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

Open Thread – 05/02/2021 – Gene Expression

Read The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World. Recommended. The book is really about the Golden Horde, not the whole Mongol world, but it has a pretty international scope. Probably gets a little too much in the weeds about Jochid family internal politics, but that’s my main complaint (going to have a review up in UnHerd soon).

Our Three-Body Problem: China, India and the Rest. A free piece on my Substack. There’s only so much I can put into a piece that’s this “short.” A major problem is that a lot of people don’t know much about multiple society’s histories, so most of the responses that are critical haven’t been too impressive. Lots of people who say there are lots of “howlers” but don’t bother to say what. I assume these are stupid people, but I honestly have no idea since they won’t say what!

Also, another piece on my Substack, The ultimate price of costless gestures: 2020’s 2,000+ excess black lives lost to murder. I don’t think that we’re going back to the 1970’s, but the trendline does not make me happy either. I’ll be fine. Most people who read this will be fine. It’s the people who are the usual targets of violence and murder who won’t be fine. But no one cares.

My last two gated podcasts (gated): Greg Clark: For Whom The Bell Curve Tolls and Thomas Olander: the origin and spread of Indo-European languages. I think followers of this blog will enjoy. In the next few weeks I’ll be talking to David Anthony (The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World) and Kristian Kristiansen.

I’ll say it again, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World is an excellent book. Really ages well even 14 years on.

Cultural Evolution of Genetic Heritability.

Are Collectivistic Cultures More Prone to Rapid Transformation? Computational Models of Cross-Cultural Differences, Social Network Structure, Dynamic Social Influence, and Cultural Change.

U.K. Covid-19 Variant’s Hold in U.S. Has Silver Lining: Vaccines Counter It.

My friend Colin Wright has a Substack, as does David Mittelman. Check them out!

Diverse mechanisms for epigenetic imprinting in mammals. This looks really interesting.

Inferring the timing and strength of natural selection and gene migration in the evolution of chicken from ancient DNA data.

The effects of epistasis and linkage on the invasion of locally beneficial mutations and the evolution of genomic islands.

‘Every Time I’m Calling, Someone Has Died’: The Anguish of India’s Diaspora. I’m being told there’s no problem in the slums. The reason is that the slums were hit on the “first wave.” Obviously a lot of people died in the slums but were never taken to the hospital. Now that it’s hitting the middle class, there’s a huge concern in the Diaspora.

The Shape of Ancient Thought is $1.99 again on Kindle. I have no idea what Amazon is doing, but it’s strange that periodically expensive academic books are put on sale on the Kindle. Always great to see, as academic books tend to be $50-100.

Hunter-gatherer foraging networks promote information transmission.


17 thoughts on “Open Thread – 05/02/2021 – Gene Expression

  1. @Robert Ford

    Good video except the last part. Western Scythians and Sarmatians were not replaced/assimilated by Slavs, but by various Turkic groups, the most recent one being Tatars. Slavs have very little, if any, Scythian/Sarmatian mix.

  2. Re: B.1.1.7 being a part-good news because the vaccines stop it well. The not-so-effectively stopped P.1 is spreading, it’s accounting for 30% of the VOC sequencing results in Illinois in recent days; lower but increasing fast in the West. This is probably a consequence of increasing immunity putting the brakes on B.1.1.7. It doesn’t have to be a bad news if P.1 is less contagious, despite some level of immune evasion. But we’ll see. In any case it is a new chapter of the pandemics starting already.

  3. Most plausible origin of Ottoman dynasty?

    1 Turkic clan that arrived in Anatolia during the Mongol period(Turkish historians consensus?)

    2 Turkic clan that arrived during the 11th century(some support for this)

    3 Cadet branch of Seljiks

    4 Byzantine clan that Turkified(not impossible, Kose Mihal)

    Also do we know the Y haplogroup of the Ottomans. That might give some clue.

  4. Re; “Our Three-Body Problem”, yeah, I had a ton of thoughts about this (and have written too much in response). I think what criticisms could miss (either intentionally to criticize or by skimming through) was taking it as more of a characterization of elite networks dominant in India vs China through most of last two millennia (as well as less stable and uniform West). Rather than of you asserting a civilization spirit or anything like this as a whole, which would endure to this day and that this will lead to a Huntington kind of to clash of worldviews when it re-emerges. I think you actually say this quite clearly but briefly in the piece, and the non-careful reading critics (or ones looking for flaws) gloss over it.

    I personally don’t really expect too much of the preoccupations of elite culture of either region to survive the transformations of mass culture or re-emerge, tbh! They were in a way codes of advancement that represented only a subset of society’s values and have served their purpose in gatekeeping access to power. Like for example, on a mass level, perhaps my shallow view but Indian culture seems very business-oriented and This-Worldly success for example, not especially spiritually inclined or other worldly. Once the disruptions of modernity have happened, hard for me to think anyone will want to try to put the elite networks back as they were, or be able to even if they did. (Like, how would you even get a spiritually concerned Brahmin/religious elite back if development works the same kind of secularisation it does across the Muslim world and you’re formally a democracy?). How the elite networks in each region are constituted today seems to be more due to chance and legacy of historical values than driven too much by values – India and much of developed Asia has a formal elite basis in Western parliamentary democracy, purely because of historical contingency of how transitions to modernity happened, while China has a elite one-party dictatorship for another reason, and not much of this if anything seems to have to do with values or deep civilization ideas. (The PRC is one thing and Taiwan is another and there’s no values or civilizational reason for any of that?).

    Looking at the cultural values data makes me sceptical that multiple cultural dimensions dominated by West-India-China exist; mostly seems to be a single dimension dominated by income and probably aligning with “Modernisation Theory”, then loads of random stuff where countries don’t even have similarities to some near neighbours. Maybe incomplete values set there though. Weirdly I have more sympathy with your earlier views of the late 2000s-early 2010s which seemed more about modernization unlocking universal tendencies. I think at the time you linked that to suppression of forager human cultural instincts by civilization, which I believe less at the moment after reading a lot of what Evolving_Moloch sees in ethnography from forager cultures (results of development seem more new than a reversion back to forager culture)… But I do think the EIRD matters and the W, I, C doesn’t, so much.

    Another element of criticism might be of bracketing traditions as different as Egyptian and Persian as Western; I think that would make sense in say 1000 BCE, when you probably could say that these traditions had no more in common with each other than either would with China or India. Anyone who would’ve thought they did would probably be back projecting big populations now to profound civilization differences then (to an era which in some ways was before a developed civilization in those South and East Asia comparable to the Near East?). But great interchange of homogenisation has happened since then, so to some extent it might be valid to try and bracket (“lump”) traditions according to the way they are now…

    Other note are just problems of finding quick ways to describe these groups. On one level for example, difficult to call ancient Chinese elites really as a “pragmatic” elite when they put highly moralistic, spiritually rooted concerns about proper social structure first and foremost, probably to the detriment of economic development. Doing so does get at a lack of preoccupation with after-life, but seems to get in the way of talking about their main concerns, which seem not really about means to ends and taking instrumental views of things, more as rectifying the state of human civilization and human spirits to an idealised moral and social order (analogously would be like viewing rabbis as pragmatic because Heaven and spiritual metaphysics not a major topic in Judaism, with exception of kabbalah?).

    I think you could strongly argue for a very non-pragmatic character of Chinese civilization, and a “proper forms” oriented character, in that there was so much more refusal to adopt forms of Western culture in the 19th century than across probably the rest of the world. It really took the extreme events of trauma of invasions and Cultural Revolution to really push China towards a more pragmatic path to development, not something that came so naturally, from which Xi’s Party seems to be possibly reverting away back to “proper forms” oriented Marxist orthodoxy.

    One final comment, I guess I think among the American right wing today, I think there’s a desire to *want* a China to exist that doesn’t care about enforcing proper beliefs on ppl, as a fantasy of possible escape from an American culture that seems to be more concerned with proper belief. So that could incline us to want to believe that China always had freedom of beliefs and unconcern with enforcing proper beliefs and such. That might be a strong bias. But this is bordering on psychoanalysis.

    tl;dr, I think piece is interesting history from a certain perspective but don’t know if it really tells us much about how the future is likely to play out, pretty skeptical about that.

    Link – – Big resignation at tech firm in response to CEO asking ppl not to do politics on company time (presumably as distinct from union stuff relating to work).

    Wonder how many of the ppl who would have said relatively recently “Social media firms can filter what they like – that’s private enterprise, and if you don’t like it, suck it up!” would also now argue these sort of restrictions by companies of employees politics in the workplace as “breach of workers’ rights”? Depressingly many I’d imagine.

  5. “The ultimate price of costless gestures: 2020’s 2,000+ excess black lives lost to murder.”

    Not quite so pessimistic. As you note, while police killings went down with BLM protests, but murders (impliedly due to police underappreciation) went up by more. But – this time around there have been some permanent legislative reforms and some continuing accountability, and police alienation probably isn’t going to last. Also, police excessive force oriented reforms are also being accompanied by gun control measures that have a good shot at making a dent. Also, another possible explanation that a conservative could accept for the murder surge is early COVID based releases from prisons and jails, rather than police alienation (again, a one off).

    Similarly, “defund police” taken literally as spend less on cops and not address what that funding used to cover is a bad idea. But “defund police” in practice means things like deploying mental health professionals and social workers rather than cops to incidents of mental health crisis and welfare checks and getting cats out of trees (creating what some have called a “department of O.K.”), decriminalizing things that can be dealt with via fines rather than arrest/incarceration (e.g. municipal ordinance violations and non-violent regulatory offenses), providing economic/social services support for families before they are stressed into domestic violence and child abuse/neglect, replacing school resource officers (i.e. cops in schools) with guidance counselors and nurses, and other measures of this kind. Basically, recognizing that police are a hammer and that not every problem is a nail.

  6. @Dx: The not-so-effectively stopped P.1 is spreading, it’s accounting for 30% of the VOC sequencing results in Illinois in recent days; lower but increasing fast in the West.

    Are any (many?) of these cases of P.1 with individuals who are partially or fully vaxxed (and past 2 week period where that is relevant)? If so, do you know anything about the seriousness of the disease? Is it often severe or (nearly) always mild to asymptomatic? Any hospitalizations, etc.?

  7. You are asking the same questions which I would like to answer. The CDC employed its REDcap monitoring system to collect data on the breakthrough infections, their severity, and the virus strains behind them, but there hasn’t been any analysis out there yet. The P.1 strains are just starting to accumulate in the nations with strong vaccination rates. Most of what we know about this virus strain comes from the neutralization assays, showing substantial immunity evasion. But a similarly evasive B.1.351 “African” strain failed to get a foothold in the West so far, apparently because its immunity-evasion advantage is more than outweighed by insufficient infectivity. P.1 has been around in the US for months but only started talking off in recent weeks, suggesting a higher infectivity than B.1.351, but not super high.
    The best epidemiology study of P.1 to date is the analysis of the winter outbreak in Manaus, published in mid-April ( ). They didn’t have a good sequencing surveillance, and much of the conclusions are based on a statistical model which wide confidence intervals. And, of course, they didn’t have vaccines, and still do not have vaccines of a similar efficacy to ours.
    The authors estimated that natural immunity from a non-P.1 strain gives 54-79% protection against P.1, that it was on the order of 50% more lethal (as low as 20%), and at least 70% more transmissible than the “old”, non-P.1 strains (which a poor benchmark in today’s America where most of the transmissions are B.1.17 now). I wouldn’t be surprised if their estimates were off, since time of the infection / hospital load / season etc. are potentially confounding. But it’s the best estimates to date, and they aren’t even telling anything about post-vaccine morbidity and mortality. Stay tuned.

  8. BTW Illinois just updated its VOC stats. They sequenced 472 variant-of-concern genomes in the last 48 hours. The “California” and “African” strains are virtually driven to extinction, it’s a 30:70 mix of P.1 and B.1.1.7.
    How they select the samples for sequencing is anyone’s guess. With nearly 7% of the cases now getting sequenced, it’s gotta include some random surveillance, but may be enriched with breakthrough cases (which would bias for the immunity-evading strains) or from outbreak analysis (which may result in clusters of non-independent clones being nonrandomly overrepresented).
    Tomorrow the CDC should update its regional and state variant tallies for the whole nation.

  9. Interesting article Robert, not so much in the content (which is seen elsewhere) but it does show how the framings of these things are heavily dependent on person.

    I get the impression that the same persons who argue along the lines that Frum does there, would probably have argued in the past that “China’s rise and the coming Chinese Century are inevitable, so we must come up with ways to engage and accommodate them in the system, and compromise on how international institutions work to do so, to avoid the dangerous Thucydides Trap”. Likewise, folks who argue that China is so strong it presents a huge danger, will also switch around and argue that, actually, China’s not so strong that it isn’t worth it to try and isolate and decouple from.

    (Frum in fact seems to have been arguing precisely along these “Thucydides Trap” and “China Economy Too Big To Tariff, nothing can be done, standing alone” not much more than a year ago – . Although there is some kind of message there that China can be restrained a little bit by, you guessed it, the shining hero “engagement”, working with allies.)

    In other words, isolationists gonna isolationist, engagement and openness crowd gonna engagement and openness? Sunk costs all the way down? (Frum’s a fairly middle-aged dude who probably decided engagement was good in his 30s, in the 1990s, and resents the idea that he made an intellectual blunder back then? Particularly so because he seems a NeverTrumper who might be expected to be resentful of the parts of any parts of a Trump “deal” that Biden takes forward?) So article is interesting to me in that suggests one way in which the pro-engagement, “We were never wrong” crowd will change tack, rather than because it persuades me more or less about the state of affairs in China.

  10. I watched the above-mentioned story about Scythians. It looks like a serial ‘Scythians for dummies’ and I tried to make some comments. After it got a full page I gave up. Just briefly one or two points. We can see that Scythians were actually Aryans!!! The story sufficiently well presented their nomadic life. I wander how they could compose Rg Veda while traveling from one pasture to the other. And what was their language? Who brought this language to India, Yamnaya reflux or Scythians? Did they speak the same (‘Indo-European’) language? Suddenly, never mentioned before sc. Slavics fell down from Mars? What’s happened with Cimmerians and Conan Barbarian? Have they transformed to today’s Russians (and Ukrainians)? It is becoming humorous that sc. ‘Iranic’ language was formed somewhere (Ukraine or Anatolia) and later came to today’s Iran. And what is the ‘proto-Iranic’ considering that the term ‘Iranic’ (=Aryan) cannot be older than 2000 BC? To make some logic, maybe only its name needs to be changed, instead of ‘Iranic’ – ‘Aryan’ and later to find who were they.

    In parallel with this story we already had urban life in Europe for longer period than is our distance from Scythians. Which language was spoken in Europe for 6-7000 years before Scythians (and before Yamnaya?). To be fair there are some interesting observations – we can see that Macedonia is something different from Greek polises (maybe Alexander was not a Greek?).

    Also, there are migration of Aryans from India(whoever they were) toward Tarim Basin and Xinjiang. This was my recent question to John ‘Docker’ M. Some of these people, who after more than 1000 of years fighting Chinese returned to their old homeland bringing some folklore and songs. One of these songs – A girl from river Chu(y) (the river mentioned in this story), somehow survived centuries hidden in a monastery. I may translate this song for GE readers…Tried to be concise but again too long comment.

    @ Harry Jecs
    “Also do we know the Y haplogroup of the Ottomans. That might give some clue.”

    >>> Eupedia says:

    “Based on descendant testing, it appears most likely that the sultans of the Ottoman dynasty belonged to haplogroup R1a-Z93. This has not been officially confirmed yet. All sultans of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922) descend in patrilineal line from Osman I, making it one of the longest reigning Y-chromosomal lineage in history.”

  11. One of Razib’s recommended books for reading (on the picture above) is – Goliath (The 100-years war between monopoly power and democracy). Recently, someone asked about Philistines in a context of recent archaeological discovery in Israel. None answered who were these ‘Aegeans’ with ‘European’ (?) genes. For the beginning, maybe someone can analyse the origin and meaning of the name – Goliath? What does it mean? After that we can dedicate our attention to Delilah.

    It is interesting the above Eupedia citation that Ottomans (so as Razib himself) were R1a-Z92. Slavics? Serbs? I wrote before that Aryans passed through areas where steppe Turks lived and mixed with them and many remained to live there. Because we have so many r1a in southern Soviet states (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kirgizstan, Tatarstan, Kurdistan, etc). Btw. STAN is a Serbian word which is still used.

  12. Having recently watched a series on Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, and a few months ago having watched Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (turned it off because of how depressing it was), the major concern and anxiety of the average suburbanite or small town denizen from the mid 70s through the early 90s re: crime seemed to be serial killers, child abductors, spree murderers, etc. As people moved into increasingly out of reach suburbs, and public transit was cut to make it more and more difficult for the city dwellers associated with crime to get beyond the narrowest inner ring of suburbs, urban crime was strictly that, an urban problem. Growing up in the 90s and 2000s, my parents and my friends’ parents treated “the city” like a foreign country in the midst of a war: park in well-lit parking garages, walk only to your destination, stick with crowds, and get out before it gets dark. They maintained this mindset well past the point at which it had any bearing on the reality of crime in the city, but the suburbs were always a safe zone.

    Thinking about a potential resurgence in urban crime, it will probably be worse this time, because the corrective significant element that made suburbanites worry about crime the last time, i.e., serial killers and child abductors, for the most part can’t happen today due to technological developments in DNA evidence, GPS tracking, cameras everywhere, social media’s ability to crowdsource investigations, and other changes. The middle-class people that abandon the cities will remain blissfully unaware of crime, because it will touch on their lives in no way, shape, or form, except maybe leaving a job downtown earlier rather than hanging around afterward for drinks or dinner.

    It’s also much more difficult to steal a car now than it was in 1984.

  13. Not my view, but Razib and his readers might relate.

    “If you wanted to dilute wokeness, and limit its appeal to young radicals, what could be better than a CIA endorsement? I, for one, would like to make wokeness decidedly uncool — and if this video can recruit some new talent to the CIA at the same time, what’s not to like? . . .

    The CIA, which just recently rebranded itself, just went a long way toward making wokeness feel ordinary and anodyne. Wokeness isn’t going to disappear, so the sooner wokeness becomes like the Unitarian Church — broadly admired but commanding only a modicum of passion and commitment — the better.”

  14. Razib, you might find this new paper interesting if you have not seen it already:

    Tracing the Genetic Legacy of the Tibetan Empire in the Balti (Yang et al. 2021)

    The rise and expansion of Tibetan Empire in the 7th to 9th centuries AD affected the course of history across East Eurasia, but the genetic impact of Tibetans on surrounding populations remains undefined. We sequenced 60 genomes for four populations from Pakistan and Tajikistan to explore their demographic history. We showed that the genomes of Balti people from Baltistan comprised 22.6–26% Tibetan ancestry. We inferred a single admixture event and dated it to about 39–21 generations ago, a period that postdated the conquest of Baltistan by the ancient Tibetan Empire. The analyses of mitochondrial DNA, Y, and X chromosome data indicated that both ancient Tibetan males and females were involved in the male-biased dispersal. Given the fact that the Balti people adopted Tibetan language and culture in history, our study suggested the impact of Tibetan Empire on Baltistan involved dominant cultural and minor demic diffusion.

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