of the Cosmos.

The information warriors fighting ‘robot zombie army’ of coronavirus sceptics. My friends Stuart Ritchie and Sam Bowman.

Natural Selection in Contemporary Humans is Linked to Income and Substitution Effects. Dr. Appie of course.

Local adaptations of Mediterranean sheep and goats through an integrative approach.

How Beijing Turned China’s Covid-19 Tragedy to Its Advantage


20 thoughts on “Open Thread – 1/25/2021

  1. Your friends who published the faq are as guilty as covid deniers.

    Every item in their faq whilst technically true ignores key data that does not suit their views.

    E.g. IFR of 0.5% (actually pretty reasonable) could lead to 300 k deaths in the UK. Highly unlikely given herd immunity threshold is probably 50-70%


    Most old people have pre existing conditions, technically true but covid fatalities have many times more, E.g. twice as likely to diabetic, twice as likely to obese, 4 times as likely to be in aged care (median life expectancy 1 year). Basically 2-4 times higher on an aged adjusted basis on every major factor

    I could go on.

  2. I talked to Ramesh Ponnuru about the pro-life movement in America.

    The anti-choice movement is a testament to how a fanatically devoted movement can leverage the party system and punch beyond its weight to get the policy outcomes they want on an issue where the majority is opposed to their agenda but isn’t particularly active on it (Republican politicians tend to be vastly more anti-choice than their constituents, to say nothing of the public as a whole even in “red” states). As much as I despise that movement, other movements and advocacy groups could learn something from their tactics.

    Speaking of China, I read a very interesting piece recently that highlighted the role that the State Owned Enterprises are playing in Xi’s reconsolidation of state power. The SOEs are pushing back pretty hard against private business encroaching on their revenue (which it is, because the SOEs tend to be comparatively inefficient and low-to-no profit), and that this was a big factor in why Jack Ma got seized (not just that he criticized Chinese financial laws, but that his new business was threatening to the interests of several SOEs).

  3. @DaThang, quick meta-PCA of the samples in Davidski’s Global25 which are closest to West Siberia HG (I1960 and I5766), along with Devil’s Gate Neolithic to establish the cline:

    Samples that seem to be along the same cline with more East Asian related ancestry are the Botai samples (BOT2016, BOT14, BOT15), Kazakh_Steppe_EBA (EBA1, EBA2). It seems like the samples from Bolshoy Oleni Ostrov, Okunevo_BA and Kanai_MBA are close to the same cline but may have *some* ancestry related to the south/west, with some samples from populations having more signal than others (EHG related/Steppe related). One sample BIL001 from Altai_MLBA may be on the same cline too with quite a lot of East Asian ancestry.

    Included some other plots from above where there are dates in the latest Human Origins file as well to help date some samples for context.

  4. @Matt

    So here it is:


    ^ this corresponds to what I see on your first pca.
    It is a cline using AG3 and east Asian as inputs. And the following are the various models of Hotu using ganj dareh + other source. The other source is from the ag3-east asian cline. Mostly ag3 and other ane-rich population with varying amount of east asian ancestry.






    These models have been listed in an increasing order of east asian ancestry in the ‘other source’ input. A pattern emerges. More east Asian -> worse model. The further the other source is from ag3 on the ag3-east asian cline, the worse the model is. So I suspect that Hotu has no more east Asian than whatever is present in Ganj Dareh. So extra ANE instead of a separate paleo-siberian input.

  5. @Brett The anti-choice movement is a testament to how a fanatically devoted movement can leverage the party system and punch beyond its weight to get the policy outcomes they want

    What they want is for abortion to be illegal. What they have is abortion legal in all 50 states, and via several Supreme Court decisions that cannot be overturned by any legislative act, or any citizen act short of a constitutional amendment. Republicans have appointed judges who are generally more concerned with “judicial restraint” than they are in reversing Roe and its progeny.

    If BLM was as successful as they are, critical race theory would be illegal.

    The anti-choice movement is a testament to how a movement can be bought off with symbolism and friendly words.

    one of the better podcasts i’ve heard recently. from the recently cancelled Will Wilkinson.

    Finished “Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America’s Imperfect Union.” Absolutely fantastic book. Starts in the 1740s and moves to the present. Couldn’t possibly find a more appropriate book for the times we find ourselves in.

    Noticed “Frequent New York Times Opinion Writer Was Secret Iranian Agent, Federal Prosecutors Charge” headline in the news yesterday:)


    I thought this touched on some discussions in past Open Threads, and some not-so-open threads Razib posted on specific topics like his discussions with Alina Chan, about who to trust. I am mostly in agreement with the author: we have to trust someone, and ideally it’s the experts, but given all the institutional failures of the past couple years, especially this past one, is that a good idea? Is there any way to prevent expertise from becoming mostly a function of social hierarchy?

    Also glad that Scott Alexander is back, but we will have to see if he transitions to Substack well; the SSC comment sections were wonderful because of their freewheeling yet still serious character.

  8. I first came across Accounts of China in a YouTube video

    Aside from the cannibalism the Tang dynasty government was incredible. And this is post An Lushan

    It is said that the degree of control was even greater in the Han and the Qin, the latter more totalitarian

  9. @Razib

    “the ppl have spoken. i think the next ‘deep dive’ next month will be on *italy*”

    What period will you start with?

  10. @Mekal – Ritchie and Bowman give a perfect example of an expert not to trust in Ioannidis. Right from the early days of the epidemic in the USA, he was spouting stuff that any moderately intelligent lay person could see was nonsense; certainly anyone who had been watching what had happened in China. He has subsequently been proven so badly wrong so many times that he absolutely must know, but he keeps doubling down.

    I found this very troubling, because I was a bit of a fan of some of his earlier work and had him pegged as a debunker/truth seeker. I asked Greg Cochran why on earth Ioannidis would do this, but he just said that if I ask why too often I might go crazy.

  11. @ Robert Ford

    The Will Wilkinson/Matthew Sheffield podcast was interesting. However, I was also thinking about it in a “meta” sense.

    Sheffield – and to a lesser extent Wilkinson – were both broadly part of the right wing 15 years ago. Now they are both largely indistinguishable from moderate Democrats (at least in the way they present here).

    I think it showcases something I’ve discussed before. Even for intelligent, well-educated persons, so much of political inclination is picked up via unconscious cues (groupness) rather than a conscious deliberation on the issues. Essentially conservatives canceled by the conservative movement will tend to become liberals (provided they start hanging out with liberals) and vice versa.

    This also suggests the only real way to actually increase political moderation in the country is to establish more friendships across ideological lines – and to make sure you actually discuss your political views with your friends of different backgrounds rather than remaining silent. I should say I’m not quite as alarmed by the decline in people saying they have close friends of the “other side” as most – because few adults past the age of 30 have close friends of any sort. But the lack of close social relationships to help tune “groupness” is likely part of why social media perceptions have lapped these human relationships in importance.

  12. Just finished “Not Born Yesterday”. Overall it seemed to be accurate, broad, and did a good job combining theory and evidence. On the bad side it gave a very panglossian spin, in mood at least, to a mixed set of facts and I sort of wished it had mentioned official psychologist terms like “cognitive dissonance” when it described them instead of just mentioning that the need to justify actions can cause false beliefs. I might very well recommend it to others nonetheless.

  13. I read your podcast title “John Hawks: a life in paleoanthropology” and freaked, thinking: “Oh shit! John Hawks died. He’s not even that old. He’s a year younger than I am!”

    Fortunately, that isn’t what you meant. But still. Save us all the trauma. Consider instead titles like, “A Conversation With John Hawks About His Life In Paleoanthropology.”

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